“Researchers at Ohio State University in the US identified a link between the amount of social interaction in a mouse’s environment and its weight.” Rats in social situations don’t get fat whilst rats that live in solitary pursuit of their little rat dreams, grow obese, grow ill and die more quickly.
In view of my commitment to lose 25 pounds by September 21, this discovery is a message from God, saying I must engage with some of the hominids around here. God, how I’ve tried. While I’ve exchanged grimaces and pleasantries with people repeatedly over the previous nine months since I arrived in Santa Maria, at the library, the athletic club, the La Princesa market next door, and so on, but upon scratching the surface of social veneer, I withdraw in culture shock, into the illusory shell of privacy I pretend, for sanity’s sake, prevents others from seeing who I am, a joke of an idea in itself given the fact that I stand out like a yellow balloon on a Lybyan desert here in Santa Maria.
For instance, I live in an avocado green 1973 Southwind motorhome, which I’ve embellished with accents of redwood and cedar garnered from places where I’ve traveled in the Pacific Northwest. Wirelessly linked inside the 25′ by 7′ interior of this compact domicile, there are two sound amplification systems, located fore and aft, each designed to fill a small home theater with stereophonic fidelity. These systems are necessary to my efforts to compose music and produce visual media, as are the keyboards, guitar amplifiers and accoutrement associated with video production and editing. But ignoring the strains of Andriessen, Bathgate, Cage, Walton, etc., emanating on occasion through the aluminum avocado walls, I make no effort to dress in the subdued local style. At the InShape gym, I’m the only person who wears red or yellow shorts, which are bathing suits I chose in bright colors so I’d be more visible if a should be swept away while swimming in an ocean current. It is also logical to me to wear bright colors on a bicycle and to wear a fluorescent green protective helmet. Not to mention that I seem to be the only person who uses a bicycle as a mode of transportation and who is not a fieldworker who can’t afford a car.
Directly across the gravel driveway that circles within Highway Trailer Park, lives park manager, Tom M., a robust, stocky bachelor of 50 or 60 who also drives a 12-wheeler filled with scrap metal to and from LA on Wednesdays.
The first time I heard the explosive noise of his truck’s diesel motor starting at 3:00AM, I awoke expecting to see King Falafel next door on it’s way into geostatic orbit. Tom, who in my estimation is not above cold-blooded murder if he feels strongly enough about it, regards me as a sensible simian in his strange fiefdom, a mini-slum owned by the Iraqi via LA immigrant owner of the falafel store. My rent’s paid on time, I’m one of the view that’s not hiding from the law or pulling a welfare scam and my marbles are not scattered, a combination of conditions not typical of residents of Highway Trailer Park in downtown Central City aka Santa Maria, county seat of Santa Barbara County, famous for hosting the infamous child molestation charges that ruined and eventually killed Michael Jackson. I’m reminded of this when I pass the courthouse, which I must frequently, because it’s across from the library and on the way to Trader Joe’s.
My interactions with Tom are distant since I am in his sight constantly through the eye of the video camera he mounted on the end of the 5th wheel trailer he lives in to keep an eye on the activities of the motel cum apartments located across the street and on the other side of my Southwind motor home, for instance, the comings and goings and comings of half a dozen women related to people who live here and possibly have something on him.
To the right of Tom’s 5th wheel as I look across the drive, is Tony, a small, wiry man of about 50 years, who wears a charming smile around his eyes, the pupils of which appear jet black, in close resemblance to the color of his skin, while the features of his face and body proportions resemble those of a French circus acrobat. Tony was born-again some years ago, he proudly informed me, and put an end to his previous life of drink, abundant promiscuity and the rich pleasures of carefree, unmitigated lust.
Tony works part-time at a 99 Cent store on Bettaravia and is now struggling to pay the rent because he was fired from his other part-time job hooking up trailers at a U-Haul store ostensibly because he objected to the owner’s use of the word, “nigger”, a word that offends Tony so much that he can only pronounce it like the name of the river, Niger. Without the 2nd job, Tony said he won’t be able to make the rent this month so I offered to go with him to the Department of Social Services, where we learned that his $330 net monthly income from the 99 Cent store was $30 higher than the maximum allowed. He did qualify for Food Stamps, however, but when I suggested he trade Tom food for cash, Tony objected on moral grounds, it is against his born-again principles. Ironically, a major part of Tony’s problem is that half his income is sent to the mother of his two children. She is now married and doing relatively better with her spouse.
–to be continued