Friday, December 18, 2015

Skid Row Diary 47

9    December       2003      Tuesday        day 150

   “Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger.”  -Jules Winnfield

   The videos I had gotten from the library were due yesterday, so I took them back before it opened and dropped them in the overnight box, hoping I wouldn’t be fined.
   On the way back I stopped at the SRHT office to check out the status of my application.
   They had me wait for about an hour before I was able to inquire at the SRHT window what, as they say, was up.
   “Oh, we can’t seem to find your file, Mr. Joyce.”
   “Yes. I’m sorry. But we can make a new one for you. Here, let me give you some certification forms to fill out...”
   “But I just returned these to you last Thursday...”
   “You did!? Wait a minute.” The young lady looked through a pile of paperwork sitting in front of her.
   “Oh, here it is! It wasn’t put back.”
   “You found his file,” a fellow from a cubicle in the back office asked.
   “Yes. It wasn’t put back. Why did you have him waiting? Did you want to talk to him?”
   “I didn’t have him waiting.Tell him there are no openings today, and to check in later.”
   “There are no openings today...”
   “Yes, I heard. I’ll be back on Thursday, okay?”
   “Fine. Sorry about the wait.”
   “That’s alright.” I left and had lunch at the Weingart Cafe. Cheeseburger. I carefully took it up to my room and used some Kraft  Zesty Burger Sauce I had procured from the 99 Cent Store for just such an occasion.
   I was exercising in my room later when the maid came. Of all the times she had access to my room she chose the least auspicious. I was forced to end a concentrated and stern set of 49 count burpies, answer the door, ask her to wait while I changed out of my extensive exercise garb (flannel shorts), change, then go hunt her down before she started on another room. If she were to do that, who knew when she would come back... maybe never.
   I found her, and steered her back to my room.
   While waiting for her to finish Richard Cairns and my new case manager, Kenny Johnson, snuck up behind me.
   “Mr. Joyce,” Johnson exclaimed. “Did you see Mrs. Sandry yet?”
   “I’ll see her today, yes. At the Phase three meeting,” I told them. Richard had started down the stairway, fairly disinterested.
    “No,” Johnson continued. “Did you see her about housing? Not just her class.”
   “No. Not yet. I’ll see her today.”
   “You were supposed to see her about housing.”
   “She didn’t make an appointment! Her instructions to me were to see her to make an appointment. I’m seeing her today,” I said emphatically.
   He wasn’t satisfied with my answer, but followed his boss downstairs like a whipped dog.
   Apparently, he had expected me to break my neck to meet with Sandry ASAP. I noted his urgency. I also noted he likes to put his clients on the defensive and work from there. An approach used extensively in the military.
   He still thinks he’s in the Army, that’s his problem.
   Or else he was showing off for his boss.
   Or both.
   Probably both.
   He’s also a weaselly little asshole.
   I returned to my room, then left again, slightly agitated over the encounter with Cairns and Johnson. I knew this guy would be a problem. How can I use the situation to my best advantage? No more laissez-faire supervision by Weingart management, that was clear, which may be a good thing. Probably not though.
   I went to the library and checked my mail, then bought a VCR tape of “Chicago,” at the indoor mall.
   “Chicago,” was last year’s Best Picture, at the Academy Awards. I didn’t buy it for myself, but for Glenda at the front desk as a Christmas present, a token of my appreciation for all of the prompt service she provides.
   I attended the Phase 3 meeting, then did my laundry, and wrote. I listened to Phil Hendrie discuss the latest Michael Jackson fiasco.
   “He looks like an albino ferret,” Phil says. 
   I watched the last half of “The Ring,” and ate a turkey sandwich with a bowl of top ramen just before going to bed... which may explain the dream I had.
   Which involved the beautiful and talented actresses Renee Zellweger, from “Chicago,” Melissa Joan Hart from “Sabina, the Teenage Witch,” and Tawny Pearl, from “Taboo,” “Co-Ed Fever,” “Trouble Down Below,” and many other fine films.   
   The four of us were rowing a long boat in a flooded tidal basin toward the only thing that was visible, what looked like a large tree, or at least the top of a tree, the trunk being under water.
   “Row harder girls,” I directed as I steered the, well, what was a large canoe actually.
   We reached the tree and tied off the boat, then clambered into the branches. The tree was large enough that we could easily find places to lay down for the night to get some very needed rest, but it was very cold, so we huddled together to share body heat, then fell asleep and dreamt we were frolicking on the sandy beaches of Tahiti.
   I thought it odd that we were all having the same dream because we were all wearing yellow striped bikinis which of course are much more suited for the French Riviera. 
   In the morning the water had receded and the vast plain was now a sea of dry caked mud. We would have left if it were’n’t for all of the hungry wolves sitting patiently below us, looking up at us with obvious longing.
   “Maybe they want to be our friends,” Tawny offered.
   “I wouldn’t count on it,” Renee said.
   “I think I can help,” Melissa said, then conjured an eagle spell.
   “The eagles are coming! The eagles are coming,” we all cried as the eagles came.
   They picked us up out of the tree and flew us up into the sky where flying saucers from the planet Tralfamadore shot down the eagles before kidnaping us to take to their home planet so we could be placed in an interstellar zoo, never to be seen or heard from again.    

10    December      Wednesday        Day 151

   All  of the staff were asleep as I left the Weingart at 4:25. I had to wake one of the security guys to buzz me through to the front desk and exit. I didn’t wake the desk lady, so didn’t sign in for the day.
   It’s usually dark at 4:30 in Los Angeles, and this morning was no exception. It was a tad chilly, but I was dressed warmly, and even wore gloves to keep my little fingers from being frost bitten. I had my  9×19mm Walther P99 semi-automatic with me in case of attack, but no one bothered me, and I didn’t stray from 6th St, all the way to Broadway, and the Red Line Station.
   I met my former roommate from the Harbor Light at the Red Line, Raleigh Holmes, a black guy about my age, who perpetually owes me various small amounts of money. He was on his way to the VA hospital in Westwood, where he has a job in the CWT program, the same program I’d like to enter.
   He said he’d see me there.
   It was cold, dark, and misty in North Hollywood. I arrived at Trimar in Reseda at 6:00, and hour and a half before it opened. I bought coffee from the 7/11, and walked west on Vanowen to keep warm, looking at the houses on the side street, and wondering about the lives of the people and families that lived in them. I wondered if they were content.
   I made my way to the Del Taco on Corbin, then back to the plasma center, and read from “Life on the Mississippi,” until Trimar opened. I was 6th in line today, just behind a pretty blonde lady who spoke with a Polish accent.
   They were showing “Hulk” again on the television. Aurica stuck me, and told me all about her little granddaughter.
   “She like “Pig in the City,” she told me.
   “Who doesn’t.”
   I picked up oodles of luncheon meat at the 99 Cent Store on the way home. And I got back in time for lunch. Barbecue beef.
   As I was heating water for coffee, Mr. Johnson came to the door and surveyed the day room. He pointed at me and said, “I’ve got to see you before the end of the day.”
   I was mildly interested in what he wanted, so I canceled my plans to attend the 1:00 ASAP meeting, and waited around for Johnson to return from lunch.
   I was in the lobby waiting for him when he opened his office door precisely at 1:00.
   I’ve got to say this about him... he’s punctual.
   “You wanted to see me?”
   “Yes, I did.”
   He turned on his computer and looked me up.
   First off he wanted to bitch at me for not immediately seeing Mrs. Sandry to discuss housing possibilities. I told him that I had seen her yesterday, and that I had an appointment to see her again, individually, tomorrow. He didn’t believe me and called her  to verify.
   “Did you know you had an appointment with her today that you missed?”
   “No. I didn’t have one for today. It’s for tomorrow.” I showed him the appointment slip Sandry had written herself.
   He talked to her. “Oh, it’s for tomorrow!” He looked at me. “Mrs. Sandry apologizes... the appointment is for tomorrow.”
   “Yes, I know that.”
   With that cleared up he looked through my monetary status and employment record.
   “You’ve been here almost a year and only have nine hundred and ninety dollars saved, and haven’t found a job. GR would have paid out more than nine ninety...”
   I told him about how DPSS had shorted me for several months, and about the two months I didn’t get paid at all.
   “You have some kind of proof of this?”
   That surprised me. Still... “Why yes...I do.”
   “When was the last time you saw Mr. Densman, the employment counselor?”
   “Oh, a couple of months ago, I guess,” I said. “I’m waiting for the CWT...”
   “They were hiring at Fedco a couple of months ago.”
   “I’m getting into the CWT program.”
   “Yeah, but that hasn’t happened yet. Your housing is uncertain, you’ve basically done nothing over the last year. You could be working at Fedco.”
   “I don’t want to work at Fedco!” Now he was getting me mad. I was this close to losing my temper(), telling the fucker, “If you like freaking Fedco so much, you go fucking work for them!”    I felt like demanding my money and moving the hell out, which upon reflection was probably an inappropriate response to such a mild suggestion. But his inclination and tone tended to inflame.
   Up until he had become my case manger I had been in complete compliance with program expectations according to my last manager. Maybe he considered dealing with alcohol addiction and depression nothing, but I didn’t.
   An angry exchange did not occur because he softened his tone and suggested I apply for a non-service connected pension from the VA.
   “That would give you eight hundred and fifty dollars a month, which is a lot better than what you’re getting from GR. We could possibly extend your time here for six months, which would allow you to save more money, then find some decent housing for you...”
   I told him I hadn’t heard of that pension, and that I would apply for it tomorrow. This seemed to satisfy him. It satisfied me. We shook hands when I left.
   I seriously doubt that I’m eligible for any pension, but I’ll play this guy for awhile longer. I really don’t want to move out until the New Year, and I cursed myself for not being prepared for the meeting. “Curse you Rick,” I said repeatedly. I had been very stupid, and could have been on the street for that mistake.
   I had to pay one dollar for overdue videos. I don’t know how they figured one dollar. It should have been three.
   I paid my one dollar and borrowed more videos.
   Later I watched “Bandits,” starring Cate Blanchett, and “The House of Yes,” starring Tori Spelling and Posey Parker, a theatrical comedy/drama that din’t work for me at all.
   I read from “Tai-Pan” before going to sleep, and had a dream involving Betty Boop, 72 dry martinis, an Atlas launch vehicle, four and a half Komodo dragons, the magical neutron dancing Pointer Sisters, a lump of wet charcoal, a migrating herd of giant African snails, 8 dozen pâte à choux... partly consumed, Director of External Relations for the NASA Johnson Space Center Ellen Engleman, a lopsided owl, 52 toothpicks, 37 dice, 24 mouse traps, 25 mice, and a trampoline.

11   December     Thursday     Day 152

   I got up 30 minutes before my appointment with Delilah Sandry. I showered, drank some coffee, and signed in downstairs.
   “Could you leave the door open, Mr. Joyce?”
   She didn’t trust herself alone with me. I could tell by her smoldering gaze, and the way she pulled her dress up over her knees.
   “I don’t know why I thought your appointment was for yesterday,” she said as a come on.
   “I don’t either.” Snappy.
   She cleared her throat. “Have you made any plans on where you’d like to live after leaving here?”
   “I’m registered with Skid Row Housing Trust,” I told her.
   “How long have you been waiting?”
   “Oh, since June.”
   “That doesn’t sound right. Have you been checking in with them?”
   “Oh, yes.”
   She called Maria at the Trust. After conversing with her several minutes, she hung up.
   “She told me that you haven’t been checking in, that’s what she told me.”
   “I have been checking in.”
   “Well that’s what she told me. She told me that you have to come in and get some certification forms, and have them filed out...”
   “I just did that. I returned them to their office last Thursday. Are you absolutely positive Maria hasn’t been tipping back a few? Nose candy perhaps?”
   “Last Thursday? Let me call her again.” She called again.
   “Maria? Mr. Joyce states that he returned his certification papers last Thursday... em hum. Okay, I’ll wait.”
   She waited.
   “She wants you to come in and ask for Michael,” she told me after hanging up.
   I went and asked for Michael.
   He told me to come back next week to see if there were any openings. I’d been doing that exact thing since June.
   I returned to Delilah and told her of my encounter with Michael.
   “That’s strange,” she said. “It shouldn’t be taking this long. I think I’ll call them again after lunch.”
   “You do that. In the meantime could you let Mr. Johnson know I’ve been doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. He gets so excited. I worry about his blood pressure.”
   “Yes. I’ve already sent him an Email.”
   Back in my room I wrote, and took a tiny nap. I dreamt I was spelunking with the lovely and talented models Anna Ohura and Audree Jaymes, who are not known for their vast spelunking enthusiasm and capabilities.
   We were studying cave frescos when suddenly the cave lights extinguished, and we found ourselves in complete and utter darkness.
   “Hey! Watch were you put those hands, Buddy!” The delicate Audree purred girlishly.
   Then I woke up and went to the library.
   A letter from John Monzano was waiting for me upon my return. In it was an invitation to stay at his mom’s house for Christmas. He seemed eager to see me.
   I accidentally turned on the 6:30 broadcast of The Charlie Rose Show on channel 58. He happened to be interviewing Hugh and Christie Hefner, who are celebrating 50 years since the founding of Playboy magazine.
   I felt a certain nostalgia while listening to them, Hef being responsible for untold hours of sweet introspection in my life.
   I also watched a very interesting documentary of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which is a survey of the sky that utilizes digits. And I watched half of the first part of a Frontline program on how Jesus became the Christ, and the rise of Christianity, which Saint Paul and Peter were largely responsible for.
   I remember seeing the second part last year when it first aired, the prevailing theme being that each generation of adherents to the Christian faith wholly believe that the end time, the coming of the kingdom of Heaven, from the days of Paul to the present, were eminently at hand. At times, the dates were prophesied for “The Coming,” or “The Rapture,” but these always passed with nothing happening, with one excuse following the next, on and on.
   Scientifically, the repeated failure of a predicted outcome would tend to nullify, or discredit the theory. Religious fanatics, however, tend to ignore science.
   I watched the video “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” then some W.C. Fields short films before retiring and dreaming of singing “Smooth Operator,” with Sade and the lovely and talented Playboy Playmate and actress, Rosanne Katon at the Playboy jazz festival at the Hollywood Bowl.
   For some reason we were all wearing green and pink bikinis.

12     December      Friday         Day 153

   I was a little depressed when I woke. No big deal. People do get depressed occasionally. I got out of the bikini and had some coffee and wrote.
   Fried fish for lunch.
   I went to the VA clinic to see the benefits counselor, who turned out to be John Moore, and elderly black gentleman who worked for the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization.
   He was very nice and gave me the application for the non-service connected disability pension. He also told me how it should be filled out.
   I left him at 1:00, and went downstairs to the ASAP office and attended Kathy’s meeting. A blue eyed black guy named Murphy was there, who hijacked the meeting, making sure most of it was spent discussing himself.
   I tuned out, and inwardly computed Pi to the 78th decimal. As I began the 79th, it became 2:00, and the meeting broke up.
   I went up to the Mental Health Department on the fourth floor and made an appointment to see Dr. Shaw for the 19th at 11:00. I’m trying to have my case transfered from Downtown Mental Health to the VA.
   Then I moseyed over to the library and used their computers to register for spring classes at LACC. I plan to become an expert in immigration, property, bankruptcy, and family law.
   Then I’m going to either study to become an astronaut, or a stand up comedian.
   I returned to my room and looked over the forms John had given to me. I noticed almost immediately that one of the requirements to receive a non-service connected disability pension was to have served during a time of war. I had not been... farsighted enough, to have done that, opting to enlist during one of the few times the United States was not at war.
   What a dumb ass I was.
   So I definitely wasn’t eligible for a pension.
   As I had predicted.
   I meditated, and watched another installment of naughty TV bloopers from around the world.
   Later, I watched the first half of “Key Largo,” staring Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, and some ancestor of Drew Barrymore.    
   The Rumanian/American actor Edward G Robinson was in it as well. Everyone knows him of course as Joe Keller, in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” and Sol Roth in “Soylent Green,” his last film. But playing mobsters, like Key Largo’s  Johnny Rocco, is how he made a name for himself in Hollywood’s so-called Golden Era.
   But it was Claire Trevor who stole the show in an outstanding performance that won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
   I hadn’t realized that John Houston co-wrote and directed this film, and adaptation of the Maxwell Anderson play.
   Houston really did make a lot of good movies, didn’t he?
   I went to sleep soon after the movies and found myself in the ridiculous position of being in a dream wherein I was sharing a bubble bath with Drew Barrymore and her mom Jade.
   I was shocked... and appalled. 

13     December    Saturday      Day 154

   I was up at 6:35 to meet McCree for breakfast.
   He had left me a note in my key box yesterday, informing me of his deep desire to travel to Trimar today, incase you were wondering, which I don’t know why you would, but there it is.
   No one offered Ron their breakfast this time around, so he went pancakeless.
   Instead of pancakes Ron had a shiny new red blanket that had been given to him just outside the cafe, by some nice people who were giving away such things to those of us without homes to go to.
   Ron’s blanket was rolled up into a neat little bundle, and once again we had to go out of our way to drop it off at his house so he wouldn’t have to carry it around.
   We walked from his hotel to the 4th Street entrance to the Red Line (which in actuality is the north side of the Pershing Square station).
   There’s a big escalator at the 4th St. entrance.
   “This is a really long escalator,” I remarked, while we rode it down into the depths of the MTA’s subway platform.
   “It’s not that long,” Ron said.
   “It seems long to me,” I replied. It was a long escalator, there was no getting around that.
   “Have you seen the one at Wilshire and Vermont?” Ron asked.
   “Why yes, I believe I have.”
   “That’s a real long escalator. That ones a lot longer than this one.”
   “You may be right,” I said. “However, that does not mean that this is not a long escalator, all by itself.”
   “But the one at Wilshire and Vermont is a lot longer.”
   “How do you know?”
   “Anybody can tell, man!” He looked at me as if I were an alien freshly popped out of a saucer.
   “How many steps are on that escalator?” I asked him.
   “How many? One. What do you mean?”
   “Have you personally counted the steps on the escalator at Wilshire and Vermont to know in fact that it is the longest?”
   “Naw man! I don’t count steps. But I can tell that that one is a lot longer than this one is.”
   “How can you know for sure?”
   “Ah man. There’s no talking to you,” he said... all whipped.
   A large percentage of our conversations resemble the one above. Sometimes they’re tedious, sometimes arousing (in a non sexual way). Sometimes I deliberately tease him, like now, because I do it so well.
   But whatever the circumstances, the forgoing talk is a good example of believing in something to the point of exasperation while not knowing anything about what you’re talking about, or even having the desire to find out. It also demonstrates a certain “pigheadedness” or disinclination to evaluate new or possible evidence that contradicts our cherished beliefs. I’m not saying that Ron was being inflexible in his thinking... well yes, I guess I am, but I’m also saying that we pretty much all are.
   Except me.
   And the above is a trivial example, the subject that is. Imagine non trivial beliefs we hold dear, such as those involving religion and politics, and how closely some hold on to these without the slightest bit of evidence that support their ideas.
   The same guys who screwed up the latest Godzilla remake (by making her into a giant iguana, instead of the true Godzilla we all know and love), did a pretty good job, production wise, on Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot,” which was playing at Trimar when Ron and I arrived. Unfortunately the story is so riddled with melodrama and predictability, it’s quite a chore to get through the overly long film. It helps if you’re stuck on a couch with a big needle in your arm.
   I have to tell you I’m rather tired of the invincible, over-aged, reluctant hero who is trying to atone for the horrors they committed in the past. Kevin Costner is a good one for this kind of stuff as well.
   And no one in the film remotely sounded like they lived in the 1700's. I thought I was watching a costume ball held in present day Manhattan.
   Once again Ron and I were placed side by side as our respective blood was siphoned. We poked each other in the eyes and face whenever possible.
   Aurica nodded at me once, then went about her business.
   After leaving we each bought Super Lotto tickets, then purchased various items from the 99 Cent Store in Van Nuys.
   After making plans to meet at the cafe Monday morning, we went our different ways at the Pershing Square Red Line Station. We would continue our bickering at that time.
   I returned to the Weingart and heated a frozen Salisbury Steak I had procured from the 99 Cent Store.
   That was one tasty Salisbury Steak.
   I recorded the music from “The Prairie Home Companion” again, still broadcasting from New York. Mostly Christmas songs.
   These songs would rattle around in my head for weeks to come, making me more certifiable than I usually am.
   I wrote. I watched Sidney Lumet’s “A Dog Day Afternoon,” starring the beautiful and talented Carol Kane.
   I hadn’t seen it since it came out in theater’s back in 1975. Excellent movie, which also proves the point that the FBI can never be trusted.
   Then I watched the Coen brothers touching and unintentional tribute to David Lynch, “Barton Fink,” the story of a playwright gone bad. Starring the lovely and talented John Turturro, John Goodman,  and Judy Davis, an Aussie girl playing an abused Southern mistress.
   I ate some nice butter cream chocolate cake frosting while watching the movie. Spoon by delicious spoonful. This might explain the amazing dream I had after falling asleep half way through Fink which involved Carol Kane, a 5 pronged radish peeler, 2 redacted mountain zebras, the National Security Agency, 8 gallons of lemon “Whip’en Chill,” the water tower from “Petticoat Junction,” Billie Jo, Betty Jo, and Bobbie Jo Bradley (Meredith MacRae, Linda Henning, and Lori Saunders) from “Petticoat Junction,” the USS Nautilus, the Matterhorn, 71 quarter inch ball bearings, 12 Kodiak bears, a Nigerian Dwarf goat, Judy Davis, 3000 titanium slinkies, an ocean of cotton candy, the large asteroid Vesta, Liquiline Blast Eyeliner, the song “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” from Alice Cooper, 3 pots of Hungarian goulash, an elevator in the Empire State Building, 4 bags of Rotelle pasta, cooked, 4 Catalina Stair Loft Beds, 90 black lights, 741 cans of edible Silly String, the lovely and talented actress Jessie St James, star of “Extremes,” “Hotline,” “Vista Valley PTA,” and many other fine films, 1 Mongolian Maneater (plant of the Triffid family), Gort, from “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” Hill House, the Crescent Park Looff Carousel in Riverside, Rhode Island, Aquawoman, the dragon Smaug, and a trampoline.