Angst in the Kingdom

After work today I was so goddamn tired that when I finally got home I laid down for what I thought was gonna be a short nap and then woke up 3 hours later starving. And in order to go to the store to buy some food I had to put on a rather hurried ensemble of Adidas running pants, t-shirt and a black hoodie worn under my leather jacket and as I was crossing the lobby on my way out some idiot that I know who lives in the building asked “Are you going to a rave?”

“Me?” I said. “A rave? And like at a quarter to nine pm at night, so like what? A rave matinee maybe?” But in reality I really wasn’t in the mood to answer such allegations so I was short and as usual a bit of a smartass and like I already thought that this guy was an asshole but did he really need to prove it to me? And residing in my brain was the burning temptation to just say “Fuck off dude I need something to frigg’in eat and you and your useless banter are in my way!” Yet I didn’t and ignoring whatever else it was that he was saying I let his words wither away behind me as I headed out the door.

Unfortunately, because most of the stores in my neighborhood were already closed for the night, I was going to have to really scrounge for something to eat as my only prospect for attaining nourishment was Jacks Liquors and what was available there was gonna be either rotten, radiated or repulsive. And after the obligatory wandering amongst the racks of glossy porn magazines and dust covered shelves containing the usual array of outdated canned foods the only thing that looked the least bit enticing was a giant bag of white cheese flavored popcorn. Only not the organic kind with its declarations of no trans fats and imitation flavors or undue maiming of small animals in order for the popped kernels to all look exactly the same. Because there’s absolutely nothing organic at Jacks except maybe the grime on the floor and you know? I’m beginning to think that Ahmed – the owner, is a clandestine cheesy popcorn dealer. Because I’m craving these frigg’in things all the time now and I’m up to a couple a bags a week and I can see those dollar signs reflecting in his eyes every time I drag my cheesy puff jonesing ass into his store and its getting me a little pissed off!

However it could be entirely possible that these unfounded recriminating accusations of mine maybe a tad off base. Because as far as I can remember I was the one that bought the first bag and with no subliminal coercing on Ahmed’s part either. So what am I to do here? Get angry at myself for hav’in an overly processed saturated fat laden junk food habit that even with my grandiose sense of denial I’d still be hard pressed to consider it one of the major food groups? And as a finite quotient in this equation does my anger serve any actual purpose other than to mask the real problem which is that I’m eating garbage and making excuses in order to do so?

Obviously anger is a pretty volatile emotion and one that is very prevalent as its what’s most often expressed in my neighborhood and usually with some pretty tragic results. Yet it still seems to be the most common denominator of communication whether one is happy or sad or just shooting the breeze with the homeboys over a forty ounce or two while standing in the hazy shadows under the freeway. And as far as that etiquette thing that we as kids were forced to memorize? Those words like excuse me, please or thank you? Well, they’ve all been so discarded and forgotten that when once in a great while I actually do hear them being used out here on the streets they tend to sound like a foreign language.

Though tonight on my way back to my apartment with this bag of forbidden polyunsaturated bits of excessiveness clutched tightly in my hand the usual voices of discontent are drifting out of the alley. Way over there where the streetlight’s been busted out leaving the outer edges mired in darkness, and what type of argument it is that’s fermenting I have no idea. But its loud and getting louder collimating in smashing bottles and the thud of bodies colliding and then it all fades, only to start up again further down in the darkness as it continues out of sight and soon to be lost from my mind.

Yet I’ve go to ask myself – have I got this all wrong here? As maybe its just the tone or the inflection that I find about as subtle as the gnashing of teeth and maybe what is being said in these harsh undertones is really “I love you!” After all we as a society hardly ever exhibit compassion for one another anymore and is it like when we were kids and we showed love by bashing our friends in the head because we didn’t know what else to do? Yet is this really what I am hearing or like a lot of things these days is it just the grumblings of the disgruntle who are pontificating the universal language of hatred and the predominant atmosphere is just the emissions of the disassociated or the depressed or the downtrodden or any “D” type word that I can think of as it all comes out the same in the end.

Only here I am eating processed genetically altered corn particles with what probably amounts to filtered whey waste as a cheese flavoring and maybe, just maybe, the populace that’s fed the byproducts of industry whose actual nutritional value has been disregarded in the name of a fast profit is rising up angry through malnutrition and do we really want our nation’s obese kids brain-dead from genetic starvation? The very same ones that we supposedly coax away from drugs in order for there to be a future yet as they munch altered genocide inducing hors d’oeuvres does something else click in their neuron receptors and instead of empathy and compassion there’s the total disregard for all humanity?

It just doesn’t seem like there’s much chance of change if we keep going at this same mental tilt and what’s food for thought is the question of what’s causing this climate that is evolving. And is the daily diet of disrespect the only reason that our urban communities are in turmoil? Or is it really the high octane malt liquors and the heavily polluted narcotics? Or is it just that capitalism as a profit margin eats its young, its old and its poor in order for the prevailing one percent to gain?

Yet as I make my way through the piles of rubbish under the freeway there’s that old dude sitting there under the single working streetlight that illuminates my side of Third Street and he’s eying my bag of popcorn like it was a four course meal or something. And do I flow my goods to this man? Or do I save him from polluting his arteries with regurgitated palm oils and just keep the suspect bounty for myself? And in the end either way just who am I really saving here?

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2005 at 6:55 am. 5 responses. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

The Destiny of Dysfunction

What are dope-fiends to do when they get too old to hustle and the cops either out of laziness or some misplaced empathy won’t even bust them anymore and the city streets are it as far as a place to call home? For the brutal reality is that the city’s homeless shelters are too hardcore for them as they’ve essentially become senior citizens, whether they want to admit it or not, and the world as they know it has passed them by and left them here literally laying at my doorstep.

Outside in the alleys that bisect the streets and thoroughfares of my neighborhood, there are more than a few of these ancient relics who every year become more and more like part of the environment instead of living breathing human beings. And obliviously everyday I pass by them as they sit on that same door stoop or posted up in their usual haunt under the freeway asking for spare change. Yet more and more with a sense of increasing turpitude I’m starting to not really see them anymore and more to the point, I don’t think anyone else really does either!

As some of these lost souls are so absolutely ambiguous that I’ve never said a word to them and I know for a fact that they’ve never uttered a syllable in my direction, not even as they hold out that tattered paper cup in a haphazard silent attempt at panhandling. Yet every morning as I go to work or wander aimlessly down to the coffeehouse on my days off they’re there and just as regularly when my day is done and I’m coming home they’re still there. Crouching in that same exact spot like they’ve never moved and even when I venture out late at night I’ll see them all curled up amongst some dirty torn blankets asleep as waves of discarded papers and trash flows over and around their prone bodies.

For a while now I’ve seen this man and woman who sit next to each other on matching milk crates under the freeway and there is really no discernable way to tell them apart. And as they huddle together they drink from the same bottle, argue over seemingly insignificant issues, and then inevitably end up in a shouting match all the while asking for money as if they were one entity. Over the years I’ve watched them grow increasingly shabbier as their clothes wear away and tear to shreds, while their untamed heads of hair turn to solid mats and all that is sometimes visible are the yellowed whites of their eyes peeking out from beneath layers of dirt and grime over outstretched hands. And just this morning the streets were reverting back to smelling like human waste again and I’m not too sure if its because of everyone defecating wherever they want or if it’s just that time of the year when the sewers are about to backup and explode. But here sitting in the midst of this most vile smell were these two in ignorant bliss, wasted and nodding away in their dank trash-covered corner as the cars rushed by in the street and the few pedestrians walking by were dismayed to have to be near them.

Sometimes it is just so dirty and covered in waste out there: Where the city claims to have swept; where the construction workers throw their garbage; where the street people have to use it as a toilet; where the rats breed; where I am subjected to walking through it all in amazement!

Yet even in this cursed bit of land somebody, obviously in an act of kindness, has given the artist a small transistor radio that he keeps in front of him when he sits on the pavement and drinks malt liquor. Drawing his sketches with chalks and whatever that brown liquid is that he’s got and even though there’s the noise of the city and the traffic competing with his radio, you can still hear it as he’s got it turned all the way up and it’s on some pop station that’s half screaming ads and the other half’s some music wedged in between the wailing of the DJ. And when it’s raining or he’s looking especially ragged I usually break down and give him a dollar. Though just recently I can’t help but notice that he too is starting to blend in with the concrete and with the passing of time will I cease to perceive him anymore as we all become so comfortable with our roles in this community?

Funny, but at the same time my Honda is starting to hint that it too wants to go back to the elements. I can tell this because not only have the brakes started to give out but whenever I move it there’s these little groans and incessant thudding as it seems to want to become an inanimate fixture like the comatose people who sleep next to it in the doorways along the edges of the alley. And like the artist or that couple under the freeway, will my car soon become another piece in this same gray dirty grime-infested backdrop of invisibility? And if I left it in its favorite parking place could I assume that soon it too would be nothing but another indiscernible element in this whole downtrodden community? Like those abandoned Navy ships that they sink so that they’ll form reefs on the floor of the ocean for the marine life, will my car end up becoming an immobile natural habitat for the local inhabitants?

Seems a fittingly generous way to end its life, but not if my upstairs neighbor Stephan has anything to do with it. Because lately he’s had his eye on the Honda, though why I’ll never know, as in order to own and operate a vehicle in California you have to register it. And you can’t do that without insuring it like you used to be able to do. And this insurance deal and those registration fees and the smog inspection and the inevitable parking tickets and the consequential towing and storage fees and then you got the repairs from driving and then the repairs from vandalism. Like the passenger’s window being smashed out so that some speed freak can rip out the piece-of-shit cassette player, though last time this happened to me they only took the knobs off of the stereo and left the little ziplock bag that their dope came in empty laying on the seat.

So I guess what I am saying here is that even for a little junker Honda there’s so much that one has to deal with and do I really bequeath my battered Civic to Stephan knowing that he’s doing good but that this car and all the external pressures that it comes with may just send him over the edge at any moment in time? Or should I just leave all the windows wide open and keys in the ignition and park it right in the midst of dope fiend central next to Jack’s Liquors on Stillman Alley and let nature take its course?

Though on a more selfish note, maybe with the sacrificing of my Honda I will hopefully be able to overcome this indecisive visual distraction that I am apparently going through. And I say hopefully because I have never before been so engrossed as to not see someone, anyone, standing on the street corner in misery or even gregariously happy. I have never gone through life oblivious to others even when I was so stoned that I couldn’t feel myself. And this new found habit of not seeing actual humans as they deteriorate in front of me has me a little perturbed at the moment as it could get worse and then what? Buildings will start disappearing from my sight?

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 17th, 2005 at 4:05 am. 6 responses. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Coming Down Again

Andrew was there tonight at the meeting; he strolled in late looking like a walking breeder of quarantinable diseases with his prerequisite virus laden sunken cheeks and those dark circles that were so pronounced that they almost threatened to engulf his eyes. I think that it has been about a year since I’d last seen him and back then he had told me that he was about to finish school and start working as a certified shiatsu masseuse at one of the better hotels in the city. Back then he wanted to know if I would consider being his roommate in an apartment that he was about to be renting. Back then he had been tanned and fit with what looked like a sparkle of hope in his eyes.

But tonight? That Andrew that I’d been talking with back then just wasn’t here and the difference between the two of us made that last conversation of ours seem like such a long time ago and as the evening dragged on I tried not to thinking about it. And I didn’t until the meeting was over and then we were all out front talking shit and of course the ones that do smoke were smoking cigarettes and then Andrew, who had un-mysteriously disappeared, materialized again coming out of the bathroom and this time the sparkle in his eyes wasn’t from hope or any enjoyment that he was experiencing in his life. It was from that last hit of coke that he’d just shot up and with the dope still ringing in his ears he had come out full tilt and walked right up to me pulling up his shirt sleeve to show me a huge bright red abscess that was forming on the middle of his arm. “Look at this!” He said. And I was having a hard time looking at it but at the same time I couldn’t turn my eyes away!

“Man, you’d better take care of that thing!” I said, and there I was describing it as if it was a pet or something. But what else could I say? Yet the reality was that he wasn’t listening to me, he was just talking to move his jaw as the cocaine had a hold of him and what words were coming out were all about how he’d been getting high and how he’d tried to kill himself by shooting massive amounts of heroin and now he was shooting so much coke that he should be dead and he was saying this with a huge smile stretched screaming across his face like he was sharing some funny ass joke with me.

“So, what-cha gonna do?” I asked. And it was like I had proposed that he tackle an intricate algebra equation or that he was somehow being forced to explain the meaning of life. Because he just stood there with this monosyllable look of confusion and couldn’t say a word. Though he finally ended up asking me for my phone number and of course I gave it to him as Andrew’s not gonna call me at 4am looking to barrow some cash because he knows that I won’t give it to him. But he may call me for help or need someone to take him in to the hospital and I’d do that because somebody once did it for me when I was in as bad, if not worse, a shape as Andrew and how’s it suppose to get better in this world of ours if we don’t extend a helping hand to those who are constitutionally incapable of doing it for themselves?

Yet as if by coincidence just this morning I had been walking back to my apartment from getting my usual morning paper and coffee and there was an unopened plastic bag of ten hypodermic needles lying right there in the middle of the sidewalk like it had magically appeared on the street corner straight from the pharmacy and just seeing it took me back a ways. As there was a time that I’d turn in and then pick up a box of ten bags exactly like this one every week at the needle exchange for me and my girlfriend to use. Though just the sight of that bag laying there with those unmistakable orange protective caps glowing through the clear plastic with “U100 Diabetic Insulin Syringes” written across the side in black block letters sort of irked me a bit. However upon seeing them I didn’t even hesitate or slow down as I made my way up the sidewalk and it wasn’t until I saw Andrew’s infected lump on his arm that I thought about them again.

Funny how some things evoke memories because of how our brains associate images and feelings and when we are faced with our fears and obsessions we tend to remember past indiscretions and overindulged mistakes and even the odors that were present at those occasions when smelled again make your emotions twitch. But what really kills me is that after seeing something as gross as an oozing puss filed abscess that somewhere, like way back there in the unused folds of my brain tissue, there’s that dormant slight urge to go shoot some dope. Of course there’s no urge to be incarcerated, or homeless, or penniless and on the streets doing crimes or dope-sick every morning when I get up wondering where my next fix is coming from! There’s no unrequited desire to be weighing 125 pounds again with all my bones sticking out and existing on Camel cigarettes, Coca Cola, Heroin and Snickers candy bars. And the guilt ridden memories of lying to my family and myself while life passed me by doesn’t even enter into the picture because the human mind is a terrible thing to witness when it come to the pleasure centered aspects of addiction. Where I could so easily justify everything as I only remember the quote “good times” as if they somehow out weighed all the horrific moments of reality that in the end were a greater percentage than the actual seconds of relief that I felt when injecting badly processed Mexican opiates into my veins!

But how do you convey all that to somebody that you know and consider a friend like Andrew? How do you say – don’t do that man! How do you watch someone go down a road that you yourself took and know only too well what lies ahead?

Of course for me there are days when I’d really like to start smoking cigarettes again or that the taste of a glass of Merlot with a nice meal is a thought that sort of tends to haunt my vision and I got to confess that when I had oral surgery last year and the doctor offered me a script of Vicodin that my mouth started to water. But that’s just me and my dope fiend infested mentality and I gave up my rights to getting high a long time ago as I wasn’t able to keep it under control, which is putting it mildly. So in the long run who the hell am I to be telling anyone how to live their life?

Its just hard to stand by observantly unattached when you know the ending to the story already!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 8th, 2005 at 6:03 am. 5 responses. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.