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.