Saturday, January 31, 2015

Skid Row Diary 38

1  November   2003    Saturday   Day 112   Day After Halloween

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.” 
― William Faulkner

   I woke up screaming. It was just past 8:00. Too late to walk with Ron.
   I was shaking and too weak to get out of bed, so I read the Playboy interview with the actor John Cusack, brother of Joan, which is why I bought the magazine. 
   He had some interesting things to say... for an actor.
   Playboy: What’s the impact of the right-wing media?
   Cusack: They help shape the debate. They try to convince people that it’s unpatriotic to question things about this country. I don’t know if Ben Franklin or any of the Founding Fathers would approve of that trend.
   I don’t know about Franklin (actually he said, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”), but I know Teddy Roosevelt wouldn’t.
   “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”    
   I read an article written by George McGovern, supposedly about Howard Dean, but not really. He said some interesting things as well.
   “Today, store windows across the land carry posters reading 'SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.’  The best way to support our troops is to stop them from being killed in needless and ill-advised wars.”
   “Here are some of the things liberals have created. Social Security, Medicare, guaranteed banks deposits, rural electrification, the minimum wage and collective bargaining, the federal school lunch program, food stamps, WIC, aid to education (including the National Defense Student Loan Program), the women’s movement, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the gay rights movement, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the graduated income tax, and of course, the opposition to America’s war in Vietnam, which finally forced our government to withdraw from that nightmare.”
   Those are just a few liberal initiatives. It seems to me that the other side, namely the republicans, have spent the majority of their time denouncing, sabotaging, delaying implementation, and attempting to either privatize or dismantle each of these programs and movements, their goal seeming to be to pay for subsidies to corporations and the wealthy though the minimization or elimination of social programs that benefit a large percentage of the American populace. It would also appear that they somehow get a gullable portion of Americans to vote for them, and by extension these policies, which are clearly against the interests of anyone who is not wealthy or a large corporation, by the use of lies and manipulation. 
   Greed will always manifest itself in our society. It’s human nature, an immature aspect of human nature, but human nature just the same. So the republicans attempt to derail social programs to the benefit of the rich and powerful, in the hopes that they themselves will someday become rich and powerful (if they aren’t already) doesn’t bother me all that much and is to be expected, in the same way that ignorance will prevail until enlightenment graces those who require it. 
   But the willingness of so many Americans to be happily duped makes me sad.
   McGovern continued: “It has always struck me as ironic that some of our leaders who seem to glory in war, including our current president and vice president, have never been in combat. It has also struck me as ironic that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the highest ranking U.S. general in World War II, refused to let the military budget go up one dollar during his eight years as president, even though he served at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and China. In contrast, Ronald Reagan, who had no military experience, let the Pentagon  have everything it wanted as well as some things it had not requested, including the Star Wars fantasy that proposed to put weapons in outer space.”
   Playboy is so informative.
   I updated my files on the computer in the day room, and cleaned my little room. I had about 8 cigarettes and left the pack on the table in the lobby for someone to discover. 
   I sat with John and another vet, an older white guy, for lunch. Veggie burgers. The old guy was complaining about the battery in his car being stolen. He was going to try to lock a new battery in his car some how so that it could not be taken easily. I recommended he chain the hood closed to the car’s grill so nobody could get into the engine compartment. He seemed to be all happy with that suggestion, saying it would be much easier to do and more effective.
   Such is my reason for existence. To be of help to my fellow man.
   I had the funds so I purchased a Super Lotto ticket on my way to the library. I chose 27 as my Mega Number, quick picking the rest. I also bought a copy of the L.A. Times.
   I wrote for a while upon returning to my room, and listened to Bill Gate’s father talk about inheritance taxon NPR. The Prairie Home Companion came on afterwards. Garrison Keillor interviewed some folk singers who at one time had been drug users... and not the good kind of drugs. 
   They sang the Ballad of Rusty the Dog.
    “He died chasing squirrels
    He died chasing squirrels
    He died chasing squirrels
    He laid down and just got sick

    It must have been a bad one
    It must have been a bad one
    It must have been a bad one
    Cause he threw up really bad

    I never liked him anyway
    I never liked him anyway
    I never liked him anyway
    I’m glad that he is dead.”

    Gillian Welch and David Rollings performed some beautiful songs, but Guy Noir, Keillor’s famous private detective, did not make an appearance. 
   That “Grease” song finally got out of my head... oopps! It’s back again.
   Damn it!
   I ate dinner with John. It looked like some kind of fish pattie.
   “So you don’t drink?” John asked.
   “No. I don’t. It’s not a good idea for me. I don’t get anything done, and I mean anything. I tend not to moderate myself when I drink or use drugs. Even marijuana, which is my drug of choice I guess. If I wake up in the morning and smoke a joint my motivation is shot for the entire day.”
   “Not me,” John said. “When I smoke a joint I feel motivated to do things...”
   “Right,” I said. “Me too. I’m motivated to sit around and watch Elvira movies all day. Hell, I even do that when I’m not stoned.”
   “Not me... makes me feel creative.”
   “Not me.”
   “Maybe if you just smoked in the evening...”
   “Well I’m not saying that I’ll never drink again, because I don’t place limits on myself. But I don’t really care for booze. It was just always easy to get. I mean they even have stores where you can go to buy the stuff. And maybe one day I’ll be able to moderate it’s use, but probably not. Traditionally alcoholics don’t do very well while drinking. One drink impairs my judgment, and then I’m off. I think I’d rather do without.”
   “And you don’t smoke?” he asked.
   “Not now I don’t. Do you?”
   “Yeah... I started up again.”
   “What happened?”
   “Oh, I had one drink, and that started it. Hey, I guess you’re right. I guess I’m just like you.”
   Not as good looking though, and he’s damn right I’m right.
   Later I attended the evening Drifter’s meeting. Mario led it. I volunteered to read from Chapter 5 of “The Big Book.” I did a masterful job if I do say so myself. I wore my black leather jacket as it’s beginning to get cold. I wrote, until Yvette spoke, who I stopped for in order to listen more closely. When she finished I began writing again.
   The meeting only lasts an hour. After I got back to my room I watched Paul Newman in “Sometimes a Great Notion,” which is a jazzy sounding title, which was taken from a Lead Belly song (oh, how that name keeps coming up! “Sometimes I lives in the country, Sometimes I lives in town, Sometimes I take a great notion, To jump into the river an’ drown”) and which has nothing to do with the story, although someone does drown in the film. Based on Ken Kesey’s second novel (his first being “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”), the movie stars the lovely and talented Lee Remick, and Henry Fonda, Jane’s dad. Although I liked the movie, which I hadn’t seen since it first came out in the early 70s, the actors talents were wasted here. I still can’t figure out why Lee’s character left her husband, Paul Newman’s character. Okay, maybe he was a little emotionally unavailable and inattentive, but he didn’t cheat on her, and he was a good provider, didn’t beat her, and was smart, dedicated, and fairly good looking. But just when his dad and cousin die in an accident, she takes off. What the f___?!
   I need to remember that women are insane. If I keep that in mind life will be a lot easier for me.
   After the movie I watched the fourth and fifth episode of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” a show I got hooked on while living at the Frontier Hotel. 
   There was one more episode on the tape but I cut it off after the second and went to sleep. I dreamt I was washing a car with Joy Harmon from “Cool Hand Luke,” and Rose McGowen, out in the Oregon forests. Lee Remick and Shannon Dorerty came out of the large house to help. We splashed water all over and played. Afterwards, the Satterfield triplets, Sara, Vicki, and Rachel, took me deep into the woods to find and cut down a big Christmas tree.
   “But it’s just the beginning of November,” I told them.
   “Just keep chopping, good looking. We need lots of trees,” Vicki said.
   We chopped and chopped.

2   November   Sunday   Day 113             Day of the Dead

   “I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead. Spencer is dead. So is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.” -Mark Twain, borrowed from anonymous cartoonist

   Every morning I am supposed to sign in electronically at the front desk. Today, I not only signed in for today and yesterday, they wanted me to sign for three days back in March. I don’t know why. 
   After a nice breakfast of scramble eggs, I read the business section of Friday’s newspaper before heading out to the 9:00AM Drifters Meeting. Everything and anything you’ll ever need to know can be found in the Business Section.
   They asked me to read from Chapter 5 again from the Big Book of AA. Every meeting starts out with readings from Chapter 3 and 5, and the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most people like the way I read it. The passion, intonation, and syncopation I yield keeps everybody up for the rest of the meeting. Some, after hearing me, start to cry.
   My reading was not the high point of the meeting however. That came when a disgruntled black gentleman stood up to speak and told everybody they were wasting their time. He was kindly asked to leave and refused, so the power to the microphone was cut off. That got him away from the podium, but didn’t stop him as he left Gladys Park from yelling as loud as he could, an invitation for the meeting’s facilitator, another black gentleman named William, to suck his cock. To his credit William passed on that, and the meeting resumed.
   After the meeting I walked west on 7th Street all the way to Alvarado and MacArthur Park where I received a check for $220.33, and $127 in food stamps from the check cashing place. I’m supposed to receive $221.00 and $139. The county is nickel and diming me to death. I shall need to look into this at a later time. 
   I didn’t cash the check there. Oh no, that’s what they want you to do, the bastards. These places that issue the welfare checks and food stamps always charge 2.5% for cashing them. Almost every other place charges only 1%. Capitalistic sons of bitches.
   I used 9$ of my food stamps to purchase food items at the 99 Cent Store. Chicken luncheon meat and cheese, crackers. The essentials. Eggs and bread. Top Ramen. A lot of Top Ramen.
   Then I walked back downtown. I spent a good two hours walking today. I didn’t mind. You get to see things while walking.
   I went to the same store where I had purchased my little coffee pot, but they didn’t have anymore in stock. There was one in the store’s window, but they wouldn’t sell it to me, which doesn’t make sense, to me at least. Why advertise an item that they don’t have? Please tell me. I really want to know.
   Sons of bitches!
   They did have an 8 cup coffee pot, and they really wanted to sell me one, but I didn’t think I could hide one that big underneath all of the Top Ramen I’d bought for that purpose, so I could get it past security at the Weingart. So I didn’t buy it, and returned to my room with more Top Ramen than what’s in the inventories of most third world countries.
   Tacos for lunch. I continued reading the paper, and meditated. Since it was Día de Muertos, I paid my respects to all of the dead people I know. My mom and dad. Uncle Hank. Alice and Lester. My friend Bobbie, and my sister just in case they were making an extended stay in the bone yard. It’s good to be proactive.
   I listened to rock music on KLOS for a while. And Venus Hum while exercising. 
   About half a turkey sandwich for dinner, then I spent the early part of the evening writing and listening to Led Zeppelin’s fourth album.
   Even though Halloween is over I watched The Simpsons’ new Halloween special. Homer became Death, and Lisa and Bart ripped off the Twilight Zone by finding a stop watch that caused time to stand still. They were very naughty when everyone else was immobilized. When the watch broke they spent the next ten years fixing it.
   I watched a CBS tribute to itself for being in business for the last 75 years, first in radio, then in T.V. 
   Everyone was there. Even Ginger and Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. No Mrs Howell though, which is just as well. She really wasn’t my type. Good old Charlie Rose was there, as part of the 60 Minutes team. Mary Tyler Moore, Loni Anderson, Elvis.
   I also watched the new sit-com produced by Opie... er, I mean Ron Howard. “Arrested Development,” which parodies recent corporate scandals. It was pretty good, even though it was on Fox, which has taken off “The X-Files,” completely now... sons of bitches!
   I played a few episodes of “The Sopranos,” just to get a chronological feel for the show and it’s back story.
   When I got tired of fake violence and intimidation, I played “Support Your Local Gunfighter,” starring Suzanne Pleshette and Jack Elam. Jimmy Gardener, Harry Morgan, and Chuck Conners were in it as well.
   Although not half as good as the first, “Support Your Local Sheriff,” with Walter Brennan (“Get your finger out of my gun!”) and Bruce Dern, it’s still good for a few chuckles.
   I would fall asleep during the movie and would finish watching it in the morning. I dreamt I was stuck on a desert island with Tina Louise and Dawn Wells, who continually fought each other in order that I might favor the winner of their competitions
   Fortunately for me, Gilligan wasn’t around, blowing himself and the rest of the cast up in a freakish gardening accident, and I would never have to answer the age old question, am I a Ginger, or a Mary Ann kind of guy?
   I had both!

3   November   Monday    Day 114

   Up at 7:00 for scrambled eggs and cubed ham and onions. Mark and Brian spent the morning giving out love advice to a stripper. Giselle was wearing a black sweater and mini skirt. 
   It would be a good day.   
   I spent the morning writing. Trying to heat water for coffee in the microwave I’m forced to use because I don’t have a coffee pot, I just about made it to luke warm when the power went out in the day room. The computers, microwave, T.V. all out, and it would take the crack Weingart maintenance team all day to find the right circuit breaker that had tripped and turn the power back on.
   The power was still on everywhere else so I was able to finish watching the James Garner movie.
   My mother and father knew James Garner. He must have been a customer in our liquor store, or maybe a Kiwanis member like my dad. Who knows? My mom told me she last saw him at Disneyland. He’s still with us. My mom isn’t. She said he was a nice man.
   While leaving the sanctuary of my little room to use the restroom down the hall, a janitor I’ve never seen before yelled at me for walking on the wet floor he’d just mopped. Since my ability to fly or levitate is somewhat limited to vertical drops, I walked on it anyway in order to return to the relative safety of my room. 
   I continued writing after the movie, until lunchtime, then went to the ASAP meeting. Kathy was out lolly gagging somewhere, and a ratty looking intern filled in for her. I provided a urine sample after the meeting. Some good, clear, and fresh urine.
   I then  went to the library to exchange videos. I also wanted to print out some letters to John Manzano and Odalys (yes, I’m still looking for her, but she’s being very evasive), but when I had them all ready to print, the equipment desk lady came around whispering to everyone, “The printers not working, the printers not working.” I saved everything on to a disk and left.
   Jackie Guerrido’s still missing. I don’t know how much longer I can go on without decent weather reports.
   I spent most if the evening watching the Sopranos tapes I’ve gotten from the library. Interesting show. Very well written, directed, and acted, no wonder it’s won so many Emmys, although “The West Wing,” seems to win Best Drama each year. Starring Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falco, and James Gandolfini, who up until this show became a hit mostly played seamy villains. I remember Nicholas Cage beating the holy crap out of him in “8mm,” saying “I’ll never get tired of hurting you.” Those were his exact words to Gandolfini’s character who was a recruiter for snuff films. He still plays a villain in the Sopranos, and I feel no sympathy for any of the characters in the show. But Anthony Soprano is a villain we can empathize with. I can identify with Bracco’s character, the psychiatrist, for continuing to treat Anthony, although at a growing personal cost, because she’s fascinated with him. “Like watching a freight train crash,” is how she put it. I fall asleep watching most of the movies I borrow, but I haven’y yet while watching The Sopranos.
   I liked it when after Christopher was shot and in the hospital, clinically dead for one minute, he thought he’d been to Hell, which he truly believes to be his destiny. He described Hell to his friends as being completely filled with Irish people, and he would spend eternity playing poker with them and losing every hand. That probably would be Hell for a committed Italian.
   Beside all of the money and perceived power, I don’t think I’d ever like, or feel comfortable living in the world of the Sopranos, where family and friends, those who you love the most will smile and kiss you while planning your murder. Deceit, betrayal, constant danger, and that’s just from your friends. How could anyone be at peace in such a world?
   Upon reflection, the world I do find myself in right now isn’t all that much different.
   After watching the last episode I fell asleep and dreamt I was a doctor who lived in the Amazon rainforest, searching through the various types of flora for a substance that would cure foot cancer... the worst kind. A pharmaceutical company sent two biochemists to check up on me, Lorraine Bracco and Sharon Kane, the lovely and talented star of “Caper Cats,” “Lube Job,” and “Ass Clowns.” We discovered a particular flower that seemed to do the trick, but then found out it’s not the plant that cures foot cancer, but the ants that live in the flower. Unfortunately for us a logging company was building a road right through the area where all of the ants live and destroyed them forever. Discouraged, Lorraine, Sharon, and myself, go hopping through the trees of the forest, like Tarzan used to do, and we disappear, never to be seen again.

4   November   Tuesday   Day 115

   I watched another Soprano episode before going out for the day. A dried up pork chop for lunch.
   On my way to the library I stopped at the Needle Exchange and found McCree there, pretending to work.
   “What’s your excuse this time?!” I asked, trying to blame him for me not showing up for a walk last Saturday. 
   “What do you mean? I was there.”
   “Are you sure? I didn’t see you.”
   “You didn’t see me because you weren’t there.”
   “I wasn’t?”
   “Well, you may have something there. You know what happened?”
   “I forgot to set my watch back so I got there an hour early.”
   “Yeah, you’re right. I was held captive by  Lorraine Bracco and Sharon Kane...”
    “Sharon Kane? That name sounds familiar.”
   “Now remember, we’re going to the V.A. clinic next Saturday.”
   “Yeah, I know. Are you going?”
   “Of course! What time are we leaving?”
   “Man, I usually get there early.” He thought a moment, his eyes rolling up toward the ceiling. “I’m going to leave at about six.”
   “Yeah, you got to get there early cause there’s going  to be a big line...”
   “A line?”
   “Yeah, a line. A big one.”
   “Six o’clock?”
   “Okay. I’ll be waiting for you outside of your place at six o’clock. In the morning, right?”
   “Yeah! Of course in the morning.”
   “Okay. You’re going to be there this time, right?”
   “Man, go on with you. I’ll be there. You make sure that you be there.”
   “Oh, I’ll be there alright. You don’t have to worry about that.”
   “I’m not worried.”
   “Six AM?”
   “Yes Richard. Six o’clock in the morning, this Saturday, November... eighth, two minutes after five fifty eight, one before six oh one, right in front of my house.”
   “Your sure?”
   On and on.
   Ron’s sort of a no nonsense kind of guy, so it’s a lot of fun to bombard him with large doses of my special brand of bullshit. I have to be careful though or he may crack.
   No mail for me today, which was rather unsettling. My CA7 from DPSS should have been there waiting patiently for me to pick it up, fill it out and send it back. But the space it normally displaced within my mailbox was instead filled with free atoms of nitrogen, oxygen, and molecules of water vapor. And a smidgeon of ozone.
   I’ll have to go to the DPSS office if it doesn’t come soon. I hate going to the DPSS office.
   I hurried back to the Weingart for my Phase 3 meeting with Dahlia Sanchez. 
   She was late. Only one other self-absorbed, older black vet was there. We talked about budgets, and made a list of what our fixed expenses may be when we moved out. I listed rent, food, utilities, car insurance, cable, and Internet.
   “How about clothing, Mr Joyce?”
   “Im going to try and wear as little as possible,” I told her.
   The conversation drifted to how much we might spend on dates, or with our significant others if we had them.
   “Do you spend flamboyantly when with others?” Dahlia asked me. I of course immediately saw what she was trying to get at, trying to nonchalantly ask me for a date, and finding out how much I would spend on her.
   “Yes,” I replied.
   “You do?”
   “Sure. I don’t mind spending money when I’m with someone else. That’s what money is for.”
   “But you spend flamboyantly?”
   “Not only that but I spend flashily as well, but not more than I can afford.”
   “Good. That’s what I’m trying to determine.” She sounded pleased, but looked a little disappointed at the same time.
   Right now, with my current financial situation, she’s going to have to pay for our date. I don’t mind. Women’s liberation, and all that.
   We ended the meeting agreeing that we shouldn’t spend more than we make. Sounds good to me.
   Chile Mac for dinner. Then more Sopranos up in my room. 
   I took time out from the New Jersey mob to watch and tape the last segment of Brian Green’s “The Elegant Universe,” and the story of String Theory, M Theory, which is a refinement of String Theory, and the search for Super Symmetry and Sparticles (named after Kirk Douglas), which if discovered would imply physicists and String Theory were and was on the right track, and a step closer to a Grand Unification Theory. Tests are being made in atom smashers here in the U.S., and soon in Europe.
   Afterwards I continued with the Sopranos, and went to sleep late.
   I dreamt I was racing around a cyclotron on a proton with FermiLab  physicist Maria Spiropulu, faster and faster, 98% of the speed of light, when BANG! we ran smack dab into another proton coming from the opposite direction, carrying Sophie Evans, the lovely and talented star of “Cream of the Crop,” “DNA,” and many other fine films. 
   I don’t want to go into any details about what happened next, but talk about strange particles...

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