Monday, June 30, 2014

Skid Row Diary 29

27  September   2003   Saturday  Day 77

   I got up around 5:00 and showered. I watched last night’s “Charlie Rose Program,” while exercising. Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric and personification of Satan on Earth was the hour’s guest. I knew how to run a multi-billion dollar, multi-national company after it was over. 
   I was saddened to learn from Charley downstairs that George Plimpton had passed away yesterday. A co-founder of The Paris Review, occasional actor, and a journalist who researched his stories by getting personally involved, such as quaterbacking a Detroit Lions football game, performing in a comedy at act at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, and playing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, among other incidents. 
   The Palestinian American literary theorist, Edward Said also died a few days ago.
   This year is nothing but a death watch. I imagine this is one way to measure how old your are getting, by noting how many people you know die.
   At 6:15 I left the building and walked north to Boyle St and sat down outside Ron McCree’s apartment building. An overcast, grey morning, the street was littered with trash, and black and Hispanic homeless people, some drinking beer, some urinating, some just standing around waiting for what would happen next. 
   A young Hispanic gentleman with the proclivity of talking to himself, rode up to me on a bicycle, set it down next to me, and ran off down the street, around the corner towards 3rd St.
   Ron McCree oozed out of his building and looked around. He scanned up and down the street several times before noticing I was sitting directly in front of him.
   “I’ll be down in just a minute, man,” he said. “I just wanted to see if you were here.” 
   He went back inside.
   The young Hispanic guy came back and retrieved his bike without tipping me for looking after it.
   Ron came back and we began our walk and talk. 
   We walked within a rectangle described by San Julian St. on the west, 4th St to the north, Stanford Ave on the east, and 7th St on the south. The talk varied from self disclosure to predictions of our personal futures. I found out that Ron had been shot in the ass in Vietnam (and then signed on for a 2nd tour of duty... ”I was having fun, man!”), and was receiving a VA pension as a result. I hadn’t known he had even been in Nam. I learned that he had a daughter in North Hollywood. I learned that his internship at the Service Spot was precarious, and that he may or may not be getting paid on a regular basis. I also learned that he’s still drinking, as we stopped at Jack’s Market where he purchased a Magnum Malt Liquor for breakfast. 
   He asked if I minded.
   “I don’t care,” I told him.
   “I didn’t ask if you cared. I asked if you minded.”
   “I don’t care. I don’t mind. What? You think I’m gonna relapse because you’re drinking a beer. Are you crazy? It would take at least two beers for me to do that.”
   He laughed.
   “That’s the first laugh I’ve had today,” he said. “Thanks.”
   We continued our stroll. 
   He told me how Skid Row was divided into districts, as far as the procurement of drugs was concerned. Marijuana was sold and used in front of the L.A. Mission on 5th and Wall, heroin on San Julian, between 6th and 7th, and crack cocaine everywhere else.
   Ron makes these Saturday morning walks supposedly to keep in touch with the street scene, to see who’s dies, in jail, sick, and okay. All I saw him do was to try and pick up cute homeless chicks. 
   One white girl in her 20s was sitting on the sidewalk outside of the Volunteers Of America (VOA) on Crocker, as Ron and I approached. Ron immediately jumped headfirst into her business, asking her what she was doing, where she was staying, where she was going, etc., etc, etc. Surprisingly the girl answered him, and was very nice. Her name was Nina, and had been here in L.A. for six months, out of Wisconsin. Her boyfriend had just been arrested and she was staying in the 38th St. shelter, and was trying to get on GR. At one point she mentioned that she needed a pen to write something down, and I gave her one of my emergency pens from my utility belt and told her to keep it.
   McCree gave her his phone number, “just in case,” she needed it. Wasn’t that nice of him? She wrote it down.
   He tried to do the same to a pretty black girl named Karen who was waiting for a check cashing store to open on 7th, near Stanford. Ron kept trying to give her his number, “just in case,” and she kept politely refusing.
   Just up the street on Gladys, Ron showed me where the Hippie Kitchen was. I’d heard of it for the last year and a half, but had never seen it. As it turned out it was right across the street from Gladys Park where the elite homeless hang out during the day, and where the Drifters Meeting is held each night. The Hippie Kitchen provides meals three days a week, with Saturday being one of those days. But it didn’t begin doing that until 9:30, and Ron and I didn’t stick around.
   No one will ever starve in Skid Row.
   Besides the Hippie Kitchen, there are several missions nearby, like the Midnight Mission, and Union Rescue, that provide daily meals, a Senior and Woman’s Center, and good folks, or church groups often come down and hand out food to those who happen to be around when they’re there. Everything from complete meals, to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and whatever’s in between.
   We continued north toward 5th St (The Nickel) discussing the projected consequences of the imminent strike by the homeless, when Ron turned into one of the many seafood companies that encompass the Skid Row area. 
   Apparently this particular company sold to the public in an open market each day until 11:00, and Ron bought ten bucks worth of lobster and squid. Good on the lobster, yuck on the squid.
   Back at old Jack’s Market, he bought two more beers to take home with him, and we said our goodbyes.
   I invited him to the movies, but he said he couldn’t make it today. Another time perhaps.
   I walked back to the Weingart’s dining room and ate breakfast. Pancakes. Then returned to 5th St to catch a bus downtown. Just as the bus arrived I notice an LAPD black and while (police car) pull up to Jack’s Market across the street. Two officers jumped out with their guns drawn, and ordered a black guy to stand up against the side of the building. 
   I went to the movies. 
 And arrived at City Walk just after 10:00. 
   It seems that very same multi-national company, General Electric has just agreed to purchase this facility, along with Universal Studios down the hill, and it’s cable and music business. Joined with NBC, I think it’s a good match, if you don’t mind huge media conglomerates.
   “The Rundown” didn’t start until 1:00, so I kicked back and watched music videos. I enjoyed Elvis Costello’s “45,” and fell in love with Annette Strean of Venus Hum, who sang “Soul Sloshing,” from their album “Big Beautiful Sky.”   
   I may not be able to get over her. She’s much too cute.
   Good singer too.
   And really cute... for a girl.
   “Soul Sloshing” would play itself in my head for the rest of the day, replacing Elton John’s “Little Genie,” which I don’t even like that much.
   I didn’t like “The Rundown” that much either, or at least not as much as Ebert and Roper did, but I liked it a little. I thought Dwayne “The Rock" Johnson was great as the Syndicate’s “retrival specialist,” with a dream to become a restaurateur, and the lovely and talented Rosario Dawson as a  Brazilian rebel (who knew there were such things as Brazilian rebels... I certainly didn’t). 
   I’d rebel with her in Brazil given half a chance. 
   That dancing fool Christopher Walken has made a career out of playing edgy, idiosyncratic, possibly surreal characters, and he continued to do so in this film.
   Needed just a smidgeon more action though.
   While attempting to exit the theater complex a searing wind blew me upstairs into the #17 auditorium, where “Woody Allen’s “Anything Else,” just happened to be playing, starring the lovely actress (she’s very talented too), Christina Ricci (little Wednesday!) and Jason Biggs, the actor who has intimate relationships with apple pies. Another trip into Woody’s world, which usually concerns upper-middle class New Yorkers, who never seem to work, have no money problems, and are looking for love. I’ve got no problem with that. Somebody’s got to do it, and one of the things I most liked about this film was the shots of the city. As a matter of fact I now am afflicted with an uncontrollable urge to go to New York and run around Central Park at three o’clock in the morning.  
   Two jokes I have to relate. Christina Ricci,  congratulating her boyfriend (Biggs) new job as a a television writer in California: “That’s great. All the idiots who can’t make it in New York go to California and write for television.”
   Woody’s not making a lot of friends in L.A. I’m guessing.
   And Jason talking in Central Park about sex with his new friend, David Dobel (Woody):
   Jason: “I don’t like masturbation. I’t not like the real thing.”
   Woody: “Oh I don’t know about that. Let me tell you, just last night I constructed this fantasy with Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren, and to the best of my knowledge that’s the first time those two wonderful actress ever appeared together.”  
   I also accidently stepped into the last 20 minutes of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” starring the beautiful and talented Diane Lane.
   Now I know what you’re thinking. What is an exceptionally handsome, virile, sexy, man’s man, doing going into the biggest chick flick of the year? My answer... because the beautiful and talented Diane Lane starred in it. Enough said. 
   The cinematography was very nice too.
   I returned downtown, to the Weingart, singing and dancing to “Soul Sloshing.”
   I watched “Zorba the Greek,” on PBS, starring Anthony Quinn, in one of his most famous roles. 
   Scene: Men running out of a mine just before it collapses. One man pulls back, into the dust ridden entrance: “Zorba! 
   Quinn walks out, looks around... “What?”
   Did you know that Anthony Quinn was Mexican? I didn’t. His dad rode with Pancho Villa, which was the nickname of José Doroteo Arango Arámbula, a famous Mexican revolutionary. After that they moved to East Los Angeles (not far from the Weingart), which must have been a little anticlimactic for them.
   When I went to sleep I had a dream with Andrea Parducci, the lovely and talented star of “Once Upon a Madonna,” “Tales from the Chateau,” and many other fine films, Marilyn Monroe, and Sophia Loren, which as far as I know is the second time the later wonderful actress ever appeared together, and the first for all three.
   I won’t go into the details, but it involved a trampoline.

28  September   Sunday   Day 78

   I woke late, at 10:00 or so, showered, then went downtown to buy a paper. I also picked up the latest issue of Maxim Magazine, with the lovely and talented Gina Gershon, featured on the cover.
   I’ve heard some critics pan Maxim, and it’s imitators, describing it as pablum for young males, and a destroyer of minds. I say, hell no, that’s what T.V. is for. I find the magazine witty, entertaining, and informative. Why in this issue alone I learned who Antarctica belonged to, how to conduct a stakeout and follow people with their knowing it, how to throw a boomerang, spot fake twenty dollar bills, and how to create an artificial womb. I even found some funny jokes, like, a giraffe walks into a bar and says, “High balls on me.”
   Upon returning to my room I exercised and meditated  before fixing some nice eggs and sausage in the day rooms microwave. I also got 4 laundry tokens from Frank Valdez, the weekend case manager. Now I have 11. I could do laundry all day if I so desired.
   While reading the paper I had recently purchased I listened to The Prairie Home Companion on the radio, sponsored by The Ketchup Advisory Board, which provides instruction in the use of ketchup, which at times can be fairly tricky.
   The radio also told me that Elia Kazan, the famous film director had died, and  yesterday the actor Donald O'Connor (who was another actor I actually saw perform at Universal Studios. I was on an active sound stage for some reason, and he was guest appearing on some television show, and having a little trouble remembering his lines as I recall). He used to talk to mules.
   With all of these people dying all over the place I really think I’ll be lucky to make it to December, due to sympathy death.
   At 7:30 I watched and taped the Farrelly brothers, “There’s Something About Mary,” starring the lovely and talented Cameron Diaz, who is both talented and lovely all at the same time. I had forgotten how funny it was, their best effort to date.
   And at 11:00 I watched the “Fast Food Brain-Eater,” episode of “The X-Files,” which was really, well, bad. I taped it, but will record over it tomorrow with “The Man with One Red Shoe.”
   Christina Applelay, the beautiful and talented star of “Creasemaster,” and “Savannah R.N.,” and other fine films, and Cameron Diaz came to me in my dreams tonight.
   We were in Nepal, climbing up a steep, snow-ridden, trail on Mount Everest, on our way to a Buddhist monastery. Both of the girls were shivering mightily, as they were not dressed properly for the climate, wearing matching green string bikinis with purple stars embossed upon them. Taking pity upon the foolish ladies, I let them huddle against me to keep warm.

29  September   Monday   day 79

   I wrote until it was time for lunch (barbecued chicken), then walked up to the VA clinic for the 1:00 ASAP meeting.
   Bud Wilson, from the veteran’s benefit office sat in on the group to answer questions we might have concerning benefits we might have been eligible for. That took about three quarters of the hour, and in the last fifteen minutes Kathy explained how having our urine tested once or twice a week was an important feedback tool. 
   Lord knows I realize the importance of testing as a tool to measure progress, but I despite it’s value as a tool for patient feedback. I suspect that the ASAP clients know pretty much if they’re dirty or not. 
   Afterwards, I caught a Dash to 8th and Spring, and walked to the One Stop Center, and there faxed my resume to three places. All the computers were busy, so I went to the library to check my E-mail. There, I also learned everything I could about the electronic pop music group from Nashville, Tennessee, Venus Hum, and my new love, Annette Strean.
   I don’t usually do this, but if you click on this, you can see and hear Annette and “Soul Sloshing” too!
   She looks so sweet, and I’m almost positive that she is as pure as the driven snow. Innocent too. And she’s a very powerful singer.
   Don’t worry, Sophie B Hawkins, I still love you best. Jennifer, Odalys, Giselle don’t be jealous. There’s room in my heart for all.
    I returned to the Weingart and attempted to meet with my lovely case worker, as I was overdo for a session. Labren refused to see me, however, claiming her computer was down. Apparently the ability to take notes and enter them at a later time was beyond her. I was unreasonably upset as this always seems to happen with her. Whenever I do get to see her she acts like she’s doing me a big favor. Hell, it’s the Weingart’s policy’s that I see her on a regular basis, not mine. I already know how I’m doing.
   I didn’t voice my displeasure though. That would have been counter productive.
   Later, I tried to tape one of my favorite comedies, “The Man with One Red Shoe,” starring Lori Singer. When I think about films that I cherish this always comes to mind. Based on a  French film, “Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire,” or for those of you readers who do not speak or read French, “The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe,” and is smart, funny, irreverent, well acted, produced, and directed. It also has a wonderful musical score. It boasts some memorable lines, like, “This man has been badly beaned,” and scenes, little Tommy Noonan is mistaken by the enemy to be the target they are looking for and has all of his teeth removed in a dentist’s office as a result. The film is even somewhat relevant as a statement of the absurdity and lengths modern intelligence agencies will go to to prove doubtful positions (like why we invaded Iraq). 
   You can’t get much of a better cast. This guy named Tom Hanks looks elfishly young playing the straight man to all of the crazy antics happening all around him. Dabney Coleman is simply great in everything he appear’s in... “How will I know which tooth the microfilm is in?” he is asked. “Oh yeah,” he ponders briefly. “Better yank em all out.” Lori, “Left foot... one... red... shoe.” Jim Belushi, Tommy, Charles Durning, Carrie Fisher, Edward Herrmann, Squiggy from “Laverne & Shirley.”
   Here’s something I didn’t know until I checked it out. Hanks’character in the film is a concert violinist. Lori Singer is an actual concert cellist, and made her debut as soloist at age thirteen with the Oregon Symphony.
   “The Man with One Red Shoe,” bombed at the box office, but so did “ Citizen Kane” when it debuted in 1941 (it didn’t make it’s production costs back at least).
   I said I tried to tape it, but was unable to. Midway during the broadcast, I played back part of the tape only to discover that it was not taping smoothly, but starting and stopping in a jerking fashion, making the sound  impossible to hear. I experimented with the VCR for a while and came to the conclusion that the combination of the cheap tapes I use and the cheap VCR I have, has doomed my recording efforts. I also realized much later that I probably could have kept recording and played it back on a different machine, and it might have worked just fine.
   So I was a tad disappointed. The next VCR I buy will not be purchased from around here.
   After the movie was over I read for a while before going to sleep. 
   I dreamt I was in a small mid-west town dancing to an upbeat Kenny Loggins’ song with Lori Singer, Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
   Like Christopher Walken, we were dancing fools.

30  September    Tuesday   Day 80

   I got up reasonably early and went to breakfast, French toast, then left for Trimar. 
   At the 99 Cent Store in Van Nuys I picked up 2 jars of instant coffee, 2 cans of meatballs in tomato sauce, Colby cheese, jalapeno peppers, mustard of course, ham and turkey luncheon meat, smoked sausages, butter, grated Parmesan cheese, and 3 Three Musketeers Bars.
   At Trimer, they were watching Jerry Springer again, so I continued reading from “Floating Dragon,” finishing it late that night. I don’t think I finished reading it the first time around as I had no memory of the convoluted ending at all. Peter Straub is a great writer, but I personally don’t care for the endings of many of his books... which is a significant problem. This one, “Ghost Story,” two books that are roughly similar (a group of people pulling together to battle with a supernatural enemy from the past. In “Floating Dragon,” the final confrontation between the four principle characters and the dragon takes place after everyone else is pretty much dead and done with. One would think that these folks would have mustered up the gumption to fight back a bit earlier than that, especially after one’s husband had been killed, one’s father, and another’s wife and unborn child. And don’t tell me they didn’t know who the dragon was, as in the end it didn’t take a whole lot to figure it out.
   And the final vanquishing was done with the help of some “magic sword” that popped out of nowhere when one’s thoughts were clear or you sang a song.
   As in “Ghost Story,” after all of the deaths, destruction, and mayhem, the overzealous antagonist seemed pitifully weak and easy to dispatch.
   In Struab’s book “Mystery,” the ending was very satisfying, and I’m looking forward to reading “The Hellfire Club, which I got from the library, because... well who doesn’t like clubs. 
   The first finger prick sample was too fatty, and I had to drink some lemon juice and wait a half hour in order to try again. Popcorn. Butter on the French toast. Bucket O’ Lard. I’ve been eating too much fat. I weighed in at 188.
   The second test came back okay, and I was able to donate. My friend Aurica was off today, so I had no one to talk to except the mad Dutch woman, Mama Nell, who complained to me about having to adjust my needle.
   I just love having my needle adjusted.
   After finishing I purchased a Super Lotto ticket, then made my way back downtown.
   I had received my new bus pass card in the mail yesterday, so I bought October’s sticker from the MTA customer service office at Arco Plaza, before returning to the Weingart.
   Swedish meatballs for dinner. They looked like regular meatballs to me.
   I spent the evening writing and watching television, very different from other evenings. I’ve been taping Jackie Guerrido’s weather forecast on “Primer Impacto," at 5:30 each day. Knowing the weather is very important.
    I watched the second to last episode of “8 Simple Rules,” that John Ritter appeared in. The last will be aired next week.
   And I watched the season premier of “Good Morning Miami,” starring Constance Zimmer. The producers seem to have discarded Suzanne  Pleshette’s character, substituting her with Ttiffani Amber Thiessen. This is an outrage! I have nothing against Tiffani, but to push off the beautiful and talented veteran actress and comedian is not only insulting, it’s down right rude. I for one, will never watch this program again.
   After finishing “Floating Dragon,” I went to sleep and dreamt I was dancing in Miami, right on the street, with the lovely and talented Constance Zimmer, Madison Stone, star of “Harley Girls,” and “Evil Toons,” and who is also very lovely and talented, and Suzanne Pleshette, to the song “Footloose.” All joined in. Pretty soon everybody in Miami was dancing. 
   It was just wonderful.

1  October   Wednesday   Day 81

   “Zen is easy. It is only selfishness which is problematic and painful.” -Shen T’ Sing

   After exercise, meditation, and shower, I cleaned my lonely room, and made a nice breakfast, scrambled eggs,  jalapenos, and smoky cheddar and Swiss cheese. 
   It was wonderful too. 
   I used the day room’s computer to write a letter to Monzano. Hopefully I’ll be able to print it tomorrow at the One Stop.
   I met Oscar, an old acquaintance of mine from Harbor Light, at the 1:00 ASAP meeting. A nice black gentleman who at one time was a professional rock and roll harmonica player. We used to perform together at the karaoke meeting on Wednesday nights in the so-called church across the street from the Weingart, performing Led Zeppelin songs mostly (he’d play the harp and I’d sing. I’m a very good singer). Oscar is now putting a demo together to submit to a record company.
   He told me of another Harbor Light alumni, a guy named Boon, who had just gone through 37 thousand bucks on crack cocaine.
   I don’t no where he got that money, but he sure must have had a good time while it lasted.
   On second thought, he probably didn’t.
   I checked in at the SRHT office after the meeting, then checked my mail. While filling out my CA7 form at the post office, a young and pretty Hispanic girl bought some stamps from the stamp machine that they have there for the purpose of buying stamps, which happened to be right next to where I was standing. She must have paid with a $20 bill, as she seemed surprised upon receiving fifteen $1 coins as change.
   “Yeah,” I said to her. “That sucks doesn’t it?”
   “This is how you get change back,” she asked me.
   “Umm Huumm. I put’em in a piggy bank.” Which is true. I do put them in a piggy bank.
   “Well I guess I’ll do that too. I have a new baby...”
   “Oh, congratulations!” I said in an appropriately congratulatory manner.
   “Thank you.”
   “Take care now.” I left.
   This would be the highlight of my day. Some small, precious contact with a normal, responsible person, who mistook me for one as well.
   I wrote after returning to my lonely room. Dinner consisted of about a half can of chile mac, of which I augmented with a smoked sausage sandwich upstairs.
   At 7:00 I watched Charlie Rose while reading about closing criminal records in California, and ice flows on Mars. The foreign minister of Egypt was on tonight, so naturally Steve Martin, the actor and banjo player, was the second guest. 
   Well anytime you get these two together you know all hell is going to break loose (sort of like Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren), and tonight was not an exception.
   I watched “The West Wing,” again, and this week’s show was 100% better than last week’s, helped out by the appearance of two of my dream girls, Annabeth Gish (formerly of the “X-Files”), and the magnificent Mary Louise Parker.
   Then I watched a new show, the series premier actually (I knew this because the words “Series Premier” appeared at the bottom left hand corner of the television screen for an intolerably long time, as if ABC didn’t trust me to figure this out myself, or that it even mattered. And while we’re on the subject, what’s up with all of the network’s sneaky little intrusions on the movies and television shows I’m watching with these annoying advertisements at the bottom of our screens! It’s not enough that we have to put up with endless commercials? It makes me just want to scream! But I get overly excited. And yet, if this is what unrestricted capitalism has wrought, then I long for a turn to Marxism-Leninism... it’s come to that, I’m afraid), of “Karen Sisco.”  Produced by Danny DeVito, I only watched because I’m secretly in love with the series’ star, the beautiful and talented, Carla Gugino, who until now has been working in feature films. 
   I first became aware of Carla around August 29th of 1971, when I was about 15 years old and I sensed her presence in the world. I became aware of her work, and finally got to see her, in Brian De Palma’s 1998 thriller, “Snake Eyes,” which also starred that acting fool, Nicolas Cage. 
   Now I’m not one to drop names, oh heaven’s no, but I first learned of this show from it’s creator, Elmore (Elmore) Leonard himself, whose book, “Out of Sight,” the show is based on. I saw him being interviewed at the UCLA book fair, months and months ago. A movie was also made from that book, starring Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney (who I have a tremendous amount of respect for, due in part because of his attitude toward the roles he chooses, and his television production of “Fail Safe”), with Jennifer playing the Sisco character, that Carla has now taken over, and for my money, is better suited for. The premier show was basically a repeat of the film and book. Karen gets involved with a bank robber, the difference being at the end she doesn’t let him get away... she shoots him.
   That a way Carla!
   I read from Straub’s “The Hellfire Club,” before going to sleep and dreaming I was in a prise fight in Vegas with Carla Gugino as my opponent. 
   She was dressed inappropriately for the occasion, in a short white skirt and blouse, the same clothes she wore in “Snake Eyes,” frankly, donning a blonde wig and glasses.
   I’m afraid my concentration was a bit off. She beat the holy crap out me, then to add insult to injury, she shot me in the foot.
   I hurt real bad.

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