THE THIRD YEAR

God will forgive me. It's His job.
Heinrich Heine's dying words, they say.

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and the simple secret of the plot...
414-431

castle medical center
432

return to paradise
433-435
436-437

tales from the year of the dragon

Vanity plays lurid tricks with our memory, and the truth of every passion wants some pretence to make it live.
Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim

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the dragon arrives
438-443
444-449
450-453

in like a lamb
454-457
458-462

last month of fifty-something
463-468
469-473
474-478
479-481

doorstep of the seventh
482-484
485-488

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414

The last day of the Second Year and the first day of the Third Year were routine, ordinary days, the first spent mainly at the mall since the weather was dismal and the second an on-campus day. Aside from meeting Kory K at lunchtime on Friday, I didn't talk to anyone. The amusing Rudnick book finished, I moved on to Julie Garwood's Prince Charming, a standard inheritance-kidnapping-smoldering lust yarn that's entertaining enough.

Cainer warned about the tendency to create a crisis when days are routine and ordinary. Uh-huh, I know that method of dealing with boredom well. But warning noted.

Of course, "cheap fiction" is a safer way to deal with it, and there's a certain deja vu to these quiet hours in the secluded grove with dashing heroes and beautiful heroines. Hot Delhi afternoons, torrentially rainy ones in Mussoorie, tucked away in the make-believe world of novels. One part of me feels guilty, as though I should be doing something with the time, but when I'm feeling bored and lazy it's, like I said, safer than creating a crisis.

In this wave of genealogy, another cousin discovered me and supplied this information:

Your grandparents were William Levi "Bill" Vanderburg and Elizabeth Ruth "Lizzie" (Gustin) Elder. She was born in 1873 and was the daughter of Lafayette Gustin of Indiana. [She was widowed, with a son, when she married Uncle Bill, and she was his 3rd wife.]

Gay also said: "we share the same great-grandparents (Julius Abiel Vanderburg and Leah Adaline Blalock)."

Cousin Tanya said she didn't want her father to see my childhood tale since he holds my father in such high regard. I told her perhaps her Dad might know more of stormy father-son relationships than she suspects and that I doubt he would think less highly of my father, but perhaps of me. But I don't blame her for protecting him. I'd feel delighted to discover an outspoken rogue in the family, but don't expect the others to feel that way.

A paternal grandfather who had three wives, a maternal grandmother who had seven husbands. Strange tree.

414a

Alicia slowly slid her hand over his slim, muscular chest, relishing every moment of those firm, sensuous curves. Across his brown, flat belly her hand moved, pausing a moment to tease the circle of his bellybutton. Then behind the waistband of his Calvin's her hand moved, and down, down, through the soft curly dark hair.

And she remembered what a terribly long time it had been since she'd had a Vienna Sausage sandwich. On wheat. Mustard on one slice, mayonnaise on the other, two crispy green lettuce leaves over the sausages. Her mother would slice the sausages in half, but Alicia liked them round, intact, full.

[Hey, it would be an amusing difference if one of these heroes wasn't hung like a stallion.]

415

He was some distance away when I first spotted him, young, tall, brown, shirtless. As he moved slowly toward me I could see he had a long-sleeved shirt tied around his waist by the sleeves, Tomita-san style, and was carrying a very beat-up skateboard. And he was digging in the trash cans. A new ragpicker, a cute young new ragpicker. When he reached the one nearest me, he found a plate lunch box in a tied white plastic bag, was carefully opening the bag when one of the cleaning army approached and scowled. I smiled, watching the encounter, and the lad noticed me but didn't react.

He took the plate lunch box and sat at the far end of the planter box I was sitting on, his back to me, eating, with his fingers, what looked like some beef and rice. Then he strolled away but soon came back and sat beside me, asked, "howzit going?" He asked if I'd seen the 3-D T. Rex movie and I said, no, I'd like to but it's too expensive. He agreed it was too much money but said how much he hoped to see it. I told him he shouldn't have much difficulty finding someone to take him. He grinned, thought a moment, and said, "maybe not too difficult." "Just find a crazy old man like me," I said, "but one with money. If I had the money I'd take you to the movies." A bigger grin.

His right arm was covered in colorful tattoos. I asked if he had any on his legs, which were concealed by cut-off Levi's, and he pulled up one pants leg to show me one on his ankle, said it had been painful getting it. I sympathized, said I could imagine so, and touched my earring, said that I'd like a small tattoo but the hole in my earlobe was as far as I could go. "It looks good," he said.

He got up to leave and I gave him the standard farewell usually reserved for the Sleeptalker, "take care of yourself." And he rolled off across the parking lot on his battered skateboard.

Oh yes, if I'd had a twenty in my pocket, it would have been off to Waikiki to the movies. Kory K and I were talking on Friday about the future days when those Social Security checks roll in. If I make it, I'll be the biggest pushover in town.

Everything closes on campus at five on Saturdays so I had gone to the mall for lack of anything better to do when pockets are empty. The sparse crowd and the Whore on very active duty suggested there was little chance of finding the seven quarters I needed for another bottle of Colt, but I'd had two bottles in the afternoon, completing the Anniversary Celebration, so didn't really care if I found money for another, probably wouldn't have bought it if I had. As it turned out, I did find five quarters, mainly because the Whore gave up fairly early and left the field open until Bla's very late arrival on the scene.

I was, for no reason I could think of, feeling very, very tired and if I'd had a place to do it, I would have curled up and gone to sleep by eight o'clock. But then I reminded myself that two years and a few days ago, I would have been sitting alone in my dinky Waikiki apartment, missing the chance of sweet encounters with barechested brown lads carrying skateboards.

415a

"He was married to Martha Ruth PROTZ on 22 Sep 1939 in Lewisville, Arkansas." says The Vanderburg Page about my father.

So I'm either a bastard, or very premature. 22 Sep 1939 to 12 Apr 1940 surely ain't nine months. Like mother, like daughter.

Always did wonder if that man really was my father. Now it looks as if I might have less reason to fear falling into a Freudian cliche and instead can wonder if Albert Sr. was the one who did the dastardly deed or if he was just being gallant and rescuing a maiden in distress.

I must admit, it's a bit disconcerting to discover such information from the Web. I had to jump up from the computer and rush outside to smoke a couple of cigarettes before calming down.

416

Francis Vanderburg and Maria Christina Lydecker (married 25 November 1795)
begat
Francis Vanderburg (2nd) & Elizabeth Perry
begat
Julius A. Vanderburg (b. 25 September 1825) & Adaline Blalock
begat
William Levi Vanderburg (17 Oct 1849 - 15 May 1921) & Elizabeth Gustin (Lizzie) Elder (married 29 May 1897)
begat
Albert Lester Vanderburg (28 Nov 1914 - 22 Feb 1987) & Martha Ruth Protz
begat

me.

On Sunday afternoon, a good friend brought the subject up, and several times insisted that it "makes no difference" that my parents shacked up and I was at their wedding, incognito. This is true. Right now, it makes no difference at all to me. But it does take my memory banks of childhood and turn them upside down, wipes out all the interpretations I thought existed and causes them to be re-examined.

Knowing my mother as well as I do, she was guilty about it all her life (and I still don't know when, or if, she died). And knowing her penchant for hideously cheap fiction (True Story and Modern Romance magazines) I can just imagine her, every time she looked at me, feeling guilty anew). Yikes. Poor, silly woman. Little wonder she was such a hysteric about me.

I do not have any problem with two human beings who have sex and create a baby without the "sanctity" of marriage. I do have something of a problem with hypocrites, and I am quite convinced now that both of my parents were pretty extreme examples of that nonsense. C'est la vie, c'est la Karma.

It's my fault. I should have known better than to get born to those two, and I've known that for a very long time. May the gods grant me the wisdom to choose better next time.

Monday Mall Game. I saw T. Rex again. He was sitting on his skateboard, so engrossed in watching the demos of Dreamcast games he didn't even notice me walk by. He had his shirt on, alas.

A shower. One companion was interesting, but not interested. A second was interested, but not interesting. I was too wrapped up in thoughts of T. Rex.

I'd hoped I'd get my Colt financing in pocket before the Whore came on the scene. Alas, thanks to Bla's diligent roaming, I was still short two quarters, but then scored a stroller minutes after the Whore appeared. Right under his nose, which made it even sweeter.

Hail, hail, the gang's all here. That dreary Charlie Chan, doing his Mandrax stroll. A relative newcomer, the Creeper, who walks even more slowly than Charlie, glazed look in his eyes, searching for I know not what, glacially pacing the mall. The Sunday Amateur, guarding a bus stop in case a cart was abandoned there. Mutt and Jeff back again, after a long absence, with the same schtick. Her berating him for not buying her something to eat from McD's, him accusing her of just wanting to endlessly spend his money, him going to get her something, her running off so he has to go look for her. She called me "the movie star" and "Mister President", at one point was following me through Sears almost shrieking "Mister President, Mister President." The woman is seriously schizoid. In a quieter moment, she said something to me, several sentences, and it made absolutely no sense whatever, could have been a direct quote from a psychiatric casebook.

A crowded mall, filled with dentists, thanks to the ADA Convention. Not much use so far as shopping carts and strollers are concerned, but lawdy did they abandon food. After the fourth plate lunch box, from which I ate only the bits I most liked, I told myself, "That's it. You will ignore all plate lunch boxes from this moment on." Chopsticks Express is very much better than Patti's Chinese Kitchen.

The dentists surely do like ice cream. Never saw so many people walking around licking ice cream cones. Made me quite eager to have some of the stuff. And they share my appreciation for Gloria Jean's chilled coffee concoctions. Bastids drank it to the last drop, alas.

Eric Francis writes: We "believe in" people, we believe in the story of our love. And, very dependably, we believe in sacrifice -- a very religious theme. What if your religion of love shifted to one based on faith and natural processes -- like the seasons, for instance -- rather than any of this other stuff?

Strange thoughts.

417

Tuesday Mall Game. Although it began as quite a beautiful day, Tuesday soon turned gray and drizzly. I fled Manoa and went to the mall.

By noontime I was feeling quite disgusted. I don't mind losing out in the Quarter Hunt, but there's no need to rub it in by making me witness the lost quarters, even if it's Bla getting them, and far, far worse when some utter amateur grabs one just because he happened to walk past at the right moment. I was about to quit in disgust, took a break, and went downtown.

When I returned to the mall, a cart was waiting. Nice omen. The mob of dentists was joined by a mob of sweet young things. One of those Japanese training ships is in port. They contribute nothing to the carts, the strollers, even the abandoned food. Just plain eye candy. No complaint.

It turned out just fine. Financing for two Colts, FIVE boxes of lengthy snipes, half a large pizza for dinner (thankfully not from California Pizza Kitchen) with a large cup of Kona Coffee. Alas, I missed all the excitement, was upstairs when someone went whacko, threw the ashtray lids off trash bins and tossed trash onto the sidewalks. I got back down to the affected area just after the culprit had vamoosed. From the description being shouted out to the security army, it sounded horribly like T. Rex. If it was T. Rex, I'm glad I wasn't there, would undoubtedly have tried to calm him. (I do fall for borderline psychos, no doubt about it ... like to like, and etc.). I'm also glad he got away.

And it's my half-birthday. Sun opposed to Natal Sun. Happy half-birthday to me.

418

Wednesday, according to Cainer: Today, you need to find out something. You have a suspicion that needs to be fully confirmed or refuted. Forget what you think you know and allow yourself to be shown.

I don't know what he was talking about. Nothing happened on Wednesday which fits the slot.

Early evening, after a successful afternoon Mall Game, I was sitting at the bus stop. A young fellow sat on the ledge beside me and asked if I was going back up to the university. I wondered how he knew, but said yes, and that led to some chat about the new express bus. He asked if I knew the name of the orange flower in the lei he was wearing. I didn't. He complained about the intense fragrance of the lei but was aware of all the traditions about discarding a lei, so was keeping it to give to a young woman he knew. The bus came, he sat sideways on the seat in front of me and launched into the story of the young woman, how she kept calling him all the time and seemed to want more than just friendship. He wanted to keep her as a friend, but nothing more, said he liked both men and women but in this case it would be easier if he were just gay and she were only his friend. I was surprised and amused by such candor. Eventually he mentioned he'd noticed me a lot on campus. I didn't ask if he preferred older men.

I've known about the sub-genre in romance fiction of the murder mystery, detective story blended with the standard lusty romps but haven't read any. One turned up earlier in the week, utterly unmemorable, and then I found Sue Grafton's M is for Malice. The woman is writing a book for each letter of the alphabet and her O is for Outlaw just appeared in the mall's bookstore window. She has a knack for really awful metaphor, often combines several prime examples in one paragraph, and I wonder if she is doing it deliberately or if that's just the way she thinks and writes.

Despite intense competition, the mall game did indeed proceed well, a two Colt day and once again an ample supply of food. Someone abandoned a multi-cheese pizza from Papa John's with only two slices missing, so it was pizza for dinner again. And then, oh joy, an almost full cup of mocha milkshake from Gloria Jean's. Those chilled coffee concoctions are the only liquids I'm sometimes tempted to spend beer money on, especially the malt mocha chiller.

I still needed two quarters at sundown, was about to give up and rest content with one Colt for the evening and was making one last trip to top up the snipes supply when I spotted a bunch of coins sitting on a payphone. Almost a dollar. It's wonderful there are so many absent-minded people in this world.

419

Thursday was one of those days when I didn't speak to anyone.

I wanted to speak to the Lei Boy again, but didn't see him, on campus or off. I wanted to shower with the The Horse again, as I had on Wednesday, but there were too many people around.

Ah. I did speak very briefly with The Snorer. He asked me to tell the Sleeptalker he wanted to talk with him if I saw him. I wondered why he wanted to talk to him, but didn't ask. I'd like to talk with him, too. I'd just like to see him.

I hadn't intended to stay at the mall all day but I went down there in the early morning and then noticed heavy dark clouds rolling in over the mountains. Soon those beautiful clunks of earth were almost hidden behind a gray mist of falling rain. Not a particularly appealing invitation to return to the UH campus, nestled at the foot of those veiled mountains.

So I stayed at the mall. I found an almost full pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, filtered. Nostalgia. The very first pack of cigarettes I bought were Lucky Strikes. No filter. I was fourteen. A pack lasted me a week. And not many weeks after I began spending my earnings as a stockboy at Woolworth's in Lawton, Oklahoma, to buy those packs, my mother spotted some tobacco crumbs in a shirt pocket. Damn, that woman was obsessive. She inspected my shirt pockets??!!

She was more than obsessive. She was a sneak. The first diary I kept was when we were living in Darmstadt, Germany. Naturally, she read it. I took great care to put it in my desk drawer in such a way that I could tell if anyone had disturbed the drawer's contents. And of course, she was busted, but I never said anything. I switched to code. Must have driven her crazy trying to figure out what I was writing. Yep, was a silly game. But she had the advantage. She was my MOTHER. I was supposed to love, honor, and obey, etc. etc. I didn't do any of them, and I still don't. I feel sorry for her, but she had a much better life than she earned.

All that from a pack of Lucky Strikes ...

The Quarter Game was also a bitch. By sunset I was beginning to wonder if I'd have even one bottle of Colt for the day. Then I walked past a bench which had an empty supermarket plastic bag on it and a 40 oz. "2000" cup from McD's sitting next to it. I looked into the cup, saw liquid of just the right color, picked it up and sniffed. Yep, surely was malt liquor, probably Colt. No sign of the bottle, or of the person who had emptied it into a paper cup from McD's. I don't like drinking beer in the mall since it's a legitimate reason to get exiled from the place, but okay, I might have emptied the cup. Might have, I say, hiding behind the Bill of Rights.

Then, as has been his fortunate habit of late, the Whore left the premises and I soon had the quarters for my very own bottle of Colt, left the mall, stopped by 7-Eleven and spent those quarters, finished the Sue Grafton book while enjoying my second beer of the day. Errr, well what might have been my second beer of the day.

I misjudged Grafton. She's a writer of detective stories, not the romance-cum-detective genre at all. She's not Mickey Spillane, although she'd probably like to be. What the hell, she makes a good living writing decent detective stories and still has the rest of the alphabet after "O" to carry on with. So I'm jealous.

419a

Ryan, in his kind report on our meeting, didn't mention the lollipops.

Alas, the lollipops are [almost] no more.

The rental strollers at the mall have a tall metal pole attached to the back left corner. Originally, about half had just a plain pole and the other half also had a circular sign at the top. I called them "poles" and "lollipops" and they were perfect for noting at a glance whether a stroller had been returned to the corral since my last check. A corral with three poles and three lollipops in a row; check for quarters; ignore corral until another pole or lollipop was added; perfectly efficient system.

But for some unknown reason, a man arrived with a supply of plain poles and replaced all the lollipops. Booo, hisss!

Only one poor lollipop survived the massacre, must have been out in circulation at the time.

420

Ms. Virginia Slims on campus! She has an unusual habit, tucks the little slip of paper wrapper inside the top lid of the cigarette box, a tell-tale clue of the box's origin. And on Sunday morning, outside Manoa Garden, there was an almost-full box of the things, paper tucked inside the lid. Spooky.

The Mall Game was drastically altered by one of the periodic "Sidewalk Sales", running Friday through Sunday. Some of the shops put so many tables and racks out on the sidewalk there is barely room to walk through, much less push a shopping cart. This increases the number of abandoned carts, since many people apparently don't want to bother trying to get through the crush more than once. It also increases the physical exercise involved in the Quarter Hunt, since it is often easier to go a long way around to a satellite corral rather than struggle back to the supermarket with a cart. The large crowd, especially on Saturday, also meant far more strollers in circulation and a sharp increase in the number of coins found dropped on the sidewalks. I don't usually count pennies until the supply gets so low I have to be concerned about the seven-cent tax money on a bottle of malt liquor, but I was amused by the unusually large number I found on Saturday: twenty-two pennies.

It would have been a two-Colt day but I'd used my last teabag on Saturday morning, so as soon as one-Colt financing was in place and I found the five additional quarters needed for tea purchase, I went immediately to buy it. No need to leave myself open to the temptation to spend the money on a second bottle of beer and then berate myself on Sunday morning when I had no tea to drink and a slight hangover from the unnecessary second beer. As it happened, by the end of the evening, I was only one quarter short of a second bottle anyway. Sunday's nightcap assured.

Friday's main meal had been a delicious chicken and cheese salad from the restaurant at Neiman-Marcus. Had they added a little avocado to it, I'd definitely rate it as the finest salad I've ever eaten. Friday would also have been a two-Colt day but I had to leave early, still short two quarters which I shamelessly begged for and thus had not only a beer before going to the theatre but also a nightcap afterwards.

Helen R. and I went to see the student production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Kennedy Theatre, the first time I have been in there. Nice place, decent production visually, but seriously marred by most of the actors speaking the lines too quickly, rendering them incomprehensible. Still, I love that play and enjoyed this production more than the recent film version which was a major disappointment.

I found another inconsequential murder mystery and a (more interesting) recent copy of The Economist, reading for Friday and Saturday. The magazine included an obituary of the art-dealer, Leo Castelli, bringing back, again, memories of his infamous telephone call to me. "You beetch!" he said. I was so flattered. Tempest in a teacup over an article I had written about his stars Jasper Johns and Bob Rauschenberg. He never forgave me, but I admired him and what he did for those artists whose work he championed.

I took a break from the Mall Game in mid-afternoon on Saturday and went down to the State Library in quest of more reading material. Someone had donated a large batch of Danielle Steel's books to the "honor collection", so I took her Vanished, next in line for inconsequential reading.

A cloud over an otherwise amusing Saturday. Rumor has it, although no one knows for sure, that Rocky is in jail on a drug bust. I hope it isn't true. I'd really miss hearing him ask, "where's the beer?"

421

When these guys fall off the wagon, they fall HARD. Conrad, who has been without the sauce for at least three months, was raving drunk at the mall before noontime. As usual, when in his cups, he didn't recognize me. I'm not complaining.

The Old Guitarist, who for quite some time has been sober and clean and like a totally different person, staggered over to me. I really had to think for a moment. I knew I knew him, but it took me longer than it should have to recognize him. "I'm a dollar short of a beer," he slurred. I gave him the dollar. Not a chance in hell I'm going to do the "is this the best thing for him?" trip. Not a chance. Someone stole his bicycle and that was his "reason" for going back on the bottle. Okay.

Within minutes of reaching the mall, I had nightcap financing in pocket, not surprising since I only needed a quarter. I was well on my way to a second beer when I gave up four of them to the O.G. He's a sweet old man, I would have given him the quarters even if it had zapped the nightcap.

Sundays at the mall are so absurd I should discipline myself, set aside a twenty each month. Two Sunday beers each week without going near the mall.

Maybe that's what Cainer was talking about for the weekend. Maybe.

I saw the Big Local Dude for the first time in many weeks, asked him if he'd heard any news of Rocky. He said he'd heard Rocky was in jail for "D&D" [drunk and disorderly]. "That would be much better than a drug bust," I said. He agreed, said it was only what he'd heard, though, and that Rocky was "not careful enough with the pakalolo". Then, with a big grin, he asked, "so how's your crazy boyfriend doing?" I certainly blushed inwardly, if not outwardly, said I hadn't seen him in a long time and told the BLD what I knew of the Sleeptalker's life at the moment. "A good thing," he said, "he was headed for inside, too, the crazy way he was acting."

The "Sidewalk Sale" wasn't quite the fever pitch activity it had been on Saturday, but the mall was still very crowded, I was feeling a little weary of crowds and decided I would leave the very moment I had financing for a second beer in hand, even (especially after giving away four quarters) considered leaving with only the nightcap funds. But I stuck it out and, shortly after sunset, had the two-beer money in pocket.

The Whore and his former buddy aren't speaking (again), but the Whore seems to have picked up a new one and I saw them leaving the mall together in the late afternoon. Earlier the Whore had been dashing around with a large box of Twinkies in his hand. I thought there was absolutely nothing he could have done to make his image more absurd than it already is. Then, as I was sitting on a planter ledge near the supermarket for a smoke break, he walked up to me, handed me the box and said, "I'm stuffed, can't eat anymore." Two Twinkies still in the box. I ate them.

It's ridiculous how we form opinions of people because they remind us of someone else. I understood in that moment why I dislike the Whore so much. It hasn't anything to do with quarters. There are very, very few people in this life, past or present, whom I really dislike. And the Whore reminds me of one of them.

422

Cainer writes: What you now want and need to do is manifest 'holiday attitude' in an all too familiar scenario.

Back on target! All day I've been thinking, I really want a vacation from the Mall Game. But it's still 11-12 days before the Fabled Pension Check arrives. [deep sigh]

Yes, I did think that throughout Monday.

Man does not live by French fries alone. Maybe not, but I guess he can survive one day on them. McD's "super size" gambit is so helpful, encouraging people to buy more than they can eat. And after days when the food supply was so abundant, it strangely turned to famine on Monday and leftover fries was about all there was until I found four big bread rolls on campus when I returned there. Bread and potatoes. Oh well, it's not starvation.

But I am weary of the mall game, despite a most excellent one, judged by results, on Monday. I found a fine new winter shirt, heavy hand-loomed cotton. It is both heavier weight and bulkier than the cotton flannel one I have been using (bought from Goodwill store last winter), but when I read the label I knew there was no question which of the two would remain in my backpack. "Made in Nepal".

$5.25 ... not bad at all for the Quarter Hunt on a Monday.

And especially since that devilish novel by Ms. Steel had me so engrossed with its plot that I had stayed up past midnight reading it and spent most of the morning in the park finishing it. I don't especially admire her as a writer, am puzzled why she is apparently so very successful, but I shall have a look at more of her work. Any writer who can grab and demand my attention like that is worth further investigation.

I just feel so certain I could write a book as well as that, though. Why in heaven's name (or hell's, for that matter) don't I do it?

[Note: Tales 423-425 have vanished into the infinite.]

426

"Don't you mind living on the street?" asked the Ferret. "No," I said, "been doing it for two years now." "Ahhhh," said he, his usual end-of-conversation signal.

I've been seeing him for at least a year. I don't know where he sleeps, but he turns up on campus very early every morning to use the microwave, heats water and dumps a packet or two of instant ramen into it for breakfast. Has lately taken to sipping green tea as well, told me in another "lengthy" exchange like the above that green tea was healthier. He very rarely uses the libraries, and I've never seen him on a computer. Once in awhile I see him at the mall, usually eating. I teased him once about how he was always eating or about to eat whenever I saw him, and he took it quite seriously, explained that he eats small meals seven or eight times a day because it's healthier. I wouldn't call two packets of instant ramen for breakfast a small meal, but if he's satisfied with his efforts to live a "healthier" life, more power to him. Funny fellow.

Sunday looked like it was going to be a humdinger of a Mall Game. Mr. Cane, the Japanese-tourist-looking old man, was there at dawn, digging in the trash already. He's added a cane to his props, thus the nickname. He's a pest when it comes to the snipe hunt but doesn't go after quarters. Madame Tojo, who does however, arrived on the scene around 9:30 and started prowling the parking lot, giving me a nasty look every time I passed her. At one point, Bla and I crossed paths just as she walked by. Bla looked at her, looked at me and gave a subtle roll of his eyes. Quite. I nodded. Silly old woman. I didn't see her score any quarters at all. And all the other Sunday amateurs were there, Uncle Remus sitting outside the supermarket by the corrals, Hayseed guarding a bus stop, Charlie Chan doing his usual mandrax shuffle.

I took a break and went to campus for awhile after having a shower and sitting in the park to put a new hem in the frayed legs of my Banana Republic chinos. When I returned to the mall, none of the regular quarter hunters were on the scene and they didn't appear all day. Maybe they've reached the point of thinking it's not worth the effort against the Sunday Amateurs. It isn't, if all of us regulars are there, but with the field to myself, I did quite well.

T. Rex isn't borderline psycho, he's over the line. But he's a sweetheart nonetheless. He was definitely on some drug which made him a little difficult to understand and he thoroughly astounded me by saying he wanted to have sex and was quite explicit about what he wanted. I'm not sure why but I thought it would be dishonorable to take advantage of his drugged condition, even if by invitation. So I hugged him and said I'd love to do that with him someday but I was still feeling weak from having been ill and just didn't feel up to it. He gave me one of his wacky little grins and said, "okay, but I won't stop asking." I hope he doesn't.

My excuse wasn't really a lie. The tiredness, apparently a classic symptom of bronchitis, was still lingering although all the others, except for the cough, were gone. How annoying to turn into, even temporarily, one of those awful old men I scorn ... light a cigarette, puff, hack hack, cough cough, puff, etc. etc. Twice during the night I left my bench and went out to the corner of the walk at the hacienda so I could have a good long cough session without disturbing my sleeping companions.

The final week of October, the dreaded Halloween weekend looming ahead. Already the nuisance of it has begun. There's a company here which runs a mobile amusement park, setting up temporary carnivals complete with ferris wheel, spinning rides, and such. And for the first time they are doing one at UH for Halloween. Although it doesn't open for business until Friday, they started setting up on Sunday, near the secluded grove. I don't think it will be very "secluded" until All Saint's Day arrives, and even that day will no doubt be polluted by the awful beeping sound of vehicles backing-up, removing all the junk they were busy installing. It's always something ...

427

On the down escalator at the mall, I spotted two shopping carts in the parking lot. One was, astoundingly, just sitting there in the open, directly across from the supermarket. The other was lurking behind a van which probably concealed it from the sidewalk. As I quickly headed toward the unhidden one, the Gypsy Boy moved in and grabbed it. I said "congratulations" and smiled as I walked past him, got the hidden one and returned it. Rare to see the Gypsy Boy and Cat at the mall.

"You can't just go for the easy ones," I told him, after greeting Cat who gave me his usual disinterested look, but let me scratch his head with a finger. The Gypsy Boy laughed, said he didn't want to let the cart sit there for "some of those other guys". Then he said something about how there seemed to be an increase in the "crazies" hanging out at the mall.

I agreed. Without saying anything which would identify T. Rex, I told him about the unusual invitation I'd had on Sunday evening. "He must have been doing Ectasy," said the Gypsy Boy, "it makes some people lose all inhibition." Hmmmm. One evening when the Sleeptalker was slightly drunk and even more affectionate than usual, I teased him, asked what would make him horny. "Ecstacy," he said. I want to try that stuff, but only when I'm utterly alone with no one else within miles.

A little later, I was sitting on a planter ledge and T. Rex walked over, skateboard, as always, under his arm. With a rather sheepish look on his face, he said, "I'm sorry I was so overboard last night." I assured him there was no need for an apology, that I regretted later I'd declined his invitation because I'd really like to see him naked. He laughed and said I could do that anytime, but he only liked to have sex with "guys" when he was "stoned". I chickened out. It was drizzling rain. Otherwise I would have asked him to cross over to the park and have a shower with me since, yes, I surely would like to see him naked. But then maybe he's the final clue to the puzzle.

Cainer writes: You are seeing the potential for success in an area of life where it normally eludes you. Surely, it cannot be this easy can it? Oh yes it can. Just trust a simple truth.

What if the truth is, I just want the shared moments talking with fascinating young men?

If so, there was another treat in store. I've already mentioned Ryan Ozawa's class project, and he talks about it, too, in his journal. I was walking past the Sears entrance at the mall when a young man spoke to me from behind. I thought he was another aspiring evangelist, but he was such a sweetie, such a teddy bear of a fellow, I was quite willing to listen to him talk about Jesus. Ha! Turned out, he was one of Ryan's classmates and I had been nabbed as an official "interviewee".

I told him later I would be writing about him, asked if I should use a nickname or his real name. He said "real name", but then he doesn't know me or the Tales, so I shall exercise my right of discretion and call him Teddy.

The project has been split into subdivisions and his assigned field of interest is job discrimination against the homeless. Having not actively sought a job since leaving the Land of the Homeowners, I could give no direct personal report, but it wasn't difficult to imagine, say, walking into the Human Resources office at Bank of Hawaii, backpack on back, slippers on feet, and applying for a job I was well qualified to do and had the resume to support my believing so ... and wonder if I'd encounter "discrimination". But the other side of the coin is, as I know from so many direct examples, employers are not unwise to be cautious.

How long did the Sleeptalker last in the kitchen at Gordon Biersch? How long did Rocky? Can you take a man who has lived for two years without worrying about the clock, about being here or there at any given time, without being forced to sit anywhere if he doesn't feel like sitting there, and put him at an office desk and expect him to remain there for a long enough period of time to justify the expense of hiring him?

There are, no doubt, many homeless men who wish they could find a job and return to "normal" life. "On track," as Teddy put it. I am sure there are, and I am equally sure they encounter "discrimination" from Human Resources personnel. (I hate that "H.R." crap ... "Employment Office" is so much more direct and meaningful.)

But "on track"? As I told Teddy, I am "on track" now. I was "off track" when I was sitting in a downtown Honolulu office seven hours (or more) a day from Monday through Friday to get money to pay for a dinky little apartment in Waikiki.

Pass the hemlock, please.

Teddy is a sweetheart. So is T. Rex. I'm a lucky man.

428

Teddy had kindly given me his change, putting the bankroll near the two-brew limit. I have to say "brew" now instead of "Colt" because something's going on with that. The only store I've come across which still carries Colt wanted $2.69 for it. Maybe the other stores are resisting an attempt to eliminate the $1.99 ceiling. Hurricane tried that, too, and now can't be found anywhere. So it has been back to Mickey's or even St. Ides. There isn't that much difference between these cheapo brews anyway.

I told Teddy I would toast his health with the first beer I had and after leaving him, returned to campus and did just that. I had begun Come to Grief by Dick Francis the prior evening and read a little but spent more time just thinking about the exchanges with the Gypsy Boy, T. Rex and Teddy.

I especially liked T. Rex's laugh when I'd told him the main reason I had declined his invitation was because I felt I'd be taking advantage of him. "I want people to take advantage of me when I'm stoned," he'd said. Why on earth was I so innocent and naive in my youth. And I liked, too, the way Teddy set up the interview, very formally showing me his student ID card and his journalism class nametag. With such a happy atmosphere about him there could not have been any reason for suspicion, not from me anyway.

There's never been a time in my life so filled with people I'm happy to see, from the one side of earnest young college students like the Cherub and Teddy to the other of not-as-tough-as-they'd-like-you-to-believe street boys like the Sleeptalker, Mondo and Rocky. And the old-timers, like the Big Local Dude, the Old Guitarist, the Snorer. Quite a cast of characters.

To top it off, Dame Fortune must have grinned when I returned to Sinclair Library just as Teddy was leaving.

Returning to the mall in the early evening I was much surprised to find the Whore absent. A few days earlier he had that awful hair cut off. The odd thing is, his huge potbelly looked even larger as a result of the short hair, I suppose due to the absence of the hairdo's visual distraction. He had been spending less time on the scene, but Monday was the first day in many weeks when he didn't put in an appearance at all.

The shoppers were not abundant and neither were quarters or food or even, alas, Gloria Jean's coffee. I was sitting on a bench counting my coin stash, realized I had enough for a nightcap but only if I gave up the quarter needed for the next morning's senior coffee. I'd used the last McD's cert on Sunday, so my daily overhead requirement had to include 36 cents again unless I wanted to wait until getting to campus to have my first dose of caffeine. I was pondering the situation, thinking the supermarket would still be open for two hours and I'd surely find another quarter, when a lady stopped, handed me a dollar bill, saying, "here's a dollar you didn't know you had." Sweetheart!

Maybe I should sit pondering my coin supply more often.

429

Hallucinating is a fine antidote for boredom, especially nice when it comes free-of-charge, no artificial stimulants required. I was sitting on a planter ledge outside the supermarket watching the people walk by and fell into an alternate-reality bubble where I could clearly imagine what a young man looked like naked. There was no way to verify my visions, of course, without walking up to one and saying, "excuse me, I'd just like to know if my x-ray vision is working accurately." There was one exhibit I surely would have liked to verify, but for the most part they were moderately equipped and not outstanding physical specimens, so I guess it wasn't just wishful thinking anyway.

Fortunately, it only worked when they were quite near me because the Gypsy Boy and Cat arrived. Not that I'd mind seeing a vision of him naked, but Spot soon turned up. Spare me that vision, please! I had waved to the Gypsy Boy as he arrived but didn't go over to chat with him because I wasn't in the mood to be a listening post for Spot. With that guy it is never a question of conversation, just listen-suppress yawn-listen, repeat.

My x-ray vision, alas, went away when I got up to stroll. I wished later I could call it up at will when the inevitable happened and I crossed paths with the Snorer and his new sidekick. The Snorer, a mainland black fellow probably in his late 30s or early 40s, almost always has a young local lad as a buddy. Whether the buddy relationship includes more than just hanging out together, I don't know, but the Sleeptalker told me sex was optional, not obligatory. The Sleeptalker is too much of a loner and too emotionally volatile to be anyone's buddy for an extended time, so it had never worked out with him and the Snorer, sexually or otherwise.

But the latest sidekick has been around for a couple of months. He and the Snorer stay in the beach park all day and sleep there. I've seen the lad from a distance many times. He's probably still in his teens, classic slim brown body which looks too wonderful clad in just shorts. Too wonderful, even from a distance. So I've avoided going near them, only chat with the Snorer in the shower house or if he walks over to talk to me. But there they were in the mall together as I was stashing my bottle of Mickey's in my backpack. I was glad they just greeted me and continued walking. The lad's smile was enough to melt me into a puddle anyway. Ahhhh, my beautiful wickedness.

It was a very, very slow day. I hadn't expected Tuesday to come close to matching the magic of Monday, so I wasn't disappointed, but even so it was a dull one. The mountains were shrouded in the grey veil of falling rain so it made no sense to return to campus, and the drizzle occasionally drifted down to the mall as well. By sunset I had exactly, to the penny, funds for one brew and the next morning's senior coffee. Since I didn't even have the seven cents tax for a second brew, the daunting goal of NINE quarters loomed and I had no hope whatever of finding them, rested content with the thought that whatever did show up would make Wednesday's game easier. One stroller, after I'd finished my nightcap and was preparing to head on down to the hacienda, started the next game off with a fifty cent advance. What a lousy hunt, and it would have been even worse had the Whore not fallen asleep on a bench shortly after arriving on the scene. He didn't miss much.

Now all I have to figure out is how to turn that x-ray hallucination on-and-off at will. Who cares if it's accurate or not?

430

In the usual hawaii.test banter, it was announced that Wednesday had been "cancelled". My mind seems to have taken it quite seriously because I had difficulty all day remembering it was Wednesday.

Despite all the practice, some months are just more difficult than others when it comes to waiting for the Fabled Pension Check and this is a tough one, as always for no real reason. The bronchial congestion (I could hear the wheezing inside my chest once I put earplugs in to sleep) worsened when the sinuses started their act, drip dripping all night. I gave up and borrowed ten dollars to buy some extra-strength sinus tablets and was grateful when I settled down to sleep Wednesday night able to breathe freely for the first time in days. "Alcohol should be avoided while taking this product," said the labeling. I ignored it.

Helen R. had the day off and asked if I'd like to meet in Waikiki and see "Fight Game". Definitely! I wasn't, to tell the truth, all that keen on the film itself after what I'd read about it, but let's face it, watching Brad Pitt for a couple of hours is an activity I place at the top of my list of excellent things to do. There's one all-too-brief shot of him naked, only half of his butt showing. I'd love to have a photo of that. Otherwise, as I've said before, he seems to be very nervous about letting himself look too beautiful in films, and it must have been difficult for him, making "Meet Joe Black". Aside from the pleasure of watching him, even with such a tough guy image, the film was strangely weird. Helen and I agreed on that. And there are few films in my memory with as bizarre a twist at the end.

I was happy to have seen it.

Rocky is back! Just before leaving for Waikiki, I ran into him at the mall with a tall young dude I'd never seen before. They seemed to be intently on some errand, so we just exchanged a few words and Rocky said, in response to my noting it had been a long time without seeing him, "I've been away." Okay. I'll no doubt hear the details whenever he's ready to tell me.

I was happy to have seen him, too.

And to have seen Teddy in Hamilton Library on Thursday. Such a sweetheart. He makes me feel happy just spending a few minutes in his company.

431

Colt is back! Both the Vietnamese shop and Puck's Alley had it again. I had just finished popping the lid on my second one, drank half of it, and stopped into Sinclair to check email.

Kory K said he was feeling all "touchy-feelie".

Uh-oh. I knew those code words from earlier in the week when I'd been talking to Kory K about this mysterious drug Ecstasy. I'd even asked him to get me some, if he could, because I don't like talking to young people about some drug I've never tried myself. And there aren't many in that category. Cocaine, I know. Crack cocaine, okay, never tried it. Or Ecstasy.

Well, Kory K is a sweetheart, a Big Island lad with the proverbial heart of gold, and if he wanted me to stop down and visit, I really didn't have any choice.

So I walked downhill from campus, in light drizzle, to Kory K's apartment building. Kory K is the only person I know with the balls to have his name on his bell-ringing-directory, but he, too, like so many, has that stupid system where the doorbell and the damned telephone are on the same line. Luckily, Kory K wasn't on the phone, so he answered the doorbell and I was soon on my way upstairs in his very, very slow elevator.

Kory K was naked, except for some nylon-like black gym shorts I'd seen before. Smeared across his back was the discolored smudge of the fungus attack he'd gotten from the ocean off Hilo [remind me never to go in the water off the Big Island].

"Shall I rub some ointment on that?" I asked Kory K.

He seductively ran his right hand up his thigh and across his crotch and said, "yes, that would be wonderful", handing me a tube of cream.

He went back to his futon in front of the television set, which was showing some scenes of two naked women in a shower, soaping each other up. I squeezed a little of the ointment out of the tube and started to rub it across Kory K's fungus-infected broad back. I noticed how, as I gently rubbed his back, Kory K's butt kept up a slow up-and-down rhythm. "Ah," I thought to myself, "must be that touchie-feelie feeling."

How, I wondered, would I get Kory K to roll over on his back, check it out, would there be a hardened rod shape in the front of those black shorts?

431a

Tale 430: Fantasia on a Theme of Kory K's Fungus was indirectly inspired by Ryan who kindly set up a search machine for the Tales. Kory K complained that the number of references to him was too low, so I thought I'd be nice and boost the count a little. I doubt he'll ever catch up with the Sleeptalker, though, unless he gives up all this nonsense about having girlfriends.

I left campus for the beach in the late morning to have a shower, the intention being to return to the laundromat near the lower campus and do laundry. But the thought of sitting in that place while clothes tumbled was just too dull, so I decided to endure dirty clothes and sit in the secluded grove with a brew instead. The carnival has a huge trailer-sized generator with a hum that can be heard over a quarter of the campus but aside from that wasn't too disturbing on the last day before it opens.

Finishing The Echo by Minette Walters, I went back to Dick Francis again, this time his Banker. The Walters book was, I suppose, a "psychological mystery", nicely constructed although with such a complex weave of threads that it was slow getting off the ground while all the background was established. The central character was an old homeless dude found dead in someone's garage. He had called himself Billy Blake and it took me longer than it should have to make the connection to William. Tyger, tyger ...

Books, beer, sunshine. Cute guys, sweet guys. October wasn't a bad month, at all.

432

Where to begin, where to begin? It's always best to begin from the beginning. This Tale, though, begins before the beginning, so to speak.

The last thing I wrote was:

Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 17:14:16 -1000 (HST)

Had a vision, one of many many many brought on by hideous fever and not nearly as beautiful as most of them. Lying in a hospital bed under oxygen tent, tubes stuck in my arms, probably trying to get some nutrition into me which I haven't done much of in five days. I managed to eat one of the power-bar type things and was much irked when the fever element stayed in deep sweats mode since I'd chosen that particular bar for its 30% DMR Potassium content.

Charming young security guard asked earlier if I was okay. Probably should have told him, no I was dying, and he would have called a ambulance to take me off to an emergency room.

Jesus came to chat. Nice man. Fascinating to hear what he's been doing these two thousand years. That was special. I didn't open my eyes, but I wasn't asleep.


I have no idea what happened in the next three days. On Saturday night, I went to the hacienda. I had earlier in the day received word from Nohoboy that he had finally persuaded an exceptionally wealthy man to accept me as part of his global team. Six bank accounts were being opened in my name with generous letters of credit, one of which included a credit card with a limit of one million dollars. At the hacienda, I am told, I left a full bottle of beer, told the Sleeptalker and Mondo I was going to New York City and took a bus to the airport.

If you have not already noticed, these Tales will be a mixture of what actually happened and what was, for me, too real to be called hallucination, perhaps better understood as alternate realities. I do notmyself know in all cases which is which.

Evidently I collapsed at the airport and was taken first to the St. Francis hospital and then, because they thought I was a psycho case as well as being seriously ill, was transferred to Castle Medical Center. The only thing I recall from the early days there was a doctor saying, "Its beginning to migrate to other areas of the chest." "It" was pneumonia which had already infested the lungs and heart.

A kidney temporarily failed but mercifully regained its function before they began dialysis. The list of ailments includes respiratory failure, which prompted a tracheotomy (I assume), and was topped off by a heart attack. Slices were carved in my chest, as I can see from the scars, and I am told I had tubes running into my chest and mouth. Again mercifully, I remember none of that. They contacted my mother to get permission to pull the plug, since Hawaii law requires the mother's consent. She gave it, bless her. The sweetest thing she has ever done for me.

"We almost lost you twice," said an assisting nurse to me weeks later.

I think I know one of those moments. I was juggling three realities. In one, I was a younger man on a train heading north up the Mississippi valley. In the second, I was also young, on the same train, but heading south. In the third, I was me, but in limbo with no points of reference at all. I had already discovered I could halt one of these "dreams" by saying "stop, exit, quit, End-of-File!" and I stopped both train scenarios, but it didn't work on the third.

They didn't have to pull the plug.

432b

They discovered very early that I have an extraordinarily high resistance to drugs and were pumping morphine and some other heavy-duty painkiller directly into my veins. When I became aware enough to know it was morphine, I begged them to stop. They said there was nothing to worry about and my favorite nurse (despite paranoia which I'll get to) said "Lots of people here would be happy to be getting it. Relax and enjoy." She was absolutely right.

I've never had morphine before and my prejudice was based solely on Marianne Faithful and the Stones doing "Sister Morphine". I want a copy of that.

"Would you like a valium?" Magic words! Yes. Still my drug of choice and once it was written on my chart as approved by the doctor, I could ask for it. Didn't die, but went to heaven. I missed that luxury when I left the critical ward.

The view from my window is surely one of the finest on the island. The mountains are lush green, with no human interference at all and the area between the Center and the mountains is also untouched.

A nightly event was the arrival of a sleek white trapezoidal hovercraft which almost floated in from behind the mountain, set down (with brilliant red light streaming from its underside) at various spots. Ramps were lowered at either end and cars were loaded or unloaded before it rose and departed again behind the mountain. I learned it was a secret Japanese spacecraft, making regular trips between Earth and the Moon.

Keep in mind that I was utterly flat on my back, immobile ...

My first assignment for the wealthy benefactor was to work with George Lucas in testing some new vehicles he planned to use in the next Star Wars. Kory K, in his sole appearance in this saga, was driving one of them and I was in the other. They were very small and our mission was to drive them at high speed around a circular tunnel in opposite directions, coming as close as possible to collision but avoiding it at the last minute. On the third pass, I narrowly missed Kory but crashed into three unexpected vehicles which were being driven by three young ladies from the Viet Cong. As an apology for the crash, they completely restored my bottom teeth.

The second assignment, for which I was paid a combined fee with the Lucas task, was to play Bugs Bunny in a Playstation commercial for Sony. It was apparently very successful when shown in Japan and I was told more than 30,000 viewers had called after its first showing to ask when it could be seen again. My reward: $1,076,000 with a first residual check of $100,000.

The other reward was an invitation to join the Emperor of Japan and three children on a trip to the Moon in that beautiful spaceship.

432c

The dark side of morphine ...

Death.

I thought both President and Mrs. Clinton had been killed. Although I have no great liking for either of them, I was astounded that television news continued to treat them so irreverantly.

I thought Aunty Genoa Keawe was dead from injuries suffered when two punks attacked her to get her purse. It was shocking that so beloved a person could suffer such a fate.

I thought my Mother was dead. Even though I'd been told a friend had spoken with her, and I imagined I'd had a card from her, I thought she died just before Christmas.

Worst of all, I thought my middle nephew was dead, Jonathan, the one I took around the world and who lived with me in Waikiki. I could not dwell on it or speak of it without tears, thinking I'd never have the chance to see him again.

And there were the worst attacks of paranoia I have ever experienced, going on for weeks. Ironically, my favorite nurse was the main "enemy", but I never let her know it. I believed I had written down the passwords for five of those bank accounts and that she had found the paper in my wallet and was withdrawing money from one of them.

Beside the bed was a device with a little computer-like screen. It was, as I heard repeatedly, merely monitoring my IV input, but I thought I could make contact using it, even with my banks. So I changed all the passwords, secreting a note of them in a pocket. She found that, too. I gave up, grateful she wasn't being too greedy, but still continued to fret over it.

I thought my net account had been hacked before I went into the hospital and then thought the hackers had broken into the hospital system and I saw messages on the little screen like, "Wasn't that oxygen great? Enjoy, it won't last long." More enjoyably, if equally improbably, I thought Michael Wise had hacked the system, too, and was sending me amusing messages.

And one evening, after I had begged again for them to stop the morphine, they made me think it would soon run out, I fell asleep, woke and saw two huge jars, red and black, and was certain one of them was morphine and that two of the nurses were conspiring to kill me with an overdose.

One of my favorite Aunties was working as a volunteer in the hospital and I told her about the attempted murder. "I'm not going to listen to this," she said and walked out.

There were two exotic, African-looking puppets hanging on the walls in the waiting area, one of them just outside my room. But they were alive. The one by me was male and an artist. His face was skeletal with two jaws full of teeth, and his legs were totally flat, covered in gold leaf. He would turn and keep an eye on whatever the nurses were doing to me and often when they left would roll his eyes and clack both jaws at me. The female had a second head growing out of the side of her neck, and would change into elaborate headdresses, one of tinsel and twinkling lights being especially elegant. And most improbably, they had a child who was dressed as a snowman and would sit immobile on the nurses' counter for hours at a time. But it was the male who contributed most to my paranoia about the nurses' activities and their evil intentions.

It was ironic that I was not caring at all if I died, yet at the same time was worrying about being murdered in my sleep.

432d

Although the imagined deaths, the moments of paranoia and fear were grim, much more than I've managed to convey in this Tale, most of the morphine adventure was just that, an adventure and an enjoyable, challenging and exciting one. There was none more so than the fourth and final assignment for the wealthy benefactor.

He sponsored a number of hospitals, including Castle, and he wanted me to visit some of them and report on conditions there. This took me (finally) to New York City as the jumping off point. As with all the travels, there was no sense of actually making a journey. I just arrived there. I had taken the subway into the city and was trying to find my way to the surface to get a taxi. That favorite Auntie who had been a worker at Castle appeared again, this time as a bag lady, or more accurately, a shopping cart lady. Her cart was stacked high with sheets and blankets and I met her outside a Warner Bros. store which was closed for renovation. There were, though, two young female workers in the store and Auntie kept going in to ask them for things. I was expecting them to get really annoyed with us both, but she seemed to charm them into cups of coffee and even borrowed a cellular phone and wanted me to talk to someone. I refused. After awhile I said I had to be on my way and she loaded me down with blankets which I had to carry until safely out of sight so she wouldn't see me discard them.

On the way to Africa, we touched down at Lindisfarne. It was a tiny airport with just one large shed as a terminal/hanger. The place was a classic cargo cult site, filled with Hawaiian artifacts from floor to ceiling. I gave them all the Hawaiian music I had with me which had them in near ecstasy.

There were two visits to a hospital somewhere in Africa. A meeting of tribal chiefs was going on and I was much surprised to see the puppet-man-artist from Castle. He was one of the chiefs and appeared to be quite a controversial figure, although I understood very little of what was going on. I also saw no sign whatever of a hospital. For the first time, two nurses from Castle showed up, trying to persuade me to return. They plagued me throughout the rest of these adventures, always following me.

I told them it was time for a little fun, and that I was taking a few days off and planned to stay at the Playboy Hotel (?) in Waikiki, not return to Castle. They followed, so I took a large suite for all of us. After some fierce arguments, I "fired" both of them and had a little respite. But only a brief one. A delightful young man, undoubtedly inspired by the Sleeptalker, climbed up on my lanai (balcony) one evening and the stay in Waikiki consequently became one of the most delightful episodes of the adventure.

Back to work and off to inspect a hospital in New Mexico. This was such a complex adventure it is difficult to remember everything in correct sequence. Much of my time was spent in the basement of a Pizza Hut which was somehow connected to the hospital and was the ward for long-term-care patients which included the prototype of CP3O, whom we called The First CP. He was, of course, alive, but had none of the outer shell which the final Star Wars figure had. He was also something of a sex maniac and had his eye on me but I was saved. Someone had given me a dazzling Star Wars bicycle and The First CP fell in love with it. I gave it to him and woke the next morning to find a touching farewell note with profuse thanks for my gift.

Another part of that adventure involved a nearby church, an old Spanish mission, which had many valuable artifacts. The priest was very concerned about theft since there were known gangs of young people in the area, apt to steal from anyone or any place. I suggested that the missions in the area should combine resources and establish a museum where all the valuable items could be under better security. During our discussion, word came that a young lady had been killed and her grandmother's jewelry stolen. A benefit was to be organized for the family and I promised to try and get Willie K to come and play for it.

Willie did appear but not until my next stop, an underground hospital in South Carolina, where both he and Makana showed up to do a gig in the aircraft hanger. Florida Mark made his sole appearance there, too, playing the organ. Because everyone was so concerned about the possible disasters which might accompany the arrival of the year 2000, I went to the main center of the hospital, opened the door and asked the group there what they planned to do if the End was coming. By way of answer, they went back to doing what they had been doing.

Of all the adventures, that moment remains at the top of the list for me. Yes, the answer is to go on doing what you were doing, and to hope that's truly the proper path for your life at that time.

433

"Time to get up!" Ooops. I haven't heard that in a very long time. The internal clock just isn't set to wake up, especially when it's still more than an hour before the first hint of dawn. I'll have to work on that.

So, after almost three months of mattresses, sheets, blankets, pillows, how does a bench at the hacienda feel? Narrow and hard. Emphasis on hard. I need a lot more padding on these bones. I expected to add "cold" to that list, but it wasn't cold at all. Mother Nature is being extremely sweet about my return to life-as-we-knew-it. Clear, sunny skies, almost no wind at all during the day, remaining clear and windless at night making for an unusually comfy, if too short, sleep time.

There were only four of us there and I've never seen the other three before. No sign of the boys, either there or at the mall earlier. The Whore was busy making his rounds and I waved a greeting to the Duchess but the usual gang was also absent from the mall, maybe because it was Sunday. I had a couple of beers at the Cove Bar, watching most of the first half of the Superbowl game, but otherwise just sat around watching people walk by before going downtown and then to the hacienda as soon as it was dark. An uneventful first day back, but that was fine with me.

Those bus steps surely are steep, and the backpack, although lighter than it has ever been, seems very heavy. Lots of adjustments to make, none more delightful than forcing myself not to stare as the parade of sweet young men passes by at UH Manoa and especially when one of them sits down at the terminal across from me. How is a person supposed to write under such conditions?

434

There it was. That unmistakable Waianae strut, a few feet ahead of me on the walk leading up to the hacienda on Monday night. Yep, the Sleeptalker.

Everyone else has first asked "where have you been?!".

Not him. "Are you still going to UH?" "Are you still playing Seventh Circle?" And in parting, "Okay, Albert."

I remember every word. So it wasn't quite the reunion I would have preferred. He was with two young men I hadn't seen before and at the hacienda three more Social Horrors were waiting, including both of the Rossini's. I had been at the mall until it got dark enough to head for the bench because I was very, very tired, just wanted to stretch out, no matter how hard it was. With that mob, I thought we'd be in for a most unquiet evening, but they decided to go off somewhere and by the time the Sleeptalker and one of the young men returned I was sound asleep and wasn't awakened by their arrival. I did wake up in time to watch the Sleeptalker get up. He looks so sweet first thing in the morning.

Totally unexplainable. As I said to a friend, must be something from a previous life. I can't think of any other explanation for why I am so smitten (and we are talking about a year and a half now) with a 24 year old local boy with whom I have almost nothing in common. But I do know he will need me again sometime, so I wait patiently. Those are the moments that matter, as I pondered while I waited to fall asleep on that hard bench.

And despite my pleasure in watching not just him but all the other sweet young things in town, I have to admit that my sexual desire is nil, and has been since entering the hospital. I was told that hope was stirred one afternoon when a very cute young fellow came into the room and I watched him with my eyes. Oh, he was a sweetie, that got through the morphine haze. But sex? No, that drive seems to be on major idle, and I have absolutely no complaints about it.

About that time in the hospital, there's a far more realistic, if altogether too flattering, account in Ryan's journal at "first time I saw him". I only vaguely recall that visit, although I remember I was worried later that I might have offended him.

There was a complaint from a reader about how short the previous tale was. Hey, if nothing happened, what I am supposed to do? Make up an exciting life? That might be a better idea, make the New York Times Best Seller list.

Truth is, I fell into quite a pit on Monday afternoon. I went to Manoa Garden, drank a Budweiser, and then sat in the secluded grove and felt bewildered. I was all alone, nothing to do, no one expected home at such-and-such a time, a blank. It stayed that way all afternoon until, as I said, I was just waiting until it was dark enough to head to the bench.

Tuesday morning I had to go to an interview about getting food stamps, which I seem to have passed with flying colors, as they say. I was given the "credit card" but have to wait until a letter of formal authorization arrives before I can use it. I wondered when I arrived if I was the only person who went to apply for food stamps using a taxi (I had no idea where the place was), but when I left there were two taxis discharging passengers who certainly looked like they were there for the same reason. Life is strange in this best of all possible countries.

Then I returned to campus, sat in the grove for awhile, went again to the Garden and drank a Budweiser and went downtown where I ended up at Gordon Biersch drinking their excellent Marzen brew and enjoying the panorama of Honolulu Harbor and the multitude of memories associated with that particular spot.

So my life was saved for some reason. Like enjoying a brew and memories.

435

Still no sign of Rocky, but the Social Horror Club was in full swing on Tuesday night (or more accurately, early Wednesday morning). I got to the hacienda about an hour after sunset, had the place to myself for awhile before the Bicycle Man arrived and quietly settled down. Two older men who seem to be new regulars then came in, chatted for awhile and were joined by a woman who said a few things before they all quieted down.

But probably a bit after midnight the Social Horrors arrived. Four of them. One, a rather cute young fellow, immediately took the bench in front of me. He was wearing thick white corduroy trousers and a tee shirt, leading me to suspect he's more of a "tourist" than a new regular member of the Club. The Sleeptalker gave me a poke and said "Albert, my man" as he headed for another bench. Two others stayed on an outside bench and were having a heated discussion which got louder as the "focking this" and "focking that" became more frequent.

The woman said she had to work in the morning and asked them to be quiet. The volume dropped for a bit, then increased again. She repeated her protest. Same result. Finally she yelled, "shut up!" Gasoline on a fire to the Sleeptalker who jumped up and started shouting at her, even though she hadn't been talking to him. He was obviously zonked, probably on something more potent than alcohol. He lay back down again but soon afterwards must have been set off by something in the continuing conversation outside, jumped up again, went and found what looked like a steel rod and began waving it around saying he was going to "keel" Rossini. "That's the bottom line. I'm going to keel him." What a weird love-hate relationship those two have.

It's the worst tantrum I've seen him throw and I knew better than to get involved. Japanese children are real champs when it comes to throwing tantrums and almost all of the parents just stand and wait for the steam to run out, the only solution with the Sleeptalker, too. He finally did shut up and disappeared, probably to the place he often sleeps in somewhere behind the hacienda. Looked at my watch, it was just after three o'clock.

Happy though I am to see him, I wouldn't mind if he found somewhere else to sleep when with the Horrors but that's not likely as long as the weather remains as mild as it has been this week.

Despite the frequently interrupted sleep, the internal alarm clock is valiantly trying to adjust itself and woke me up at five o'clock. Too early, I muttered, make it half an hour later. The Bicycle Man is helping. He's very quiet but makes just enough noise getting up at five-thirty to wake me, too, especially when I'm just dozing for that extra half hour. The lad in the corduroy trousers was awakened by one of the Horrors who had moved in from outside; the other Horror had evidently left and there was no sign of the Sleeptalker. Ah, the sweet life at the hacienda ...

I saw the Cherub who said he had gone several times to the cloisters looking for me but there had been no one there at all, and he wondered if they'd finally started chasing people away. It might be because of the continuing construction work there, but considering how crowded it was getting I couldn't much blame them for putting an end to it. A pity, if so. Every alternative is welcome.

And I had the longest conversation I've ever had with the Ferret who was very interested in the hospital experience and vowed to get a pneumonia shot this fall. Not a bad idea.

436

The poor Sleeptalker. All alone, already asleep on the bench when I got to the hacienda, still asleep when I woke up. He hates being alone and I felt sorry for him even though I know he asked for it, as always. Nothing to be done about it, but it did make for a wonderfully quiet night since everyone else there is just interested in a place to sleep.

I saw Jon Yamasato, ex Pure Heart, at Sinclair Library in the afternoon, told him how sad I was to hear of the group's break-up and how I hoped he wouldn't give up on the music business. He has such a casual, laidback style of singing, the potential of being the Perry Como of the local scene (and I mean that as a compliment). He said he would be doing an occasional solo gig, so I'll keep an eye out.

Ryan admitted in his journal that he hadn't known who Pure Heart was! Yikes. When I was a teenager watching my parents and other older folks showing such disdain for the music I most liked, I wondered if I'd be the same way when I got old. Apparently not. Although some new genres like rap and hip-hop escape me, I discovered during more watching of VH-1 than usual that I'm still captured by a lot of the younger musicians. The Back Street Boys are charming and I especially like their new track about being lonely; Savage Garden's "I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You" sticks in my mind (as does the image of the singer's beautiful blue eyes); and the Foo Fighters current video is a delight.

VH-1 also did a lengthy survey of the "top 100 greatest hits" of rock. What an exercise in nostalgia. Despite a few weird choices (like Patsy Cline's "Crazy" [rock???]), I couldn't disagree with most of them even though I didn't and still don't like some of the batch. I can live happily without ever hearing a Bee Gees record again but, okay, they did deserve to be included. No disagreement with the number one choice of the Stones' "Satisfaction" although my favorite track by them remains "Brown Sugar" which placed in the mid twenties. It was an amusing trip through my life, all those songs (from Elvis and Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly onwards) and the memories associated with them.

As soon as I was conscious in the hospital I would demand that they turned the television off. They seemed to think everyone would want the infernal box on all the time and were evidently puzzled by my preferring to just lay there and think (not to mention enjoy my morphine dreams). But while I was staying with friends on the North Shore I sampled more television than usual, enjoyed A&E's "Biography" series especially. It was very annoying, though, when they inserted the tale of a serial killer in the midst of movie stars and shipping magnates. Do we really need to glorify such human aberrations?

The worst thing about that wretched invention remains the overwhelming avalanche of commercials, made even more irksome now by the constant "dotcom" references. As I said to Ryan, oh for the days when no one had ever heard of "dotcom" and we snuck onto the legendary Internet via back doors at UH.

Meanwhile, the adjustments continue. The internal alarm is still stuck on 5 a.m. but I'll eventually get it to idle for an additional half hour. Perhaps the biggest hassle, getting used to my upper plastic teeth, is getting steadily better. The gums shrank so much while in the hospital that the damned things won't stay in without assistance. I first tried some adhesive pads but they have an annoying minty taste and, even worse, turn to mush upon contact with alcohol. Afraid I'm definitely the wrong "market segment" for those things. Fixodent works much better. In the commercial for the stuff, the man spreads a thin ribbon all around the dentures. Not! Sheez, try getting the things out again with that much gook. Three little dabs in the front work just fine and the feeling of being constantly on the verge of nausea is finally going away. I still wait until lunchtime to put the things in, though.

And I still end up spending a lot of time just sitting and wondering what to do. Volume Eight of the Robert Jordan saga is in the shops, so I guess I'll part with $7.99 and resume my habit of reading (which I haven't done since leaving the hospital).

And I guess I'll eventually return to the point where I could sit and do nothing without wondering what to do.

437

"You're the most interesting man I've ever talked to." Poor fellow. Seventy-five years old and I get the top billing?

I was sitting on a planter ledge at the mall waiting until it was sensibly late enough to embark on my planned afternoon and evening in Waikiki when the man sat down beside me and asked, "have you seen my wife?" Odd beginning. I said, "she could be anywhere in this place." He and his wife were visiting from the mainland and after a bit of chat about the islands he asked if I'd answer questions for a survey he was doing. Oh well, I'm a natural when it comes to skewing surveys, so why not.

Did I belong to an organized religion? No, but I added the usual disclaimer that I had been baptized as a Roman Catholic so as not to appear a total heathen (or candidate for submersion). Who did I think Jesus Christ was? A great teacher. Did I think he would come again? Yes, but not like it says in the New Testament, clouds of glory and all that. He may even have come again already, I added, deciding not to tell him Jesus had told me himself that he had returned many times and that the clouds of glory scenario was hype he had never claimed.

Had I read the Bible? Yes, several times. All the way through?! It's remarkable how so many of these evangelical types seem amazed that someone would read the Bible all the way through. How could any thinking man not read a book which has had such massive influence on civilization? And if reading it when quite young, not go back in later years for a second look in case something was missed? Where else to find out what to do if my goat falls in a neighbor's well? (No, I didn't say any of that).

Did I think there was a revival of interest in God and religion? No, I don't see any suggestion such a thing is happening. He said Christians were "closer to God" than other people and I disagreed, said Hindus probably get that award since religion is so interwoven with their everyday lives.

What if I died and got to the gates of heaven and they wouldn't let me in? I told him about Heine's dying words. "God will forgive me. It's his job." I haven't done anything all that bad in this life and if the Christian model is correct, then not believing in it isn't my fault. Grace just hasn't found me. I didn't confuse the man further by telling him I've always thought the Christian notion of "heaven" to be rather boring anyway, but did say I thought it utterly unreasonable that a man was given only one chance and then was condemned to eternal punishment if he failed. I do try to tread lightly with Believers. After all, as I see it, anyone who believes in any god or gods is in better shape than I am.

After that rather entertaining interlude I set off for Waikiki and Duke's, continuing my promised-to-myself tour of all my favorite watering holes. And none is more favorite than Duke's. I have to admit, though, that nice as it is to be known and loudly greeted, sometimes I wish I could slip into such places anonymously, a sentiment echoed later at the Regent's Lobby Bar.

Whoever is in charge of "human resources" at Duke's certainly knows their job. There's a new bartender trainee who is the cat's meow. He's still working at the little side bar and I couldn't get up from the main bar and move over there without insulting one of my favorite bartenders, so I gazed adoringly from a distance, hoping the new recruit soon moves to the main bar. That would require a whole re-think of pension check allocations.

I stayed too long but resisted the temptation to order an eight-dollar cheeseburger and more sensibly went to have a Jumbo Jack before continuing on to the Regent. Genoa is not only still alive, she was in top form and one of her hugs makes not being anonymous worth it.

But was the Waikiki expedition really worth forty dollars?

438

The Year of the Dragon, my fifth one despite thinking twelve years ago it would probably be the last dragon I'd see.

I celebrated on the Eve by lingering on campus to see a band whose name I've already forgotten playing at Manoa Garden. They have an unusual line-up for a local band with three horns in addition to the guitars, drums and keyboard. The gig began with two instrumental numbers while a young lady, who was instantly under suspicion for wearing a cat-ears headband, did what I assume she considered "interpretative dancing". I thought of leaving. But she was better at singing than dancing so when she joined in on the third number I settled back and enjoyed the rest of the first set.

"You say what?!" asked the Sleeptalker in his best nocturnal voice, rousing me from my post-5am doze. He was missing for two nights but arrived at the hacienda after I'd fallen asleep on New Year's night. Talking in his sleep is certainly one of the most charming things about him, and it was a pleasure to hear it again. I had noticed someone sleeping on the bench at my head earlier but hadn't realized it was him. That bench has usually been taken by another young man who is very quiet when awake but seems to suffer heavy nightmares and often groans or moans in his sleep, so I thought it was probably him despite the different trousers. But it was The Man, and he sat up when I was packing to leave. I waved at him, he grinned, and lay back down, rocking himself back to sleep

The day had been a quiet one. I made a trip downtown to pick up mail, which included the food stamp authorization letter, stopped by the State Library to get a book and chose a three-novels-in-one-volume epic by James Hogan, a British sci-fi writer I've never read before. Back then to campus, stopping by the supermarket to use the food stamp card for the first time. They don't sell milk in any size smaller than a quart and after downing one of those, there isn't much desire to add a beer. I guess that's not a Bad Thing.

So I sat in the grove with a huge turkey+cheese sandwich, a small container of cottage cheese and the quart of milk and stuffed myself while reading the first of the three novels. The birds are very happy I got food stamps, too. And the Dragon arrived with an alcohol-free day.

The book was well-written and postulated an interesting alternative history with man originating on a planet which orbited where the asteroid belt is now. Earth's moon was originally a satellite of that planet and when the advanced civilization there had a horrendous war and blew the planet up, the moon was sent hurtling toward the sun and was captured by Earth's gravity. The few survivors managed to repair a ship and make it to earth. The missing link. Nice idea.

And the price of the book ($0) was a much more sensible idea than plunking down eight pictures of George for the Jordan volume. Three of the Fabled Pension Checks accumulated while I was in hospital and I broke into the third one on Friday, muttering to myself "this can't go on". Oh well, when I have it I spend it and when I don't have it I manage to keep going.

It's a pity you can't use that food stamps card at McD's, though.

439

Quiet days, quiet nights. The fine weather continues, making afternoons in the secluded grove a pleasure and likewise nights on the bench without shivering. Anyone who chose early February for a Hawaii vacation definitely timed it right this year.

The Horror Club quarrel seems to be a more serious one than usual and the Sleeptalker has remained on his own, arriving quietly at the hacienda after I've fallen asleep. Tuesday morning I woke to see him doing his jiggling, rocking motion. He must have surfaced early and was busy putting himself back to sleep. It's a little strange to be sleeping so near him every night but having no contact, and I'd welcome the chance to sit down with him over a beer and find out what he has been up to and what he's doing. I have to keep reminding myself: leave him alone unless he doesn't want to be left alone.

And reminding myself what a pleasure it is to be spending the nights a few feet away from him.

I finished the second Hogan book on Sunday and the third on Monday so another trip to the State Library's "honor books" collection is on the calendar. This book fell apart as I was reading it, so no need to worry about being "honorable" by returning it. Hogan certainly has a fertile imagination. One of the ideas he put forth was that religion and mysticism were deliberately introduced on Earth to keep man in a state of retarded scientific growth since the species was known to be so aggressive. The advanced civilization which achieved that even had a plan in place to surround the solar system with artificially-generated black holes which would prevent man from spreading his neurotic ways beyond the immediate neighborhood. Interesting stuff.

Back in the days when I was still working downtown I'd usually notice an elegant, white-haired lady get on the bus each morning. She must be in her late sixties or early seventies and doesn't seem to have changed at all in the years I've been seeing her. Now she is evidently working in the McCully area and once again shares the same bus in the mornings. She doesn't have a large wardrobe but everything she wears is absolutely first class. A lady with most excellent taste. I'm happy to be seeing her again. Being in the vicinity of the Sleeptalker may satisfy one of my inner needs, but sharing space with a woman who has aged so gracefully definitely satisfies another need, a boost of faith in mankind, so to speak.

440

Sitting in the secluded grove with some roast beef, potato salad and a bottle of Colt, I was feeling a bit irked by one of the books I'd chosen earlier at the State Library. Ann Rule appears to have picked Capote as a role model, writing thinly-fictionalized accounts of actual crimes, but I fear she has absolutely none of Truman's style and Dead by Sunset reads like a police blotter or a hastily written summary for a possible film script. Oh well, it kills the time.

Nice expression, that, as I pondered when in the hospital bed. Killing time. How many of us are criminals under that classification?

So whenever finding myself in the position of killing time, I usually fall instead into pondering this and that, which inevitably gets around to the Sleeptalker. And I considered the fact that the young man has absolutely no clue about how I see our friendship. Oh he knows I lust for his body (or have in the past, anyway) and he probably sees that as the basic foundation. From my own experience, that perception would make the entire thing very suspect, and he probably sees it that way, too, although I think he spends very little time in introspection. I could, of course, be utterly wrong about that. I don't really know him, I just want to. And I, spending altogether too much time introspectively, understand completely how bizarre it is that hardly an hour goes by without me thinking about him.

When I walked into the State Library, I remembered what fun it was that day long ago when I went down there just to get him and take him back to campus.

Now the State Library has gotten very miserly with their allowed internet access time and one is only supposed to use a terminal for fifteen minutes. Utter absurdity. They should welcome young people stopping in and using the terminals. It surely is better than having them out on the streets smoking crack or whatever. My generation is so stupid, especially those who managed to live through the Sixties without being touched by what was happening in that decade, and that seems to include most librarians.

440a

That wish slip certainly got a quick reply.

The Sleeptalker showed up much earlier than usual at the hacienda, so we chatted for awhile. As usual, his narrative was very disjointed and he would return to a subject later with a one-liner which revealed more of a story.

Reading between the lines, it would appear that whatever he was doing in Waianae was too successful and brought in money faster than he could adjust to it. I can easily sympathize with his position. He went off on a jaunt to Vegas with Rossini which, I would guess, ended both his job and exhausted his money supply but not before he had rented a storage locker and bought a cellular phone which now, of course, he can't afford to keep activated.

So it's back to wanting a job because he needs money. "Why?" I asked. He needs to do laundry, he needs shoes. "What did you do with the shoes you've been wearing?" They were quite handsome shoes, I thought, low-cut Nikes. He threw them away because he wanted to wear slippers and there wasn't enough room in his bag for the shoes. But any job he'd be likely to get would need shoes. Sigh.

He was eager to talk about his recent early morning tantrum. It appears I was indirectly to blame for the first outburst that morning. Until I told him, he had no idea he talks in his sleep. So when that woman shouted "shut up!" to the two fellows on the outside benches, he woke up, assumed he had been talking in his sleep and that the demand was addressed to him. He was surprised to learn that wasn't the case at all.

He said he had been doing a "bad drug" with Rossini & Company, then went off on his own. More likely, judging from past experience, they abandoned him when he started to be too outrageous. Then he thought Rossini was after him, trying to kill him, and once he settled back down that morning he dreamed or hallucinated that Rossini had been killed in a auto accident but had returned as a ghost vampire and was still after the Sleeptalker. Shades of morphine madness.

"That's why I'm so thin," he said, pulling up his tee shirt and showing me his delightful belly and chest. Although it's certainly whiter than I've ever seen it, I can't say he looks any thinner than usual, but I didn't say so. Rossini had arrived and was sucking blood from his neck, which is why he went for the rod and was ready to kill.

He had then staggered way off to Walmart and had settled on a bench there for the rest of the night. Another man was sleeping on a nearby bench. The Sleeptalker evidently had a wet dream, woke and thought the man had molested him and jumped up ready to fight, only to see the man still sound asleep. He had felt even sillier about it when they both woke up in the morning and the man bought him breakfast.

I told him he really shouldn't do such junk drugs, that he is bound to end up in serious trouble. He hates being alone so much, but if he hangs out with Rossini he gets offered the drugs and won't refuse even though he knows the end result will be back to solitude. And he had gone to the park to join the Snorer's regular gathering there but some local fellow had somehow offended him, so he didn't want to go back there again, although the Snorer is one of the better sources of job news.

In short, a mess.

Maybe one reason I am so attracted to him is that we both lead such charmed lives. It's miraculous that he has survived on the streets for eight years without getting locked up or worse, given his volatile temperament.

But no doubt about it. When I woke earlier and saw he had taken off his tee shirt and was laying there on his back asleep, another reason for the attraction was quite clear.

He is, indeed, adorable.

441

They did warn me in the hospital that it would be two or three months before I got back to "normal strength". Almost to the point of one elapsed month, I can believe it. Although there has certainly been a lot of progress, there are still plenty of indications "normal strength" hasn't been reached. The chest is still very tender to the touch and subject to internal pains as well, especially if I walk too far without taking a rest break. And too far includes the distance from Hamilton Library on one side of the campus to the bus stop on the other side. At least once I get to the bus, I can manage those entry steps with a little less difficulty than when first returning to town.

But I still find myself getting impatient now and then, especially when, as on Tuesday, the weather shifted to muggy greyness and the higher humidity made physical effort even more tiring. Churlish to complain, I reminded myself, after such an unusually long spell of clear, sunny skies. But I complained nonetheless, more at my body than at the weather. Patience has never been one of my strong points and never less so than when the body is concerned, no matter how valid its excuse.

The high humidity and lack of breeze made the air-conditioning at Hamilton Library welcome, most unusual in February. But I did make the trip downhill to the supermarket and sat in the secluded grove enjoying French pate, crackers and olives with a [gulp] quart of milk. "This can't go on," I once again told myself, watching the food stamps balance dwindle, but as I did with the accumulated pension checks, I continue to spoil myself. Premium cigarettes, beer in bars, European lunches. No, it can't go on, but it is fun while it lasts, especially buying food I really savor but haven't been able to afford in the last three years or more.

And I kept on reading that fact-based murder mystery. Unless a book is very, very awful I do have the habit of finishing the thing even while thinking how glad I'll be when it's over. A volume of three long tales by Flannery O'Connor, along with Jane Eyre, and Great Expectations, taunted me from the fifty-cent cart at Hamilton, but I already have a Chaim Potok novel in the backpack, and one I've not read, so I smile at the cart and say I've read you all at least twice.

I stayed on campus until after sunset, chuckling at a new list of guidelines to the use of UH computer equipment which appeared at Sinclair Library. One paragraph says email should only be used for exchange of academic information. Either they don't know, or prefer to ignore, the fact that email has become an integrated part of social life for many of the students. It doesn't take overly keen observational powers to see that on campus, watching the students pounding away on the email terminals. Guidelines written by human ostriches, lost in the 19th century.

Then I went to Brew Moon to spend a couple of hours (and yet again, too much money) listening to Shawn. At least it will be the last time this month when I spend too much money; the pockets are approaching empty. I told Shawn during the break that he'd almost lost me in the first set. I get bored with extended improvisation, no matter how superb technically, and I was reminded of the Five Spot on Manhattan's Lower East Side where, in the early sixties, I would sit pretending to be interested in the respected jazz musicians of the time while I was actually just wishing I could hear a song without all the "noodling". Shawn ended the first set, though, with a solid, rocking "gonna get lost in rock 'n roll and slip away" which thoroughly regained my attention.

And that attention was firmly gripped when an incredibly beautiful young man walked into the bar, the finest example of "tall, dark and handsome" I've ever seen. Enrique Iglesias could move over and yield the "sexiest man in the world" title if the two of them were placed side by side (preferably with me in the middle). This one was with a rather mousie, flat-chested young lady with straggly blonde hair and they joined another couple at a table near enough to my bar seat to afford an excellent view. Yes, incredibly beautiful.

I left just after ten while Shawn was chugging through Paul Simon's "Me and Julio" and headed to the hacienda. The Sleeptalker arrived shortly after I did and asked where I'd been, so I suppose he had been there earlier looking for me. He also asked for a cigarette for the first time, so I guess his pockets must be getting empty, too. Being on his own is clearly wearing him down. I've rarely seen him look so wasted, and when we got up together in the morning he rather plaintively asked where I was going. I said to McD's for coffee. "And then?" "To UH," I said. If that exchange had occurred when I still had pension checks in my pocket, I would have taken him along with me, but as always, he seems to have an instinctive knack for avoiding me when I have money in my pocket and turning to me when I'm broke. This time it is probably just as well since there's really nothing I can do to help him.

442

nothing I can do to help him ...

True, but it does weigh heavily and I end up getting depressed on his behalf. As I said to a friend on Thursday, "feel free to say deja vu". Definitely been here before. The Sleeptalker didn't show up at the hacienda on Thursday night, though, so I was spared reinforcement of the weight. So many young men like him living on the street, too. I guess I should be grateful he's the only one who has so captured my attention.

I had made my usual trip downhill to buy food for lunch and sat in the secluded grove with broccoli quiche, potato salad and the quart of milk which seems to have replaced Colt as the mid-day beverage. And I finished that Ann Rule book, wasn't surprised to see in the little biographical sketch at the end that she was once a Seattle policewoman. I did say it read like a police blotter. I won't be picking up any more of her books. By the time I waded through this one, I couldn't have cared less if the main suspect had committed the murder.

Routine repeated on Friday with lunch in the secluded grove. I'd bought a ham on rye sandwich from the supermarket deli and was surprised to discover the birds were totally disinterested in rye bread. Tough luck, then, I wasn't going to open my package of breakfast-intended cookies just to share them with picky feathered critters.

Chaim Potok's The Gift of Asher Lev became the reading material. I read the first Asher Lev book years ago and remember nothing about it except that I'd admired it. I'll no doubt feel the same way about this one although it's probably not a very good choice for the time and mood. I'm already saturated with something akin to melancholy and the book is utterly drenched in it. But maybe an overdose will cure me.

A reader said he thought some people had expected different results from my months in the hospital. Perhaps I did, too. Even though I was eager to return to the life I had been leading, I find myself at the same time a little irked that it has been so easy, on one level, and so difficult on another. Easy to step back into the routine, back to the friendships which are as unchanged as the depressing dilemma over the Sleeptalker. Difficult to regain the ability to do nothing without feeling concerned about it, to shake the idea that I should be doing something. Sez who? No answer.

If that voice is so concerned about it, perhaps it should turn its attention to "what".

443

We say there is no good, there is no bad, there is just experience, and within each experience there is a lesson.

A new kid on the block, or on the bench. I'm flattered that these youngsters seem to view me as being "safe" and pick a bench next to mine from all the available options, but it does make me feel a little guilty when the thoughts they inspire are a long way from "safe". Still, as the Sleeptalker knows well, thoughts do no harm.

I thought at first the new angelic-looking lad was a "tourist" but then noticed he had stashed what looked like a fully-packed backpack under the bench, so maybe not. He's far too young to be on the streets and too trusting, as well. He left a tee shirt draped over the back of the bench and the backpack under it and wandered off somewhere. I've never heard of anyone having something stolen at the hacienda, but it's not a chance I'd take.

I wondered, not for the first time, how parents could allow such a young, innocent-looking child to be living on the street but I did get a different perspective on that question from the Sleeptalker. Considering what a brat he can sometimes be now, I imagine he must have been quite a terror at sixteen, no matter how angelic looking. A single mother with younger children in the house can be forgiven, I guess, for kicking the oldest one out of the nest. She was so eager to get him out she even encouraged him to stay with a family friend, a single man who turned out to be gay and was constantly on the make for the Sleeptalker. Even after being told about it, his mother still wanted him to stay there. He was probably better off on the street rather than being afraid to fall asleep.

The new lad was visible through the back slats of the bench without seeing his face so I could watch him unnoticed. He was dressed very neatly in tan corduroy trousers and a black tee shirt, new-looking shoes, and was quite meticulous about how he arranged the trousers as he sat there. When I later got a look at his face, I guessed he must be sixteen or seventeen. A delightful new neighbor.

The Sleeptalker, though, has been absent. He complained of being cold when last there and despite the extremely mild weather, I can well imagine sleeping with bare feet, light cotton trousers and a tee shirt would indeed be uncomfortably cold. So he has probably returned to the shelter.

The one missing member of the Mall Gang finally appeared on Sunday morning at McDonald's ... "Bla". Maybe he has been in the hospital, too, because he was quite transformed. A short haircut, neatly trimmed beard, and better clothes than he usually has make him look ten years younger. It was good to see him.

I had finished the Potok book on Saturday morning. One quoted critic said it was "little short of a masterpiece" but I didn't find it "little short" at all. A fine, thought-provoking novel. Unfortunately the freebie collection at the State Library rarely offers such quality options and making the trip down there to return the book, I picked up Jonathan Kellerman's Survival of the Fittest, a multiple murder mystery hardly in the same class as the Potok but entertaining diversion with lunch in the secluded grove.

I'm not doing all that badly with the foodstamps card. Middle of February and I'm still using up the January allotment, but when it evens out and I'm left with the usual monthly benefit I'll certainly have to go easier on the deli options and the European imports.

After lunch I went to the mall to hear Jon Yamasato at the Mai Tai Bar. They offer four beers only, two "local" brews at five dollars a glass and two "domestics" (Bud Light being one of them) at four dollars. Yikes. Fortunately there are numerous places within good hearing distance where one can sit for free and enjoy the music, the option I picked. But sitting there watching folks guzzle beer made me thirsty for one, so I yielded later and had a bottle of Mickey's. It just made me sleepy and I headed off to the hacienda shortly after sunset.

Four one dollar bills in my pocket. Ah, what a choice. The terribly sensible one of converting them to quarters and doing laundry. The less sensible options of two bottles of malt liquor or a pack of cigarettes. Or, of course, just leaving them in the pocket and continuing to enjoy the debate over what to do with them ...

443a

The new fellow isn't as young as I first thought. He has such an innocent, boyish face that it was misleading, but after a better look at him, I'd guess late teens or early twenties. So his parents are off the hook.

When I got to the hacienda on Sunday evening, there was his backpack stashed under the bench, a black tee shirt and black shorts draped over the back of the bench. As usual after an alcohol-free day, I had a hard time getting to sleep and he still hadn't arrived when I did finally drift off.

I was thinking about what to call him, but couldn't come up with an appropriate name. Sitting at the bus stop next morning waiting for the bus to the mall, I decided on "Angelo".

Shortly before one in the morning, Angelo showed up. With the Sleeptalker.

I guess that's one solution. If all your regular buddies abandon you, latch onto a newcomer. The Sleeptalker was, alas, obviously zonked again and was listening to a walkman radio which I assume was Angelo's. And he was singing along to the music. Among his many charms, a fine singing voice is absent and I doubt it would have been appreciated at that hour even if he could sing. Angelo settled down quietly, though, and after ten minutes or so the Sleeptalker also gave it up and lay down on the bench in front of me.

I know the syndrome too well, having to make sure the whole world knows you are stoned and oh so happy. Poor fellow. I've seen plenty of people who wrecked themselves and their lives with drug abuse but I've been spared having someone I really care about take that path. My luck may have run out.

But it certainly was an appropriate beginning to Valentine's Day 2000, sandwiched in between two such sweet-looking young men.

444

Four-four-four.

I spent Valentine's afternoon in the grove with a bottle of Colt (yep, there went two of those four dollar bills) and The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy, a nicely done weaving together of tales from a small Irish village. Then I headed down to Starbucks near Border's for a Pure Heart gig.

I'd almost forgotten how much fun it is to watch those guys, especially Lopaka Colon who seems to put forth more energy in an hour than I could in a month. The new configuration, with Guy Cruz on guitar and vocals, didn't at all disappoint and I especially liked their stylish cover of "Starry Starry Night". They easily retain top spot on my list of favorite local groups.

When I got to the hacienda, the Two Old Regulars and The Woman had all settled down, always welcome since she inevitably wakes me up if I've fallen asleep before her arrival. She doesn't chat for long but does it very loudly. No sign of Angelo or the Sleeptalker, but a young (I think Vietnamese) lad with a bicycle arrived and took the bench behind me, so when Angelo did arrive later he took the one at my head. No Sleeptalker. It's funny how the place has divided: the older folks, except me, on one side, with me and the youngsters on the other.

I could have slept a lot longer but dragged myself off the bench when the internal alarm woke me up at 5:25. Finally getting that thing adjusted!

It's back to snipe hunting and I hadn't spent much time on it the day before so had to start my day with a walk through the mall before heading to McD's for coffee. A lucky walk, found enough smokes to get me through the morning.

When I went in the hospital, I had a plastic bag laden with the stash from recent mall hunts, a heavy little packet of coins which is now beginning to feel very lightweight. No matter, I bought some instant "coffee bags" so when the McD's financing runs out, I can just head straight to campus and make my own. Can't say I prefer it that way, but I did ask for it. And I'm not up to pushing back shopping carts yet, either (although I haven't spotted any carts or strollers at all when walking through the place lately).

Helen R had the day off and suggested we see a film. So after a morning on campus spent mostly on-line, I went to meet her in Waikiki to see Leonardo in "The Beach". Something about that lad keeps him just off kilter from being "my type" but he was fun to watch running around bare-chested in what was really a rather silly movie.

Afterwards I hung around smoking outside the "Las Vegas Fashions" shop while Helen shopped for boots, and it was fun, too, watching the tourists running around the streets of Waikiki, some of them bare-chested as well. Then we had a late lunch/early dinner at a new Mexican restaurant which served up quite tastey cheese enchiladas.

Another week. And not off to a bad start.

444a

As I was still unpacking for the night, the maybe-Vietnamese Bicycle Lad arrived and, as usual, very quietly settled down, again on the bench behind me. There's a calm, peaceful feeling about him, a welcome new neighbor. Some time after I'd fallen asleep, voices from outside woke me. Angelo and the Sleeptalker. Angelo was holding it down but the Sleeptalker never thinks about other people's comfort so his voice came through loud and clear. Angelo moved inside and took the bench at my head.

The Sleeptalker lay down on the bench in front of me. He was wearing the shoes he had supposedly "thrown away". Thinking about that, and remembering how he had raised his tee shirt to show me how thin he'd become because of Rossini sucking his blood, I realized he's existing somewhere between the boundaries of drug-induced fantasy and reality. He's always had a tendency in that direction, mixing up the Seventh Circle game with "real" life and I guess the drugs are taking him even further. He didn't stay long, soon got up and wandered off, not returning. Angelo must be too tame a buddy.

Before departing campus I got nabbed for another survey. This time it was a young Japanese woman, a Business Admin student, who was asking questions about coffee consumption. The only answer I gave which seemed to greatly surprise her was when she asked if I ever considered whether I should support local business by drinking, for example, Lion coffee rather than Starbucks. I said no. "Never?!" she asked. Nope. "Buying local" is an idea which doesn't get much support from me. If they can fly stuff in and sell it cheaper than locally-produced equivalents, then something is wrong with local pricing. (I pay a premium price for "Maui Cookies", not because they're local but because they're good cookies and they come in packaging small enough to easily carry around.) Besides, Lion doesn't make instant "coffee bags" and if they did, the price would no doubt be higher than "imported" Maxwell House bags ... and to my taste, Lion coffee isn't special enough to justify spending more for it.

We say there is no good, there is no bad, there is just experience, and within each experience there is a lesson.

That came from the "Merging With Siva" series I get as emails from a Hindu ashram on Kauai. When the cycle finishes, they start again from the beginning and this must be my fourth time through it, but that hadn't caught my attention before. And I've been thinking about it since I did notice. I can't agree with it. It seems to me that there is indeed "good" and there is "evil", no matter how much definitions of the two may differ. While the sentiment in this case may be noble, it's not that far away from Beyond Good and Evil and there lies the path to uncertain ground.

445

... wish that I could see you once again across the room ...

If VH-1 did a top one hundred ballads survey, I'd definitely put Graham Nash's "Simple Man" at the top of my list. Every now and then the mind starts to play it and a reel of memories projects back to all the people the song fits. Not sure I'm such a "simple" man, but I am a lucky one.

The current love continues to be a dilemma, though. Alas, that walkman radio is apparently his, so there's nothing to do but hope the batteries soon run out of juice. He appeared at the hacienda and settled on an outside bench, "singing" along with the radio. I dug out earplugs. Imagine this, I said, deliberately blocking out the Sleeptalker. And I grumbled to myself about what a pest he is being while at the same time feeling sorry for the lad, all alone with nothing to do but sing along with the radio. Eventually he moved inside and took the bench at my head, mercifully putting the radio away in the small backpack he (unusually) had with him. Angelo arrived later and took the bench behind me, empty since the Bicycle Boy hadn't shown up. Nor had one of the Old Regulars or The Woman. I wondered where else they found to sleep since I wouldn't mind having an alternative, too.

I'm definitely not back to "normal" form. A shopping cart, complete with its quarter, was waiting at the mall, but all the way on the far side of the place. I was about to get on a bus to the hacienda, stopped and debated for a moment and said, "nope, I just can't wheel that thing way back to the supermarket." Bad news. I must shape up.

Maybe on the coming Monday when it will be an offline day, thanks to George and Abe, I can summon up enthusiasm to play the mall game again.

I finished the Binchy book with lunch on Wednesday, would very much like to read more of her work. The Irish village which was the setting of this one was so small she could tell the story of almost every inhabitant from their point of view and the weaving together of the tales told the larger story of the community through four or five decades. A gentle, charming novel.

Ireland is one place I really should have visited.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Hot Shot is in the backpack, but since the State Library will close for three days, in honor of George and Abe, I suppose I should plan another trip down there to further stock up.

The winter stuff in the backpack has got to go. It's just too warm.

I'm not complaining.

446

Enough is enough. Monday afternoon to Thursday evening. Yes, it was time for some beer. So I bought one with those two remaining dollar bills and sat in the secluded grove enjoying both the beer and my reading. Hot Shot is more than I bargained for. I just wanted some cheap fiction. Cheap music may be potent, as Noel Coward said, but so is cheap fiction, at least when it comes to escaping the minute-to-minute problem of existing. Hot Shot isn't as cheap as I'd expected. But then, it's not Potok either.

I got an email from a complete stranger on Thursday, a reader of the Tales who doesn't feel like a stranger, knowing me too well from reading the things. I wonder. Do they really tale who I am?

I prattle on about the details of life as an aging man living on the streets of Honolulu (a far more exotic locale than I could have hoped to end my life in), I tell who slept on the bench behind me, who on the bench in front. I speak of this and that, of meeting Ryan at lunchtime today as we waited for different buses, of meeting Teddy at Hamilton Library earlier in the week (although I haven't yet told of either).

But I'm not sure I am really telling the story of this so-called life at all.

I was ridiculously delighted on Thursday when I looked in at Seventh Circle and found the Sleeptalker there. He greeted me. Our lives in that computer game are so much closer than they are in "reality", although that hasn't always been the case. There were moments when we were very close, physically and, I'd like to think, spiritually.

And then I kicked myself and said don't be silly. It didn't mean anything. But it did, and still does.

My son, the Sleeptalker. I worry about him, I want better things for him, I treasure every moment of closeness, and I rail at myself for my own times of impatience and lack of understanding.

What more can an old man hope for than a treasured friendship with a young man on the threshold of a life?

And I smile as I think of all those millions I had in my time of morphine madness, how I might have used them to help him. And I know it wouldn't have helped at all, that it is far better those millions vanished into the non-existence they always had.

And I go on thinking about nonsense like "good" and "evil" and why those moments of final exit weren't really it. Why not?

It doesn't make sense.

447

Holiday weekend. Full Moon weekend.

In his general message, Jonathan Cainer asked: Does the Moon still have an influence on us, even in this modern age? Of course. Just ask anyone who works in the fishing industry - or for the emergency services - or with the Samaritans. Ask a publican, an obstetrician or a speed cop.

He could have added a street person or an observer of street people. We exist on such a thin ledge between "sanity" and madness, it doesn't take much to nudge us over.

And he cautioned: Weekends are times when more people go out 'on the prowl'. With a Full Moon to encourage them, they become even more prone to outbursts of passion - of one kind or another.

Tell me about it.

Take it easy tonight and tomorrow. Avoid bats, broomsticks, graveyards... and most importantly of all, lapses of judgement!

Uh-huh, and any places where street people hang out.

The weather looked threatening on Friday afternoon. As it turned out, only a few dribbles fell from the sky, but I left campus in the late afternoon and went to the mall. I only needed a quarter for Saturday morning's senior coffee so thought I'd look for a cart to return and, if I got lucky, four more. My cigarette lighter is running on empty and it would be useful to replace it. I got the coffee quarter but that was it. There's a fierce new competitor who stands outside the supermarket. Stands. Ready to pounce. I only got the one quarter because he was busy retrieving another cart when one was abandoned very near me.

One of the stroller corrals was completely empty so I wandered through the mall a few times hoping to find an abandoned stroller, but no luck with that either. Each time I returned to the supermarket area, the Pouncer was still there. He was holding a large coffee cup, the kind they sell at the supermarket, but he never drank from it. Just a prop, I guess, although why he bothers is a mystery.

I had considered going to the Aloha Tower Marketplace because Harold Kama was supposed to be there as part of a compilation CD release party, but with the occasional sky dribbles and feeling quite tired from my unaccustomed mall wanderings, I decided just to head for the bench. This despite what seemed like an omen, when the sound system at the mall played Harold's "Stars and Moon Slack Key" just at the time when I should have gotten a bus to the Tower. Too tired to listen to messages from The Infinite.

An hour or so of sleep and then the Sleeptalker arrived. Talk about full moon madness ... he was in full swing, constantly laughing, a horrible sound edged in desperation. He woke everyone up, including me, giving me a bare-chested hug. Such soft skin. He wanted me to go drinking with him. I declined, so he asked Angelo who was crazy enough to go with him. I watched them get on a bus to Waikiki. The Sleeptalker evidently has money again. Just as well I don't know how.

A smoke and back to sleep, knowing I'd be awakened again in a few hours. Yep, just after one, they returned. Angelo settled down immediately. I guess he hadn't been a suitable drinking companion because the Sleeptalker was ranting away at him. Several people told him to shut up or to chill out. Finally I said, "go to sleep, don't be a brat."

"Don't you call me a brat. Don't you call my brother and sisters brats!"

"Who said anything about your brother and sisters?" Another key word, evidently. Someone must have called them brats in the past. Probably a neighbor. And if brother and sisters are anything like the Sleeptalker, probably with justification. I don't think I have ever been as unaware as the Sleeptalker, poor fellow.

He ranted on at me for awhile. I ignored him. Then he disappeared to his place around the back of the hacienda and the rest of the night was mercifully peaceful. I slept later than usual and was sitting at the bus stop waiting for mall-bound transport when a garbage truck arrived at the hacienda. The Sleeptalker came running around from the back, still shirtless. He must have had a rather chilly night but was no doubt sufficiently stoked with drugs and booze that he didn't feel it.

I do wish he'd find somewhere else to hang out, barechested hugs or not.

At the mall in the morning, Bla had a walkman and was dancing to the music. Fool moon madness, uh-huh.

448

Dame Fortune in a joking mood. I'd found a dime and some pennies on campus so once again only needed a quarter for Sunday morning's senior coffee. Since everything closes on campus at five on Saturday, I headed to the mall in search of one cart. No joy. Even though the Pouncer was absent and the Whore was busy talking with someone, not a cart or stroller turned up. So I was prepared to wait until I got to campus for my morning jolt of caffeine. But I stopped at the mall to wash and shave, found the entertainment section of the weekend edition of USA Today and sat to have a look at it. A man walked over, said he had to catch a bus and asked if I'd like a coffee. McD's new bigger small coffee, at that. Sure!

Last week McD's, without mention or notice, started giving out bigger cups of coffee, what used to be their "medium" size for small. Now their senior coffee is the same size as it has always been at Jack-in-the-Box, even if a dime more expensive.

So I drank my gift coffee and took it back for a refill. Then I was wandering through the mall on a tobacco search and the Queen Mum walked up with a large coffee cup in her hand, asked me if I'd like it. Ha! I thanked her but patted my stomach and said I'd just had two cups, couldn't drink anymore. Such a sweet old lady, she is.

I only wish Dame Fortune had matched the coffee joke with an abandoned cigarette lighter. Everytime I use the running-on-empty one I have, I wonder if it will be the last flame seen from it. Four carts, please, Dame F.!

I'd prepared in advance, stuffed earplugs in before settling down to sleep, figuring the Sleeptalker was bound to arrive and make noise. As it turned out, he was surprisingly subdued but in full motormouth mode. He left me alone, but woke Angelo who was on the bench at my head. The Sleeptalker was chatting a mile-a-minute, punctuated now and then with a rather endearing little giggle which was just the opposite of his maniacal laugh the night before. I adjusted the earplugs to further block the sound and went back to sleep while he was still yakking away. No sign of him in the morning, so he'd probably gone around to his spot in the back. Someone once accused him of thinking he was too good to sleep with the rest of us, but I suspect it's more a case of his enjoying bending the rules. He did the same thing at the cloisters, too, climbing a fence to get to a spot where he shouldn't have gone. Oddly, later in the night Angelo moved over to the bench behind me.

That moon was so beautiful in the pre-dawn hour as I sat at the bus stop and looked back to see it hanging over the hacienda. Beautiful building, beautiful moon.

449

Mme de Crécy said the story of the free coffee bonanza had reminded her that I lead a "charmed life". Can't disagree with that. The ultimate proof was that three-day period before entering the hospital, wandering around in fevered dementia. It's incredible I managed to get to the park and back to the hacienda each night (even if I didn't make it to campus and get online), equally incredible I didn't ditch the backpack at some point. And then that final heroic journey to the airport ... yes, a charmed life.

Sunday brought the treasures of a hot shower, laundry, fried chicken for dinner and a chance to see "Don't Look Back" which I'd only seen once, many years ago. Even though by that time I'd been telling, for at least three years, anyone who would listen that Bob Dylan was THE genius of my generation, I was not all that impressed by the Albert Hall concert in '65. That was probably the result of being with a bunch of people who were more interested in the luxury of sitting in box seats with champagne flowing than in listening to Dylan's strange lyrics. Oddly, I repeated that experience some years later at a solo Joan Baez concert but we'd had more exotic refreshments earlier. I wasn't that impressed with her, either.

The film certainly shows what a brutal young man Dylan could be, and I suspect, still can be. Poor Donovan. It wasn't his fault the silly British press was trying to make him into the "British Bob Dylan". He was just a sweet young Scottish lad, singing sweet little ballads, as was made clear in the film when he sang "A Song for You". Dylan took the guitar and followed with one of his heavier ballads, making Donovan appear even more of a featherweight. But it was, after all, at the time quite possible to be fans of both young men.

Helen R. kindly provided a cigarette lighter grant. Perfect timing! About a quarter of an hour before the drugstore opened, the old lighter gave out its last flame. Dig out my one book of matches, say a little prayer of thanks for kind friends. When the store opened, I discovered they had the lighter I wanted on special sale, two for the price of one. Fire-making problem solved for some time.

Dame Fortune came up with those four carts I ordered, and well before noon. She even threw in one extra. Then the Pouncer arrived and I gave up the hunt, wandered off to watch three young men who call themselves "Da Kine" performing a batch of Hawaiian falsetto classics including a fine rendition of "I Kona". The radio station sponsoring the gig was also doing a quiz show routine and if you lined up and went on stage to participate, you got a dollar. If you won the round against an opponent, you got five dollars. I chickened out and didn't even go up for my free dollar bill. I would've lost out on the five, though. I thought Truman was on the dime.

The mall was very crowded so I left in the early afternoon and headed to campus, sat in the secluded grove reading Rush by Kim Wozencraft, the tale of a young Texas woman who went from high school straight into the dicey world of being an undercover narcotics agent. The writer certainly knows her drugs and druggies. Some of it cuts too close to the current scene with the Sleeptalker.

Sunday night I rolled over on the bench, saw him sitting quietly on the bench behind me. He had arrived without making any noise at all. Later I peeked again and he was gone, but still later he was back sitting there. And on Monday night he arrived very late, woke me up by poking me on the knee and asking if I had any snipes. I just shook my head no. Angelo was on the bench in front of me. The Sleeptalker tried to get him chatting, but Angelo pulled a sweatshirt over his face and went back to sleep. Poor Sleeptalker, he just can't get the idea that people go there to sleep, not to party.

Of course, I was lying. I did have snipes, but my reaction was, stop being a lazy slut and go hunt your own snipes, don't expect to wake me up and get some. Not what I'd call a very loving attitude, but so it goes. I was reminded of that night long ago when I told Mondo he could wake me up if he needed a smoke and the rascal did it four times during the night. The times they are a'changing ...

450

"Time to get up!" Sunday and the Monday holiday mornings spoiled me, able to sleep until awakened by sunlight. But the wake-up call didn't sound like the usual security guard. So it wasn't. It was Angelo. I saw later that he had been trying to rouse the Sleeptalker, without success. But he did get me up and as I was walking to the bus stop, I saw him go over to poke the Sleeptalker. They left together and were waiting to cross the street while I was still at the bus stop, so I gave the Sleeptalker the "how" wave and he returned it. My little quarter Cherokee. I'm glad that Angelo is sticking with him although I have to admit to a slight twitch of jealousy. Still, there was nothing stopping me from joining them for breakfast at IHS, so who's to blame ...

Angelo certainly stays clean. Almost every night there are clothes draped over the back of his bench and he'd done more laundry than usual on Tuesday since there were his black shorts, a gray tee shirt and white boxer shorts with thin gray and blue stripes hanging there, his backpack as usual stashed under the bench. I thought I'd like to have the boxers, just because they were his. He has taken to sleeping on the middle bench of an inside row, so I shifted to the one behind him. Yes, I like sleeping near him, but the move was also because the wind has been stronger, with occasional sprinkles of rain, making the inside benches a better option.

Because of the holiday it was unlikely there'd be much tobacco on campus Tuesday morning, so I went down to the mall to replenish my supply, was walking past the drugstore when Teddy came along. We sat on a planter ledge and chatted, the longest talk I've had with him since that first meeting when he interviewed me for his school project. He's such a sweetie it was a bit of a shock to hear him discuss his plans for the future ... an FBI agent?! I told him he might end up busting some of my best friends. He's going for a law degree, was worried if he'd be too old at 28 when he finally gets it. I scoffed, said no one would take him seriously until he's at least 30 anyway (unless, of course, he went into the dot.com racket). He asked why I was at the mall and when I told him, he was so grossed out by the idea of collecting cigarette butts that he gave me money for a pack. Sweetheart. I didn't use it for tobacco, though. Why spend cash for something that's freely available?

I returned to campus, picking up a bottle of Colt on the way, sat in the grove with the beer and finished reading Kim Wozencraft's Rush. She was actually an undercover narcotics agent. Little wonder her accounts of drugs and druggies ring so true. She must not be too popular with her former colleagues; hard to tell with some of the characters who was worse, the druggies or the agents (or druggie-agents). Although she never says anything outright to make it so, the book really is a major indictment of the "drug war".

No more to read, time for a trip to the State Library. Ngaio Marsh's Death at the Bar next in line, a classic mellow English detective tale, stately compared to the Wozencraft.

What a wimp I've become. I stopped by the supermarket on my way back to campus, bought a sandwich and potato salad and another bottle of beer. Overdose. It made me sick. Sheez, can't even take two 40oz bottles of malt liquor these days. Okay, so maybe that's not a Bad Thing.

451

A routine day: wake up at 5:30, give or take ten minutes either side. Take off sleeping socks, stuff them and the surfer-shorts "pillowcase" in the backpack, dig out the box of snipes. Walk down the path to the bus stop, lighting one of the snipes on the way. Every bus goes by the mall, so take the first that comes along. Walk over to McD's, buy senior coffee, sit on a planter ledge nearby to drink the first cup. Most excellent those first few sips do taste! Go back in for a refill, stroll over to the "orchid walk" and enjoy the second cup, sometimes reading, sometimes just sitting and thinking.

That finished, on to have a shave and brush my teeth. Take a stroll through the mall on a tobacco hunt, with varying degrees of success. If the hunt falls too short, expand the territory to include the adjoining hotel and an office building. If those, too, are empty, sigh and hope the students on campus get off to an early smoking start.

Wait for the bus to campus. Once there, check email, write a bit on a Tale if there's one to be written. Take a smoke break and read Ka Leo, the student newspaper. Go back online and work more on the Tale if there's one underway. Make a round of the promising ashtrays, sit in the secluded grove and read.

Around 11:15, take the bus downhill. If money in pocket, stop by the Vietnamese shop for a bottle of beer, then to the supermarket to buy lunch. (The market charges a dollar more for the beer, explaining the two-step shopping). Take the bus back up hill, sit in the secluded grove eating lunch, feeding the birds, and reading.

Check email again, perhaps stop in Seventh Circle, check ashtrays and return to the grove and reading. Sometimes one more check of mail before sunset, sometimes not. Take the bus to the mall, do one last swing through to hunt tobacco, take the bus to the hacienda. Put the socks back on, drape the shorts over the backpack with one half across the top of my head to block the light. Sleep until the Sleeptalker arrives to wake everyone up. Return to sleep when he finally shuts up.

A routine day.

On Wednesday, the Sleeptalker was in Seventh Circle when I looked in mid-morning. He said he was drunk. At 10:30. Good, I thought, maybe you'll be sufficiently hungover by evening, you'll be too tired to make a racket. No such luck. He arrived at the hacienda sometime after I'd been asleep. Angelo and another young man I hadn't seen before were with him, as was the remnants of a twelve-pack of Red Dog beer. That radio apparently does belong to Angelo and he fortunately took it away from the Sleeptalker after about five minutes of that excruciating sing-along routine. Equally fortunately, the Sleeptalker soon passed out on an outer bench and the rest of the night was peaceful.

When I arrived at the hacienda on Thursday night, Angelo was sitting alone on the steps. We exchanged waves. It turned out to be just him and me on our usual benches together and one of the Old Regulars on a distant bench. (I'll have to stop calling the other one "Regular" since he hasn't been there in a week.) A delightfully quiet night.

Meanwhile the bureaucratic dance continues. I've made three trips downtown just to collect more forms, sign and return them to Medicaid. The woman there has somehow gotten in the middle between me and the state medical-assistance program called MEDQuest which set a deadline of the 29th for the application to be filed. It seems almost every day the woman at Medicaid comes up with something else that needs to be included. I'm fed up with it, don't care whether they approve the application or not.

Just leave me and my routine days alone.

452

Desperately seeking Edna. As I might have mentioned before, the Fabled Pension Check comes via Aetna which I have long since re-christened Edna. But no, not really desperately awaiting her this month, even if I do have an ever-growing shopping list for the day Edna arrives. Of course, hitting up The Banker for a tenspot helps keep desperation at bay on the last weekend of February 2000.

Saturday morning there were two quarters abandoned in a stroller return corral, four pennies on a payphone. McD's bigger small coffees are now financed from my coin bag for the rest of the month. I really thought for awhile I'd have to give up that part of my "routine day".

Finishing the cozey English whodunit, I moved back to mainline best-seller land with Danielle Steel's Star. Marsh really got me with an old-time trick. Whodunit? The most obvious suspect. So much so, I discarded him as a possibility. Fooled me big time.

Steel spins a good yarn, too, and I can easily understand why her books are so successful. But for me, she falls short. I can never really care very much about her characters. They are incredibly beautiful or incredibly handsome, most of them have families with tons of money if they don't have it themselves, and if they do have a year or two of hard times, as in this one, she just can't write about that with any conviction at all. Giving her due credit, she does handle the scenes of lust more skillfully than most.

Having finished her saga off in two days, it was once again time for a trip to the State Library. Back to murder, with James Patterson's Cat and Mouse. The blurbs call it a "page-turner". No joke. I got back to campus, beer and lunch in hand, and turned those pages as fast as I could read. I do admire, and slightly envy, people who can craft a piece of inconsequential fiction as well as Patterson can. And Steel, for that matter.

The Sleeptalker wasn't at the State Library. He had been there on Friday because he stopped in Seventh Circle briefly. He said publicly, "Reting." I said, "Yes?" He said, "Go." He quit before I could ask "where?" and that may have been just as well, although I suppose he was referring to the fact that, just fooling around, I had advanced another level. Did it again by Saturday morning. Poor lad. He must be torn between happiness at having such a high level friend in the game and making so little progress himself, stuck some thirty levels below me. Of course, if he'd stop messing around so much in there and really play, which he can do very well, he'd have no trouble matching or surpassing me. I've told him that, but he won't listen.

He was absent two nights at the hacienda. I'm not complaining, although in many ways I'd rather have my sleep disturbed by his obnoxious antics than not know if he's okay. Angelo was missing on Friday night, the first time in weeks. I missed him, too.

I know too much of the problem with the Sleeptalker is just my being so cold sober all the time. I wish I could tell him that I'm just not back to being capable of getting drunk yet. Not really. A little buzzed in the afternoon after a lunch with a bottle of Mickey's and a sandwich, but drunk? No, can't do it yet. Certainly would help in dealing with the Sleeptalker, though. I never was very good at being sober when those around me were drunk or stoned.

453

The Snorer wanted to talk about the Sleeptalker. Ugh. I'd just returned to the mall after a delightful hour at a Pure Heart gig, had been watching the Punahou Jazz Band pack up while some of their classmates were dancing to the swing music coming over the sound system. Best jitterbug I've ever seen outside of movies. Time with fresh, enthusiastic, talented youngsters ... did I really want to be recalled to problem children?

I suppose I could have just said, "I don't want to talk about him." But that would've been a lie.

The Snorer says it's "ice" the Sleeptalker is doing. Yeukh. I know all too well how dangerous methamphetamine is, even in the far tamer way I came to know (and be enslaved to) it. "He's going at it too heavy." Yes, I knew that, too. But what to do? Who has anything better to offer him?

Even at the Pure Heart gig I was thinking of it, of how tough it must be knowing local guys your age are doing so well, are so talented and successful. And, of course, television doesn't help, constantly showing you what "real" young people have, constantly urging you to buy, buy, buy. I know the Sleeptalker wants things ... a diamond earring, a decent watch, the cellular phone turned back on. He even, for brief times, is willing to work to get them. But traveling down an icy slope isn't going to lead anywhere but to more trouble, to even greater distance from successful peers and even greater self-loathing.

No way to tell him all that, though. The only thing to do, I guess, is say a little prayer for him now and then. That was the Snorer's only solution, too. I hope he believes in it more than I do.

454

Expect the unexpected. When I arrived at the hacienda on Sunday evening, the Sleeptalker and Angelo were already there, sitting on adjoining benches. The Sleeptalker had the headphones on and was staring blankly into space. Angelo returned my wave, asked if it had been crowded the night before. "No, only three people." He asked if a short Japanese guy had been there and I said no. My first conversation with Angelo.

I like him. There's a calm stability about him. I wish some of it would rub off on the Sleeptalker, but I'm glad in any case that their "buddy" relationship apparently continues. They remained totally quiet. Miracles still happen.

On Monday night they were sitting together on the outside steps when I arrived. "A cute couple," I thought. Angelo returned my wave, the Sleeptalker was again lost in the headphoned music. Just after I'd settled down, he said something to Angelo. Zonked again, with a weird comic-like voice being a dead giveaway. But at least he wasn't doing his singalong routine. He did start it a little later when they had moved onto the benches, but Angelo made a disapproving noise so it stopped. Three cheers for Angelo!

Teddy was sitting outside Hamilton Library and called out my name, so we chatted again, mostly about the recent Supreme Court decision on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. I said I thought they had no choice and that it's time those with Hawaiian blood faced the fact that they are American citizens. If they really want to follow the Trask woman into "civil disobedience", fine, reject all Federal assistance. Give up the welfare payments, the foodstamps, the medical benefits. Refuse anything from the Federal government. Then I might take the protests more seriously. At this point it seems more like a small group of "professional Hawaiians" are the only ones really concerned, no matter how much the press tries to keep it all stirred up with daily headlines. Tempest in a teapot.

Reading ... from that excellently crafted detective novel to some real silliness, Dancer of Gor, the twenty-second volume in the neverending series. Whoever is writing as "John Norman" in this one really lays the florid prose on thick, but there is far too much repetition which tends to spoil the fun. Someone left a bunch of Gor books in the "honor" collection at the State Library, but I promised myself I'd only read one of them, for old time's sake. I think I gave up on the series at about number fourteen. Gor and Conan ... what money-making machines.

Jon Yamasato stopped by the secluded grove to chat. I showed him the book and said, "sheer trash." "Trash is good sometimes," he said. Uh-huh.

On both Saturday and Sunday evenings I was tempted to follow-up my early afternoon brew with another bottle, but resisted the thought for the primary reason that I didn't really want it. Strange. But on Monday I finally took the challenge and had one bottle with an early lunch, and a second late in the afternoon. Wow, I can still do it.

455

fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly ...

I was sitting on the bench enjoying the last flask of a Mickey's nightcap when Angelo and the Sleeptalker came walking up the path. The Sleeptalker came over, two very short snipes in his hand, and asked for a light. I handed him a pack of cigarettes and the lighter. He sat down on the bench beside me, Angelo sitting on the steps at the bottom of the bench, his back to us. I asked the Sleeptalker by gesture if Angelo would like a cigarette and consequently found out Angelo's real name. It suits him better than the nickname.

The Sleeptalker was sober, and I let him finish off the flask. I told him I'd made Level 86 in Seventh Circle earlier which got him talking about the game. It's still very important to him. But in the middle of the chat he strangely switched topic and said he had four more hours of community service to do and was looking forward to finishing it. I asked how he came to have community service. He was "drunk and whatever", tried to steal a pair of surfer shorts from a shop and got caught. Silly fellow.

It was such an amiable conversation I told him later that if anyone had said he could sing, they were lying. He claimed to be unaware of singing along with the radio. "Did you tell me to shut up?" he asked with a big grin. "Are you crazy? I know how you hate to hear those words."

His hair has grown enough to make him look his best. And that's very sweet, indeed.

I'd had my first Mickey's of the day with lunch, continuing that awful Gor book. After five or six times, I vowed that if the heroine pondered once more how she might have been a slave in a prior life in "the Middle Ages, on the Crusades, in a Pasha's court", I'd dump the book. She did. I did.

456

give me the people who soothe my soul
gonna get lost in rock 'n roll
and slip away ...


At last month's Brew Moon gig, Shawn and his band gave that song the hard-rocking treatment, made me want to dance. But bringing in the month of March, again at Brew Moon, they did a far more mellow rendition, almost melancholy, bringing tears to the eyes. I sat at the bar and sorted through memories. How many people soothed my soul? Very few. But then I probably haven't done as much "soothing" as I could have, either.

Trapped in the FPC Blues. As I said once, in some ways it would probably be better if I didn't get that Fabled Pension Check. It arrives, I cash it, and pretend to live a "normal" life for a few days, buying cigarettes, drinking as much beer as I want, going to music gigs, giving the street boys smokes, glimpsing what it will be like if I make it to SocSec Days. Then, so soon, it's gone.

And with the blues comes the bad-acid-trip of seeing everything in the most negative light. Surrounded by social misfits and sub-humans. Not the street boys ... compared to the housed "misfits" they are in fine shape. Maybe knowing you have a bed and roof each night, even if only in your parents' house, makes you arrogant, lets you sit and loudly say "focking" every third word and "brah" every fourth. Maybe living on the street knocks some of that out of a person.

The FPC gives me the freedom of avoiding the mall except during the peaceful pre-dawn hour with my cups of McD's coffee, so I only get a brief glimpse of those awful old men who hang out there every day, all day, walking around waiting to die. A glimpse is more than enough in my present state of mind.

One bright light there. The release of a "new" CD by Willie K is the occasion for Sam Goody's to put a poster of the cover in their window. What a great photo of Willie, makes me smile just to see it each morning. ("New" in parentheses since the CD is a compilation of past tracks, classic Willie but including some songs I'd just as soon never hear again.)

gonna get lost in rock 'n roll ... trouble is, there's no rock band here. Willie and Shawn sometimes fill the role but both of them also wander all over the musical map so the steam rarely really gets going for long. But I wish Willie would play more gigs with the band and I wish the FPC would stretch to let me be there and elsewhere. I'd have no difficulty at all enjoying days on campus and being at music gigs every evening. Roll on, Social Security ...

457

The fifty-cent book cart at Hamilton Library had nothing of interest so I made a trip downtown to the State Library on Saturday morning. Angelo and the Sleeptalker were sitting on the front steps. I waved and the Sleeptalker motioned for me to go over. It was good to see both of them in the daylight and especially to see the Sleeptalker when he wasn't zonked out of his head. He had a terrible looking bruise on the side of his neck and I asked how it had happened. He fell out of "bed". Must have been a very nasty awakening. I rubbed my hand through his hair before going into the library, have been wanting to do that for weeks but didn't want to embarrass him in front of Angelo. Still, the Sleeptalker by now must have told Angelo enough of our history to eliminate any shock. As usual, the Sleeptalker got his goofy dog look. He likes being petted, and I like doing it.

After I'd picked out a couple of books (continuing my foray into inconsequential murder/detective sagas), I saw the Sleeptalker was back at a terminal, deeply engrossed in the game, his legs jiggling away at top speed. I wished I'd had a camera.

Angelo was still sitting on the front steps. "He hasn't talked you into playing the game?" I asked. He smiled and said no. "He must have tried, though?" "Oh yes," he said, and laughed. I said I'd see him later and crossed the street to get a bus, saw him eventually get up and go inside. Then the two of them emerged, headed off, most likely bound for free lunch at IHS.

Fond as I am of the Sleeptalker, I'm not sure I would sit outside the library waiting while he played a computer game. Angelo's a patient fellow. But then I knew that just by the fact that their buddy bonding has continued this long.

I'd stayed on campus Friday evening for the Surf Psycho Sexy gig at Manoa Garden. Okay, so there are rock bands here, and SPS isn't a bad one. If they had better taste in material, I'd rate them much higher. It's strange that with such a huge reservoir of great rock songs to choose from, they pick so many obscure and sometimes almost dreary ones. Still, I did enjoy the gig, stayed for the whole thing, also enjoying a bottle of Mickey's and some crackers and cream cheese. Gigs at Manoa Garden make more sense for me than anything else in town since I can provide my own, cheap refreshments.

A reader asked why I was "depressed". I shrugged it off as the usual post-pension-check blues, perhaps made worse this time because I'm out of practice. There was that accumulation last month, keeping empty pockets at bay for much longer than usual as well as allowing a more luxurious scale of living. And it was a short month. What a difference a day makes ... or a couple of them ... to the perception of a month. And how silly that it does.

How could I be depressed, wasn't I taking Paxil? No. The hospital gave me a ten day supply of Paxil, Thorazine, a high blood pressure pill and a mega-vitamin. But once the supply was gone, I didn't follow-up to get more. Paxil really isn't that effective anyway.

I seem to be spending at least ninety percent of my time escaping reality ... playing Seventh Circle, reading unimportant fiction, sleeping and dreaming. The Sleeptalker has been in the game every day recently, making it more fun. The books, however unimportant, have been the kind which thoroughly grab attention and block out thoughts of "reality". The sleep, on a bench by Angelo every night, and the dreams, many including the Sleeptalker, don't go on long enough but are a pleasure while they do. No, the dreams aren't erotic in any way. The best one of the week was of a visit to the zoo. The Sleeptalker had never seen meerkats before. I must ask him if that's true, but if it is, I'd want to take him to the zoo.

Of course there's a nagging voice which disapproves highly of "wasting time" but still hasn't come up with even a tiny hint of any alternative. In some ways, it reminds me of when I was fourteen. I was so eager to get the hell away from my parents I'd often sit and think how wonderful it would be if two years just suddenly melted away, if I could go to sleep and wake up to discover I'd finished school and was able to leave the nest. I wouldn't mind sleeping away two years now, either.

458

As that great twentieth century philosopher, Roseanne Rosannadanna, said, "It's always something." Shortly after leaving the hospital I noticed I seemed to be getting all new fingernails. The new ones are growing in a layer below, pushing up the old ones with irksome, ragged bottom edges which tend to catch on things and collect dirt. I've tried not to go overboard on attempts to file the edges smoother, not wanting to damage the new nail underneath. So far, so good. But the left thumbnail decided not to cooperate while the new one continues to grow and has become very loose, hanging on by one little patch. It's a nuisance to be forced to put my hand in my pocket with great care. Especially since it's the pocket I keep my cigarette pack in.

Yes, I could transfer the pack to the other pocket. But that would mean re-thinking my procedure for "discreetly" grabbing snipes [aka "cigarette butts" for any recently acquired reader]. Yes, yes, I could do that, too. It's always something ...

I think I've mentioned before how fortunate I feel about there being so few street people I really dislike. There certainly are some I'm fed-up with seeing all the time (and they may well feel the same way about me), but very few I actively dislike. One of those is the "False Prophet". In the early days at the cloisters he irked me by continually walking over to whine about how awful the people were who stayed there. I would always have to end the sessions by pointedly saying I was going to sleep, since he can't take hints. He finally found someone else who had more patience, so I was spared. Then one night I woke up, couldn't get back to sleep, and smoked a cigarette. From about twenty feet away, the False Prophet sat up and said my smoke was keeping him from sleeping. "There's an easy solution to that," I said, "move somewhere else." The last time he spoke to me.

Until Sunday. He hangs out all day in the small computer lab where we non-students are allowed access, sits at the one slightly-faster IBM for hours at a time, rarely taking breaks. On Sunday he even went so far as to leave a tee shirt over the back of the chair and a notebook and pen beside the computer. Hmmmph. I moved his junk to the next terminal, discovered he'd had the nerve to put up a password-protected screensaver. It had a cutesy message like "If you REALLY need to use this terminal, turn the computer off and on. Smile". I did. Without smiling. Some fifteen minutes later he returned, was well pissed-off to see me there, said something I didn't understand, grabbed his stuff and departed. He didn't return all day. I wasn't heartbroken.

The False Prophet gets his nickname because he apparently never cuts his hair or beard, walks around with a glowering expression on his face which reminds me of illustrations in my grandmother's Bible. I don't think those O.T. prophets had such scraggly, dirty beards, but maybe.

Occasionally I just browse through various online journals randomly and I did that for awhile on Sunday. Most of them seemed obsessed with sex. Either they weren't getting enough, or they were getting it with the wrong person, or they were having too much demand for it put on them. No one seems to write about having sex and enjoying it. Even Aaron, one of the journal keepers I regularly read, has been weird about sex recently. He lives with one young woman but has a deep crush on another, so when the one he lives with gives him a blow job, he reports it but didn't enjoy it (or so he says) because he felt guilty. Maybe I should be happy not to be getting it at all.

Never mind sex, I didn't even get to sleep next to Angelo on Sunday, for the first time in a week. Neither he nor the Sleeptalker were at the hacienda. I missed Angelo more than the Sleeptalker, but that's because I feel more comfortable sleeping next to Angelo. The one night this week when the Sleeptalker was on the other side of me I'd had a difficult time. Why waste the opportunity sleeping, when I could watch him? Yes, Angelo is a more comfortable neighbor to be with. Well, except for one night when he was wearing shorts for the first time and kept sticking his hand down the front of them. Maybe my bench companion fascination is my version of the other journal keepers' sex problems.

Despite having picked two quite thick volumes from the State Library's freebie collection on Saturday, I went through both by Monday morning and once again had nothing to read. I played in Seventh Circle long enough to attain Level 89, the third highest ranking player in the game, and then went downtown for more junk to read. The Sleeptalker hadn't been in the game and neither he nor Angelo were anywhere to be seen.

I picked up two more thick volumes. "I'll never forget the looks people gave me when I paid for our groceries with food stamps." A line from Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's Abuse of Power. I don't have to worry too much about that at Star Market. Usually the person in front of me is paying with food stamps, and the person behind.

459

"Kiss, kiss," I said to the Sleeptalker in Seventh Circle.
"Spit, spit," he said, "a handshake will be enough."
"Boring. Unless my hand is shaking the right thing."

Poor boy. Dame Fortune is being mischievous, put an abandoned bus pass in his path. There was a time when that would have been cause for much happiness, for him and for me, but at this point it must create quite a dilemma for him. Does he leave Angelo and travel to campus, spend time with me and more time in the game? I thought I'd help him out by outrageously flirting with him in the game, just remind him I still care. He didn't travel to campus, at least not on his first day with a bus pass. My strategy must have worked. Whew.

He should stay with Angelo.

I got my bench next to Angelo on Monday night, but someone had already grabbed it by the time I got there on Tuesday so I had to be content sleeping on the bench at his feet. No sign of the Sleeptalker. I guess he was in his secret hideaway in the back. Angelo was wearing shorts again on Tuesday and I felt a little sorry for him because it was the coolest night in a long time. I kept my arms up against my body to stay warmer.

Fat Tuesday. Danielle Steel's Jewels, which I enjoyed more than anything I've read of hers even if it was silly fluff. And it seemed somehow appropriate to finish it with a Mickey's, amidst the noise of the Mardi Gras Party at Manoa Garden.

The third Lenten season on the streets. I remember getting quite twisted by the first one, for no sensible reason, and doing my best to ignore the second one. I said on a local mail-list that I'd give up reading Ms. Steel for the duration. That should be enough of a nod for this round.

460

Those folks who dreamed up visions of fire and brimstone for Hell were so unimaginative, or maybe we had to get to the "modern age" before more terrifying scenarios became available. Even then, no sledgehammer options are necessary, no need for Hitler or Pol Pot. Just plop a grotesquely overweight young man on the bus seat in front of me, let him continually fall into near sleep, jerk himself upright, drift again, repeat. Gross. Make us ride around for hours like that. Definitely Hell. Maybe it's time I repent and get myself Saved, before my ride from the mall to the campus behind such a nightmare is extended.

I guess the cooler nights don't really bother Angelo. He was sleeping in his shorts again but had his backpack with him so no doubt could have changed into something warmer. "Hi, Albert," he said as he arrived while I was getting ready to settle down. Another fellow in his twenties and rather chubby walked over to talk to Angelo and their quiet conversation was still going on when I fell asleep. Later I woke up, looked over at Angelo. He was laying on his back, his knees up and, for the first time, the shorts clearly revealed the underlying equipment. Much smaller than the Sleeptalker. Just as well. I need the sleep.

Tired, so tired. I didn't do anything at all strenuous on Ash Wednesday but by the time I was waiting for a bus to the bench, I felt exhausted. The fifty-cent cart at Hamilton had a batch of new selections, so I cancelled plans for a trip to the State Library. Another Heather Graham Pozzessere saga, Never Sleep With Strangers, takes me back to classic murder mystery territory after that time in Steel's glamorous fantasies. Very classic (or cliche) this time, with a group of mystery writers stranded in a storm-bound Scottish castle waiting to murder each other while playing a game solving a fictional murder. Whodunit? No idea. They almost all seem likely suspects, for both the game "murder" and the probable real one.

I'd bought cheese and crackers the day before but hadn't eaten them, so I didn't even have my two-step shopping expedition on the calendar, went down for a bottle of Colt (since they'd sold out of Mickey's) and enjoyed lunch in the secluded grove. A lady had been watching me feed cracker crumbs to the birds, walked over, handed me half a tuna fish sandwich and said I could share it with "the birdies". Okay, I shared it. The zebra doves weren't too keen on the bits of tuna clinging to the bread, but the mynahs loved it. I was more on the side of the zebra doves, but a little tuna fish wasn't a bad supplement to the cheese and crackers.

The one major drawback to foodstamps is the prohibition on hot food. Can't buy hot fried chicken, but can buy it when wrapped in plastic and chilled. Can't buy fried potatoes, but can buy potato salad. Of course, I can get frozen stuff and heat it in the microwave on campus but so far the few items I've tried were worse than airline (or hospital) cuisine. A Swanson's "Salisbury Steak" dinner was gawdawful. Marie Callender's version was a little better, but not much. And the other avenue for hot food has been twice as bad: those cups of things you pour boiling water into, let sit for five minutes, and eat. Most of them have been so bad I took a few bites and threw the rest away. I wish you could use that foodstamps card at McD's or Jack-in-the-Box.

Meanwhile, back in fantasy land, I spent enough time in Seventh Circle to reach Level 90 which set off a virtual celebration. The leader of my Guild joined in, congratulated me on reaching the highest level any Ranger had. "You're our highest Ranger," he said. "And the craziest," I replied. "We've known that for some time." Uh-huh.

And the Sleeptalker has been missing in action since flirtatious Monday.

461

All my children ... deep sigh.

Even though I arrived earlier than usual at the hacienda, Angelo was already asleep. The fellow who had been talking with him the night before was under a blanket on the floor at the head of Angelo's bench. I'm evidently not the only one who enjoys sleeping near Angelo. I settled on the bench at his feet and had been asleep for awhile when the Sleeptalker arrived, flying high. Too high. "Gonna get your wings burned, my little angel," I thought, but took care not to appear disapproving. When the crash comes, and it will inevitably come, I'd rather be someone he can turn to without expecting to hear "I told you so."

I declined his invitation to go to Waikiki, said I was too tired and just wanted to sleep. He struck one of his funny poses and made a face. "I know," I said with a smile, "I'm just getting too old to keep up with you." So he went to work persuading Angelo to join him.

All of the Sleeptalker's most amusing and charming routines, the posing, the little dances, his delightful ability to mimic different voices, become stretched and tinged with desperation under the influence of speed and alcohol. He kept interjecting little high-pitched "yips" into his talk and it was all geared to making it obvious that he was high and happy even if he couldn't have convinced anyone but himself, if that.

I had the feeling that if Angelo had also declined, the Sleeptalker would have settled down and passed out within a few minutes, but Angelo didn't, and they went off together. I wondered, not for the first time, if Angelo is gay and sufficiently smitten with the Sleeptalker to put up with him regardless, or if it's just part of the Buddy Code.

So I went back to sleep, expecting to be awakened after a couple of hours when they returned. But I woke around four, looked over and saw Angelo's bench was still empty. It remained so when it came time to get up, his backpack there and his slippers under the bench. I'd gone back to sleep in the meantime and dreamed they had both been taken off to jail. The dream was like watching a film. I wasn't in it, but could only stand by and watch the action. An all-too-true-to-life dream.

I was very grateful the other fellow was still there asleep when I got up. Let him worry about Angelo's gear. I don't know what I would have done had he not been there. Take the stuff and sit on an outside bench, waiting to see if Angelo arrived? And if he hadn't, walk around all day with two backpacks until I could, maybe, return it in the evening?

All my children ...

I suppose it's too late to ban cellular phones and even if I turned outlaw and bombed all the relay stations on the island, they'd reconstruct them. What if the manufacture of the things was limited to space-helmet-like bubbles? People would have to wear them to use their infernal phones. The bubbles would, of course, be soundproof, so people would only look stupid instead of sounding stupid. So maybe that's far-fetched, too, alas. Well, at least ban the things on public transportation. They did it with transistor radios, and cell phones are far more obnoxious.

Of course, as with all technological "advances", it is not the device itself which destroys the quality of life, but the human user. Two people sit in a quiet place, quietly reading. What kind of person would sit as near as possible to both, and begin an excruciatingly banal conversation on a cellular phone?

The same kind who will use a "computer lab" to sit and have an equally excruciatingly banal conversation about their non-love-lifes.

But on the Friday morning bus, I wised up. The dozey hippo again claimed the seat in front of me. I changed seats so I didn't have to watch him. Even escapes from little Hells are a blessing.

462

Found one dime and seven pennies on Saturday morning. Lucky day? If Dame Fortune is telling me not to worry, I'll get what I need, she could have gone a bit further and thrown in at least a couple of quarters.

As is my habit when having paper money, I don't use coins, put all the change in the coin bag. Only a third of the month gone, and down to the bag already. I had tucked away two one-dollar bills for Friday evening's gig at Manoa Garden, went downhill and untucked them, carried a bottle of Mickey's back uphill and settled down to hear Go Jimmy Go. I've wanted to hear, and more importantly see, them for a long time but they usually play venues where old folks get the cold shoulder or the cover charge is too high. So it was a pleasure to finally see them. Sweethearts! If I were deaf, they'd be my favorite local band.

It was a lazy Friday. Finished that not-very-good mystery novel and went on to a not-very-good sci-fi effort called Slant by Greg Bear. Too many characters, too many sub-plots which took a long time to wend their way into the main one (and that wasn't very interesting to begin with).

The birds in the secluded grove have gotten so used to me now they come flocking when I arrive and are very impatient if I take too long getting my own lunch unpacked and ready to eat before I share something with them. One little zebra dove flew up and landed on the backpack to get a closer look at what I was doing, three sat on the bench beside me, and then one bold critter actually sat on my head. The way some of them twist their heads to look at me seems to say, "we know you've got Maui Cookies in that bag, give one up."

I tried all day to keep pushing worries about Angelo and the Sleeptalker out of my head, with little success, and there was no relief when I got to the hacienda since neither were there. Angelo's chubby friend was already asleep but he probably doesn't know anything more about what's happening than I do. For Angelo's sake, I hope my dream wasn't a reflection of reality. In the case of the Sleeptalker, I'm not so sure. A little time inside might be good for him at this point.

Me, too, maybe. Something different, anyway ...

I'm ready for summer.

463

Sunday morning. I was sitting on a planter ledge at the mall bus stop when a ruggedly handsome young man arrived and sat on a bench about six feet away from me. I was looking at him, thinking of heroines in romance novels who frequently say "he undressed me with his eyes" and was definitely thinking, "I bet you'd be great in bed." He turned and looked me right in the eyes. Ooops, behave yourself, I told me. A bus came along, he got up to ask the driver something which I couldn't hear, and then sat down on the planter ledge beside me. Gulp. He put his hands behind his head and stretched a couple of times, rippling muscles and all that. Now who should behave themselves?

We both got on the number six bus, but he was only going to the Pagoda Hotel. Lucky hotel bed, if he was planning to stay there.

That and six cents launched the last month of fifty-something.

Chubby was asleep on the floor at the hacienda when I got there Saturday night, but alas no Angelo on the bench beside him. A newcomer who had been there the night before had returned and was again, oddly, sleeping on the sidewalk by an outside bench. The Old Regular had switched from his usual spot to one of the two facing benches and I was much surprised when I woke later to see the young Asian Bicycle Lad had taken the bench beside him, especially with so many benches available to choose from.

I had been reading the Tales from this time two years ago and smiled at the memory of the night when Rocky and I had arrived to find all benches taken except those two, so spent our first night in that intimate setting. At that point we still hadn't spoken to each other. A sweet memory. I miss Rocky and, even more, Mondo, but I'm glad they've moved on to better things. I also checked the Tales from a year ago. Yes, there's something cyclic about the inner mood this time of year, no matter what is going on externally.

Dame Fortune evidently thought it was time for some heavier reading and put a copy of the Book of Mormon in my path. Okay, I thought I'd have a look again, after I finished William Caunitz's Exceptional Clearance, a NYC police yarn with a serial killer. That completed, I did try the Mormon volume but soon gave it up, wondering how I'd ever managed to read it the first time. They really should produce a new edition, getting rid of the archaic language and the endlessly repeated "and it came to pass". It's as difficult to read as the Koran.

Then I found two Harlequin romances, one of them in the mystery-romance category. Much easier reading.

Since I was due downtown in mid-afternoon, I left campus early and went to the mall. The "Honolulu Festival" weekend meant continuous Japanese entertainment on the center stage so I stopped to listen in between snipe-hunting strolls. There couldn't have been a shopping mall in Japan with more Japanese folks than were at Ala Moana. This made for great snipe hunting, despite avoiding ones where the Japanese were gathered around an ashtray like vultures, and the hunt soon changed to looking for an empty cigarette box. No luck. I had to transfer the bounty to a plastic bag and refill my one box.

Laundry and a shower. What luxury. I just can't work up the fortitude to drag this bag of bones into a cold beach shower yet, even on the warmest, sunniest days. But washing from a basin does get tiresome. Like I said, ready for summer.

And after being stuck at 133 pounds for weeks, the bathroom scale informed me I finally added an extra three. If it was those two-beer days that did it, I might slide back. This is going to be a dry month.

464

"This will be our second Christmas, yeh?" asked the Sleeptalker.
"No, our third," I corrected.

He's too smart not to be calculating on some level but I'm sure things like that pop into his mind and out of his mouth without forethought, making them even more touching. So it was later when we were sitting in the secluded grove eating lunch and he asked me more about the time in hospital, then said he was very glad I hadn't died because he would've missed me.

"Our" Christmases? I would certainly have imagined them differently had they been "our" to me.

Tuesday morning definitely began with a shock. I was sitting in the little computer lab on campus, browsing the nonsensical rubbish on alt.culture.hawaii when I saw someone approach. I looked up. The Sleeptalker, grinning broadly.

Questions of a thousand dreams ...

Angelo is in jail. According to the Sleeptalker, it's because he had outstanding traffic violation bench warrants ("LOTS of them"). Since he must have gotten busted that night when the two of them disappeared from the hacienda, I assume they got into some kind of trouble in Waikiki. But no details from the Sleeptalker, if he even remembers what happened. He was surprised to hear that Angelo's backpack was still on the bench the next morning.

The Sleeptalker's brother is also in jail for unspecified reasons. Mondo is in trouble with the law after a stoned truck-driving misadventure. And the Sleeptalker himself is still in legal hot water but all I could get out of him were vague remarks about upcoming court dates and his "Portagee" public defender. What he did to merit such attention remains a mystery.

A brain frozen by ice, synapses crystallized and shattered. All the king's horses and all the king's men can't put it back together again. It has always been something of a multi-schizoid dance communicating with the Sleeptalker and it's even more so now. He loves smoking the pakololo he said, for which I can't in the least blame him, but the people he knows with the weed eventually bring out heavier duty smoking materials and he won't say no. He knows it is getting him into trouble, but he won't say no. And talking to him becomes a matter of filing away isolated remarks and waiting for ones to surface that form a match.

He looks his best. And I love him. But I have to admit that after a day together, by nine in the evening I was feeling pretty exhausted and my life as a loner was looking its best, too. Out of practice.

One of the funniest moments of the day was going to the supermarket with him. He is so used to taking the trays at the IHS "soup kitchen" and eating whatever is given him that he was totally baffled when I said, "you can have anything you want." He finally settled on a roast beef sandwich and some cheese that he soon discovered he didn't like nearly as much as the Laughing Cow wedges I bought, ate most of the potato salad I'd added to the basket, and at my urging, selected some Reese's "sticks" candy after a long look at the available options.

Speaking of foodstamps largesse, I had decided I would allow myself one Luxury Lunch each week and with my usual inability to save for tomorrow what can be had today, the new week's Luxury Lunch was on Monday. French Burgundy Pate on Breton sesame seed crackers, cottage cheese, Spanish olives, and a quart of milk. Yep, that's luxury. And with the addition of Maui Cookies for future breakfasts and a box of Ensure chocolate-flavored bars, the tab was over fourteen dollars. Luxury, uh-huh.

Those Ensure bars are a bit silly. Four bars for five dollars, and each bar only provides fifteen percent of the supposed minimum daily requirement. A mega-vitamin pill would no doubt be more effective and more economical. But at least a pseudo-chocolate bar doesn't make me think of Karoli Baba saying, "Americans should take vitamins because they believe in them."

Monday evening I had joined Helen R. to see "Mission to Mars". Having heard so many grumbles about the film beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised and quite enjoyed it despite a few minor grumbles of my own, especially about the rather dreary casting. I wouldn't really have expected anything better from di Palma, anyway. John Huston, he is not. (The odd comparison inspired by having enjoyed a Huston double feature the night before: "Key Largo" and "The Maltese Falcon".) It has been many years since I last saw "Key Largo" and I don't think it holds up all that well. Certainly can't complain about the casting in either film, but in Largo, Bacall seemed to spend most of her time leaning up against something and looking moony-eyed and I never have been able to understand why Mary Astor in the Falcon was considered a "knock-out". Looked like Plain Jane material to me. But the Falcon nonsense will forever be fun to watch. I rather doubt I'll be interested in seeing "Mission to Mars" again, though.

And does his buddy, Angelo, being in jail and a bus pass in his pocket mean I'll be seeing a lot of the Sleeptalker for the rest of the month?

Questions of a thousand dreams ...

465

Off the hook. When I woke during the night and looked around, I was so happy to see Angelo back on his usual bench at my head. Happy because he's a good man to be around, but even more because he's the perfect "Buddy" for the Sleeptalker.

Settling on the bench after that day with the Sleeptalker, I was definitely feeling dread that the day would be repeated. I needed more time to digest those thirteen hours with him before tackling another round, and the dread was increased by thinking Angelo would be unavailable and I might have the rest of the month with the Sleeptalker's company.

Can't live with him, can't live without him. And when he didn't show up on campus the next day as expected, I really fell into a twisted state of mind. Have no twisted thoughts. Easier said than done, Confucius, old man. Never mind I'd spent those moments in dread, I was perversely very disappointed not to see the Sleeptalker even if I was given just what I thought I wanted, and needed: a day alone to ponder the previous one.

The day with the Sleeptalker had ended on a wrong note. He was slightly buzzed from sharing a bottle of Colt and told me he could get quarters out of a pay phone by banging on it in just the right way. Then he proceeded to demonstrate without success, said he could do it with a hammer. I believe you, I told him, but not on campus, please. And I reminded him that campus security have the authority to ban a person for a year. He wasn't pleased, walked off downhill and got on the bus several stops after I did, sat by himself in the front. No, I'm just not the right "Buddy" material. Any form of an Authority Figure is taboo, and sometimes I just can't resist. Much as I love the guy, or maybe because of it, I'm not willing to get into trouble with him. And I'm certainly not willing to risk being banished from campus for some quarters.

Meanwhile ... I tend to ignore events on the world stage and even when I do take notice, rarely go beyond scanning the headlines and the first paragraph or so of front page stories. But this nonsense between China and Taiwan is really irking me. What the hell is wrong with the Chinese leaders? All that territory and the myriad of bodies under their authority ... why rock the boat for one little island? And our leaders reaction? Ship Taiwan more missiles. Just great. Just what this crazy little ball of dirt needs, China and Taiwan lobbing missiles at each other.

Where, oh where, is one of those more intelligent extraterrestrial species? I do wish they would come in for a visit, restore my faith in the presence of wisdom somewhere in the universe. There certainly isn't much of it in evidence on the third rock from the Sun.

But then who am I to talk? I can't even do a dance with a 24-year-old guy from Waianae without stepping all over his feet and my own.

466

I know the more we care for someone, on either end of the love/hate scale, the greater the power they have over us. But I really did underestimate it with the Sleeptalker. That day with him knocked my internal gyroscope totally off balance, and it wasn't exactly an unwobbling pivot to begin with.

"Friendship is more important," he said to me most earnestly. True words, indeed, but the exasperating thing is, I can't stop wanting both the loving friendship and his body. And I can't shake the feeling that given just the right moment and the right approach, I could have it.

He has strange notions about many things but probably none more so than about sexuality. Gay men like guys with muscles, he told me. I don't think the majority do, I said. I've known many gay men but have never personally known one who was fascinated by musclemen. Well, women do, he countered. I told him to look around campus. The jocks hang out together. How many couples do you see where the guy is a beefcake type? But I understand how he feels. Throughout my late teens and early twenties I thought my skinny body was nothing compared to guys with muscles.

The poor fellow has encountered yet another man after his skinny body, too. A Hawaiian, he says. The guy offered to pay the cellphone bill for a month if he could give the Sleeptalker a blow job. Go for it, I said. Just make sure the bill is paid and the phone working, then let him have it. Close your eyes and pretend it's whoever you'd most like to be doing it. A few minutes, it's over, and you can enjoy your phone for a month.

Pass the hemlock, please.

When I returned to the scene after my hospital adventure, there was only one interesting newcomer among the usual predawn McD's crowd. He's a young Filipino lad who is cute without really being cute. I realize that's not much of a description, but it's true. Until it began to get warmer, he was always wearing flowery surf shorts and a camouflage fatigue jacket, an oddly charming combination. He would sit alone on a stool inside with his coffee and I looked forward to seeing him each morning. Later I noticed he has a bicycle but I never saw him anywhere later in the day. But on Friday night I saw the original Bicycle Lad was, as usual, on one of the facing benches and someone else with a bicycle was on the other. It wasn't until morning when they were getting up that I realized it was the lad from McD's. Looks like they have formed a buddy team, too, since they showed up later at McD's together. Another cute couple.

Angelo arrived after I was already asleep, even though I had gotten there much later than usual, and he was on the bench at my head. There was a young man on the bench in front of him I hadn't seen before. Unusually, Angelo was gone when I woke up and so was his neighbor. A new buddy team? Or with the Sleeptalker, a re-formed Social Horror Club?

All my children ...

467

Loose around the ankles, tight around the ... I'm noticing an increasing number of young men wearing fantasically exaggerated bell bottom trousers. The leg bottoms are each large enough to make a decent-sized skirt. The pants are not, alas, very tight anywhere. I'd teased the Sleeptalker about the baggy jeans he was wearing (albeit not with huge flared legs), said they hid his cute butt. "It's still there," he said, so I gave him a pat on it, said, yep still there, and he did one of his little dances.

He's disappeared again, making me wonder if his day on campus was something of a farewell visit before his Court appearance and possible "vacation" in the lock-up. I wish I'd managed to get details out of him, although there's certainly not much I could do about it except maybe send him a few bucks out of the Fabled Pension Check. Every dollar counts in jail.

Or anywhere else, for that matter. I spotted a coin on the ground near the campus bus stop, picked it up thinking it was a quarter. Nope, weird color. Examining it later, I discovered I was in possession of the new dollar coin, and what an ugly piece of work it is, too. Still, can't complain about a dollar falling from heaven, or about the three quarters I found without looking for them at the mall on Saturday.

I spent Saint Patrick's Day guzzling free beer and reading John Grisham's The Street Lawyer. The beer was good, the book was not.

I'd debated going to a Willie K gig at the Pier Bar but it didn't start until 9:30 and by sunset I was certain I'd never last that long. The Beatles clone band, Rubber Soul, was at Manoa Garden. They must have been hitting the brew, too, because they were really sloppy. I've heard them a couple of times at the mall and thought they had the sound down decently, even if it is painful to look at them, but not even the sound was decent at the Garden gig.

So I left before the gig was over and went off to the bench. I had expected some "tourists" who'd missed the last bus after a drunken evening, but it turned out to be just me and the two Bicycle Boys. Not so on Saturday night when it was almost a full house, Angelo on the bench at my head and the McD's Bicycle Boy on the bench beside me for the first time, his buddy missing. Earlier, Angelo had arrived with someone I hadn't seen before. The fellow looked somewhat like Angelo himself although heavier, and I wondered if they might be brothers. They were having a long, quiet conversation when I fell asleep and the other fellow didn't stay all night. If Angelo had been alone, I would've asked if he'd seen the Sleeptalker.

Thanks to Helen R. I see a lot more movies than I would otherwise but it's fairly rare for a new one to arrive which I'm really, really keen to see. "The Ninth Gate" made that list, though. Roman Polanski has long been one of my favorite directors and a new one from him with a Satanic theme? Definitely on the list. So Helen and I went to see it on Saturday afternoon and I wasn't disappointed. Few directors could match Polanski at taking a bit of fluff like that and turning it into a stylishly elegant film. The only problem I had at all with it was Johnny Depp constantly lighting up a Lucky Strike. I was dying for a cigarette by the time we left the theatre.

We went to Arby's at the mall for a post-theatre meal and I was much irked when a grubby trashpicker wandered into the place, grabbed a cup of water and sat in a booth behind us, getting up to refill his cup. As if parking his dirty carcass in there wasn't bad enough, he asked if we had any spare change. Sheez. I hate people who abuse the overall tolerant attitude of the management and security army at the mall. Helen had ordered the five-sandwich special and neither of us wanted the final one, so she kindly gave it to the change-seeking creep. He didn't deserve it.

The kindness of strangers. As I was walking through the mall on a final snipes hunt the night before, a woman was sitting on a planter ledge with a plate lunch box, asked me if I was hungry. I said "no thanks" and then later thought I really should have said more, thanked her for her kind thought.

I'm always second-guessing myself.

468

Everything's always running out. The last drop trickles from the big green bottle, the last snipe extracted from what seemed so recently a full box, the last coins exchanged for cups of coffee which are soon empty, the foodstamps balance dwindles toward zero, the last day of winter fades into spring. Running on empty.

No complaint about the seasonal change although it certainly hasn't been in evidence during the last nights of winter. The wind was so brisk on Sunday evening that it blew up through the bottom slats of the bench, giving a feeling of having cold stripes down the body. I'd roll over and it seemed so much colder than it had turned the other direction since the body warmed by wooden contact was exposed to the chilly wind.

A full house at the hacienda, refugees from the wind, mostly strangers. Angelo had sensibly abandoned shorts and returned to his corduroy trousers, was asleep snuggled under a sweatshirt as a half-blanket on his usual bench at my head. The little pole standing up in the front of his trousers warmed my thoughts, anyway.

Cainer noted: Last night, at 11.44pm New York time, the Moon in Virgo was exactly opposite the Sun in Pisces. Just thirteen minutes later, the Moon went into Libra. And then, at 2.35am, the Sun went into Aries. So the Full Moon is in my opposite sign, but it didn't actually reach the fullness point in it. Strange doings. Cainer thought so, too.

I felt oddly restless on Monday morning, whether due to the heavenly bodies or not, and returned to the mall after a brief visit to campus. Silly timing, since the University will be closed down next Monday for Kuhio Day and that also begins the Spring Break schedule making next week a more appropriate time to play mall rat. Never mind, did it anyway. A full box of snipes and two quarters before I got hungry enough to head back to the supermarket and on to the secluded grove where the birds were even more impatient than usual for their handout. It wasn't much of a cure for the restlessness.

Making me feel like an intellectual sloth, a fellow nomad on the bus was reading Camus. The Stranger. I was reading Opening Nights by Janet Burroway, an attempt at least at a serious novel, and not some Harlequin fluff, but hardly in the Camus class. I should get something by Sartre and keep the cover to disguise my Danielle's and Harlequin's.

"Second guessing" wasn't really the right term. It's more a question of playing theatre critic. On my own, my life is mine and I live it, but in the company of another it becomes a work on stage, lines and movement improvised, and when the scenes are done and I'm back alone, I sit and write a review of the play and my performance in it. I'm rarely pleased with either.

469

On a final stroll through the mall Monday evening, a repetition of the earlier success: a full box of snipes and, thanks to a stroller abandoned at the bus stop, two quarters. Since I still had the ugly dollar coin stashed away, that put the bankroll into the able-to-buy-beer category. But five mornings of McD's coffee had to be balanced against one bottle of beer. The coffee won. Shameful behavior for an alcoholic, not to mention the absurdity of considering tomorrows. What if I'd gotten run over by a bus (Mme de Crécy's favorite horror fantasy for me)? Laying there in the road dying, thinking "damn, I could have had one last beer."

I didn't get hit by a bus, and I was happy the next morning when I sat down outside McD's for my two cups of coffee, especially after getting up from the bench into the chilly morning and riding to the mall on a bus which was like a giant refrigerator on wheels. The driver was all bundled up in a thick shirt. Most of the passengers weren't and would probably have paid good money for blankets.

Since the foodstamps balance is dwindling, I switched to buying cheaper Nabisco oatmeal cookies instead of the far better Maui Cookies for intended breakfasts. The birds don't mind. But my good intentions were somewhat defeated when I downed half a dozen of the cookies with two cups of tea for dinner. I was pushing my luck with the last cup. It was almost seven in the evening and caffeine that late, combined with the insomniac problem which usually accompanies an alcohol-free day, was asking for trouble.

Didn't happen. Maybe the relatively restless sleep of these chilly nights leaves the body ready for sleep regardless. I didn't get to the hacienda until a bit after ten, just as well since Angelo was quietly drunk. He was talking to Chubby who was, as usual, on the floor at the head of Angelo's bench. His speech was so slurred that Chubby kept asking him to repeat things. The awkward conversation stopped soon after my arrival. I was glad I hadn't gotten there earlier to hear more of it and was also glad Angelo's calm solidity doesn't waver even when he's intoxicated. He's a good man. Said it before, will no doubt say it again.

Earlier in the evening, I read the Tales from the first week of Spring last year and, as with the year before, it was a time of chilly nights and warm days. At least it is drier this year (so far, despite several efforts from above on Tuesday to change that), but the same problem is present. I can't switch to wearing shorts in the daytime because there isn't enough room in the backpack for the jeans, not with that bulky sweatshirt in there. I haven't walked around in shorts since October, unprecedented in my years in Hawaii.

Tuesday was one of those days when I was constantly plagued by people having inane conversations. Everywhere ... in the computer lab, the library, on the sidewalks, on the bus. Mostly young women, perhaps on the verge of hysteria because of the impending Spring Break or maybe it's just the majority style for young women these days. Last week, the Sleeptalker and I had passed a couple of them shrieking away to each other. I looked at him and we laughed. I said, "please, never get a girlfriend like that, I couldn't stand it." "Neither could I," he said.

On Monday the Arby's Bum was sitting on a bench, asked if I had a cigarette as I was walking slowly past. I ignored him. He yelled, "hey! you got a cigarette?" I gave him my best glare and shook my head no. He did it again on Tuesday. I stopped, said "not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow." Wasted effort, he's so spaced he'll never remember. Later I saw him sprawled out on another bench, that time in high-rent tourist territory. I don't think he's going to last long at the mall, will no doubt soon join Twisted Hair and Roadrunner in wherever it is folks go who get banished from the mall.

The mid-day visit there yielded no quarters, alas. It was probably my punishment for thinking about saving them for the future.

470

This raises an interesting question - if you're not
satisfied, do you *have* a template or a plan lurking
in the background?


Despite what the astrologers say to the contrary, I don't.
Or at least not any I'm aware of.

If so, how does that affect your goal of drifting?

Not sure it can be called a goal, just the most sensible
way to keep on existing when there's no idea at all why.

And that is the answer to your subject ["Why?"]. No idea at all.

Which makes being a picky after-the-fact self-critic
even more absurd.

-----

It's a lifelong habit, no way to shake it now. But it has only been in recent years when the stage-like aspect of the thing has become clear. There was a time when the act could be quite complex, not just a matter of trying to make someone like you but perhaps also a question of making money, or more money, or keeping a job and all those things that once seemed so necessary. There was a time, for instance, when I knew someone was going to buy a particular painting and if I got the act just right, they'd not only buy it, they'd pay more for it.

Now it's more often a matter of wanting to create or deepen a friendship. If deepen, then an act is clearly not necessary. The person must like me enough to seek out my company, so all that's necessary is to be myself since that's what they were seeking. That's never more true than with the Sleeptalker. But knowing that doesn't stop me, either from seeing the time with him as a play or from being a severe self-critic afterwards.

And Himself showed up in Seventh Circle on Wednesday morning. I told him I'd thought he was in jail, was glad it wasn't true. At one point he apologized for bothering me. I'm not sure whether he meant in the game or in "real" life, but I told him I didn't mind being bothered by him and meant it both ways. We exchanged virtual smiles. I didn't say "bewitched, bothered and bewildered" because he wouldn't have gotten the reference.

It's much easier playing with him in the game than it is in "real" life.

470a

How unfortunate. The Iceman Cometh or, more accurately, Returneth. On the bus to the hacienda Wednesday night, I spotted Angelo walking toward the mall. Alas, Rossini was with him. Eventually they made their way back to the hacienda, along with two large bottles of brew and some food, and woke me up even though they were sitting on an outside bench. Then it started to rain, so they moved onto the inside steps, waking me again. I shifted to the most distant bench.

I can imagine Rossini's routine day as finding somewhere to sleep in the morning and early afternoon, peddling dope in the late afternoon and evening until he gets too wired himself and closes shop, looks for someone to hang out with and gets more wired, then is ready to talk all night. This is definitely not someone I'm happy to see form a buddy team with Angelo. The Sleeptalker seems to have had a falling out with both of them and I suppose that's one thing to be grateful for. The party would have been twice as loud had he been along.

Angelo actually kept his usual quiet, low-key profile but Rossini, as always, continually got excited and raised the volume level, punctuating his yakking with little high-pitched "yip" sounds. So that's where the Sleeptalker picked that up.

I can only hope Rossini soon gets the urge to return to his beloved Vegas. I can even hope that this time he stays there.

Meanwhile ...

Did I say I wanted another chance? Well, not exactly, but maybe that's what I was inferring. So I got it, arrived on campus Thursday morning to find the Sleeptalker already busy at a keyboard in the computer lab.

Remember, I told myself, this is "Private Lives", not "Macbeth".

And, as it turned out, a short version since the Sleeptalker has a job ("bussing tables") and thus couldn't stay all day.

Whew.

471

Despite the interruptions of the Angelo/Rossini party during the night, I woke up on Thursday feeling in a brighter than usual mood. You've been taking everything too seriously, I told myself. Remember that golden Acid Rule: it doesn't matter. Arriving on campus and rubbing my hand through the Sleeptalker's hair was icing on the cake.

I realized later that he'd no doubt made the early morning trip to campus to share the good news about his job. Although he was obviously very happy about it, he was reluctant to tell me what the job was, and I had to push to get it out of him. So what's the matter with being a bus boy? I was expecting him to land an executive admin assistant position? No, I didn't say that to him, just let him know I was happy for him and didn't have to do any "acting" to make it true. I wouldn't mind at all starting every morning with a couple of hours in the Sleeptalker's company.

It's just as well I so rarely read the mainstream newspapers. The campus paper is enough to stir the waters. Ikaika Hussey is one of the editors of the paper and a frequent contributor, always with a militant Hawaiian slant no matter what the subject. It isn't the blatantly political, self-serving militancy of the batty Trask sisters but in some ways even worse, a kind of spiritual jingoism which verges on nausea-inducing. Thursday's column put forth the notion that these islands are "sacred", all of them, every square inch. Humbug. If one takes the worldview that the entire planet is "sacred", okay, that's a sweetly noble, romantic concept. But to say these volcanic mountaintops are more "sacred" than Bali, Tahiti, Catalina or the Isle of Man, etc., is absurd.

I suppose Ikaika's rant was at least partly inspired by yet another burial spot being discovered, yet another road project altered to leave the bones undisturbed. I don't have any high regard for cemeteries, either. If all the buried bones on the planet are to be left undisturbed, what's left for the living?

Okay, okay. I know better than to read Ikaika Hussey, so it's my fault.

Conservation of dwindling foodstamps largesse led to buying a loaf of bread and sandwich meat on Wednesday. Sandwiches for lunch, sandwiches for dinner, remaining bread stashed in backpack for the next day. When I shifted benches during the night, the bread shifted, too, and so that's why my "pillow" was softer. Vienna sausages on squashed bread sandwiches for Thursday lunch. All very economical. I fear there will be no "luxury lunch" next week, even so. And Friday is designated a "Cup O' Noodles" day.

Dame Fortune is apparently much amused with the coffee-or-beer game. Every day just enough money is found to bring the bank account into the buy-beer range. But only just enough, not even financing for the next morning's coffee, never mind five days' worth. If that next morning coffee was assured, I'd go for the beer. Bad enough considering the morrow without adding more days down the road. Since Madame is keeping it right on the edge, though, I've stayed with the coffee plan, despite some moments when I almost yielded and went for one of those 40oz bottles instead.

Like I said, a dry month. But I spoke too soon about drier weather.

472

The five day brew-less drought ended in a deluge. Rounding a corner in the Art Building, there was the Cherub. Long time no see. He was fuming over some papers he'd just been given. Seems his English Lit professor had kindly given him an "incomplete" rather than flunking him, so he has to read three books and write reports on them during the Spring Break. An odd list. Anything by Orwell or Kipling, but only "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Passage to India" for Wilde and Forster, "Mrs. Dalloway" for Virginia W. I recommended going for Orwell first, since the Cherub will probably hate him and it's easier to write about something you dislike.

He suggested going to Manoa Garden for a beer, which turned into two, and then we went downhill so he could get a bottle of whisky and a Colt for me before returning to the Garden. Downing whiskey-and-coke on top of the beer soon had him drunker than I've ever seen him. He gets a bit loud and sloppy but isn't really an unpleasant drunk and the band which started to play was so raunchy and tacky it masked the Cherub's loudness anyway.

Hamilton Library recently got a copy of the new book on Rauschenberg by Sam Hunter. The text is a bit too adoring for my taste but I enjoyed seeing the photos of old favorites and getting a glimpse of what Rauschenberg has been doing in recent years. So the Cherub turning the pre-band conversation to the NY art world slotted into the memory banks with ease and our thoughts about most of the major figures are surprisingly similar, except for Basquiat whose work he likes and I thought boring. It was odd to be talking with someone about all that, echoes of another life.

The Cherub gets his degree this summer. Twenty-four years old, school about to end, and he has absolutely no idea what he wants to do. Evidently his parents differ strongly on what position to take, his mother wanting to cut him off entirely but his father talking about getting him a place to live either here on Oahu or on Kauai where they live and own a lot of property. I admitted that if I were the Cherub's father I'd be somewhat concerned over the total blank in plans about what happens next, but then twenty-four does seem very young to me ... now.

I told him that other twenty-four year old had been on campus the week before and had asked about the Cherub and how he was doing. "Are you still smitten with him?" he asked. "Oh yes," I said, "the Love of my Life". The LomL walked into the computer lab the next morning and I told him, when we took a smoke break, about the conversation with the Cherub. The rascal was clearly pleased to be the love of someone's life and sweetly teased me about it several times during the day.

His grandfather died and, with perfect synchronicity, just after he'd told me, we found an abandoned copy of the morning newspaper and the Sleeptalker was able to read the obituary notice. He reeled off the names of the four "surviving great grandchildren" and later lamented the fact that he has no tie and jacket to wear at the funeral. In an extraordinarily rare instance of telling me his plans for the next week, he said he'd be on campus Tuesday, but Wednesday and Thursday he'd be at his grandmother's house for the funeral.

He was hungry, having skipped breakfast at IHS because he was tired of French Toast which apparently is the morning offering there most of the time. So I gave him the Cup o' Noodles lurking in my backpack, intended for my lunch, and he supplemented that with some of the oatmeal cookies from the same source. As he was eating, he rather wistfully said how much he'd like to spend a month with a rental car just driving around the West Coast. I told him I'd love to be a passenger on such an adventure but didn't spoil the picture by adding I'd be looking forward more to the nights in motels than the hours on the road.

My turn came later. He was caught cheating in the game, taking in two of his characters at the same time, one of the few taboos. An "immortal" player spotted it and froze one of the cheating characters for 24 hours. The Sleeptalker described walking up to the frozen character, how funny it looked to see "himself" standing there like that. I said I wished I had that spell, would freeze him for 24 hours and have a very good time. "If I was frozen, nothing would happen." "I'd have fun trying to make it happen anyway." "You'd better be ready to run when I melted," he said, but laughed about the idea and elaborated on the fantasy. Then he told me he'd had a dream about me recently, putting my hand down the front of his pants.

I couldn't possibly have been gifted with two 24-year-olds who are more different than the Cherub and the Sleeptalker, but having them as friends certainly does make life more interesting.

473

Tuesday morning I was awakened by someone tapping me. "Are you gonna play today?" asked an eager voice. I took out my watch, looked at it and moaned, "It's five o'clock in the morning." I wondered if that's what it is like to be a parent, awakened pre-dawn on Christmas morning, "has Santa come yet?"

The Sleeptalker was at the hacienda when I arrived on Monday night, already asleep. I resisted the temptation to take the vacant bench next to him, settled instead a few benches away for what promised to be a less distracted sleep. When I lay back down for another half hour's sleep after his waking me, I thought the poor lad had probably spent much of Sunday and Monday just waiting to regain computer access. But Angelo and Rossini had arrived after I'd gone to sleep the night before, their first appearance since their bothersome beer party, and when I finally woke up, Rossini and the Sleeptalker were gone, Angelo still asleep. I gave up expecting to see the Sleeptalker later on campus. Reconciliation with Rossini (and his inventory) would no doubt take precedence over the beloved game. I didn't mind.

And I didn't really mind the off-line day on Monday, either. A trip to the State Library had unexpectedly yielded two more Maeve Binchy books, promisingly thick ones, including her first, Light a Penny Candle, so I was looking forward to spending the three-day Hawaiian holiday weekend immersed in tales of Eire and the Irish. Binchy is a wonderful writer, captures the Irish better than anyone I've read (including Joyce), and her first book was a splendid debut.

So I spent the day at the mall, alternating between sitting in a quiet spot reading and strolling through the place, looking at the people, hunting snipes and giving Dame Fortune more opportunity than has lately been the case to come up with goodies. Competition for snipes was heavy but it was utterly fierce for quarters. Much to my surprise, I ended up with seven of them, four mysteriously from carts which had been returned to the supermarket return-corral without their quarters being removed. How very strange it is that people do that.

At last the coffee-or-beer divertissement was ended. I had enough for beer and three more days of morning coffee. But I didn't really want a beer, thought I'd enjoy it more with lunch the next day (with or without the Sleeptalker), so left the quarters in my coin bag. Peculiar behavior, again, for an alcoholic.

It was a novelty, after these weeks of foodstamp-type food, to indulge in the largesse of abandoned plate-lunch boxes. An odd menu, too, from scrambled eggs and rice in the morning, to a most-odd-of-all find, a box with mashed potatoes and macaroni salad in it. Mashed potatoes in a plate-lunch box? I wondered where it came from, but its anonymous white plastic bag gave no clue. There was sweet-and-sour pork with stir fried vegetables from Patti's Chinese Kitchen and some over-spiced spaghetti from Mamma Mia's. It was while I was scarfing that down that a handsome young man walked over, said "how are you, sir?" I wiped my hand on my pants leg before accepting his offered handshake. It took me a moment to realize he was the security guard from Hamilton Library. What a small town this is.

So many months since I'd spent more than an hour or two at the mall, but life there hasn't changed much. The Duchess and the Queen Mum still in residence (despite my fears when hearing a woman has been killed crossing the road from the park to the mall, two so far this year), Blondie and her overmade face getting a little more batty and talking to herself, Myra grabbing me for a hug in McD's. There's one new snipes competitor, a funny little old man with Levi's much too long and turned up in at least six-inch cuffs. He totters around very, very slowly and starts while I'm still having my morning coffee, never seems to sit down at all. He moves so slowly that if I see him ahead of me, it's no problem to put on a little speed and get ahead of him, but when I see him approach from the opposite direction, I know it's time to ignore that stretch for awhile. He seems to give up the hunt in the late afternoon.

There are a few men who sit there every day, always in the same spot, never moving. They don't read, not even a newspaper. I'd go totally insane doing that or die of boredom. I don't know whether to admire their ability to live a "contemplative" life or to feel sorry for them being braindead.

473a

Cainer wrote: Intense desires, some reasonable and some rather ludicrously far fetched, are preoccupying you. Okay, Jonathan, you do like hitting the nail on the head now and then. But as he also wrote the day before, echoing a recent Tale: It doesn't matter.

There's a character in Binchy's Light a Penny Candle, one of the two heroines, who is a perfect role model for me. She was in love with a handsome young man whose credo was "do nothing I don't want to do", and that included commitments of any kind, most especially marriage. So she had a years-long affair with him, enduring the times when he developed a crush on someone else and left her until that ended. She reconciled herself to making no demands, accepting (and enjoying) what she got.

Of course, she was a bit luckier than I am. At least she got to have sex with the dude. And had I been her and the fellow had been the Sleeptalker, I surely wouldn't have had an abortion when I got pregnant. I'd have wanted his baby.

Things must not have gone well, the Sleeptalker arrived on campus in mid-afternoon. He didn't say anything about Rossini and I know better than to ask. The Sleeptalker was in his best (worst) Punk Slob mode, never removing the radio earphones and constantly spitting. I think he sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, likes to test me, see how far he can push it before I put on my Miss Manners cap and grumble. I didn't. I didn't say, "hey, you can sit at the computer for an hour without spitting, must you do it every few seconds during a smoke break?" But I could, and did, cancel plans to get a 40oz bottle of malt liquor to share at sunset time.

Okay, so it evidently hadn't gone well with Rossini and he had on his mind the pressure of the next two days, the funeral, and being amidst his extended family. Extenuating circumstances. It would have been easier if he'd talked about it all, but that's not his way and I don't think it would have been mine at twenty-four, either. Perhaps not even now.

I wanted to get him a sandwich, though. He asked how much I had left on the foodstamps card. I said about twenty dollars and he refused the sandwich, telling me I'd need that money. I'd much rather have gotten him the sandwich and scrounged for food, but he wouldn't yield.

Tobacco is in very short supply on campus during Spring Break, not enough for one snipe-hunter, much less two. So when the box was empty as it neared eight o'clock, I said I was heading off to the mall, told him he should stay and play for another hour. He wouldn't, left to get the bus with me, spitting all the way. For a lad who hates so much being on his own, he surely doesn't make any effort to encourage a companion to stay with him.

He said he was going downtown to spend the night in the shelter, it was still too cold at the hacienda. Couldn't blame him for that, it had been cold the night before, even with the heavy sweatshirt, and he must have been quite uncomfortable with just a tee shirt. I gave him some cookies and as I was about to leave the bus, he initiated the local-boy exchange of touched closed fist "handshakes". I told him to behave himself with his family and he said, "I'll behave myself" with a big grin.

Such a sweetheart, Punk Slob mode or not.

474

It was a scenario I wouldn't have imagined in fantasy and the dream machine hadn't produced. Walking through the mall on Thursday evening, hoping to find the quarter I needed for the next morning's coffee, I heard voices calling "Albert!".

Sitting around a table were Rocky, Mondo and Angelo. (That Angelo has a real knack for hooking up with my boys.)

Mondo. Dark, sexy, handsome Mondo with that wonderful soft and gentle voice. Sitting next to him provided a living definition of animal magnetism. After some chat about how long it had been since we'd seen each other, I told him I'd heard he had a driving adventure. "I ripped that alarm right out of there," he said. Yikes, the Sleeptalker had neglected to mention the vehicle was stolen. And since Mondo has already done time once for auto theft, they'll probably throw the book at him. He seems to anticipate it, said "I'll break out". Great. Attempted jailbreak added to auto theft time. That claim morphed into enthusiastic boasts about prowess in some arcade game, as if there was no difference at all between breaking out of jail and achieving great things in a computerized game.

I love that young man, no doubt about it. Not that I'm ever likely to face such a choice, but given one of spending the night with either Mondo or the Sleeptalker, I'd surely have a difficult time making up my mind.

And Rocky. Such a peacock he is. He said he had a job working with old folks (lucky old folks), had a neatly trimmed haircut and wanted to know how I thought he looked. "Thoroughly respectable," I said, to his obvious pleasure. He is so spontaneous and transparent. And for such a bona fide tough guy, a real pussycat. They had somehow acquired a large bottle of Seagram's whiskey (don't ask how, I told myself) and wanted me to go drinking with them. I declined, said I was tired and was just trying to find a quarter before heading to the bench. "Whazza matter," Rocky poutingly asked, "you don't like me anymore?" "You're cuter than ever," I said, patting him on his flat, firm belly. He beamed. A pussycat.

They were surprised I knew the Sleeptalker was away for his grandfather's funeral. Even though Mondo is two years younger, he and Rocky still seem to regard the Sleeptalker as the little kid brother. I told them I'd seen a lot of him this month since he'd found a bus pass. "I found the bus pass!" Rocky said, "and gave it to him." They had heard about the "you can have anything you want" supermarket expedition and were obviously pleased I was taking such good care of little brother. I wish I were, I wish I could.

They set off to wherever they were going to drown in whiskey and not long after they left, a lady abandoned her shopping cart right in front of me, providing McD's coffee for Friday morning, bless her.

It had been a beastly day. I woke up before five, lay back down for a little more sleep, fell into an elaborate dream and didn't surface again until hearing "time to get up!" I hate that. Walking out of the hacienda, I immediately noticed the clouds were moving in the "wrong" direction. Yeukh. Kona winds. As if that weren't bad enough, when I sat down with my coffee I saw I had failed to fully close the side pocket on my backpack and my reading glasses had fallen out somewhere, probably on the bus. Since they were just cheap "magnifiers" from the drugstore, I regretted more losing the sturdy case I had found for them. The case had an optometrist's address in Salt Lake on it and I thought that doctor would be quite bemused if someone returned it to him. Cheap magnifiers and a grape-flavored condom stuck in the back pocket.

I can, just barely, cope with the computer screen without the glasses but can't begin to decipher the print in a paperback book. I think I'd have a much harder time living without the ability to read than with losing on-line access. It's a good thing the Fabled Pension Check should arrive any time now, and the sooner the better. New glasses at the top of the shopping list.

Rocky told me the reason the cloisters stopped letting people sleep there is because someone was shooting up and died of an overdose. I am trying not to have uncharitable thoughts about the bastid.

475

Funny lady, that Dame Fortune, filling my dance card with "chance" glimpses and encounters.

Back from the funeral gathering, the Sleeptalker showed up in Seventh Circle on Friday morning, playing from the State Library. He said he felt awful, sore throat and runny nose, must have caught a cold from his relatives. I hoped he hadn't already had the bug when we spent the afternoon together on Tuesday, but then remembered we hadn't done our usual sharing of cup, spoon, etc., so I might have escaped anyway. Not that it mattered much, considering the horrendous weather which dominated the weekend. With all that wind, rain and those shivering temperatures, the island was inevitably going to be crawling with little virus critters waiting to make life miserable, no need for them to be passed on by the Sleeptalker.

After awhile, he suddenly said, "I have to go." At first I thought maybe a librarian had kicked him off the terminal, but looked at my watch and saw it was soup kitchen time.

An email arrived telling me the Fabled Pension Check flew in, so I took the bus downtown to collect it. Just as we passed the State Library I saw the Sleeptalker heading across the lawn toward it. Someone I didn't recognize intercepted him, though, and they went off in the opposite direction together. Yep, funny stuff, Dame, making the bus roll by just at that moment.

Check in hand, I took a bus to the mall to get another one to Waikiki and as I was walking through, encountered Rocky and Angelo. I told them I was surprised to see them standing after that bottle of whiskey, but as it turned out, they'd sold the bottle for five dollars and bought beer instead. Odd, after such a long time without seeing him, to meet Rocky two days in a row like that. I wished Mondo had been along, too.

Cash from check in pocket, I had to go back downtown to pick up the April bus pass. Such luxury that little card is. Life would be totally different without it. I'd probably end up sitting in one place all day like those troglodytes at the mall.

No encounters with handsome young men on that trip.

The weather was vile, wind constantly shifting direction with almost constant light drizzle. Appropriately, I picked up a bottle of Hurricane and returned to campus. Looks like the Budweiser folks have finally wised up and stopped trying to sell that fine malt liquor for more than the usual price of $1.99. Now if only the shops nearer campus would stock it again.

New reading glasses, new earplugs. The glasses don't work as well as the pair I had, must have gotten a different strength or maybe it's just because the new ones are a cheaper model. Print in books is only in clear focus when the book is held at just the right distance, missing the more generous leeway the other glasses provided. It's always something ... but at least I could return to Binchy's excellent Echoes.

Since the little computer lab on campus was going to close at 4:30 each day on the weekend, and the libraries were shut down entirely, I thought I'd probably need more to read before Monday arrived, so took the bus down to the State Library. The Sleeptalker and Mondo were sitting outside. "My two favorite men," I said, "sitting here together."

I couldn't make that choice I spoke of. I should be grateful I'll never have to.

Mondo was worried because he hadn't been able to get into his Hotmail account. "Where you sent me email before," he said. I didn't remember his address, never knew his password. I suggested he just set up a new account, but by the time I finished saying it, I knew he was off somewhere else in his mind already. And I was busy looking at his beautiful arms, set off so nicely by a white tank-top and dark vest. Funny thing about Mondo is that he knows how much I lust after his body but he isn't at all flirtatious like the Sleeptalker and Rocky. It's more like he gently ignores it, but without ever showing the least bit of annoyance. One of the most gentlemanly gentle men I've ever had the honor of meeting.

The Sleeptalker tried to talk about things in the game and kept saying "huh?", so I finally scolded him about those damned headphones. "Can't you take them off for a few minutes and have a conversation? Didn't you say Hawaii radio sucks?" He took them off.

We all went back inside. I was thoroughly delighted to find yet another Binchy novel among the available choices. The Sleeptalker was back on a terminal, pounding away on the keyboard. Mondo was engrossed in a thick volume which appeared to be black-and-white comic strips. I left and returned to campus, went into the game and helped the Sleeptalker with some stuff he needed, getting a hug each time.

Okay, so virtual hugs are easier.

I knew that.

476

This is the winter of our discontent, never mind it's almost into the third week of spring. I'm sure I've felt this way several times before, but maybe it truly is the worst time I've experienced since embarking on this weird path of life. The nights are so cold, I keep waking up trying to snuggle against myself more, stop that patch of coldness on the left arm by tucking it under myself. Then the right arm starts to feel pain and it's time to roll over on the bench. Adjust the "pillowcase" surfer shorts so I don't have the rough fabric of the backpack under my cheek, make sure my whole head is covered up in case the wind yet again gusts into the hacienda and makes me shiver.

The silly little "bush hat" makes walking in rain much better. Strange, that if the rain doesn't hit you on the head, it doesn't seem to bother as much, never mind the rest of you gets very damp indeed.

Binchy's The Glass Lake isn't helping, either. It's by far the most somber book of hers I've yet read, and she has a real talent for making you care about the people in her books. None of them ever say "life's a bitch and then you die", but with the cast and plot in this one, I wonder why they didn't.

Mme de Crécy nagged me (kindly so, as always) about living within my means. I was irked, asked how anyone could "live within their means" on $85 a month. But she was referring to the foodstamps allowance. Okay, not quite as bad, although expecting someone to eat on a little more than six dollars a day is perhaps over ambitious, too. But I said I didn't think that would be a problem, they'd probably stretch enough. Wrong. In what is no doubt a holdover from the days when it was done with paper instead of electronic transfer to a "credit card", the monthly allowance is staggered alphabetically. And as throughout my long life, coming at the end of the alphabet puts me last in line and the new allowance doesn't click in until the fifth of each month. Didn't stretch.

Of course, the arrival of the Fabled Pension Check covers the stampless interval but if there's anything I hate it is paying out that rare green paper for food. No choice on Sunday, nothing turned up at all. The healthy daily diet consisted of one 99-cent "McTeri Burger", never mind I spent four dollars on beer. At least that more pleasantly filled my empty stomach. But then on Monday morning I was feeling quite hungry so yielded and went to Burger King for French toast "sticks". I should've been more sensible, could've gotten the same thing free at the IHS soup kitchen and had the pleasure of the company as well.

The last of the foodstamps did provide oatmeal cookies for Monday's lunch, for me and for the zebra doves. Sitting there watching them busily pecking up every crumb, I thought they really are the "love of my life". Such sweet little birds, and so trusting now that they've gotten used to me. They move around so much it's hard to count them, but I think there were twenty-three of them milling around my feet. I put the food very close to me so I can discourage those fat, greedy ringneck doves from gobbling it up. After all, even the Ocean of Compassion, the Dalai Lama, nudged the big fish away and said "let the little ones eat".

Twisted Hair showed up at the mall on Sunday. He's apparently staying over in the park, makes quick lightning raids on the ashtrays near the perimeter of the mall so as not to get caught by the security army. I wondered if they'd really notice a banned person anyway, unless he got unlucky enough to encounter the one who had actually done the banning.

The False Prophet has apparently been banned from the little computer lab on campus, too. He lurks around outside it much of the time but never goes inside. I wish I knew just what he did to get banned, so I could avoid doing it, but I suspect it's because he sat there for hours and hours even during the times of heaviest traffic when students are standing around waiting for a vacant terminal. I'm careful to leave the premises whenever I see most of the terminals occupied, but careless enough to sometimes play in Seventh Circle, especially since www.hawaii.edu has become unavailable via Lynx and I can't access my usual "back door" on the old VT100 data terminals.

It's always something.

The New Moon in Aries suggests a bright new beginning. Much can and will improve in the next few days. So please don't worry.

What, me worry?

477

A reader wondered if I hadn't skated on thin ice by mentioning a "criminal confession".

Okay, I suppose "I ripped that alarm right out of there" is a criminal confession. But a pseudonym is being used for the "criminal". And let me make it very clear [as old Milhouse used to say], I do not regard the young man as a criminal. He's a child, never mind his damned calendric age. He's playing. He hasn't got a clue, and honestly I don't blame him for it, about "right and wrong". He's not taking someone's pickup to make a profit on it, he's getting well stoned and doing it for the proverbial lark.

If there's anything "criminal", it's locking him up in prison for years.

Yes, a young man told me, obliquely, that he stole a vehicle. They'd have to lock me up, as well, and I still wouldn't say who told me, using a real name. No way, no how.

I've self-censored and suppressed some information in these Tales. Sometimes it's to protect the truly innocent, sometimes it's to protect the guilty, especially at times when I was an actual witness to events I'd rather not put on record.

One of the most awful developments in Binchy's The Glass Lake is when a wonderful old woman, a hermit who lived alone in a tiny hut by the lake and was revered by everyone in town, made what she later thought might have been a mistake and harbored an injured "criminal". I didn't blame her for a moment, given the circumstances of the plot. I would have done the same. I wouldn't, I hope, have had such serious second thoughts about it.

Someone else obviously loves Binchy's work as much as I do. There was another of her books on the shelves of the State Library's honor collection when I stopped in on Wednesday. I'm most grateful to whoever is doing it. We've almost gone through her collected works, now. I also bagged a copy of Truman Capote's Music for Chameleons, an extraordinarily odd find in that collection which is about ninety percent romance potboilers. Truman will have to wait for his re-read, though. I'm staying in Eire for the duration.

Wish I could do it with more than reading ...

477a

I should write more often about controversial things, makes for an interesting mailbox.

What if it had been my truck that was stolen? Oh come on, if I had a truck and Mondo wanted it, I'd give it to him. That would, of course, be quite unsatisfactory. He didn't want the truck. He wanted the fun and excitement, the game of stealing a vehicle and getting away with it. It wouldn't surprise me if he has successfully played the game many times.

But okay, let's say I had a truck and some young man I didn't know stole it for a joyride. Youngsters must have been doing that from the time the automobile was invented, maybe did it with horse and buggies before then. No, I wouldn't want the "borrower" to be locked up for years in prison. It serves no purpose at all, except perhaps sparing some people the inconvenience of missing vehicles for awhile.

You think we should just slap him on the paw and say "naughty boy, don't you ever do that again"? Might as well, would do as much good as time in jail. No, I think community service is the better option. The judge who made the Sleeptalker work for trying to steal a pair of shorts was a wise one, made far more sense than locking him up for a month or two.

But the real problem with these young people is finding a way to give them hope of better things, to convince them there is more to do with a life than play daring games. How to do that? I have no idea. Do you?

478

Rocky said aloud on Thursday what I've often thought in recent days. "Looks like we're the only ones not going to jail." "Let's keep it that way," I said.

He was sitting at the mall with Rossini2 and another young man I'd not seen before, called me over and said to Rossini2, "tell him about it, he can ask his lawyer friend." Putting "friend" and "lawyer" together is obviously quite amazing to them. Lawyer is almost as synonymous with Enemy as Cop. I suppose if I told them I once had a lawyer lover they'd think I was making it up.

I said, not for the first time, that my lawyer friend had nothing to do with criminal law, but they have no concept of a lawyer operating within a specialized field. These guys have much more direct experience with "street law" than I do (or for that matter, than does my lawyer friend), but it all seems to remain a great mystery to them. I suspect the overworked, underpaid "Public Defenders" take little time to explain the basics.

"I know I'm guilty, he [the lawyer] knows I'm guilty, the Judge is gonna know I'm guilty. Why does the dumb Portagee tell me to plead not guilty?" Yes, okay, it's a weird system, I say, but if you plead not guilty, they have to prove you did it. Maybe they won't be able to. He hates the "dumb Portagee", can he get rid of him? I wondered if it was the same "Portagee" the Sleeptalker appears quite happy with. I said I had no idea but promised I'd ask.

And I thought of asking Rocky just what it was the Sleeptalker did, since he probably knows, but stopped myself. Better to let the Sleeptalker tell me if he wants me to know. He must be embarrassed by it, whatever it was, because he had no problem at all making the shoplifting adventure into an amusing story.

Maybe I should stop entertaining myself with delightful fiction and pore through the statute books in the Law Library instead.

Binchy uses the same device in Silver Wedding that she used in The Copper Beech, telling the same story from the viewpoint of the different characters. She makes it more precise in Silver Wedding, each chapter being almost a standalone short story about one character. It's amusing to see how very differently each player sees what is happening, even when members of a supposedly close family. And one character ponders at length how she always seems to be acting, never really being herself. Deja vu.

Every day this week my treasured mid-day time in the secluded grove has been interrupted by rain showers. I was so fed up with it by Thursday that I just continued to sit there. Three showers came and went, and I sat through them.

If April showers should come your way ... just get wet.

479

The Quarter Hunters are getting lazy. I was walking through the mall Saturday evening on a snipe hunt, spotted a cart with its quarter sitting there on an upstairs level. True, it was in a very awkward location. At a less crowded time, the easiest thing would have been to take it down the nearest escalator, but the security army frowns on such behavior even when it's the legitimate "owner" of the cart. The elevators are tiny and very, very slow. And the other option is to wheel it down a parking lot ramp, a long way around and risking death from motorized-wheel people who seem to feel any second they waste is a cardinal sin. So I thought, oh well, I'll just leave that quarter for someone else.

Not long later, yet another cart was abandoned, in an equally awkward location. I could, of course, have gone back and gotten the first one, then joined the two of them to get both quarters. But that's so tacky. I left it. Continuing my snipe hunt, though, I was nagged by the thought of those quarters, knew the next time I needed a quarter I would immediately remember my moment of laziness. I went back and got the first cart, wheeled it down the ramp. Cars whizzed by me, some of them pulling way over to the center of the ramp to avoid the madman with a shopping cart, others almost brushing me as they passed. About halfway down I was tempted to just give the cart a push and let it create pandemonium when it rolled into the busy intersection at the ramp's bottom. But I behaved myself, held onto the thing and eventually returned it to a corral, pocketing the quarter.

That's enough, I said. Leave that other one. It was still there on Sunday morning. No problem at that early hour, down the elevator with it and back to the corral. Another quarter in pocket.

It seemed especially bizarre to be worrying about things like shopping carts and quarters while in the middle of Capote's lushly effete Songs for Chameleons. I was reminded of the recent time with the Cherub. He's never been quite sure whether the stories of my former life are true and if they are, how can I live the way I do now without in some way resenting it? But resentment has never been a factor. Maybe in my quiet, rather conservative fashion, I've always leaned toward a nonconformist way of living and whenever things got too comfortable and settled, too "secure", I'd pack up a very few things and abandon ship, set out for something else. So really, this isn't any different than the overall pattern of my life.

Although I was at many gatherings and functions where he was also present, I only met Truman Capote once, at Virgil Thomson's. Capote was one of my idols, along with Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers, in that time when the Southern School seemed the most interesting literary thing happening in America, never mind the Beats. That made me extremely nervous about spending time in the same room with him, much less actually talking to him. And I was at a stage where I was very actively suppressing any mannerism or gesture or phrase I thought "effeminate" and was thus even more taken aback by such a flaming faggot. But he was witty and kind, knew my painter friend Jarvin Parks and pronounced him a perfect Southern Eccentric. I'm sure Truman thought I was one of Virgil's toyboys but that never bothered me, I was always comfortable with the thought that I was at Virgil's gatherings as a piece of decor.

Truman was with a strikingly handsome Dutch painter whose name I don't remember. He had a studio there in the Chelsea Hotel and asked me at one point if I'd like to see some of his work. Truman and Virgil no doubt thought we went off for a quickie together, but in fact all I did was look at his paintings and drawings. I didn't much like them but I knew the dealer Jill Kornblee might and that she would certainly like him, so offered to introduce them. He was grateful, said Truman kept introducing him to people who were all too high-level and powerful to be of any real value to him. I wondered if he was letting Truman have his body but could hardly ask, and it wasn't any of my business anyway. The Dutch fellow might well have wondered the same thing about me and Virgil.

So coming back, after many years, to Capote's Music for Chameleons raised a lot of memories. If not for Capote, I would never have moved to New York City, at least not as early as I did, and my entire life would have been different. The title story is such a gem, a real treasure of American writing. The New Orleans tales are as good as the Southern School gets. But when Truman laments that Graham Greene was a good writer "until the Vatican got him", I thought and yes, you were a good writer until you became so morbidly fascinated with murderers.

It was quite a literary culture shock to jump from the warm, earthy world of Maeve Binchy to the stratosphere of Capote and I wasn't at all displeased to find another Binchy volume at the State Library, happy to put my feet back on terra firma. It's an interesting book, This Year It Will Be Different, a collection of short stories all set at Christmas time, with that season's always ample opportunities for both extremes of the happy/miserable scale. I hope whoever is contributing the Binchy collection goes on to provide the few remaining novels left unread.

Jonathan Cainer was raving about what a great weekend this would be, Venus moving into Aries and all that. Not really. But life goes on, within and without you.

480

Truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes much stranger. I was surprised to discover someone had punched a peep hole between stall walls in the (relatively new) men's room at the mall. People walk around carrying drills? It must have been an experienced Peeping Tom because the hole was perfectly positioned, provided an excellent view of a young man busily stroking his ample equipment. A little boy arrived outside the stall, asked, "Daddy, what are you doing in there?" Ha! You don't want to know, kid. Daddy told him to wait outside. "Mommy says hurry up." Daddy did.

Shortly after that amusing entertainment, I saw Rocky and Rossini2, thought I should recommend the stalls to Rocky (as long as I had the neighboring one), and probably would have told him the story had he been on his own. Instead, I told Rossini2 that my lawyer friend hadn't known anything about Public Defender procedure and he said, "all lawyers stick together." Hmmm.

I don't know why I hesitated with the lua story, Rocky certainly didn't let the presence of Rossini2 inhibit him. "You still think [the Sleeptalker] is cuter than me?" he asked. I didn't question how much they'd had to drink already, just answered, honestly as always, "Yes," and added as consolation, "but you've got a much bigger cock." He laughed, told Rossini2, "I showed it to him." Yikes, these local boys. I said it wasn't the first time, again told the story of the night at the hacienda when Rocky had rolled over, pulled it out, and pissed on the floor. That got them so howling, people were looking warily at us.

Rocky is extraordinarily flirtatious these days. Spring fever? He seems to be offering himself, and I think that's not just wishful thinking on my part because I don't really want to have sex with him. The only star of my sexual fantasies for two years now has been the Sleeptalker. Not even Mondo features in those. If Rocky was serious, I'd be more than happy to try to satisfy him in any way he wanted it, but it would be because I just like the young man very much and would be happy to give him pleasure, not because I particularly wanted it myself.

Life might be a lot different two years from now, if I make it. I could just say, okay, let's buy some beer and get a hotel room, spend the night together. Cue up the Stones, let's spend the night together .... I wonder what Rocky would say then? Who knows ... I might find out.

Speaking of Mondo, he skipped out on his court date. Seems odd to me that someone arrested on suspicion of auto theft who had already served time for the same offense would be allowed to stay free without bail, but perhaps being a "property owner" has something to do with it. So now he's a bona fide fugitive from justice. I can't really blame him. Since it seems almost certain he'll be given time in prison, might as well enjoy as much freedom as he can until he gets nabbed the next time.

The Sleeptalker has again disappeared, wasn't in the game all week and Rocky hadn't seen him.

I'd finished the Binchy holiday stories, sitting in a sheltered spot with a flask of tea while cold drizzle fell on campus, and then returned to mainline bestseller territory with Stephen Birmingham's The Rothman Scandal. It feels almost like cheating, giving up Danielle Steele for Lent and then reading this epic of the rich and famous. Kills the time, kills the time.

481

I was enjoying that silly book, so stayed on campus much later than usual, reading. There are two tables which are (usually) sheltered from the wind and drizzle, with enough light to read by. In recent weeks, an African man has almost taken up permanent residence at one of them, annoying mainly because he has a constant cough despite guzzling from bottles of cough syrup. He was fortunately absent on Monday, so I could enjoy the book without feeling I was sitting next to a black, male Camille.

When I did finally decide to leave, I just missed a #6 bus to the mall, so took the #4 that came along next and went to Waikiki. I hadn't been there at night in a very long time. Great snipe hunting territory, even if one does have to put up with more haughty stares from Japanese persons while pocketing the loot. One particularly snooty pair inspired me to greater boldness, so I quickly had a full box of nice long treasures and headed back to the bus stop. There are so few places to take a leak in Waikiki but I had to do something or end up with wet pants, so I used the Ala Wai Canal. I doubt my contribution did anything to disturb whatever fish can survive in that grubby water.

Walking up the path to the hacienda, I saw that someone had my usual bench. A little fellow, very young, definitely still in his teens and rather cute. On the bench in front of him was the Sleeptalker. I settled on the one next to him and enjoyed just watching him sleep for a little while. He had his arms tucked inside his tee shirt, snuggled around himself, wearing those baggy jeans, bare feet. Poor fellow must have felt quite cold. I told myself to knock it off, get some sleep, and managed to (almost) ignore him for the rest of the night.

He was already awake when I surfaced, asked me what I'd done all day. The idea that I might be on campus with all the access to computers and not continuously play Seventh Circle is totally incomprehensible to him. I told him I had looked in a couple of times but hadn't seen him there so didn't linger. He offered me a cigarette. I accepted and sat beside him on his bench while we smoked. He confirmed what I had already suspected, that the restaurant job was over. He didn't like the people there and, more importantly, he thought they didn't like him.

He's overly sensitive about a burn scar on one arm, frequently gets irked if he thinks people are paying too much attention to it, so one of his female co-workers staring at it (as he thought) was the last straw. I told him it really wasn't necessary to like people in order to just go in and do a job but didn't comment on the scar paranoia. I've told him many times before it isn't important.

He pulled a rolled-up magazine out of his backpack and walked over to put it in the trash, came back and said with a grin, "masturbation material." I said, "you're definitely that, all right" and tickled him. Tickling, patting, pretend punching, an occasional hug ... acceptable forms of body contact.

And rubbing my hand through his hair, which I did as I got up to leave. Waiting at the bus stop, I saw him and the little fellow head off together, no doubt for the soup kitchen's French Toast breakfast. I suppose I should have gone along with them, but it had been such a sweet half hour with the Sleeptalker in his irresistable sleepy-eyed mode that I felt like I'd had enough of his company, didn't really want to continue it on a shared basis, even with a little cutie like his new friend.

After my usual morning routine, two cups of McD's senior coffee, a shave and a what's-left-of-them brushing of teeth, I took the bus to campus. Both the IBM and the Mac servers appeared to be having morning sickness, continually fell over after performing for a few minutes, so I gave up and went off to read Ka Leo with an unusually boring "police blotter", mysteriously postponed from its expected Monday morning appearance.

Then again onto the bus and downhill to meet Ryan who had kindly invited me to lunch. The idea of the lunch dates back quite some time, when I happened to be in the same spot as Ryan and mentioned I'd never eaten in the Curry House at Puck's Alley. Thanks to their "student special" and maybe as much because he has become a regular there, he is indeed a regular, so offered to buy me lunch. Good food, ample portions, excellent conversation.

I don't know why I bothered to cut-and-paste the link to Ryan's on-line journal because he hasn't written anything in well over a month. Maybe adding my in-person nagging complaints to the email doing the same thing will prod him into action. I hope so. He's not only one of the pioneers in the field, he's one of the more rewarding reads. When he writes. Imagine letting the Weaning of the First Daughter pass without documentation. It's a scandal.

He insists these Tales of mine are also worth reading. Sometimes I read them and think, oh brother, falling in love certainly is no blessing whatsoever to anyone who writes a journal (online or off).

481a

Famous last words of a Sixth Decade?

Sometimes I read them and think, oh brother, falling in love certainly is no blessing whatsoever to anyone who writes a journal (online or off).

My most cynical side says stop that statement after "whatsoever", but fortunately (I think) that's only a small part of me, rarely gets a chance to rule the roost.

I was thinking of a scheme, perhaps write a decade-by-decade review. The First Decade was easy. I only loved a yellow-and-white stuffed rabbit. Falling in love with him was easy, as was my long affair with him. It was more my fault than his that he got so grubby from my hours of holding him and crying on his chest for sympathy. So, okay, my fault he had to be banished to the Temple, Texas city dump.

Then it gets altogether too complicated in the Second Decade, especially the last quarter of it.

No, that's too ambitious a scheme.

I never expected to "fall in love" by the time the Sixth Decade rolled around.

Falling in love again, never wanted to ... what am I to do, can't help it ...

The theme song of the Sixth Decade. But I'm wrong to say it's not a blessing, journal writing or not. There are a few folks who have made this decade special, have made it more comfortable, more amusing, more challenging. Have indeed, helped me continue to live through it.

And that young man who didn't ask to be fallen in love with is certainly one of them. And a blessing.

482

A reader (pessimist-reader?) asked what was the worst thing about the Sixth Decade? The hospital?

No, no, the hospital adventure wasn't really all that bad, to tell the truth. The dark side of morphine was certainly grim, but it passed like a bad nightmare, with no lingering effects except some bizarre memories.

No, the worst thing about the Sixth Decade, as with all of the preceding ones, was the pain of disappointing people, especially well-intentioned people. I watch this in myself most carefully and I "work" in a "laboratory" which gives me more than ample opportunity to do research.

I know, my readers don't think I work at all. If I got myself all the credentials to be called a social worker, they'd no doubt be much more comfortable. Well, some of them.

But I work very, very hard to ensure I don't allow myself to form notions of what the Sleeptalker or Mondo or Rocky, or any other of the cast of hundreds [well, okay, dozens] on the streets I come in contact with, should be, should become. (Such an attitude would undoubtedly disqualify me from being a social worker.)

It isn't always easy and I know I slip up now and then, but I try not to let it become too important in my mind. You got stoned and got in trouble again? You quit yet another job you were so happy to get? You aren't going to put on an aloha shirt and go sit in an office five days a week? (Not that I'd wish the last curse on any friend of mine ...).

Yes, that was the worst thing, disappointing friends, even losing friends, because I couldn't (or wouldn't) be who they wanted me to be.

Some of them wanted me to become a little buddha and get enlightened on this strange voyage. Even more wanted me to come to my "senses", give it up, put on the aloha shirt and go back to a downtown tower box. I don't suppose a single one of them wanted me to fall in love with a 24-year-old Waianae lad and stay in love with him for two years (and counting). Even some of the kindest friends couldn't help warning me that he was just "using me". Ha! Use me, use me! Gawd, give me some reason to think it's worth sticking around all these years.

One of the most striking differences between my few remaining friends on the householder side and those on the roofless side is that the roofless ones never pontificate on what I should be doing. Not one of them has ever suggested I should get a job, get an apartment, lead a "normal" life. They've never told me I drink too much, although it's true, Rocky did suggest, after the fact, that I was doing so before the hospital adventure, but only in a sort-of documentary fashion, as if that had something to do with what happened. He may be right. But he was commenting without condemning. And more importantly, without disappointment.

They don't ask me to try and mold myself into something other than what I am.

That's refreshing. I've encountered little of that in my long life.

And I had to go back and amend Tale 481 because I referred several times to the "Fifth Decade". No, no, the years of fifty-something are the Sixth Decade. Realizing that, sitting on a bench in the predawn hour waiting for a bus, made me feel even older.

The doorstep of the Seventh Decade.

... never wanted to, can't help it ...

483

Once again I had to go back and make a slight amendment in the previous Tale. "Cast of hundreds" was exaggeration, "dozens" is more accurate. I don't write about most of them. Usually the older nomads just want someone to talk to (the ones who aren't content to talk to themselves or to imagined listeners). And almost always their talk is only about their past life and how everything is "unfair". The Sleeptalker told me his first impression of me was surprise, an old man who wasn't unhappy. That goes too far, but I know what he meant.

A reader enjoyed the ambiguity of "the pain of disappointing people". No, that wasn't premeditated phrasing, but I did notice how it could play both ways.

And it's not a simple case of just accepting people as they are, either. Although it's a very, very delicate balance, I do try to talk to the young folks in a way that will bolster their confidence without putting any pressure on them, without setting goals for them to "live up to". I pass on any information I acquire which might be an opportunity, but again without putting pressure on them to follow up. I try to discourage them from walking negative paths but without "morality" as a reason and without any tone of disapproval.

That aspect of my life on the street and my relationships with fellow travelers probably isn't reflected in the Tales with anything near the proportionate weight of reality. That's partly, I think, because writing about it makes it sound like "work" and it is, as I said in the previous Tale, sometimes just that. But it's also an easily natural style of life, liking people and enjoying getting to know them, enjoying even more when able to be a little help to them, if only as a willing listener. But a Mother Theresa I ain't, no intention of making it sound like anything special ... there are plenty of days when I just want to escape it all and talk to none of them, especially the "problem children".

The birthday got off to a fine start with a cup of coffee handed to me by Bobby at McD's. Victor is on vacation this week, so they changed Bobby from the evening shift. He is such a sweetie, so shy. And there was Victor sitting at a table eating breakfast. Sheez, if I worked in a McD's and had a week off, I wouldn't go near the place. But Victor has quite a fan club there and they were all stopping over to say hello, to tease him about getting behind the counter. There's a large, probably Samoan, lady who fills in one day a week as morning manager and she got quite irked recently when some of the old regulars wouldn't switch to her line, preferred to wait for Victor. Little wonder, the fellow seems always to be happy and smiling, always has the right cheerful banter.

I finished the Stephen Birmingham book with my second cup of coffee so after a brief visit to campus, returned to the mall for a quick snipe hunt and went on to the State Library to pick up some more killing-time books. Although his young friend had been at the hacienda, the Sleeptalker hadn't been with him. For the Sleeptalker, I think these occasional night visits are like putting a toe in the water, finding it still too cold, and waiting awhile before trying again. He told me he hates staying at the shelter but he apparently hates even more carrying around clothes to make the hacienda a more comfortable place to spend the night. He wasn't at the State Library, either. Maybe the new buddy isn't as patient as Angelo.

A stop at the supermarket on the way back to campus. Luxury lunch of French Burgundy pate with Breton wheat crackers, Spanish olives, cottage cheese and a chilled Starbucks Mocha. The first such splurge of the month, but then it was April 12th, after all. I had tucked away two dollar bills to make certain I wouldn't end up feeling sorry for myself in case no one offered to buy me a birthday beer. Then my cigarette lighter's flint packed it in, even though there was plenty of fuel left. So I had to spend one of those dollars to replace it, then smiled at the irony when I shortly afterwards found a very new-looking lighter as well. Since no one did make the beverage offer, I dug into my coin bag and got myself a bottle of Colt in the late afternoon.

A pleasant enough day. As I told a friend, one of those ordinary days the Steppenwolf so hated, but then the wolf in me is still hibernating, hasn't realized somehow that it's Aries with Venus and Mercury passing through.

And oh Lordy, here it is not even the middle of the month yet and it's already time to worry about quarters for morning coffee. Nawww ... like I said, what me, worry?

484

Growing old just isn't at all what I expected it to be.

Went to Connaught Circle at sunset. The park in the center is incredible -- music playing over loudspeakers (even one Airplane track!) --- vendors with torches --- the open sky. Endless parade of people wanting to talk, of course, plus knowledge that it is one place to buy hash (could have but was put off by a pushy queen from Tanzania with the unlikely name of Paddy). A beautiful park and experience even if one sometimes wishes people would be just a little less chatty.

This day, in 1973. I don't feel any different inside now than I did then and in many ways, since I've always led a fairly inactive life physically, not much different outside either. Those weeks of recuperation after the hospital certainly gave me a solid taste of what decreased physical ability can be and will no doubt become, but now that everything is (almost) back to "normal", it doesn't seem all that different from the body I was in that evening in a Delhi park, either.

And I certainly expected a much decreased sex drive, probably even thought there wouldn't be one at all. Fat chance. I expected more emotional "maturity", too. But when the Sleeptalker told me in the game on Thursday that he'd found a long-term bus pass, my reaction was as giddy as any schoolgirl's although maybe she wouldn't have thought, "I need a beer." (On the other hand, these days she might have.)

The thought of beer was in lieu of Valium.

There are some differences, I think, between my reactions and actions now and what they would have been thirty years ago. I'd no doubt then have tagged along after the Sleeptalker whenever possible, would have stayed at the shelter when he did (especially after the day he said, "if you stayed at IHS, we could shower together all the time"). I probably wouldn't have been so schizoid with my reaction to something like news of the found bus pass, would have been less concerned about protecting my "time on my own".

But all in all, being old enough to be the Sleeptalker's grandfather doesn't make nearly as much difference as I thought it would. I couldn't have imagined my grandfather having the hots for some 24-year-old. But then I never knew the grandfather with twenty-plus children.

Reading The Crowd Pleasers by Rosemary Rogers. I should probably make it set policy to dump any book which brings in the CIA, but since she didn't introduce them until well into her saga, I guess I'll carry on this time. It isn't nearly as entertaining as the Stephen Birmingham yarn, even though set in essentially the same milieu.

I think one of Birmingham's special pleasures in writing is creating his lovingly detailed fantasy houses. Can't blame him for that, it has always been one of my amusements, too, even if not writing about them. My Honolulu version is a modified Academy of Arts building with a rectangular entrance room panelled in koa (or maybe sandalwood), a large stone statue of Buddha at the far end, a Nepalese carpet on the wooden floor, two large double doors leading on one side to the main living room and on the other to the book-lined dining room. Not as jazzy as the Birmingham dream houses.

Now why on earth would I sometimes want to sit in the secluded grove with a beer and ponder the details of an unattainable dream house when I could instead be sitting with an equally unattainable 24-year-old lad from Waianae? Maybe growing old does make more difference than I realize.

485

The third day of the Seventh Decade was a Sleeptalker day. He arrived on campus early in the morning and we remained together until about eight in the evening when he suddenly decided to make a run for the last express bus, only to turn up later at the hacienda and take the bench next to mine.

"We're family," he said to me at one point. He really has the most uncanny knack for saying things that deeply touch me, wipes the slate clear of all my impatient feelings of annoyance. And when I calmly think about it, I have to admit that I must give him just as many reasons to get impatiently annoyed.

He doesn't mind, sometimes obviously relishes it, but still, it must get somewhat tiresome to be with someone who is so admiring, so apt to get lost in desire.

I find it genuinely a puzzle, this neverending fascination with him, with his feet, the soft hair on his arms, that wonderful scrubbrush hair, with those deeply brown eyes. Come on, I tell myself, after all this time shouldn't the fires be burning a little less ardently? Maybe they should be, but they aren't. Even when I try very deliberately to ignore the many little things about his body that so enchant me, I waver and get lost again, rewarded with one of his grins and that look that says "caught ya'!" And when he's in a flirtatious mood, even my most conscientious efforts to ignore his body fall easily by the wayside.

It is so difficult to get coherent information out of him, always a process of putting together bits and pieces which surface without any apparent connection. But he didn't "find" the bus pass, as he'd said. His "caseworker" referred him to a psychiatrist who decided the Sleeptalker is "schizophrenic" and, I think, arranged the bus pass so he can attend some kind of rehab center sessions.

The doctor's catchall diagnosis was based on the Sleeptalker's tales of hearing voices, having vampires after him, etc. etc., all inspired by methamphetamine and having little to do with any true clinical "schizophrenia". I think the Sleeptalker probably neglected to add details of what refreshments accompanied these delusions.

He told me more about the trip to Vegas. There were six of them, two in each of three hotel rooms. One evening a fellow who had joined them from Los Angeles kept coming and going from the Sleeptalker's room to his own, each time letting the door lock behind him so the Sleeptalker had to get up to let him back in. The others were apparently away at the time. After a final visit to the Sleeptalker's room, the fellow vanished and was not seen again. The others, according to his version, thought the Sleeptalker had murdered the guy and they are still giving him a hard time about it. The story, especially with his dramatic way of telling it all, did indeed have an aura of madness.

Paranoia, persecution delusions, an utterly jumbled memory bank, sometimes maybe even borderline psychosis, but "schizophrenia" is far too easy an out. Still, it got him a two-year bus pass and some pills. He couldn't remember the name of them, said they made him feel all groggy in the morning. He may have felt groggy in his mind, but he was certainly more tense and jumpy than I've ever seen him, didn't halfway settle down until after we'd had lunch and even then kept in almost constant motion, leaping around in conversation even more than he did physically. I suspect the doc's prescription is as sloppy as his diagnosis, but kept my thoughts to myself.

I do wish he'd been more honest with the doctor than I think he was. Maybe there is something in the current chemical arsenal which would help with the main problem the Sleeptalker has, and that's with sorting out the difference between amphetamine-fueled "reality" and real "reality" and with keeping the two separate in his mind. And certainly the doctor could have told him that what he experiences on drugs is a normal, known effect of those substances, not something wrong with his head. I can tell him that, too, but it doesn't have the same weight.

I fell asleep on the bench beside him while he was still busily writing in a notebook. I wonder what he was writing? I'd certainly like to read it.

486

When I woke on Saturday morning, I saw the Sleeptalker's treasured bus pass had fallen out of his pocket and was laying on the floor beneath his bench. I tucked it under his backpack and stood there for awhile looking down at him sleeping before heading off for those cups of coffee at McD's. It was more tempting than usual to stay, wait for him to awaken and go to the soup kitchen with him, but I resisted.

I'd told him I wouldn't be on campus for long since I'd be leaving to meet Helen R. for an afternoon film. So he stayed downtown, was in the game playing from the State Library. He was very quiet at first but eventually perked up. He'd asked on Friday, "isn't that MUD boring?" I said I didn't think so, that it is one of the best free ones I've ever played, and I certainly wasn't bored especially when he was in there. But I also pointed out that I play for an hour or even less each day, don't spend nearly as much time in there as he does. If I played five or six hours a day, I'd get bored, too. "I don't know what else to do," he said.

I did leave in the late morning and made my way very very slowly to the Signature Theatres at Dole Cannery, the trip made even more snail-like by sewer work closing one lane of Ala Moana Boulevard. A young Japanese fellow gave up his seat in the elderly/handicapped area for me. I grow old, I grow old. The Sleeptalker looked intently at me on Friday and said, quite affectionately, "you're getting old." "Tell me about it!"

Helen and I went to see "The Road to Eldorado", a far better animated feature from Dreamworks than their "Prince of Egypt". I don't think I've ever seen such an almost-gay couple in an animated film before, quite touching at times, especially the sequence with Elton John's sweet song, "Friends Never Say Goodbye". No difficulty in guessing who was on my mind at the time. A very pleasant film, most enjoyable, the best animated feature I've seen since "The Little Mermaid".

We ate at a Chinese plate-lunch place afterwards. The lady there was just getting ready to close, so piled our plates with far more than I suspect would be the usual case. I felt stuffed, more rice than I've eaten in a long time. We rode back to the mall together, Helen went off to do some maybe-shopping at Sears and I went snipe hunting. Despite the mobs in the place, made more awkward by one of the too-frequent "sidewalk sales", it took quite awhile to gather a box of decent snipes. Sometimes it seems there are more snipe hunters and trashpickers at the mall than shoppers. If the cleaning and security armies were added to the bums, I'm sure the shoppers would be outnumbered.

Back then to campus, picking up a bottle of Colt on the way, greatly enjoying it in the secluded grove with a colorful sunset. I had finished that rather tedious rich-and-famous-people yarn in the morning, moved on to Robert Tanenbaum's Irresistible Impulse. I thought it was spelled "irresistable". The book isn't, but it does have some moments of quite delightful humor scattered through the usual crime in New York City palaver.

The Sleeptalker and I had stopped by Manoa Garden on Friday evening but after sitting through two numbers by Coconut Joe he said, "let's get out of here", later called them a "changalang" band. I think they're the closest thing to the Dead on the local music scene, but didn't mind giving up the gig in exchange for sharing a final beer in the secluded grove. I wondered what he would have thought of the raucous band playing at the Garden on Saturday evening. Such lasting influence the Sex Pistols have had.

I was sitting at a table by Hemenway Hall. A young lady came out and asked if I was waiting for the film. "No," I said, "just listening to the music." She looked at me as if I was totally insane, an old git like me listening to that?

486a

The Sleeptalker really is in bad shape and I wish there were some way to help him. He arrived on campus around nine on Sunday morning, wearing a tee shirt and light gray knit-cotton shorts which did absolutely nothing to soothe my soul. He played nonstop in the game for over two hours, not joining me when I took a couple of smoke breaks. On the third break, he did come out, was ranting about Polynesians. He hates the focking Hawaiians because they're focking racists. He hates the Japanese because they're focking racists. Nothing to be gained by pointing out what racist sentiments were being expressed. And I had no idea what had set him off.

He said he felt like he was in chains, held his arms out with his wrists together as if they were bound. "Don't laugh at me," he said, "I'm focking serious." I hadn't any intention of laughing. I asked if maybe it was the pills but he said he had stopped taking them. Then he said something quite incoherent about things his family were saying to him, asked how he was supposed to understand what they wanted. These, I assume, are among the "voices".

He was pacing back and forth from one side of the building to the other and I followed him for awhile. Then he just took off without saying anything else and I thought it was probably better to let him go. I think he was torn between wanting company and yet being unable to really communicate what is so obviously tormenting him. The torment is obvious, the reason is far from it. And I have absolutely no idea how to help him.

487

If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with ...

That Stephen Stills song is a favorite of mine and surfaced on Sunday evening. I'd found a Dunhill box with four of those fine English cigarettes in it, was sitting on a bench in the orchid walk at the mall enjoying the last of them before heading off to the hacienda. One of the mall regulars who rarely talks to anyone sat down beside me and launched into a major lament in the key of Unfair. I would have preferred to be left alone with my thoughts of the Sleeptalker. Oh well, if you can't be...

They had cut off his foodstamps, the lamenter said. He admitted he had been given several warnings about missed job interviews. That surprised me. I would certainly have guessed he was older than I am, definitely looks it. Evidently not. Until you reach sixty, there's a fairly complex set of rules to follow and conditions to meet in order to continue getting foodstamps. Since I was so near to the mark, the woman at DHSS said, "with any luck, they won't get to you." My luck held. I suspect they must be fairly lenient with applying the rules here. In this town, how could a man in his fifties possibly come up with twenty job interviews in a month? But lenient or not, this fellow had obviously pushed them too far.

How was he going to survive? I mentioned the two main soup kitchens. No, River of Life is too full of "goddamn preachers", IHS is full of thieves. And even if he did find a job, as soon as he got the first paycheck he'd drink it all and lose the job. Sleeptalker, older model.

I let the guy ramble on for awhile before making my excuses and escaping. Can't say I gave him any "love" or even as much sympathy as I would have given the "one I love", but I did what I could.

Thoughts of the Sleeptalker had dominated the day from the time he walked off down the sidewalk. I remembered how in the very beginning both Rocky and Mondo warned me that the Sleeptalker is "crazy". Of course, even now when the subject of Mondo arises, the Sleeptalker repeats his assertion that Mondo is "crazy". Cue up Patsy Cline for my side.

On-line journals can sometimes be far more compelling than fiction. Real things happening to real people. And the latest entry in Stitches in Time hit a chord. Maybe, as Elton sang, "friends never say goodbye", but every parting could be the last one, at least for this lifetime. The Sleeptalker has never spoken of suicide and maybe his bizarre notions of religion might actually help for a change, maybe he wouldn't even consider it. But he is so incredibly strung out, so trapped in his mental prison I don't know how he could ignore that always-possible escape. And even if he didn't allow himself to think of it consciously, he could get desperate enough to do something truly "crazy".

Time to make sure those goodbyes are ones which wouldn't weigh heavily if the last one. And I was deeply concerned that I hadn't made sufficient effort to get through to him, to make it clear yet again that I love the guy for who he is, never mind having the hots for his body. I need, for my sake as much as his, to sit down with him and talk. But it's not likely I could have accomplished much on Sunday morning, given the extreme state he was in.

I had enough coins for one beer, held onto them in case he returned to campus. It was for me more than for him because he had refused to drink much on Friday, said drink just made him feel more "annoyed". But it would have helped make me a little more mellow, as it did on Friday. When he didn't return by sunset time, I went ahead and bought the beer. I gave Dame Fortune notice I had no intention of playing that beer-or-coffee game again this month. Give me enough coins and I'm buying beer, to hell with the coffee. I guess she got the message, because there was a quarter in a stroller corral when I got to the mall, and another one in an abandoned shopping cart.

Fortunately, the beer didn't make me feel more "annoyed".

There's a Fool Moon on the rise, and it's going to be a strong one.

488

"I seen him worse," said Rocky about the Sleeptalker. "He used to cry all the time." I remembered Mondo saying, "I hate it when he cries," and thinking I was certain I would, too. But now I'm not so sure. I think it would be easier to cope with the Sleeptalker crying than with his tense withdrawal.

It was a great surprise to see Rocky stagger up outside McD's early on Tuesday morning. He said he'd gotten totally wasted the night before and had fallen asleep in the park. I gave him my coffee and went inside to get another. When I rejoined him, he was brushing leaves and grass off his pants so I helped out by cleaning the back of his tee shirt. Such a firm body. I gave him a little massage around the base of his neck. "That feels good," he said. "Feels good to me, too, you have a beautiful body." "It was better when I was young," he replied. Sigh. Echoes of Mondo again and the morning he told me he used to do Tai Chi "when I was young." Hitting twenty must be over-the-hill time for these guys, as they see it.

Rocky said he would have liked to sleep all day but had promised to help his cousin move some stuff in Waimanalo, finished his coffee and went off to get the bus, telling me "don't worry about [the Sleeptalker], he'll be okay." Everyone telling me not to worry lately ...

Monday was a gray, dreary day with frequent periods of drizzle including an annoying series during lunchtime, brief but heavy enough to drive me from the secluded grove. I went to the State Library mid-afternoon, knowing I'd finish the Tanenbaum book before the day was out, and then to the mall. For a time it looked like the Dame was playing a new version of the coffee-or-beer game. Just enough for a beer ... minus one quarter. I checked all the usual spots for abandoned carts. Nothing. Then, bang, three carts right in a row. I was about to get on a bus headed for campus when Helen R. got off it, suggested getting something to eat at Arby's. As an economy measure, I'd planned on oatmeal cookies and beer for dinner. An Arby's baked potato with broccoli and cheddar was a much more pleasant alternative.

Then I went back to campus, picking up a bottle of Colt on the way, and sat at one of the sheltered tables under that huge shining moon which peeked through the clouds now and then, finished the book as expected and wondered why on earth the internal jukebox revved up "Blue Moon of Kentucky".

Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining .... That was one of my favorite early Elvis recordings and the Sun label 78 was a teenage treasure. I never thought Elvis in the least bit physically desirable but I did love those early Sun recordings.

Back in the days when I, too, was young.