Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Yesterday I was up in my box, minding my own business, happily munching down some nice cream of chicken soup with bread pieces from the Hippie Kitchen, when I heard, "Hi Rick," from the direction of my open door.
I turned around and found my lovely case manager, Erin, standing in my hallway with little strips of paper in her hands. "I was going to tape this to your door, but I can just give it to you." She handed me one of the pieces of paper.
"Hi Erin," I said. "What's this?"
"It's just a reminder to come and see me so we can update your case management files."
"Oh, okay. When do you want to see me?"
"Anytime. I won't be doing anything for the rest of the day."
"Alright, when will you be in your office?"
"In about five minutes."
"I'll be right down."
"See ya then." Then she went merrily on her way.
It was two fifteen. I figured that I could see Erin quickly, then make my way to the downtown VA clinic in time for the Monday Depression Group at three. I hastily munched a little more bread and soup, got my stuff together, and left my box for Erin's office downstairs.
I knocked on her door, and heard her say, "Come in," from deep inside. Accordingly, I opened the door only to find John already in deep consultation with Erin.
"He beat you to it," Erin said.
"He beat me to it?"
"Yes. Can you wait for five minutes?"
"Uh, yeah... sure."
"Thanks Rick."
So I sat outside her office on the windowsill they have out there, next to a two inch tall cactus plant. "How ya doing little cactus plant?"
It did not reply.
I waited patiently, forgetting about the injustice Erin had perpetrated upon me.
Ten minutes later I was still sitting there, when a young woman I did not know came up and knocked on Erin's door. I heard Erin say, "Come in," from deep inside. The young lady opened the door, and told Erin that she was in a hurry, and that she was okay, everything was fine, and that she had to go. Erin said that she needed to ask her some specific questions, and could she just wait five minutes to see her.
"Five minutes?" the young lady asked.
"Yes, just five minutes."
Apparently I had been forgotten, which did loads for my fragile ego.
See what abuse I am constantly subjected to dear readers.
I got tired of sitting there and returned to my box. It was too late to go to my Depression Group by then, besides I had just become depressed, so the trip wasn't necessary anymore. I called Erin's office with the intent of informing her that I was in my box and she should just call me when she was free, but she didn't answer her phone. Now I knew that she was in there, ignoring my phone call. I left a message on her answering machine.
After about twenty minutes I returned to her office and looked through her little window, through the blinds, to find my case manager talking to the young woman. I sat down again with my cactus pal, and waited.
In about five minutes the young woman came out and I went in.
"Sorry about that Rick. I thought when I said next, you would have came in."
"No, I heard you give up my slot to the lady."
"That was bad of me, but I really needed to talk to her, she hardly ever comes in, and she really opened up this time."
"Apparently. That's alright. I understand how busy you can get," I told her.
There was a young man I didn't know sitting in Paul's chair, working on Paul's computer. He would continue to sit through our brief conversation silently, making me feel exceedingly odd. Erin offered no introduction.
"I just have to ask you two questions," Erin said.
"Really? The last time I was here for a case management session you told me that my case was always managed," (due no doubt to my consistent participation in her and Paul's group activities, and the fact that I see her almost everyday).
"It pretty much is... I just need to ask these questions that I can't really answer myself."
She looked at her computer screen, and asked me, "What progress have you made in the last six months?"
Naturally I answered, "None whatsoever."
She smiled, familiar with my nonsense. "Rick, I'm not going to put that down."
"You're not?"
"No. I know you've made some progress, tell me..."
I relented, and between the two of us we came up with a sufficient answer for her notes, something like my blog is going well, and crap like that.
"... and your story in the newsletter..." Erin added.
"Oh yeah, that." I turned around to look at the silent young man in Paul's chair, still silent and looking intently at Paul's computer screen. I turned back to Erin.
"Good, now the last question... how do you hope to progress for the next six months?"
"Well my plans for world domination are progressing nicely..."
Now, sitting in my lonely box and thinking about these simple questions, I deem them to be profound in consequence. What progress have I made, and in which direction? What does making progress even mean?
I'll tell you this dear readers, everyday that we live we hopefully learn how to live in the world we find ourselves in a little better. We learn to adapt to changing conditions (unless of course, you're a Republican). We learn a little bit more about ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, how we cope in certain situations, how to attain goals a bit better, if we have goals, how to exist within ourselves and without. For me with every word I write I gain experience and confidence in my ability to communicate, to get ideas across in a clear, understandable manner. How to improve my craft. How to deal with compliments and criticism. I learn how to deal with people a little better. With every book, story, or Email I read I learn. I had no idea of what Christian Nationalism was, and its imminent threat, a month ago, not until I read Michelle Goldberg's first book, and now I'm learning the shocking facts behind the worldwide suppression of women's rights and freedoms, by reading her second. With every Email I send to my senators, my governor, my president, and to a host of organizations, I hope it aids in some small way to make this country, a gender, an underdog, this world, a little better. For everyday I understand my disease and do not give in to it I live a little better. Everyday I meditate, do yoga, and exercise, I feel a little better. By keeping up on my research on those things that interest me, politics, history, and science to mention a few, I understand the world around us and how it works a little better, I understand the universe we live in a little better. On and on.
That is progress on a small, and a grand scale.
This is certainly a work in progress.
Now if I can only understand why my case manager abuses me so. That will be real progress.
I'm just kidding, lovely Erin (in case she reads this). You're wonderful!
So dear case manager, the next time time you need to make current my progress, and my goals for future progress for your case management files, you have my answer.
Just copy and paste.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Greatest Thing

Last week was another busy one, filled with wonder and promise. It started out of course with the discovery of a possible triffid infiltration of our garden. I checked them Sunday morning as I watered, and I swear it looks like they've changed positions. And whenever I look away from the six suspect plants, I get the feeling that they're undulating, making mocking gestures toward me behind my back, but when I look directly at them, they are still, just swaying in the gentle wind.
I'm going to keep my eye on those bastards.
Paul left his nice industrial sized dolly (a conveyance consisting of a wheeled platform for moving heavy objects) outside of his office and forgot about it. I took it upon myself to rescue said dolly from being stolen, and took it to my box to spend the night. We had a good time.
Tuesday, another grueling yoga session with just Greg, my lovely case manager, Erin and I, showing up (Paul was not feeling well, or so he says). My lovely yoga instructor, Beth, told us that that was the norm after a "challenging" session the previous week. "After a hard week," Beth said, "they'll usually skip a session. They'll be back next week, and we'll practice some relaxation posses."
Which meant that this week there was no reason not not to have another "challenging" session.
In about twenty minutes Beth had us in an inverted "U" position, with our respective butts high in the air, with Beth going, "Push back a little further, Rick, yes, like that, good, good, really stretch those back muscles, and spread out your shoulder blades like this, see, yes, see how much more challenging that is. Now hold... hold... hold..."
Sweet Jesus, mother of God!
"That's good Rick, your sweating, good, let the body release those toxins..."
I didn't know I had so many toxins in me. My new yoga clothes were drenched.
I wanted to try the "Octopus Pose," but Beth said, "What's that?"
"Yeah, demonstrate it for us Rick," my lovely case manager requested.
"I can't."
"Come on, do it for us," Erin said.
"You need two people," I said.
"Oh... dirty."
Sex, sex, sex, that's all these women think about.
"Listen, an octopus has eight legs, right?"
"That's why you need two people," I explained.
I want to master the "Dead Rock" position tomorrow.
Wednesday we had our monthly Resident Meeting, where the resident's of both of the hotels that Erin and Paul look after meet, and discuss what Erin and Paul have to discuss. About twenty-five residents showed up, mostly because they know food will be served afterwards, usually pizza.
Erin and Paul began the meeting by asking us all to state something good that happened to them during the month. When it got to be my turn I told them that I had saved myself a dollar by going to the library that morning and getting a book that they were holding for me until the day before. If I had waited an hour or two more, the library people would have sent the book back to wherever it came from, and fine me a dollar for wasting their time and trouble.
Erin copped out and said something like she got to the meeting on time with the pizzas. Big deal.
Anyway, afterwards two pieces of pizza were handed out to those who came, and with seven of them we had just enough for everyone, including Paul, Erin, and Evelyn, their boss, who just because she authorized the funds to pay for the pizza, thought that she was entitled to some, even though she was not at the meeting.
Corporate arrogance.
Thursday we cooked nice breakfast burritos at the Cooking Club. I cooked two types of sausage, spicy and non-spicy. Erin doesn't like the spicy.
"That's the non-spicy, right Rick?" she asked me.
"Sure it is Erin." Something in my voice made her suspicious I think.
"Don't mess with me Rick."
"I would never, ever, mess with..."
"I'll beat you up..."
I made sure she got the non-spicy.
Earl cooked the eggs and vegetables, and together with the sausage, cheese, salsa, and sour cream, good food was had by all. More than enough for everybody. We even had a whole flat of eggs left over that Erin gave to me as there will be no Cooking Club this week. A whole flat! They're in my refrigerator right now! I've never had so many eggs before. Please excuse me while I eat one.
Uuuuummmm, that was good! If I could give you one, dear readers, rest assured I would.
Then on Friday, Movie Day, I brought down my little color TV set and DVD player, so we could watch, The Salton Sea, with Val Kilmer and Vincent D'Onofrio, a study in film noir, with what I believe has all the elements of an American Classic.
I had to bring down my little TV because residents had screwed up the big TV that is already down there to the point that a DVD player cannot be connected to it.
Silly residents.
Erin remembered to bring popcorn and sodas. I had a nice Bologna and cheese sandwich. And despite the DVD sticking a couple of times (I hate it when they do that), a pretty good crowd showed up to enjoy the film.
Billy Friedkin's Sorcerer next.
And the Skid Row Housing Trust newsletter came out, with a picture of me on the front cover. I don't know why Molly put my picture on the cover. The newsletter is supposed to attract donors, not drive them away.
I was sitting in my box working Thursday evening, with my door open, when Hardy appeared with a copy of the newsletter, which he gave to me.
"Good God," I said.
"I know," Hardy said, "This is supposed to attract donors, not drive them away."
"Very funny, Hardy."
Because of the newsletter I received an Email from a fellow veteran, a SRHT donor, and former Senior Master Sergeant of the Air Force, kind of like a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the civilized branch of the armed services. He seemed to enjoy the piece I wrote, and told me of losing his own brother to the ravages of addiction. I'm terribly sorry for that loss Senior Master Sergeant. I've lost many friends as well, and by all rights I shouldn't be alive today. However, we have little choice other than to make do and move on.
I was going to relate a story I told Erin recently, about one of the greatest things that have happened to me since I've been living downtown, but this post is already over a thousand words long, so we'll have to wait for The Greatest Thing 2, which may or may not have something to do with the picture above.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kingdom Coming

Kingdom Coming, the Rise of Christian Nationalism, is Michelle Goldberg's first book, published in 2006, and it's a good one. I just finished reading it yesterday on the bus while on my way to give blood once again, in response to President Obama's call for another national day of service. He's always asking for that, the man just can't get enough!
Everyone who is concerned for the future of our country, and the world, should read this book. Even members of the Christian Nationalist Movement, though inherently they would dismiss it out of hand because, as Ms Goldberg, concisely and elegantly points out, Christian nationalists live in a different reality than the rest of us.
What is Christian nationalism? I'll let Michelle answer that when she was asked the very same question: "Christian nationalists believe in a revisionist history, which holds that the founders were devout Christians who never intended to create a secular republic; separation of church and state, according to this history, is a fraud perpetrated by God-hating subversives. One of the foremost Christian revisionist historians is David Barton, who, in addition to running an organization called Wallbuilders that disseminates Christian nationalist books, tracts and videos, is also the vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party. The goal of Christian nationalist politics is the restoration of the imagined Christian nation. As George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's influential Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book "The Changing of the Guard:"
"Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish."
The following quote from Thomas Jefferson, generally regarded as one of the "founders" of our country, and sited by Ms Goldberg in the conclusion of her book, has no meaning to the Christian nationalists: "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."
Now I'm an atheist, and happily so. I will discuss, or debate the issue of a supreme being with anyone who wants to, and when I do on occasion, I rarely change anyone's mind or attitude, even though my arguments are valid, logical, and backed up by reputable scientific evidence. I believe this is because most people's ideas on religion are deeply ingrained, and have been so since childhood, and of course the Sunk-Cost Effect (see, The Sunk-Cost Effect). But that's okay. I don't feel any great need to change anyone's mind, or to convert them to my way of thinking. I am not an evangelical atheist. I respect other people's opinions, though I may disagree strongly with them.
Christian nationalists are not like that. They want everybody to think and feel the same way that they do, and will do just about anything to make that happen. They are so insecure in their own beliefs, that they constantly need the reinforcement of others to maintain their status in their lives.
They do this by a variety of methods. Brainwashing their young through home schooling. If Creationism (and its offspring, Intelligent Design) is not allowed to be taught in public schools, then they'll take their children out of the public school system, and teach it themselves, with the goal of making little Christian nationalists after them.
They will use wedge issues to promote their political agenda, such as denying gays the right to marry, or form civil unions, stating that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God, and that abstinance is the only safe and effective means of birth control. The results of this type of stringent and intractable thinking are often hideous (these people insist on speaking on God's behalf, as if they had an exclusive hot line to heaven where they are getting the latest instructions from the all mighty. I submit that is a very sorry and weak God that would need to have these people as press representatives. And why does anyone who believes in an all powerful, divine, omnipresent, being, need anyone to speak, or do their work for them? Surely a strong God can do anything he, she, or it wants to do without the help of mere mortals).
Former President Bush, through his Office of Faith Based Initiatives, has furthered the CN cause by pouring millions of dollars of tax payer money into mostly Christian organizations, and then allowing them to work under special rules, like allowing discrimination in hiring policies, only employing those of the same faith and religious ideology, or not requiring the same professional standards to be met as other, secular organizations, ofttimes resulting in abuse and neglect of their clients, and at expense of these proven secular organizations that are not similarly subsidized.
The bottom line is that these people cannot rest until they have taken over the country. They do not care that abstinance is ineffective. They do not care that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality (only the Old Testament mentions homosexuality, the Jewish Testament, the same people the Christian nationalists would deny the kingdom of Heaven). They only care that they are right and the rest of us are wrong! They say so themselves.
The CN's political arm is the Republican party. Through it they wish to pass laws furthering their cause, elect or nominate judges who are sympathetic to their cause, and to flood Congress, and the presidency with members of their cause. They are the worst form of subversives, attempting to take over the government, and the nation, one little bit at a time. They should be dealt with as subversives.
I see no major differences between religious fundamentalism within the United States, or abroad . I would be as frightened if the Christian Nationalist Movement archived their goals, took control of our government, and had nuclear weapons at their disposal, as I would if these weapons were in the hands of Osama Bin Laden. With that in mind it was with a sigh of relief that I witnessed George Bush finally take leave of office.
The failure of the Bush administration and the election of President Obama, has slowed their efforts... for the time being. Still... the Office of Faith Based Initiatives still exists.
I will let Ms Goldberg conclude, as she did in her book:
"It makes no sense to fight religious authoritarianism abroad while letting it take over at home. The grinding, brutal war between modern and medieval values has spread chaos, fear, and misery across our poor planet. Far worse than the conflicts we're experiencing today, however, would be a world torn between competing fundamentalisms. Our side, America's side, must be the side of freedom and enlightenment, of liberation from stale constricting dogmas. It must be the side that elevates reason above the commands of holy books and human solidarity above religious supremacism. Otherwise, God help us all."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael & Farrah

I've had to write about death a lot this week. My father's, Neda, Ed McMahon, and now today, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, both passing away here in Los Angeles, within four hours of each other. Also, the children of famed newscaster Walter Cronkite state that their father is extremely ill, and not expected to recover.
I don't like writing about death, although I have done so at times, trying to adjust to the idea of my own (see, Death List). To quote Woody Allen, "I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
I called my lovely case manager, Erin, down in her office, when the story of Michael's collapse first appeared on MSNBC .
"Hello, this is Erin."
"Yes, hi Rick."
"Erin _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _? (her full name)"
"Yes Rick."
"_ _ _ _ _ _ ? (her nickname)"
"Yes Dad."
"Oh, hi Erin. This is Rick."
"Rick who?"
"Are you a fan of Michael Jackson?"
"Ah, not really. Why?"
"Well I've just seen on TV that he has had a heart attack, and TMZ has reported that he's dead."
"Oh... that's interesting."
"And Farrah Fawcett died this morning too."
"Oh, really. I didn't know that."
"You know who Farrah Fawcett was?"
"How do you know about Farrah Fawcett?"
"I liked her hair."
Understandable. I liked her hair too. The poster of the picture above of Farrah sold anywhere from 5 to 12 million copies in 1976, making it the best selling poster of all time.
1976 was a great year for Farrah. The poster, then she appeared in the cult classic, Logan's Run, and that year she got the part of Jill Monroe, in Charlie's Angels, first a movie of the week, then a hit television series, in which Farrah, for all intents and purposes, was the star.
In later dramatic roles she had a penchant for playing abused women who overcome their circumstances, in the stage play and film, Extremities (in which she plays a rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker), and the television film, The Burning Bed (as a battered wife), earning her the first of three Emmy nominations.
I must admit that I was not a huge fan of Ms Fawcett's work, although I happen to own a VHS tape of a film she appeared in, Dr. T and the Women, in which she presented a remarkable performance.
In 2006 she was diagnosed with cancer of which she succumbed to today at 9:28 in the morning in Santa Monica.
The news of her death provided the media with its daily headlines, until a few hours later it was overshadowed, indeed almost forgotten, by the report of Michael Jackson's rush to the UCLA Medical Center, the same building, by the way, where Ed McMahon died two days previously.
I have to admit that I was also not a huge fan of Michael Jackson. Although I pretty much grew up listening to The Jackson Five, and I did enjoy his masterpiece, Thriller.
But my sister! Oh my.
I returned a call to my lovely sister just as the news was breaking of Michael's collapse.
"Hey there. Have you heard?"
"Oh my god, yes."
I could tell she had been crying. She sniffled as she spoke.
"MSNBC is reporting he's been hospitalized, but TMZ is saying he's already dead," I told her.
"I know, and it was wrong of TMZ to report that, and it makes me very angry."
Unbeknownst to me, my sister was a huge fan of Michaels. She told me of her life long love of the pop star and singer, the posters she used to put up on her bedroom walls, her defense of him during the trials for child molestation.
"He was innocent! All they wanted was money," she told me.
She was very upset. I offered to call her back later, but she refused.
"No, no, no... stick with me... stick with me... how are you doing?"
I was doing fine. I usually am. We made small talk. I asked her how my lovely niece, Keri was.
She was doing fine, my sister told me.
And then...
"Rick, I'll call you back later... I'll call you back later... I'm having a nervous breakdown... they just said he's dead... I'll call you back later... I love you..."
I told her I loved her too, and we hung up.
The entire nation, the entire world, is reacting much the way my dear sister has. Coverage of Michael's death has continued none stop since his death was announced. I'm watching Keith Olbermann reporting on it as I write.
Just a few minutes ago there appeared on my television set a scene videotaped from a helicopter of Michael's body, wrapped in a white sheet, as it was moved from another helicopter to an awaiting ambulance at the USC Medical Center, here downtown, for transportation to the county's coroners office. That's the last appearance of his amazing career, and his amazing life.
Goodbye Farrah and Michael. May you both rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ed And The Triffids

First off, I must mention yesterday's passing of the long time co-host of Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, Ed McMahon, here in Los Angeles, from complications of pneumonia and bone cancer. I will always relish the memories I've had while watching that program, off and on, for thirty years. My God, Johnny and Ed hosted the show since I was seven years old, until I was thirty seven. My lovely case manager, Erin, was only eight years old when Johnny ended his tenure in 1992, so I don't expect her to remember Ed much, although he did pop up from time to time with Dick Clarke on the various Bloopers programs, and commercials here and there.
I remember Ed's bits with Johnny as Carnac, the Magnificent, who would take envelopes (as Ed explained) which had been "hermetically sealed and kept in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnell's porch since noon that day." Carnac would hold a sealed envelope to his forehead, close his eyes, divine the contents and provide an answer to the question written inside. "The La Brea Tar Pits," Carnac would pronounce. Ed would dutifully repeat, "The La Brea Tar Pits." Carnac rips the envelope open and removes the card, and reads, "What do you have left after eating the La Brea Tar Peaches?"
And Ed's famous commercial bits for Alpo dog food, some in which Johnny took part, and one time, when Ed had obviously been drinking something other than water in his coffee cup, and Johnny good naturedly chided him, "Do you really think you're fooling anybody?"
Goodbye Ed. May you rest in peace.
Next of course, the Triffids. They are constantly a problem.
Last Monday I went down to the Garden just before nine. Hardy and I began to rake the leaves that had fallen during the week from the four trees that stand within, or around our garden. It was a little trickier due to the chicken wire fence we had put up last week, but we managed. The fence was working well to keep us from stepping on the small flowers that Erin had planted on the garden's periphery, and they were beginning to thrive.
Erin and Paul soon joined us and marveled at the progress all the plants hade made. Little green Serrano peppers had grown to maturity within the last two weeks, and I harvested four of them, giving two to Paul. Erin does not like spicy foods, so I kept the other two, and ate them with my breakfast of chorizo and eggs. Tasty.
Candice came out and sat on her butt watching us. Robert came out and sat on his enormous butt, and watched us, all the time trying to engage Erin or Paul into conversations concerning himself. Ray came out on crutches, and stood and watched us. I thought about selling tickets!
Ray was standing on crutches because he had recently been mugged.
Although there is no gang activities in the downtown/skid row area, no drive by shootings to speak of, this is a low income area, and there are unscrupulous individuals in all communities who will think nothing of victimizing those who they feel are easy prey. A tall, elderly, inebriated, white guy, walking down Fifth Street at three in the morning would constitute easy prey. Apparently two men snuck up behind him, caught one of his legs with a walking cane, thereby tripping him up face down on to the hard cement sidewalk, wherein they relieved Ray of his wallet and keys, banging up his right knee in the process.
He'll be okay.
Even my friend Ron has been mugged a couple of times while living down here, and he's black! But he insists on running around the streets at two or three in the morning and dealing with nefarious people.
I make it a policy of mine not to go out late at night unless I absolutely have to, and then I make sure I am aware of my surroundings and who happens to be close by. And I get to where I'm going without screwing around. Since I don't drive, I've found this policy to be wise and prudent, and have never had a problem. Besides, I always carry my Bosun Knife.
Security, security, security. I can't emphasize this point enough.
Anyway, Paul busied himself by procuring a wheelbarrow from the maintainence staff, and retrieving some nice garden dirt he had in his truck, which he emptied beside the big pile of horseshit. Erin meanwhile got Candice to help her prune the six large tomato plants that had yet to produce any tomatoes. Paul's theory being that the plants energy was being expended in growing higher, with more leaves, rather than focusing on sprouting tomatoes. One had grown so huge that it had fallen over during the weekend despite the metal support rings we had placed around each of the plants.
Fell over, or was it trying to uproot itself and walk about?
"They may be triffids," I told Erin.
"Triffids? What's that?" she asked.
"Triffids are a highly venomous plant, developed by the Russians, that have the ability to walk around, and talk to each other, first recorded in the 1951 report by John Wyndham. Much more deadly the typical Mongolian Maneater, as it has the ability of locomotion. Its sting instantly paralyzes and kills the victim,wherein the triffid waits for the flesh to rot before it eats it. There was a movie about it."
"Oh," Erin exclaimed, while backing away from the plant she had been fondling.
"Just like the Russians to come up with something as devious as a triffid. I for one are going to keep an eye on these beauties. The last thing I need is to wake up in the middle of the night and find a triffid staring down at me ready to pounce."
"I don't think I believe you, Rick," Erin said.
"I would never, ever lie to you, Erin..."
"... only except in the rare instances when I am merely attempting to distort the truth."
"Oh, well in that case..."
Yes, I will keep a watchful eye on you, my little triffid friends.
Security, security, security. I can't emphasize this point enough.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Neda Salehi Agha-Soltan

She was just a young girl, one year older than my esteemed case manager, but what a precious thing that is. She meant no harm to anyone, bore no weapons, yet now her murder has been witnessed around the world.
On June 12th the tenth Iranian Presidential election took place between the volatile incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Reformist Candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi . Three hours after the polls closed, with over 39 million ballots cast, the Islamic Republic News Agency announced that with two-thirds of the votes counted, Ahmadinejad was declared the overwhelming winner, gaining 66% of the votes cast, while his opponent received the remaining 33%. This was not anywhere close to the expected outcome, polling indicating that most voting Iranians were fed up with the clownish antics of Ahmadinejad, with Mousavi in the lead, or at least the expected race to be very close.
Immediately cries of election fraud were made, within Iran, and without. Voting irregularities became apparent. Over 30 voting sites had a turnout of over 100%. The government had blocked internal communications and Internet sites on election day that had been vital to Mousavi's campaign. Many other blatant irregularities were reported by various news organizations, not least among them that Ahmadinejad had won in Mousavi's home town by a resounding margin. Yet the Iranian government stood by the results. Ahmadinejad poo-pooed the demonstrators demanding an nullification of the election and a re-vote, as like disgruntled soccer fans whose team had lost, they'll get over it soon, he hoped.
But they didn't. Crowds of an estimated 1,000,000 gathered in the streets of Tehran, as well as protests in all major cities in Iran, and around the world, demanding an accurate election. All three opposition candidates claimed election fraud. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the real power in that theocracy who controls foreign policy and the military, first declared Ahmadinejad's victory as a "divine assessment" and urged the nation to unite, and later, faced with the greatest continuing mass demonstrations the country had faced in 30 years, ostensibly ordered an investigation into the claims of voting fraud and irregularities. Later still, he declared that although irregularities did exist in a few instances, they would not have resulted in a victory for Mousavi, that another vote would not take place, and that future marches and protests would be dealt with harshly by units of the infamous Revolutionary Guard, and its offshoot, the Basij militia. The next day, June 20, fewer protesters took to the streets. At the protests that did occur, said to number in the tens of thousands of people, much violence occurred, causing many would-be protesters to stay in their homes the next day. The Iranian government has confirmed the deaths of twenty people during the protests. Authorities have closed universities in Tehran, blocked web sites, cell phone transmissions and text messaging, and banned rallies.
This is how corrupt regimes hold onto power at any cost. They fake election results, stifle interior communications, and block those to the rest of the world, and use ruthless force, or the threat of ruthless force to control its own population, while blaming the internal strife on anybody but themselves, in this instance, on agents of Great Britain and the United States as stirring up trouble within the Iranian populace.
The protests continue however. In this age of Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, and cell phone cameras, the authorities in Iran find it impossible to quash all dissent. Calls of "Allāhu Akbar!," "God is great!" continue on the rooftops at night. Plans for a general strike are made. Mir-Hossein Mousavi states he will gladly become a martyr for the cause of justice.
It doesn't make much sense. Despite the title of Reformist Candidate, there does not seem to be a huge difference in the policies of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, except for maybe that Mousavi is sane. Why would the real authorities in Iran blunder so greatly in rigging the election and backing Ahmadinejad? It certainly has turned into the biggest headache and threat Khamenei has experienced while in power. And the eventual outcome has yet to be seen.
The French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henry Levy observes in the Huffington Post today, "Whatever happens, the Ayatollah Khamenei, Khomeini's successor and Supreme Leader of the regime, tutelary authority of the President, father of the people, will have lost his role as arbiter, will have shamelessly sided with one faction over the others, and will have therefore lost what remained of his authority: "Only God knows my vote," he carefully replied four years ago to those who were already calling upon him to denounce the fraud--"in the name of merciful God, I armor, I hammer, and I dissolve the people," he has responded this time to the naïve who believed he was there to uphold the Constitution."
Further, the Iranian authorities are needlessly inflaming their own populace with the extraordinary practice of requesting $3,000 payments (a bullet fee) from the families of the victims they have killed, as in the case of 19-year-old Kaveh Alipour, who was shot in the head as he stood at an intersection in downtown Tehran. He was returning from acting class and a week shy of becoming a groom. Having no way to pay the fee, the authorities released the body anyway, but told the family Kaveh could not be buried inside of Tehran.
President Obama has shown restraint in criticizing the election results and its aftermath, although condemning the violence, amidst Republican calls for a more aggressive verbal stance. Politicians like John McCain, Eric Cantor, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham, and virtuously all the other Republicans, would have Obama intercede in another nation's internal affairs, calling him weak and timid. Comparisons to Ronald Reagan telling Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall have been made, although nothing the Reagan administration did brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been on it's last legs anyway, despite current Republican revisionism of history. If Obama looked like he was trying to interfere in Iranian politics he would just give the Iranian leaders fuel to continue and increase the repression by blaming the United States for their troubles. Barack has not done this, and the Iranian leaders find themselves in a quandary.
Neda Salehi Agha-Soltan, 26 years old, a university student and uncommonly beautiful, worked part-time at a travel agency.
The Los Angeles Times reported today that she was the "The second of three children, she studied Islamic philosophy at a branch of Tehran's Azad University until deciding to pursue a career in tourism. She took private classes to become a tour guide, including Turkish-language courses, friends said, hoping to someday lead groups of Iranians on trips abroad. Travel was her passion, and with her friends she saved up enough money for package tours to Dubai, Turkey and Thailand."
Her fiance did not wish her to go to the demonstrations last Saturday in fear for her safety. She didn't even back a candidate in the election. Still she insisted, saying to him it would be so worth it, even if she received a bullet in the heart.
And that is exactly what happened. While waiting in a hot car with her music teacher, she decided to stand outside for a breathe of air near one of the many demonstrations and was shot in the chest by a Basij sniper. Someone nearby recorded this horrific incident on a cell phone camera, as she fell back, while two attempted to tend to her.
I will not post a link to this video, as it is easily enough attained. All I can say is that when I watched it I cried, when I think of it I cry, I'm crying right now as I write this. The video is especially touching and eery because as the camera moves up to her face, Neda looks directly at the lens, directly at us, just before her lungs fill with blood and it begins to stream from her mouth and nose, just before she losses conscience, just before she dies.
The Iranian authorities have resisted efforts by the demonstrators to make Neda a martyr for their cause. They would not allow her family to display posters at her funeral, and other efforts. But the video has spread through the Internet throughout the world, and inside Iran. Her face, unwittingly, has become the latest symbol against repression and violence.
Asked if President Obama had seen the video of Neda's murder, he replied that he had. Asked what he thought about it, he said, "Heartbreaking... it was... heartbreaking."
I agree. And I am sorry for the indignity of being photographed at this last moment, as the last thing she ever saw in this world was a cell phone camera aimed at her face.
In the days following the murder of Neda Salehi Agha-Solatn, a senior Cleric blamed her death on other protesters as a propaganda ploy, stating any wise person watching the video can plainly see she was killed by her fellow rioters. I admit that I am not wise, for I can only see this "Cleric's" attempt at propaganda as patently ridiculous. These deluted, self-important despots proclaim that anyone who disagrees with them are, "at war with God."
The government continues to try to quash further protests. "Basij militiamen have broken up even small groups of people walking together to prevent any possible gathering. Still, dozens of friends and relatives of Neda managed to pay tribute Friday, arriving at Tehran's Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in groups of two and three, uttering brief prayers, placing flowers on her grave and then leaving, witnesses said."
Vigils for Neda have been held around the world
I can only offer my sincere condolences to her, her family, friends, and her fiance.
May she rest in peace.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Today in my Depression Group, as my lovely psychologist, Dr. Kimberly arrived, she found us discussing the merits of Canadian alligator extract in warding off the ill effects of the swine flu.
"It's true," Kip stated. "I haven't had the flu for five years."
"Yes," I added, "come to think of it... you rarely see a sick alligator. At least I've never seen one."
"How would you know?" our lovely intern, Elizabeth asked.
"Oh you know, sniffling snout, red watery eyes, scratchy cough, the usual symptoms," I explained. "They wouldn't have a fever as they're cold blooded."
"What are we talking about?" Dr. Kimberly asked. "Have we started our check in process?"
"Oh no, doctor, we wouldn't start that without you," I assured her.
"No, I take this alligator stuff, once, maybe twice a year, and haven't been sick for years," Kip explained. "It comes from Canada."
"I for one didn't know they even had alligators in Canada," I said.
"Well, we learn something new everyday," Dr. Kimberly concluded. "Now let's begin."
There were five of us "patients" there today, a good crowd, along with Dr. Kimberly (an Air Force Veteran) and Elizabeth. I was the last to check in, as I'm very shy.
"Well, after hearing what Kip just said... I'm glad I never had children. Anyway, yesterday being Father's Day, I went to visit my father's grave, which is right here in LA, and which I do every year on Father's Day. It always is more sad than depressing really, and in someways... uplifting."
"I can understand it being a sad experience," Dr. Kimberly comforted.
"You see, I was only eleven when he died..."
I don't wish to get all maudlin, or anything, but my sister and I, along with my mother, did witness his passing. It was at night, after we had gone to bed. I woke, hearing strange noises from my parents bedroom. Cheryl, my sister, did too. We went in there and I saw my mother standing over the prone body of my father, crying, and saying his name, over and over again, "Ray, Ray, Ray." She tried to get a capsule of nitroglycerine into his mouth. We went to her side, and I looked down at my dad. His eyes were open, but his body seemed paralyzed. Tears formed, not from pain, I think, but because of the helplessness he found himself bound to. At least he had those who loved him most surrounding him.
My mother sent me out to wait for the ambulance, and direct them to the bedroom where my father laid. It must have only been a few minutes, but it seemed like hours before the ambulance got there. Everything seemed like it was moving in slow motion, like walking through heavy water.
They got there too late, of course, and my father died that night, nearly 42 years ago, of a heart attack. I don't know that the medical technicians could have saved him even if they had arrived earlier, and I never will. My dad knew he had heart problems, had been hospitalized for them in fact. But he never quit smoking. He was addicted... an addict, just like me.
I'm now six years older than my father was when he died. I've made it to fifty three. I think my young friends, Erin and Paul, revel in their youth, and I don't blame them. Maybe they feel a little freer, less hampered, possibly a bit superior. My main hope for them is that they make it to my age, so they too can experience the impetuous nature of those much younger who surround them.
So I visited my father, as I do every year at about this time. It was a warm sunny day, a slight wind blew over the grass of the large cementary in San Fernando. A tree was close by, providing shade. He would have liked this spot. Maybe he chose it, I don't know. People he once knew were buried close by, like Bob Hope, the famous comedian. Perhaps Mr. Hope had entertained my dad during one of his famous USO shows during World War Two. I don't know, I never heard my dad speak of that.
He was a good man. A mild, gentle man. He appreciated humor. He liked the James Bond books and films. He liked to eat buttered bagels with me when he opened the liqueur store he owned each morning, but expecially the weekends. He loved my mother very much, as he did my sister and I. He only spanked me once in my life, when I put myself in danger thoughtlessly. He was a baseball player. He was survived by two brothers, one sister, a wife and two children.
My mother eventually remarried. First to a psychopath, then to a good man who treated her well until he died, and who I couldn't stand. I haven't been able to visit my mother's grave. It's in Indiana somewhere. Next year maybe.
I spoke to my father while there, though there was little chance that he heard me. I caught him up on current events, our new president, a disputed election in Iran, how our nation tortured. I told him how Cheryl, and my niece were doing, how I was doing, my new friends. This site. I cried while doing this. I always do.
I ate a nice Bologna sandwich while visiting him, then said goodbye and went home.
I'm sorry... I didn't wish to get maudlin.
I wish I had a picture of him to post. I've asked my dear sister to send me one.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Executive Order 9066

The Japanese American National Museum

Henry Sugimoto

Last Thursday, after we had stuffed ourselves silly with well and finely grilled cheese sandwiches (mine garnished with the all essential mustard, which my lovely case manager, Erin, called "Disgusting!"), a group of about ten of us met at the infamous Las Americas Hotel at one o'clock. This was our staging area from where we would push on to the Japanese American National Museum, in Little Tokyo. We would walk there as it was located just north on Alameda, on First Street. One day each month all the museums in Los Angeles open their doors to the public for free, and last Thursday was that day for the Japanese American National Museum.
I'd never been there, although I pass it several times a week on my way to the Veteran's Administration Downtown Clinic, so I was looking forward to our adventure.
We took off, me and Jose taking up the point positions to make sure the way was safe, Erin and Candice close behind, and Paul and the rest of the laggards struggling to keep up. It was a tad too sunny for Erin's and my taste, and hot, but what can one do?
"Erin," I said, "you were in charge of the weather today. What's up with this heat?"
The Japanese American National Museum opened in 1992, and is devoted to preserving the history and culture of... well, Japanese Americans. It contains artifacts, textiles, art, photographs, oral and film histories of Japanese Americans from the 1920s to the 1950s. And lots of suitcases. The museums entrance is pictured above (that's me and Erin in the foreground, arm wrestling over who's smarter. She won).
We made it there relatively safely and went inside, where we were each given little green stickers to place on our shirts to designate us as official visitors, rather than imposter visitors. Then we went about to see what the museum offered.
We first came upon an exhibition of traditional Japanese kokeshi art, or toys. Little, rounded out sculptures, that resembled eggs dressed as dolls. Very nice... and very expensive, each doll labeled as being worth anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars.
Next we found a small theater which played a video concerning the life of the Japanese American painter, Henry Sugimoto, on a continuous loop.
Henry Sugimoto (1900-1990) immigrated from Japan to the United States in 1919, the same year my father was born. Henry's father wanted Henry to become a dentist, but Henry had spent his youth drawing and painting, and wished to become a professional artist, which he did, with his work being exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, the California Palace of Legion of Honor, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. He received numerous awards until he died at the age of 90 on May 8, 1990 at his home in New York. Now his paintings have been exhibited in many public and private galleries in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
At the end of the video (the voice of Henry in this video was portrayed by the Academy Award nominated Japanese American actor, Mako, who himself passed away just three years ago. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1966 film, The Sand Pebbles, with Steve McQueen and Candice Bergen, directed by Robert Wise, of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music, and The Haunting, fame) Henry made clear to me that we had at least one thing in common. We both wish our art, his paintings, and my scribblings, to survive our deaths, and leave some kind of record of our existance.
After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Henry and his family were interned in a concentration camp, along with most of those with a Japanese ancestry on the west coast.
After the video I asked Erin if she knew about the Japanese internment, testing her.
"Yes, I do," she said. "Japanese American internment refers to the forcible relocation and internment in nineteen forty two of approximately one hundred and ten thousand Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans to housing facilities called "War Relocation Camps", in the wake of Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally throughout the United States. Japanese Americans residing on the west coast of the United States were all interned, whereas in Hawaii, where more than one hundred and fifty thousand Japanese Americans composed nearly a third of that territory's population, only twelve hundred to eighteen hundred Japanese Americans were interned. Of those interned, sixty two percent were United States citizens. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order Nine Zero Six Six on February nineteenth, nineteen forty two, which allowed local military commanders to designate "military areas" as "exclusion zones", from which "any or all persons may be excluded." This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and most of Oregon and Washington, except for those in internment camps. In nineteen forty four, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion orders, while noting that the provisions that singled out people of Japanese ancestry were a separate issue outside the scope of the proceedings. In nineteen eighty eight, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the US Government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." About one point six billion in reparations were later disbursed by the U.S. government to surviving internees and their heirs."
"A sad time in our nation's history," she added.
Jose and I were left dumbstruck.
"Wow," I said, "I'm impressed with your deep and vast knowledge."
"Thanks," she said happily, then walked off to see the rest of the museum.
Which consisted mostly of artifacts, films, and displays concerning the interment. They even had one of the barracks relocated and preserved.
Rodney captured a real Japanese American, and got him to talk about his families history and his association with the museum.
After about an hour and a half we were done, and ready to walk back. Most of us made it back safely. At about the half way mark we noticed that Paul had disappeared.
"Where's Paul," I asked.
No one knew.
"He was here a minute ago," Watson said.
He hasn't been heard from since.
Dear Paul, we hardly knew ye.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back To The Moon



“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, ’Because it was there.’
Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the Moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.”
President John F. Kennedy
Address at the Rice University on the Space EffortSeptember 12, 1962
Last Thursday, June 18th, I found myself walking with my lovely case manager, Erin, to the main offices of Skid Row Housing Trust. She needed to drop off some paperwork, and I acted as her bodyguard. We had just left the Olympia Hotel where the Cooking Club would soon convene (grilled cheese sandwiches, I was one of the designated grillers). After completing our mission, while returning to the Olympia, I told Erin, "We're returning to the Moon today."
"We are?" she asked.
"Yes, we are."
I informed her that in a couple of hours in Florida, an Atlas V rocket would be launched, after a delay of one day because we can't seem to launch the Endeavor shuttle as it keeps leaking hydrogen, with two science experiments headed for the moon.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Spacecraft will enter lunar orbit on Tuesday. The LRO will continue to orbit the moon to look for possible future landing sites for a return to the moon by human astronauts. It will also search for potential natural resources, especially water, as it currently is very expensive to haul water, as well as any thing else, up into space, and it would be advantageous to have some nice lunar agua already there waiting for thirsty astronauts. The LRO consists of seven instruments that will return photographs, and information about lunar topography, temperatures, composition, and more. It also carries a microchip with approximately 1.6 million names that were submitted by the public in response to the LRO's "Send Your Name To The Moon," web-site. Mine and Erin's name are not on it.
The LCROSS, on the other hand will crash into a crater near the south lunar pole in October. Why? It's funny that you should ask. To look for more water, that is why. The LCROSS will hurtle an SUV sized stage into the permanent shadows of a polar crater thereby raising a plume which the LCROSS will actually fly through to analyze its contents. Hopefully some water will be there. It will also provide technologies and modular, reconfigurable subsystems that can be used to support future mission architectures before itself impacts with the lunar surface.
The Japanese have been up there recently with their KAGUYA Mission, which consisted of three orbiters to obtain information on the origen of the moon, and its evolution, and to gain data for future lunar exploration. KAGUYA impacted on the moon on June 10th.
NASA has just released it's plans for humans returning to the moon by 2018, as a stepping stone for going to Mars. By returning to the moon astronauts will gain valuable knowledge of existing and working in a harsh environment, much more unpleasant than what they will find on Mars, as the moon's atmosphere is so tenuous that it might as well not be there at all, and the temperature can vary from between 253 degrees Fahrenheit, to -387.
It will cost somewhere near 104 billion dollars to return to the moon over the next 9 years, counting increases for inflation, much more money than I have on me, or even in my bank, but within NASA's normal annual budget. Why would we spend so much money to return to an airless, barren rock, when we have so many pressing problems back here on earth. Because of the things we will inevitably learn, the new technologies we will develop which we can apply back here, and because, well, it's there. Our eventual goal should be to become an interplanetary species, so if aliens come and destroy the Earth, we'll still be alive on Mars, and elsewhere. Very important.
I forgot to ask Erin how long would it take to drive to the moon in her car with an average speed of 60 miles an hour. The answer of course would be forever, as there are no gas stations out in space. But if she did have gas it would take about five and a half months.
My lovely case manager was disappointed that the LRO and LCROSS were robotic in nature. She wants to see people return to the moon, the sooner the better. She is an adventurous space enthusiast. So am I. I told her of a time, almost 40 years ago, when I watched on television the Eagle's descent to the moon's surface, and Neil Armstrong finally reporting, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed," with about 15 to 25 seconds worth of remaining fuel. And a few hours later, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," when he first took a step onto another world.
I can't wait to get back!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


It's been a busy week. I can hardly catch my breath.
On Monday morning I went down for the Garden Club and caught Paul as he was leaving to get some coffee. It was 8:45, and I walked with him south on Alameda to the McDonalds on Seventh Street. On the way I asked him how his weekend went.
"Great," he said, "I proposed to my girlfriend."
"Did she say yes?"
"Oh you poor bastard, now you've done it."
He described the elaborate procedure in which the proposition took place, which required stealth and precision timing on his part. I won't go in to it. He did tell me that the proposal was more or less a formality, as his prospective mother-in-law has already planned an engagement party, so it was Paul's duty to propose before said party. Which he did.
Again, a hearty congratulations to Paul and Farida. May the wind always be at your back and the
sun upon your face. And may the wings of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.
"Where's Erin?" I asked him.
"She called in sick."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear she's not feeling well."
Paul bought some tasty brew, then we returned to our garden. Today we put up chicken wire completely surrounding the garden area, Paul, Hardy, and myself. It wasn't easy, but we accomplished the task. Now our garden is protected. In the past unthinking individuals have parked their bicycles right in the middle of the garden. Little chance of that now. And now the garden is not only protected from errant bicycles, but from ourselves as well, as we've had a tendency to step on the little flowers that Erin had planted at the garden's periphery, which have just sprouted. So grow little flowers, grow. We won't step on you any more.
Afterwards I returned to my box and ate some tuna I've had in my refrigerator since February so I could get sick in sympathy with Erin.
Excuse my while I throw up. Again.
Okay, better now. No... oooppps!
Alright, stable now. I the wrote Erin an Email, telling her how sorry I was that she wasn't feeling very well, and wishing her a speedy and thorough recovery.
The next morning I checked my Email, and found this: (a note to Erin's bosses, please don't read this)
"And Rick, thank you for eating bad foul disgusting tuna in order to be sick with me!!! However, I have to let you in on a little secret. (You’re not going to like this) I wasn’t actually sick yesterday! I had been planning to call in “sick” since last week, because we weren’t going to be coming back from Santa Cruz until last night. Hmmm I hope this hasn’t caused you any sort of unnecessary troubles, Rick. Eeeeek!"
Excuse me while I throw up. Again.
Okay, better now. No... oooppps!
Enough of this nonsense.
On the way to the Hippie Kitchen yesterday I reminded Erin that it was Bloomsday.
"No, Bloomsday."
"What's that?"
"It refers to the novel Ulysses, by James Joyce, which took place entirely on June 16th, 1904. The main character was a Leopold Bloom (Pictured above), hence the name Bloomsday."
"Do people celebrate it?" she asked.
"Yes, they do, especially in Dublin, where the novel takes place.
I've recently finished reading Ulysses, which was quite a chore. It is not an easy book to get through. Many scholars differ in their interpretations of the novel. I won't even try to figure Joyce's intentions, although he did state that he was attempting to recreate the soul of Dublin into it. I think it is more important to just experience the novel, how it makes you feel while reading it, how it affects the readers state of mind.
Can't wait to get started on Finnegan's Wake!
Later at yoga, Beth was merciless. So many people showed up that we ran out of mats, and poor Erin had to go matless. Until Gena couldn't take it anymore, and ran off, that is.
I love doing yoga with Beth, but I must say she has a tendency to get us into a very "challenging" position, which is especially hard to maintain, and then go to an individual and coach them, leaving the rest of us in these impossible positions for like hours. "God damn it
Beth," I feel like shouting, "Let's move on!"
At least I now know how prisoners in Gitmo feel like while enduring "stress positions."
Then today Paul brought us more nice horseshit. A whole truck full. And Erin was here, so we made her shovel it out of Paul's truck and haul it out to the garden, where we now have, yes, you guessed it, a greater, bigger, pile of horseshit! How wonderful.
"That's certainly a big pile of horseshit!" we all agreed.
And it certainly is.
Earlier I had caught some sparrows molesting the shamrocks we have in our garden. I invoked my sparrow name given to me by the prince of the sparrows (see, Friend Of The Sparrows), and told them to beat it. They did.
I am happy to report that the uneasy truce between Paul and the earwigs has resulted in a marked decrease of munched plants. Thank you earwigs! May the wind always be at your back and the
sun upon your face. And may the wings of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Carrot, An Egg, And Coffee

First off congratulations are in order for case manager Paul, who proposed to the lovely Farida last weekend, who had the audacity to say yes! They've set the wedding date for sometime in May, 2025. Congratulations to you both, and all of us here at Joyce's Take wish you every happiness.
Next, I received a lovely Email today from my friend John Clark, a fellow veteran, who currently resides in Costa Rica. A story attributed to Mary Sullivan. I've reproduced the entire Email below:

A Carrot, an Egg, a Cup of Coffee

A carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee...You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up, She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl . Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, ' Tell me what you see.'

'Carrots, eggs, and coffee,' she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft.. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, 'What does it mean, mother?'

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

'Which are you?' she asked her daughter. 'When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can't go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.

Live your life so at the end, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

You might want to send this message to those people who mean something to you (I JUST DID); to those who have touched your life in one way or another; to those who make you smile when you really need it; to those who make you see the brighter side of things when you are really down; to those whose friendships you appreciate; to those who are so meaningful in your life..

Monday, June 15, 2009

Salvation Diary 7

"Salvation" Artist Amanda Milke

December 3 Monday Day 82
I heard Matthew Moore’s voice calling to me as I was shaving this morning. “Just th th the pa pa pa person I I wan na na ted to see.”
He walked into the bathroom where I was standing. I continued shaving, ignoring him.
“Where’s ma ma ma ma my, my my my to to two baauucks tha that tha tha that you you you, that you owe me?”
Matthew is a rather short, slim, wiry person. He has dark features, with a curly black mustache. One could look at him and assume his ancestors had once lived near the Mediterranean region, and had been kidnapped by a gang of marauding Arabs. He tells me he is of Portuguese-French-German extraction, but I don’t believe him. If he was telling me the truth, his Portuguese shows the most. “Scrappy little fellow,” describes him quite nicely, although I hesitate to describe anyone as a scrappy little fellow. He has an engaging smile, which often makes him appear as if he enjoyed some naughty secret. You have already noticed that Matthew suffers from a pronounced stutter. No one around here makes fun of him because of it. It adds to his charm. He can be defiant, aggressive, obstinate, and stubborn. This is all a mask he presents to the outside world. Actually, he is a shy and sensitive man, and very vulnerable. I have seen him wait all day in the lobby for a single phone call from his wife. Whenever he does this, and when it gets late in the afternoon, I can no longer tease or joke with him, as he gets so despondent that she has not yet called. I don’t pretend to understand their relationship, or why they live apart. Whenever she is here visiting Matthew they seem quite happy together, but you know how that goes. Matthew is obviously very much in love with her.
Matthew is almost always in good humor. If anyone could be called the human house mascot, it would be Matthew. Everybody likes him. He calls Mr. Vasquez, “dad.” And he is the snazziest dresser in the residence. In chapel, when the rest of the house is wearing sports coats and slacks, Matthew inevitably shows up in a tuxedo and tails.
He pretends to be violent. He will at times rush me like a wild rhino, yelling, “Up yours, motherfucker,” and stop short while pulling a few fast air punches at me, his victim. In the very next instant he will ask with a devilish smile, “Got a, got a, a a a, cigaaaareettte on yoooouuu?”
One thing about Matthew, he never stutters while cursing.
Which led Ernie Sens to believe that he might be able to help Matt solve his speech problem by forcing him into a job that required him to talk all day. Thus Matthew became our dispatcher.
“Re re re re r rr rea rea re reaaaad red sheee shee shee shee shee shee… sheeeeeeeeild fooooooooouuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrttteeeeeeeeeennnnnnnn…”
He didn’t last through his first day.
He is tirelessly insolent. Today I saw Harold Eversley, our lead cook, go to the trouble of personally making Matthew a bag lunch to take with him to his new job (he is a janitor at a local church). Matthew thanked him, and said, “I I I I I I I I I I sta sta sta sta still still tha think youuur an asshole.” Harold, being a good-natured person, laughed, and said, “Gee, thanks Matt. Now get the hell outta here before I kill you.”
“Up yours, motherfucker,” he shouted while in a hurried retreat.
One night, when Matthew came in after work, into the bathroom where I was reading. He sat next to me and we starred at each other in mock hatred. He lit a cigarette.
I asked him, “How are you, Matthew?”
“Fa fa ah ah ah fine.”
When Matthew finishes a sentence, the pitch of his voice dips down, then up again upon the last word, as if he’s exhausted by the time he’s reached the last syllable.
“How’s work going?”
“I ah ah ah, I ah ah ah, th th th th th, I think I I I I I I I I may be ba ba ba ba be be be be in a a a ah ah ah ht little troooouuuuuuble.”
“Oh. Why is that, Matthew?”
“I I I I I I, ah ah ah ah ra ra ra ran, I ran in ta ta ta, into a da da da doooor.”
“You ran into a door. How did you manage that, Matthew?”
“It wa wa wa was a a a a a an an an an ax ax ax accident.”
“What did you run into a door with, Matthew?”
“As as as an an an an an an an a a a ah ah ah ah ah ca ca ca caaaar.”
“A car. Did you do any damage to the car?”
“No, uh ha.”
“What kind of car was it?”
“An a a a a a an an an an an e e e ee electric ca ca ca car.”
“An electric car. So you were in the performance of your duties when the accident happened?”
“Ya ye ye ye yeeeees.”
“Well I don’t see that you could be in much trouble. If you were working. I mean, accidents do happen.”
“I I I wa wa wa wa was wasn’t su su su suppos, supposed ta ta ta to tot be uu u u u using the th th th th th the caaaaar.” He smiled.
“Ohhh! That makes things a little clearer. Well, I guess if you offered to pay for the damage, that might help. How much could a door cost? A pay check?”
“Ma ma may may may may maybe a a a few paaaychecks.”
“Why so much, Matthew?”
“It it it it it’s a pre pre pre pre pre pre pretty ex ex ex ex expensive a a a a dooor.”
“What kind of door was it, Matthew?”
“A a a a a for for for for fourteen fa fa fa foot ha ha ha hand ca ca ca carved one.”
His employers never made him pay for it.
He is charmed.
He is notorious for ignoring the rules and regulations of the residence. He smokes in the bathrooms during the day, walks around with his shirt untucked, leans on walls! He gets away with all of it. Having a beard is not allowed, but Matthew sported a goatee for two weeks before anyone noticed. The only reason someone eventually did notice it was because Matthew brought attention to it himself by coming up to me at the desk, pointing his finger, and saying, “You na na na need a ha ha haaaaircut! Immediately!” Victor then noticed his facial growth and directed him to shave it off.
“Na na na na na na na na na na neeeeeever!” Matthew replied.
His wife made him shave it off two weeks later.
She said it was “icky.”
About the two dollars I owed him. I had bought a hat from him a few days earlier, and he actually wanted me to pay him for it, even though I had came to learn he had stolen it. Matthew’s exploits at thievery in the residence were legendary. Roger Patrick Buchanan, a maintenance person, made the mistake of letting his multimeter sit unattended for forty-five seconds. Finding it missing, he thought he had misplaced it, and soon gave up looking for it and asked a friend if he could borrow theirs.
“Sure,” his friend said, as he handed it over, “I just bought it.”
“This is mine! This is the one I’ve been looking for. Who sold it to you?”
Of course it had been Matthew.
“Rockoff owes me two dollars,” I told him, “because the Giants lost to San Francisco last night (7 to 3). I have to wait for him to pay me before I can pay you.”
“Ah a a ah ah all right.”
A minute later I noticed a Matthew’s blur wiz by my open door while on his way to intercept another victim. It was Kevin Rockoff, who was busy vacuuming the hallway. “Ah ah ah all right. Up against the wall. Assume the po po po position.”
Work went well tonight. Mr. Vasquez did not even notice that I ditched Bible Study.
I fell in love with another counselor tonight. Her name is Sylvia. What a lovely name, Sylvia. She actually talks to me sometimes.
I think Mr. Vasquez fell in love with a counselor also (it seems to be an occupational hazard). Her name is Milda. Milda is a very nice, older blonde lady, who just began counseling for us. Very attractive.
“Milda,” Mr. Vasquez ruminated. “Sounds kind of Scandinavian, Finnish, or Swedish maybe. Denmark or Holland. One of those countries.”
“I’d be happy to find out for you sir,” I offered.
He squinted his eyes, and said, “No, no, no. Don’t be asking her anything, Mr. Joyce. It’s none of our business.” He looked away. “But if you happen to find out, let me know.”
“Yes sir. She is very attractive. And very nice.”
“Yes,” he said. “She’s a nice lady.”
Near the shift’s end, he disappeared upstairs to the sample room to play with urine. It happened that Milda was here quite late. The last counselor to leave.
Before I left for the evening, I wrote two memos. One for Mr.Vasquez, and one for Rico Montgomery. Rico’s was hand written, and was left in his key box to be discovered by him in the morning. The message consisted of only three words, “You all right?”
The other was typed. I gave it to Wolf to give to Mr. Vasquez when he eventually came down. This message also consisted of just three words.
“She is Lithuanian.”
December 4 Tuesday Day 83
Extraordinary! My old friend Rudi is back! I saw him at lunch briefly. Apparently he just got out of jail yesterday, and had called the residence and had talked to Robert about his possessions that he had left. He must have talked to Clarence as well, because now he’s back. That’s certainly good news.
I also looked at the daily notices on the Bulletin board, and what do you think I saw?
Give up?
I saw the daily notices!
And one of them told me that I would be having group counseling tonight with Jill… my one true love.
Oh boy!
I talked to my counselor, Richard, this morning. We discussed sobriety, physics, and astronomy, specifically the potential of gamma ray bursts from outer space destroying all life on our planet except itsy bitsy microbes buried deep underground. Even cockroaches would bite the dust. Imagine that. This adds one more to my list of things to worry about, which now stands at 3,893.
I could not give him back the Understanding Alcohol, book, as I had not finished reading it yet, but he gave me another book anyway.
I wrote for most of the day, in the lobby, while watching Shirley walk back and forth. At dinner, Shirley and I sat at different tables, but were facing each other. Watching her eat a plate full of spaghetti almost stopped my heart.
After dinner, I put on my sport coat and brushed my teeth, and began getting a little nervous about my meeting with Jill.
I needn’t though. Everything went well. We met in the small dinning room. Me, Jill… and nine other guys.
How romantic.
She was wearing another frustrating long, gorgeous, black dress, which set off her lustrous shoulder length red hair to perfection.
She began by telling us her rules.
How sexy!
We could not miss meetings, and we had to be on time each week. I felt like I was back in kindergarten as she dictated to us.
She had met with some of us before. The ones like me, who she hadn’t, she wished to find out a little about, and accordingly asked us some questions. When it was my turn, I briefly described my life with alcohol and drugs, and my tendency to relapse. She asked me, “If asked why you had relapsed before coming here, what would you say?”
“I would say, that I wasn’t ready then. I hope I’m ready now.”
I’m way past the point of being embarrassed by admitting to anybody that I’m an alcoholic. Even to a pretty lady. A.A. has done its job well.
Some of the guys were acting like real assholes, by not cooperating, or making fun of everything that was said. This can be expected of people who are seeking attention or hiding their feelings. But besides from these individuals, Jill seemed to be the one who had the most defenses up and working. She wanted us to feel that she was in control. That she was self-assured. She was almost flippant in her retorts, sometimes condescending. It made me want to get to know her, what she was really like, because I thought I saw someone it would be nice to know, I mean, in addition to being in love with her and all.
Women trip me out, they really do.
Later I went to an outside A.A. meeting at the Crown City Church, in South Pasadena. It was the first I had been to for a while. Steven Rockoff and Brian Montaque went with me, among others. Mr. Vasquez drove us in the van, but we made it there safely.
I fell in love with a beautiful lady there who was celebrating her eleventh year of sobriety. She stated that this was the first birthday cake she had ever taken during those eleven years. She had thought that she may have inadvertently jinxed herself if she were to take one, go out and celebrate, getting drunk in the process. Her brother had been in the program for six months and had insisted she take her cake tonight.
See how chips and cakes are for other people, more than they are for ourselves.
And see how brothers are.
I wish her and her brother well.
I went to bed tonight with the best feeling I’ve had in I don’t remember when.
Jill, and A.A., what a combo.
December 5 Wednesday Day 84
I was walking to the showers this morning, about half naked, when I heard feminine voices all around me. I looked around and didn’t see anybody. I immediately considered the possibility of having entered into the Seventh Dimension, disregarded that idea and thought that maybe I was in the midst of an LSD flashback. Then I simply looked over the second floor banister into the atrium.
Mrs. Johnson, and a few of her friends were down there decorating a nice big Christmas tree.
There were boxes; I mean big boxes, of Christmas paraphernalia in the lobby. People were running to and fro, putting up ornaments here, tinsel there. A large (and extremely heavy, according to Schimmele and Rockoff) artificial fireplace was brought up from the basement and placed in the dinning room. What a festive atmosphere!
I felt like a big fat Christmas elf.
Mrs. J brought out a little stuffed teddy bear that must have swallowed a music box at one time. It never stops playing Christmas carols. Mrs. J’s favorite place to sit this teddy happens to be right on top of our desk. She told me, “This thing drives Robert crazy.”
I have no problem believing that.
I left all the festiveness, and walked over to the warehouse to find two boxes I could use to put my mom’s birthday and Christmas presents in. I found them, and boxed those presents real good.
Since my mother is coming to visit me on the sixteenth, I can give her all the presents that need to go to Arizona, and save some money on postage.
Later on, in chapel, we sang, “Joy to the World.”
I went to another outside A.A. meeting at the South Pasadena’s Women’s Club. Rudi came along. Although I’m not a very good schmoozer, I enjoy these meetings, and like being around all the sober people gathered together to help each other stay sober.
I went to bed, once again feeling really good.
And that was great!
December 6 Thursday Day 85
I was going to get up early today, and I did. I went down and had some pancakes and bacon for breakfast, then forgot why I had wanted to get up early, so went back to bed.
As luck would have it, I woke once again just in time for lunch. After eating I brushed my teeth real good for my trip to the dentist. Dentists don’t like it if you don’t spend about three days brushing your teeth before you see them. And flossing.
As I left the residence, Reuben Smith, my twenty-nine year old, skinny, fellow San Fernando Valleyian, who’s job it is to serve Major and Mrs. Johnson, and other assorted VIPs their meals in the Blue Room (and incidentally, refused to serve me early dinner on my second day here), made a horrendous buuuuuzzzzzzzzzzzzzziiiing noise with his mouth, attempting to imitate the sound of a dentist’s drill, striving to increase the amount of my supposed anxiety.
This action on his part displays a magnificent insight into his character, or lack thereof.
The dentist at Claude Hudson was fine though. He even mentioned that I had good teeth. As he introduced himself, he asked me what I wanted.
I said, “Well, I think I have a cavity, possibly needing a root canal, and I think a filling came out back here. And I would really like this cap here in front fixed, if you possibly could.”
He said, “Um hum, and this is all you want?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I felt like saying, You’re the bloody dentist! You tell me what I need done!
He said that I did need a couple of fillings, and a cleaning, which he could do. He also told me that I needed two crowns, one in back, and one to replace the chipped cap in front.
One night, while quite inebriated, I had been walking along when my face somehow made direct contact with the cement sidewalk, thus leaving one of my front teeth looking like it had been broken almost in half. The tooth in question was itself a crown, having previously been knocked out while I attempted to stop a fight between my girlfriend at the time, Michelle Meridian, and the girlfriend of a former suitor. Such is life.
The dentist informed me that they didn’t do crowns there. He said I would need to go to the USC Dental School, or a private dentist to get a crown. Great.
All they did today was to take some X-rays. I have an appointment for January eighth, to have my teeth cleaned. I look forward to this.
I made it back to the residence, as luck would have it, just in time for dinner. Then I had to go to work.
At substance abuse class, I was told that for the first nine months of my recovery, I probably wouldn’t be unable to think very well, remember practically nothing, and fall over things a lot. I was also told not to worry about it too much, that I was suffering from an organic brain dysfunction that would undoubtedly clear up sometime within the next seven years.
Now that I understand this, I feel so much better about myself.
Work went well. Stacy kept giving me the old eye, but I ignored her. She must learn to forget me.
After work, I read while sitting in the bathroom, until midnight. At eleven-fifty I lit a cigarette. At midnight I said, “Happy birthday, Cheryl" (Cheryl is my lovely sister, three years younger than I), then went to bed.
December 7 Friday Day 86
I hung around the lobby a lot today, reading and writing. I read parts of the new book that Richard had loaned to me. It is entitled, I Didn’t Know I Had a Choice, by Corey and Corey, Fourth Ed. It’s not about alcohol or drug addiction. It’s a textbook on how one is able to make choices as far as one’s life is concerned. Each chapter deals with a different stage, or aspect of a typical person’s life, from birth to death. The first chapter discussed Maslow’s model of the Self-Actualizing Person, about what a good thing it is to be one of them, or in the process of becoming one of them.
It’s not particularly great for the families of Self-Actualizing person though, or those who have to be near them for any appreciable amount of time, for they tend to be assholes. This observation, I confess was not in the book. I reasoned it out myself by equating Self-Actualized with Self-Absorbed, Selfish, Condescending Jerks.
But they get a lot of work done, that’s for sure.
I must say that anything I read about bright, successful people who realize their full potential depresses me to no end. It reminds me of how little I’ve done in my own life to realize my own. I think about all the years I’ve wasted, and I could just scream!
However, there’s nothing I can do to change to past at the moment, and very unlikely that there ever will be. All I can do is learn from past mistakes.
As was intended by the authors, this self-actualization process is demonstrated as a goal. I have a goal.
I don’t wish to be like anyone else. I haven’t met too many people I’d rather be like (other than the legendary sex machines, Peter North and Wally Cox), but I would like to be a better me, and not fritter away my whole life uselessly. I think that being here, and doing what I’m doing, taking my time, not getting gung-ho or fanatical about anything (except taking that first drink), or trying to be a perfectionist and burning myself out, is a pretty good way to be spending my time right now. A first step toward the rest of my life.
I reminded myself to read more informative books like this, because when I do I tend to think a lot more about things that happen in the real world, things that could help to make my life a better one. I should probably read less trashy science fiction novels like, Venus in the Half Shell.
I also reminded myself that I’ve always learned a great deal about the real world from novels.
Venus in the Half Shell has its place I suppose.
Work went quickly. I read the Choices book continuously, except when the guys kept bothering me by coming and going. Or wanting aspirin, or band aids, or asking silly questions about house rules and regulations. Very annoying.
“What da’ya think this is? A damned pharmacy, or something!?” I would say, quite reasonably.
I found an empty pint bottle of bourbon in the northeast common restroom tonight. I dutifully reported it to Victor. This is about the fourth one in a week we’ve found. Someone’s partying up there, someone who needs a lot of help desperately. If I find them, I’ll bust them. It seems like they want to get busted anyway. How hard is it to dispose of an empty bottle? They could just throw it in the trash, and it probably wouldn’t be found.
Everybody came in on time tonight.
I went to bed thinking of the possibilities that life presents, and those that may be possible, even for me, if I just don’t drink.
December 8 Saturday Day 87
I got up this morning at seven, and went down to a wonderful scrambled egg and sausage breakfast, then thought that with all that good food in my belly, I better lay down for a while and let it digest. Which is what I promptly self-actualized.
I was in a slight doze when I heard Skip call my name over the P.A., requesting my presence at the desk. I went down to see what he desired.
He just wanted me to watch the desk while he walked across the street to open up the Antique store for the two little old ladies that worked there. I watched the desk, which did nothing as long as I was looking at it.
When Skip returned, I returned to my dorm to continue the food digestion process, but sleep evaded me.
I decided that since I was lying down, I might as well be doing it in the park, where I could get a nice suntan and relax.
So I went to the park.
It was nice there. A nice, warm day. Hardly any clouds, good skin cancer weather. I had thought that it might be cool, being only ten in the morning, but the sun warmed me right up.
I took off all my clothes, except for a pair of swimming trunks, and laid down on my blanket and listened to old Rock and Roll songs on the large radio headphones that Gordon had given to me. Listening to the songs made me think about the times in my past when I had first heard them. This reminded me of how old I was, and how many years I had wasted by drinking and drugging again. This led me to consider how I wasn’t going to be wasting my life anymore, which forced me to remember that I hadn’t quit smoking yet, which depressed me, which led me to begin thinking about all the things I could be doing right now to improve myself, which made me think about the time I was wasting lying here in the park.
So I got up and left.
See what thinking gets you.
I had told Mr. Schimmele before leaving that I would be back in about an hour, that that was about all the joy and freedom I could take for one day. Boy, did that turn out to be true.
I returned to the residence just in time for lunch. Chile Mac. Afterwards, I decided to go to the thrift store and finish my Christmas shopping. I purchased two presents apiece for my sister and niece. The list price for these gifts was well over six dollars, but the lady at the checkout counter only charged me two. I don’t know why. Now all the Christmas presents that I’m going to buy have been bought. One more Christmas card for my dear sweet grand Ma Ma, and fini!
I dumped all my purchases back at the residence, then made my way to Vons to buy a lottery ticket.
I came back, showered and dressed. This was Skip’s first day off restriction, so I relieved him at the desk a half hour early.
What a prince of a fellow I am.
Work! Work! Work! My God, it was awful.
I read most of the night.
This damned Choices book is making me think, and I’m not supposed to be able to do that for at least nine months into recovery due to the organic brain dysfunction that I have, which I learned about in substance abuse class.
Such a quandary.
I was reading the chapter, “Work and Leisure: Your Lifestyle.” The authors discussed types of personality and choice of careers. The point being that it is important for there to be a correlation between one’s personality and their job. So I began to wonder what type of personality I have.
Holland and Morrow designate six types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. After reading all of the descriptions of each, I decided that my personality fit somewhere in between the Investigative and Artistic, but I would like to cultivate more of the Social. Let me describe some of the characteristics of the Investigative and Artistic types (as the authors see it):
Curious and inquisitive (if I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “incredibly handsome.” However, as far as my mind goes, I would use the word “curious,” in both its descriptive forms), a need to understand, explain, predict things that happen. Creative and individualistic. Scientific in attempts to understand things and tend to be pessimistic and critical when nonscientific, simplistic or supernatural explanations are suggested by others. Iconoclastic. Likes to express things with words and with physical expressions as in acting and singing. Wish attention and praise for artistic endeavors, but sensitive to criticism. Tend to become engrossed in whatever they are doing, and may appear to be oblivious to everything else around them. Independent. Do not particularly like to supervise others, or be supervised. Uninhibited and nonconforming in dress, speech, and action. Impulsive in outlook. Place great value on beauty and esthetic qualities. Find abstract and ambiguous problems and situations challenging. Find it difficult to accept traditional attitudes and values. Seek attention and approval from others. Tend to kill college cheerleaders in random and unspeakable sprees. Compensate for feelings of estrangement or alienation by relating to others primarily through the indirect medium of art.
Except for the propensity for serial killing (to my knowledge I’ve never laid a hand on a cheerleader, college, or otherwise… unfortunately), I feel I may possess some of the above qualities, or symptoms, whichever you prefer.
I would wish to cultivate more within the social. I have difficulties, or sometimes feel uncomfortable, or self-conscious when around a lot of other people that I don’t know very well, unless I’m loaded. I guess everybody’s like that to some degree.
Except morons.
Not that I don’t at times manifest some outgoing qualities, but I feel I could work further in this area.
I used to isolate a lot, you see. (using drugs is a form of isolation, or insulation). I try not to do that anymore.
I have other qualities as well. When drinking I can be mean, affable, petty, dishonest, resentful, egocentric, destructive, on and on.
The answer seems to be, once again, is to cease all drinking activities.
It keeps coming back to that, doesn’t it?
This book also asked me to identify my interests: literature, physical science, social science, women, astronomy, psychology, movies and plays. My abilities: I make a mean cheese omelet. My wants: a nice career; something I enjoy doing that provides enough money to live comfortably, a wife to share life with, a friend as well as a lover, a family, a nice house in Morro Bay or Monterrey. My preferences: I prefer that I receive everything that I want.
I wish to continue my education, most probably in the field of psychology (drug rehab). I feel a pressure to do this rather quickly because of my age. I feel I don’t have a whole lot of time to fart around, that I’ve done that a lot already in my life.
As far as jobs go the one that I have right now is the first one that I can remember in which I start the day feeling depressed, and at the end of the shift find that I feel much better. Maybe it’s because I tend to get out of myself while I’m working and don’t dwell needlessly on my own problems. I try and help others while working on the desk. When I look at some of the problems these guys face mine seem insignificant in comparison. A major part of the 12 Step Program constitutes working with others, and by doing so, help ourselves.
This is the first job in which I don’t feel like a cog in some great machine. I feel that what we do here has some meaning.
And maybe I like this job because I haven’t drank, or been inclined to drink, while doing it. It certainly is a new experience for me.
I hope I can find these qualities with other employers. I’d hate to think to think that in order to maintain job satisfaction I’ll have to work for the remainder of eternity at the Salvation Army for $15 a week.
The chapter I had been reading also dealt with leisure time. Right now I don’t have much of a problem with leisure time. I lie down.
Today is the tenth anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. They are playing a lot of his songs and interviews on television and the radio this evening. Ten years ago today I was sitting alone in my friend’s apartment, A.W.O.L. from the navy, in Portland, Oregon, drunk and watching T.V., wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
I’m still doing that.
Tommy Bommarito came in and told me he had seen a lady lying down on the sidewalk, near the Park, with her head extended over the curb sticking out into the street. He said that she was old and that her clothes didn’t look too good. He went over and asked her if she were alright. She opened her eyes and said, yes, that she was okay. The police had just kicked her out of the park. Tommy reminded her that if she stayed where she was a car might come and hit her head.
She got up and walked away.
December 9 Sunday Day 88
Mr. Pandolfi woke me in his usual manner at five am.
Mr. Vasquez seemed a tad disgruntled this morning. I would be too, I suppose, if I knew I had to work for the next 17 hours straight.
Everything went according to plan at work. I told Mr. Vasquez that my mother, who should be visiting next Sunday, was looking forward to meeting him. If he wasn’t taking a nap, that is.
This was a big lie. My mother doesn’t know Mr. Vasquez from beans.
I spent most of today writing about yesterday, and found myself wondering at what an extraordinary thing that was to be doing.
I lost horribly at bingo tonight.
I then watched a horribly contrived movie. “Men at Work,” starring the Sheen boys, Charlie and Emilio. A silly effort, written and directed by Mr. Esterez. I liked it.
I watched “Married with Children.” Horribly contrived and silly. I love this show. It’s so sick, and easy to relate to.
I called my mom to give her directions to the residence, and to get Bobbie’s address (the lovely daughter of Alice and Lester, a life long friend), which I had misplaced. She told me that she would be going to the doctor tomorrow morning, that she thought she was coming down with a cold (another viral attack). She assured me that she would come next week if she didn’t get too sick.
She also told me that my sister’s boyfriend, Jim, was spending lavish amounts of money on Cheryl and my niece Keri, for Christmas, including a two-carat diamond bracelet. She said that Jim had paid for, and erected a Christmas tree, with all the trimmings, at my mom’s house, even though she didn’t want one.
Guy’s like that not only make me suspicious, but really piss me off.
I went to bed wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
December 10 Monday Day 89
I forgot to wake up early this morning. I did get up in time for a nice breaded fish lunch though.
After lunch I hung around the lobby, writing, and waiting to catch a glimpse of the luscious Wendy. I did catch sight of her, lurking around the counseling room. She does not stray far from there. She seems almost frightened, or timid. I once asked her, nice guy that I am, if she wanted to have some lunch, it being served at the time. The thought had not occurred to me until this very moment that she may have thought I was asking her out on a date! I was not. I had already had my lunch. I had just wanted her to know that it was perfectly alright if she wanted to get something to eat in the dining room. She answered, “No, thank you,” in her soft, lilting voice, “I usually work through lunch.” She said this even though she was just sitting around, waiting for everybody to get finished eating so she could see her next client. I wonder if she eats.
Some people don’t, you know.
Work went well. Mr. Vasquez was a little late coming back from the weekly board meeting, so I was hard pressed to get all the mail, passes, and appointment slips in the proper key slots before the guys got back from work. I accomplished this though, with cool panache.
I have been writing a lot of notes lately. Harold Eversley’s girlfriend, Ellie, called for him yesterday, and he could not be found. She asked if I would let Harold know that she had called. I told her that I certainly would. Fortunately we have little memo notices behind the desk that we utilize in just these types of situations. On them there are spaces for the name of the called party. I took one, and wrote down “Harold Eversley,” in the name space. In the space allocated for the date and time, I wrote, “9 Dec 90, 11:23 a.m.” There is a space for the name of the caller. I wrote, “Ellie.” A space for a message and a return phone number is also provided, but Ellie did not leave either of those. So I wrote my own. “Fuck you asshole!” Quotation marks included.
Tonight I wrote two notes. One to Rico Montgomery, which I left in his box. It said, “Mayhew Rottenell called. Wanted to know if you were all right. May be reached at 312-555-7136.” The name Mayhew Rottenell is a delicious invention of Mark Halprin’s, the author of A Winter’s Tale. I happily stole it from him.
I also wrote a note on the sign up list for the outside A.A. meeting. The list lets us know how many people wish to go. I wrote at the bottom, “All persons who sign must actually be alive (body temperature of at least 97 degrees must be maintained), and present at the time of departure. Zombieism is strictly unauthorized, and could lead to termination from the program.”
I can be compulsively silly at times.
Mr. Vasquez confided in me this evening concerning his plan to win the heart of the much sought after Milda. “She doesn’t know I know that she’s Lithuanian, you know. So I’ll say, ‘You look Scandinavian. No wait a minute. Maybe somewhere from the Baltic States. Lithuania would be my guess.’”
I agreed that it was a good plan.
See what us idiot males go through to win the attention of the superior female of the species. We’re such idiots. All women have to do is look reasonably good and healthy, then they can twist us around their little fingers. Until they get past 19 years old, that is.
My own true love, Sylvia, showed up. She let me know that she was feeling stressed lately. I let her know that she was my favorite counselor, because she actually talked to me without being forced to do it. Her reaction to this piece of information was to swat me playfully on the arm, and smile. As she was leaving I told her that she should go home, lie down, close her eyes and listen to a tape of seashore noises to help relieve her stress. She said that sounded like a good idea, but she had to write a paper that she hadn’t started on yet, which was due on Wednesday. She said she would probably be up half the night writing it. I wished her good luck, and cautioned her to drive carefully.
I’m afraid Milda and Mr. Vasquez never got together tonight. Both were too busy at their appointed tasks.
Maybe I shall have to intervene.
December 11 Tuesday Day 90
I forgot to wake up early again, and dashed out of bed at ten-thirty eight, and into the shower. While lathering my hair I heard my name called over the P.A. This indicated to me that Richard, my counselor, desired my presence.
It being lunchtime, I relieved my protégé, Skip, so he could eat. Soon Richard appeared, driving up to the desk in his little golf cart. We had our weekly session then and there. We both told each other how we were doing. I told him that my life was relatively stable right now, which it is. Relatively. He told me that he had just inherited a three-year-old Persian cat. I told him that I liked cats, which is true, I do like cats.
Most cats.
For some reason I just can’t stand to be around Iranian cheetahs. They really freak me out.
After concluding our conversation, I took my turn at lunch. Cheeseburgers.
I walked to the supermarket afterwards, and bought some cigarettes, and a lottery ticket for Skip.
I then wrote in the lobby, watching, and sometimes talking to Shirley. She’s a nice lady.
I went to the warehouse and found some more boxes for the rest of the Christmas presents that I still needed to package.
I then made my bed and did my laundry. My heart fluttered with excitement.
I relieved Clarence at the desk for dinner, then I ate.
A visiting Colonel, the official evangelist for the Salvation Army, had arrived today, and would be freeloa… spending the night and the next two days with us as part of a Christmas crusade.
We were all required to stay around after dinner for a five-fifteen devotional service conducted by the aforementioned Colonel. Colonel Smith. He got up in front of the men, put on an accordion, and we all (some of us) sang some Christmas carols. Then his wife, Mrs. Colonel Smith, told us about how glad she was to be here, and recited some interesting bumper stickers she and her husband had seen while she and her husband had traveled across the country. She then directed an inspirational reading. The Colonel came back and led us in another song, and told us a little about himself. He and Major Johnson had worked together before, in Alaska, when the Colonel was a Captain, and the Major was a lowly, stinking Lieutenant. The Colonel then told us he would be available for counseling tomorrow, and a sign up list would be at the desk for anyone who felt the urge.
This poor bastard must be in pretty bad shape if he needed counseling from the guys around here.
Anyway, we then said a prayer and were dismissed.
All this folderol cut into my group counseling time with Jill. Our session lasted only twenty minutes, and I need way more counseling than that!
Two people had newly joined our group and they introduced themselves. Our house groundskeeper, David Robinson, told us of his job search prospects, and that was it. Nothing about me! And I waited all week for this?
After group, BAM! Right into Tuesday night Step Study, with Al Watts. Tonight we listened to a tape about Step Two.
Next, I cautiously moved back into the lobby to write some more. In fact, I’m writing right now. In real time, it’s now 8:53 and 12 seconds. Jill and Mr. Vasquez are behind the desk. Together. Clarence is on a break. I can’t see their hands. I’m getting jealous. They just turned on Mrs. Johnson’s Christmas bear. Now Skip and Jill are talking. I’m getting more jealous. And distraught. I think I better quit writing and go upstairs and read a while, then go to bed before I lose control.
December 12 Wednesday Day 91
Ninety days! Another threshold. Now this journal is more or less one quarter complete.
I had wanted to get up for breakfast, but overslept. I overslept so much that I didn’t have time to go downtown to the VA. Oh well.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can avoid all together.
I was rudely awoken at nine-thirty, however, by Victor, who opened the door to my dorm, and yelled, “Joyce! You got to get up!”
I groggily replied, “Aaeee eeerrrrr ooorrruu errwwwa?”
“What for? Why do I have to get up?”
“Everybody got to be over across the street.”
“Everybody.” He then moved on.
I got up, dressed, combed my hair, then went across.
As I entered the warehouse I noticed that everybody who worked there was gathered around the shipping desk, sitting on old donated sofas, sipping out of Styrofoam coffee cups. Apparently we were here for another informal get together with Colonel Smith. Major Johnson introduced the Colonel, who promptly hoisted his accordion for a few lively numbers. He sang some more Christmas carols and invited us to sing along, but nobody seemed to know the words, so we all hummed a lot.
He gave us another evangelical message. I could tell that everyone appreciated the Major waiting until break time, time they would usually have for themselves, for this mandatory insertion of religious dogma.
It was over by nine-fifty (don’t want to cut in to actual work time, oh no). I came back to the residence, showered, then boxed up the Christmas presents for Cheryl and Keri.
I read the Choices book until four. Today I read two chapters, one entitled, “Your Body, and Stress Management.” It reminded me that I should manage my stress, continue to meditate, exercise, and that I would probably be a lot healthier if I quit smoking. It also recommended therapeutic massage to help alleviate body tension. I feel ripe for this particular type of healing ministration.
The other chapter concerned “Sex Roles.” I don’t believe I’m confused about this issue. I’m a guy. I like girls. I don’t have any interest in men in a physical way, and don’t understand what women see in the brutish, uncouth pigs (myself excluded, of course). Women, on the other hand, are much more interesting physically. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, they are, even while standing straight, able to point in all directions at once.
I don’t mind sharing my feelings with others. At least not now. I may have in the past. I don’t mind crying in front of others, if that is what I need to be doing at the time. I cry at sad stuff in old movies, and when I hear about atrocious injustice and cruelty in the world, and don’t consider that to be unmanly (whatever that means). Just because I’m a man doesn’t mean that I’m not human, and humans should have feelings and be able to express them in a healthy way.
I don’t think it’s unmanly to help around the house, especially if the man in question is single.
I love to cook. I prepared most of the meals when Jan and I were together (it was either that or a steady diet of TV dinners). I even washed the dishes and cleaned up after myself. Sometimes. We shared most of the household responsibilities. Why not, we both had jobs and worked hard. I quit doing the laundry though when she got mad at me for putting one of her sweaters in the dryer when it wasn’t supposed to go in there. She got real mad.
She did the laundry from then on.
I mean, what’s the point of being in a relationship if you’re not willing (and wanting) to help each other. I can’t make sense of any opposing argument. We should be supportive of each other, in all of our endeavors. If my mate wanted to go out and start, or continue a career she cared about, fine with me. Great. I would have no problem with that, and I would try to help her all that I could. I know how rewarding it can be doing something you enjoy. I don’t see how a man could ask a woman to supplant her instincts and drives to stay at home if she didn’t want to.
Slavery’s dead. Or should be.
I don’t think I’d like my mate to be a work-a-holic though. Or spend a lot of time away from home, traveling across the country, with handsome business associates, or something, a lot of the time. I might as well live alone then.
Or with a dog or gerbil.
Anyway, we enjoyed another inspirational message from Colonel Smith tonight in chapel. This guy is getting to be a real pain in the ass.
I watched, “Some Like It Hot,” with Jacky Lemon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe. I can’t believe how heavy she was in that movie. She was really packing in the beans and mustard. Not that I would take a pass on her, but still… Maybe guys liked girls with a little more meat on the bones back then.
Not that I have anything against fat girls, or women of huge personage.
I went to bed pondering the immortal question posed by Kilgore Trout’s Space Wanderer, “Why are we born, only to suffer and die?”
Like the lonely Space Wanderer, I’m afraid the only answer that I’m ever likely to get is:
“Why not?”
December 13 Thursday Day 92
I was having a wonderful dream. I remember it vividly.
Certain creatures had become extinct on a green, swampy, rain forested planet, and I had been sent to introduce the seeds of two different species that would hopefully flourish there.
Myself, and hundreds of my brothers, jumped out of atmospheric cruise vehicles to fall to the moss carpeted earth below. I felt so free as I fell, no fear at all, only a sense of beautiful anticipation and togetherness as my friends and I floated through the air, our hair streaming behind us as we came together to hold hands.
I looked at my colleagues, all male. I then looked down at my own body and realized I was a woman, feeling sure that I was pretty, with long flowing auburn hair.
I considered this decidedly odd, and not a little bit peculiar. However, I had once worn my hair exceptionally long at about the time of my first marriage, a protest for all those flat tops my parents forced upon me as a youth, so thought nothing more of it.
My friends popped out of the overcast sky as their drop inhibitors activated, breaking their fall, slowing their descent to a leisurely and carefree pace. I experienced momentary anxiety as my drop inhibitor had not activated and I was one of the very few who were still falling rapidly. But that feeling was quickly dispelled as I felt the jets fire, just in time, and was the first to touch the ground.
Trees were all around me, but I had managed to land between them, on a rock which was protruding through a clear, slow moving stream. I had been carrying the seeds, two green shimmering, elongated, aquatic looking animals, one a snake like thing with four legs, the other an insect type with a long exoskeleton. I released the snake into the water, and the insect skittered off into the underbrush. I felt so fulfilled as I watched them start on their respective journeys, knowing that with luck they would bring a new vitality to this ripe world. In the distance I heard, “six o’clock, six o’clock, six o’clock,” and felt exhilarated that I had completed my mission in the nick of time. I listened more closely as the sound became insistent.
“This is your six o’clock wake up. Dorms forty- four and forty-five, rooms thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-eight, fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-four, will have laundry done today. Breakfast in forty-five minutes. Six o’clock wake up. Time to get up gentlemen.”
So I got up and ate breakfast. Pancakes and bacon.
I actually stayed up for morning devotions today instead of going back to bed and hiding under the covers until the morning deskman came by checking to see who had not attended. Charles Leary had been caught ironing his clothes during devotions last week by Mr. Vasquez, and had been put on restriction.
So after eating I watched Debra Norville’s lips and eyebrows on the NBC Today Show for a while, went to devotions, got devoted, then went back to bed.
Upon awakening I showered and dressed, then went downstairs to the lobby to write.
People ask me all the time what it is I’m writing about. I either tell them that I’m writing a journal, or that I’m writing about whoever it is who happens to ask me what I’m writing about, or who I’m talking to at the time. I ask them if I may use their real names, and surprisingly all of them say yes (the quest for immortality is rampant). I then ask them if I could get a signed statement to that effect. I haven’t got one yet.
Work went reasonably well, except for a few touchy individuals I had to contend with.
Another chapel meeting tonight with Col. & Mrs. Smith. This one lasted a whole hour and fifteen minutes. For a while I thought they were going to hold everyone hostage in the chapel until all had been converted.
I was down at the desk though. Which was great, as I got a chance to talk to Stacy. Alone. It’s funny, I couldn’t think of much to say to her. She asked me how I was, and I said good. I asked her how she was, and she said that she was good too. We were both good. She’s very friendly for a devastatingly pretty girl. She asked me about my job and hours. I told her that one of the things I liked about my job was that it forced me to interact with a lot of other people, which felt good. I learned that I’m only bout ten years younger than her father. Ye gads! I can remember when all of the Playboy Playmates had the decency to be older than I was.
She let me know that she was going up north, to San Luis Obispo, with her family for Christmas. I said that was, “Awesome.” She agreed.
She also let my know that that she would be in next Wednesday, instead of her regular Thursday night, because she had to work at her job on Thursday.
As she left I gave her a Christmas card. She left without opening it. I was too chicken to give her a Christmas card that was directly from me, but to let her know she was appreciated around here, the card was signed, “From all of us behind the desk at the Pasadena A.R.C.”
I don’t understand the significance of the dream I had earlier. I know what Freud and various other psychiatrists think about certain aspects of dreams, and I also know that all of that is mostly conjecture and theory, which in itself implies that they don’t really know anymore about dreams than you or I do.
Actually, ever since I was a small lad I’ve always thought dreams were simply metaphoric translations of waking expectations and the act of dreaming deactivates emotional arousal by completing the expectation pattern metaphorically, freeing the brain to respond afresh each new day.
But what do I know?
One thing I do know is that the dream felt good, and I actively pursued it as I went to sleep tonight.
To find out what happened next.
December 14 Friday Day 93
I had a dream in which I was wanted by the law and they caught me in an alfalfa field.
So much for dreams!
Amazing day. Some good things transpired, maybe good things, and some bad things happened. Typical.
I wrote in the lobby this afternoon, after forgetting to wake up early again. A Christmas dinner and floor show was being presented tonight at the Corps facility. Everyone at the ARC was required to attend. Mr. Vasquez and I argued about who would stay behind and man the desk, answer the phones, and watch over the place incase Goodwill attacked. Guess who won that argument? Even though it was my scheduled shift I had to go.
Meanwhile, if you can remember back to the first day I came to the center, my first full day of sobriety, a man with great hair (wig) by the name of Ron Collins, the shipping supervisor, escorted me through the warehouse into the store so I could get some clothes. Well, Ron had relapsed a week or so ago. He took off, and nobody knew where he was, or what had happened to him.
Today he came back. Or rather, was allowed to come back and enter the program once again. He’s lost his job, been put on restriction for sixty days, and I believe he will be working in the kitchen for a while.
It is a very hard thing to do, to come back knowing full well what you will have to go through. It’s hard enough starting over at a different ARC, or program, where nobody knows you, let alone coming back to a place where you had succeeded for a significant period of time before succumbing to relapse, and going through the embarrassment and self-loathing you feel because you allowed alcohol to win once again, and admitting to yourself that you fucked up and had to start all over at the very bottom.
But to start at the bottom is a hell of a lot better than not starting at all.
Ron probably stopped drinking because his resources gave out on him, and he probably came back here because he had nowhere else to go. Still, I admire him
Missing Manuscript
December 16 Sunday Day 95 In Progress
I went back upstairs and finally got my shower.
I was waiting for my mom in the lobby near one o’clock. Victor was shuffling in the chow line when he happened to glance out the front window, and said, “Woo eee! Look at that car. Miss Susie.” He was referring to the personalized license plate my mom has on her car, “Miss Susie.” My mother’s name is Susie. Some people call her Lucille, like her mother. That’s her middle name I guess.
I call her mom. When my father was alive my sister and I both called him daddy, while calling my mother mom. I don’t know why.
“That’s my mom,” I told Victor.
“Tell her I want a drive.”
My mother’s Lincoln Town Car stopped in our driveway and went out to greet her. She’s fairly well off now having survived two husbands and one divorce, and gets a new car every two or three years. She spends a great deal of time sitting at home watching TV game shows while listening in to the Bullhead City Police Radio frequency on her dinning room monitor. She has a dog named “Skeeter,” and she likes to feed the humming birds and roadrunners that appear outside in the backyard of the three bedroom house her last husband built for her (not my adopted father).
We hugged and exchanged pleasantries. She said I looked sharp (I still had on my desk suit and vest so I would look sharp when she arrived. It worked. The last time she had seen me I looked like a dried up, diseased prune pit), and I told her she looked beautiful (an adjective used much too often… especially by me). She did look beautiful (see).
I’m told at one time she was a professional singer. I inherited that ability from her, although we are not blood relatives.
I didn’t get her good looks.
I took my mom on a tour of the residence, and she seemed very impressed. Noah the parrot, acted very shy, and would not let me or my mom fondle her. I introduced her to Mr. Vasquez and Victor. Mr. Vasquez spoke of Globe, Arizona, and how cold it gets up there in the mountains. My mom said that it could get pretty cold in Bullhead City too.
Chit chat.
I forced my mother into taking me to a Mexican restaurant down Fair Oaks. We enjoyed a buffet lunch. She had a mushroom omelet. Scrambled eggs, chorizo, crab in tomato sauce, beef fajitas, rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, and desert for me. I obviously pigged out.
We made small talk. She told me about the Galphin Ford Christmas party she had attended last Friday night, and how her friend Jeanette had fixed her up with some guy who owned a ranch, and had lamas for pets. I told her that I was writing a book. She said, that was nice, and continued talking about whatever it was she was talking about.
After our meal we drove to Vons so she could buy some mints, then she drove me back to the residence. We kissed goodbye and then she was gone.
I watched her drive away, then walked over to one of the benches at the side of the building, sat and smoked a cigarette while I thought about our encounter. I felt a little sad. I love my mother, and I wish we could understand each other better.
I soon walked back inside and sat around feeling listless. I relieved Clarence for dinner at four. He didn’t seem to be feeling very well.
My roommate Dan had given me a ticket to a Christmas play at the Lake Street Congregational Church. The show started at six, and I caught a ride. A two act, Nativity musical comedy, starring Jeff Conway, of the sit-com “Taxi,” fame. The play was entitled, “And You, Bethlehem.” It was very nice. Very forgettable, but very nice. A good change of pace for me.
I’ve been in a couple of high school plays. I played the part of The Professor in Eugene Ionesco’s, “The Lesson,” in such a way that it appeared as though I did not know my lines, and got so nervous I sweated so much puddles formed at my feet. A brilliant interpretation, although most who witnessed that performance did not seem to appreciate its subtle intricacies, one being my drama teacher. I still remember him sadly shaking his head. I thought he might cry.
My girlfriend at the time, Michelle Meridian, who was playing The Maid, actually slapped my fake mustache completely off, and I had to hold it in place for the rest of the performance.
Well, I’m more of am film actor anyway.
When I got back to the residence, I went up to my room and opened one of the four presents my mom had brought from Arizona. I picked one at random. It was supposedly from my sister Cheryl, and my niece Keri. They had given me eight, never before used, pairs of underwear.
I went to bed and fell asleep and had no dreams.
December 17 Monday Day 96
I got out of bed early today. I had planned to hang around the desk this morning, and watch Mr. Vasquez, and try to learn the weekday morning routine. I had early breakfast with him, then went upstairs to shower. Of course, just as I was about to step in, he found me.
“Joyce! Just the man I was looking for. We seem to have a little problem. Clarence is still sick, so get dressed and come on down.”
I began to comply when Mr. Vasquez stopped me. “Wait a second. That’s not the end of our troubles. Mr. Grinnell tells me he can’t pass a urine test I arranged for him {he’s always arranging urine tests for people}. He must have had a little something at his girlfriend’s house last night. So Mr. Joyce, to put it bluntly, we’re falling apart.”
I told him that I’d be right down.
Mr. Vasquez reminded me, “Remember Joyce, first and foremost… don’t panic.”
I had never worked a day shift during the workweek before. It was a tad unnerving to experience the massive onrush, a hoard of people streaming at once from the dinning room after devotions, headed straight for me at my position behind the desk, slapping down their keys as they made their way to work.
Such eager fellows.
Besides from putting away all of those keys, there wasn’t mush to do. Mr. Vasquez went through some of the paperwork that needed to be done, and handed into the front office by eight. This morning it got there at nine.
Victor called at one o’clock from his school. He told Mr. Vasquez that he had decided to move out of the residence while attending classes, and move into his mother’s house. Apparently the school offered a job placement service, and Victor figured it would be easier for him to study at his mom’s, and find a job after graduation.
Good for Victor!
This is the was everyone hopes they will leave here, but which only a few actually do. Sober, and with a realistic plan for the future. I wish him well.
Surprisingly enough, I think I will miss him.
He did manage to leave me holding the bag, so to speak. I now have his job, and will have to work more hours than I had planned on. Seven shifts in a five day work week. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I will be in charge of this crazy place from six in the morning until eleven at night.
And responsible to everybody.
Just what a three month sober, recovering alcoholic, drug addict needs.
Actually, I do not feel that this change will endanger my sobriety, probably just the opposite. And I will do my utmost not to let my program, studies, and writing suffer. All I have to do is learn how to do without sleep.
Some more changes. Kevin Rockoff will take over for Skip. Clarence will remain right where he is, if he survives.