the august dragon
575-579
580-583
584-589
590-593
594-596

oh, it's a long, long time
597-599
600-602
603-606
607-609

doorstep of the third anniversary
610-612
613-615

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575

I can't believe it happened. I was all drunk and everything.

I was, too, but I'm just stating the fact, not offering it as an excuse. These things aren't always easy to write and the most difficult ones are those where I have to admit I was stupid. Some of this one I could just pass over in silence but since it involves, directly or indirectly, three of the major players in this saga, I guess I'll tale it.

Knowing the Fabled Pension Check was waiting, I didn't linger long on campus, went downtown to collect it, then to Waikiki to cash it. Then back again downtown to a little hole-in-the-wall place Angelo had shown me in Chinatown. Cigarettes for $1.95 a pack.

To the mall, picking up a Mickey's and going to the park to enjoy it and continue reading Straub's Mystery. I was much surprised Angelo didn't find me. I suppose Rossini is "something better" even if old Albert has money in pocket. I wasn't complaining.

Since I was nearing the end of the book, I got another Mickey's and returned to the park and the book. A shame he had to kill off one of his best characters but it certainly was a fine read.

Two Mickey's and not yet four o'clock. I went to the mall again, looked for something to eat and found a pizza box on a planter ledge, two slices abandoned. I smiled as I passed a cart in a very awkward spot. The day before I certainly would have wheeled it back. Then I saw another one and since I was walking toward a corral anyway, went to collect it. A woman I've never seen before grabbed it. I thought she just wanted to use the cart but, nope, she took it back for the quarter and set off to hunt another. She's going to get a very inaccurate picture of the Quarter Hunt with me out of the game and the Mongoose not there, too.

I saw Rocky sitting on a bench, he waved me over and again asked if I'd seen Angelo. I said I thought he was probably with Rossini, as he had been the day before, and offered to buy Rocky a beer. He wanted me to fill his pipe instead. I declined. He begged, wheedled, flirted, said "we can share it together, just you and me". I yielded, dumb person that I am.

We took a bus to Chinatown. On the way I gave him the twenty dollars he needed. And two more for the pipe. I guess no one wants to walk around carrying the things, safer just to buy one each time. The guy he planned to score from wasn't there, so the alternative was going to cost five dollars more. Sigh. And another fifty cents on the price of a pipe.

He said we could go to a friend's place to smoke. When we got to the apartment building, the friend came downstairs, told us the Sleeptalker was in his place with two friends, two twelve-packs of beer and some ice. That was the funniest moment of the day. Rocky and I both said "no!" at the same time. So that's the Sleeptalker's "friend", too. A rather portly man, probably in his forties, not much hair left. He said the Sleeptalker was staying with him "for a few days". The poor man.

We'd get a bus, Rocky said. As we were walking to the stop, he saw Mondo across the street. "Pretend you don't see him," he said, "ignore him." "No way I'm ignoring Mondo," I said, and waved to him. Mondo asked what we were up to and Rocky made some lame excuse about us being late to meet some guys. I doubt Mondo believed it, but he seemed happily stoned as usual and it probably didn't much matter to him.

I thought we were going back to the park, but about halfway there, Rocky said we should get off the bus. He went over to a group of portable toilets, said, "I'll go in first and then you can." That wasn't exactly what I had in mind as a way to share, "just you and me". He went in. I sat there and waited, smoked two cigarettes. Finally he came out, was all paranoid, wanting to know if someone had been checking out the toilet. No, just some people using them for more ordinary purposes. I waited for him to hand me the pipe but the little bugger got up, went back into the toilet, leaving his backpack with me. Earlier he had said, "I just want one good hit and you can have the rest." Uh-huh.

It didn't really matter to me. I wouldn't have minded a little sample of the stuff but hadn't intended to smoke much of it. Since he'd left his backpack, I didn't have much choice, had to wait until he came out again. "My turn now?" I asked. "Soon," he said. Hmmph. "I may be stupid, dude, but I ain't that stupid. Enjoy yourself." And I walked off.

I can't believe such greed. Just incredible. Oh well, $27.50 is a small price to pay, I guess, to watch Rocky burn his bridge with me after all this time. The funny thing was, he'd kept reassuring me throughout the adventure that he wasn't taking advantage of me. If I hadn't known him so long, I would have been suspicious from the start. As it was, I was just astounded.

Back at the mall, I was headed to the drugstore when I saw an abandoned stroller. Couldn't let that opportunity pass. As I was wheeling it back, a lady came up behind me and said, "here, take this" and handed me a five dollar bill! What goes around comes around. Or at least part of it.

I bought another Mickey's and went to the park to think. A third brew was ill-advised, since I'd planned to be at the Pier Bar in the evening for the Island Riddim Band, wondered if I'd be able to make it after finishing that bottle. I did. Something of a disaster, that gig. Even though the place was half-empty they were asking for a cover charge. I didn't even ask how much, had no intention of paying it since you can see and hear fine from outside the bar and I didn't need a drink. Mike Ka'awa was alone on stage and it's always a pleasure to hear him, but where was the Island Riddim Band? They finally showed up, almost forty-five minutes late, played six or seven numbers and then said they were taking a break and Henry Kapono would be up next. Say what? If I wanted to hear Kapono, I'd go to one of his gigs. Bizarre.

I left and went over to Gordon Biersch where my favorite bartender was at the inside bar. He told me to sit on the stool by the taps, poured me a beer, later poured another one and shared his dinner with me. I stayed until closing, thoroughly enjoying his company and being in that place even if they've messed up the atmosphere by putting three big television sets over the bar. Three. Sheez. An old "Saturday Night Live" was on and Madonna did a dreadful job of singing "Fever". She should listen to Peggy Lee for hours as penance.

Somehow I managed to stagger to the hacienda. Angelo was there, asleep.

And the second day of August began with a horrendous hangover, not just from the beer, but even more from having been so damned stupid with Rocky.

576

I recovered from the alcohol hangover by late morning. The Rocky hangover will take a bit longer. I still couldn't believe it. In the old days, there were always the kind of people you'd pass a joint to, knowing you were unlikely ever to get another hit from it. Most of them never got invited back. But never have I known someone who would beg you to buy stuff and then not want to share it at all. I'm still amazed by it.

A reader helps, by writing:

Rocky did you a favor not handing over that pipe...I'm sure that's not why he did it - crack cocaine is the greediest drug ever - but nevertheless, you're lucky. I've tried a lot of drugs, and that's the only one that ever grabbed me and didn't let go, for years, made me sweat in panic and fear, gut-wrenching paranoia, cravings that would make me risk everything I had just to get another hit, spend all my money, not share, not even with my best friends, always wanting more more more. Always trying to duplicate the ecstasy of that first hit, even though you know it'll never be like that again....

Yes, I guess I am lucky. I certainly have spent more than enough time hooked on one drug or another, still am, of course, with tobacco, alcohol and caffeine, but I've never fallen into that deep a trap. Friends have always been more important and nothing has ever meant so much to me that I wouldn't share it with a friend. I'd hate myself if I ever got that greedy.

Angelo will turn twenty-four on October 27th, Rocky in November. I was thinking on Wednesday of what my life was like on the verge of 24. Living in an elegant apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, a studio on the Lower East Side. Partner in a successful small business, a decent income from making paintings which many people took more seriously than I did. In the fourth year of a mostly very happy equivalent to marriage. It could hardly be more different than Angelo and Rocky, not at all surprising that I often have great trouble in understanding them and their behavior.

I'd told Angelo that one thing I admired about the Sleeptalker was the way he'd avoid me at the first of the month, not wanting to take advantage of the Fabled Pension Check. I wondered if that's why Angelo has been absent, but knowing him, it's more likely just a case of "something better". Rossini's last name is in the first half of the alphabet, so he would've gotten his welfare money and foodstamps on Tuesday. [Later note: that was an error. His last name is in the second half of the alphabet, but SSI benefits are paid on the first of the month.] Since it isn't the major part of his income, he seems to look on it as play money. Definitely "something better" for Angelo. And the Sleeptalker, if he did get it straightened out, will get his money today, will no doubt return to a room in Waikiki, beer and pipes. Likewise, "something better".

So Wednesday was a lovely, lonely day, and there may be a few of them for awhile now. I finished Mary Stewart's The Stormy Petrel, which I'd begun the day before, with my early afternoon beer. It's not a very substantial story but she writes with such style that it was most pleasurable reading. I walked through the mall collecting snipes, found a large plate-lunch box stuffed with stir-fried vegetables and fried rice. No need to keep an eye on the time and the arrival of the Krishna truck.

I bought a second beer, returned to the park. A police car pulled onto the grass, stopped near my table. I was glad I hadn't opened the bottle yet. Another one arrived. No idea what it was about, but I assume they were looking for someone, and seriously. I strolled down to the other end, kept an eye on them, but since they seemed to be concentrating on that particular area, I filled my cup and began reading Danielle Steel's Changes.

The library had another batch of her books in the honor collection. I can never remember, just from the title, whether it's one I've read or not, so have to scan the first few pages. It's odd that she uses the same photograph on all her books. I wonder when it was taken? Reading her always reminds me of those years when I'd watch "Dallas" and "Dynasty" every week without fail.

When I returned to the mall there was such an abundance of quarters I couldn't resist playing the game for awhile. I guess the Mongoose's last name must be first half of the alphabet, too, since he wasn't there all day. There was a new hunter, someone I've seen around for some time but never saw hunting quarters before. Must be second half of the alphabet. I picked up about three dollars in quarters, bought another Mickey's and went back to continue the book and then just sat in the twilight and thought about the Bad Boys and the ever surprising, strange dances with them.

Yes, I am a lucky man.

577

"That was crazy," Angelo said about Rocky. "Friends come first. Why throw away a friendship for a piece of rock?" Ain't it the truth.

I ought by now to know what my first guess should be when wondering why Angelo has disappeared. Yep, when he found me in the park on Thursday afternoon, he'd just come from a day and night in jail. Several months ago Angelo, the Sleeptalker and two other guys had bought 40's and were sitting in Restaurant Row drinking. They almost never bother with paper cups and one of those big bottles in a brown paper bag is about as obvious as one can get. They were busted. The security guard had been fairly nice about it but Angelo said the Sleeptalker was drunk and started making wise remarks (unwise, more like). So they'd all been hauled to the office and made to sign a one-year no trespass agreement.

A couple of weeks ago, Angelo had walked through the Row and was stopped by the same security guard who warned him to stay off the property. But on Wednesday morning, Angelo went there to shave and brush his teeth, figuring that early in the day it would be safe. Busted again, and this time they called the cops. So from about seven in the morning until noon the next day, he was once again in jail.

He said I would have liked it a lot. There was a young guy in the cell with him who was "exactly like" the Sleeptalker. Locked in a small room for a day and a night with the Sleeptalker, now there's a mind-boggling thought.

Who needs Danielle Steel or soap operas? Just get Angelo talking about his life and family. He'd gotten what looked like a three page letter from a cousin, the son of his mother's younger sister. The fellow is in some institution in California, a mental hospital/prison kind of place. He had killed his father ... with a sword.

Angelo had also gotten a note from his mother and read it to me. She reminded him that he's getting older and should start to think of settling down. It was a sweet note, not really nagging at all, and yes, I said, she did have a valid point. He agreed but thought he still has plenty of time and has apparently decided not to go to Kauai. He has to see his caseworker next Wednesday and feels sure his cash stipend will be reinstated, is hoping to get it by mid-month. I told him I'd be surprised if things move that quickly, but at least he'd get the back-pay from the time he re-applies.

I offered him a beer and he did his usual routine of begging for three dollars worth of fish for a dollar cash. Oh well, the fare couldn't have been that great in jail, so I said yes. $1.29 to carry over on the foodstamps balance. It's nice to have that "second payday" on the fifth.

We returned to the park and sat talking until twilight, then walked to the 7-Eleven for more beer. He's two behind now. I couldn't find a cup and he didn't want one, so we brown-bagged it. A rather crazy old drunk came and sat down, told a bunch of fantastic yarns about how the Beatles had once stayed at his house, how he'd managed to escape being sent to Vietnam and other stuff, none of it even slightly believable. I had almost finished my beer when the police rolled up. They were pleasant to me and Angelo, just made us pour out what was left of our beers, but they made the old drunk go through the trash can, emptying every bottle that was in there. Strange. You'd think the cops would have better things to do than bother some guys quietly drinking beer in the park, but oh well, the law's the law, I guess.

I told Angelo I was going back to the mall to hunt some snipes, he set off for the hacienda. I was sure he'd be stopping to use the phone again, as he had several times already. He'd found a fancy cellular phone, had sold it to the Iceman who still owed him fifteen dollars, and Angelo was itching to get it but hadn't managed to connect with the Iceman. I made a round for snipes, got the bus to the hacienda and arrived just as Angelo was coming across the street.

Exasperating as he can be sometimes, I have to admit it is indeed sweet to wake in the night and see him sleeping on the next bench.

578

Always searching for "something better" ... but then I guess we all do that in one way or another.

I was sitting in the park, at a different spot than usual, when Angelo and Rossini found me. We talked for a little while, then they went to the mall to get beer. Angelo left his backpack, asking me to keep an eye on it. They returned after awhile with a six-pack. We talked some more, then I said I had to go on a snipe hunt and get another beer (since they hadn't offered me one of theirs). When I got back they were on their last cans of beer and Angelo was itching to go to Chinatown and look for the Sleeptalker. He knew the Sleeptalker had gotten his money the day before and that there would be the chance of some free puffs on the glass pipe. Rossini didn't seem too keen on the idea but agreed to go along. I declined and refused to yield. "I want to stay as far away from the Sleeptalker on ice as I can get." "Wise thinking," said Rossini. They left on their quest for something better and I returned to my book.

Danielle Steel always seems to have trouble with the last quarter of her books. Sometimes it feels like she has gotten bored with the characters (often understandably, and she's not the only one). She wraps it all up quickly and it's more like reading a plot summary than a real novel. In Changes, after endless squabble-squabble, fuck-and-make-up, it all turns into happily-ever-after land with the corniest ending I've seen in one of her books yet.

I moved on to John Katzenbach's The Traveler. He has such fondness for flambouyant metaphor that some of what should be very serious moments in his book instead inspire inner giggles.

I'd seen Wisconsin earlier at the mall, had found a plate lunch box with a few pieces of chicken and rice, was sitting on a bench eating when he came along, sat beside me. "Where are your young proteges?" he asked. So that's what they are, eh? I told him I hadn't seen Rocky since Tuesday, the Sleeptalker was in Chinatown, and Angelo was probably with Rossini in Waikiki. Wisconsin seems to be a fairly nice man but I find it a little difficult to maintain a conversation with him when we're on our own, and he can so abruptly turn into an almost embarrassing camp queen. I haven't had to deal with someone like that in a long time.

When I went again to the mall for a sunset brew, I saw him again and had a devil of a time getting rid of him. I first told him to check out the new poster at the Guess shop and he wanted me to walk with him to look at it. It's such an outrageous photograph, a young hunk silhouetted against a blank sky. He is turned to one side and his tit sticks out like a teepee. As I told Wisconsin, I wondered if the photographer had sucked it or had just told the hunk to tease it into that provocative alertness. Wisconsin and I looked at it for a bit, then enjoyed watching the reaction of passers-by. The women seem to just ignore it but almost every young man who passed reacted. Funny.

I told Wisconsin I was going to get a beer, planned to make it an early night. On the way to the store he stopped to fill his water bottle and I kept going. He rushed up again, following me, saying he'd only filled the bottle halfway so as not to lose me. Sigh. Fortunately, he saw someone he knows sitting near the store and stopped to talk so I was able to get my beer and slip away, was relieved when he didn't come looking for me in the park.

The beer, the book, the sunset, and then off to the hacienda. None of the Bad Boys were there, probably sitting up all night with the Sleeptalker and the pipe. Rossini seems determined to stay off the ice but it surely must make it more difficult, hanging out with people who are smoking the stuff. I'd asked him what medication he was on but it's nothing I've ever heard of and I don't remember the name. He had been on Paxil before and we agreed it was useful but seems to lose its effectiveness after a few months, but we also agreed it might be helpful to Angelo.

At about two-thirty in the morning, the police arrived at the hacienda and made us all leave. The only other time that has happened it appeared to be because they were looking for someone specific. This time, no clue as to why they'd arrived and I certainly hope it was just a one-time freak event, would really hate to lose that place as a night-time sanctuary.

I walked to the beach park, luckily found a cardboard box to flatten into a mattress and settled into a sheltered place along with two other men and a bunch of cats. One of the guys was "Sidney", the Caribbean-looking fellow who walks with a lilting bounce that I've mentioned before. All you have to do is refer to the guy who walks with a bounce and everyone knows who you're talking about. Angelo and I had chatted with him briefly a couple of weeks ago and I found out his name. Sidney is a little weird for a nickname but it links to his real name. Oddly, he disappeared very early in the morning, long before I awoke just before dawn.

It surprised me to see how few people were sleeping in the park, especially at this time of the year when it's quite comfortable. The spaces with overhead shelter are, true, very limited, so it wouldn't be quite so nice if it turned into a wet night. But both Sidney and the other fellow were totally quiet and in many ways it was a more comfortable place than the hacienda with all its socializing and distracting Bad Boys.

The fifth of the month and the FPC almost gone but I still haven't done my "responsible shopping". Sigh.

579

It was a weekend free of Bad Boys, except for a few moments. Arising from my unaccustomed cardboard mattress well before dawn on Saturday, I first went to a pay phone at 7-Eleven, dialed the toll-free number and heard the chirpy computer voice tell me I had two hundred dollars and twenty-nine cents in foodstamp money. I splurged, had a costly Starbucks chilled coffee and an egg salad sandwich. A bit later I regretted it. My body just isn't used to solid food that early in the day and wasn't pleased.

Angelo had asked me to join him and Rossini for another Waikiki barbecue. I told him I couldn't, I already had plans to meet Helen R. for a movie. He pouted. I resisted the temptation to say, "hey, I have the right to something better, too." So after spending much of the morning on campus, I returned to the mall for a quick snipe hunt and then went on to Dole Cannery to meet Helen and see "Space Cowboys".

A decent movie. It's always a bit restless, spending the first night in a strange place. Every little noise wakes me up. So I was somewhat concerned I'd fall asleep in the luxury of air-conditioned comfort. No problem, the movie did keep me awake.

Helen needed to go to a hobby shop after the film to buy some rocket engines. I returned to the mall and met the Young Husband's wife. [!] I saw him and a rather pretty young woman, thought "uh-oh" and intended just to smile, not acknowledge knowing him. But he stopped, introduced us. I tried not to look guilty. He told me the last time I saw him that he'd been offered a much better job in Makaha and, if he took it, wouldn't get to town anymore except, probably, on his days off. He said he'd miss seeing me. He has taken the job. I'll miss seeing him, too.

I met up with Helen again and we shared a large pizza. I was absolutely stuffed afterwards, had no inclination to do much walking. But the new Quarter Hunters aren't very persistent or conscientious and I scored eight quarters on my final snipe hunt through the mall. One stroller may have only just been abandoned when I found it at a taxi stand but two, in the parking lot, may have been there for awhile, and returning one of them yielded another two quarters which had been left in the corral. Lazy hunters.

I'd considered just staying in the park again but thought I might as well find out what the story was with the hacienda. Was it a one-time thing? No, as it turned out, it was not. Once again the police arrived, this time a little after one o'clock, and made us all leave. How very odd. New management in the building? Election Year clean-up? The latter is the explanation which seems to be the majority opinion on the street. The cops are being meticulous suddenly, were even prowling the park in their three-wheelers on Monday afternoon for the first time this summer. Utter nonsense.

Angelo was asleep on the bench in front of me and was the last to get it together and leave, cops standing there waiting. When he came down the walk, I told him it had happened the night before, too. He was in one of his all-too-familiar post-ice funks, moody and withdrawn. Since he showed no inclination to join me, I left without saying anything further.

So I walked to the park, luckily finding cardboard on the way, and again joined Sidney and LongJohn (for the pirate, not the underwear) in the sheltered place. I selected a different spot. It has an overhead light which no doubt makes it less desireable. The light has always been on at the hacienda, so doesn't bother me at all, I'm used to it. And I prefer picking the least desireable option.

On Sunday morning I had the sense to abstain from the sandwich, just got two cans of (cheaper-than-Starbucks) chilled coffee from 7-Eleven, hunted snipes at the mall and went to shave. Angelo walked in. I said something in greeting, he didn't reply at all, obviously still in his funk. I'd resolved to get a clean start to the new week, so went over to have an early shower. I looked for Angelo when I returned to the mall, intending to ask him if he wanted to share the laundromat facilities but didn't see him. The soap machine at the laundromat near Helen R's place had lost its handle, was inoperative, so I went back and got the bus to Waikiki. Sunday morning laundry in Waikiki, how romantic.

To campus, a Mickey's, sandwich and bag of potato chips in my backpack. After checking mail and playing Seventh Circle for awhile, I went back to the mall, hunted snipes, bought another Mickey's and went over to the park, continued reading the Katzenbach book. He's the opposite of Steel, at least with this one. It's the first quarter of the book which is the weakest. Then he seems to have gotten more and more interested in the (excellent) plot and his characters so the book became increasingly engrossing.

I took a break, walked out to Magic Island for the first time in ages, was dismayed to see how the new tower in the Hilton complex is making yet another enormous brick in the wall of ugly, uninteresting buildings which line the Waikiki waterfront. If somehow a mad bomber could eliminate the Ilikai, the Hilton complex, and the Sheraton, Waikiki would be a much nicer place. And the ironic thing is, the Hilton proclaims on their construction-wall posters that the new tower is their "contribution to the revitalization of Waikiki". Spit.

Despite my resolve to limit myself to two 40's, I bought another Mickey's and finished the book while enjoying it.

Two problems with the park as a new night-time sanctuary: it doesn't settle down as early, and I have to find cardboard. So I need to adjust my lifestyle to a later bedtime and I need to scout the neighborhood to find a reliable source of cardboard. That part wasn't going to be a problem on the weekend, after all the huge summer picnics with lots of cardboard boxes left behind, and as it happened, I found three grass beach mats which serve the purpose even better.

Although it was only about nine o'clock, LongJohn and Sidney were already there. Sidney was asleep. LongJohn was talking, or more listening, to some very drunk fellow who I saw was the owner of the bicycle which had been chained to a railing there each night. He didn't stay long but after he left could be heard ranting in the distance. LongJohn chuckled softly and settled down to sleep. He snores, but only when laying on his left side and not loud enough to defeat the earplugs. I slept so well I didn't wake until six, after everyone else was gone.

I went to the mall supermarket where the cans of chilled coffee are cheaper than 7-Eleven and then on to campus. The telnet was out at UH so I spent a little while browsing stuff via Netscape at the library and then returned to the mall. I saw Rocky. I gave him a "no hard feelings" wave but continued on my way, hunted snipes and went to the State Library to pick up a couple of books. When I got back to the mall, I saw Rocky again. He waved me over, said, "I'm sorry I watered you down the other day." Strange expression, derived I assume from watered-down drinks. "I was all crazy paranoid," he added. Hmmmm, crazy paranoid and crazy greedy, I thought, but just said, "don't worry about it." He vowed to give me twenty dollars when his welfare money arrives on the eleventh. I won't hold my breath until I get it, but no problem, like I said, a cheap-at-the-price lesson, and it was decent of him to apologize, the first time that has happened with any of the Bad Boys.

I bought a Mickey's and went to the park, began reading Elizabeth Palmer's Plucking the Apple, a quite stylish and amusing novel set in London's art world and its peripherals.

No Bad Boys. But I couldn't help interrupt my reading a few times to think of the news Rocky had given me. The Sleeptalker and his portly friend, Chinatown-B, are moving to the North Shore, getting a house together. There was a time when that would have inspired a major attack of jealousy. As it is, I certainly would have been happier for the Sleeptalker if he'd hooked up with someone his own age instead of latching onto another old gay victim. But Chinatown-B is also an enthusiast of the glass pipe and apparently together they'll have about $1500 monthly income, so I can't deny it's a decent catch for the Sleeptalker. I also can't deny the fact that I'll be relieved when I hear he's actually living on the other side of the mountains.

580

Wisconsin wheeled over on his bicycle to my table in the park. He was wearing a tee shirt and shorts, both dripping wet as is his frequent habit. Angelo once said about it, "he just likes for his dick to show." Could be. Wisconsin said he had been under "psychic attack" on Sunday. I thought, oh don't be silly, but made sympathetic noises.

"I didn't want to send it back," he said. "No," I replied, "that might turn it into a boomerang, going back and forth." He looked astonished, said that's just what his guru had told him. Shrug. Guruspeak is an easy language to learn.

He had gone to the Krishna temple, homebase of his guru. He thinks they all expect him to flip out one day and blow them away, but it had helped and he was on his way there again. He said he'd run into Rocky and Angelo in the mall before Sunday's temple visit and he'd had a difficult time getting rid of them. I found that a little hard to believe, unless they were hoping he'd bring out some of his magic weed. He said he'd eventually had to yell at them that he had to be alone, he was under psychic attack. He had apologized to Rocky on Monday morning.

"Where's the really sexy one?" he asked. No problem knowing who he was talking about. "Still in Chinatown," I said, adding no further information. If the really sexy one does move to the North Shore, the mountains may help block him from my waking physical life and maybe he'll keep on fading from my life of thoughts, but he's still very much in the dream life and probably not even the mountains can block that. I dreamed on Monday night that I was again having sex with the Sleeptalker. He was so hot, so eager to get off that I thought it was funny and lost interest in actually doing it because I was so amused. I woke up and it took much longer to fall asleep again than I liked. Nice dream, though.

After a visit to campus, I had returned to the mall, was surprised to see Rocky still hanging out in the same place he'd been several hours earlier. The hunt for snipes was a damned nuisance all day. Not enough contributors, too many cleaning army fanatics and too much competition. Once I got enough, I bought a sandwich and a Mickey's, went over to the park to continue reading that witty British novel. The cops were patrolling the park all afternoon. The Old Vodka Drinker got busted and had to pour out what looked like about a half a bottle of the stuff. He had better start using a paper cup or at least buy smaller bottles. Since it's still SocSec time, he probably didn't mind as much losing the vodka as he did having to leave his favorite table. I was sure he'd be back the next day, fresh bottle in bag.

Wisconsin had heard about the hacienda, said they seemed to be putting on the pressure all over town. He speculated that IHS was behind it, trying to pump up their client list to get more funding. I doubt that the Institute for Human Services really has that much influence with the police department. Election Year Clean-Up sounds like a much more plausible reason to me.

Back to the mall for another snipe hunt. There was a stroller abandoned way out in the boondocks so I wheeled it back, hoping the corral wouldn't be out of quarters. It wasn't, but those two and one other from a cart conveniently in my path later made up the day's income.

A sunset brew and back to the book, finishing both by twilight. No sign of Angelo all day, and Rocky hadn't asked about him for a change or said anything about him.

Luckily my three grass mats were still where I'd stashed them, so I didn't have to hunt for cardboard. I keep telling myself not to fret about it, with little success. After all, Sidney just has a tee shirt, shorts and slippers, never carries even a small bag. And he sleeps right on the bare concrete. It got unusually cool during the night, mainly because of the wind, and I felt sorry for him, grateful for my mats.

But stop fretting about it. Sheez, if worse comes to worse, you'll survive a night on bare concrete.

581

Eighteen quarters, not a bad haul for a Tuesday afternoon. I was playing the Quarter Hunt game mainly to distract myself from wanting a second beer too early. No Mongoose, no Mariner, only a few lucky amateurs as competition. I still had the second brew too early, though.

I'd found Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow at the State Library, a 1992 novel translated from the Danish. Even with the dilution of translation, it's a splendid book and I had much enjoyed my lunchtime brew, sandwich and chips along with reading.

The enjoyment continued in the second session, slightly distracted by having Sidney laying on the grass nearby, asleep. He was on his back, one knee up and the leg moving back and forth in a slow rhythmic pattern, unusual for him. He usually sleeps without moving for long, long periods of time. There was one afternoon when I was sitting with Angelo and Rocky with Sidney again on the grass nearby. Rocky said Sidney looked like a corpse laying there and we laughed every time Sidney finally moved an arm.

I teased Angelo a few weeks ago, telling him Sidney was going to be my next Main Man. I hope I was just teasing.

8/8. That always evokes memories of that magical 8/8/88 in Kathmandu. The evening before, Jonathan and I were enjoying grilled cheese sandwiches, sharing one of those delicious, large bottles of Nepalese beer after having already indulged in some even more delicious Afghani hashish. He protested when I explained that the next day's expedition had to be entirely on foot, no wheels allowed. I promised we would take it slow and easy, said I didn't think it was much over three miles each way even though I actually had no idea just how far the walk would be. We left after our morning tea and walked from the hotel into Thamel, the tourist district with its tee shirt shops, bookstores, cafes and hash vendors, and then crossed the river. It was from then on totally new territory to both of us since I had for some reason postponed again and again that same expedition during my first trip to Nepal.

There was a small, modern, quite elegant little hotel at the foot of the hill, just across the river, and we stopped for an early lunch. Then we climbed the long staircase to the top, gray monkeys playing and chattering all around us. Swayambhunath is an enormous stupa, can be seen from all over Kathmandu Valley, a smooth white dome with an ornate square spire, the eyes of Buddha looking out in each direction. There were already many people making the walk around it. Jonathan and I joined them. I had explained to him that we would make the walk eight times, each time asking for blessings on someone particularly important to us, people we were grateful for having known, whether dead or alive. Strange couple that we were, especially since Jonathan somehow retained his white English pallor throughout the journey, we attracted quite a few glances, a few stares, but all very warm and congenial. It was no surprise that we both chose each other as the thought on one of the eight rounds.

A magical 8/8 indeed, one of the most memorable days of my life. I enjoy remembering it in detail each year when 8/8 rolls around.

My grass mats were again where I had stashed them, much to my surprise. I realized earlier that my mind was fretting over the problem of a "mattress", picking the least important aspect of the changed circumstances as perhaps a way to avoid thinking about the more important ones. The loss of the hacienda as a refuge is probably the greatest single change in these almost-three years of street living, and one reason is certainly the loss of that touch-base spot with the Bad Boys. Still, I told myself, they all know where to find me if any of them need me. The Sleeptalker, Mondo, and Rossini have the game as a contact point, even if they miss me in the mall or the beach park. Angelo knows all the places and times I can usually be found. I miss that hacienda spot, though, because I could see them even if they didn't particularly need me. Que sera, sera.

As it used to be with the cloisters, I have to learn a new calendar schedule. There was some kind of meeting going on, so I sat on a bench by the ocean, looking at the white line of the surf on the horizon, the slightly more than half moon, the stars and the few white wispy clouds. One of the largest "falling stars" I've ever seen flashed down toward the water. It was one of those moments when the first reaction was, "did I really see that?" I did, and it was followed by a less brilliant one just a few moments later. No complaints about having to wait for my sleeping spot.

LongJohn was still settling down, the Bicycle Man had just left after chaining his bike to the grill. LongJohn offered me some bread. I thanked him, but said I was fine. I was grateful for the brief exchange, grateful too that he's so quiet, apparently a loner except for the short chat with the Bicycle Man each night when he stops to leave his bike. I woke later to see Sidney curled up on the concrete floor but again he left sometime during the night. I think he lives like a cat, taking several short naps through the day and night.

8/8. Not magical, but absolutely nothing to complain about, either.

582

It's delightful to open your eyes during the night and look right into those of a cat sitting quite sedately a few feet away quietly watching you. The resident cats appear to have already adjusted to the presence of a body in my new sleeping spot and when it started raining during the night, all the cats who normally sleep (or doze) out on the lawn came under shelter. I haven't slept with that many cats around since the days of staying with my old friend Felix on East 91st Street.

The worst happened on Wednesday. I got bored. Utterly, totally bored. Although it's often the gateway to depression, in some ways it's worse. Depressed, I don't give a damn whether I'm bored or not. Bored, I fret about how to end it, and the few hours it lasts seem an eternity.

The morning had been delightful. Far sooner than I'd expected, I went up another level in Seventh Circle. Level 98, regaining my position as highest-ranking Hawaii player, the fourth highest in the game. Only three people have persevered to Level 100, the top.

And back at the mall, I'd enjoyed my lunchtime brew, a sandwich and continuing the excellent Danish novel. Although it takes the form of a mystery novel, it's far more than just that, with frequent philosophical asides which are a pleasure to read and ponder. And there are also fascinating glimpses of the relationship between Greenlanders and their "colonial masters", the Danes, likewise of the Eskimo/Inuit culture and legends.

Continuing the somewhat difficult task of trying to shift my clock forward, I'd decided it was best to have my second beer at a time when I'd finish it just as it became too dark to continue reading. And if finances were too shakey, to make that one the brew of the day. No problem about that on Wednesday since the bonanza from the day before meant one brew money in pocket, only two quarters needed for the second. I found those, but then things went dry, recalling a line from the I Ching, "no game in the field".

That set off the boredom attack. The Quarter Hunt becomes completely tiresome when long periods of time pass with no score. Actually getting the money isn't as important as the fun of bagging some. But I also know I'm not going to enjoy that second brew as much if I don't have at least half the financing for the next one in pocket.

I wasn't in the mood to eat and certainly not to tackle one of those heaping plates from the Krishna truck, but told myself it would be dumb to waste foodstamps when free food was readily available. As I was walking through the mall on the way to the soup-kitchen-wagon, I saw an abandoned plate-lunch box. A big chunk of roast chicken, rice, and macaroni salad. I ate the chicken.

A little later I got the urge to eat something sweet, always a defense against boredom, although in my case not nearly as effective as consuming more alcohol. I bought a chilled coffee and a slice of Black Forest cake. Strange behavior.

Earlier, Wisconsin had rolled up to my table but stayed standing, straddling his bike instead of sitting down. He lamented the absence of the "pretty boys" at the mall. He calls them the Pretty Boys, I call them the Bad Boys. It says a lot about the difference between us. I think Wisconsin is trying to seduce me, or enlist me. Not sexually, although maybe that too, but as a buddy-team partner. He didn't help his chances, not that they were strong to begin with, by saying he wasn't going to buy any dope this month because he ends up hanging-out with the wrong people when he has some. I felt like saying "thanks for the compliment", thought "you'd better not tell the Bad Boys that or you won't see them for the rest of the month". He said he wants to hang out with people, or even just one, "who think life is worth living". I said that as long as you felt that way yourself, it didn't matter if you found other people who did. Guruspeak, again.

When it finally came time for the pre-twilight second beer, I still hadn't found any more quarters but by then was sufficiently fed-up not to care, bought the brew and went back to the park and the book. I finished the beer and was walking toward the mall when I saw Angelo, Rossini ... and Mondo ... arriving, twelve-pack in hand. I stopped to say hello, planning to continue on my way to the mall. "Aren't you going to drink with us?" asked Mondo. Sigh.

First, most, and still, I love that man.

Angelo had been staying with the Sleeptalker and Chinatown-B. From what I've heard, you're welcome there if you have money, bring beer and a pipe, and when you're broke the door is closed. I assumed Angelo had sold his foodstamps and the money had run out. He was in his post-ice mode, withdrawn and sullen. Shrug. With Mondo on the bench beside me, who cared? And Mondo was in a lively mood, probably partly because he doesn't often drink and the beer was making him more talkative than usual. Thoroughly delightful. I was certainly no longer bored.

Although he didn't say so directly, I got the impression Mondo has left his apartment and is on the streets again. The legacy from his grandparents actually remains under control of his parents until they die or he "straightens out" his life. I suspect two funerals will come first before he gets full control. So they may have lost patience again and took the apartment back for income-making. Or he may just have gotten tired of indoor living. Not the kind of thing one can ask and something he'd only be likely to talk about when alone together.

There was some discussion about where everyone was going to sleep. Angelo was firmly against staying in the park, Mondo knew of a church somewhere you could spend the night but warned that the police sometimes come and check to see if there's anyone there with warrants outstanding. I said I was going back to the mall to hunt snipes and quarters. As we were parting, Rossini told me to take the two remaining cans of Bud because they'd had enough. I thanked him, shook hands with him and Mondo, waved goodbye to Angelo and went on my way.

One solution to shifting my timing to a later scale is certainly the Clean-Up routine, and it makes good economic sense, too. Making the rounds of the mall at closing time yielded the quarters for the next day's beer, with one extra. I was sitting on a bench in the Orchid Walk, sneaking one of the Buds in a paper cup, when the entire Food Court area suddenly went dark. So did the shops on its edge. Pandemonium. People groped their way out of the place in the darkness, a small army of security people arrived, and eventually an even greater number of maintenance folks. When I left the mall at about 9:30, the power still hadn't been restored and several shops evidently couldn't lower the closing shutters or grills without electricity, so had staff with flashlights standing guard.

I sat on the bench at the seaside and drank the second Bud, thinking that's another good option for the second (or only) brew of a day. It's very dark, few people around, probably safer than at any other time. And there is that wonderful panorama of ocean, surf, sky, stars and moon. A fine way to end a day, even one plagued by a boredom attack. A fine way. With or without beer for that matter.

583

I stayed on campus for most of Thursday morning, returned to the mall for lunch. Although I had quarters for a lunchtime brew, I decided to have coffee instead, save the first beer of the day for later. Then I went to the State Library for a couple of books, returned to the mall. I was amazed to spot two quarters in the change slot of a stroller corral. The flap on that one tends to stick in the open position, and the quarters were just sitting there, plainly visible. What made it such a surprise was that I saw Charlie Chan doing his slow shuffle just a few feet ahead. I think he concentrates so heavily on his rounds from one cluster of payphones to another, he doesn't notice anything else.

A few minutes later, I saw he'd found a plate-lunch box, was sitting on a planter ledge eating. There was a nice long snipe in the ashtray next to him. I took it. As I was walking on, he said, "hey! hey!" I thought he was annoyed because I'd taken the snipe but, no, he just wanted to tell me there was a cart hidden behind a column nearby in the parking lot! More than two years of seeing that man shuffle through the mall, every single day, and that was my first direct contact with him.

A box and a half of snipes in pocket, I went to the park again for a shower. Back at the mall, I saw Angelo and Rossini.

Fellowship with Men in the Open brings supreme success. I'm not so sure about "supreme" but it did turn into an amusing later afternoon and early evening. Rossini didn't have his ID, asked if I'd buy beer for him, gave me enough for him and Angelo, and we went over to our usual table to drink. Angelo took a shower break, leaving me alone with Rossini for the first time. Rossini was more lively and chatty than usual, which continued while Angelo was in the shower house.

Rossini was born in Wahiawa. Both of his parents are local Japanese, the third generation of a family which began life in the islands in the Plantation Era. He has only one brother, older, who he said lives a very straight life, has always had a job, and doesn't much approve of Rossini. His father is dead and his mother lives alone in a house where he is always welcome to stay. He said he isn't dealing anymore and most of his life he has supported himself by getting enough money to rent a cheap house, then maintaining the rent and making a small profit by in turn renting out rooms. But once he got involved with the glass pipe, that stopped working because he'd end up with a house full of crazies who didn't pay their rent.

Shortly after Angelo returned, Rocky came strutting along the path. Rossini said he'd buy a twelve-pack of Bud if I'd go over to get it. The stupid supermarket had bottles on special sale, but not cans. Twelve bottles of Budweiser makes for a heavy bag, and I added a pound of Angelo's beloved raw fish as a way of saying thanks to Rossini for the beer.

"He just never shut up all day," Rocky said about Mondo. They complain most of the time because Mondo is so silent. I said I had enjoyed it and they teased me about having always been in love with Mondo. I didn't deny it and when, as usual, they all agreed Mondo is crazy, I again said I thought he was the wisest one of us all. Lots of laughter and disbelief. "You're as crazy as he is," Rocky said. "Even crazier," corrected Angelo. Uh-huh.

They're happy with the new sleeping place Mondo had told us about. Angelo said there were long benches with overhead shelter, that it's dark and, for him best of all, no one to wake you up in the morning. He'd slept until eight o'clock. He urged me several times to go there later. I was very happy to hear about an alternative possibility, thought how useful this friendship with the Bad Boys can be sometimes. The street life version of "networking".

The Christian group that hands out food in the park two days a week set up not far from us and when the no-longer-obligatory sermon had been preached, the three lads rushed over to get some food. The group used to serve plates of hot food but lately have just been handing out brown paper bags and when the lads returned they all grumbled because the bags had only a sandwich and a packet of three cookies in them. I had been eating all day, it seemed, wasn't in the least hungry.

Angelo decided, as he often does when a little buzzed on booze, that he was going "shopping". Rossini agreed to "spin" for him, Rocky was going to tag along but is banned from the store so couldn't join them inside. I said I had to hunt snipes, since Angelo and Rossini had been sharing my stash during the session. I was grateful to have a legitimate excuse to avoid the shopping expedition and, assuming Angelo didn't land in jail, the trip to the pawn shop afterwards.

The clean-up routine at the mall does have its disadvantages. As it gets closer to shutdown time, the crowd gets so frantic. Some of them are in a hurry to get home, some, especially the Japanese tourists, seem desperate to spend as much more money as they can in the time left to them. Dodging the scurrying folks, I managed to score beer-financing for the next day, despite being slightly drunk and not inclined to work very hard at it.

I considered following Angelo's advice and going to check out the new sanctuary, decided against it and almost reconsidered when I discovered someone had grabbed my grass mats, the low-life. But walking back toward the bus stop, I found a nice large piece of cardboard so returned to settle down in the usual spot near LongJohn. Sidney wasn't there, but after I'd fallen asleep another fellow arrived with a bicycle and slept oddly close to LongJohn. Some screeching hysterical people woke me shortly after three o'clock, evidently having a drunken cavort over on the beach. The earplugs shut that out, and I went back to sleep promptly.

Sitting across the street the next morning drinking my chilled coffee from 7-Eleven, I saw it wouldn't have done any good if I hadn't lost my grass mats. Friday morning's schedule includes manually turning on the sprinklers in the area where I'd hidden the mats. They would have gotten wet anyway. Like I said, a whole new schedule to learn.

584

Cheer! The Chinatown doctor who has been wrecking these guys by so casually qualifying them for mental disability money has been dropped from the system. That's wonderful news. A sentiment, of course, not shared by the Bad Boys, and Angelo is quite distressed at the prospect of seeing a new, Kahala-based, psychiatrist. His appointment isn't until the 24th so this should be a relatively ice-free month.

I had finished that elegant, profoundly interesting Peter Hoeg book with my sandwich-and-coffee lunch after a morning on campus. Stepping down the literary ladder a few rungs, I was sitting in the Orchid Walk, beginning Stephen King's Needful Things. Perhaps that's an unfair comment. I've read very little of King's work, know it mostly from film or television adaptations, but then I don't know many contemporary authors who come even close to Hoeg. And one thing's for sure, King is a splendid storyteller. His book grabbed my attention almost from the very beginning.

Angelo walked up, asked if I'd seen Rocky. I had, but not since very early morning when I'd been surprised to see Rocky in the men's room, leaving as I arrived to shave. Angelo wanted to go to a large hardware store out near Waianae on a shopping expedition, needed Rocky to spin for him. He seems to have finally gotten the message: I may not strongly disapprove of his shopping methods, but I don't want to play accomplice.

He did try, though, and added the extra incentive of going to C-One's afterwards. He knows I think C-One is a real cutie and told me after our first visit that C-One gets well buzzed on one 40oz bottle and then always turns into something of an exhibitionist, finds some excuse to get naked. One time he'd just pulled out his "long, skinny dick" and waved it at Angelo. Yes, that sounds like my kind of entertainment. But I told Angelo, no, I didn't want to visit C-One unless I had money to take beer and cigarettes with me, my money not his shopping proceeds.

I asked him quite seriously, since he'd been staying there, how the Sleeptalker was doing. "He seems okay," he said, qualifying it with, "for him." He said Chinatown-B had taken him aside at one point and asked him why the Sleeptalker "behaves like that". The Sleeptalker will smoke the pipe when the other guys are around, but refuses to share one when he and Chinatown-B are alone together. Well, as Angelo said, we both know why that is, but he didn't want to say so to Chinatown-B.

I told him I'd heard, without saying where (nor will I here), that Chinatown-B also uses needles. Angelo said, yes, he does both. That sets off all the alarm bells. An aging gay man who also uses needles ... ouch. I can't think of anything more grim than hearing the Sleeptalker had gotten AIDS. We talked about that for awhile, Angelo being surprisingly uninformed about the facts.

That led into a more general discussion of sex and the body. "Isn't it funny," Angelo asked, "how you wake up with a hard-on?"

Readers may not appreciate just how much I am touched by and treasure such moments. On one level, of course, it's part of the flirtatious banter all of the Bad Boys, with the exception of Mondo, employ. But I could also, in this instance, tell from the tone, the way Angelo said it, that he was not only sharing a very intimate thought but was also asking, "am I weird, abnormal?" These lads either had no father at all during their adolescence or had ones who were as inept as mine at intimacy. And with their contemporaries they have to maintain the tough facade, the bravado. Such moments were the true joy of the long friendship with the Sleeptalker, many of them so personal and touching I couldn't write about them.

Still no sign of Rocky, so we walked through the mall looking for him. Then Angelo did his usual plea for fish, a dollar cash for three foodstamps dollars. I reminded him of the fifty-fifty deal I'd get in Chinatown. He laughed and gave me what change he had, said he had to keep the only other dollar for bus fare. I got myself a Colt, his fish and a Pepsi, and we went to the park, continued our conversation while he ate and I drank. I didn't offer him any beer. The day before I had told Rocky his credit at the Bank of Albert was zero. Angelo asked, what about his? You're just below Rocky on the no-cash-money list I said, two 40s behind. Rossini is at the top of the buy-beer-for-this-guy list.

By late afternoon, still no Rocky, so Angelo was going on to Waianae on his own. I again declined the invitation to join him, said I was just going to hunt for the three more quarters I needed for a sunset brew. He went on his way, I soon found the beer financing and returned to the park with my bottle and Stephen King.

The clean-up routine wasn't much of a success, only found four quarters, halfway to Saturday's beer. I figured Angelo would spend the night in Waianae so perhaps it was a good chance to check out the new sanctuary. So I took a bus down there. Yes, dark, sheltered, very long benches. That's the strangest part of it. The benches are about fifteen-feet long, so each plays bed for two people. It was like sleeping in the same bed with a stranger and the fellow with me woke me up several times when he shifted position. It was so dark I couldn't really tell what he looked like, or if it was someone I'd seen before, but I did recognize one former hacienda regular. The New Cloisters, even if the church is considerably older than the first one. Like I said, it's very good to find an alternative sanctuary and no doubt that two-to-a-bench arrangement will be quite amusing, given the right company.

585

There is one bench at the new-cloisters even longer than the others. It must be at least twenty feet long. When I arrived there Saturday night, I could see someone curled up at one end but it was too dark to tell who it was. I sat carefully at the other end, started digging my night gear out of the backpack. A head raised up. "Damn!" he said and waved. "Sweet dreams," I wished him, and settled down to sleep ... with Rocky. Like I said, two-to-a-bench can be amusing. It was also reassuring. I know I don't have to worry about trouble when Rocky is around. He'd stand up to any nut in town.

After most of the morning on campus, I returned to the mall for a sandwich-coffee-and-book lunch. Needful Things has me thoroughly under its spell and later I didn't even take part in the final clean-up, sat in the Orchid Walk reading instead.

Didn't see any Bad Boys, but I did spot Wisconsin who fortunately was busy talking with someone and didn't see me. Then I had another of those very slow bus drivers on the ride to Dole Cannery to meet Helen R. Odd that they so often put the slowpokes on the Airport run.

We went to see "Bless the Child". Kim Basinger and the Devil. I have to admit I didn't get bored at all and the Devil was thoroughly impressive when he made his appearance, with magnificent wings. As I wrote elsewhere, I still think Satan would be sensible enough to appear as a very handsome man in an Armani suit these days, not in some sixteenth century grotesque mode, but I guess that wouldn't play as well in movies like this one.

Back at the mall, Helen kindly bought me one of those baked potatoes at Arby's. Irksome they didn't have the sense to leave it in the microwave long enough for the cheese to melt, but then I could have taken it back and asked for further zapping.

I got my sunset brew and went to the park, read until it was too dark to continue and then, as I said, sat in the Orchid Walk reading until I began to worry about being too late and finding no vacant spot on a bench. The biggest problem with the new-cloisters is the smaller number of available spots than at the hacienda or the old cloisters, although I suppose if it was a totally full house, three people could fit on the bench Rocky and I shared. Hmmmm, Mondo at one end, Angelo at the other, me in the middle. I guess that wouldn't make for a very restful night but it would be fun.

Sunday was a gray, gloomy cloudy day and quite damp in the morning, especially on campus. It would have been a fine time to just play the game for hours, but the confounded thing was down. I checked out a couple of others but despite using the same basic code base, they were very unsophisticated compared to Seventh Circle and in one of them the fights went on for so long I got fed up and dropped the connection. A good MUD these days is hard to find.

I was only short two quarters with beer financing, found those soon after returning to the mall but waited until mid-afternoon to get the brew and go to the park, back to Needful Things. I saw what I thought might be Angelo and someone else at a distant table, later saw it was indeed Angelo when he headed to the shower. When he returned to the table, they started walking toward me. Rossini. Angelo had two bottles of vodka and they had pretty well killed one off already. When I finished my beer, he dumped the rest of that bottle in my cup and added a squirt of orange juice. Rossini lay down on the bench and was soon asleep, so Angelo and I talked and drank, moving on to the second bottle. Then he decided he was going shopping again, woke Rossini up to spin for him, and they went off to the store. I told him I'd try not to think of C-Two laying face down on the grass.

They returned after a successful raid, we drank some more and then Rossini said he was going to his mother's house. Angelo said they had gone to the new-cloisters the night before, but there had been no vacant spots on the benches so they went to the hacienda and weren't bothered by the cops. Rossini left, Angelo said he was going to the pawn shop and might see me later. I figured he was planning on getting his loot and heading to a Korean bar. Fine with me, I was already pretty buzzed on the vodka, in no mood to go walking, much less to a bar. He left the rest of the vodka for me and I got smashed enough not to even care about looking for the three quarters I needed for the next day's beer. Sufficient unto the day is the alcohol thereof.

After dozing for awhile at the table, I thought I'd better get myself on a bus if I was going to find bench space, staggered across the street and rode to the new-cloisters. Only two people were there. The lights were on for the first time, very bright lights, but I was drunk enough not to care, settled on the very long bench and fell asleep. Just after one, I woke up to some banging noise, saw a young shirtless stranger on a nearby bench hammering away at something with his shoe. Drunk, stoned, crazy or all the above. He kept making noises, showed no sign of settling down, so I got up and walked to the hacienda. Only one young man there, another stranger, asleep. I curled up on my usual bench, feeling happy to be "home", and slept soundly until almost six.

What a strange life this is.

586

The august Fool Moon was a lucky one. It began with finding an apparently very new cigarette lighter, welcome since mine had reached the stage where you wear out the thumb flicking the thing, hoping for one last flame. Then when I got to campus, I found a navy blue tee shirt, size large, with NIKE on the front. Wearing it makes me feel like a sandwich-board man, thinking the company should send me a fee for each day I walk around advertising them. It would have been far more stylish to have left the front of the shirt plain, with just their familiar flying checkmark on the sleeve to do the touting. Oh well, my gray KAC Baseball tee shirt was getting a little grubby around the collar anyway, and whoever had been wearing the Nike shirt surely did smell good. After having a shower later, I put it on without washing it. What a slut.

I stayed on campus all morning and consequently it was almost 2:30 before I found the three quarters I needed for a brew. I thought I'd better continue the hunt, save that beer for sunset in case it turned out to be the only one of the day. But just after finding the third quarter, I was walking past the supermarket when the lady who had not long ago given me a five-dollar bill once again came up from behind me, said "here, take this" and handed me four ones. How extraordinarily kind ... and how extraordinarily odd. Why is this stranger giving me cash money?

When I told Angelo how puzzled I'd been by the first time she'd done it, he said, "well, you look like a nice old man ..." "Excuse me? Look like? I am a nice old man." He laughed and continued, "and people probably see you working at returning carts instead of just begging. I respect that, too," he said, "it's better than the way I make money." Who would've thought it, getting respect in my old age by pushing back shopping carts.

Whatever her reason, I certainly was grateful for her kindness and enjoyed being instantly catapulted into the three-brew budget range. No way, though, not after the previous day's vodka fling. Incredibly enough, I'd had not the slightest hangover in the morning, much to my surprise, but was determined to limit myself to two 40's, at the most, Fool Moon or no Fool Moon.

I bought one and went to the park. Just as I arrived, I saw the Krishna truck leaving. Looks like they've changed their schedule again. If they really want to serve the poor and homeless, they shouldn't do stuff like that so often. Shrug. Midway through the month, still not at the mid point of foodstamps. Of course, that's mainly because I've spent less time with Angelo, not the result of any feat of discipline.

The final quarter of Needful Things was turning out to be, as long anticipated, very bloody indeed. King seems to have had a great time blowing away almost everyone in town, one way or another, and literally blowing up much of the town as well. Amusing, silly stuff.

I had that shower after finishing the beer, was rewarded with the company of a rather cute young man. Alas, he showered with his surfer shorts on but then turned slightly toward me, opened them up, dropped them down to wash what was in them, giving me a fine view. Sweetheart.

Welfare money must be gone, because the Mongoose was dashing around on his fancy bicycle for the first time this month when I returned to the mall. As usual, he was missing a lot of treasure with his frantic method. How he overlooked a stroller in the parking lot, I don't know, those poles can be so easily spotted. Taking it back, I hoped, as always, the corral wouldn't be out of quarters, as is often the case on a Monday. I saw a playing card on the pavement, the seven of hearts. Cards laying like that always seem an omen to me, even if I don't understand exactly what the significance of a particular card is. But the seven of hearts seemed lucky, and indeed, the corral not only had my two quarters, there were once again two more already in there. A quick dollar. I'm grateful the Mongoose is such an inept hunter.

Before the end of the day, I had enough for yet another brew, so returned to the park with my sunset bottle and continued the tale of blood and gore.

Where to sleep? I figured that if the young loonie who had been at the new-cloisters the night before returned, he'd be even more loonie under the influence of that big shining ball in the sky. And I don't want to rely on the hacienda again until I hear more all-clear reports. After all, I had gotten there in the wee hours of the morning, it was possible the cops had already cleared the place earlier. So I went in quest of grass mats or cardboard, deciding to return to Park Place and LongJohn. I only found a small piece of cardboard. My fault, because I'd seen a discarded grass mat in the mall earlier. When I went back to get it later, it was gone and I thought the cleaning army had disposed of it. Wrong. As I saw the next morning, it was still there. I had just gotten confused about which level of the mall I'd seen it.

Never mind, it was a very warm night anyway, and the small cardboard was better than nothing. LongJohn had settled in a slightly different spot, but sometime during the night relocated to his usual one. The Bicycle Man had already departed, leaving his bike chained to the grill as usual. No sign of Sidney, and I was reminded I hadn't seen him for a couple of days. He's a nice man, I hope he's okay.

The moon was beaming down at me as I fell asleep, feeling like a very lucky man indeed.

587

Such a restless feeling all day Tuesday. No Bad Boys again, but I did spot Sidney, grinning happily and doing his bounce. I reminded myself that it used to be fairly commonplace to go weeks at a time between contacts with the Bad Boys.

Seventh Circle was finally available again, but yikes, what a mess. The man seems to have no concept of making backups. After spending more than two weeks getting it almost back in shape, you'd think he would've had the sense to make a backup before letting his dumb buddies try again to add new areas, not to mention using the beta version of the game for experimentation instead of the main port. At this point, it's unplayable, so I explored more for a replacement. The grandpa of SMAUG MUDs, Realms of Despair had over three hundred players logged on! That's way too many at one time. But I started a character named Caduceus, after my Seventh Circle cleric, and the powers-that-be refused to let me use that name. Not medieval enough, I guess. I said hmmmph, and quit.

I already had two-brew financing in pocket, found two quarters in the early morning even before shaving and by the end of the day had bagged seventeen more. I'd moved on from Stephen King to Elizabeth George's Deception on His Mind, a stylish English seaside resort mystery made more complex by conflicts between the natives and Pakistani newcomers. Interesting reading, keeping me well entertained through a lunchtime brew, one at sunset and, yielding, a third as nightcap.

But like I said, a restless day, partly accounting for the generous income since I'd spent more time than usual just wandering the mall because I didn't feel like doing anything else. I really don't enjoy that mood at all.

I'd stashed that grass mat under a planter box. Some cleaning army fanatic found it and put it in a trash can. I retrieved it and tucked it away again, further outside the usual path of the cleaners. Happily, it was still there when it came time to head over to Park Place, and after the previous night on the small piece of cardboard, the beachmat felt like a luxurious double bed. Again, it was just me and LongJohn and the cats.

And the restlessness continued in dreams.

588

Something odd is going on with the Krishna folks. A little sign on the truck confirmed that they have, indeed, changed their arrival time to three o'clock on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. This isn't so unusual, they have often changed the time or even the location for their soup-kitchen truck's hand-out. But there are usually two or three people helping out in the truck. On Wednesday there was only one fellow and he made no effort to disguise the fact that he wasn't pleased with the duty. Unfortunate. If they aren't going to perform the service in the right spirit, it's bad for them. And after all, Prabhupada said only that no one should go hungry within ten miles of one of their temples. He didn't say they had to deliver the food.

Of course, they may prefer to deliver than to have a bunch of riff-raff show up at their centre three times a week, although given their out-of-the-way location here, that would be unlikely. And if the offerings were as pathetic as Wednesday's, even more unlikely. Half the plate was filled with plain, boiled rice. There was a minute portion of vegetable curry, the rest of the plate filled with yet more rice, at least with a bit of bland sauce on it. I'm not complaining, just noting it as yet another sign something strange is happening with them. And the birds enjoyed the plain rice.

I was thinking mid-afternoon how strange, too, it is that I've gone three days without talking to anyone aside from the usual exchanges with salesclerks. The entire cast of characters has gone missing, not just the Bad Boys but the peripheral folks like The Doc and Wisconsin. Angelo disappearing for this long certainly suggests he may be behind bars and this time not just in the downtown lock-up. Rocky's absence is no doubt explained by his having gotten his welfare money.

I'm puzzled, but not particularly unhappy about it. It's the adjustment to the change between buddy team and solitude which is sometimes a little difficult, but once that adjustment is made, I seem to be fairly happy with either. And I was certainly pleased that the restlessness of the previous day was missing. Full Moon Hangover? May be.

This is interim week on campus, the fall term beginning on Monday, so the place has been relatively deserted. I've often had the entire computer lab to myself. Friday, though, everything shuts down for "Admission Day", so it will be an off-line day. It's so odd that they celebrate the day Hawaii became a state, when it's certainly not an event all the local folks think of as cause for celebration. Still, no one complains about the extra day off work, and the banks, all state offices and the schools close for the day. An early rehearsal for the Labor Day hoopla.

I found another decent MUD at last. It has all the basic SMAUG modules and is thus in many ways identical to Seventh Circle so there isn't a long learning process involved. It is, though, certainly somewhat weird to be playing such a lowlife, but I did get my new ranger up to level seven with little difficulty. It's always the case with these games that much of the pleasure of playing is dependent on the quality of the other players, and this one seems thus far to have an interesting group of fans. It was good to find another outlet for my MUD addiction.

I had money for one brew, but postponed drinking it until mid-afternoon, by which time I was only short two quarters for a second one. So I stayed longer in the park reading than usual and didn't find those two quarters until just before sunset. After that one, I was starting out with only one quarter toward the next day's brew. Days measured in beer quarters. Okay, I don't dispute the fact that it's a weird way to live.

Although it was some time before I actually spotted him, I knew the Mongoose was around somewhere when I returned to the mall. The sharp increase in the number of carts joined together to get both quarters was solid evidence. When I did finally spot him, he was taking a cart over to one of his previous cheats. He'd separate one of those carts and then join it to the new one for the quarter instead of wheeling it back to a corral. I hope the security army sees him doing it eventually and bans his sorry butt from the mall. That would be a happy day.

He didn't linger for clean-up, though, nor did the Brolly Queen. That one always ponces around with a little shoulder bag, a folding umbrella sticking out of it, only shows up at the mall at the end of the day and dashes around, Mongoose style, hoping to get lucky. I don't think he often does.

I did, though. I was much irked when returning a stroller to discover the corral was out of quarters, but then I'd only wheeled the thing across the street to return it so it wasn't as annoying as it would have been had I lugged it back from a greater distance. And as it turned out, it was good to know that corral was empty, because strollers were the main source of clean-up income, even if I did have to wheel them all the way to the other side of the mall. $2.75 by the time I quit for the night. Not bad, not bad at all.

The solution to the "mattress" problem is easy. Every time I spot a grass beachmat, grab it, hide it away somewhere in a line from the mall to Park Place. With enough of them in reserve, one is bound to escape anal retentive cleaning people, other bums who want them, and the irrigation systems. We'll see how well the plan works. Certainly worked fine on Wednesday and I arrived at Park Place around ten, spread out my mat and was quickly asleep. LongJohn had already settled down. He seems to follow a fairly steady routine, going to sleep about nine-thirty and getting up even earlier than I, around 4:45 or five o'clock. Some of those cats never seem to sleep.

When I woke in the morning, LongJohn was just walking down the path. I looked up at the ceiling and on a crossbeam, a cat was sitting looking down at me. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if it had grinned and then slowly disappeared, leaving nothing but the grin behind.

589

Raindrops keep falling on my head ... And so they did on Friday night. I had to shift my position at Park Place a few feet further under shelter. A strange feeling, to wake up with drops of cool water hitting your face.

The weather had been unsettled on Thursday evening, too, looked like we might be in for a wet night, but despite pouring rain visible in the mountains, it didn't reach the park aside from a few dribbles while I was enjoying my sunset brew with Grisham's The Client. This one seemed further out in legal la-la land than usual, even for Grisham, but like most of his books, it was very well plotted and engrossing. I ended up skipping the clean-up routine on Friday in order to finish the book.

Clean-up had been so successful on Thursday I thought I should just give up the Quarter Hunt during the day, concentrate on the clean-up hour instead. And the success meant I could take a day off from it, most welcome at this time of the month when I begin to count the days until the Fabled Pension Check is due, eager for a break from carts and strollers.

Since the University was closed, I started the day with an earlier-than-usual shower, washed the Nike tee shirt (which no longer had the yummy aroma of its previous owner anyway) and sat in the park reading while the shirt dried. It was quite cloudy, only a few breaks of sunshine, so the drying time was extended to almost two hours.

Then I went to Dole Cannery to meet Helen R. "The Cell" was the holiday film choice and it was a good one. Fascinating film, even more fascinating LSD-type imagery including one sequence where the screen was bordered in golden vines which kept subtly shifting and growing, a direct reminder of some moments in the Early Acid Days.

I went back to the park and the book with a bottle of Colt, later met Helen again for dinner at the Likelike Drive-In. I was sitting outside waiting for Helen, watching the people come and go from that (very popular with locals) diner, thinking many of them would do better to give up eating for a week or two. There are so many grossly overweight people in this town. The parade didn't put me off my food, though, and the hot roast beef sandwich there is excellent, even if I did later in the night wish for some Alka-Seltzer.

Wisconsin was at the mall earlier. I'd just said hello to him as we passed the first time, me leaving and him entering the men's room. Then I saw him again talking with someone, slipped by unnoticed and avoided the spot until I saw he had gone. I didn't want to be asked where the "Pretty Boys" were. Thinking about it, I remembered how drunk Angelo had been the last time I saw him and when he gets drunk, he always wants to go shopping, even if he had been on an expedition already. I suspect that's just what he did do, back to the favorite store. And since he hadn't shown up at either the new-cloisters or the hacienda that night, he'd probably been carted off to jail. A week's absence no doubt means they finally got fed-up slapping his paw with an overnight time-served and tossed him into the county lock-up. I hope my guess is wrong but on the other hand, a month in that place might actually be good for him.

A week without the Bad Boys. Yes, it does in a way make life easier. I've ended up each day with at least two boxes full of snipes and the foodstamps card is in much better shape for this time of month than usual.

But yes, I do miss them.

590

I seemed to say "damn!" to myself unusually often on Saturday, only once in astonished delight. It started first thing in the morning, waking up to sneeze, sniffle. Damn. A summer cold. Oh well, they are always fairly mild and don't last long, but I knew I had a couple of somewhat miserable days ahead of me, stopped into McD's and loaded up on napkins. Sniffle, snuffle. And forget about laundromat, gotta use those quarters for some aspirin. Damn.

The Sleeptalker came into Seventh Circle. Damn. I'd started Door to December by Dean Koontz, knew I'd finish it before the weekend was out and had planned a trip to the State Library. No way, if the Sleeptalker was there. He was probably more surprised than I when no one greeted him in the game, but then he didn't know how much trouble there had been and how pre-occupied most folks were with their own problems. When the game crashed big time, most of the areas vanished altogether and with them went any armor and equipment which had come from them. Most of us lost everything. After awhile, he said to me, "tsk, tsk". What that was supposed to mean, I didn't know and didn't ask. I didn't say anything at all and quit after a few minutes, went over to the new MUD I've been playing instead.

I firmly believe that "be here now" is the best way to live. Not much point in mulling over things from the past once they've been examined for any lessons learned. It can't be changed. And pondering the future is often totally absurd because it rarely turns out the way we anticipate. But I had given considerable thought to how I'd react to the Sleeptalker when he, inevitably, came around again. I knew he'd use his usual strategy. Wait long enough for the dust to settle and pretend nothing ever happened. Well, not good enough. If Rocky had the style to apologize, the Sleeptalker should, too. At the least. And although I intensely dislike "for your own good" thinking, I do believe it's best for both of us if our friendship stays on a backburner for awhile, and a longer while than it has yet been. Much longer.

So I cancelled plans for a trip to the library and as it turned out, didn't need to travel for a book anyway. I saw one left on a planter ledge at the mall and grinned. It was a another Dean Koontz book, Ticktock. I finished the first one, as expected, by evening and went on to the newly found one. Not nearly as good as Door to December, alas, but it would keep me entertained until Monday. Koontz is certainly a writer of weird tales.

I wasn't at all in the mood to hunt quarters, only returned one cart because it was just sitting there on my path to the supermarket. I'd had a sandwich, chips and beer for lunch, had enough for a sunset brew, so went back to the park to read for awhile. The Garcia Family Reunion was taking up the area around our usual tables. One thing's for sure, those Garcia folks surely do raise some fine specimens of slim brown young men.

Food was unusually scarce, nonexistent in fact. So I reluctantly brought out the plastic and got myself a chef salad and a chilled capuccino, sat on a planter ledge near the supermarket and ate while pondering over whether I was doing the right thing with the Sleeptalker. I heard a familiar voice say, "here you go". The Cash Lady. And she handed me a TWENTY DOLLAR BILL. Damn. "You're so kind," I said, "thank you very much." As always, she smiled, said nothing, and went on her way. Incredible. Who is this angel???

Sunset brew with book. Nightcap brew, finishing book. Sniffle, snuffle.

591

"You left?!" asked Angelo in disbelief.
"I left."
"He must have been really surprised. He always expects people to forgive him."
"Oh, I forgive him," I said, "but I just don't feel like playing his games right now."

The Return of the Bad Boys, or perhaps more accurately, the Attempted Return. Bad timing. The cold had me in a rotten mood. I just wanted to spend the morning on campus, then get slightly drunk and lay in the sun all afternoon, give these wretched viruses a good toasting. The weather gods didn't cooperate. It was gray and gloomy all day, frequently wet. So wet on campus it had taken me quite some time to get from the bus stop to the computer lab, having to take shelter and wait for downpours to abate before continuing.

Just before eleven, the Sleeptalker walked into the lab. He's got an even worse haircut than the previous one but, of course, looked as cute as ever. He said nothing, walked past me looking for a computer that was on, walked back again, finally sat down. I thought, if you don't know by now how to turn on an IBM PC and its monitor, figure it out for yourself. He did. After a few minutes, I got up and left.

Oh yes, there certainly was a time when I would have been delighted with such an unexpected visit, especially with beer money in pocket and plenty of plastic money to feed the lad as well. There certainly was a time.

The Mongoose was already whizzing around the mall on his fancy wheels, glared at me. Phooey, I thought. It's all yours, sweetheart. I was so happy to be able to take Sunday off, always my least favorite day for the Quarter Hunt. The dumbo surely is blind, though. He had just passed a corral later when I was heading to the supermarket for beer and a sandwich. There was a cart there still with its quarter. Silly Mongoose.

Walking over toward the park, I ran into Angelo. I'd been partly right. He had been in jail, but once again got slapped with an overnight time-served. When he got out, he had gone to Chinatown-B's. Rocky was there. Chinatown-B was baffled. The Sleeptalker had, without warning or saying anything, packed up his things and left. So much for a North Shore house. Angelo said Chinatown-B was "very boring", just sits there all the time sucking on the glass pipe. But he and Rocky had stayed there for two nights. Then Chinatown-B had taken Angelo aside and said, "get your friend out of here or I'm calling the police."

Rocky went to The Doc's. "You guys just go from one old gay guy to another," I said, thinking "and now it's my turn again". Angelo had stayed at the hacienda for the last two nights, wasn't disturbed by the cops there. He'd also managed to get some money, quite a bit of it evidently, since he had a fancy new watch he'd actually bought, still had the box in the store's bag. The department store bag. What a nutcase. With all his good buddies running pawn shops he could certainly have gotten a better deal.

He hinted about being hungry. I ignored it, didn't even bother to remind him he's two 40's behind. He had loaned Rocky ten dollars, decided to go back to the mall and call The Doc, see if Rocky was still there so he could get his money. I declined going along, said I was just going to finish my beer and get another. I guess Rocky must have been there, because I didn't see Angelo again for the rest of the day, just indeed got slightly drunk, finished TickTock, grabbed my hidden beachmat and settled down to sleep with LongJohn, Sidney and the cats.

Sniffle, snuffle.

592

As always on the first day back at school, the campus is a swarming anthill. A young lady maintained a tradition, asking, "excuse me, sir, can you tell me how to get to the Art Building?" Every year there has been a similar young lady. This one was especially easy to assist since we were standing in the Art Building.

A sweet Japanese lad was one of three folks desperately seeking Krauss Hall. He's a strong contender for the Freshman of the Year award although I'll wait until further surveying the new talent before deciding. No hesitation with the former Freshman of the Year, though. He was instantly named Junior of the Year, as he had been with the Sophomore title. As I said two years ago, it was going to be a pleasure watching him mature. It certainly has been, and continues to be. His smile and cheerful "good morning" made my day.

Krauss Hall was the champ but there were also enquiries for Campus Center, the Student Services Building and, for a moment stumping me, St. John. "Ah, the plant place?" I asked. Yep. That was a little more difficult to explain since the enquirer didn't even know where Hamilton Library is. If I were an incoming student at UH, I certainly would have spent a day during the previous week, or on the weekend, learning my way between my various classes, not waiting until the actual first day of school.

Like most of the regular urban nomads, I departed campus earlier than usual. Until things settle down a bit, it's better to avoid the place except in the very early morning or evening. At the State Library, I was faced with a choice between yet another Dean Koontz book or Stephen King's The Dark Half. I decided on King. Damn, that guy is good, and this one kept me riveted from the start even if it is rather peculiar to know how so many of the characters would eventually meet their end, how many of the town's buildings would one day be blown to smithereens.

The cycle of returning Bad Boys continued when I returned to the mall and saw Rocky sitting at a table near the supermarket. It must be the season of silly haircuts. His new one is almost as bad as the Sleeptalker's, cut very very short, almost shaved around the sides and a little circle of hair perched on top like a skullcap. It does make him look much younger and, yes, is in its silly way rather cute. The chicks are crazy for it, he told me. "Uh-huh, I bet they're falling all over themselves," I said, and we both laughed when just after that a young lady passed the table and gave Rocky a definitely approving once-over.

What a grapevine these guys have. Even though he hadn't seen Angelo or the Sleeptalker, he'd already heard about me walking out of the computer lab when the Sleeptalker arrived the day before, thought it was very funny. Like Angelo, Rocky seems to think it's wonderful the Sleeptalker has finally encountered someone who isn't a total pushover for his charms. I don't quite think of it like that.

Although 99 percent of what I write is based on fact, at least my perception of what is fact or what I'm told is fact, sometimes I feel like I'm writing a novel, go to sleep, wake up and discover my characters have somehow written in new plots, created different lives for themselves. Rocky's version of what had happened when he was with Angelo at Chinatown-B's was quite unlike Angelo's. In fact, Rocky said it wasn't at Chinatown-B's at all, but at "Japanee-B's" (i.e., Rossini). Okay, it is confusing having two players with the same name and they usually qualify it with "Chinatown" or "Japanee". And it was Rossini's roommate who had gotten irked and demanded they leave or the cops would be called. I knew Rossini often stays at home with his mother but didn't know he had his own place with a roommate. About the only thing the two accounts of the week agreed on was that the Sleeptalker had suddenly packed up and left Chinatown-B's.

Rocky again insisted he was going to give me twenty dollars when his welfare money comes through. I told him to remember Angelo, too. "He's worried about his ten already!?" "You know Angelo and cash money," I said, "he'll fret about it every minute until he's repaid."

Rocky was hinting for a beer. I ignored it, said I had to hunt snipes, would see him later. I didn't, nor did Angelo appear. No problem, I was quite happy to sit in the park with a beer and the book, only returning to the mall for a second beer before losing myself in the book again. The cold was much better and by Tuesday morning was mostly gone, leaving just that nasty business of waking to a half hour of coughing up gook. Yeukh.

When you lay off the Quarter Hunt for a few days, all sorts of people start to get in on the act. Even Droopy was hunting. Droopy is a very sad specimen of mankind. Every morning for almost three years now (and who knows how many before), he sits on the sidewalk by the main entrance to Hamilton Library waiting for it to open. He has a huge pot belly, long scraggly gray hair and similar beard, neither of which appear to have experienced soap and water within living memory. He wears the same clothes day in and day out until they finally turn to shreds, when I guess he goes to the IHS donation bin and picks something else. The clothes, too, haven't seen soap and water from the time they left that bin. He keeps one arm at a ninety-degree angle from the elbow, always has a ladies purse slung over it. Like I said, a sad specimen. And he spends all day at the library reading magazines and newspapers. I've never seen him on a computer or in any other section of the library, just the periodicals room. Bizarre.

Well, he shuffles along so slowly, he's certainly no major competition in the Quarter Hunt, but with him and a couple of the amateurs at it on Monday, I decided I'd better let them know it's not that easy when pros like me and the Mongoose are at it. And since that creep was missing until very late evening, I picked up three dollars with ease.

Then I ran into Helen R. who had been working late, was headed for something to eat. I joined her at L&L Drive-In, ate a yummy hotdog smothered in chili. Later I scolded myself, reminded me once again that the digestive system of a sixty-year-old man simply isn't what it was thirty years ago, or even ten, and expected to have an indigestion-ridden night. Oddly enough, it didn't happen, although I certainly did have some weird dreams. Chili dreams, I guess.

I told Helen the one thing I miss the most about having my own room, and even a tiny one about 7x4 feet would do fine, is being able to just lay down and go to sleep whenever I felt like it. I would have done that at about seven in the evening on Monday. That was too early, of course, but I did head to Park Place just after eight, leaving the clean-up to the Mongoose, and fell asleep even with the thonk-thonk of tennis balls nearby. The tennis courts don't close until ten. I didn't even notice when they did, was too busy being lost in an airport trying to find my flight on Continental Airlines to Minneapolis. Why on earth I would want to go to Minneapolis, I don't know.

593

"Ohmygawd! Are you see-ree-usss!" Sigh. There is a Catholic girls school which adjoins the University and now that the regular school year has begun, the early morning bus from the mall to campus is infested with shrieking young women who all seem to be on the edge of hysteria. And their automatic response to anything is to ask if the speaker is "see-ree-usss". Forget about quietly reading a book on the trip to campus.

Three gloomy gray days in a row. Sigh again. Thanks, weather gods, for the help in burning out this dumb cold. Not. Oh well, it's almost gone now and just when I was beginning to really want a shower (the inside kind, with soap), I woke on Wednesday to the pleasure of an almost cloudless, blue sky. Time to wash me and a tee shirt and soak up some rays.

Alas, the new Kahala-based psychiatrist is possibly even worse than the former one in Chinatown. He authorized Rossini for six months, instead of the usual three. Well, Rossini may use the money for beer and cigarettes but at least he doesn't rush to fill the glass pipe with it. And he really is trying to stay off the bad stuff, does take his medication. Not so, of course, with Angelo, who is now feeling far more confident about his pending visit to the new doctor on Thursday.

I was sitting in the park continuing the King book when Rossini and Angelo found me. They were sharing a 40oz bottle, I was just finishing off one. It was an amusing visit. Both of them were in a good mood. I wasn't, especially, but improved under the influence of theirs. Buzzed by the beer, Angelo naturally wanted to go shopping. I got him good, said if he made out well enough on the trip I'd let him buy my body. That cracked them up and Angelo turned back to grin at me again just before they crossed the street.

I didn't expect to see them again, figured they'd be off to the pawn shop and a Korean bar if the expedition was successful. I finished my beer and went back to the mall on a snipe run, bought another bottle and returned to the park and the book, nearing its more-than-fantastic finale. I was thoroughly puzzled by how sharply my mood changed again. Roller-coaster day. Despite being thoroughly engrossed in the book, I wanted Angelo and Rossini to return and felt quite depressed when they didn't. "I'm not having this," I said, and wrestled with the controls. "Even this flight out. There's not the least point in letting the Bad Boys, their presence or absence, make that much difference. In fact, it's downright stupid." Etc. etc.

Maybe a sandwich and some coffee would help, I thought, and gave it a try. I even threw in a candy bar for good measure. It did help, the flight went back to at least a normal level, not especially happy but not depressed either. A weird little dip that had been, the worst in a very long time, and completely nonsensical.

Yes, I'm the one who should be going to that Kahala psychiatrist, not Angelo. Not that I'd be likely to do much better with four hundred a month than he does.

594

I think it was the candy bar, not the sandwich and coffee, which had the day before lifted my mood. And not just the sugar but specifically the chocolate. Theobromine deprivation. I guess I haven't been giving myself enough of that drug lately, and I fed the habit again on Wednesday. I also ate the Krishna offering for the first time in a week, but the chocolate was considerably more welcome. At least this time three of the neo-Hindus came along to tend the truck, although one of them just sat on the grass and thumped a drum, but the food was pretty awful again. Not even the birds were too keen on the stuff. Still, it kept my plastic in pocket except for early morning coffee, and at this time of the month, that's more than welcome. Even without tubs of raw fish for Angelo, it's starting to look a bit empty, that card.

Ala Moana Shopping Center is, indeed, the Grand Central Station of Honolulu. Eventually you see everyone you know in the islands there. Nothing has more surprised me, though, than seeing Willie K walk by. He was busily chatting with an attractive young woman so I wouldn't have interrupted even if I hadn't been too dumbfounded to say anything anyway. I just stood and watched them walking to an escalater, must have at least figuratively had my mouth hanging open. I turned and a local woman sitting on a planter ledge grinned and nodded yes. Yes, that really was Willie K.

Non-local readers, Willie K is The Man, The Musician of these islands, so far as I'm concerned. Has been for years now. He was looking good, looking happy, and I was happy to have seen him. I told Angelo about it on Thursday. "Willie K walked by here!?" Willie would no doubt be amused to know what a sensation he creates just by walking through the mall.

Greg Iles' Mortal Fear is even more engrossing than the King book. The basic framework is a serial killer going after women he meets on a national on-line erotic chat service, a plot foundation I'm surprised not to have encountered before. Iles knows on-line life well enough to make it all credible and does a more than excellent job of sustaining the suspense. With no Bad Boys on the scene all day, I spent much of it in the park reading.

And I was there again on Thursday when Angelo walked up to the table. This is Angelo's version of what happened with the psychiatrist:

Not knowing how long it would take to get to Kahala and find the doctor's office, Angelo had arrived almost an hour early. But after a brief wait, the doctor had come out, took him into the office and thanked him for arriving early for his appointment. "So, are you crazy?" the doctor asked. Angelo said he wasn't sure. "Well, if you aren't crazy, you don't get the money." [!]

Not surprisingly, Angelo quickly decided that yes, he is crazy. He hears two voices, one good and one evil. [So which of us doesn't?].

The doctor authorized him for six months. In return for seeing a "clinical psychologist" (Angelo showed me his card) twice a month, Angelo gets about four hundred and thirty dollars each month. This in contrast to a story in the current Honolulu Weekly about the expected chaos next year when many local long-time welfare recipients will lose their payments due to the new five-year limit, even single mothers with several children. One has to wonder just who is really "crazy".

Although he was sober and on his own, Angelo was determined to go shopping at the favorite store. I went back to my book, although my thoughts were in something of a turmoil over the welfare nonsense. Of course it's tempting to go for it myself, if it's that easy. But I don't know. Foodstamps are one thing. For a man my age it's a simple entitlement, based entirely on income. I don't have to lie, don't have to pretend to be looking for work. But for mental disability welfare I would have to lie. I know I'm "crazy" but I also know that if I really wanted to, I could find a job. And I also know I don't genuinely need that four hundred a month, however much fun it would be to get it. Questions of a thousand dreams.

Later I returned to the mall, hunted snipes and was walking near the supermarket when I saw Angelo sitting at a table. He was hoping I'd pass by, did his dollar-for-fish routine. I needed four more quarters for a sunset brew so was happy to oblige despite the dwindling foodstamps balance. We sat and talked while he ate. He mentioned the business with Rocky again, amended the story slightly so it was more in agreement with what Rocky had told me, but still left it that they had been with Chinatown-B. I didn't say anything about the discrepancy, didn't mention that I'd heard a different version from Rocky. The Sleeptalker is back with Chinatown-B again, Angelo said, even though the Sleeptalker had told him he "hates" Chinatown-B. Better a bed under the roof of someone you hate than a bench, I guess.

We walked through the mall for awhile, then Angelo said he wanted to go to Border's. I said I'd stay and hunt quarters for awhile, then get a beer and enjoy sunset in the park with it. He said he'd rejoin me there, but I didn't expect him to, and he didn't. The Homeless Man's Summer Cold hit Sidney the day before. I was awakened a couple of times by his loud sneezing fits. And it hit Angelo on Thursday, so I figured he'd just go on to the hacienda after the bookstore.

He had tried again to persuade me to return to the hacienda at nights, said he felt more comfortable if someone he likes was staying there. The police had come again but hadn't made people leave. They wanted to know if anyone had seen someone throwing matches into the building. Evidently a worker had spotted several matchbooks in there, thought someone had been trying to start a fire. Angelo and the other regulars who were there said, no, they hadn't seen such a thing and would have stopped it if they had. They, and the police, thought it more likely a disgruntled person who had been there on business was responsible. Me, too.

I stayed for the late clean-up, scored enough quarters for the first beer on Friday. I'd thought the Mariner might be formidable competition since he hangs out at the mall all day, every day, but I saw him pass a remote corral. I almost turned around and went the other way, but thought I'd just check the parking lot beyond that corral one more time. There were two carts in the corral still with their quarters. So I guess the Mariner isn't going to be a major problem. I'm not sure which is the greater puzzlement, people who return carts to a corral and leave the quarters or hunters who walk past them without noticing. I'm grateful for both, though.

So I went "home" to the hacienda. Angelo looked up from his bench and smiled, closed his eyes again. Sleeping on a bench next to Angelo. Jes' like old times ....

595

Old times, indeed. For awhile, it was just me and Rocky at the hacienda. He was asleep when I got there, asleep when I woke up Saturday morning. I left a vacant bench in between us in case Angelo arrived, but he didn't. He had seen a friend from his IHS days at the mall and the friend had asked Angelo to help him move the next day. I figured he'd probably spend the day at it and maybe even get invited to spend the night. Networking.

Two other men showed up sometime during the night but it was fun to have that pre-sleep time alone with Rocky, brought back many happy memories and a few not so happy ones. And I am, of course, very happy to have the hacienda back again as a refuge, especially good timing since the annual Greek Festival was going to make Park Place a bit awkward this weekend, people no doubt showing up very early to prepare and staying very late to clean-up.

Into that time of the month ... the last days before the Fabled Pension Check arrives. I certainly can't complain about August, though, despite starting it off with that stupid pipe nonsense with Rocky. Every day with at least two 40oz brews and almost every night falling asleep with the happy knowledge I had the financing for the next day's first bottle. Happiness is beer money in pocket.

I finished Mortal Fear just before it got too dark to read, then spent the rest of the evening strolling the mall, pocketing quarters. The Mongoose was fortunately absent all day, the Mariner was sitting engrossed in a book much of the time. Droopy scored one quarter while I was returning a stroller, but I guess the effort of taking the cart back exhausted him because he gave up after his one triumph. The big shock of the evening came when I spotted a cart, was walking toward it, and one of the cleaning women threw her dustpan and broom into the cart and started rolling it to the supermarket! Sheez, not enough the old bags constantly interfere with the snipe hunt, now they want to play the Quarter Hunt game as well? I hoped her supervisor would spot her, noticed another cleaning lady giving her a shocked and disapproving look. Sure, a stroller maybe, but slack on the job to return a cart, absurd.

I stayed on campus all morning Saturday, mostly playing Abandoned Codex since Seventh Circle was yet again down. I finally made it to level 8 with Caduceus. Although the same basic SMAUG code, Codex is more difficult. Most SMAUGs have "deities". By devoting to one of them and acquiring favor points by killing either good or bad critters, depending on the deity's preferences, one can escape a losing fight by supplicating the deity, incurring no penalty except drained "favor". No deities in Codex. And it is the only SMAUG I've encountered without a post-death grace period. When killed, it is necessary to return to your corpse in order to retrieve your equipment. Oddly enough, you don't lose your gold when dying. In SMAUG you can take it with you. Usually there is a short grace period, five minutes or so, when the critter that killed you won't attack again. Not so in Codex. The bastid is often standing right there by your corpse to kill you again. Yes, a more difficult game.

A visit to the State Library happily yielded another Maeve Binchy novel, Firefly Summer, so I could stop longing for her latest every time I pass the bookstore window. I was sitting with my late-lunchtime brew, beginning the book, when I saw Angelo walking through the park. He was with an older guy carrying a backpack, someone I've not seen before. I think if I hadn't acknowledged him with a little wave, Angelo would have just walked right past me. As it was, he returned the wave, said "hi" and kept walking with his friend. Sheez.

He was embarrassed to introduce me to his friend or his friend to me? Whatever, it was clearly a case of "something better" and I asked myself how many times Angelo has to hit me over the head with his something-better philosophy before I stop being astounded by it. Perhaps more importantly, before I finally decide life alone with a brew and a book is "something better" than hanging out with Angelo. Not sure, I've long lost count, but I think he may be getting close.

My mulling over that was happily interrupted when the beautiful Yvette and her handsome brother, Keali'i, came walking down the path. Seeing two of my favorite people definitely cheered me up, as did her hugs and his warm handshake.

The Quarter Hunt was strangely dismal for a Saturday. Too late in the month for people to afford big shopping expeditions at the supermarket? The Mongoose whizzed around briefly but I guess he decided it wasn't worth playing because I soon saw him loading his bicycle onto a bus, departing for the day. Droopy was drooping around, scored one cart, but I doubt he found anymore. Then bingo!, I found two strollers abandoned together. Despite that easy dollar, I came up short for Sunday's first brew. Damn.

"Albert will speak to me again," the Sleeptalker had said, according to Rocky who was at the hacienda alone when I got there. What a rascal, that Sleeptalker. Well, I'm glad I didn't dampen his confidence since that definitely wasn't my intention.

But I do wish a little I'd witnessed Rocky punching the Sleeptalker in the mouth.

With the Bad Boys, everything is a jigsaw puzzle where you have to put together pieces obtained from various sources to get what might be the actual situation. And Chinatown-B is a major puzzle. Apparently there is a very old man living in that apartment. I suspect it is actually his place and Chinatown-B is there partly as a helper to the old man. His way of fulfilling his duty is to find some cute trick he has the hots for and letting the trick take care of the old man. The Sleeptalker is the current trick. But of course, Chinatown-B buys beer and cigarettes for the Sleeptalker, shares the glass pipe (whenever, supposedly, there's the buffer of other people around), and in that state of mind the Sleeptalker no doubt gets lazy and doesn't give a damn about the old man, anymore than Chinatown-B. This irks Rocky, who says he often takes plates of food from one of the nearby soup kitchens back for the old man. And other times, Rocky is asked to cook dinner, always fixes a plate for the old man first. He had done that on Saturday, annoying the Sleeptalker. Guilt clicking in, no doubt. Then Rocky had done the dishes, cleaned up the kitchen. All the time the Sleeptalker was slugging back 40oz bottles, was on his fourth when he started bitching at Rocky about how he "showed no respect for the house".

I can well understand how Rocky was flabbergasted, all the more so since he said (as did Angelo) that the Sleeptalker had complained bitterly about "that faggot" Chinatown-B, how he "hated" Chinatown-B, how he had to put up with him trying to touch him while he was asleep, etc. etc.

Evidently the Sleeptalker pushed it too far, because Rocky slugged him one. I doubt the Sleeptalker is talking comfortably today.

Rocky was feeling very badly about it. I said it definitely appeared to me that the Sleeptalker had asked for it, and he agreed that was the case. We talked for awhile about it all, about how sad it is that the Sleeptalker can't just relax and be who he is. "Who gives a shit if he's gay?" asked Rocky. Indeed. I think Rocky felt a little better about it after our talk and we settled down to sleep, again with one empty bench between us. Sometime during the night, Angelo arrived and took a bench at the head of that empty one. We had the place to ourselves, and they were both still asleep when I left in the morning.

I'm not sure about waking hours, but yes, sharing sleeping space with Rocky and Angelo is indeed "something better".

596

Cainer has been muttering for days about how crazy things would get in the final week of August. He would have been more accurate had he said "how crazy you will get", never mind things.

Know thyself. Such profound advice, so succinct. And sometimes I feel that despite sixty years practice, I'm still nowhere near taking it.

Angelo is part of the problem, although he's certainly not to blame. He doesn't pretend to be anything other than what he is, take it or leave it. His only real buddy is money. When he doesn't have any, he's obsessed with getting some. When he does have it, he's so weird it's impossible to know him. And when I'm feeling itchy about the pending Fabled Pension Check's arrival, his obsession is even more aggravating.

I either managed to avoid him on Sunday or else he wasn't looking for me. Sometimes I think he has a special panther-seeking radar, would find me wherever I hid on the island. But I kept an eye out for him at the mall, sat in a totally different place in the park after finding quarters for two bottles of brew. That happened with surprising ease, for a Sunday, and then the Quarter Hunt game went right downhill. I didn't find financing for Monday's first one until almost three o'clock. Things got lucky for an hour or so, then fizzled again.

But it was too late for the usual sunset hour reading in the park, so I was sitting in the Orchid Walk, having just started my second Mickey's, when Angelo and Rossini came along, carrying a twelve-pack. They asked me to join them in the park and there was an amusing conversation, partly about the clash between the Sleeptalker and Rocky but more about the infamous Vegas trip. I think that trip was the most exciting and memorable thing that has ever happened to these guys.

When the beer was finished, Rossini said he'd buy more, Angelo wanted the usual dollar-for-a-tub-of-fish deal. I agreed. We walked over to the mall. Outside the supermarket, I spotted a small black purse on a planter ledge. Before I could pick it up, Angelo dashed in front of me and grabbed it. Silly fellow. He was doubly silly because he examined it right there, instead of walking off somewhere the owner would be less likely to return. "Canadian money," he said, demanded his dollar and the beer money back. I handed it to him, he rushed off, Rossini scurrying after him. Phooey, I wasn't going to chase along to see how much money had been in the purse. When I saw the exchange rate the next day, I smiled to think how disappointed Angelo would have been, no matter how much, when those Canadian dollars were turned into American ones.

The Quarter Hunt was just awful on Tuesday. I couldn't stop thinking about that damned purse. Angelo would have been disappointed with a hundred dollars, but I would have been happy with five from the find. And I would have split whatever was there three ways, between us, but certainly know better than to have expected Angelo to do it. Grumble, grumble. I spotted Angelo, apparently headed toward the favorite store, ducked before he could see me. Finally, almost five o'clock, I found the final cart I needed for a beer, was wheeling it back when I again saw Angelo from a little distance, headed toward the pawn shop. There must not have been all that much in the Canadian purse. I waved. He returned it. I patted the cart, and he grinned. Weird thing is, that exchange completely changed my mood.

Well, I had been constantly lecturing myself about my silly attitude toward Angelo, how dumb it was to even expect anything halfway decent from him when it comes to money, and it wasn't his fault the Quarter Hunt had been so dismal. But somehow it was that grin from him that changed the mood, not having at last found beer money.

I went over to the park with my bottle. "I hate bums." Every now and then I can hear the Sleeptalker saying that. And I know just what he meant. Sometimes it seems every shaded table in the park is occupied by some bum. Of course, meaning some other bum got there before this one did to take that table. How it must annoy working people who go to the park.

So I sat at a more distant table and returned to Firefly Summer. The blurb says the New York Times Book Review called it the "best Binchy yet", and I agree. A splendid book. I'll be longing for the new one even more after finishing this one.

I didn't really expect to get money for a second brew, was grateful to have had the one. But I did, in fact, score enough quarters for another. By then it was so late I decided I'd just head to the bench, enjoy the feeling of waking up knowing I could have a beer as soon as I felt like it the next day.

Like for breakfast.

Naw, just teasing. I think.

597

The Fabled Pension Check arrived on the last day of August. So it was a day of running around, even more so than usual. Downtown to get the check, to Waikiki to cash it, back to Chinatown for cheap cigarettes and then to the park for a beer. When I returned to the mall, there was a cart sitting by the bus stop. I was grinning as I wheeled it back, thinking how funny it was to be making that effort for a quarter when I had over eighty dollars in my pocket. I saw Rocky. He wanted a beer. I patted the cart and said, "Hey, you lazy fucker, work for it." He laughed and gave me one of his playful punches.

The best thing Angelo has done for me was showing me that Savers discount clothing store. Stuff is cheaper there than at Goodwill or the Salvation Army shops, with a much larger selection. This time I got on the right bus and found the place, unlike the previous month. Charcoal gray Lee jeans and two nice polo-style shirts for eight dollars. One of the shirts was a mistake. Although quite handsome, in a very pale gray, it's a 50-50 cotton-polyester fabric. I'd forgotten how much I hate the feel of polyester. But it's such lightweight fabric and felt very soft to the hand, so I bought it. Oh well, can't cry over a $1.55 mistake and if I don't get used to the strange feel of it, I'll throw it away when it gets dirty.

Clothes have never been especially important to me, but it is amusing to be wearing new stuff. I can understand why all the Bad Boys are so keen on having new clothes.

Angelo had walked up to the bus stop the night before when I was waiting to go to the hacienda. He said he'd been shopping in the favorite store with an unspecified "friend". Then the friend had gone back for seconds, hadn't come out even when the store closed, so Angelo figured he'd been busted. I told him I'd seen a young couple taken away earlier. A cop brought out the young man first, handcuffed, another brought out his lady friend, also cuffed, and they were taken away in separate police cars. And I saw two floorwalkers from JC Penney chasing a young man, but that one got away. I wonder how many arrests for shoplifting are made in this town each month? If Angelo's any example, there must be at least three times as many successful attempts as failed ones.

That was the last I saw of Angelo. He was missing on Thursday and Friday. Both nights it was just me and Rocky at the hacienda ... amazing. And both nights Rocky had been waiting for me, needing a light for the stub of a joint he had. He offered me a hit the first night. I declined, said I'd had so much beer the smoke would be wasted, and he was clearly pleased not to have to share. He told Angelo and me that he hadn't gotten his money yet, wouldn't until the fifth. I asked Angelo if he believed it. He did. I didn't. No money, yet Rocky has a handsome new Nike outfit, sweatpants and a jacket, and joints each night? No matter, like I said, I'll believe that twenty he promised me when it falls into my hand, not before.

I stayed on campus for most of Friday morning. I'd had too much to drink and not enough to eat on Thursday, the usual situation in the days between the arrival of the pension check and the foodstamps largesse. So I pulled out the plastic when I got back to the mall and had coffee and a sandwich before getting beer and heading to the park. If you should find a copy of Dean Koontz's Hideaway, I firmly recommend ignoring it. Although very well written, it's an exceedingly unpleasant tale and I was tempted several times to throw the thing away. I'd stopped by the State Library on my way back from Savers on Thursday and immediately went on to Rona Jaffe's The Cousins after finishing the Koontz, trying to get that creepy thing out of my head. Too damned many cousins, hard to remember which is which, but at least it distracted me.

"Here you go," said that familiar voice again. The Cash Lady was walking through the park with a friend, came over to the table and handed me five dollars. The kindness of strangers ...

I was thoroughly buzzed by the time I got to the hacienda. Rocky was wearing a tee shirt with a fierce looking wolf on it. He got up, took off his shorts, and put on the sweat pants, grinning while I watched the striptease. "Don't you bend over my bench during the night wearing that shirt," I said.

Funny feeling, to be sleeping there all alone with him. A nice, funny feeling.

597a

Incredibly enough, there was a third night alone with Rocky at the hacienda. The place was empty when I got there on Saturday night, earlier than usual. It was Helen R's fault (or to her credit), since she'd bought me dinner. Forty-ounce bottles of malt liquor are intended for an empty stomach, not one full of roast pork, mashed potatoes, corn and cole slaw. It's an unusual First Saturday After Pension when I don't have a third beer.

Just after I settled down, Rossini arrived and asked if I'd seen Angelo. "Not since Wednesday," I said. "For all I know, he may be in jail." Rossini said to tell Angelo or the Iceman if they arrived that he'd be at Chinatown-B's. I fell asleep, woke much later to see Rocky sprawled on his back on the bench behind me, one leg propped up on the bench's back, a sweet vision.

I was reminded of a conversation a few days ago with Wisconsin. "Can I ask you a question?" he'd said. "Yes, of course." "I've heard you had the Sleeptalker, but have you had Rocky?"

Like The Doc, Wisconsin has the extreme hots for Rocky. I said no, I didn't want to have sex with Rocky. "But don't you think he's cute?" "Yes, he's very cute and has a big dick," I said, "but I've known him almost three years now and I wouldn't want to risk screwing up our friendship for sex. Not worth it."

"You're a wise man," he said. Hmmmm ...

I'd stayed on campus for the morning, mostly playing Abandoned Codex since Seventh Circle was yet again down, fast becoming a weekend habit with those stoned MUD-masters. When I returned to the mall I bought beer and went to the park, continuing the Jaffe book. It's such utter fluff I can't imagine a publisher having accepted it from an unknown writer. Back at the mall, I saw Rocky who begged for a beer. "No can," I said, "going to the movies." So he asked me to loan him a couple of dollars. "Didn't I tell you your credit at this bank is zero?" I asked. Yes, but he was getting his money on Tuesday, so please, just a couple of dollars. I gave them to him. Such a softy I am, but then people are kind to me and what goes around comes around.

I joined Helen R at Dole Cannery to see "Saving Grace", a sweet little British comedy with some very funny scenes, probably the most charming film yet made about the infamous marijuana (and one of the few which didn't make me long for a joint, despite the delicious-looking buds). I should have taken Rocky along.

And I definitely have to remember what I said to Wisconsin, if I'm going to be spending nights alone with that young man.

597b

Walking across campus on Sunday morning, I saw a pair of flowery surfer shorts which looked to have been thrown on the grass. I went to investigate, saw a pair of Calvin Klein briefs nearby. The season's first streaker? Both were my size and the shorts are very pretty and very new, just what I would have bought myself had Savers had them. A nice start to the day, and the week.

Erick Francis wrote about September: Just keep it all (you) flowing. If you're getting overheated, frustrated or angry, easy does it -- you're just not writing enough.

Hmmmm ...

598

"Cool shorts!" Rocky said. Okay, that settled it. Actually, I'd already made up my mind when I'd been wearing them for about five minutes. The old ones could be abandoned for someone else to find. These are such soft cotton it's amazing, and since I lay the shorts over my backpack at night as a pillowcase, I not only get to wear the yummy-feeling things during the day, I get to rest my head on them at night.

Rocky thought I'd shopped them. I just said, "hey, you guys aren't the only ones who can go shopping". It reminded me of high school, the pleasure at doing something (or being thought to have done something) which made you "one of the guys". What silly folks we mortals be.

Rocky must have gotten a bit nervous about our intimate nights alone together because on the fourth night he switched to a different bench, at my head but one over. No matter, much less distracting that way. We did have two companions that night as well, the gay Bicycle Boy and a young man I haven't seen in months. He used to moan loudly in his sleep, but was quiet that night. The next night I had the entire place to myself, and on Tuesday night just the former moaner was there, arriving long after I'd been asleep and departing before I woke.

There was only one word for Labor Day: dreary. It was gloomy and cloudy all day, with frequent drizzle, and a very thick, heavy feel to the air. And the day after was, if anything, even worse. When I woke on Tuesday morning, it looked like the world was shrouded in very thick fog. A big, soggy cloud seemed to have parked right in Honolulu. Although it didn't actually rain as much during the day as it had on Labor Day, it stayed horribly steamy and sticky, far too nasty to spend much time rolling back shopping carts.

The one bright moment on Labor Day was acquiring a replacement for the lost earring. When the mall started to put in fancy vendor carts at various spots throughout the place, I grumbled at the clutter, especially since some of the most treasured ashtrays were removed to accommodate the silly carts. I stopped grumbling when I saw some of the folks who were being hired to work at them, especially the young lad who works for Silver Rhino, a cart which specializes in sterling silver jewelry. From his first day there, he always smiles and says hello when I pass. I decided that if the plain silver rings weren't more than ten dollars, I'd buy them. To my surprise, they were only four dollars. I asked if he'd put one in for me, but he alas had to let his supervisor do it. She's an amusing lady, though, and was clearly aware of my interest in her co-worker who stood watching the whole thing with a big grin on his face.

Aside from the utterly adorable Travis at the supermarket, that fellow is my favorite man at the mall.

The State Library was closed for the entire weekend, so I'd selected a thick Jeffrey Archer novel, The Fourth Estate, to get me through the drought. Interesting yarn, tracking two newspaper moguls over the course of their lives. I finished it on Labor Day and was delighted to find a copy of last week's The Economist to fill in until the library opened again. I do enjoy reading that magazine.

And I do enjoy knowing there aren't any more holidays coming up soon to interrupt the usual rhythm of life ...

599

Dong! Dong! Dong! Dong! Dong!

Okay. Although I was glad it didn't do a whole Big Ben routine, I didn't mind the clock announcing the arrival of each new hour. Only one problem. It was four o'clock in the morning. When I'd partly surfaced and counted four dongs earlier, I'd thought, sheez, the night surely went fast, but was grateful I had another hour to sleep and returned to my crazy dream. Five bells, though, I woke more thoroughly and looked up at the clock tower. Big hand on 12, little hand on four. Hmmmm. Doubled-checked with my watch. Yep, the chimes were wrong. Back to sleep.

The return of the Sleeptalker, the return of the Rocky Social Horror Club.

The weather continued to be thoroughly unpleasant, hot and steamy all day turning to drizzle near sunset time. I'd sweated through a couple of beers in the park earlier, reading Dean Koontz's Shadowfires. What a nasty imagination Koontz has, with what seems a special fondness for reanimated dead themes. Frankenstein updated with chatter about DNA and gene research. Dame Fortune seems to think he belongs on my reading list. There has been a new one at the State Library on every visit (although I had declined this one on a prior trip) and the bookstore at the mall has a display of six Koontz books in the window. Oh well, at least this one isn't as creepy and nasty as the last one, no little handicapped children being threatened by modern Frankenstein monsters.

On one trip to the mall, making a snipe run, a young lady stopped me. "Excuse me, sir, can you do me favor?" I stopped, waited to see what the favor would be. She didn't have her ID, would I buy a beer for her? "What kind?" I asked, and was somewhat surprised when she said a Mickey's. We were outside the ABC Store, the only one of its many branches which has been refusing to stock 40oz bottles of malt liquor, as I told her. She assured me they do now sell it, so I took her money and went to have a look, was much pleased to see they do indeed again sell the stuff, and for the usual price of $1.99, Mickey's and Colt. Knowledge by networking, I guess.

When it became clear a sunset brew would be out of the question in the park, unless I wanted to have a shower while drinking it, I decided to return to campus and Seventh Circle which I'd enjoyed playing in the morning. Not long after entering the game, I was greatly surprised to see the Sleeptalker login, his first visit since the Sunday I'd fled the computer lab when he'd arrived.

He greeted me, I returned the greeting. After all, I still think the game is the most positive thing in his life. I wouldn't want to discourage him from playing. After awhile I warned him about the dangers of the new area recently added to the game. He said he was afraid to go to that "crazy place".

You tell [the Sleeptalker] 'just scan every move, do NOT go into the smog'
[The Sleeptalker] tells you 'thanks'


But friends on-line, in-game only, my dear Sleeptalker.

When I got to the hacienda, Rocky was there, laying on the bench but awake. We exchanged waves. A man I hadn't seen before was asleep on another bench. I settled down, leaving a vacant bench between me and Rocky and fell asleep. I woke to loud chatter and the unmistakable sound of the Sleeptalker's glass-pipe laugh. That is such a horrible sound, like something out of a Koontz book. There's not a hint of humor about it, more like pure desperation. It makes me shudder. After hearing it a second time, I got up and without looking over at them, walked away, unsure who had been there aside from Rocky and the Sleeptalker.

Luck was with me. The drizzle stopped long enough for me to get to the new-cloisters and there was one vacant spot on the double-benches. A somewhat restless bench mate rocking the bed every now and then, a chiming clock eager to advance the night one hour ahead of real time ... definitely preferable to hearing that ghastly laugh.

600

Tale Six Hundred.

Knowing she'd have a calculator at her fingertips, I asked Mme de Crécy for the figure. "59.9400599400599400599400599400599...% " Okay, 59.9% of the way to Scheherazade. I still think anyone would definitely be better off reading her first six hundred tales than this lot.

Maybe I should rename my characters. Angelo's a natch for Ali Baba, the Sleeptalker could be Aladdin. Not too sure about Rocky, but Mondo could be any of the handsome princes from those Arabian Nights.

And my Aladdin again surprised me by showing up in Seventh Circle on Thursday morning. I wouldn't have expected him to be sufficiently alert after that post-midnight pipe party. He seemed in a rather plaintive mood and I gave him two special items from the dangerous new area which cheered him up. I didn't have much trouble getting those two things but when I tried again for the biggest prize, got killed. Sigh. I don't think I'll ever progress beyond Level 98 in that place. Well, at least I didn't die for the Sleeptalker. I wanted that weapon for myself, it's still too high level for him. It's called the Shangri-La, a kind of sword that not only slices but spits fireballs. I have one, but it would be good fun to carry two of the things. Wasn't meant to be, not on Thursday anyway.

The Sleeptalker was still playing when I left for the mall, bought a sandwich, chips and a brew and took them to the park. It had been raining either fairly heavily or as drizzle on campus, despite sunshine, but was dry at the beach except for a few moments of dribbles. I finished the Koontz book and went on to another Jeffrey Archer epic, As the Crow Flies. He certainly likes to produce mammoth volumes, the story spanning many decades, but does a highly enjoyable job of it.

After a second brew I returned to campus and the game which wasn't as much fun as usual thanks to some unimaginative brats feuding with each other, paying no attention to those of us telling them to either chill out or take their banal insults to direct conversation, spare the rest of us. As an "Immortal" on Bartle's MUD2, those are the kind of goons I would promptly have silenced, or worse.

I suppose it was partly that which caused my mood to falter sharply and I changed plans, decided after all to have a nightcap with another sandwich. Much as I treasure that foodstamps largesse, I do get weary of turkey, ham or roast beef sandwiches, the easiest option amongst the eligible food items. A pity I don't like Angelo's beloved raw tuna, would make a nice change now and then. Of course, I don't mind things like eating baked beans right from the can, but it does project a certain tacky image in the mall especially. Heh.

The brew and continuing the book cheered me up but I was sufficiently tired to head to the hacienda earlier than usual, hoping there wouldn't be a repeat of the Rocky Social Horror Club's gathering. Rocky was already asleep. Just in case the others showed up, I took the most distant vacant bench, in between two strangers. Odd how the population constantly changes there and shifts in size. Given the changeable, uncertain weather, it wasn't surprising to have the place eventually half full, but fortunately the Bad Boys stayed away.

From about 3:30 onwards Friday morning I kept waking, thinking it was time to head for coffee. That's what I get for going to sleep so early, I guess. I finally gave up, caught the bus to the mall and had to wait a few minutes for McD's to open before getting my coffee. I was heading to a bench with my first cup when I noticed the strollers hadn't been fully pushed into the corral. Shove. Four clinks. Looking good, Friday, with a dollar profit even before the first coffee.

And ... at last ... no rain, no heavy steamy air to plod through.

601

If only the Bad Boys knew how easily pleased I am ...

The biggest men's room at the mall has become quite outrageous at times. In England, they call them "cottages". In the South, in my younger days, we called them "tearooms". Toilets where gay men hang out to make contact. I had actually gone into the place on Friday afternoon for a quite other purpose but having finished that, noticed the rather attractive, young brown foot, bare in slippers, which kept sliding discreetly (or fairly so) over toward me from the next stall.

Okay, I slid mine over a tiny bit. This interesting procedure continued until our slippers were touching each other, and I reached down to fondle the big toe. I went from it to each of the toes, returning to the big one for special attention, sliding my hand up to the ankle. Up the leg a bit, and then he shifted and crouched down to give me a feel of the Promised Land.

Then he stopped, a moment later passed me a note. I transcribe it literally:

"Let's go else where and you can work every part of me
ok
see you outside?
? ok


Well, considering he hadn't even been hard after my loving attention to his (admittedly rather cute) foot, I assumed "work" was the key word. I didn't feel like working, so fled out.

But it certainly was good fun. I like feet. Especially cute young brown feet. I used to shock the Sleeptalker in the game by making it appear, as I think I've mentioned before, "Reting kisses S***'s feet and runs away." Finally, over a second brew, he challenged me to really kiss his foot, and I happily obliged. Yeh, I like sweet young brown feet.

I'm not too keen on people who want to pass notes under stalls in public toilets, though. Boring.

But when we're talking boring, the weather definitely gets the Grand Prize. Although Friday began in a fairly promising way, yet again it was a day of frequent drizzles, even in full sunshine. It would be sooooo nice to have an entire day of sunshine, gentle breezes, no rain, not even one little drizzle from the sky. Boring, indeed, this dreary stuff we've had all week here.

And equally boring is the continuing screw-up with Seventh Circle. The Boss allows himself to be snowed by people with grand ideas for additions or "improvements". Trouble is, they simply don't have the technical expertise to pull off their ideas and the game is so patched up now it's very unstable, tends to crash frequently and stays down for long periods of time. It has gotten so bad, he'd probably be better off just getting the basic, brownbag SMAUG code and dump the current mishmash. I played for awhile, the Sleeptalker even more briefly, and then the game crashed. I went back to Abandoned Codex.

In Archer's As the Crow Flies he uses a technique Binchy does so well with, telling the story several times but from a different character's point of view. Although it makes for some repetition, it is fascinating to see how very differently people see the same basic set of facts. I wondered, could I take the story of the Old Man and the Bad Boys, tell it as straight narrative and interpose chapters written entirely from the Bad Boys' point of view? I don't think so. I can't imagine even pretending to review the story of our friendship, speaking as the Sleeptalker.

After the afternoon in the park reading, I returned to campus for awhile, then back to the mall for a nightcap and more of the book. On my final run for snipes, I scored two strollers. Another easy dollar. No Bad Boys at the hacienda, only the King Fan I'd slept by the previous night (king as in Stephen). He's very quiet, doesn't snore at all, and seems to suffer from disturbed sleep (or too intense fascination with King's tales), because I've several times surfaced in the night to see him laying there reading again. He has been through three King epics in the short time I've known him. Maybe I should save the next Koontz book I find for him. Anyone who likes King is bound to be impressed by Koontz.

And I guess that rather touching little interlude with the foot sufficiently stirred my mind because for the first time ever I dreamed of Travis. Now that's what I call sweet dreams.

602

All the lonely people, where do they all come from ...
where do they all belong.


Angelo agreed with me when we talked about it one day. It's sad that these clever Bad Boys can get free medication and visits to the head-doctors, a generous cash allowance, foodstamps, and a long-term bus pass when the people who really need it are stumbling around the mall and the park, too far gone to seek help or, probably, even to realize they need it. And indeed, where do they all come from? Even though some disappear (haven't seen Bla in a very long time), there are always new arrivals.

One of them I think of as the Mouse. He is a mousie little fellow, late 20s, probably not of local origin. He walks around with his head bowed and he's bundled into more dirty clothes than any sane person would want to be wearing at this time of the year. Bare feet in slippers, the feet almost black with encrusted dirt. Angelo told me there are always some men at the shelter who refuse to shower because they can't stand the idea of being naked with another man. If that's the problem the Mouse has, he could at least wash his feet. Most of the water fountains in the park have a faucet on the side. Angelo, as fastidious about his feet as he is with his clothes, often washes his feet several times during the day at one of the fountains. I suspect the Mouse just doesn't notice how dirty he is, or doesn't care.

He usually carries a little book in one hand. One day he was sitting on the sidewalk in the mall and I got a glance at the book. It had musical notes, a little songbook or hymnal, perhaps. But when he walked past my table in the park on Saturday, he was softly murmuring. It definitely sounded like a Gregorian chant. How very odd. He was walking around in a large circle, hesitating now and then, sometimes turning and walking in the opposite direction, as if he had no idea where to go next. The last time Angelo and Rossini were sitting with me in the park, we heard someone shouting. "Uh-oh, he's flipped out," Rossini said. Across the street, the Mouse was standing by the traffic light, shaking his fist at the passing cars and shouting at them. It's the only time I've seen him so animated.

There's another new woman, even more recently come on the scene, and she spends a great deal of her time sitting on a bench having a lengthy, earnest conversation with her four plastic shopping bags.

Another woman, probably in her fifties, walks around with four of those two-wheeler wireframe shopping carts. She pushes one, pulls the second, moving them forward about ten feet before going back to get the other two. She slowly progresses through the mall that way and there are a few shop workers who must really hate to see her coming. Leaving her carts parked outside, she goes into one dress shop particularly and spends ages looking at and touching everything. The salesclerk looks like she's wanting to have everything in the store dry-cleaned after the crazy woman finally departs.

A woman, of the same age, has a bicycle and more often waddles along straddling it than actually riding the thing. She rants away constantly, frequently getting into heated exchanges with passers-by, although I've luckily managed to avoid her except on one occasion when they made her move her bicycle away from the front entrance of Sinclair Library. I was having a smoke outside, and she came over to me to rant about how unfair they were. Didn't get much sympathy from me, with the bicycle racks only about six feet away. She got into an argument with a young man at the mall on Saturday, sufficiently heated that a security guard escorted her from the premises.

Speaking of bicycles, I guess the Mongoose must have whizzed on his at the wrong time. After more than a week's absence, he was at the mall on Friday, looking rather battered, his left arm in a sling. No sign of his fancy Mongoose bicycle. He was back on Saturday, walking around with his usual angry scrowl, presumably chasing quarters again. He really is the most unpleasant young man on the scene.

"Where is Ala Moana Beach?" asked a rather large Polynesian lady on the second level of the mall.
I pointed at the clearly visible ocean, said "across the street", resisting the temptation to add "by the ocean, where you'd expect to find a beach."
She still looked confused, so I was more specifically helpful and pointed to a nearby stairwell, told her to go down there, then cross the street.
She thanked me and waddled off to the stairs.

And I was leaving the drugstore, second brew in my backpack, when I saw a young couple standing there debating which direction to go in. He was stunningly handsome and I guess I must have been gaping in adoration because his lady friend looked at me and smiled broadly. "You have great taste in men," I said. He blushed! She laughed, said "I know" and gave him a pat on his shoulder. Sweet.

Unprecedented. The tenth of the month and there is still a ten dollar bill left from the Fabled Pension Check. There's a five, too, but that gets credited to the Cash Lady. The absence of Bad Boys is the primary reason. Without pressure from them, I managed to get through August without borrowing against the FPC at all, and without them around it easily lasts longer. I don't deny there are moments when I'd happily spend it all to have Angelo back again.

Where do we all belong ...

603

Bad Boys Sunday.

I stayed on campus all morning, mostly playing Abandoned Codex since Seventh Circle was yet again down. When I got ready to leave, I strolled across campus picking up snipes, then stopped in Sinclair Library for a final check of email before heading to the bus. As I was leaving, the Cherub walked in. Unsurprisingly, he had not lost the weight he'd said he was going to during the summer, but he looked less frazzled than he had before leaving for Kauai and it was good to see him.

Back at the mall, I spotted Rocky and ducked before he saw me. I didn't really want to talk to him and especially not before I'd had my first brew of the day. The snipes supply on campus had been meagre and it wasn't much better at the mall. I had to wait over half an hour for that first brew, hunting snipes until I had enough for the beer break. I'd stopped by the State Library on Saturday where the honor collection was less promising than usual, so I settled for Danielle Steel's The Ring which turned out to be a better choice than expected. It's probably the best of her things I've yet encountered.

After the beer I had a shower and washed the gray polo shirt, having decided I would keep it despite its unwelcome polyester content. And of course, there is the advantage of its drying more quickly than a pure cotton one does.

Back at the mall, I again saw Rocky, sitting alone on a bench outside Arby's. He spotted me, too late to duck. He said he thought Angelo might be dead! What?! He'd heard that Angelo had stolen some money from The Doc and a Filipino friend of The Doc's was going to take Angelo out with a lethal injection of some kind. Sounded like a pipe fantasy to me. I said I could believe Angelo would steal the money but I couldn't believe The Doc would be that upset about it, might get someone to beat Angelo up but certainly not kill him. Well, no one had seen Angelo anywhere. I said he could be in jail or, if he really had stolen that much money from The Doc, he might well have headed off to Kauai to hideout. But Rocky was convinced Angelo was dead.

He asked if I had beer money. "You must be joking!" I said. "I will have when you give me the two dollars you owe me." He reluctantly handed over the two bucks. There was, of course, no mention at all of that twenty he had several times promised. I pocketed the bills and went on my way.

Just before going into the drugstore to buy the brew I heard, "got any snipes?" Mondo.

We sat on a planter ledge and talked for awhile. He said, "thanks for helping me out in the game." "What??" The rascal had been playing a new character. I'd had no idea it was him, the thought hadn't even occurred to me because it has been months since Mondo last played. He was surprised I hadn't guessed, since I'd been so kind to him. I said at my level the main pleasure in the game was helping out new characters, even if they turned out to be veteran players. He was pleased to have fooled me, though, and even more so to have fooled the Sleeptalker who he'd played several tricks on in the game.

He's taking a "computer class" somewhere. As usual, Mondo was totally vague about the details and it's always useless to ask him questions, but apparently that's why he had gotten into the game again.

We strolled through the mall together while I replenished my snipes supply. He evidently wasn't interested in seeing Rocky, was leading the way but turned before heading toward where Rocky had been, stopped to watch the racing video at the sports store. He asked what plans I had for later and I said not much, just getting a beer and going to the park to drink it. And him? Going home to watch teevee. I wished he would invite me and was relieved he didn't, at the same time. I waited awhile and then said I was off to get that beer and over to the park for sunset, so we shook hands again and I went on my way.

I was enjoying the beer and the brew in the park when Angelo walked over and sat at the table! "You don't look like a ghost," I said, and told him the story I'd heard from Rocky. Like I, Angelo attributed it to the glass pipe, denied having stolen money from The Doc. And what had he been up to during his eleven-day disappearance? Holed up alone in a Waikiki hotel (undoubtedly with his own glass pipe).

He apparently had no interest in seeing Rocky, either. These guys are so totally weird when they have money, so afraid someone is going to try and get something from them. They'd rather hideout on their own somewhere than take that risk. Probably to his surprise, I decided the only way to handle it was after awhile getting up, saying "I'm glad you're still alive, anyway" and walking off with a goodbye wave.

I got another beer, hid out myself at the other end of the park, and joined LongJohn, Sidney and the cats at Park Place for the night.

When I got to the computer lab on Monday morning, there was an email waiting from the Sleeptalker.

Sigh.

604

And then, on Monday, for something completely different.

I was determined to avoid the Bad Boys, even if I had to hide on campus all day or take a bus to the other side of the mountains. But as I said, there was, much to my surprise, an email from the Sleeptalker when I logged in and then he appeared in Seventh Circle. It was too early for him to be playing at the State Library, so I guess they must finally have sorted it out at Chinatown-B's for him to get telnet access.

But I also got a surprise email from Kory K who was home in bed with a thrown back. He kindly offered laundry facilities and a hot shower in exchange for keeping him company and going out to fetch food for him at lunchtime. Ahhhhh, the luxury of it. A comfy, soft sofa to lounge on while watching television, clean clothes, a scrumptious hot shower ... and beer. Like I wrote Kory later, a lovely change from benches and Bad Boys.

Bits of this and that on the picture box, then we watched the tape of the legendary Spinal Tap film. I'd seen lots of clips from it before but somehow had never seen the entire movie. I can see why it has become a cult favorite, most amusing and entertaining, evoking lots of memories of the crazy late Sixties.

I went out to get lunch for Kory, picked up a bottle of Colt for myself to supplement the Bud Lite, Coors Lite (yeukh) and Asahi I'd already had, so by the time I finally left him in peace and went on my way, I was fairly sloshed. Astrologically speaking, the next full moon is supposed to be the strong one for us Aries folks, but if it's any stronger than the one coming in two days, heaven help me, I'll be a full force raving lunar-tic instead of the quietly raving one I am this round.

I had been abruptly awakened Monday morning at Park Place when I felt someone touching my ankle. It's not that I'd mind someone touching my ankle, but I'd prefer to be awake first. It was the little brown tabby cat who has spent so much time staring at me and I guess had finally decided I was worthy of cuddling up to. I'm afraid he was even more startled than I was when I suddenly awoke and he quickly moved away about three feet and sat again to look at me. He was there again on Tuesday night when I arrived, as were LongJohn and Sidney. They, and the little cat, may not be quite the visual delights of the hacienda (at times), but they certainly are less distracting companions in the night, cuddled up on my ankle or not.

605

I made the Sleeptalker very happy on Wednesday, and making him happy still has the power to greatly please me, too. They've added a strange new sword to Seventh Circle. It only sometimes appears when you successfully defeat one of the tougher critters and if you sacrifice the sword to your deity, there's a thirty percent chance of getting the fabled Elvenbane sword. That, of course, was the treasured item the Sleeptalker first bartered himself for, and subsequently lost the sword.

Well, I'd tried four times with the sacrifice, failing to get the Elvenbane. The next time I got that Widow-Maker, as it's called, I gave it to the Sleeptalker. Someone stole it from him and sacrificed it, without getting an Elvenbane. The Sleeptalker hadn't known about the sacrifical gamble, was utterly puzzled why the thieving opponent had done it. I explained. Once again, I tried three times before getting another Widow-Maker but when I did, I gave it to the Sleeptalker. He sacrificed it and got the Elvenbane. Yes, he was a happy camper. Me, too. It seemed to bring the whole dance full circle.

Except for enjoying the Sleeptalker's company in the game, both Tuesday and Wednesday were days free of the Bad Boys. Quiet days, mostly spent on campus, quiet nights at Park Place with LongJohn, Sidney and the cats. Alas, a third, rather chubby man joined us. He snores. Time to adjust the earplugs. Once again I wondered how many men are homeless because they snore so loudly no one can bear to live with them. And it seems every sanctuary eventually acquires one of the poor creatures. At least this one stays within a frequency and volume range that can be blocked by the earplugs and, happily, I was given two new pair of them at the end of last month.

I finished Steel's The Ring, went on to Larry McMurtry's Streets of Laredo, a very big leap in style, era and historical circumstance. Anyone who hasn't come in contact with Danielle Steel and is curious about the phenomenon would do well to begin with The Ring. Definitely the best work of hers I've encountered, but then it surely helps to deal with something as intense and weird as the Germans vs Jews insanity.

Although I didn't share it, I could at least partly understand why my parents were prejudiced against blacks and Mexicans, but I never could figure out why Jews were on their list. There couldn't have been many of them in North Texas where my parents grew up and they certainly weren't religious enough to adopt the attitude for the "Christ-killers" crap. I don't know why, but I'm glad I didn't get infected with it.

Wednesday saw the end of paper money. Hello, Cash Lady, where are you?

606

I was sitting on a planter ledge near the supermarket, having an unusual Thursday dinner. Potato salad, a chilled capuccino and a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Brownie ice cream. The Horror Club, or most of it, walked by. Rocky, Angelo, Rossini and a cute lad I'd not seen before. Rossini waved, Angelo ignored me, Rocky looked at the potato salad and asked, "good?" I nodded. A few minutes later Rossini came back and asked if I had a nickel.

I had a nickel, but I said no. Sheez, between the three of them they'd gotten almost $1300 nine days earlier, and they're asking me for a nickel? It was probably for the phone, but considering how much Angelo uses the telephone, he should've had the sense to buy a phone card. And in any case, I'd firmly resolved that the Bad Boys were not going to get a penny of cash money from me this month, so refusing was a matter of principle, not to mention having just enough nickels and dimes to make up fifty cents, a quarter of the price of a 40oz bottle.

Didn't see them again, nor on Friday. The Sleeptalker, after having been quite amusing in Seventh Circle all week, showed up in the game late on Friday afternoon and was all weird and strange. Glass pipe time again, I'd guess. He said publicly he was going to kill off his character, etc. etc., but said nothing directly to me and I made no comment about his moans, nor did anyone else. He was still playing when I left for the mall.

No Cash Lady, but the Quarter Hunt was relatively successful on both Thursday and Friday, although I didn't get second bottle money on Thursday until it was late enough to pocket it for the next day and just head to Park Place. When I got there, no one at all was there except the cats. Most peculiar, the first night LongJohn has been missing. It felt a little odd to settle down to sleep all alone, but when I woke later, I saw the Chubby Snorer had arrived as well as a stranger. LongJohn was back on Friday, as was the Chubby Snorer, but although I've seen Sidney in the mall each day, he hasn't turned up at night.

The annual Aloha Week festival began with a downtown street party on Friday night but I wasn't in the mood for large crowds so stayed away this year. And the festivities meant a different-than-usual awakening on Saturday morning since people started arriving to prepare for the parade which begins in the park and winds through Waikiki. I wasn't in the mood for a parade, either.

Or for the weekend. When I was an office drone, the weekend's arrival was of course most welcome. Now it's just inconvenient. The supermarket doesn't open until seven, instead of the usual hour earlier, so if I don't want to waste quarters on McD's coffee, I have to go from Park Place to the mall and tuck away my grass mat, then walk back to 7-Eleven for plastic-eligible chilled coffee. Okay, not a big deal, but not a reason to welcome the weekend.

Meanwhile, back to Dean Koontz and Mr. Murder, with another one of his favorite themes, the good guy somehow becoming psychically linked with a bad guy. Koontz really has a talent for weird yarns with a slightly nauseating edge to them.

I just seem to have a talent for living them sometimes, not necessarily writing them.

607

Eat your hearts out, romance writers. I have a perfectly legitimate excuse to write about a "throbbing erection". Just the facts, m'am, just the facts.

I stayed on campus until early afternoon on Saturday, played in both games for awhile. No appearance by the Sleeptalker. The mall was even more crowded than usual when I returned and I figured many of the swarming mob were people who had come in for the parade. Not many heavy-duty food shoppers among them, either, but then it made sense that they'd watch the parade, spend the afternoon cruising the mall, and only do any food shopping later in the day when they left to go home.

Such proved to be the case. As sunset approached, I was still one quarter short of beer money. Then I spotted a baby stroller, wheeled it back and got not only my two quarters, but another which had been jammed in the refund slot. An apt omen for the rest of the evening, when there was one score after another. I was even late getting to the Makaha Sons gig because carts kept turning up on my way there.

Although I've always understood why the Makaha Sons are among the most popular musicians locally, I've never been especially touched by them myself. I think part of the reason is that for a long time they only played big concert venues like the Waikiki Shell, where they are so distant from the audience there is no real interaction. Although they've recently begun to play smaller venues, it has been at places I can't afford. So it was a delight to have them at the mall's CenterStage and the gig was a pleasure from start (or at least as soon after the start as I managed to get there) to end.

I tried not to be envious of one little girl who got up to dance and was such a sweetheart, so graceful, that people began to throw dollar bills on the floor at her feet. She must have scored at least thirty dollars, and well deserved every one of them.

Somewhat to my surprise, I spotted Rocky over on the edge of the crowd and he stayed for the whole gig. It was the only (indirect) contact with the Bad Boys all day, and I slipped away after the gig without meeting him.

During that unusually long search for one more quarter, I'd thought that the minute I found it I'd head to the beer cooler at the drugstore, but the Quarter Hunt was so active I knew it would be dumb to abandon it at that point, and it remained so after the Makaha Sons. So I waited until early nightcap time to buy the beer, by then already having money for a second one. And by the time I finally left the mall, there was enough for yet another one. Sunday was looking good.

I was sitting on a bench enjoying that beer and continuing the Koontz horror. When I recently catalogued some of the mall crazies, I left out one woman, I suppose mainly because I've so carefully avoided any direct contact with her. She's in her forties, reminds me a little of Agnes Moorehead. She has bushy, frizzy hair which she always has swept to one side and held by a large comb, and she often has an elastic bandage on an ankle or wrist. I've overheard her talking to the few mall regulars she can manage to grab and it's always a moan about some physical ailment and how the doctors can't find an answer, etc. etc. I've never spoken to her directly.

I saw her approach and sit on a nearby bench. After a few minutes she stomped over, stood in front of me and said she was sick and tired of all the drugs in the mall and she just wished I'd stop it. I told her I didn't know what she was on about, I had no money to buy drugs, so had nothing to do with it. "Oh I know they are giving you medications to distribute," she said, "and I just want you to stop it." I told her, with utter accuracy, "you're crazy", and she walked off grumbling to herself.

"Well, I never!", as my grandmother used to say.

Sidney was already asleep at Park Place when I got there. He raised his head, saw it was me, and curled back down again. When I woke up Sunday morning, I looked over and thought, hmmmm, strange profile against the dim light of the coming dawn. Strange, indeed. Sidney was laying on his back, stark naked, with a ... yes ... throbbing erection. In fact, it was throbbing so vigorously it was bobbing up and down. He must have been having a fine dream.

I lit a snipe and stood there enjoying the view. He woke up. Without the least sign of discomfort or embarrassment, he said "good morning" and asked if I had a smoke. Just snipes, I said, and sat down beside him, handed him the box. He sat up, that pole standing tall between his legs, and picked out a snipe. I lit it for him. He told me a nice man had been in the park the evening before, had taken him downtown in a van to a church where they fed him and gave him a copy of the New Testament, which he showed me. Funny conversation to be having with a naked young man with a hard-on. I patted him on the leg, wished him a good day. He patted my shoulder in return and wished me the same, said he'd see me later.

Maybe I wasn't joking after all when I told Angelo that Sidney was my new "main man".

608

I saw Sidney in the mall several times on Sunday, each time being greeted with his smile and funny little wave, an almost-peace-sign gesture. And of course, each time I was reminded of that extraordinary moment in the predawn. For me it was certainly a sexually stimulating experience but I suspect for him it had little or no sexual connotation. Like Mondo, Sidney exists in his own reality and I don't think it touches at too many points with what I perceive as reality.

But then there must be as many "realities" as there are living beings. The little black ant who crawls onto my leg and idiotically, senselessly suddenly bites me and gets itself squashed has a reality utterly remote from mine, as do the zebra doves whose idea of paradise must be a crazy old man who comes around at lunchtime and gives them crusts of bread. Such a kindly giant, he even shooes away greedy pigeons, reminding them of the Dalai Lama and his "let the little ones eat". Infinite realities, simultaneously existing.

And even for me, that moment with Sidney was more treasured because of his total lack of concern about his aroused nakedness, the certain feeling that he trusts me. Of the Bad Boys, only Mondo seems as secure with me as Sidney. Friend of the madmen.

Sidney and I exchanged groans once over the scarcity of snipes in the mall on Sunday. The Quarter Hunt was even worse and I was grateful all over again for the bountiful Saturday. With financing for two brews in pocket, I wasn't, of course, all that ambitious with the hunt, but I don't think it would have helped much if I had been. Only with the final clean-up did I manage to score enough for the next day's first brew.

Although Cainer had been grumbling warnings about planetary face-offs on Monday, it was a nicely balanced day for me. Morning on campus, playing Seventh Circle, a trip downtown to collect mail and stop in the State Library to replenish the supply of reading material. Then to the mall, a beer-sandwich-and-chips lunch in the park with the zebra doves and finishing Koontz's Mr. Murder.

It's the weakest of his books I've yet encountered, far too grandiose and especially weakened by some unnecessary implausibilities. Well constructed, as always, and with some unusual philosophizing about the meaning of reading fiction, but it could have been a much better novel. With his Phantoms already in the backpack, I took a break and read The Poet by Michael Connelly. It's an above-average tale of an above-average serial killer. Above-average fictional serial killer, that is. I have an unpleasant suspicion the real above-average serial killers never get caught.

After another run for snipes and scoring a few more quarters, I returned to campus and the game until early evening when it was back to the mall for a nightcap and more reading, then to Park Place. Sidney was already there, again looked up to see it was me, and settled back down, this time keeping his clothes on all night and, as often happens, disappearing at some point in the night, a cat on the prowl.

Yes, a nicely balanced day.

The Sleeptalker had been in Seventh Circle on Monday evening and I had, as usual, helped him out getting some better gear. He was there again early on Tuesday morning. After a little while, he said he was "very drunk". "At 8:40 in the morning?!" He'd been up all night, he said. "Perhaps you need to slow down a little," I advised. No comment, but then he knows that as well as I do. I'm very glad he's spending more time in the game even if it does throw me back into the wish-I-could-help-him frame of mind which has been so constant a part of our friendship.

He left the game mid-morning without saying anything and I figured he had probably finally collapsed from lack of sleep, but after I returned to campus after lunch and a shower at the beach, he again appeared in the game. He's managed to get one of his characters to level 90, by far the best he's done yet in there.

No problem, again, getting quarters for a nightcap although I did come up two short for the next day, still close enough to settle down to sleep with the comfortable feeling that a brew was in the future.

And the days of summer dwindle down ...

609

Friend of madmen, indeed.

I'm not qualified for this. But then the people who supposedly are qualified are sitting in comfy air-conditioned offices signing papers to fill the glass pipes of crack and ice addicts. They aren't at the beach park, except maybe when it's office picnic time.

Evidently Sidney has problems with exhibitionism. I have no difficulty understanding that, am in complete sympathy with it. But I am surprised to have known him all these months without having seen any evidence of it until this week. And while I understand the fun of it, I don't really think Sidney's motivation is sexual. If it's anything I can understand, it's maybe for him more of case of freedom. That, too, I sympathize with. There's a definite pleasure in just getting naked, especially when you live on the street and the only opportunity to do so is in the beach shower. But the most difficult thing of all is that I don't think Sidney is aware of what he's doing on any conscious level.

After the morning on campus, I returned to the mall and found the two quarters I needed for a lunchtime brew. I bought that, a sandwich and chips, and went to my usual table in the park where my zebra doves soon arrived. We had just finished the sandwich when I saw Sidney walking through the park with his usual endearing bounce. But he had his shorts down so far his entire butt was exposed and, I assumed, equal exposure was taking place in the front. The Old Vodka Drinker and his buddies gaped. Sidney went and sat down at a picnic table, his shorts down to his knees.

The location was ill-advised, too near the spot where a group of Samoan ladies often gather in the late afternoon. So I filled my cup and walked over to Sidney, offered him the longest snipe I had, and sat down beside him. I thought being honest was the best idea, so I told him that I might enjoy looking at it but there were some women who came to the park who might be offended, and he should be more careful. Perhaps I should have just said directly, "pull up your pants". Certainly it seemed clear he had no idea what I was even talking about. I couldn't find any way to get through to him, he was further out somewhere than even Mondo gets when thoroughly zonked on the weed.

I gave up, told him again to be careful and said I would miss him as a sleeping companion if he got locked up. He just smiled and thanked me for the snipe which he had declined to light when I gave it to him, was just holding it. I walked to a nearby table and got out my book, reading while now and then looking over at Sidney. The first of the Samoan ladies arrived. They evidently called the cops. Miraculously, just before the two policemen arrived, Sidney had pulled up his shorts. I saw them talking to him, but apparently they only warned him and asked him to leave the area. He put his tee shirt back on and bounced off toward the mall. Whew.

Maybe my remark about women possibly being offended had prompted Sidney to pull up his shorts when the Samoan ladies arrived, maybe not. Whatever, I was glad I'd at least tried to help. I'd had a difficult time deciding whether to make the effort or, like the rest of the park regulars, just sit and watch what happened. But Sidney's a sweet guy. I had to try.

Compared to such things, it's even more irrelevant that I finally made Level 99 in Seventh Circle after returning to campus. One more to go to the top. I was sorry the Sleeptalker wasn't in at the time.

Last week, a player had told me he was a middle-aged man who used to play with the Sleeptalker at UH. Not sure if there was an intended innuendo, I just replied that I'm an old man who used to play with the Sleeptalker at UH. Funny thing was, that player is the one I thought Mondo had been playing. Mondo hadn't told me which new player he was, so now I still don't know. Be nice to all new players, I guess. Never know when one of them is a handsome, sexy brown-skinned young man.

And I'm grateful Sidney qualifies on all those counts except handsome. It would be even more difficult if he were.

610

In an email received on Thursday, Mme de Crécy mentioned "your choice of companions".

I would have thought these Tales have made it clear that it is not I who chooses. They choose me. I don't look for them, they look for me. I've done quite well this month in avoiding the Bad Boys. I needed a break, I needed time to reconsider what seems in their best interest and my own. And aside from the on-line contact with the Sleeptalker almost daily, it has been a fairly successful withdrawal.

At least until Thursday evening. "Don't expect any sympathy from me," I told Angelo. "When you had all that money, what did you buy for me? Did you buy me even one beer?"

He grinned and said, "I didn't buy you jackshit."

Indeed, and what goes around comes around.

After a late afternoon-early evening visit to campus, I returned to the mall, briefly looked around for quarters and snipes, then bought my nightcap brew and a sandwich. I was walking past the men's room when I saw Angelo standing outside waiting for someone. I waved and asked, "how you doing?" He said something about buying a beer for him and I just laughed and said, "you must be joking" and kept on walking.

A little later I saw him coming toward the bench I was sitting on. He was with the Iceman who passed behind the bench, Angelo in front, headed for the bus stop. I thought they were going to get a Waikiki-bound bus, but only the Iceman got on it. Angelo returned and sat down with me. He had been shopping, was wearing a new pair of shorts and was quite concerned about them. Did they look okay, did they look too small? I thought them rather dull, plain and in an Army-fatigue kind of green, but they had been priced at fifty dollars and Angelo was trying to be pleased with his coup, so I said nothing to discourage it. He kept fretting about them, eventually got up and asked how they looked from the back. By then it had become clear his concern about them being too small was simply because the legs were more narrow-cut than the shorts he usually wears. I said they looked fine, although they didn't show off his cute butt as well as his black ones. He laughed. I wasn't sure if that was a plus or a minus in his view.

C-Two is out of jail. He told Angelo he had learned his lesson, and despite Angelo's attempt to persuade him otherwise, C-Two is staying in Waianae. I'm happy for him. At the least, Angelo is certainly not a good influence and although I'd like very much to see C-Two, it's better he's not coming into town.

Angelo showed me the two drugs the clinical psychologist gave him, and he's taking both of them daily. One is the anti-depressant I was given in the hospital and was then taken off due to the known side-effect of severe tremors in the hands. Fortunately he doesn't seem to have experienced any of that, but he hasn't been taking them long enough for it really to have kicked in yet. The other, primarily aimed at controlling "the voices", I've never heard of. I urged him to continue taking them, stressed how it was essential not to miss even one day.

He told me in more detail about what he's been up to. After getting his first check, he and the Iceman had holed up in a Waikiki hotel for five days, eating steak, watching teevee, drinking beer and, of course, sucking on the glass pipe. In exchange for the hospitality, the Iceman had supposedly filled the pipe at cost. From what I've heard about the Iceman, that seems unlikely, but I didn't say so. Angelo was broke by the tenth of the month, sold all his food stamps, and then returned to shopping in order to buy breakfast and cigarettes every day, said he'd been eating dinner at the Christian soup kitchen downtown and sleeping at the hacienda. And since his shopping that day had been just for clothes and not pawnable items, he was again flat broke. Since he figured he wasn't getting a beer from me (he'd asked if my paper cup was a beer, and I said, what, you think I'm sitting here drinking a Coke), he then asked for a soda, prompting the above remark about "sympathy".

It was certainly tempting to yield, to buy us both beer and continue to enjoy his company, but I was determined to stand firm, got up after I finished my beer and said I had to hunt snipes and left him. He really needs to know he can't do this crap of disappearing when he has money and then coming back when he's broke expecting goodies from me. I think he knows it now. It certainly isn't because I expected, or even wanted, him to buy me anything, but if he'd had the sense to even spend four bucks on a couple of beers for me, he would have had my goodwill during the dry time he knew was coming. Can't let him get away with it.

Koontz's Phantoms was right off-the-wall, but that's okay, it was a good read. The problem with Mr. Murder was that he tried to write it as a realistic story, and despite some of the stuff being very far-fetched, these days it's not impossible to believe in something like a human clone. It is, though, ludicrous that a powerful, secret international organization could goof their first successful attempt at making such a clone by making a mistake with blood and marrow samples. With Phantoms, there's just the Devil to deal with, or at least some prehistoric survivor who managed to inspire all the Satanic legends and was responsible for the many documented mass disappearances throughout history. Bugger must have gotten lazy, going from the Mayan civilization to a small Colorado town, but so it goes. Like I said, a good read.

Then for something very different, John Updike's Rabbit at Rest. Long sentences, many loaded with enough metaphors to support most writers through several chapters. Cantata on the Fear of Dying, in the key of Lit.Maj.

I choose my books, but, no, I don't choose my companions. I'm grateful for both, though.

611

Ugh. Hangover Tuesday. A thoroughly uneventful weekend, the only variation in routine being a night at the hacienda since Park Place was the staging point for a charity "night walk" on Saturday. Sitting on a planter ledge outside the supermarket on Monday morning and watching that sweet little construction worker arrive to buy his huge container of orange-passion fruit juice reminding me of another reason the weekends aren't welcome. Such a cute little Filipino lad he is, very short hair except for a six-inch wispy fringe in the back middle, a blue hardhat, camouflage fatigue pants, a bright deep orange teeshirt. I love seeing him each morning. Or at least each Monday-through-Friday morning.

Even on Tuesday, too, despite the hangover.

I'd seen the Cherub at the computer lab on Sunday and he arrived again late in the afternoon on Monday carrying a bag with a huge bottle of "Pepsi One", an almost-as-large bottle of Jack Daniels and a big onion. Strange combination. He asked if I wanted to join him at Manoa Garden for a beer but when we got there decided we should drink some of the whiskey first and then have the beer. So we got cups of ice and went to the secluded grove, drank whiskey and, as always with the Cherub, talked about a zillion things under the sun including the news that his parents, after thirty-one years of marriage, are getting a divorce. About half an hour before closing time we returned to the Garden where Bartender Bryant greeted me warmly (my first visit this school year), got two beers and sat outside drinking them. By then things were getting a bit fuzzy and I don't remember the details of the walk downhill to get smokes. The plan was to go to Magoo's for more beer and then I was going to sleep at the Cherub's place. But a very sexy young man came along, someone the Cherub knows, and I figured I was way too far gone to be in the company of such a hunk without embarrassing the Cherub so disappeared after lagging a bit behind them. Strange, funny evening. The Cherub's a sweetheart.

I don't really choose the books I read, I only choose after Dame Fortune has chosen. And I surely do jump around ... following the Updike masterwork with Jackie Collins' American Star, another Koontz waiting in the backpack.

The focus this week is really on Thursday. I have to see my "caseworker" for the routine re-application for next year's foodstamps. It's the perfect opportunity to go for that officially crazy badge. I don't really expect to get it, but what a change it will make if I do.

612

excerpt from an email sent:

As you'll no doubt have noticed, I've slept (sometimes more than one night) on your mails before answering.

I'm grateful especially for the last one because it showed me how stupid I've been with judging the Bad Boys and what they do with their money.

If you grovel and degrade yourself by claiming to be "crazy" to some people who are undoubtedly more "crazy" than you are, then you have the absolute right to spend that money anyway you damned well please.


All by way of prelude to the dreaded dance of the bureaucrats. I had been thinking about it since Angelo and Rocky got their mental disability allowance approved, then along came the appointment notice for renewal of foodstamps for next year. So I had to think about it all over again, asked the advice of a couple of people. I'd thought that if I did get it, one of the first things I'd probably do is invite the Sleeptalker to dinner at Gordon Biersch. That got me a nice lecture which prompted the above reply. I'll be very surprised if I do get it, but I won't be at all surprised if I end up inviting the Sleeptalker to dinner if the allowance is approved.

The appointment with the psychiatrist is early next Monday morning. I'm not sure I should have entered this maze, but we'll see what happens.

Sidney disappeared for several days and nights. I was hoping he was okay and hadn't gotten locked up for letting it all hang out in the wrong place at the wrong time. But then on Tuesday night he was back at Park Place, sitting there stark naked. Well, no problem, LongJohn and I don't really care and it's so dark once the tennis court lights go off, no one else would notice. And I was feeling so weary, not even a naked young man could keep me awake.

That place would be so much nicer if the snorer would go elsewhere. He doesn't arrive until long after I've gone to sleep, but if I do wake up once he's there, it's often difficult to get the earplugs adjusted to block him out. He had his head shaved so instantly earned the nickname Mr. Clean.

Wednesday and Thursday were dreary. Dull gray skies and, especially on Wednesday, frequent drizzle, although once I'd gotten to Park Place it was rather peaceful watching the rain fall during the night. I was surprised more of the people who stay in the park didn't take shelter with us, but certainly wasn't complaining.

On Wednesday afternoon I was sitting at my usual picnic table reading when a couple of loonies walked by. One of them was shouting insults at some of us in the park, and all of them were some variation on "bag". The Old Vodka Drinker was a "douchebag", a black man who usually naps under the same tree each afternoon was a "scumbag". I got off relatively lightly with "dirtbag". Then on Thursday the same man asked me in the mall if I had any spare change! I said, "dirtbags don't carry change." He probably didn't have the least clue what I was talking about.

And waiting in line at the supermarket, sandwich and Colt in hand, one of the mall regulars was standing behind me, saw me use plastic for the sandwich, quarters for the beer. "You must walk twenty miles a day!" he said. "I return carts now and then, but when I see you returning one, I say he really earns it."

That's me. Champion Cart Returner of the Mall, a legend in my own time.

613

What a strange old bird. It has been a long, long time since I've had any contact with a New York-style Jewish old man, but that's what the government-approved head-doctor instantly reminded me of. His office was on the 33rd floor of a downtown glass tower with a staggering view of the mountains, and I was glad it was a clear, sunny morning, making the view even more spectacular. No receptionist, a waiting room with about four chairs and a totally bare office except for his chair and paper-covered desk, a second chair beside the desk.

A few preliminary questions, then had I seen a psychiatrist within the last year? Well, it was a lucky day indeed when Mme de Crécy called that research clinic for me, lucky again when the same doctor was available during the hospital adventure. His name has a certain magic here.

Approved for six months.

Like I said, life is certainly going to change.

I was so patronizingly indulgent toward the Bad Boys when they were spending incredible energy on dreaming about what they'd do when they got approved for Crazy Money that I almost had to keep a lid on it myself. And then, I didn't really expect to get it. But okay, I slipped up a little, couldn't resist a few fantasies about what I'd do. Now I can go all out. I won't start getting money until the fifth of November, but it starts with the date of application, so the first chunk will be double. Combined with the Fabled Pension Check, that will mean almost a thousand dollars within a few days' time. Yes, that will inspire a goodly number of fantasies, all edged with the proviso, of course, that I survive that long.

Oddly enough, the first thing on the list is renewing my passport. I've had an American passport continuously since I was thirteen and it has felt very odd to have only an expired one. So, okay, first thing will be getting photos taken and putting in the application.

Only then, to Duke's ...

The Fabled Pension Check didn't arrive on Saturday which was very disappointing but, of course, now that I've gotten through the weekend, I'm just as happy it didn't. And the Quarter Hunt went very well on Saturday, enough for two bottles of Colt, financing for the first one on Sunday and, after spotting an abandoned stroller first thing in the morning, halfway to Sunday's second bottle. The Mongoose was around briefly on Sunday, his arm finally out of the sling. He was moving around very slowly on that bicycle. I guess he learned his lesson about whizzing. If he scored any quarters, I didn't see it. He'd certainly be a happy camper if he knew about my Crazy Money award.

Rocky had asked me for food on Thursday evening. I declined, saying my foodstamps card was running on empty. So October arrived and I'd made it, an entire month without spending a penny on the Bad Boys. It's not a record I'm especially pleased with. If anything, the contrary, since it wasn't what I really regard as a noble goal, was done more in their best interest than my own. And I do so hate people treating me that way. They, too, will be happy campers to hear the news .... if I tell them. I'm a little inclined to think it might be wiser not to.

Rocky found me again on Sunday evening. I said I only had enough for one beer, with an emphasis on ONE, and again said my foodstamps card was empty. I guess he'd forgotten I'm in the fifth-of-the-month crowd, or perhaps he thought my pension money had arrived. I have to admit that if it had, I would've bought him a beer. After all, it was October, the goal had been met.

And the vow isn't renewed.

614

I went a bit manic on Monday. In my younger days I was a classic manic depressive, but the manic swings gradually faded away. Now I just get depressed or ordinary, sometimes a little happy. But not manic. It was a nice feeling. "Hello, old friend," I thought.

After collecting the Fabled Pension Check and cashing it, I went to Chinatown for cheap cigarettes. Mondo was there. He was even more spaced-out than usual so it was difficult talking to him. He says he has decided to move to California, but who knows if he means it or it's just the most recent smoke dream. I said I was going back to the mall and he tagged along. On the crowded bus he sat in front and I went to the back, decided I really wasn't in the mood to hang out with him (or buy him beer), so I slipped off the bus early without him noticing. The 7-Eleven is selling BLT's now ... yummy. Or would be if they'd make the bacon a bit more crisp. So I got one of those and a bottle of Colt and sat in the park at the end where the Bad Boys rarely go, continued reading Richard North Patterson's Escape the Night. It's well written but I'm not at all enjoying it, have had enough of books about unpleasant things happening to nice people.

I wondered if I'll become like the Bad Boys, get money in my pocket and disappear? If I do, I certainly won't come sneaking back when it's all gone looking for a free beer.

Back to campus and the game. I'd asked Mondo if he'd seen the Sleeptalker and couldn't make the least bit of sense out of his reply, so have no idea why the Sleeptalker has again gone missing from the game. I decided I'd start playing Bartle's MUD2 again, one of the money-dreams since it costs about $20 a month to play. It will be fun to be Panther the Wizard again, probably worth the hassle of getting a money order and sending it off to Canada. And it's so much more elegant a game than Seventh Circle. So I asked an old MUD2 friend if he'd get me started with his plastic. Silly thing to do to a friend.

At sunset I went to Manoa Garden and bought a jug of the new Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew. Good stuff, nice to walk into a bar and buy it, sit in the garden outside legally drinking instead of heading to a store and buying a 40oz-er, sneaking it from a cup and straw. More money-dreams. The Fabled Pension Check is a rehearsal, and I guess in a way the Crazy Money will be a rehearsal for SocSec time, eighteen months down the road.

In the old days, a manic swing could last for weeks (especially in late March and early April). I don't think I have the energy for that now. And Tuesday started off with me feeling really exhausted and down. But then it revved up again.

Oh my, it's rabbit-hole time?

614a

Roller coaster. By late Tuesday morning the car had whizzed its way to the bottom. A bottle of Mickey's and two "Big 'n Tastey" burgers from McD's in the park, finishing that unpleasant book, and things were on the upward climb again. A second bottle of Mickey's, and back to campus.

Maybe when the Crazy Money comes I might have to take a break from on-line life for a bit, to stay out of trouble.

That Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew is really a decent beer, so I went to the Garden after sunset for another jug of the stuff, was shocked to see Bartender Bryant with a short haircut. I'd teased him the day before about how long his hair was. It has always been shoulder length, sometimes looking almost like a wig. He said he was getting it taken care of the next morning but didn't warn me he was planning a very big switch. It looks much, much better, as I told him.

Back to play the game for a little while before heading to the mall and a final snipes run which incidentally bagged two dollars in quarters from abandoned baby strollers. The Crazy Money may end the Quarter Hunt game, at least for most of the month, but no point in just leaving easy money sitting there.

I woke once in the night and thought some strange animal was watching me with its glowing eyes. Turned out to be a soda can, distant streetlights reflecting in two spots on the shiney bottom of it. Yes, doctor, hallucinations.

615

Although, most unusually, I spent actual cash money on food Wednesday, I still had too much to drink and not enough to eat, topped off with a post-sunset visit to the Garden and two jugs of that Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew. Consequently, I felt lousy for most of Thursday and reminded myself that I really have to set limits or that Crazy Money is going to make life more difficult and unpleasant instead of the other way around.

And I couldn't stop thinking what a long, hard month this is going to be. It's a shame they don't just go ahead and give me the first month's allowance. Of course it will be great fun to have that bonanza, but it certainly isn't going to be fun waiting for it. That's what I always hated about Christmas as a child.

As expected, no sign of the Bad Boys. This is the one time of the month I don't have to avoid them. They're all tucked away with their Crazy Money and their glass pipes. But Sidney, too, has disappeared again, although there have been one or two strangers at Park Place joining LongJohn, Mr. Clean, me and the cats.

Behind on the book reports ... two Dean Koontz epics in a row, Dark Rivers of the Heart and The Bad Place. A blurb said Rivers was a "departure" for Koontz, but not really. True, it did lack his usual supernatural villain but otherwise employed the same themes he uses all the time. And The Bad Place was beyond being "off the wall". Both amusing enough diversion. And then John MacDonald's One More Sunday, likewise amusing, a yarn about one of those money-rich, spirit-poor evangelical empires. The Cherub told me I should read Catullus. Hmmmm ...

And another thought that keeps recurring: the memory of the reader who, in the early days of the Tales, wrote money, no money - all the same.

Uh-huh.