Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Skid Row Diary 11


July 31   Thursday     Day 19

   I got up in time to go down to the front desk and sign in for both yesterday and today, then returned upstairs to shower and dress. I had a 10:30 appointment with my caseworker at the DPSS office, and thought I might go to Trimar afterwards.
   I made a tuna sandwich for breakfast, brushed my teeth afterwards, and found John Manzano in the bathroom.
   “Where have you been man?” I asked him.
   “In Camarillo,” he told me.  “They kicked me out.”
   “They kicked you out?!”
   “Yeah. They said I was gone over seventy two hours and packed out my room.”
   We went to my room and he told me all about it.
   Much like Gary Porch, John had to get another referral from the VA Clinic to re-enter the Weingart. The Weingart claimed John hadn’t signed in since last Thursday. John maintained he had been here last Friday and had signed in. I don’t think it matters. The Weingart can throw anybody out for any reason whatsoever. If John hadn’t returned until yesterday he’d been gone well over 72 hours. It was unclear (because I forgot to ask) if John had even asked for permission for a leave of absence before going. When he found out he didn’t have a room here anymore, he spent last night at his mom’s house before returning today to be re-admitted. Fantastically he’d been assigned another private room.
   I told him I had to leave, and that I’d see him later.
   I left the building and walked to 4th Pl., to the DPSS office, arriving at 10:15. It being the last day of the month there was a long line of people waiting to enter the building. To get inside everyone had to pass through a metal detector. As for these clients, being mostly homeless and unemployed people, the county sheriffs felt no particular need to hurry the process up, as they do at the courthouse and federal building were nicer people come. One rent-a-cop was in charge of checking each person entering the building, while a whole office of sheriffs sat just behind him in their sheriff’s office jacking each other off. It took me half an hour to get inside making me 15 minutes late.
   I was not concerned. I almost didn’t bother coming at all. The only reason I did come was out of respect for my caseworker, Lydia Montoya, who had always been nice to me.
   I was here to discuss my upcoming hearing regarding my GR cash payments. The county had already begun deducting money from me in violation of its own rules. Money was not to be deducted if I had requested a hearing, which I had. I requested a hearing two days before my payment date, on June 30th to be exact.
   Since my money had already been stolen from me I would not be losing anything by not showing up, but I did because I like my caseworker.
   She called me to window 13 shortly after I checked in.
   “Hi Mr. Joyce. You’re here for your hearing?,” she asked me.
   ‘I’m here to discuss it,” I told her.
   “Fine. I’ve notified the Hearing Officer that you’re here. He should be calling you shortly.”
   I was dismissed.
   What the hell? I wasn’t here for a hearing. The letter I received indicated specifically I would be discussing the hearing with my caseworker. I had received nothing indicating, or allowing me to prepare for any type of hearing on this date and time.
   And I was going to let this so-called Hearing Officer know that, as well as a few other things I had on my mind.
   Now remember, I was well aware that I had no case whatsoever. I had not reported income last year for three months that I did work. I personally did not receive any county payments of benefits, the Salvation Army had, but that didn’t matter, and I knew it. The reason I had requested the hearing was because I disagreed with the amount the county was withholding from me. I had been lied to by the county rep who had assured me that the cash would be withheld in increments, not all at once, which was what was happening.
   So I would discuss these things at the hearing. Why not? What harm could it do?
   It seemed to me from the reaction of those county reps I had discussed this with, they seemed to be unsure of how the appeal process actually worked. Mr. Chony appeared offended that someone would challenge his assertions, and said he would not talk to me further, even though his name and phone number were indicated on the county’s Notice of Action, as the person to contact if I had any questions concerning this matter.
   So I thought about what I would say to this hearing officer when I was called, first of all I would wish to qualify his impartiality.  I waited and waited. When I got tired of thinking about what I would say, I read from “Ghost Story.”
    After an hour and a half I left the building, first asking the customer service rep to let my caseworker know that I had left, and that I would be writing to her soon to request another hearing to the county and state.
   I wasn’t going to wait for these people all day. The definition of the word “appointment” is for two parties to meet at a pre-determined time and place so neither party has to wait for the other any disproportionate amount of time. I made the mistake of assuming that county officials also understood what the word meant.
   I walked over to the HOP office to get my dental referral, and was promptly asked to return after 1:00. They were all busy gaining sustenance in order to maintain an energy level equitable with the continuance of helping homeless people.      
   Not many businesses actually close up for lunch these days. Even the DPSS doesn’t do that. But HOP does. So does the Housing Authority. So does McCree’s Service Spot.
   I caught a bus on 5th to the Arco Plaza and checked my mail. I had received my college transcripts from Pasadena. English 1A… 3 credits. I also received my social security statement, which told me that since 1973 I had earned $224,964.32, and that if I live until age 62 I would be eligible to receive $508 a month for the remainder of my life.
   Wow! I’ve got it made!
   I stopped at the Housing Authority to sign in, and the One Stop to check my voice mail. I had received a call from Time Warner who wanted me to call them back. The call came from the 714 area code. San Diego, and I was unable to return their call using the phones at One Stop.
    I went back to the Weingart and worked on this account while drinking plenty of green tea, with NPR  on the radio. John Manzano stopped by and told me he was now required to attend anger management classes as he seemed to have gone off on Labren and the social worker at the VA clinic while he was being re-admitted.
   That wasn’t all he was upset about. He’s very worried about his kids, who live in Fresno. His ex-wife won’t let him talk to them, and he’s requesting legal redress, but that’s taking a long time, and he’s concerned about his two boys being mistreated.
   He isn’t receiving any work from the Laborer’s Union, his unemployment insurance is running out (he’s going to apply for GR tomorrow), and he doesn’t want to be an imposition to his mother, or brothers, who he could live with. One of his brothers in Velejo has offered to put him up and help him find a job, but John’s reluctant.
   Sounds like a good deal to me, but I don’t know his brother.
   I had my own problems with my lovely caseworker. Feeling ambitious I hoped to get in our weekly session. I went to her office and was told to wait outside a moment.  I stood in the hall just to the right of her office. I could see her in there applying correction fluid to some papers.
   I waited. Approximately 5 minutes later Mrs. Sanchez, the vets housing specialist, walked by. Labren called to her, and together they began chatting amicably about this and that. Personal BS. When a third counselor was called in to join the conversation, I took off, returning to my room.
   I tried again an hour later. She was just leaving her office, closing and locking her door. She told me to come back later.
   “I’ve been available for a long time,” she told me, “you should have come and seen me then.”
   I told her I had been waiting outside her office when she had called two other people in there… when she began to harangue me, stating she wouldn’t come searching for me, and this and that.
   I listened to her a moment then walked off. I didn’t recall asking her to come looking for me when she was finished bullshitting with her co-workers, but it wasn’t really a bad idea. After all, it wasn’t my requirement to meet with her each week. It was hers.
     I reacted emotionally to her little tantrum, and calmed myself down in my room. I told myself that whatever she says or does is not important, and she, and this place are just tools for me to use, and I must use finesse and patience while utilizing them.  I blamed my emotional response to nicotine withdrawal. Now, that’s my own fault, isn’t it?
   I calmed myself, went back to her office, and we had our session. She seemed to suffer from CRS, and we go over the same material each time I come to see her. Today she asked when my next mental health appointment was, and asked if she tested me right now (urine) would I be clean. I told her to go ahead, bring it on. I only wish there was a test for what really ails me.
   John Manzano wants me to go deep sea fishing with him on Saturday. He insists. I told him I don’t want to. Killing, or torturing fish is not my idea of a relaxing time.
   John left, saying he’d stop by for breakfast in the morning. I watched “Married with Children,” which was re-running the first season. I’m surprised the show made it to a second season, because the first one sucked.
   Later I watched a 2000 TV movie, reuniting Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper, revising their roles from one of my favorite sit-coms. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” It sucked too.
   Before going to sleep I read from “Ghost Story,” then dreamt of  me and my ex-girlfriend, Jan Williams, getting our souped up dune buggy ready to explore the many and varied dunes of Atascadero, up in the northern kingdom.
   She was wearing a yellow bikini.
   Oddly so was I.

August 1       Friday    Day 20

   I did return to the HOP office and secured a September 23rd dentist appointment at the Buddhist Clinic. They must be very busy there providing free dental work to people like me.
   I finally got to Trimar today. I was down to like my last dollar, and sure as hell needed the money.
   My friend Aurica was off, and no one else talked to me.
     Poor, poor, pitiful me... poor poor pitiful me.
   Another nurse, Luda from the Ukraine, doesn’t talk to me anymore. She doesn’t even look at me and refuses to stick me or remove the needle when it’s time. At one time we were friends, before I got to know Aurica. I used to give her Kit-Kat bars when she stuck me, and I gave her a birthday card two years ago. She must be jealous of Aurica, that’s it. Or else she thought I was trying to get too friendly and personal, which I probably was. In any case, whatever problem she has is her problem, not mine.
   “Black Hawk Down,” Ridley Scott’s version of the book which recounted the true story of the  1993 Battle of Mogadishu, which the United States armed forces lost while Bill Clinton was in office. Mogadishu is the capital of Somalia. American Delta Force Rangers, along with Chuck Norris, fought Somali militiamen and armed civilians. Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, and the resulting rescue attempts drew out what was to be an hour long extraction mission (U.S. forces were there to capture two lieutenants of the self proclaimed president of the country, General Mohamed Farrah Hassan Aidid) into an overnight battle, which resulted in 18 deaths, 80 wounded, and one helicopter pilot captured among the U.S. raid party and rescue forces. We estimated between 1,500 and 3,000 Somali casualties, including civilians, although Aidid’s people claimed a lot less. Who knows? I certainly don’t.
   It was a big mess, which brought about the political pressure needed to force Clinton to announce that all U.S. forces would withdraw from Somalia no later than the end of March in 1994.
   Americans are usually surprised when we find out that we’re hated in other parts of the world. We are spoiled and nieve.
   I’d read the book, and had seen the movie. They’re both good.
   A silly movie, “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever,” staring Lucy Liu and Antonio Banderas was next. The stunts, and the way they were choreographed were done well. The production values were high. The problem was it was just too silly. I’m sure Graham Chapman would agree with me. There was nothing that was not a cliche within it. No real acting was involved with this film, unless you consider looking stern, bored, or tirelessly indifferent, acting. And I like Mr Banderas, but this was horrible. His character, an FBI agent, was presented as an invincible spy, who could kill anyone, or get out of any life threatening situation for so many years it had become boring for him. He couldn’t even be bothered to turn around and look at all the explosions he had just set off (I hate it when they do that). He just plodded on with disdainful determination. He won’t even look at a villain when he comes up from behind him, as if there was nothing the bad guy could possibly do (like blow the back of his head off with his 12 gauge) to interest him, having already stepped into the deadly trap Antonio had set for him. The trap? Antonio had been keeping his foot pressed down on a land mine which would instantly detonate as soon as he stepped away.
   “No matter how fast you think you are,” he wittily proclaimed, “I don’t think you’ll escape this one,” or something like that.
   Now I may be crazy, but Antonio’s the one directly over the land mine, right? And he’s telling the other guy he won’t be able to get away?! It is not a method I’d choose to kill my enemy, by jumping off a live bomb and hoping your advisory stumbles right on top of it. But I may be the one who’s crazy, as everyone involved with this film, from director, producer, actor, writer, and all the grips, thought it was just fine.
   But I go on too long about this movie. It had a hell of a lot of explosions, so it probably made a lot of cash. Ms Liu’s character and performance was even more deadened and unencumbered by humanity than Antonio’s, which didn’t seem possible.
   I took the needle out of my own arm and left the donation center in disgust.
   A curious thing happened to me as I approached the 7/11 across the street to purchase my weekly Super Lotto ticket. I became enveloped in a localized whirlwind. For a moment I thought I had been caught up in an angry hurricane. People fifteen feet away from me were unaffected. The wind howled, and leaves and debris raced around my poor, troubled head.
   It was quite refreshing, and abated as soon as I opened the door to the convenience store.
   I didn’t win the lotto. I never win.
   I stopped at the 99 Cent Store and picked up some canned goods, pizza rolls, and a birthday card for Aurica. I’ve forgotten exactly what day her birthday is, the 20th I think, but I know it’s this month. In it I would write a traditional Irish prayer, and thank her for being the person that she is, for being nice. I would tell her I would miss her when she moved back to Romania later this year with her husband and children.
   I got back to the Weingart in time for dinner. John Manzano had disappeared again, he’s probably back in Camarillo.
   There was nothing worth watching on television, so I listened to KFI on the radio, the Phil Hendrie Show. Tonight Phil was interviewing a gentleman promoting a new book.
   “You’ve got to see it to believe it! Pictures of fat people in gyms!”
   I wrote for a while, then read from “Ghost Story.” I went to sleep at around 11:00, and dreamt I was in Las Vegas at the poker table. Usually there are several people playing at the same time, but not in this dream. In this dream  I was only playing against Cassandra Peterson, the lovely alter ego of one of my favorite people, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
   For some unexplained reason I couldn’t concentrate on the game at all and she beat me handily.

August 2    2003       Saturday    Day 21

   I learned a few days ago that Bob Hope was buried in the same cemetery in Mission Hills where my father rests. They will each have good company.
    Perhaps my father saw one of Mr. Hope’s USO shows during World War II, but I don’t think so. He never mentioned it to me, at least. He was too busy being surrounded by Germans in the city of Bastogne.
   I’ve visited my father’s grave exactly 3 times. Once when he was buried. Once a few years ago when I was still working in Pasadena, when I couldn’t remember where he was buried, and once last Father’s Day.
   There’s no headstone. Just a plaque in the ground stating his full name, the years he was alive, and that he was a WWII vet.
   It’s in a nice location, just right from a medium sized tree which provided some shade. I ate lunch while I was there, and brought my dad up to date on current events and family business. He didn’t hear me though. I cried a lot while I was there.
   I got up rather early today. 3:00AM, or just before the “Seven of Nine Gets to Act Like the Hologram Doctor,” episode from “Star Trek, Voyager,” wherein Jeri Ryan performed with disarming grace.
   Attempting to get back on track I wrote, exercised, and meditated after Star Trek, going to breakfast (pancakes) at 7:00. At 8 I watched the “Universe, the Infinite Frontier,” telecourse, narrated by Kate Porter (before this show began at 8, I lost my heart to Alyson Court, the clown on the children’s program, “Big Comfy Couch.” I lose my heart easily).
   At frequent intervals I left my room to see if the day room had been opened yet. I wanted to reserve some time on the computer so I could pick my classes at LACC. At 9:15 I checked and the door was open. Someone was already at the machine, and it was booked until 11:30. Son of a bitch! These people have no lives around here, I told myself. All they want to do is play fucking computer games on the Internet.
   I was working the other non-Internet computer, using it’s word processor, when Gary Porch and a friend of his walked in.
   “There hasn’t been this many white guys in this room at the same time since the building was built,” I observed.
   I asked Gary if he had gone out to pick up his GR benefits yet, it being our pick up day.
   “No,” he said.
   “You know, it’s at a different place now,” I reminded him.
   “Yeah? Where is it now?”
   “I’m not telling you,” I replied.
   “Come on... please...” he begged and begged.
   Finally we agreed to go together at 10. Gary, his friend who wanted to borrow $5 from him, and myself walked west on 5th to the Red Line station at Pershing Square and took the subway to MacArthur Park on Alvarado. They were all worried because they didn’t have bus passes and were risking getting $250 tickets if caught riding without them.
   Gary related a story of how he once beat up a guy who he caught trying to sell his backpack after he had abandoned it during a fit of drunken stupidity.
   “So he really didn’t steal it from you. did he?” I said. “He had just found it where you had left it before walking off?”
   “Yeah, I guess.”
   “You’re not going to go out today and start drinking. are you? After you get your money?”
   “Naw,” he said. “I can’t do that anymore. Last time I wound up in Duluth, Minnesota.”
   We got our benefits from the check cashing facility on Alvarado and 7th. I only received $126 in food stamps, the county not waiting a minute to collect it’s 10%.
   We separated afterward. Gary and his buddy to McDonald’s, me back on the Red Line to downtown where I sold my food stamps for $101 to a nice Middle Eastern couple who owned a snack shop on 7th. I then bought a VCR for $45 from one of the small electronics shops that litter Broadway, all of them run, it seems, by Lebanese refugees.
   I took it back to my room and immediately discovered that I needed an adaptor to hook it up to my antiquated television set. I expected this, and tried to determine exactly what I needed before setting out again. I wound up taking the VCRs instruction manual with me which had a diagram of the needed adaptor.
   I bought a copy of Christopher Guest’s “Best in Show,” for $5 at the shop in the mall at 6th and L.A. in anticipation of being able to watch it with my brand new VCR. The little girl was gone today. Her pretty mom sold it to me.
   Next, on to Radio Shack at the Macy’s shopping center on 7th to find my adaptor.
   Nope. They didn’t have one. My eternal faith in Radio Shack had been destroyed.
   I forgot about the adaptor for the time being and took the Red Line from 7th to Union Station, where I walked the short distance to the outdoor Gold Line on the upper level which had just opened last weekend. Part monorail, subway, and train, I found the ride remarkably smooth, and visually intriguing.
   It began by passing the largest jail in the country, the Twin Towers complex of the Los Angeles County Jail, then we passed a building so close I could see the expressions on the faces of the slave garment workers inside on the fifth floor. First stop China Town, then it makes it’s quiet way north, over the Los Angeles River, through Highland Park, on into South Pasadena, up then to Pasadena proper, where the elves live.
   I exited at the still unfinished Del Mar Station, which is located at the very same spot I used to sleep in Ryder rental trucks about 13 years ago. The Park is right across the street, Raymond Ave.
   It hadn’t changed at all.
   I walked into that park and sat for a moment at one of the benches where I had at one time spent all day sitting and drinking rum, smoking cigarettes, and reading Tom Clancy novels.
   I thought about how outwardly, how materially, my life had changed little during those 13 years. And I thought about Robert Vasquez, and my recent encounter with him.
   It was just in passing, at the downtown VA clinic. He lived in Pasadena somewhere, and that clinic is actually the closest VA facility to him. All we did really was to say hello, ask how we were doing, and then went about our business.
   He hadn’t changed a bit.
   I got up and walked to Colorado Bl., to the Barnes and Noble bookstore where I picked up a few copies of “Nolo’s How to Change Your Name in California,” Stephen Kings UFO book, “The Tommyknockers,” Clark’s “2001, a Space Odyssey,” “Fundamentals of English Grammar,” by Azar, “Zen Training,” by Katsuki Sekida, Peter Straub’s “Shadowland,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by some guy name Twain (not his real name), “Crime and Punishment,” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the last two novels of John Nichol’s "New Mexico trilogy,” “The Magic Journey,” and “The Nirvana Blues.” I already had the first one, “The Milagro Beanfield War.”
   Across Colorado Bl., just east of the UA theaters, I stopped at Moby Dick, and found the “Led Zeppelin IV,” CD I had previously hidden away, and bought it for $7.95. I looked over some other CDs, but didn’t have my heart set on spending anymore money for music.
   I did buy some postcards with pictures of Christina Applegate, Kate Winslet, and Gweneth Paltrow for a quarter a piece, and one for 75 cents which promoted the classic motion picture, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” starring Jay and Silent Bob, in which the iconic phrase, “Get into the car, pie fucker!,” said to Jason Biggs of “American Pie” fame, were first uttered.
   They sell video tapes at Moby Dick as well. I found a copy of “Paths of Glory,” an early Kubrick film starring Kirk Douglas, for $5, which I bought, and the best find of the day, “Lobsterman from Mars,” one of Tony Curtis’ last films, for only $2.99!
   My God! They must not have realized what it was they had, and were practically giving it away. Not only do you have Tony Curtis, but you’ve got your Patrick Macnee as well. That’s right! John Steed, from “The Avengers,” both battling giant Martian lobsters.
   It doesn’t get much better than that.
   Happy with the days acquisitions, I had only the VCR adapter to consider. I took a bus east on Colorado, to the Target store near El Molino. Surely they would carry the simple and common electrical device.
   Nope! Of course not!
   They didn’t have many parts at all as a matter of fact.
   I was ready to return downtown and walked south on Lake Ave, remembering there was a Lake Ave. Gold Line station somewhere, I just didn’t know exactly where it was.
   I reached Cordova St., when I became aware of the possibility that the station might be north of Colorado, rather than south, where I was. I seemed to remember the construction of what would be a tunnel just east of Raymond, which would take the train under Colorado Bl.
   “Huumm,” I said to myself.
   I turned west on Cordova, heading back to the Del Mar station rather than spend time looking for one to the north.
   It was hot and sunny. A long walk carrying (now) a heavy backpack. And that’s good exercise. I’m at the age now where the saying, “Use it or lose it,” has real meaning.
   I made it back to the station in one piece, and took the next train headed south. Not surprisingly, it followed the same route I had taken getting to Pasadena, only in reverse.
     Back downtown, I tried one electronics shop on Spring and 6th looking for the adaptor. No luck. They suggested I try the Rite-Aid drug store. I asked myself, why would a drug store have my adaptor?
   I returned to the Weingart to have dinner. Breaded fish cakes and fries. I got back to my room just as the “Chinese Spare parts,” episode of “The X-Files” came on the network of Fox. I put away all of my new possessions while I watched, and made myself a cup of hot, Irish breakfast tea.
   I wrote for awhile, and read from “Ghost Story.” At 8:00 I watched the 2000 biographical TV movie, “The Three Stooges,” which was well done. The reproductions of some of the stooges greatest bits were very funny. Very good cast, well written and acted. I was ashamed when I realized I knew next to nothing about these guys, who had brought me such pleasure throughout my life.
   At 10:00 I caught the last half of NBCs television movie, “Behind the Camera, the Unauthorized Story of ‘Three’s Company,’” which mainly told the story of ABCs clumsy handling of the successful 70s sit-com. No one came out of this looking good, with the possible exception of Don Knotts. Joyce Dewitt made an appearance at the end, and made a brief statement claiming that no matter what it had been a privilege to entertain America on a weekly basis.
   I suppose it was.
   Later, after scaring myself by reading of Gregory Bates walking up a staircase to bash the brains out of Jim Hardie, in “Ghost Story,” I quickly retreated to the dream state, so as to escape the horror, and be with Suzanne Somers, whom I’ve been secretly in love with for years and years.
   In my dream Suzanne and I worked out using matching Thighmasters, until I couldn’t take it anymore. Not the exercising, but watching her exercise.
   She then talked me into a game of strip chess.
   She may play a dumb blonde on TV, but she’s a better chess player than that damn video chess machine back at the Pasadena ARC.
   I lost, damn it.  

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