Justin Powell 1 p.m., Dec. 13
This is my neighborhood now--Vista's Board And Care Row.
Living at Mike & Suzanne's would not be, to some, "living"--but "mere existence." Sure, we get three meals a day, a place to sleep, and the chance to be with others. However, many of the residents here do not realize how good they've got it here--and the stress from their PM&Bing does neither my heart, nor my mental heath, any big favors.
We recently got Wi-FI installed in The Annex (where I live on the property), so I can do my Web-Surfing in peace...or as "in peace" as to dealing with folks whose very natures often make me desire not to have anything to do with them, much less take meals with them. I sit in my room to avoid the clouds of tobacco smoke that wafts up from the porch, as well as the petty strife that is just as toxic.
"Take a break from the property"? you ask? Easier said than done--when you have very little cash-on-hand, your travel options are limited to either Shank's Pony, or just sitting here with a raging case of Cabin Fever.
My only "sources of comfort" I do have is spending time with my fiancee Pam, surfing the 'Net, or trying to find something decent to watch on the Idiot Box. Pam & I do not get to spend a lot of time together, mainly because she's either busy with household chores, or she's in her room getting some rest. I'm not allowed in her room, nor is she in mine--but when I do spend "quality time" with her, I feel that much better about life.
When I do have some "loose funds," I often hoof it to Marvin's to get a sugar-free iced tea, and/or a bag of "no-salt" tortillia chips (this 2g daily limit of sodium can be a pain at times, but at least I'm alive to talk about it). Marvin and I have been friends for many years, and I often cash my money orders at his store (personal checks get cashed at Check Center on North Santa Fe Avenue). I also take a walk every morning, usually to the Buena Creek Sprinter Station and back. The walks help with restoring my stamina, plus it burns off anxeity.
Sometimes, I'll walk to Wally Mart on University Avenue (near Kaplan College) to shop for a few items that I need. I'd prefer to shop at the Target that is in the same neighborhood, but they do not have a grocery department...yet. Plus, in my weakened state, I don't have the stamina to walk down to Vons.
I often stop outside of our house at the driveway, and look across the street. Right across from is is the old facility I lived at--Brian's. I sometimes see Brian when he comes over to visit Milosch (Mike's real name, he's from Serbia--as are Brian and Suzanne). He's rather impressed at the weight that I have lost. However, ALL house residents are forbidden to go across the street anywhere near Brian's, and Brian's residents are forbidden to come over here (the fact that most of Brian's residents are on parole might have something to do with that edict).
We have another "room & board" on the property, belonging to another owner. These residents are "lower functioning" than our own. Fact is, there are many Room and Board facilities in the area between Buena Creek Sprinter station and the Palmyra-Primrose interchange. Most are Serbian-owned, and each one is different, depending on the level of supervision and client functioning level.
However, the neighborhood here on "Board And Care Row" is not the best. We constantly deal with people firing off their guns, and tossing firecrackers, on holidays. Plus, a lot of folks tend to drive without regard for traffic safety, so we average a smash-up every two weeks out here.
Here at the house, we average at least six EMS calls a month (many of our residents have physical issues as well), plus a few Sheriff's Office visits. Atrrition among the residents is more often due to eviction than by any other cause--but if folks don't like it here, they just give their 30-day notice and hit the highway.
We lost two good residents to cancer in the last month, and will be losing two more at the end of this month (neither of which I will be sorry to see the backsides of as they leave, since they were known trouble-mongers). Whom they will be replaced with is anybody's guess...but I do seriously wish that Mike & Suzanne would do a far better background check of prospective residents. Some of our more "recent arrivals" had no business being here to begin with.
Surprisingly, the food is better-than-average for a room & board. Nothing like Mr. A's or even Chili's, but better than most of the other facilities around these parts. We have two cooks--Izzy (who handles the weekend cooking duties. We had soft chicken tacos with rice last night) and Rada (Mike's cousin, who handles weekday cooking chores). We get very little beef in our collective diets, but lots of veggies, chicken, and pork (Serbs are very big on "the other white meat"). We get dishes like mousakka, roasted chicken, Shepherd's Pie, roasted pork ribs, pork loin, spaghetti with meat sauce, salads (served every dinner), sandwiches, vegetable soup--get the picture?
Coffee is served until 10am. Whatever is left over gets jettisoned down the sink. We get Tang, Kool-Aid Fruit Punch, or Country Time Lemonade with lunch and dinner. Anything else--you go to Marvin's, Wally World, or anyplace else, if you have the money to pay for it. Other than that--you have to take what you get...or do without.
If you are on medications (unless your functioning level allows otherwise) you have to take them with your meals, and your week's supply is kept in a locked cabinet in the Mess Hall (or in the kitchen for those living at the Main House). Smoking is only allowed outside on the patios, and "mooching smokes" (or anything else of value) can be grounds for eviction. Alcohol and street drugs are expressly forbidden, and result in immediate eviction from the premises if you are caught using them.
The folks here are a mixed-bag of personalities. Besides Pam (who lives at the Main House), I am only close to a few others. Selma (who lives next door to me) is kind of our "kid sister" here at the Annex. She's a bit slow, but very sweet in nature. I keep an eye out for her, as per Pam & Mike's request.
Bruce is a "old hippie," but I have known him since we were both at the Day Treatment Program at CMH-North Coastal back in 1986. Craig's a good egg, but like me, has a bunch of health issues (his is related to orthopaedic issues). JR is a stage-one diabetic, and often razzes the fact I'm engaged, but is a cool dude otherwise.
The girls upstairs? The only one I trust is Pam the Vegan (or "Princess Pam," as my Pam call her). Tough, but understanding--and doesn't push her dietary views on any of us. The other girls upstairs? No thanks...let's just leave it at that!
Such is the neighborhood that I live in, and the place I've been calling home since 25-August-2011. Will I be staying here? Perhaps, but perhaps not. After April 13th (my wedding day), it may be that Pam & I will be finding new housing...only time will tell.