Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Skid Row Diary 5

July 17th   Thursday  Day 5

  "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday." -John Wayne

   I woke to the delightful visage of ship's counselor Deanna Troi, on loan from the Enterprise Galaxy Class Cruiser, to help the father of holistic doctors learn humility.
   My god, it was good to see her!
   Of course I'm speaking of the beautiful and talented British actress, Marina Sirtis, who was making a rare guest appearance on "Star Trek Voyager."
   Gosh! What memories she stirs.
   But how in the hell did she get all the way to the Delta Quadrant where the Voyager starship was trying to make it back to the Federation in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants? Answer me that people!
   I listened to Gustave Holst while writing and following through my normal morning routine. Frank Sontag, Mark and Brian's engineer, and early Monday morning host of his own program, had gone to see the independent hit film, "Whale Rider," and Kelly Gates, Mark and Brian's lovely news lady, will be off to Vegas again this weekend.
   I may accompany John Manzano to Camarillo Friday to visit his mom, eat a lot of good food, and watch cable television. However, John seems less enthusiastic about going the closer the weekend approaches. We shall see.
   Don McLean's almost perfect song, "American Pie," keeps going through my head, as well as Black Oak Arkansas' ""Hot and Nasty." I don't know why.
   Giselle was back to pants today, unfortunately. Corduroys it seemed.
   "But she looks real good in those pants," John Manzano declared, as we waited to go to breakfast.
   "That's not the point!" I burst out.
   But she did look good in pants. Giselle Blondet, like most beautiful women, would look good to most human men wearing almost anything! A dirty burlap bag would not be without a certain appeal. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't mind seeing her dressed in a dir... never mind. I'm trying to get better.
   Scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast. Orange juice instead of milk.
   John departed to... well, I don't know where he went. I walked past the Flower Market on Maple, between 7th and 8th, to the One Stop at 9th and Hill. I got there just as it opened, and was careful to sit at a computer whose screen faced the young resource center attendant, allowing him to fully see what I was up to with just a casual glance, further undermining his impression of the previous day.
   I was good today, of course. No pictures, although I still need a few of Aimee Mann and Phoebe Augustine, and Jackie Joseph... and others. Just a few. I made some revisions to my resume and checked my Email.
   I found another Weingart veteran, a young black kid named Oliver there. He was currently living in the dorm I had bunked in upon my arrival at the center. He told me Gary Porch had not returned to the center last weekend after starting another drunken bender, and was presumed to be incarcerated, although for what change he did not know.
   For being drunk probably.
   Gary was a young white guy in his mid-thirties, an ex-fighter, he had told me. He lived in the dorm that Oliver was living in now, and that I had lived in before I got my own room.
   Gary spent his days working at temp labor jobs all around Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. He saved all the money he made during the week, then spent it all boozing it up during the weekend until he was broke, and when Monday morning came he would start the process all over again.
   I recently tried to take him to the movies at Citywalk above Universal Studios in North Hollywood. Before the show started we sat in the bowling ally they have there, and Gary had a drink. We went to the show, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," and he disappeared. I didn't see him again until the following week.
   Apparently that first drink set him off, and he had to have some more.
   At least he had his priorities in order.
   Next I was on my way to Pasadena via a hop on the 71 at 8th and Spring to City Hall, where I caught the 485, which deposited me unceremoniously at Lake and Colorado, just east of Old Town. The trip was without incident, taking approximately 45 minutes, winding north on Oak Knoll Blvd., and passing some of the most beautiful houses in California this side of Beverly Hills.
   "Are you content?" I asked the people who lived in those houses as we passed. "Are you aware of your lives?"
   I walked from Lake to Hill and the campus of Pasadena City College, and with surprising ease discovered the Admissions and Records Office, where I ordered the official transcripts of the English 101 class I has taken in 1993. They would mail it to me. It cost me 3 bucks. I was outraged. It's free in L.A. County I cried to no avail.
   I wasted no time in Pasadena today. The memory of having lived there had been tainted by too many unfortunate events. The town does not hold any appeal to me any longer. I caught another 401 and was back downtown within 30 minutes.
   I was let off at 5th and Grand, right next to the Central Library. I walked inside and used the restroom. I also looked for a reference book in the Art/Recreation Department, but had no luck finding it. I briefly visited the new photographic exhibit, "100 Years of Hollywood," the Watson Family archives. I liked the picture of Marilyn Monroe taken at some sporting event. She was very pretty... for a girl. A talented comedic actress as well.
   No mail today. I visited Pershing Square just as the afternoon music show began. The group El Chicano was playing to a large crowd trying to find spots of shade from the hot solar activity.
   It was too hot for me too. I had mainly came to look for McCree, but I didn't see him, and left to have lunch back at the Weingart.
   Roast beef.
   I checked in at the Housing Authority office before heading back to Voc Rehab for my 2:00 appointment with Stacy Tran.
   "You can call me Miss Tran," Stacy told me. A petite little thing, Irish I believe. We basically went over the paperwork I had completed last night. I wore a blank expression and didn't act up, or tell any jokes, in accordance with my claim of suffering from chronic depression. It must have worked as she mentioned at one point, "I'd like to see you smile more."
   "I'll try," I replied wistfully. "I'll try."
   She went over everything. Work history, drug history, life history, medical history. My unsuccessful criminal career. My suicide attempt in 2001. My arrest for petty theft last year. How embarrassing!
   She was very nice though, and seemed to be truly interested in helping me after getting a taste of what I was about. I signed a release for information from the Downtown Mental Health office, and the VA Clinic. She photocopied my ID and Social Security card, and told me to wait for an evaluation test appointment date to be mailed to me.
   And that was that.
     I took the bus back downtown and to the Weingart, thankful to get out of the heat. The bus passed over a bridge as a liquid container train passed underneath, and a little girl sitting next to her mother exclaimed, "Cho cho!"
   In my room I turned my fan on and did a little yoga and some push ups before microwaving me up some jalapeno cheese bread.
   John Manzano came to my room at 4:15 to bother me.
   "Why aren't you watching the news?" he asked me. He believes I should watch the programs he likes to watch because he is currently without his own television. He is wrong.
   "Broadcast news sucks," I told him. I pointed to a copy of yesterday's paper and told him. "There's the news. Read that."
   "It's a day old," he said.
   "It's two days old," I pointed out. "But the world still turns even though we are not current."
   He won't watch the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS. "It's boring," he tells me.
   We went to dinner. Odd meatloaf. I didn't know if it was burned or marinated in yuck.
   I took a little nap during Part 2 of the Kelly and Al Spring break episode of "Married with Children." A direct result of waking at 3:00AM. A short rest is all I need to clear my head. I was up by 6:00. I found a letter addressed to me at John Manzano's address in Camarillo on the floor. John had slid it under my door while I was napping. I'd been waiting for this and was happy that it had arrived. I read the paper while watching television... a unique talent I possess which used to drive my girlfriend Jan crazy. At 8:00 I turned to a documentary on the life and career of John Wayne. Very interesting. I've always felt kindly toward Mr. Wayne, and have defended him on numerous occasions from American Indian advocates.
   "He's not really killing them," I would say.
   I don't know why I like him. He liked Hispanic women. An alcoholic, depressive. Sailed on a minesweeper. Ruggedly handsome. We hardly had anything in common.
   Insecure and ashamed for not serving in the military during World War II, then portraying soldiers in that conflict, he overcompensated by becoming a right wing stooge and propaganda instrument for the government.
   But everybody who came into contact with him, no matter of what political bent, liked him. A classy guy who allowed himself to be lampooned at Harvard during his final years. He lies now, a victim of intestinal cancer (some sources say lung. He did smoke 5 packs of cigarettes a day), in an unmarked grave for many years contrary to his wishes, but now has a headstone with the above quote, his quote, engraved upon it.
   A program about Earth-killer asteroids next, hosted by Jerry Orbach of all people. Unfortunately I learned we're all gonna die in the year 2071 when Asteroid 2000SG344 collides with our planet. That's a shame.
   I don't expect to be alive when it happens, which is too bad for me as I'd really like to see it. 
   I fell asleep while watching a documentary on Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Many people think he was the first to stand up to the all powerful Catholic Church. He might have been the first to survive the effort, but it had been done previously, like 100 years before Luther in Czechoslovakia. But that guy got burned at the stake. The Catholic Church was very intolerant in those days and thought it was alright to ignore the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."
   Why do you think that is?
   No really, I want to know. Please tell me.
   I went to sleep and I dreamt I was Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest standing around minding my own business, when the main cast of "Star Trek, the Next Generation," beamed down. Captain Picard introduced himself and his crew.
   I said, "Oh jolly good. I'm Hood... Robin Hood."
   "Yes, we know who you are and it's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Hood."
   "Would you care for something to eat," I asked.
   "Why that would be fine," Picard replied.
   We dined mightily while my minstrel played softly in the background: [singing] "Bravely bold Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot. He was not afraid to die, oh brave Sir Robin. He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways, brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin. He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp, or to have his eyes gouged out, and his elbows broken. To have his kneecaps split, and his body burned away, and his limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Robin. His head smashed in and heart cut out, and his liver removed, and his bowels unplugged, and his nostrils raped and his bottom burned off and his penis...
   I interrupted, "That's, uh, that's enough music for now."
   It was like something out of a Monty Python movie.
   The beautiful half-Betazoid, ship's counselor Deanna Troi came up to me. She was wearing the uniform she wore in the show's pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint," which you can see in the above picture, and which was a mini-skirt, like the uniforms for women in the first "Star Trek," program with Kirk and Spock. I thought this was very odd at first due to the fact that Counselor Troi never wore that uniform again on any other episode.
   I did not complain though.
   "Oh Robin... I hear you're ever so good with a bow and arrow. Will you show me?"
   "Of course my dear." I fired off three quick shots at a squirrel, an unladened swallow, the Sheriff of Nottingham who'd been sneaking about.
   "Will you teach me how to shoot?" she asked pleadingly, clear unadulterated admiration filled her lovely brown Betazoid eyes.
   "Of course my dear."
   I slipped behind her and showed her how to hold the bow and arrow, and how to aim and fire. She fired off one shot, hitting her target of a giant oak with my help, filled with excited delight.
   "Go ahead," I said. "Try it by yourself."
   I stood to one side as she pulled back the bow, arrow aimed and ready... then she let lose.
   I looked down at the shaft sticking out of my chest. My eyes filled with a deepening darknesss.
   "Oh I'm so sorr..." I heard her saying as I entered the void.

18  July  Friday   Day 6

   The Asteroid Marooned Klingon Girl episode of Voyager this morning. Very exciting. I roused myself enough to do a little yoga and light exercise while watching her being rescued. I immediately showered afterward having worked up a tremendous quantity of sweat from my efforts.
   I wrote and listened to classical music after my refreshing wash. Specifically I wrote about yesterday while listening to a clarinet concerto composed by Arron Copeland, commissioned by Benny Goodman. A peaceful, unobtrusive piece.
   I'd like to take this opportunity to point out the fact that on this date in 64 AD Rome had it's greatest fire.
   Thank you.
   I meditated before switching my radio dial over to Mark and Brian. I needed to get that out of the way before those two knuckleheads got me all agitated.
   Mark continues his roll by misidentifying the lead actor in the film "Operation Petticoat," the pink submarine comedy staring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. Mark thought it was Clark Gable. Well they do look alike. They both have two arms, two legs, and a face, and both talk kind of funny. Gable was in his very own submarine movie, "Run Silent, Run Deep," with Burt Lancaster. Both are fine films.
   One of my favorite character actors, Arthur O'Connell (Brittany's grandfather) appeared in the petticoat film. He used a bra to fix the engine.
   Giselle Blondet wore pants for the second day in a row. What's more, she hid behind a table for the first half hour of Desperita, making me wait until 7:30 to see her. All of her.
   I left the building taking my black backpack with me and walked north to 5th, east to Town, then north again to 4th, avoiding camped out homeless, streams of urine on the sidewalk (one of the larger points of contention between the Coalition of the Homeless (the homeless union) and the city is the number of available chemical toilets in the Skid Row area. Considering the financial condition of the city and state (and the Federal government for that matter) the homeless will more than likely be forced to get tough before any concessions are made), and people asking me for spare change, or if I wanted to purchase drugs.
   "I'm straight," I tell the drug sellers (translation: "I'm okay at the moment, but might be back later when my current supply of illegal psychoactive substances diminishes.").
   "I don't have any change" (translation: "Are you insane!? I'm as homeless as you are. You give me some money!"), I tell the beggars.
   I had to walk around quite a bit before finding the HOP office (Homeless Outreach Program). I hadn't been there since last year and had forgotten their exact location. As it happened ("As it's supposed to happen," Bokonon sings to us), the office is just a stones throw away from the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple on 3rd Street.
   I entered the HOP office and asked for a referral  to see a dentist at the Buddhist Dental Clinic in Alhambra.
   I have no service connected disability from my years in the navy and am therefore not entitled to dental service at the Veteran's Administration. My teeth can rot as far as my government is concerned. Fortunately, Buddhists are more compassionate than my government which I served so faithfully and at great peril for four long years out of my inevitably short life span.
   The receptionist told me I would have to wait until 10:30 to make the appointment as that was when the clinic began taking calls. It was then just 8:00, so I told her I would be back later, and took off for the Red Line station at Pershing Square.
   The quickest way to get there was to catch an 18 or 53 bus at 5th and Central, right next to the Salvation Army's Harbor Light Center. As I approached I saw that Harbor Light was in the midst of a fire drill, and all of the "clients," and staff were lining up on the sidewalk next to the "Catch 21," seafood restaurant next to the center. I recognized many of the staff members, but kept my distance not wanting to be recognized. Leo Collins, the veteran's rep walked close by at one point. I remembered  our last conversation just two days before I left the facility when he demanded I start paying rent, $19 a day to be exact. Plus two months back rent, all coming to over a thousand dollars. A thousand bucks to continue to live within a program environment which closely monitored my every move, curfew at 10:00, bed checks at night, no smoking in the building, etc, etc, etc. I had reminded Leo that the center was still receiving payments from the V.A. and the Department of Social Services on my behalf and that he was essentially asking for a double payment. He vehemently denied that Harbor Light was receiving anything since I had began working two months previously. Our conversation ended there. There had been no point in arguing. I immediately left the center without paying them a nickel, and promptly relapsed within the dark mysterious confines of the Cecil Hotel. But my point to Leo had been correct as I was currently paying the DPSS back for those two months, which of course means the Harbor Light had been being paid.
   And life goes on.
   The 18 collected me, which took me to the Red Line, which I took all the way to the last stop in North Hollywood. From there the 156 to Van Nuys Blvd. and Vanowen in the city of Van Nuys, very close to the very center of the densely populated San Fernando Valley. At that intersection is a 99 Cent store that I frequent. There I picked up 2 boxes of Irish Breakfast Tea, 1 can of meatballs in tomato sauce, 1 can of whole kernel corn, a can of beef stew, and a can of cheese ravioli.
   I also got some coffee, a blank VCR tape, a package of smoked sausage links, 2 packages of Luis Frank Turkey Cotto salami, 3 bags of microwave popcorn, 2 blank audio cassette tapes, 5 packs of spicy chicken Top Ramen, and one container of Arm & Hammer toothpaste with baking soda.
   I put all of this stuff into my backpack before catching the 165 west to Tampa and the front door of the Trimar Blood and Plasma Center, a division of Trimar Hollywood, itself a division of the RAMJAC Corporation.
   I've come to Trimar and it's prior incarnations for over 20 years, since I got out of the navy in 1982. I have a crater in the middle of my left arm to prove it. Donating blood plasma is my major source of income when between jobs. And it's tax free!
   I walked inside the block like white building, and signed my name to the donor's list, then sat in the waiting room and waited. The Farrelly Brother's "Shallow Hal," was playing on the wall mounted television. This film starred the lovely and talented Gwenth Paltrow. I'd seen it many times, so I took out the new book I had started reading on the train, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther."
   It made me sleepy.
   I was expecting to be called up to the desk shortly, and was.
   "Did you bring your proof of address today, Mr. Joyce?" the young intake specialist, a plump, Hispanic girl asked me.
   I handed her the letter I had mailed to myself addressed to John Manzano's mother's house in Camarillo.
   "This is my new address," I told her.
   She looked at it for a moment noticing the postage stamp and the Veteran's Administration's return address which I had written in, and said, "Okay," and walked off to have it photocopied.
   For some reason unknown to me, upon my annual exam and screening a few weeks ago, The Weingart's address was deemed unacceptable to Trimar. "It's not a permanent address," I was told. I countered with, no address is really permanent... and that I had been living there since January, and would continue for several more months, at which time when I moved I would update my personal info. My argument fell on deaf ears. I was told I would no longer be able to donate until I provided proof of an address that was acceptable to them. I could have taken my case to one of the co-owners of the center, Anna. After all, 20 years does give me some leeway, but I didn't feel like getting her involved in a matter that so easily taken care of by buying a stamp and mailing a letter.
   Due to their own rigid policies they were getting less of what those policies required, namely a permanent address, as a matter of fact they were getting an address where I didn't live at all.
   There's a lesson to be learned here. Do not be rigid in your efforts to seek truth.
   She came back with my envelope and everything appeared hunky dory. I was subsequently finger pricked to verify that I indeed had some blood, and the iron, protein, and fat levels within that blood were satisfactory. A little later my vital signs were measured (192 pounds: could stand to lose a few; BP: 110/70 good; pulse: still had one, good; temp: 97 cold) and asked if I had severe acute respiratory syndrome, or had recently been fooling around with HIV carriers. No on both counts. I asked my interviewer to count the number of times I had donated since coming to Trimar. It being a relatively slow day, she said she would.
   She only counted the last 100 times, but not my entire history with the company. The 100 donations were good enough to get me an extra $10 today though for a grand total of $30 I would receive after donating.
   I waited a while longer and was soon directed to a donation couch. "The Matrix," starring the enigmatic Carrie Anne Moss, was on the television.
   My beautiful Romanian friend, Aurica, a brunette in her mid thirties,  came over and stuck a big needle in my left arm. My whole blood spewed out of me through a tube into a centrifuge machine which separated the plasma from my red blood cells, then pumped those cells back into me. This process automatically repeated until it had collected the required amount of plasma determined by my body weight. The whole process takes between 30 to 45 minutes depending mainly on how hydrated I was at the time.
   When I was finished Aurica unstuck me.
   "You know, they find new use for plasma products to help people with emphysema?" she asked in her cute little Romanian accent.
   "No, I didn't know that. Really?"
   "Yes, yes. It's true."
   "My mother could have used that," I told her. My poor mother had passed away eight years ago from cardio pulmonary disease more than likely brought on after 40 years plus of smoking cigarettes.
   "Your mother... she has emphysema?" she asked.
   "She may have had it," I told her. My mom used oxygen the last few years of her life. She died in a hospital with my sister, Cheryl, close by.
   It is one of, if not the greatest regret of my life that I had caused her so much pain because of my drinking. She hadn't deserved that.
   The last time I saw her I was drunk.
   "Did she smoke?" Aurica asked.
   "Yes... yes, she did," I told my pretty friend.
   "Oh, that is too bad. I never, never smoke. You don't smoke do you?"
   "Not today," I told her.
   She bandaged me up, and I thanked her and left after collecting my $30 and a can of delicious mango juice.
   I waited 45 minutes across the street for the bus on Vanowen to take me back to Van Nuys Bl. where I went back to the 99 Cent Store to buy two packages of frozen pizza rolls which would be my dinner.
   I retraced the steps it took to get me back downtown and found myself at 42nd and Grand in New York City with no friendly neighborhood Spiderman to help me. Before leaving the 7th Street Red Line Station I purchased a gold dollar coin from the gold and silver dollar coin machine they have there. This would be destined for a small plastic container in my room that was molded to resemble a certain farm animal. That was my bank.
   I got back to the Weingart by 3:00, and rested, napping a little.
   John Manzano had ditched me and was nowhere to be found. He had probably received his unemployment check at the same time he received my envelope from his mom's house, and was currently overcome with financial freedoms and had taken off to perform nefarious solitary activities. "Fun activities," my lovely case manager would say.
   The dinning hall was not serving dinner tonight. They didn't tell me why. So at 5:00 I ate those pizza rolls. They were good. I wish I had some right now.
   I watched the Jefferson lotto episode on "Married with Children," while reading last Sunday's book review section from the Times. Charlie Rose was interviewing some historian which I found dreadfully uninteresting, so I switched to the radio, KFI, an AM talk station, and the Phil Hendry Show, which aired from 7:00 to 10:00.
   Phil has a unique program I have to hand it to him. He's a voice artist who each night interviews himself in various different character modes in comedy skits.
   Tonight he was interviewing himself acting as a Korean War veteran who thought it appropriate to tailgate a woman driving slow in the left hand lane causing the cars to collide when she applied her brakes, thus "teaching her a lesson she would not soon forget!"
   This sketch was in response to the tragic mishap in Santa Monica when an elderly gentleman lost control of his vehicle, sending it directly through a crowded flea market causing 10 deaths and 40 injuries.
   An actual policeman called into the show to contradict Hendry's guest, The Korean war vet, not catching on that Phil had been interviewing himself.
   The same thing happened to me when I first heard Phil's program while driving around Bullhead City AZ, where I was living at the time. Hendry had been interviewing a Palestinian who had been complaining that he and his friends had run out of rocks to throw at Israelis who would not give them their rocks back.
   I fell asleep early, being very tired because I do so much important stuff and fun activities, and dreamt I was at Giselle Blondet's house, who for some reason was wearing a slinky burlap sack.
   It looked itchy.

1 comment:

  1. Nice start guys...I went through the website and Flower shop Van Nuys
    I found that you made decent point here. Keep up the topic that everyone can choose one of the best. Thanks.