Friday, November 29, 2013

Skid Row Diary 19

21  August   2003    Thursday       Day 40

   I watched “Voyager” for about half an hour. Seven of Nine was marooned on a planet with the executive officer, the lucky bastard. I went back to sleep and dreamt I was marooned on a planet with Seven of Nine and Carly Fiorina of Hewlett Packard. She’s hot, I dreamt. We all walked around, picking berries and looking for muskrats.
   I got up at 6:30 and showered. John Manzano came by at 7:00 for breakfast, but I couldn’t go with him. I was fasting in preparation for the blood test. He came back after he ate and we walked to the V.A. Clinic together.
   I took a number after entering the lab waiting lounge. #11, but I was the 10th vet to give blood today. #5 chickened out and didn’t show when his number was called. It took two tough looking Asian ladies to hold me down while they took my blood. The V.A. is notorious for using blunt needles. 
   I won’t say Asian-American ladies because I don’t know if they were American. They spoke to each other in some Asian language... some language they use in Asia most likely. They were probably commenting on my rugged good looks.
   Women! They’re all the same. Sex, sex, sex, that’s all they think about.
   Of course the Radiology Department was closed, so I couldn’t get my X-ray. John and I then left and took a Dash to the Friedman Occupational Center, where I showed him where the Barber College was located.
   I had taken three pictures of John with my 99 Cent Store camera on the way to the clinic. Later, after he’d gotten all of his hair cut off to a slight stub, I told him, “Boy I’m glad I got those pictures before you got your haircut.”
   He looked like a short Mexican Uncle Fester with a bad hangover.
   I tried to call the State Appeals Board again after returning to the Weingart. After waiting 20 minutes on hold I got through. A Mrs Fong took my request for a hearing concerning my food stamps. As I was trying to talk to her, her voice became fainter and fainter on the phone. I noticed the connection between the payphone cord and handset was lose, and when I jiggled it the connection seemed to improve... until it disappeared all together.
   I got mad, not knowing if the lovely Mrs Fong had received enough info to initiate the proceedings, and kept jamming the cord into the yellow receiver hoping to hear her soothing voice yet again.
   No such luck.
   I’ll have to find another phone and call again, I told myself.
   I filled out and turned in an anonymous “Notice of Concern,” form about the phone, adding “During my conversation with the State Appeals Board, I was disconnected, and may now have to go to jail for 30 years. Please fix ASAP.”
   I embellish at times. 
   Just before 1:00 I walked next door to the Levi Center for a job search meeting. I was the first to arrive, and tried to get some work done on The Day the Earth Stood Still screenplay while waiting. I did get a little done, but only a little before my pen ran out of ink, and I had no other with me.
   It was just one of those days I told myself.
   Richard Cairns did not attend, but Larry, my job developer was there. He spent about a half hour talking about what all he would do for us. I arranged to meet with him Monday at 8:00, afterwards. We shall see.
   I returned to my lonely room. Gary Porch stopped by to let me know how his life was progressing. He was doing just slightly less worse than John Manzano, having stayed out last Monday and Tuesday night, after being warned that one more unexcused overnight absence would be cause for termination. He some how got away with it and is still here, but he’s walking on a short plank.
   I tried to tell him he needs to stop drinking. That it wasn’t helping him any, and that most of the time he didn’t even seem to enjoy it. He agreed with me, but that’s just talk. 
   I’m certainly in no position to lecture him even if I was inclined to. Even if I thought it would do any good, which I don’t. I’ve got my own problems with cigarettes and sex. My problem is that I still enjoy these things, until I temporarily tire of them, then I want to stop forever again.
   Forever is a long time.
   Gary’s going to have to want to stop before he begins to help himself. Any drug addict, and I include alcoholics (which is just a specialized label for a certain type of drug addict) and cigarette smokers, have to want to stop before they can help themselves.
   I’ve heard this in some 12 Step Meetings, “Here you can learn to not drink whether you want to or not.” Bullshit! That statement doesn’t even make any sense. People who don’t want to do things, and are so inclined not to do them, generally don’t do them.
  Anyway, I went to lunch with John Manzano who was now effectively bald
   Sesame Chicken.
   We walked yet once again to the V.A. Clinic. John to his Anger Management Class, me to the ASAP Phase II meeting where we discussed emotions.
   I don’t remember exactly what we said about them, but it was very sad.
   John and I walked back together. 
   I wrote in my room, and did a little yoga.
   After a while Manzano stopped by after completing a meeting with Labren and Richard Cairns. He’s pissed that he’s on a contract.
   “Well, you can’t really blame them,” I told him, trying to keep matters in perspective. “In their view all you’ve been doing here is going home every weekend and smoking dope.”
   “I wasn’t going home every weekend,” John said.
   “Yes you were. Almost every weekend.”
   “No I wasn’t,” he insisted.
   “Okay. Whatever. You weren’t going home every weekend.
   “Yes I was.”
   He soon left but came back for dinner.
   He asked me if I had any oil.
   “Oil? No.”
   “You sure? The fan Pete gave me doesn’t spin very fast and I want to oil it.”
   “Perfectly understandable, and I admire and salute your vast problem solving capabilities, but I don’t have any oil. What do you think I am, AM/PM?”
   Chile Mac for dinner. I made myself a nice cup of tea afterwards, and because “Married with Children,” was preempted by a pre-season football game, I put “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” in my VCR, and watched that while reading Wednesday’s paper. A brilliant movie starring the lovely and talented Holly Hunter. John came in at about the half way point and watched it with me.
   “Thanks for telling me you were watching a movie,” he said.
   “You were watching the football game,” I reminded him.
   “Thanks anyway.”
   After the movie.
   “Can we watch Seinfeld?”
   “Why not? Please.”
   We watched Seinfeld. I read. John finally went away when he realized I was not, under any circumstances, going to watch Thursday Night Smackdown, a staged wrestling program on channel 13.
   “Why?” he asked.
   “I’ve told you a million times why... because it’s staged... it’s fake.”
   “No it’s not!” he screamed, desperate now.
   “First, bullshit! Don’t insult your own intelligence. Second, I don’t care to watch people beat on each other (unless it’s Bruce Lee, of course), and Third, I don’t want to watch almost naked guys prance around for two hours, you homo.”
   “That’s an exceptionally homophobic thing to say,” he admonished.
   “You’re right. I apologize faggot.”   
   “Not a chance,” I told him.
   He took off when I put on space alien Dick Clark’s ABC “Bloopers.” I recorded some of the bloopers made by Katey Sagal and John Ritter from “8 Simple Rules.” I love to see people fuck up.
   Most people do.
   I then watched an almost incomprehensible documentary on channel 58 concerning Carl Jung’s work on dreams, a subject of singular interest to me at the moment. 
   It was probably comprehensible, I’m sorry. I was reading while watching, and stepped out once to brush my teeth, and didn’t pay much attention to it really.
   At 10:00 I watched and tapped a program on modern infectious diseases. I fell asleep while watching.
   I dreamt about being a hard working husband and living in a lovely home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, married to Katey Sagal, the beautiful and sexy star of “Married with Children,” with our daughters, Kaley Cuoco and Amy Davidson from “8 Simple Rules.”
   “Hey baby! want to go upstairs and fool around? Daddy’s hungry.”
   “Not now dear,” she said. “I promised the girls we’d go shopping for school. Maybe next week.”
   “Next week?”
   “Yeah. They need a lot of clothes.”
   “But they go to Catholic School. Don’t they wear those uniforms?”
   “Yes, but they need something to wear at the beach.”
   “The beach? But we live in Pennsylvania,” I reminded her. “We’re kind of landlocked.”
   “Pennsylvania has 51 miles of coastline along Lake Erie and 57 miles of shoreline along the Delaware Estuary,” she reminded me. “But I see your point, and that’s why we’re we’ll be going to Hawaii for a few days, maybe longer. A lot longer.”
   “Yeah daddy,” the girls chimed in.  
   “We’d ask you to come along, but we know how busy you are with work and all,” Katey said.
   “I can take some time off, I guess.”
   “I wouldn’t hear of it,” she said. “Besides,  Raul will be taking care of us, if you know what I mean.”
   “The new gardener. He’s been just wonderful the last couple of months. I told him you’d give him a raise.”
   “Raul? A raise?”
   “Yes daddy,” Kaley said. “His cousins are real cute too.”
   On and on.

22  August     Friday   41

   John Manzano came to get me for breakfast at 7:05 exactly.
   “You ready?” he asked.
   “Am I ready? You’re five minutes late! How the hell are we supposed to get anything done if you can’t stick with the schedule?”
   John’s friend Pete was downstairs waiting outside. John spoke with him as I signed in at the front desk. He had been out all night because the security people thought that he looked high last night after returning from his warehouse job. 
   “You can’t come in until 7:30,” he had been told.
   Pete said he hadn’t been high, or anything like that, but what can you do?
   We all had breakfast together. Pancakes.
   I asked Pete, “So are you going to be on contract too, like this doper?” I was alluding to Manzano.
   “I’m not that stupid,” he said. “Give a dirty test and still want an overnight pass...” He shook his head. John and I laughed.
   “I’ll get another pass,” John said.
   I walked to One Stop and checked my E-mail. I had about 10 messages with the Sobig F Worm attached, hidden within innocuous looking letters. One was titled “Thank you,” and invited me to open an attachment. Another, “Your application.” One scared me as it came from a job site I had used, “Job Frenzy.” Strange. 
   I’ve learned that a computer worm is a standalone malware computer program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers, and almost always cause at least some harm to a network, even if only by consuming bandwidth.
   This worm has been infecting Microsoft Windows computers for the last couple of days. I deleted all of the messages. 
   I brought up the Amnesty International Action Now page and submitted letters that would be sent to the appropriate authorities concerning the topics I’ve mentioned earlier, violence against women in Russia, and unaccompanied children in the U.S., plus one expressing concern over the violence now occurring within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    So much strife. So much pain and death. All unnecessary.
   One message in my voice mail, from Mrs Fong, who was nice enough to call back to let me know she had received enough information to initiate the hearing process. Very good.
   I returned to the Weingart, and wrote for awhile before leaving again for the V.A. clinic for Dr. Lo’s 11:00 meeting.
   The Dr, a short, very fit and handsome, young Asian gentleman, holds this meeting weekly, about how the ASAP groups function. 6 of them are required for new clients. One of the reasons I was there was to ascertain how many of these groups I had attended.
   Today’s group concerned “Feedback” and was 5th in the series of required groups. I had already attended one feedback group, so now I know more about feedback than anyone could ever hope for.
   I cornered Dr Lo after the meeting I asked him what groups I still needed to attend to complete the series. Groups 3 and 4 it turns out.. Accordingly I won’t have to come back until September 19th. I also asked for a one on one consultation. He said he’d talk to me later, or have Kathy do it. I thanked him and left.
   I took a very crowded Dash to the Arco Plaza. No mail for me. I walked across the street to the library to use their pay phone, but had to wait 45 minutes until 1:00.
   I used one of the Internet connected computers to find out all that I could about my choice for governor, Mary Cook.
   Mary Carey (born June 15, 1980) is an American pornographic actress and film director.
   She was born Mary Ellen Cook in Cleveland, Ohio to a mother with schizophrenia and a father with cerebral palsy. Well that certainly was unfortunate. Her grandparents cared for her from the time she was three months old. After her parents divorced, her mother moved in with Carey and her grandparents. When she was seven years old, she moved with her family from Cleveland to Florida, and the next year she was legally adopted by her grandparents.
   Mary studied ballet from the age of seven until she was 19 years old. Ballet is not easy, I know from personal experience. She graduated in 1998 from the Pine Crest School, a Fort Lauderdale private preparatory school. At 19, she joined the dance team at Florida Atlantic University, where she was a student in the theater department. Very good.
   After her grandfather's death, her grandmother's health worsened and Mary took a job as an exotic dancer to help support the family financially. Upon noticing that the "feature dancers" made much more money, she asked an agent how she could become one. The agent recommended that she become a porn star (the large fan base that successful porn stars have gives them superior drawing power when they dance in-person at strip clubs). She traveled to Los Angeles and made the rounds of producers and studios in the adult film industry, eventually landing a job with Playboy TV. 
   Well, she became a porn star, and has appeared in a whole bunch of porn movies in order to help her family. That’s all I need to know. 
   She’s got my vote!
   I made a call to the DPSS main help line, and after being disconnected twice, I was referred to another number to request an NSA evaluation with a mental health worker (who knew the National Security Agency was involved with evaluating DPSS applicants... not me!) I’d make that call later.
   I had forgotten to mail my 3rd request for a hearing for the cash benefits I’m supposed to receive. I returned to the post office and got that done. I bought a loaf of wheat bread at Rite-Aid before signing in at the SRHT office. They had been closed all week due to remodeling. They had nice brand new floors now.
   I returned to my lonely room and continued to write.
   Manzano has disappeared. He wasn’t around for dinner at least. Taco salad by the way.
   I returned to the lobby after dinner and took a seat, which bothered my friend Glenda Ponigura, who works behind the desk in the evenings. She began work just as I got there, and usually gets my key as soon as she sees me without my having to say anything. I fooled her tonight though. She had my key all ready as I sat in the back, and looked at me as if to say, “What the Hell?”
   We smiled at each other, and I shrugged my shoulders as to say whatever was happening couldn’t be helped. 
   I can tell that she wants me... desperately.
   My friend Ron McCree walked in at 5:05. 
   “Five minutes late,” I told him. “No one’s on time around here.” 
   “You gonna start off bitching at me, huh?”
   Ronald James McCree is a tall, bald black man, about 4 years older than I am. We first met back at the Pasadena ARC (Salvation Army, Adult Rehabilitation Center) when he came in as a beneficiary while I was working as the residence manager. I was working as the residence manager because the powers that be there wanted Robert Vasquez and I to switch positions because they were afraid he was going to retire soon, and they thought I might be a little bit more flexible to work with than Robert. That worked for a while. We got new administrators in the form of Captain and Mrs Strickland. I was very fond of Mrs. Strickland, probably too fond, which did nothing to further my relationship with her husband. Anyway the powers that be soon discovered that I could easily be as much of a pain in the ass to work with as Robert had been, repeatedly requesting emergency supplies in case of a disaster, and having evacuation drills, and adhering to rules, and stuff like that. The program manager used my addiction to nicotine to get me fired (I was smoking up in the Sample Room’s bathroom where no one was supposed to be smoking), and I promptly relapsed after more than 4 years at the center.
   Such is life.
   Ron had been the residence manager at the downtown ARC, and had been fired for similar reasons, except in his case he had been using cocaine rather than cigarettes. So he came to Pasadena and we became friends. When I got downtown, and into the Weingart, and into the ASAP program, I met him again, at ASAP, and we continued our relationship, such that it was. He had a nice room in one of Skid Row Housing Trust’s hotels, the Boyd Hotel, to be specific, and had gotten me to sign up for my own room with that organization, of which I was currently on the waiting list.
   “Well, you gonna take me to the movies,” I asked.
   “No man. I can’t do that tonight. You keep making it sound like we’re going together.”
   “I do think you’re kind of cute.”
   “Oh man...”
   He wanted me to help him move a big TV Monday morning from his office at the Service Spot, to his apartment. I told him I’d meet him at 9:00 that day. We also made plans to register for a job fair on the 27th.
   Then he took off saying something about him leaving his food out somewhere.
   I returned to my room just in time to see Mitch Pileggi, the “X-Files,” Skinner, make a cameo appearance on “Dharma & Greg,” which was very exciting.
   Hey, when you’re sober you take your excitement wherever you can get it.
   The song “Man of Constant Sorrow,” had been playing through my head all day. That’s what I get for watching “Brother, Where Art Thou?” last night. 
   I turned the radio on to KLOS and recorded Led Zeppelin songs all night. “Man of Constant Sorrow” couldn’t compete with Jimmy Page, and went away.
   I had a strange dream tonight (I know... it’s hard to believe), involving my friend from the front desk, Glenda, and Rosario Dawson, the beautiful and talented star of “Men in Black II,” 30 gallons of lemon jello, a centrifuge, 48 rubber bands of assorted sizes, 6 large ducks, and a trampoline.
   Very strange.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Kathryn Bigelow!

Picture Legend
1. Kathryn
2. Hard at work
3. Relaxing during a photo shoot
4. “The Loveless” with William DaFoe
5. The “Near Dark” Clan, with Bill Paxton
6. “Blue Steel” with Jamie Lee Curtis
7. “Point Break” with Patrick Swayze & Keanu Reeves
8. “Strange Days” with Ralph Fiennes
9. “The Weight of Water” with Catherine McCormack
10. “K-19: The Widowmaker” with Liam Neeson & Han Solo
11. “The Hurt Locker”
12. In heat
13. First woman to get an Academy Award for Best Director
14. “Zero Dark Thirty” with Jessica Chastain
15. On Time
16. Ms Bigelow

   It is my great pleasure and honor this morning to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my favorite film and television directors... and Gap models, Ms Kathryn Bigelow!
   Like many of us Kathryn was born at a very early age. She happened to be born in San Carlos, California (37° 29′ 57″ N, 122° 15′ 48″ W), "The City of Good Living,” located about 24.4 driving miles south of San Francisco, and 25.1 miles northwest of San Jose, where I was born... also at a very early age. 
   During World War II San Carlos was home to the US Army War Dog Reception and Training Center, which trained dogs for war. Approximately 4,500 dogs went through the facility during that war, and according to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia, these dogs “saved the lives of a number of soldiers in combat.”
   Last June 12th, Surf Air began regularly scheduled air service from San Carlos Airport to Burbank. They added two flights a day to Santa Barbara in August.
   Kathryn was the only child of Gertrude Kathryn Larson, a librarian, and Ronald Elliot Bigelow (whom Kathryn derives her surname), a paint factory manager. 
   I was a paint locker manager while in the navy, which is extremely interesting considering Kathryn’s most widely acclaimed film to date is entitled “The Hurt Locker.” The locker she was concerned with contained hurt. Mine contained paint, of various colors, but mostly white, red lead and haze grey. 
   We also had rain lockers which civilians call showers.
   Kathryn’s mom was of Norwegian descent, and her dad’s last name is probably English (Merseyside and Cheshire): most likely a habitational name from a place in Cheshire named Big Low in the township of Rainbow. This place name is not on early record; it means ‘big mound’, from early Modern English big + low ‘mound’, ‘hill’ (Old English hlaw). 
   Unfortunately her parents are no longer with us, Ronald passing in 1992, and Gertrude in 1994.
   Kathryn started out as a painter (her dad liked to draw cartoons. "His dream was being a cartoonist, but he never achieved it ... I think part of my interest in art had to do with his yearning for something he could never have."), studying at the nearby (24.8 miles) San Francisco Art Institute from 1970 to 1972, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, which is a lot more than I ever earned in college.
   While there she won a scholarship to the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of Art, which required her to move to New York City , which was also unfortunate, but one has to do what one has to do. While there she became interested in another artistic medium. 
   "My movement from painting to film was a very conscious one. Whereas painting is a more rarefied art form, with a limited audience, I recognized film as this extraordinary social tool that could reach tremendous numbers of people."  
   Kathryn apprenticed with artists such as Vito Acconci (an American designer, landscape architect, performance and installation artist), Richard Serra (French literary critic and cultural theorist), and Lawrence Weiner (formulator of conceptual art, sometimes called Conceptualism, is art in which the concepts or ideas involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns, like when making movies. “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” -Sol LeWitt
   During her time in New York Kathryn made some extra bucks by flipping apartments in Manhattan with the American composer Philip Glass, distant cousin of Seymour and Boo Boo. It is said she spent a good deal of time hand sanding wooden floors.
   She made her first short movie, “The Set-Up,” in 1978. It was 20 minutes long and explored the topic of violence, which just hasn’t been explored enough in this country.
   The famous Czech-American director, screenwriter, and professor, Miloš Forman, who you may know from films like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” and “Amadeus,” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt," saw an unfinished copy of “The Set-Up,” while teaching at Columbia University and found it impressive enough to offer Kathryn a scholarship there. She earned her master's degree in film theory and criticism from Columbia in 1979, and then moved to feature-length projects.
   Do you know the actor Willem Dafoe? The one who seems to be in every other movie that’s ever been made... like Samuel Jackson, and has recently been playing Satan in Mercedes-Benz commercials?
   Well besides an uncredited role in one of the biggest flops in the history of film, “Heaven’s Gate,” Mr. Dafoe started out in Kathryn’s 1981 full length feature, “The Loveless,” a biker film,  which was partly inspired by her love of the 1954 classic, “The Wild Ones,” which starred a young, unfat Marlon Brando. The producer Monty Montgomery co-directed. Here’s the trailer. The film earned critical acclaim, but I have no idea how much money it made, if any. 
   Kathryn probably knows. Ask her.
   I became familiar with her work with her next effort, the vampire/biker/western “Near Dark (1987),” which she co-wrote with Eric Red (“The Hitcher”), and which stared Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, and Bill Paxton, who Kathryn stole from her future husband, James Cameron, when he finished using them in “Aliens (1986).” 
   Now I saw this when it first came out and really liked it. I didn’t realize at the time that the future director of “Zero Dark Thirty,” had made it. I wouldn’t know that for 25 more years when “Zero Dark Thirty was finally released. 
   But I really liked that movie. I saw it again Monday night as a matter of fact. 
   It cost $5 million (American) to make, and earned $3,369,307.19, exactly, but has made money no doubt through rentals and other distribution methods, and indeed has achieved the status of “Cult Favorite.” Here’s a scene compilation. Spoiler Alert, the vampires lose.
   That year she also directed a music video, “Touched by the Hand of God,” for the group, New Order, which I’ve never heard of.   
   In 1989 Ms Bigelow lost her innocence by entering the studio system, making “Blue Steel,”  starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and by marrying the future King of the World, director James Cameron. They divorced in 1991, and Kathryn has remained single since. 
   Hey Kathy baby. You’re hot! Come and see me.
   Anyway, “Blue Steel,” a movie about a rookie police officer who becomes entangled with a murderer, played by Ron Silver (I never did like that guy) got mixed reviews, and earned $8,217,997.34, on a budget of, I don’t know what the budget was. Kathryn probably does... ask her.
   Here’s a clip.
   Next comes 1991s “Point Break,” starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. The story concerned a suffer gang headed by Swayze, who earn a little extra cash by robbing banks, and who are infiltrated and pursued by FBI agent Canoe... I mean Keanu. 
   Here’s the end scene. Spoiler Alert, Swayze gets wet.
   I saw the film, was unaware Kathryn directed it, and thought it was... okay.
   But a lot of people thought differently, and since its release has become a huge worldwide cult hit, and financial success. 
   Way to go Kathryn!
   In 1993 she directed one episode of the television mini-series “ Wild Palms,” which if memory serves was kind of science fictiony, starring James Belushi, Dana Delany, Robert Loggia, Kim Cattrall and Angie Dickinson.  
   Next she made one of my favorite science fiction films, 1995s “Strange Days,” written by ex-husband James Cameron and former porn star, Jay Cocks. It stars ex-Nazi concentration camp commandant Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore (before his career imploded via Heidi Fleiss), Vincent D'Onofrio, and blind radio astronomer William Fichtner.      
   “Strange Days,” is a simple tale, based on a true story, set in the future, which is now the past. Here’s the trailer
   As I’ve stated, I really liked the movie, liked the way it was made. The acting was top notch, as well as the production values. The story was fresh and unique, an epic film really. I was still unaware that Ms Bigelow was the director, but so what? I continue to be amazed that “Strange Days,” wasn’t received well, both critically and financially (it cost $42 million to make, and earned just $7,959,291 at the box office. Ouch!).
   Hey, guess what. “Strange Days,” has become another cult hit.
   “If you hold a mirror up to society, and you don't like what you see, you can't fault the mirror. It's a mirror. I think that on the eve of the millennium, a point in time only four years from now, the clock is ticking, the same social issues and racial tensions still exist, the environment still needs reexamination so you don't forget it when the lights come up. Strange Days is provocative. Without revealing too much, I would say that it feels like we are driving toward a highly chaotic, explosive, volatile, Armageddon-like ending. Obviously, the riot footage came out of the LA riots. I mean, I was there. I experienced that. I was part of the cleanup afterwards, so I was very aware of the environment. I mean, it really affected me. It was etched indelibly on my psyche. So, obviously, some of the imagery came from that. I don't like violence. I am very interested, however, in truth. And violence is a fact of our lives, a part of the social context in which we live. But other elements of the movie are love and hope and redemption. Our main character throws up after seeing this hideous experience. The toughest decision was not wanting to shy away from anything, trying to keep the truth of the moment, of the social environment. It's not that I condone violence. I don't. It's an indictment. I would say the film is cautionary, a wake-up call, and that I think is always valuable.”
   In 2000 Kathryn made “The Weight of Water,” which every 4th grader knows equals 18.01528 g/mol, which translates to grams per mole (g/mol) a mol being a unit of measurement used in chemistry to express amounts of a chemical substance, defined as the amount of any substance that contains as many elementary entities (e.g., atoms, molecules, ions, electrons) as there are atoms in 12 grams of pure carbon-12 (12C), the isotope of carbon with relative atomic mass 12. This corresponds to the Avogadro constant, which has a value of 6.02214129(27)×1023 elementary entities of the substance.
   That said, “The Weight of Water,” stars Sean Penn, suitably bikinied Elizabeth Hurley, our friend Sarah Polley, Josh Lucas and Catherine McCormack, and concerns  two women trapped in suffocating relationships while investigating a murder, and switches from the past and the present, and so forth. Here’s some scenes
   I have not seen this film.  It received mixed reviews, and made $102,622.85, which isn’t a whole lot of return for a film that cost... I don’t know how much it cost to make... Kathryn probably does... you know what to do.
   In 2002 she directed “K-19: The Widowmaker,” starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, based on a true story about the crew aboard the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered submarine during a nuclear reactor malfunction. The film cost $100 million to make, and earned $65,716,126.31 worldwide, receiving mixed reviews (some liked it, some didn’t).
   I saw this film right here in my home, and it was... okay. Harrison played against type as a stern, disciplinarian, Soviet naval Captain who has no Russian accent, and the story certainly demonstrated it’s not as easy serving on a nuclear submarine as one might think.
   Here’s the trailer
   Returning to television, Ms Bigelow directed episodes of the crime drama “Karen Sisco,” starring the very lovely and talented Carla Gugino,  and “The Inside,” starring the similarly lovely and talented, Rachel Nichols.
   Next comes “The Hurt Locker,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival (the one in Italy, not the one next to Santa Monica) in September of 2008.  
   This is the story of a mild mannered  Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team in Iraq, and stars  Jeremy Renner, Brian Geraghty and Anthony Mackie, with cameos by Guy Pearce, David Morse and old buddy Ralph Fiennes. 
   Written by American journalist Mark Boal, “The Hurt Locker,” was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won six, including Best Director for Kathryn, the first woman to win this award (as well as the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, the BAFTA Award for Best Direction, and the Critics' Choice Award for Best Director), and Best Picture. Mr. Boal won for Best Original Screenplay. 
   "I was fascinated by his stories—by the idea that these bomb technicians are always walking toward the thing that everybody else is running away from. It's kind of an epic, lonely walk that only the man in the bomb suit performs," Ms Bigelow explained to Marie Claire magazine one day.
   “The Hurt Locker” won a whole bunch of other awards and honors from critics' organizations, festivals and groups, including five other BAFTAs ( British Academy of Film and Television Arts).  
   Kathryn was the fourth woman in history to be nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, and only the second American woman (the others being Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola). 
   She competed with her ex-husband for the Best Director Oscar that year (2010, he was nominated for ”Avatar”), which marked the first time that (ex-)spouses were nominated alongside each other in this category. He already had one (for “Titanic”), so it was her turn to win.
   The film made some money too, costing $15 million to produce, and earning $49,230,772.47 worldwide... I’m sure it’s made a little more by now, which is always nice.
   It has been said that Ms Bigelow often utilizes slow motion techniques to emphasize dramatically certain aspects of her films, such as action scenes in “The Hurt Locker.” This is totally false. She just likes to see things blow up really slowly. 
   As do I.
   Here's a behind the scene look at "The Hurt Locker."
   Soon after Kathryn won her Oscar this article appeared in The Frisky:
10 Reasons we are Thrilled Kathryn was the One to Make Oscar History. -Kate Torgovnick/ March 8, 2010
“1. For being a female director whose movies aren’t even slightly girly. “Point Break,” Kathryn’s first big movie, was about a group of rough-and-tumble surfers/bank robbers. “Strange Days” was about a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles. “The Hurt Locker” showcased a bomb squad in Iraq. 
2. We so appreciate that romantic comedies and love stories just aren’t Kathryn’s thing.
3. For not squealing or goofily laughing once during her acceptance speech. “It’s the moment of a lifetime,” she said, seeming overcome with sincere emotion. Plus, how freaking sweet was it that she was backstage, having just given her speech, when “The Hurt Locker” won for Best Picture, too?
4. For beating her ex-husband, James “Avatar” Cameron, and not giving him another ego-tastic “I’m the king of the world!” opportunity.
5. On that note, for showing that ex-wives aren’t all bitter shrews and can actually get along with and still appreciate their exes, even if things didn’t work out.
6. For making a thoughtful war movie, period. “War’s dirty little secret is that some men love it,” Kathryn said in an interview. “I’m trying to unpack why, to look at what it means to be a hero in the context of 21st-century combat.” We also appreciated that she filmed in Jordan and used many displaced Iraqi actors in the film, rather than going the more “Hollywood” route and filming in Morocco. [Newsweek, A.V. Club]
6. For being a champ while filming in 135-degree heat. “There were a lot of macho guys on the set,” says Mark Boal, who wrote and co-produced “The Hurt Locker.” “I’m not walking this hill, no way in hell. I drive past one of the crew who’s literally puking on the side of the road. People are dying on this hill. I drive up, and Kathryn is already at the top. She’s beaten everyone up there.” [Newsweek]
7. For showing that life isn’t always a direct path from A to B. She grew up wanting to be a painter, and even was a fellow at the Whitney Museum. “My dad used to draw these great cartoon figures. His dream was being a cartoonist, but he never achieved it, and it kind of broke my heart,” she says. “I think part of my interest in art had to do with his yearning for something he could never have.” [Newsweek]
8. For showing that a woman can still be smokin’ hot at 57, without oodles of plastic surgery.
9. On that note, for showing that beauty and brains can come in the same package. In addition to her directing resume, she was also once a Gap model.
10. And for making a vampire movie, before everyone else did. Hers, “Near Dark,” came out in 1978.” 
   Okay, we here at Joyce’s Take were thrilled as well, however... Number 10 above is only true if you change the date to 1987, and forget about “Nosferatu (1922),” “Dracula” (1932, “Welcome to my home. Enter freely of your own will and leave some of the happiness you bring.” Technically this quote is in Bram Stoker’s book, not the film... but I love it so),” “Dracula's Daughter” (1936),” “Son of Dracula (1943),” “Dracula’s Cousin First Removed” (1944),” “House of Dracula” (1945),” “El Vampiro (1957),” “Dracula (1958),” “Blood and Roses (1960, Starring lesbian, communist, pro-choice vampires),” “The Vampire Lovers (1970, more lesbians),” “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” and Dracula (1948), “The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967),” “Vampira (1974),” “Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966) The first Vampire/Western, a genre in which “Near Dark” is often placed, although with a “Biker” influence. Spoiler Alert: Billy wins),” “The Brides of Dracula (1960),” “Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966),” “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968),” “Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970),” “Scars of Dracula (1970, appendectomy),” “Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972),” “The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973),” “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974),” “Count Dracula (1970),” “Countess Dracula (1971),” “Blacula (1972),” “Leptirica (1973, The first Serbian horror movie),” the first “Bram Stoker's Dracula (1973),” “Blood for Dracula (1974),” “Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (also known as “Dracula's Dog” 1978),” “Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, a Werner Herzog Joint),” “Dracula (1979, with Laurence Olivier),” “Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula (1979),” “Love at First Bite (1979),” “A Vampire Out of Work (1916),” “Fright Night (1985), “Once Bitten (1985),” “Lifeforce (1985, nude, space vampires),” “The Hunger (1983),” “Lost Boys (1987, premiered before “Near Dark”),” and literally hundreds of other vampire films.
   “If there's specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can't change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. It's irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don't. There should be more women directing; I think there's just not the awareness that it's really possible. It is.”
   Ms Bigelow’s latest film was 2012s “Zero Dark Thirty,” which tells the story of the hunt, and eventual assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and which stars the lovely and talented actress Jessica Chastain, who got a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her trouble. 
   Here’s a scene, and another, and another. And here she is talking to David Letterman about her movie.
   “I feel we got it right. I'm proud of the movie, and I stand behind it completely. I think that it's a deeply moral movie that questions the use of force. It questions what was done in the name of finding Bin Laden.”
   “Zero Dark Thirty," received wide critical acclaim, and was nominated for five Academy Awards at the 85th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal again), winning for Best Sound Editing. The film also earned four Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama, and Best Director, winning for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for Jessica.
   “Zero Dark Thirty” cost $40 million dollars to make, and made $138,720,716.64 during it’s initial theatrical run worldwide, which continued Kathryn’s disgusting habit of making a lot of money.
   Who knows what she’ll do next? I don’t. She probably does. Perhaps she’ll comment on this post and tell us.
   “I always want to make films. I think of it as a great opportunity to comment on the world in which we live. Perhaps just because I just came off The Hurt Locker and I'm thinking of the war and I think it's a deplorable situation. It's a great medium in which to speak about that. This is a war that cannot be won, why are we sending troops over there? Well, the only medium I have, the only opportunity I have, is to use film. There will always be issues I care about.”
   Here’s a clip with Kathryn talking to Charlie Rose about directing.
   In the early 1980s, Ms Bigelow modeled for a Gap advertisement. I don’t know why.
   Her acting credits include Lizzie Borden's 1983 film “Born in Flames,” as a feminist newspaper editor, and as the leader of a lesbian, communist, pro-choice cowgirl gang in the 1988 music video of Martini Ranch's "Reach," (another band I’ve never heard of) which was directed by  Jimmy Cameron.
   And all of us here at Joyce’s Take wish Kathryn and her family and friends, continued good health and fortune, and of course, a very happy birthday.
   Happy birthday Kathryn!

Monday, November 25, 2013

7th Annual HomeWalk

   “Over the past 6 years, HomeWalk has mobilized 38,000 participants, raised $3 million and moved 13,000 individuals into permanent housing. All proceeds from the event go back into the community, supporting effective strategies to end the ongoing crisis.
   The policies and solutions United Way advocates, such as permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing, have an 85% success rate when it comes to keeping people off the streets with a 43% cost savings for taxpayers.
   HomeWalk is an opportunity for all Angelenos to come together to raise funds and awareness while building a brighter future for our community. Join us today by registering, donating or volunteering! Together, we can end homelessness once and for all.” -The HomeWalk People at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles

   Hi there. I live on the outskirts of what is known as “Skid Row” in Los Angeles, California. I’ve lived in this area for the last 12 years or so, and I’m perfectly happy here, although it’s not the most scenic place in the world. 
   The downtown Los Angeles skyline looms close by though, dominated by the US Bank Building, what used to be called the Library Tower (because of the Los Angeles Central Library right across the street), and what George W. Bush called the Liberty Tower (because... well, no one knows why he said that). It’s the tallest building in the United States west of the Mississippi River, and along with it’s attendant structures close by, makes for a truly beautiful sight, especially on a clear night.
   I see it all of the time.
   I could take a few steps down my hallway to a window  close by and look at it right now if I so desired, but I’ve seen it before and won’t. Not right now at least.
   The name “Skid Row” dates all of the way back to the 17th century (January 1, 1601, to December 31, 1700, in the Gregorian calendar), and refers to a road used by loggers, made of logs, and used to move other logs by skidding, or pulling them over the logs on the roads through various woods, bogs, and muddy places. It’s also called a Corduroy Road, I don’t know why, and were used by logging camps all over the Pacific Northwest.
   How the name “Skid Row” became synonymous with “ a shabby urban area with cheap taverns, dive bars, and dilapidated hotels frequented by lowlifes, alcoholics, and itinerants (Random House Dictionary)” is hotly debated. I debated it just the other day, and it was quite warm.  It is generally believed to have originated in either Seattle or Vancouver. I don’t know why (the term "Skid Road" was in use in Seattle by 1865 when the city's Pioneer Square neighborhood began to expand from its commercial core, centering near the end of what is now Yesler Way, becoming the demarcation line between the affluent members of the city and the mill (logs) workers, lowlifes, alcoholics, and itinerant portion of the population). 
   “Skid Row” in Los Angeles (defined in a lawsuit as the area east of Main Street, south of Third Street, west of Alameda Street, and north of Seventh Street) is often associated with the influx of  seasonal laborers who worked in the nearby citrus groves at the end of the 19th century (January 1, 1801 through December 31, 1900), and the residential hotels that were built to service them. The famous Union Station (seen in films such as “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Way We Were,” and the classic “Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid”) lies to the north of Skid Row, and was, and is, a major transportation hub (trains), which facilitated the influx of these workers. By the 1930s the area was home to a large number of people without a home, who may or may not have been alcoholics, or addicts, or mentally ill. What we know for sure was they didn’t have a whole lot of money, or other available resources. This was during the Republican Great Depression, and at times of national economic distress large pools of poor people are manufactured, who need to live somewhere, and Los Angeles has very nice weather. Accordingly social-service providers that attended to these people were founded, making the area more hospitable to the local population. Today these organizations include the Weingart Center Association (WCA), Volunteers of America (VOA), Homeless Health Care of Los Angeles (HHCLA), the Midnight Mission (M&Ms), Union Rescue Mission (URM), the Los Angeles Mission (LAM), the Fred Jordan Mission (FJM), and the Downtown Women's Center (DWC) The Salvation Army used to operate Safe Harbor for women, Harbor Light for men, and an Adult Rehabilitation Center in Skid Row for many years, but after the Great Republican Recession of 2008, it couldn’t make these facilities pay for themselves, and so bugged out. Many other service providers, such as the Men’s Central Jail (MCJ), the Century Regional Detention Facility for women (CRDF), and Los Angeles Central Library (LACL), provide temporary housing to lots of homeless people free of charge (as for the library, day services only... and no meals), and the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) and Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT) non-profit entities that have taken over the residential hotels that were once occupied by the seasonal workers, now provide permanent supportive housing to the homeless, which have recently grown in number in large part due to the recession. I am associated with SRHT. As a matter of fact I’m one of their Ambassadors. 
   Unfortunately I enjoy no diplomatic immunity.
   Skid Row has it’s very own police force curtesy of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), located at 6th Street and Wall, euphemistically known as Central Community Police Division (CCPD). Please click onto their website and say hello. They’re very lonely and will be glad to hear from you.
   You can’t walk a block around here without seeing two, three, or more of their cruisers cruising around looking for homeless people to harass. Local authorities have a long history of adverse relations with the city’s homeless population dating back to at least the 1940s. Ironically the large police presence in Skid Row makes the area one of the safest in the city, with little or no gang violence to be found, providing another incentive to live here, whether you are homeless or not.
   “Skid Row” is also the name of an American heavy metal band from New Jersey.
   Skid Row in Los Angeles (sometimes referred to as “The Nickel” as 5th Street runs east and west right through the middle of the area) has the largest concentration of homeless in the country. 
   “Of the estimated 91,000 homeless people living in Los Angeles County, it is estimated that 2,521 homeless persons can be found within the 0.4 square miles of the Skid Row area. Those numbers equate to roughly 3% of the county’s entire homeless population residing within an area that comprises only .0001% of the county’s total land area.” -Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce
   The above estimate was made in 2008. Current estimates of the number of homeless residing within Skid Row vary between several hundred on any given night (those who actually live on the streets), to several thousand depending on who you ask. SRHT estimates the current homeless population residing within Los Angeles County at approximately 58,000. 
   New York City boasts having the largest number of homeless within it’s boarders, at  64,060 as of last January, making it the homeless capital of the nation, and possibly the world. All of us here in Los Angeles vow to work as hard as possible to catch up and overtake our rivals to the east.
   I mean really, who would want to be homeless in New York City? Cell phone reception is bad, people are rude, they have crappy pizza, and it freaking snows in the winter! 
   Anyway, last month, over a period of three nights, volunteers led by Downtown Pathway Home and Lamp Community, in partnership with the Los Angeles Central Providers Collaborative, Community Solutions, and the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA), successfully surveyed a total of 532 individuals within the Skid Row area. Of those surveyed, 329 individuals, 62%, were chronically homeless, which means they’ve been homeless a year or more, and may suffer from health, mental health, and substance abuse problems. 199 of those surveyed, 37%, were vulnerable based upon health conditions and other indicators with high mortality. 83 respondents, 16%, were Veterans, 35 (42%) of which are vulnerable with a high risk of dying on the streets.
   On average, these vulnerable individuals have spent 6 years living on the streets. Due to health problems, they are frequent users of health services including inpatient care or utilizers of hospital emergency rooms. In total, those surveyed reported 771 inpatient hospitalizations in the past year. Assuming an average cost of $2,566 per day, these visits total an estimated cost of $2 million a year.
   Nationally, there appears to be a modest decline in the overall homeless population, according to estimates by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) released last Thursday (based on a one-night count conducted in January in 3,000 cities and counties across the nation), declining 6% since 2010, to 610,042. That’s a very good thing (despite the ongoing rivalry between L.A. and New York). Sharper reductions of 16% for people homeless more than a year, and 24% and for homeless veterans, were recorded as well. That’s also a good thing. A very good thing. 
   Our government’s response to this good news... federal cutbacks, including a 5% reduction in federal funds for homeless programs beginning last Friday, removing an estimated 100,000 homeless and formerly homeless people from programs designed to help these people (according to DHUD). 
   Certain factions of Congress wish to cut back on food stamps, unemployment benefits, and social security itself (for no apparent reason as social security does not add to the federal deficit at all, and is solvent just as it is for many years to come, and any eventual shortfalls can be overcome quite easily by initiating certain measures, such as eliminating the cap on income subject to the social security tax)... might as well screw the poor and homeless as well.
   Here’s the bad news (besides anything Congress does) Some states actually saw large increases in their number of homeless. California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas account for more than half of the country's homeless population, and of those, three of them experienced the largest increases. Homelessness rose by 11.3% in New York, by 8.7% in Massachusetts, and by 4.5% here in California over 2012. Other states had increases that were far larger, such as a 33.1%  increase in South Carolina, and 26% increase in Maine. Overall, 20 states saw their numbers of homeless go up compared to last year. Since 2007, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and Washington, DC have seen increases of more than 20 percent.
   That sucks.
   Accordingly, the services organizations listed above (often relying in part on government subsidies) must utilize innovative techniques to continue providing service, and seek funds from other sources such as private individuals, organizations, and the public at large.
   The United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA) for instance, hosts an annual HomeWalk. This consists of getting a whole bunch of people together who contribute a small donation for the privilege of participating in a 5K walk (or run, if you are so inclined) to highlight the plight of the homeless, and raise cash to keep funding programs for the homeless. They’ve done this seven times now, and last Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend their latest.
   5K. That stands for five kilometers, kilometer being a metric measurement, which is a internationally agreed upon decimal system of measurement that was originally based on the mètre des Archives and the kilogramme des Archives introduced by France in 1799, which of course makes it socialist... just like their health care system. 5K translates into almost exactly 3.10686 good old capitalist American miles, and that’s what over 12,000 anti-homelessness men, women, children, and assorted animals endeavored to traverse Saturday, on a crisp, sunny, November morning.
   It began for me at 7:00AM at the Abby Hotel, located just behind the Midnight Mission at the corner of 6th Street and San Pedro. A bus was there which took 20 or so of us SRHTers to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which at one time hosted the 1932 summer Olympics (and in 1984 as well). The newly arrived Los Angles Dodgers played there when they first moved from Brooklyn, as well as the Oakland Raiders when they became the Los Angeles Raiders in 1982 (winning the Superbowl the next year). Now the Coliseum sits empty most of the time... it’s an eyesore really, and should be torn down as soon as possible to make way for a new SRHT hotel. Or two of them.
   Be that as it may, upon arrival we secretly integrated with the thousands of potential runners/walkers who were already there and made our way to the SRHT Booth, where I met Daniel Rizik-Baer (yeah, I know... sounds like a socialist), a very nice and intelligent young man who is the Community Relations Manager for the Trust. 
   He manages relations with the community. Very important.
   Daniel ushered me to the registration person, where I signed in and was given two T-Shirts, one  generic to the walk (I happen to be wearing it as I write this. Very comfortable), and one specific to the Trust, that has the words “Team Skid Row Housing Trust” printed on the front. I put that on, and attached what is called in run/walk parlance a “bib” with my number, 7743, to the front of my new T-shirt. Now I was ready. 
   The event was to begin at 9:00AM sharp, and we had about an hour to wait. Lots of people were milling about. Nearby venders sold various food items. A stage was situated about 100 yards to the right of us, where various people spoke to the crowd through state of the art public address systems.
   I was standing around, minding my own business, when I noticed Daniel in front of me a few feet away holding a camera. He raised it to take my picture (this happens to me all of the time) and I smiled. When finished I noticed that someone had stood next to me who had gotten their picture taken as well. It was Mike Alvidrez, the Executive Director of SRHT, the Big Cheese, or Big Wheel, or Bigwig, the Head Honcho, the Kahuna and Kingpin, the  Panjandrum, the Pooh-bah, the Mightiest of the Mighties, the HMFWIC, the Top Dog, the Captain, the Guvnor, the El Jefe, the Numero Uno, the Steel Magnolia, and the One of Which We Do Not Speak, of Skid Row Housing Trust. 
   Mike is a very nice young man of about my age. I have great hopes for his future. 
   He may have given me the Devil’s Sign (two fingers raised behind my unsuspecting head) as we had our picture taken, the publicity starved bastard.
   I tried counting all of those in attendance but they wouldn’t stand still long enough for me to accomplish this. 
   “One, two, three... ah, one, two, three, four, ah, one, two, three, four... ah...” On and on.
   I walked around to look at some of the other booths nearby to see who sponsored them. 
   Enterprise Rent a Car was there. The Youth Policy Institute. PwC, which stands for Price Waterhouse Coopers, a professional services company. THINK Together, which spends it’s time teaching, helping, inspiring, and nurturing kids. Mercy Housing, which apparently provides affordable, and low income housing services... very good. The Downtown Woman’s Center, that deals with women downtown. The LAMP Community, the Skid Row non-profit that works with homeless people suffering from mental illness. KPMG, another professional services company. Team Kobe, who must have been associated somehow with the Honorary Chair of HomeWalk, Kobe Bryant, who at one time played basketball, if memory serves. Parsons Corporation, an engineering firm. There was a booth for “First Aid.” I don’t know what they do. 
   The Conrad Hilton Foundation is a big sponsor of HomeWalk, which is appropriate for an entity devoted to "relieve the suffering, the distressed, and the destitute.” 
   The Weingart Foundation was in attendance. I used to live in their building, also on the corner of 6th Street and San Pedro. 
   East West Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America took some time off from making people homeless by foreclosing on their homes, to participate. 
   All of these groups had their people wearing T-shirts with their corporate logos on them, some identifying, or linking said companies  and organizations with HomeWalk.
   I didn’t see anybody wearing a  “Republicans Against Homelessness” T-shirt. Not one at all. 
   Steve M. Hilton, the CEO of the Conrad Hilton Foundation, spoke for a little while up at the stage before introducing Kobe. His niece Paris was no where to be found.
   Kobe Bryant was there with his lovely wife Vanessa, and their children. He spoke a few words, and then it was announced that the runners and walkers should get ready to run and walk at their respective starting points. 
   I could have run this course easily, in my sleep even... backwards. But my fellow SRHTers were walking and I didn’t want to show off. 
   The event began ten minutes early, at 8:50. I guess somebody was in a hurry.
   The runners started first. Kobe, standing on a scaffolding which straddled the starting gates, if you will, proclaimed, “Go,” and they took off.
   A few minutes later he did the same for the walkers, and we were on our way.
   I passed right underneath Kobe, who was up there smiling and waving.
   You know why he was smiling? Because he wasn’t about to run or walk 3.10686 good old American miles, that’s why. 
   We began walking north on Figueroa Street, past 38th.. I quickly trotted up to where the runners were now passing Hoover, just to make sure everyone was well hydrated and okay, then trotted back again... backwards
   We passed Felix Chevrolet, where Felix the Cat will sell you a car if you need one.
   A nice young lady handed me a flier that acted as a layoff notice. It told me that the number one reason for homelessness is the loss of a job. 
   It also asked me if I knew that 1.6 million (16%) of L.A. County residents live below the poverty line.
   And that over 500,000 people (10%) in L.A. County are unemployed.
   And that almost a third (32%) of renters are facing severe rent burden in L.A. County. allocating more than half of their income to rent.
   And for that reason, it takes only one crisis (loss of a job, illness, accident) to push a family into homelessness.
  Kind of depressing, isn’t it?
   A different nice young lady gave me a bottle of water to drink, which cheered me up.
   We made a left on Adams Blvd, turning west. There’s a nice big Catholic Church on the corner, St Vincent de Paul, which was the second Catholic Church in Los Angeles to be consecrated. 
   The big finale of the 1999 film "End of Days" starring our former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger battling Satan, was filmed inside.
   The producers of that film got Satan to work for scale. 
   I saw some people wearing Edison International T-shirts. I thought to myself they had a lot of nerve showing up, being associated with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power by being an energy company, which took 9 hours to restore power to my home the week before. 
   9 hours! My grandmother could have fixed it faster.
   Next we made another left turning south on Hoover Street. A little ways down I passed the 3K marker. We soon made another left turning east onto W Jefferson Blvd, back to Figueroa, where there was an honest to God cheerleading squad waiting for us (these girls looked to be about middle school age, and too young to be underpaid professionals... reference here). We passed the campus of the University of Southern California to the right, making a full circle back towards the Coliseum. With another right on Exposition Blvd, we passed the beautiful Exposition Rose Garden, and the Natural History Museum where the stuffed animals inside really do come alive at night, not like those movies where they use CGI (Computer Generated Images).
   Making a quick left onto Bill Robertson Lane I passed two statues of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops locked in mortal combat. 
   It was unexpected and frightened me.
   I soon passed the 5K marker, which should have been where the finish line was located, but oh no, we were all required to walk at least another half kilometer (546.81 yards) to that line, and should have been given extra credit (and another T-shirt).
   I passed the California Science Center to my left, and the Samuel Oschin Pavillion where the retired space shuttle Endeavor is exhibited after Los Angeles stole it from NASA.
   As I finally approached the official finish line I could hear, then saw, a stationary marching band playing the War song “Low Rider.” Interesting.
   I was then forced to walk through a gauntlet of beautiful, talented, and underpaid (formerly lesbian, commie, pro-choice Girl Scouts) Laker Girls. They had make up on and everything. 
   There was nothing I could do about it. Everybody had to walk through them.
   And that was it! All in all the course was rather easy to run/walk. There wasn’t any obstacles or anything. No moats or windmills to contend with.
   I made my way back to the SRHT booth, and was given a nice protein bar in the hopes of stabilizing my protein levels.
   But nothing was happening there, and I had another event to attend, so I left and caught the 40 bus back to Skid Row.
   I had mistakenly believed that the Los Angeles Mission was having it’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner that day, in which they serve a nice Thanksgiving Dinner to everybody who is willing to wait in line for awhile to be served (this is one aspect of living near Skid Row that is unique to the area. No one will ever starve here. The missions provide meals daily to the homeless, the Hippie Kitchen provides beans and salad three mornings a week, and if that weren’t enough, many nice people come down of their own volition and give away food. I can get free donuts every morning except Sunday if they weren’t little wheels of death, from members of a nearby Korean Church). This is where all of the movie and television stars come to get their picture taken while serving food to the homeless, as in the picture above of the lovely and talented Jennifer Love Hewitt (who’s made many friends here), our former mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Kim Kardashian, in what is known locally as a Villaraigosa Sandwich. 
   It was not happing that day though. It will be on the 27th, this Wednesday, and I look forward to attending. Come on down. Maybe you can be a sandwich too!
   The Union Rescue Mission (second to last picture above) was serving their Thanksgiving dinner that day though, and I went there (just north of the intersection of 6th Street and San Pedro, across from the Weingart Building) and got in line, where I spent the next hour and a half talking to some very interesting individuals about the possibility of the homeless going on strike.
   When I got inside I was served a huge Thanksgiving meal with turkey and everything. I was given so much food I could only eat half, and took the rest home with me.
   I guess it was a bad day to start my diet.
   When I got home I checked my E-mail, as I often do, and found this message from the HomeWalk people at the United Way:
   “Today was truly inspirational.  This year marked the 7th anniversary of United Way of Greater Los Angeles' HomeWalk to end homelessness and we are so grateful that you spent your morning with us.  Your participation made this the most successful HomeWalk in history. We had a record-breaking 12,000 participants and raised over $860,000! Every single dollar will go towards housing individuals in need.  This is a proud moment.
   HomeWalk is so much more than a 5K, it is truly a movement.  Today's success reaffirms our potential as individuals and as a community to come together to permanently break the cycle of poverty for all in Los Angeles County.
    There were so many memorable moments, but we'd like to recap a few highlights: hearing passionate leaders talk about the possibility of a city without homelessness, experiencing the homelessness journey on the route, and meeting a few of our formerly homeless, but now thriving, friends.
   HomeWalk is now over, but our work continues.  It is not too late to keep fundraising to achieve our goal of ending homelessness once and for all. Every $100+ fundraised or donated before December 31st will still be matched by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.  Please visit to make a donation or forward this email to friends and family who could not attend today so, they too, may join our community.   
   Because of individuals like you who believe it is unacceptable for anyone to live without a home, HomeWalk 2013 was the most successful in history. 

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving,” 
Elise Buik             Kobe Bryant
   And that’s about it... except for this closing rant.
   Homelessness is an endemic problem in this country, and a national disgrace. Often the homeless are villainized for being poor, or suffering from addiction, or old, or young, or female. Well there are lots of females in the United States. I know some of them personally, and it’s not their fault that their female, they couldn’t help it. It was not a choice for them. Same with the young and old, same with those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Addiction is a disease. You don’t wake up one morning saying to yourself I think it would be a good idea to be an addict and live in misery for the rest of my life. The same with being a republican I guess... it’s a disease. It’s not your fault, seek treatment please! End the horror.
   But the state of the homeless is tied directly to the general state of the national economy (which actually does trickle down to the state and local levels), which the poor have little influence over because they are poor and can’t afford lobbyists. If the federal government is the steward of the economy, then it’s done a piss poor job of stewarding. Greed and money in politics has allowed economic interests to flourish to the detriment of the majority of the country. If you have to place blame on somebody for being poor and homeless then place it on those who are actually responsible for the growth of their numbers... the federal, state, and local governments who value profit before humanity. 
   It’s time to place the blame and the responsibility on those who are actually to blame and who are actually responsible, those who would place that blame on anybody except themselves, like children caught with their hands in a cookie jar. 

   Latter that evening I consumed the rest of my Thanksgiving meal while watching the film “Gaslight,” starring the lovely and talented Ingrid Bergman.
   Very good.