Ok, so like I wussed out. There I was all prepared to get that amazingly funny gift that was befitting each and everyone of you and your warped senses of humor and one that would generate that profound group chuckle as it was unwrapped and whoever was hanging around would nod approvingly saying: “Good one Fromage, good one.” But I got a tad lost, you know, caught up or bogged down one could say, and that gift giving urge dissipated until it was too late and I was reaching a point of desperation to finish what has never been a task that I was overly fond of in the first place.
After trodding miles through aisles of “Funny Animal” photos with numerous Siberian Wolfhounds and wide eyed Pekinese all cutely dressed as people doing the darndest things and then finding myself tragically mislaid amongst acres of deranged books loudly proclaiming anything outlandish or absurd in order for someone to be impressed and, least I forget, my big store endeavor foiled by that bleached blonde in the leopard-skin leotards wrestling me down in my attempts to purchase the last remaining “Bad Mouth Talk’n Trailer Trash Barbie©” that was left in its dented box at Toys-R-Us. She obviously needed it more than me, that and a shave—but anyway.
So here I was still at work Friday night and my relief was a few minutes late and I was stressing and my pathetic Honda was riding the big E and precariously almost out of fuel. So I headed down the hill all the while projecting my usual image—world pain suffering but slightly demented existentialist dressed in black. And whilst pumping gas I realized that I indeed had the most raging of headaches, the truly medieval equinox of migraines and what I had to have before I could go any further on my quest for another god damn yuletide gift was the reprieve that only a few aspirins could bring.
A veritable trifecta of Bayer™ would do just nicely was the thought that came to mind as I swerved around the cement divider and erratically U-Turned across El Camino Real taunting the oncoming traffic and into Walgreen’s parking lot narrowly missing the mumbling panhandler with his tattered misspelled cardboard sign proclaiming everyone to have a hapy holiday. He, of course, was standing in the handicapped parking spot which along with a couple of other regular spots I had just taken up by sliding in sideways at a very wide angle and he just stood there blinking as I then tried to shoo him away from my car door so that I could get out. Like being in the way is anyway to get a holiday handout and all.
Even at this time of night there was an abundance of holiday shoppers and I was only too glad to get around the obviously inbred or at least too closely related couple with the immense hoard of bulging shopping bags filed with wrapping paper and toys who were busy blocking the front door while deeply engaged in discussing the merits of dried turkey jerky as a substitute for Nicorette™ chewing gum. Clearing this obstacle I then hurriedly B-lined it over to the “Pain Relief” section, which—as it happen to be all the way to the back of the store—I was forced to wade through screaming Ritalin® infused children knee deep in half destroyed Sponge Bob© regalia while nearby their pharmaceutically medicated moms were absentmindedly dragging down plastic cartons of Christmas tree lights all the while complaining to no one in particular about the state of this year’s ornaments and of course going unnoticed or at least unheeded by all the future deadbeat dads in whatever mode of sedated ignorance they were indulging as they perused the periodicals rack for muscle car magazines.
Thankfully the object of my desire, my holy grail, so to speak was there displayed against the back wall all gleaming smugly in their very own “tamper proof/child proof” containers. There the generic Walgreen’s aspirin sat awaiting me and it was all I could do not to bellow in triumph as I ripped open the large economy super saver size bottle picked out the useless wad of cotton and downed a quick few dozen before turning around and heading to the checkout counter to pay for my sins of needing immediate medication. There, of course, in front of me was a line of shoppers waiting to do the same—pay and then move along with one’s life. But unfortunately tonight was not the night to be doing this in a timely manner.
No it was a veritable human gridlock and the main hold up was one lady with a whole shopping cart full of rather large packages that appeared to be labeled as Foot Spas® and she was talking up a storm to anyone who even seemed to be listening and just as an idea, you know, for a gifty, I sorta looked over her Foot Spas®, because she obviously thought she had a real deal going on here. Or maybe just a whole hell of a lot of friends with terminal cases of corns and all, but as I was eyeing her purchases and mentally comparison price shopping the rest of the assorted goods assembled in that long checkout line I spied a huge pile of pre-paid gift cards for every imaginable thing under the sun. There were some good for going to the movies and redemption at book stores and even a few for facials and hair cuts and lube jobs with your oil change. But what stuck me as weird at first all of a sudden became that little answer that I needed in order to gain a wee bit of salvation. I know, I know, maybe it was the aspirin talk’n and all but I just closed my eyes and reached in and that’s how I came to buy everyone a prepaid rechargeable Walgreens Gift Card® for Christmas this year!
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Saturday, December 18th, 2004 at
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There is nothing like the sound of cop radios erupting outside of your apartment in the building’s hallway during the middle of the night! Lifting my head off the pillow, I can hear the mutant like monotone of electronic spittle echoing in tandem with footsteps as some unknown brigade of policemen walk by my room’s front door. Hurriedly on their way to the apartment at the end of the hall no doubt, where that really angry sweaty guy has been building something twenty four hours a day for the last few weeks.
Knock! Knock! Hello sweaty dude! This is your wake-up call!
Only sweaty dude hasn’t slept once in the four months since he moved in, so a wake-up call it isn’t and as usual they’ll just tell him to stop building that spaceship or those gallows or whatever the hell it is that he’s been working on all nonstop and overly energetic like. And then they’ll retreat back down the hall to the elevator and their radio static will start to fade with it abruptly ending as the elevator’s doors close shut and they ride downstairs and recoil into the safe sensibility of their black and white patrol cars.
Its three AM and I don’t even hear sweaty dude’s makita cordless screw gun any more. It sorta went the way of the freeway noise when I lived on the other side of the building. After a few weeks you get used to it, kinda start to like it, almost crave it in order to get to sleep and then one day when you can hear yourself think you realize that sweaty dude’s either run out of speed and hopefully catching a few well needed Z’s or he’s dead and curled up in a fetal position on the floor with the needle still stuck in his arm never to torque another two inch self taping philips-head screw again.
Must a been someone new that just moved in and wasn’t used to being serenaded with a radial-arm saw after midnight that called the cops on sweaty. Certainly wasn’t my immediate next door neighbor, who I’ve never even once seen. But now that I’m awake I can hear her crying like I usually do on those nights when I’m laying in bed staring at the ceiling around three fifteen in the morning. Sobbing in relinquent anguish and obviously just on the other side of the thin communal wall that our bedrooms share and whatever it is that she weeps about has been haunting her well before the first night that I occupied this apartment. Her nocturnal routine however never seems to vary or subside. Always in the dead of the night she cries and moans, and no she isn’t having sex as there is no pleasure or lust in her voice. It is just the sounds of regret and a certain tone of loss that I can hear.
Depressing as she is, I’d rather have her on both sides sniffling away on the late night schedule than what I’ve got now for a neighbor across on the other side of the room. Too many mornings I’ve been woken up way too early by the over-amplified sounds of George Benson loudly playing “On Broadway” as the books in my shelves rustle and vibrate and what’s worse, when Mister Benson hits those tonal high notes as he bends that G minor my neighbor sings along in a tone deaf conspiracy!
Yesterday I couldn’t take it any more. I had been “On Broadway” every morning now for the past two weeks. So at six in that morning before I left for work I pulled out the Sex Pistols CD, punched up the stereo’s volume and with the speakers pressed firmly against our mutual wall I pushed play and then repeat, which it will then do until I push stop, and left for the day. When I returned some twelve hours later I think I heard a whispered thank you through the wall as I turned the reverberating stereo off and opened my blinds to the setting sun and the sweet murmur of rush hour traffic on the streets below.
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Friday, December 10th, 2004 at
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The powers that be are doing away with the formalities of the front desk situated across from the elevators in the lobby of my apartment building. And though the mere presence of the front desk, ah, dudes – for the lack of a better title, doesn’t really impede the flow of the undesirable element that invades my building on a twenty four hour basis, it must however keep some of the really unsocial trespassers from gaining access – like the ones that crawl or at least the really awkwardly slow ones pushing themselves backwards in wheelchairs with their feet.
Many a night I have come home to find an over-abundance of wayward crackheads wandering my building’s hallways or just loitering nonchalant in packs on the stairwells. Usually on full moons the premises are teeming with nocturnal wild life banging on doors and mumbling incoherently to themselves. Elevator rides are always exciting when accompanied by smelly people demanding things, anything, it doesn’t matter, just give me something, I deserve it, I’m a dope fiend and the world owes me! This of course puts a whole new meaning to the term ‘aggressive panhandling’ – and like hey, fuck off, I live here! Go outside and do that!
But it isn’t just the local transgressors trying to get out of the cold that I’m taking about here. It’s people like Tim who have lived in this building longer than I have and still have never been a tenant proper with their name on the lease or even on a mailbox for that matter. Tim, a genuinely nice guy, heavily addicted to crack cocaine, but still a somewhat nice guy, is an expert at finding and then living with women that are at about the same financially irresponsible level that he is only they gotta be one step up from Tim when he meets them, or what’s the point? They obviously have to have their own apartment and some viable steady income or Tim wouldn’t even waste his time hitting on them let alone moving in.
So like what’s the real deal here? “Hey baby, I ain’t got a damn thing going for me in life ‘cept this here crackpipe – can I come in and live with you?”
“You bet Timmy, and please abuse what’s left of my bank account while you’re here. Ok hun!”
I for one just don’t get it and it ain’t like it’s a fluke or a one time phenomenon where my man gotta little lucky and won the co-dependent lottery. Over the years Tim has introduced me to no less than eight different women as his ‘girl’ and he does it without laughing or at the very least cracking a smile! Hell two of them have lived on the same floor as me and even knew each other while he was jumping ship midstream, so to speak! And it ain’t like he misrepresents himself or nothing because if you lived in this building it would be pretty hard to not notice Tim hustling crack all day long outside on Third Street. All you’d have to do is take a walk over to Jack’s Liquors and you’d run into him posted up on the corner and even if he didn’t know you he’d ask you if you wanted to buy some rock, some crack, you know, as he puts it – some a that good shit.
Him and the deranged dude in the wheelchair that hasn’t moved from the same spot from under the freeway for the whole two years that I’ve lived here run the petty nickel and dime dope deals in the dank alleyways that I park my car in. They short change every crack addicted desperado in a four block radius and even some miscellaneous ignorant club goers that willingly fall prey into their grasp. And it’s not that Tim should be able to afford his own palatial crib in my building or anything. He’s a dope fiend for Christ shake. But for some reason he prefers to be at the whim of circumstance’s fickle embrace and bed down with the next up and coming soon to be on the evicted list love child! Of course given the choice of sleeping under the freeway on cold cement or sleeping with the next available crack ho in a warm apartment – well, you get the picture and in the end what the hell do I really know?
But enough about Tim and his amorous pursuits. The real problem at hand is the security question left dangling unanswered at my humble abode. What’s life to be like when the front doors are flung open and left unguarded for every lowlife in the neighborhood to come traipsing in whenever they feel the whim to invade the corridors and desecrate the dimly lit stairways? Of course obviously the front door guys didn’t do a whole lot to stop anyone in the first place. Which is undoubtedly the reason for their demise, and rightly so, but the alternative plan “Big Tony” the landlord laid out to me this morning wasn’t the best and it didn’t inspire an immediately overwhelming sense of security in me either.
“We’re gonna get cameras all over the freak’in place! Cameras so sharp ya can see the hairs on a flea’s ass!” He says while waving his arms about like the mad man he truly is. “An the front door’s gonna have a buzzer hooked up to your unit’s telephone, so’s they just call yer room and ya buzz ‘em in – presto like!”
I can not tell you how that begins to instill in me a sense of safety like you wouldn’t believe! So, let me get this right. Instead of a useless unobservant idiot that can at least make a phone call to the police while cowering behind the safety of the front desk as the blood shed ensues, I am now at the whim of a forensic team discovering the order of my demise via video playback in high definition digital feed? I will sleep oh so much better tonight Tony, thanks!
Apparently the newly being built security booth where the front desk was formerly located will now be a walled in cubicle which will hold banks of television monitors projecting views of all the hallways simultaneously as the same guys that couldn’t even stop the crazy bag lady from living up on the roof for the last year and a half are now expected to man the cameras and be in charge of the safe keeping of our lives and our property. Yep! Technology triumphs over all as the urbane crack house hits the 21st Century and unfortunately it appears that the inmates are very much still in control of the asylum!
What I’m really starting to suspect here is that Tony and his cohorts will no doubt be recording all the misadventures of the local dissidents and then pandering it as some horrid low budget reality TV show on cable or worse a demented rent-a-cop training film for some other slum lord’s benefit. Honestly, nothing he does would surprise me anymore. But just as strange a concept as Tony wanting to see the hairs on a flea’s ass in the first place, what in the long run is this warped idea of protection really going to accomplish? That they’ll be able to clearly see all the local vagrants in startling clarity right before they steal the cameras off the walls and then set fire to the place? Because as we’ve all now gathered there’s not even going to be a sleeping underpaid, overworked and much abused human being manning the front desk to stop anything anybody will try and do and I haven’t even begun to think about what will happen to delivered packages or the regular mail!
Just how did he come to this decision anyway? The front desk guys are useless, so let’s just trash that old outmoded plan and recreate a mini version of the fall of Rome – but hey, I know, let’s film it too! And just how much is this camera/monitor system costing anyway? Wouldn’t hiring real security guards, as in bonded not as in momentarily sober former drug addicts, cost less and actually address the woes of the old régime’s way of doing things? You see it really doesn’t make sense and if it was in any other city where living space isn’t at such a premium as it is in San Francisco than Big Tony would probably be employing lil’ Tony to come down and torch the place for the insurance money and then just wash his gasoline scented hands of the whole freak’in mess! But maybe that is the plan, but he’s gonna jack up the bounty by adding a few hundred grand of surveillance equipment to the establishment before they strike the match and we all go up in flames!
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Saturday, December 4th, 2004 at
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