Saturday, March 30, 2013

Skid Row Diary 10

July 26  2003       Saturday  Day 14

   Well, I didn't go to Trimar yesterday and I needed some cash so I would have to go today, although riding around on a bus in the hot weather didn't appeal to me.
   Nothing appealed to me. Not even staying in my room and isolating.
   I slept through breakfast, and didn't leave the building until 9:30, the sign in deadline. I brought along the Rama book in my backpack so I could read and not have to think about anything.
   First I picked up a whole bunch of stuff at the 99 Cent Store. Beef stew, cheese ravioli, tamales, chile mac, all of that canned. 2 coffees, 4 teas, 3 audio cassette tapes, and 2 video. A bottle of jalapeno peppers, etc. My backpack was full and heavy as I left the store and waited at the bus stop for 165.
   It took its time in getting to me. I was a sweaty, limp puddle when it got to me.
   "Forrest Gump," had just began as I entered the plasma center. A film I had once owned and had seen 483 times, but which still affected me in different ways each time I saw it. Today I was interested in how the other characters in the film reacted and intermixed with Forrest, especially the Robin Wright character, Jenny. Tom Hanks was very lucky to work with such a great supporting cast.
   I must admit I got a little misty near the end... again. Tom Hanks breaks character a little bit during the grave seen and talks like Hanks rather than Forrest... just a little, but the scene is still very effective.
   It's embarrassing to be in a room filled with fellow derelicts having our blood sucked out of us and getting misty.
   Damn movie.
   My friend Aurica was busy working in another room and had no time for me today.
   I was ready to go when the film ended. My blood timed this perfectly.
   I purchased a Super Lotto ticket at the 7-11 across the street. I hadn't eaten all day so I also purchased a "green burrito" whatever that is. It wasn't green and looked like a regular burrito to me. I heated it in the microwave they had there, paid for it, took it outside to a shady spot to enjoy it, all the while looking out for the bus that would take me back to Van Nuys.
   I finished the burrito and was then thirsty. The bus hadn't arrived and was due. If I went inside the store to get a cold soda or something the bus would surely come and leave me there. So I waited some more.
   In the hot sun, the heat reflecting nicely off of the concrete sidewalk around me. I watched two buses come and leave going in the opposite direction.
   I waited some more.
   In the hot penetrating sun... sun of the mid-afternoon.
   I began to feel slightly sick from the green burrito I had just eaten.
   I waited and waited.
   At that point I waited some more.
   And then just a little bit more.
   And one more time I waited.
   The bus finally came... no two buses came, one right behind the other, which made no sense whatsoever. I got in the one that stopped  as the other leapfrogged ahead.
   Hot, tired, exhausted... drained of life giving plasma, I made it back to the Weingart by 4:00. I ate dinner then went to my room. I watched police chase dangerous criminals on Fox television. Then "The Hungry Cat Curse" episode of "The X-Files."
   At 8:00 I watched the most beautiful blonde woman in the history of the universe in a remake of "Mighty Joe Young," a big gorilla movie.
   Maybe I missed it, I was fairly busy, but I don't think any explanation was given for Joe's size. Gorilla's usually grow to 15 feet tall, do they? I mean the characters in the film thought his size was unusual too, except Ms Young, Joe's lifetime friend, but nobody asked why he was so big. Radiation like the giant ants in "Them!?" A glandular problem?
   Just one more thing I had to worry about.
   I went to sleep immediately after the movie was over, and dreamed I was dancing with Charlize Theron 10 years in the future at the Academy Awards.

July 27           Sunday    Day 15

   A wasted day for me. I felt down, and wondered what the hell was the matter with me. I can't last 2 weeks without back sliding into depression which initiates other useless behavior, which further depresses me.
   Why me? Why did I have to be like this?
   My mind is my own worst enemy. You have to be like something, I tell myself. Not everyone can be happy. We've been taught, conditioned since birth, that there is a good and bad way to live. If you want to have a good happy life all you have to do is conform, believe as everyone else does, value what everyone else values. Work hard, obey all laws, be patriotic, don't ask too many questions, have simple friendships, get married, have children, raise them to do exactly as you have done. Do all that you can to be happy and think your life has real meaning. When you die you'll have family and friends who will grieve and miss you for a week or two, then they'll forget you, except maybe on your birthday, and they will live their own lives until they die and are forgotten.
   What's the point? Might as well have remained a whiff of undifferentiated nothingness. As Kurt Vonnegut points out, "Watch out for life."
   My mind, my worst enemy, will kill me if I let it. Like a virus that kills it's host, it doesn't know what's good for it.
   I take arrogant pleasure in not being a conformist, by not valuing what most in my country values, what most of them cherish and believe, what makes most of them happy. My arrogant pleasure turns to dull pain readily. My conditioning makes me wish to conform, to be just like "normal people," who I suppose are all devastatingly serene, secure in their likeness, their greed, their love. My mind tells me correctly that there is no such thing as a "normal people." It is a fantasy, a fiction, perpetrated by those who don't wish to think about anything too much. To make the rest of us feel guilty for believing differently. There's no end to what my mind will do to kill me. It's very resourceful and elastic. Back and forth, over and over. Dumb mind. I don't know what to think anymore. Every course of action seems futile and no longer worth any effort. No thought is reassuring, no thoughts that aren't teaming with doubt and insecurity. What's the point? Always back to that question. What's the damn point of it all?
   Vonnegut also tells us the point of life is to be the eyes and ears of God. But Vonnegut, admittedly, is full of crap, and that he doesn't know what's really going on anymore than I do, or anyone else.
   Some people know how to be happy though. I know there's a few out there who are content.
   My mind tries to tell me that with all of the problems in the world, real problems... pain, poverty, suffering, indifference, famine, ignorance, over population, hate, impatience, that my little worries don't add up to a hill of beans.
   That's my mind trying to kill me again.
   And my mind tells me, on top of everything else, that I'm getting old. That I don't have very much time left to do anything significant. If Don Vose, my counselor at the Rancho Antonio Boys Home and self proclaimed mystic, has his way, I only have about 4 years left to live (he read my palm, so it must be true), the miserable son of a bitch.
   My mind's right on that one, I am getting old, but so is the universe. So is everyone else.
   So what to do? What to do?
   I watched a whole bunch of crappy movies, that's what.
   First, "Bloodsport," starring Kate Vernon, then "The Pennsylvania Miners Story," which oddly enough concerned some miners in Pennsylvania.
   After that, having switched channels to a Jackie Chan movie on channel 13, at 9:28, unbeknownst to me, Bob Hope died, not too far from where I was laying down on my rack. I wouldn't know about that until tomorrow afternoon when I was writing while listening to the radio. NPR to be exact, so my dreams tonight were not affected by his passing.
   Instead I dreamt I was in the middle of a vicious pillow fight with Kelly Bundy, from "Married with Children," Tiffany Malloy, from "Unhappily Ever After," and Chrissy Snow from "Three's Company."
   Hey, I have no control over this stuff. They're dreams.

July 28        Monday   Day 16

   Mr. Hope was one of those individuals who had been there, been around, off and on, for my entire life. He was already 53 when I was born, with most of his greatest work already behind him (yet with one more “Road” picture to be made 6 years later. Although he was not my favorite comedian of that era (Jack Benny has that distinction, Laruel and Hardy next)), I never the less enjoyed his work immensely, and looked forward to seeing him whenever I could. Most of the reason he held such a dear place in my heart was due to the work he did in the films he made before I was born, and later discovered via local television broadcasts. His many years of work in radio (a career in itself) was lost to me, and his many TV specials on NBC were not all that enjoyable. Born in London, he was an Angelino since the 30s, I would often see his Toluca Lake estate from the hills of Universal Studios.
   On the occasion of his 100th birthday, 2 months ago, several television specials had aired on NBC, and PBS, which I had watched, so I did have the opportunity, as did the country, to get reacquainted with him and his work, just before his passing it turns out. I had at one time quite a few of the films he made with Bing Crosby on video tape, but I’ve lost them, along with almost all of my other possessions, due to my erratic lifestyle.
   What a life he lived! What a good man he was, despite being a human being. I will miss knowing he was still alive.
   Gregory Peck, Katherine Hepburn, David Brinkley, Buddy Ebsen & Hackett, already gone to us this year.
   Now if we can only get rid of Rickles…
   I was writing in my room, the only part of the day not wasted, when I heard of Mr. Hope’s death. I was stunned, and couldn’t move for a moment or two.  He was old, yes… 100 is no joke, but to actually die… how rude. Very inconsiderate and selfish if you ask me. We needed him and he went away.
   I suppose he can be forgiven. He had earned a good rest.
   I wish his spirit well, although I don’t believe in spirits. I wish his family well, and indeed, and I really hate to say this but it’s apt and true, thank you for all of the memories. Not only your work, but for whatever I was doing when I watched it, and for the kind of life you led, for all the Christmas’s you spent away from home entertaining our troops, for all the laughs, all the jokes, for the kind of man you were. A true inspiration.
   And I was inspired. After the sadness, and after I started ruminating upon my own life once again, I didn’t exactly make a decision, that never works, but came to an understanding that it’s alright to be me, I don’t need to pretend to be anybody else. I only need to expect what is possible for me to do. That’s all. It still won’t be easy because I am capable of doing a lot of stuff, I know that about myself. But it will be better than trying to live continuously to what I am not, and could hardly be. I’ll never be an astronomer, rock star, great writer, male prostitute, billionaire, movie star or director. I am a good man with a good heart, which is enough. The only thing I’ve studied my entire life was literature, so I will continue to study and learn more about it, from other people, when I return to school, and not try as hard to learn about law, although I won’t give that up either.
   I felt like a big, huge, old weight had been taken from me, and I felt much better. I was happy. I smiled.
   I then took a break from writing and finished the “Rama Revealed,” book. The death of the protagonist, Nicole des Jardins and her husband, got me kind of misty. All of the characters in the novels, except Katie, were rather cartoonish, but still… we’d been through so much together.
   Later when I slept I dreamt I was on the road to Morocco with Dorothy Lamour.

July 29    Tuesday   Day 17

   I spoke to Larry yesterday, my new job developer. I went to our 10:00 appointment only to be told that he wasn’t there, and to come back at 1:00. I was told that he was at a meeting.
   I then walked to the One Stop to check  my Email. Nothing. No messages from John Manzano either. I called Mr. Porter at the Food Stamp Appeals office and was told I was liable for $403 in food stamps, even though I had never received them. I had expected this. I told Mr. Porter to cancel my hearing.
   When I saw Larry at 1:00 he faxed my resume off for a customer service job, and made an appointment for me to return Monday at 8:00.
   I began reading Stephen King’s “Everything’s Eventual,” today. A short story compilation. I read “1408,” a pretty scary one concerning a hotel room which was the home of a decidedly antisocial entity, that had killed 30 or so paying guests over the years. Technically, a difficult story to pull off… how can an empty room be a good antagonist? How can it be so deadly within such a short period of time? Half of the effect was in the well written set up prior to the room being visited, one quarter was what happened in the room itself, and the rest by the reader wondering what it was that was wrong with room 1408, which King wisely left a mystery.
    King said this story scared him when he wrote it. I have no doubt of it.
   I still did not get much accomplished today. I’m biding my time, getting ready to spring upon the world like a coiled cobra.
   I did buy today’s Times, and read for most of the afternoon about the life and career of Bob Hope.
   Gary Porch returned to us. He’d spent the last two weeks as a guest of the Orange County Sherriff’s Department, due to some warrant issue. Apparently he made a nuisance of himself while drunk, got arrested, gave the cops hell, and now must attend Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) meetings, and abide by all of the rules and regulations of the Weingart’s Veterans Program, or he goes back to the slammer for 6 months.  
   After dinner I took a little nap and had a dream in which I was interviewing  the  lovely actress Nikki Cox for the position of personal masseur.  As I was about to get a demonstration of her considerable talents giving massages, I woke up (damn it!).
   It was 7:00. Later I watched an interesting program on PBS about the possibilities of dramatic climate change due to volcanic explosions leading to tangential effects such as the rise of the plague which may have been a contributing factor in the fall of the Roman Empire.
   I say, why not.
   During the evening I began to develop a slight discomfort in my chest. It wasn't painful, more like a strange pressure, like a ball of gas had lodged itself just below my sternum. I didn't think anything about it at first, but it continued throughout the night making it rather difficult to sleep. I didn't sleep, in fact I was awake, reading, or watching television until after five.

July 30   Wednesday     Day 18

   I stopped reading and switched the TV back on at 3:37, to be rewarded with the beautiful visage of Marina Sirtis, yet making another guest appearance on "Star Trek, Voyager," with that "A Team" guy, Murdock.
   I watched until it ended at four, then turned the TV and light off and attempted to sleep. I felt tired, but sleep would not come to me. The weird feeling in my chest didn't help matters any. I wasn't having a heart attack, my pulse was slow and steady. No pain really, just the nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right.
   I gave up on sleep, turned the lights back on and began reading the title story of King's book, but it became so bogged down in characterization that was not required, in my opinion, to carry the story along. I finally became so frustrated and tired that I finally drifted off at around 5:00, or so. Thank you Mr King. God bless you.
   I dreamt I was giving Mimi Rogers a massage she would not soon forget, for about 5 hours, until I woke up near 10:00. The pain, or rather the discomfort in my chest had disappeared.
   I thought about going to Trimar today. I silently talked myself out of it.
   I did see John Manzano at the front desk at lunch time. He didn't see me though, and I didn't say anything to him, thinking he'd stop by my room later. He never did.
   I spent a good portion of the day writing and listening to NPR. I also began re-reading Peter Straub's masterpiece "Ghost Story," whose title is misleading as it's actually a Gothic monster story... sort of. The quality of the writing, of expression is intimidating. "There was nothing that was not banal," instead of "everything was banal." Not bad for a guy who lives in New York.
   This is a genre novel, so the lack of humor can be forgiven I suppose. "The Haunting of Hill House," had few knee slappers within it. But I've never read a book of Straub's that was balanced, as Stephen King does so well (I still laugh every time I remember a line from "The Raft," when the protagonist was trying to fathom the origens of the aquatic oil slick creature that was hunting him... "Or maybe Arthur Godfrey pissed out some atomic bisquick..."
   Humor is always good... except at funerals.
   Unless it's Graham Chapman of Monty Python.
   John  Cleese delivered his eulogy:
   Graham Chapman, coauthor of the "Parrot Sketch", is no more. He has ceased to be. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. He's kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky. And I guess that we're all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, of such unusual intelligence, should now so suddenly be spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he'd achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he'd had enough fun.
   Well, I feel that I should say: nonsense. Good riddance to him, the free loading bastard, I hope he fries. And the reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn't, if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him, but mindless good taste...
   But I digress.
   "The word 'blowupidness,' is a word that's been bandied about a lot lately," is another good line. I heard Homer Simpson come up with that one today.
   I watched an interesting PBS two hour documentary focusing on the Watergate fiasco of thirty years ago.
   It was a foolish mistake, and Nixon deserved impeachment, but I still like him. He was predictable, smart, profane, dedicated, a true political animal. He was a tad paranoid, but just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you.
   Later, I watched a sort of debate between the man who began the Housing Authority, helping to get homeless people of the downtown area into affordable housing, and one of the developers in the area who are currently building and leasing high end lofts on the periphery of the skid row area, and who wishes to expand their jurisdiction, wishing to drive the homeless away, or make them disappear. The developer didn't understand why the homeless needed to be concentrated in one small area and wanted to farm them out to the San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica, and other such places.
   She didn't understand fully the homeless infrastructure that has developed downtown over the decades. Specifically the missions and other institutions that minister to the unfortunate people who inhabit this place, like the Union Rescue Mission, the Los Angeles Mission, the Midnight Mission, the Salvation Army's Harbor Light and Safe Harbor facilities, and the Weingart, where I find myself, and many others, all of which would be hard pressed to pick up and move to different locations.
   Of course the simpler question remains, why doesn't the developer go develop somewhere else?
   Because the city wants to get rid of it's homeless problem. LA would like nothing more than to sweep it's homeless under some big rug.
   I also watched an informative program concerning the author Gore Vidal, someone I admittedly didn't know very much about. I'd seen him in "Gattaca," of course. Who Hasn't? I feel I need to learn more about him and his work. Anybody who made William F Buckley threaten to punch them in the face bears further investigation.
   I went to sleep and dreamt that the lovely comedic actress Joanna Storm took me skinny dipping in the cement pond before we went frolicking in the forests of Mirkwood, trying to avoid the giant spiders that live there.

No comments:

Post a Comment