Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Hotel Part One…It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

So to call out of the hotel you must first dial a 9,
then you dial a 1 when making long distance calls.
It was my first week on the job and the phones were ringing off the hook.
The lobby was packed to capacity too and the guest service associates
at the front desk checking folks in were totally slammed.
One day, when I grow up, I will be out there with the masses;
an official guest service associate ready to serve up infused water with fresh mint and organic orange slices and complimentary smiles on a sterling silver platter.

Meanwhile, I am rockin the phones, “connecting” (we do not say “transferring”)
in-house guests to other in-house guests, connecting VIPS to the “important people upstairs,” placing people on hold, taking people off of hold, placing reservations and taking names and numbers on tiny pink post-its and returning their calls
within the 15-minute required time period.
“Good afternoon. Thank-you, so very much for calling The Hotel. How may I assist you today?” or “ It would be my pleasure to connect you.” I answer in a crisp, sweet, slightly high-pitched Ashley Tisdale voice.

1:00 p.m.

“Yes, this is the 911 operator. Is someone needing assistance at your hotel?”

“Oh…May I place you on a brief hold while I inquire at the front desk?”

Returning from the front desk,
“No, there is not an emergency, but thank you for calling.”

1:23 p.m.

“Yes, this is the 911 operator and we received another call from your hotel of an emergency.”

“Oh…again? Let me go check.”
“No, No one is aware of any emergencies here.”

1:31 p.m.

“There seems to be something wrong because we have just received another 911 call from your hotel.”

“ Oh…I’m very sorry. I’ll need to place you on another brief hold.”

By this time my supervisor, a young, calm, down-to-earth kind of woman, who has been listening to me for the last 30 minutes, walks over.

“It’s you.” She says in an unruffled, matter-of-fact voice, “The call is originating from your phone.”
Smiling, she walks back to her desk.

Seems after you dial 9 to get an outside line and to make a long distance call, you only need a single 1 before the area code.

The Hotel is like the park, only different.

Indeed, let it be known, that I certainly encountered the cream of the crap in flamingo land. And in The Hotel, there will be a handful of those for sure.
But here, I will also meet the cream of the crop.
Honestly, that doesn’t frighten me at all.

Communication is the key in handling any situation effectively.

Though several residents did in fact make 911 calls during
my 6 years of servitude at the park, I never did.
The only time I came remotely close was when Mr. Anaya made one of his midnight calls, drunk out of his cabeza on Patron and regret, and threatening to sic his lawyer cousin on me.
Before dialing, I managed to locate my intelligent gene and use effective and persuasive communication skills instead. I actually felt like pouring an entire box of Cocoa Puffs on my head just to release a tumbleweed of crazed, insane matter building inside of me.
Space 5, like an idiot, dialed 911 rather than the manager the time Mr. Anaya, uninvited, crashed his party, then proceeded to drink his beer, eat his food, and fall to his knees in the middle of the carport screaming that he felt discriminated against by the guests at the party.
Space 35 dialed 911 after peering out her venation blinds and seeing Mr. Anaya screaming and taking a swing at the Recycling Lady, Miriam, from Waste Management.

Resorting to instantly classifying a situation as an emergency just isn’t in my make-up. I’m more the relaxed assessor;
the “live-and-let-live” girl, who is hopelessly neighborly.
I know that’s incorrect grammar, adverb next to adverb, but it’s the best damn way to describe me. I’m the girl who delivers Bundt cakes to the residents with hopes of breaking their negative stereotypes of management.
I’m the girl who steps over sow bugs, saves spiders and now smiles at the lady across the street just because she’s my new neighbor…Yup.
Welcome to Mrs. Rogers’ neighborhood people!
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…it’s a beautiful day for a neighbor…would you be mine?...could you be mine? And whether it’s my neighbors, or the guests of The Hotel or the residents of the park, I’m there for you; ready to assist you and always with a smile. Just don’t let me touch your phones.


Monday, May 23, 2011

The Way is not in the Sky. The Way is in the Heart.

I remember when space 19 called. It was an early Saturday morning and I hadn’t had my coffee yet. She sounded like a whisper.
Her voice was low and confused.
“Can you help me? It’s Richard. They brought him home from the hospital because he didn’t have any more insurance left to stay longer…He’s fallen out of bed and I can’t lift him.” she said.
In my purple flannels, baggie sweatshirt and slippers, I hurried out the door and down to her mobile. Inside their bedroom, the air felt thick and smelled of mold. The double bed took up most of the room. There was a pressboard dresser, Marilyn’s walker, a Porta Potty, and an overflowing clothes hamper. I recall Richard’s sunken eyes and his skin, pale blue as Forget-me-Nots. His breathing was sporadic.  Looking up at the paneled wall, I noticed a photograph of a young, strong and stellar military man in full-on uniform staring back at me. He was once that man.
I recall feeling slightly uncomfortable in my Make Art Not War sweatshirt.
There he was lying weak, helpless and broken in my arms.
I remember thinking he probably won’t make it through the night.
He made it two more days.

I think it was that morning Marilyn made her way into my heart.
I think it was because of that call she made, that I am missing her this morning as I sit in my new flat sipping Tazo tea wondering if she's making her cup of instant Folgers and watching Regis and Kelly.

There's lots of 'em; the Peters, the Arnies, the Marilyns. The wrinkled, grey-haired seniors that we don't give much time or thought.
The older folks, discarded by our society, tossed aside, never taken seriously, forgotten by their families except on Christmas and birthdays. They're living on fixed incomes that barely cover rent and food, if they're that fortunate.
I interacted with one just the other day.
Mr. Roy Harris was staying at the hotel where I am currently employed. His son had purchased him and Mrs. Harris a two-night stay and you would think Mr. Harris hadn’t been out of his house since 1957.
He and his wife were afraid of everything: afraid to give their credit card number over the phone to secure the room, afraid of the freeway, afraid of Monterey’s projected high wind alert, afraid to drive through Salinas. When they phoned the hotel, I was the lucky camper who took the call.
For you and I, it would have been a simple 25-minute drive West from where they pulled over. For the Harris’, it was a 2-hour nightmare that included parking on the 101, breaking the only pencil they had on them right in the middle of my giving directions, constant inability to hear my directions due to large trucks passing, turning right rather than left and ending up going the wrong way on a one-way street.  And the finale? Walking into a 7-11 on "the east-side" where they looked like Ma and Pa McCoy, shaking in their boots.
I spoke to them 6 times en route. I clocked out before their arrival but I hear it took them well over 2 hours from Salinas to Monterey and that they were stricken with panic when they finally reached the front desk.
We will be there someday folks. You and I.
We will be Roy Harris and we will be Marilyn from space 19.
Whether on a freeway or in a trailer park or just standing in line at the post office waiting to purchase stamps, we will need assistance.
Now I’m not going get too Buddha-Woo-Woo-Wind-Chimey on you, but one must consider that it might be about Karma. You know that ‘do good now so you don’t burn in some fiery oven for the rest of eternity kinda thing.’
Now I’m just a girl from a trailer park trying to make her way in the world, but I do know a bit about Sir Buddha who said, "We are the heirs of our own actions." In other words, what we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past.  Or my interpretation?
“We better fucking help one another right now!” 
The whole concept is deliciously simple:
The doer of good will gather good. The 
doer of evil will ultimately end up being force-fed Spam while chained to a chair of scratchy polyester and made to watch re-runs of Glenn Beck until the Rapture actually does occur.

How's all this for early morning babble? Well, there actually is a point.
And I think that it’s this: The Heart remains the main character of any theatrical production no matter what. For The Heart is kind, tolerant and considerate. Or as Bossuel once said, “The Heart has reasons that reason does not understand” and let’s face it, you reap what you sow. And a culture of The Mind, surely must at some point, be subservient to The Heart or that culture will wither.

Yesterday, I witnessed a young woman in front of the hotel drinking Smart Water and trying to pull open a door that said "PUSH." Completely oblivious.
She’s of the generation that’s going to deliver my Meals on Wheels and go to CVS for my Depends one day. That’s fucking frightening.

I think I’ll give Marilyn a call this afternoon. I do wonder if anyone’s pulling the weeds in her garden now that I’m gone.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
Mark Twain

Arnie is most likely a discard of the Gulf War and certainly a candidate for universal health care if we ever put the power of love before the power of big insurance and pharmaceutical bank. Arnie, who is a big, robust man of color, balding in a few spots, dingy curls hanging in a few others; whose mountain of blankets are perfectly folded and stacked to eye-level in his shopping cart, lives downtown in a secret nook somewhere between the public transit center and the Trader Joe’s parking lot.
I think Arnie’s comfortable in his own skin.

His organizational skills blow me away.
His rig has several bags strategically placed and securely latched hanging from his mobile home on wheels. Each bag serves a purpose.
Each contains a slice of life’s most invaluable necessities affording him that Boy Scout preparedness that I certainly envy.
I like Arnie. I like his eyes and I like the fact that he’s planted here in Monterey, mostly because all the “pretty people” do not.
It’s the very same group of people who, when I say I used to reside in a modular home park, get this questionable little expression on their faces while their noses curl up to their brows; the ones who smile 24/7 because their bills are paid, their bellies are full, their rings are bling, and their gardeners comes every other day. They see Arnie as this humungous drain sucking their tax dollars down and they immediately dart to the opposite side of the walk when they see him, offering no eye-contact while thinking,
“This guy doesn’t belong here…He urinates on our streets and besides, the soup kitchens are located in Salinas.”

I wonder if their same tax dollars paid for Arnie's asphyxiation from
Agent Orange during his tour?

I like his attitude. Often, when I walk by him on my way to my new place of employment, I hear him singing.
He loves the blues: the old stuff. The stuff you would’ve heard in the ‘40’s or ‘50’s spilling out of the doors and windows of the establishments
on Bourbon Street. Arnie sings the blues like nobody’s business.

I used to come to Trader Joe’s about twice a month while living at the park.
I had to because Prunetucky’s 2 markets couldn’t satisfy my cravings for Eggless Dill Salad or $7.99 gin. Each trip, I’d see Arnie (and his long and quite noticeable butt crack) plopped on the cement curb, accompanied by his shopping cart and a smile.
He’d always break from his song when he saw me, “There she is! Hello ma’am!” (Arnie’s the only person I don’t mind calling me ma’am.)
“How you doin today?”

So the other afternoon, while walking home, I saw Arnie and I told him I was a local now…that he’d surely see more of me. He asked me if I needed help loading my groceries into my car, remembering the time when I gave him a 5-spot for his generous offer. “I don’t have groceries today Arnie. I’m on foot, but next time!”
He waves me off and goes back to singing Well, I Done Got Over It.

I look forward to knowing Arnie.
I just can’t get myself in a pickle like I did a couple years back when I opened my heart, my door and my wallet to Julie in space 16.
I ended up with 17 gift-wrapped presents on my doorstep,
nonstop phone calls, her having a psychotic meltdown in a parking lot during our outing to Costco triggered by our singing These Boots Are Made For Walking, then finally the sheriff at my door.
But you know seeing Arnie again ignites an idea
in this crazy-ass head of mine…
There are lives to observe in my new pueblito;
lives as rich as those of the misfits where I come from and there are stories waiting to be told…
From the rich and famous of Pebble Beach to the haughties of Carmel; from the trendsetters of Alvarado Street to the discarded and forgotten Arnies at the town center…
They all have secrets to unlock.
And like the eccentric and dysfunctionals of my park,
theirs too are certainly worth documenting…


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ear Candy and a Certain Releasing

If this is early morning by the bay, then let time stand still.

Sitting on a stump with my faithful compadre, Diego, the best trailer park feline this side of Tampa. This place is legit. It’s something equivalent to a symphony; a piece of music, a lush landscape being sung for a captive audience of two; pure “ear candy” belted out by a varied and diverse choral group consisting of crows, pigeons, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, ducks and heron and their sounds fill the air.
A red-tailed hawk circles above us.
Diego is a scaredy cat and this is understandable as the park is all he’s known and nature, well this distinct and unique type of nature, is brand spanking new to the guy. Grown accustomed to wall-to-wall prefabs and asphalt trails, it will take time for him to adjust to a deer staring him down through the wild blackberry bushes and seemingly saying,
“You’re on our turf now, buddy, so start getting used to it.”

There are supposedly 4 herons that have their nests, balanced in sublime precision, up in a tall and mighty pine here in my own private paradise, and though I’ve spotted only two, the legend has it four do reside here. On weekends, walkers from the neighborhood, equipped with binoculars, stop across the street and stare up into the trees hoping to catch a glimpse. No more gardening without a shirt on Saturdays. Damn.
I had never seen a heron in flight but two nights ago I witnessed my first sighting and their expansive wingspan caused my heart to skip a beat. I feel like an alien crawling out from beneath some rock where I have lived for the past 6 years. The colors are blinding, the sounds deafening,
In speaking with one of my dearest paisanas, we had both concurred that heron, except for the recognizable and distinct flapping of their enormous wings, don’t utter a sound. Not true, especially if you’re a dysfunctional family of heron who cannot resolve a morning disagreement by using calm words with one another.
For on this daybreak, they’re having one helluva argument. I was inside the casa when I heard them bickering at one another about god only knows what and I ran out expecting to see a herd of wild geese in a boxing ring, but there they were squawking and yakking at each other as if the adolescent of the flock had stayed out too late the night before. The parentals were laying down the law with a noisy lecture that could be heard up the canyon and clear to Big Sur.

So right now a trio of brown squirrels are playing “Ring Around the Tree Trunk” and Diego is slightly amused. Me too. I know one thing for sure…
One shouldn’t venture out to this stump empty-handed; essentials include a camera, a notepad with pen and a receiving heart.
Diego and I have a duel-purpose for this morning:
the first placidity, the second grief.
We found his faithful gypsy companion, Gray Boy, lying dead on the studio floor where I had kept him to adjust to the move…
Gray had only known the park. He had an appetite for the trailer life, treats of turkey and the tattered Mexican blanket we left out for him. He feared streetlights, cars and humans. He was just coming around, after two years, to letting me to touch his head, palm up, but only one touch. He loved Diego.

So this morning, we release the spirit of Gray Boy to this beautiful surrounding.
We honor the wildness of his spirit.

I think I’ll rest here for awhile, amidst the tranquility of Tortilla Flat.
Lay me down; render me in the arms of the deer and pine, if only for a short time…

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Goddess On The Go!

So I’ve got a whole, entirely fresh new outlook going on right now…
sitting near the ravine that backs up to my front door; two deer to my right are eyeing me, unmoved, continue to munch on my snapdragons.
It’s nearly 80 degrees on the patio though the clock informs me it’s 4:20 pm and there should be coastal fog. There are zero messages on my answering machine; none from space 11 telling me of a “brown smoothie” flood oozing all over his weed-lawn and out into the common area… Nothing from triple-wide complaining of a loose dog shitting on her lawn, which is real not Astro Turf.
One would deduct from this that life is good for a trailer girl like me.
Just how good is being driven home right now by the ad in the Trader Joe’s Frequent Flyer, actually left in my mailbox, which I am now browsing through from my sun-drenched patio, G & T with extra lime in hand…. It states: Tuna Salad Wrap…On-The-Go Goodness.
I, in my state of Nirvana, read it as: Tuna Salad Wrap…On-The-Go Goddess.
A huge “breathe in, breathe out” comes over me as realization hits:
I am just that: a Goddess on the go! And not only am I a Goddess on the go, but I am a pink-winged priestess, set loose on the streets of Monterey, California and my only point of comfortable reference is a trailer park.
Yes, my friends, life is good or as the bumper sticker states: Wag More…
and my tail’s ‘a waggin!

It was definitely bittersweet though to leave it all behind, and isn’t that how the song always goes?
The bitter occurred on the final, parting day at the park. It truly sucks to have to even document this because the glorious and meritorious highlights of the past 6 years have been, and will continue to be, worthy of both my time and yours, so it does cause me discomfort to place this one in the archives.
The worthiness is questionable, I suppose…

Space 32 has despised me since the moment I put on the “jefe sombrero” and I think quite honestly it was a cultural thing because a female boss,
a female enforcer of the Western Association of Manufactured Homes rules and regulations, a female anything except a female underwear folder or a female maker of the meal, just doesn’t work for Gustavo.
Gustavo’s had it out for me every single ‘effin day of the 2,190 days of my rule and he waited until the final night before my bon voyage to make his move.
At some point in the night, he tip-toed past east row of modestly decorated units, and after a sneak peek into my windows, stole one propane tank, one “friendly-animal-safe trap” and a box of miscellaneous tchotchkes from my carport. (Not to be confused with a chachka, which is an attractive, unconventional woman like myself.)
How do I know this you ask?
Well, finally my (former) snoop-dog next-door neighbor comes in handy because she actually saw Gustavo prowling around and nab my goods!
When I phoned Senor Robber, he of course didn’t pick up which is option one for him. Option two is “No hablo ingles.”
Luckily, I phoned his BFF at space 26, who in fact did pick up and not only got my message loud and clear, but passed it on to Gustavo:
“Put it back and I won’t call the policia.”
He did. I didn’t.
The sweet also transpired in my last 48 hours in the hood. My little old lady whose only cross to bear is that she carries tons of guilt on her shoulders and doesn’t realize she can simply set it down.
Mary at unit 19, has mentioned to me on numerous occasions over the years that she loves to go to Burger King with her lady friends every Sunday after church before they play Skip Bo at 2:00 p.m. at the Senior Center, but sometimes she simply orders water because “it costs a dollar for a cup of coffee.” Mary who lost her husband and her dog Ginger in the same month two years ago. Mary who has several kids who rarely visit her. Mary whose walker looks like it was built during Eisenhower’s Presidency. Mary who loves my lentils with smoked turkey and carrots…
So I decided Mary deserved a cup of delicious Burger King coffee on Sunday after church. Hell, Mary deserves a milkshake every once in awhile.
So I left an envelope on her porch under her carport on my way out of town: a simple friendship card with my cell phone number in case she needed anything, and a $50 buck gift card for Burger King. I think that will buy her coffee for a while!
Have it your way, Mary.

The transformation from Trailer Park Girl to Tortilla Flat Girl, if indeed it’s possible, will be a long and winding road.
But all I can tell you, my friends, is a girl has to try.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A New Pair Of Binoculars

I’ve been wanting to write to you, my dedicated followers, for a week;
wanting to call you, my flock, and explain the calling which was as strong as Dyneema®, the world's strongest fiber, or a disciple hearing her Lord’s call or Moses interpreting the burning bush as a clear sign of God Dialogue, or more so, nothing short of a fucking miracle…It’s as if I died, passed GO, collected $200.00, and came back as George Jefferson, except it’s not the East Side I’m moving up to. It’s the West Side; the west coast
and if a trailer park girl can hold her head high, oh the places she will go!

To the west of Prunetucky on the 156, slightly above the town of Monterey, on the California coast, lies the shabby district of Tortilla Flat, inhabited by a loose gang of jobless locals of Mexican-Indian(Cherokee)-Spanish-Caucasian-Trailer descent (who typically claim pure blood).
Tortilla Flat, though unclear of its exact location in Monterey, is thought to be the beautiful ravine and forest area near Jefferson Street & Franklin Street, Iris Canyon Road, all the way to Lobos Street area in New Monterey…
There’s been a “flamingo sighting.”

Those there tend to be soft-hearted, unquestioningly loyal to her kind, and in complete disregard of social conventions and expectations. (Yes, your Honor, guilty as charged.) The gutsy paisanas of Tortilla Flat cheerfully reside in a world of idyllic poverty.
It’s comfortable, people, and the shoe does in fact fit.
Because here’s the deal…
“You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the girl.”
And according to Steinbeck, (pronouns changed for obvious reasons) “She is a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasian bloods. (Assorted is an understatement.) Her ancestors have lived in California for at least a hundred years. (True that.)

She now lives in that uphill district above the town of Monterey called Tortilla Flat, though it isn't flat at all;
still, a girl from a trailer park, writing about the world as she sees it…

Things I like about my new, unabridged urban-Tortilla Flat:

• Weeds in the cracks look beautiful
• People smile at the post office
• You get to walk worry-free across a crosswalk
• You can wear red without getting shot.
• The backed-up septic is someone else’s problem
• Everyone knows what organic tofu is and that there’s silk, firm and extra firm at the neighborhood market that's within walking distance.
• No one uses “ain’t.”
• Deer graze in the yard, but no one has a 44 Carbine to shoot ‘em and then have BBQ.

And here’s how it’s conveyed in 2011:

Text: lft da park

Twitter: WTF? Standing right smack in heaven by the sea

Subject: Moving On Up To The West Side

by: trailerparkgirl
Flamingo Flight: How Did She Do It?

Snail Mail:
I'd like to put in a change of address.

While sitting on my “low-flow” toilet, I counted 18 bruises on my thighs from the move. And though the boxes still surround me, it was weird today. I was putting away the contents, after a full day of work in the hospitality industry (details upcoming, and you’ll ache to know) and I was actually singing. Not only was I singing, but also I was shakin it to Van’s Brown-Eyed Girl.
And the mere truth is that I haven’t felt like this in awhile…
New binoculars.
Stayed tuned!