"Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I'd never want another."
Captain Willard, Apocalypse Now
I've arrived at a big decision, a decision which could be the entire point of UnemploymentQuest!, the secret move that allows you to beat the level boss and win. A number of factors came into play to make it possible, but I have decided I am not going to pursue employment. Instead, I'm going to write full time. I'm going hardcore, stop my complaining about entrapment by the system of Late Capitalism and split from the program. I'll be able to look folks in the eye and say, "I'm a writer". The worst that can happen is a year from now I have to go get another damn job. After the place I worked in North Carolina, they don't make time hard enough to break me...
My buddy Ch came over to show me some sketches for the comic we're working on, and then we drove to get a coffee down at Cafe Tropical, down on Sunset in Silverlake. If you are ever in the neighborhood and want to treat yourself to the best cuban pastry and cafe con leche ever, stop in. In fact, /msg me and I'll join you... In any case, Ch's honda features a randomly actuated, intermittent beeper that, at one time, was intended to warn an absent minded motorist of an unbuckled seatbelt or open door. This beeper, having sufficiently devolved from its mission parameters, now simply beeped in an effort to drive me to the point of psychosis. It took this as a cry for help, really, the beeper wanted to be put out of its misery. I asked Ch if he would mind if I disconnected the beeper, as this had been the state of affairs in his car for more than a year. After 4 seasons of beeping, Ch decided that he'd had enough. I was authorized to terminate the beeper's command with extreme prejudice.
Now my father, systems thinker to the core and mechanical engineer, he would have located the short and mended the wiring harness to eliminate the ground. What I did was find the beeper's home near the rear view mirror and disconnect its power supply. I told Ch that if his car started cranking sluggishly, we'd find the bad ground then. To celebrate our victory making the world safe for silence, we drove down into Elysian Valley for a soda at this market I've been meaning to check out, the "Lovely Service Food Mart"
Inside, we were treated to a tiny Thai run neighborhood market, loaded with beer, canned coconut milk, and long stringers of hot Thai peppers that made my eyes water when I walked past. The cash register was armored behind no less than 4 inches of polycarbonate paneling, and yet the door to the register station was wide open as the shopkeeper dusted the small buddist shrine in the front of the store.
Ch wanted to see more of the neighborhood, so we walked down to St. Ann's Catholic Church. I haven't been in a church in more than a year, being a non-believer. But I was raised catholic, and I caught myself dipping my fingers into the holy water cistern and crossing myself before I even knew what was happening. We knelt down in one of the rear pews, while I quietly showed Ch the tabernacle, the confessionals, the stations of the cross. It was dark and cool inside - the ceiling was vaulted with exposed wooden beamwork, the adobe/concrete walls were over three feet thick. From the front of the church, a group of old asian folks began to sing a hymn, in a language I coudn't recognize. I guess it was Thai, based on the nearby store. It was beautiful, if incomprehensible. Not wanting to be more of an interloper than I already was, it was back outside into white glare of the afternoon.
The neighborhood fascinated Ch. Locked between the Los Angeles River and The 5, Elysian Valley is about 1.5 miles long and 250 yards wide. It's like a tiny walled village, safe inside the 50 foot high noise wall that protects it from the freeway. It's so quiet you can hear the concrete river babbling over the arroyo rocks. We walk down to the river to discover an amazing stealth encampment, hidden among a giant stand of bamboo. The stalks have been woven into a roof over a sandbar floor - internet scam fliers are stacked nearby as tinder for a neat stone fire ring. It's a good camp, comfortable. You'd be screwed if it rained, but otherwise it's safe and soft.
Back over the embankment, a guy in a wheelchair and a pickup truck are stopped in the street. The driver and the wheelchair driver are talking. The wheelchair guy is burly, with a broad chest and a shaved head. His leashed dog sits patiently next to him while he talks. He and the pickup driver are obviously old friends. The driver hands Wheelchair a cigarette and he lights up. Ch. and I walk on.
Moments later, I hear the sound of wheels speeding over cement - almost like a bike, but it's not a bike. It's the wheelchair guy! He's rocketing up the open, carless street, pulled along by his dog! The dog is leashed with a harness, and Wheelman's massively muscled arm is stretched in front of him, holding the leash. The dog is running full tilt, tongue wagging in a wide dog smile. Wheelman mushes the dog on in wild spanish, cigarette clenched between his lips. They have to be going at least 25 miles an hour! On and on they roll...
I take it as a sign. I've made the right the decision. On Wheelman, on! Mush, mush to the pole!