Sunday, October 19, 2014

Skid Row Diary 34

14  October   2003   Tuesday    Day 94

   Well, I was hoping to go to Trimar today. My funds are getting a little low. However, I have no way of getting there now.
   “Bus and subway mechanics in Los Angeles County went on strike at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, shutting down the mass transit system that serves a region with 9.6 million residents. The 2,500 Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) workers are opposing the efforts of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to restructure the union’s health insurance fund, impose a two-year wage freeze and drastically reduce health benefits for retirees. An additional 9,000 workers represented by other MTA unions are honoring the ATU picket lines.” - Andrea Peters    
   “We will have no ability to offer any real alternatives to our customers,” said MTA Chief Executive Roger Snoble. “We cannot offer any service in any way, shape, or form.”
   The strike will affect approximately 400,000 passengers, including me, that use buses daily, for who knows how long.
   To quote my friend Gary Porch, “I’m fucked.”
   As far as going anywhere other than downtown Los Angeles that is.
   Yet I sympathize with the mechanics. Too often politicians are loth to raise taxes for services that are dearly needed and depended upon by local communities (schools being another example) for pure political reasons, and would rather balance their budgets on the backs of everyday workers, or those who can least afford it (periodic raises in the fares for bus riders which predominantly effect the poor, being another). 
   I just hope this doesn’t take too long, maybe in one or two days.
   I took my inability to move well. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
   I was given a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast, with sausage. Then I walked west on 5th toward the library. I made a stop at the SRHT office to sign in. There I was given another form for Labren to fill out. I took it with me to the library where I returned some books and tapes into the after hours repository. Since I was right next to the Arco Plaza I checked my mail, where I received several letters, which I took back with me to the Weingart.
   Steven Bochco, the television producer responsible for “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” was on Mark and Brian, promoting his new book, “Death by Hollywood: A Novel.”
   I opened my mail and was delighted to find a check for $42 from the good people at Vocational  Rehabilitation (which I had decided I could do without... not the good people, but the agency itself), to use for transportation purposes, i.e., a bus pass, to be used in my search for work.
   The irony of receiving money for a buss pass on the very day a bus strike was called did not escape me (and for those literary purists (assholes) that object to the use of the term “irony,” the above situation is also a coincidence (although an ironic one)). Only Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller could make stuff like this up.
   I also received another letter from Voc Rehab, “Individualized Plan for Employment,” where I got the results of the aptitude test I had taken for them. 
   According to Dr. Pagel, PhD “The client has an 8th grade level in reading, a 4th grade level in spelling, and a 7th grade level in math.”
   I didn’t even make it to high school level, which starts at the 10th grade here in Los Angeles. Or used to. 
   I’m a lousy speller, always have been. Thank God for dictionaries and spell check. I had hoped my spelling had improved over the years due to all of the writing I busy myself with, but apparently not. 
   I’m really surprised I did so well in math, which is a subject I enjoy reading the results of those who are proficient in that science, rather than applying that discipline  myself. Thank God for calculators.
   And I always thought of myself at least a good reader. I make a strict point of looking up words I come across that I’m not familiar with... sometimes, which I usually and promptly forget. But 8th grade! 
   I do not know if I can cope with this shame and may have to result to seppuku, the form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. 
   Oh well, I can’t argue with Voc Rehab. They must know what’s true and what is not. I must accept my meager role in the world and be satisfied that I am allowed to exist.
   They also told me that my vocational goals are first, Customer Service Representative, second, Dispatcher, and third, Electronic Assembler.    
   Now I have goals and don’t feel so lost and aimless.
   In another letter from those happy-go-lucky folks at the Department of Public Social Services, I was told my benefits would be terminated on Halloween because I had not gone to my appointment with the Social Security Insurance rep last week. 
   I had already anticipated this response and knew how to deal with it. 
   What else did I get? Oh yes, my synthroid medicine from the VA. This stuff allows me to live happily without my natural thyroid juice, my thyroid having made the decision to bug out on me years ago.
   Fucking thyroid.
   Today marks my 9 month anniversary here at the Weingart. I went to see Labren, my case worker, who got mad at me for hanging around her office while she was goofing off with Ms. Jetter (whether I’m assertive or passive in my attempts to see her she gets mad. I cannot win. Women. As Kevin Smith quite eloquently put it, “They’re insane.”). 
   She eventually gave me an extension on my stay here for 30 days, which was very good as I had no plans on leaving as yet. 
   I wrote and read the paper. Meditated. I continued on with re-reading Dean Koontz’s “Winter Moon,” his space/dimensional/necromancer alien book.
   At 9:30 I looked in on the “Good Morning, Miami” show, where our local “Good Day, L.A." weather lady, Jillian Barberie has apparently joined the cast. She plays a morning television co-host who is somewhat abrasive and slutty, which is totally out of character for her.
   Her interpretation of her role was spot on.
   Later I had a dream involving Jillian Barberie, Daljit Dhaliwal, the BBC newsreader and television presenter, and the lovely and talented  ventriloquist and puppeteer, Shari Lewis, and a broken microwave oven, 57 toothpicks, 3 jars of mayonnaise (light), an Egyptian sarcophagi, 6 mildly hungry chupacabras, 12 deep fried pickles,  7.3 lime snow cones, and automated lawn mower, the “It’s a Small World" ride at Disneyland, Steven Spielberg’s cat, a tire pump, 3 copies of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera,” 6 thirteen volt batteries, a screen door, 2 elevators, 8 hula hoops, 14 ears of semi fresh corn, 12 jalapeno poppers,  8 Miniature Schnauzers, 53  Lesser Antillean Iguanas, a beige barbershop pole,  4 interconnected Slip in Slides, a half pound of soiled ambergris, 1465 frozen fish sticks, 2 raspberry pies,  6 Norwegian fire monkeys, 22.9 antediluvian vampires, some dijon mustard, 3,000 moldy walnuts, 10 pounds of dry ice, 12 solar powered calculators, 6 cases of Vicks Vaporub, a wet towel, 4 circus clowns, some Fremontodendron shrubbery, a gold-plated Ouija board, a silver-plated surf board, a platinum-plated ironing board, the USS Nautilus, 173 cans of Reddi-wip® Original Dairy Whipped Topping,  18 cases of "Ulster Fragrance" Irish Spring bar soap, 1 tube of Trixacin topical analgesic cream, 1 CD of “Frank Sinatra sings Country,” 76 trombones, 110 cornets, 1000 reeds, 1 double bell euphonium, 50 mounted cannon, a 14 foot tall marble statue of Moms Mabley, 14 pounds of char broiled okra, a top hat, and a trampoline.

15   October   Wednesday     Day 95

   Slept in until 9:30, showered and wrote. Roast beef for lunch. That would be the only thing I would eat today.
   After lunch I walked west to 6th and Broadway to a checking cashing place there. I gave my Voc Rehab check and I.D. to the young Hispanic girl behind the plexiglass.
   She smiled at me. “I’m sorry, but you don’t look like this picture,” she said.
   “I don’t?”
   “No. You’re much better looking.”
   “Yeah, I know. I get that all of the time. Here, I have some other I.D.”
   I showed her my useless bus pass and Veteran I.D. card. All good pictures, none of which did justice.
   She studied them.
   “I don’t know. I’ll have to check.” 
   She went away to talk to her supervisor. They both came back and compared me to the pictures on the I.D.s. They spoke in some foreign language to each other, probably Spanish. I was given the okay, I guess, as I got $40 back.
   The inner city DASH buses were still operating, and I took one to the VA clinic for the ASAP meeting. Kathy read to us from a list of humorous items she had found on the Internet to kick things off. I told her a giraffe joke, which she seemed to enjoy. 
   The devout zookeeper lost his favorite Bible while he was mending fences out at the zoo. 
   Three weeks later, a giraffe walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth. 
   The zoo keeper couldn't believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the giraffe's mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!" 
   "Not really," said the giraffe. "Your name is written inside the cover." 
      Some of the items she read were from actual graffiti found in restrooms across the nation. Here’s a small sample:

   “God is dead.”  -Nietzsche
   “Nietzsche is dead.” -God

   Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity

   God made pot. Man made beer. In whom do you trust?

   I provided a urine sample after the group, then took another DASH back downtown to the library. I used the computers there to look for Odalys, and found the original Univision article that had alerted me to her plight. The only problem was that it was in Spanish. From the little I could gather from it only furthered to alarm, not inform. 
   I checked her web-site to see if there was any news. No luck. All of my Email inquiries had been ignored. I did find a survey section on her site that allowed me to send a message back to ODAGA Corp. in Miami. Hopefully I’ll get some response from that. If not I’ll be forced to take some drastic measures.
   I borrowed a tape from the VCR tape library of a television show from the 60s I used to watch as a small child. “The Prisoner,” starring Patrick McGoohan, as an estranged British intelligence agent who one day wakes up in an unfamiliar village, which he soon learns is a prison for estranged British intelligence agents. In his case he’s told he’ll be kept there until he tells them why he resigned from the intelligence service. His problem being he doesn’t know who controls the village, so he’s not about to tell them anything. 
   Whoever does control it seems to be obsessed with lava lamps.
   In the first episode McGoohan’s character, Number 6, makes a few escape attempts only to be thwarted by a giant beach ball, called Rover, which polices the facility. 
   The animated sit-com “The  Simpsons,” paid homage to this cult favorite in th episode “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes,” wherein Homer encounters the Rover, which he evades quite easily.
   “Why would anyone think a beach ball could hunt you?” he asks. 
   Why indeed.
   Looked realistically the show doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The information requested from Number 6 (McGoohan, who is still around, and who did a wonderful job playing Edward I of England (Longshanks), in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.” (Longshanks: “Archers." English Commander: “I beg pardon, sire. Won't we hit our own troops?" Longshanks: “Yes... but we'll hit theirs too.”) doesn’t seem to be very compelling, and there are much simpler ways to extract it.
   I watched it after a PBS special on the life of Winston Churchill, whom many believe died after his second term as the British Prime Minister. He’s actually very much alive in the Village, and who will be kept there until he finally divulges what it was he said to FDR while sitting on the toilet in the White House.
   I experienced a dream this evening in which I had been transported to The Village, waking up in bed next to Samantha Morton and Imogen Stubbs, the beautiful and talented stars of “The Minority Report,” and “Blind Ambition,” respectively. I sat up in bed just at the moment when Samantha opened her eyes and dramatically proclaimed, “Murder.” I ran out of our condo, naked and screaming towards the ocean, only to be pursued by a giant Rover/Beach Ball, which caught up to me and gave me such a sound thrashing.

16   October      Thursday           Day  96

   When I last spoke to my lovely caseworker, Labren, the day before yesterday, the only instruction she gave to me was to suggest that I attend the Superseach Job Meeting.
      I hadn’t gone last week, so I thought I should make an appearance today at 10:00. After all, the guy who’s in charge of it is the program director of the floor I live in, the Veteran’s program on the fifth floor, and it’s advantageous for me to at least stay visible and in his good graces.
   This week had been scheduled for mock job interviews provided by outside employees who were donating their time. I don’t know why.
   I was ready, mentally at least.
   As I entered the Levi Center’s lobby I noticed several men sitting there waiting all wearing suits. I felt a little out of place as I was in my usual Thursday morning attire... Mexican serape, Alizarin crimson water grid jammer speedo, yellow velvet bunny ear headset, and Elton John Banana shades.
   “Vet’s meeting?” I inquired of the receptionist.
   “Sign in here,” he said, pointing to a piece of paper taped to the counter with several signatures already upon it.
   I signed in. Another vet now standing behind me, looked at the list and said, “This says it’s for mock interviews. I’m just here for the Supersearch.” 
   Kenny, one of our caseworkers, who I hadn’t noticed sitting next to me, said, “We’re not having that today.”
   That’s all I needed to know. I created a small after vacuum as I left the center as fast as possible. I know I could have stayed and participated, but everyone else was wearing suits. I could also have claimed that although I was very prepared to be interviewed, I had not been told to don business attire, and felt exceptionally disadvantaged.
   Besides, I had signed my name on the attendance list. Perhaps no one would notice I didn’t actually attend.
   I returned to my lonely room and wrote while listening to NPR, hoping for bus strike news. What I got was an interview with one Curtis White, a professor, from the University of Illinois, also an author of fiction and non-fiction, like the book he was promoting today,  “The Middle Mind, Why Can’t Americans Think for Themselves.” 
   To put it simply, he made the claim that our population is so well managed  by the media and political institutions that our critical thought processes have been compromised, and our imaginations impoverished. He’s absolutely right, of course, to the point that the phenomena is actually rather obvious (I mentally kicked myself for not writing a book about it first). The media is a useful mass anesthetic, and politicians spue out policies that are much easier to accept and go along with then they are to challenge. And who has the time or interest? 
   But this is nothing new, and not restricted to this country. Nazi Germany wouldn’t have become Nazi Germany if a severe form of this process had not been put purposefully into place, and effected. 
   We probably wouldn’t be at war in Iraq now if Bush hadn’t done the same thing, and the American people more sceptical of his argument for invasion. 
   “Iraq? Really? What have they done to us? Saddam’s a bad guy, big deal, get over it. And even if he had weapons of mass destruction, he couldn’t deliver them to the United States, making it Israel’s problem, not ours. North Korea has nukes, and we’re not invading them!”
   But, oh no, we just let him railroad us into a war costing American and Iraqi lives, and billions of dollars that “The Party of Fiscal Responsibility” doesn’t seem to care about. 
   We’re sheep. We like to be led. So much easier than thinking.
   Those who like to use their minds do, and those who don’t don’t. 
   I’m not saying that’s a bad thing necessarily. Zen people do it all of the time. It’s called mushin, an expression meaning the “mind without mind” also referred to as the state of "no-mindness," a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.
   Mushin is a state of mind I entered into all of the time when I drank alcohol.
   But me and Zen people don’t usually start wars.
   Like us Americans. 
   And Germans.
   And Japanese.
   And Russians.
   And British.
   And Chinese.
   And discouraged folks within their own countries.
   On and on.
   There are several techniques that could be used to help alleviate this malaise, once people accept that a problem exists of course, or care. Educate all sections of the populace, as Thomas Jefferson believed (“enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body & mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day,” and “A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens, from the richest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so will it be the latest, of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest”), and do it for free, for the common good of the entire nation, and encourage critical thinking in all matters. However at the present time there is little incentive for the powers that be  to implement these changes as that would ultimately threaten their lock on power, even though seeking education and independent thought is implicit within the Constitution itself.
   I stopped thinking and read from Koontz, and ate a ham sandwich.
   Later, I heard the maid in the next room, and went over and asked her to read the piece on Odalys I had retrieved from the library.
   “Odalys?” she asked me. “Oh, you have picture in your room?”
   “Yes. Was she in an accident?”
   She read the piece and my worst fears were confirmed. She had been in an automobile accident and had injured herself slightly here in L.A., and was now recuperating.
   But where? And how to find out more.
   I took off to the library to find out what I could. There were no messages returned to my E-mail account.
   In an ancillary note, I discovered that the beautiful German actress in Stanley Kubrick’s film, “Paths of Glory,” the only woman in the film, who I had become so enamored with due to her sweet innocence and charm, had caught Kubrick’s eye as well, and not only as the casting director. 
   Credited as Susanne Christian in her only film appearance, she went on to become Christiane Kubrick, and who was married to Stanley for over 40 years, until his death in 1999. 
   She’s an artist, and a pretty good one. Stanley used some of her paintings in his last film, “Eye’s Wide Shut,” to adorn the apartment shared by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. 
   Having found nothing more on Odalys I walked back to my room at the Weingart, Simon and Garfunkel’s song “The Boxer,” going through my head for some reason.
   Later, I watched this week’s edition of “Frontline,” entitled “Chasing the Sleeper Cell.” It concerned the U.S. government’s detention of citizens who had attended Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and returned to the United States before 9/11. Since the trip to Afghanistan took place before any “War of Terrorism,” (which itself is a silly term, as terrorism in this sense is a tactic, and like declaring a “War on Night Reconnaissance,” or a “War on Shoot-and-Scoot.” War on Terror,” just sounds better for propaganda purposes) began, the legal issues involved in detaining these individuals is very cloudy. The government seems to believe them to be dormant agents just waiting for their orders to attack within the U.S. again, at least that’s what the FBI director said. Should we wait for them to act and then arrest or kill them, or should we detain them first, before they have a chance to kill another 3,000 Americans? 
   The position to arrest before a crime is committed seems to be a bit 1984ish, and Minority Report like to me. To arrest people, American citizens protected under the country’s Constitution because they have the capacity to commit a crime would make everyone suspect and bound for arrest. 
   The detainees claim they visited Afghanistan as a pilgrimage, and became disillusioned with  Al Qaeda’s militarism and fanatical stance, then came home. I can understand the government’s interest in them, and it’s reluctance to set them free, but if they haven’t committed a crime I would think it’s inherently illegal to hold them. It’s a slippery slope thing. Take away a civil or human right here and there, and as governments tend to do, they’ll continue unless checked, and  soon there won’t be anymore rights to be enjoyed. What do you think, dear readers?
   Much later I watched a movie I had borrowed from the library. “Quatermass and the Pit,” a horrible title, but very compelling British documentary, the third and final in the Quatermass series, which the first two oddly enough, starred an American, Brian Donlevy of “Beau Geste” fame. 
   For the time they were made, they were cutting edge Sci-Fi films based on actual science. Like another British Sci-Fi film for the time, starring another American,  Dean Jagger (of “Twelve O'Clock High” fame), “X, the Unknown,” and the three Quatermass movies were made by Hammer Film Productions (of 1958 Dracula fame), and involved misunderstood monsters of truly horrific design and proportion which if loosed would threaten the entire world ... people too!
   The film I watched tonight, based I’m told on a true story, was about the discovery and excavation of what was believed to be a Martian artifact, a spacecraft, if you will, which had crashed, or landed in a London suburb,  Hobbs End, 5 million years ago. The ship had brought with it human prototypes which the Martians (3 foot tall grasshoppers with horns, or “Devilhoppers”) had endowed  with a primitive intelligence (a similar plot point developed in Kubrick’s “2001, A Space Odyssey,” which premiered a year after the Pit, in 1968), allowing humans to gradually progress and dominate the planet and turn it into shit. So, in a very real sense we owe everything that we are, all of the accomplishments and setbacks, everyone who’s ever lived in the human race, to some ill-tempered Martian Devilhoppers. It gives one pause, doesn’t it?
   Much later I went to sleep and dreamt I was in the deserts just outside Bullhead City, Arizona, near where a giant meteorite had crashed, However this meteorite had retained an oval and artificial shape, half of it buried in the ground. As I approached a small circular section began to unscrew itself from the very top and descend into the interior.
   “This is no ordinary meteorite,” I told myself.    
   A long, snake like object emerged from the hole that had just been made, and a throbbing, droning, hypnotizing sound emanated from it’s position. The probes face consisted of an opaque, milky glass, molding around the front, from which light began to glow.
   It hadn’t spotted me yet, but was slowly making a thorough survey of it’s surroundings, until, at last, it came to face me, lowering it’s probe like face down to the point it could look directly at me.
   I waved to it, which pissed it off I guess, as the throbbing sound increased in intensity, and it bobbed up and down a bit, it’s light becoming so bright it was hard to look at it.
   Just as I was sure it was about to space ray me into a burnt out cinder, it turned off, silenced itself, and quickly retreated. In it’s place popped out Xenia Seeberg, of “Lexx,” and Laura  Bertram, of “Andromeda” fame, two fine, fact based television Sci-Fi program ladies, who  grabbed me and carried me back inside their ship, which took off, at which point I was never, ever seen again.       

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