Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Salvation Diary Fifteen

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

In this country the first law, or ordinance prohibiting the smoking of opium in opium dens was adopted by the city of San Francisco in 1875. The basis for this ordinance was racist rather than health orientated. The San Francisco authorities were concerned about keeping their young men and women from patronizing Chinese opium dens.

"This first law, however, like so many subsequent anti-narcotic laws, failed to work despite the promptness and thoroughness of the punishment. When opium dens became illegal, 'the vice was indulged in much less openly, but none the less extensively, for although the larger smoking-houses were closed, the small dens in Chinatown were well patronized, and the vice grew surely and steadily.' Indeed, the new law 'seemed to add zest to their enjoyment.'
When laws such as this one failed, Congress stepped in. In 1883, Congress raised the tariff on opium for smoking from $6 to $10 a pound, and in 1887 it prohibited altogether the importation of the kind of weak opium that contains less than 9% morphine used to preparing smoking opium. The 1887 law also prohibited the importation of opium by Chinese, and a law three years later limited the manufacture of smoking opium to American citizens.
The results of these steps were set forth in a letter dated January 12, 1888, from the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The effect, he wrote, had been 'to stimulate smuggling extensively practiced by systematic organizations (presumably the Chinese "Tongs" or other mutual benefit societies) on the Pacific coast. Recently completed facilities for transcontinental transportation have enabled the opium smugglers to extend their illicit traffic to our northern border. Although all possible efforts have been made by this Department to suppress the traffic, it is found practically impossible to do so.'
The law was not changed, however, indeed the tariff on smoking opium was further increased from $10 to $12 per pound in 1890. Then, in 1897, it was reduced to $6 a pound- experience having at least taught that it could not bear a higher rate without begetting an extensive surreptitious manufacture of serious smuggling operations. Following the reduction in the tariff 'the amount that passed through the custom houses... progressively increased.'
Throughout this period states and cities continued to pass laws against opium smoking; by 1914 there were 27 such laws in effect. Yet the amount of smoking opium legally imported continued to rise steadily.
The reason for these, and subsequent narcotic laws failure, 'appear obvious. They were aimed at private transactions between sellers and willing, and usually eager, buyers. Thus there were no complaints. Other such laws include the Volstead Act, since repealed, which prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages; the laws against fornication; homosexual acts, and other sexual acts between consenting adults in private; the laws against gambling; and other drug laws generally. The phrase "crimes without victims" has been applied to such acts; they can more accurately be called "crimes without complaints." It is hard to cite a law aimed at crimes of this class which has much effect in curbing the behavior aimed at."
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), no doubt anticipating Columbian drug cartels, wrote, "All laws which can be violated without doing anyone any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desire and passions of men that, on the contrary, they direct and excite men's thoughts more toward those very objects; for we always strive for what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have. And men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity need to enable them to outwit laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden... He who tries to determine everything by law will ferment crime rather than lessen it."
Brecher continues, "The mere fact that a law fails to achieve it's goal fully is of course not a sufficient reason for repealing it: witness the laws against murder. The basic argument against laws creating crimes without complaints must rest on evidence that they not only fail but also, in the process of failing, do more harm than good. Such evidence exists with regard to the laws against opium smoking. For one effect of these laws was to convert opium smokers to more hazardous forms of opium use.
Surely the nineteenth-century enemies of opium smoking did not and could not foresee that the new laws were starting this country down the dismal from that relatively innocent 'vice' to the intravenous injection of heroin- the dominant form of illegal opiate use today; yet that was in fact the sequel."
More about opium and law later.
In the Middle East, small pockets of resistance from Iraqi soldiers necessitates more use of force by Allied forces. We've knocked out about 150 more of their tanks since the cease fire began. Talks concerning a formal end to the hostilities should start soon.
And my good friend, Thomas Bommorito, who had left the residence at 7:40A.M. to visit the local welfare office, did not make it back for the midnight curfew.
I had to terminate him from the program.
Wherever you are Tommy, whatever your doing... I wish you well.

March 2 Saturday Day 171

Tommy came and got his stuff this morning. I did not see him. He told the people who did see him that he had had an insulin reaction the night before, and had been helplessly riding on different buses all night trying to find his way back to the center, not really knowing where he was at or what he was doing, because his mind was all haywire, his brain starving for sugar. He said he had found himself in some garage this morning. The people who saw him told me he looked like someone who had spent a night in a garage.
I have spent a night in a garage. Several nights in fact, but that's another story.
If what Tommy said was true I hope he comes back in. We don't generally throw people out for medical reasons. We don't let people in for medical reasons (potential clients are told they must be fit and able to work a 40 hour work week, if not they are referred somewhere else), but we don't throw them out.
I suppose it's up to Clarence Orion (who gave me back my umbrella, by the way) and the Major to decide if he can come back, if Tommy still wants to that is. He had been talking about moving out lately. He had also been talking about suing the Salvation Army for every penny it had (which may influence Clarence and the Major's decision), something about denying his basic rights as a human being. But we shall see.
Work went smoothly. Mr. Vasquez was out driving around for about half of my shift. He finally brought me and Eddie Gillespie the pizza he had promised us for working the night Art Svensk didn't show. Domino's medium pepperoni. He told us he couldn't afford a large.
I found myself writing a lot about opium this evening, and after that I read of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, probably the greatest factor determining the "drug problem" as we now know it. After I finished reading I talked to Eddie for awhile.
I asked him where he would go in April when the weather turned warm.
"Back to the weeds, I guess."
After work, up in my lonely room, I watched a little of "Godzilla 1985." Since I was a young lad Godzilla had always been my favorite monster (except for Cal Tiki maybe, the immortal flesh eating blob). I can relate to Godzilla.
There was only one real Godzilla movie though... the first.
When I went to sleep I dreamed (as many do) of stomping on Tokyo.

March 3 Sunday Day 172

Clarence Orion had selected me to read the responsive reading portion at this mornings chapel services. My name was listed on the program, and everything.
What this duty entailed was for me get up to the podium, in front of everybody, and lead the captive congregation in reading a portion of the Salvation Army's song book. Several excerpts taken from the Bible actually. About 8 paragraphs worth. I read the first paragraph, everyone reads the second, back to me again on the third, continuing in an alternating fashion until the end.
To make me feel more at ease while doing this it helped to know that Major and Mrs. Johnson, the visiting Territorial Director of Alaska and his wife (I don't remember their names), Capt. and Mrs. Mike Olsen, Clarence, and Mr. Vasquez were all sitting behind me (I had made sure the backs of my boots were polished nicely).
No big deal. I wanted to do a good job of it, but it's always the simple things that are easily goofed up. I was determined not to muck it up though, and the more determined I was, the more nervous I made myself.
I pictured myself going through each step that would be required of me. I ran the sequence in my head, over and over. First I had to make it from where I was sitting in the third pew to the podium without falling, or tripping over anything. Then I needed to remember what to say before the actual reading began, such as, "Good morning. Today's scripture reading can be found on page such and such, number such and such. I will read the dark print. Please follow along with the light print." Then I needed to read in a loud and clear manner all that was needed to be read. Fortunately, I had learned all about voice projection, and how to do it in high school drama class. I was ready on that score. I reminded myself not to stumble on words like, "Perdition," or, "enmity." I also had to remember the closing phrase for such rituals, "May God bless the reading of his word."
Having just read Frankl's description of Paradoxical Intention, I tried to imagine myself fucking up as badly as I possible could, falling flat on my face on my way to the stage, completely screwing up my lines (I've had some experience in this), and bumbling my way in abject humiliation back to my seat.
After imagining the worst that could happen I felt much calmer, and when my time came I did rather well. No mistakes to speak of, and I will kill Clarence Orion if he ever puts me on the program again!
After service I changed clothes and took off to see the new Oliver Stone movie, "The Doors."
The film was not about the sixties musical group The Doors though. It was more concerned with its charismatic lead singer, Jim Morrison. A sad movie, beautifully conceptualized by Stone, backed up with brilliant cinematography and frantic editing. Probably the first biographical film I've seen concerning a subject I was fairly familiar with.
Silly part for Meg Ryan. I don't know why she took it. I'm in love with her, you know.
I've never really been a fan of The Doors, and I really don't know why I went to see it except to get out of the residence for awhile.
Jim Morrison was a child who never had a chance to grow up. He and I share certain similarities. We both were native Californians, both extremely good looking, both like to write, both addicted to drugs and alcohol, and both bad singers.
The phrase, "locked in a candy store all night," comes to mind when I think about his life. Like a lot of people in the rock and roll music industry, he was given too much; to much money, sex, drugs, and fame at an age far too young to know how to deal with it, although I'm sure Mr. Morrison thought that he could. Youth always think that it is in control. But Jim Morrison never was. Booze and drugs and fame were in control all of the way.
He died when he was only twenty seven. I hope there were some coherent moments in his life when he was able to experience joy and love. Some time when the clouds cleared for awhile. If not, his life was a useless waste, despite the gifts of music he left the rest of us.
The film reminded me all too well of how much of my own life I have thrown away. Hopefully I am doing things to change that.
And for the rest of the night, while lying down on my bed, watching silly programs on my television, the music of Jim Morrison and The Doors ran through my head with hypnotic persistence.

March 4 Monday Day 173

"Come on baby light my fire."
Damned Doors music still going through my head.
I wanted to go to P.C.C. today, so I had asked Clarence Bliss to put me on the early wake up list for 5:30.
I don't trust my radio alarm clock.
I should have remembered not to trust Clarence.
Getting out of bed at 10:15, I showered and dressed, then went and talked to the boys at the desk for little. Before I left I had some nice tuna fish for lunch while discussing the finer points of Olympic javelin catching with Dennis Smith, Tom Rotsch, Kelly Timmons, and Bruce Elliot.
Then I caught the dreaded R.T.D. bus.
Pasadena City College has a fairly small campus, which appeared huge and intimidating to me as I roamed around trying to find the admissions office. The scenery was wonderful though. It was lunch time and there were hundreds of pretty girls to see. Surprisingly, I didn't fall in love with any of them. But I'm sure I will once I get to know them. Looks aren't everything.
Having chanced upon a campus directory I soon located the admissions office. There I found posted on a wall outside the office instructions on how to apply to the school. While reading said instructions, a young studious looking, short, eyeglass wearing, male type person approached me.
"Excuse me," he said. "I was just noticing your coat. Wool, isn't it?"
I didn't know if it was wool, or not, but I nodded yes anyway.
"I've been trying to find one just like it. Would you mind telling me where you got it."
"Salvation Army thrift store."
"Right! Thank you very much." He walked away.
Having forgotten to bring a pen with me, I was unable to fill out an application for admission, so I walked to the book store to see if they had any class schedules available. They did, but only the current ones. I needed one for the next semester, the Fall semester. The Fall semester schedules wouldn't be out until May I was told. I left totally dejected, having failed at everything I had come there to do, but as I walked to the bus stop the sight of so many lovely ladies cheered me right up. I don't know why.
Back at the residence, I had just finished a nice cup of coffee and had sat down in the lobby to do a little writing, when by chance I happened to look out the front door (I do that sometimes). My heart stopped.
The ever lovely Jill of the flaming red hair was out there, talking to of all people, Rico Montgomery. I also noticed another man with her, a slim, young fellow, with shoulder length blonde hair, dressed casually. He was holding a camera and taking pictures of the front of the building. It turns out that Jill had got this guy, who's name was David, to photograph the residence to help promote the Salvation Army's rehabilitative services at some fair being held at P.C.C. They got a shot of Rico and Kevin walking out of the front door, trying to act naturally, and failing miserably. I continued to sit in the lobby, acting cool and detached while being buffeted in all directions by the whips and under currents of Jill's loveliness. She soon came and asked me if I would open the chapel for some interior shots.
I said, "For you Jill, I would gladly give my life."
That was a lie.
I said, "Yes Jill, I'd be happy to." But I said it in such a manner that I'm sure she could feel the passion within me.
Once in the chapel I asked her if she'd seen any good movies lately. Pretty witty, huh?
"Yes I did," she replied with her haunting smile. "Sunday I went to see the new movie, 'The Doors.'"
"You did? So did I."
"Where did you see it at?" she asked.
"Up the street, at the Marketplace."
"I went to the Hastings because it's a bigger theater. What did you think of it?"
"I thought it was one of the better biographical films that I've seen. And a little depressing."
"I didn't realize," she concluded, "that they didn't write very many good songs."
Jill and David got me to pose for a few pictures. We were on the second floor, and I gazed off into the distance (as if I were seriously contemplating something of immense importance), with the atrium in the background. I'm afraid I'm not particularly photogenic. I hope they come out alright.
After taking some shots of the bowling alley, weight room, and hobby shop, they left to go photograph the warehouse, and I resumed my writing activities.
I attended Ed Reitz's 6:30 group counseling session. My old roommate, Denis Castle, had once again returned from a relapse, and was in there beginning the program all over again. That's good news really. It takes whatever it takes to stay sober. Everyone was glad to see him back.
Tommy Bommorito came by to pick up the last of his possessions, which were quite considerable in number. I went up with him to his room and helped him pack. He told me that he had entered a sober living house in North Pasadena, and that welfare would pay his monthly rent. I wished him well, and asked him if I could have the Elvira poster that was taped to the back of his locker.
Elvira, as I'm sure the whole world knows by now, is a character created by the beautiful comedian, Cassandra Peterson. Elvira hosted a Saturday afternoon horror movie program a few years ago on a local Los Angeles television station. Peterson, who is a strawberry blonde, donned a sort of black, beehive wig, a slinky, slit thigh, low cut black dress (that myself, and thousands of other men, marveled at how she stayed into. She must have used glue, or something), to become Elvira. She had a campy-comic quality that I found enchanting. Not to mention a body, adequately displayed, that most men would kill their own mothers for. I watched her show every week, when I could manage it, just to see her. It had to have been to see her, because the movies she played were God awful. C- movies. Elvira became a big success, and went on to star in her own feature film, which wasn't too bad really.
Anyway, that poster I asked Tommy for was of Elvira wearing a skimpy one piece black bathing suit, sitting as if she were at the beach, with her long legs tucked under her, mouth invitingly open. But the scene took place at night, with a full moon in the background, and a bottle of "Lunar Lotion," near by.
The caption read, "Moonbathing."
I love it.
I put it up on the wall in my room after forcefully taking it from Tom. It faces my bed.
Now I don't feel so lonely in my room anymore.
She keeps staring at me though.
It's a little unnerving.
By the way, Tommy admitted to me that he had been using the night he was gone. That's why he hadn't come back here.
He had gone to relapse city.
I tried to spend the rest of the evening watching a murder mystery on T.V. with Barbara Eden and Loretta Swift, but it was so stupid I had to turn it off. Something has to be profoundly stupid for me to do that. I enjoy a high stupidity tolerance.
I went downstairs to ask Robert if there were any special circumstances I needed to know about for when I returned to work the next morning. He wasn't there. He had taken Andre Laws to U.S.C. Medical. Andre, quite in character, has the chicken pox.
I returned to my room and read about drug laws, and soon fell asleep.
"Break on through to the other side, break on through..."

No comments:

Post a Comment