Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Salvation Diary 31

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

Jail for the most part (and I have some experience) is boring. Like an isolation tank, one starves for some form of external stimulus. As far as I know, in all of the small city jails smoking is not allowed, so if you're a smoker you'll be more on edge and more conscious of your bleak surroundings than you'd normally be, and more depressed. There is usually no television, no reading material, you're damn lucky if you have a window to look out of. And if you do have a window, the bars on it are a constant reminder of where you are at, which depresses you further, to the point that you won't feel much like looking out of that window after a while. The only break in the monotony are the three meals one receives each day. TV dinners for lunch and dinner, dry cereal and a cup of milk and coffee for breakfast.
You could try talking to your fellow inmates to wile away the hours, or days, but it's not very rewarding. For some unexplained reason (a survival mechanism perhaps) the majority of men and women, once incarcerated, revert to a subhuman level of thought and speech. Vulgarity is the norm, with a lot of "homeboys," and Holmes," thrown in. Besides from offering their many and varied tales of how they came to be in jail, they sadly have very little to offer in the way of entertainment.
So it's a fine place to catch up on lost sleep and wonder what will happen when you finally get to court.
One other piece of bad news. If you happen to get busted on a Friday or Saturday, and you don't happen to have the money required for bail, and you've been so busy as to never had the time to develop the necessary social skills to have anyone out in the "free" world who is willing to put up said bail money for you... you're fucked. You're in jail for the whole weekend because there are no courts open on the weekend. The best and only thing to do is sit back, relax and wait to see the judge come Monday.
So I do not envy Dennis his weekend.
He told me that he had already satisfied the demands of the Sacramento court which had issued the warrant and that his arrest had been in error. If that is indeed the case he should be out of jail in a jiffy sometime Monday morning. That is if the charge he was stopped for to begin with was a minor one. A broken tail light, or no registration tag, or something the court would give him time served for.
He was very vague over the phone about what exactly the charges from Sacramento had been, so he may not have been telling me the whole truth, in which case he could be in the slammer indefinitely.
For myself, I had a rather pleasant day. After chapel Ron and I met Skip Fennel at the American Legion 11:30AM A.A. speaker meeting. The speaker was a pretty, 25 year old female type art student. I instantly admired her composure and wit. Her ability to talk in front of a large group for over 50 minutes amazed me. She had four years of sobriety! My God! I was so screwed up when I was her age (not that I'm that much older).
I fell in love.
After the meeting I went to the park for an hour, laying out in the sun while listening to classic rock and roll, and reading "White Knights," by Dostoevsky.
Fyodor Dostoevsky in case you were wondering which one.
Another beautiful day in Pasadena.
I spent much of the evening watching movies on television. "Escape from Alcatraz," and "First Blood." "Star Trek, the Next Generation," and "Married with Children," of course. I watched these while reading "The Eye of the Dragon," by Stephen King.
Then I went to bed. Tomorrow is the day of the big blood test.

May 20 Monday Day 251

I got up at about 10:00. I showered and dressed, then went to have a bite to eat.
I wrote in the lobby until almost 1:00, then it was time to get to the bus stop.
A straight shot north on Fair Oaks Blvd., the bus let me off directly in front of the Jackie Robinson Health Center. A clean modern building set in the middle of a lower class neighborhood. On the other side of the street, across from the Center, lies the large recreational park where Larry and I spent most of the afternoon of my second day at the A.R.C. Sure enough, as I looked over at the park, Salvation Army Red Shield 17 was parked, with Red Shield 11 pulling up.
I entered the one story building and made my way to room 200, the Health Care Center. The waiting room was full, and I had to stand in line in order to check in with the receptionist. When I reached her she verified my name on the appointment list, and gave me two forms to fill out. One of them had "HIV Test" written in big letters across the top, which I kept sort of close to my chest as I walked across the lobby so no one would be able to read it and know why I was there. God, they might think I was a fag, or something.
Not that I have anything against gay people. In fact, I've had several close friends who were gay or bisexual. As long as they didn't try to seduce me we could be friends (although I don't think I'd mind a lesbian trying to seduce me).
I needn't have worried. No lesbians tried to seduce me, and almost everyone there was getting an HIV test. There was an equal amount of men and women in the waiting room. Maybe it's the fashionable thing to do these days, take these types of tests. There were secretaries here on their lunch hour, housewives, young men. Everyone seemed very nonchalant about it, as if it's a normal everyday thing to inquire if you have a life threatening incurable illness, or a carrier of a fatal disease. I suppose I looked nonchalant as well, although I had my hat covering the top of my form still.
I had brought the Dostoevsky book with me, and finished reading "White Knights," while waiting. Like many of his stories I can personally relate to the situation and feelings of the male characters. "White Knights," if it does not capture the particulars, at least describes the general theme of my entire love life as a young man in grade school. I almost damn near broke down in tears after reading it, and if I had done so, I'm sure everyone waiting in the lobby would have been sure that I'd already received the results of my positive test, and taken pity on me, and attempt to counsel me, if they weren't so afraid to touch me.
I should stick to Dostoevsky's comedies. And I would too, if I could find one.
After what seemed like days my name was finally called, and I was ushered into a small office by a young Hispanic woman who had a bit of trouble pronouncing my first name. She asked if this was indeed my first test for HIV antibodies. I assured her that it was. She asked why I was taking the test, why I thought I may have been infected. I told her why. She explained that from the time of initial infection to the time the test would be able to detect the antibodies could be anywhere from 3 to 6 months. I let her know that I understood that.
She gave me a date, June 5th, after 3:00PM, to come back to the center to get the test results. She also let me know that whatever the results of the test proved to be, positive or negative, I would be taken to a small closed room to receive them, in case I had questions to ask.
I guess another reason she told me that was so I wouldn't drop dead on the spot from heart failure when asked to step into the depressing privacy of a very small, doom room.
She let me go after I signed a form verifying that I had been counseled. I thanked her, then was ushered into another room to await the needle.
After the blood was withdrawn I left the center and took the bus back to the residence. As luck would have it I arrived just in time for dinner (little lumps of meat somewhat resembling meat loaf).
I sat with Barbara Grothe. We discussed how our days had gone. I tried not to give away any information about what I'd been up to all afternoon.
Reuben Smith sat down (back to his old self) and told us of the horrible nightmare he'd had the night before.
"I had a dream last night," he said. "In it I woke up SERIOUS! It was awful! My heart pounded. Blood rushed to my head. I thought I was gonna have a cerebral hemorrhage!"
Kevin Rockoff had gone on a first date with a girl he'd found in the Christian Singles. An ex-lawyer Apache Indian. Apparently they hit it off. At least Kevin is on cloud nine. Good for him!
I watched the fifth episode of "The Astronomers," concerning planetary exploration, with a particularly exciting look into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory right here in Pasadena The focus of the show was on the Voyager imaging team, before, during, and after it's encounter with Neptune and it's moons. A beautiful and majestic planet, at this time the furthest known planet from the sun (Pluto being inside Neptune's orbit until later in the decade).
After the show I walked downstairs to talk to Robert and found out a few things.
Jack Crossley, the perennial desk man, has found himself a job somewhere in Vernon, California (wherever that is). He starts on Wednesday. He will continue to live here for at least two weeks (maybe four), before he has to move elsewhere.
I wish him well.
And no one has heard from Dennis Smith. I would have thought he would have called today. In any case, he is no longer an employee here. They fired him. Gave him the boot.
And Robert tells me that as far as he was concerned Dennis is also out of the program, and out of the residence.
I wish Dennis well too.

May 21 Tuesday Day 252

At breakfast I asked Jack Crossley if he would "watch the line," count the men off five at a time as they came into the dinning room to eat. I told him that it would do my heart good to see him there one more time.
He said he would do it.
The morning went rather quickly. After I dropped the paperwork off at the front office, I ran what urine samples there were to run, then played with the amphetamine assays, trying to figure out why they had been giving me bazaar readings lately.
I got finished trying to figure that out at about 10:00, after which I began writing in my office.
After lunch I saw Maggie Harbottle and Major Foote. They effectively cut me from the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. I won't take what they feel I should take in school, so Maggie said she will refuse to sponsor me. She described my desire to be a drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselor as being unrealistic. I told her that I'd read almost everything there is available on the subject, that I'd been told that I'd be a good counselor from all of the counselor's who worked here, and that my own counselor refers to me as his counselor. I suggested that for me to do anything else than enter the drug and alcohol rehabilitation field would indeed be "unrealistic."
It's hard to tell her anything though. She keeps talking all of the time. It's hard to get a word in edgewise.
The subject of this book came up in conversation. Maggie said that I would probably write about how she and the state of California wouldn't give a dime to help me.
I let her know that I would write that only if it were true.
Which it is.
Just before I got off work I received a call from Dennis Smith. He had just been released from county jail, and was in a big hurry to get back here as fast as possible. He asked me if he still had a job here. I told him that I didn't think that he did.
"What a crock of shit," he said.
I told him that he should come on back anyway and talk to Clarence Orion.
I purposely did not come down to see Jill today, even though the temptation to do so was great. I wanted to see how much she missed me when I was not around.
As far as I can discern she did not miss me at all. I don't believe she even noticed I was missing.
And now, by my not being there, she's probably already forgotten my entire existence.
Dennis did come back, and I talked to him briefly. He'll more than likely re-enter the program tomorrow, as a client. He said he would stay at a motel for the night.
After being here an entire year, my old friend Reuben Perez, the man who gave me my Big Book when I first arrived here because he was the center's book man at the time, and who was the current laundry man, came to me at the desk at 8:00PM, and said he was "disgusted with everything," and checked out. V.C.O.
I wish him well.
I watched the movie, 48 Hours," with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy up in my lonely room, while reading "The Three Pillars of Zen," by Kapleau. I read from the Bible also.
After the movie the news came on, as it is want to do. I learned that Inderia Gandhi's son, Raji, the leader of India since his mother's assassination, was himself assassinated by a radio controlled bomb hidden in some flowers. The explosion tore his head off and ripped his body to shreds.
I also found out that there were twice as many cases of AIDs reported last April than there were the same time a year ago.
So, I watched "Cheers," before going to sleep in the hopes that it would lift my spirits. I remember thinking, what do I do if they say, yes, I do have HIV. How will I take it?
Then I fell asleep.

May 22 Wednesday Day 253

Another fine Salvation Army day.
I kept busy for most of it. Ran some urine, picked the weekly dorm awards, switched some bunk assignments. Same old stuff.
We've got about a full house. 105 raging alcoholics and drug addicted individuals.
I moved Tom Rotsch from dorm 4, into Don Erwin's old room. Tom is now a part time night crawler type person. He's also taking a math class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (I don't know why). The private room will give him a nice place to study.
I'm pleased to report that the Dennis Smith saga continues. After retrieving his car from impound he returned to our happy fold- as a client. We immediately slapped a 30 day restriction on his young ass to help him stay out of trouble. We'll try to make sure he doesn't hurt himself.
We talked a little, he and I. I and he. I and him. We discussed what a fun place county jail is. I did manage to wrangle out of him why the police had stopped him in the first place, allowing them to run a warrant check. Illegal U-turn. It just goes to show... it's one damn thing after another.
I gave Kevin Rockoff some advice on how to meet women while riding the bus.
"What you've got to understand, Kevin, "I explained, "is that girls crave affection and physical contact. They love to be held. Makes them feel secure. So, the next time you see a pretty lady on the bus, sit down next to her and put your hand right on her knee. I'm not kidding! They love that straight forward kind of action. Oh, they might not act like it at first. As a matter of fact they may seem a little hostile and say rude things to you. They may even try to hit you. Don't pay any attention to them. They're just being coy. Persevere! Keep that hand right on that knee, even slide it up a little maybe. Let them know you care."
I can't seem to get the subject of AIDs out of my mind. Tonight's AIDs Seminar didn't help matters much in that respect. My entire desk crew and I were scheduled to attend. I got out of it only because someone had to stay at the desk.
I know enough about AIDs.
I watched a "Cheers," rerun after I finished my shift. Good show. Great ensemble work. I remember when the show first started and was going to be canceled due to low ratings. Now it's number one in the nation.
I couldn't get to sleep. I tossed and turned until 3:30 or so.
Tomorrow would be a long day.

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