Saturday, July 21, 2012

Drama in Paradise

The Salvation Army meal last night was some kind of meat patty covered with cheese. The milk had an expiration date of July 13, a week ago. The jug wasn't bloated but the milk made my eyes water when I put it in my mouth. I'm not being ungrateful because it's more than most Christians have done on my behalf. I merely want to describe my days as they happen because I feel alive and I feel surrounded by real people with character and troubles and limps and arthritis. There is no subterfuge or manipulations. I can handle pain but I can't tolerate ulterior motives. I prefer my bunkmates to the pretense of the Cosmopolitan world. I need authenticity to survive and the Salvation Army is real. There are no petty complaints here about politics or minor scratches in paint. We don't argue over small details like spoiled milk. The paper plates fold over and become useless but no one complains.

"Are you finishing that?" someone will ask about some remains of toast or egg or potatoes.
Food is not wasted by hungry people. Only the Los Angeles celebrity Pharoahs celebrating their pathetic films or television shows would stoop so low as to order twice as many braised chicken breasts as they need and then hardly eat the stuff on their plates that I rush from the kitchen to Stage 20 with anguish and immediacy to throw it all in the dumpster. All the while drinking and cheering themselves in brave disorder. Ok. Star Trek: Enterprise wasn't that great a show so don't break your neck sucking your own cock, Scott Bakula. I bathe in the deep hunger and grumbling stomachs of the Men's Lodge like a salve to my burned skin. These are the people who don't waste.
We were folding tables to make room for the paper thin blue foam mats that are overflow beds. One man with two hands that had been terribly burned years ago and a bulging forehead that was partially metal was slamming the legs closed and banging the table closed.
"You got to make so much noise?" asked one of the other kitchen crew.
The man with the metal forehead looked up.
Slowly, he said, "I'm doing my job."
"Well, you don't have to..." and before the dude could respond the metal forehead man had kicked the table to the ground and held up his swollen and red hands.
"I don't need your shit. And I don't need this shit. Fuck you. You think you're boss then put the fucking tables away by yourself."
He seethed and walked deliberately to the hand sanitizing station. Then he walked out the door. We went back to silently putting the tables away and I mentally wrote down all the details to the man's black velcro shoe laces required of the handicapped that slapped the tile as he shuffled away. My mouth watered at the beauty of the event until my own arthritic fingers ached.
That's the attitude that makes Vets who are fully qualified for disability income walk out of the door of the hospital because some minor glitch has made a nurse reply with snooty indifference or contempt. Some men do not respond to contempt well and you basically get one opportunity to contradict or belittle them and you had better make it good because there won't be a second chance. If that means the vet will walk away from benefits he actually earned then the vet will see that as a sacrifice one must make not to tolerate any bullshit. That's character and it's non-existent in the temp agent secretary robots with company mandates and false grins and prepackaged virtue.
And the list of characters goes on, mostly disabled from falls or arthritis or domestic violence or alcohol abuse. They are the ones who refuse to tolerate the red tape bullshit that will lead to real benefits from the state. The get frustrated because the process is actually frustrating. The government doesn't want to put them on the dole so they set up obstacles like belligerent gate keepers. If you can't tolerate the gate keeper then you will end up at the Salvation Army because in general no one fucks with anyone else. Exceptions do occur.
Last night I was crippled with collarbone pain and back pain as residual effects from the construction gig I had in Austin where we worked in a 120 degree attic moving 100lb masonite sheets around along with steel plumbing pipe. I didn't complain until I saw the paycheck that meant I lost money on the day. Motherfuckers! I pissed in a cup for this? Anyway, I was beaten down by my exercise routine to jump through hoops at the temp agency to get the chicken breast processing gig. See, it's funny. Other investigative journalists have no problem getting those kinds of jobs but I'm actually so totally on the fringe that most of these companies balk at dealing with me. The truly don't want me to work for them and I don't blame them. If I could raise chickens on stolen Indian land then I'd do it myself but Jim Bowie got here first.

The trip was actually death defying as I drove my 1974 Vespa Ciao all over the city and did not see a single bicyclist or scooter. It's all 6 and 8 cylinder trucks going in circles of futility with empty beds and passing me within inches to race to the next red light. I mean, it is a guarantee that I'll be hit one day but I have no money to buy gas for the van so I must use the moped or else wait 3 hours for the bus that might or might not come through this stone age town. So I spent two hours massaging my prostate and cock for the benefit of the temp agent whore broker to make sure I'm not on opiods...which is really a joke because A) I have no money for gas and B) THEY HAVEN"T EVEN OFFERED ME A JOB! So it's basically like pissing in a cup for a total stranger you may never see again with no benefit or reason behind any of it. But I did it because my goal as an investigator into the current war on the impoverished is not to hide in quite despair in an apartment or condo and count my nickles but to be on the front line and see exactly what the poor deal with every day. I will deal with it as a poor person and I will report on it and maybe the insane persecution will end one day. hahahah.
So I was tired from climbing futile fake ladders and doing squats and weight lifting and squeezing grips to accrue a score that would qualify me to strip chicken breasts off the rib cages of dessicated birds. And I rode over to the library by B's house and determined that when I left my 20 year old Nalgene water bottle there the previous evening, someone had taken it instead of turning it into the lost and found. More collateral damage. Then back across town in the 102 degree heat, dodging traffic and stray dogs and pot holes as I learn my way around this car centered city...absolutely roasting in the asphalt inferno. Of course I run out of gas and have to pedal in the heat and nearly have a stroke but I make it back to the van where I have permanently parked it by the salvation army with the other broken down vans from out of state. I'm in time for evening meal which was the meat patty I talked about earlier and some potatoes and salad. I threw it down my face because the only other food I had all day was a .25 cent Bolillo bread and some water packed chicken slices from H.E.B. .75 cent meal that makes me constipated but keeps me alive. And then they put on a bootlegged movie called "Tower Heist" which was utterly stupid and couldn't keep the attention of even the most bored homeless person who drifted off to sleep and dream of big rock candy mountain. And I soon fell asleep though I forgot to take the mandatory shower and stank of water packed chicken slices and sweat. Failure hung in the makeshift bunk room like a low fog.

"Take your hands off me!"
That's what I wake up hearing. I have placed my hat on my face because for some reason the kitchen (overflow bunkroom for our foam mats) has constant light on and my eyes can not close when I sleep so they end up bleary and worn. There is an awful confrontation nearby. I look at the donated wall clock, "2:30 am" oh hell, the 15 men sleeping with boots on, aching arthritic arms and backs preventing even the most restless kind of sleep. Bald heads, gray ear hair, smelly feet, snoring, hungover, penniless. Those who are not passed out look over to see two men arguing. I don't care about it because I've got ear plugs in. I pull the scratchy "disaster blanket" to my mosquito bitten neck and go back to sleep. I have my own thoughts and in those thoughts I am protected or imprisoned. If they had a piano I'd be happy.
Morning comes fast. Lights are on and the kitchen crew gets to work at 5 am after my split shift sleep. I roll over and am pleased the pain has dispersed from my back and neck and shoulder. I'm sore from the exercise routine that the whore broker temp agent put me through but really I need the controlled exercise. I'm stiff and sore. My cock is hard but I'm not going to beat off here among the human debris of three military wars and the political war on the impoverished. Immediately my cock gets soft when I think of the evil and robotic temp agent lackey who forced me to piss in a cup to demonstrate my ability to solder circuit boards. I devise ways to exact my revenge. I bathe in my resentment and bitterness, seething at the injustice. At least no one smokes cigarettes like B did in her cavern of hate. At least there are no cockroaches and no maggot-filled cups brimming with disease. No memories of child abuse. No handwritten notes taped to the television screen announcing, "YOU ARE THE MOST HORRIBLE!" There's smelly feet and there is character and we are all starting our day. I've lived in the van for 4 years and I prefer it to the shelter but the change is good for me. I see my purpose more clearly and the material I need falls on my lap like a plate of warm oatmeal and raisins in front of us. The boss marches around and says he won't tolerate fights. He tells me to take my hat off, which I've forgotten is on.
"Today is a new day to improve your life," he says and I can't argue with him. I get going, brush my teeth. The damn dental clinic isn't answering the phone so I'll be like the other refugees and go to Mexico to get my teeth cleaned at Nuevo Progresso. I'll drink margaritas with the luck pensioneers who shower money on teenage whores with smooth skinned babies. I'll do that but first I'll murder chickens and shave their breasts for my water packed slices. Hopefully I won't lose money.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.