Saturday, January 30, 2016

Skid Row Diary 48

14        December          2003              Sunday             Day 155

   “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.” -President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961

   Everybody is sick. With cold, flu, or plague. I confirmed this at lunch with John.
   “Everybody’s sick,” he said.
   I had gotten up just prier to coming down to lunch, so I didn’t have a great deal to say for myself.
   “I’m going to Pasadena,” I said, trying to break the tension.
   “It’s raining,” Mr. Olson said, who was sitting with us. Mr. Olson is of Japanese ancestry, a fellow vet who comes from Oregon. He’s been here 14 months and nobody’s bothered him about leaving yet.
   Oh, to be Japanese!
   “I know,” I said. “I’ll have to take my umbrella.”
   That issue successfully dealt with, I set about my task. I caught the 18 bus downtown, took the Red Line to Union Station, and leaped aboard the Gold Line. It took me right to the Park in Pasadena.
   Mr. Olson was right. It was raining. But not too hard. My umbrella defeated the sky’s attempt to pelt my pate with water traveling at 10 meters per second. I was able to traverse Central Park, and made my way to Barnes and Noble on Colorado Blvd.
   “The ultimate Potato Cookbook,” for Vera Monzano, John’s lovely mother. “The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vol 1,” for John himself. “The Angels Within Us,” for my Rumanian angel, Aurica, and not a damn thing for McCree. He hadn’t even gotten me a birthday card, the miserable bastard. Nobody else did either though. Well, he’s just to miserable and pigheaded for a present. When he learns to get along with people more, well then we’ll see.
   I got a copy of “The Brothers Karamazov,” Dostoyevsky’s final novel (he died just four months after it’s publication), a complete Lord of the Rings trilogy in one book, for myself, and a copy of Maxim Magazine, with the lovely and talented Shannon Elizabeth on the cover, as well as the British edition of SFX.
   The SFX magazine would have arresting photos of nubile space bunnies within it, such as Xenia Seeberg, Jane Fonda, Rose Mcgowan, and Alyssa Milano. I got the magazine though for the investigative and well conceived articles.
   There was a nice picture of Laura Harris in there as well. She qualifies as a space bunny due to her role in Robert Rodriguez’s “The Faculty,” in which she played a role playing, aquatic, shape shifting alien, bent on world domination.
   Laura states that people now can conceivably live to up 140 years old, so she takes lots of vitamins.
   It’s good to plan ahead.  
   I returned to my room with all of my stuff. The rain had stopped trying to attack me by then.
   I wrote. The radio told me that American forces had captured Saddam Hussein alive, yesterday, just outside of his home town. He had been hiding in a shallow, grave like hole in the ground. He had a gun, but gave up without firing a shot.
   Everybody’s all excited that he was caught. I’m rather amazed that he allowed himself to be taken alive. Faced in his dilemma, dear reader, what would you do? It’s a hard thing to end one’s own life. I mean after a while you sort of get used to being alive, and no matter what trials and tribulations you may experience, it certainly is more comforting to remain alive rather than face the huge eternal uncertainty that is death.
   And it probably hurts to die as well.
   If our purpose in invading Iraq had been to topple Saddam, then that had been achieved months ago, and concluded yesterday. But that had not been out purpose. No we went there to find those pesky weapons of mass destruction that apparently had been a threat to us somehow.
   As of yet, no weapons of mass destruction. As of yet, no proven ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
   In my opinion Saddam should be torn apart very slowly, over a very long period of time, while being shown the evidence of his crimes, those committed in his name. But is America better off for having disposed him? Are the Iraqi people?
   No really. I want to know. Please tell me.
   There’s plenty more despots and mass murderers to be dealt with. Should the U.S. military be used to basically do Amnesty International’s job in other countries as well? An interesting question. Perhaps that would be a victory for global human rights. But probably not. The military is to clumsy to be of much use in that endeavor.
   Congress seems determined to enlarge the armed forces, despite resistance from the Pentagon. Got to keep that money going to Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, on and on, with our only conceivable military threat an increasing tendency toward authoritarian rule in Russia. But does might equal right as a foreign affairs policy?
   Of course it does!
   And delightedly so!
   Watch out Iran. We’re right next door.
   I watched the usual Sunday night shows. “The Simpsons,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Arrested Development,”  “The Ten Commandments.” I watched the last half of “Barton Fink.” I witnessed John Goodman steal the whole film. Then I went to sleep.
   I woke several hours later, coughing and hacking, and trying to catch my breath. When I calmed down I returned to sleep.
   Perchance to Dream I was in psychiatrist’s office, lying back on a recliner, telling her that I’d been having these strange dreams.
   “What kind of dreams Mr. Joyce?” she asked. I looked over at her and noticed she looked almost exactly like Famke Janssen, the lovely and talented Dutch actress, director, screenwriter and former fashion model.
   “It’s like I’m dreaming in chapters...”
   “Chapters? How so?”
   “It’s like a old time movie serial. In my dreams, this girl, who calls herself Maya, but is really the lovely and talented actress Suzanne Lloyd, is a carnival dancer, who keeps trying to lure me into a gymnasium, where Laura Harris turns into the giant, amphibious creature from outer space, who tries to turn me into her slave, but I escape...”
   “Interesting. Please, continue...”
   “Then Maya takes me to the roller coaster, where she tries to scare me to death.”
   “How could a simple roller coaster scare anyone to death, and why would she want to? You can see how silly and harmless this dream is...”
   “In the dream I have a heart condition that would allow me to die very quickly if I get to excited, like if I get too scared. And Maya works for Boeing.”
   “I see.”
   “I don’t think you’ll be able to help me.” And I got to leave, opening her office door only to see her secretary was Ms Lloyd. She smiled at me evilly. Terrified, I ran back into Ms Janssen’s  office and jumped out of the window. Fortunately her office was on the first floor, so I picked myself off and got back into the race, screaming into the night, as I heard Rod Serling say “They say a dream takes only a second or so, yet in that second, a man can live a lifetime. He can suffer and die, and who’s to say which is the greater reality? The one we know or the one in dreams? Between heaven, the sky, the earth, or in the...”
   “Shut the fuck up Rod!” I screamed.
   “Okay Rick.”
   And I kep running, never to be seen again...

15     December        Monday         Day 156

   I got up at 7:00 to meet Ron. We met in the cafeteria, and he watched me eat breakfast. At 7:30 we walked up to the clinic, arguing all of the way.
   “We was in Iraq because they had the capability to shoot missiles at us if they wanted to make them,” Ron maintained.
   “No we didn’t,” I said. “We were there because we were told Saddam Hussein already had weapons of mass destruction in his arsenal, just waiting to be used.”
   “No! Man, I’m telling ya Rick. Trust me. I saw it on Nightline!”
   This is another example of taking a position in reference to another position that is based on hearsay, anecdotal evidence, or one that is unsubstantially proven. It sounds good (sometimes... not in the above example), but has little truth or depth behind it.
   “We can’t go to war on the basis of what we think someone might do! For their perceived intentions.”
   “Well,we did!”
   He had me there.
   John was late opening the VFW office, so we talked to another benefits counselor.
   “VA unemployment? There is no such thing,” he told Ron, who, of course, insisted that there was.
   “A guy in my apartment building got it. He gets eight hundred and forty seven dollars a month. Are you sure?”
   “I’m positive. The VA does not pay veterans for being out of work. The only type of help your’re speaking about are compensation payments for service connected disabilities, or pensions. In order to be qualified for a pension you must be sixty percent disabled.”
   “And have served during a time of war?” I asked.
   “And have served during a time of war, yes.”
   “Are you sure,” Ron was still fishing.
   “Of course I’m sure. This is my job.”
   We went downstairs to find Sam, the CWT rep. He’s been gone for over a week now, and we hear he’s suffered a similar fate as my former case worker, Labren. He’s either flipped out, or relapsed.
   The ASAP desk lady referred us to Dr. Lo, who was handling Sam’s business for the time being.
   We told Dr. Lo that Sam had told us to see him about entering the CWT program. Lo said he’d check into it and get back to us.
   I walked to the housing trust office and sat around, waiting. I’ve smarted up recently, and have brought my writing materials with me, so when the phenomena of the time waiting while those who came after me were served first, would not be wasted.
   When I was the last one left, and could not possibly be ignored anymore, I was told to come back tomorrow to see if there was any openings. I was asking the desk lady about the new St. George Hotel, when Michael came up and asked me how much sober time I had, a question not easily answered. But I certainly had over six months abstinent from alcohol, which was what he actually wanted to know.
   He took me into the back office and gave me a brief interview, and I signed a few forms.
   “Oh, this wasn’t completed.” Michael was talking about the form my case manager had filled out, which he refused to complete, telling me I didn’t need it.
   “If they need further proof I’ll get a notarized letter,” he told me.
   What a dick.
   Michael told me to get it completed. He gave me a form that Labren had completed to show Johnson how it was done. I went and did this. Kenny Johnson’s door was open and he was in there eating peanut butter and crackers. I told him about getting a room, and probably moving in after the first, and gave him the form.
   “But you’re still working with Ms Sanchez, right?” he asked.
   “Oh yes. Very closely.”
   Both Johnson and Sanchez have been about as helpful as an audit from the I.R.S.
   I told him about Lo and CWT, and that I wanted to visit John Monzano and his mom in Camarillo over Christmas.
   “We don’t usually allow passes unless it concerns family reorientation.”
   “Well, they’re pretty much the only family I’ve got,” I told him. He told me to get back to him by the end of the week and he’d let me know.
   I stopped in my room a moment to see what Giselle was wearing, then returned to the trust office. I was the second to last person this time before Michael got back to me. He gave me a big file of papers to take to the Las Americas Hotel on 6th and Alameda. He told me it was a nice place.
   I ate lunch at the cafeteria. Rolled roast beef and mashed potatoes. Then back to ASAP. I was a lot busier than I wanted to be today.
   I received a 12 1/8 x 13 1/8 x 2 3/4 cardboard box from Odaga Corp at the post office.
   At last! Perhaps some news! After using the library computers for several hours I took my prize back to my room to discover what delights awaited within.
   Indeed, there was a letter, two in fact, written on the same piece of paper. One in Spanish and one in English... for gringos probably.
   This is what the one in English said to me:
   “Dear Richard [She calls me Richard] Surwillo: I would like to personally welcome you to my Fan Club. As an official member you will always be up to date with my professional projects as well as my personal life. Your support is very important to me. Thank you for becoming a member and I am sure you will get to know me better. Enclosed you will find:
                                                                      - My official biography
                                                                      - 1 Color picture 9 x 11, autographed
                                                                      - 1 Poster 11 x 17
   Remember you will find the club at In the Fan Club you will find a contact section by E-mail, or you can also leave your message in (305) 460-2203. Your order number is _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
   I found the three items listed above. The biography was in Spanish, so I could not actually read it... however, I’ve been assured it’s official.
   I studied the two photographs carefully. It was her alright. No doubt about it. The smaller photograph was a picture I’d seen many times before. She was standing in a field of sparse, waist high shrubs, wearing a golden brown, leopard spotted, string bikini, her majestic dark hair swept back over her beautiful shoulders, adorned in a flesh colored headband, hands subtly placed at her lovely waist, deep dark eyes looking directly at the camera, peering through into the inner reaches of one’s soul.
   “With love from Odalys to Rick my #1 fan” was written along the left side, in a colum, the words stacked on top of each other in a strenuously seductive manner.
   This picture, and the letters, are my most prized possessions.
   The larger poster was of Odalys wearing a dark blue, almost black, leather top, very low cut (If I didn’t know better I’d say she was intentionally trying to emphasize her ample breasts and body), and a bikini bottom made of square and triangular bits of gold metal on leather, with blue stones. Her hair styled in long ringlets, falling delicately about her soft, reassuring shoulders. She stood before a wall of blue tile, and once again, was looking straight at me, her full lips slightly parted, as if she were about to say, “Come to me Rick. I need you now.”
   I checked the picture thoroughly to make sure she was all there. When satisfied, I continued on to the the last, unexpected item.
   The letter was dated December 1st, 2003, and hand written in English, which was most useful.
   “Hello Richard.
   Thank you for your
   concern. I am fine.
   My neck hurts sometimes
   But I am okay now
   I am sorry for the time
   but I have a lot of letters
   regarding the same. It’s nice
   to know my fans care.
   Thank you again
   The letter was written on a single piece of blank white paper, very similar to the paper I use to write. I’m hard pressed to find any difference in fact.
   Well. I never expected a personal reply. See what a little cash can do. Especially with women. Before I had actually joined the fan club I had sent two letters a week asking of her condition with no results. As soon as open my wallet a little, bamm! Instant gratification.
   I’m joking of course.
   Odalys, it was very sweet of you to write to me. I will stop bothering you with more letters now, and am very glad and relieved that you are not hurt too badly, but I would like to know a little more of the circumstances surrounding the actual accident. After all, it happened on my home turf. Once again, the next time your in town, call me (you have my number). I’ll be happy to drive you around.
   I wrote, then marveled at Nicole Kidman’s butt in “The Birthday Girl,” and then Kubrick’s “Lolita.” 
   Then to sleep, where I met Odalys in my dreams.
   And we danced the night away.

16      December     Tuesday         Day 157

   I got up late, 10:00 or so. I showered and left the building. I couldn’t get outside without doing so.
   I walked east on 6th Street to Alameda and the Las Americas Hotel.
   A nondescript, brick building, which stands next to a garlic and ginger wholesale outlet, the smell of the two substances permeating the area surrounding the entrance to the building on 6th.
   If I indeed move in here, at least I won’t have to worry about vampires anymore.
   Inside, a young, black gentleman gave me an application to fill out. I sat at a table in the small day room and did just that, filling it out as best as I could. I had forgotten to bring my address book with me, so I told the man at the front desk that I would leave, taking the form with me to be returned later.
   “When will you be back,” he asked.
   “Oh, sometime this afternoon,” I told him.
   He also gave me a form that was to be stamped by DPSS.
   I didn’t want to come back today. I didn’t want to go to the DPSS office. All I really wanted to do was have some fun. And I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one.
   And I wanted to watch “The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, extended version,” which I had found at the library, as preparation to watching “The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King,” tomorrow. But I would wind up spending 3 hours at DPSS, and returning to the hotel.
   But first I walked back to the Weingart for lunch. I showed my Spanish letter from Odalys to the maid, who was suitably impressed. I am now looked up to with awe and respect by the Weingart house service staff.
   I arrived at the DPSS office on 4th Pl, at 12:15, and checked in at Window 7 at 12:20. I have proof of this. I sat down in the large waiting area, as instructed, and began to wait to see my new DPSS case worker, for my name to be called. Fortunately I had brought my notebook and was able to write while waiting.
   An hour and fifty minutes later I was still waiting and writing.
   “Should I be concerned that I haven’t been called yet?” I asked the customer service lady.
   “Not really. Lunch is from eleven thirty to two o’clock, so your worker might just be getting back.”
   I had the Window 7 lady call my worker anyway.
   “Who did you see?” she asked.
   “Who? I haven’t seen anybody yet. I’ve been sitting and waiting to hear my name called.”
   “It says here on the computer that someone has already seen you. You haven’t seen anybody?”
   “No! I sure haven’t.”
   She called someone over and spoke briefly to them.
   “Take a seat. You’re name will be called,” she told me. That was at 2:10.
   At 3:08 I returned to the customer service desk and asked for my worker to be called again. This was done.
   “What do you want?” my worker asked, via the customer service lady.
   “I need this form stamped, and I want to know why I was shorted twenty three dollars on my check last month.”
   “That information cannot be given out today. Come back tomorrow at ten o’clock!” The customer service lady hung up the phone. Apparently my case worker was too busy to hear my reply.
   “I can’t come back tomorrow. It will have to be Thursday.”
   The customer service lady called my case worker again.
   “Come back Thursday at ten o’clock.”
   The Las Americas Hotel is just south of DPSS on Alameda. I walked from 4th Pl to 6th St, and was back in garlic land.
   “I’m glad you came back,” the desk man said. “They were kind of mad at me that I let you take it.”
   “Uh huh.”
   “Is it like a top secret application form that we’re hiding from the Russians, or something?”
   I returned to my lonely room and began watching “The Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring,” the first film in the trilogy. I stopped at approximately 30 min into the movie to have spaghetti and meat sauce in the cafeteria.
   Jackie Guerrido was off today, so I didn’t have to worry about the weather. I finished watching the tape near 9:00.
   Let me tell you about “The Lord of the Rings,” and it’s prequel “The Hobbit.” They are four of my favorite books, and have been since I first read them in my late teens. I knew they would make a great live action movie, but the technology at the time did not exist to adequately produce them. Besides, I wasn’t, and still am not, a film director. I was and am an alcoholic and irresponsible person, so I shouldn’t be trusted to get this movie made.
   Some guy made an animated version of less than one half of the story in the late 70‘s, and never finished it
   If Peter Jackson hadn’t come along I would have had to stop drinking, and become a movie producer. However, he did and I didn’t. He made the film so I wouldn’t have to. That was exceptionally considerate of him as I’ve been very busy.
   Okay, when the first film came out in December of 2001, the 19th to be exact, I was supposed to have entered a residential alcohol treatment facility in Pasadena, Grandview, it was called. I had been staying at the bare bones homeless shelter, Union Station, which was keeping me until I got into Grandview. After having waited a month or so, I was given the okay to move in on the 17th. I knew there was a 30 day restriction period during which I would be confined to the premises. That would not do, not with the film opening just two days later.
   Reasonable, mature people would have entered the program and wait 30 days to see the movie. But that’s what a reasonable, mature person would have done, not me.
   I showed up in the morning of the 17th and made the mistake of paying them a first deposit, then told them I had to get some form filled out or something, left and got drunk in a park, then returned, and was dismissed from the program without really having entered it (and the assholes kept my money). Union Station was now closed to me, not sharing my enthusiasm for J.R.R. Tolkien. So I was really homeless at that point. Fortunately, I had a couple of hundred dollars saved from GR, which I quickly went through by staying in a motel on Colorado Blvd., near the City College.
   I was drinking hard liquor rather heavily, which presently I cannot process as I did back when I was a relatively young alcoholic, just starting out. Still, I was in desperate and pathetic shape.   
   I did see “The Lord of the Rings,” though. Several times. Or at least the first half of the film before I usually passed out.
   The first time I saw it I remember getting up to the mines of Moria, then waking up in the psychiatric ward in Huntington Memorial Hospital. I stayed there a day. I didn’t want to leave, but they threw me out as I had no insurance. They referred me to Harbor Light in downtown L.A., and paid a taxi to take me there. I got out of the taxi while still in Pasadena, borrowed some money from friends at Union Station (no small feat), borrowed a bottle of rum from Vons, and went to see “The Lord of the Rings,” again, with much the same result.
   New Year’s Eve was spent drinking stolen booze and sleeping in a very cramped space under an outside staircase across from the hospital. When it got too cold, and began to rain, I couldn’t sleep anymore. I asked the police to arrest me and take me to jail, but they were too busy for my nonsense, with the Rose Parade and all. I spent the night sitting in the emergency room.
   They gave me a warm blanket. A male nurse, Mike, gave me $5. The next day I began my journey to the downtown Harbor Light... and Skid Row.
   Last year was a bit better. “The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers,” debuted on the 18th of December. I was staying at the Cecil Hotel near 7th and Main. I had recently quit my job doing customer service over the phone for parking violators. I was drinking an 18 pack of beer a day, which was much less detrimental to my physical and mental health than hard booze.
   I saw and enjoyed the movie at Citywalk, a tad hung over, suffering from low self esteem, and impending homelessness, my savings quickly disappearing.
   This year things are looking much better. I’m not drinking. My personal growth and self esteem are high. Depression is not an issue for me. I like what I’m writing. I have genuine interests that I believe are not egotistical, and the future looks as manageable as it ever can look.
   So far so good.
   The extended version of the first film I was watching today, I enjoyed very much. Cut out of the theatrical release due to time considerations, scenes that catered to the fans of the novels were included. The gifts of Galadriel to the Fellowship, and Gandalf’s frustration at not being able to open the door at Moria, which I especially enjoyed. New music was written for the scenes, and I think, all things considered and included, it all makes for a better (and longer) movie.
   I meditated after watching it, then went to bed and dreamed I was at a Hobbit dinner party along with Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Miranda Otto, Enya, Sarah Mcleod, and Annie Lennox.
   We were at Bilbo Baggins 111th birthday party with 144 Hobbits of the Baggins’ acquaintance. The strange wizard Gandalf  had provided a fireworks show earlier. Now Bilbo took to the stage.
   “I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
   Then he disappeared and the adventure began.   

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