My first days at Sea Org Hollywood were a bit of organized chaos. Within a week I was fully regimented into a daily grind. 7 days of toil with half a day on Sundays for laundry. I was paid a full $30 a week, cash money. Jealous?
My building with the 3-high bunks and shower stalls were located about a mile west of the Church on Fountain street, richly populated with Armenians. Over the next 6 months I would count many of them as my friends, even learning to speak a few sentences. If you meet me, ask me, I still remember how to say a few things.
I was an odd duck for a Sea Org member. While I watched many of my brethren keep their heads down and shuffle silently along the street from one Sea Org building to another. I was not this. As many of you have come to know, I am not one to be alone with my thoughts. My mouth has its own tendencies and my feet do its bidding.
One day a young Armenian man invited me to meet his mother who made some “Soorj” (very thick and rich coffee) and read my fortune from the remaining coffee paste. A year later, Serj and I would become great friends and co-workers at the Hotel Hollywood.
Back to my morning routine...
Only a few months removed from the Army, I still had the habit of waking up at 0430. Dressed and ready at 0500 I would begin my journey to the Church and my office at INCOMM.
My first stop each morning was a small convenient store just a block from my destination. Run by an Armenian family, it hosted one video arcade game, Xevious. A flyboy strafing shooter game with boss after boss that quickly became my daily addiction. 2 quarters a day, 1 hour or two before work and whatever I could spare on Sundays.
It wasn’t long before I was something of a wizard at Xevious attracting a small crowd of neighborhood kids. Often my 1 quarter would stretch on for an hour or more forcing me to leave the game to one of the kids so I could return to work.
On one random Sunday I ran into Barret Oliver the kid from Neverending Story and Cocoon. Now a bit taller, he was still skinny with an appearance that was very different from his movie persona, shall we say homeless chic with a hippy flair. It was the first time I remember seeing a person with purposely ripped jeans or so I assumed. I was told he had been working at Bridge Publications, owned by Scientology. A week later I saw him running down Fountain St and called after him. An associate came up from behind me with an odd story of Barrett “losing his job”. I wished I had paid more attention, as my own fate would be tied to another who was discarded.
After Xevious, I would continue on to the mess hall for a breakfast buffet of sorts. Sticky oatmeal and eggs that would confuse even a hardened drill sergeant. There were other things but I was not one for risk. I also remember lots of honey, big vats of honey. And every few days I would join the kitchen staff for cleanup duties and some serious dish-washing.
Once fully constipated I would head to class. My first teacher was, shall we say, rude, callous, difficult and a complete ass. I don’t remember the face, but I remember the jagged mouth that was always stuck in a ghoulish grin, incapable of anything remotely positive. Shall I go on? Nah. I hated school anyways and this was just more proof I was right.
Anyways, each class began with 3 cheers and a salute for our dead or rather freed Thetan founder L. Ron Hubbard. Once giddy with gratitude, we would be given words to define and clay to model our thoughts. Yes, we made clay models to help reinforce what we learned or thought we knew. Apparently the path to salvation was paved with a deeper understanding of all the words we take for granted like “I” and The”. It was all so confusing, but what I assumed was SOP for every good cult.
Then I made a friend from New Zealand. David. The son of Scientologists who went “down-line” and abandoned him.
The beginning of the end to my SeaOrg adventure and my exodus to Hollywood was hastened.
Coming in Part 5;
I’ll introduce you to INCOMM. A semi-secret organization within Sea Org that managed data and tech for all of Scientology. Our little entrance was just around the block from the main building. A few small steps down into the waiting area, a plain desk and locked door after locked door. I was promoted at one time to be the INT Crew IC of all Class 4 Orgs. Quite the mouthful, but I'll explain later. At INCOMM I was surrounded by some of the smartest people I have ever met. And, my own computer reported me for a violation of protocols. It freaked me out but that was nothing compared to what I would see next.
There are parents disappearing, a police raid and lets not forget the pervy Scientologist lady who hid me away from the church.
What does this all have to do with gambling? You will see how a life descends into madness while paving the path to Las Vegas and redemption. Vegas is like a huge magnet reaching out into the world. One day, it comes for you. You may not be a willing participant at first, but eventually you understand. An irresistible magnet on the soul. Some of you have felt it. You know exactly what I mean. Vegas is like a reckoning. Death, moderation and for some, success. The choice is yours, but its never easy.