Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Park

I hesitate to go into this as it's rather embarrassing, but here goes.
Paul announced during the last Resident Meeting (I have no idea why the staff label these informal get-togethers, "Resident Meeting," when they are taken up almost entirely by the staff members themselves making announcements. When the residents do try and bring up issues that concern them, they are quite often told to speak to the case managers, or Tianna the house manager, afterwards. "Staff Speaking at Residents Meeting" would be much more technically accurate, but, I admit, rather unwieldy) that there would be a field trip in two weeks to go bowling, and asked how many would be interesting in attending. A number of men and women raised their resident hands, about ten in all, including my lovely neighbor, Janice, who has been my neighbor for a good six years now, and acts as our hallway's resident sex symbol.
"Why aren't you raising your hand, Rick," she asked me. "Come on... you know I don't go to these kind of things, but I want you to come along."
She had raised her hand, and yes, she did not attend these types of functions often. As a matter of fact she had never attended a field trip, or attended any of the various activities that are available to all on a regular weekly basis, like the Cooking Club, Garden Club, Support Group, etc.
"No thank you," I told her. "I'm about as good a bowler as our President."
"That doesn't matter," Erin enjoined, "we're just going to have fun."
"Yeah Rick," Janice continued, "I've got two weeks to talk you into it."
I had a week and a half to make up my mind, and I vacillated between going and not going, wanting to spend some time out of the house with my friends Erin and Paul, but not wishing to make an ass out of myself on the bowling alley.
A day before the deadline I signed up, telling myself I could just go and document the affair for this blog, without having to actually throw a ball. And Erin hadn't driven me crazy for two whole days, so what the hell.
Last Wednesday was the day after I got my friend Erin back (see, Corrections), so I was feeling pretty good about the bowling trip, even thinking I'd try a few games. Erin and I each fortified ourselves with vegetable noodle soup before leaving the Las Americas at 11:15AM.
Ten of us showed, Rodney, Ray Hardy, Diane, two other guys I did know very well, and myself from the Las, Watson, Raul, and a guy named Joe from the Olympia (of course Janice didn't show). Paul and Erin drove four of us apiece to the new East L.A. Gold Line terminal at the corner of Alameda and Temple, just across from the V.A. Clinic. They both drove back to the hotel to pick up the remaining two, and any stragglers that may have happened by. None had.
While waiting Diane came up, draping herself over me in a suggestive manner, being exceptionally... friendly. She is an attractive black lady, a tad on the plump side, probably a little younger than I am. She would later tell me how gorgeous I was. It was rumored that she often nipped a little booze every now and then. I believe this was the case that day, along with Joe who seemed to be on good terms with her, and her unofficial companion for the day.
When Paul and Erin returned we all waited on the platform for the next train to Pasadena. Paul ate a nice banana, and after he finished with it, some of us informed him that there was a $250 fine associated with eating on said platform, or the train itself for that matter.
"They've probably got video evidence of that banana Paul. Expect a ticket in the mail."
Erin and I discussed the space program briefly. I don't know why. She was wondering if we had really sent people to the moon, and if so why we weren't sending them to Mars already. I tried to explain to her the difficulties, and different problems one encounters when traveling for months and distances that vary from 36 million to 250 million miles to Mars, compared to 238,855 miles,and a trip lasting two and a half days for the Moon. Problems of bone loss due to prolonged periods of zero gravity, and radiation hazards from solar flares and cosmic rays.
"Oh," she said.
The train came and Erin took a seat next to Diane, which disappointed me because I had wanted to point out The Park to her on the way in. There were no other good window seats in that car, so I took one in another by myself, and read from the Larry McMurtry epic, "Lonesome Dove (my lovely friend, Michelle, had given this book to me 17 years ago, it being one of her favorites. I was never quite able to finish it, but upon renewing our acquaintance I've decided to pick it up again).
The Gold Line had just recently extended itself into East Los Angeles, but we were going in the opposite direction, to Pasadena, and the 300 Pasadena bowling alley they have there. We got off at the very last stop, Sierra Madre Villa Station, walked north to Foothill Blvd, then east to the bowling establishment.
It was a very posh, automated affair, with low lighting, automatic score cards digitally displayed (good thing too, as I don't believe any of us knew how to score manually), with pop videos playing on the walls above the pins. Very nice.
I was the first to bowl on my team for some reason, then Diane, Ray, and Erin taking up the last position. I got a few pins on my first try, which was okay with me as I hadn't bowled since 2002, and had done horribly that time, so I was happy just not to get a gutter ball.
I didn't do very well that first game, getting more than my share of those gutter balls throughout. Ray came out the winner on that one, then Erin a close second (I was very impressed at her skill, as she had also admitted to not having played for awhile... a blatant lie most likely), then me, followed by the drunken Diane (they would activate a bumper system for her during the second game, making it impossible for her to roll gutter balls, and so she could have more fun. I don't believe she was ever aware of it).
I straightened up for the second game, getting my delivery in order and getting a strike on the first frame. I was able to maintain that lead throughout the rest of the game, despite Erin getting two strikes and a spare (her concentration was broken after receiving a phone call on her Iphone, after which she got two gutter balls in a row, and a few after that. She had been texting on the thing throughout the games, thoroughly confirming her status as an addict), ending up with a respectable score of 106. Respectable for this motley crew at any rate.
Please excuse me for a moment... Kicked your ass, Erin!! Haaa, haaa, haaaa!! Kicked your ass, kicked your ass, KICKED YOUR ASS!!!
Thank you.
Two games is all we had time for before we were scheduled to leave at 3:00. We returned almost the exact same way as we had gotten there, but this time I was sitting near Erin, and as we passed the Del Mar Station, I pointed it out to her.
"There it is, Erin. The Park were I spent six weeks as a an amature homeless person."
Indeed, there it was. The Park that can be found at the very beginning of Salvation Diary. It hasn't changed much.
"It looks very open," she said. Yes it does, and is.
I had told Paul of the Park while walking from the bowling alley to the Gold Line Station, and that I had spent six weeks there.
"Where did you sleep?" he asked.
"In the back of Ryder Rental trucks. That is how my book, Salvation Diary starts... with my last night there."
"Awesome," he said. Apparently he enjoys tales of adversity.
Ray got off at the Union Station stop to catch the Red Line downtown to get something to eat. That left nine of us needing a ride back to the hotel... one too many for the vehicles involved.
They forced me to walk back all by myself, laughing at me in a taunting fashion as I crossed Alameda, tears streaking down my handsome face. Shocking behavior on their part really.
I walked back via Central, sparing myself the indignity of them honking at me as they passed me by on Alameda. I will never speak to them again.
But that's not what I would eventually be embarrassed about. Oh no.
Last night the full moon was at perigee, the closet point in it's orbit around the Earth. It was only 221,577 miles away (I measured) making it appear14 percent wider and 30 percent brighter than other full moons throughout the year. By a remarkable celestial coincidence, the planet Mars was also at it's closest distance to the Earth, which happens only once every two years.
They appeared together last night, exactly as the picture above indicates, with Mars appearing as a bright red star to the left of the huge, bright full moon.
I had told both Erin and Michelle of the event. Perhaps they went out and looked. I certainly did. It was wonderful.
As I gazed upwards while standing on the sidewalk on Sixth Street, I remembered that the first full moon in January is often referred to as the Wolf Moon. Accordingly, the wolf bite I had received while living in the Park so many years ago began to itch and I must have fainted.
I woke the next morning in Griffith Park, naked, next to the remains of a partially eaten antelope.
How embarrassing.

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