Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Salvation Diary Eighteen

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

March 15 Friday Day 184

And sleep I did. Till one o'clock or so. Then after I got my peepers open, I reached over and grabbed a book, and read in rapid succession: a chapter concerning black holes in "A Brief History of Time," a chapter of the King novel, "The Dark Half," a chapter from the Beanfield War, a portion of the Big Book of A.A., and the entry for the 15th of March out of the 24 Hour a Day book.
And then I went to the lobby and tried to write. Mr. Vasquez kept telling me about things that needed to be done, so I went upstairs and got ready for work.
Roger Collins, the canteen man, my next door neighbor, walked into the bathroom while I was shaving. He began to talk to me about his leg.
Roger's leg was slowly rotting to hell. Probably because of his smoking cutting the circulation to it and all. This condition causes him considerable discomfort at times, and he tells me, and anybody who will stand long enough to listen, that he would like to have it amputated. Ed Reitz told him that even if he did have it amputated he would probably still feel it. Roger doesn't care, he's determined to have his leg removed. I'd feel sorry for him if he wasn't such a general pain in the ass. He goes out of his way at every opportunity, to corner me and talk about all of the problems he has. An example: he thinks nothing of using huge amounts of my time telling me about all of the people who treat him rudely at the canteen. I couldn't care less because I know he treats his customers just as rudely employing undisguised sarcasm, just asking for all of the ill treatment he receives. I have only shown my displeasure toward his demeanor once, when he refused service to one individual simply because he disliked that persons attitude. He told that person to come and get me so that I could serve him instead. I let Roger know that it wasn't my job to run the canteen, that he wasn't there to judge people, and to just serve the hamburgers, cookies, and ice cream.
If it were up to me I'd throw him out of the canteen and put him across the street, but he'd probably alienate himself over there as well, and get himself thrown out of the center entirely. Besides, he would claim that he couldn't work because of his leg. For the time being I'm stuck with him.
I don't wish to appear heartless. I may be heartless, but I certainly don't wish to appear that way. If he doesn't care that much about himself to stop smoking (like I should talk) and reverse the deterioration of his leg, and try to get along with others, why should I go out of my way to help him?
I do anyway. I gave him some advice. I told him that he should quit smoking (like I should talk) while on the elevator last Wednesday night. A grey-haired, older gentleman, the new piano and organ player for our chapel services, a civilian, was traveling up with us.
"If you want to save your leg you should quit smoking, Roger," I told him.
"Yeah, sure. Might as well stop having sex too!" he responded.
"Oh? You getting a lot around here, are you Roger?"
The organ played looked as if he were in shock.
I could ask him that because I think he's gay. He always hangs around the bathroom smoking cigarettes, and he never goes anywhere, unless it's to the hospital. He says walking around gives him the shits.
Anyway, while I was shaving, he walked in and asked me if I would like to change the bandage on his leg for him.
"No Roger! That's gross. You change it..."
"I can't reach it," he said.
"Find a way, Roger."
He began telling me about the bandages he has, and how they cost him so much. He showed them to me.
Just as I was stepping into the shower he asked me if I would like to look over the literature that came with the new bandages. "No Roger. I don't want to read about your new pressure bandages. Now, if you'll please excuse me..."
Upon exiting the shower, I found Jerry Schimmele standing there.
"What is this? A convention?"
"Hey Ricky. I think I may be gett'en a new job!" He proceeded to tell me about an offer he had received from the Arcadia School District for a janitorial position. I am very happy for him. He needs to pass the civil service exam yet, and I hope that all goes well. This place can't do very much more for him except provide a comfortable atmosphere for him to waste his time.
Earlier, while I had been reading in my room, I heard two guys walking around in the hallway just outside my door. I knew one of them was Mr. Vasquez (his voice is quite distinctive), and I soon recognized the other fellow as Ed Reitz. They were in the process of inspecting all of the private rooms in preparation for the big A.R.C. review coming up in April.
Just as they reached my door it flashed on me what they were up to, and I jumped up and moved around as if I were making my bed.
Knock, knock. "Richard, open up please," Robert directed. Ed followed with, "Room inspection!"
I opened the door and let them in. "How appropriate," I said. "I was just making my bed."
"Sloppy room!" Robert observed.
"Sloppy! How dare you, sir! My room's not sloppy. I like to call it extremely organized in a surreal fashion."
"Sloppy," Robert repeated. "What are you doing, Joyce? Starting a library?" He was referring to all of the books inside of my closet.
"I do reade a bit, yes."
"He reads more than I do," Ed said. "Tighten it up a little for inspection. You know, boot camp style."
"Yes sir." They left. I tore up my bed again and resumed reading.
At work, Eddie Gillespie told me that it was my fault that he was still at the center. He said that if he had to work mostly with Robert, instead of with me, he would have been long gone.
If I were a girl I would have said, "How sweet." But I'm not, so I didn't.
"Well good," I said. "If you were out there you'd be in the rain." It was raining at the time. "I've probably saved your life."
He agreed.

March 16 Saturday Day 185

I got up to have breakfast and drop off last night's money and gratuities to the desk, then returned upstairs, turned the television to "The New Leave it to Beaver," and snoozed until one.
I was tired.
When I did get up I felt sad about sleeping all day, but decided there was noting I could do about it now (I had elected to put that sleep into the permanent storage locker of the past, and took full responsibility for it being there), and went to the bathroom to get ready for work.
Roger came in and began to describe, in excruciating detail, how bad his leg was getting. New sores popping up everywhere. He said he was very discouraged. I don't blame him for feeling that way.
Mr. Vasquez was busy today, driving around, taking basketball players to the basketball game, picking up Dudley Spittler from the La Canada trailer, getting the V.C.R. movies ("Death Hunt" and "The Prophecy" both action-packed no doubt), taking the ladies from the thrift store to the bank, on and on. I took advantage of this and got some writing done.
Kevin Rockoff had been scheduled to take his first weekend pass today. He hasn't taken one since he's been here. Neither have I, and for the same reason-- we do not have any family or friends that live around here to visit. Oddly enough, nobody who works on the desk does (except Mr. Vasquez, who is always visiting his mysterious grandniece in Upland). Too much of a social life is a liability for us desk people. It's a good thing that we're all so dedicated, unselfish, and altruistic.
Kevin would like to change his social situation though. As you may recall, he has been attempting to find a suitable female type person through the singles ads in various newspapers, and had in fact met Vicky, a nurse of Philippine descent. Things didn't quite work out though. She was to hesitant, or had so many other obligations that she could not lavish Kevin with the attention that he required. So he wandered to the first girl that had a kind word for him. She's the sister of a girlfriend of one of our clients. They've known each other for about a week, and had made plans to go out this weekend. Kevin has been all excited about it for the last couple of days, supporting a steadfast grin.
He came back from his big date after only a couple of hours with the sad news of a canceled rendezvous. It seems his new love (Debbie-- it figures it would be a Debbie) wants her divorce to finalize before she gets too involved with anybody else (prudent). Kevin just shrugged it off, poor fellow.
Just another example of how fickle women use us decent, though helpless, defenseless men, for their own nefarious, selfish pursuits. We're just objects to them. Something to be used, then carelessly discarded like an old brassiere.
After Mr. Vasquez returned, Eddie Gillespie informed him that Ed McNicols brother had not been seen for the last three days, and maybe Robert should go look for him. Ed McNicols brother, Jim McNicols, lived in the picturesque Green Hotel, on the other side of the park.
"Why should I go look for him?" Mr. Vasquez asked. "You mean to tell me that Ed McNicols won't go over there to look for his own brother?"
"I guess he's afraid too," Eddie offered.
"That's where you're going to go after you leave here, isn't it sir?" I asked. "The Green Hotel, I mean."
"That's where I'm going, yes."
"Eddie tells me that the Green Hotel is also called the Alcoholic's Haven, and you want to go there?"
"You don't have to go with the stream, Joyce."
"That's true," Eddie chipped in, "Humphrey stayed sober for over a year there... until they found him dead in his apartment at least."
Eddie later told me about how the police had tried a new way to introduce evidence during a court hearing. Unfortunately, Eddie was the subject of this experiment. The prosecutor was attempting to prove a public intoxication charge by using a video tape recorded in the police station shortly before Eddie's booking ceremony.
Picture if you will Eddie standing next to his attorney, watching along with the judge, a video of Eddie standing in between two uniformed police officers trying to determine the level of his drunkeness by tossing five coins on the floor in front of him, then asking him to bend over and pick them up.
The video quite clearly displayed Eddie contemplating this request, looking first at the officers, then to the five coins, then back to the officers, saying, "Pick'em up yourself, you dumb sonsofbitches!" Then he began to giggle.
And was subsequently convicted.
We lost four guys tonight. The second Saturday in a row we've caught someone coming in with booze on their breath. Three A.W.O.L.s.
I wish them well.

March 17 Sunday Day 186

I didn't want to get up today at all. I hadn't got to bed last night until 2:45, and I was rather reluctant to let go of the rather firm grip I had upon sleep.
But I started to visualize the consequences of me not showing up for chapel, and got out of bed.
After church, I ate two donuts and had a nice cup of coffee at the canteen, and then to the library to write until noon.
Today is Saint Patrick's Day, and I'm Irish!
I was adopted when I was four days old (appropriately enough, on Halloween) , in San Jose, California. Two nice people adopted me, and I have always considered them nothing less than my true parents. Roman Richard and Susan Lucille. I have never met my biological parents. I have never learned what their name is, or tried to learn it, mainly because I have no desire or interest in knowing it, or the circumstances surrounding their decision to put me up for adoption. My lovely sister was adopted also, three years after I was. It was always enough for me to know that it was Roman Richard and Susan Lucille who desired children enough, and cared enough, to take us into their home and love us as if we had come from their union. I didn't, and still do not, need to know anything further.
The only thing I do know about my biological parents is that they must have been Irish, because for as long as I can remember, I have been told that I am completely Irish. 100%
So I suppose that Saint Patrick's Day is supposed to have some kind of significance for me. It doesn't really. I would like to visit Ireland some day, and I loved James Joyce's "Dubliners," and all, but Saint Patrick's Day doesn't give me that much of a thrill.
I do remember that I probably got more blitzed on drugs and alcohol on one particular Saint Patrick's Day than on any other day in my entire life. It happened when I was fourteen, or fifteen, and I had been celebrating most of the afternoon. By the evening I had consumed many cross-top uppers, various downers or reds, a few tabs of acid, all washed down with liberal amounts of alcohol. It is truly amazing that I didn't just lay down and die after taking all of that stuff, but the uppers and acid must have kept my heart pumping, and me up and going. I remember little of what followed, most of it told to me at a later time. I do vaguely remember going to a drive-in movie with my friends, De'ette and John. They were going together at the time, but that in no way stopped, or slowed down my drunken proclamations of undying love for De throughout the night. I was also told that I made many excursions from the car, talking to other parked movie goers, asking anyone who would listen if they wanted some coke. Those who thought the idiot drunken boy was giving up free snorts of cocaine, and accepted my offer, were quickly let down when I shoved my cup of spiked Pepsi in their faces. My two friends must have collected me and brought me home, dumping me in front of my house. My mother later told me of how she found me sitting in the front yard, in deep conversation with the tree that resided there.
Anyway, today, St. Patrick's Day, I went to the movies and saw, "The Hard Way," with Michael J. Fox and James Woods. A good film, sort of in its own little world, but very funny. I was especially intrigued by the reaction of the women in the audience as Fox role played a female on the make. They loved it.
This tells me something. What, I don't know, but definitely something.
When I returned to the residence I hurried to my room because I knew Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," was on T.V., and I had never seen it. Pretty implausible story, but I imagine it was a big deal in its day. I can't stand movies in which Kim Novak dies. I'm secretly in love with her you know.
I had dinner (Chicken Cordan Bleau and chile mac), and then watched a wonderful brand new episode of "Star Trek, the Next Generation." A baby space creature mistook the Enterprise for it's mother.
It can happen!
I wrote for a while after that in the library.
At eleven thirty I watched a humorous episode of "Monsters," with the delightful Teresa Ganzel.
I'm in love with her too, and I don't care who knows it!

March 18 Monday Day 187

Wolf came in and woke me at 5:30. I got out of bed five hours later, just in time to hop in the shower and pop down to lunch by eleven (B.L.T. on rye). While waiting in line to eat I noticed Rico approach Reuben Smith with the traditional Zulu Brother greeting: "Hello my African flat-topped brother!" This said while each majestically slapped the palms of their right hand together. Although Reuben is neither flat-topped, or African (he looks partly Spanish, is half American Indian, and comes from Burbank), it in no way deters from this poignant and colorful ritual.
Right after lunch I was off to the bus stop, and after only a three minute wait, was on my way to the V.A. clinic downtown, and then to the dentist.
Oh boy!
The lady at the V.A. clinic was very nice, and very helpful. But the end result of my visit was what one would expect when dealing with large bureaucracies. I was told to go somewhere else. She told me this in a very nice, and very helpful way.
The dentist made a mistake and gave me too much novocaine, so much that I actually couldn't feel anything as he routed around in my mouth with his deadly drill. He attempted to make up for this error with subtle, psychological ploys.
"Has it started to rain yet," he asked with all apparent innocence.
"Naaaw viiiiee? Iss iiittthhh tthappoooss tooo?" The anesthetic made my tongue feel like a leaden slug in my mouth. The dentist knew that I had not come prepared for any type precipitation, and that I would likely be drenched while returning to the residence. He looked at me with undisguised glee. "Yes, any moment now," he said.
With my new filling in place, I made my way to the bus stop without incident, still dry. This would be my last trip to this particular dentist. I would now need to try the U.S.C. Dental School, at the General Hospital, to see about getting a new crown for my front tooth. Next Monday I'll see about that. The Monday after that I'll go to the V.A, clinic in Westwood, where I had earlier been directed.
Back at the residence, still dry, I ate a late dinner (Veal Parmesan with pasta), and tried to write while maintaining a conversation with Dennis and Reuben Smith (at this point Dennis requested that I record the fact that he had bought me a root beer). My conversation partners soon changed repeatedly, and thus, the dynamics of the conversation wavered with each turn. First Dennis and Reuben Smith, then Reuben Smith and Ed Reitz, then Ed Reitz and Kevin Rockoff, then Jerold Schimmelle, then back to Ed Reitz with Dennis Smith, at which point I excused myself so I could go to my lonely room and watch Rob Riener's "The Princess Bride," on television. A William Goldman screenplay (based on his novel) that was at once simple, clever, and effective.
After which I accidentally tuned into the last hour of "Return of the Jedhi," the last segment of the "Star Wars," trilogy. I love this stuff! A middle ages fantasy set in outer space.
Besides I think I may be secretly in love with Carrie Fisher.
Who isn't?
I read after the movie, and it soon began to rain. I could feel the intermittent thunder shake the building at times.
When I tried I couldn't get to sleep. Probably nicotine withdrawal, as I hadn't smoked that day. I tossed and turned.
After I did that for awhile, I decided to read some more until I got sleepy.
But that didn't work either. So I turned on the T.V., and just laid there on my bed and forgot about what I was watching, which was something with Gregory Peck (I had once talked to Gregory Peck on the phone while working as a operator for AT&T. He had been trying to call Beijing, China directly, and had dialed me by mistake. I set him straight on how to do it right) and Joan Crawford. During one of the late night commercials with the ads for the 900 telephone services (I think it was the one with the sluttish looking blonde, standing next to an equally sluttish looking Oriental and sluttish black girl, saying with a sluttish looking smile, "You can go out with girls that look like us! All you have to do is call 976 GUTS. Three dollars for the first minute, one dollar for each additional."
Somewhere during all of that I fell asleep.

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