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.
This entry was posted on
Friday, December 10th, 2004 at
9:09 pm. 12 responses. You
can follow any responses to this entry
through the RSS 2.0
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!
This entry was posted on
Saturday, December 4th, 2004 at
5:21 am. 11 responses. You
can follow any responses to this entry
through the RSS 2.0
I’d see Dre out there in front of my apartment building hanging out in the sun with his homeboys and I’d say “Man, what ya doing out here?” and he be all cool like and slow and laugh real low and shrug his shoulders. For some reason Dre was always putting up a front and acting like he wasn’t really involved or wasn’t for sure getting high like all the rest of the cats hanging around him were. And even the time when Mikey and me were coming down in the elevator late one night and Dre got on drunk as hell breathing a brewery worth of fumes my way he still acted all aloof like it was somebody else in front of me that could barely stand up. Only it was just us three in the elevator at the time and in the end why’d he have to fake it? What the fuck did he care what I thought?
I knew he had some two bit security job at a drop in clinic over on Fell Street and though he’d been out at least a year, which for Dre was already some kinda record, he was showing all the signs that one does when they’re slowly slipping back into that old life. Late one afternoon sometime around the end of August when the summer sun begins to wane I ran into him down at the UN Plaza. He was just sitting in his rent-a-cop uniform amongst all the weathered derelicts while they drank forty ouncers and yelled their scattered conversations. He looked up at me with this expression of defeat plastered across his face as he slowly shook his head.
“Got a cigarette?”
“Don’t smoke no more.”
“Buy me a pack a smokes then!”
“Dream on holmes! You know where I come from. Same place as you!”
Today there were a few short paragraphs at the very bottom of the lefthand column on page three in the ‘B’ section of the newspaper that said:
Man choked on bag of drugs, police say
A San Francisco man who died in police custody
had swallowed and apparently choked on a bag
of crack cocaine and heroin as he struggled with
officers, police said.
The man was arrested after 6 p.m. Thursday
died about 15 minutes later on the way to the
Two Tenderloin beat officers suspected he was
selling drugs on Leavenworth Street near Turk
Street. As the officers approached, the man put
a baggie in his mouth, police said.
The man resisted and struggled as officers arrested
him. After he was handcuffed, he appeared to have
difficulty breathing. Paramedics removed a bag
that apparently obstructed his air passage, causing
asphyxiation, police said.
It went on to identify him by name and the address where he resided – one floor below me on the same side of the building above the parking lot. Of course it didn’t say that. I just happen to know that. Happen to know Dre. Happen to have seen him struggling with life. Happen to have been powerless to do a damn thing but witness his inevitable demise.
Today, the day after Thanksgiving, the nation’s out spending that hard earned dollar on all the consumer products that we as a populace are led to believe we need. Heralded as the biggest shopping day of the year it’s a consumer culture orgasmic climax to a long ago forgotten holiday concept. And yesterday, maybe even while Dre was being choked to death, I was sitting down to dinner across town at me mum’s house with a bunch a folks doing that hypocritical thankful thing. With an abundance of food in a warm atmosphere where nobody seemed too undernourished or worried or scared.
Afterwards I just happened to drive through the Tenderloin on my way home and saw a few people wandering around out in the cold doing what they normally do. Just another ordinary day hustling dope and keeping out a sight in the cuts. All pretty much strangers to me but here and there were some that I knew. Like Sasquatch with his duffle bag now almost the only person out there on Market Street as I crossed on Fifth and a bus’s headlights framed the wall that he was leaning against loitering in the cold with nowhere to go.
All the usual suspects were huddled on Stillman and Third underneath the glow of the liquor store’s sign as I parked my car and I wondered if they knew about Dre? Probably did. Not much goes down that ain’t known out on the streets a lot faster than it takes to get in the paper. Hell, most of the bullshit that goes on around here doesn’t even get reported in the news. Seems like it takes a death or two to make it worth mentioning. Seems like it only takes but a minute to forget about it too.
This entry was posted on
Saturday, November 27th, 2004 at
9:03 am. 7 responses. You
can follow any responses to this entry
through the RSS 2.0