Thursday, March 29, 2012

Skid Row Diary

What was that, dear reader? I can't hear you. Oh, you want another book? Okay. This memoir covers the time I lived downtown just before and after I moved into my box at the Las Americas. Enjoy.

Skid Row Diary

July 12, 2003 Saturday

We have a whistler around here. He walks up and down the halls and whistles in a casual high pitched, random manner, that at times can be distracting and mildly irritating. When listening to it one wonders at the mental state of this individual. Is he a refugee from The Andy Griffith Show, or continuously and unendingly happy and carefree? Or is he just another lunatic? All possible answers depress me somewhat, so I won't think about it anymore if I can help it. A good way of avoiding depression as any. The whistling, coupled with the general racket of the background noise of the Weingart Center, added to the police and fire department's sirens which pass below my window every 10 to 20 minutes, is not conducive toward an atmosphere of quiet meditation and peaceful labors. This is not a happy place, which makes my songbird neighbor seem colorlessly mysterious.
I slept in today (of course I slept in!) waking only when someone knocked on my door. I didn't move. No need to. I wasn't getting up yet, and the only reason anyone would be knocking on my door during the first morning hours would be to get me for breakfast. I had decided not to go to breakfast again, without giving it any thought, and ignored the plaintive knocks, trying, successfully, to return to sleep.
I hoped it wasn't John who had knocked. That would have meant that he had not gone to Camarillo and would be lurking about for the entire weekend. Well, nothing I could do about that.
I drifted in and out of sleep, annoyed that the venetian blinds on the window did not block more of the morning light. I crave the darkness at times, the safety it brings, and on occasion, when very sick, blocked out all possibilities of the Sun's egress with aluminum foil.
I thought about what I needed to do today. It would be relatively painless, even fun, as most of the things I do or think about are. Today had to be the last day though. How to make that come about? How do you change yourself? How do you do it for real? Although the desire to change is always the first step (which is never acknowledged in AA), I've proven time and again it's not enough in itself. What to do? What to do?
Stop being melodramatic, that's for sure. And get a lot smarter than you have been. Wake up those sleepy little neurons and get busy. Get serious. Life is not a rehearsal, and I've wasted so, so much of it already, in fantasy, illusion, laziness, selfishness, disregard for others, and the exquisite ability to consistently reverse what little fortune I've come across.
Well if that's not getting down on one's self I don't know what is. And it's wrong to do that, yes in deed. It is wrong when there is no constructive reason for it. And I always belittle or forget all about the good qualities, they hardly see the light of day, but they're there nonetheless. At least there's that.
How simplistic... good and bad qualities of character. Dualism, another illusion the Dharma tells us.
And how many sentences did you begin with the word "and"? That's another thing to worry about.
Be smart, like Jack Ryan in the Clancy book you've been re-reading. There's danger all around and one must by necessity be diligent if one is to survive.
Is that what I wan t to do? Survive, just survive? I can stay here in this room to do that, or a room just like somewhere else nearby, and listen to the Doppler sirens, the background squeaks and twitters, and of course the man from Mayberry who walks the halls, the dreaded Whistler.
Sounds like a Batman villain.
Anyway, I didn't do all that much thinking today. I started off with a sexual fantasy which requires very little thought, only stimulus, and by the time I was finished it was just past 9:30. Too late to sign in today. Oh well, I'll make up for it tomorrow. I did want to get going though. Time is short. Things to do. Happy things. Two movies if everything went well. Two good movies, if you can believe the advertisements. We shall see.
But I still didn't want to get up. After all, I'd pretty much stayed in bed for the last three days, lost in fantasy. It's hard to shake off.
I did get up and decided a shower was not necessary (although always needed) due to the lateness of the hour. I dressed in jeans and a beige button down shirt. White socks and black tennis shoes. Sunglasses, and a blue ball cap to hide my oily hair. I left the Weingart building and caught the 18 bus to 5th and Broadway, where I purchased a pack of Marlboro red 100s for $2.50, before entering on the Red Line subway station at Pershing Square.
The train was crowded. I found a seat a read from "The Cardinal in the Kremlin," Tom Clancy's spy story, and if I had to choose it would be my favorite of his. Mr. Clancy is a very good observer, and also pretty smart. I have few criticisms of his fiction, but I do have a few. He tends to be fairly biased toward the American point of view, but will always display the opposing ideologies in an attempt to be objective to flesh out his stories. Still, in the end, it's the good old U.S.A. who saves the day, and who without our democratic parental guidance and forceful assistance, the rest of the world would surely decline into violent anarchy.
His characters seem to be two dimensional and excessively driven.
But a great deal of his built in essays promoting his opinion of almost every subject, from the institution of marriage and capitalism, to military and political ideology tends to be spot on and concise statements of how the macroscopic world of international competition exists.
And he's one of the few authors who predicted the use of an aircraft as a weapon responsible for massive loss of life and moral fortitude.
The last time I read the novel was in Central Park in Pasadena. The Park days. I'm sorry to say I have not progressed much from 12 years ago. Materialistically, spiritually, and emotionally.
There I go. Getting down on myself once again. It's so easy to fall into that trap.
I got off the subway at the Universal City station and walked across Lankershim Blvd. with a small group of other visitors, to the tram station. A lot of people were coming to the theme park today. The upper parking lot was already full, and cars were being diverted into a garage down at the foot of the hill, so those who parked there would need to take the tram back up the hill to the tour entrance, or City Walk, the open air mall where I was going. Three trams were working. I'd never seen that before, and I'd been coming here since I was ten years old. I eventually got up the hill to the City Walk, to the Loews/Cimplex movie theaters (18 of them), and checked out the movie start times.
I decided on "The Pirates of the Caribbean," first, which began at 11:20AM, which gave me about 23 minutes to get to Tommys for a cheeseburger, and wait in line for popcorn and soda before the film began. I ate my tasty burger quickly (while watching Paul McCartney sing "Paperback Writer," on City Walk's huge outdoor television screen). I had a little time to spare.
I enjoyed the film very much. Based on the Disneyland Park ride, the movie was well written, acted, produced, and directed. It integrated many familiar scenes experienced on the Disney attraction, but enlisted a supernatural element that was somewhat annoying and unnecessary. Still, all in all, it was a lot of fun and worth coming for.
I placed the ticket stub in my wallet so I could keep it forever and ever, to remind me of this day. The day I decided to change my life.
I accidentally walked into another theater just as "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," began, and since I was already in there I sat down to watch the show. I was very disappointed with mis mach of thrown together plot and characters and special effects. This film might be the guiltiest of all for dropping names of characters derived from other authors and used exploitatively with little to show for it. H Rider Haggard, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne, Brom Stoker, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle (and these are just the ones I can remember), these authors creations were all borrowed.
Sean Connery played Allan Quatermain, a character twice portrayed in other films by Richard Chamberlain. I was particularly upset with the presentation of Vern's Captain Nemo, one of my favorite literary characters, (right there with Boo Radley, Hannibal Lecter, Sherlock Holmes, Mack and Doc from "Cannery Row," and John Nichols' April Delaney from "The Magic Journey,") as an Indian Raja. The writers made use of a Vern's brief insight into Nemo's country of origen as being India, but frequently made mention of the fact that it was extremely difficult to identify his ethnic or national background by his speech and appearance, and that of his crew as well. In this movie the Nemo character had a dark complexion, and wore a turban, while praying to Kali, the Goddess of Death. All of his crew wore similar headdress and spoke with Indian accents. James Mason will always embody the Captain for me.
The inside of the Nautilus looked the the interior of the Taj Mahal, and a little petty peeve I have, the ship never seemed to move, I mean I know from experience, a ship at sea is always in motion, up and down, forward and backwards, sideways, back and forth, always moving. That's what makes people sea sick, the constant motion. But not on this ship in the film. Vases were siting nicely on tables. I haven't seen such disregard for the film's own precepts since, well, since Connery appeared in "Zadoz."
And I don't think Nemo would be all that concerned about "saving the world" from itself. He just wasn't that kind of guy. Besides, he died at the end of "Mysterious Island," as did Dr Jekyll, and Dorian Grey, in their respective novels. The Invisible Man died in his book as well, but in this film it was not the Invisible Man appearing, but someone who looked just like him.
And the film needed just a tad more action. And there's a lady in the league, so what's up with that title?
How rude.
[For Joyce's Take readers: Speaking (or writing actually) from the future now as I edit this (March 27th, 2012, to be exact) I make this observation: Sadly this would turn out to be Sean Connery's last film before retiring. A sad end to a long and distinguished career. By the way, dear readers, speaking from the future allows me to state that I no longer indulge in activities described in this account. I no longer smoke, drink, or use fantasy to escape reality. I seem to have grown out of that phase of my life... for the most part.]
After the film ended I returned to downtown Los Angeles and to the Weingart. I watched the second half of a two part "X-Files" episode which introduced the alien Black Oil. I also watched the ABC Saturday Night Movie, "Deep Rising," staring the lovely Franke Jensen. Another computed generated eel monster movie. How many of these can we take?!
I liked the film, but ABC cut out all of the good parts. I might as well have been watching Romper Room.
I miss Romper Room.
I spent the rest of the evening indulging in complicated fantasies involving the actresses Helen Mirren, Kim Catrall, Kay Parker, Juliet Anderson, Loni Sanders, Lacey Chabert, and the senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton (sorry Bill), while smoking cigarettes and drinking instant coffee. After which I continued reading the Clancy book while eating cheap cookies.

July 13 Sunday 1

I finished the novel around 3:00AM, and went to sleep
"Maybe tomorrow," I whispered, before dozing off.
I dreamt of playing water polo with Helen Mirren, Kim Catrall, Kay Parker, Juliet Anderson, Loni Sanders, Lacey Chabert, and the senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Sorry Bill.

I woke late again, but not late enough that I could not sign in downstairs at the front desk. This needs to be done before 9:30AM.
What happens if I don't sign in?
I sign in twice the next day. That's what I did today. I signed in on a computerized screen for yesterday and today. No problem.
That ordeal over with, I walked up to the Hollymart on 5th Street (The Nickel) and bought the Sunday edition of the L.A. Times, it being Sunday and all.
I took it to my room on the 5th floor, "The Veteran's Floor," of the 10 story building. I didn't start reading the paper right away. I began to write this account again. This is the 4th attempt. If you're reading this it means I was successful in stopping my use of nicotine and sexual fantasy to escape the confines of my dreary life, and became un-homeless, and doing all without lying about anything (unless manipulation of what is generally considered to be the truth for comedic purposes).
I started lying the last time and had to stop.
I stopped writing for a while and cleaned my small room. Just a little. We are not allowed to have mops or brooms as they could be used as weapons.
Anything can used as a weapon.
Someone knocked on my door, but I didn't answer. I hadn't finished cleaning.
When I did finish cleaning, I opened my door and stuck my small wastebasket between it and the door frame so it wouldn't close. With the window open a slight breeze tended to cool my room. John Monzano came in and took a seat on my bed. I hadn't seen him for 4 days, and had thought he had gone to Camarillo to visit his mother. I was supposed to have accompanied him, but couldn't locate him last Friday. I had isolated in my room since last Wednesday, and had ignored all knocking at my door, and so thought I would need to make an extravagant explanation concerning my whereabouts, or lack thereof.
However, I took the offensive and chided him for not taking me to Camarillo.
"Didn't you get my Email?" he asked helplessly.
"No... I didn't get any Email!" I hadn't checked since last Tuesday.
He hadn't gone because his mom had decided to fumigate her house over the weekend. I did get him to apologize for not being around last Friday, even though I had no intention of going with him to Camarillo if he had gone.
But he didn't know that.
At one point he asked, "Hey, you wanta see Genghis Khan?"
"Already saw him," I told him. "At the museum."
"You did? Damn. What Museum?"
"The one that had the Genghis Khan exhibit. It was free even."
"Yup. Every second Tuesday of the month it's free," I explained.
"It's past the second Tuesday now," he said.
"Don't worry." I soothed. "Another will come around. It happens almost every month."
"Are you gonna see Seabiscuit?" he asked after awhile.
"I guess. Why?"
"Its got Nick Nolte in it?"
"Nick Nolte? So what?"
"I just wanted to know if you were going to go see it," John said.
"What part does Nick Nolte have?" I hadn't heard he was in the film.
"I don't know... the horse maybe."
"I know Toby Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and Chris..."
"It's Jeff Bridges."
"What'ya mean, it's Jeff Bridges. You said it was Nick Nolte..."
"It's Jeff Bridges. I thought it was Nick Nolte..."
"You said Nick Nolte. Jeff Bridges is a whole different deal than Nick Nolte!"
"I know. I made a mistake. It's Jeff Bridges."
"Are you sure?" I teased.
"Yes. I'm sure now. It's Jeff Bridges."
"Because Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges look an awful lot alike, you know..."
On and on.
We went to lunch together. Fish patties and fries down in the cafeteria. I choose not to eat the two cookies offered, as I'm trying to eat a healthier diet.
John left me at the door when we finished eating.
"I gotta do something. I'll be up later," he assured me.
"You gonna call your mom?" I asked.
"Don't worry. I got you covered."
I didn't see him for the rest of the day.
I finished writing for the day and starting reading the paper.
Later I used the computer in the Day Room to check my Email. I found John's message and erased it. I looked up who the creator of Allen Quatermain was, and checked out the Amnesty International web site. I subscribed to some electronic newspapers concerning several human rights issues. They were free, which was almost too much for me to afford right now.
I listened to classical music all afternoon. I don't know much about classical music, but I find it soothing. Franz Liszt's piano concerto #1, in E flat was very nice.
I didn't turn my TV on until 7:00PM, to watch "Futurama," a very clever show. At 8:30 I witnessed the United States premiere of "Bonzi," a Fox Japanese gambling show, whose star is the announcer. It will either be a hit or off the air in 3 weeks. Noting the current average American television audience, this show will be on for years and years.
At 9:00 I decided to sleep for a couple of hours until 11:00 when the "X-Files," came on. I fell asleep while watching "Malcolm in the Middle," with guest star Jason Alexander, currently playing in the Los Angeles production of Mel Brooks' "The Producers." I dreamt of Odalys Garcia, the wonderful Cuban-American ballet dancer and Spanish television personality, and now singer. She's very pretty... for a girl, and very nice. In my dream we were reclining on a velvet sofa and she was feeding me grapes.
My alarm woke me at 11:00, and I watched the Run Lola Run/Groundhog Day "X-Files" episode, with the guy who used to be on "Northern Exposure." Moulder's water bed was very funny, and it's true, he shouldn't of had one on any floor except the 1st.
I had a water bed break on me once. I had moved in with my ex-wife's Aunt Debra, and was filling it while drinking beer.
I fell asleep and woke up just in time to see the giant bubble burst. Gallons of water careened throughout the house.
It was horrible. It was a good thing I knew how to swim.

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