Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Skid Row Diary 21

26 August  2003   Tuesday   Day 45

   At 7:00AM I tuned into “Despierta America” as is my custom, and Giselle was no where to be found. No dress, no pants... no Giselle! Had my lady expended so much energy and effort into yesterday’s show that she required a spell of R & R to continue on? Well, if she had she deserves all the time necessary to recuperate so she may return to us all rosy and fresh, ready to once again brighten our dreary lives with her special presence.
   But wait! About a half hour into the show the beautiful and talented Jackie Guerrido, the show’s beautiful and talented meteorologist, introduced Giselle who was at a remote location.
   That little scamp had taken a boat, or plane, traveling all the way to Puerto Rico from Miami. She was there to host some outdoor event featuring a variety of acts who sang and danced in Spanish (and it’s not easy to dance in Spanish). She looked wonderful, but was still wearing pants. And she kept kissing on some Latin guy. He looked kind of gay to me so I didn’t get too jealous.
   Just before 9:00 I took my collapsible, heavy duty, $14 dolly to the Service Spot... again. Again McCree wasn’t there. I was told he would be there in a few minutes. In the meantime I was offered a cup of coffee which I accepted. I waited in the small, crowded lobby. One gentleman, who was utilizing the free phone that was available there, heard something over the line that he didn’t like, slammed the phone down and walked out. Another gentleman took his place.
   McCree leisurely strolled in about 10 minutes later, entered, didn’t see me at first, then came over and shook my hand.
   “You been waiting long?” he asked.
   “I’ve been waiting since yesterday,” I told him.
   “I know, I know,” he said, then escorted me into the back of the facility where ordinary people dare not pass.
   He introduced me to several of his co-workers who genuinely displayed no interest in meeting me. Ron told them I was his former boss. I assume he once worked for me at some point back in Pasadena although I have little recollection of that period... which is odd. I remember Ron, but not what we did. Sobriety is not all clean and fluent as it’s cracked up to be.       
   He also introduced me to the freaking huge portable television we were to move. 
   Big and black... just the way I like em.
   At least 50 inches across, and 40 high, weighing approximately 5,000 pounds, we hefted it off of it’s stand and onto my dolly. Ron was all ready to let me handle it from there. After all, it was my dolly.
   “If you think I’m going to push this thing then you seriously need therapy,” I told him.
   “Ahh man,” he whined.
   We shared the load, him taking the first half, I the second, to his small apartment on Boyle St., off of San Pedro.
   It’s like stepping through a portal into a whole different world. 
   Entering his apartment building one leaves behind the noisy squalor of the busy shops and mixture of homeless and people looking for bargains, into a clean, uncluttered quiet atmosphere of a modern residential building. It’s actually a little unnerving.
   I’d been there twice before, and was reintroduced to the building’s manager, a nice, slightly plump, black lady.
   “Long time, no see,” she said.
   “Yes,” I wittily replied.
   Fortunately this building had an elevator, and it was relatively easy to get the monster TV up to the 4th floor and Ron’s room. We placed it on his small refrigerator and took his old one to the dumpster downstairs. 
   I told him I wanted to accompany him on his weekly walk through the neighborhood Saturday morning, and that I’d meet him at his place at 7:00.
   We walked out front, and before I left he hit me up for fifteen cents.
   “You still owe me five bucks!” I said.
   “Why you gotta tell everybody?” he exclaimed.
   I looked around. The only one within earshot was the distracted proprietor of a roach coach.
   “You really think he cares about you’re financial situation?” I asked.
   I realize I can be rather abrasive and insensitive at times. I don’t mean to hurt people though. I chastise myself whenever I remember instances of this type of behavior.
   This wasn’t one of those instances. He did owe me five bucks. $5.15 now.
   “You ever think about going back into the Salvation Army,” he asked me right out of the blue.
   “No,” I told him.
   “How come?”
   “Well, if I had to I’d go back I’d go to the Harbor Light. Never back to an ARC.”
   “You don’t have to work at Harbor Light. All you really have to do is attend three meetings a day. The rest is rack time.”
   “But I think an ARC prepares you more...”
   “Maybe,” I said. “For those who need that. You don’t. I don’t. Slave labor is what it is. Income generating slave labor utilized toward self perpetuation. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing... for those who need it. I’m just not going to pretty it up by calling it 'work therapy,” that’s all.”
   I though a moment.
   “Besides I’m banned from the ARCs”
   “What for?”
   It’s very rare that Ron asks questions about people. Usually walking around with him is like listening to an unending loop concerning only things that have happened to Ron.
   “I’ve never told you this before?”
   “I was banned after writing a nasty letter to the administrator of the Carpinteria ARC in responce to being thrown out of there for having sexual relations with one of the psychology interns, and her getting pregnant.”
   “Yeah. Not only did they throw me out, they let her go to, and discredited her.” 
   It’s true. Her name was Julie and she had been my individual counselor. She was a pretty student of psychology doing her intern time at the Carp ARC, and I was a beneficiary... again, working behind the resident desk... again. 
   I had left Pasadena under less than favorable circumstances. Robert Vasquez and I had exchanged Jobs, with me being the resident manager and him my assistant. The powers that be thought that would be a good idea because they thought Robert might retire soon, and they thought I might be easier to work with than Robert... more flexible is how they put it. They were wrong.
   Anyway we got a new administrator in the form of a Capt. Ron Strickland and his lovely wife Pamela. Reuben Smith became a deskman, and worked for me. And we got a new program director, Steve somebody, I don’t remember his last name. Some middle aged white guy from Hawaii. 
   I did a great job, if I don’t say so myself. Robert was so gracious during this change, it was unbelievable. However I kept bugging the administration about having fire drills, and keeping emergency supplies on hand, I guess I was a pain in the ass for them to a degree. And I was perhaps a little too friendly towards Pamela than I should have been. 
   Reuben got resentful of my authority over him, and got all serious all of the time. No more fun loving Reuben. Steve wanted me gone as well for some reason, and they both colluded in busting me smoking cigarettes up in the sample room. Strickland suspended me, at which point I promptly relapsed and wound up leaving the ARC, headed back to the Canoga Park ARC at first, then up north to Carpinteria, where I met Julie.
   We were about the same age. She was married and had two children, an older daughter and a young son. Unbeknownst to me, and maybe her husband, she got tired of playing the stay at home mom, her kids being old enough at the time to pretty much take care of themselves, and she wanted to seek adventure and meaning outside of the home, and I became part of that.
   I had given her a copy of Salvation Diary which she actually read. She seemed to like it a lot, but by her reading it she got to know a lot about me, and I guess felt closer to me because of it. 
   One time during our weekly session she told me she was going to ask to have me transfered to another counselor. I was suitably upset as she was certainly the prettiest counselor currently working at the ARC, and prone to wearing miniskirts.     
   “Why are you going to do that?” I asked her.
   “Because I find you attractive.”
   “Oh, that doen’t matter. I find you attractive as well.”
   I got her to meet me outside of the ARC after the session and we drove to a nearby beach in her car to get to know each other, and an affair ensued. 
   I’m not doubting her sincerity in telling me she found me attractive... many women do. It’s a curse I’ve suffered with all of my life. Still, she pretty much used me to help end her 19 year marriage, and things got quite sticky at times. And like many drug and alcohol interns she was a drama queen, bi-polar maniac with an eating disorder.
   Some of the most depressing times I’ve ever experienced were while I was with her, yet one thing led to another and she became pregnant. By that time I did have a different individual counselor, who I unwisely told the story of Julie and me. You see counselors are bound by law and ethics not to disclose matters of confidence to anybody else, sort of like the relationship a priest, or lawyer have with their clients. 
   I suppose my new counselor didn’t know about that because she blabbed all about it to the program director, who talked to me. Now he was also bound by law and ethics not to divulge anything that he and I talked about, or that my counselor and I had talked about. The next thing I knew he called me into his office and told me, “I told the Captain.”
   “You what?! Why? You said you wouldn’t!”
   “I felt I just had to.”
   He felt he just had to.
   His feeling got me thrown out of the ARC and on to the streets of Carpinteria. His feeling cost Julie her internship, and threatened her future career as a drug and alcohol counselor.
   It was a long and wicked journey for both of us after that. She stayed in the Ventura area, eventually leaving her husband and becoming a drug and alcohol counselor. I wound up living in nearby Camarillo, working for a company called Emergency Road Service, which provided... emergency road service to drivers who needed emergency road service across the nation. I didn’t go out and change people’s tires or anything. It was more of a phone, customer service job, taking requests for emergency road service, verifying what type of coverage these people had, and then dispatching local help to them. It was a good job. I liked it.
   Anyway, I relapsed, lost that job, moved to Bullhead City for a year, becoming a ATM technician with a paper route in the mornings. Then back to L.A. where I eventually took a bus downtown after watching the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, all drunk, and checked into the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light facility on 5th Street and Central. I spent a year there before coming to the Weingart, and the rest, as they say, is history.
   I hadn’t seen Julie for a few years.
   “Man, I thought I knew all about you,” Ron said.
   “You did?”
   “So, did she have the baby?”
   “No. No she did not.”
   I though a moment more.
   “We’re too old for these programs, Ron. We should be able to figure out how to lick any of these problems that come up. Especially you, you old geeze. You’ve got to get some kind of life going on before you hit the boneyard.”
   See what I mean about being insensitive. I’m much nicer to people I don’t know. I don’t know what my problem is. Redirection perhaps. Probably that’s what it is. I take others inventory so I don’t have to take my own.
   Well that’s being human at least, and can be worked on.
   We shook hands and separated. I returned to my room and watched “Heartbreakers,” on my VCR machine. The movie, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver, can boost Gene Hackman’s worst part ever. Not his worst performance, he’s good in everything, but his least interesting and most contrived role.
   But Jennifer was great!
   I took a little nap and dreamt I was the co-weather person on Despierta America, along with the lovely Jackie Guerrido. The only problem was that I could only speak Gaelic, which was unsuitable for a Spanish language program.
   Fortunately Jackie is half Irish and was able to translate for me.
   When I woke I continued writing while listening to NPR.
   Later in the evening I watched an interesting story concerning the creation of the transistor in 1947, by  John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley, of Bell Laboratories. 
   How exciting!
   I went to sleep soon after and dreamt of driving through the lush green hills west of Atascadero, California, with my beautiful and talented friend Julie, while listening to Moby on her tape deck. We were on our way to see the walruses on the beach just south of San Simeon. We talked about living in Europe.

27  August   Wednesday   Day 46

   At 5:27:13 I felt pulled to the southeast. I lazily assumed this disturbance was caused by the gravitational pull of Mars as it came within 34,646,418 miles of the Earth. At 5:27:14 the red planet began to recede, or rather, continued on it’s orbit furthering the distance between itself and its closest planetary neighbor. At 5:27:35 I experienced enlightenment and went back to sleep and to Julie.
   Many wish to know what it feels like to experience Satori (a Japanese Buddhist term for awakening, "comprehension; understanding." In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō, "seeing into one's true nature". Ken means "seeing," shō means "nature" or "essence), or enlightenment, and what happens. Well, it’s difficult to put into words, but other than being open to space and time, with an all encompassing  deep understanding of the universe and beyond, there isn’t much to it.
   I woke up later and turned my TV on to Despierta America. Giselle was busy interviewing a gentleman about the Mars occlusion. I knew this because I am now party to the all encompassing knowledge of the universe... and beyond, so even though they were speaking in Spanish, which I haven’t decided to learn yet, I knew what they were saying. 
   The picture of Mars was a clue as well.
   I needed to go to Trimar today, so I got up, showered, had a tuna sandwich for breakfast, and took off. 
   I stopped at the 99 Cent Store on the way and picked up a nice can of tamales, another can of spaghetti and meatballs, tea and coffee, plastic zipper lock bags, shampoo, 2 blank VCR tapes, and 2 blank audio tapes. And smoked sausage and German bologna. I couldn’t find any  microwave popcorn.  I couldn’t sense any in the store at least.
   The silly movie “Kate and Leopold,” starring Meg Ryan and Wolverine was on when I entered the plasma center. The film is silly because it states that one must jump off of a bridge in New York in order to travel back and forth in time. How absurd. It’s much easier then that. Anybody can travel back and forth in time without going through all of that trouble. 
   I was down to 182 pounds, which is about my ideal weight. I’ve been fluctuating recently due to my erratic eating habits, and the cold I was just getting over.
   My pulse was quite high, 92.
   “Kate and Leopold,” was followed by the equally silly “Men in Black II,” starring the lovely and talented Rosario Dawson. 
   The film is silly because it postulates that extraterrestrials are visiting the Earth all of the time, which is just silly. Aliens don’t visit our planet all of the time. They’ve got more important things to do. 
   Aurica was at work today, but did not have time to stop and chat. 
   I left the plasma center just as the bus arrived across busy Vanowen Street. I ran across the street to try and catch it, but it pulled away as I approached the door. I could see the driver through the rear view mirror chuckling to himself in a haphazard manner. 
   I cursed him vehemently.
   I then felt achy and tired, and wanted to return to the Weingart as quickly as possible.
   I read from King’s book of short stories until the next bus came. "The Road Virus Heads North."   
   You know what I’d do if that road virus bastard was after me? I’d beat the holy shit out of him with a big stick. 
   True to form the 156 bus was just leaving as I arrived at the intersection of Van Nuys and Vanowen. 
   However, the MTA made a mistake, and another 156 came right after the one that had just left, which I jumped on.
   Ha ha on you, MTA.
   I made pretty good time getting back, arriving just as dinner was being served. Dressed turkey.
   I was exhausted by the time I reached my room. Enlightenment must be quite taxing initially. I remembered almost fainting after standing up quickly when getting paid at Trimar. I sat on my bed and relaxed. “Married with Children,” had been preempted again, by some police pursuit of someone driving a van.
   I sure don’t understand the appeal of these televised car chases. Sometimes they last for hours, for a couple of times a week here in L.A. What we have here is basically a helicopter photographing a car driving around. I can look outside of my window and see the same thing. Granted the promise of some drama is involved. Perhaps the pursued vehicle will hit some other cars or pedestrians. And we all feel pretty good that it’s not us the cops are after. Maybe something interesting will transpire at the inevitable conclusion. Usually however, the driver just gets tackled by an overwhelming amount of police thugs... I mean officers.
   I tend to root for the underdog in most situations, so unless the perpetrator has done something heinous,  or hurt someone, I like it when they get away, which rarely happens.    
   All these drivers have to do really is get a little ahead of the police, drive to a mall, jump out and blend in with the crowd. 
   I read that in a Tom Clancy novel somewhere. 
   I had an incredible craving for cigarettes this evening. I don’t know why. The cravings left after I ignored them. 
   I was too tired to do anything other than watching a repeat episode of Charley Rose with the enigmatic Annie Lennox, that I’d seen before. And “The Simpsons,”  a brand new show with Marisa Tomei and James L. Brooks. Marisa wound up getting married to Bob Balaban of all people, second only to Woody Allen as a renowned lover.
   I fell asleep after 9:00, and dreamt I was welcomed to Nirvana upon the slopes of Olympus  Mons on Mars, the largest volcano in the solar system. The Queen of Space, Tori Spelling, welcomed me, along with her consorts,  Alicyn Sterling and Bianca Trump, stars of “Shattered,” and “Maid Service,” respectively. Tori was dressed in her space bikini.
   “Welcome, lonely space wanderer!” she shouted out. “Come with us into the halls of yonder enclave, and we shall greet you with food, drink, and merriment.”
   The girls picked me up and carried me into the mountain, and I was never heard from again.

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