Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Salvation Diary Two

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

Frank gave way to Ron, who had us sing another song, and between verses he gave those who wanted the opportunity to make a brief testimony about how the Lord, or Jesus Christ, was making a big difference in their lives. The Salvation Army is very into Jesus Christ. That’s practically all they talk about… Jesus Christ, and singing songs.
Clarence led us in yet another song, a short prayer, then dismissed us.
I went down to the parking lot in front of the building and smoked a cigarette while waiting for Rudy. He was going to give me a tour of the residence.
Rudy had played the piano in chapel. He was pretty good at it too. Very flowery kind of playing, with a lot of sequential notes between the verses. After the service, a lot of the guys came up to Rudy and congratulated him on what a good job he had done. Major Johnson, a tall and thin man, in his middle sixties, passed me on his way to him, and shook my hand.
It’s good to get to know these guys.
While he was shaking my hand, Clarence, who was standing nearby, mentioned to the Major that I had worked on the front desk at the Van Nuys ARC. I had told Jack Crosley this, and it was almost true. I had relieved the deskman for lunch once in awhile. I didn’t have a clue, really, as to how the desk operated, or what was required of a deskman. I had mentioned this to Jack because he had asked me if I wanted to work at the residence front desk. I had said sure, and that I had experience. I had told him all this because I was trying to avoid working on the dock, which is repetitive, boring, hot, and requires a great deal of physical labor. I don’t know how Clarence found out about it.
When Rudy came down we began the tour.
The residence building is rectangular and shaped like a wide shoebox, the shorter sides facing north and south, the longer, east and west. The north side of the building, the front, faces Waverly Ave., and across this street lies the back end of the warehouse, and the loading dock. Using the shoebox analogy, if you took a shoebox, and thickened the shorter sides about one inch, and the longer sides about two and a half inches, hollowed them out, and placed a glass skylight over the hole in the middle, this would be an accurate representation of the residence. It consists of three floors and a basement, and the walls outside are painted beige. As you come through the entrance on the first floor, the front desk would be directly to your left, the elevator and stairway would be directly in front of you, and a small library on the right. To the left of the stairs is the dinning room entrance, which coupled with the kitchen, comprises the entire east side of the first floor. The inner wall of the dinning room is a full-length window, looking into an atrium, which makes up the hub, or center of the building. The south side of the residence consists of the kitchen, and Blue Room, where the Major, and senior staff dine. The west side (from south to north, respectively) contains the canteen, or snack shop, where hamburgers, sandwiches, candy, toiletries, ice cream, and sodas may be procured (money is never used at the canteen, only canteen cards, small paper cards with nickel signs printed around the edge, which are marked, or cut off at a rate corresponding to the amount of purchase. One canteen card can be bought, for cash or credit, for one dollar, at the front desk), a small area with tables and chairs used for consuming the goods purchased in the canteen, a recreation area, consisting of a pool table and an area for viewing a large screen T.V., with about thirty chairs placed in front of it. On either side of the television are doors, each leading to the same room, which has two smaller TV’s inside. This room can be partitioned in half, by drawing a folding wall, thus creating two separate rooms with a single television inside. These rooms have been dubbed accordingly, the small T.V. rooms. Most of the rooms on the first floor are connected to each other. One can start at the lobby (the area between the front desk and elevators), walk through the dinning room, into the kitchen, down a corridor behind the Blue Room, past a back stairway, past the canteen, through the Recreation Room, and back into the lobby. A full circle.
The second floor was where all 18 dormitories were located, surrounding the atrium. There are no inner windows on the second floor. A banister allows us to lean over and look directly down to the atrium floor, about thirty feet below. Private rooms are located here as well, sixteen of them, four in each corner of the building. Each cluster of four private rooms has its own bathroom. Two large common bathrooms, located in the northeast and southwest corners, serviced the dorms, each containing four showers, six sinks, two urinals, and four toilets.
The third floor housed the chapel, a small waiting room, or foyer, and a one bedroom apartment, expertly decorated, I was told, for use by visiting Salvation Army officers, and other assorted VIPs (another, smaller apartment, resided on the first floor, just to the left of the front desk, as well as two small offices, mainly used for counseling). This was all on the north side of the building, comprising the entire third floor. An exit door located near the apartment, opened into the roof.
The basement, of course, followed the same basic pattern of the rest of the building. Rudy pointed out the door to a clinic, on the north side. It, along with a electrical maintenance room, which ran adjacent to the clinic, were kept locked. On the east side was a small barbershop, an exercise area with weights (used by those who enjoyed picking up heavy objects, and putting them back down again. A constant battle with gravity). A ping-pong table, a hobby shop, and a couple of storage areas, comprised the rest of this side. The south side consisted of a hallway connecting the east and west side. A dry goods storage room, and two walk-in freezers, connected to the kitchen via conveyer belt, could be reached from this hallway. The west side of the basement housed a two-lane bowling alley (yes, really!), two more pool tables, and a small video game area, which is amply supplied with video game cassettes, and two portable TV’s. Four doors, two on the inner east side, and two on the inner west side, opened onto the atrium, a very peaceful, open area, with assorted trees (some reaching almost up to the second floor) and plants, interspaced between a central cement, zigzagging walkway. There are benches for sitting. The glass skylight rested four stories overhead.
There are two cages in the atrium. One for two parakeets, which seem to be afraid of everybody, and one for a sometimes obnoxiously noisy parrot, green and sickly yellow, by the name of Noah. He didn’t seem to be afraid of anybody.
I left Rudy at the end of the tour, and took a seat in front of the large TV on the first floor. I was finally able to do what I had wanted to do all day, sit down to read and relax. But by this time it was getting rather late, and they kick everybody upstairs at eleven. I could have continued to read all night in one of the bathrooms if I had wanted to, but I knew I would be back on the dock in the morning, and I needed to get some rest, and decided to turn in. I hoped that I wouldn’t have much trouble getting to sleep, this being the first night in many weeks that I hadn’t drank myself into a stupor. Sleep patterns tend to get mucked up when you drink a lot.
Much had happened today, but I didn’t feel any of it. I didn’t feel much of anything today, good or bad. I was just there, taking one thing at time. Taking things nice and easy, just existing.
It felt good to be in a bed.
September 14 Friday Day 2
I woke up again. I remembered where I was, and got out of bed. I didn’t know what woke me. The four others in the dorm were still asleep, two of them snoring appreciably. The room was in semi-darkness, but the morning light was beginning to filter in through the one window, which was just to the right of my bed. I could hear activity in the rooms and hallways around me and decided to make a move.
I left the dorm and went the short distance to the nearest restroom, passing other early morning risers along the way. It felt a little disconcerting, being around so many other people so early in the morning, not knowing who they were, and them not knowing me. Rather like a lost company of strangers gathered together to perform some task, or solve a problem. I suppose that’s exactly what we were.
I found a sink that was not in use, and washed my face. I tried to be as quite as possible upon returning to my dorm. All my roommates were still asleep, apparently they were late sleepers. I opened my locker and put on some of my nice, new, second-hand clothes. I made my bed in a military fashion, then went downstairs to see about breakfast.
It was good to have breakfast. All I had had to start the day for the last couple of months was a cup of coffee at best. This morning there were scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast and jelly to be had. I took mighty advantage of the opportunity, and stuffed myself silly.
Breakfast was served at 6:45. Morning devotions, a brief prayer ceremony, was held at 7:15, in the dinning room. This ceremony usually consisted of one person standing before all of the residents (attendance is mandatory), and reciting a prayer, or a short inspirational message, to help us start our workday.
While still seated, Ernie Senes, the Operations Manager of the center, an older, corpulent, Salvation Army veteran, came in and displayed a jacket he had confiscated from a client the day before. The cuffs had been stapled shut, and the arms and pockets of the jacket were crammed with shirts, pants, and other assorted clothing, in astonishing number. Ernie had several clients lift the jacket to demonstrate how heavy it was, then spilled the contents onto a dinning table to display the items.
Obviously someone had tried, unsuccessfully, to steal, or pilfer clothing from the warehouse by loading up the jacket and bringing it back to the residence. That someone was no longer a resident, which was exactly the point Ernie was trying to make. Steal from the Salvation Army, and your out.
Simple enough.
Work starts at 7:30, and as per the usual dock routine, myself and a bunch of other guys began unloading the trucks. After a while though, Frank Ortiz took me aside and asked me if I was interested in going out on a truck. I told him, sure. I had never gone out on a truck to pick up donations before, and it would give me the chance to get away and drive around and look at things. I hadn’t seen anything but the inside of the Park for quite awhile, and the idea of getting off the dock for the day was most welcome. I was introduced to a middle-aged black man by the name of Larry, who would be the driver. I was his helper.
We used truck 14, and got on a freeway headed east. I told Larry that this was the first time I had done this, being a truck helper, one of the few jobs in the Salvation Army I had not done. He asked me if I knew about making a little money on the side. I told him I had never done that.
He asked me if I knew how to keep quite about it. I remembered Ernie’s demonstration this morning, but what was I going to do, say no? That would have made for a great working relationship for the rest of the day. One needs to be pragmatic on occasion. Considering I had about thirty cents and five cigarettes left, I said yes, I knew how to keep quite about it. Larry told me I could make up to twenty, or twenty-five dollars today. A fortune.
At the time I did not perceive this to be any great moral dilemma. I can only offer by way of defense that recently being a big time shoplifter, and just coming off a month and a half bender, I had not sufficient time to get my ethical priorities in order, and was still thinking in a somewhat sub-human mode. Let’s leave it like that for now.
And like I said, I’m hardly ever innocent.
We spent the morning traveling to different houses and apartments at different locations, collecting a multitude of various items, including; lamps, toys, dishes, books, sofas, refrigerators, radios, baby paraphernalia, kitchenware, magazines, junk, chairs, washers, trash, dryers, VCR’s, mattresses, freezers, junk, clothes, clothes, and more clothes. Some garbage too. From the look of things, it seems a lot of people think nothing of donating their accumulated refuse that they would otherwise have to haul to a landfill and pay to dispose of. Some donors got really mad when we tried to explain that we could not accept certain items that were too worn, or beyond repair. Some believe they’re doing us a big favor by letting us have their rotten crap, and get really indignant. The whole point of our collecting donations in the first place was that they would eventually be resold, hopefully with as little processing as possible. I often felt like saying to those who were upset with me and Larry for not taking their trash, “Look, would you go into a store and buy this worthless piece of shit!” We are discouraged from saying things like that though. Greatly discouraged. In fact, we are so discouraged that most likely we wind up taking the stuff anyway, just to maintain a good public image. This explains the mountain of garbage always near the giant trash compactor, which winds up as compacted trash at, you guessed it, a landfill. A truck dedicated to this enterprise makes two trips a day.
All in all, we made about twenty-four stops, and were done by 12:30. Larry then told me he was going to drop off five items. We backed into a driveway in North Pasadena, and off loaded two refrigerators, two washers, and a stove. He gave me fifteen dollars, and said he would give me another ten on Monday. I was knocked out just to get the fifteen dollars. We stopped at a store and I bought some cigarettes.
We didn’t need to be back at the ARC until 3:00, so we went to a park and hung out. I walked back to the store where I bought my cigarettes and bought a slurpy. Soon, another Salvation Army truck came by, and Larry and the other driver chipped in and bought Kentucky Fried Chicken for all.
I guess this was the resting area for Salvation Army truck crews after they finish a hard day of picking up donations and ripping off the Army. I certainly found it restful.
We drove back to the dock at about 3:30, and by the time we finished unloading, it was 4:00. Quitting time. Now I had a nice, long, two day weekend to look forward to. I could now kick back, read my Tom Clancy book, with fifteen dollars in my pocket, and the promise of ten more come Monday.
As I walked through the door of the residence to pick up my locker key (clients are required to turn them in anytime they leave the residence for any appreciable length of time), Jack Crosley, the desk man, asked me if I had been informed that I would now be working behind the desk. I replied, no, I hadn’t, but it was fine with me. I asked him about my work schedule, and when I would start.
“Right now,” he said.
I was re-introduced to Victor, who asked, “You worked across the street today, didn’t you?”
“I sure did. For eight hours.”
He was unimpressed. “All right,” he said. “In that case you can get off early.”
Seeing my weekend fly out the window, I said, “Okay, I’ll be back down after I wash up, and change clothes.”
Unlike the Canoga Park and Van Nuys centers, the desk personnel in Pasadena are required to wear slacks, dress shirts, and a tie. Underwear is optional. All dressed up, with the weight gained by a sedentary lifestyle in the Park, I kind of looked like the actor who played Major Dad, on TV, with a paunch. I avoided mirrors. I never worked a job which required me to wear such clothes on a daily basis. I choked briefly as I straightened my tie.
I reported to work, and was quickly told what some of my duties would be. It was really pretty simple. Basically, I answer phones, hand out and take in lockers keys (which in turn, provides a continuous record of who is in, or out of the building), sign people in and out of the residence, monitor any Salvation Army vehicles that are still out roaming around after business hours using a CB radio, which meant learning Radio Speak. Usually, only one truck was working during the night shift, one that stopped at all the fixed donation trailers in the evenings. This truck, nicknamed the “Night Crawler,” collected all the junk and garbage that no one had time to collect during the day.
Except for quitting time, when the clients all return to the residence from work, I administer breath tests, using a small breath-a-lizer, to all clients entering the residence, like when Clarence tested me yesterday. I also announce things over the residence PA system, like, “So and so, please come to the lobby, you have a visitor,” or, “Group counseling with George will begin in five minutes in the small TV room, group counseling with George. Please check the bulletin board to see if your name is on the list, and please be prompt.” Stuff like that. I also make sure everyone is in by curfew, hand out weekend passes, hand out aspirin and cold tablets, answer questions if I can, and other general administrative type duties.
I leaned that I get Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, work mostly in the evenings, from 2:30 to 11:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Mondays, 3:30 to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 6:00 a.m. till 2:30 on Sundays.
I’m the only one around here (except for a small crew in the kitchen) who does not go to chapel on Sunday morning. I can live with that. I also find it a little bizarre that this afternoon I helped steal two refrigerators, two washers, and a stove, and this evening it’s part of my job to help catch people who steal things, which would lead directly to the client’s termination from the program.
Life is funny sometimes, and not without a little irony.
I also get to use the elevator as much as I want (which is off limits to most clients).
I never did get off work early. It being Friday, I worked with Victor until midnight. A couple of times, when Victor got rather abrupt with me for no particular reason, I almost told him what he could do with his fucking job, and quit. But I stuck it out, all the way to twelve o’clock. I figured things would be better tomorrow, and if I could make it through the night, everything would be alright.
At midnight an eccentric older gentleman showed up at the residence to relieve Victor and I. I went directly to bed, and to sleep, without passing GO, and without collecting $200.00.
September 15 Saturday Day 3
I woke up again, and had a nice breakfast. It’s good to have nice breakfasts.
I had planned (as much as one can plan these things) to simply relax in one of the small television rooms until I had to get ready for work, but I found out all new clients are required to do some extra work on their first Saturday here. I was told by Victor the night before that my regular work shift for today would satisfy this requirement, but apparently he lied to me (again). Our boss, Victor’s and mine, the Residence Manager, Mr. Vasquez, had other ideas.
“No, no, no,” he said. “Go straighten up the library a little.”
Most new clients are assigned to the warehouse, and work most of the morning. Some are sent to the kitchen. I got the library. After tidying the books and dusting off the shelves a little, and checking out the available reading material, I unobtrusively made my way back to one of the small TV rooms, hoping that my work was finished. Mr. Vasquez didn’t call me back, so I guess it was.
I read and watched silly Saturday morning television programs. I still wasn’t feeling particularly sociable and didn’t talk too much to anybody. I was pretty tired still, physically. Mentally, I wasn’t all that hot either. I sat, absorbing all that was going on around me. Even though I had been in Salvation Army ARC’s before it felt strange getting used to this new one. I just let things happen, did what I was supposed to do, and observed.
After a shower, and dressing, I reported for work at 3:30 (I would be working with Victor again. Imagine my excitement).
I was to learn that Friday and Saturday night shifts on the desk were pretty much the most boring shifts of the entire week, and thus seemed the longest. I felt a little more at ease and familiar with my job responsibilities this evening, and did not have to ask as many questions, reducing the amount of conversation I had with Victor considerably. One of my responsibilities, it seemed, was to change the letters on the lobby’s bulletin board to announce the following days activities, which Victor had neglected to tell me last night, and the morning shift had not bothered to change it, so I removed Friday’s schedule and replaced it with Sunday’s. I removed the small, individual, white plastic letters, from the groves on the black felt board, and rearranged them in such a way as to depict the events of the next day. I get to do this four times a week.
I also came to realize that instead of working the night shift on Sunday, I had the morning shift with Mr. Vasquez, starting at six a.m.. If I went to bed right after work I would be guaranteed a cool five hours of sleep.
At around 11:30, an older gentleman, dressed in a blue T-shirt and jeans, walked through the front door, carrying a large brown satchel over his shoulder. His hair was mostly gray, and he sported a gray mustache that drooped down from the corners of his mouth down to the bottom of his chin. He slowly lumbered towards the waist high swinging doors that was the entrance to the area where I was sitting behind the desk. As he did this, he glanced at me several times with a sideways sweep of his gray eyes, in what appeared to be a look of appraisal, as if summing up my capabilities and estimating my probable life expectancy in this job. He placed his satchel behind the desk, as Victor came out of his office and greeted him. Victor introduced me.
“Rick, this is…” Victor paused, as if trying to remember something, and looked at our visitor as if asking for help in remembering.
“Wolfman,” the older fellow completed. He looked like a man about half way through the transformation into a wolf.
Wolfman was our night security person. Not the same eccentric person who came last night, but a different one. His job entailed patrolling the grounds and the building, watch out for fires, watch out for break ins at the thrift store, make early wake ups, and handle anything else that might come up between midnight and six a.m..
He did not say very much to me, and actually grunted once or twice.
After I got off work, I read for awhile in the bathroom, and although I didn’t feel like it, I went to bed shortly thereafter. I was glad of it in the morning.
September 16 Sunday Day 4
I woke when I felt someone slap me on the bottom of my left foot with a clipboard. I looked up, blearily, to see Wolfman walking away, with the air of someone having completed a job well done.
It’s a good thing he didn’t hit my right foot. That would have really pissed me off.
I got out of bed, went to the restroom, showered, got dressed, then went down to work.
For one hour, Wolfman and I had what appeared to be a conversation. He actually talked at me the entire time. I nodded a lot. He talked about his childhood in Rhode Island. This would be the first of many such occasions.
Mr. Vasquez came down at seven, one hour after I had. He and I would working together this morning. This made me a little nervous. He is the boss, after all. We spent the shift checking each other out, not speaking very much. He’s about 5’9”, slight of build, and in his early sixties. He wears his hair (what’s left of it) extremely short, to the point that it is sort of translucent. As his name would indicate, he looks as if he has some Hispanic blood in him, but very diluted. He comes from Arizona. Globe, Arizona, up in the mountains. One couldn’t easily tell, but he does seem to have a sense of humor. As Sunday chapel time approached, one of the four ushers by the name of Eddie Alphonso, whose sole responsibility is to facilitate the collection of money from the laity, came up to him, and said, “Bob (his first name is Bob, or Robert), I’d appreciate it if you didn’t wait until they call us up to the podium to start orchestrating things. Last week, I wound up holding all four trays.” This statement caused the corners of Mr. Vasquez’s mouth to curl into a slight smile, while expelling three or four short laughs. He then proceeded to supply the man with instructions.
Mr. Vasquez wears glasses. He told me that while driving, because he can’t see out of his left eye he closes his right eye to compensate.
Every once in a while he’ll walk into his office (which is located just to the left of the desk man’s area) and say, “Now then,” or, “Okay, now let’s do this…” and then be silent.
When everybody else goes to chapel at 9:00, I stay downstairs and watch the desk. I insure the residence is not overrun by crazed Goodwill fanatics, or something, while the rest of the house is busy worshipping. It’s alright with me if I miss chapel, as I’m not a Christian very much anyway. So I sit back and read the paper. I can see the door to the chapel way up on the third floor, from a closed circuit television monitor behind the desk, so I’ll know when the service is over, and I’ll be able to put the paper away, so it will look as if I was being alert the whole time.
I read about a country in the Middle East, Iraq. It has invaded it’s tiny neighbor to the south, Kuwait.
A lot of people believe the Garden of Eden had been located somewhere in Iraq. The birthplace of humanity, as it were. I happen to believe the birthplace of humanity was a little further southwest.
Since 1979, Iraq has been led by a man by the name of Saddam Hussein. After taking over the government, all of his political opposition suddenly and mysteriously vanished. Saddam probably has a chemical imbalance in his brain, just like me. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. tells us that chemicals in our heads make us do things, and of course he’s right. Chemicals in my head direct me to not want to stop drinking alcoholic beverages after I start. Chemicals in Saddam’s head make him want to stay in power, no matter what, and make him not care very much if he kills a lot of people, people he doesn’t even know, while doing it. They make him want to control more real estate too. I’m not usually a name caller, but some might describe this type of behavior as a tiny bit sociopathic. It’s certainly unsociable.
Nice guy to have in charge of a country.
He’s been a troublemaker for a long time now. He was at war with Iran before he invaded Kuwait, At war with them for over nine years, and nobody ever won. The war was stopped by diplomats. Imagine that. During that war Saddam and the United States were best buddies. Even when an Iraqi warplane accidentally shot a missile at, and blew a big hole in one of our navel vessels, a destroyer. The ship had been roaming around looking at the war, I guess. Although severely damaged, the ship was able to make it back into port. The captain was criticized for allowing his ship to be attacked. Those things happen.
Later on, another of our ships of the same or similar class, accidentally shot a missile at, and blew up an Iranian commercial airliner, which was filled to the brim with innocent civilians. It was not able to make it back to port. Those things happen too.
Sad, very sad. We seem so cavalier concerning death. Unless it’s our own.
Now Iraq has made war on a small country that isn’t able to defend itself. Smart move. If you like going to war all the time, like Saddam does, you might as well pick a country that can’t shoot back. Kuwait is a big time oil producer, which is the main reason, the real reason, that the United States is so ready to turn its back on its former buddy and step in and help the Kuwaitis. The U.S. has sent a lot of our troops and equipment over to Saudi Arabia, another oil producer which has common borders with both Iraq and Kuwait, and is apparently preparing to engage Saddam‘s forces. Saudi Arabia, which usually sticks pretty much to itself, is allowing us to send our troops into their country because it is afraid that if Iraq is left unchecked, they will invade them too.
I don’t blame them. Saddam can be exceptionably unruly.
The rest of my work day went rather well. No major mistakes made, at least. Mr. Vasquez has a tendency to leave the desk quite frequently; to make rounds, check vehicles, transport people in the van, etc. Mainly I think, he just wanted to get the hell away from the desk for a while. Near the end of our shift he told me that he was going upstairs to take a little nap. He said that he was allowed to do this (like he really had to explain it to me) because he worked all day on Sundays, and still had what amounted to an entire shift ahead of him. I said, “Okay, go ahead, take off.” And he did. Charles Perry, a young and self assured (smart ass), black person, came to relieve me at 2:30, and I was free.
I changed out of my work clothes, and placed myself into one of the small T.V, rooms, with book in hand, and read and watched television at the same time. That used to drive my girlfriend nuts.
I was planning to quit smoking the next day. One reason being that I had now detoxed enough to begin to care about myself and what happened to me. I didn’t want to finally get sober and learn how to enjoy life without resorting to the use of drugs and alcohol, just to wind up getting lung cancer (of course, being clean and sober, I would be able to appreciate the full experience of said cancer, but I found that unappealing as well). I knew, or thought I knew, I could quit. I had recently stopped smoking for eighty days. But like drinking and drugging, the trick is not in the stopping, but staying stopped. I suspected that smoking, like drinking, would eventually kill me, so in the spirit of total health I began to desire to quit.
I didn’t have a whole lot of money to throw away on cigarettes anyway.
Unfortunately, right when I was thinking about not smoking, someone popped their head into the T.V. room, and announced the arrival of the “Cigarette Man.” I thought, who the hell is the Cigarette Man? To relieve my curiosity, I went outside to find out.
New residents are under house arrest, or restriction, for their first thirty days at the ARC, so I was not free to go to a store to buy cigarettes. If someone was bringing cigarettes to the residence to sell, which seemed to be the case, right when I was running out… well, it must have been a sign from God that I should purchase some and continue to smoke. At least for a while.
So I did.
I told myself that I would quit next Tuesday, instead. No big deal. Just a temporary change in schedule.
They were being sold for only a dollar a pack. My favorite brand too, Marlboro! This guy must steal these cigarettes to be able to sell them at that price.
I watched “Star Trek, the Next Generation.” An episode I had not seen before, concerning the final step in the evolution of a species. Very good show.
After “Star Trek,“ I played bingo, a Salvation Army staple.
I had seen the announced V.C.R. movie that had been selected to be shown tonight, and did not have enough energy to sign up, and go out to the outside A.A. meeting (a van takes clients to a Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the nearby community on certain evenings), so I pretty much just relaxed and read. A good day.
Another good day.
September 17 Monday Day 5
I got to sleep in today. Except for morning devotions, that is. So actually, I had to get up by 7:15. After I was up, I stayed up. I walked around the building. Eventually I found myself in deep conversation with Noah the parrot. I found Noah to be a true a noble bird.
After talking to Noah I walked inside the building, into the video game area, and attempted to play with some of the games I came across. I have little or no skill with these games, and I proceeded to prove it. I found a video chess cartridge and tried that. I lost a couple of times. At least this was a game I understood.
I think I’m hooked.
I rationed my remaining cigarettes so they would last me throughout the rest of the day. I definitely will quit tomorrow!
I checked out the library and found nothing interesting, so I went into one of the small T.V. rooms and watched “Love Boat.” I’d seen the episode before. I’ve seen them all before. Pretty sad, isn’t it?
After lunch, I read until it was time to get ready for work.
I was working with Mr. Vasquez again this evening. Today would be a little different than yesterday, it was a hell of a lot busier. We have counselors who come to see the clients. They counsel us. They are usually students from either Cal State L.A., Glendale, or Pacific Oaks, enrolled in psychology, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation courses. Tonight, five showed up, and it was my job to coordinate them, find the guys they wanted to talk to, and find a place for them to talk, and so on, and so on. I also have my own recovery to look after and meetings to attend. I was allowed to attend a Bible study class, and a group counseling session facilitated by the ARC’s Program Director, a Mr. George Staub. I left Mr. Vasquez to fend for himself while I attended. He somehow muddled through.
Bible study was given tonight by one of the employees who lives outside the residence. He was filling in for the person who usually gave it. By listening to him I felt he was firmly convinced of the validity of what he was saying, but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand a damn thing he said. I wished that I had brought my book with me.
George Staub is a short, squat, very intense individual. If he hadn’t mentioned that he had spent twelve years as a Catholic priest , I’d have said he was Jewish. He’s into everything, doing two things at once. Very quick, very smart, very brash, but seems like a fair man.
Back at the desk the remainder of the shift went smoothly. I seemed to do everything to Mr. Vasquez’s satisfaction, which made me feel good and worthwhile.
I went to bed with the crazy knowledge that I had the next two days off. But before I tucked myself in, I smoked my last cigarette.
Adios tobacco!
September 18 Tuesday Day 6
Today, I will quit smoking.
I started out the day in the atrium saying hello to Noah. I think Noah likes me. I say to him in baby talk, “Noah, are you a good bird? You sure are pretty. Are you the pretty bird? Yes you are! You’re the prettiest bird in the whole world, yes you are. You’re the good bird. Such a pretty bird. You got the pretty feathers. Good boy, good Noah.” He allows me to stick my fingers in his cage and rub the top of his head. “Does him like that? Yes he does. Good boy, good baby.”
I would soon discover that Noah was a girl.
I confronted the video chess game again. A war of wills. I lost. I crashed in flaming defeat.
After lunch I thought to myself, “Boy, I sure do wish I had a cigarette. Why do I want to quit smoking on my day off anyway? Wouldn’t it be so much better to quit on Thursday, when I’m working, and have something to keep me busy?”
So I bummed a cigarette and smoked, thereby resolving the problem.
Of course, in reality this is a cop out, or a rationalization. It will probably be no easier to quit on Thursday rather than today. It’s much easier to do something in the future, though, than to do it in the present. In the present, actual action may be required.
Nevertheless, having resolved one problem, I was faced with another. I had no cigarettes! Having already smoked one I would want another, probably many others. I had money to buy cigarettes, but due to my restricted status, I had no way to get to a store to purchase them. I could have waited around for the Cigarette Man, but I was told he did not come on a regular basis. I became perplexed and anxious.
I decided to take a really stupid and foolish chance and sneak to the Vons Supermarket. I knew full well that if I were caught, I might be thrown out of the program and be back in the Park. I have taken many stupid chances when I was drinking, so I was used to them. Still, I had no excuse for taking what some might call a compulsive risk, other that my self-esteem was so low that I believed that it was an action that was worthy and typical of me.
As the guys working in the warehouse came over to eat lunch (as a deskman I eat a full half hour before they do), making a general nuisance of themselves, I nonchalantly walked away, gaining speed as I went, and ducked into a neighboring alley. I quickly made my way to the market, and even though I had the bucks, I ripped off two packs of smokes simply because I couldn’t afford to wait in the checkout line. Shame on me. Just outside the store I dropped one of the packs and bent down to pick it up. As I stood, I noticed that one of the non-restricted guys from the center had passed me without noticing I was there. I was glad, as I didn’t want any witnesses.
I came back through the alley to the residence, but was worried about how I should walk up to it. If someone asked where I had been, what would I say? Will they have missed me? Why did I do this in the first place? I’m immensely stupid, aren’t I?
I had an idea!
I crossed the street to the As-Is Yard, an area that holds donations that the Army wishes to auction off without repairing them, hence the name. I ambled over to the man who watched over the place at lunchtime, and pointed out a truck, and asked, “Is that the truck that hit a horse?” As if ashamed of it, he slowly nodded in the affirmative.
Let me digress a moment and relate a story that was told to me on my first night at the center.
While getting undressed for bed, I overheard three of my roommates, Dan, Gordon, and Dennis Castle, deep in conversation. The subject of horsemeat came up, and Gordon asked Dennis to tell me about it.
Dennis is a young black guy who’s job it is to help the driver of the Night Crawler truck pick up donations from the different trailers in the evening. He is the Night Crawler Helper.
He and his driver, a two hundred and eighty behemoth by the name of Tiny, were driving down the 210 freeway at a goodly pace (20 miles an hour faster than the 55 speed limit), when something wandered onto their path.
“Hey man,” Tiny said to Dennis, “I think something just jumped on to the freeway.”
“What is that?” Dennis replied. “It looks sort of like a… like a … LIKE A HOOOOOORRRRRRRSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!”
“BOOM!” Dennis told us, “The damn thing EXPLODED! I MEAN EXPLODED! KA-POW! Ka-pow, ka-pow, ka-pow! Horse guts and blood everywhere!”
Evidently, the horse had escaped from its stable, and as the police tried to catch it, he or she, jumped the divider onto the freeway, and was driven by fear of the approaching police into the path of the truck. The truck was demolished. The front end completely caved in and covered with squashed horse stuff. Dennis and Tiny, considering the speed at which the collision occurred, were lucky in the extreme to come out of it relatively unscathed. After the truck, and what was left of the poor horse stopped moving, and the two men gathered their collective wits about them, they filed a report back to the residence, via the truck radio.
“Red Shield twelve to Pasadena residence base.”
“Pasadena residence to Red Shield twelve, go.”
“Ah… we have a slight problem here base. We’ve been in an accident.”
“Pasadena base, to Red Shield twelve, what’s your 10-20 (location)?”
Tiny reported their location.
“What happened, Tiny?”
“We hit a horse.”
“10-9 that, Red Shield twelve.”
“We ran into a horse.”
“Quit kidding around, Tiny. What’s going on?”
“We hit a damn horse, man!”
And on, and on.
Dennis and Tiny were eventually taken to a nearby hospital and checked out. No serious injuries I’m happy to report.
The horse was a different matter.
Before the boys were carried off, the owner of the horse made an appearance at the crash site, crying to Dennis, who by this time was laying on a stretcher, dazed, “Where’s my horse? Where’s my horse?”
“It’s over there, man,” pointing back to the carnage, “it’s over there. All over the place.”
I looked at the ruined truck as the As-Is man pointed out the extent of the damage. It really was extensive. Then I left him and casually walked over to the residence, as if I had only been to the truck to satisfy my curiosity.
Of course, no one had missed me, and I walked in without any problems.
After everyone came back to the residence after work at four o’clock, my name was called over the P.A. system to go down to the clinic and get a nice medical check out. Make sure I don’t have the plague. The doctors rolled me this way and that, moved my legs back and forth, pressed into my vertebrae with their bony little fingers, told me I have good tendons and ligaments. It was not until I asked for a prescription for some ointment for a rash I had on my butt, that I realized the people who had been poking and prodding at me were chiropractors, and not MD’s. I felt so violated.
At 6:15 that night, my presence was requested at an A.A. orientation meeting. I already knew a great deal about Alcoholics Anonymous, having been a member, on and off again for ten years, but this orientation meeting concerned what A.A. meetings where held here at the residence, not A.A. in general. A young man with about sixty days of sobriety told me that I would be attending two mandatory meetings a week here at the center, and could go to outside meetings in the evenings if I choose to do so. He assured me that A.A. could help me if I wanted it to. I agreed.
At 6:45, I attended an A.A. Step Study m eeting. Generally, at this type of meeting, the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are discussed. It seemed that I had entered the cycle just at the right time, as Step One was tonight’s topic. I thought, “Great! How good to start from the beginning.” The class was presented by Al, who came across as a very engaging individual, and he made his point very clear. I can’t remember what it was though.
Later, my roommate Gordon told me that my old workmate, Rudy Johnson, had been thrown out of the center after an altercation with my boss, Mr. Vasquez. Rudy had been in the basement practicing on one of the pianos and singing songs with some of the guys, while the clinic was open for business a few feet away. The “doctors” complained to the front desk about the noise, and Mr. Vasquez came down to secure the music and merrymaking. Rudy, for some reason overreacted and told him he had no right to tell him to stop playing.
Ill-considered move.
Rudy could probably get back in tomorrow morning if he cried and pleaded and begged a lot to Clarence, but knowing Rudy, I don’t believe he will.
I wished him well.
September 19 Wednesday Day 7
Today was a really nice day. I don’t know why, it just was. It was nice, sunny, and hot. Being on restriction, I can’t go anywhere away from the residence except out front, where I smoked my last cigarettes.
I read a lot today, and watched T.V. off and on. Again, I suffered horrible defeat at the hands of the video chess machine.
All that’s on my agenda for the evening was mid-week chapel. It has been permanently changed from Thursday night, to the more traditional Wednesday night. Very big deal.
After chapel I had an exciting cheeseburger from the canteen. Life is wonderful!
And later on, in one of the upstairs bathrooms, I took my last drag off of my last cigarette, and began the withdrawal process from another drug I have abused for many years.
September 20 Thursday Day 8
That video chess machine was getting on my nerves. The simplest, itty-bitty mistake on my part and it goes straight for my jugular.
I had quit smoking today. That did nothing to help my disposition. I endured.
I discussed the current political atmosphere with Noah the parrot, read, wrote, and got ready to go back to work at two-thirty.
I worked with both Charles Perry and Victor, the one night a week there are three of us at the desk.
I had two meetings to attend during the evening. A Substance Abuse Seminar, and an A.A. panel. George Staub officiated the seminar. We discussed the effects of alcohol on the body. I already knew that alcohol, physiologically speaking, was very bad news.
It had never stopped me from drinking though. Hardly anything stops alcoholics from drinking. Death, insanity, and jail are retirement city after a long drinking career.
I got off work at eleven and went upstairs, changed clothes, and read a little. When I finally went to bed and to sleep, I dreamt the dream of freedom.
September 21 Friday Day 9
I got up early, at about five-thirty, and took a nice shower. After dressing, I went downstairs to partake of some early breakfast (cheese omelets). I watched the morning news, and “did” morning devotions.
Having exhausted myself, I returned to my room to read and snooze for a bit. I roused myself at nine-thirty, had a cup of coffee in the dining room, then asked my boss if I could go to the warehouse and ask Ron about some shoes. Mr. Vasquez suggested I go see Clarence for a clothing order first, which I did. Clarence told me he would send a clothing order over to the residence a little later. Meanwhile, I found Ron, and he took me to the shoe department in the warehouse, where I discovered a pair of white sneakers and black dress shoes, which seemed suitable for my purposes.
Very exciting (sarcasm).
Later, I tackled the video chess game. I was soundly thrashed two games in a row. I went to bed again, reading, and dozing on and off until it was time to get ready for work.
Work went really smooth. I’ve got the hang of this job, and feel comfortable in it now. I spent most of the evening reading Time magazine.
At midnight, work was over and I went promptly to bed and had dreams about smoking cigarettes.
September 22 Saturday Day 10
Today went pretty much the same as yesterday. Life on restriction is very predictable. The video chess machine beat me again, but it was a longer and better game. My three remaining neurons must be firing in conjunction.
I went to the thrift store and picked up a whole bunch of clothes, along with my new, second hand shoes.
And I started writing this journal. Mainly because I stole a lot of paper from the front desk, and as more and more time separates me from the Park days, I feel better, more in tune with my environment, and more ambitious. I didn’t feel like just sitting around and reading anymore. I felt like participating in some active movement, doing something, and this journal is one small way of soothing that urge.
Two days without cigarettes. I feel like a nervous cat on acid which has just fell off a twelve story building and has got the feeling that landing on all four feet isn’t going to help much.
I worked from three-thirty to midnight. It went well. I went to bed directly afterwards, anticipating the morning shift.
September 23 Sunday Day 11
I got up at five-thirty and took a quick shower, got dressed, and made it to the desk by six. I had all my paperwork done from the night before, so there wasn’t anything for me to do other than sit and listen to the Wolfman relate the stories of his life, something he never tires of. Mr. Vasquez came down twenty minutes after I did and rescued me.
Jack Crosley had done some extra work for Mr. Vasquez last night, shampooing the carpets in the library, and around the desk. He worked until after three in the morning, even though Mr. Vasquez told him not to stay up too long. I guess Jack decided that since he worked so late he was entitled to sleep in and miss chapel. That would have been fine with me, except he neglected to tell anyone about it, and it was usually his job to take attendance for the service. I waited for him to come down and get the attendance sheet until ten minutes before the service, and figuring he wasn’t going to show, went upstairs, leaving the desk unmanned, and began to take it myself. Half of the guys were already in there, so my attempt was sort of like a big joke.
As I was checking the guys off who came up the stairs, Mr. Vasquez appeared, and asked me, “What are you doing here, Joyce?”
“Taking the attendance sir. Jack never came down.”
“Who’s at the desk?”
“Ah… nobody, sir. I assumed that you would want me to do this.”
“Don’t assume, Joyce. And don’t ever leave the desk alone. Get back down there.”
“Yes sir.”
When I got back to the desk, I found Victor there with both feet up on a chair. He told me I could go to chapel today, like he was doing me a big favor. Swell guy.
The rest of the morning went well; with Mr. Vasquez running around here and there, leaving me pretty much to myself.
At two-thirty I got off work, changed clothes, talked to Noah about income tax issues, played video chess, and lost. After dinner (turkey), I seriously considered having a cigarette, but was able to withstand the impulse. I sat in one of the small T.V. rooms until five o’clock waiting for “Star Trek, the Next Generation,” to come on, but it was preempted this week. Life is full of disappointments like this. We must learn to make do. I learned though, that the big season premier would air next Wednesday. I have known for many years that simple pleasures are the best, and the season premier of “Star Trek,” would be something nice to look forward to.
I watched “Friday the Thirteenth, the Series,” instead. As far as I can ascertain this television series has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the story line of the successful film franchise. Interesting. I then played bingo, and won two canteen cards by making what is known as a “small picture frame.” That’s when one gets all the bingo spaces which surround the free space in the middle of the card. Very exciting.
I returned to the T.V. room after, and watched part of the “Horse Soldiers,” with John Wayne and William Holden, part of “Run Silent, Run Deep,” and part of the “Running Man,” starring Arnold Swartzennegger. Stupid movie.
I went to bed after the movie. I had felt good today. Physically I had a lot of energy, but didn’t have much to direct it towards, except watching a lot of old movies. I didn’t feel like drinking today. I rarely do. I don’t enjoy the taste of alcohol, and never did. But left to my own devices, if there is nothing else around, I’ll start drinking, and then have a little problem with stopping.
I did feel like smoking a cigarette, however, but I didn’t. Hurray for me!
As always, I’m just doing it one day at a time. One thing at a time.
Slow and easy.
September 24 Monday Day 12
“Monday, Monday! Da da, da da da da!” I must be feeling pretty good.
Ernie Senes, the Operations Director, has decided that those who are not actually on duty, are not to be served early chow. Apparently, he has a large insect up his posterior. So this morning I slept in a little later, and got up around six-thirty, got dressed, and went down to eat with the rest of the folks at six-forty five. I didn’t need to take a shower before hand because I instinctively felt that I would be going back to bed after I ate, which I instinctively did, waking just in time for lunch. Tough life.
Lunch consumed, I went down to say hello to Noah. “Hello,” I said. She allowed me to rub her head. I then tried my hand at video chess.
Today was unique for two reasons. First, this was the day that I beat the video chess machine! It was a bloody battle, but I persevered. After the smoke cleared from the initial foray, I was left with my king, a knight, and a single pawn. My lowly opponent had only his king and several pawns to help him. Or her. I had the advantage. Calmly and meticulously, without fear or pity, I slowly and systematically slaughtered my enemies remaining pawns, leaving him only his scurvy little king. My remaining pawn bravely moved up the board toward the enemy’s domain with the devil king in hot pursuit. It would do him no good. My knight covered my pawn, making itself vulnerable to attack. My pawn finally pierced the foes threshold, and is if by magic, was instantly transformed into a glorious and beautiful queen. In a fit of desperation the opposing king attacked and quelled my brave and unselfish knight. This cowardly stroke was for not, however, as the lone king was checkmated by my victorious king and queen in two swift and devastating moves.
Very romantic.
I was left exhausted from the fight, but still had my shift to contend with.
Which brings me to the second unique event of this day. For the first time in my life I now know how to tie a tie. It might not seem like much to you, but for me it’s a big deal. Okay, Charles Perry, my co-worker at the front desk taught me. I used to have others tie them, and I would just tighten the slipknot each time I used it. Now I can do it myself, and was very surprised at how easy it was. This demonstrates that although at thirty-five years old, I had had little occasions to wear a tie.
Generally, I don’t like to wear ties. The look too much like a target to me.
What a day!
I worked with Mr. Vasquez. I prefer working with him, although I can’t read books, or drink coffee when I do. He had to leave just as Bible Study started, so I had to watch the desk and could not attend. Damn! It got real busy then. I had four counselors to contend with (they tend to be very needy), the Night Crawler, George Staub, and the usual people coming and going.
As my friend, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. says, “Busy, busy, busy.”
It all worked out pretty well though.
When Bob Vasquez returned, I joined George’s group counseling session. They had been talking about living with rules and a daily structure. George asked me if I had any problems with rules.
“Only when I’m drunk,” I told him.
The rest of the night went well. I had an egg and cheese sandwich from the canteen at eight. It was very good. After my shift I read for a while, then went to bed knowing I had the next two days off.
My desire for cigarettes did not manifest itself strongly, and all in all it had been a good day. I felt very good about how things were going, about being at the center and all. About getting my life together. It’s good to appreciate the good days that you have. They all seem to fly by so quickly.
I felt that I was finally on the right track.
September 25 Tuesday Day 13
Got up, had breakfast, went back to bed. Got back up, went downstairs and said hello to Noah. Noah said, “Auuuuccck!” I rubbed her head, and told her what a pretty bird she was. I lost miserably at two games of video chess, then went back upstairs to read and write.
Even though it was my day off, I was called to help out at the desk (“We must be flexible,” Mr. Vasquez told me), when Charles needed to see the chiropractors in the clinic. After dinner, I read and watched television until I was required to attend the A.A. Step Study meeting. Al was not there this week, so his buddy Sheldon took over for him. Sheldon had about thirty more days of sobriety than I did, so I didn’t know how much I could gain from his insight, but I listened politely.
It was soon clear that Sheldon didn’t know what he was talking about and saved us all a lot of embarrassment by showing a video instead of talking. The video was of a black man explaining the Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous. What I remember of it was very good, but it did tend to put me to sleep. I remembered what he said about Christopher Columbus, though. He maintained that Columbus was an alcoholic because he thought the world was round when everyone else thought it was flat. When he started his voyage he didn’t know where he was going, when he got to the New World he didn’t know where he was, and when he came back to Europe he didn’t know where he had been. The final proof of his alcoholism being that the whole thing had been financed by a female!
When that meeting finished, I had a cheeseburger with onion from the canteen, then went to a non-mandatory advanced Step Study meeting. Much smaller, as far as attendance was concerned, we discussed what had happened to us in the recent past. What this had to do with the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous I had no idea, but I went with the flow. It was pleasant.
Later, I watched the last hour of “Sink the Bismark,” then retired to my boudoir. I got my laundry bag together for the morning, always exciting. I then read until precisely eleven-sixteen, then turned off my night light and went to sleep.
It had been another good day. I had learned something, got to know some of the people around me a little better, and started writing about September thirteenth. What could be better?
September 26 Wednesday Day 14
I got up real early, a little after five, grabbed my laundry bag (Salvation Army plastic thrift store bag), went to the basement, and stuck my dirty laundry (whites and colors. I do not discriminate) in the washer. I went back upstairs to shower. I had brought my razor and soap with me in the hope that I wouldn’t have to go in and out of my dorm and disturb my slumbering roommates. What I had forgotten was my towel. I didn’t remember that I hadn’t brought it until I was already in the shower, and all wet and everything. So when I got out of the shower I was forced to put on my pants while soaking wet, went to my dorm and retrieved my towel, and went back to the restroom to dry and get dressed.
I finished my laundry, and had breakfast. Then I went to check on Noah. She was okay.
I watched the news on T.V., and lost miserably at chess again. I read a lot, and wrote a lot, until dinner actually. I began reading a collection of long short stories by the horror writer, Clive Barker (this guy is obviously disturbed, a really good writer, but very sick).
Chapel should have been the only official activity for me this evening, and I had hoped I would be able to watch the two hour season premier of “Star Trek, the Next Generation,” afterwards, but my workmate, Charles threw me a curve. He had somehow gotten permission to attend an outside A.A. meeting during his regular shift, and I was volunteered to work for him while he was away. I need to have a long talk with Charles. He will make these little excursions on his own time from now on, not mine.
George Staub got all of us desk people together before Charles left. We discussed the Privacy Act, and how we are not to discuss with anybody, on the phone or in person, who or who is not a resident of this facility. We were told whom we should direct such inquiries to.
I did finally get to watch about three-quarters of the Star Trek show, and then went quietly, and with great dignity, to bed.
September 27 Thursday Day 15
I woke up around six-thirty, and groggily went down to breakfast. This was the day I had decided to start a diet, chiefly to combat my ever enlarging belly. So instead of wolfing down the sausage, waffles, and scrambled eggs that were offered, I demurely had a bowel of Lucky Charms cereal, and a cup of coffee.
After devotions, I went to the atrium to say hello to Noah, the parrot. Then I went to my dorm and read until lunchtime. Lunch consisted of a club sandwich, soup, and coffee. No more fried foods for me!
After another harrowing defeat at the hands of the video chess machine, the afternoon was spent reading and writing. I took a shower and was at work by two-thirty. On Thursday’s, Charles, Victor, and I are all on duty and the work is pretty easy with all three of us there.
Spaghetti for dinner. I don’t know how fattening it is, but I had some, along with garlic bread and salad.
I was required to attend the Substance Abuse Seminar at five-thirty, which this week consisted of a video of Father Donovan talking about alcoholism. This clergyman must have some experience with alcohol, and is a good public speaker, entertaining as well as informative. Five guys were late for the meeting, including my roommate, Gordon. Being the deskman on duty, I was the one who wrote them all up and informed them they would have a little extra work on Saturday because of their tardiness.
Seven-thirty brought the in-house A.A. Panel. Panels consist of visiting A.A. members coming here to relate their personal stories. Tonight, four people related their drunk-a-logs, in front of thirty guys who already knew how to get drunk and into trouble. Therefore emphasis is placed on the panel member’s history after they quit drinking. There was an exceptionally pretty blonde lady, Katherine, who told us all about her problems. She told us how easy it is to manipulate men. I believe her. She also told us about how she didn’t have any money, and all, and she didn’t know how she was going to pay this next month’s rent, but all was still okay because she was sober. This is all true and good. Getting drunk more than likely would not help her economic situation. However, I think she was completely and genuinely neurotic. I don’t know how good an example she was of life in sobriety, except to demonstrate how mucked up life can still be after five years without booze.
After work I went upstairs to the head (restroom), sat on the toilet, and read, as I have often done. I had finished one of the Barker stories (about hands turning against their owners), and decided to space out the remaining stories between different novels. So I began to read A Winter’s Tale, by Mark Halprin, mainly because the reviews were so good. We shall see.
I had felt alright today. I got a lot of stuff done, which usually helps to elevate my mood. I began my diet, and got through work rather well.
I read about a bad guy, Pearly Soammes, and a beautiful white horse until thirty minutes after midnight. Then I went to sleep under the first quarter moon. 

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