Author: Reta Moser Venice Update
He is the most cheerful and warm person one would ever hope to meet and he is filled with plans and ideas for His Lady– the Venice Pier.
He knows everyone, and if he doesn’t, he introduces himself, and they become friends. He is an absolute friend magnet because of his outgoing personality and sincere love of people.
He is Peter John Ruiz and carries a card with his name that says “Support your Pier Today, What’s Your Vision, Venice Pier Project.” It is “our” pier he insists. He gets there at 5 am when no one is there and marvels at the ocean on one side and millions of people on the other.
I saw him and started to introduce myself but was immediately wrapped in a bear hug that left my feet dangling. When putting me back down, he said he should have asked if it hurt my back, but was on to other things about what he loves the most, the Venice Pier.
He is captivating when he starts talking about his ideas for the pier. The latest is he is producing a “Let’s Go Fishing” day at the pier. He has talked with Jimmy Dean of sausage fame and they are sending food for 100. It will be in the morning so he said Dean’s stuff will be good. He has a permit to obtain and a few other things but it is an event that will happen. He is hoping to get 100. He is going to offer a $100 gift certificate (out of his own money) for the biggest fish. Mark your calendar, it is 3 June 7 to 11 am.
He talks about an app creation in reference to cigarettes. He dislikes butts in his sand at the beach. He showed me the garden he had planted in small areas. A lady offered him some aloe vera and he said swell. He would plant it. His little gardens are all pet friendly. “It is a pee if you want area for dogs,” he said.
hovels sand off pier, keeps it swept, calls 311 for graffiti removal. He makes a list of things needed, which he gives to the authorities in charge. Some ideas are a better drinking fountain, more benches, a better connection for his pressure water cleaner. He buys all his cleaning equipment himself. The pressure washer cost $300.
He arrives at 5 am and leaves at 6 pm and has done this for three years. He has created his job which he calls the “Venice Pier Project.” He has a chartreuse vest and on the back it says “Venice Pier Project.” He does not get paid for it. He just loves what he does.
Did I mention he is handicapped?
One would never know it when talking with him. He has a balance problem he says “when he looks down” and sometimes he walks a little “wavy” and his memory of where he put something, or where and when he is to do something is not good. He has people who help him with things like this. They have provided him with tools, such as a day planner, and they call him to make sure he has taken his medication, remembered an appointment.
He was a painter and was learning to be an electrician when suddenly he had a seizure. He showed me his tongue which had part of it missing. This happened a few years ago. He takes a pill twice a day to prevent this from happening again. He doesn’t drink or smoke. It took him two years to get social security disability which provides him with a little less than a $1000. Before that he had $200 cash and $200 food stamps. With the almost $1000 he can do well he says.
He couldn’t drive a car until about a year ago. Doctors now feel he is stable and safe to drive with the medication he takes.
A gentleman walked up to Peter while we were talking and Peter introduced him as “Sir Gilbert.” I asked Sir Gilbert about the name and he said it was the Knights Templar. Sir Gilbert asked Peter to do him a favor. Peter without hesitation said “It would be an honor.”
Peter knows everyone and is continuously saying hello to someone with a wave of his hand and a hearty hello.
We walked the pier, which is “1310 feet long, almost ¼ of mile,” he proudly related. The circle, or semicircle, at the end of the pier has a 210-foot radius. As we were walking, Alex, the life guard came out to tell Peter that signs near the pier were needed to keep people from swimming so close to the pier. There could be a blind spot for the life guards. Peter said he would mention that along with a few other things at the next Task Force meet headed by Robert (Bob) Davis.
One of the things Peter thought was necessary for the pier was a solar-operated 911 phone at the end of the pier. Both Alex and Peter were talking about the number of people who jump off the end of the pier. Alex said a 911 call from there would be routed to his station immediately.
Did I mention that he was homeless?
Well, he was homeless until a couple weeks ago, specifically 14 April—his birthday. That was when he became a proud home renter.
“I had a voucher from LA Homeless Service Agency (LAHSA) for 8 months,” he said. “I would show up at an apartment and there would be so many people there ahead of me. Then I mentioned it to one of the people who lives at the beach. They told me how to get in the Coordinated Entry System (CES). CES is a weighted system for homeless based on most needy first.
“I am now a happy renter at Wiltern Apartments, east of Crenshaw. I don’t care where it is. I was living in my car and sleeping around. And it all happened on my birthday.
“About 2 pm, I get really tired and must take a nap for a couple of hours, and then I can come back and work. I usually work from 5 am to 6 pm. I just get really tired, my brain gets tired. They don’t know what caused all of this. I don’t know.
“I go to see a lady at Edelman Westside Mental Health Center and she helps me to make sure I am doing well. We have done a lot of testing.”
He has found a real angel in Noel Johnston. She and her husband Jim, former director of Miami Vice, live on the Ocean Front Walk. Noel will call him to make sure he has taken his medication. She will call him to make sure he makes an appointment.
His memory is his worst enemy. He locked his keys in the car so he not only wears a spare on a lanyard around his neck but installed a combination lock box on his car. He has his car key and his house key there. That is in case he should lose what is around his neck.
But his mind doesn’t stop planning and the planning is centered at the Venice Pier. October 15, 1997 was the dedication for the pier after it was rebuilt, so Peter has plans for a celebratory party. He says since the seizure he sees things–visions of what can be.