DRINKING TEA WITH AN EMPTY CUP
a performance art piece.
Adrienne Cahill Warren
San Francisco Ca
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco General Hospital Mental Health Rehabilitation Facility
There now that’s more than enough information for you to Google. What follows is what Paul Harvey would have called, the rest of the story.
A summer day in the park, the sun is shining the birds are singing, the air is sweet, San Francisco not exactly the summer of love.
“Have you given any thought as to how you want this to end? Burt asks me.
And with one stupid question reality comes crashing back in.
I open my eyes and sigh giving Burt a rolled eyed glance of annoyance. I am sitting in the patio of a mental institution, surrounded by the other residents, the shufflers the mumblers the droolers, the screamers are kept up on the third floor with heavier medication so it’s a mostly quiet bunch of wandering misfits here.
Burt is a slim man of comfortable middle years, with short sandy colored hair and a neatly trimmed beard (don’t know what it is with psychiatrists and beards really but so many in the field seem to sport them like it’s a uniform requirement for the degree.) He is dressed in docker office casual.
Burt is a very nice man. He seriously has the whole Alan Alda Sensitive guy thing down pat. He tries really really hard to be helpful. Not because it’s his job, he cares, he really really cares. He seriously has the whole Alan Alda sensitive guy thing down pat. I feel bad for him. There is no way he’ll be getting out of this unscarred. The evil side of my nature is quite looking forward to it. There was a time when I didn’t think this way, but I was much younger then. Now I must confess I am developing a taste for watching people suffer from self inflected wounds.
‘Have I thought of how I want this to end? Stupid question. Given the situation it would be odd if I hadn’t. He can’t help it; everyone in the psychology field is trained in the art of stupid questions.
I keep hoping that he will go off script and ask a question that isn’t in the book. But like most educated men he sticks to what he’s been taught with more lock step belief then a bible carrying minister. This is the part of the book that’s about getting the patient to feel like a participant in their therapy. Helping the patient to express their goals and to help them to set those goals in rational achievable steps. He thinks of it in terms of partnership.
“Yes.” I reply with a slightly exasperated sigh. Oh I know what’s coming next, stupid questions are like potato chips, you can never have just one.
“Well how do you want it to end?”
And there it is.
I roll my eyes and give him the thin lipped smile of annoyance.
“How do you think I want this to end? I want the superman ending of course.”
“The superman ending?”
“Yeh, you know.” I stand and take the classic poise, hands on hips, wide commanding stance, with square jawed determination I gaze out to the horizon and proclaim in Shakespearian tones,
“And the American way.” Burt joins in to finish the last line.
“There you go.” I flash him a grin a sit back down.
“Do you think that will happen?”
(Help the patient examine their goals irrational heights with reasons guiding light)
“Ahh well, let’s see. I’ve lost my apartment; all that remains of my worldly goods is stuffed into two suitcases. My former landlord Richard J. Boccie may still be trying to kill me.”
“Oh I’m sure he’s no longer trying to have killed.” He gives me a meant to be comforting smile.
“Yes well, as you believe the Boccie is nothing more than a legitimate Italian American business man, who has never ever been involved with organized crime, money laundering, drug smuggling, dealing, street gangs or contract murder, I must say that your opinion that he is no longer interested in my death is as surprising as it is useful. But thanks for playing.
“As for myself, I can’t help but wonder: When someone puts out a contract on one’s life does that contract have an expiration date? You know like a coupon? A reasonable person would have given up on me by now. But then Boccie hasn’t exactly been a reasonable person. So I can’t help but have some doubts on the matter.”
“Now to continue, I am currently committed to an insane asylum, excuse me, a mental health rehabilitation facility, because, of course, no one believes that my former land lord Richard Boccie is trying to kill me.”
“So to sum up gotta say it ant looking great for the home team Have to say that the most likely outcome right now is me winding up as another homeless bum adrift on the streets of San Francisco.” I lean back in my chair grinning.
“Oh I’m sure that won’t happen.” Burt the optimist avoids all ugly reality with outright denial. I have often wondered how he manages to stay so cheerful despite the world so consistently disappointing his fluffy kitten dreams.
“That’s nice of you to say but I have no reason to expect a more comfortable ending to the story.”
“Why are you smiling then, if it looks so bad?” (Cheerfulness, a sure sign of mental illness. Well he had me there. Cheerful people piss me off)
“Well Burt any time the facts of the matter begin to depress me I remind myself of the story of the Thief and the Flying horse.”
“The Thief and the Flying Horse?”
“Yes, it’s a cool little story; would you like to hear it?”
Of course he would. It’s his job to listen, and I am an entertaining nutter. I light one of my camels and begin the tale.
Once upon a time, in a kingdom no one remembers anymore. There lived a thief.
He was charming rouge who lived for the wit of the game.
Well, there came a day, as it comes to us all, when his wits failed him Caught red handed; he was hauled in chains before the King.
Now the King had lost some pretty baubles to the thief before and as Kings have long memories and short tempers there was no time lost in contemplating the thief’s sentence.
OFF WITH HIS HEAD the King roared.
You’re Majesty. The thief called out boldly to the king. Doffing his imaginary hat and bowing most extravagantly
I am a thief. A great thief.
He boasted with pride unrestrained by any hint of humility.
I have stolen much in my life, gold jewels, and more than a few kisses. He winked and the Kings old nurse near blushed to fainting.
I have also, as you know my lord King, stolen from you.
Strange plea for mercy, which brags of the offence, muttered the King.
In my travels, I have also stolen a secret or two.
The thief paused
Spare my life, my lord King, and in one year,,,,,,,
Teach your horse to fly.
Well Kings do like to put on a fashionable show.
Very well. The King agrees, “But, if in one year my horse does not fly, I will have your head for the royal spittoon.
Later that day the thief is in the stables getting g acquainted with the Kings favorite horse. When an old friend of the thief bribes his way into the stables to speak with his friend.
Ohh man you have really screwed yourself this time. Teach a horse to fly. Teach a horse to fly? I know you man, you can’t even ride a horse. Do you even know which end is the front?
The thief gives the horses head affectionate pet, smiles, and says
Well, you know, a lot can happen in a year. The King could die, there could be a war, a revolution, the King could convert to a religion that forbids execution. We could become best friends and he won’t want to part with me. I could escape.
Or if all else fails, maybe the god damn horse will fly.
Burt drops his pen and laughs.
“So like the thief you never give up hope?”
“Hope? Good lord no. Hope is a trap.”
“Yes. In hope your imagination stops. You spend your time hoping for a thing to happen or for a thing not to happen. Either way you’re trapped in that place. The thief is aware of what is and open to what could be. He isn’t hoping for anything, but is ready to respond. Like when he stood before the King and was condemned, he didn’t bother hoping that it would not happen, he took what did happen and created out of it a possibility. I don’t hope. Far from it, as I’ve said I have a very pessimistic view of how this will end for me.”
Then why do you smile?”
“Because I believe, as the thief believes that an open imagination can create possibilities out of even the worst of circumstances. I suppose that belief confirms that I am indeed delusional.”
He laughs again. His more guarded laugh. He feels uncomfortable when I laugh about my mental illness. He would be happier if I took my insanity with a greater sense of seriousness
“Ohh yes that’s it baby fuck me, fuck me hard.
(Shit I hate it when they want me to talk. Now I am quite talkative by nature. One of those annoying creatures who has vocal opinions about waaaay to many things. But sex talk? I am more than happy to spend hours discussing the sex habits of the bonobo chimpanzees. Of erotica I can talk Karma Sutra and Japanese pillow books. But , Fuck me hard? Oh oh yah like that baby do me now. Why ohh why do they want me to talk?
When he asked me to marry him he said he would die without me. I said I would be with him till the day he said he no longer wanted me.
I arrived in San Francisco having attended no funeral. Why San Francisco? I think it was the rice a roni adds I saw as a kid. San Francisco always looked so pretty in the ads. Starting your life over why not choose some place pretty? San Francisco is indeed very pretty though despite rice a roni being called the San Francisco treat I never actually saw anyone in San Francisco eating the stuff.
I hit the ground running and in a week I had an apartment. 430 O’Farrell st. Apartment 401 .Richard J. Boccie, the land lord. He was a short slim man with dark brown hair and eyes, He drove a bmw he wore an expensive suite, he had very soft hands. His smile was a near prefect imitation of open friendliness.
“If you have any problems just let me know.” He said.
“Ohh don’t worry I’m not the suffer in silence type. If I’m unhappy you’ll know. And if I’m really unhappy well I guess just about everyone will know.” I said.
It is an odd thing, when ever I tell someone exactly what I will do, thay always seem to think I’m telling a cute little joke. Meh, what ever dismissive mental shrug. Boccie: Classification: Mostly Harmless, and he lived in Daly city so I figured he wouldn’t be too great an irritation. Ok I was wrong about that, On a rather epic scale.
I set about decorating my little home. Damn the security deposit I wasn’t going to live with white walls and beige carpet. I rag painted the walls in several shads of pale blue and chalky white, the effect was of mottled turquoise stone, the ceiling in lighter shades of white and blue like blue sky and clouds, the kitchen I did in bright apple green and tomato red for the cabinets and trim the bathroom I treated with reactive copper paint to look like copper aged in the rain. At a flea Market I got a large old Indian capet to cover that ugly beige wall to wall ., from a thrift store I got an old wicker child’s sleigh style bed, it was just large enough for me to stretch out in, painted a hidiouse pepto bismale pink I set to work covering the bed in gold leaf, from the same store I got a wicker chair to match and gold leafed that as well. It was a very small apartment so other then the few odds and ends like bamboo shelves from china town and a round low coffee table in the center of the room I was all settled in.
So becoming a whore, that’s the part everyone wants to know about. After all everyone gets an apartment at some point or other in their lives and the details of such are of little interest. Even if you do rent an apartment from the devil. Becoming a whore that’s something the creates all kinds of interest.
I was bored
A year after moving in I had a perfectly normal job, office temp. Life had settled into a routine. I became frustrated with my own dullness. It seemed such a waste, move all the way to San Francisco just to do what could be done in any small town anywhere.
I went out one evening to an art show. The artist had inked up naked people and splatted them on the canvas. I wasn’t sure what to feel about the art. Was human ink splats good art? Just as I was trying to make up my mind at what to think of it when a tall lanky young man introduced himself to me and proudly pointed at the ink splat he had been the ‘model’ for.
“That’s me”. He points with pride to the ink splat of his cock.
That’s the moment I knew I was looking at art. Only art can flash its ink splatted cock at you and have social convention set so that I have to act coolly impressed.
For some reason he thought I was impressed with him.
I was very bored so I took him home. The sex was bad, counting the cracks on your ceiling and making out your grocery list bad.
Second date, yeh yeh I know why? I thought it might be like training a rather over eager puppy. It’s not like men were exactly lining up in front of my door. I don’t know maybe San Francisco was the wrong city for a straight gal to get a date. Anyway we went to dinner, which was a mistake. Food was good but it gave him time to talk. Well the food was good.
Back home he was all happy expectancy. I tried to go all Cosmo on him. Attempting to discuss matters of foreplay and other variations on a theme besides endless drilling.
He took it badly.
“I don’t understand why we can’t just do it like last time. We had a great time last time.” He was whining at me. Whining, with his beer perched on his lap like it was his ink splatted dick.
It was the whining that did it. In that moment he was every man I had known in my life. They behave like complete ass heads and then whine at me like it’s my fault they haven’t a brain in their skulls.
My hand snapped out palm up, I smiled and said.
“Tell ya what sport, you put two hundred dollars in my hand right now and you can have it any way you want it. I’ll even pretend to be enjoying it. Now how’s that for a deal?
He started to hyperventilate. Seriously. I had to go into the kitchen and get him a paper bag to breathe into. Had a moment’s internal debate regarding paper or plastic.
Him sitting on the couch breathing into a paper bag, me biting my tongue so hard I tasted blood. I must not laugh. If I laugh he’ll pass right the fuck out then what will I do with him? I had a vision of me dragging him down three flights of stairs by his feet. In my mind I could hear the thunk thunk thunk as his head hit each of the stairs on the way down. I almost bit my tongue in two. (Must not laugh, must not laugh.)
Once he had calmed down enough to shuffle out the door, still asking if maybe? I shut the door firmly in his bewildered face.
I sat down on my little gold wicker bed sipping a beer, mulling the thought over in my head.
Men bring you money, you have sex, and they go away. No stupid pick up lines, no dull conversations and all the lies they tell I get paid to listen to. When I thought about it, I really couldn’t see much of a down side.
Of course it was illegal, but I thought how illegal could something be that advertises in the yellow pages? Honestly.
So far as I could tell whores only get arrested in the following circumstances:
• Street walkers. Well there they are, all out in open. Any time politicians want to look tough on crime they are the easiest targets. Well there was no way I was doing that. I hate waiting around for the bus and walking up and down the street in high heels for hours at a time…are you kidding me?
• Madams, the way high end types and that’s just so the powers that be can a hold of the client list. Well no worries on that count, I wasn’t that ambitious’
• Whores who set up in nice neighborhoods. You know, places with kids around and people who worry about strange men popping in and out at odd hours. I lived in the tenderloin, the place marked out in tourist guide books with the notation Here there be dragons The entire second floor of my building was given over to the Empire Massage Parlor and there were no children in the building. The massage parlor being already there, well a few extra men coming into the building wouldn’t draw any attention.
There were other issues that came to mind such as age. Thirty three is old to start in the business as I understood it. And I not exactly what one would expect in looks for the job not busty not curvy not cute. But I look young for my age, and can manage to look passable when I bother to take the time to smarten myself up a bit.
Nothing ventured nothing gained, I took out a small add in the San Francisco weekly, one tiny little add in amongst just oodles and oodles of similar adds. Minimum allowed wording, I didn’t even include a pictures. I just never cared for cameras and isn’t that just Gods own irony considering what all happened. The day the paper came out my dang phone started ringing off the hook.
An excess of business was something I had not considered. Which just goes to show you, in America if you have something you can’t give away; put a high enough price tag on it and people will line up around the block for it.
Bad girl, bad girl such a dirty bad girl beep beep
I wasn’t going to go into this at all. Wasn’t going to mention being a whore at all because it really doesn’t have anything to do with what happened. No more than being a waitress has anything to do with getting run over by a drunk driver. But in the end I decided that I couldn’t just tell part of the whole, and after all I’m insane, so what am I afraid of? That people will think badly of me? That’s the great thing about being insane; you no longer have to even try to live up to other people’s expectations.
And besides every story needs a little sex, right?
About six months after I started my new career I attended a street fair. Great place San Francisco, you turn a corner and there you are in the middle of a party. Music dancing, food, and standing at a table of counter culture books and Che’ Chevra t shirts a real live communist. She was bone thin and rather grubby looking, as one who had given up both eating and bathing as a show of solidarity with the great starving unwashed proletariat.
I had to get a closer look. A real live commy, in this day and age, it was like spotting an endangered species. Casually I slid over to the Che’ t shirts. Now there was a man who looked the part of a revolutionary. As I was fingering a tee shirt and debating the purchase a woman shouldered me aside to buy a book. She was, bulky dressed all in black and her hair, long greasy strands of black hair.
“So what do you do?” the skinny communist asked her new customer.
“I’m a dominatrix.” She said with pride.
“Oh good for you.” The commy smiled at her. “It’s great to see a woman empowering herself”
I stepped forward, holding the blood red tee shirt with its brooding revolutionary.
“And what do you do?” She asked me.
“I’m a whore.” I said with a bright cheerful smile. The more pc term I suppose is escort but really back when I was a house wife I didn’t go around calling myself a domestic engineer.
“Ohh ,” Her voice suddenly dripping pity. “How does it feel to be exploited by men?”
Huu? My brain skitters to a stop, my lips disappear inside my scrunched up face of complete annoyance.
I put down the tee shirt and leaned over and whispered into her grubby ear.
“You do know you’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.”
I turned and stalked off. Commys! no wonder they don’t get invited to parties any more.
Strange world isn’t it when whipping someone for money is perfectly ok but fucking for pay is so very very naughty? I personally think most of the laws regarding sex to be,,,odd.. This is supposed to be a capitalist society so why in only the area of sex does the amateur have more respect than the professional? You would think that ladies of my sort would be doing endorsements for condoms, but nooo. The law is I can be as big of a slut as I like giving it away to just anyone, but if I get paid for my, indulgence, suddenly I’m a criminal. As a woman I can sell my hair my eggs rent my womb there is even a market for breast milk. My fertility very much a free market item but the part of my body that fucks? Ohh noo we cant have that. I fail to understand the logic.
As to exploitation, well I guess I would rather be exploited for two hundred an hour then for ten.
Alrighty then hopping off the soap box on with the story.
A couple of months after I took out my little add I got a call from a gentleman who wanted the dominatrix thing. I told him that I had never done that sort of thing before but being an agreeable sort I said I’dd give it a go. I made sure he knew that I had no equipment for that sort of thing. I mean lord a good corset alone will run six hundred or more and then the boots and the cuffs and whips and gages. I tell you there are more props involved then a Hollywood b movie. I just dont have enough closet space for that much wardrobe.
He arrived. I, triying to be all stern and growly snapped “On Your Knees.”
Which he did, with amazing speed. Ploop.
And. My. Mind. Went Completely. Blank.
(Fuck, now what do I do with him? Shit I really have to read more dirty books.)
I had a beagle when I was a kid and had done a few dog shows with him, so.. I put him through the paces. Sit Beg Roll over,( A Dominatrix must not giggle) Heel. It was a very small apartment so heel took about ten seconds, and there we were back where we started.
“No you may not lick my shoes! These are my favorite shoes you think I want your spit all over them?”
Finally I had him sit in a corner and masturbate. Me with the heel of my shoes firmly planted in his thigh. I hit him over the head with a rolled up newspaper whenever he tried to lick my shoes. He seemed quite happy about it.
He called back wanting to be my house boy, do the dishes wash my laundry. As much as I hate doing laundry I just didn’t want to think of him pawing my panties,(Jezz just let my customers know about my real life granny panties and there goes the biz) so I politely declined and told him he really needed to find a lady with more experience in this sort of thing.
Not long after that I got a call from a man who wanted me to spank him. Well ok I thought I could do that with little trouble. Unfortunately, he had a ginormaouse ass. Took four whacks just to half cover one ass cheek, and he wanted it hard hard harder. My poor hand was swollen for two days.(note to self there is a reason dominatrixes use paddles) His requests for further appointments I had to politely decline.
Other than my difficulties pulling off the whole dom thing, I was, according to my reviews, actually pretty good at my new career. Nothing new under the sun but the form it takes. One day I open my door to my new mystery date, he looks at me suprised and says.
"Ohh my your better looking then your reviews lead me to belive."
"My reviews? and wait, you made an apointment to see the ugly whore? I shouldnt have dressed up."
So of course I had to check it out. www.redbook.com, a cyber version of the mens room wall. My reviews were effusive in their praise of my skills, especially my oral skills. I thought that too funny because the whole oral thing was just me trying to find ways to avoid stupid conversations. They were far less effusive in their praise of my looks. The angularity of my construction was not something men expected in a lady of my profession. This I thought of as no bad thing, don’t know about you, but I would far rather be noted for my skills then my looks any day. Several of my reviews noted how much they enjoyed my conversation. I ask you, how many whores get rave reviews about their conversational skills?
The thing that surprised me the most about being a whore was that most of the sex was pretty good. Actually it was unusual for the sex to be bad, my customers went way out of their way to insure I enjoyed myself. A few weeks after beginning my career I found myself pondering the matter.
(What the heck was going on here? When I was trying to give it away men were all one trick pony with the attention span of a four year old on cotton candy. Now that they are paying for my attention and time now they want me to enjoy myself, now they want to talk? And good lord now they want to cuddle? Seriously cuddling? Are men deliberately trying to be perverse?)
I came to the conclusion that for men, sex, is all about competing with other men. It’s one of two games, either football or pinball. You see in football it’s about reaching the goal as quickly as possible and in keeping other men from scoring on your goal. In pinball they know another guy is going to come play his quarter, in pinball they want to be the top scorer.
I finished my cigarette and stubbed it out. I sighed and took out my bronze Zippo.
“Well time for me to be moving on.” I said looking up at the ceiling. They were watching, they were always watching, always listening, cameras and microphones in my ceiling. I dont like reality TV, I dont watch reality TV (except for project runway, huge fan of that one. Does that make me a bad person?) Yet here I am the star of my very own reality show. The lets murder the whore show. Me live 24/7. I tell ya I have killer ratings. Dealing with assassin paparazzi is a life skill I never had any reason to suspect that I would ever need. (I just knew I was wasting my time trying to learn geometry)
High school year book photo, a a girl with lifeless mouse brown hair crooked glassed, ghost white complexion which just serves to highlight each bright red pimple. Caption, girl least likely to become the fixated obsession of men.
Turning the lighter over in my hands, cool smooth weight in my hands. ( I don’t want to do this. I really don’t want to do this. )
They were silent now. For the past three months my irritating fan club has had people howling death at me. Every moment, night, day, sound, honking horns, screaming howling shouting, a symphony of murder They were silent now. All quiet, waiting, watching me turn my lighter over in my hand.
My grandmother had once said to me. “The trouble with you is you always burn your bridges behind you.”
To which I replied. “Of course I do cause when I cross a bridge I’m not going back.”
I flip the Zippo open and light it. Some things never change.
I set the flame to the garbage bag I had stuffed with crumpled paper and rages soaked in lighter fluid. I turn to the curtains, they give themselves to the fire, made to burn. I turn the gas of the stove on full. Flames and smoke curling around me I look up to the ceiling and smile.
“Well I’m off now so you all go ahead and call the fire department. Ohh and one more thing, a small piece of advice. Never start a war with some one who has a better sense of humor than your own.” I gave a cheerful little bye bye wave and shut the door behind me.
I walked across the street to paradise doughnuts and bought a peach Snapple with the last two dollars in my pocket. I sat at the white plastic table on the sidewalk and watched the fire consume my home. Flames curled out of my open windows most dramatically. The fire trucks arrived almost as soon as I sat down. My assassins must have had the fire department on speed dial. The situation well in hand I picked up my iced tea and walked off the hem of my yellow submarine coat swinging at my knees.
“Idle hands are the devils work.” My grandmother had always said. So in between fighting the stay alive I occupied my time embroidering a long denim coat with beads using the beetles yellow submarine as insperation., Yellow submarine, blue meanies, glovey, I had had a lot of time on my hands.
I walked down O’Farrell St. past the Hilton. I see a couple taking pictures of my fire with their expensive camera. I smile at them, they dont see me. Walking on I pass Macy’s and that god awful toy store fao shwartz and hear the horrible tinny music of children being tortured into happiness. ‘It’s a small world after all, it’s a small small world.’ At the end of Market street I reach the embarcadero, I walk along to a spot behing some very nice restaurants and find a park bench with a wonderful view of the bay bridge. I sit back with a tired sigh and spread my arms along the back of the bench.
An asian man is fishing off the pier, we smile and wave at each other. A young street kid approaches, kid well in his twenties wearing the torn and ragged clothes of street punk chic.
“Hey.” He says. “Can I sit down?”
It’s just a law of nature, where ever a woman sits alone, it wont be long before men start to gather.
“Nice day.” I say.
“So whatcha doing?”
“Me? I’m celebrating, I just torched my apartment. So I’m taking in the view of this beautiful day and celebrating.”
Gutter punks just love tales of wanton destruction.
“Wanta smoke?” He asks holding out a nicely rolled joint.
“Why thank you sir.”
We sit together on the bench smoking enjoying the day. A couple of older homeless men approach. We exchange pleasantries. They too are impressed with my act of arson. A friend of theirs had stolen a case of very nice wine from the back of a delivery truck. Being former boy scouts they came prepared with a bottle opener. We all passed the bottle around. All in all a fine celebration.
The afternoon was mnoving on. Me being a very fair skinned person with a decided aversion to sunlight, a few hours spent out in the open I could feel my skin crisping. It was time to be moving on. I said goodbye to my jolly friends and headed off.
Back up Market street a right on to Hyde, Hyde and Larkin the heart (if there is one) of the terderloin. The building on the corner used to be a bank in long days gone by, then it was converted into a police station,closed now an iron grate in front of its doors its wide marble steps serve the homeless now. They collect here like hermit crabs caught in a tide pool.
Not far from there I arrive at my destination, the public library. There is a woman standing out front wearing several layers of clothes. She is tearing at her wild hair screaming at one of the stone lions. “It’s love verses love ok? OK? It’s love verses love, so shut up, just shut up!!” Everyone going into the library gives the woman a wide berth.
I love libraries. They are my church, my sanctuary and most people seem to feel so, at least on an unconscious level. People are seldom rude in libraries. Hushed voices the golden gleam of polished wood, heads bowed, the gentle sound of pages being turned like fall leaves rustling along the ground.
That being said, I hate this library, loath it in fact.
The old library was everything a library should be, but it was old which was sin enough for the city to want it gone. So the city leaders decided that they absolutely needed a new library. One wired with all the shiny new toys of the electronic age.
Well the design board of directors apparently went to the architects and told them “We want a building that just screams modern artistic pretension, it’s got to be ugly as hell, impractical to use, and expensive to keep up. We are going to need it for political fund raisers, parties for foreign dignitaries and high fashion photo shoots. So the eager architects went to work. They put it all in there, every thing the board asked for and I guess about 10 minutes before they presented the design to the board some thoughtful person whispered in their ears “Oh by the way it’s supposed to be a library."
The building is twice the size of the old library and holds half as many books. The lions out front are relics from the old library. The design board didn’t want the lions. They didn’t fit in with the complete soullessness of the building. They are right the lions look out of place. The public out cry over the whole lack of books in the public library things was such that the board allowed the lions to be put out front. Why they thought this would mollify the public outrage over the books debacle I have no idea. Why it mostly worked I understand even less.
To get into the building you go past the lions and up the stairs to the second floor of the building. Once inside you walk around in a semi circle to the curving stairs which take you back down to the first floor. Looking up I feel rather like I am standing at the bottom of a Styrofoam cup. You walk around the bottom of the cup to another set of curving stairs that’s leads you back up to the second floor.’
By the time I reach the place where they have hidden the book shelves I’m dizzy and grasping at the white walls that seem to cant away from me at odd and uncomfortable angles. And that’s when I’m stone cold sober. Now a little high a little drunk, sunburned and every nerve stretched wire tight.
I reached the main book depository and in my best southern bell swoon, I collapsed to the floor.
I NEVER COULD GET THE HANG OF THRUSDAYS
I was taken to Saint Frances Hospital
I mumbled out the basics, name former address, insurance none and babbled incoherently about a fire. That done I retired from further active participation with the world around me.
The nurses took my temp blood pressure, timed my heart beat. It was decided I was dehydrated and I was put on an iv. Dehydrated was I figured a nice way for the nurses to say I was drunk. After not too long a time a doctor came looked at me for a moment and he left. A nurse returned waving a set of papers.
The nurse informs me that there is nothing wrong with me and the doctor had signed my discharge papers. I could go.
I lay there meditating.
She flutters the discharge papers in front of my closed eyes. “The doctor has discharged you, you can go.”
I continued my meditation.
She shoved the examination bed upon which I lay, snapping the papers franticly in front of my closed eyes.
I lay there meditating.
They decided to leave me alone for a bit. Hoping I would gain enough sense to sign the discharge paperwork and get out of the way.
A nurse comes into the room, pretending to be putting away medical supplies. She is slamming cupboard doors open and closed like an angry house wife.
I feel bad for her I really do. There she is a busy woman with way to much to do and real sick people to care for and there was this perfectly healthy person laying there like a big old lump. How very irritating. I want to explain the situation to her, but it would take too long and she wouldn’t believe me anyway. So I lay there meditating, waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn.
About an hour later a nurse returns and say they have decided to transfer me to the San Francisco General the Psyc ward.
I open one eye and say, “That would be fine, thank you.” I return to my mediation.
First stop, the three day hold. It’s a big room with uncomfortable reclining seat/beds I am given a tasteless turkey sandwich, and a sipping box of juice, (hmm, juice). I haven’t eaten in a couple of days, the sandwich goes down well.
The three day hold is mostly for allowing druggies and drunks to sober up enough to be not too great a nuisance to society at large upon being released. I eat my sandwich and listening to the mutterings and snoring of my fellow patients I pull up my thin blanket and sleep.
Day two I get pudding with my lunch,( hmmm, pudding.)
Then the interview. A very bored man begins asking me the standard questions, medications allergies, blah, blah, blah,
“Why are you here?” He asks me.
“Well, I set fire to my apartment because my landlord is trying to kill me.” I said.
He looks up from the form on his desk and blinks at me, twice.
“Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” And he scurries from the room.
He returns with a nervous shuffling of forms. You see I am now a problem for which a solution must be found. A danger to self and others. Now honestly society doesn’t really give a tinkers damn about the danger to self and very little about danger to others ahh but endanger property? Now that’s something that needs attention. They can’t just sober me up and send me on my merry way, just imagine the law suits if they released an admitted fire bug and she, one out sets another property to blaze.
I’m sent upstairs to the hospitals official pscy. Ward. This is intended to be a two to three week holding pen for the inconveniently unstable. Quite a few teenagers here.
Another interview, he’s a tired looking man in a suite that needs pressing. It’s a dull beige room, behind him silk plants that look wilted.
He sits, forms in front of him, pen in hand. Ahh yes let the games begin.
“Do you hear voices?”
I have been asked this many times and they always seem so disappointed when I say no.
“Who is president?”
“George Bush” (And they call me mad)
I pause thinking. I haven’t seen a newspaper in a while and it’s been a busy few days, counting back in my head, and then it comes to me. In my best English accent. “Thursday, it must be Thursday, never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
“Oh? Why is that?” He looks up pen pausing.
I laugh. “oh never mind, classical reference.” (The Hitchers guide to the galaxy)
He looks confused but decides to forge ahead.
“Could you count backward from a hundred by 7s?”
“Hu?, now what exactly does my mathematical ability have to do with my sanity?” I ask. “I mean the mathematically gifted among us have always been more than a bit twitchy on the sanity scale.”
“It’s just a question I have to ask.” He says looking down at the form on the table.
“Really?” I shrug. “Poor you. Well as the designated mad person in the room I am under no such obligation. How about we do prime numbers? Hmm lets see backward from a hundred 97,89,83,79,73,71,67,61,59,53,47,43,41,37,29,23,19,17,13,11,7,5,3,2
Or, I know how about a nice Fibonacci sequence, Hmmm backward from a hundred, 89,55,34,21,13,8,5,3,2,1,1.
“Ahh, what’s a Fibonacci sequence?”
“It’s the mathematical proportions of a spiral.” I smile and flutter my eyelashes at him. Always good to have a few clever things tucked away in your memory.
The preliminaries done with he brings out the big guns. A deck of cards. I groan inwardly and slink down in my chair. Roche cards.
“These are called Roche ink blot cards.” He explains to me. “Just look at them and say the first word that pops into your head.”
Bullshit is the first word that pops into my head but I don’t say it.
The idea here is that the images one sees in the ink blot will give the interviewer an insight into the interviewees state of mind. Only one small problem with that idea, There are no symbols that carry a universal meaning.
A persons internal symbology is unique to each individual to their history, their back ground, their experience. The Roch test? The meanings of the symbols are all set forth by a very uniform group of people, highly educated upper-class white males from a western background. They are so arrogant that they blithely assume the whole world sees things the same way as they do. Or at the very least should.
If one were to look at a card and see a sail boat, to the interviewer such a symbol might mean peacefulness, pleasure, calm. To a person wo say traps lobster for a living, such a thing might represent for him irritation (as at rich over fed tourists getting in the way of their business). To a person raised in a desert or to one who had almost drowned. Even symbols that are universally recognized such as a Christian cross, would it mean the same to a Jew? A Muslim to one who had been molested by a priest?
Ahh well, let him have his fun. Eene Meany Chilly Beany the id is about to speak. He turns the cards over, I barely glance at them. Giving him answers I read in books. Sailing boat two ballet dancers, a dove, violets ect. He turns one over I instantly recognize.
“Ohh, that’s the bat.” I laugh and wave my hand at it.
“Why do you say it’s a bat?” He looks up, his pen pausing, he thinks he’s hit on something significant here.
“Because, that particular ink blot was used as a prop in one of the Bat man movies. The female lead in the movie, playing a criminal psychologist, had this ink blot as an enloarged framed print on her wall. In walks Bat Man in his daily disguise as Bruce Wayne. He looks at the picture and says. ‘Ohh a bat.” She says, ‘ohh now why do you say it’s a bat?’
“Now if you ask me if I think I’m Bat man I shall be really annoyed.”
He looks slightly put out, but decides not to comment and he continues with the cards. I’m not even bothering to look at them any more.
A falling pot of petunias, a confused looking whale. He doesn’t ask why the whale is confused which is for the best he wouldn’t have understood the answer.
We reach the end of his cards and he takes a moment to tabulate the results.
“Well Doc, how’d I do?
“Well, it shows that you are mild to moderately depressed.”
Give me a set of tarot cards and I could do a cold reading of considerably more depth and accuracy.
Being officially diagnosed as somewhat depressed, I was promptly put on a course of anti psychotics and adivan Jolly good fun.
THE CATCH 22 SOLUTION
About a week later I am asked if I wish to return to my old apartment building to pick through the remains of my life. I politely declined. Too much like stepping on my own grave thank you very much. I gave them a list of things they could bring if they wished to go to the trouble. My big yellow tackle box of art supplies, my paintings,my cd’s and movie collection and a suitcase of clothes.’ The suite case I had packed before the fire, and I had put it, and those other odds and ends stacked in the hall way. I had an idea that some of it would be catching up with me sooner or later.
I was most pleased to get my tackle box, ahh crayons and water color pens just what a mad woman needs to pass the time.The staff was pleased with my paints and collages, always good to have an artistic mad person in the house, gives the place a touch of class. Not feeling the muse I just spent my time scribbling doodles on paper. Hardly seemed worth the praise the staff heaped on me for scribbling. But if they wanted to pat me on the head, I wasn’t going to argue.
The whole art thing came about thusly. It was my thirty third birthday, which I thought a fine time to do the take stock of life thing. Where am I now? What have I accomplished sort of thing. Looking back I found that the only thing I had really accomplished in life was to fuck things up and piss people off.
Holy shit, I’m an artist.
Imagine my surprise. At the time I didn’t even own a box of crayons.
A doctor interrupts my doodling to ask if I would mind it if he brought in some interns to interview me.
I didn’t mind. Here I am all bored and they give me a room full of baby doctors to play with. Why I bet their just as cute as puppies.
And oh my weren’t they just, five of them, so eager,trying so hard to look all serious and learned. Three men, two women all in their crisp intern lab coats, clip boards up and pens ready.
“Do you know why you’r here?” The head doctor asks me.
“Here in the hospital or here in this room ?”
“Here in the hospital and here talking with us.” He smiles. He likes clever patients.
“Ahh well I would say that I am here in the hospital because of a difference of opinion.” I smile. “I would say that I am here because my former landlord Richard J Boccie is involved in the illegal drug business in a fairly large way and that I have gotten in his way so he has taken a contract out on my life. (if that really is the correct term, I don’t know maybe the people in the mob call it a hostile take over). And I am here because it is better than being killed.
“You on the other hand would say that I am a paranoid delusional nut burger who has been driven over the edge by certain unfortunate lifestyle choices and has, poor dear, become a danger to self and others.
“Hence the difference of opinion.
“I’m here talking with you all because I’m a fairly amusing nut burger and you thought it would be a nice change of pace for your students from the depressing run of mumblers and droolers they normally have to examine.
I smile, They laugh.
“Well let’s begin shall we?” I adjust my glasses
First question from the well groomed young man on the left. “Did you really set the fire in your apartment?”
“Yes, yes I did.”
“Umm, why did you set your apartment on fire?” This from the woman in the middle in carefully bland makeup.
“The short answer is because my landlord was trying to kill me. The slightly longer answer is because it would send me here.”
“You wanted to come here? Why?” They all lean forward in their seats. This was as answer they were not expecting. Which is odd I think, after all haven’t they gone into massive amounts of debts and years of schooling to get here? All I had to do was start one little fire.
“I call it the catch 22 solution.” I tell them.
“The situation I am dealing with, whether you believe it or not, and I take it as a give that you don’t. Boccie wants me dead. He is offering a hundred thousand dollars to see me dead. As ego flattering as that is in a twisted sort of way. It is a bit of a problem. I cant get anyone like the police to believe me about this, and I cant be sure that simply leaving San Francisco would be enough to insure my continued breathing. There is no such thing as anonymity anymore, anywhere I go I will leave a trace that can be found by anyone with even a modicum of computer skills.
Since I cant get anyone to believe me, well disbelief has its uses.
“First, being in a locked mental ward, I figured that it puts me out of reach of Boccie’s hired guns. They arnt all that cleaver and perhaps with me out of the picture it will give them a chance to calm the fuck down.
Second, one of the reasons Boccie wants me dead, other then the fact that there is just something about me that really pisses him off, is he is afraid that I just may get someone to believe me. Well now that I am officially a nut case my credibility is completely shot. Thus removing one of Boccie’s major motivations for wanting me dead.
Third, being now officially a paranoid delusional nut burger I have some small protection from being killed once I move on out of the system. So long as I’m alive I’m just a delusional nut who thinks her former landlord is trying to kill her. If however I end up dead in some no doubt messy fashion people might just begin to wonder if my paranoia might not be entirely mad.”
While I admit it’s not an ideal solution, it’s the best I could come up with under the circumstances And it does appeal to my sense of humor.
“Why do you think your landlord is trying to kill you.?”
“That is a long story.”
AND THIS WAS SUCH A NICE QUIET NEIGBORHOOD
One night some time after midnight I am woken up by a god awful hallabaloo coming from the street below my windows. I am normally pretty good at ignoring city noises, O’Farrell is a busy street the traffic never sleeps on O’Farrell street, buses, cabs, people going to the theaters to hotels going shopping, just going, people. My building is right in what I call the tidal delta zone. The place where the worlds of the tourist hotels, the shopping the theaters and restaurants, meet and mix with the tenderloin world of the broken, the used and the forgotten. My apartment looks out over it all. I would sit at my windows working on some beading project and watch the endlessly entertaining theater of the streets. So I am used to the sounds of the streets and find the sounds of the city breathing actually comfort my sleep. But even so hearing people screaming out my name with death threats attached kinda got my attention
I pull open my window and lean out looking down to the street below.
Queeny and her crack head court were down below my window, screaming up death threats, to me.
Queeny is a needle thin African American woman who could be an aged thirty or a preserved sixty. Her court is an ever changing collection of the hopelessly lost. Her tribe occupies the sidewalk in front of the Christian science church half a block from my building. The sidewalk there is wide and open, catching the warming sun for most of the day and there is an alley between the church building and the building next to mine perfect for the clandestine deals necessary for survival on the streets. Every now and then I toss the tribe a few bucks for coffee or crack, what ever gets you through the day.
I leaned out the window a bit to get a better look at the commotion. Spotting me Queeny screams up at me shaking her boney first.
“Ya you, you bitch, we going ta KILL you!”
“Really? Have I done something in particular to piss you off?”
They all shook their fists at me and screamed up a chorus of murder. This is the first time in my life I have been serenaded and I must say I imagined such an event in my life quite differently.
I shrug my shoulders and close the window. What ever drugs their on, will no doubt wear off in a day or two. I thought and vowed that I would never again buy those idiots another cup of coffee. I go back to sleep, fading the calls for my death into the steady back ground of the street. I slept.
5am I woke as I did every morning except that this morning the crack heads were still under my window screaming up the endless creative means of my demise they could come up with. I pull on my torn jeans a clean enough t shirt and my doc martins and head out the door.
Once I was out on the sidewalk Queeny and her court fall silent, watching me with weary eyes. I smile and wave at them and skip across the street to paradise doughnuts for my breakfast.
“Long time no see.” Hussen greets me as he does every morning. Hussen has the whitest teeth I have ever seen outside of a tooth paste add.
I pour myself a cup of coffee and grab a doughnut, hmm boston cream. I say my good morning to Hussan and to Alan who is there as he is every morning puttering about fixing the coffee.
Alan is the sort of man you could see teaching Irish poetry in some exclusive boys school. He sixtyish with a neatly trimmed beard and hawkish nose. He tries very hard to project roguish charm. He runs errands of an unspecified sorts for paradise doughnuts and for the quick copy store that is owned by an Indian gentleman named Mr. Repinder. Alan is also a small time loan shark loaning 10 for 15 kinda thing. Alan and I are friends, with in boundaries. That is we go out to lunch from time to time, and take little trips out and about to places in San Fran and the bay area. I don’t talk about his busness, he doesn’t talk about mine. He enjoys having someone to tell stories about the old days to, I enjoy listening to stories so it all works out fine.
I get a newspaper and a pack of camels pay for my breakfast and skip back across the street. I smile and wave as I pass the court. They give me the squint eye. As soon as I got back inside my apartment they began yowling up at my windows again. ( Oh for heavens sake.)
They seemed quite determined to continue their annoyance of my peace so I shrugged my shoulders, put on a movie and turned to my bead work. I had just started on a large project, a large denim coat that I was beading with designs from the beetles movie the yellow submarine.
They continued all that day and night. Working in shifts. I was impressed. I never would thought that that crew was capable of such well organized behavior or of being capable of holding a single thought or plan of action for such a long stretch of time.
Day two, repeat day one. A week. I was no less confused about the cause of this nonsense but was seriously impressed with their sticktiuvness.
You would think that that many people making that much noise at literally all hours of the day and night would attract some attention, but apparently not in my neighborhood. Now of course you wonder why didn’t I immediately call the police? For what exactly? Making noise? And of course when the cops show up they won’t be making nose, will they? Hell the cops won’t even see them, as like cockroaches when the light snaps on, they would disappear into the shadows.
I continued with my beading, ordered the occasional pizza. I kept the window open a bit and looked out every now and then, trying to puzzle out the cause for all this ruckus. I noticed a man hanging out with the crack head crew. He seemed to be the one directing the crew.
I knew him, calls himself John. Very original. He was tall blond and muscle bound and very very sure of his attractiveness to women. It is one of the true wonder of the world that the men most sure of themselves are so often the ones with the least reason to be. He had shown up in the neighborhood about two weeks before the ruckus started.
He had been just standing there on the street corner. When I passed on by he started trying to chat me up. Trying to do everything in his power to attract my attention, if there had been a puddle in the street he would have thrown his jacket on it for me to step on.
Unfortunatly for him, I pretty much considered him a puddle I was trying to avoid steping in.
One day I went out to the dinner just up the ally from my place for a bit of breakfast. He invited himself to join me. I couldn’t bring myself to object. It was like having my very own performing monkey amusing me at breakfast.
Ohhh and how he did go, telling me all about his numerous girl friends his prowess is bed his size,
“Jezz dude, I’m on my first cup of coffee here.”
He continued on, going on and on about my hotness.
Yawning widly. Sipping at my coffee. (I havent finished my first cup of coffee yet, I refuse to believe that I am currently anyone's hottness.)
He wants me to take him home with me.
“What ever for? “
So he can have sex with me.
Well direct enough. I laugh.
“Why would I do that?”
Because he wants it.
“Really? So I should have sex with you, just because you want it?”
He looks at me so convinced of his attractiveness that my agreement is a forgone conclusion.
I laugh so hard I have to push the plate out of the way. My head down on the table, pounding the table with my fists.
He frowns and with out another word stalks off from the table and out the door. My wild peals of laughter following him.
Looking out my window watching him talking to the crack heads, I figured that the blow to his ego was more then he could handle gracefully and this foolishness with the crack head crew was his little way of acting out. Well sooner or later he’ll get over it and the crack heads will find another game.
The end of the second week, I am becoming annoyed. ( Fun is fun but really this has gone on quite long enough.) From under the kitchen sink I take out my can of raid. ‘Kill roaches from 10 feet away’ nice. I put on my torn jeans a clean enough t shirt and my doc martins and the yellow submarine coat I am still working on. In one pocket I stuff the can of raid in the other a bic lighter and I head out the door.
Out on the side walk I stand across the alley from the crowd of crack heads. I take out the can of raid and the lighter. I smile and point the can. It works better than I expected. A fifteen foot jet of flames lights up the predawn darkness. I catch the shocked startled looks on the faces of Queeny and her court, frozen for a moment like in the flash of a camera.
I put the can and the lighter back in my pockets and smile at their frozen faces.
“You all may bay at the moon if you wish.
“But,,,,quit,,,,Fucking with Me.”
I smile pleasantly and skip across the street to paradise doughnuts.
CURISIOUSIER AND CURIOUSIER SAID ALICE
I drank my coffee and read my newspaper in blessed peace. For the first time in two weeks my irritating little fan club was silent. The morning continued quiet so I thought it would be a good time to take a quick trip out to get supplies.
I locked the deadbolt and the lock on the door handle as I was making out my mental shopping list. Paint, some super glue, beads, some cleaning supplies hmm and monofilament fishing line I think.
Twenty minutes to walk to Pearl art and craft store, twenty minutes back, five minutes to get what I needed, fifteen to wait for someone to man the cash register (Pearl hires art students so it takes awhile to get anything useful done). I would be home in an hour. Typically when I leave the house I am gone for some hours, shopping, a bit of lunch, some afternoon bar hopping, so those seeing me leave will have the expectation that I will be gone for some time. I cant help but feel that this quiet is only a temporary reprieve.
My trip out isn’t so much to replenish my supplies as to test to see if I’m perhaps over reacting to a bit of noise, or if there is something a tad more serious going on. Give people a vulnerability an opening and see if anyone goes for it. It's a good way to test your enemy's intentions and capabilities.
I give Queeny’s nervous court a jaunty wave and head out walking quickly. Pearl art store is on Market street straight down Tyler street, I don’t see anyone following me, but unless someone were being like totally inspector Clouseau about it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t notice if someone were following me or not.
Shopping done I head home. I wave at Queeny’s court as a reach my building. They don’t seem happy to see me. I unlock the buildings door and pause in the lobby before calling the elevator.
“Oh shit she’s here.” I hear a man’s voice trying to whisper floating down to me from the stairwell. I hear a sound like tools being shoved into a bag and foot steps heading up. A door opens, from the cold metal snick sound it was the door to the roof. The door closes.
I take the elevator up to my floor, stepping out cautiously . The hall way is empty. I go to my door, hmm, scratches around my deadbolt and its unlocked. The second lock I have on my door apparently they didn’t have time to get to. Jezz, they had the better part of an hour and they couldn’t pick two simple locks? And I would have had lookouts posted with a cell phone to alert the burglars of my return. Stupid and sloppy, but why where they trying to break into my apartment in the first place?
I go inside and lock the door behind me. I set my, ‘groceries’ down. Ok then time to upgrade home sec
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