Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Skid Row Diary 12

August 3  2003      Sunday     Day 22

   I slept in late, not concerned with signing in at the front desk. I got up at 10:15, or so, chastised myself for sleeping the day away, then showered.
   I signed up for the computer for 11:30, and had just enough time to walk up to 5th St. and buy a Sunday paper at the Hollywood Mart.
   I checked my Email on the computer. I had about 30 messages, most of them from job sites which are looking for jobs for me automatically. I tried to get into the student info system at LACC to register for classes and discovered they did scheduled maintenence on the site on Sundays, so it was unavailable to me.
   I didn’t try and find the VCR adapter today. I figured I’d do that tomorrow as I’d be out near adapterland anyway.
   After lunch I listened to The Prairie Home Companion Joke Show on NPR while writing.
   Man on his deathbed confessing to his wife:
   “Dear, before I die I want to admit that I was unfaithful to you...”
   “I know dear,” she replied. “That’s why I poisoned you.”
   That’s an old one.
   I turned on the television at 1:00 to watch “Death Wish III,” starring the lovely Marina Sirtis, our STNG Counselor Troi. That was the only reason I wanted to watch it. The rest of the movie was horrible.
   This was her first acting job in America (she’s British), and she played an Hispanic wife named Maria. At least in the edited for T.V. version I was watching she didn’t have any lines. She screamed a few times because she was raped and killed, which made me very sad.
   Damn you Charles Bronson! You could have saved her!
   A lady veteran has moved in just across the hall from me in room 585. She’s blonde, about my age, and seems to have a fun personality.
   I shall have to keep my distance as it is very easy for these girls to become infatuated with me, and then it’s always quite painful when I have to eventually break it off, for I am, above all, a rambling man.
   I wrote a great deal today, and read the Sunday paper.
   At 4:00 I watched “Young Sherlock Holmes,” produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Barry Levinson, and written by Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter films. 
   I had liked it in 1985, but I was drunk a lot back then. It seemed pretty silly to me today.
   A very good movie, one that I hadn’t seen before, “The Deceiver,” starring Rosanna Arquette, followed Sherlock. I was reading while watching it at the same time, which I don’t do very well anymore. I’d like to rent this film, a story involving a crime suspect turning the tables on his police interrogators, and devote my full attention to it.
   My appreciation of it was stifled due to the fact that I watched an episode of “Futurama,” half way through it. I had to do it, the show was that good. Tonight’s message being, we shouldn’t take TV so seriously and turn it off once in a while.
   “Should we turn it off, Professor?”
   “Well, that depends on what’s on!”
   “Nothing’s on.”
   “Well let’s keep watching for a while just in case...”
   Beware of the TV Hypno Frog.
   I also watched “Enterprise,” (nominated for 5 Emmys, which may be the only reason it’s getting a third season). Wisps of undifferentiated nothingness were attempting to hijack the Enterprise.
   Sons of bitches!
   I didn’t finish writing until 10:30. I finished reading everything in the paper except the book review.
   An “X-Files,” episode I hadn’t seen before came on at 11:00. “The Man Who Would Walk Through Walls, But Not Glass,” episode.
   I exercised before going to sleep. I dreamt I was hooked up to a polygraph machine and Rosanna Arquette was questioning me.
   “Do you really love me?” she asked.
   “Yes, of course,” I said.
   “You don’t own any VCR tapes with me in them,” she observed. “You have three with that bitch Jennifer Connelly...”
   “I don’t have any yet!” I maintained. “Not yet. I haven’t any with you simply because I haven’t come across any yet. I’m earnestly looking for a copy of “The Wild Lady,” right now.”
   “Oh, you only like that one because you can see my boobs in it!” she exclaimed.
   “That’s not true! That was one of your finest performances in my opinion. Besides, you show your boobs in most of your movies.”
   “That’s true,” she admitted. “I know you like my sister, my younger sister. Do you like her more than me?”
   “No, of course not. I like both of you just as much... but for different reasons. Besides, you’re married.”
   “Good answer,” she said. “But not good enough!”
   She had me put in jail, and I was electrocuted a little bit later.
   You have to watch what you say around those Arquette girls.

4 August   Monday     Day 23

   I woke several times during the night because I was being electrocuted, and listened to Frank Sontag speaking. It wasn’t a dream. His voice emanated from my radio. If I would have actually seen him in my room I would have been dreaming, and would have been having a nightmare as Frank is pretty scary looking.
   But he’s a big softy at heart.
   At one point Frank was talking to gentleman who said he was black and wondered what if all the other black people in this country who felt they’ve been given a raw deal form their own country, and live happily ever after... like they do in Liberia.
   I over slept. I should have gotten up at 4:00AM, or so, but didn’t emerge from my rack until 7. Mark and Brian were bust yacking away because Priva, their lovely young board op was getting married. I turned the TV on. Giselle was wearing pants.
   I give up.
   I showered and went to breakfast... after I dressed. Scrambled eggs and sausage.
   I had an 8:00 appointment, you may recall, with Larry the job developer. I went to the Levi Center and was told Larry was in a meeting until 8:30. Did I wait for him? No, I did not. Hell no. I left him a note asking him to reschedule for a time when he would literally be there, and to leave a note in my box at the Weingart.
   No note was left in my box today, a sure sign of lazy arrogance on Larry’s part.
   I walked up to 5th St., and caught the 18 to the Food For Less grocery store, where one can buy food for less money than anywhere else (why absolutely everyone doesn’t shop there I have no idea).
   I bought three cheese rolls. I had wanted jalapeno cheese rolls but they didn’t have any. I also picked up a can of light spam to add to my collection.
   As one walks out of the Food For Less store, to the left is a big elevator which will magically transport you to a Home Depot parking lot. I walked inside the cavernous store to look for my tiny, little adaptor. Surely it would be somewhere here among the mountains of merchandise just sitting around ready to be fondled.
   I left all dejected and suicidal, walked down the street to the 99 Cent store on Alvarado, and bought a new mustache trimmer which cheered me right up.
   I currently sport a mustache that needs trimming from time to time.
   I also bought a small, plastic, battery operated desk fan.
   Then I got the hell out of there before I spent any more money. Next to the store is a Red Line station, which I used to get to LACC, back to the old financial aid office. I had received an Email summoning me, however their computers were down at the time and Colette asked me to come back at a latter time, presumably when their computers were working. Colette told me that when I did return I wouldn’t have to take a number to be seen, to just come up and see her. Colette and I are like peas and carrots now.
   I made my way to the library and had the assessment test lady make a copy of my math test results, as I had already lost the original.
   I then went to the counseling office and showed my PCC transcript to the counseling lady.
   “Do you want to take another English class, like one oh two?” she asked me.
   “Yes,” I answered.
   “Then you need to fill out this form.”
   I filled it out and signed it. She told me to take the form to the admissions office and have it entered into their computer. I did this. I also used a closed line telephone to register for English 102, and Law 10. I now owed the business office $8.
   I didn’t pay then. Not yet. I have to figure out how I’m going to pay for my books first.
   Poverty is such an imposition.
   I left the campus and returned via the Red Line to Pershing Square, then walked to the Rite-Aid drug store on 5th and Broadway, and there found my adapter. $2.49.
   All happy now, I then walked to Arco Plaza to check my mail. My CA7 (U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, Claim for Compensation) was there waiting for me. I knew it would be. I filled it out and mailed it back.
   Next I walked to the One Stop. As I entered the Research Center Supervisor, the young man who had previously tried to bust me misappropriating one of the computers, was presented with two bouquets of flowers in honor of it being his birthday.
   “If only I had known,” I told him.
   The lady from the 714 area code had left me another message, leaving me different phone number to call back. Very persistent she is. Obviously she wants me to be her sexual toy.
   Perhaps I should call back. The worst that could happen is that I get a job.
   I faxed my resume off to 6 prospective employers, and since there were no computers available, I left and returned to the Weingart... just in time for lunch. All my business was completed by noon.
   On my way to the Weingart I stopped at the 6th St. indoor mall at Los Angeles, and purchased a copy of “Blaze,” starring the lovely Lolita Davidovich. $3.00. It’s my favorite Lolita Davidovich film. I don’t know why.
   I think Paul Newman’s in it to.
   Back in my room I hooked up my VCR and tested it. It worked beautifully. Now I can watch all of those VCR tapes I’ve been buying.
   Since one of the classes I had registered for began at 5:00PM I decided I should drop it, and choose another that started later in the evening. I used the computer in the day room to accomplish this, however I could not find another English class that was open. I took this as a sign from God that I was not meant to write gooder at this particular time.
   Maybe later.
   I successfully registered for another law class dealing specifically with civil rights.
   I caught up on writing, read from the Watts Zen book, and meditated.
   Then I treated myself by watching a movie on my brand new VCR. I choose the classic, “Lobsterman from Mars.”  I exercised while watching, then compensated by eating 2 smoked sausages, and 2 of the cheese rolls.
   I secretly fell in love with the Lobstermans’s heroine, Deborah Foreman.
   Please don’t tell anybody.
   John Manzano came by. He brought me a laundry bag from his mother’s dry cleaners as a present. He had spent the weekend in Camarillo again, returning this morning at 8:00.
   “And I was ready to go fishing too,” I told him. “And where was my friend John? Where was the guy who invited me to go with him? I even rented a nice fishing pole...” On and on.
   He was tired and left after a while. I watched Charlie Rose interview a very laconic Nick Nolte who was promoting his latest films, “Northfork,” and “Hulk,” and about his recent problems with the law here in L.A. An addict, he had been experimenting with Rohypnol, the most famous “date rape” drug, and things had gotten out of control.
   Nolte didn’t seem very happy, rather he seemed defensive and ashamed, although he made a show of being open, wanting to get all of these pesky drug problems behind him.
   I don’t blame him.
   Later, The History Detectives were... how should I put this... boring the crap out of me, so I switched to channel 30 on UHF, to watch “High Road to China,” starring the lovely Bess Armstrong. The film was one of Tom Selleck’s unsuccessful attempts to become a big time movie star.
   Should have taken those Indiana Jones movies Tom.
   Well hindsight’s 20/20, isn’t it?
   A pre ”Cocoon” Wilford Brimley was in it as well, just off John Carpenter’s fantastic remake of Howard Hawks 1951 “The Thing from Another World,” entitled, “The Thing,” both based on the novella “Who Goes There?” written by John W. Campbell. Considering the context of the story, that’s a very creepy title.
   But I digress.
   Gary Porch dropped by while I was watching Bess, and reading from “The Criminal Law Handbook, specifically concerning search and seizures. He wanted to buy some more coffee from me.
   “What do I look like? Smart and Final?” I asked him.
   He told me had accidentally purchased regular coffee rather than instant, and was in need of some emergency coffee. I sold him a bottle of Brazilian instant. We chatted for a while. Gary likes to dicuss things that concern only him. He’s not that much interested in what others say or do. He told me he had missed his GROW appointment again today. Now his GR and food stamps will surely be cut off as he had already been issued a final warning. He told me he didn’t care. He can make a lot more money at casual labor, which he’s been doing anyway, and which the DPSS will soon discover because he pays payroll taxes at the casual labor place. Then he’ll be in the same position that I’m in.
   He told me his friend Patrick got in a spot of trouble over the weekend. Apparently he had brought a bottle of booze up to his room, got drunk, then ventured out of his room, and got  into an altercation with another resident. Those are two termination offenses... drinking in the building and fighting. Gary told me that Patrick had miraculously not been thrown out. But Gary hasn’t seen him around either.
    Perhaps he’s been liquidated by the infamous Weingart Secret Police.
   We shall see.
   He left me after a while. They all do.
   I watched the rest of the movie, then switched to channel 28 for “An American Experience,” episode about John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Colorado River journey through the Gand Canyon. I don’t believe he had a good trip, but I fell into a deep sleep before the program was half way through.
   I had a dream. I dreamt I was flying in a monoplane over the hills and glens of County Cork in Ireland with Moria Kelly, the beautiful and talented star of “The Cutting Edge,” and “Chaplin. We both had scarfs wrapped around our necks, and the wind streamed through our hair. I looked back at Moria. She was gorgeous.
   The day was bright and sunny, the countryside rich and green. We both sang the same song, or ditty, over and over again. It went like this:
“Those magnificent men in their flying machines,
    they go up tiddly up up,
    they go down tiddly down down.

    They enchant all the ladies and steal all the scenes,
    with their up tiddly up up
    and their down tiddly down down.

    Up, down, up, down, flying around,
    looping the loop and defying the ground.

    They're all frightfully keen,
    those magnificent men in their flying machines.

   And so forth.

5 August   Tuesday     Day 24

   My alarm woke me just before 3:00, I drifted back to sleep for another half hour before getting up and watched the last half of Voyager while consuming a tuna sandwich.
   Fish protein.
   At 4:00 I showered with a black gentleman, one of my neighbors who lives down the hall from me. It wasn’t prearranged or anything like that. He just happened to be in there when I came in.
   I quickly finished up, dressed, and left the building.
   Walking around downtown Los Angeles at 4:15 in the morning is not recommended for anyone, including muggers (because we have Mugger Muggers here in L.A. Muggers who mug only other muggers), but especially a cute, white boy like me who looks like he might have a nickel or two in his pocket. I’ve never had a problem, probably because I stay in well lighted areas and pay attention to my surroundings. It doesn’t hurt that my route took me right past the Central Police Station. But you never know, so I brought my bazooka just in case.
   Just kidding. No one uses bazookas any more. It’s actually a grenade launcher.
   I walked west on 6th to Broadway, and turned north. I made it to the Pershing Square Red Line Station without mishap, and caught the first train of the day to North Hollywood.
   I arrived in Reseda, at Trimar, at 6:07. There was a waiting list on the door which I signed. I was 6th in line.
   I purchased a Super Lotto ticket and a 20 once cup of Columbian coffee at the 7/11 across the street, then returned to Trimar. I sat down and wrote, waiting for them to open. Others arrived and signed their names on the list. A lady asked me if I was a regular donor, and I told her that I was. She hadn’t seen me before, that was the reason she was asking she said. Those of us who arrive early on specific days get to know each other.
   At 7:30 they opened up and I signed in. The movie “Ronin,” starring Robert De Niro had already begun, a movie I’d already seen about 5 times too many. I read from “Ghost Story.”
   I was soon  called to donate. I had gained 5 pounds according to the scale, BP 120/70, pulse 372. My lovely friend Aurica stuck me, and I asked after her health and that of her family.
   “Good, good,” she told me. “I am good. Baby is good. Daughter is good. Everybody good. But,” she added, “it’s not perfect...”  
   After she had finished tending to me I gave her the birthday card I had prepared for her. She seemed pleased and said she would read it later.
   When later came, she thanked me for the card once again, all smiles. She became very attentive, giving me extra bandages and alcohol pads to take with me in case I started bleeding after I left. She hadn’t been like this for months and months... since last Christmas at least. I was very happy that she liked the card.
   I will miss her when she goes.
   Just as “Ronin,” finished, so did I. I caught the next bus to Van Nuys, picked up some coffee, cheese slices, lemon juice, vitamin E (to put on the scar tissue in the crock of my donation arm, per Aurica’s orders), multiple vitamins with iron, Batteries, a blank VCR tape, 2 packages of brown gravy mix, mustard of course, a can of corned beef hash, a can of spaghetti and meat balls, and a can of green beans.
   I took all of this stuff back downtown to the One Stop Center to check my messages. None on my voice mail, and no computers were available to check my Email, so I left.
   It was a little after 11:30, and I had an appointment with Roger Pagel, PhD, at Voc Rehab at 1:00. I decided to go straight there.
   I wrote in the Voc Rehab waiting room for 30 minutes, then read from “Ghost Story,” until I began to get sleepy. At 1:05 (these guys are never on time) myself and 2 other men were called in by Dr. Pagel. We were seated at a conference desk, and given several aptitude tests. Math (I finished about three quarters of it before resorting to the uneducated guess, I’m proud to say), a vocabulary test where I missed 1, and some other word recognition test, all of which were approximately 30 questions in length. The good doctor interviewed us one at a time.
   I was given a spelling test which utilized a tape recorder and head phones. 47 words were presented to me via the tape recorder, and I was supposed to spell them. This was the same list of words that I had used as a tutor at Harbor Light, but my familiarity with the words did nothing to help me spell them.
   Once, when I was in the second grade, our teacher handed all of us students the last spelling tests we had taken, making a point by saying, “Only one of you failed this time.” Guess who it was.
   I’ve been traumatized ever since, and blame this incident for my addiction problems, and the sad, sorry state of affairs which is my life.
   However, my spelling has improved over the years, mostly because I use words a lot when I write... and I write quite a bit, and I was able to get about 44 of the little bastard words spelled correctly.
   Next I was given a tedious pattern recognition test, in which I was called upon to recognize various patterns.
   It was then my turn to be interviewed by the good doctor, a tall, shaggy, white gentleman, maybe 4 or 5 years my senior. He asked almost the same questions Ms Tran had asked me on my last visit, except for one interesting difference.
   “Why do you think you drink?” he asked.
   “Because I was the only one in my second grade class to fail a weekly spelling test and the teacher made fun of me,” I didn’t say.
   “Because I want to escape,” I told him.
   “What is it that you want to escape from?” he asked me.
   “Well doctor, we could talk about why people are alcoholics and drug addicts all this week and half of next, and still not come up with a definitive answer.”
   He insisted, “Why do you want to escape? Escape from what?”
   “Well, I’m not completely sure myself. Escape from self persecution, from unrealized expectations, from a society I never asked to be part of, from life’s disappointments, from being a drug addict. I mean it’s not an unusual thing for people to do. Every time a person reads a book for pleasure, every time someone goes to the movies, or watches a sit com on television... they do it to escape.”
   “But,” Roger interjected, “reading a book, or watching a sit com is legal...”
   “So is drinking, doctor. So is smoking cigarettes... I’ll tell you this. To be quite frank... the legality of using substances, or acting out an unacceptable behavior, is of little concern to the addict. You are making reasonable suggestions and considering logical alternatives. The addict abandons reason and logic to selfishly fulfill their immediate needs. That’s all that’s important to the addict. My wishing to escape is most likely a universal desire. My addiction sets me apart from other people only in the degree I disregard moderation, embrace low impulse control, and don’t consider the consequences of my actions in both the short and long term. This type of behavior may or may not be a physical predisposition. The AMA says it is.”
   “Why don’t you drink now?” he asked.
   “I’m finally tired of it I imagine. Not of using drugs or alcohol, because sometimes that really was fun. But I’m tired of the life that using drugs and alcohol has given me. Maybe I’m beginning to appreciate the consequences... and I want to stop smoking because I’m told that can kill ya. The consequences outnumber the rewards a hundred fold. The only problem with smoking is nicotine is the most addictive substance know to man... and women.”
   “I agree with you that people use books and television to escape,” the doctor added. “Sometimes to the point of self-abuse.”
   “I know. I probably do that too.”
   “I’m glad you want to stop,” he said.
   “I really do. I can tell, doctor, because during the last few times I was able to self indulge to my heart’s content... it was never enough. It didn’t make me happy. Hell, I don’t even like the taste of alcohol.”
   He got back on track and gave me a reading test. I was lucky as I just happen to know how to read.
   Then he asked me to place some metal pins into what looked like a giant cribbage board.
   I was ushered back to the conference room and given a few more tests, then dismissed. The doctor told us we would be notified of his determination within a couple of weeks.
   I had a vague suspicion and resentment that I had been given more tests than the others.
   I took two buses back to the Weingart, and to my lonely room.
   I treated myself by watching a movie on my new VCR. I choose Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory.” He is my favorite film director, but I’m sorry to admit I have not seen all of his early work like “The Killing,” yet. This is what drug addiction and poverty has done to me. Because of poverty and drug addiction I can now look forward to watching these films.
   I had seen part of “Paths of Glory,” and upon watching the whole movie for the first time I thought it was brilliant. And very good as well.
   Well acted by Kirk Douglas (an unusual role for a big time Hollywood star at the time it was made) and Ralph Meeker, indeed the entire cast seemed inspired. I have only one criticism of which I’m positive, absolutely positive I tell you, that Stanley agonized over... this story of French soldiers during battle in World War I, and the trial afterwards, all portrayed by American actors who sounded like they were born in Brooklyn, New York, and made no effort to hide it.
   Or why they were speaking in English at all, for that matter.
   Eerie music. The cinematography placed the viewer right in the battle (this film must have influenced Spielberg when he made “Saving Private Ryan”) and on the way to a firing squad.
   I fell madly in love, madly I tell you again, with Suzanne Christian, the only woman in the film, who played a German singer in the last scene. Her character seemed so vulnerable and at the same time strong, being put on display in front of a crowd of unruly soldiers for their enjoyment. But she prevailed, and had those soldiers crying like little babies by the time she was done with them.
   I don’t pretend to understand exactly what Kubrick’s ending was supposed to mean, if anything, but for my money, Miss Christian’s performance was the most natural, and moving performance of the film.
   And I’m not saying that because I’m madly in love with her.
   Guten tag.
   Stanley liked her too I guess, because he married her.
   Swedish meatball mush for dinner.
   I had to take a little nap at 6:00 because my eyes were sporadically closing by themselves.
   I laid down and dreamt I was in a town in France during World War I and Suzanne Christian sang to me a song in German. I started to cry like a little baby, and sang along with her although I did not know what the words meant. 
    I woke at 6:30, and wondered how I could of had such a wonderful dream in such a short period of time.
   Charlie Rose spoke to some sub-secretary of the Defense Department concerning Iraq. I read about police searching and seizing again.
   At 8 I watched an “American Experience,” documentary about Seabiscuit. Now I know more than I ever wanted to about that horse. He and his long time jockey inspire me to carry on... that you can win even after you’ve been all banged up.
   And I liked his style. “Most horses,” the narrator observed, “can only sleep lying down for about five minutes at a time. In contrast Seabiscuit slept constantly.”
   I watched a PBS program about forest fire fighters, and learned a good deal about carbon being released into the atmosphere because of forest fires.
   We should ban forest fires.
   But forest fires have been around since there were forests, you say.
   That’s true. Forest fires do occur naturally sometimes, and are even helpful in promoting some forms of plant life.
   But it’s only been within the last 150 years that humans have been pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
   I hate to be the one to break it to Republicans, but the Earth will only stand so much before it gets rid of us.
   And here’s another interesting problem. The planet’s oil supply is finite. Some day we’re going to run out.
   I was very tired after watching the forest fire show, and could only get through a page and a half of “Ghost Story,” before I drifted off.
   I dreamt I was on a hill fighting an approaching forest fire with Mary Louise Parker, the beautiful and talented star of films like, “Grand Canyon,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and “Hannibal.” We battled and battled that fire, worked, dug, and chopped until Mary came across a garden hose and put the sucker out.
   “See,” she said, “that’s all you need.”
   “Oh yeah,” I said. “I could have done the same thing if I had a big hose.”
   “Promises, promises,” laughing, and wiping a dirty smudge off of her pretty face. “Come on big boy. Let’s go get another one.”
   We went off in search of more fires.

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