Monday, September 26, 2011

Salvation Diary 53

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

September 10 Tuesday Day 364

Russell "Hoops" Burke is back! My spiritual guru. The first thing he said to me was, "Hi! Hello. How ya doing?"
Russell had been in New York visiting his Father "Hoops Sr.", and stepmother. His father is very ill.
"My dad has about a week to live," Russell told me. "I left before the funeral. Naw, I didn't want to stay for that. My step mom, she wanted me to stay, but I didn't wanta. She understood though."
Russell has his old job back in the residence... mainly due to Ernie Sens not wanting him in the warehouse.
"He'll wander off and fall into the compactor," Ernie says.
After having greeted Russell I spent most of the morning taking care of normal business; writing, and studying from the "American Red Cross Standard First Aid" book.
After Robert left for the weekly gratuity board meeting, I changed clothes and worked out in the basement, then showered, dressed in some nice street clothes and was back at the desk by the time he got back at 2:30.
I hung around the desk talking to Robert until it was time for me to go to school.
This would be the first time I have attended a college class in over fifteen years.
It all went rather well actually.
There were mostly young people in the class, of course, but I did not feel particularly out of place. Emotionally we were all about the same age.
The teacher, a man maybe a little older than I am, took roll, then asked how many present were not registered for the class. About half the room raised their hands. He asked if those individuals who had just finished raising their hands would go out into the hall with him so they could discuss their future. He was merciless. Only two out of the twenty or so that had left with him returned to audit and participate in the class.
Our assignment for the day was to compose a five paragraph essay; consisting of an introductory paragraph, three sustaining paragraphs, and a closing paragraph. We were to fill in this sentence, "I believe _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, is the biggest problem facing America today." Then continue the essay.
It was hard. When you haven't been to school in fifteen years you kind of get rusty thinking up whole paragraphs and all.
I endured and wrote about the American drug policies.
After I turned in my paper I began the real hard part of my school day... battling the mob at the book store. I was lucky to get out of there in one piece.
For two paperback books, "The Bedford Handbook for Writers," by Diana hacker, and "The Dolphin Reader," an anthology compiled by Douglas Hunt, which probably could be found in any retail book store for $9 apiece, cost me over $45, so I was both roughed up by the crowd and skinned by the cashier.
I got back to the residence earlier than I had expected due to the short duration of my first class. Jill was still there and waiting for me. Well, not actually waiting for me, but she was still there, as beautiful as ever. I told her that I was now a student. She said, "Congratulations," and then began talking to someone else. I feel that if I were to tell Jill that I had just won the Nobel Peace Prize, she'd say, "Very good, Richard... Jack would you see if Miguel Wisenthorpe is ready for counseling."
I went to the canteen and had a piece of leftover pizza.
Always a glutton for punishment, I would talk to Jill again later. I would say this to her, "Thank you Jill. Friday night I will receive my cake for staying sober for an entire year, and I hold you, and your timely group counseling sessions directly responsible."
This got me a great big gorgeous smile, and a "Thank you, Richard. Maybe you could advertise for me."
At 8:00, about ten of us piled into Red Shield 4 and drove into South Pasadena to the St. James Church. This was the old A.A. speaker meeting I used to attend on occasions, six or seven months ago. I went there tonight because I had been told last Friday that I must arrange my birthday cake for next Friday at this meeting. When I found the cake person for this Tuesday night meeting, he told me that what I had been told was a bunch of hoowie, and that all I had to do was tell the Friday night cake person before the meeting started that I would be taking a cake that night.
Smells like a classic runaround to me.
I'm not going to worry about it. Whatever happens happens.
I stayed for the meeting even though I was awfully tired. And like most times when I don't feel like staying at a meeting I find that I'm really glad that I did.
A lady who had eight years sobriety was the five minute speaker. She began to cry as soon as she reached the podium. She kept saying over and over what a rough time she was having and how this was the only place she had to go to.
My heart went out to her of course. This was just another example of how life's problems still exist even after we stop drinking and using drugs.
She will pull through.
I will pull through any problems I come to face... and life will go on.

September 11 Wednesday Day 365

Cathy gave me a call near 8:00 this morning, which was a pleasant surprise. However, the reason she called was not so pleasant.
She told me she would not be able to come in tonight. Her sick car had finally died on her. Her ex-brother-in-law would be able to fix it after she got off work, so she would not be in.
Also her cats are trying to kill each other once again. This is causing her to lose sleep, so she's having a pretty hard time of it right now.
Robert, sensing that this was the only time I'd have to talk to Cathy this week, promptly walked into the office where I was speaking to her and demanded attention. Today was one of his days off. Robert usually spends a total of five minutes in the office on his days off. Five minutes in forty eight hours. It is a tribute to Robert Vasquez that he would pick the only five minutes that I am likely to be in a private telephone conversation within those forty eight hours to come in and ruin it. The man is uncanny.
By the time Robert, with some sprinkling of mercy, departed , and I got back to Cathy, she said, "Well, I have to go now. I do want to be there when you take your cake. Try and save me a seat. Bye." Click.
I did tell her that I would miss her tonight. She didn't respond.
Oh, I don't know. Every time I think about her now, I get tired.
I spent most of the morning writing. Near 1:00 I went upstairs to my room and changed into my swim trunks. On my way to the basement the elevator stopped at the first floor and Roger Shriver, one of our janitors, and Kevin Rockoff entered. I felt a little silly standing there in nothing but my trunks. Neither of them made any comments though. Instead, Kevin looked at me and calmly told me that our V.C.R. had been stolen again.
"It's missing. And Gene Mance had Schimmele watch the desk for him while he took off carrying a big box."
This is the story. Mance, my daytime desk man, asked Jerry to sit at the desk for him (not an uncommon practice), while unbeknownst to Jerry, he used the V.C.R. key to unlock the V.C.R. box protecting the V.C.R. from theft, and disconnected it from the wall plug and T.V. Curtis Carter walked in on him while he was doing this, but didn't think anything of it, Mance being a desk man and all, a position of some authority and responsibility. Curtis had been looking for me, and continued his search. Meanwhile, Mance locked the box back up, returned the key, then went to the kitchen and and asked our newest cook, Keith Davis, if there were any boxes around. Keith told him to look outside in the alley, which Mance did. He found a suitable container, went back to the T.V. room, slid the V.C.R. out from the back of the wooden box, placed it in the box he had found in the alley, found a pillow and placed that on top of the box with the V.C.R. in it, took it and walked right past a smiling and affable Schimmele, out of the residence, disappearing down Fair Oaks Blvd.
Curtis saw him leave, and thinking something may be up he checked the V.C.R. box and found it empty.
When I returned to the desk (after putting my clothes back on) I checked out the situation (Schimmele was sitting in a daze, muttering, "I let him walk right past me... I let him walk right past me") and tried to call my supervisor, Dr. Ed Reitz. Ed wasn't around, so I left word to have him call me as soon as he returned. I called Ernie Sens and told him what happened, and that we'd need a new V.C.R. and desk man. After he finished chuckling he let me know that shouldn't be a problem.
Soon Ed called, and I told him what happened. He instructed me to call the police and file a report. I called the police and they said they would send someone over. Kevin and I checked Mance's locker. It was packed full.
The whole thing didn't make much sense. Mance's clothes alone seemed to be worth more than what he would get for the V.C.R. Nothing else made any sense either. This guy didn't seem to care at all about covering his tracks, and was seen fooling around with the stolen item just before it was stolen. He left his work station one hour before his shift was due to end, walking casually down the street in full view of at least a dozen Salvation Army personnel while carrying a suspicious looking large box with a pillow on top!
The police came. The same cop who was here when Noah was stolen. We told him what happened and showed him Mance's picture from our files. The policeman took some notes and left.
Nothing more to do about it. Ken Hockett had expressed a desire to come to the desk and seemed like a good candidate. I asked Ernie about it, and he agreed. End of case.
I read from the "Writer's Handbook" in the afternoon, and got things ready for chapel.
At chapel, I was to read the responsive scripture. I had practiced the section earlier and was having a bit of trouble pronouncing the word "propitiation." A ridicules word. For the first time I sat with Clarence Orion, Ed Reitz, Frank Corona, and Ron Collins, behind the podium facing the congregation.
I felt kinda silly up there.
I managed the responsive reading quite well, and after the service I set up the chapel's anti-room for Barbara's new Wednesday night relapse prevention workshop. Then I went downstairs to my semi private bathroom and smoked an unauthorized cigarette (I started smoking again at about eight o'clock last night).
As I entered the elevator to return to the desk my name was called over the loud speaker.
"Richard Joyce to the front desk immediately! Richard Joyce to the front desk immediately!" is what it said.
As the elevator door opened I saw Mr. Mance standing by the desk, still donned in his dress white shirt and black trousers (desk apparel). His tie was undone. I approached the desk wearing a bland expression, and Rockoff explained that Gene had come for his personal possessions.
"Okay," I said. "I'll go get them."
I took the elevator to the basement. In the baggage room I placed Gene's clothes into a wheeled bin, but hesitated before bringing them up. Ed Reitz had disappeared somewhere in his van right after chapel, but was expected back within twenty minutes. I returned to the desk, found Mance outside smoking a cigarette with the man who had driven him here, and told him he'd have to wait until Ed got back before I could release his belongings. I walked away before he could say anything. I didn't feel like listening to any of his bullshit and arguing with him. Gene is an older black man with an ugly temperament (he'd been forced on us at the desk by the "Powers That Be and Don't Know Any Better"). I'd seen him go off on Columbus Davis a week ago for no reason, and just didn't want to deal with any violent crap. Not if I could help it.
I went to my office and debated whether or not to call the police again. Gene made up my mind for me by coming in and saying, "I don't know what all this waiting's about, Rick, but I gotta ride, and he's gotta... oh, here's Ed now." He'd seen Ed drive up through my office window. Mance went out to meet him.
I was thinking to myself that this guy must either have a tremendous amount of nerve to come back here and demand his clothes when he and I both knew he ripped off the V.C.R., or was just immensely stupid, severely demon possessed, desperate, or all of the above. Any of which could also make him dangerous.
I called the police. They told me someone would be out right away. Mance was looking at me through the window as I talked to them. He didn't look too happy.
He came back to my office with Ed. Ed said, "This man wants to pick up his clothes. Do we have them?"
"Yes," I answered.
"Okay," Ed said. "Give them to him."
As I passed Gene he asked me who had packed his stuff. I told him Rockoff had. Gene seemed satisfied (everyone trusts Rockoff for some reason, probably that baby face of his, and that genuine niceness I've mentioned. Interestingly enough, Kevin's ex wife called his fiance today, all the way from New York. She was trying to cause a little trouble. She told Rockoff's new love that she (his ex) was currently pregnant with Kevin's baby, which was a rather peculiar thing for her to say considering Kevin's been right here with me for at least the last eleven months), but still grumbled, "Everything better be there too."
I went back to the basement. Ed followed me a minute later and I told him I had called the police. He approved, then left. I waited ten minutes, then took Mance's stuff up to the lobby.
The police were there. Ed, Mance, and a lovely short policewoman were just going into a counseling room as I wheeled up with the clothes.
"So all my stuff is here?" Mance asked. I nodded yes.
While the situation was being discussed in the counseling room, Gene's friend took his clothes and put them in his car. After he finished, and much to my horror, he drove off! I immediately worried about the center's legal position, and Mance's reaction when he found out I had let someone else take his clothes without his permission. I did not believe the police could arrest Gene without catching him in possession of the stolen V.C.R., and he would be wanting his clothes.
I needn't have worried. After ten minutes a handcuffed Gene Mance came out on the arm of the lovely police lady, followed by Dr. Ed Reitz. As Mance passed, Kevin and I let him know that his buddy had taken his things. He seemed happy about that, so everything was cool.
The police promptly took him away.
Ed told me that while the three of them were talking the word came over the officer's radio that Gene had four outstanding warrants out on him, hence the arrest. Three for theft, one for assault on a police officer.
End of story.
I don't know if I wish this guy well. He seemed to be basically a mean and selfish individual, and I just don't understand men like that.
Women either.
Wanting to get out of the residence for a while I drove some of the guys to an outside A.A. meeting at the Woman's Club in South Pasadena. I had attended a couple of meetings at the Woman's Club, but had never driven there. After taking a wrong turn and innately driving through some mountainous back roads for fifteen minutes (with eight or nine men each shouting different and wrong directions to me, some intentionally just because they liked the ride), we found the club, and I dropped them off.
Back at the residence, I talked to Cathy's answering machine for awhile. I asked it how it was doing, and I told it to let Cathy know that Barbara would give her a ride Friday night if she needed one.
Back at the Woman's Club to pick up my charges, a man walked up to my driver's window and began staring at me. Usually I would find this rather annoying, as I did this time... at first.
Dennis Smith looked at me with a great big smile on his big face. I rolled down the window and we shook hands. He was still at the Grandview recovery home, and I am still at the Salvation Army. I told him about getting my cake on Friday, and he congratulated me.
"Wow! This is great," I said. "You've popped up just in time to make the end of the book."
He laughed. "You're still writing it?"
"Sure. It ends Friday night."
"Can I read it then?"
"No. After I put it through the word processor, then you can read it. Maybe I can still help you to get laid."
We said goodbye and I drove off. He looked good, and it was good to see him.

September 12 Thursday Day 366 1 year

Well... it appears that I have made it. That we have made it, dear readers.
One year... not a whole lot of time really. A whole world of time for me.
The day started early. Four thirty in the morning. I was making my first trip to pick up the morning's donuts at Tastee's and Honeyglaze. Richard Hendrickson navigated while I drove. It was fun. We listened to the news program they have on the radio while we drove. We heard about the police shooting a mentally disturbed (whatever that means) person nine times in the back, even while the man was lying face down on the ground.
The man died.
Such is life.
When we got back to the residence we each had breakfast (SOS), then went our respective ways. I went upstairs to my bathroom and brushed my teeth, I then walked across the hall to my room and put on a tie. At the desk, in my office, I began to write. I would continue to write, off and on, throughout the day and night, finally finishing up at around 10:00PM, before I went on my rounds and after I got back from the park.
At 3:15 in the afternoon, Red Shield 4 became available and I scooted over to USC General Hospital to pick up Roger Collins. I was very tired by this time, but still had the hardest part of the day before me.
It was Richard Bennet's night to go to Skid Row and talk to the people there, and he asked me if I would lead his substance abuse class in his absence. I backed off. I told him I would do it next month, and I will if he asks. I sat in on the A.A. panel for about half of it, listening to a young Jewish woman tell her tale of woe and terror involving the Bohemia of San Francisco.
Everyone has a tale of woe and terror. We need to listen to them.
Robert returned from his day off visit with his family in Upland just as the panel let out. Rockoff (the little scuzz) hurled himself into the parking lot so he could be the first to give him the news of the Mance affair, thereby robbing me of the chance of monitoring Robert's initial reaction. He and I talked about it in our office for awhile, among other things. I mentioned that I had one year of sobriety today, and he congratulated me. He told me how difficult it was for him his first year, a one day at a time type of theme, and I realized once again how hard and different it is for all of us.
After Robert and I finished talking I put on my jacket and told my new desk man, Ken Hackett, that I was going to check the trailer, and that I'd be back in a bit.
I slowly walked from the residence, east on Waverly, then north on Fair Oaks. I crossed the southwest corner of Fair Oaks and Del Mar to the northeast corner, which is the southeast corner of the Park, my destination. I choose a diagonal path across the length of the Park, passing the lawn bowling greens, up until I had walked almost to the opposite corner from the one I had entered. There was a picnic table there. I sat and lit a cigarette. I looked around the empty and dark block long expanse of trees and grass punctuated here and there with pools of light spilling from strategically located lamp posts located along the asphalt paths. There were a few people about. Some talking, hidden in shades of darkness, others behind me on Raymond Ave., walking up the paved sidewalk to the lights and noise of Colorado Blvd. Only one man walked as I did, almost aimlessly along the various walkways within the Park itself. He was taking his time, looking around.
Not much had changed in the Park since I had last sat here, since I had taken my last drink at this spot one year ago. There were now three picnic tables instead of two. That's about it. It still felt lonely and empty.
But I didn't feel that way. In the last year I'd come to at least like myself, this new person I've become. Or at least I have begun to know this new person, which drugs and alcohol had masked so well. I can learn to like him. I definitely feel like a participant in life now, rather than just a spectator. That I can make choices that really matter, that I can maybe help others like myself, while helping myself at the same time. That I can now be good to myself, and that I matter.
I've never felt that way before. It's a good feeling. I recommend it. It's a feeling I'd like to keep, and I can make the decision to do that now as well. I care about a lot of people now, all of the guys who have came to the center, all of the different counselors and staff, all of the men and women who have come and gone these last twelve months, and a lot of those people care about me, and that feels... real, real, nice.
The Green Hotel to the north of me, with its great parapets and lighted windows, still reminds me of a huge castle out of some fairy tale. What secrets it must hold.
I hope I have shared well most of mine.
And I wonder what the next year will bring.

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