Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Salvation Diary 33

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

May 29 Wednesday Day 260

I forgot to set my alarm clock last night, and Mr. Pandolfi stubbornly refused to make sure I was awake ("He's not on the wake up list, I'm not waking him up!"), so I slept until 6:39. By the time I got to the desk it was 7:00, an hour late for work. No big deal, but it didn't help my employment fantasies any ("We were gonna give ya the job, but anybody who shows up an hour late for work, well, we better think on it.")
A rather smooth day, as far as all day work days go. Things began to pick up in the evening.
Birthday dinner night! Scott Feeney, Clyde Foster, and Carl Boggus had dinner with Major and Mrs. Johnson, receiving some nice socks and canteen cards as presents.
Chapel went well, Ron Collins being too sick to sing.
I was forced to attend the damn AIDs seminar at 6:30. No viable way to avoid it this time. Most of the old timers were also required to go, including Mr. Vasquez, Frank Corona, Jack DeWilde, Clarence Bliss, and Russell Burke, all likely HIV carriers. For the most part it was extremely depressing for me. I had seen the lead in the video they showed before, from the Canoga Park A.R.C., and the guy giving the presentation resembled "Married with Children's" Bud Bundy, with a spike haircut on drugs. He did offer one piece of information I had not heard before. No one who had been diagnosed with HIV in 1977, when the virus was first discovered, has survived to this day.
I have decided to quit smoking once and for all... on June 7th, if the results of my HIV antibody test are negative. I don't know what I'll do otherwise. I can't think about that now.
Ed Reitz told me I'd get on the payroll after the center got its books balanced a little. By July 1st at the latest. One more month at 19 bucks and a canteen card.
I told Ed that was good news.
I'm sorry to report that one of our cooks, Charles Wittworth, got a little careless and was seen drinking up all of our orange juice. He was using it as a chaser for his vodka. Robert tested him after dinner. 0.13.
I wish him well.
Kathy came in to counsel Ron Collins and a couple of other guys. She seems to be doing very well. Her clients are very impressed with her.
I've begun to read another collection of Clive Barker horror stories to help cheer me up. The collection is entitled, "In the Flesh."
And guess what my thoughts kept returning to as I tried to sleep tonight. Viruses, HIV, positive tests. Little protein packets filled with self replicating nucleic acid. A definition of life that kills.
Paradoxically, I slept well. I dreamt of making love with Nanette Fabray.  

May 30 Thursday Day 261  

I made it to work on time this morning. I wish I hadn't.
Everybody had a complaint today. Loud radios in the dorms and the bathrooms. Open windows chilling everybody out. Boisterous behavior. On and on.
I wrote in the morning. I then went to the sample room to run some sample, but the machine was acting silly again. It would not allow me to run a photo check on it, and I wanted to run one real bad. I called Abbott customer service in Dallas, and told them of my problem. A very cheerful young lady (she sounded young) assured me she would have a technical representative get in contact with me, ASAP. Sure enough, one of the frisky little devils was here by lunchtime. I escorted him to the sample room and left him to his work.
He spent the rest of the afternoon here, not leaving until after dinner. He left me a note telling me he'd be back tomorrow. Apparently we needed a new power supply.
A typical Thursday evening. I had to sit across the two exits of the small TV rooms while the panel meetings were in progress. This was necessary to motivate those who were required to attend to actually stay inside that room. Some displayed a tendency to sort of seep out once in a while. Like a prairie dog sniffing the air above it's den to see if the coast was clear, occasionally the TV room door would open, and a face would peek out to judge if an easy escape could be made. I gently urged these individuals back inside where it was better for them to be.
The pretty lady who caused the mass defection from the A.A. panel to the C.A. panel a few months ago, returned tonight. My attendance sheet reported a 24% increase in the number of cocaine addicts from the week before.
I passed the rest of my shift doing paperwork, counting the cash and change, and reading the Clive Barker book. These are the best of his stories I've yet come across.
Later, as I was lying in my bed trying to get to sleep, my thoughts returned to the possibility of being infected with HIV. I thought about having it, and how I would live with it. I thought about all of the thousands who live each day with the knowledge that they have an incurable, and possible fatal illness.
What do they do? How do they cope? What reasonable alternative do they have to do anything but cope? What keeps them going?
Maybe I'll have the opportunity to find out.  

May 31 Friday Day 262  

I was having a conversation with Jill, somewhere near the immaculate houses and opulent apartment buildings of her neighborhood. It was a beautiful and sunny, Southern California day. We exchanged personal stories and anecdotes, confidences. We laughed.
Then I woke up.
Although the dream was very pleasant, it left me with a gnawing, empty feeling.
I had slept late. Pretty tired I guess. I had wanted to take a nap yesterday for an hour or two, but the ADx repairmen had been in the sample room all afternoon, and that's where I like to snooze.
By the time I showered and dressed I only had an hour before my shift began. I thought about what my next move should be for a moment and decided my body required a donut. I satisfied that requirement, then took a walk to the store to get some smokes.
The stress was heavy as I began my shift. Rico Montgomery was upset with me for putting him on the Saturday work list for missing devotions last Tuesday.
"But I was there, Rick! I sat next to Vernon Smith, and ... what's that brother's name?... uh I forget, but they both saw me sitting there!"
"No one else saw you Rico."
"Man, I was there I tell you. That light skinned brother was doing it, and they all said the Lord's Prayer at the end."
"Rico, I said, "anyone in the building could have heard a hundred guys saying the Lord's Prayer, and there's no big trick in finding out who led it."
"Man I was there!"
"Rico, your own boss, Joe Brown, was the one that gave you up. I wouldn't have known about it if he hadn't told me. Are you saying he deliberately lied to me?"
"No man! He just didn't see me. I was there though."
"You were there... were you late, maybe?"
"Uh, yeah. I was a little late. But I was there."
"Okay. You're on the Saturday work list for being late for devotions!"
"Oh man! That's some chicken shit, petty crap, man." On and on, eventually walking away. He would continue to cry about it until about 6:30, when Reuben Smith came back from an all day trip to Burbank.
He came in looking all innocent, and everything, something that is exceptionally hard for Reuben to do. Mr. Vasquez was telling him about a basketball game to be played that night, while I gave him the mandatory breath test. He registered. Robert could tell something was up by the look on my face.
"What? What?" Robert said. He took the breath-a-lizer from me, reset it, and had Reuben blow again.
"I haven't had nothing," Reuben kept repeating.
Robert looked at the device a long time, while Reuben denied and fidgeted. Finally, saying nothing, he held it out so Reuben could see the .06 reading.
Reuben continued, "No, no, I didn't have anything."
Robert had him blow one more time. "I can smell it from here, Reuben," he told him. After the third positive reading, Robert directed him to get what he needed from his locker and depart.
Still denying, Reuben walked away, almost in tears.
Rico came down a short while later and asked me if I could give Reuben another chance at the breath-a-lizer. He said Reuben had drank a few Near Beers, and hadn't realized they would register. I told him that it wouldn't do any good to test him again. Reuben had been drinking something with alcohol in it and would have to leave.
Reuben made some phone calls, and left about a half an hour later.
Maybe, if he returns Monday morning, early Monday morning, sober, they'll let him back in. Him being the Major's waiter (Blue Room Smack), and all. They let Schimmele back in. If they let Schimmele back in they'll let anybody back in.
Maybe this place isn't helping Reuben anymore. Maybe he needs to move on. He's pretty much exhausted all of the possibilities for growth around here.
Since the ADx machine was now working I spent most of the night running samples.
After my shift I retired to my room and watched, "Friday Night Videos," on T.V. A music video show I hardly ever watch. A rap video was on. The performer, in my opinion, had about as much talent as a snail dipped in salt, which he slightly resembled. The music was uninspired mechanics.
I idly wondered where they had found so many beautiful girls to dance around like that. Is there a company where you can call up for some gorgeous dancing girls? I suppose there must be.
Then I went to sleep.  

June 1 Saturday Day 263

There I was, dancing in unison with four scantily clad lovely blonde ladies, with vacuous, stupid smiles plastered onto their pretty faces. We all move to a brutal rhythm, in myriad contorted stances, jumping about, twirling around, always just in sink.
I woke up. Thanked the Lord it was only a dream, then went about my business.
Which was to go to the store for cigarettes. I met Eddie Gillespie on the way back.
"Hi Eddie," I said by way of greeting.
"Oh, hi Rick."
"How ya doing?"
"Pretty good for a derelict."
He looked good. Healthy and clean. He was on his way to Union Station. We talked briefly about Eddie Acuna and Hobart Rodgers, who had left the Canoga Park A.R.C. and have been hanging around the residence, bumming money from whom ever they could. I had given them a bag lunch each in return for a promise they would come in the next day and talk to Clarence Orion. They did come back the next morning, but couldn't pass the breath test. They returned a second time yesterday and failed again. By that time, tired of game playing, Clarence told them that if they didn't pass the test come Monday they needed return, ever.
I told Gillespie about my new job opportunity. He was very happy for me. He said he might stop by if he could find the time. I'd look forward to it, I said.  

June 2 Sunday Day 264  

I woke upon a boat headed for Africa with Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lolabrigeda, Robert Morley, Peter Lorrie, and other assorted unsavory characters, in "Beat the Devil." Not a bad place to wake up actually, except it was thought the boat was sinking.
A beautiful day here in Pasadena. Clear and warm. A slight breeze brought relief from the Sun's steady downpour.
After chapel I changed into casual clothes in anticipation of attending the A.A. meeting at the American Legion. But when I entered the lobby Ron Collins told me that he would not be going today. He wanted to watch the first game of the NBA playoffs, between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls. I briefly debated whether to carry on and go by myself, or go back upstairs to my nice cozy bed, remembering that I had only gotten about two hours of sleep the night before. I decided not to go, and at the same time make Ron feel as guilty as possible.
"No! I'm not going either. It just wouldn't be the same without you there," I told him.
"Oh, shut up, you sludge. Now you're making me feel guilty."
It's so easy.
"And poor Skip will be by himself," I continued. "He'll probably think we both relapsed and are now living in the bushes with Gillespie, Acuna, and Rodgers... underneath a freeway overpass somewhere, dirty, destitute, and helpless. He'll probably relapse..."
"Will you stop it!"
We decided to go to the mall for coffee. Robert gave us a ride and dropped us off after giving Dennis Smith a ride to the Corps.
Walking through the mall early on a Sunday morning reminded me of a few months back when I inadvertently discovered the secret of feminine allure. That knowledge has been a terrible burden, let me tell you. The strain is overpowering at times.
We passed a Zales jewelry outlet, which reminded me of how much money I owed them. In turn, that reminded me of how much money I owe everybody.
I started to get a little depressed at this point.
But only briefly. Alcoholics Anonymous tells us we must not shirk our debts, and I have no intention of shirking mine. That money will have to be paid back, and like everything else in my new life it will be one day at a time, one dollar at a time, until the debt is erased and I am free of that particular piece of wreckage from my past.
Passing Zales also made me think of Jan. The reason I owed Zales money was because I had bought an engagement ring for Jan there. A ring that Jan had wanted for years before I finally got around to buying it. Jan left me a couple of weeks after I gave it to her.
But I don't blame her for leaving.
Oh well, I survived, and I'm not doing too badly now.
I hope she's doing well, everything considered. I really do. She was never happy living with me, really. I don't see how anybody could have been. I was never happy ("happy," what a word!) living with myself. I hope she has found, is ready to seek, whatever it is she was looking for.
Ron and I walked past the pet shop. This reminded me of Spanky and Darla, Jan's two orange and white tabby cats that I lived with for five years, and loved. I had cared for them when they were sick, gave them their shots, fed them, played with them. Of course Jan took them when she left. It was like taking away my children.
I also thought about my black and white kitten, Pita (short for Pain In The Ass), which I had to abandon upon entering a hospital treatment program for alcoholism.
All this remembering was getting more and more depressing.
I played with the cute little kittens in their cages inside the pet shop. Their eyes were wide and quick, full of wonder, chasing anything that even looked like it might make a move. I wanted to take one home with me... I'd have to get a home first though.
I saw some nice birds there as well. I left the shop determined to renew the campaign for a new residence bird.
We had some coffee, Ron and I. We drank it at a table near a whole bunch of other tables, in the middle of a whole bunch of small restaurants, or shops that sold food and beverages... like coffee. We watched other people walking around while we drank it. We watched other people drinking coffee too.
After that I insisted we check out the Walden book store. Everything was out of my price range. Bubble gum is outside of my price range.
After we left the mall Ron and I went our separate ways. I went to the park to lay out in the sun while listening to classic rock and roll, and sweating. I find it a little embarrassing when so many teenage girls stop to ogle and sigh as the gaze upon my youthful, athletic type hard-body.
I got back to the residence just in time to witness the Lakers squeak by the Bulls, 93 to 91, winning the first game of the series. Rico Montgomery, coming from the Chicago area, was very saddened, walking around the building for the rest of the day in what some thought to be a catatonic daze. He muttered listlessly to himself, "The Lakers are sooooo lucky... sooooo lucky..."
I basically kicked back in my room for the rest of the day, reading and watching television. I read a chapter from Nan Robertson's "Getting Better," entitled, "The God Part," which helped me to understand some of the spiritual aspects of A.A.
And I watched the Tony Awards. Neil Simon wins again.
Sleep eventually overtook me. I dreamed of yellow cats and blue canaries.

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