Friday, September 30, 2016
1. Downtown Los Angeles Districts
2. The Las Americas Hotel Apartments
3. Johnnie Ray
4. Danny Harris
5. Mike Alvidrez
6. Side view of the Las Americas
7. The Las Americas as seen from orbit
8. The Olympia Hotel Apartments
9. Erin and her duck, Augustus Finknottle
10. Air conditioner
11. 6th Street Bridge
12. Tearing it down
13. What the new bridge will look like
14. Special renovation workers working
16. Periplaneta americana
17. Gautama Buddha
18. Low volume water faucet
21. Aaron Paul
24. Photograph of actual poltergeist
It all began last year.
I live in the Las Americas Hotel Apartments at the corner of Alameda and 6th Street in downtown Los Angeles, at the very southwest edge of what is known as the Arts District, which encompasses Second Street to Seventh, and Alameda Street to the raging LA River, forming sort a standing bent rectangle, which Kate Wertheimer, Michael Juliano, Erin Kuschner and Amanda Montell of Time Out described in this way last year; “It may seem like a no man's land at first glance, but the Downtown Arts District in Los Angeles is a whole 'nother beast when you take a closer look. Equal parts warehouse wasteland and burgeoning hub for LA's young, professional and creative, the Arts District is the city's neighborhood to watch.”
I can be safely within the Arts District while standing on the east corner of Alameda and 6th, and then cross Alameda to the west and be within the odious Fish Offal District, and the very southeast corner of the Skid Row area of the city, which “contains one of the largest stable populations (between 3,000 and 6,000) of homeless people in the United States,” which I routinely venture into each night to attend Drifters AA meetings, at Gladys Park, at the corner of Gladys and 6th.
It is said that the true father of rock and roll (according to Tony Bennett), Johnnie Ray, once lived in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, as well as Danny Harris, the former track and field athlete who specialized in the 400-meter hurdles. Harris is still alive and may still be living in L.A. Hell, he may be walking around 5th and San Pedro right now.
I’ve lived at the Las Americas since January 6th of 2004, which of course will be 13 years in January, the longest I’ve ever lived in any one place by far.
The hotel contains 60 units... small rooms without toilets or kitchens. It was built, I’m told, in 1918, and is made primarily out of brick, which is a poor conductor of heat, which makes the building’s interior very hot during the summer months of the year. Uncomfortably so. My room on the third floor, for instance, is typically 20 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature outside. Accordingly if it’s an an 80 degree day in Los Angeles, the interior of my room will be 100 degrees, which is very tiresome to say the least, and the only facet of the place I don’t care for.
As I write this, the temperature for downtown Los Angeles is to reach 102 degrees.
We are told, and are required to sign a contract agreeing not to use air conditioners in our rooms due to the building’s antiquated electrical wiring, which, quite frankly, sucks... not having air conditioning I mean.
There is no limit to the amount of fans that I can have, which is kind of weird. I have three. They whirl and whirl around all day and night.
They never stop!
The hotel apparently was acquired by Skid Row Housing Trust, a nonprofit that has been preserving, developing, and managing permanent supportive and affordable housing to prevent and end homelessness (“The Skid Row Housing Trust provides permanent supportive housing so that people who have experienced homelessness, prolonged extreme poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness and/or addiction can lead safe, stable lives in wellness.”), in the early 90‘s, shortly after the Trust itself was founded in 1989. It was refurbished back then, the work being completed in 1992, becoming one of the very first buildings SRHT managed.
The current Chief Executive Officer of SRHT is the infamous Mike Alvidrez, who “is an advocate of Housing First, an innovative strategy that prioritizes the security of a permanent home as the first step to ending homelessness. Driven by hands-on experience working in Downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood, he pioneered the development of permanent and supportive housing to help those facing the toughest challenges to stability and wellness.”
Mike has been the Trust’s CEO since 2004, and is a very nice man. I had lunch with him once. Gourmay hamburgers.
He’s very nice and can be reached at 1317 E. 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021, or give him a call at (213) 683-0522. Just ask for Big Mike. He’s never too busy to chat.
You can personally become involved in the fight to end homelessness and support the Trust’s fine work by making a donation at the above address and phone number as well.
Go ahead, make one. I dare you.
The Las Americas has a sister! The Olympia Hotel Apartments, which rests a few blocks away on the corner of 7th and Kohler Streets. I’m not exactly sure how a hotel’s sex is determined and maintained, but I can assure you, the Las Americas will forever be the pitcher rather than the catcher.
My lovely ex-case manager Erin, and her colleague Paul, would work in both hotels, with their office being located in the Las Americas. They were allowed to have an air conditioner in there, so it was nice and cool all year round, a flagrant example of employee bias, vs the rights and comfort of residents. Apparently the wiring was in good shape in there, as opposed to the rest of the building.
The wiring was good in the resident manager’s room as well. Interesting.
In any case Erin and Paul would hold our weekly Cooking Club at the Olympia, wherein we would cook all kinds of food, from bagels, to cakes, to tacos, burgers, breakfasts, food of all kinds. So I’m very familiar with that building.
They have a nice elevator. We don’t.
I was assigned a case manager, by the way, because I was in a special program, which involved the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, entitled the Shelter Plus Care Program, which is designed to promote permanent housing with supportive services to persons with disabilities who are coming from the streets and emergency shelters. I came from both, sort of. What the program does is to provide rental assistance to those within it, based on the participants income. Let’s say the market rate for my room is $600 a month. Shelter Plus Care program participants would be required to pay approximately one third of that, $200, and the Housing Authority would pay the remainder. In a city, or a country for that matter, in which there exists a housing crisis, this assistance is greatly appreciated.
To be eligible for the program, a person must be homeless or chronically homeless with a mental illness, substance abuse or HIV/AIDS issue, and must be referred by the community-based organization that provides the required supportive services.
I was and am very lucky in this regard. I’m a recovering addict (alcohol/nicotine), and as you can probably tell, I’m a very sick person mentally, and need all of the help that I can get, by golly. As a matter of fact the organization that referred me to the program was the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.
I take medication, yet, some days are better than others.
I also suffer from arthritis, and am a tad agoraphobic, which means I’m the most comfortable when I’m safely within the confines of my little room.
That’s where I am right now!
In order to stay eligible for the program I am required to attend a certain amount of supportive meetings or activities each month, and am required to meet a case manager each month. Erin used to be my case manager, but she went away. My case manager right now is a nice young man named Henry. He’s going away too. My case manager next month, or possibly right now depending on when I get this published, is a bright young woman whose name is Cassandra, and whom I’ve met only informally.
Cassandra, I’m taking this opportunity right now to apologize for any and all foolishness I will undoubtedly commit and be involved with in the future.
Doctor’s appointments, substance abuse meetings, SRHT meetings like the Cooking Club and Garden Club (here’s some pictures of our garden), various activities at the VA, book clubs, bowling bouts, knitting circles, shark wrangling, even trips to a food bank, or the Hippie Kitchen clinic all count toward meeting the Shelter Care Plus Programs requirements.
Okay, early last year we had a special resident meeting in the Day Room on the first floor wherein we were told of plans to renovate the Las Americas and Olympia in 2016. We had three planning meetings in which an architect, and special SRHT Renovation Staff who were specially trained in renovation stuff, attended. Residents were asked for their ideas on what they wanted to be included in the plans for this renovation, such as did we want bike racks in the garden area, did we want a waterfall in the garden, a designated area for the use of computers, kitchen specifications, did we want an elevator, all kinds of stuff like that.
Special renovation pizza was served.
I only really wanted one thing. Air conditioning in the rooms. That’s all I cared about, and the special renovation staff didn’t sound too hopeful in getting it.
Time passed as it is want to do. Tommy, our Residence Manager, a handsome black gentleman who’s a couple of years older than I am, and who is actually the best residence we’ve had since I’ve lived here (and I’ve told him that) as he is able to maintain a stable living environment without being intrusive, stopped admitting new residents, and the hotel slowly emptied out.
Later in the year we were told that the Trust had received grants to fund the renovation, and the grants were very specific in what they provided and how they would be implemented. We were told that we (the residents who still lived in the hotel) would remain living in the hotel during the renovation. They provided special renovation paperwork that we were required to sign in which I discovered that if we were asked to move out during the renovation they were required by law to pay us each around $22,000, which is why they wanted us to stay there I assume. We were given a time table specifying when certain special renovation activities would take place, such as I was scheduled to have my room specially renovated (painted, new flooring, electrical wiring replaced, etc.) in April. The entire renovation would take place during the entire year. We were told that we would have an elevator, that the Day Room would be sunken into the basement, the kitchen would double in size (we were also told that while work was being done on the kitchen we would receive a per diem of $71 a day, $35 a day when asked to be out of our rooms for more than 6 hours), the manager’s office and offices for support staff would also be in the basement, on and on. And finally we were told that we would receive some form of air conditioning in the rooms.
My birthday came and went. Halloween came and went (dressed up as Donald Rumsfeld that year). Thanksgiving came and went. Christmas... New Years.
Coincidentally, the famous 6th Street Bridge was about to be renovated, or actually replaced with a nice new bridge. Currently, there is no 6th Street Bridge. It stood for 84 years! I used to walk over it every morning, and now it’s completely gone!
And then it began.
From the SRHT Newsletter:
Construction Begins at Skid Row Southeast 1
January 25, 2016/in Affordable Housing, Construction Update, Housing Development, Our Buildings, Permanent Supportive Housing /
Construction has begun on Skid Row Southeast 1, a project to renovate Las Americas Hotel Apartments and Olympia Hotel Apartments, two of our buildings in Downtown Los Angeles. Renovations at both buildings will focus on improving energy efficiency, reducing water usage, and extending each building’s life. The project will also focus on updating housing amenities and enhancing common areas for current and future residents. Major improvements include installing an elevator at Las Americas, reconfiguring the courtyard and kitchen at Olympia, and creating new spaces for supportive services in both buildings. Renovations are expected to be complete by the end of 2016.
A little sign was affixed to a wall in the front of the building. It read thusly:
Developer: Skid Row Housing Trust
Architect: Egan/Simon Architecture
Contractor: Walton Construction Services
Financing Partners: Affordable Housing Program, California Department of Housing and Community Development, California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, Century Housing Corporation, Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles, Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Community Investment Department, U.S. Bank, and that paragon of virtue, Wells Fargo Bank.
Consultants: Breen Engineering, California Housing Partnership Corporation, Egan/Simon Architecture, Geocon West, Inc., Partner Engineering and Science, Inc., Smith-Emery Laboratories.
L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar, of the 14th District
L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, of the 1st District.
Apparently the Councilman and Supervisor have something to do with the renovation, but I haven’t seen either of them around here helping out. Perhaps in the future when the elevator’s installed.
We had been told that work would only take place between the hours of 8:am and 5:pm, Monday through Friday, and that promise was kept until about two weeks ago when work was done on Saturday.
They began in the basement and first floor, sequestering the areas being worked on with walls of compressed wood or particle board, which the workers would hide behind while working, but you could tell they were in there by all the noise they were making tearing stuff up. One of these walls was built to separate the day room into two parts. On one side a large hole was torn into the floor allowing access to the basement. On the other a small lounge area for the residents where the vending machines and TV were located, and which could be entered only through the kitchen.
My arch rival Hardy, 75 years old now, would spend a great amount of his time in there watching shows like “In the Heat of the Night,” “Criminal Minds,” and the local news. Every so often he would go outside to smoke before returning to the television. Some nights you could find him in there at two or three in the morning. That was his routine. That was his life.
It wasn’t long before they kicked Tommy and Henry out of their respective offices on the first floor, Tommy moving to an empty room on the east side of the building, Henry got a room all the way up on the third floor, not too far from mine.
A window was removed from the front of the building and a conveyor belt machine put through it (ruining the asparagus ferns we had planted there), to run down through the hole in the floor to the basement, after which workers would lift great chunks of broken concrete up and out of the building.
The whole west side of the first floor became walled off, and nailed shut each night. Residents would become used to hearing the sounds of construction from 8:am each weekday. Some days there were more workers, and more noise than others. Some days there was no work or sounds at all.
Me? I stayed in my room most of the time, which is what I do. The construction work hardly affected me. The workers were cordial and polite. They would say hello, or good morning, then continue on to whatever it was they were doing. All of it didn’t inconvenience me very much. The only time I would become aware of it was when I ventured to the kitchen to heat something in the microwave.
But then the bugs started to show up. My room had been free from cockroaches for years, but I soon started noticing them in there more and more.
Forced out of their usual nesting grounds in the basement they began spreading throughout the hotel. The exterminators came once a month, but the bugs just laughed at them with their little annoying buggy laughs, gave them the bug finger, then continued on with their bug business. It’s to the point now that all I have to do to find a cockroach is look around my room for them. Usually they’re pretty skittish and try to run away. Sometimes they aren’t. I found one actually on my arm just the other night. I routinely kill about five or six of them a day... why there’s one right now. Please excuse me.
Ah Ha! Got the little bastard!
I don’t like killing things. Not even cockroaches. I’m sort of a Buddhist for Buddha’s sake, but I was being forced to be a murderer of bugs.
A special renovation security guard was brought in at night to... well I’m not exactly sure what they were supposed to do. What they did do was sleep and watch TV a lot, and soon the guards went away.
The months passed. At times we would receive notices that the water would be turned off between such and such a time, or that the water heater would be taken off line from such and such a time, or that the electricity would be shut off. Sometimes the water, heater, or electricity would be shut off without notice, which was rather rude in my opinion, especially since my computer, and computers in general, can be quite sensitive to sudden power outages.
My old computer would take a week to recover from a power shut off. Fortunately I have a nice new one now.
The walls stayed up so it was difficult to discern how much progress was being made. Sometimes it didn’t seem like any was being made at all.
The Laundry Room was behind those walls, so Henry made a van available on Thursdays to shuttle up to eight people to a local laundromat to wash clothes. I don’t think anyone ever took him up on the offer. I’ve always washed the clothes that I wear each day by hand in the sink in my room, so my routine was not bothered.
Work began on the bathroom closest to me that I used to shower in. It’s been going on for months, and still hasn’t been completed.
Other restrooms were made unavailable, and residents who lived on the first floor had to come upstairs to shower.
April came and went without any work being done in the individual rooms as had been scheduled. Special SRHT renovation staff came and went, never to be seen again. They were replaced by fresh, new, special SRHT renovation staff.
We were told that our faucets would be replaced, and they were. The old ones worked perfectly well, but the powers that be must have thought they were providing too much water, and the old steady stream faucets were taken and new faucets that had to be held down in an open position to provide a stream of water were installed. Sometimes when you press down the water will stay on for a little while, sometimes not... the water would shut right off when you took your hand from it. They were unpredictable. You never know what they’re going to do. I know this, I can’t wash my clothes in my own sink anymore, it’s too much of a pain in the ass. But Los Angeles, California, the entire southwest of the country, is suffering from a long, multi-year drought, and one must make sacrifices I suppose. I wash my clothes now in the tiny restroom at the end of my hall, in which the faucets have been left alone.
I still can’t figure out how to control the temperature on the new faucet.
Not many people like them. We had a special resident meeting in which construction related questions and concerns were addressed. A couple of people bitched and complained, quite stridently I must say, about the faucets, one lady was so mad she threatened to replace her faucet herself.
Lauren has told us just last week that the new faucets would be replaced and something like the old ones be put back in.
The faucet experiment had failed miserably.
In May, we received letters taped to out doors, informing us would would be getting new windows installed. The letter told us what day specifically this would happen for each unit, and that on those days we were responsible to clear away any obstacles that might hinder the installation.
Late in the month a couple of young men came and tore out my old window, and replaced it with a nice new one. The man installing it and I listened to a news report that the veteran comedian, Bill Cosby would have to stand trial for basically raping a large number of drugged women decades ago.
“Geez,” I exclaimed. “Why would he do that? I mean he didn’t even have to...”
“I know,” the installer said. “He could have gotten all of the ass he wanted.”
Which is probably true.
I like my window. It’s great. I leave it open all of the time. I don’t think I’ve even touched it since it’s been installed.
Later we were told we would be getting new sinks. On the day that happened we were all required to leave our rooms for a little while. Not long enough to earn a per diem, but long enough for them to install it.
I don’t even remember what it was that I did while they installed it. I might have gone to the great Los Angeles master library downtown. I do know the installers weren’t very nice in regards to their relationship with the residents.
“Yeah, ya gotta leave...” they told me.
I left, and when I did return I had a nice new, clean sink. Which was kind of cool. I’m not exactly sure what the problem with the old sinks were. I mean their sinks, right? They serve pretty much one function. Still, getting a new one was okay. I wasn’t emotionally attached to the old one, so I had no problem with it.
Work continued around the building. Work was done in the empty rooms. They were re-floored and painted. The hallway floors were stripped of tiles. The walls stayed up. No sign of any elevators yet.
One morning I walked into the kitchen and noticed that a new wall had been installed in there basically blocking off the east side of the room, leaving the stove available. The wall made a sharp 90 degree turn in what had been the TV room, extending to the east wall of the hotel itself. The TV was gone. The furniture was gone. Only the vending machines remained.
Now I have a TV in my room. Some residents, like Hardy don’t. He doesn’t have anything to do now, his favorite pass time activity being denied him. He’s been told he can watch TV at the nearby Produce Hotel if he wished, but no one wants to go into a strange environment to supposedly relax, and he has thus far declined that invitation.
So now Hardy spends his days sitting in a chair outside the front door, watching the traffic fly by. He sits out there for hours sometimes, his sad old eyes looking this way and that.
I’ve told him that he’s welcome to watch the news in my room if he wants, but he rarely does. I don’t know why.
At times he’ll stop watching cars and go upstairs to rest in his room before returning to his post in the front of the building.
Poor, defeated man.
The thing is, there’s nothing being done on the other side of that wall!
No work is being done. I know this to be true because at first, there was a hole in the wall in the kitchen. Everyone could see what was in there. And there was nothing in there! There sure weren’t any workers.
Soon though, the construction workers realized their grave error, and the closed up that big hole, and now it’s a solid wall.
Still, we can tell nothing’s being done because that wall, try as they might, the wall is not sound proof. We can tell when they’re working behind the big wall on the west side of the building due to all of the awful noise that emanates from behind it.
No noise emanates from the wall that has closed off what used to be the little TV lounge, so there really is no reason for it to be there until they actually start working. They’re not only denying Hardy his main form of daily activity, but other residents as well. Hell, even Tommy would eat his breakfast or lunch in there.
So it’s decidedly weird.
When I first met Lauren at a special renovation meeting, I asked her about it.
We were in the garden, just after the meeting had concluded. Hardy was sitting nearby... sobbing uncontrollably.
“Well, although it may look like there’s nothing being done, they’re probably, they’re actually preparing to work in there, probably from the basement up... so it’s necessary to close that space off.”
“Uh, okay,” I wittily replied.
Who’s Lauren? She’s a valued member of the SRHT Housing Development Team, and the liason between the construction people, SRHT, Tommy, and by extension, the residents.
There’s a picture of her above (number 19). Isn’t she pretty. She’s very smart too. She’s as smart as... uh, she’s as smart as something that’s really smart, that’s how smart she is.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t ever work in my favor.
I’ll ask her about something, or suggest that some procedure be done in a way that is beneficial to me, and she’ll, very nicely, explain to me why it can’t be done that way.
I never win.
But I’m used to that when dealing with women.
But still, It’s been like a month and a half now, at least, and still no work is being done behind that wall.
And Hardy’s still sobbing.
Anyway, it was at that very meeting that the logistics of the work to be carried out in our individual rooms was explained to us. That was Lauren’s job.
I had mysteriously received a notice on my door (I don’t know who keeps putting these notices on my door. One day I’ll catch them at it, by God! And then they’ll be hell to pay!) prior to the meeting, informing me that I would need to pack up all of my possessions into boxes by the morning of August 29th, a Monday. On the morning of the 29th, special renovation movers would take all of my stuff, the boxes, my bed, refrigerator, desk, everything would be moved out of my room and into one of the empty rooms near mine. There was an empty room right across the hallway, so it would be a fairly easy move.
I would be required to be out of the room from 8:am until 5:pm. My room would then be painted. At 5:00 the movers would bring back my bed, that’s all, into my room, and at which point I could return and spend the night. I would have to clear out again the following day, the bed would be removed, and the floor would be re-tiled. At 5:00 on the 30th, all of my stuff would be brought back into my room and I could unpack, and the live the rest of my life in relative peace and obscurity.
Lauren would pay me a per diem of $35 at 4:pm on the afternoons of the 29th and 30th in Tommy’s office.
I’m a big fan of routine. Having to think about packing all of my stuff on Labor Day weekend was not part of my normal routine, and caused me to feel vaguely nauseous. The whole idea of the ordeal to come made me nervous and afraid.
But I soldiered on.
On the morning of the 28th of August I got to it. It took about three hours straight to get my stuff packed to the degree that would be acceptable to SRHT and the movers (the notice had informed me that I was responsible for getting everything ready for the movers. Number 1: I couldn’t recall ever agreeing to be responsible for this. Perhaps this stipulation was buried somewhere in the paperwork I had signed without having had the chance to read in preparation for the renovation. Who knows? I certainly didn’t. And Number 2: the penalty for not getting my stuff ready to be moved was not made clear. Thoughts of the Spanish Inquisition; the rack, iron maiden, and strappado came to mind). I filled six 18x18x16 inch boxes with various stuff, three of them completely filled with books. I own about 300 books or more. From Homer to Vonnegut, and everything inbetween.
The boxes were heavy. I had placed them on my bed while filling them, and so left them there, sleeping that night on a yoga mat on the floor.
Actually, I didn’t sleep very much at all. The unique situation disturbing me to the point of restlessness and sleeplessness. Finally at 2:am I gave up trying to sleep and got up and watched some movies. Aaron Paul in “Need for Speed,” being one of them.
At 6:30 I shut down my computer and disconnected all of its components. I took them to Hardy’s room, as had been pre-arranged. My computer is my gateway to the world, and my most valuable possession. I certainly didn’t want the movers getting anywhere near it.
I had a doctor’s appointment at the nearby VA clinic set for 8:am, and left the hotel at 7:30 to walk north on Alameda to Temple. I saw my doctor of 10 years, Ms Theoden Brown, an ancient lady of African heritage, who shares political views similar to mine.
I had planned to stay at my sister’s for the next two nights. She has a small room at the Hayward Manner, on the corner of 6th and Spring.
After leaving the VA, I decided to return to the Las Americas, to check on the work being done before going to my sisters.
As I walked toward the garden in the main hallway, Tommy and Lauren, ambushed me.
“Mr...,” Tommy said.
“What? You forget my name Tommy?”
“We have a problem.”
They explained to me that the special renovation movers weren’t all that special.
Apparently they had examined one of the rooms they were to work with today (not mine), and didn’t find it up to their standards. Perhaps it had not been prepared properly, or perhaps they were worried about possible bed bugs, or for whatever reason they refused to work and simply walked away from the job. The painters were ready to paint, but there was no one available to move everything out of the rooms.
“So what does that mean?” I asked.
“We’re going to get another company,” Lauren told me.
“We just don’t know when this is going to happen.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No. But as soon as I find out, probably in a day or two, I’ll let you know,” she said.
They both looked at me furtively, to see how I would take to the news.
“Well... that’s unfortunate,” I said.
“I’m glad you’re taking this well,” Tommy said.
“What can you do?”
“You’ll still get your per diem today though. At four o’clock,” Lauren said.
“Okay... see you then.”
I walked to the garden and sat on one of the benches that’s out there, so I could think out the new situation I found myself in.
First I called my friend Mike.
“Hi Mike,” I said.
“What’s ya doing?”
That was true. He was doing nothing.
You see I can take my computer’s components apart (speakers, monitors, keyboard, DVR, etc.) rather easily. Putting it all back together so that it works is another story. My friend Mike helps me out with that. Sometimes I give him a little money for his troubles.
I explained the situation, and he said he’d be right over.
Then I called my sister and let her know what was going on.
So I had all of my stuff in boxes, and bags (paper and plastic). I knew I would have to go though this, have it all moved out for two days) sometime in the near future, but I didn’t know when.
Should I unpack it knowing I’d just have to pack it up again soon. What would you do?
I could live with the stuff that had been left in the drawers of my desk, my refrigerator, and what I had packed to take to my sisters. So I left everything packed up.
All I really needed was my computer set back up, and the TV. Mike came over and graciously helped me with that.
Time moved on.
Later in the week a mysterious notice appeared on my door letting me know the whole two day procedure would commence the following week, on the 7th and 8th of September.
On the morning of the 7th I moved my computer to my friend Cliff’s room, as Hardy was having his room done that day as well.
I stayed with my lovely sister, Cheryl. We enjoyed good food (calzones, tacos, enchiladas, breakfast burritos, etc. Not all at once mind you, but spread out over the two day period), and watched movies, and MSNBC (watching the Clinton/Trump Commander and Chief ... whatever it was. I wouldn’t call it a debate, Wednesday night, the 7th).
Thursday morning my neighbor, 74 year old Arnold, a staunch conservative, called me to let me know that my room hadn’t even been painted yet.
He didn’t know. His room had been painted, but not mine.
I debated going to the Las Americas to see what the problem was, but knowing I couldn’t do anything about it, whatever the problem was, I decided to wait until 4:00 when I’d have to go back anyway to pick up my per diem.
The walls looked marbled actually. Mostly tan, the results of having smoked in there for many years (I no longer smoke). There were streaks of white as well. What was going on? The room had been painted twice before while I had lived in it with no problem. What was the problem now?
“The paint,” Lauren told me and Tommy, when they came up to take a look.
“Yes. The paint that was used could not cover this... residue.”
“This room has been painted twice before with no problems,” I maintained. “What kind of paint are they using?”
“What had been used before was probably an oil based paint. The painters are restricted to a special paint required by the conditions of the grant that’s paying for it,” she said.
“So what happens now?”
“The paint company is going to come out and test the walls, then it will be painted.”
“Test the walls and then painted. When is this going to happen?”
“We’ll let you know.”
Then she started texting on her magic phone.
She’s always texting.
I looked around and noticed that my medicine cabinet was on the floor. My towel rack and window blinds were missing.
I pointed this out to Tommy and Lauren.
She frowned and told me she’s have them installed.
For the meantime the movers brought everything back in. Mike couldn’t come over until the next day, so I stayed with my sister that night, returning Friday morning, the 9th.
To leave packed, or un-pack... that was the question. Whether it was easier to suffer the slings and arrows... ah skip it. I left everything packed for the time being, not knowing what or when anything was going to happen, and continued on with my simple life which was now filled with uncertainty.
One day a mysterious notice appeared on my door informing me that I would have to be out of my room on the 20th from 8:am until 5:00, so electrical work could be done.
On Monday, the 19th, someone mysteriously knocked on my door. I answered but there was no one there.
Tommy and Lauren were in the room across the hall though, and took this opportunity to talk to me.
“I think Henry just knocked on your door,” Lauren said.
Lauren confirmed that the electricians would be here the next day.
“I’ll be back later and show you what you have to move to get ready for them,” Tommy said.
“Move and get ready?” I looked behind me at all of the unpacked boxes and bags. “I have to get stuff ready?”
“Yeah. So they can get to the walls.”
He never did come back up. But Lauren explained at a meeting of residents in the garden (sandwiches and chips were served. My future case manager, Cassandra attended the meeting, and she guarded those chips like a mother bear protecting her cubs) what needed to be done. It was my impression that I was supposed to clear away any furniture that was preventing clear access to the existing electrical wall sockets.
My computer and it’s various components use one of those wall sockets. Accordingly, as 8:am approached on the 20th, I shut my machine down and unplugged it. I moved my desk, bed, and some of the boxes away from other sockets. Then satisfied that I had done everything that I could possibly do to be in compliance with the mysterious notice, I went to my sister’s for the day, and watched the 2015 version of “Poltergeist,” while reading James Clavell's novel, “Shōgun.”
Upon returning to the hotel to pick up my per diem, I got to my room to discover, Number 1, that my computer had been disassembled, and Number 2, there were now 8 square and rectangular holes in my walls. Not little, teeny tiny holes, but big holes, the biggest measuring 21 and a half by 8 and three quarter inches.
That particular hole, and one other, had a new wall socket in it. One of the holes on the opposite side of my room connected up with an adjoining hole in Arnold’s wall.
So now we can pass notes to each other without having to open our respective doors.
If "The Thing that Lives in the Walls" didn't have a clear doorway into my room before, it sure does now.
I didn’t care about the holes (except the linking me with Arnold. Now I had no real expectation of privacy, and could probably not get away with hosting any more Buddhist chanting parties. At least for the time being), but was very upset that someone had screwed with my computer. I immediately called Mike of course, who said he’d be right over. I discovered one of the flanges on the back of my keyboard had been broken off, so now it can not tilt as I work.
I complained bitterly to Lauren, who said she was very sorry.
I complained to Tommy, who listened for awhile before going away.
But the damage had been done.
On Friday, the 23rd, I found another notice on my door informing me my room would be painted on the 30th... in a week, and the whole evacuation routine would commence yet once again. I called my sister and let her know I’d be over again.
My room remained boxed.
At least I can sleep on my bed now, and not the floor. That’s some comfort.
I’m not really complaining about anything. A lot of people have it a lot worse than I do regarding housing, like these people after their homes were destroyed by Sandy and Katrina, then their lives continued to be screwed with by insurance companies, FEMA, and their own Congress.
I really appreciate that eventually everything will be just great in my room. Freshly painted, floored, new sink, faucet, window, blinds, towel rack (still haven’t gotten these two back yet), and air conditioner will or have been installed. Tommy told me today that new microwave ovens are going to be provided, which saves me from having to buy one myself. I appreciate those who provided the financing and grants. SRHT and Lauren for pulling this all together (realizing thy’re not doing it for me per se, but for the property). But one must marvel at this stunning display and embrace of inefficiency that should be studied and admired for all eternity.
I also realize that after my room is nicely painted there will come a time when someone will come to fix the holes in my walls, thus necessitating another trip to Cheryl’s.
Well, at some point this will all be ove... excuse me. Someone just knocked on my door.
It was Tommy, who gave a fresh new notice. They have rescheduled the painting for October 3rd, a Monday.
Perhaps instead of going to my sister’s house, it would be more appropriate and helpful if I checked myself in to the Rockhaven Sanitarium for the Copiously Insane, for some nice thorazine and happy talk.
I need the rest.