Saturday, August 15, 2009


Field Trip!
Yesterday we had our long anticipated Skid Row Housing Trust field trip to the soggy beaches of Venice (California). All tenants were invited, from all of the 21 hotels that SRHT manages. One problem... only one bus.
But it was a big bus! All in all about 60 of us showed up at the Simone Hotel, just south of San Julian Park, at 9 o'clock. We were on time, but the bus wasn't. It was about forty minutes late, and a line formed immediately to get on.
I usually don't participate in big bawdy events like this, simply because I can go to the beach anytime I want, and don't need SRHT to get me there. And since all the hotels were participating, this assured that I would know almost no one going. Still, I had told my lovely case manager, Erin, that I would go and meet her at the beach (she lives in Santa Monica so she would walk to the event).
I did know some of the people there. My neighbor Robert was there (free food would be provided, which assured his attendance). My new neighbor from across the hall was there. Rodney was there. And the case manager who interviewed me when I first came to SRHT for a box was there, Vincent is his name. That was over six years ago, and he still remembered my name, which goes to show what a memorable person I am.
Three tables were loaded on the bus, big buckets of ice and sodas, boxes of Fritos and Doritos were loaded. Front seats were reserved for staff (pompous bastards), then we were finally allowed to board.
I took a seat next to Robert, who is borderline narcoleptic, and who was soon drifting in and out of consciousness, while leaning his 280+ pound body against my left shoulder. I tried as best as I could to read from Peter Straub's novel Shadowland, as the bus got on the Santa Monica freeway.
It took about 40 minutes to get there. The driver was soon navigating the narrow streets of Santa Monica and Venice, which was not easy in so large a vehicle. She got a little lost once, and had to ask directions from a pedestrian at one point.
Erin had told me that we would be meeting at a place called Ocean Park, so it was with a growing sense of discomfort that I noticed us passing by the Ocean Park road, and drove further south into Venice.
Soon we entered a parking lot next to the beach, and parked at its southern most point. We disembarked, unloaded the supplies and tables, and set everything up in a grassy area next to the beach.
But there was no Erin, no Paul. No other staff with the hot food that was promised. I began to think that we were at the wrong place.
It was a sunny day, the temperature was mild, mid 70s, it being near the Pacific Ocean and all. There was a lot of locals walking about in various modes of dress, or undress. A bike trail separated us from the beach, which was used frequently by bikers and skaters, and which our lot from downtown did not get the concept of, as they kept walking on it.
There was a lot of sand on the beach.
It tends to accumulate there.
A police helicopter buzzed the beach flying very low.
I stood around, hands in pockets, next to Robert who was fully awake now. For about 20 minutes I stood around waiting for something to happen, while the others took up positions on blankets and lawn chairs.
"Where is my case manager?" I asked Robert. He didn't know.
He did take up a position next to the boxes of Doritos and Fritos, and a few who knew Robert called out, "Step away from the food, Robert. Step away from the food." He smiled at them but did not move.
And sure enough, within a few minutes he could not resist the temptation, and stole one pack of the chips and stood there eating them. Vincent soon noticed, got up and gave him a well deserved dressing down.
Robert is a Republican. A black Republican, who voted for McCain in the last Presidential election, even though he has benefited personally from Obama's extensions of Unemployment Insurance (he used to work as a security guard, a borderline narcoleptic security guard. Guess why he got fired from his last job). He is a friend of mine, but he is also the kind of person who if you are stranded in the middle of the Sahara Desert with, and you come across a glass of water, he will gulp the whole thing down as fast as possible, then apologize for it, promising to never do it again, then do it again. Totally selfish and self absorbed, but a champion of so called Christian ethics. He doesn't practice them himself of course, but he champions them.
Anyway, an SUV finally arrived with the food (chicken, beans, potato salad), and I asked the lady staff member who drove about Erin.
"She's walking up," she said.
Lunch was served and I got a plate, and sat down on some posts near the parking lot. About half way through my meal I saw Erin and Paul walking towards us on the pedestrian path.
"Where have you been?" I asked her.
"Where Veronica told me we were going to meet two weeks ago. About twenty blocks from here."
"Wow, we've been here for about an hour now, and I kept wondering, where's my case manager?"
"I know. Veronica didn't answer her phone when I kept calling her. No one cared... no one cared," Erin said.
"I cared."
"Thank you for caring Rick." Then walked off to meet with their peer/staff buddies.
I finished my meal, and read from my book a little, then thought about leaving and taking the 720 back home. I would have to walk quite a bit to get to the Santa Monica pier, where the 720 leaves, but that was okay. I'd rather do that then ride back on that crowded bus with Robert slumped all over me again.
Soon Erin came over and we chatted. Veronica came over and took a picture of her between me and Robert (with Robert holding up two fingers behind Erin's head). Then Erin took off again for a staff portrait (pompous bastards (not Erin. She doesn't have a pompous bone in her body)).
Paul came over and said he was leaving to go help some other client. I asked him if he could give me a ride to Wilshire, but he said he didn't have the time.
I will have my revenge on Paul soon enough. Didn't have the time!
Erin came back. Three other female staff members walked by and asked Erin if she wanted to take a walk with them. Erin said yes, and asked me if I would like to come along, which I did.
We walked Venice Beach's famous Boardwalk, where they have paddle tennis courts, shops that sell everything, Muscle Beach where weight lifters work out. It was very busy with people, locals and tourists. Erin lives close by but doesn't walk the Boardwalk much as it's "too touristy." There were a least two places where one could acquire a medical marijuana certificate from doctor's for a price if one wanted. I abstained.
It was all very nice, and I enjoyed walking with my friend Erin. She was wearing a sort of like tube dress, and sometimes the wind would fill it up and she looked like one of those plastic inflatable dolls one finds outside of tire stores sometimes, advertising a sale.
We got through about three quarters down the Boardwalk when the ladies decided to head back. I took my leave of them at that point, wishing them a good weekend, and continued south, walking to the pier in Santa Monica, and the big bus that would take me across the Los Angeles basin and to my home.

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