Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Salvation Diary Thirty Five

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

June 6 Thursday Day 268

"Someone told me there's a girl out there, with love in her eyes, and flowers ... in her haaaaaaiirr."
5:00AM. My new alarm clock gently serves the soothing tunes of Led Zeppelin's "Going to California." Time to go to work.
The H.I.V. virus lives!
But not in this god like body (extreme fantasy).
The test returned negative. Negative!
How good it feels to wake up. To breathe. To have a day to look forward to. I took pleasure in watching my fingers move, my cute little toes wiggle. Knowing (positively) that I may have a long (possibly somewhat normal) life to enjoy and make use of, and that I now have the opportunity to die of something safe, like lung cancer, a stroke, or heart disease.
I wonder what I would have done if my dream had been real, at least the part about the positive test results. I hope that I would have continued to carry on, gone back to work, finish my shift, retire to my room, and consider my options for a good long while. Counseling with a trained specialist most certainly would be in order. I'm sure as hell not above asking for help these days. Learning to carry on without the use of drugs or alcohol would be an extreme necessity, as it still is. Drinking would not help, it never does, not for alcoholics... not for anybody. I would just wind up back in the Park. Maybe instantly. I'd just be in the Park infected with H.I.V., instead of here at the residence where I may be able to do myself some good, and possibly help others as well. Suicide has never seriously been an option for me, no matter how bad things got. You have no choices left after you're dead.
Sometimes I think that's what life is all about. Striving for the freedom to choose. George Plick thinks so. Relationships, choices, and responsibilities. He says everything (for us human type individuals) revolves around those issues. I believe he may be right.
I have certainly gained massive respect and admiration for those who do cope, who carry on - while living under the shadow of H.I.V., or any other terminal illness. I believe there is nothing man cannot do within the bounds of known physics, whether it be bio- or astro. I know that one day science will lead us out from under the tyranny of AIDs, for that surely is our only hope.
In the meantime I shall carry on. I glory in self awareness, realizing that 99.9999999999... of the entire universe does not know that it even exists.
I'm a lucky guy.

June 7 Friday Day 269

Well, well, well.The cadets came yesterday, all fifty of them. Most of them fat. The food's good at Territorial Head Quarters, I hear.
Robert had gotten up early cleaning things as if on uppers. When he's like that (every Sunday morning before chapel) he can be a slight pain to be with. I stay away. I visited the warehouse while Robert and the janitors got busy, busy, busy. The Major and Mrs. Johnson were there nice and early as well, making sure everything was set for the cadets arrival.
Who arrived fifteen minutes late, had a little snack, were lectured about our rehabilitation program, ate lunch, got lectured some more, ate dinner, took a tour of the residence, the warehouse, the antique store, went to chapel, disrupted everyone's schedule- including their own, and left.
See ya next year.
Colonel Allen was there with the cadets. This was the first time I'd met him. He could stand to lose a few pounds himself. He didn't look at our towels.
His wife is very nice. I'd met her before. She was the only one of the bunch who came to the desk to ask us how we were doing. We told her we were doing fine.
Robert took off after chapel. He later called to ask me if I could cover for him the next morning, as he wanted to spend the night in Upland. I told him I would be happy to switch shifts with him instead. He reluctantly agreed.
Since I had to get up early yet once again, Art Svensk was an hour late relieving me. He wouldn't have come in at all if Clarence Bliss hadn't called over to the Green Hotel and asked the landlady there to knock on Art's door.
"I forgot what day it was," he informed us when he finally got here.
That was the last time I would be working with Clarence on a full time basis. You could now say he was retired. His Social Security had begun to come in, and he would be moving to the Transition House. He bought himself a car (the Blissmobile).
"It's been good working with you, Rick."
"Well, you'll be around, won't you?" He may work for us once in a while as a volunteer. "I need your experience, strength, and hope."
He's a good man, Clarence is. I'll miss him.
And I wish him well.
This morning I made it to the desk by seven. I got all of the work done by nine, and goofed off until Robert relieved me at three thirty.
Tonight was the first Friday night I had off for over eight months. How did I spend it? By watching the Lakers lose horribly in the third game of the playoffs. They looked like a bunch of old men being beat up by a gang of street thugs.
I also read a few chapters from Vonnegut's "Jailbird," and "The Trial," by Kafka, books I had borrowed from the residence library today.
At midnight, while changing channels on my television, I happened across a new "In Concert 91." The featured groups included, Poison, Slaughter, and The Bullet Boys. Sounds like a recipe for genocide.
I went to sleep dreaming of David Bowie's Diamond Dogs.

June 8 Saturday Day 270

I slept in this morning, getting up at about eleven. I went to the restroom. Immediately, Roger Collins came in talking about his leg, describing in detail, his bandaging techniques. As soon as he left one of the janitors came in to mop the floor. I gave up, returned to my room and rested on my bed until after lunch.
At twelve o'clock, as a diversionary tactic, I laid down an oil slick near the restroom at the opposite side of the building. As soon as I saw the janitors head in that direction I slipped into the shower and finished before they had a chance to get me.
When I went downstairs Robert called me to the desk and asked me to take over for him while he went somewhere. So I began work a couple of hours early.
Just before dinner I was looking at the closed circuit T.V monitors at Dennis Smith out on the back loading dock. He had just finished washing his car and was sitting next to, what looked like, a young Chicana girl. As I watched he began smooching with her, which I found extremely entertaining, so I invited several of the guys who happened to have been sitting in the lobby to have a look. Pretty soon there were seven or eight of us watching Dennis and this eighteen year old make out. For a while there we thought Dennis was going to jump the poor girl, but I guess she knew how to handle herself... and Dennis... pretty well. As he came into dinner we applauded him, and offered our scores on a 1 to 10 scale on his feeble attempt at seduction.
Earlier today a parade was held in Washington D.C. in honor of our servicemen and women who served in the Persian Gulf conflict. There's been a lot of these parades lately. Victory Parades some call them. Military hardware is displayed in abundance; tanks, patriot missiles, anti-aircraft platforms, troop carriers, jet flybys, on and on. One would almost think they were in Red Square during the May Day celebration.
It is a good idea I believe to show our appreciation to our soldiers who leave home and family to risk their lives in the service of our country. I also believe we could show our appreciation in a more substantial manner: increased pay and benefits, better housing and schooling for our soldier's children, retirement benefits, and so on, rather than this glitzy and extremely temporary, almost vulgar display of our nation's ability to wage wars of mass destruction.
Blatant political propaganda.
And what did we win in this war? Am I wrong or is Saddam Hussein still in power? Has he even been reduced to the point where he can no longer pose a threat in that region of the world? How many lives were lost, and to what end? Are we regarded any differently in the Middle East?
I wonder just what was it that we won and why are we celebrating?

June 9 Sunday Day 271

I woke to Woody Allen in "Bananas," but the film was too silly to continue watching at 5:00AM., so I turned it off and went back to sleep.
I slept through the wake up call, early breakfast, late breakfast, fellowship of prayer, and damn near through chapel service, which would have been very embarrassing as I was scheduled to read the responsive reading section of the service.
But I made it, and once again my voice did not quiver.
Mrs. Johnson told me that I looked good behind the podium. Perhaps she was making a career suggestion.
Tom Rotsch and Michael Vallee decided to join Ron Collins and myself at the Sunday morning meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at the American Legion headquarters of South Pasadena. Mr. Vasquez once again, ur... volunteered to drive us there (we outnumbered him).
I mentioned to Robert that George Washington had grown marijuana on his Mt. Vernon estate.
"Don't say that!" he exclaimed. "I'm so disillusioned. All my heros are tarnished."
The meeting proved to be very interesting (lots of pretty ladies). Tom is a genuinely nice person, who goes out of his way to meet people. He walks right up to those he has never met, says hello, introduces himself, volunteers to read portions of the Big Book, makes friends easily... all of which sickens me to no end.
I am a nice person also, but I'm not as blatantly obvious about it as Tom is. Besides, I'm rather shy at times, or feel awkward in social situations where I don't know anybody. That's one of the reasons, I suppose, that I have used drugs.
I have a mean streak, or temper, or hardness in me, which I believe excludes me from being a genuinely nice man. It's not too bad, but it's there. I'm not as friendly as I could be, I guess.
I do like children and small furry animals. Even big ones if they don't have teeth.
The meeting's speaker was very good. His name was Carl. A youngish individual. I will here quote three lines from his presentation (without his permission of course):
1. "Most of the time, back in high school, my grade point average equaled my blood alcohol level."
2. "My head would have killed my body long ago, except it needed it for transportation."
3. "My counselor asked me about my drug of choice... like what was it? I didn't know what she meant. I asked her, what was a drug of choice?
She said, 'For example, if someone brought you a tray with a quart of Jack Daniels, and ounce of coke, and an ounce of Thi-sticks on it, which would you choose?'
'All of them,' I told her.
She said, 'No, no, it doesn't work that way. You may only choose one. Which one would you choose?'
'Well I'd take the coke, I guess.'
She said, 'Well, maybe cocaine is your drug of choice.'
'But you don't understand," I told her. 'I'd take the coke, sell a few eight balls, buy a couple of sticks, and a case of Jack Daniels.'
We walked back to the residence. I went to the park and laid out in the sun just as a five song block of Led Zeppelin came on the radio. It was good for my soul.
I watched the fourth game of the NBA playoffs. I shouldn't have bothered. Chicago won by 15. The only way the Lakers could have beat them is if obstacles (trees, telephone poles, etc.) were placed on their side of the court to keep the Bulls from scoring.
Not a bad idea really.
A touching account of human relationships on "Star Trek, the Next Generation," tonight. A love affair between a woman and an android emphasized what can be meaningful between two people.
I read for most of the evening.
Hid out in my lonely room.

June 10 Monday Day 272

A wonderful, relaxing day. I got up at about eight and took my time in the shower. I was downstairs by nine.
It may not look like it but I spent practically the whole day writing. An hour in the morning, then I ran all of the urine that had piled up, which lasted until noon. Then to the park for an hour (my tan is coming along nicely). Back to the residence for a quick shower, more writing, dinner, "Star Trek, the Next Generation," (it's on every week now at six), more writing, then up to my room to read a bit before turning in.
I watched "Cheers," before drifting off, and "Nightline," (should victims, or the surviving families of victims, be allowed to be heard at the penalty phase of criminal trials. An item the Supreme Court will decide tomorrow), which topped off the evening well.
One entry in the continuing saga of Dennis Smith. He went on a work day pass to court in West L.A., and did not return for the 11:00PM curfew. He did not call.
I doubt if they'll let him back in this time.
In the morning Mr. Pandolfi told me that Dennis had tried to come in at 1:00AM. It doesn't work that way and Dennis knows that.
I also found out that Dennis did some how make it back inside the building, and borrowed $20 from one of his roommates, George Estrada.
Curiouser and curiouser.

June 11 Tuesday Day 273

As I said, maybe we didn't do Dennis such a big favor by letting him back in. Maybe he had gotten off too easy, so easy that his mistake made no real impact on him.
Reuben Smith, on the other hand, seems to be taking things a bit more seriously since his brief departure and return.
That's good. Possibly his mishap was the "kick through the goal posts of life," that he needed.
He's still not talking to me very much. But it's not because I was the one who pointed the finger at him. He understands I believe, as do most of the guys around here, that it's my job. I think Reuben has a bad case of the "guilties," stemming from his relapse (and indeed, that is what it was, a relapse... Near Beer, or not). He thinks he let Harold down and feels ashamed because of it. This of course is one of the prominent aspects of relapse. Guilt and shame. And depression vast.
Reuben's slowly coming out of it though. All it takes is time. He'll be alright. All of us relapsers go through it. It helps to stay sober the next time around.
Dennis came in at about 9:30AM, carrying a small brown briefcase which contained his cassette tape collection. That's all he had left. He looked haggard and exhausted, sweating profusely. He asked if he could get a telephone number from his locker. I told him he could.
Dennis had relapsed. Big surprise. Rockoff told me that when Dennis had left here yesterday he had $300 on him, in cash. That's all gone. He apparently sold his car (I'm sure for far less than when what he paid for it) in order to buy more cocaine, then he came back here early in the morning looking to borrow more money.
In less than 18 hours he had gone through maybe $500, $600, or $700, depending on how much he got for his car. All of that money no doubt went up his nose, or into some hooker's back pocket. No more car, no more money, no more job, no more room and board, no more self respect.
And this is how relapse on cocaine works.
But this is no dream.
The dramatic speed and intensity of cocaine relapse is a very good reason to be glad not to be a cocaine addict. I'm glad. Very. I'm much happier being an alcoholic. Five to seven hundred dollars would have lasted me at least a week, maybe two in a cheap motel with cable television. Three or four gallons of wine a day, and maybe something to eat.
With alcohol you can draw out your misery so much longer.
In the end I'd be in exactly the same place Dennis is right now.
Dennis retrieved the telephone number he wanted, and made a call. I think he called his parents and told them what had happened.
When he finished he walked outside and sat on one of the benches in the front parking lot. I watched him from my office window. Some of the cooks, Tom Gibbs, Marvin Gardenhire, and Carlos Noble, came out and sat with him. I don't know what they said, although I'm sure they offered support. But having been in Dennis's position I know their kind intent offered little solace. Misery loves company, and Dennis was thoroughly alone now. The men who were talking to him still had a program, still had sober days behind them, still had hopes for the future. Dennis had none of those things. He may have even felt angry, or resentful towards them, missing what he had lost in such a short time, and what they still possessed. The only comfort Dennis had left was the cigarette he was smoking and that would only last for another three minutes. One tends to smoke fast when anxious and nervous.
To add insult to injury, the Major came over for lunch and noticed Dennis sitting. He asked me to go out and tell him to move on. He was not allowed to hang around.
Where did he go? Why to the Park, of course. He had just become a full fledged resident. You get to become a full fledged resident of the Park only when you have no where else to go.
After my shift, Rockoff and I walked to the thrift store to search for more clothes that might fit us, that didn't have holes in the pockets, or buttons missing. We had brand new clothing orders in our hands, courtesy of Clarence Orion. We saw Dennis sitting alone on one of the benches in the Park while passing the southeast corner of Fair Oaks. He was busy staring off into space.
Throughout the evening my thoughts returned to Dennis, as I avoided Jill, watched "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and the evening news. Of all those who have left here I guess Dennis's departure has affected me the most.
I can see myself too easily in him.
There is nothing I can do for him, of course. I am powerless to help other people if they do not wish to help themselves. I thought about seeking him out in the Park, talk to him, maybe get him something to eat. I didn't do that though. Hanging out in the Park with a newly relapsed individual might not be such a good idea for me. Besides at the present time I doubt there would be much I could say to him that he'd want to hear.
All I can do is, well... wish him well.

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