Saturday, May 31, 2014

Skid Row Diary 27

19 September 2003   Friday    day 69

   “The corpse that scares you is walking around with you now. Underneath this thin coating of skin, we are already white bones. All of us - rich and poor, man and woman, honored and despised - walking white bones. In death there is no difference, so what do these differences matter now? Meditate on this and you will also find something the same in all of us that could not possibly die, because it was never born” -Tao Shan

   I made myself a nice smoked sausage sandwich for breakfast, utilizing a large French roll I had brought back with me from dinner last night. I used my last two sausages, cheese, and mustard. I had to wash off the white scum that was beginning to attack my sausages, before I zapped them in the old microwave. Such is life without a refrigerator. 
   I finished eating, and dressing and all, just in time to walk up to the VA Clinic, for Dr Lo’s group about groups. 
   Today we discussed groups... and goals, and that goals are a good thing to have. Especially for recovering addicts as we get so carried away with euphoric recall that we forget the bad things that happen to us when we were using, and the misery, just like women forget how painful it is to give birth and keep on having babies. We addicts selectively, but not consciously, remember just the good things, the fun we thought we were having... and sometimes we were having fun.
   A specific goal to help us remember is a good thing, and everybody should have a goal. I have many.
   One of them is to help bring a little sanity into the world, just a little, but that is a very difficult thing to achieve because of the prevalence of insanity, desperation, and denial which exists. Our leaders often act as if their in kindergarten. And my goal is more difficult due to the fact that I’m not all here myself. 
   But that’s no reason to stop trying.
   Another goal is to move away from Los Angeles, up north, to Monterey maybe, or Morro Bay. That goal is much easier to achieve than the first, and shall happen within the next year or two I hope, if I live that long.
   I felt like trying to be “a part of” today, and joined in the conversation to a large degree. It was a small group, seven or so, and no one was trying to dominate the group’s time, so it was rather easy to jump in now and then.
   Sam wasn’t around, or Earl, or whoever it was that referred people to the CWT program, so I left right after the meeting and checked my mail. John Manzano’s letter was waiting for me. I also stopped at the mental health office. Anthony was there today, finally. In fact he was behind the counter as I entered and I was able to give him the two forms I needed for him to fill out. I told him I’d be back at 1:30 to pick them up, and walked three blocks east to 6th and San Pedro, where the Weingart was located.
   I wasn’t particularly hungry. The smoked sausages had filled me up, as smoked sausages are want to do, so I skipped lunch. I went to my room and wrote, and listened to an interview on NPR, of the British singer/songwriter/actor David Bowie, a favorite of dinosaur rock and roll fans like me, and one of the few performers I’ve actually seen live, right at City Walk, where the movies are.
   I was a little surprised to learn that he really didn’t like to perform. I can’t say as I blame him.
   Anthony made me wait until 2:00 to get my forms back. No matter. I had brought “Floating Dragon,” with me so I had something to do while sitting in the crowded lobby with my fellow lunatics.
    My illness is designated by the abbreviation DSM IV-311. DSM meaning the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” IV designates the 4th Edition of such, and the 311 nails it down to Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS), which could mean just about anything really. 311 is often used because it takes quite a lot of effort and time make a more exact diagnosis, which doctors don’t like to do because they’re so busy and all.
   Always a good idea to know these things.
   I returned to my room and watched one of the videos that I had recently purchased, “The Dish,” starring Sam Neill, who can be an enormously affecting actor, if not altogether a brilliant one. I’m a fan though, and I wish we’d see more of him. 
   This film, “The Dish,” was a wonderful surprise. I’d seen a couple of scenes from it on HBO while staying at the Frontier Hotel, and knew it concerned a radio telescope (the dish in “The Dish”) in Australia, picking up the signals Apollo 11 sent back from the moon on July 20th, 1969. There were a few mishaps it seems. In general, I love Australian films. I even like films that were made in Australia. And I love the Australian culture, and their young women in their Australian space bikinis. Be that as it may, I’m a little prejudiced as I’ve visited the country on two occasions and was engaged to one of it’s citizens, but I truly enjoyed the warmth, humor, compassion, and passion of those I’ve met, and those who are depicted. It’s a rare thing to see a depressing Aussie movie. And I’ve so enjoyed the work of the British writer Nevil Shute, who relocated to Australia in th 50's and wrote one of my favorite books, “A Town Like Alice,” about a young English woman who while a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II in Malaysia, falls in love with an Aussie man, also a prisoner, and emigrates to Australia with him to make a life in small outback community, "a town like Alice" i.e. Alice Springs. A few years later he wrote “On the Beach,” which turned into one of my favorite films, starring Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Gregory Peck, who passed away just last June. 
   Actually, “On the Beach,” is pretty depressing, but it was an American film, now wasn’t it (based on the work of a British/Australian author, which took place in Australia (for the most part))?
   “The Dish,” besides being very funny, and boasting a lively sound track of popular music from that era, also recreated the feeling that those of us who witnessed this event via television (the landing at  20:18, and Neil Armstrong’s first step on the surface at 2:56 Coordinated Universal Time). The film points out that it wasn’t only America, which sponsored this politically motivated response to the Soviets deployment of the Sputnik satellite, but the entire world uniting (even the Soviets) for just a brief moment, setting aside it’s immediate cares, and getting caught up in the tension, excitement, and the danger of the moment. I don’t think there was anyone alive at the time that wished those astronauts harm, or the mission to fail, or who wasn’t affected by our species first tentative step onto another world, and by extension, the universe.
   During his telephone call from the Oval Office, President Richard Nixon had this to say to the astronauts:
   “It inspires us to redouble our effort to bring peace and tranquility to Earth. For one priceless moment in the history of man, all the people of Earth are truly one.”
   It’s unfortunate that we are incapable of keeping this sentiment alive, and at the forefront of our thoughts.
   It’s also unfortunate that we’ve never really been to the moon, and all of this occurred on a sound stage at Warner Brothers in Burbank (just see the film “Capricorn 1“ for proof).
   I spent the evening reading and in deep meditation. I ate a big, fat filled 3 Musketeers Bar before going to sleep just after midnight, which may explain the dream I had of the lovely and talented Carl Sagan and Salma Hayek both attempting to explain to me the subtleties of quantum mechanics as applied to our daily lives, Bologna Detection Kits, and invisible dragons in America’s garages. 
   It was also unfortunate that I was somewhat distracted during this discussion (see picture above) and don’t remember anything at all of what they told me. 
   Fortunately, Carl wrote a book about it.

20 September    Saturday     Day 70

   I reached up from my bed. “What the fuck!” I quietly exclaimed to myself.
   I got up and showered. Today I would see my friend Aurica.
   While riding on the Red Line subway, I continued reading from “Floating Dragon.” At the 99 Store in Van Nuys, I re-stocked my supply of smoked sausages, as well as acquiring some nice spiced luncheon loaf (whatever that may be), sliced turkey breast (poor turkeys), 2 blank VCR tapes (at least one of which was defective), sliced fake American cheese, smoked cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, two 3 Musketeers and Nestles Crunch bars (for the protein), two bottles of instant coffee, two cans of meatballs in tomato sauce, beef jerky (poor cows), one 6 once bottle of picante salsa, microwave and pre-popped popcorn, butter, and a dozen eggs (poor chickens).
   Live college football was on the telly (with horrid reception) as I entered the Trimar Center. I hadn’t seen football being displayed on the television there before. Not being as in tune with my Hunter/Gatherer ancient instincts as my fellow males, I would have rather watched a movie, as I assumed the female patrons would. 
   I read from the Peter Straub book.
   I only saw Aurica briefly. She was working in a different room than where I was donating. We did say hello, and she asked me is I’d been “busy at school.”
   I lied to her.
   Weight 181 pounds, pulse 87, blood pressure 130/70, height 5 feet 11 inches, sexual orientation yes, political affiliation Whig. The young lady who took my vital sings complained to me of her stomach distress, and that her doctor had advised that she get more sleep. She was having a little trouble getting enough sleep because she was too busy going out and partying. She looked like she hadn’t brushed her teeth in three weeks. 
   I let her know that I hoped she would feel better soon, and that I agreed with her doctor... like I’m one to talk.
   I almost left “Floating Dragon,” at Trimar! After buying a Super Lotto ticket at the 7/11 across the street, while waiting for the 165, I felt the absence of the book. There was only one place I could have left it and I decided to risk missing the next bus to retrieve it. Thank God nobody likes to read anymore, and my book was waiting for me at the front desk.
   And I made my bus, getting back to the Weingart by 4:00.
   Meat loaf for dinner. 
   I taped the demented lobotomist episode of “The X-Files,” then moved everything off of the floor of my room, including 7, 247, 861 cans of pasta products, and meatballs in tomato sauce, onto my bed and desk, in order to sweep and scrub. This took two hours or so. I am nothing if not conscientious. I used the Weingart disaster blanket Gary had given to me to pick up the excess soap and water I had used while scrubbing, then had to let it dry. My $14 fan had broken down a few days ago, so I propped my door open in order to aerate, with a device specifically designed for that purpose. 
   It is against the rules to prop open doors here at the Weingart. I don’t know why. The case workers, like Labrien, are allowed to prop open the doors to their offices. She has her door propped open all goddamn day!
   I watched a nice volcano movie starring the lovely and talented Lynda Carter while waiting for the floor to dry. She is probably best known  for her performance in 1991‘s “Posing: Inspired by Three Real Stories,” which of course concerned Playboy magazine. A true classic.
   It took about an hour to put everything back in place, onto my new clean floor and dusted desk. I rolled about on the floor for a good 30 minutes relishing in it’s sparkling cleanliness. 
   Then I wrote. I set my VCR’s timer to record “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles,” at 3:00a.m. on channel 13, and put in a fresh tape.
   And before going to sleep I read from the rescued “Floating Dragon,” while consuming a 3 Musketeers protein bar. 
   Then I dreamt I was hang gliding in Ithaca, New York, with Carl Sagan’s lovely widow, Ann Druyan. She was dressed in jeans with a “Skateboarding is Not a Crime” T shirt, and I was wearing a polka dot bikini. I don’t know why. It was kind of weird actually. My body is not suited for this kind of dress, but what can you do. 
   Ann was sipping on a Mai Tai while floating through the air. I was nursing a Dr. Pepper.
   And we were having a hell of a time.

21  September    Sunday   Day 71

   “I awakened, although I had not been asleep, but lay there in a semi-conscious state.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky

   I woke to a clarinet reaching for the slippery, piercing, 1st notes of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” 
   It was 4:30a.m., and I leaped out of bed to try to get it on tape, but I could not get clear reception on the radio Gary had sold to me. Another radio station’s transmission kept cutting into kmozart’s. I filthered and tortured those radio knobs, but to no avail. I gave up after a brief eternity, and dripping with sweat, returned to the cold comfort of my empty bed.
   But not for long. I had slept fitfully, and soon it was time to get up and do some yoga and sit ups, hoping my heart would not burst, while listening to another rhapsody, this time the Swedish., by Hugo Alfvén. 
   I showered and got a load of laundry sorted. I read John Manzano’s letter, and would have relayed  what he had to say if I hadn’t misplaced it, although he reiterated his desire to come back to the downtown area. 
   Why did he leave in the first place? Good question. Because he’s a little sissy boy, that’s why.
   After putting my clothes in the dryer I meditated for 400 breaths, then made a nice spiced luncheon loaf sandwich for later. It would come in handy if I happened to get hungry at some time in the future for spiced luncheon loaf, no matter how improbably that was. 
   I moved my dead fan out of the room, placing it by the garbage can by the elevator. 
   Goodbye old friend. 
   Although summer does not end until the day after tomorrow, and Canoga Park will record a record 108 degrees out in the north west valley today, that fan had got me through most of the heat this year, cool and in one piece.
   I listened to a classical music program on KMZT, talking with accomplished, young musicians mostly in their early teens (like gymnasts, to play classical and excel (or any kind of musical instrument, or type), one must have demented parents who force you to start practicing early. It was on this program that I became aware of the hazards of playing the clarinet. I had been completely unaware of them until this time. I’m certainly aware of them now.
   At 9:30 I left the residence in such a rush that I forgot my sunglasses, leaving them upstairs. I was forced to us my emergency “John Lennon” glasses that I keep in my utility belt, and which have no nose guard. 
   Even after stopping at the 99 Cent Store at MacArthur Park for sodas, I arrived at City Walk and the movie theater an hour early. I sat up on the second level near Tommy’s and watched music videos on the outdoor Panasonic television monitor they have there, until it was time to go in. Rooney, Cooler Kids, Scotty Emerick, Sinead Lohan, Something Corporate, Black Eyed Peas (which I have to say was pretty good despite my intense hatred of Rap. I even hate to capitalize the word ”Rap” There I’ve done it again!), Caetano Veloso, Nickelback, U2, and Rufus Wainwright’s rendition of John Lennon’s “Across the Universe.” 
   It is a sad testament to this modern generation of song writers and performers that the Beatles song was the best of the samples. This, I surmised, was undeniable proof that the 60s, 70s, and early 80s spawned the best rock songs ever, and that music videos and the advent of VH1 and MTV ruined popular music.
   Prove me wrong!
   At 11:30 I entered theater number 10 to see “Underworld,” starring the lovely and talented Kate Beckinsale, in a documentary of epic proportions, recounting the recent hostilities between our Lycan and Vampire brothers and sisters in 2001. This was just before both sides developed nuclear capabilities, a time in which the world trembled as if sitting atop a lighted powder keg. Oh, can’t we all just get along!? 
   Well directed, acted, and produced, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. All the characters looked as if they were refuges from the Matrix, all decked out in black, skintight spandex (a nice polyurethane-polyurea copolymer, brought to us by the good people at Dupont). 
   There was not a single ounce of humor in this dark work (no daytime shots. I thought I was back in “Dark City,” floating between suns on top of a giant spacecraft), as befitting the seriousness of the subject matter, and although the musical score was at times rather oppressive, I was swept away by the film, and no one can ask more than that.
   Could have used a tad more action though.
   And the film’s premise was completely feasible... except for the werewolves and vampires.
   “Second Hand Lions” starring Kyra Sedgwick (married to her 9th cousin, once removed, Kevin Bacon), was just an excuse to get two veteran actors together to see what they could do  (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall). 
   Duvall, who along with Jack Nicholson, are probably the two best male American actors who haven’t died off yet and are still working, is not known for his work in comedy, and this film is a great example why. I don’t think he knows what comedic timing and pace means, and in all fairness, I don’t think he could have made much of this contrived mess if he did.
   “Cabin Fever,” starring Cerina Vincent,  which I accidentally walked in on, was not as horrible as Ebert and Roper would have you believe, however it was intensely stupid. Everything about this film was stupid, and all of the characters (except Cerina of course) were too stupid to live, and deserved what happened to them (except Cerina... and Jordan Ladd, daughter of Cheryl. Everybody... everybody died in this film, even you and me supposedly Don’t drink the water!), except the two girls. They were very nice (they had stupid boyfriends though).
   I returned to the Weingart and my room, and for some stupid reason (“Cabin Fever” made me stupid) I watched the Emmy Awards, which is intrinsically hampered by having the same actors win, year after year. A notable exception was Debra Messing’s much deserved win for Best Actress in a Comedy. 
   Even though I’m not caught up in the current “Will and Grace” craze, I think Debra is great.
   A huge injustice was done to the beautiful and talented actress Uma Thurman (who doesn’t look half bad in spandex herself), who wasn’t even nominated for her performance in “Hysterical Blindness” (she did win a Golden Globe, but those things are a dime a dozen. Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands won Emmys for Best Supporting Actor and Actress). 
   I was shocked and appalled, and will never, ever watch the Emmys again.
   Helen Mirren lost as well! What color is the sky these Emmy people live in?!
   The Emmy Award show preempted “The X-Files,” which is another reason not to watch them. 
   Actually “The X-Files” was postponed. I was forced to stay up to 2:00 in order to see the gripping climax of that three part episode I’ve been taping. And do you know what that big climax was? It’s well that you ask, my dear friends. 
   Agent Scully gives Mulder a kiss on the forehead.  
   I didn’t even get to see a little slap on the ass for all of my trouble, and to send me off into pleasant dreams.     
   Instead I dreamt I was a Lycan in the Underworld, with Kate  Beckinsale, Debra Messing, and Aja, the beautiful and talented star of “Timeless,” “Habits of the Heart,” and other fine films.
   They vamped me.

22 September    Monday   Day 72

   Mark Thompson, of Mark and Brian, didn’t like “Cabin Fever” either. He thought it was stupid.
   Brian Phelps, of Mark and Brian, said he had just seem “Terminator 3,” and liked it. “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” came out in early July, making Brian a tad behind the times.
   Too much geezer golf.
   Giselle was decked out in a marvelous short black skirt and white blouse. Simply marvelous.
   I had gotten up at 5:00, and by the time breakfast came around was rather hungry. 
   Dry waffles.
   I prefer my waffles wet.
   Yesterday I had done something I hadn’t done for two years, cook myself some eggs. I used the microwave to cook them, the first batch consisting of 3 eggs (of various colors), a chopped up smoked sausage, cheese and hot sauce. 
   The secret to cooking eggs in a microwave oven is to do it in stages. Cook for 35 seconds, stir them up (a ring of cooked egg will form around the bowl), heat for another 25 seconds, stir again, then add the cheese, cook some more until done, leaving them just a little runny as the eggs will continue to cook after being taken out of the oven. 
   They were wonderful, although they probably would have tasted better, purer at least, without the sausage. As an addict I tend to believe that more of something will make anything better. Left to my own devices I’ve made omelets with so many various ingredients there was no room for the eggs.
   I displayed more restraint (proof that I’m getting better) when I made a 2nd batch in the evening, and again, later today, when I returned from my journeys.
   First stop was One Stop. I was there when it opened and was able to get some free computer time on the Internet, looking up several items of interest, none of which had anything to do with finding work. I did send my resume to 4 or 5 places, and faxed my mental health evaluation to the DPSS.
   DSM IV, 311: Depressive Order (NOS) Not Otherwise Specified. essential features: A disorder with depressive features that does not meet the criteria for one of the mood disorders. Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, or Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety and Depressed Mood. 
   How depressing.
   Anyway, after leaving One Stop, I took the Dash to the V.A. Clinic mainly to just use the restroom. I say “just,” but at the time it all seemed rather imperative.
   I can’t seem to get together with the referral guy at ASAP. Drastic action is in order.
   I took another Dash back downtown, after which I walked to the Skid Row Housing Trust housing office to turn in another form from mental health. Still no openings they told me. I shall need to press the issue soon, but not now... not now.
   I walked to the Central Library and looked up the DSM IV information. I also found a library card that someone had dropped by the catalogue computers near the main entrance. I used it to check out Peter Straub’s “The Hellfire Club,” Frank Herbert’s “Hellstrom's Hive,” Whitley Strieber’s homage to H.P. Lovecraft “The Forbidden Zone,” Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” a scholarly work on Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a “Special Forces Guide to Unarmed Combat,” and Stephen Hawking’s “Theory of Everything.”
   I’m despicable.
   And I shall have to return these books on time (in three weeks), as I can’t stand the idea that the lost card belonged to a child, who after misplacing it, found that a couple of hundred dollars worth of unreturned books had been checked out on it. 
   I’m moral yet despicable.
   I took this bounty back to my room and began reading from Herbert’s book, “Hellstrom’s Hive.” I’ve read it before and found it fascinating. In it the author of “Dune,” had created a hive society, based on the behavior of insects, in an immense, underground facility in Oregon, where 50,000 “workers” lived and bred. Nothing illegal in that I suppose, except for zoning laws of course, and that none of those who lived there had social security numbers, or cards, or appeared in the national census, or were registered for the draft. Except for that there was nothing illegal going on.
   A tale of the ultimate form of communism, I suppose. It reminded me of A. Harbinson’s “Genesis,” where another scientifically advanced society of slaves located in the antarctic prospered, and which is always one or two steps ahead of whatever authorities may be sniffing about.
   Both books would make fine films.
   I would have liked to know a bit more of the hive’s origen, which is only alluded to in Herbert’s book, but it’s a good read if you’re into that sort of thing.
   Many are.
   I meditated, exercised, yogaed, wrote.
   At 8:00 I watched a depressing John Candy movie on KPXN, “Only the Lonely,” featuring the last theatrical film performance of the incomparable Maureen O'Hara (up to now), one of my very favorite actresses. Anthony Quinn was in there too, and Ally Sheedy.
   Then at 10:00, the premier of “Las Vegas,” on NBC aired, which I watched only because another of my favorite actresses, Nikki Cox, starred in it. She was, in my unbiased opinion, the best thing about the show. I didn’t even mind the fact that she was wearing more clothes than I’m used to seeing her in.
   Jordan’s mom, Cheryl, was in it as well, another lovely and talented lady, probably best known for her role in “Satan's School for Girls.” 
   And James Cann, who is unlovely, but not without appeal.
   But if it were not for Nikki, who I’d be happy to watch brushing her teeth (I’m so sick. I thought I was getting better. The eggs proved it, didn’t they?), I wouldn’t have watched it. I’ve already seen “Casino.”
   I went to sleep soon after the movie, and dreamt of two fiery redheads.  
   Maureen O'Hara, Nikki Cox, and I were in a casino in Las Vegas, playing poker at one of the many tables that they have there. I was the dealer. 
   The two beautiful and talented ladies soon ran out of money, but didn’t want to stop playing trying to win their funds back. 
   “Oh please Mr. Rick, can’t you give us some credit,” Maureen pleaded.
   “Yes, please,” Nikki added. “I have to have some money to get home.”
   “I’m sorry ladies. House rules you know.”
   “Please,” they both cried.
   How could I refuse. 
   “Alright,” I said,” I’ll tell you what I can do. We’ll play one more hand, and if you win you get your money back.”
   “Oh, thank you. Thank you,” they cried.
   “But if I win...” And I told them what I got if I won, which involved some horseback riding. Hey, it’s a dream.
   And even in dreams the house always wins.

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