Thursday, April 30, 2009

Michelle, Ma Belle 1

This is going to be one of the easiest posts I've ever written. I don't even have to write it really, all I have to do is quote.
Michelle Marie Bachman, 53 (no relation to Randy Bachman, of Bachman Turner Overdrive), is a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Minnesota's 6th Congressional District since 2007. She is certifiably insane.
I have often considered the similarity of traits shared by psychopaths and Republicans. Let's investigate, shall we.
First, a definition of the term psychopathy. My Sage program tells me: "Any disease of the mind, the psychological state of someone who has emotional or behavioral problems serious enough to require psychiatric intervention."
Wikipedia puts it like this: "Psychopathy is a psychological construct that describes chronic immoral and antisocial behavior.The term is often used interchangeably with sociopathy. The psychopath is defined by a psychological gratification in criminal, sexual, or aggressive impulses and the inability to learn from past mistakes. Individuals with this disorder gain satisfaction through their antisocial behavior and lack remorse for their actions."
The following is a list of traits considered to be indicators of psychopathy by the "Psychopathy Check List-Revised." Let's compare the traits shared by psychopaths and Republicans.
Common characteristics of those with psychopathy are:

Grandiose sense of self-worth: Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (all Republicans)

Superficial charm Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (remember Mitt Romney?)

Criminal versatility Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (see Alex Constantine's Black List of 272 Republicans charged with criminal activity)

Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others Psychopath: Yes
Republican: Yes (Denial of Global Warming)

Impulse control problems Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Rep. John Boehner crying over efforts to pull out of Iraq. Republican Budget proposal)

Irresponsibility Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (everything)

Inability to tolerate boredom Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (John McCain falling asleep during State of the Union)

Pathological narcissism Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Romney again)

Pathological lying Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (all)

Shallow affect Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (all)

Deceitfulness/manipulativeness Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (all)

Aggressive or violent tendencies, repeated physical fights or assaults on others
Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Iraq)

Lack of empathy Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Iraq, rich vs poor)

Lack of remorse, indifferent to or rationalizes having hurt or mistreated others
Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Iraq, torture)

A sense of extreme entitlement Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Bush Jr.)

Lack of or diminished levels of anxiety/nervousness and other emotions
Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Bush Jr.)

Promiscuous sexual behavior, sexually deviant lifestyle
Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (OMG, just enter "Republican sex scandals in Wikipedia. Still, Democrats may be giving them a race for their money)

Poor judgment, failure to learn from experience Psychopath: Yes
Republican: Yes (Budget proposal)

Lack of personal insight Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Bush Jr.)

Failure to follow any life plan Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (Joe the Plumber)

Abuse of drugs including alcohol Psychopath: Yes Republican: ? (who knows. If I were a Republican I'd certainly start drinking)

Inability to distinguish right from wrong Psychopath: Yes Republican: Yes (all)

Clearly the above proves that the majority of members in the Republican Party are
antisocial lunatics, without the ability to empathize, cannot learn from past mistakes, and
glory in benefiting from the misery of others, and who should be carted off to the Funny Farm for proper treatment and rehabilitation.

Michele Bachman, however, is in a league of her own.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The day before President Obama's inauguration happened to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This federal holiday has been designated for community volunteerism, and the President-Elect called for a national day of service for all Americans, even the lazy ones.
Eager to rid myself of the stagnant, unclean feeling I had had for the previous eight years, I was ready to do my part. Before the 19th arrived I got on the old Internet to get to the USASERVICE.ORG site, which allowed me to see all the volunteer opportunities available in my area. My time not being my own, I choose something that would make a difference, and at the same time be easy to do and take relatively little time to accomplish.
I choose to donate blood. Blood is a specialized bodily fluid that spreads oxygen and nutrients to all the cells throughout the body, and carries away waste products from these very cells. It does other neat stuff as well. Blood itself contains cells. Red blood cells transport oxygen, white blood cells defend against disease, platelets promote clotting, and plasma proteins perform various functions. At least in humans, that's what it does, and other vertebrates. Lack of blood can be very trying.
There really is no such thing as synthetic blood yet. Maybe one day, but not now. There are blood volume expanders, such as simple saline and dextrose solutions. And there is what are called oxygen therapeutics, that help distribute oxygen. But the white blood cells, platelets, and proteins have not been duplicated in a laboratory.
That is why donating blood, blood plasma, or platelets is so important. Others who are ill and don't have good blood of their own, or who experience blood loss due to accidents, need good blood from others who donate it. So it's a good thing to have some extra good blood on hand in case of emergencies.
There are whole industries dedicated to harvesting good blood from all sorts of people, in case others have emergencies, or get sick from bad blood. Some of them out right pay others to give away some of their extra good blood that they don't happen to using at the time. For more years than I care to remember I sold my own blood plasma, twice a week, for about $2,400 a year in tax free income. Sometimes I did this when I was working at other jobs, but most of the time not. Why not sell it? Plasma consists mostly of water, 92% by volume, and if someone wants to buy this special water for $50 bucks a week who was I to say no, especially when the money came in handy. I stopped selling my special water years ago, not because I wanted to, but because they sucked all of the gamma globulin (a protein) out of me, and wouldn't let me sell it anymore. Apparently you have to have some gamma globulin in your blood to be able to sell it.
I guess I have my gamma globulin back, or you don't need very much in order to donate whole blood, because they asked me to return to give them some more of my good blood.
Last week I called up the blood people at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where I had first donated in January, in response to a letter they had sent to me telling me I could come and give them some more blood (there is a two month waiting period between donations in order for the body to replenish the red and white blood cells). An appointment was made for this afternoon at 12:30.
I took the 16 bus to the hospital which is very near the intersection of Third St. and La Cienega. Many people who are going to this hospital, to give blood, or for other reasons, chose to drive there with their own cars, but I took the bus. I always take the bus. I don't have a car!
It let me right off at the hospital, and I knew from the last time exactly where to go. The Rita and Taft Schreiber Blood Donor Facility is located on the ground floor of the south tower of the hospital. You can spend all day inside the north tower looking for it, but you won't find it because it's not there. It's across the street in the south tower.
I walked in with five minutes to spare to my appointment, and said hello to the lady receptionist.
"Hello. May I help you?" she asked.
"By golly, yes," I said. "I have a twelve-thirty appointment to donate."
"Your name?"
"Joyce. J.O.Y.C.E."
She looked that up on her computer. "Richard?"
She printed out a form that had all of my personal information on it, asked me to make sure it was current, and to answer the questions on the back.
It was still current, and the questions were related to my medical history, and where I had traveled since the 1970s, and who I might have engaged in sexual relations with, like people with aids, or prostitutes, or other men. Yes or no questions, it didn't take very long.
The answers to these questions must have been satisfactory, as I was asked to continue the donation process. This consisted of having a tiny little blood sample taken from the index finger of my left hand to see if my blood iron content was high enough (it was. The technician was very happy. "Wow, great iron," he said. They don't care about gamma globulin, I guess), and have my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature taken. All were satisfactory, and I was led to a state of the art blood donation recliner.
Very soon (as opposed to plasma donation centers, where you typically spend four or five hours going through the entire process) a lovely Asian nurse, named Sonny came and introduced herself to me. She asked me if I was Mr. Richard, and I told her, why yes, I was. She then asked me what my birthday was, and the last four digits of my social security number. I told her, and she said "Good."
"It's good that I remember that stuff," I told her.
She giggled. I can make ladies giggle rather easily.
"Wait a moment while I set up," she said.
"Okay, I'll stay here." She giggled again.
Soon she was washing my arm with disinfectant. They always do that. She noticed the big crater in the crook of my left arm from all the years of donating.
"Gosh, you have a lot of scar tissue," she observed.
She eventually poked me with her little needle, much smaller than what I had been used to. Could hardly feel it. She pulled the needle back a twinge, and my blood began to flow into a pint sized plastic bag.
It didn't take more than ten minutes.
"I'm going to take the needle out now."
"Thank you." She giggled again.
She put a nice purple bandage across my arm, to match the color of the shirt I happened to be wearing, then gave me some apple juice to drink, as they like donors to wait 15 minutes before leaving, just to make sure everything is okay.
I could have had some orange juice, or cranberry... she offered, but I choose apple. They had small television sets attached to suspension arms at the head of the recliners I could have watched, but I had a book with me, and my reading glasses, so I spent the time reading.
After the time was up, Sonny came to me and said there were cookies in the other room, if I wanted some.
"Thanks Sonny, you were great."
I went in the lounge and filled my jacket pockets with oreos, lorna doones, swiss creme sandwiches, and oatmeal raisin cinnamon cookies, then took off.
I invite all of you, dear readers, to do the same. Not necessarily donate blood, but perform some type of community service, for your community, and for the nation.
Maybe you'll get some cookies too!

Mexican Bugs

As if Mexico didn't have enough problems with domestic drug cartels threatening to turn the country into a narcostate, now we have an out brake of a highly contagious, human to human, swine flu, that in a matter of days has crippled the capital of that country, and has spread throughout the world.
At least it seems to have begun in Mexico. Mexican authorities are trying to blame the United States for the disease, but it seems fairly clear that it originated from employees of huge, commercial hog factories, or "confined animal feeding operations" (CAFOs), in La Gloria, Veracruz. These factories (a joint venture between the Mexican firm Agroindustrias Unidas de Mexico SA and the Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Inc) house tens of thousands of hogs packed closely together, in a closed environment, a perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases, not to mention providing a hellish life for the animals involved. Makes me want to become a vegetarian.
I've been fascinated with viruses all my life. They are at the very borderline of what we consider living and non-living. By some definitions they are living entities, as they do have the ability to evolve (mutate), and they reproduce. As a matter of fact, that's all they do, mutate and reproduce, although they can't reproduce on their own. By other definitions, they are not alive, as they are acellular, meaning they do not have cells, the classic building blocks of most life forms on this planet, and they do not metabolize (eat and excrete). All they consist of is a nucleic acid (either DNA or RNA), surrounded by a protein and sometimes lipid (fat) shell, or envelope. They infect all cellular life forms in order to subvert the cells internal machinery, and make the host cell a virus production facility. They are very small, about 100 times smaller than a bacterium, making the surgical masks currently worn in Mexico to stop infection completely ineffective.
"Swine Flu," typically circulates among swine, and is rarely transmitted to humans. The particular strain of influenza virus circulating out of Mexico, and now around the world, is apparently a combination of two forms of swine flu virus material, and avian and human genetic material, that has never been seen before, and is exceptionally contagious between humans, not between humans and hogs (although through exceptionally close proximity to these animals in CAFOs, and their waste products (typically dumped in local lagoons), may have caused the initial infection. No isolated samples of the virus have yet to be identified in swine, in Mexico, or anywhere else, which has the hog farming industry tearing its hair out. Egypt has begun a hog genocide within its boarders, even though there is no evidence that the disease can be caught by casual contact with the animals, or by eating pork products. The United States, and others state they may abandon the term "Swine Flu," as the virus blends genetic material from three species, and cannot be gotten by eating the meat from hogs.
Technically this virus is a influenza A virus subtype H1N1 (seen at the top of this post), the most common cause of influenza in humans. Some strains of this virus are responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic, often called the Spanish Flu, which was responsible for the deaths of 50 to a 100 million people around the world. Many strains of H1N1 are endemic in pigs and birds.
Today travel from one point of the globe to another only takes a matter of hours, and the spread of highly infectious diseases is a extraordinary cause for concern. "Outside Mexico, confirmed cases were reported for the first time as far away as New Zealand and Israel, joining the United States, Canada, Britain and Spain. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. has 66 confirmed cases in five states, with 45 in New York, one in Ohio, one in Indiana, two in Kansas, six in Texas and 11 in California." As far as I know, I am not one of the eleven in CA, and I have not slept with any pigs in months, despite the circumstantial evidence.
Unfortunately, the first confirmed death from the H1N1 virus in the United States was reported today of a two year old Mexican boy traveling with his family in Texas. Conversely, Patient Zero, the first person identified with this virus, 4 year old Edgar Hernandez of La Gloria, seems to have fully recovered.
The Obama Administration has asked for 1.5 billion to combat and prevent the spread of this disease. Money was included in the president's economic stimulus package to combat influenza pandemic out brakes, but was ridiculed by some Republicans and Democrats alike as being appropriately named, pork-barrel projects, and written out of the bill.
Excluding the massive loss of life involved with an uncontrollable national pandemic, there would certainly be unrestrained economic losses as well, as Mexico is currently experiencing, making the inclusion of money to plan and combat pandemic out brakes totally appropriate in an economic stimulus package.
Let me tell my Republican and Democratic friends in Congress, influenza is no joke. It is probably the greatest killer of humans in history. The Center for Disease Control "estimates about 36,000 people in the U.S. alone died of flu-related causes each year, on average, in the 1990s.
Influenza regularly kills people around the world, with an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 deaths from the seasonal virus every year. Every year at least a few perfectly healthy children die from seasonal influenza in the United States."
It would be good if we took a pro-active stance regarding the greatest mass serial killer the world has ever known, and for our politicians to get their collective heads out of each others asses and do the work of the people.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Sunk-Cost Effect

"When we have put effort into something, we are often reluctant to pull out because of the loss that we will make, even if continued refusal to jump ship will lead to even more loss. The potential dissonance of accepting that we made a mistake acts to keep us in blind hope."

I stumbled upon an online article from, a project of the right wing Media Research Center, concerning last Friday's Countdown show with Keith Olbermann. It basically criticized Keith and his guest commentators for alleging that former Vice President Dick Cheney was criticizing President Obama as being "weak," making the country less safe, and for justifying torture because it worked, because of the Bush administration due diligence we have not been attacked since 9/11, and that we were right to attack Iraq because they now will never become a "rogue" state with WMDs.
As for our current President being weak and making the country less safe, let me point out that it has been no accident that there has been zero terrorist attacks in the USA for the last 98 days. As far as torture "working," (it doesn't) I might add, if I run out of money it will work if I rob a bank to get more. If I can't stand someone, it will work if I murder them so I will never have to encounter them ever again. So extrapolating on Cheney's logic, robbery and murder are justified as long as they work (the point Mr. Cheney is missing of course, is that torture is against the law! Pure and simple. But these guys have always felt they are above the law, a sentiment that is being reinforced by the Obama administration's reluctance to investigate and prosecute the past crimes of the previous administration). And now we are safe from WMDs from Iraq because of our preemptive invasion of that country, while sustaining enormous costs in lives and treasure. I for one certainly sleep easier at night. Considering Irag and Suddam Hussein had no WMDs to begin with, had no ties with terrorist organizations, and was no threat at all to us doesn't enter into Cheney's argument because those are inconvenient bits of reality that negate his attempt to justify his callous barbarism. In the meantime, while being distracted in Iraq, we have let the Taliban and other extremist organizations threaten a weak government in Pakistan, a nation that does have WMDs, and which poses more of a threat to world peace than Iraq ever could.
To be crude, I can't stand these chicken hawk bastards who seek five draft deferments during the Vietnam era, and are so unwilling to risk their own hides in the service of our nation, but are so willing to spill the blood of other's sons and daughters in their ideological and corporate schemes. It's simply enraging.
Thank you for indulging my immaturity. The point of this post is not directed toward Mr. Cheney. He's a lost cause, and will soon reap his rewards. No, what concerned me were the comments this article elicited. Let me quote a few as examples:

bigtimer comments: Cheney speaks the truth, he minces no words....that is exactly why the left despise him and alway has been sad to watch what they have tried to do to this man...fear does that to the enemies within...and they are not done yet, not by a long shot.
Doubling down on stupid is not a particularly good idea. ~Andrew Breitbart

ten7s: Obama is certainly undermining United States national security, and VP Cheney is certainly correct to criticize Obama. However, the jury is still out on whether Obama is harming the United States out of weakness or intentional subversion. But I suppose Mr. Cheney must give Obama the benefit of the doubt and attribute Obama's anti-American actions to weakness.

10ksnooker: But I on the other hand I do not have to, no one can be this dumb, it has to be intentional. And as a clue I offer the rev Wright and his get whitey mentality, get even withem-ism. And who sat in rev Wright's church for 20 years?
If you need more, you can always go back and research Bill Ayers.
It's purposeful.

kevpot: Yeah, the President and Cheney got a sick pleasure out of deliberately torturing the detainees, in hopes they would confess to something, anything that they didnt do. Burning them with cigarettes, hanging them by their feet and beating them, tying them up and pushing them off rooftops, hooking them up to batteries, beating them in the face with phone books....all while Bush and Cheney watched from behind a glass partition, relishing it all in a sexual way.
Olbermann and his ilk are the 5th column. For years they have been harping that the war was illegal and was motivated by oil, instigated by the Evil Bush Cabal and Darth Vader Cheney. For the Left to even intimate that the Right is full of hate is damn laughable. It's been on display every single night for the last 8 yrs and continues still. If they want to have show trials for the Bush Admin, then the GOP should have show trials for acts of sedition by Olbermann and Co. Tokyo Rose had better manners than that pig.

And finally a word from Mozilla: Obama is the worst president ever. Sure seems like he is laxing security measures to cause either another attack for whatever reason or playing into the terrorists hands. Releasing memos of the torture is no good because then the bad guys know what to expect, although Obama will stop it and then what? They will get away with things and not give out secrets. That's what. Every single thing Obama does is bad and to appease his far left radical friends, voters, and troublemakers. I wish we had a totally different president. This is truly the first guy I have not agreed with one bit. The Kool aid drinking of some people is insulting to all Americans who want fairness, deceny, and for political parties to stop playing games and presidents to quit lying and do the right thing. Cheney said his opinion from his view point and he has a right. The fact is no attack since 9/11. Instead many plots have been foiled and bad guys have been caught. I can't wait soon enough for this nightmare to leave the White House. However sadly, I am also waiting, and not because I want it, for another attack. It's coming and it will make 9/11 look like childs play. This is what happens if you don't have security, cut defense budget and still have the people who did 9/11 around. So be warned that with this goon in the White House things can and will happen. In the words of Janine Turner, the actress, last fall...Obama will ruin America and make it a harbor for terrorists. And in the words of Biden, the worst VP, Obama is going to have a crisis coming. So watch out it's coming.

Well, how rude.
All of the above comments commit the same actions that they accuse Mr. Olbermann of doing. Providing unwarranted, biased commentary with little regard for the facts. Bigtimer states that Vice President Cheney is telling the truth. He is not. He rarely has. This is demonstratable and a matter of record. I like the quote, I wish he (or she) would adhere to it. ten7s is making an assumption that the President's actions to date (remember it's only been 98 days) are un-American, without offering a shred of credible evidence. 10ksnooker claims that the President is intentionally trying to harm the country, and by way of evidence he offers an association with two individuals that have nothing whatsoever to do with current events, and which has clear racist overtones. kevpot's first paragraph is sarcastic farce, the second, despite its disdain for Keith, pretty much sums up the truth... the right's hatred has been on display every single night for the last eight years. And Mozilla, well he (or she) is making the case that after only 98 days Obama is the worst President ever, that he's a traitor, retelling disproved Republican talking points, and hoping for another, greater attack on the U.S. simply to prove his point.
Certainly these comments are fueled by ideology and a stubborn refusal to admit that their position is out of the mainstream, and that they lost the election, driven by hatred, ignorance, and racist tendencies. What is it exactly that has caused their scorn? What has Obama been doing during his brief time in office?
He's passed "the 'largest' economic stimulus bill in American history. Ordering the closing of Guantanamo Bay military detention facility and abolishing 'enhanced interrogation techniques.' Setting a fixed timetable for withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq. Ordering 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and enlisting, with modest new assistance, European allies in a new multi-layered strategy there and in Pakistan. 'Returning science to its rightful place' by lifting the Bush restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research. Signing laws to expand children's health insurance. Signing a law meant to improve the ability of women who allege pay discrimination to sue their employer. Diminishing the role of lobbyists in the White House 'Forge a meaningful statement from the United Nations' criticizing North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile. Lifting travel and remittance restrictions for Cuban Americans who seek to travel more frequently to the island and send more US currency to their immediate family. Engaging world leaders in Europe, Turkey, Latin American and the Caribbean with 'strength and humility,'" and improving America's tarnished image internationally as a moral and ethical leader on the world stage.
Boy, that is damning.
Why, I continue to ask, if the Republican/Conservative/Right Wing ideology is so true and correct, do they have to continuesly resort to lies, innuendo, bullying, slander, manipulation, cheating, and hate and fear mongering to achieve their goals?
In economics there is a term called the "Sunk-Cost Effect." It is fairly well described at the top of this post. I will relate to the term in regards to individuals belief systems as well. It doesn't matter which belief system, religious or political, the Sunk-Cost Effect applies to all. When someone invests so much of their world view toward a certain position, they will tend to hold on to that position despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The Sunk-Cost Effect can also be called a form of rationalization. The families of soldiers killed or maimed in Iraq come to mind, who insist that their sacrifice was worth it because they believed the lies of the Bush Administration. I am sympathetic toward them. How horrible it would be to admit the loss of a child was without purpose. I am not sympathetic with the drivel sited above.
The Sunk-Cost Effect poses a huge problem. It always has. It probably always will.
The only way I know how to counter it is to courageously explore wherever the evidence takes us, not where we would wish it to go.
It is highly uncertain we will ever, as a whole, be capable of achieving this sense of reality. I sincerely hope one day we can.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beautiful Little Bird

I slept in this morning almost until nine o'clock. I do this sometimes on the weekend as a treat, and usually I have few if any errands to run, and have all day to work while watching stupid science fiction movies on the Sci-Fi Channel. The Sci-Fi Channel was not cooperating today however, and was running something called "WCG Ultimate Gamer," some kind of game show about video games. No, I had to resort to good old KTLA, channel 5 here in Los Angeles, to watch stupid Sci-Fi movies. I'm watching the Michael Crichton vehicle, "Sphere," as I write this, staring Dustin Hoffman and Sharon Stone. Not one of his best. I just saw Queen Latifah get eaten by jellyfish.
I remember hanging over the side of my ship when I was in the navy, painting Haze Gray all over the place, and the water of the San Diego Bay below me, with about a trillion jellyfish floating around. I don't know why they were there. They went away after a while.
I was sitting at my desk reading my Email, when I heard a "Tweet," from outside my box. A bird, I thought to myself, must be stuck out there.
I promptly forgot about it and resumed what I was doing, until I heard another, "Tweet." I quickly forgot about that one to.
I did have some errands to run today. I wanted to go to the 99 cent store, and the library to pick up some books they were holding for me. I left my box, and walking down one of the hallways of the structure that encloses my box, I noticed the sparrow.
The poor little thing had got in here somehow, and was now wanting to get back out badly. It was fluttering madly in one of the hallways window sills, hovering against the glass, not understanding why it couldn't get out to the street below that it could plainly see. It was clearly terrified.
As I approached it redoubled it's efforts to break through the glass, while keeping at least one eye on the huge monster that was coming its way. I knew that if I didn't catch it and get it out of here it would probably die, so I put my two hands together in a cup, and quickly enclosed the frantic animal against the glass. It tried to get away, and after one little petrified ,"squeak!" I got a lose but firm hold on the bird, and headed for the front door.
I guess the little fellow had no choice in the matter, so it made no further noises as I went to release it. Hardy was standing just outside, as is his custom.
"Hey, where you going he asked," as I released the sparrow, who flew off to the west toward Alameda, without looking back.
"You had that bird in your box?" Hardy asked.
"No, Hardy. It was in the hallway."
"Oh. You must be pretty fast to catch that little bird."
"That's what my girlfriend says, Hardy."
My good deed done for the day, I got down to business. I had a wondrous breakfast of Frosted Flakes and hot dog (My lovely case manager, Erin, brought several packages of hot dogs (with buns) to Movie Day. I ate three there (Erin had one. I wrote to her in an Email that she eats like a beautiful little bird, as I've seen her take a bite off of a single piece of popcorn, as if a whole popcorn piece was too much of a mouthful), and there was still an unopened pack of dogs left over which she gave to me as no one else wanted them. I've never been known to turn down a good pack of dogs in my life). Then took off, catching an 18 bus to downtown.
As we approached Los Angeles Street, the driver announced, "We're going on a little detour."
I didn't go with them, but exited at Los Angeles, and continued west to Broadway.
The street was blocked off at State St. I had forgotten it was Fiesta Broadway day.
Festival de Fiesta Broadway claims to be the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world, with an expected 500,000 Cinco de Mayo celebrators attending the 24 blocks dedicated to the event.
Wikipedia tells us: "Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "Fifth of May") is a regional holiday in Mexico, primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico. The holiday commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin.
While Cinco de Mayo has limited or no significance nationwide in Mexico, the date is observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. However, a common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day. Mexico's Independence Day is actually September 16 (dieciséis de septiembre in Spanish), which is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico."
For the life of me I've never understood why they have this celebration in April, instead of, lets say, next Sunday, the 3rd of May. Anyway, it's mainly a corporate affair, sponsored by the likes of AT&T, and State Farm Insurance. As far as I could see, north and south on Broadway from Fifth Street, were carnival like stands where you can win prizes by throwing penny's into fish bowls, basketballs into hoops, inflatable playgrounds for kids, nacho venders, corporate stands where they were advertising corporate services, and 500,000 mostly Hispanic visitors.
I quickly moved past the throng to the rapid bus stop at Fifth and Grand, caught a 720 to Wilshire and Fairfax, to the big 99 cent store. I purchased two bottles of instant coffee, three disposable razors, a tub of fake butter, two cans of honey roasted peanuts, a small head of lettuce, a package of fake cheese slices, two packages of Bologna, a box of microwave popcorn, and a plastic bottle of jalapeno mustard. I then reversed course, caught a different 720 back to downtown.
I made a stop at the Central Library and picked up three books, "Publishing a Blog with Blogger," (which I hope to do someday) "Start Your Own Blogging Business," and Christopher Buckley's new novel, "Supreme Courtship."
I was then forced to walk back through the throng, catching an 18 back to my box.
Just in time to witness Queen Latifah's horrible demise.
And I'll always remember that beautiful little bird.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pathfinder & Phoenix

If by some odd circumstance you happened to be standing in the valley of Ares Vallis, in the Chryse Planitia region of the planet Mars on the fourth of July, in the year 1997, you might have seen in the dusty, yellowish brown sky a distant fireball descending slowly towards your position. Don't worry, the blaze would soon disappear. But in a very few moments you would be astounded to see a huge beach ball bouncing over the Martian surface, slowly losing energy as its bounces became less frequent, the ball slowly coming to rest on the cold, airless surface. If that wasn't unusual enough, as you approached the ball like object you would see it deflate, and hidden inside a metal object appears, opening up like a three petaled flower, folding back until the petals found their resting place on the ground. The petals being solar panels that began to collect and utilize the energy supplied from the distant sun.
This is the Pathfinder spacecraft. If you came back the next Martian day you would see another astounding thing. A little robot descending off a ramp from Pathfinder, scooting over the surface, looking around for interesting objects to examine. How cute. This would be the Sojourner rover.
Attached to the body of the Pathfinder, you might not notice because it's rather small, resides a circular disk. It's sort of a DVD. My name is on it.
I've been a member of the Planetary Society off and on nearly since its inception in 1980. It was founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman, and has grown into the largest grass roots, science (especially astronomy) advocacy organization in the world, with members in over 125 countries. The Astronomer Neil deGrasse, who seems to have filled the void left vacant when Dr. Sagan died, of the most noted popularizer of science, is currently the society's president. The society is dedicated to the exploration of the solar system, near earth objects (asteroids that could fall on our planet and go boom), and the search for extraterrestrial life.
We carry out our own projects. In June of 2005 we launched the Cosmos 1 spacecraft to test the feasibility of solar sailing (as opposed to solar surfing), attempting to utilize the pressure of sunlight to propel spacecraft. The launch vehicle failed though, and we're trying to start again.
These things tend to be rather expensive.
We do all kinds of things. We will be sending a collection of living organisms on a three year trip to Phobos, one of the two Martian moons, in order to gain a better understanding of the robust nature of life, and its ability, or not, to move between the planets ("transpermia" hypothesis). We look and study our own planet, in comparison to the other planets in the solar system that have experienced cataclysmic climate change (Mars losing its atmosphere, Venus the victim of a runaway greenhouse effect, with a surface temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, an extraordinary example of global warming). You can virtually drive a Mars rover at the societies web site, and we've aggressively lobbied Congress to keep NASA and space science projects well funded during the last eight years as the Bush administration declared war on science and drastically cut funds. We do many other interesting things as well.
The Pathfinder and Sojourner experiments were a complete success, lasting two months longer than the one month scheduled for activity. It has since been renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and can be seen from orbit.
On May 25th of last year, the Phoenix robotic spacecraft touched down in the Green Valley of the Vastitas Borealis lowland region, just south of the northern polar ice cap. It was photographed during its descent by the Mars Orbiter, making it the first spacecraft to be photographed while landing on another planet. Its mission was to study the geological history of water, and to evaluate past or potential planetary habitability in the ice/soil boundary. It was designed to last about three months before succumbing to the Martian winter, but like Pathfinder, it to lasted two months longer than expected.
It to carried a silica DVD with the names of all of the Planetary Societies members etched upon it, including mine. I have a certificate to prove it (I showed it to my lovely case manager, Erin, earlier today at Movie Day ("The Mexican," Erin says it is her new favorite movie). She said she was jealous, and was going to get a star one day. I'm not quite sure what she meant by that, but we'll see if we can get her one. Her birthday is coming up).
The image at the top of this post "shows the DVD provided by The Planetary Society to the Phoenix mission, which contains 250,000 names of people who signed up to send their names to Mars. It also contains "Visions of Mars," messages to future Martian explorers, science fiction stories and art inspired by the Red Planet. The DVD is mounted on the deck of the lander, which sits about one meter above the Martian surface, visible in the background.
The first library on Mars – contains materials that represent 20 nations and cultures. Visions of Mars includes works by The Planetary Society's co-founder Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Kim Stanley Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke, Percival Lowell and many more."
Unlike the moon, Mars has a thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide, about 1% of the Earth's at sea level. Rarely the entire planet experiences global dust storms, so erosion does take place. The DVDs contained on the Pathfinder and Phoenix spacecraft will probably last up to 500 years before being worn away.
That's okay. We'll just keep sending them up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Demons 2

My dental insurance company finally approved my having a root canal that the demons said I badly needed. I could only take the demons word for it, as I am not a dentist, but I am a little suspicious as the tooth in question was causing me no discomfort whatsoever.
As you recall, dear readers, in the Dean Koontz novel, "Twilight Eyes," the protagonist battles demons, or goblins, that can mask themselves as normal human beings. He has a unique ability to see through their disguise, and he actively hunts them.
I do not have that ability. However I do believe that dental medicine is a perfect profession for the demons to harvest the fear and pain of their helpless victims, er... patients (MTA bus drivers, as well). They even wear masks to hide their identities.
My appointment was for ten-thirty yesterday morning. Yesterday was Earth Day, a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation of our planet's environment, founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. I annually celebrate Earth Day by conserving water and not showering. The day before Earth Day, I had forgotten it was Earth Day the next day, which is unfortunate as I got into a heated garlic fight with my neighbor, Robert.
Accordingly I arrived at my dentist's office reeking of stale but pungent garlic, and my hair standing straight up like Larry of the Three Stooges. I signed in with the demon receptionist and took a seat in the fairly crowded waiting area. Many of the other waiting patients changed their seating arrangements to get as far away from me as possible. I didn't mind, and thanked providence for the previous night's garlic fight, as I knew demons are repelled by garlic... or is that vampires? It didn't matter, if garlic doesn't repel the demons it's bound to at least piss them off.
Soon I heard my name called by a demon dental assistant, which I followed into the bowels of the demon domain.
"It's so nice to have you back with us Mr. Joyce," the demon said. "Good God, what's that smell."
"Sorry," I said, "I fell into a pit of garlic on my way here." It's good to mislead the demons at every opportunity.
"Jesus. Okay, have a seat. The doctor will be with you shortly."
I took a seat in the dentist chair and began reading from John Nickols "The Magic Journey." I had forgotten to bring my reading glasses, so I couldn't actually clearly see the words before me, but it is good to make a nonchalant appearance in the midst of demons.
"Good God, what's that smell?" asked the demon dentist by way of introduction.
"Sorry," I said, "I fell into a ..."
"Never mind," he said. "Matilda, get some incense."
My demon dentist took the disguise of a young Hispanic man in his early thirties. His assistant, the demon Matilda, chose the appearance of a plump Hispanic woman in her twenties.
The demon dentist explained to me what the root canal procedure entailed. They had x-rays from the last time I was there. There were three separate canals that needed to be rooted out in the designated tooth. Then it began.
The demons would like nothing more than to attack their victims without using any anesthetic as that will maximize the amount of nutrients they receive. They have to at least make an appearance of applying the pain deafening drug in order make things look copesetic. I know the ways of demons and took the appropriate precautions, and consumed 37, 800 milligram acetaminophen tablets before arriving.
They waited a short amount of time for their supposed "anesthetic" to take effect, then the demon dentist probed my gums with a sharp instrument of torture.
"Can you feel this?" he asked hopefully.
I couldn't reply properly as a small piece of rubber was locking my mouth open. That piece of rubber would remain in my mouth for the next two hours.
"Uh, uh," I wittily replied.
"How about this," he stuck the instrument on the other side of my gum.
"Ah, Hah."
"Good, we're ready to begin. If you begin to feel any discomfort just raise your left hand, and I may or may not stop."
He really said that to me.
First came the drilling. Drill, drill, drill.
The demon doctor and assistant spoke to each other softly in what the untrained ear might interpret as some kind of Spanish dialect, but I can discern the black tongue of the Underworld when I hear it.
"You have good calcium, Mr. Joyce," the demon doctor informed me. "You'll never have to worry about osteoporosis." I could tell this enraged him.
The drilling ended abruptly. Then the filing started. File, file, file.
It went on and on. Despite putting his entire hand in my poor mouth several times, and his pressing down sharply on my lips, and other parts of my mouth while he continued working, I told him I felt no discomfort whenever he asked. At one point, doped up on acetaminophen, garlic, and fake anesthetic, I felt like taking a little nap to pass the time.
"Jesus, this is a tough tooth," the doctor exclaimed. "I'm going to have to charge you double. You've broken three of my files!"
"Ooory," I said.
"Alright, we are going to take an x-ray right now, the first of three during this procedure." The demon left, and his assistant led me to the x-ray machine. I still had the piece of rubber locking my mouth open in, so as I walked around I found myself drooling all over the place.
The dentist returned and examined the x-ray.
"Perfect," he said. He continued filing in another canal, another x-ray was taken. I kept drooling all over the place. Drool, drool, drool.
In the end this ploy was used.
"I can't file through this last canal because the calcium is so ossified. I've placed a calcium softener in your tooth, and you'll have to come back in about a week."
The demons always want another shot at you.
They finally removed the rubber block from my mouth, restoring my powers of speech.
"Okay," I said.
I made an appointment at the reception desk for ten o'clock on May 2nd. All three of the receptionists spoke in unison: "Thank you for coming, Mr. Joyce. Can't wait to see you next
time." They all smiled evilly.
I got out of there while the getting was good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture is:
“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a male or female person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions."

During last year's presidential campaign Michelle Obama was heavily criticized by the right for making a statement that at this particular time in our nation's history, when a man of African descent had a viable shot at the presidency, she was proud of her country, or for the first time she was proud. This statement was immediately taken out of context by the usual gang of idiots at Fox Noise, attempting to make it appear that for all of her life she had the audacity not be completely and blindly in love with the United States of America no matter what its government did in the name of its citizens.
American exceptionalism is a theory recently embraced by the neoconservative movement who got us into the unnecessary war in Iraq, that the United States holds a special, privileged place in the world, simply because it exists. This is an example of the same egotistical, numb-headed thinking that allows Christians to believe that their religion is superior to all others, and that those who are not Christians will be eternally punished simply because they happened to have been born in a different geographical location.
I genuinely love this country and its people (except the loud and obnoxious ones, i.e., Republicans and soccer fans), for selfish reasons I suppose. It has allowed me to live the way I have, no matter how many mistakes I have made. Even now, as I live in my box in relative poverty, I enjoy an historically magnificent standard of living. It is largely by chance that I enjoy this standard of living. I could have just as easily been born in Ethiopia, and at this moment be digging up grubs for tonight's dinner, or three hundred years ago, and enjoy a life expectancy of 30 years. I've sponsored little children in other countries while being criticized for not helping American children first, but I believe that anyone who lives in this country is much better off than 95% of the world's population.
There is nothing exceptional about the United States of America, or its citizens except its history. God does not look down upon us and smile, favoring us above all others. We are simply human beings who have enjoyed an historical and ruthless advantage over most of the world. We are directly related to all those who live on this planet. Our cousins are the trees, animals, fish, insects, and plants who share this world with us.
I am not proud of many of the things our government has done in the past. I am not proud of slavery (still going on in the form of human trafficking). I am not proud of the genocide of the native Americans done in our countries name. I am not proud of clandestine intervention in other countries affairs per portably for this countries benefit. I am not proud of Tuskegee. I am not proud of American greed. I am not proud of nuclear weapons. I am not proud of unnecessary foreign military intervention to protect corporate interests. And I am not proud of the torturing of prisoners done in my name.
The Bush Administration is clearly guilty of torturing prisoners and war crimes. Bush is certainly guilty of many other crimes as well, but let's stick to war crimes for the moment. The rest of the world knows this and Spain is currently investigating six of the previous administrations top officials for violations of those crimes. Linndie England did not come up with the Bush Torture Policy, Bush did, and his cronies, but she has been blamed for it and served time in prison because of it. Those responsible have yet to be held accountable in this country supposedly ruled by law.
Pundits and Bush officials, including Dick Cheney who seems to be in a endless loop of denial, use terms like "enhanced interrogation techniques," to put a pretty face on barbarism. They want to re-write history so they can hide their crimes and escape punishment. Columnist Peggy Noonan states that she can see no good in "a great nation," to release terror memos. I submit to her that this country is not great, by any standard, if it does not admit its mistakes, and take appropriate measures to correct them.
Those responsible for the Bush Administration Torture Policies are nothing more than schoolyard bullies, and like schoolyard bullies, if you stand up to them they'll break down and cry and run home to mommy. These people must not be allowed to escape prosecution for their crimes. This is not a nation where a different standard of justice exists for a certain select few (in reality, it actually is, but shouldn't be, and justice often prevails when prosecuting the ultra-rich). It just is not. The founding of this nation, a democratic republic, has been the greatest liberal social and political experiment in recorded history. It must not succumb to the whims of political expediency.
Barack Obama says he wants to look forward. Apparently he drives a car without a rear view mirror. He's looking forward so much he does not have time to see the Mack truck that is about to ram him from behind. I must say that his apparent hesitancy to investigate the obvious crimes of the previous administration is more than a little troubling. It is certainly morally incorrect. It may in fact be against the law, and he may be held accountable for crimes he committed by not vigorously investigating these crimes and having them prosecuted. I fervently hope we can clean our own house, and don't have to rely on other nations to do it for us. It seems that they certainly have a taste for it.
Our current economic crisis is a direct result of not learning from our past mistakes and repeating them. If we give a pass to the war criminals of the Bush years, we open the doors for other presidents to feel that they too are above the law, and will commit whatever crimes they feel they can get away with.
It is time to clean house Mr. President. Follow the law and do your job. Let me be proud of this country once again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fear, Hawking, & Stupid

The Republican Noise Machine, their Party jukebox you might say, knows only a couple of tunes, and fear is a big hit.
They were at it again over the weekend, blathering that President Obama was making the country less safe, first by giving the okay to release four torture technique memos from the Justice Department.
I say hogwash! In the unlikely event that Al Qaeda didn't already know what it would be like when their members were interrogated by U.S. intelligence agents, they could simply go on the Internet and look it up, as most of this information is already public, a lot of it coming from the Bush Administration. In reality, a concept the Republicans don't quite get, the banning of these forms of torture, and it is torture, which the President initiated, will erase an important recruitment tool for terrorist organizations, thus making the country more safe.
Second, they're all worked up that Obama met with Venezuela's President last Friday, Hugo Chavez, and was cordial. They said this confirms the President will not be tough with adversaries of the United States. If I remember correctly, Mr. Chavez was a critic, or adversary if you will, to George W Bush, not the U.S.. I think the President summed it up quite nicely: "It's unlikely as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interest of the United States."
Sorry Republicans, we're just not afraid anymore. We have a real President now.
Stupid Republicans.
Next, I hope we are all in agreement when I state that we all wish the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking a speedy recovery. He is the retired Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University,. a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton. He is famous for discovering that black holes emit radiation, among other things like naked singularities (oh my!), and functionally surviving amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which has left him paralyzed for most of his life. When first diagnosed with the neural disorder when 21 years old, doctors gave one or two years until he died. He is now 67.
In 1991, I attended a screening of the film, "A Brief History of Time," at Caltech, in Pasadena. The movie is a documentary concerning the life of Hawking, who was present at the screening, and who addressed the audience. I remember it vividly. He cannot speak directly, but uses a computer generated voice he controls with his fingers. And he's funny. He's even been on "The Simpsons."
He is very ill now with a respiratory aliment, and has been hospitalized. I wish him well.
Finally, I went to see Physician Assistant Brown this morning at the VA Clinic here downtown. She acts as my doctor, and has done so for many years. A lovely, black woman, in her sixties I'd say. I was there to discuss my thyroid which doesn't want to make thyroid juice anymore, so I have to take a drug called levothyroxine each morning to compensate. The problem is the dosage. For a long time I used to take the pill with milk to wash it down. Sounds fairly harmless, doesn't it dear reader, but it seems the drug reacts to the calcium in the milk in an unhelpful manner, which used to drive P.A. Brown crazy.
"I've never seen levels like this before. One month your up, the next down. You're driving me crazy," she'd say.
I told you so.
She sent me to an endocrinologist who is a specialist in these manners. She told to stop taking the f--king pill with milk, which I did. Now my levels were too high. The endocrinologist lady spoke to me on the phone one day and told me not to worry, that the technique was working, and she needed to simply lower the dosage.
"I'll prescribe a lower dosage which I want you to take for four to six weeks before coming back in."
"But I never received the meds," I explained to P.A. Brown.
"Happens all the time," she said. "You'll have to talk to the pharmacist."
She instructed me to go to the pharmacy and tell them I never received the new medication, take it for 4 to 6 weeks, get a blood test, go see the lovely endocrinologist lady ( she really is lovely), and then come see her again in 3 months.
I have the ability to follow simple instructions.
"When are you supposed to see the endocrinologist again?" the lady pharmacist asked.
"After I take the lower dosage meds for four to six weeks," I told her. "But I never received the meds."
"Our records show it was sent out on March ninth and delivered successfully. I can't issue any more than eleven pills to you without another prescription or I'll get in trouble. Maybe your manager has it."
"I've asked him, he doesn't have it. Eleven pills won't do me any good."
"Sorry," she said.
I walked back to my box, muttering to myself, and hating bureaucracies.
I attended the Garden Club. Lovely Erin has returned to us a tad sunburnt from her trip to Arizona. She didn't feel like talking about it very much, however.
After gardening I returned to my box and promptly found the lower dosage meds in my desk drawer, Which means at some point in the past I had placed it their, unless the medication fairies were up to their old tricks.
I find that unlikely.
Stupid Joyce.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Salvation Diary

"Salvation" Artist Amanda Milke

The following is the first installment of a book sized memoir that I wrote in 1990 when I first entered the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena California. It appears in a diary like form and covers an entire year.

Salvation Diary

Richard Joyce

After the Spanish-American War, when the United States War Department took over the chore of governing the Philippine Islands, it inherited a whole system for licensing narcotics addicts and supplying them with opium legally-a system established under Spanish rule…
For many years, Britain had been criticized for shipping opium grown in India into China; indeed, two ninteenth-century “opium wars” between Britain and China had been fought over this issue. Many Chinese saw opium from India as unfair cut-rate competition for their homegrown product. American missionaries in China complained that British opium was ruining the Chinese people; American traders similarly complained that the silver bullion China was trading for British opium could better be traded for other, perhaps American, products (some American traders also sent opium into China on a small scale. Some of New England’s world-renowned “china clippers” were in fact opium clippers). The agitation against British opium sales to China continued unabated after 1900. Thus the United States State Department saw a way not only to solve the War Department’s Philippine opium problem but also to please American missionaries and traders. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, at the request of Bishop Brent, called for an international opium conference, which was held at The Hague in 1911, and out of it came the first international opium agreement, The Hague Convention of 1912, aimed primarily at solving the opium problems of the Far East, especially China.
It was against this background that the Senate in 1914 considered the Harrison narcotic bill. The chief proponent of the measure was Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a man of deep prohibitionist and missionary convictions and sympathies. He urged that the law be promptly passed to fulfill United States obligations under the new international treaty.
The supporters of the Harrison bill said little in the Congressional debates (which lasted several days) about the evils of narcotics addiction in the United States. They talked more about the need to implement The Hague Convention of 1912. Even Senator Mann of Mann Act fame, spokesman for the bill in the Senate, talked about international obligations rather than domestic morality.
On its face, moreover, the Harrison bill did not appear to be a prohibition law at all. Its official title was “an Act to provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax upon all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes.” The law specifically provided that manufactures, importers, pharmacists, and physicians prescribing narcotics should be licensed to do so, at a moderate fee. The patent-medicine manufacturers were exempted even from the licensing and tax provisions, provided that they limited themselves to “preparations and remedies which do not contain more than two grains of opium, or more than one-fourth of a grain of morphine, or more than one-eighth of a grain of heroin… in one avoirdupois ounce.” Far from appearing to be a prohibition law, the Harrison Narcotic Act on its face was merely a law for the orderly marketing of opium, morphine, heroin, and other drugs-in small quantities over the counter, and in larger quantities on a physician’s prescription. Indeed, the right of the physician to prescribe was spelled out in apparently unambiguous terms: “Nothing contained in this section shall apply… to the dispensing or distribution of any of the aforesaid drugs to a patient by a physician, dentist, or veterinary surgeon registered under this Act in the course of his professional practice only.” Registered physicians were required only to keep records of drugs dispensed or prescribed. It is unlikely that a single legislator realized in 1914 that the law Congress was passing would later be deemed a prohibition law.
The provision protecting physicians, however, contained a joker-hidden in the phrase, “in the course of his professional practice only.” After passage of the law, this clause was interpreted by law-enforcement officers to mean that a doctor could not prescribe opiates to an addict to maintain his addiction. Since addiction was not a disease, the argument went, an addict was not a patient, and opiates dispensed to or prescribed for him by a physician were therefore not being supplied “in the course of his professional practice.” Thus a law apparently intended to ensure the orderly marketing of narcotics was converted into a law prohibiting the supplying of narcotics to addicts, even on a physician’s prescription.
Many physicians were arrested under this interpretation, and some were convicted and imprisoned. Even those who escaped conviction had their careers ruined by the publicity. The medical profession quickly learned that to supply opiates to addicts was to court disaster.

-Edward M. Brecher, and the Editors of
Consumer Reports
Licit and Illicit Drugs

This book is for those that don’t yet know that it’s possible to get even one day

And my Mother

Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions?

Who hath babbling?

Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine…

At the last, it biteth like a serpent, and stingth like an adder.

Proverbs 23

Imagine a terrible disease striking America, a disease of unknown cause. Suppose that this disease is so harmful to the nervous system that eighteen million people go insane for periods lasting from a few hours to weeks or months, with the madness recurring and getting worse over periods ranging from fifteen to thirty years. If untreated, the victims go permanently insane, or die. They commit suicide at a rate up to seventy-five times higher than that of the general population. Imagine that those afflicted by the disease itself and the other illnesses it causes already occupy more than half the hospital beds in the United States on any given day, and that last year the illness killed nearly 100,000 Americans. Suppose further that those out of hospital, during their spells of insanity, commit acts so destructive that the material and spiritual lives of whole families are in jeopardy, leaving many millions of other people cruelly affected. Work in business, industry and professions is faulty, sabotaged or left undone. Finally, imagine that this disease so alters its victim’s judgment, so brainwashes them, that they cannot see that they are sick at all: Their view of life has become so distorted that they try with all their might to go on being ill.
This dread disease is already among us. It has been with us for centuries. It is, of course, alcoholism.

Now me thinks on a sudden I am wakened

As if it were out of a dream, I have had a raving fit, a phantastical fit,

Ranged up and down, in and out, I have insulted over most kind of men,

Abused some, offended others, wronged myself:

And now being recovered and perceiving mine error;

Cry “Solvite me!” pardon that whixh is past.

-Richard Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy

The Salvation Army is a branch of the Protestant faith founded by William and Catherine Booth (although in official literature Catherine is never mentioned as a co-founder) in 1865, in East London, England. It is evangelical in nature, and its clergy assumes the use of a military structure, its leaders known as “Officers,” and their seniority and position within the organization denoted by their respective rank, General being the highest (whose duties are analogous to those of the Pope for the Catholic Church), down through Commissioner to Lieutenant. The church’s laity are labeled “Soldiers.”
When the average person thinks of the Salvation Army, Christmas kettles and temperance movements may come to mind. Any officer though, when asked, will say that the Army’s real mission is to “reach people with the Gospel of Christ expressed in word and action.” This the Army accomplishes with much enthusiasm and vigor, expanding forcefully from its humble beginnings, to today’s membership of over 3 million worldwide, serving in over 90 countries, participating in a wide variety of social programs, ranging from disaster relief, to locating missing persons, providing care for the infirm, and maintaining drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers for indigent men and women in many urban and rural locations around the globe.
The following account transpires within one of those drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, while I attempt to describe the people, events, and my own state of mind, within a set period of time. I regard the Salvation Army itself, with much affection and gratitude, for the real chance it provided to me, and those addicts who come to it seeking help… to find for themselves a new and wonderful way of life.
I also feel nothing but love and respect for all those mentioned herein, officers, staff, beneficiaries, and civilians alike, myself included, no matter what silly things we may do.

Richard Joyce
July 1994

The Park

The disheveled man sat at the picnic table, seemingly lost in thought, while in actuality his mind attempted to sift through the thick fog of a self induced stupor. He shifted slightly, letting his gaze fall around different areas throughout the Park that he found himself in. How did I get here, he wondered. How do I get out?
Staring at the monstrous and majestic Castle Green, thirty yards directly in front of him, thoughts of fairies and goblins entered his consciousness, only to be displaced with sweet, sad remembrances of the innocent times when he had first read the Tolkien stories, filled with elves and orcs, radiant princesses and gallant kings, and of an evil so great it defied description.
The man gathered his filthy trench coat closer about to protect him from the oncoming coldness of the night. It’s funny how cold it gets here at night when each day reaches over one hundred degrees, he thought. Nothing he could do about it, of course, but live with it. It was getting late, his bottle was almost empty, as was the Park itself. He’d have to leave soon, or the police would come and hassle him, something he was tired of and avoided if possible.
He closed the thick paperback book in front of him and placed it in one of his coat pockets, then looked around again. Bright lights shinning up from where Raymond met Colorado Boulevard, lots of pretty people walking around over there, even on a Wednesday night. People with things to do and places to go. Behind him was the stillness of the vast Park, empty now, or almost empty, he thought, feeling the same way, feeling lost and old and sickened. Little pools of light fell on various areas, over the asphalt pathways that meandered through the Park, like capillaries delivering precious blood to oxygen-starved extremities. He couldn’t see anybody moving, but he knew they were probably out there, in the many dark shadows that overwhelmed the little pools of light that shined on the asphalt pathways. There were people out there, all right, people like himself, who didn’t have things to do or places to go. People who’s main concern and occupation was to escape the present at any cost, to temporarily slip into some other reality, to a nicer place, a softer place, a place where no harm will dare come, and truth never concedes to bitter corruption. A reality that should be but never is. A child’s dream.
The people of the Park used different means to reach the reality they desired; sex, drugs, violence, sometimes preying on luckless victims who happened over the border of this lonely place. The man at the picnic table avoided all of them, or tried to. Sometimes the people of the Park gathered amongst themselves to generate some sense of humanity, to share joy and laughter, to feel needed and highly regarded by others even when the others were just as miserable as they were. Sometimes they would boldly ask the man to join with them, but he would always politely refuse preferring to wallow, and take shelter within his own substantial misery, braving life on his own, and distantly praising himself and thinking himself better for doing so. Sometimes they came to him unexpectedly while he was sitting at his table (for he thought of it at times as being his table), talking in different but familiar languages, or brutal and coarse dialects of his own, wanting him to join with them in their false gaiety, in their melancholy songs, or sharing their point of view. The man would just acknowledge their presence with a thin smile, denoting neither partisanship nor superiority. It wouldn’t be prudent to offend these people. Most times they would continue to carry on, leaving the man to himself.
It was strange, he thought, desiring to be left alone when the only thing he could really feel was heart rendering loneliness and alienation.
The man drew a long breath and turned his back on the dry, green, evacuated lawns of the Park, and summoned his attention to the lackluster present, to the bottle resting in the inside pocket of his coat. He took it out, placing it between his knees, looking around for cruising police cars. Out of another coat pocket he extracted a pack of cigarettes, Marlboro Red, hard pack. He took out one and lit it, inhaling deeply, placing the pack back in his pocket. Reaching down into his lap, he unscrewed the bottle cap, and took a final look around. All was clear. He hurriedly brought the mouth of the bottle to his lips and drained the last of the light brown rum in two swallows. He suppressed a slight urge to cough by gasping once or twice, then took two quick drags from the cigarette. Now that the bottle was no longer useful to him he had no reason to keep the incriminating evidence of his activities about, and so, with some nostalgia, dumped it into a nearby trash container.
He finished his cigarette, then stood up, stretching as he did so. He had been sitting for a long time.
Walking across Raymond Avenue, he passed the big yellow, Rider Rental trucks, and continued over the large, empty parking lot to Arroyo Parkway. He glanced at the Mobil gas station while waiting for the traffic light to change, noticing the scarcity of customers and being somewhat more at ease because of it.
Stopping inside the door of the small convenience shop attached to the gas station, the man looked over the refrigerated food section, giving it his most assiduous attention. He placed himself between the glass door and the Iranian looking gentleman behind the counter , attending to the cash register. It was now past ten o’clock, and there were no others in the store, but the cashier had seen the man many times before and didn’t pay any particular attention to him.
It was easy to make the play. The man simply grabbed two Monterey Chicken and Cheese burritos, transferring them to the microwave oven in the corner, popping them both in, still keeping himself between the merchandise and the cashier. While waiting for the food to heat, the man casually looked at the many medicinal items available for sale nearby, trying to look inconspicuous and small. A woman entered and paid for gasoline, and while the cashiers attention was sure to be elsewhere, the man quickly opened the oven and placed one of the warm burritos in the over large front pocket of his trench coat. He then wrapped the other in a paper napkin and went to the register, waiting for his turn to pay.
The criminal mastermind left the store quickly, not wanting to stay overly long at the scene of the crime. Crossing the street and walking back past the lot, he opened one of the small plastic packages and began to eat the warm food, the only food he would have this day. It tasted good to him, and he ate fast. Coming up to the unattended rental trucks, he sat on the tailgate of one and finished his dinner. It didn’t take long. He lit another cigarette, the day’s last, and sat and thought, looking around occasionally. He was silent for there was nobody to talk to. A patrol car passed, heading north on Raymond, but the officers had their attention focused into the Park and they did not notice him. He remained motionless until they were gone.
He finished his smoke and began inspecting the trucks nearby, finding one unlocked. He didn’t know why the Ryder Rental daytime attendants usually left one or two of their trucks unlocked. A passive attempt to keep homeless people from breaking in perhaps.
He rose the sliding door, then looked back at the Park a last time.
“Maybe tomorrow,” he whispered, then dove inside, closing the heavy door behind him.

September 13, 1990 Thursday Day 1

September, an odd month. I don’t believe I’ve ever done anything significant in September.
I woke up. I didn’t want to move, but my back ached so I shifted slightly. The floor was hard and I was cold. I looked around the empty truck interior and noticed it had begun to get lighter outside. I could see the early morning light from the crack where the sliding panel door came down near the truck bed floor. I looked at my watch, six o’clock. I still had about an hour and a half before I had to get going, if I got going. I thought about what I had to do today, then turned over on my side and tried to go back to sleep, to reach the escape it would give to me. My brain, my mind, my thinking began to race as it often did at such times. A paradox of intention. I considered not going in today. Put it off, wait until Monday, and again on Tuesday. Always putting it off until tomorrow. Yesterday I had finally mustered enough… something, to call, and had talked to an intake counselor--Clarence. He had told me to come in at eight.
So that was it.
The pros and cons of finally leaving the Park went through my mind. If I stayed, I wouldn’t have to go to work, or any A.A. meetings. And I wouldn’t have to face the fear of possibly being turned away. I wouldn’t know what I would do if that happened.
If I got off my butt and went I just might get my life together.
Inaction is so attractive when your depressed, but I did have some other things to consider.
If I stayed in the Park it would be harder to do what I wanted to do, which was to drink rum and smoke cigarettes. Each day I stayed out here I became dirtier and dirtier. Not being a very good homeless person, an amateur really, I didn’t know where to take a shower or get my clothes washed. I hadn’t done either since last Saturday night at Ed’s apartment. My shirt was grimy; I looked bad, eyes glazed, a beard growing. I had broken my disposable razor somehow, and was unable to shave. And I stank, no doubt about it. Being so downtrodden made it increasingly difficult for me to shoplift rum and cigarettes, which I needed on a daily basis to help pass the time in the Park. One must look clean and prosperous in order to be a good thief. The way I looked, I might as well have had a sign around my neck saying, “Homeless, shoplifting person-please arrest me!” And the thought of getting caught and going to jail, once again, was not appealing. I had already been to jail twice within the last month, and jail, although providing a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in, was very, very boring. Very.
Besides, you meet nothing but riff-raff in places like that.
Obviously, if I had to resort to shoplifting, I didn’t have much money. I don’t particularly enjoy stealing things, and would rather pay for them when I can. But I needed the booze, and I needed the cigarettes, and an occasional book to read. These were everyday expenses that would not go away, and I couldn’t afford them, so I stole. The little money I did have I used to feed myself at night, after polishing off the rum. I had been eating at least one meal everyday, so far, so I wasn’t too sick, and felt relatively okay. But I only had one dollar and some pocket change left, with no real prospects of getting any more money, so getting food over the upcoming weekend would become harder. I could eat in a restaurant, and leave without paying, again, but as I’ve mentioned, the worse I looked, the harder it is to do stuff like that.
If I stayed in the Park until Monday, I’d probably have to explain why I hadn’t come in to the Army today, like I said I would. That would be a count against me, and I couldn’t afford too many counts against me.
I knew I had to get out of the truck soon. The attendants might come, lock me in and drive off to Milwaukee. That’s the chance one takes when one sleeps in Ryder Rental trucks.
Not that I have anything against Milwaukee. I don’t. I’ve never been there. Laverne and Shirley seemed to like it well enough.
Not able to get back to sleep, at seven-thirty I rolled out of the empty truck and shook the night from my body. It was cold now, but soon the sun’s heat would be searing. I looked at my reflection in one of the truck’s side view mirrors, and tried to comb my hair. I looked terrible. I then made my way across the railroad tracks, and Raymond Avenue, to the Mobile station, and used the unisex restroom they keep open for the public. The toilet was working this morning, which eased my mood a bit. I bought a cup of coffee from the station’s store, then continued east, on Del Mar, toward the Pasadena Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC).
I arrived at 8:04 a.m., and gave my name to the not-so-friendly looking receptionist, who in return, requested my driver’s license and Social Security card. She and I were separated by a Plexiglas window, and I had to pass my paperwork through a small hole near the bottom. I suppose the Plexiglas was in place to protect her from insane street people who might attempt to over run the center. Or people like me, if I so happened to run amuck. It looked to me though, that she could hold her own in most situations, and would break me in two if I so much as sneezed incorrectly.
I sat in a small waiting room and watched the cars drive by on Del Mar Boulevard through a plate-glass window. I was soon joined by two other young men, who were also seeking admission. One black, one white. I didn’t feel much like talking, so I listened to the two men exchange information. The black’s name was Rico, and he had just left another program in Santa Monica to come here. The white guy was making another attempt at admission, having failed an initial breath-a-lizer test two times before. Both were worried about not getting in. The white guy for good reason. He would fail the test again today, and be asked not to come back.
I waited and waited, finally feeling justified to pull out my Tom Clancy novel, and began to read. Patriot Games. I didn’t mind waiting around at all. The longer the better, actually. The more time I spent in this office going through the admission process, the less time I would have to work out in the hot sun, on the dock (if admitted). Everyone either gets assigned to the dock or the sorting room when they first come in. On two previous occasions, at different ARC’s, I had been assigned to the dock. I guess I look like a dock kind of guy.
At 9:30, an inner door opened, and a middle aged, pox-marked, Hawaiian type face, with glasses, poked out, and asked me to come with it. This was Clarence, the center’s Intake Counselor. Once behind the door he stuck a small black box with a white plastic tube aligned horizontally on the top, in my face and asked me to blow through it. After I had done so and he was satisfied with the results, I thanked the God of Alcoholics that the fumes of rum from last night had dissipated. We, Clarence and I, sat at a table and he asked me what it was he could do for me. I told him that I needed to get into a program. He asked me what was going on in my life (obviously, not much), and what my problems were. I told him I was an alcoholic and that I was homeless. He nodded. He heard stuff like this all of the time. It seemed like he was in a hurry, and after a while, said, “Okay,” and got up disappearing into an office briefly, stuck his head out, and asked, “What’s your name, again?” I gave him this information, and he ducked back inside. After a moment, he came back with a pile of papers for me to fill out, which took about fifteen minutes. Then he photographed me four times, placing one of these pictures on card, which he then laminated. There was a clip on the back of the card, which made it a badge, and which I was told to wear at all times. The picture on the badge looked like a diseased, wild-eyed, Hungarian fur trapper, recovering from a thirty-year LSD trip while losing his way in an intense blizzard, and set upon by three packs of crazed, carnivorous, scavenger beavers.
Clarence sat with me once again and recited a prayer for my salvation. He asked me if I believed Jesus Christ could make a change in my life. I said that I hoped so. He then directed me through the warehouse, across the street, to the residence.
I had been in the Canoga Park and Van Nuys centers, but Pasadena’s facility was much larger and newer than either of those. I had passed by the residence many times while on my way to the supermarket to procure my daily supplies, and I had always been struck by the beauty of the building, and had looked forward to living there.
I walked through the glass front door and presented myself to the studious looking young man at the front desk. I learned his name was Jack Crossley and I gave him the papers Clarence had given to me. Jack gave me a dorm key, 14E, a bar of soap, a toothbrush, three canteen cards, and a razor. He called for someone named Victor Jackson over the building’s public address system, to come to the front desk. As we waited for Victor, Jack gave me a brief indoctrination on how things worked around the ARC. Victor took his time showing up, so I walked outside and smoked a cigarette. I was feeling a little apprehensive, but was relieved at having gotten into the program, and that I could start again towards a new beginning.
As I walked back inside, Victor arrived, a young, black man, apparently Jack’s immediate supervisor. He took me to the building’s one elevator, up to the second floor, where the dormitories were located. He showed me to dorm 14, where my bed and locker was, and showed me where the restrooms and showers were, and gave me my very own towel.
I was allowed to shower, shave, and get myself cleaned up, and felt much better, physically, and emotionally, after the process was completed. I made my bed too, generally dragging out the time as best as I could.
When I did make it back downstairs lunch was being served. Chicken patties! While waiting in line with about fifty other guys to get something to eat, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. I turned around and saw my old work mate, Rudy Johnson, smiling at me.
Rudy is a tall, black man, in his late twenties, very handsome. We had worked together in the phone room at the Van Nuys center, taking pick-up orders. I hadn’t seen him since the night he hadn’t made it back for curfew and had been thrown out of the program. It was good to see him, good to see a familiar face. Rudy was a nice guy, and talented too. He had played the piano during chapel services.
He was a little nervous, he told me, because he would be playing at this center’s service tonight for the first time. Rudy had a little problem with cocaine.
We ate lunch together, and talked about what had happened to each of us since we had last seen each other. After missing curfew, he had gone to downtown L.A., and promptly relapsed. Relapse meaning the resumption of drug or alcohol use by a recovering addict. While downtown, after he got tired of relapsing, he entered some program, but had become dissatisfied and left. He then came here, to Pasadena, and had been here over twenty days now. Good for him!
I told him my story, and how it was I had come to Pasadena. A sad tale. Very mysterious also. While at the Van Nuys ARC, I had left my locker unlocked one Sunday, while going off to dinner and an A.A. meeting with my then sponsor, Jeff. The next day, the man who had replaced Rudy in the phone room, dropped dead from a heart attack as he was walking to the kitchen to have lunch. The administrator, a Major Engels, mistakenly went through my locker, thinking it was that of the deceased, finding two empty bottles of Seagram’s VO within. Or so he said. I was summarily terminated from the program, and like Rudy, promptly relapsed.
I was actually innocent. There are very few times that I’m actually innocent, so they do stick out in my mind. I had not put those bottles there. I had not drank while at that center, and even had somewhere between thirty and forty days nicotine free when I was kicked out. I don’t usually drink whiskey, preferring tequila mostly, or rum when I can’t get tequila. I proclaimed my innocence to the Major, but his infallibleness prevailed and I was dismissed, essentially, come to think of it, for having two empty glass containers in my locker, which I never saw. It continues to be a great mystery to me as to who put those bottles there, one I will probably never solve.
I learned one thing though; there is nothing fair about life.
So, having been terminated, I was back on the streets with eighty dollars in my pocket. I fumbled around the San Fernando Valley, drinking heavily, making a nuisance of myself, not knowing where to go or what to do. For all intents and purposes this was the first time I had ever been homeless, and as I’ve said, I wasn’t particularly good at it, nor felt particularly good about it. I was amazed at how quickly this condition had come about. A few short months ago I had an apartment, a good job, a girlfriend, my very own VCR. Now I had none of those. My friends and family had abandoned me. My sponsor wouldn’t have anything to do with me because I was drinking, and drinking was the only thing that took away the fear, anxiety, and pain.
Imagine yourself, dear reader, displaced from your comfortable home, money, loved ones, friends, no place to go, nothing to do, and involved in a love-hate relationship with a toxic, addictive substance, that at once is a fleeting escape from all of your problems and worries, and at the same time, slowly and inextricably your very destruction.
Having been thrown out of the Van Nuys ARC, I thought I would have to wait thirty days, a suspension period, before being allowed to enter another, and the Salvation Army was the only place that I knew about that I could go to.
My sponsor drove me one day, after I had slept next to his car all night in his parking lot, into Pasadena, with the hope that I would be allowed in before said thirty days were over. I had made the mistake of coming to Pasadena on a Friday though, and soon learned that intake for the program was closed on Fridays. So I found the Park, instead. It wasn’t hard to do. Just a block from the ARC. And in the Park I stayed, longer than the thirty days I thought I needed.
I had been arrested twice in six weeks while living in the Park. Once after having fallen asleep in a gas station restroom (After the police had been summoned it had been discovered that I had an outstanding warrant for my arrest, issued in Burbank, for a misdemeanor hit and run I had been responsible for a year or so earlier. Fifteen days jail time for that, seven actually served). The other, a “Dine and Ditch” escapade, I had eaten in a restaurant without having the money to pay, and had been caught (ambushed, really). Ten days, three served.
The rest of the days in the Park were spent reading, drinking rum, smoking cigarettes, following the shade provided by the Park’s large trees as the sun passed over head (taking me from the west side of the Park on Fair Oaks Boulevard in the mornings, to finishing the day on the East side on Raymond), and avoiding homosexuals, who were the only ones who wanted anything to do with me (which I took advantage of from time to time, hence using the shower and getting my cloths washed at Ed’s apartment, then politely refusing to spend the night, as was his suggestion. I have nothing against homosexuals. That type of behavior just does not personally interest me. And Ed, if the truth be known, was being a bit predatory, and deserved to go unsatiated).
The scary thing about living in the Park is that I was starting to get used to it.
But now I was here, finally, in the Pasadena ARC. Lunchtime was over and I told Rudy I would see him later.
Victor directed me back across the street to the warehouse, and to ask for Frank Ortiz. He told me I should ask Frank for an emergency clothing voucher, as I needed clothes desperately, especially for the chapel service that evening.
The ARC is financed mainly from donations received, and then sold through its network of thrift stores. Old clothes, appliances, books, toys, anything really that can be resold with little or no processing. The warehouse is a cavernous building, directly across Waverly Avenue and the residence, where the donations are collected, sorted, repaired, if it’s feasible to do so, and then shipped to the stores.
I walked past the loading dock, where donations are unloaded from a fleet of white trucks decorated with a Salvation Army logo, a red shield and a little blue guy in uniform holding up a phone. Donors called the center and made appointments to have a truck come to their home, office, or apartment, to pick up things they couldn’t bring in themselves. Anything. Everything. Garbage mostly.
After asking around a bit I found Frank Ortiz. He seemed very warm and friendly, and I was glad of it. He was of Latin extraction. Regarding my dingy clothes, he assured me that I would be released from work early and allowed to look around the Pasadena thrift store for something to wear. He then put me to work on the dock, introducing me to the dock supervisor, a heavy set black guy, by the name of Robert.
My first job was to help three other guys shovel trash into a big trash compactor. There was a small mountain of garbage, so it took awhile. For the last two weeks the daytime temperature had reached over 100 degrees, and today was no exception. The refreshing feeling the shower had provided dissipated quickly as I began to work and sweat. None of us tried to work too hard, though. We paced ourselves, telling each other that we shouldn’t get exhausted in case there was some emergency trash to sort through later.
After we were finished, I was told to run a dust mop through the warehouse. I took my time with this job also, wishing to be thorough. After that, I looked up some tire companies in the yellow pages, for Frank, a nice, easy job. The Salvation Army didn’t want me to hemorrhage something while detoxing. I also helped unload trucks at the end of the day.
Near 3:30 p.m., a short fellow with great hair, by the name of Ron Collins, collected me, taking me to through the backdoor into the thrift store, which ran adjacent to the warehouse. The store consisted of one large showroom filled mostly with racks of clothes, but almost anything that can be sold, large and small appliances, books, furniture, computers, toys, and decretive odds and ends, what the Army calls “Bric-A-Brac,” were offered to the public as well.
I never really cared all that much for shopping for clothes, too many decisions to make, and today I didn’t feel up to making a whole lot of decisions. All I really wanted to do was kick back physically and mentally. I had been very much alone in the Park. Being surrounded by people was exhausting. I did need the clothes though, so I toughed it out and wadded into the sea of pants and undershirts to try and find items that came somewhat near my size. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do it, either. Soon dinner would be served, and I wanted to eat a little something to get me through the night. And the mid-week chapel service would be held right after dinner. Busy, busy, busy.
Within forty minutes I had found for myself two pair of dress pants, two pair of work pants, two pair of socks (brown and blue), two dress shirts, two work shirts, one sport coat, two ties, and one brown belt. Besides the clothes just mentioned, my clothing voucher allowed me to select two pair of under shorts, two pair of under shirts, a work jacket, one pair of dress shoes, and one pair of work shoes, but at the time they didn’t have any of those.
I brought my new clothes back to the residence and to my room, then had dinner. Meatloaf. Afterwards, I put my clothes away while selecting the ones I would wear for chapel. . I also became acquainted with two of my new dorm mates, Gordon and Dan. There are five to a dorm, so I had two more to meet.
The chapel was located on the third and top floor of the residence. It is a beautiful room, really. Dark brown wooden pews and alter, with a plush red carpet throughout. It could hold 150 people easily. The large windows on the north side provided a panoramic view of the Green Hotel near the Park, Old (downtown) Pasadena, and the San Gabriel Mountains.
The mid-week chapel service is usually only thirty minutes long. At 5:30 precisely, the center’s administer, a Major Johnson, entered with his staff through a side door near the alter, and began the service. He said a few words in greeting, then turned the proceedings over to Clarence, who led us all in song, one chosen from the Salvation Army Songbook. People in the Salvation Army like to sing a lot.
Singing songs found in the Salvation Army Songbook is a vital part of their services. One would think that the officers, over a thirty year career, would get sick of singing the same 235 songs over and over again, but they keep singing their little hearts out, week after week. They make us sing too, whether we like it or not. Or at least we’re supposed to sing. About half the clients don’t bother. This ARC has the capacity to hold up to 106 clients, and all of them are required to attend these chapel services, but some were still working, and absent. I’d say there were at least 85 guys here tonight, which meant that about 45 of us were singing our little hearts out, along with the Major. I know I was. I don’t mind singing, although I really didn’t feel up to it at the time.
After the song, Frank Ortiz took over and introduced all of the new clients who had come to the center within the last week, which included myself. There were five of us in all. He then presented awards for the cleanest dorm of the week, the most improved dorm, and the best made bed and cleanest area (adjacent to the bed). Two canteen cards for the winners!