Thursday, March 19, 2015

Skid Row Diary 39

5   November    2003   Wednesday   Day 116

   I got up late and spent a good deal of time trying to figure out my next move. I finally decided to make coffee. It was good.
   I updated some files on one of the computers in the day room, then walked to the library. I spent a couple of hours there searching through the Internet looking for pictures of Trish Van Devere, but I couldn’t find any.
   Oh Trish, where are you? We need you more than ever.
   I saw my case manager, Ms Labren Marshall today. I gave her a money order for $164.00 American. Now I have more than $800 on account here. If this keeps up I’ll have over a million in a little more than 508 years. 
   Afterwards I fixed myself a nice cup of coffee, and was just about to take a sip when some black guy knocked on my door and told me I had a visitor down stairs. I assumed it was the police, or a mafia hit man, then thought better of that. They wouldn’t warn me.
   I reluctantly traveled downstairs to find Ron McCree. He came by to have dinner with me. He had been given a meal pass from the Needle Exchange to have a meal here at the Weingart. He didn’t have the ticket on him though. I don’t know why. It was at his apartment, and I walked over there with him to fetch it. The mild wind was a bit chilly and Ron was concerned for my comfort. I let him know I could probably handle it, but if I took a turn for the worse I’d be sure to let him know. 
   I learned that Ron was engaged in a bitter incense war with one of his neighbors. Ron resents the smell of incense invading his house from next door.
   “Incense? Is that the only thing he does?” I asked. “Because that doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to get upset about.”
   “He’s invading my home, man.”
   I suggested he get his own incense and waft it over, but Ron rejected that idea. 
   When would the violence end after it began to escalate, as it inevitably would? Next they’d be throwing pies at each other, and then what? BB Guns probably.
   Ron and I enjoyed a hearty dinner of beef stew and rice. Plums for desert. Big plumbs that looked like soft apples. We decided to have dinner at 2:00PM on Veteran’s Day at McCormick and Schmick’s.
   Our dinner conversation varied. Ron expressed a disbelief in the First Amendment, and stated emphatically that the Orson Welles broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” radio broadcast was in the 1950s. I bet him fifty cents that it wasn’t.
   We planned to meet Friday at ASAP, then Ron went home, or at least he left my presence. I have no way of knowing where he actually went. I returned to my room and watched “The Sopranos,” for awhile, and then a PBS special entitled, “Reporting America at War,” about the history of journalists covering U.S. involvement in wars from the Spanish American to World War II. 
   Then I switched over to John Cleese ‘How to Irritate People,” hoping to get some good ideas and continue to hone my skills, but there was nothing new there.
        I looked over a new Koontz book I picked up while passing through Rite-Aid today. “By the Light of the Moon.”
   This guy won’t stop writing! I can’t finish one of his novels before he pops out another one! The book I got today has an advertisement for another book coming out in December. He just won’t stop!
   He makes me sad.
   Stephen King’s stopping, he says. He’s going to stop publishing, and keep writing in secret, and not let anybody read it except his wife Tabitha. 
   Well that’s just like him now, isn’t it?
   Sneaky bastard.
   I went to bed soon after, and dreamt I was climbing the  Matterhorn, as is my custom, somewhere between Switzerland and Italy. My climbing partner, the lovely and talented actress and pianist,  Alicia Witt, star of “Fun,” “Four Rooms,” and “Urban Legend,” was waiting patiently for me to make the next ridge so I could attach the climbing line to something, and she could follow me up. 
   I was just about there, traversing an abutment and over hanging rock face, holding on with just my fingers, when I looked up to see Flame, the lovely star of “Party Partners,” “Miss Bondwell's Reformatory,” and “Take Me... Use Me... Make Me Your Slave,” at the top looking down at me. 
   “Hi Rick,” she said.
   “Here, let me give you a hand.” 
   She helped me up, and soon Alicia joined us on the narrow, snow and ice covered ledge.
   “How did you get up here,” I asked Flame. 
   “Oh I took the elevator.”
   “Elevator?” Alicia said. “Elevator, what elevator?”
   “That one over there.”
   We looked over and sure enough there was an elevator door was set into the side of the mountain.
   Alicia punched me in the arm. 
   “You didn’t tell me about any freaking elevator!” she said. 
   “I had no idea!” I maintained.
   “You’re the one who told me about it,” Flame said.
   “What?! You told me that climbing was the only way up,” Alicia kept on. “And to think I spent three nights with you in that cramped sleeping bag!”
   “I have no idea what she’s talking about...” I said.
   “Here he is telling me about it,” Flame offered Alicia a look at her cell phone video of me telling her where the elevator was.
   Alicia punched me in the face then. 
   When I recovered, Flame said, “It doesn’t matter anyway.” 
   “Why?” I asked.
   “You see that cloud up there?”
   “What cloud?”
   “That one.” 
   I looked up, and indeed, there was a thick radioactive cloud hovering about half way to the summit. 
   “What about it?” Alicia asked her.
   “It’s headed this way, and inside it are hungry aliens who are gonna get us.”
   “What? That can’t be right.”
   “It is, they’ll be here any minute, and there’s nothing we can do about it.” 
   “What the F_ _ K! Let’s get out of here. Let’s take the elevator!”
   The cloud was moving toward us, fast now. 
   “Broken.” Flame said.
   We were enveloped by the cloud where the crawling eyes got us, and were never heard from again.

6 November  Friday   Day 117

   I slept in just long enough to miss the Super Search job meeting at 10:00. I sneaked into the shower, then hid out in my room, avoiding nosey staff members until 11:30. 
   I finished watching the John Cleese tape, then looked for an article I had cut out of the paper recently concerning Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater 1938 broadcast of H. G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds,” but I couldn’t find it.  I did discover that the cast iron wall heater in the north west corner of my room had been turned on. It wasn’t providing much heat as yet, but I moved all things combustible away from it, like this manuscript.
   I walked to ASAP after lunch. Kathy refused to take charge of the meeting for reasons known only to her. Thus, a myriad of subjects not having much to do with recovery, such as the bus strike, T.V antennas, Cuban cigars, putrid odors (in great detail), and emaciated flesh, were talked about instead.
   I kept my mouth shut as usual. I felt no compulsive need to voice my opinion on these matters, no desire to brutally force my way into the conversation, which would have been required to be heard above the two or three men and women who were in love with the sound of their own voices. 
   I went to the library afterwards to exchange videos, then checked my mail. My CA7 form was there today, plus another case worker change notification.
   Ms Dahlia did not show for our 4:00PM Phase 3 Meeting, which I was so looking forward to. I left a message on her voice mail letting her know I had been there, and that I missed her terribly.
   I watched several episodes of “The Sopranos,” taking time out from this arduous activity for a meat loaf dinner. 
   I became so engrossed in these tapes that I missed a PBS special on Bob Hope that I had planned to tape.
   Sorry Bob.
   When I ran out of Sopranos, I switched to “The Life of Monty Python,” the story of the origen of the British comedy team and show. I blame Monty Python solely for my ongoing preoccupation with spam.
   Tonight I dreamt I was at my psychiatrist’s office, who happened to be Joan Cusack, the lovely and immensely talented star of “Addams Family Values,” and “Working Girl,” and my current dream girlfriend, Tara Aire, the lovely and talented star of “Fox Holes,” “Girlfriends,” and many other fine films, one of the few actresses I’ve ever met.    
   I met her at an AA meeting at the Valley Club in Van Nuys, and heard her story.
   Drugs were involved.

7   November    Friday    Day 118

   Giselle was wearing pants again today, which is why I slept in late. Every Friday jeans. Someone has to let her know there are no casual Fridays for morning show hosts. 
   When I did get up I showered and cleaned my room. I made some coffee. I would have liked to have used the computer in the day room but the place was filled to capacity with unmotivated veterans, and the three computers were being used to play video games.
   So I wrote, and had fried chicken for lunch. 
   Then to ASAP. Ronald McCree appeared out of nowhere and joined me in my walk north on San Pedro to the VA Clinic. I gave him the proof I eventually found that the Welles “War of the Worlds” broadcast had transpired in 1938.
   “That’s not what I was talking about,” he told me.
   “Well what the hell were you talking about then?”
   “I’m talking about the one that happened in the fifties. When all the newspapers and news said the world was going to end.”
   “What!? Nothing happened in the fifties like that! You’re crazy.”
   “No I’m not man. I remember it.”
   “Okay. You find some proof of whatever the hell it is you’re talking about and show it to me, or I get my fifty cents pronto. Get it?”
   “Yeah, alright.”
   “Don’t make me come looking for you.”
   At the meeting some black guy named Murphy kept rambling on and on about something or other until even Kathy had to ask him to please get to his point. Much to his dismay Murphy discovered he didn’t have one, and walked out. Nobody missed him.
   Ron and I made plans to meet at his place tomorrow morning at six. I told him he should bring a book as we’d be waiting in line for quite a while.
   “Nope. I don’t read on the weekends. That’s my time for fun. I do all that stuff during the week.”
   “I hate to break this to ya buddy, but some people think reading is fun.”   
   “No. My weekends are my time...”
   I imagine his point of view is more prevalent throughout the general population than mine.
   A letter from John Monzano was waiting for me when I returned from the library. It went almost exactly like this:
   “Hey Buddy:
   Just got your 2nd letter that looks like your 1st letter. If I wasn’t being too suspicious I would believe that you just sent a copy of the first letter and signed your name but I could be wrong. So anyways how is it going with you at Club-Med. I know it must suck to not to be able to go anywhere with the MTA strike and all. I wrote Pete and he hasn’t written back. Tell him what the fuck! So how is Ms Marshall doing. Tell her I said high! So have you heard any news about the housing that you are trying to get. I hope that you get it. How is school going. Are you able to get if not that totally sucks because it seems like whenever we try and go forward we have to go through hoops to do it. Why can’t something go normally for us like the rest of the world. I haven’t been to the movies lately but I been seeing a lot of good movies on cable. I am glad that my library card enables you to get some good movies, speaking of movies how big of a skin flick collection do you have. Has it passed the thousand mark yet. Ha ha! So how is your book going and your screen play. Well that’s all for now. I will write again when you respond to this letter. Don’t take too long like you always do and try and be a little original this time. Do you think you can handle that. Take care and I hope that you are still going to temple [the ASAP Clinic on Temple St.]. Hey maybe at Christmas you can spend it here with me and eat some tamales and other traditional Mexican food.
    Take it easy friend
   John aka (your daddy)
   Call me during the morning”
   John it seems is an economical writer dispensing with the niceties of question marks and paragraphs.
   Periods mine.
   I have no idea of what he’s writing about concerning “skin flicks.” I don’t even know what they are. Some kind of Arian Supremacist thing probably.
   A letter from the financial aid office informed me that I had been granted over $4000 in assistance money for school, which is always good news.
   I read from “Ulysses” until dinner. Chile dogs. I saw John Clark down there, and he loaned me a book on the teachings of the Buddha, and some audio tapes on Buddhism. I listened to one of them later while eating a Creamy Chicken Top Ramen. 
   I attended the 7:30 Drifters Meeting, and volunteered to read the 12 Traditions. When I returned to my room I heard someone yelling on the street below that Jesus loved me. 
   How presumptuous! 
   I watched the very first “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and two episodes of “The Bob Newhart Show.” Not as good as I remembered them from the seventies, but good just the same. I remembered watching these programs as they aired while I was living in the Rancho San Antonio Boys Home in Chatsworth, and later with my future first wife, when we and our friends stopped partying long enough to watch them.
   Bittersweet memories.
   I read a little about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence before going to sleep, and dreamt I was singing “The Lumberjack Song,” to Carol Cleveland from “Monty Python's Flying Circus,” and Porsche Lynn, the beautiful and talented star of “Servin' It Up,” “Buttslammers 14” (this seems to be a very successful franchise similar to the Star Wars films, and Brady Bunch movies), and many other fine films

8   November   Saturday   Day 119

   I got out of bed at 3:45 and took a nice hot shower to wake up. I continued to listen to the Buddhist tapes while exercising, and classical music while meditating.
   I was to meet McCree at his house directly at 6:00, and so left the Weingart 15 minutes before.
   Unfortunately I forgot to put on my wristwatch and would be uncertain of the time for the rest of the morning, my abilities to calculate it from the ecliptic coordinates of the Sun being a little rusty. 
   The clock inside the locked doors of Ron’s lobby were of little use, it telling me it was 5:05, which I was fairly sure was incorrect since I had left the Weingart at 5:45. 
   I wasn’t completely sure though. Drifting time warps are such a nuisance and down right unsafe.
   There were lots of homeless people hanging around on the street, or sleeping under blankets, or in nice cardboard condos. Some were walking about, silent and solemn. One black guy about a block east of me was ranting and raving about one thing or another. The rats were out in force, scurrying about from one side of the street to the next, from one  storm drain to the safety of another. I almost stepped on one on the way over.
   There was no Ron however. I waited until I thought it must be 6:15, then walked up to the VA Clinic by myself. He’d meet me there if he were to come.
   Rain had been predicted but hadn’t arrived, and it wasn’t at all cold. No lines had formed yet when I got there, and only 20 or so fellow vets had gotten there before me. I walked up and down Temple, checking things out. The clock in the ASAP lobby told me it was 6:25.
   Today was Veteran’s Personal Care Day. A giveaway of clothes, food, and blankets. Priority tickets were to be handed out at 7:30, and the general proceedings began at 9:00. I personally didn’t need anything except a blanket perhaps, and mainly came to keep McCree company, and to see what could be had. I didn’t know any of the other people there, and took up a position where I though a line would eventually form.
   Mr. Pittman, a black gentleman about my age, found me and began a conversation. He’s a fanciful fellow, claiming to have invented everything from Brylcreem to radio. And like Forrest Gump, he claims to have been a major participant in almost every important historical occurrence that has transpired in this country during his lifetime. 
   We knew each other from Harbor Light, so I was quite used to his ramblings. This morning he told me he had recently set a new record for running the mile, and had won 37 pounds of lobster tails in the lottery, which he had an anonymously shipped to his sister in Muskego, Wisconsin.  
   It’s not my place to contradict him, and it’s never affected him in the slightest when others have done so.
   And perhaps in some sense he is all of those things he claims, and has done all of those things he claims. Hell, I once told him I was a writer.
   The planet Mr. Pittman and I were standing on revolved enough so that the part we were standing on came into view of the local star, and from where once was darkness came the morning light.   
   Ron McCree came along about this time. By now a line had formed behind me about a quarter of a block long. I was 6th from the front, and let Ron walk right past me to take a spot at the back to wait his fair turn. He hadn’t noticed my presence as of yet, but saw me eventually, and by the time the facilitators arrived and began handing out numbered tickets, Ron and about a hundred other guys made a rush for my position, grabbing and pulling, kicking and screaming, karating... a little Jeet Kune Do if I’m not mistaken, yelling for more tickets. I hate situations  like this and was about to leave when suddenly Ron was by my side reaching out for a ticket, and then got one for me. I was number 16. Ron, who had gotten there a good 45 minutes after I did was number 14.
   The miserable son of a bitch!
   I told him that I was shocked, and not a little bit appalled, to learn that he was a member in good standing of that most infamous of fraternities, the line cutters. I told him of the special place in hell reserved for people who cut in front of others while waiting in line. Not Dante’s mild Disneyland, but Joyce’s fire pit: 
   "Now let us try for a moment to realize, as far as we can, the nature of that abode of the damned which the justice of an offended God has called into existence for the eternal punishment of sinners. Hell is a strait and dark and foul-smelling prison, an abode of demons and lost souls, filled with fire and smoke. The straitness of this prison house is expressly designed by God to punish those who refused to be bound by His laws. In earthly prisons the poor captive has at least some liberty of movement, were it only within the four walls of his cell or in the gloomy yard of his prison. Not so in hell. There, by reason of the great number of the damned, the prisoners are heaped together in their awful prison, the walls of which are said to be four thousand miles thick: and the damned are so utterly bound and helpless that, as a blessed saint, saint Anselm, writes in his book on similitudes, they are not even able to remove from the eye a worm that gnaws it....”     
   And for those guilty of this deed, which symbolizes all that is wrong and evil in this world of ours, they are destined to spend the years infinite up to their necks in boiling vats of their on excrement!
   “No they’re not,” Ron said. “And I saw you and said, man, I’m going up front with all of these others and with my long arms... well, we got the tickets didn’t we?”
   On top of all this he told me he had come downstairs looking for me and I hadn’t been there.
   “What time did you come down?” I asked.
   “Ten minutes to six.”
   “Ten minutes to six. Well of course I wasn’t there! You didn’t say come at five fifty, now did you? You told me to come at six... which I did, and you weren’t there.”
   “Yes I was.”
   “No, you were not!”
   “Yes I was.”
   On and on.
   Now that we had our tickets we were free to move about wherever we chose. I was hungry, and it being the correct time I told Ron I was going back to the Weingart to eat. He said he’d come along.
   Pancakes. I gave Ron my banana.
   After the feast we walked over to his place. He called his father and asked him if there had ever been a big event in the fifties, something concerning being invaded by Martians, which had been reported in the press, and everybody had gotten all crazy.
   “Yes,” his dad told him.
   “See,” Ron said to me after hanging up. “I told you.”
   Unfortunately, this type of antidotal evidence is accepted all too often as being proof of some extraordinary event... or even ordinary event, such as in this case, as if there had been an actual Martian attack during the 1950s I’m almost positive everybody would have unambiguously  known about it.
   “You told me what?” I asked Ron. “Your father saying that something happened is no proof. Why should I believe him if I don’t believe you?! You’re probably in cahoots with him anyway in order to split my fifty cents! I showed you documentation that can be verified repeatedly and independently. That’s what I want from you.”
   On and on.
   He won’t do it. Later he’ll tell me that he’s too busy. He’s got more important things to do. It’s not that important to him to prove the point that he adamantly believes.
   We returned to the clinic at 9:00 when things were beginning to get started. The clinic’s director made a little speech and got his picture taken. The people responsible for organizing the event spoke. An award was given to one of the volunteers. A priest said a little prayer, which was nice of him. And two young people read a  formal speech and performed a ceremony honoring all of the veterans.
   All the time this was happening those vets they were honoring were muttering to themselves for them to hurry the fuck up and get the show on the road.   
   Essentially, the first 20 of us were led up to a patio area on the 2nd floor, where the goodies were handed out by teenage volunteers. A lawyer from NBC took my ticket and verified my veteran status. Then one by one, and in line, we placed our goodies into plastic bags. First off I got a dental hygiene kit, which consisted of a toothbrush, and a foil container of .15 oz of Colgate fluoride toothpaste... about enough for one good brush. Next, a disaster blanket (the tag attached to it warns not to launder... or dry clean), army camouflage pants (now half of my body will be invisible as I sneak through the forests of downtown Los Angeles), a light sweater, T-shirt, used sneakers (size 11), socks, and a fanny pack containing another toothbrush and some more toothpaste (now I can brush my teeth twice).
   Next we were ushered into a small dining area where pasta in tomato sauce, salad, and fruit drinks (the VA spares no expense. Each of these meals must have cost them... oh, maybe 27 cents) were served. Ron and I ate then left. 
   I returned to the Weingart. Ron bought a can of beer at Chuck’s Liquor Store then went to his place. 
   I got on the computer in the day room for about an hour, updating some files and writing a letter to John Manzano, then wrote in my room while listening to Venus Hum. Frank Valdez stopped by and asked for my monthly urine sample. I watched a sort of Monty Phyton documentary while trying to muster up some urine. Michael Palin, the emotional host, took us on a tour of “Pythonland,” the parts of London Monty Python used to film their television show 30 years ago. We were taken to the spot where the “Seduced Milkman,” was filmed, and “The Fish Dance,” all of which I found fascinating. Something about comparing the same location at two different times intrigues me.
     I gave Frank his urine, then took off to the library to exchange videos. I stayed there for two hours using their computers to search the vast and wild Internet.
   There is a black man who sits in a wheelchair who can always be found at the corner of 6th and Wall, the north east corner, directly across from the fortress-like Central Police Station. Anytime, night or day, hot or cold, rain or shine, he’s there. I noticed today that he had found a motorcycle helmet to wear, and the visor now hides his face.
   It looks good on him.
   I taped Ridley Scott’s “Black Rain,” starring Spielberg’s wife Kate Capshaw, Andy Garcia, Michael Douglas, and a whole bunch of Japanese people on motorcycles. 
   I heated water for coffee in the day room during the second hour of the movie, and noticed the guys in there were watching an unauthorized episode of “The X-Files,” being broadcast on Fox. I say unauthorized because this had not been listed in the old TV guide. It was not a particularly good episode, “The Wild Women in the Woods,” episode, so I wasn’t all that pissed, but from here on I must have advance notice of these things!
   I also watched a Monty Python tape of two of their shows, one of them featuring invaders from outer space turning humans into Scotsmen in order to win Wimbledon. I’m told it was based on a true story.
   “Mad TV” did a skit about “The Sopranos,” with every other word being bleeped as an obscenity. It wasn’t a very long skit.
   When I finally went to sleep after this long and weary day, I dreamt I was a milkman enticed into the home of Donna Reading from Python and the “The Benny Hill Show,” and Belladonna, the beautiful and talented star of “Evil Pink,” “Fantasy Lodge,” and many other fine films. I was led upstairs and shown to what I thought was the bedroom, hoping to get a little nap in. The door closed behind me and locked. I found myself in a small room filled with other milkmen who had been similarly duped before me.  Some of them, it looked like to me, had been there for years and years.
   None of us were ever heard from again. 

   John Manzano passed away suddenly on November 5, 2011. He was born April 17, 1963 in Oxnard Ca. he was a resident of Camarillo for 47 years. John was the comedian of the family, he enjoyed spending time friends and family, he was also an avid Miami Dolphins fan.
   John is survived by his mother Elvira, brothers; Albert & Ron his sister Anna, two sons; Ernie & Anthony Manzano and nieces and nephews. John is preceded in death by his father Jose, two brothers;Jimmy and Michael Manzano. John will be greatly missed...we love you always. Family has requested a private service.

   His mother once asked me if I could help save John.
   "No," I said. "Only he can save himself."

   Elvira  M. Manzano (Vera) our beloved mother and grandmother passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 4, 2012 [two months after she lost John] at the age of 79 in Camarillo Ca. Vera will be ever so missed by her family and friends. She is preceded in death by her sons; Jimmy Manzano, Michael Manzano and John Manzano. She is survived by her sons; Ron Manzano, Albert Manzano, daughter-in-law Shari, her daughter Anna Manzano and grandchildren & great-grandchildren.

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