Excerpts from – The Week of the Walking-Pneumonia:
After five unbearable days of a hundred and two degree fever, I was fast approaching a vegetable like state, or more like a baked potato sans the sour cream and chives state—if you will. So in a desperate attempt to stay this unrestrained degenerative progression and hopefully regain my health at the same time, I tried implementing a regime to bolster my immune system by eating better: I ate bananas. Well, three to be exact, like actually bought three down at Whole Foods. So far I’ve eaten one. With the meds or the pneumonia itself, I can’t really taste a thing, so it was just sorta mushy. The banana that is, not the meds or the pneumonia. The meds are crunchy and taste vile if you chew them and the pneumonia goes in a variety of stages. However on a literary high note: from having to counterfeit an untold amount of doctor’s notes for work, I’ve also learned how to spell pneumonia, a word that until recently I’d never had much use for.
I also bought a mo-fo’n immense mango. Did I mention that the bananas were hand-picked/tree ripened/organic from some rainforest type location? Well, so is the case with this mango, which is now sitting on my shelf like a complacent Inca refusing to ripen. That’s sorta one of the main reasons that I don’t like fruit! It’s on its own time schedule. Like sure it’s gonna get ripe at some point and yeah I coulda gotten one that seemed to be ripe. But at a supermarket, even a trendy pretentious overpriced one like Whole Foods, how do you really know with a mango? It may feel ripe with the little bits squishy here and there, but if a hundred people came through and gave it a good squeeze to see its exact state of ripeness? Well, the break down of firmness, the natural disposition of animal/plant/pet type things to please humankind, the world food chain, dominant carnivores with teeth and all and, well, need I go on?
In my opinion fruits are basically spineless posers! No, maybe not spineless. No, maybe more like timid. No, more like ne’er-do-wells, or simpletons at the very least. Going all—“pick me, eat me, I’m harmless, I just sit in trees or hang around the vine.” And then you got the bugger home and what? It just sits on your shelf and meditates like Buddha or something staying that same irradiated green until you first turn your back and then voila! It’s a pool of slime as it biodegrades back into the earth from whence it came, decomposition to compost, dirt to dust, ashes to ashes—end of story! An easy way out if you were to ask me.
I also picked up a bag-o-ricola, “the original natural herb cough suppressant”, so it claims. Because the small/petit almost midget like nurse had suggested I do so as she sent me along on my way back home meandering aimlessly all drug crazed on an azithromycin overdose. And though the ricola are somewhat boastful yet tasteless hard squares they do do the trick when the throat/cough/scratch bit works its way in and I start hacking like Sweaty Spice or whatever that disheveled girl who sings name is. But to tell you the truth I am only too sure that their nutritional value is somewhere below even a banana!
I just got off the phone with my younger sister who called to confide in me her own current health issues and I guess to also commiserate the fact that we’re both a tad under the weather. Seems she’s down with an infected toenail that had to be forcibly removed and—this is where it gets a wee bit dicey! She’s got a case of the hives! Like the one she had for almost a year before (?)!!!! Like who knew? I certainly didn’t! But I have always thought that hives were for people whose health was questionable or at the very least people who are under a lot of pressure from things like stress? Which she is neither. Maybe the fact that she hasn’t been on a Caribbean Sea Cruise in more than a month is finally taking its toll on her psyche.
In the meantime; the organic mango—shithead that it is!—Hasn’t moved an inch all day toward ripening, except for a slight glow of yellow around the scalp of its, well, cranium I suppose? I think that I am going to give it a wee bit of a squeeze and then after it’s recovered from that I’ll bask it in the afternoon sun on the window ledge as a sort of inducement to ripen or start learning how to fly.
As with this concept of acquiring fruit in the attainment of nutrition I’ve also gone to great lengths to keep myself properly fed during this horrendous week—the week of the walking pneumonia, as I like to call it. So I’ve been trying the takeout from the local restaurants and thankfully the new Indian/Pakistani shop across the street has turned out to be quite decent and a tad tasty. I noticed it because all the turbaned taxi drivers double park their cabs out in front of my apartment building to eat there. However, whenever I do go over there they all sort of stop eating mouths agape with varied dining utensils frozen in midair and stare at me sideways as I stumble in and out gracefully accompanied by an obscure score of their Hindustani music with a must-get-takeout-food-trance-like-stupor plastered across my face while sweating like a dope fiend on the jones.
Though I must confess, I really only want to eat simple tofu/vegetable dishes and rice, something about them seems more desirable/palatable right now in my fevered condition. But the sullied Chinese place next to Jack’s sleazy liquor/porno store is very, well, questionable to say it politely. They write the specials on paper plates with a black magic maker and then tape them to the window and some of them have been up for months and are turning a kinda greasy yellowed transparency and insects are getting caught in the scotch tape so that you gotta wonder just how special they really are. Instead I’ve been looking both ways before crossing the street for a little Palak Aloo and Naan and a Mango Lassi or two. And I’ve got to say that their windows are always clean and free of unprofessional advertising.
Obviously having naught to do whilst lying around recuperating but read, eat takeout, consume massive quantities of medication and endlessly think. A new theory of mine has arisen as to the whereabouts or at least the origins of where my newly acquired lung infection comes from. So far the prevailing theory is that I acquired it from taking the stairs as opposed to the elevator; wherein lies the most obvious connection—I am forced to use my hands on such communally touched objects as: doorknobs, railings, walls and any combination of all or at least one of the above. Also, least I not forget to mention, that the ambience of the stairwell is rivaled only by the dank grungy alleyways and loading dock of the building where rats play, junkies and winos overindulge in certain daily habits as well as natural body functions and out on the second floor landing someone has hurled what looks like a very large portion of “stew.” But who can really tell what it was as it has dried up and what the vermin haven’t eaten is now becoming one with the metal staircase. Now I could be wrong here, it’s happened a time or two before, but the conditions hence described sound to me like the breeding ground for a numerable amount of diseases, viruses and your all around cesspool of apocalyptic germs, no?
Whereas the elevator: though allowing more outright exposure to said communicable diseases by actual human on human exposure, (i.e. read, foraging Crackheads) when not occupied lessens the risk of contamination. Only the touch of the buttons with one index finger outside of the car and inside and without a margin for error only once each for that matter as well as more circulation of air, less barf potential and the fact that the cars are somewhat cleaned on the occasion has brought a lot of points up in favor of abandoning the stairs as a “healthy” enterprising alternative to taking the elevator.
My sister called again—hives and infected toenail. She seems to wanna continue bonding in the mutual certitude that we are both extremely miserable at the same time, another trait inherited from our mother no doubt. And speaking of which my mum also cut in on the call-waiting line wanting all the gory details of my health or the actual lack of it really and then proceeding to tell me what to do about getting better health care out of my medical provider—like getting the test results mailed to me. So, like what? I could follow along when the doctor and I went over them together? I seriously doubt that I could make out what in hell they’re on about anyway. But she did spent a solid ten minutes telling me what box to check on what forms that will insure me to get a copy of all my results! Ah, something to file away for the future I guess. It is apparent from our recent conversations that my mother is thoroughly convinced that I am going through some great change in life. Like what? I’m going gay or something? Male menopause of my left nut? Strict adherence to the Kabala? Seriously that’s what I think she thinks. We’re talkin’ bizarre weird off the wall type stuff implied through not so subtle exclamations. Like she’s psychic or something and has a hotline to my future! Every time I talk with her she refers to this idea that—“I’m discovering myself.” And like I’m not even dignifying it by asking just what in hell it is that she is going on about! I mean I’m dying from a ferocious inhuman virus god damn it! Excuse me a second here as I wipe the spittle from my mouth and attempt to calm down a bit.
Saw the doctor today, he gave me a clean bill of health, says nothing to worry about, even my much abused liver is doing fine. However, after the midget/petit nurse painstakingly recorded my stats, she then drew on a chart and with a subdued flourish accompanied by sullen looks that may or may not have expressed that her mind was now in the process of working. She then looked at the chart then looked back at me as she sighed a sigh of complacency and then she flat out insinuated that I was overweight. Well, like she didn’t come right out and say that I was fat. She just pulled out the xeroxed weight to height graph and ran a florescent green highlighter down the grid circling the intersection of my statistics and then as she thrust it into my idle hands she pronounced me in the not so good area—like in the fat boy zone! I guess that while I was on my deathbed, they just didn’t want to tell me, like they were saving it until I was well! So now I’m at home staring at this pathetic chart of hers—hey, they weighed me with all my clothes on and my boots. Excuses I know, but, like I was 172 lbs. @ 5’10’’. Like it puts me in the fat zone by about 9 pounds and I’ve never been in the fat zone before, or at least not recently! This is really not good. See! No more fruit, too much sugar, no more dairy either, good damn fat globule laden cheeses, no more bread and sugar loaded baked goods, no more tortilla chips simmered in trans fat, no more nothing that tastes good! Its time to go back to the basics and eat tree bark!
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Saturday, October 30th, 2004 at
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Before I lived in the building that I am now in, I lived in what in this town is referred to as a piss-in-the-sink hotel, only this one didn’t have a sink in the room to piss in – only a mildew encrusted toilet down the hall. From the smell of my room, however, that hadn’t deterred the former residents from using the corner by the door as a makeshift urinal or maybe the errant crackhead had once again been busy marking his territory in hopes of charting a new frontier.
The hotel itself, a large blue and white painted blight of a building, was hung with a misnomer of a name – The Soma Inn; and even by Folsom Street standards its bedraggled populace of dope fiends, hookers and petty thieves made it stand out amongst the small businesses and trendy night spots of the South of Market area. Next door was a popular all night rave whose sound system’s constant thud coupled with the random flickering of my room’s twin four foot long florescent lights up on the ceiling made sleep at night somewhat torturous if not impossible. Most evenings around 3:00am with my head pounding in tandem with the bass, I’d go outside and push my way through the partying throngs of inebriated club goers and wander over to All Night Donuts on Fourth Street and hang out in its calm gray formica and stainless steel environment. Mindlessly ingesting sickly sweet crumb donuts washed down with past-dated cartons of chocolate milk or overdosing on some soggy vegetables mired in an industrial type teriyaki sauce served on a bed and I do mean a bed of sticky overcooked white rice.
Usually by four in the morning the place would be deserted and in desperation for some companionship I’d flirt with the woman who worked behind the counter. She was a bit older than me, but she was still very beautiful, crazy insane, but beautiful. After we dispensed with the customary pleasantries, she would usually tell me about what it was like when she took the boat across the Pacific Ocean to this country and then our conversation would somehow always degenerate into talk of opium and she’d get this dreamy look on her face, one that I could relate too and we’d kind of sit in silence, both of us, sort of with our own thoughts as the clock on the wall flipped its numbers from seconds to minutes and then I’d have to change the subject and talk about anything else that I could think of. I’m sure she sensed that it really wasn’t a healthy subject for me to dwell on and while attempting a different conversation she’d grab her cup of tea and come sit with me at one of the tiny tables that were in front of the glass donut case where we’d try talking about the weather or old movies that we’d seen. We had a strange connection of sorts and I guess that’s why she’d confide in me about her past or maybe it was that universal junkie attitude that all former addicts share, but still it was somewhat profound and a tad bit intimate and at the time our moments together were about the only somewhat healthy human contact that I had going in my life.
Living back at the hotel was insane. I was trying to keep it together, stay out of trouble and somewhat make it and apparently I was the only person there who had those kinda of high end goals and who wasn’t on general assistance, the FBI’s most wanted list or busy putting a needle in their veins. It would be an understatement to say there was a deeply entrenched vortex of lowlifes that made up the small community of tenants, and everyday it was glaringly obvious that I wasn’t planning on joining in and becoming a part of it.
After the sun set unbelievable feminine looking trans-sexual hookers appeared roaming the dark corridors and between tricks would hang out in the downstairs lobby applying their makeup. This one tall blonde in particular would make kissy noises anytime I walked by, much to the disapproval of her prison tattooed boyfriend who gave me mad dog looks that I ignored. In the room directly next door to mine was the building’s aspiring speed dealer. He constantly played bad techno music in competition to the drone of the neighboring nightclub while it seemed every other resident pounded on his door at all hours to buy more of his product.
Across the hall was an elderly black woman who was still plying her trade on the streets and when she wasn’t would be out in the hall leaning against her room’s doorframe dressed in a sheer black semi-see-through slip drinking gin and moaning about the loss of her babies while Marvin Gaye accompanied her lament from the stereo speakers on her bureau – the battered faux wood grain one in the corner covered with cigarette burns and empty liquor bottles. After propositioning me at least ten times a night she’d pass out with her legs sprawled on the floor of the hall so that we would all have to step over her on our way out or to the bathroom, or as was much more the case, impeding the flow of jittery people intent on buying more speed from the sweaty gentleman next door to me.
On particularly busy nights, like on the weekends, my upstairs neighbor would try and sell parking spaces to the club goers outside by the curb in front of the hotel and I never really understood how that worked or why in hell someone would pay him for the privilege to park their own car on the street. One night I came home and pulled my tattered Honda into a spot right in front of the hotel and stumbling toward me in a vodka infused mutation, he demanded money for me to park there. I kind of stared at him with my sideways slit-eyed approach as I slowly closed my door and locked it until he realized it was me and there wasn’t much future in trying to get some money out of the situation. I don’t know how much longer I would have lasted living there before going all the way insane, but just as it was really getting to me, a friend of mine called and said there was a vacancy in her building and that if I didn’t take it she would personally come over and after smacking me in the head, she would move me out herself! Consequently one afternoon, before I had to go to work, I packed what little clothes I had, my laptop and my box of books and moved and thankfully never went back.
Now I live in a somewhat better environment only because there are miles of brightly lit hallways to wander, no shared bathrooms and a security guard at the front desk who sleeps at night while all the derelicts attempt to gain access. Not only that but I actually tend to know some of my neighbors and most of them aren’t trying to get me to pay for sex, just give them money for drugs, and when called on actually act in a sociable way when doing so.
These glaringly obvious differences are now only atrocious memories but none the less I am still rudely awoken out of my thoughts when Natasha knocks on my door uninvited, a walking poster child to eating disorders, she glides herself into my apartment. Her perpetual “I’m about to cry because life sucks so bad” expression is on her face as she folds her impossibly skinny body onto my bed and turns her head and pouts. At twenty-three she feels that there really isn’t much excitement that life has to offer her and I keep telling her that she’s right. This is it! This is as good as it gets! This is reality and we are all stuck with it, but I don’t think it has settled in yet. She continually looks for ways out, like drugs and alcohol and screaming at the moon all night until the sun comes up in the morning, but to no avail. She is stuck, just like I told her and no matter how many nights she waitresses down at the Hard Rock Café, drinks herself into a slurring stupor or spends hours looking at little shiny objects, life and all that that entails is not going to change.
We talk awhile; it’s all about her therapist, her anxiety, her boyfriend, her work and, of course, how hard her life is. She’s under a lot of stress. From what? I do not know? But she says she is and that is why she can’t eat! She’s nauseous, she’s tired, her neighbors make too much noise and work has gotten way too stressful. After awhile there are sudden awkward moments of silence as we are starting to run out of conversation because we are starting to run out of things about Natasha to talk about and she senses this and it is time to go, besides, her boyfriend is waiting in her room down the hall, she just needed to get out and talk to someone who understands just how hard it is out here in the real world. Bye-bye, miss you, kiss in the air and the door closes and I wonder how I became that compassionate person that understands so well. Last time I checked I wasn’t that understanding, but hell I guess things have changed.
In her wake I can see the encroaching nebula of dust that’s constantly coming under my door from the hallway and it’s close to impossible to sweep it up as the flow is non-stop. I’ve tried and it pretty much drove me crazy, to the point where I just opened the door and swept all the dirt back out into the hallway. Of course this was just as the building’s super was walking by and before I could get the door closed his leg attached to a big black work boot blocked it open. What in hell was I doing he wanted to know, and you know, I’d seen other tenants doorways with their little piles of dust just sitting there and thought how crude they were. This was of course before I’d really lived here for any length of time in my building and I really didn’t know what to tell him. Saying that everyone else did it didn’t seem to really be the answer; after all, they probably had the brains not to do it during the day when he’d be around lurking in the hallways. Just admitting that I was cleanliness challenged was not, I was sure, what he was looking for. So, I just acted dumb, mumbled something about not being able to find my trash can and getting to it later and he went away, putting my name on some list at the front desk no doubt. That list tallying up all the black marks against a tenant so that the next time they purge the building of no goods my name will be at the top highlighted:
Urgent/Hallway Defiler/Must Evict!
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Monday, October 25th, 2004 at
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The phone rings and I know its Stephan in his apartment upstairs pacing in an unemployed frenzy. We’re gonna head out into the city and see what’s out there today. Anything’s preferable to sitting here in the obsequies of my neighbor’s stereo even the rejection of the girls we’ll try and pick up. And the fact that I tend to feel that this small room is home no matter the surrounding populace or the deafening audio barrage is somewhat comforting, otherwise I’d be hard pressed to think that there really was any change at all in where I live.
The Sequel of the Damned
It’s 8:45am and I’m uncontrollably sweating from an alleged caffeine overdose while systematically demoralizing myself in the courthouse corridor pending my morning meandering through today’s newspaper. As I stand waiting to be admitted into the courtroom for another day of statutory show and tell, I can’t help but think that a measly contempt of court charge, at the very worst a day or two in jail, is starting to look a whole lot better than more of this ex officio State of California bullshit! However, never one to let “the man” know that he’s won, I act all nonchalant and continue reading the paper and down below the funnies today’s horoscope comes into focus…
LIBRA September 23-October 22
Hopefully you’ve been a judicious Libra — then you’ve nothing to worry about. If not, a karmic slap on the wrist puts you on the right track.
I am truly cursed, even the god damn planets are against me!
At the break of dawn as the sun was rising and my awareness was being jolted into existence by the subsequent ingestion of massive espresso infusions. I had somehow stumbled down the eight blocks from my apartment and onto the F Streetcar and as the pounding subsided in my head I became aware of the rest of the world and a very loud animated discussion that two girls sitting a few seats in front of me were having. What it was that they were going on about I’m not really sure because I don’t think it was in English. Actually I know it wasn’t English only I was understanding about half of it and I thought that either I was having an Asian osmosis moment or I’d somehow traded in my coveted gift of dyslexia and become bilingual.
“那FUCK’IN BITCH BRITNEY SPEARS, 她看起来象 HO! FUCK’IN WHITE GIRLZ 所有神色GOD DAMN 同 样, YO! 与那被漂白的! N***A PLEASE! HELLA FUCK’DUP头发和他们的驴子停留.YO您去PE或您去跳直到午餐? PE? HELL NO N***A! YO丢失了您的 FUCK’IN 头脑MUTHA FUCKERS ‘LL 钉子如果我去体操, 不MCDONALDS 和得到BIG MAC和 CHILL! FUCK高中和所有那些FOOL N***A’S!”
Your Honor! Juror #4 would like to make an objection! Cute Chinese girls in front of me are talking shit and using the N word and its only 8am! I’d like to have it stricken from the record or at least banished from the earth!
Unfortunately out here in the real world you can’t give instructions to disregard imprudence and besides I was about to bite the bullet and continue on my way into the realm of legalities for another day of my juristic obligation. Forget that my boss was gonna lose it if this trial went any longer and that in trying to keep the peace at work I hadn’t had a day off in the last three weeks. Most days after court and on the weekends I was going to work and trying to keep appearances up but even that was impossible to truly accomplish and things were going undone and I was getting way behind and the god damn case was droning on and on and there was no end in sight!
What totally amazed me was that these lawyers and judges seem to think that we should put our whole lives on hold so that they can play a ludicrous game of charades and divvy up the spoils and then send us on our way. Like justice has been served and the public’s begrudging involvement makes democracy go round like the capitalistic wheel of fortune that it is and we’re so daft that we think its all a big game show like on TV. Ok, so maybe I’m the only one that thought it was like TV, or the Twilight Zone to be exact, and here I felt like I was stuck in some reality warp and any minute I’d come out of it laying comatose on a battered cot in some Salvation Army Detox covered in grungy blankets sweating out the DT’s as demonic hallucinations clouded my vision. But no such luck!
Introducing Juror Exhibit Number 13: Juror # 4 is slowly losing his mind as lawyers dissect grocery bills. Please send major drugs as even a triple espresso can’t keep his attention deficit disorder in check!
Like the drooling mad Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy infected primates that we have become, we the jury line up once again and file into the courtroom to take our perspective seats in the jury box with practiced Pavlovian obedience.
“Good morning to you.”
“Oh, good morning.”
Until I am brain dead with niceties and my tolerance for social intercourse is at an all time low. Everyone wearing a false face as no one really wants to be here and least of all us; the jury getting a stipend of $17.50 a day, as the judge carries on with the lawyers who have nothing but contempt for one another. Justice is being served and would you like fries with that? A fast food decision for these fast times as the law comes in sound bites and the futile attempt at disregarding another snide remark from opposing counsel becomes as second nature as trying to forget your own name.
During the numerous breaks that are allowed we have been cautioned that it is considered bad juju to greet any of the attorneys or their clients and while this is feasible in the hallways the plausibility in the restroom is another story. Avoiding eye contact while negotiating the urinal stalls and washing one’s hands at the sink while the opposing parties hover around you like sharks tends to diminish any moment or reprieve that one might try and acquire in those precious few seconds away from the proceedings.
Of course I could deal with it all like Bob does. The old man, juror #9, makes a b-line for the local bar at lunchtime and an hour later comes back vigorously chewing spearmint gum with a big smile across his face ready to discern fact from fiction. Or I could busy myself and take copious notes like the lady next to me who must be writing the unabridged version of the case to take home to her family at night in hopes that someone be aware of the torturous pain that we are going through.
Meanwhile juror #7 is busy playing a game in his head where he tries to figure out which actor or actress would play the part of the actual person we are all watching in court. Occasionally he will turn his head and blurt out a name under his breath real fast and we all murmur in agreement or grumble in disagreement and then a silent argument will erupt if its not unanimous. So far the stenographer is Margaret Choa, the defense lawyer is Dustin Hoffman and the defendant is a female Henry Winkler. No one else can agree on the other players in this drama as it is hard to work it out under the watchful scrutiny of the judge. I wonder what they would think if they all knew we were spending our testimonial time casting their character for future portrayal in some indie film from hell?
Juror’s Exhibit #14: I am so bored! Even my ass is a sleep
What is really going on here none of us knows. What we do know is that one lawyer is as bad as the other. They are both greedy despicable human beings, after all, they are lawyers, and there is quite a lot of money that both of them want, but only one is going to get. When asked, the judge said we did not have the option of giving the money back to where or whom it came from in the first place – a solution much preferable then seeing either of these cretins profit from the toil of others. Soon the case will be ours to deliberate and soon we will be sending them all a message as to what a waste of time, money and human resources this has all been. Soon they will regret picking any one of us for jury duty. Soon we will have our revenge!
Dedicated to my good friend Mad Dog. 1986-2004 – May you rest in peace.
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Wednesday, October 20th, 2004 at
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