Saturday, November 20, 2010

Freeloadin' Freddie concludes (The Old Hotel)

He’d created a job for himself: painting the street address, with a stencil, outside of homes in suburbia, like Chula Vista. Once he’d asked me to help him save a map depicting the cul-de-sacs and street patterns of the neighborhood he wished to work next, so he wasn’t completely stupid. It was just that finky laugh of his. Even when he got along on some surface level with people, I could hear that goblinesque "hehn hehn hehn!" in the same cadence.

Freddie had a picture of everyone else at the hotel---me included, until we talked and he said he figured out maybe not me---as losers. What stuck out in his mind were those who live on Social Security checks and would never make anything of themselves.
I realized he at least meant Jimmie Simmons, as he’s nicknamed, who is simple enough to understand, in his case. He intimated he thought I was in that group with everyone else until he’d learned what I do for a living. This, from the guy who asked me for a Phillips head screw driver four times. Go figure. (I did in fact need one soon for my new drawing board.)

I pointed out that everyone around him was trying to make it: the very neighbor on our wing, O.V., with whom he’d already loudly quarreled the first time by that point, had been in sales, too, and done pretty well in earlier times. Proof he’s never given up is that he’s just landed another sales job again with Carmax. I’ve known the man, known his plans, heard his enthusiasm that he could put funding and the right product together and create a success.

I told him of working musicians we’ve had here, how everyone I knew here had occupations (though a couple were laid off by then) and many people who came to live at this old hotel climbed its steps day in and day out with a bit of hope in their hearts things would get better, so long as they never gave up.

He told me of his deals in the car biz, a good occupation after seven years in the Marines. He had the nice car and the hookers and not a care for money. Things were now to the point he had homeless women come up sometimes just to see how far they might go with a mutual arrangement---“had her up to, you know, talk!”

Twice this resulted in hall-filling shouts. One occasion led to my girl Emm’s brief involvement; he asked her, on the way to the bathroom at 3 am, could he use her phone, as his did that go? He had some girl’s cell phone this time, and wouldn’t let her have it back; then he threw it the length of the hallway. Emm passed. She was not sure what was going through the loudly cursing woman’s mind at the time but this wasn’t a wise place to remain.

Soon O.V.’s voice booms, along with the intrepid manager and two police officers. Apparently, another guest of our man here was climbing the fire escape next to my window, in an effort to retrieve a bicycle he said Freddie stole from him. Not much was clear except “stay out of it.”

I think the other time was about something he had that the person wanted returned. It’s not as clear in my mind. I do know every time I had a naked girl sitting on my bed in sight of the door that he tried to sneak peeks, but shy of self-discipline necessary to keep respect, that is just a man for you.

He asked me if we could smoke on the fire escape, first time I saw him. “It’s not officially allowed,” I replied, “but the thing they really don’t want is people throwing cigarette butts down in the courtyard below, because...”

“Yeah, yeah, I don’t need anyone to tell me that,” he said. The complaints about the butts started up again a couple of months later, so somebody didn’t get it, I’m not saying him. I also can’t say for sure he was the reason I suddenly felt like locking my door so regularly, as no one from the street comes in except as a guest (and you don’t know what I’ve done to burglar proof my room and I’m not telling).

Some other time he mumbled something intended to get him completely on my bad side but I literally didn’t care and told him upon his apology I really just chose not to take it personally. It’s not that I’m so holier than thou, but what was the point? It did give me insight into how he kept so suavely butting heads with my old friends.

After police visit #2 O.v. and I happened to be chatting at O.V.’s door and we eluded to “the shit that we doesn’t go on around here” about the time he walked sheepishly out his door across the way. We continued our affirmation; what did we have to hide?
The only other police visit to the building all year before Freddie arrived was when poor T.E. drank himself to death. There was a similar problem though. A man can feel too sorry for himself.

Freddie’s eviction notice hangs on the door across the hall now. The last time I was inside that door, I saw the pipe and all the behaviors clicked into identifiable patterns. But you could never shake the feeling he had a good guy in him, surely never meant to be persona non grata anywhere.

Nor was he without charm. Once he saw me leaving with my date/ partner and guitar, and asked did we play Van Halen. “Not really,” I replied. “Eddie’s very fast you know! I’ll never be that fast.”

“But then,” Freddie noted, “he’s not happily married, and you are!”
I remember nothing besides “hey” after that time.
The 10 am eviction time’s passed without any of the noise that accompanied Freddie’s life, and I’ve seen hide nor hair of him in three days. I am glad to see him gone, but I can’t help wondering, if he’s not really okay, where he will go now. He was often seemingly gone for two or three days, so there are other haunts.

Emm and I were headed out the door a couple of days after Eviction Day had passed. There's our Freddie, smiling, cajoling: "Hey, I need your help! I've got a beautiful new girlfriend and I just need you to go back up and knock on my buddy's door, he's just a couple of doors down from you---I need to get some of my stuff from him!"

Emm weighed the idea that he'd known about the eviction for two months and replied, "No, I'm not doing it. You can go across the---"

"But HONEY!" he pleaded.
"You can go across the street and do it through official channels." That is, after all, where the front desk operation is, for our Old Hotel.

"Thanks for nothing!" he retorted. "Nice knowing ya!!!"

"That's why no one wants to do anything for you," I replied, walking away. She convinced me walking away was better than what my reptile brain suggested. He dismissed us with a wave of his hand, sitting at the table outside Wet Willie's---an establishment he wasn't patronizing.

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