The Last Train to Hell

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Salton Greystone was on his deathbed. At the age of ninety three he had survived an attempted takeover of his corporation, four divorces and a fire that burned 30 percent of his body when he was 50 years old. The doctors were amazed that he survived the fire, but his family took it as par for the course. There wasn’t enough fire in all of hell to burn Salton down.

Salton sat in bed eating the greasy bacon and egg breakfast. He gulped his coffee and thumbed through Variety where he read an unflattering article about himself and his feud with his good for nothing son.

Salton had grown to hate both of his children. At first he hadn’t known what to make of them; slimy little alien looking things that had been presented to him after exiting his wife’s naughty. He was grateful that they had been born before all this nonsense about the father being present during the birth. He was perfectly happy not to see the vile creatures emerging from what had once been much sought after territory.

He had liked them for a little while. From the time they were six to ten they had been pleasant little distractions to play with and talk to a couple times a week. The girl was smart and had a sharp curiosity about daddy’s business. The boy was slow and plump and could be entertained for hours by the simplest of toys. Salton never imagined that they would grow into the greedy monsters that they were today.

He put down the magazine in disgust. He flipped on the television to find news of the election. He thought he heard the flip flop of unwelcomed high heels in the hallway.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Abigail Greystone began the morning on a bad note. She had fallen asleep in her office and awaken to the sound of the maid vacuuming in the hall. She showered and changed there without even going home. She had breakfasted at a random greasy spoon on the way to the hospital where the aspiring actor waiter had pretended he didn’t know who she was and flirted with her. People had been trying to play her with that kind of nonsense all of her life and she found it tiresome and insulting. Her driver arrived late and they had been stuck in traffic for over twenty minutes.

She sighed and tried to toughen up as she approached her father’s hospital room. She wondered if she would hear from Bubbles later that afternoon. Bubbles was the topless waitress for whom her father had left her mother. She had made a clumsy attempt at gaining control of the Greystone empire before the aging patriarch had caught wise and filed for divorce. Bubbles now called Abigail quite often, demanding the money to which she felt entitled. Abigail was in the process of attempting to get a restraining order against the psychotic bimbo.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Barb Platt sat on the end of her bed completely exhausted. She dreaded the prospect of working yet another double shift at the hospital. She realized she had no choice, she owed thousands of dollars in student loans to McKinley College and she only made thirteen dollars an hour.

Barb looked out the window of her tiny room at the Rosslyn Hotel. There was a bum ranting about Jesus in the cold morning rain. Barb sighed and headed down the hall to take a quick shower.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Walter Greystone left his hotel suite to breakfast at Circa 55. He ordered a fruit salad as was his custom when visiting Los Angeles. He came once a month to visit his father in hopes of a reconciliation, but the chances of this happening before the old man caught the last train to Hell were waning.

Just as he was about to take his first sip of coffee, Trisha walked into the room. He rose slightly to greet her. She gave him a peck on each cheek and told him he looked great. She looked great as well. Long dark hair framed her symmetrical face and cascaded down towards her soft curves. She sat down across from him and ordered a cup of coffee.

Although she was seven years his junior, Trisha was Walter’s ex stepmother; he had always adored her. He hated when his sister referred to her as Bubbles. She had been a waitress in a strip club briefly, in her early twenties, but she had gone on to a career as a set tutor for child actors. Walter had always found her quiet warm and enchanting.

The two chatted about this and that as they nibbled on their fruit plates. After a while the conversation turned to unpleasant matters.

“Have you talked to him on the phone recently,” she asked.

“Last week,” he said. “Half the time he says hello, ask me how I am and proceeds to tell me what a piece of shit I am. The other half of the time he’s so looped out on drugs or demntia he doesn’t know who I am, or thinks I’m still five years old.”

“It’s too bad you can’t just talk to him just when he’s in that demented state, he’d be more agreeable.”

“Right, maybe I should try to find out exactly what he’s on from his doctor and slip extras into his Frango mints.”

“Maybe.”

“Will he talk to you?”

“Only if Abigail doesn’t find out about it.”

“Good old Abby. She certainly does have him snowed.

“She got a restraining order against me. An actual restraining order.”

“Does that surprise you? Really? She’s awfully jealous of you. I mean you’re younger and prettier than her and you don’t have to work as hard for my father’s attention. I mean she was a straight A student, she was class president at Georgetown and an Editor of the Law Review and even with all that you were his main girl. Not that I can blame him….” He said with a sly smile.

She smiled back. The two of them decided to do some shopping before heading over to the hospital to see Salton.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Abigail entered her father’s hospital room to find her father angrily flipping from station to station.

“Hi, Dad”

“Hello.”

“Watchya watching.”

“All the shows that aren’t mine, thanks to you.”

“I’m trying my very best, dad. I’m fine and how are you?”
“I’m 92 and about to die.”

“Look I wanted to talk to you about selling Pensky. Trimens is offering us 140 million.” I brought the proposal,” she said handing him the papers.

“Why,” he asked.

“Why do I want to talk to you about it or why are they offering us 140 million?”

“The latter, of course.”

“Well, they feel that the company would be an asset to them and it has become something of a liability to us.”

“I don’t feel like talking about that right now,” he snapped.

“Well, I’m afraid we have to talk about it really soon.”

“Why is someone else going to sell it to them?”

“No I just mean that…”

“That what? That I might die and you won’t be able to profit as much?”

“No…I”

“Look, Abigail, you might as well know about this now. I’m putting Sunbees in charge for a bit.

“Sunbees!? What the fuck? How can you do this to me I’ve worked my ass off for this company and I….”

 

Their conversation was interrupted by the clanking of clumsily driven cart. Barb Platt, Salton’s least favorite PCA was there to give him his pills and his bath.
“We’ll talk about this later,” Abigail whispered hotly. She left the room as Barb got to work.

“How are you doing Mr. Greystone?”

“Alright,” he grumped, He set the papers his daughter had given him down and picked up the enormous cup full pills presented to him by the fat yutz  in the dull blue uniform.

Barb observed him as he took his pills. His chart said he sometimes tried to hide them as he didn’t like the pain pills. She wished he would offer her some of the OxyContin. She was sure that if she could just get a good night’s sleep she would feel more lucid when she had to work these double shifts.

After he silently swallowed the pills she removed his pajamas and began to bath him.

“Don’t get any Ideas. I like em a little thinner than you,” he slurred.

“Okay,” she chuckled.

“”You should try Jenny Craig or something.”

“I can’t afford it, Mr. Greystone.”

“Maybe just cut what you eat in half,” he said.

“Maybe.”

She finished up and headed off towards to the lounge for her coffee break. As she was putting the cart away, she noticed that Mr. Redstone seemed to have left some paperwork sitting on it. She picked up the document with the intention of returning it to him.

She glanced it over. It looked important. She thought that loosing something like this would not bode well in his mental competency hearing. She walked into the breakroom and threw it into the garbage can, just before the trash was about to be taken out.

She poured herself a cup of coffee and smiled wearily as she looked out at the rain.

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Porn Stars, Pot Smoke and the Million Dollar Hotel Rosslyn

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As time wore on, the hours at Nielsen began to dwindle. We were sent home early often. A lot of times we would just skip taking a break and work straight through so they could get the most work out of us for the least amount of money. Pam got meaner and meaner, she found some sort of flaw in my work every day. Mark began to date a co-worker who was apparently the niece of one Miss Annette Funicello. I began to write a play in my spare time about a mousey woman working in a phone room where they sell toner, who gets revenge on the people in her life who berate her. It was great therapy.
Chris was beginning to have problems with his landlord. He has moved into a converted garage. He had agreed to do all the carpentry work on the apartment for free for a reduced rate in rent. Right after he finished the carpentry there was no more hot water in the house. It turned out his landlord had not paid the water bill. A bit of further investigation reveled that he had not paid the mortgage in several months and was about to be foreclosed upon.
Meanwhile, the housing inspector came to our building and Macbeth and I had to get lost for six hours while Vito shoved a dumpster in front of my door in an effort to pretended there was not an apartment there. Macbeth and I went for a long, long walk. We sat and watched the boats leaving the harbor. I longed to be on the water. I thought how nice it would be to sail away somewhere, just the two of us. I’d always wanted to work on a cruise ship, but I never could, because I’d always had dogs. There was a lot of traveling I never got to do for this reason. That’s the trouble with love; it ruins everything – all your plans for the future. If it hadn’t been for Macbeth there were a lot of other places I could live and I could have worked more as I wouldn’t have had to go running home to him so often. I wouldn’t have given him up for anything, of course, but sometimes I wish he could cook and use the toilet. We returned home to find Vito still there, he said the housing inspector had only been there for a few minutes and didn’t even bother to look in the back of the building.
Several people had told me that I could turn Vito into the housing authority and get up to $7000 because he was renting an illegal apartment. I found out later that I would have to call the inspectors office. They would let him know I called . They would come over there and inspect it with Vito present and then they would have to give him a certain amount of time to fix it. I figured he would kill me if that happened so I decided not to turn him in.
I continued to do audience work. I swallowed my pride and cheered for Dr. Phil, The Doctors, Family Feud and a host of other crap. I saw Stephanie at almost every one of them. She told me that she told her boyfriend she was going back to school. She said she didn’t know what she was going to do when he came home and found out everything she told him was a lie. I ran into Jessica as well. I told her how broke I was.
“I can get you $300 for a blow job tomorrow.” She said.
I stared at her. I giggled a bit uncomfortably.
“My boyfriend produces porn movies. Were always looking for people.”
I tried to hide my shock. As a pasty-faced, slightly chubby forty two-year-old, I didn’t get offered a lot of porn. Furthermore, if she was doing this herself why did she have to do audience work? For a brief fleeting moment I considered this. I realized they probably wouldn’t take me anyway and she was probably just telling me about it because she needed someone to talk to, but desperation can make you think some crazy things.
“Do you use a stage name?” I asked, horrified and fascinated.
“Yeah,” she said without telling me what it was.
“Have any of the movies come out yet?
“No”, she said without telling me the names of them.”
“Do your parents know?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said , without telling me what they though.
After this we went in to watch a for a game show called Catch 21, she fell asleep again – I think she was on drugs.
Stephanie later told me that Jessica had tried to recruit her as well. She said she had gone so far as to go over to Jessica’s apartment to talked to her. She said she decided not to do it because the guys she would have to have sex with were black. (Really, that’s why you don’t want to do the most private thing ever in front of a camera, your parents and anyone who happens across the video?)
In my career as a clapper I would meet a German woman resembling Janis Joplin, who told me she had inherited two million dollars and frittered it all away on fancy hotels. I met a woman who said the Jews were trying to control us by tainting our pap smears. I saw a fist fight break out between a male audience member and a female audience member when she accused him of taking her picture, charging her for it and then never giving it to her.
I did most of my audience work for a man named Dominick. A short chubby man who’d been in the audience business for many years. He was a good guy compared to most audience coordinators. He always answered his phone, booked you even if you were plain-looking and paid quickly, in the right amount and in cash. He didn’t bother with tax records either. I understand why most audience members wouldn’t want to pay taxes, I can even understand why coordinators wouldn’t want to pay them, but these audience companies were working for some major corporations. They must have been getting paid by all of the major networks and none of them ever seemed to make sure the audience companies were legit.
I had better bladder control than a Catholic school boy as we often went five hours in an audience without a toilet break. To this day I can’t get over the fact that they were perfectly willing to sacrifice a room full of people’s kidneys for some junkie game or talk show. I lied about my age a million times, so did a lot of people.. Most of the calls were for people between 18 and 35. I was grateful to have a baby face. Why it would mater how old you were to sit in the dark and clap is beyond me, but Hollywood loves to discriminate, even when she stands to gain nothing.
The anxiety experiment ended and Dr. M send me off with a months worth of free drugs and  several Ambien. I managed to accidentally throw the Ambien away in to a dumpster. Somewhere, in San Pedro there was a very happy bum. Eventually I abandon the anxiety drugs as they had a most unappealing and unladylike side effect. I began smoking pot regularly along with Chris. Did I mention he was also the school stoner? I needed something to deal with the fact that I was working every single day, spending as much time on the bus as I did working and often coming home having earned less than forty dollars.

One day I called Dominick for audience work and he didn’t answer. No one could get in touch with him. It turned out he had disappeared abandoning his apartment and all of his clients. Rumor had it he owed money to the mob.
I began selling plasma in a horrible place located in a filthy basement in Van Nuys. Plasma is used as an ingredient in various medicines and people can sell their plasma as much as twice a week. I had sold plasma once before in Denver and although it wasn’t fun, the facility was clean, it took about two hours and paid $35.00 a pop. In LA it took three hours to get to the nearest plasma center, once you were there it normally took five hours to donate and it paid $30. The fee would later go down as the economy worsened. The place was disgusting. There was piss on the seat of toilet in the tolietpaperless bathroom., There were used tissues scattered all over the waiting room and there was often gum in the drinking fountain. The staff was cold and rude and would get mad if you asked a question. They knew we were all desperate for money and they used the opportunity to take all of their hostilities out on us. There was nothing we could do about it; we needed the money.
The whole thing made me think about the grim reality of human nature. The staff could have chosen to be nasty or nice, but they chose nasty because it was more fun. Plasma centers make around $1500 for a case of plasma; $30 a bag is just a small percentage of that. The operators of these centers say that they care about people, but when the economy got bad and more donors started coming in they used the opportunity to pay less. Giving the miserable experience that it was and given the demand for plasma one can only imagine what the consequences would be if the economy every got so good that no one had to sell their plasma. No one in their right mind would ever donate plasma without any pay on a regular basis. If it weren’t for people being poor and desperate enough to sell plasma the pharmaceutical companies would not be able to make anywhere near as much medicine as they do and some people would die. If it weren’t for sickness and the need for medicine we donors would have one less means of income. So the pharmaceutical companies and sick people relied on us to be poor and we relied on them to be sick. I got to thinking about how many people who work in hospitals, collection agencies and rehab center would be unemployed if it weren’t for desperation and disease, metal illness and debt. I wondered how dependent our economy was human suffering. And I though to myself what a wonderful world.
In September I got more and more depressed and smoked more and more pot. Eventually I quit Nielsen as the hours had dwindled so much, I could make more money doing audience work. I got a part-time job fund-raising for the Obama campaign and was fired after one month.
Chris had an occasional security guard job at the Shrine Auditorium. One night he work at a Scientology convention. He texted me saying there was a n enormous spread of food that he was invited to eat on his break. I talked to him when he got home.
“How was the food? Did you see any celebrities?” I asked.
“Those people are crazy” He replied sounding a bit scared. “You know that girl who was in Natural Born Killers?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Well, she was there and she started talking to me and at first I was really excited that this famous person was talking to me, but she’s nuts. Her eyes were as big as saucers. She looked and seemed like she was on drugs, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t”
“How was the food?”
“I couldn’t get anywhere near it. They were all trying to recruit me.”
Chris was a fairly tough character. He’d lived in some of New York’s roughest SRO’s and he’d worked in a porn bookstore in NYC for a year. He’d live in Jersey City for seven years and had spent his time in LA residing in Watts. I had never seen or heard of him being afraid of anything until he met the Scientologists.
Chris was beginning to revel himself as not only a pot head, but a pretty hardcore alcoholic. Whenever any minor little thing would upset him he got drunk. I was over at his house one night after he’d gotten an especially bad haircut, He was freaking out about it. I fell asleep while watching the movie Jaws 3 (it was the only thing we could get on his TV). I woke up at the end of the movie and was surrounded by six empty 40’s of cheap beer. Chris had moved to Los Angeles from New York to work as a set carpenter. I wondered if the pressure of being away from the town he grew up in and his family wasn’t to much for him.
A few days later all the lights went out in Chris’s apartment. His landlord had failed to pay the bill. He asked if he could come over and stay with me until he found a new place to live. I said sure . He came over with a copy of Cool Hand Luke and a bad attitude. He told me he was going to sue his landlord. I advised him not to sue the poor. I woke up the next morning to find him gone. A few minutes later there was a knock at my door. He said he slept in his car because all of Macbeth’s scratching had kept him awake. He was tired and crabby. He grabbed all of his stuff and stormed out. The next day he called me up, drunk off his ass and yelled at me for an hour about how I should control my dog (apparently in my sleep). He complained about what an awful apartment I had. He said he would hang up before he said something he would regret.
I hung up, I felt like I should be upset or shocked or something, but the truth is I wasn’t. I don’t expect much from men and this seemed about right. He called the next night and apologized all over the place. He said he’d found a new apartment at the Hotel Rosslyn in downtown LA, it was only $300 a month. I wanted to break up with him, but I didn’t. He was my only friend in town and I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent that month. I thought I might have to go stay with him and put MacBeth in a kennel. One week later Chris got fired from Nielsen and went on unemployment.
The Hotel Rosslyn was once a very fancy place occupied by movie stars and other glamorous types in the 20’s. In the seventy’s and 80’s it was occupied by drug addicts, gangs and other transient types I have heard rumors of people being thrown off the roof in gang related killings. In 2006 the hotel got a renovation as part of a government program. It housed everything from former homeless folks to a multitude of aspiring artist. Chris’s room was tiny and the bathroom was down the hall. In spite of being the son of a successful New York television producer , having a college degree and growing up in a mini mansion, Chris thought this was a great apartment.
I continued to try to get background extra work, but I was rejected for my looks more of the than not. When I did work it was on shows that had enormous cattle calls with huge crowd scenes. May of these shoots were indoors in small arenas they were breeding grounds for horrible diseases and I got sick most times I worked. I thought things were picking up a bit when I heard about another petitioning job starting in Beverlywood. We were to go door to door asking for registered voters to sign to get a candidate on the ballot. Our petition boss Ron was a nervous elderly man who lived in Westwood and drove a nice Mercedes. We arrived for work early on a Saturday morning to find that Beverlywood was an orthodox Jewish neighborhood where they cannot answer the door, or sign anything on the Saturday Sabbath. I’m pretty sure our petition boss was Jewish and had lived in LA all his life and should have known about the neighborhood. We got all of twenty signatures. We did a little bit better the rest of the week. On Thursday we gathered at our usual meeting place expecting to get our checks and Ron acting as though he didn’t know what we were talking about. He said we weren’t supposed to get paid till the following Thursday. I told him I knew that wasn’t what he said and that I wouldn’t be doing anymore work until I was paid. I expected the other petition circulator to go along with me. Instead they all told me that they were sure we would be paid eventually and that I shouldn’t complain. One older lady told me that you just have to roll with the punches. I went home again shocked at the ridiculous complacency of the poor in Los Angeles.
I called Central Casting and heard a call for “funky looking people to be on The Mentalist in a scene set in a bar in the desert. I called and was booked right away. I was told to bring a bunch of different character costumes to the set which was located in Temecula. I was excited . I was finally getting an opportunity because of the way I looked. I wondered how I was going to get to Temecula. I called Chris, but he couldn’t drive me as he had a temp job for the day. I checked into taking the Greyhound, but the schedule was all wrong. The metro would have gotten me there, but I couldn’t afford it. I ended up having to call them and tell them I couldn’t make it . I entertained a common Hollywood fantasy; if I had shown up – where might it have led? What if someone had thought I was entertainingly goofy enough to give me a line in the show. It’s silly I know, but they were looking for my type. A line can pay up to $1000. I was beginning to understand where the fantasy came from.
On the first of November Chris and I bought a gigantic cheap bottle of Vodka and got drunk every night. During the day I stayed in my apartment while my neighbors birth control accidents screamed outside the door. On Thursday we drove to West Hollywood to meet up with Ron The petition guy. I began crying as we drove I had no money and rent wasn’t paid was sure he wasn’t gonna pay me. Chris said he would make him pay me. The Roxy, The Viper room and Whiskey a- Go Go flew past us in a nightmarish blur. I had a vodka induced vision of myself begging on the street. When we got there we found that Ron didn’t have the checks. He said he would give them to us on Saturday. Chris stood over him with a menacing look while he said this. Ron looked terrified and his hands shook. I just glared at him with giant angry pot eyes . I didn’t say anything , the booze was making the room spin around at this point.
On Saturday I went to his office and he finally paid me. he tried paying me half of what he owed me at first, but I refused to leave his office until I got the whole thing. It took three trips to Beverly Hills and six hours to get a check for $300. Vito called on the 20th of November and asked where rent was. I told him I would have it in two weeks. MacBeth managed to get a horrible case of fleas. It coast $100 to get rid of them. I ran into one of the petition circulators who worked for Ron. Ron had never paid him and he was living in a tent in the park.
.
A week later I got a part time temp job as an appointment setter in a janitorial office I wondered what the net year would bring. I didn’t know it, but I was about to meet the Queen Of Hearts.