Monday, November 25, 2013

You're in the Army Now

That's what Bitchy kept saying to me as he passed by me in the kitchen yesterday, ribbing me while I was reluctantly washing up some dishes left over from an early Thanksgiving shindig put on by The Giving Tree on Thursday. I volunteered to make some pot pies for the building, and had probably spent a total of around ten hours working on them.

It was almost a fiasco, and there were times when I felt like throwing my hands up in the air and calling the office to have the building manager let Mr. Giving Tree know that there's a turkey in the oven and a mess in the kitchen and he can do whatever he wants to with both because the liquor store is calling to me. The prep I did the evening before went smoothly, even leisurely as I puttered out into the kitchen to regularly stir the filling ingredients (minus the turkey) in between increments of forty-ounce camaraderie with some of the brighter and more colorful characters I'm acquainted with here. It wasn't until the next morning, the morning I was going to knead out pie crust while roasting the turkey in the oven, that I ran into both faltering enthusiasm and a cascading series of "Oh, shit!" moments. Waking up an hour late wasn't a big deal, but it set an anxious tone and in retrospect almost stands out as a bleary-eyed ill omen. First the pie dough chose to be uncooperative, refusing to stay together long enough for me to get rounds rolled out placed and in the pie tins an on the wax paper I'd set aside for the purpose. As if that wasn't enough, I discovered the hard way that the second floor oven doesn't work properly: even though the turkey weighed less than fourteen pounds and was in a pre-heated oven for three hours I ended up tearing the thing apart (really) and nuking a third of it. Okay, big deal: it went into pot pies with butternut squash, yellow and green onion, and portobella mushrooms in a thick rosemary and thyme filling sauce, so it didn't matter how it was cooked — just it was less pleasant a day on the clock, so to speak, than I'd have preferred.

I didn't eat any of it. Cooking sometimes kills my appetite for food, especially when the work involved is hectic or tedious. A handful of neighbors thanked me for having soldiered through the ordeal, and along with the building manager praised the pies, which is exactly how many I figured would be so courteous and is a decent number; less than five pies were eaten out of the six I baked, so apparently there wasn't a huge turn-out — which kind of surprises me. Will I do it again next year? Probably; I made inferior prototypes last year (or was it the year before?). Will I eat any of it then? No telling.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Danse Macabre

The consensus here is that this is a sick building, or at least it is among those whom I've spoken with. A building people crawl into to die, save for those who get thrown out and the occasional person who moves on to grander things.

I've been here for four years and three months, and in that span of time I know of seven people who have died. That's 1.61 cadavers per annum: four from the fourth floor, two the third, and one the second floor I currently live on. None of the Faifield fatalities is female; each of them was a male, ranging in age from the late-forties to the mid-seventies, the median age probably being somewhere in the mid- to late-fifties. All of them were Caucasian, one of them a Latino; being that I live in White City most of the people who move into this place are white, with only a handful of black people thrown in to put some color into the local demographics — ratios that are reflected in the mortality statistics, naturally. The guy who just recently died was from the fourth floor and lived in this building with two brothers, each of them at first living on a different floor, until Pablo moved down here from the third floor (like I did!) ... now there's some statistics for you! What are the odds of that occurring? Sleazy C (I called him) died of liver failure in an ambulance en route from the hospital to some kind of care facility, the poor bastard. His brothers are sure to follow suit withing the next ten years, I figure; a lady who works at the corner store called the three of them the Booze Brothers. I used to chuckle every day I heard the ol' Sleazeball staggering past my door, usually yelling at his brother whose room he left behind him or the elevator he was having problems operating. All but one of the seven people who have passed on while I've been living here died either from alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose or from a condition directly caused by lifelong substance abuse.

No, I wasn't dwelling on this somber bit of business all Veterans Day. I just figured it would be more interesting than hearing about the meatloaf and mashed potatoes I ate at a nearby church and how I didn't know the public library was open until shortly before it closed. One thing that does spring to mind when I reflect on the Reaper's nigh-tangible presence here is that I desperately need to eke more out of my days, lest they become a blur that eventually resolves itself into a gurney ride down the brightly lit hallway ... and, suddenly I'm wondering where all the time went. Of course, this is one of the last places I want to die in, but whether I do or not really isn't as important as the quality of life I have to gaze wistfully on as I slip, lurch, or am yanked into oblivion. "Youth is wasted on the young," indeed.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thug Life Halloween

How was your Halloween? Mine was great, until I got pepper-sprayed by one of my neighbors.

It was Hillbilly Wingnut who sent me staggering to the bathroom to run cold water over my face with the shower head for three-quarters of an hour. I'd been partying with Techno Destructo, The Contender, Thug Life, and Jabberwocky for a few hours up in Techno's room, drinking Potter's whiskey (Portland's well drink of choice!) and smoking weed ... and, everything was looking pretty good: no one was maudlin, being a belligerent jerk, or falling all over themselves. It was going to be a pleasant evening, or so I thought. I don't remember what I was doing downstairs on my floor, but around 4:00 PM Hillbilly Wingnut accosts me out of the blue in the hallway demanding I give him his money back; of course I didn't have any of his money, but he'd been drinking heavily for six days straight and was completely out of his mind. There was a few of us down there and all of us were wearing our WTF faces until the big bastard started pushing me around and then finally blasted me point-blank in the face with pepper spray just before he took the elevator up to his floor.

Needless to say, with all the witnesses standing around at the time — not to mention the cameras in the hallways — my assailant was taken away to jail by the police, and as soon as he returns (he did Friday night, hollering a threat up at my window) eviction proceedings will be filed against him. That's the second time someone in this place has been drunk and gotten sufficiently violent with me to get thrown out onto the streets. The first time occurred just a month after I moved in here; I was drinking Olde English and watching a Cheech and Chong movie with my neighbor at the time, King Kamehameha, when I made the mistake of remarking that I felt that Cheech and Chong's comedy was sophomoric. Before I knew it the guy fell into a berserker rage, followed me to my room, and started strangling me right in my doorway! The cops came then, too, and another tenant ended up huddled in a doorway at nights.

This is one of the reasons I was reluctant to move here, alongside hygiene and pest concerns. It's a sad reality that you're going to be around more sketchy people when you live in subsidized housing, or pretty much if you live anywhere with people who are poor and have lousy credit ratings and/or criminal backgrounds. A couple years ago Thug Life gave me a black eye when I was harassing a neighbor he "did business with", and another time I fell during a tussle with Chipper and caught myself such that I dislocated a bone in my right hand and had to have reconstructive surgery done on it. Why violence and criminality are hallmarks of the lumpenproletariat is beyond the scope of this blog. It's not too hard to reason out, though: for many people this is the last stop before the frightful prospect of dying on the streets, so you have a lot of people who have serious personal and social problems; people ranging from the veteran Burnside Cadillac chauffeur¹ who talks to the voices in her head to the ex-con whose fisticuffs diplomacy carried him through a decades-long battle through the projects. In short, we're the people who learned that we're surrounded by cons and bullies and that no one in authority will be there to protect us or to serve justice on our behalf when we're wronged.

Anyway, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for that guy. He seems like a potentially dangerous person, and very much the retaliating type.

¹ A Burnside Cadillac is an old local name for a shopping cart pushed by a street person, named after Burnside Street, which used to have street people sprawled all over its sidewalks in and near downtown. It used to be the name of our local street newspaper.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How to Shine a Shit

Sorry I've been pretty consistently late recently; Mondays aren't always good days for me, even as unemployed as I am, and on such occasions the last thing I want to think about or talk about is my life here.

The exterior of the building is getting painted; well, the trim and ledges are, at least — black, to match The Governor and The Ace hotels nearby. Someone's floor is getting redone, too, the noisy part of which I'm hoping will be finished sometime today. Maintenance is a haphazard process here, and also a very slipshod one. Considering the fact that this building is over a hundred years old and started off as a “gentleman's hotel”, much will be left to be desired in its present incarnation as low-income subsidized housing. Not that I expected much when I moved in, and indeed in some ways it exceeded my expectations; I've lived in MUCH worse! Still, it would be nice if the bathrooms and sinks had water pressure (or hot water for that matter!), the elevator be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the frosted windows with chicken-wire in them the poor residents in half of the rooms have to peer out of were replaced with something less reminiscent of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

This place is a bloody dump, is what it is. It's better than living on the streets, but only marginally so at best and with it comes its own unique problems to replace those left behind in the doorways and beneath the bridges. Before I moved in here I lived beneath an overpass just outside of downtown, and it was a actually decent spot that I kept nice and clean; my main concern was mosquitoes during summer and mildew during fall and winter. No cockroaches or fruit flies or bed bugs; rats and raccoons would have been an issue if I hadn't had the sense at the time to eschew bringing food to my camp ... I still chuckle whenever I recall the night the guy living under the other side of the overpass menaced a raccoon with his machete while the little critter ignored him and kept rooting through his backpack. I didn't have to worry about neighbors smearing molten American cheese all over kitchen counters or feces all over the seats of the toilets, though I must admit it's nice to be able to cook and not to have to crap in a plastic bag. Even the cars driving by kept me up nights only slightly more than nocturnal passers-by do here as they cackle and yodel and scream beneath my window.

I should be grateful, but all I can think about is lead poisoning, asthma, being buried alive in an earthquake, how the kitchen and bathrooms get so revolting I periodically have to go to another floor to potty, or I give up on baking an enchilada casserole in the oven on my floor and settle for microwaving a bowl of ramen or chili instead ... and the fact that we're getting some ridiculous cosmetic face-lift out in front while inside a score of less costly maintenance items can be done to make this place less East Berlin and more suitable for even undesirable humans to live in.

Monday, October 21, 2013

In the Dog House

I'm in the dog house again. Whenever a resident accrues three write-ups within a year for non-compliance with the rental agreement — basic things like not blasting your stereo or having loud parties that meander through the hallways and common areas in the middle of the night, not screaming abusive language at neighbors or threatening them with violence (or actually inflicting violence on them), and not allowing your room to fester ankle-deep in leftover malt liquor and TV dinners — he ends up in a six-month probationary period wherein one more write-up will result in eviction.

So, what did I do? Well, in April I ended up pretty drunk with a couple neighbors and ended up spending the night in noisy revelry, much to the chagrin of many third-floor residents. It wouldn't have been a big deal if it hadn't gone on until 6:00 AM and if I had simply stayed in my or a neighbor's room with the door closed; yeah, I was carousing. A month later I was tanked up again, and this time I was so belligerent I ended up arguing with cops outside the front door of the building! I essentially told the night desk clerk to fuck himself repeatedly as he complained about me walking in the common areas without shoes on (which our black market bicycle connection does all the time and gets away with) and later sitting on the edge of one of the planters in front of the building that amounts to our stoop. The third one occurred just last weekend, when Poopsie called the office while I was screaming at her through her door, which of course was heard over the phone. I wasn't saying nice things, but I've been feuding with her since I moved on the second floor because of her obnoxious music and big mouth.

It's pretty strange how things work in this building: you can crap all over the place and trash it, make as much noise as you want between 8:00 AM and 10:00 PM, and be an all-around inconsiderate, slovenly jerk ... but, if you call people names or fall into garbage cans drunk at night every so often you get into trouble. If you're severely mentally ill or a female you can damn near get away with murder, and I'm sure black people can pull out the “Racist!” card any time it suits them. In other words, there's a tacit cabal of privileged pest vectors, who cause more damage and disgrace to the building than all the sloppy drunks combined; but if I get pissed at someone for pulling my pillows out of the dryer while they're still damp and call her a "Goddamn cunt!" I'm one strike on my way to an eviction while they spend years upon years assured of a roof over their heads while undermining on a daily basis our quality of living.

Put simply, this place isn't managed according to logic, and there's certainly an element of favoritism in play. Is this the norm, how most apartment complexes are managed? Well, regardless I need to behave myself.

Monday, October 14, 2013

We're a Happy Family

With so many people crammed into such a small place, I bet people may wonder just what the social scene is like here. That's right, “social scene”; when you rub elbows with neighbors as often as we do in this place it's inevitable that friendships and alliances, cliques, grudges and feuds, gossip, drama, and even fights arise as a result. The closest analog to a “normal” living situation would be a college dorm, as one of my friends has pointed out; though in this case it's probably more like something halfway between a squat and a barracks.

If I were to roughly classify the denizens of this building, I would separate them into the mentally ill, the addicted, the disenfranchised, the homesteaders, and the rare transient. As you can imagine there's considerable overlap, especially among the mentally ill and addicts. I'd roughly estimate equal parts of the first four groups, with the people who are here only for as long as it takes for them to crawl their way to a higher rung in society's ladder sadly the infrequent anomalies. I need to point out that I differentiate between the disenfranchised and the homesteaders by virtue of power of choice; the disenfranchised are here because they're significantly hindered from returning to the mainstream, whereas homesteaders are perfectly capable of getting out of here and eking out a respectable life among the hoi polloi. I suppose it can be said that we're each of us — or at least most of us — misfits in some way, by nature or inclination or definition; though, as this definition is imparted largely by society, and the word “misfit” is so subjective (and often implies stigma), I prefer appellations along the lines of “fringe-dweller”".

Where do I fit into this metaphor? I'm definitely here by nature and inclination, being that I've luggage collecting dust and moths upstairs and have always felt a deep-seated disdain toward how society in general operates and what its common values and established mores are — For many years in my youth I fantasized about living in the woods an hour or more out of town, and even as an adult urban centers tend to fill me with a vague restless unease. What made me homeless instead of a maintenance-drinking apartment-dwelling IHOP line cook is shoddy social skills coupled with an awful knack for irresponsibility. As a result of years of this I've become one of the disenfranchised; it will take me an awful lot of effort and luck for me to rejoin the work force even as a part-time janitor or prep cook, even if I manage to get my head more even-keeled and subdue my addiction.

Still, as much as this place aggravates and disheartens me, and as much as I refuse to call it “home”, it's actually a bit of a community. Well, each floor is a sort of extended dysfunctional family, with a few interstices between floors in the form of cliques bridged by one or two individuals. For example, I'm buddies with Skate Or Die and get along with the Pope, Bitchy, the Contender, Buzzbomb, Mathemagical, Soda Popinski, and Gas Crazy and his wife(?) Gasoline (who technically doesn't live here yet somehow manages to spend every night here), but I'm on no-speaking terms with Corndog and am actively feuding with my neighbor Poopsie; I hang out with Techno Destructo on the third floor regularly and am acquainted with many people up there, but I seldom venture to the fourth floor and don't know more than a third of those residents. It frequently makes for a colorful dynamic and we often joke that a reality show filmed here would be make a damn funny show.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where Have I Been?

I enjoyed my final binge for the year — at least until Festivus — and when I binge I tend to disappear and avoid doing arduous things like typing coherently. I also tend to blow off responsibilities, not eat anything, and allow my neighbors to set fire to my beautiful carpet. In short, as far as alcoholics go I'm not a functional one, and in fact I'd go so far as to say that if I continue marinating myself with such enthusiasm I'll end up dying beneath an overpass in between a shopping cart and a pile of bottles. It's a huge part of why I've never held jobs and consequently have a lousy résumé, and also why I've lost a lot of friends and have never been a decent boyfriend; it's the reason behind so much that's gone wrong with my life that it would make too long a list for this post. No, I'm not feeling sorry for myself, nor do I blame my upbringing or society for my errant behavior; while it's something I dislike about myself, all I'm doing is telling it like it is.

But, tomorrow I'm going to start working — in a manner of speaking — and this was when I'd planned on starting getting my act together in earnest. The stars are favorably aligned, so to speak; oftentimes self-betterment requires favorable circumstances or hopeful prospects, lest the will falter after the first couple miles ventured into the foothills. By "in a manner of speaking" I mean I'll be receiving a monthly stipend for volunteer work done for the community for three months. Not a “real job”, but a sight better than returning collected bottles and cans for their deposits. It's a Central City Concern program called Community Volunteer Corps (an obvious homage to the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps) and it's probably the only Central City Concern program that strikes me as being truly beneficial and not geared toward domesticating mental illness and addiction. Besides, it's nice to do things like paint over graffiti and assemble food boxes; much more gratifying than dish-dogging or swishing mop water around a floor. I've always thought it a shame that most jobs don't seem to entail doing anything to better our ailing world or long-suffering peers, rather in many cases the opposite.

I'm sure I'll miss getting drunk periodically, especially when a neighbor staggers up to me with a silly grin on his face and spouts off some mirthful nonsense while I'm fussing over something on the kitchen stove. I remember dancing with the Pope a few nights ago, promenading in the hallway after she saw me break out into the running man ... I don't think I've danced once in well over a decade, and not convincingly since I was fourteen. It was pretty damn cute, actually.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Elixer of Death

You know somebody's having one of those days when he blurts out “God, I need a shot of dope!” the moment you inform him that it isn't Sunday but in fact Saturday. The building's black market bicycle dealership paid a surprise visit to my floor yesterday morning, sniffing coffee through my cracked-open door and asking me if I had any to spare; I didn't have much but I gave him a the rest of the Folgers® I found by the side of the freeway offramp the day before.

As funny as that sounded at the time — or scandalous, if you're not inclined toward morbid humor — substance abuse is rampant in subsidized housing. Just a couple weeks ago someone on the fourth floor overdosed on either some kind of barbiturate or benzodiazepine, possibly taken with alcohol. So far as I know, since I moved in here a little over four years ago we've had three deaths by overdose and two from health complications directly caused by substance abuse: just months after I settled in Thunder Dan on the fourth floor died from an overdose on the fourth floor, I don't know of what but it was rumored to be meth; about a year-and-a-half after that I found myself offering a lady police officer a bandana sprayed with lavender essence to keep her from vomiting all over the coroner examining the remains of one BCK, who had overdosed on alcohol and pills and was melting into his mattress (I'm the one who discovered and reported the unmistakable stench of death wafting out from behind his door); and, not long after that some poor guy who had just moved in a few weeks before and was trying to kick his habit was found dead from an overdose in one of the common bathrooms on the third floor. I've lived through six deaths, which averages to about one-and-a-half per year, five of them resulting from alcohol and/or drug abuse; over eighty percent.

It's pretty damn sad, when you stop chortling over the gallow's humor aspect of it and look at the stark situation with open-hearted honesty. I wish Zyklon B on the assholes in our society who self-righteously revile substance abuse and its terrible effects on people's lives; people who treat a tragic and insidiously ubiquitous reality like it's someone jocky boxing in a parking lot. News flash: for every dope fiend sleeping in a doorway there's a score of "respectable" members of society drinking themselves down the drain or gobbling prescription drugs like honey-roasted peanuts, putting the lie to the lingering misconception that substance abuse is chiefly the domain of the hopeless lumpenproletariat. I personally struggle with alcohol dependence, and I can tell you — just like any other honest addict, be they abusing needles and pills, lines, or nickels and dimes and wines — that I'd love to go back in time, even if it meant becoming an unrecognizably different person, for the chance to have made a few decisions differently and to not have this damn crow perched on my shoulder barking into my ear.

What started out as being funny ended on a bleakly personal note, and frankly it's cast a pall of gloom over my day that paints the rain-swollen heaven outside my window a balmy July noon in comparison. I don't want to go out like those guys; there's better ways to die than slumped over a toilet with a needle in your arm or melting into your floor next to a half-empty bottle of vodka.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Smooth Jazz Sunday

Silence reigns all throughout the building except for the occasional stereo being played; I'm listening to jazz on the local station now, the kind of smooth stuff that perfectly accompanies a soft rain and twilight's descent into night. Fall has arrived with all the subtlety of Napoleon: overnight the daytime temperatures dropped to delightful sixties and seventies and the clouds rolled in and occluded that frightful blistering orb and washed the air and the streets clean; soon it will wash the raucous revelers back home early on the weekends and scare the migrant Road Warrior population down to California. (Road Warriors are the packs of “punk rock” kids who travel up and down the I-5 corridor with their dogs; burdening local social services and leaving nothing but garbage, disrespect, and an aversion to honest living in their wake.)

It wasn't always so silent, at least not on my floor. A couple days in a row I decided to allow my resolve to become responsible to waver and ended up inviting assorted neighbors over to my place to drink. Yeah, the room with the nice carpet that everyone seems eager to put cigarettes out on! That's the thing about alcohol, it causes inhibitions to relax while also impairing judgment; that's why there's such an appalling recidivism to drinking and driving, because the best of intentions evaporate after a few drinks and the car keys have been wrestled out of a friend's hands again. (I'm lucky I don't live on the third floor anymore, because up there residents love to complain about noise, and three noise violations within a year can result in an eviction; here on the second floor neighbors either directly confront each other whenever there's some kind of problem or just gripe about it in gossip.) Hell, Mr. Brownsville from the fourth floor almost broke my computer by falling on what I use as a computer desk! Needless to say, he had to leave right then. It's just amazing to me how slipshod many of the drinkers here are. I very seldom get drunk enough to slur significantly or to fall down; I probably learned my lesson when I popped a bone out of my right hand trying to catch myself falling when really drunk three years ago, resulting in reconstructive surgery that has left my right index and middle fingers noticeably weaker and will no doubt hurt like hell as arthritis sets in over the coming years. Maybe I'm just burned out and only drink when I'm bored and want company I can't suffer with any grace except by being intoxicated. Either way, alcohol is ebbing out of my life even without me actively pursuing any form of treatment, and I'm glad because it's a really dirty and destructive high that wreaks havoc on the human body.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Insects: Good and Bad

I managed to dodge a second spraying of my room by pest control today. A friendly representative of Cross Pest control visits us every third Wednesday to bait and spray assorted infested rooms in the building, also the shared kitchens and bathrooms.

Such a rigorous schedule is absolutely necessary to prevent a six-legged tide from rising up past our ankles. That's because many of the people who live in subsidized housing are either severely mentally ill and tend to hoard anything from clothing picked up off the street to teetering cliffs of food-encrusted Hungry Man® trays, or are just complete slobs whose hygiene hails directly from that practiced by Kublai Khan's feared legions. We are waging a war on three fronts: against cockroaches, bed bugs, and fruit flies. I remember my first summer here, before pest control started regularly baiting the common areas, when cockroaches would occasionally drop off the suspended ceiling in the kitchen — once on me! The cockroach situation is much-improved, but the bed bugs have swelled in ranks enough for me to occasionally spot one clinging to one of the community bathroom walls, and because we don't have a garbage chute there's always a small swarm of fruit flies hovering around the trash cans and recycling bins in the common kitchen — not to mention spilling out of rooms inhabited by the more slovenly alcoholics.

My room had been sprayed for bed bugs last month because when the janitor hauled my mattress out of the basement for me to clean with Urine Off® I found a couple of them on it. No, no one peed my bed, but a few days before a guest had managed to spew all over the side of it (also breaking my nice wood TV tray), whereupon in a fury I tossed my entire bed out into the kitchen to be taken away. Well, I changed my mind, because even with a nice thick carpet the floor isn't nearly as comfortable for me to sleep on as it would have been twenty years ago. That bed bug spray reeks; for days I would wake up feeling like I was in a Raid® commercial. I ended up blasting the bottom of my mattress (I didn't retrieve the frame or box spring) and the edges of my floor and baseboards with some LA's Totally Awesome to wash out the malodorous insecticide, and today I'm pleased to only catch a faint whiff of the stuff when inspecting the bottom of my mattress for bed bugs; which I do once a week to be safe. I've caught a couple hitch-hikers since I've lived here, so I'm very picky about who is allowed in my room. I'm pretty sure the two I'd spotted a month ago came from the basement, because that's a depot for all the junk left behind in rooms when people leave (usually evicted or dead) until a dumpster is called and everything is hauled out en masse.

Not all insects that invade homes are pests, however. I made the mistake of pointing out to a couple neighbors the spider I found tucked away in a corner of one of the kitchen windows. A guys who lives next door started freaking out, muttering about how he didn't want it to sneak into his room and bite him; I'm pretty sure he's the reason why the little critter's gone now ... Like a spider is going to go out of its way to bite someone on the ass in the middle of the night when its web is positioned right above the garbage cans in the kitchen, where the fruit flies hang out and breed! It was just one of those small banded spiders you see all over the place, spinning webs on porches and around windows and door frames patiently waiting for it's next meal. Seriously, I get a little spooked by spiders, too — thanks to growing up with an arachnophobic aunt — but I also find them fascinating and beautiful, and welcome them in my home whenever I see them because they're not only fascinating to watch but are out to eat the bugs I don't want around. While I've heard repeated rumors of brown recluse bites by homeless people, the only poisonous spider I know of in the Pacific Northwest is the hobo spider.

But, really, for the most part spiders are about as aggressive and dangerous as bees; don't mess with them and they won't mess with you, and they'll even eat help cut down on disease-carrying insects that are a real health threat.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Class-Driven Insomnia

Woke up at 3:00 AM to the sound of a gaggle of slumming suburbanites loitering outside The Roxy next door; guys swaggering and girls skanking like they were posturing for a Maxim photo op, blaring inane trivialities at each other at at least fifteen decibels louder than necessary for people a few feet away to hear. Typical late-night Roxy patrons: freaks from Portland's “alternative lifestyle” scene, bedecked fashionably in flamboyant sexuality and hentai-club clown gear, mingling with suburbanite Forever 21 whores escorted by their thuggish Eminem look-alikes with their pants down around their ankles and paleolithic vocabularies — more than half of them under the influence of something. The sort of shit-kicking imbeciles who think they're “being Portland” when forking over $8 for a burger that tastes like coast guard rations accompanied by fries the flavor and texture of talcum powder; food that can soak up a third of a bottle of Tabasco™ and a quarter of a bottle of ketchup and still not register on the palate.

The owners of that benighted greasy spoon make no effort to rein in their patrons. Not only that, but though our city has laudably strict noise laws, the cops won't show up even if multiple local residents call in to complain; but if any of the aggrieved were to go outside and confront the malefactors a fight invariably ensues and within minutes those sworn to serve and protect will be stuffing people in the back of their cars, of course not those who caused the altercation in the first place.

While The Roxy patrons are the worst by far, Stark Street is an night-life arterial of cacophony, emanating from Yuppies and prom queens leaving Jake's, middle-aged career burn-outs suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome disgorged from the Crystal Ballroom's '80s dance night, and obnoxious faeries and queens preening themselves at Scandals, the gay bar a couple doors down, who seem to think embracing a self-absorbed in-your-face “culture” is the path to societal acceptance. Just to name a few. Then, after tipplers have been kicked out of the bars and trailer-park gastronomes are finished stuffing their guts full of self-loathing at The Roxy, street sweepers and trash trucks trundle, wheeze, screech, and clang down the street in a diesel parade until between 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM on some days! Not to mention random occasions of tweakers and crack heads beckoning their dealers in the nearby roach hotels, street couples engaging in Jerry Springer relationship therapy, and nutters bellowing out their Tourette epiphanies. To summarize, it sucks living downtown; there's nothing that can be done about it, except maybe to close all windows, wear rifle-range ear protection, and bury oneself three feet deep in comforters — and hope to survive suffocation and heat stroke.

In all honesty, it's not like this every day, but often enough to frustrate a healthy sleep routine; especially during summer when it's 60°F at 3:00 AM and it doesn't rain for weeks at a time. As it cools down and the rain returns people will drink inside or at home and not care much for bundling up beneath umbrellas, and we locals can close our windows without waking up in a toaster oven that smells like the bottom of a laundry basket.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Crotch Pot Cooking

It was damn hot today — officially 95°F but I think more like 97°F in my building. Made worse by there being no appreciable air movement, which is almost always the case downtown when the mercury climbs past 90°F. Even now, at 11:30 PM I'm not feeling any of the usual nighttime air movement. I'm going to be up until 3:00 AM, most likely, because unlike any self-respecting Spaniard I can't seem to siesta in the heat. Not only that, but on an alcohol-fueled whim I sold my fan last night. I've suffered through four summers here without air conditioning, and I've had enough; I'm determined to install one before next summer. The thermometer on the wall next to my computer reads 79°F; these old buildings aren't insulated at all, really, and when you have over twenty people living on a floor you almost have to be a reptile to live comfortably here for three to four months out of the year; in the four years I've lived here I can count on one hand the number of times I've had my window shut all the way or my ceiling fan turned off, and not once — even during winter — have I ever turned on the radiator. I'm living in a Matrix power plant.