Friday, March 31, 2017

Renovation 3

To RSC Henry N                      
CC    Tommy D LaShunda W


   About thirty minutes ago I was forced to take a shower in a restroom wherein the toilet was filled with excrement.
   As you probably know there are two operational restrooms on the upper floors of the Las Americas, as the renovation crew has spent well over eight months renovating the other four potentially operational restrooms equipped with showers (there are I believe two other shower rooms on the south side of the building which seem to be permanently out of order). To say they are taking their time renovating would be a gross understatement.
   The restroom I used this morning is located on the second floor. I could have used the restroom on the third floor as it’s shower is operational (for some reason management can’t seem to get a door fitted onto this shower, as there has been no shower door in this room for months), and I would have, if the light had been working. It was early morning, and dark outside, and I choose not to shower in the dark as that’s an obvious safety hazard.
   And that toilet was filled with crap as well.
   You might be wondering why I’m bothering you with this rather than Resident Services, AKA Tommy D.
   This is the problem as I see it. SRHT, in it’s infinite wisdom, has taken the step to fill up, to the brim, a hotel that is still under renovation, with new residents who are involved with some secret program that you manage, a hotel that was barely able to fulfill the needs of the 30 or so residents who were already housed there, and have been housed there throughout this renovation nightmare, for over a year (please refer to  & ).
   The Las Americas is currently incapable of fulfilling the basic safety and security needs of it’s residents. Adding more residents just adds to that strain, and the difficulties I’ve mentioned above did not appear as frequently as they are now before the hotel was packed (It appears that the toilet problem manifests itself, like clockwork, every Friday afternoon, just as the janitorial staff is going home for the weekend).
   Resident Services is understaffed, as Tommy as his assistant now manage two hotels (the Las Americas & the Olympia). RSC staff is understaffed, as yourself and RSC LaShunda W are working two hotels as well. And as far as I know we only have one janitor, Jose, who is working both hotels. To say that he is woefully understaffed and overworked would be another massive understatement.
   Their are other difficulties as well.
   Having a hotel filled with residents in two different programs presents inherent problems.
   I’ve been a resident of the Las Americas for over 13 years now. Many others in the Shelter Plus Care program have been here many years.
   Within one week of arriving the people in your program were equipped with new microwave ovens, and I’ve been told kitchenware and televisions, while Shelter Plus Care participants received absolutely nothing.
   To state this is a drain on our moral is another understatement.
   I know for a fact that many of the people in your program have sold the things your program has provided for them.
   I’ve found your people sleeping in the halls, monopolizing the already inadequate kitchen, and as I’ve mentioned, aggravating the overall facilities the Las Americas currently provides.
   This is a safety concern. A health concern. A security concern.
   I look forward to your response as to how SRHT intends to alleviate all of the difficulties I’ve mentioned. Please feel free to forward this letter to your supervisors.
   I need to know how SRHT intends to attend to these issues before I am forced to report this whole matter to the Housing Authority, who I might add, is already extremely concerned about housing it’s clients in a hotel that is under construction.
   Thank you for your time.

Richard Joyce

To    Henry N
CC    Tommy D LaShunda W Feb 20 at 7:08 AM

A little while ago I was down in the kitchen making breakfast and one of the female residents told me she witnessed a family of rats in the building on the first floor, something I've never seen in all of my years here.

   February 20th, a Monday, was a national holiday, Presidents Day. Who would come to work today? I didn’t know. Hopefully Jose would show up as the building really needed to be looked after. The toilets of course, but most of the waste cans were filled or overflowing and needed to be emptied.
   Even if I wanted to, and I didn’t, I , or any other resident couldn’t empty the cans ourselves as the waste bin we would empty them into was locked up.
   Tommy did show up. I saw him as I was going downstairs to warm up some coffee in the microwave oven in the first floor kitchen.
   “Hi Tommy,” I said to him.
   “People shitting everywhere,” he thoughtfully replied.
   “Ah, yeah. I wrote you an E-mail about that.”
   Jose had the day off as he didn’t show up. I didn’t hear from Henry or LaShunda, which told me nothing. Even if they got my message I didn’t expect them to respond, at least right away. Maybe never, depending on how seriously they took my E-mail. After all, I’m just a client... a lowly and powerless resident.
   The only thing that was done within the building that day was that someone (Tommy?) taped a blue plastic bag over the affected toilets in an attempt to put a halt to the constant and ceaseless defecating.
   The next day, Tuesday the 21st, everybody should have been back to work. Jose, a barely 5 foot tall powerhouse Hispanic, who hardly speaks any English, and who’s really one of the best janitors we’ve ever had, cleaned the Las Americas expertly.
   As always.
   No word from the RSCs.
   I worked like a little demon all day on a birthday tribute to the lovely and talented actress Jessica Biel, taking a break only to go to the Hippie Kitchen to stock up on salad and black beans.
   That night, around 7:30 or so, I went downstairs to make some tacos in the kitchen. As I entered the light came on automatically, and out of the corner of my eye I detected movement, and looking down I just caught the sight of the ass end of a rat disappearing into a sideboard.
   So now I’d seen them.  

   Not that I mind rats though. Rats are my friends.
   I adore the movies “Willard” and “Ben.”
   As a matter of fact there’s nothing like a good, fat rat every once in a while.
   I’m concerned about the other residents though, the older, feeble ones, those who can’t run fast enough to survive a sustained and well provisioned rat attack.
   I suppose now that the rats have been independently verified I should float the idea of a “Rat Seminar,” where a rat expert can show us what to do exactly when the little rodent bastards get feisty... plan an emergency exit strategy, how to fight back, how to avoid contracting the Bubonic Plague, etc.  
   This kind knowledge, along with Rat Drills (practice a rat counter attack), will undoubtedly save lives.

2-23-17  Thursday

   I opened my door and found a notice taped to it.
   After the the initial shock wore off I took the notice down, backed up into my room and read it.

To: All Residents at the Olympia and Las Americas
From: Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff
Date: February 24 & February 27, 2017
Re: Unit Inspection - Desks

Dear Residents,

You are being notified that in-unit work has been scheduled for Friday, February 24 and Monday, February 27, 2017. The contractor will need access to your unit between 8am and 4pm for approximately 15 minutes to inspect your desk. You will not need to vacate your unit, but you will need to allow the contractor access

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the work. We appreciate your cooperation.

Sincerely,  Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff

   “Do not hesitate to contact us...”
   What a laugh!
   No one really knows who or what Skid Row Southeast 1 staff are or is. Not since Lauren and Alison disappeared. These notices just pop out of the ether every once and a while. Well, actually they are transported to Tommy via electronic wires, wherein he prints and distributes them. Therefore, much like the film “Arrival,” there is a impenetrable wall separating the residents and Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff.
   “Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the work,” yet they provide no contact information. Do you see any contact information in that notice above? An Email address, telephone number, PO Box... anything? I don’t either.
   Once at a resident meeting I asked Richard, Tommy’s boss, how are we supposed to contact members of the Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff .
    “Just tell your case manager what your situation or question is.”
   I did that. I asked Cassandra to pass on a message to the Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff .
   She hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
   “We appreciate your cooperation.”
   Really. How presumptuous!
   What happens if I don’t cooperate? Will I go the way of Cassandra, Lauren, and Alison? One minute here, the next I wake up in some gulag in Siberia, if I wake up at all.
   What is it exactly that they wish to inspect I wonder? A week or so ago two guys had come around with Tommy to take a look at it.
   Remember now, it’s not exactly a desk we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about is a 20 x 35 inch rectangular piece of mahogany looking press board, or particle board, or whatever it’s made of, that is bolted to my wall, 27 1/2 inches from the floor.
   So I have this piece of pressboard sticking out from my wall at a right angle with nothing supporting the front.
   The board itself, and whatever I place upon it, in my case my DVR, computer monitor, modem, several speakers, alarm clock, and 33 pound granite rock, is only supported by the bolts holding it to the wall.
   When I rest my keyboard on the “desk” to type I can feel the “desk” wobble a little. So I believed the whole thing to be inherently unstable.
   Whoever it was who made the decision to install these things didn’t really think this through.
   It probably looked good on paper, but in practical use, not so much.
   My neighbor from across the hall, his “desk’ broke completely off.
   Tommy told me this has happened to a few of these “desks.”  
   That’s why I stacked 31 of my books, of various shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and subjects, right next to my new two drawer night stand which is right underneath my “desk,” from the floor to the underside of the “desk,” supporting the front.
   Now the “desk” is like totally stable. I could dance on top of it if I so desired.
   I didn’t dance on it though. That would just be silly.
   I did increase the poundage of my rock though to 47.
   So I was fine with the so-called “desk” now. I was able to type on it and everything.
   But Tommy told me he thought that what the so-called inspectors were going to do was to install a support structure to the “desk.”
   I thought about this for awhile. I didn’t like it. Then I panicked.
   If they put some kind of support structure on the underside of my “desk,” then I might not be able to fit my night stand under it, which itself supported some speakers.
   If that were to happen it would just mess everything up.
   And beyond that, they may want me to take all my stuff off of the ”desk” to do the work, including the rock. So once again I might have to take apart my freaking computer!
   So I panicked some more. I thought about committing seppuku, the Japanese ritual form of suicide by disembowelment, but thought better of it after a while.
   We would see.

   February 24th came. A Friday. I prepared my desk for whoever was to come and inspect it, or work on it, by removing the 31 books and the night stand from underneath it.
   Around 10 o’clock I heard the inspectors come to other nearby rooms, one just a couple of doors down from me. I waited patiently for them to come to my room. I waited and waited.
   They never came.
   This was a big fake out designed to drive me mad.
   I put back the night stand and the books and carried on with my life.

2-23-17   Thursday

   My neighbor Arnold came to my door to let me know about two notices that had been taped to it.

To: Las Americas2nd and 3rd Floor
From: Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff [who ever they are... there is no contact information]
Date: February 27, 2016
Re: Electricity Shut-Off

Dear Residents,

You are being notified that the electricity will be shut-off on the 2nd and 3rd Floor from 8am to 3pm on Monday, February 27th.

We are sorry for the inconvenience and we thank you for your cooperation.

Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff

   The second notice was just like the one above but for the kitchen on Tuesday, the 28th, the electricity would be shut off from 8am to 3pm.
   They were specifying a 7 hour shut down, one hour less than required to have an automatic per diem payment set in... $35 for the room, $71 for the kitchen.
   And it’s interesting that they assume we will cooperate since they’re thanking us for it ahead of time.
   I zipped off an E-mail to Tommy:

  Tommy, having read the notice informing us of the electricity shut-off on Monday, February 27, for the 2nd and 3rd floors, and the kitchen on the 28th. I’m a little confused as both notices are dated 2016. Now has this work already been done last year? If that is the case we don’t have to prepare for a shut off, right? Please clarify.

Thank you.

   We shall see again.

 And interesting conversation in the kitchen just now. Or actually, me and my friend Cliff were the objects of existential venting.
   One of the new residents who lives on the first floor, a member of the mysterious 2nd, or new program, and old black lady, I mean old, she must be in her 70s, entered the kitchen to fry some kiełbasa sausage while I was standing in front of the microwave, the one microwave we have that 30 or so people use. I was making some Top Ramen and coffee. Cliff was waiting for me to finish.  
   And then she started.
   “I don’t know why they put us in here. Too many people, and this damn too small kitchen, for so many people. I gotta get out of here. Too many roaches and rats. I’ve got COPD and asthma... I shouldn't be around no roaches and rats. No laundry facility. They don’t care about us. People who don’t live here moving around. They don’t care about no homeless people. I gotta leave. I don’t like it here.”  She seemed like she was angry and on the verge of tears at the same time.
   “Then why did you move in here,” Cliff asked.
   It took awhile for her to answer.
   “Oh I had to move out of my house, had to...”
   It was unclear why she had to leave her last residence.
   I’ve seen her at other times. She’s a bitchy old hag. Still I felt sorry for her.

   The next day, Friday February 24th, 2017, Tommy Emailed back to me.
   “It’s being revised.”
   Later as I was watering the asparagus ferns in the front of the hotel, Tommy snuck up from behind me and said, “I had to contact the staff and have them revise the notice...”
   “You did. Just for the date?”
   “No. I told them they had to do it over again because they didn’t put anything down about the per diem... and I didn’t even notice the date was wrong until I got your Email...”
   “Per diem? I thought that was for eight hours...”
   “No six. You’ll get seventy one dollars for the kitchen and thirty five for your rooms.”
   “Wait a minute. You’re in contact with the Skid Row Southeast One Staff?”
   “Yes. Sometimes.”
   “Who are they? Are they real people... or machines... do they have mouths...”
   “I’m not at liberty to say.”
   “Oh come on Tommy...”
   “I can’t talk about it anymore.”
   “They may be listening.”
   Then he ran off before I could question him any further. 
   I mysteriously received another notice upon my door.

To: Las Americas: All Units
From: Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff
Date: February 24,2017
Re: Electricity Shut-Off

Dear Residents,

You are being notified that the electricity will be shut-off in the kitchen from 8am to 3pm on Tuesday, February 28th. The water and gas stove will be operational, but the lights, microwave and all other appliances that need electricity will be shut down until 3pm. You will receive $71 per diem.

We are sorry for the inconvenience and we thank you for your cooperation.


Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff

   A second notice informed me that our rooms would be done on Wednesday, March 1st, and that we would receive a payment of $35.
   Well these second round notices were certainly more to my liking than the first round.
   We shall see.

2-28-17   Tuesday

   Electricity cut-off for the kitchen day, and $71 per diem day, which was fine with me. They were paying us this money just because the buildings one common microwave would be unavailable for a few hours. Probably not even the whole seven hours that were being called for.
   The gas oven and stove would still be operational, so meals could still be prepared.
   Just the microwave would be off.
   Taking into account that the new people who had microwave ovens already in their rooms were not eligible for the per diem, that would leave about 30 who were.
   That means SRHT was shelling out approximately $2,130 for one microwave being out of commission for about five hours.  
   Now I don’t mind getting this cash, but as an overall policy, this seems a tad wasteful.
   Then again... not my problem.
   Tuesday came. I Emailed Tommy and asked when the per diems would be handed out. He Emailed me back and told me he didn’t know, but that they always distributed them from his office (which was on the third floor these days, just about twenty steps from my door).
   At around 10:30 a young man named John came to my door, had me sign a paper, then gave me an envelope with $71 in it.  
   After depositing the money in my vault, I walked to the Hippie Kitchen and ate there. The lack of the microwave for a little while did not bother me.
   Pretty much the same thing happened the next day. I received $35, turned off my computer, and kicked back and read from James Clavell’s “Shogun,” for a few hours until the power came back on, at which time I turn my computer back on.
   And my TV.
   One of the many problems our building is currently experiencing has to do with it’s fire alarm. It keeps going off for no particular reason. No one knows why, or how to prevent it.
   There is also a constant “beeping.” Beep, then 3 seconds pass, then beep again, 3 seconds, beep. This goes on at all times of the day, and can last for hours. No one knows why or how to stop it. We can turn it off temporarily, but it will come back eventually. Some surmise this is a form of Chinese audio water torture designed to drive all of us who live and work here completely insane.
   It’s already worked on Tommy, who can be seen babbling to himself, and drooling incessantly from time to time.
   If it happens when he is around (the fire alarm sounding), or his assistant, Kevin, it can be turned off, because they know how to do it. The problem is when they are not around. Tommy doesn’t live in the building any more, so when he leaves at 5, or when Kevin leaves at 7, there is no one here to turn the alarm off if it is triggered.
   This is not only annoying for the residents, as little mini-alarms go off in each room when the main alarm sounds, but it also annoys the hell out of the fire department, which is tasked to come investigate why our alarm is sounding for a prolonged period of time.
   When the fire department comes out and the building isn’t on fire they get awfully miffed. So much so that they charge SRHT for the visit, I’m not sure how much, but it’s enough for SRHT to hire a security company to have one of their security guys hang out in the building all night specifically to monitor the fire alarm.
   Apparently the fire alarm can not be fixed.
   There's other sounds that come out of the alarm system. They're hard to describe. I guess the closest I can come is the sound of a demon grumbling deep inside the pits of Hell.
   Anyway, I’ll go downstairs at night to heat up some coffee and the security guy will be down there sitting by the front door, usually diddling with their smart phone.
   I’ll say “hi” to him. He’ll say “hi” back.
   When I pass him on my way back I’ll say “Have a good night.” He’ll say “You too.”
   I was once down there when one of the security guards was talking to another resident. The subject of rats came up.
   “There are still rats around,” I asked him.
   “Oh yeah! Especially in the kitchen. That’s why I stay out here.”
   “Oh yeah. Ever since one of our guys disappeared from here, I stay out of there.”
   “One of you men disappeared?”
   “Yeah. Ralph. He had a wife and two kids. Came to work last Wednesday... was never seen again...”
   “He could have just left, and something happened to him. He could be on a bender somewhere,  or, well there are any number of reasons of why he might have gone missing.”
   “Maybe. But his last log entry read, “Heard something in the basement. Going to check it out.”
   “You’re kidding.”
   I looked at the kitchen doorway, then returned to my room.
   I think I’ll get my own microwave.

   On March 13th Ben and John came back for another resident meeting. They didn’t have a whole lot to tell us, other than moving the completion date for construction back two months, from May to July.
   I get the feeling they don’t know what they’re talking about, or that they really don’t have any control over anything, especially the pace at which work is getting done around here.
   Henry told them that there had been no workers here at all last Friday, and today, which was a Monday.  
   Ben and John just shrugged.
   You see the thing is if there are no workers here working then no work is being done... no joules being expended so to speak. And if there’s no work being done it will be decidedly difficult to maintain the work schedule Ben and John had just laid out, finishing up by July.
   This was pointed out to Ben and John. They shrugged.
   Food was handed out by Henry and LaShunda. Fried chicken and potato salad.
   Of course there was one guy who just wanted to bitch about... everything. He complained that he wasn’t given 24 hours notice before the meeting which is supposed to happen (no one was. Henry was supposed to have placed the notices last Friday, but had taken the day off instead. In any case this guy was the only one who mentioned it). He complained that he wasn’t getting paid for, I don’t know, being alive I guess. He mentioned the inconvenience of having to live here during the construction process. He knew full well what we would be paid for, and what we were not going to be paid for, and he had signed documentation to that affect before the renovation began. He complained that he wasn’t given his chicken fast enough, and threatened to leave the meeting.
   I wish he had, but he didn’t.
   The residents provided a list of items that Ben and John might be able to help with. My neighbor Arnold complained that there were no towel racks in the bathrooms that had just been completed on the north part of the building, on the second and third floors.
   I complained that there were no window blinds.
   I mean, I have a great body and all. No doubt about that. But I feel no need to show it off in all it’s glory every morning as I shower.
   We asked about the microwave ovens that had been promised to us. Specifically when we would be getting them. They didn’t know. They kept talking about the wiring in the building needing to get finished, then inspected by the Dept of Water and Power.
   I don’t know what that has to do with microwaves.
   They also wanted to know who still had holes in their walls.

   About the new finished bathrooms. They’re nice and shiny and all. The only real problem, besides no towel rack or window blinds, is that there are no doors for the showers, just a curtain, a plastic curtain. Which would be fine if there was a bathtub involved, which would catch the runoff shower water. But there is no bathtub, just the floor. This means that every time anybody takes a shower the entire bathroom floor pretty much gets inundated.  
   This is both annoying and unsafe.
   Who the hell came up with and approved these ideas?

   I saw Hardy one morning as I came down to make some breakfast. He already had something in the microwave so I had to wait for his stuff to finish cooking. We sat near the front door looking out at the dark that was 6th Street.
   For almost a year now the common television had been out of use and resting in Tommy’s office, as the construction people were supposedly working and renovating where the common lounge used to be, where the television used to be.
   Hardy, who is 72 years old now, had used that television as his major form of entertainment, watching shows like “In the Heat of the Night,” “Law and Order,” and “Bluebloods.” He also liked to watch the local news programs.
   He had been denied this simple pleasure for this last year, and spent most of his free time just sitting out front on the sidewalk watching the traffic pass by on Alameda and 6th.
   I feel sorry for him sometimes and have told him he can come up to my room anytime my door is open and watch TV. He rarely comes though.
   He could also walk over to the Produce Hotel, about two blocks away, and watch television there, but no one wants to go to the Produce.
   Those who have done so in the past have come back subtly changed. They mumble to themselves and vibrate. Sometimes they stare off into space seeing only the entities and landscapes that they could see.
   And their hair has turned white.\
    Anyway Hardy looked tired and haggard.
   “What... what day is it?” he asked me.
   “It’s Monday, Hardy.”

   On March 16th I noticed that the light at the bottom of the stairs to the first floor was out, which was odd.
   I didn’t think anything about it though.
   Until it began to get dark.
   I had started off to the Drifters Meeting. I saw that the light was still off, no illumination at all on the stairwell.
   Tommy had already left for the day, so I went to the manager’s office to find Kevin to tell him of the situation.
   Door locked. No one there.
   I left and attended the meeting. When I got back, as expected, no light whatsoever in the stairwell. There were no nearby windows, so no ambient light could filter through.
   I slowly grabbed onto the railing and made my way upstairs one step at a time.
   One of my neighbors was right behind me, the prettiest girl in the building actually, and she said this.
   “It’s too damn dark in here!”
   “I know,” I wittily replied.
   “This is dangerous,” she said.
   “I know.”
   We somehow made it to the second floor safely, and went our separate ways.
   I went to my room and worked feverishly on finding the exact numerical equivalent of Pi, when I decided to go for ice cream at the nearby gas station, which happens to sell ice cream bars and things of that nature.
   Then I remembered I’d have to navigate the stairwell again. I didn’t look forward to it as I had already slipped and fell on it twice recently even with the lights on.
   I truly believe the stairs are cursed.
   I walked up to it, and looked down, not able to see anything. Total darkness, like the inside of a black hole (no one knows what the inside of a black hole looks like, not even Stephen Hawking).
   I started down the stairs.
   I never made it to the bottom.

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