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The Volunteers of America at 1111 Island Avenue is in trouble. The wrecking ball is waiting in the wings. You can almost see its shadow from Market Street. It's the only detox facility in town (outside of emergency rooms where they might give you a Librium and send you packing) where you can spend four hours on a soft mat as an alternative to jail. The ten-day alcohol and drug education program and the long-term treatment center, Sobriety House, all in one small, decrepit building, are to be out by December 31, and no one wants them in their back yard. Pacific Beach objected loudly, like nobody gets drunk in P.B. It was the car dealers at the head of Grand Avenue, near where V.O.A. was to move, that were the loudest and most petulant. They figured the inebriated would come out and vandalize cars on the lot, as if it is a well-known fact that's what drunks do on a regular basis. Detox at V.O.A. may be pathetic and unsightly to the lofted and condo'ed gentry surrounding it. It can also be pretty funny at times -- that is, when it's not violent and sad.

For example, you are to stay on the mats for the full four hours, but no one can physically stop you if you walk out the door. They just call the cops who brought you there in the first place, in cuffs, and inform them you're loose. The cops don't always do a whole lot about it.

The Friday night of Street Scene, two SDPD coppers steered in a cuffed, worked-looking slattern in her late 40s, and maybe she spent 40 minutes on the mat before she left on her own unauthorized recognizance. She got to the corner at Twelfth and Market, the trolley stop, and a V.O.A. staff member known as Sarge for his warm, winning ways hailed down a slowing squad car. They'd been called to the Island Palms Victorian flea bag apartment building for another matter. Sarge barked at the cops, "Stop her, she walked out!"

Four trolley cops, keeping her there for the real cops, surrounded the soused woman, who looked like Tom Petty at 90. The real cops did not care. One of them called to Sarge, "We're here for somethin' else." Sarge was fuming.

The slatternly souse slurred, "I'm not a murderer or something. I just wanted a cigarette."

A cop replied, "No, you're not a murderer, you're just a drunk. Keep on moving."

Now the trolley cops were pissed; they wanted to hogtie this poor woman, gift wrap her for Las Colinas. But they were overruled by the SDPD, and they had to step aside and let her walk. She got around the corner by 7-Eleven, where she was grabbed by a guy known in the neighborhood as Skills (a skinny math genius with Keith Richards/Albert Einstein hair). He lives in the long-term Sobriety House, and he's got a gig walking the streets with a clipboard, registering voters, but only for the Republican Party.

So Skills walked side by side with this woman down to skid row, and she's giving him her date of birth and California I.D. number, and she signed the thing, shaking like a maraca, while the four trolley cops peered around the corner. They wanted to do something, but they didn't have a clue as to what. Republicans, however, have occasion to be proud.

Meanwhile, Mo "The Pin" Hyde was working the bullring, which is the horseshoe-shaped desk at detox, where inebriates are clocked in and their property is held for the duration. A stand-up comic and former wrestler (ergo, "The Pin"), Hyde prides himself on being able to take anyone at all to the ground.

The Monday after Street Scene, Hyde isn't feeling all that funny when it comes to discussing his volunteer work in the bullring. However, he does recall, "The police brought in drunks from Street Scene that night, and this one chick, God bless her, was laying on the mat with her top pulled down, exposing her splendor. Me being in recovery, I'm a sick man. I thought it was lovely just seeing an incapacitated drunk lady with fine breasts. She was calling my name. I don't know if anyone else heard it, but I heard it loud and clear.

"[Working here is] kind of like bartending, but it's really the opposite, I guess. I wasn't jumping over the counter on anybody, but I did have this one guy trying to jump over the counter at a staff member while I was working the floor keeping everybody on the mats. I had to change his mind. I escorted him to the door. He didn't actually have to go to the floor. Let's say he got dribbled off the walls. We played a little basketball, him and me.

"Ironically enough, being drunk, a lot of guys and females think that anything is better than being confined for four hours. So they select the other option, plan B, downtown." Hyde means county jail, of course. "There's no plan C. God blessed me with the gift of not remembering those times."

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