‘Sometimes I take a great notion…’

by Bernard Brandt

As one can perhaps tell from my choice of title and music, I’m a bit down right now. Now, where to start as to why…?

Well, this morning, I finally took down the Christmas tree, about four months after I put it up. The plastic and metal branches are laid in order, together with the central stand and the three strands of Christmas lights that I wove in the branches are in plastic bags, and ready to be taken to the big cardboard box that’s in the garage. I used to bring the box from the garage to the house, load it up, and then drag it back out to the garage. But over the years with Beth, the box has gotten more and more fragile, to the point that I’m afraid to try dragging it anymore. And this is the first year of putting it up, and taking it down, without her.

The problem is, however, that my back is injured, and it’s a bit difficult to walk right now. So I’m at the computer and my chair, waiting for it to heal. It needs to heal, though. There is so much that needs doing.

You see, a day or so ago, I got an e-mail from my landlords, a nice family of Croatian-Americans who bought the place back in 2007. They’re selling the place, and wanted my help in getting the place ready to be shown to prospective buyers this Saturday. I like my landlords. They are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I will miss them.

So I wanted to get the place ready. It largely is. All I need to do is to get the tree the rest of the way out of the house, sweep and mop the beautiful hardwood floors with Murphy’s Oil Soap, sweep and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, clean the bathroom sink and toilet, together with a few other things, and I’ll be ready when my landlords come with the cleaners to look at the place. My back should be okay by tomorrow, and I should be ready for them by noon then.

I really shouldn’t worry about getting kicked out of the place, as Beth and I once were at an earlier place when the landlady died, and her A-hole son evicted all of her former tenants, including his own brother. After all, San Pedro is in the City of Los Angeles, which has rent control. I’ve also figured out that since I’m over 62, and have been living here for more than ten years, Los Angeles Municipal Code prevents the new owners from drop-kicking me outta here. Sometimes, having a law degree, access to teh Interwebz, and an I.Q. with a fighting chance of having three figures, has its perks. Sometimes.

Of course, that only goes so far. I’ve been unemployed for ten years now, due to the wonderful world of age discrimination in the legal field. The probabilities are obese as to any future employment: in short, fat chance. My Social Security pays perhaps two thirds of my rent, and none of my food or utilities. I’ve pulled the plug on cable and my land line. Beth’s disability SSI used to take care of the remainder. Used to. My family is presently taking care of the slack. I don’t know how long that will last.

So, what will most probably happen is that one day, I will no longer be able to pay the rent. The old landlords would give me some time to cover beyond the ten days after the first of the month which the rental contract mandates. I have no hope that the new landlords will be as patient, or as kind.

So, on the thirteenth day of that future month, I will most likely receive a three day notice to pay or quit. Three days after that, I will receive the Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer. Two or so months after that, I will be out, either because I will have vacated the premises, or the Los Angeles County Marshals will have performed the unpleasant duty of evicting me.

I’d like to think that I would have vacated the premises, and spent some of my remaining money to buy tape and boxes and bags, put Beth’s and my remaining clothing, books and belongings in them, and had Salvation Army cart them all out. I’d even hope that I would take the time to clean the house before I left.

But there would be no point in having any possessions left, once I was homeless. Why, you ask? Then let me tell you. For the past several years, in my city of the fallen angels, I have seen the many homeless who live, or try to, just around the corner from where I live. I have also seen shopping carts full of belongings, or piles of things just lying on the sidewalk. I can not count the number of times I have seen them.

What that vision means is that the Los Angeles Police Department arrests the homeless for vagrancy. When they do so, they have no provision to preserve the property of those so arrested. So they leave that property on the streets, to be taken by passersby, or to be trashed.

So, there’s no point in my keeping anything, not even a sleeping bag. It will only be discarded when I am arrested.

And I have heard enough, from my neighbors and local friends, about what happens when an old white guy like me gets thrown into Los Angeles County Jail. I’ll spare you the details, save to say that death is among the more pleasant of the alternatives.

So far, I have been relying on the promises of Christ: that we are to take no care for the morrow. That Solomon in all his glory, etc. Despair is a sin. Despair is a sin. Despair is a sin.

But the song above, which was the favorite of my father’s father, by the bye, is not what is running through my head just now. It’s another song that I heard in my youth, that begins like this:

Through early morning fog I see

Visions of the things to be:

The pains that are withheld for me.

I realize, and I can see–

Oh, Hell: why don’t you listen for yourselves.