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Walk of Fame

The decline of another human being is a peculiar thing to watch. This end of paradise is constantly in a downward spiral with defiled youth, wilted splendor and human shrapnel scattered about. Shrapnel of an era that believed so deeply in something that when it disappeared everyone left behind had nothing to do, but keep on living as if it hadn’t.

The most starcrossed of lovers I’ve ever come across is a dipsomaniacal couple in their forties. When you see what they’ve become, it’s nearly impossible to imagine them as the human beings that must have once been. A year ago, she stumbled around, clinging to men up and down the boulevard, peddling for her next bottle of vodka. This morning she was in a wheelchair, pushing herself backwards with the one leg she didn’t lose to diabetes.

Usually, I don’t notice this couple unless they’re screaming at each other, but lately she’s almost always screaming at him, so I guess I notice them quite often. He’s a slight man, no more than 5’8 and one hundred and forty pounds or so. He wears a baseball hat and four or five days of scruff on his weather beaten skin. There are plenty of men his age that look worse, but still, there’s not much life in him. He drinks and pushes her up and down the street. He spends a lot of time sitting and asking if “You got any change? Help the homeless get a meal?” to which everyone that lives in this neighborhood quips back, “There’s a shelter two blocks away, and they serve meals three times daily.” Those who don’t live in the neighborhood: tourists looking for a misguided adventure, westsiders slumming it for a night, club rats and then the human waste that floats up from South L.A. to make a buck or find one, those people say “Uh, sorry man. Not tonight.”

Not tonight? If he wonders at all, surely he must wonder when a better time would be. Tomorrow? Same place, same time? He’s got nothing, but time and if you can’t find a dollar in your pocket, he’s happy to wait it out. He sleeps nearby, on the side of the 101 and Cahuenga overpass with all the trash, ivy and his wheel-chair bond lover. It’s just up the hill and it’s really no trouble at all to come back. Before he can say that, they’re gone. Twelve dollar well drinks, looking to see if some drunk girl is going to make eye contact with him long enough so that he can ask to buy her a drink. A drink she might not want and definitely doesn’t need, but one he would be happy to get for her.

In a way it’s a physical regression, or step away from previous alpha male days. The ability to flaunt one’s genetically endowed ability to survive has been replaced by another endowment. Inheritance. Today’s man, the one that doesn’t have a dollar for an alcoholic with a warped mind and rapidly approaching end, has to gloat like a peacock in the bar. It’s the clothes, the watch, the car, the dinner reservation, the drink of choice, the zip code and where he spends Monday through Friday lying about his weekend conquests.

This morning, I saw the couple from across the street. He’s an under-appreciated, but traditional alpha male of sorts. He helps her survive, nursing her with Moscoff Vodka, pushing her to and from their bed of third-class mail and freeway compost. She screamed something from her wheelchair throne and spit on the man, who sat beneath her on the sidewalk.

“Fuck you, money bags!” He yelled and wiped the spit from his face. “Pumpkin head!”

Using her one good leg she scooted away in retreat. He wiped his face over and over again. A cholo, no older then fourteen, came out of the liquor store they spend daylight hours, strategically camped in front of. He didn’t even try to hide his disgust. He looked at her, with her bloated and brown face, her one good leg, and bad bowl hair cut. She pulled on her hair.

She tried to get a sentence out, but the alcohol weighed her tongue down, and nothing came out, but mumbled syllables and a groan. The cholo skipped by, with a bag in his hand, swishers and Cheetos. Life’s good when your fourteen and everything is new.

At the light, I crossed the street towards them on my way home. She tried to spit again at the man who was still wiping his face from the first offense. She seemed to lack the saliva. Her mouth, her body, dehydrated by too many years of cheap vodka and nights sleeping under and sometimes on top of, the stars of Hollywood.

They know me. I nod and they grow self-conscious. I’ve watched them torpedo to the nadir of the their existence these last three years. Unlike the ninth grade cholo, I’m old enough to know that these drunks on the corner used to be people. They don’t see themselves the way that kid does. They’ve tried not to see themselves for a long time, who knows when the last time the saw anything at all. Although they act like animals and live worse, it’s probably for the best to keep giving them a buck and walking home. Getting clean, seeing themselves the way that cholito does, might be worse then a slow death on pilfered booze and overpass nights among Hollywood’s stars.

The Neapolitan Mastiff

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A Quarterly Mental Health Review By Therapist Dr. Cas Uist

October 22, 2010

Dear (The) Neapolitan Mastiff,

Below please find my quarterly assessment of your growth as an individual and the state of your mental health.

With this document, please find attached, another copy of your outstanding balance, which will need to be settled with Nina before your next visit.

Mr. The Neapolitan Mastiff, to speak generally, I believe you’re making strides. I’m not quite sure if they’re the healthy strides, but you’re certainly moving a quite a pace, which is a drastic improvement from the summer quarter of 2009, when  you professed to have sat dormant on your couch for months, doing nothing, but sweating, calling yourself Jose Antonio Toussant and redrafting the Declaration Of Independence.

Reviewing your goals for 2010: A second quarter review

1. Vowing to go to the grocery store more in 2010 was a good idea, but if you found yourself going and only buying cured meats and alcohol. You haven’t met your resolution you’ve compromised.

2. Having decided that you were going to the grocery store and then having gone only to find you bought copious amounts of vodka led to another resolution in March of 2010. The resolution was to stop buying vodka at the grocery store. A, what you referred to as serendipitous, repercussion of this decision was a newfound love of wine. Instead of purchasing copious amount of vodka, you now say you’re a wine collector. Sadly though, most of your collection doesn’t make it through the weekend. Your original excuse? “It’s not vodka and what am I going to eat all that jamon serrano with?” It’s true, wine isn’t vodka and a man can’t be expected to eat jamon serrano with a glass of milk, but this is yet another compromised resolution.

3. Your final pledge of 2010 was to drink more tomato juice. Upon discovering a love of tomato juice, you found yourself thinking, “God, wouldn’t a stalk of celery and one point five ounces of vodka go nicely with this.” Previously, you claim to have only drunk Bloody Mary’s on airplanes, now you drink them in your living room. Today you’re drinking more tomato juice than ever, but you haven’t really met your goal. You’re drinking an obscene amount of Bloody Mary’s. You’ve made a compromise and the compromise lead you back to drinking vodka.

I find you to be a compromised individual and despite your effort and our weekly meetings, I feel the odds of you reaching any of your other goals (besides “Do not run for President) are so unlikely, they aren’t even worth mentioning.

I hate ending with my patients on a negative note, so I won’t berate you anymore for failing to meet any of your aforementioned resolutions. What I wanted to tell you and I couldn’t at the office, is I’m having a Halloween party on the 29th and I’d like you to come and meet my daughter, Bethany. She’s charming, a senior at Loyola Marymount and I think the two of you would really hit it off. Please come in costume. Vodka will be provided.

Sincerely,

Dr. Cas Uist

enclosure

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