Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Salvation Diary Seven

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

December 3 Monday Day 82
I heard Matthew Moore’s voice calling to me as I was shaving this morning. “Just th th the pa pa pa person I I wan na na ted to see.”
He walked into the bathroom where I was standing. I continued shaving, ignoring him.
“Where’s ma ma ma ma my, my my my to to two baauucks tha that tha tha that you you you, that you owe me?”
Matthew is a rather short, slim, wiry person. He has dark features, with a curly black mustache. One could look at him and assume his ancestors had once lived near the Mediterranean region, and had been kidnapped by a gang of marauding Arabs. He tells me he is of Portuguese-French-German extraction, but I don’t believe him. If he was telling me the truth, his Portuguese shows the most. “Scrappy little fellow,” describes him quite nicely, although I hesitate to describe anyone as a scrappy little fellow. He has an engaging smile, which often makes him appear as if he enjoyed some naughty secret. You have already noticed that Matthew suffers from a pronounced stutter. No one around here makes fun of him because of it. It adds to his charm. He can be defiant, aggressive, obstinate, and stubborn. This is all a mask he presents to the outside world. Actually, he is a shy and sensitive man, and very vulnerable. I have seen him wait all day in the lobby for a single phone call from his wife. Whenever he does this, and when it gets late in the afternoon, I can no longer tease or joke with him, as he gets so despondent that she has not yet called. I don’t pretend to understand their relationship, or why they live apart. Whenever she is here visiting Matthew they seem quite happy together, but you know how that goes. Matthew is obviously very much in love with her.
Matthew is almost always in good humor. If anyone could be called the human house mascot, it would be Matthew. Everybody likes him. He calls Mr. Vasquez, “dad.” And he is the snazziest dresser in the residence. In chapel, when the rest of the house is wearing sports coats and slacks, Matthew inevitably shows up in a tuxedo and tails.
He pretends to be violent. He will at times rush me like a wild rhino, yelling, “Up yours, motherfucker,” and stop short while pulling a few fast air punches at me, his victim. In the very next instant he will ask with a devilish smile, “Got a, got a, a a a, cigaaaareettte on yoooouuu?”
One thing about Matthew, he never stutters while cursing.
Which led Ernie Sens to believe that he might be able to help Matt solve his speech problem by forcing him into a job that required him to talk all day. Thus Matthew became our dispatcher.
“Re re re re r rr rea rea re reaaaad red sheee shee shee shee shee shee… sheeeeeeeeild fooooooooouuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrttteeeeeeeeeennnnnnnn…”
He didn’t last through his first day.
He is tirelessly insolent. Today I saw Harold Eversley, our lead cook, go to the trouble of personally making Matthew a bag lunch to take with him to his new job (he is a janitor at a local church). Matthew thanked him, and said, “I I I I I I I I I I sta sta sta sta still still tha think youuur an asshole.” Harold, being a good-natured person, laughed, and said, “Gee, thanks Matt. Now get the hell outta here before I kill you.”
“Up yours, motherfucker,” he shouted while in a hurried retreat.
One night, when Matthew came in after work, into the bathroom where I was reading. He sat next to me and we starred at each other in mock hatred. He lit a cigarette.
I asked him, “How are you, Matthew?”
“Fa fa ah ah ah fine.”
When Matthew finishes a sentence, the pitch of his voice dips down, then up again upon the last word, as if he’s exhausted by the time he’s reached the last syllable.
“How’s work going?”
“I ah ah ah, I ah ah ah, th th th th th, I think I I I I I I I I may be ba ba ba ba be be be be in a a a ah ah ah ht little troooouuuuuuble.”
“Oh. Why is that, Matthew?”
“I I I I I I, ah ah ah ah ra ra ra ran, I ran in ta ta ta, into a da da da doooor.”
“You ran into a door. How did you manage that, Matthew?”
“It wa wa wa was a a a a a an an an an ax ax ax accident.”
“What did you run into a door with, Matthew?”
“As as as an an an an an an an a a a ah ah ah ah ah ca ca ca caaaar.”
“A car. Did you do any damage to the car?”
“No, uh ha.”
“What kind of car was it?”
“An a a a a a an an an an an e e e ee electric ca ca ca car.”
“An electric car. So you were in the performance of your duties when the accident happened?”
“Ya ye ye ye yeeeees.”
“Well I don’t see that you could be in much trouble. If you were working. I mean, accidents do happen.”
“I I I wa wa wa wa was wasn’t su su su suppos, supposed ta ta ta to tot be uu u u u using the th th th th th the caaaaar.” He smiled.
“Ohhh! That makes things a little clearer. Well, I guess if you offered to pay for the damage, that might help. How much could a door cost? A pay check?”
“Ma ma may may may may maybe a a a few paaaychecks.”
“Why so much, Matthew?”
“It it it it it’s a pre pre pre pre pre pre pretty ex ex ex ex expensive a a a a dooor.”
“What kind of door was it, Matthew?”
“A a a a a for for for for fourteen fa fa fa foot ha ha ha hand ca ca ca carved one.”
His employers never made him pay for it.
He is charmed.
He is notorious for ignoring the rules and regulations of the residence. He smokes in the bathrooms during the day, walks around with his shirt untucked, leans on walls! He gets away with all of it. Having a beard is not allowed, but Matthew sported a goatee for two weeks before anyone noticed. The only reason someone eventually did notice it was because Matthew brought attention to it himself by coming up to me at the desk, pointing his finger, and saying, “You na na na need a ha ha haaaaircut! Immediately!” Victor then noticed his facial growth and directed him to shave it off.
“Na na na na na na na na na na neeeeeever!” Matthew replied.
His wife made him shave it off two weeks later.
She said it was “icky.”
About the two dollars I owed him. I had bought a hat from him a few days earlier, and he actually wanted me to pay him for it, even though I had came to learn he had stolen it. Matthew’s exploits at thievery in the residence were legendary. Roger Patrick Buchanan, a maintenance person, made the mistake of letting his multimeter sit unattended for forty-five seconds. Finding it missing, he thought he had misplaced it, and soon gave up looking for it and asked a friend if he could borrow theirs.
“Sure,” his friend said, as he handed it over, “I just bought it.”
“This is mine! This is the one I’ve been looking for. Who sold it to you?”
Of course it had been Matthew.
“Rockoff owes me two dollars,” I told him, “because the Giants lost to San Francisco last night (7 to 3). I have to wait for him to pay me before I can pay you.”
“Ah a a ah ah all right.”
A minute later I noticed a Matthew’s blur wiz by my open door while on his way to intercept another victim. It was Kevin Rockoff, who was busy vacuuming the hallway. “Ah ah ah all right. Up against the wall. Assume the po po po position.”
Work went well tonight. Mr. Vasquez did not even notice that I ditched Bible Study.
I fell in love with another counselor tonight. Her name is Sylvia. What a lovely name, Sylvia. She actually talks to me sometimes.
I think Mr. Vasquez fell in love with a counselor also (it seems to be an occupational hazard). Her name is Milda. Milda is a very nice, older blonde lady, who just began counseling for us. Very attractive.
“Milda,” Mr. Vasquez ruminated. “Sounds kind of Scandinavian, Finnish, or Swedish maybe. Denmark or Holland. One of those countries.”
“I’d be happy to find out for you sir,” I offered.
He squinted his eyes, and said, “No, no, no. Don’t be asking her anything, Mr. Joyce. It’s none of our business.” He looked away. “But if you happen to find out, let me know.”
“Yes sir. She is very attractive. And very nice.”
“Yes,” he said. “She’s a nice lady.”
Near the shift’s end, he disappeared upstairs to the sample room to play with urine. It happened that Milda was here quite late. The last counselor to leave.
Before I left for the evening, I wrote two memos. One for Mr.Vasquez, and one for Rico Montgomery. Rico’s was hand written, and was left in his key box to be discovered by him in the morning. The message consisted of only three words, “You all right?”
The other was typed. I gave it to Wolf to give to Mr. Vasquez when he eventually came down. This message also consisted of just three words.
“She is Lithuanian.”
December 4 Tuesday Day 83
Extraordinary! My old friend Rudi is back! I saw him at lunch briefly. Apparently he just got out of jail yesterday, and had called the residence and had talked to Robert about his possessions that he had left. He must have talked to Clarence as well, because now he’s back. That’s certainly good news.
I also looked at the daily notices on the Bulletin board, and what do you think I saw?
Give up?
I saw the daily notices!
And one of them told me that I would be having group counseling tonight with Jill… my one true love.
Oh boy!
I talked to my counselor, Richard, this morning. We discussed sobriety, physics, and astronomy, specifically the potential of gamma ray bursts from outer space destroying all life on our planet except itsy bitsy microbes buried deep underground. Even cockroaches would bite the dust. Imagine that. This adds one more to my list of things to worry about, which now stands at 3,893.
I could not give him back the Understanding Alcohol, book, as I had not finished reading it yet, but he gave me another book anyway.
I wrote for most of the day, in the lobby, while watching Shirley walk back and forth. At dinner, Shirley and I sat at different tables, but were facing each other. Watching her eat a plate full of spaghetti almost stopped my heart.
After dinner, I put on my sport coat and brushed my teeth, and began getting a little nervous about my meeting with Jill.
I needn’t though. Everything went well. We met in the small dinning room. Me, Jill… and nine other guys.
How romantic.
She was wearing another frustrating long, gorgeous, black dress, which set off her lustrous shoulder length red hair to perfection.
She began by telling us her rules.
How sexy!
We could not miss meetings, and we had to be on time each week. I felt like I was back in kindergarten as she dictated to us.
She had met with some of us before. The ones like me, who she hadn’t, she wished to find out a little about, and accordingly asked us some questions. When it was my turn, I briefly described my life with alcohol and drugs, and my tendency to relapse. She asked me, “If asked why you had relapsed before coming here, what would you say?”
“I would say, that I wasn’t ready then. I hope I’m ready now.”
I’m way past the point of being embarrassed by admitting to anybody that I’m an alcoholic. Even to a pretty lady. A.A. has done its job well.
Some of the guys were acting like real assholes, by not cooperating, or making fun of everything that was said. This can be expected of people who are seeking attention or hiding their feelings. But besides from these individuals, Jill seemed to be the one who had the most defenses up and working. She wanted us to feel that she was in control. That she was self-assured. She was almost flippant in her retorts, sometimes condescending. It made me want to get to know her, what she was really like, because I thought I saw someone it would be nice to know, I mean, in addition to being in love with her and all.
Women trip me out, they really do.
Later I went to an outside A.A. meeting at the Crown City Church, in South Pasadena. It was the first I had been to for a while. Steven Rockoff and Brian Montaque went with me, among others. Mr. Vasquez drove us in the van, but we made it there safely.
I fell in love with a beautiful lady there who was celebrating her eleventh year of sobriety. She stated that this was the first birthday cake she had ever taken during those eleven years. She had thought that she may have inadvertently jinxed herself if she were to take one, go out and celebrate, getting drunk in the process. Her brother had been in the program for six months and had insisted she take her cake tonight.
See how chips and cakes are for other people, more than they are for ourselves.
And see how brothers are.
I wish her and her brother well.
I went to bed tonight with the best feeling I’ve had in I don’t remember when.
Jill, and A.A., what a combo.
December 5 Wednesday Day 84
I was walking to the showers this morning, about half naked, when I heard feminine voices all around me. I looked around and didn’t see anybody. I immediately considered the possibility of having entered into the Seventh Dimension, disregarded that idea and thought that maybe I was in the midst of an LSD flashback. Then I simply looked over the second floor banister into the atrium.
Mrs. Johnson, and a few of her friends were down there decorating a nice big Christmas tree.
There were boxes; I mean big boxes, of Christmas paraphernalia in the lobby. People were running to and fro, putting up ornaments here, tinsel there. A large (and extremely heavy, according to Schimmele and Rockoff) artificial fireplace was brought up from the basement and placed in the dinning room. What a festive atmosphere!
I felt like a big fat Christmas elf.
Mrs. J brought out a little stuffed teddy bear that must have swallowed a music box at one time. It never stops playing Christmas carols. Mrs. J’s favorite place to sit this teddy happens to be right on top of our desk. She told me, “This thing drives Robert crazy.”
I have no problem believing that.
I left all the festiveness, and walked over to the warehouse to find two boxes I could use to put my mom’s birthday and Christmas presents in. I found them, and boxed those presents real good.
Since my mother is coming to visit me on the sixteenth, I can give her all the presents that need to go to Arizona, and save some money on postage.
Later on, in chapel, we sang, “Joy to the World.”
I went to another outside A.A. meeting at the South Pasadena’s Women’s Club. Rudi came along. Although I’m not a very good schmoozer, I enjoy these meetings, and like being around all the sober people gathered together to help each other stay sober.
I went to bed, once again feeling really good.
And that was great!
December 6 Thursday Day 85
I was going to get up early today, and I did. I went down and had some pancakes and bacon for breakfast, then forgot why I had wanted to get up early, so went back to bed.
As luck would have it, I woke once again just in time for lunch. After eating I brushed my teeth real good for my trip to the dentist. Dentists don’t like it if you don’t spend about three days brushing your teeth before you see them. And flossing.
As I left the residence, Reuben Smith, my twenty-nine year old, skinny, fellow San Fernando Valleyian, who’s job it is to serve Major and Mrs. Johnson, and other assorted VIPs their meals in the Blue Room (and incidentally, refused to serve me early dinner on my second day here), made a horrendous buuuuuzzzzzzzzzzzzzziiiing noise with his mouth, attempting to imitate the sound of a dentist’s drill, striving to increase the amount of my supposed anxiety.
This action on his part displays a magnificent insight into his character, or lack thereof.
The dentist at Claude Hudson was fine though. He even mentioned that I had good teeth. As he introduced himself, he asked me what I wanted.
I said, “Well, I think I have a cavity, possibly needing a root canal, and I think a filling came out back here. And I would really like this cap here in front fixed, if you possibly could.”
He said, “Um hum, and this is all you want?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I felt like saying, You’re the bloody dentist! You tell me what I need done!
He said that I did need a couple of fillings, and a cleaning, which he could do. He also told me that I needed two crowns, one in back, and one to replace the chipped cap in front.
One night, while quite inebriated, I had been walking along when my face somehow made direct contact with the cement sidewalk, thus leaving one of my front teeth looking like it had been broken almost in half. The tooth in question was itself a crown, having previously been knocked out while I attempted to stop a fight between my girlfriend at the time, Michelle Meridian, and the girlfriend of a former suitor. Such is life.
The dentist informed me that they didn’t do crowns there. He said I would need to go to the USC Dental School, or a private dentist to get a crown. Great.
All they did today was to take some X-rays. I have an appointment for January eighth, to have my teeth cleaned. I look forward to this.
I made it back to the residence, as luck would have it, just in time for dinner. Then I had to go to work.
At substance abuse class, I was told that for the first nine months of my recovery, I probably wouldn’t be unable to think very well, remember practically nothing, and fall over things a lot. I was also told not to worry about it too much, that I was suffering from an organic brain dysfunction that would undoubtedly clear up sometime within the next seven years.
Now that I understand this, I feel so much better about myself.
Work went well. Stacy kept giving me the old eye, but I ignored her. She must learn to forget me.
After work, I read while sitting in the bathroom, until midnight. At eleven-fifty I lit a cigarette. At midnight I said, “Happy birthday, Cheryl" (Cheryl is my lovely sister, three years younger than I), then went to bed.
December 7 Friday Day 86
I hung around the lobby a lot today, reading and writing. I read parts of the new book that Richard had loaned to me. It is entitled, I Didn’t Know I Had a Choice, by Corey and Corey, Fourth Ed. It’s not about alcohol or drug addiction. It’s a textbook on how one is able to make choices as far as one’s life is concerned. Each chapter deals with a different stage, or aspect of a typical person’s life, from birth to death. The first chapter discussed Maslow’s model of the Self-Actualizing Person, about what a good thing it is to be one of them, or in the process of becoming one of them.
It’s not particularly great for the families of Self-Actualizing person though, or those who have to be near them for any appreciable amount of time, for they tend to be assholes. This observation, I confess was not in the book. I reasoned it out myself by equating Self-Actualized with Self-Absorbed, Selfish, Condescending Jerks.
But they get a lot of work done, that’s for sure.
I must say that anything I read about bright, successful people who realize their full potential depresses me to no end. It reminds me of how little I’ve done in my own life to realize my own. I think about all the years I’ve wasted, and I could just scream!
However, there’s nothing I can do to change to past at the moment, and very unlikely that there ever will be. All I can do is learn from past mistakes.
As was intended by the authors, this self-actualization process is demonstrated as a goal. I have a goal.
I don’t wish to be like anyone else. I haven’t met too many people I’d rather be like (other than the legendary sex machines, Peter North and Wally Cox), but I would like to be a better me, and not fritter away my whole life uselessly. I think that being here, and doing what I’m doing, taking my time, not getting gung-ho or fanatical about anything (except taking that first drink), or trying to be a perfectionist and burning myself out, is a pretty good way to be spending my time right now. A first step toward the rest of my life.
I reminded myself to read more informative books like this, because when I do I tend to think a lot more about things that happen in the real world, things that could help to make my life a better one. I should probably read less trashy science fiction novels like, Venus in the Half Shell.
I also reminded myself that I’ve always learned a great deal about the real world from novels.
Venus in the Half Shell has its place I suppose.
Work went quickly. I read the Choices book continuously, except when the guys kept bothering me by coming and going. Or wanting aspirin, or band aids, or asking silly questions about house rules and regulations. Very annoying.
“What da’ya think this is? A damned pharmacy, or something!?” I would say, quite reasonably.
I found an empty pint bottle of bourbon in the northeast common restroom tonight. I dutifully reported it to Victor. This is about the fourth one in a week we’ve found. Someone’s partying up there, someone who needs a lot of help desperately. If I find them, I’ll bust them. It seems like they want to get busted anyway. How hard is it to dispose of an empty bottle? They could just throw it in the trash, and it probably wouldn’t be found.
Everybody came in on time tonight.
I went to bed thinking of the possibilities that life presents, and those that may be possible, even for me, if I just don’t drink.
December 8 Saturday Day 87
I got up this morning at seven, and went down to a wonderful scrambled egg and sausage breakfast, then thought that with all that good food in my belly, I better lay down for a while and let it digest. Which is what I promptly self-actualized.
I was in a slight doze when I heard Skip call my name over the P.A., requesting my presence at the desk. I went down to see what he desired.
He just wanted me to watch the desk while he walked across the street to open up the Antique store for the two little old ladies that worked there. I watched the desk, which did nothing as long as I was looking at it.
When Skip returned, I returned to my dorm to continue the food digestion process, but sleep evaded me.
I decided that since I was lying down, I might as well be doing it in the park, where I could get a nice suntan and relax.
So I went to the park.
It was nice there. A nice, warm day. Hardly any clouds, good skin cancer weather. I had thought that it might be cool, being only ten in the morning, but the sun warmed me right up.
I took off all my clothes, except for a pair of swimming trunks, and laid down on my blanket and listened to old Rock and Roll songs on the large radio headphones that Gordon had given to me. Listening to the songs made me think about the times in my past when I had first heard them. This reminded me of how old I was, and how many years I had wasted by drinking and drugging again. This led me to consider how I wasn’t going to be wasting my life anymore, which forced me to remember that I hadn’t quit smoking yet, which depressed me, which led me to begin thinking about all the things I could be doing right now to improve myself, which made me think about the time I was wasting lying here in the park.
So I got up and left.
See what thinking gets you.
I had told Mr. Schimmele before leaving that I would be back in about an hour, that that was about all the joy and freedom I could take for one day. Boy, did that turn out to be true.
I returned to the residence just in time for lunch. Chile Mac. Afterwards, I decided to go to the thrift store and finish my Christmas shopping. I purchased two presents apiece for my sister and niece. The list price for these gifts was well over six dollars, but the lady at the checkout counter only charged me two. I don’t know why. Now all the Christmas presents that I’m going to buy have been bought. One more Christmas card for my dear sweet grand Ma Ma, and fini!
I dumped all my purchases back at the residence, then made my way to Vons to buy a lottery ticket.
I came back, showered and dressed. This was Skip’s first day off restriction, so I relieved him at the desk a half hour early.
What a prince of a fellow I am.
Work! Work! Work! My God, it was awful.
I read most of the night.
This damned Choices book is making me think, and I’m not supposed to be able to do that for at least nine months into recovery due to the organic brain dysfunction that I have, which I learned about in substance abuse class.
Such a quandary.
I was reading the chapter, “Work and Leisure: Your Lifestyle.” The authors discussed types of personality and choice of careers. The point being that it is important for there to be a correlation between one’s personality and their job. So I began to wonder what type of personality I have.
Holland and Morrow designate six types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. After reading all of the descriptions of each, I decided that my personality fit somewhere in between the Investigative and Artistic, but I would like to cultivate more of the Social. Let me describe some of the characteristics of the Investigative and Artistic types (as the authors see it):
Curious and inquisitive (if I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “incredibly handsome.” However, as far as my mind goes, I would use the word “curious,” in both its descriptive forms), a need to understand, explain, predict things that happen. Creative and individualistic. Scientific in attempts to understand things and tend to be pessimistic and critical when nonscientific, simplistic or supernatural explanations are suggested by others. Iconoclastic. Likes to express things with words and with physical expressions as in acting and singing. Wish attention and praise for artistic endeavors, but sensitive to criticism. Tend to become engrossed in whatever they are doing, and may appear to be oblivious to everything else around them. Independent. Do not particularly like to supervise others, or be supervised. Uninhibited and nonconforming in dress, speech, and action. Impulsive in outlook. Place great value on beauty and esthetic qualities. Find abstract and ambiguous problems and situations challenging. Find it difficult to accept traditional attitudes and values. Seek attention and approval from others. Tend to kill college cheerleaders in random and unspeakable sprees. Compensate for feelings of estrangement or alienation by relating to others primarily through the indirect medium of art.
Except for the propensity for serial killing (to my knowledge I’ve never laid a hand on a cheerleader, college, or otherwise… unfortunately), I feel I may possess some of the above qualities, or symptoms, whichever you prefer.
I would wish to cultivate more within the social. I have difficulties, or sometimes feel uncomfortable, or self-conscious when around a lot of other people that I don’t know very well, unless I’m loaded. I guess everybody’s like that to some degree.
Except morons.
Not that I don’t at times manifest some outgoing qualities, but I feel I could work further in this area.
I used to isolate a lot, you see. (using drugs is a form of isolation, or insulation). I try not to do that anymore.
I have other qualities as well. When drinking I can be mean, affable, petty, dishonest, resentful, egocentric, destructive, on and on.
The answer seems to be, once again, is to cease all drinking activities.
It keeps coming back to that, doesn’t it?
This book also asked me to identify my interests: literature, physical science, social science, women, astronomy, psychology, movies and plays. My abilities: I make a mean cheese omelet. My wants: a nice career; something I enjoy doing that provides enough money to live comfortably, a wife to share life with, a friend as well as a lover, a family, a nice house in Morro Bay or Monterrey. My preferences: I prefer that I receive everything that I want.
I wish to continue my education, most probably in the field of psychology (drug rehab). I feel a pressure to do this rather quickly because of my age. I feel I don’t have a whole lot of time to fart around, that I’ve done that a lot already in my life.
As far as jobs go the one that I have right now is the first one that I can remember in which I start the day feeling depressed, and at the end of the shift find that I feel much better. Maybe it’s because I tend to get out of myself while I’m working and don’t dwell needlessly on my own problems. I try and help others while working on the desk. When I look at some of the problems these guys face mine seem insignificant in comparison. A major part of the 12 Step Program constitutes working with others, and by doing so, help ourselves.
This is the first job in which I don’t feel like a cog in some great machine. I feel that what we do here has some meaning.
And maybe I like this job because I haven’t drank, or been inclined to drink, while doing it. It certainly is a new experience for me.
I hope I can find these qualities with other employers. I’d hate to think to think that in order to maintain job satisfaction I’ll have to work for the remainder of eternity at the Salvation Army for $15 a week.
The chapter I had been reading also dealt with leisure time. Right now I don’t have much of a problem with leisure time. I lie down.
Today is the tenth anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. They are playing a lot of his songs and interviews on television and the radio this evening. Ten years ago today I was sitting alone in my friend’s apartment, A.W.O.L. from the navy, in Portland, Oregon, drunk and watching T.V., wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
I’m still doing that.
Tommy Bommarito came in and told me he had seen a lady lying down on the sidewalk, near the Park, with her head extended over the curb sticking out into the street. He said that she was old and that her clothes didn’t look too good. He went over and asked her if she were alright. She opened her eyes and said, yes, that she was okay. The police had just kicked her out of the park. Tommy reminded her that if she stayed where she was a car might come and hit her head.
She got up and walked away.
December 9 Sunday Day 88
Mr. Pandolfi woke me in his usual manner at five am.
Mr. Vasquez seemed a tad disgruntled this morning. I would be too, I suppose, if I knew I had to work for the next 17 hours straight.
Everything went according to plan at work. I told Mr. Vasquez that my mother, who should be visiting next Sunday, was looking forward to meeting him. If he wasn’t taking a nap, that is.
This was a big lie. My mother doesn’t know Mr. Vasquez from beans.
I spent most of today writing about yesterday, and found myself wondering at what an extraordinary thing that was to be doing.
I lost horribly at bingo tonight.
I then watched a horribly contrived movie. “Men at Work,” starring the Sheen boys, Charlie and Emilio. A silly effort, written and directed by Mr. Esterez. I liked it.
I watched “Married with Children.” Horribly contrived and silly. I love this show. It’s so sick, and easy to relate to.
I called my mom to give her directions to the residence, and to get Bobbie’s address (the lovely daughter of Alice and Lester, a life long friend), which I had misplaced. She told me that she would be going to the doctor tomorrow morning, that she thought she was coming down with a cold (another viral attack). She assured me that she would come next week if she didn’t get too sick.
She also told me that my sister’s boyfriend, Jim, was spending lavish amounts of money on Cheryl and my niece Keri, for Christmas, including a two-carat diamond bracelet. She said that Jim had paid for, and erected a Christmas tree, with all the trimmings, at my mom’s house, even though she didn’t want one.
Guy’s like that not only make me suspicious, but really piss me off.
I went to bed wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
December 10 Monday Day 89
I forgot to wake up early this morning. I did get up in time for a nice breaded fish lunch though.
After lunch I hung around the lobby, writing, and waiting to catch a glimpse of the luscious Wendy. I did catch sight of her, lurking around the counseling room. She does not stray far from there. She seems almost frightened, or timid. I once asked her, nice guy that I am, if she wanted to have some lunch, it being served at the time. The thought had not occurred to me until this very moment that she may have thought I was asking her out on a date! I was not. I had already had my lunch. I had just wanted her to know that it was perfectly alright if she wanted to get something to eat in the dining room. She answered, “No, thank you,” in her soft, lilting voice, “I usually work through lunch.” She said this even though she was just sitting around, waiting for everybody to get finished eating so she could see her next client. I wonder if she eats.
Some people don’t, you know.
Work went well. Mr. Vasquez was a little late coming back from the weekly board meeting, so I was hard pressed to get all the mail, passes, and appointment slips in the proper key slots before the guys got back from work. I accomplished this though, with cool panache.
I have been writing a lot of notes lately. Harold Eversley’s girlfriend, Ellie, called for him yesterday, and he could not be found. She asked if I would let Harold know that she had called. I told her that I certainly would. Fortunately we have little memo notices behind the desk that we utilize in just these types of situations. On them there are spaces for the name of the called party. I took one, and wrote down “Harold Eversley,” in the name space. In the space allocated for the date and time, I wrote, “9 Dec 90, 11:23 a.m.” There is a space for the name of the caller. I wrote, “Ellie.” A space for a message and a return phone number is also provided, but Ellie did not leave either of those. So I wrote my own. “Fuck you asshole!” Quotation marks included.
Tonight I wrote two notes. One to Rico Montgomery, which I left in his box. It said, “Mayhew Rottenell called. Wanted to know if you were all right. May be reached at 312-555-7136.” The name Mayhew Rottenell is a delicious invention of Mark Halprin’s, the author of A Winter’s Tale. I happily stole it from him.
I also wrote a note on the sign up list for the outside A.A. meeting. The list lets us know how many people wish to go. I wrote at the bottom, “All persons who sign must actually be alive (body temperature of at least 97 degrees must be maintained), and present at the time of departure. Zombieism is strictly unauthorized, and could lead to termination from the program.”
I can be compulsively silly at times.
Mr. Vasquez confided in me this evening concerning his plan to win the heart of the much sought after Milda. “She doesn’t know I know that she’s Lithuanian, you know. So I’ll say, ‘You look Scandinavian. No wait a minute. Maybe somewhere from the Baltic States. Lithuania would be my guess.’”
I agreed that it was a good plan.
See what us idiot males go through to win the attention of the superior female of the species. We’re such idiots. All women have to do is look reasonably good and healthy, then they can twist us around their little fingers. Until they get past 19 years old, that is.
My own true love, Sylvia, showed up. She let me know that she was feeling stressed lately. I let her know that she was my favorite counselor, because she actually talked to me without being forced to do it. Her reaction to this piece of information was to swat me playfully on the arm, and smile. As she was leaving I told her that she should go home, lie down, close her eyes and listen to a tape of seashore noises to help relieve her stress. She said that sounded like a good idea, but she had to write a paper that she hadn’t started on yet, which was due on Wednesday. She said she would probably be up half the night writing it. I wished her good luck, and cautioned her to drive carefully.
I’m afraid Milda and Mr. Vasquez never got together tonight. Both were too busy at their appointed tasks.
Maybe I shall have to intervene.
December 11 Tuesday Day 90
I forgot to wake up early again, and dashed out of bed at ten-thirty eight, and into the shower. While lathering my hair I heard my name called over the P.A. This indicated to me that Richard, my counselor, desired my presence.
It being lunchtime, I relieved my protégé, Skip, so he could eat. Soon Richard appeared, driving up to the desk in his little golf cart. We had our weekly session then and there. We both told each other how we were doing. I told him that my life was relatively stable right now, which it is. Relatively. He told me that he had just inherited a three-year-old Persian cat. I told him that I liked cats, which is true, I do like cats.
Most cats.
For some reason I just can’t stand to be around Iranian cheetahs. They really freak me out.
After concluding our conversation, I took my turn at lunch. Cheeseburgers.
I walked to the supermarket afterwards, and bought some cigarettes, and a lottery ticket for Skip.
I then wrote in the lobby, watching, and sometimes talking to Shirley. She’s a nice lady.
I went to the warehouse and found some more boxes for the rest of the Christmas presents that I still needed to package.
I then made my bed and did my laundry. My heart fluttered with excitement.
I relieved Clarence at the desk for dinner, then I ate.
A visiting Colonel, the official evangelist for the Salvation Army, had arrived today, and would be freeloa… spending the night and the next two days with us as part of a Christmas crusade.
We were all required to stay around after dinner for a five-fifteen devotional service conducted by the aforementioned Colonel. Colonel Smith. He got up in front of the men, put on an accordion, and we all (some of us) sang some Christmas carols. Then his wife, Mrs. Colonel Smith, told us about how glad she was to be here, and recited some interesting bumper stickers she and her husband had seen while she and her husband had traveled across the country. She then directed an inspirational reading. The Colonel came back and led us in another song, and told us a little about himself. He and Major Johnson had worked together before, in Alaska, when the Colonel was a Captain, and the Major was a lowly, stinking Lieutenant. The Colonel then told us he would be available for counseling tomorrow, and a sign up list would be at the desk for anyone who felt the urge.
This poor bastard must be in pretty bad shape if he needed counseling from the guys around here.
Anyway, we then said a prayer and were dismissed.
All this folderol cut into my group counseling time with Jill. Our session lasted only twenty minutes, and I need way more counseling than that!
Two people had newly joined our group and they introduced themselves. Our house groundskeeper, David Robinson, told us of his job search prospects, and that was it. Nothing about me! And I waited all week for this?
After group, BAM! Right into Tuesday night Step Study, with Al Watts. Tonight we listened to a tape about Step Two.
Next, I cautiously moved back into the lobby to write some more. In fact, I’m writing right now. In real time, it’s now 8:53 and 12 seconds. Jill and Mr. Vasquez are behind the desk. Together. Clarence is on a break. I can’t see their hands. I’m getting jealous. They just turned on Mrs. Johnson’s Christmas bear. Now Skip and Jill are talking. I’m getting more jealous. And distraught. I think I better quit writing and go upstairs and read a while, then go to bed before I lose control.
December 12 Wednesday Day 91
Ninety days! Another threshold. Now this journal is more or less one quarter complete.
I had wanted to get up for breakfast, but overslept. I overslept so much that I didn’t have time to go downtown to the VA. Oh well.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can avoid all together.
I was rudely awoken at nine-thirty, however, by Victor, who opened the door to my dorm, and yelled, “Joyce! You got to get up!”
I groggily replied, “Aaeee eeerrrrr ooorrruu errwwwa?”
“What for? Why do I have to get up?”
“Everybody got to be over across the street.”
“Everybody.” He then moved on.
I got up, dressed, combed my hair, then went across.
As I entered the warehouse I noticed that everybody who worked there was gathered around the shipping desk, sitting on old donated sofas, sipping out of Styrofoam coffee cups. Apparently we were here for another informal get together with Colonel Smith. Major Johnson introduced the Colonel, who promptly hoisted his accordion for a few lively numbers. He sang some more Christmas carols and invited us to sing along, but nobody seemed to know the words, so we all hummed a lot.
He gave us another evangelical message. I could tell that everyone appreciated the Major waiting until break time, time they would usually have for themselves, for this mandatory insertion of religious dogma.
It was over by nine-fifty (don’t want to cut in to actual work time, oh no). I came back to the residence, showered, then boxed up the Christmas presents for Cheryl and Keri.
I read the Choices book until four. Today I read two chapters, one entitled, “Your Body, and Stress Management.” It reminded me that I should manage my stress, continue to meditate, exercise, and that I would probably be a lot healthier if I quit smoking. It also recommended therapeutic massage to help alleviate body tension. I feel ripe for this particular type of healing ministration.
The other chapter concerned “Sex Roles.” I don’t believe I’m confused about this issue. I’m a guy. I like girls. I don’t have any interest in men in a physical way, and don’t understand what women see in the brutish, uncouth pigs (myself excluded, of course). Women, on the other hand, are much more interesting physically. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, they are, even while standing straight, able to point in all directions at once.
I don’t mind sharing my feelings with others. At least not now. I may have in the past. I don’t mind crying in front of others, if that is what I need to be doing at the time. I cry at sad stuff in old movies, and when I hear about atrocious injustice and cruelty in the world, and don’t consider that to be unmanly (whatever that means). Just because I’m a man doesn’t mean that I’m not human, and humans should have feelings and be able to express them in a healthy way.
I don’t think it’s unmanly to help around the house, especially if the man in question is single.
I love to cook. I prepared most of the meals when Jan and I were together (it was either that or a steady diet of TV dinners). I even washed the dishes and cleaned up after myself. Sometimes. We shared most of the household responsibilities. Why not, we both had jobs and worked hard. I quit doing the laundry though when she got mad at me for putting one of her sweaters in the dryer when it wasn’t supposed to go in there. She got real mad.
She did the laundry from then on.
I mean, what’s the point of being in a relationship if you’re not willing (and wanting) to help each other. I can’t make sense of any opposing argument. We should be supportive of each other, in all of our endeavors. If my mate wanted to go out and start, or continue a career she cared about, fine with me. Great. I would have no problem with that, and I would try to help her all that I could. I know how rewarding it can be doing something you enjoy. I don’t see how a man could ask a woman to supplant her instincts and drives to stay at home if she didn’t want to.
Slavery’s dead. Or should be.
I don’t think I’d like my mate to be a work-a-holic though. Or spend a lot of time away from home, traveling across the country, with handsome business associates, or something, a lot of the time. I might as well live alone then.
Or with a dog or gerbil.
Anyway, we enjoyed another inspirational message from Colonel Smith tonight in chapel. This guy is getting to be a real pain in the ass.
I watched, “Some Like It Hot,” with Jacky Lemon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe. I can’t believe how heavy she was in that movie. She was really packing in the beans and mustard. Not that I would take a pass on her, but still… Maybe guys liked girls with a little more meat on the bones back then.
Not that I have anything against fat girls, or women of huge personage.
I went to bed pondering the immortal question posed by Kilgore Trout’s Space Wanderer, “Why are we born, only to suffer and die?”
Like the lonely Space Wanderer, I’m afraid the only answer that I’m ever likely to get is:
“Why not?”
December 13 Thursday Day 92
I was having a wonderful dream. I remember it vividly.
Certain creatures had become extinct on a green, swampy, rain forested planet, and I had been sent to introduce the seeds of two different species that would hopefully flourish there.
Myself, and hundreds of my brothers, jumped out of atmospheric cruise vehicles to fall to the moss carpeted earth below. I felt so free as I fell, no fear at all, only a sense of beautiful anticipation and togetherness as my friends and I floated through the air, our hair streaming behind us as we came together to hold hands.
I looked at my colleagues, all male. I then looked down at my own body and realized I was a woman, feeling sure that I was pretty, with long flowing auburn hair.
I considered this decidedly odd, and not a little bit peculiar. However, I had once worn my hair exceptionally long at about the time of my first marriage, a protest for all those flat tops my parents forced upon me as a youth, so thought nothing more of it.
My friends popped out of the overcast sky as their drop inhibitors activated, breaking their fall, slowing their descent to a leisurely and carefree pace. I experienced momentary anxiety as my drop inhibitor had not activated and I was one of the very few who were still falling rapidly. But that feeling was quickly dispelled as I felt the jets fire, just in time, and was the first to touch the ground.
Trees were all around me, but I had managed to land between them, on a rock which was protruding through a clear, slow moving stream. I had been carrying the seeds, two green shimmering, elongated, aquatic looking animals, one a snake like thing with four legs, the other an insect type with a long exoskeleton. I released the snake into the water, and the insect skittered off into the underbrush. I felt so fulfilled as I watched them start on their respective journeys, knowing that with luck they would bring a new vitality to this ripe world. In the distance I heard, “six o’clock, six o’clock, six o’clock,” and felt exhilarated that I had completed my mission in the nick of time. I listened more closely as the sound became insistent.
“This is your six o’clock wake up. Dorms forty- four and forty-five, rooms thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-eight, fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-four, will have laundry done today. Breakfast in forty-five minutes. Six o’clock wake up. Time to get up gentlemen.”
So I got up and ate breakfast. Pancakes and bacon.
I actually stayed up for morning devotions today instead of going back to bed and hiding under the covers until the morning deskman came by checking to see who had not attended. Charles Leary had been caught ironing his clothes during devotions last week by Mr. Vasquez, and had been put on restriction.
So after eating I watched Debra Norville’s lips and eyebrows on the NBC Today Show for a while, went to devotions, got devoted, then went back to bed.
Upon awakening I showered and dressed, then went downstairs to the lobby to write.
People ask me all the time what it is I’m writing about. I either tell them that I’m writing a journal, or that I’m writing about whoever it is who happens to ask me what I’m writing about, or who I’m talking to at the time. I ask them if I may use their real names, and surprisingly all of them say yes (the quest for immortality is rampant). I then ask them if I could get a signed statement to that effect. I haven’t got one yet.
Work went reasonably well, except for a few touchy individuals I had to contend with.
Another chapel meeting tonight with Col. & Mrs. Smith. This one lasted a whole hour and fifteen minutes. For a while I thought they were going to hold everyone hostage in the chapel until all had been converted.
I was down at the desk though. Which was great, as I got a chance to talk to Stacy. Alone. It’s funny, I couldn’t think of much to say to her. She asked me how I was, and I said good. I asked her how she was, and she said that she was good too. We were both good. She’s very friendly for a devastatingly pretty girl. She asked me about my job and hours. I told her that one of the things I liked about my job was that it forced me to interact with a lot of other people, which felt good. I learned that I’m only bout ten years younger than her father. Ye gads! I can remember when all of the Playboy Playmates had the decency to be older than I was.
She let me know that she was going up north, to San Luis Obispo, with her family for Christmas. I said that was, “Awesome.” She agreed.
She also let my know that that she would be in next Wednesday, instead of her regular Thursday night, because she had to work at her job on Thursday.
As she left I gave her a Christmas card. She left without opening it. I was too chicken to give her a Christmas card that was directly from me, but to let her know she was appreciated around here, the card was signed, “From all of us behind the desk at the Pasadena A.R.C.”
I don’t understand the significance of the dream I had earlier. I know what Freud and various other psychiatrists think about certain aspects of dreams, and I also know that all of that is mostly conjecture and theory, which in itself implies that they don’t really know anymore about dreams than you or I do.
Actually, ever since I was a small lad I’ve always thought dreams were simply metaphoric translations of waking expectations and the act of dreaming deactivates emotional arousal by completing the expectation pattern metaphorically, freeing the brain to respond afresh each new day.
But what do I know?
One thing I do know is that the dream felt good, and I actively pursued it as I went to sleep tonight.
To find out what happened next.
December 14 Friday Day 93
I had a dream in which I was wanted by the law and they caught me in an alfalfa field.
So much for dreams!
Amazing day. Some good things transpired, maybe good things, and some bad things happened. Typical.
I wrote in the lobby this afternoon, after forgetting to wake up early again. A Christmas dinner and floor show was being presented tonight at the Corps facility. Everyone at the ARC was required to attend. Mr. Vasquez and I argued about who would stay behind and man the desk, answer the phones, and watch over the place incase Goodwill attacked. Guess who won that argument? Even though it was my scheduled shift I had to go.
Meanwhile, if you can remember back to the first day I came to the center, my first full day of sobriety, a man with great hair (wig) by the name of Ron Collins, the shipping supervisor, escorted me through the warehouse into the store so I could get some clothes. Well, Ron had relapsed a week or so ago. He took off, and nobody knew where he was, or what had happened to him.
Today he came back. Or rather, was allowed to come back and enter the program once again. He’s lost his job, been put on restriction for sixty days, and I believe he will be working in the kitchen for a while.
It is a very hard thing to do, to come back knowing full well what you will have to go through. It’s hard enough starting over at a different ARC, or program, where nobody knows you, let alone coming back to a place where you had succeeded for a significant period of time before succumbing to relapse, and going through the embarrassment and self-loathing you feel because you allowed alcohol to win once again, and admitting to yourself that you fucked up and had to start all over at the very bottom.
But to start at the bottom is a hell of a lot better than not starting at all.
Ron probably stopped drinking because his resources gave out on him, and he probably came back here because he had nowhere else to go. Still, I admire him
Missing Manuscript
December 16 Sunday Day 95 In Progress
I went back upstairs and finally got my shower.
I was waiting for my mom in the lobby near one o’clock. Victor was shuffling in the chow line when he happened to glance out the front window, and said, “Woo eee! Look at that car. Miss Susie.” He was referring to the personalized license plate my mom has on her car, “Miss Susie.” My mother’s name is Susie. Some people call her Lucille, like her mother. That’s her middle name I guess.
I call her mom. When my father was alive my sister and I both called him daddy, while calling my mother mom. I don’t know why.
“That’s my mom,” I told Victor.
“Tell her I want a drive.”
My mother’s Lincoln Town Car stopped in our driveway and went out to greet her. She’s fairly well off now having survived two husbands and one divorce, and gets a new car every two or three years. She spends a great deal of time sitting at home watching TV game shows while listening in to the Bullhead City Police Radio frequency on her dinning room monitor. She has a dog named “Skeeter,” and she likes to feed the humming birds and roadrunners that appear outside in the backyard of the three bedroom house her last husband built for her (not my adopted father).
We hugged and exchanged pleasantries. She said I looked sharp (I still had on my desk suit and vest so I would look sharp when she arrived. It worked. The last time she had seen me I looked like a dried up, diseased prune pit), and I told her she looked beautiful (an adjective used much too often… especially by me). She did look beautiful (see).
I’m told at one time she was a professional singer. I inherited that ability from her, although we are not blood relatives.
I didn’t get her good looks.
I took my mom on a tour of the residence, and she seemed very impressed. Noah the parrot, acted very shy, and would not let me or my mom fondle her. I introduced her to Mr. Vasquez and Victor. Mr. Vasquez spoke of Globe, Arizona, and how cold it gets up there in the mountains. My mom said that it could get pretty cold in Bullhead City too.
Chit chat.
I forced my mother into taking me to a Mexican restaurant down Fair Oaks. We enjoyed a buffet lunch. She had a mushroom omelet. Scrambled eggs, chorizo, crab in tomato sauce, beef fajitas, rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, and desert for me. I obviously pigged out.
We made small talk. She told me about the Galphin Ford Christmas party she had attended last Friday night, and how her friend Jeanette had fixed her up with some guy who owned a ranch, and had lamas for pets. I told her that I was writing a book. She said, that was nice, and continued talking about whatever it was she was talking about.
After our meal we drove to Vons so she could buy some mints, then she drove me back to the residence. We kissed goodbye and then she was gone.
I watched her drive away, then walked over to one of the benches at the side of the building, sat and smoked a cigarette while I thought about our encounter. I felt a little sad. I love my mother, and I wish we could understand each other better.
I soon walked back inside and sat around feeling listless. I relieved Clarence for dinner at four. He didn’t seem to be feeling very well.
My roommate Dan had given me a ticket to a Christmas play at the Lake Street Congregational Church. The show started at six, and I caught a ride. A two act, Nativity musical comedy, starring Jeff Conway, of the sit-com “Taxi,” fame. The play was entitled, “And You, Bethlehem.” It was very nice. Very forgettable, but very nice. A good change of pace for me.
I’ve been in a couple of high school plays. I played the part of The Professor in Eugene Ionesco’s, “The Lesson,” in such a way that it appeared as though I did not know my lines, and got so nervous I sweated so much puddles formed at my feet. A brilliant interpretation, although most who witnessed that performance did not seem to appreciate its subtle intricacies, one being my drama teacher. I still remember him sadly shaking his head. I thought he might cry.
My girlfriend at the time, Michelle Meridian, who was playing The Maid, actually slapped my fake mustache completely off, and I had to hold it in place for the rest of the performance.
Well, I’m more of am film actor anyway.
When I got back to the residence, I went up to my room and opened one of the four presents my mom had brought from Arizona. I picked one at random. It was supposedly from my sister Cheryl, and my niece Keri. They had given me eight, never before used, pairs of underwear.
I went to bed and fell asleep and had no dreams.
December 17 Monday Day 96
I got out of bed early today. I had planned to hang around the desk this morning, and watch Mr. Vasquez, and try to learn the weekday morning routine. I had early breakfast with him, then went upstairs to shower. Of course, just as I was about to step in, he found me.
“Joyce! Just the man I was looking for. We seem to have a little problem. Clarence is still sick, so get dressed and come on down.”
I began to comply when Mr. Vasquez stopped me. “Wait a second. That’s not the end of our troubles. Mr. Grinnell tells me he can’t pass a urine test I arranged for him {he’s always arranging urine tests for people}. He must have had a little something at his girlfriend’s house last night. So Mr. Joyce, to put it bluntly, we’re falling apart.”
I told him that I’d be right down.
Mr. Vasquez reminded me, “Remember Joyce, first and foremost… don’t panic.”
I had never worked a day shift during the workweek before. It was a tad unnerving to experience the massive onrush, a hoard of people streaming at once from the dinning room after devotions, headed straight for me at my position behind the desk, slapping down their keys as they made their way to work.
Such eager fellows.
Besides from putting away all of those keys, there wasn’t mush to do. Mr. Vasquez went through some of the paperwork that needed to be done, and handed into the front office by eight. This morning it got there at nine.
Victor called at one o’clock from his school. He told Mr. Vasquez that he had decided to move out of the residence while attending classes, and move into his mother’s house. Apparently the school offered a job placement service, and Victor figured it would be easier for him to study at his mom’s, and find a job after graduation.
Good for Victor!
This is the was everyone hopes they will leave here, but which only a few actually do. Sober, and with a realistic plan for the future. I wish him well.
Surprisingly enough, I think I will miss him.
He did manage to leave me holding the bag, so to speak. I now have his job, and will have to work more hours than I had planned on. Seven shifts in a five day work week. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I will be in charge of this crazy place from six in the morning until eleven at night.
And responsible to everybody.
Just what a three month sober, recovering alcoholic, drug addict needs.
Actually, I do not feel that this change will endanger my sobriety, probably just the opposite. And I will do my utmost not to let my program, studies, and writing suffer. All I have to do is learn how to do without sleep.
Some more changes. Kevin Rockoff will take over for Skip. Clarence will remain right where he is, if he survives.

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