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#17919 - 09/28/03 10:04 PM A second Lifetime
brian-z Offline
Member

Registered: 07/11/02
Posts: 770
Loc: Western USA
These are real events in my life but I have taken some liberties with names and a few places.

Day Zero

Union Station
The Redline Subway Platform
801 Vignes St
Los Angeles, CA

Before that moment I had believed I was an incurable insomniac. But the transit worker shaking me awake shattered that illusion forever. "End of the line" he said "this train is going out of service, sorry, you look like you pretty tired." I was. I said something I think was coherent, I just don't remember what it was.

I looked at my watch and nearly fell over with shock. I had been asleep on the subway for nearly 5 hours. Almost reflexively I reached down to my pocket... good my wallet was still there. It had been 11 hours since I quite, or was fired depending on how you look at it. All that mattered was the fact that I was now unemployed.

My body told I was not ready to be done with sleeping. I didn't want to spend the money on a room, but I guess there was not much choice. There is a commonly held belief that you can't get a room in L.A. for under $50 a night. This is simply not true. Of cores it means going to skid row down about 7th street, but you can get a bed for $15 a night plus a small key deposit. This was not a problem for me because I was leaving from the 7th street greyhound station anyway.

I looked at my watch again, 6:19pm. I was hungry. I thought about just hopping and a train to Perusing Square, that would get me in walking distance on my hotel and I could get something to eat at the Grand Central Market. And then the sad reality of Los Angeles sank in. Central Market would be closing up and I was not really thrilled about walking around 7th street after dark. So I decided to just go find a room, and worry about food later.

I did take the redline to 7th Street Metro. I took the Hope street escalator to street level. I crossed the street and caught a bus 60 in front of Macys's Plaza. I only took the bus 6 or 7 blocks to either Main or Los Angeles I'm not sure now.

The dump of a "hotel" I checked into was called "The Madison". Room 25 just across the hall from the toilet. I just dropped my backpack on the bed. I had no intention of unpacking anything. I would sleep in my cloths and in the morning I would fish out clean underwear. I am or my not take a shower in the morning I decided. I was going to be on a bus full of backpackers, on one would notice.

Now, I needed food. The guy at the desk was an enigma unto himself. He called me "MR. Kelly" as if somehow sensing that I was a fellow refugee from middle class. Except I wasn't really middle class, I did however put up a convincing front. I asked him if there was a place to eat that was open around there. I was very surpassed to learn there was. Just up at Broadway there was a food court with a KFC and a Carl's JR and a few other fast food outlets and it was open until 9pm. But just up the street there was a little place called "88 Burger" it was run by a couple of Koreans and open all night.

88 Burger may be impossible to describe but I am going to try. It is a real place and I am going to describe it the events that took place there just as they happened because of amount of embellishment could ever do it justice.

Day Zero

88 Burger
E. 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA

It is a dingy pinkish gray little shack with and unlit sign baring the name "88 Burger". I think it was made to look like a cottage out of Hansel and Grettal or some other fairy tail, the effect was lost on skid row. In the daytime you could eat inside. But at night food was served from a little window on the side and there was a patio.

3 Mis-Pacman video games, no less than 4 drug dealers on foot and at lest 2 on bikes. Hoes (hookers.) About 15 homeless people. 2 port-o-potties. And at a ruff guess 5 people claming to be God or sent be God or otherwise divine. And the smell, a mix of frying meat, urine, feces, cannabis, car exost, and despair. It was like so horrible accident on the freeway it was awful but I was drawn to it, I could not look away.

I had to cross the street to get there. I crossed it.

Upon closer inspection, 88 Burger was much worse then it appeared from the other side of 7th. It was a surreal dream of the American ideal becoming a nightmare. Out of nowhere I heard the opening bars of "La Masears" that then segwaid into The Beatles "All You Need Is Love". 30 years of human existence had not prepared me for that moment. Now had I had any sense at all, I would have just gone for some KFC or whatever. But as I said I was drawn there.

The sickly shit & pee smell was gone by the time I crossed the street. I briefly wander if the smell some universal force marking it's territory.

This is how it happened. I can't really say how or what started it so I will only try to tell it from my point of view.

The patio was lit by Florissant lights, and held four picnic tables and 3 Mis-Pacman games.

There was a sudden shift in the universe, I don't know how else to describe it. The smell of food cooking and surreal atmosphere had the most bizarre calming effect on me.

The Korean on the other side of the little window that served as 88 Burger's access to planet earth smiled as I stepped up to the window. It was the same as the guy at the front desk of the Madison. This recognition that I was something apart from the world of skid row. On the outside I was not really that different, my hair was a little to long, I was in old soft faded jeans, an old comfortable lose fitting T-shirt. But something in the way I walked and spoke gave me away.

I looked at the menu for a few minutes. "Two cheese burgers" I finally said "everything on them, fries and a coke". The Korean smiled and nodded then handed the order it to another Korean.

"Haay baby" the creature said to me "come'mon lets get a room to geth'a" she was probably 35 but looked 50. I had been working at a hotel until that morning and had seen plenty of crack hoes in my ten-year at the Adventure Hotel in Inglewood, CA. And I have come to the conclusion that the crack hoe is there to sever the needs of the very poor and very insecure. Mostly the latter. I was poor but would never be that desperate (besides, I'm gay). Now, I am very mild mannered (meek & humble) at least that is how I had always thought of myself. The crack hoe (not to me confused with a crack whore) often serves the needs of young white men to insecure to even go out and find a descent prostitute.

I just said, "go bother someone else"

"come'mon les get a room"
"not interested"
"you got'a sack I take care of you all night long" (sack, sang for drugs)
"GO AWAY"
She put an arm around me.
"come'mo..."

I'm not proud of what happened next, in fact I'm very ashamed of it, but it is what happened.

I don't think she knew that I hit her or just how hard until she hit the picnic table behind her. I don't think I knew just how hard until I saw the blood around her mouth and on her shoulder.

I stared at her waiting the sky to fall, but no one seemed to care, there were a few laughs, but that was it. She got up shakily, mumbled something and walked away. I look at my fist. I didn't see any blood but I reached down to the small pouch I carried on my hip and took out an antiseptic wipe and cleaned my hands.

I looked back at the window, the Koreans didn't seemed a bit concerned by what happed. I reach down and was going to wipe up the little bit of blood that had spattered on the table's bench. But then stopped 'let some one else get HIV or God knows what else' I thought to my self. The Beatles song ended. Reality began to snap back into focus. Where was I and what the hell was I doing? The Turtles "So Happy Together" began to play.

My food was ready, I paid the Korean $4.21 and I sat down at an unbloodied table. It was then I realized that the Korean was probable in the habit of making his customers pay first. Oh man was I out of my depth.

The sky caved in.

"YOU GOT MY FUCK'N HORN BITCH" oh my God he was huge and he was talking to me. I think "horn" is slang for a hypodermic needle, but I not sure. All I could think was 'don't show fear'. I eat my cheeseburger and starred passed him as if I could see through him. He lost interest in me. "who's got my horn" I heard him as he wandered about the street. Then he seemed to regain his interest in me and I think I know why. Every one else was small almost emaciated. He and I weren't. We both probable weighed about the same but he was a good 4 inches taller and I'm sure had a longer reach, and with him, it looked like a lot more muscle. "ge me my horn, bitch" he said in a voice that was almost pleading. "I don't have it I said" trying to hid what was fear becoming terror.

"give me yours then"
"I don't have one"

He walked up to me and pounded his fist into the table through my other burger.

I pepersprayed him.

I have seen people get sprayed before, and I have been sprayed before. But I had never seen anything quite like this. At first I thought it had no effect on him. Then he stepped back and said, "that ain't right dog, that ain't right". I thought I was dead. But he just stood there looking at me as if I had... well I can't describe the way he looked at me. Like I had betrayed him in some way.

I left before the cops showed up, if they showed up.

Day Zero

Madison Hotel
Room 25
Los Angeles, CA

On my way in the clerk handed me my key and I went to my room. I went up the stares to room 25 with a brief stopover at the toilet.

Day One

Madison Hotel
Room 25
Los Angeles, CA

I did take a shower and change my clothes.

My portable alarm clock told me it was almost 4am and I was going to be late if I didn't step on it. I handed in my key as I walked out the door to the street. It was dark and surprisingly cold. I looked east on 7th, no sign of the bus station. I looked the bus stop, the 60 was supposed to run all night. I pulled out my change to see if I had a bus token left, I did. I stepped up to the bus stop wondered if it would just make more sense to walk. It was only about it was only 2 or 3 minutes before a bus came. I was a good thing I didn't walk, the station was 14 blocks through the worst part of town.

Day One

Greyhound Bus Station
1716 E. 7th St.
Los Angeles, CA

11 maybe 12 years before, I had changed busses at the downtown L.A. station on my way to my first posting in Highland, CA. I was a little surprised that this was not the same station. It was much smaller then the one I remember. I was no stranger to the bus but if I did go to Socal I would use the Hollywood station or come in on the train.

I got off at my stop. And the barkers started in Teijauna, Fresno, Sacramento, or just about any place you want to go to on the west coast. It's an interesting setup, the find people all going to the same place, fill up a van, split the gas, and $20 for the driver. Of cores it's 18 to 20 people stuffed into a van for 10 to 15 hours, but you can save some money. But not for me, not this trip.

I found my group right away. It wasn't very difficult, a group of kiwi backpackers stands out even in the downtown Los Angeles bus station. I wasn't exactly being paid for playing guide to the New Zealanders but I was getting a free ride & room out of it.

I explained a few of the basics about Mexico, assured a few of the doubters that there would be no problem getting a visa in TJ. I took out my tourist card (visa) and showed it to them. I also explained that if they wanted to save the 189$ ps ($17 USD) that no one would check to see if you had one unless you got in to trouble with the law, and if they did they would just fine them the 189$ or kick you out of the country. I also dispelled some of the myths about Mexico and Tijuana. TJ is a very save city, except for a few poor neighborhoods. We would only be in TJ a day and a half before the charter bus would pick us up and take us to the hostel.

Day One

Greyhound Bus
Freeway
Some place south Los Angeles

Her mane was Rachel, and she loves rollercoasters. And she was expressing her disappointments with Disneyland to me as we passed a sign showing a 30 foot Mickey Mouse. She then told about her day at Magic MT. And seeing and being snubbed by Jewel (who or what ever that is). I tried to tune her out as best I could, until she hit me with a question I was not expecting. "So, what is it" she asked "the rumor is something like MS". I had to take a minute to answer.

"It's called VHL" I answered "it is a little like MS, it's neurological". She seemed to be waiting for more. "I took meds for it, but I stopped taking them a few months ago". She nodded her head indicating to me that she wanted me to continue. "it's incurable" I said and looked out the window, my way of saying I didn't have anything more to add.

"I thought you were retarded or something at first."
"Yeah I get that a lot"
"But you came off as really intelligent once I talked to you. Did you got to university?"
"Yes, but I dropped out"
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"No"
"Why not?"
"I'm gay"

She stood up and turned around "James, you're right" she shouted. "It's called Gaydar and it's never wrong" James responded. She sat back down. Now that I was outed I was unable to serpress a laugh, I live in fear of coming out for so long. And now it was impossible to think about living any other way.

"Do you mind talking about this with me"
"No"
"Boyfriend?"
"No"
"Why not?"
"Out of shape and it wouldn't really be fair"
"Unfair... is that because of the V-whatever you called it?"
"Von Hipple Lindau, and yes that's why"
"If your in love withsome one what differnce does it make?"

I didn't answer.

We spent the rest of the trip, talking where we had been in the world and where we hoped to go.

Day One

San Ysidero Port of Entry
USA/Mexico International Frontier
Customs Inspection, Mexico side

"What's going on?"
"Mexican boarder cops checking for guns, don't worry about it"

Day One

Hotel Laredo
2nd four
Tijuana
Baja California
Mexico

Rachel and I where sharing a room. I she talked a lot but I liked her anywhay, she had a certain charm. There was some talk about going out as a group, but that was short lived, the guys (minus James and myself) wanted to go to Constution Ave. TJ's redlight distict. We did go to Revolution Ave as a group and had lunch. After that we all split up into smaller groups. I told everyone to meet me at the hotel and I would take the to Imagration to get the tourist cards at 5:30pm then every one could do what they wanted that night.

Rachel, myself and two other Kiwi grils took a cab to the beach. The water was the same shad of brown it was in Santa Monica, but the beach was a lot less crouded. I felt akward being a chaperon but that is just what I was I realized. I played in the water, or "Body serffed" while the grils sun bathed. As much as I clame to loath the beach I had a really good time. After a bit, Rachel and anther gril named Erin (I think) joined and showed me the proper way to use a boogy board.

Just after 4pm it was getting crouded so we desided to pack it in and hed back to town. We saved the money for a cab and got a ride back to town from one of the guys selling bottled water at the beach. I wish I could remember his name.

He dropped us two short blocks from our hotel. We went back, showered, changed and got ready got the evaning. My plans where simple I was going to stay in my room and watch TV. The memory of the night before had soured the idea of going out for me.

Day One

Outside Hotel Laredo
Tijuana
Baja California
Mexico

It was a 15 minute walk to the imagration office at the baorder. It was open 24 hours but it was only accesable from the US side after 7pm. I didn't want to hasle with it the next day so I said I would show them where it was tonight, if they didn't want to get it that was there bussiness. I went to the Mexican entry plaza, I showed the imagration office, then the bank where they paid the fees. Rachel explaned that they had broked off from a larger group of Kiwi's and that they had not planned to go to Mexico. I was a little suprised, to learn that none of them had traveled before. They had been swindled by a phony tour guide and desied to just make the best of it and see the US on there own. The tour operator had promised a bus tour across the US but when they got Los Angeles there was no bus. The guy had upsconed with the cash and left them heigh and dry. This was 3 weeks before. Rachal and her group desided to go to "Jay's" a hostel on the beach in Baja California. I had been there before was ready to quit, so I was drafted into playing guide to the Kiwi's. I'm sorry if this seems repetitive.

Day two

On a Bus
Baja California
Mexico

The Mexican bus system is better then anything we have in the US. Using the Mexican rating system the bus we were on was 2nd class, it was like a nicer, roomer and cleaner version of grayhound. A few people asked me for few useful phrase in Spanish, I told them my Spanish was not very good and they woun't need it anyway.

I was in hell. A few months before I was on a cocktail of Neurontin & Dilantin and it made all the differince in the world. But now the tremmers where back with a vengince. 'Oh God now think I'm drewling' it was a horifiaing thought. I focused all my will and engery into not moving... acting like I was asleep. I could handle dying, but humiliation was too much, the true legacy of SA.

Day two

On the Beach
Baja California
Mexico

I just wanted to be left alone, and thankfully I was. I didn't even try to set up my tint. I just roled out my sleeping bag. I stared at the water. Not brown down here but gray, and a little clearer.

Day two

On the Beach
Baja California
Mexico

My brain and body were now in open revolt agenst me.

Day two

On the Beach
Baja California
Mexico

I had gone insane, it was the only posible explanation. I was hearing voices. I was seeing things that were not there. I had entered finaly stage VHL.

Day Three

On a Bus
Baja California
Mexico

I would get the drugs I need in TJ. I would get a room and take a few to stableize.

The bus was 3rd class, I was not traviling with goats and chickens like you see in movies but it was very crouded and it took a lot longer becuse the bus was always stoping to let people on and off. The shaking had stopped for now, my body was giving me some respite.

Day Three

A cheap motel
Tijauna
Baja California
Mexico

Duran Duran "A View To A Kill" I recognized the tune even though I could not hear the lyrics. The 80's new wave mix had been going no for 7 or 8 minutes and would probabley go on for a while. The Neurontin & Vicondin had really kicked my ass, but I was up now. I decided to go check out Le Closet (a real place 1st and Revolution in TJ). I think I was more than a little stoned from the Vicondins but I was in real bad shape when I got back to TJ that afternoon I need something. Madness "Our House" I was actuly singing a long. As I walked in the the door of the club it was obvious that no one was asking or telling in the US Navy.

Day six

Union Station
801 Vignes St
Los Angeles, CA


The meds were doing there thing. But my vision was the worst it had ever been. I need to se a doctor, but I knew I wasn't going to.

I found a room, got something to eat, and slept.

Day Fifty Three

Washoe County Jail
911 Parr BLVD.
Reno, NV

"Role up your stuff you're being released." At first I thought it was a sick joke. But I roled it up and stood by the door. It clicked I exited. The dep took my books and any other jail property I had then took me back to booking to sign my stuff out. The charges had been dropped.

Day Eighty Seven

north of Reno, NV

"pull over"
"are you ok?"
"please pull over"

She stopped the car. I walked to the front of the car and looked at the head lights, both on. I put my hand overleft eye, both on. I put my hand over my right eye, nothing. I was blind in my left eye. I got back in the car.

Day One Hundred and Nineteen

Hotel Celces
Room 811
Los Angeles, CA

I looked down at the street, it would be to easy to do. So simple, nothing to it. But I couldn't do it without saying good bye to Sam. We wrote each other just about every day, he was the only person that would just listen and not anilize or judge.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Four (the last day)
Hollywood DLVD
Hollywood
Los Angeles, CA

Names and places have been change.

He was not 18. And was asking an amount far below the going rate. "What's your name?" I asked. "You hungry? Your in the wrong part of town for this, all your going to find in Hollyweird are freeks and scyntoligests". The memory of what happened at 88 Burger made it impossible for me to keep walking. "Carlos" he finaly answered. Hi didn't really look Spanish to me but I took him at his word that carlos was his neme. "You want a date or not" he asked trying to sound tough. I answered "not really, but the offer stands, you want to get something to eat?"

He looked at me for a moment scrutinizing me trying to see is I was one of the before mentioned freaks. "what do I have to do?" he said not trusting me, wich to me was the 1st sencable thing he had done. "Not a thing" I said.

He had run away from home, I kwen that before he told me. His stepfther drank and was abusived, or so he clamed. He had huslted (or tried to) for the 1st time that night. After some convincing I got him to call his mon. He was suprisingly honest with her and she then asked to speak to me. After a few minets we worked out the detales of getting him home. She paid for a bus ticket I was to pick it up for him at will call from the Hollywood station. I took him to Ralph's and bought him some bottled waters, corn chips and a package of orero's (teenages boys have no sence of nutrition)and I gave him $10 for snacks, I should have given him more but it was all I had. Then to the landry mat, and the Hollywood Hostel (run by friends of mine) so he could have a shower. 2 hours later I saw him off on the bus. A few days later I got an eamil from his telling me he was safe at home. Along was a good natured jab about the chips and cookies.

That was my high point. That was 42 days ago. In that 42 to days I was arrested again regained some vision in my left eye and have stabilized back onto my meds.

only 162 days, but for me a second lifetime.


Top
#17920 - 09/28/03 10:47 PM Re: A second Lifetime
Ken Singer, LCSW Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/24/00
Posts: 5780
Loc: Lambertville, NJ USA
<<<<<<>>>>>>

Your post is incredible. Come back safely.
Ken


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#17921 - 09/29/03 09:22 AM Re: A second Lifetime
Mike Church Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 01/23/03
Posts: 3439
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Brian:

You have more guts than a company of soldiers and it is a privilege to know you.

_________________________
Mikey

IT REALLY IS OK TO STUMBLE. NONE OF US ARE PERFECT.

Top
#17922 - 09/29/03 06:45 PM Re: A second Lifetime
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Brian
None of that's in "The Rough Guide to LA" ( and Mexico ) but it tells me more than any guide ever could.

And I include any "guide to life" in that as well.

I don't think anything could surpress your sense of deceny, or adventure....

Dave

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#17923 - 09/29/03 07:34 PM Re: A second Lifetime
Andrew Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/25/03
Posts: 1192
Incredible writing Brian. You might consider approaching a literary agent to have your work considered for representation. You have a wonderfully vivid style that cuts to the chase.
...Andrew

_________________________
there is no courage without anxiety

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#17924 - 09/29/03 08:33 PM Re: A second Lifetime
The Dean Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 2080
Loc: Milwaukee, WI
hi Brian,

I appreciate the goodness that is in you, no matter how ill you may be.

I hope that you are getting good medical attention now.

Peace to you.

Bob

_________________________
If we do not live what we believe, then we will begin to believe what we live.

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#17925 - 09/29/03 09:14 PM Re: A second Lifetime
brian-z Offline
Member

Registered: 07/11/02
Posts: 770
Loc: Western USA
Safe and Back are both relotive terms, but thanks.

I don't see that I did anything that requiered guts.

I'm not really "Rough Guides" material, my idea of roughing it these days is a hotel with out room service and only basic cable. That's not really true, but I'm up to hard traveling anymore. One of the things I didn't write about was being arrested, released, re-arrested, re-released, and arrested again. The Criminal Justice system is very tiring.

I doubt I have what a literary agent would think of as talent. My spelling is bad and my grammar is worse, but thank you for the complement.

The only medical care I want now is tust to keep my levels up and stable.


Top
#17926 - 09/30/03 10:00 AM Re: A second Lifetime
outis Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 2260
Loc: Maryland USA
Quote:
My spelling is bad and my grammar is worse
Brian,

That's why they pay editors. It's really not to make writers' lives miserable. \:\)

You might consider looking into it just on the chance that through your words and ideas you can give something to someone.

Thanks,

Joe

_________________________
"Telemachos, your guest is no discredit to you. I wasted no time in stringing the bow, and I did not miss the mark. My strength is yet unbroken…"—The Odyssey, translated by W.H.D. Rouse

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#17927 - 09/30/03 03:57 PM Re: A second Lifetime
Cement Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 06/05/02
Posts: 740
Loc: Southern California
awesome story, Brian. I hope you will tell us about all the things that happen or happened...

Peace,
James

_________________________
And let the darkness fear our light.

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#17928 - 09/30/03 08:07 PM Re: A second Lifetime
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Brian
editors spell, hell - computors spell now !

Keep writing, that was genuinly good stuff that I would like to read more of.
You write with a passion, and everything was visible to me.

Dave

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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