THE FOURTH YEAR

more tales from the year of the dragon

I mean that my mind could only pull itself together,
formulate thought out of the muddle of longing and pain,
when it was touched by another mind ...

Anne Rice: Interview with the Vampire

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remember, remember, the fifth of November
616-623
624-630
631-633

a lonely hunter
634-640
641-648

mele kalikimaka
649-655
656-662

thus spake zarathustra
663-668
669-673

lucky seven in waikiki
674-675
676-678
679-681


-----

616

I suppose it was fitting that I spent the evening of the Third Anniversary drinking beer and smoking the weed with Angelo and Rossini.

Angelo had already spent all his Crazy Money, sold his foodstamps, and the gathering was his going-away party since he'd finally bought the ticket and was leaving for Kauai the next morning. He's uncertain how long he'll stay and not entirely happy about going at all, but it seems likely he'll be gone at least until November's Crazy Money arrives. He was in a sweet, mellow mood, reminding me again how very much I do like him.

The Sleeptalker's absence from the game is explained by the fact that the computer had been rented and Chinatown Bobby returned it. The old man has left them, so it's just C.B. and the Sleeptalker there now, and C.B. wants to move to Florida next month, taking the Sleeptalker with him. I said I'd file that one in the same drawer with the North Shore House plan of a couple months ago, wait to see if it's just a pipe dream. If it does happen, I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear eventually that the Sleeptalker killed C.B.

The weekend was, aside from the Sunday gathering, thoroughly unexceptional. I'd gone to the State Library on Saturday and was much pleased to find Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire along with yet another Koontz volume. Rice is such an elegant writer.

But everything is in doldrums, waiting for that confounded money, and amusing evenings getting drunk with Bad Boys or reading stylish novels really doesn't much change that.

617

I saw Rocky at the mall on Monday afternoon. He was looking wrecked, asked to borrow five dollars. "Good Lord," I said, "it's only the ninth of the month!" $400+ dollars up in smoke in four and a half days? I refused the request, as much because I only had seven dollars as from any disapproval of his somewhat ridiculous extravagance.

I know I am not going to be a paragon of money management when my Crazy Money starts, especially the first round after this hideous drought of waiting for it, but I'm pretty sure I won't go through it as fast as Rocky and Angelo do. Good reverse role models they are, for me.

On the other hand, I do sympathize with them and even, to some extent, understand the way they handle it. It's a more elaborate version of my having enough money for a beer and saying oh to hell with it, drink it now instead of sitting around wondering when to do it. And I find myself now constantly thinking "when the money comes ...".

Off the hook on my first resolution already. Betka pointed out that November 5th is a Sunday. Okay, so a new passport won't after all be the first thing on the list. I suppose right at the top of my list is the end of snipe hunting. As with easy quarters, I'm sure I'll pick up any sufficiently enticing Japanese-length butts, but I certainly won't be actively hunting them. November will be Virgin Cigarettes Month, definitely. Snipe hunting is the thing I hate most about this crazy lifestyle, albeit not enough to quit smoking.

On that last evening with him, Angelo had asked, "are you going to sleep with me tonight?" Sweet. So, okay, I did go to the hacienda, settled on the bench beside him, and I've gone back there each night since instead of to Park Place. The bench is more comfortable, and the current group of people staying there are mostly quiet and non-snoring. It was Mr. Clean's horrendous snoring which most swayed the decision to return "home", plus knowing the second weekend of October will involve a three-evening festival at Park Place making it unavailable until much later than usual.

Sun versus natal Sun on Thursday, Fool Moon on Friday the Thirteenth. Pray for us sinners ...

618

All the young men ...

The Young Hardhat has either got a new job or has taken the week off, because he hasn't been seen, and he has been missed. But as has always been the case, the hacienda continues to be the major resource when it comes to interesting young men. There are three of them, all new to me, who have been there each night. The Blonde Enigma and his two slim, brown buddies who sleep only in shorts and tee shirt. They are always asleep when I get there, are usually still sleeping when I leave although on Friday morning, the cutest of the brown lads was awake and treated me to the sight of his beautiful torso when he switched tee shirts. Very much in the Mondo mode, but with a better body. The Enigma has been on the bench beside me except for one night. At times he looks like a total hunk but from some angles and some sleeping expressions, doesn't look nearly as interesting. A puzzle. Most nights he has been in shorts and tee shirt, but one night was wearing camouflage fatique pants, one of my weaknesses. All of them are nice, non-snoring sleep companions, and thoroughly enticing.

Speaking of Mondo, I was amazed to see him at the mall very early on Thursday. I'd finished coffee at McD's and was walking over to shave when I saw him bouncing toward me, skateboard in hand. He was in a bubbly, happy mood, bigger smiles than I've ever seen from him, but as usual, so spaced as to be nearly unintelligible. Obscure object of desire, indeed.

A little melon fell from heaven. Well, actually from California, but I know to some folks that's synonymous. It was a more than welcome windfall since this continues to be a very, very difficult time, even more so than I had expected it to be. It's irksome enough waiting for the Crazy Money to arrive without them making it even more so by the long time it's taking them to send me official confirmation and instructions about who, when and where to start those required twice-monthly therapy sessions. I guess they figure that since I won't start getting paid until next month, there's no hurry. Somehow it all seems calculated to make life more difficult.

Fantasy window-shopping, even going into one store to more closely investigate some tempting high tech toys, being especially intrigued by the sweet little mini-disc recorders. It reminds me of childhood when my sister and I played a game we invented ... record shops and collectors, the "recordings" paper discs cut using a silver dollar as a template. And of the long, long time I spent fervently wishing for a tape recorder, which at that time I only knew existed because of articles in magazines like Popular Mechanics. It took awhile, but those wishes certainly were granted eventually and there haven't been many times in my life when I didn't have one kind or another of audio and/or video recording devices. Do I really need one now? Isn't the idea to keep the backpack as lightweight as possible? (Not that a mini-disc player and collection of discs would add that much weight). With live music gigs every night of the week in this town, do I need to carry around "canned" stuff? Questions of a thousand Crazy Money dreams.

619

Despite some earnest but ineffective lectures to myself on the theme of Be Here Now, I realize I just have to surrender, accept the fact that it isn't going to happen for the rest of October 2000. This, even though I realize how stupid it is. Just how different would this Fool Moon Weekend have been had the first batch of Crazy Money suddenly appeared on my plastic card? Probably not much.

There wouldn't have been any snipe hunting which would have been the greatest luxury. I would be wearing some new clothes. Although an expedition to Savers is high on the list, I'm also planning on a Duke's polo shirt, the third one I'll have owned. The first two were worn until they faded away to rags. And it's time to acquire a winter shirt, plus some kind of cover (flannel sheet, probably, because I really don't like those "space blankets"). Yes, the nights are getting cool.

I never much liked Duke's on a weekend, prefer not to even go into Waikiki at all on Saturday, but maybe I would have had a couple of beers at the mall's Mai Tai Bar. Ordinarily I might have gone to Manoa Garden on Friday evening for the live music, but the Fool Moon night's offering was "Punk Night" with several bands and I heard more than enough of the "music" just walking past, so that would have been out.

So, indeed, yes, it wouldn't have been much different with a few hundred dollars in pocket.

The new boys apparently share their wardrobe and it has been Luther's turn to wear the camouflage fatiques for two nights. I'm not entirely sure why I settled on that name for the most handsome of the two brown lads, but so it is. The Enigma has been on a corner bench for two nights, surrounded by the brown lads, reminding me of the old days when it sometimes seemed Rocky and Mondo conspired to keep the Sleeptalker isolated from me. In this case, I don't mind at all since I've had the bench next to Luther and he is quite stunning in those camouflage pants with a generously stuffed crotch and a sweatshirt which slides up in the night to reveal a strip of flat brown belly. It's a good thing I've felt quite tired, not a wise idea to stay awake all night enjoying the view.

Jonathan Cainer said something rather dramatic about Friday the Thirteenth being some kind of turning point I'd remember in years to come. No, I don't think so, unless it does turn out to be the last time I have a sexual encounter with a sweet young student. And somehow I don't think that will be the case.

619a

"You've been poor too long," I told myself over my sunset brew. Lost imagination, lost any shred of style. The weekend would have been no different? What about Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary sitting by the ocean at the Halekulani a little after sunrise?

Then along came Rocky and another way the weekend could have been very different. He was in a happy, flirtatious mood and looked better than he has in a long time. Scrumptious. Yeh, I could have had Rocky for fifty bucks, no problem, and he'd be worth it. Not only that, but making it purely a business transaction would keep it from being loaded in other ways.

He begged for a beer. I declined, sipping the last of mine. He begged and flirted some more. So I finally gave in, said take off your shirt and give me a look at that beautiful chest of yours to pay for your beer. Big grin, stood up and peeled off the shirt, posed nicely for me. If anything, his body is getting better with age (not that 24 is even close to being over the hill). Yes, it would have been worth it.

What a small town this is. Luther is Tongan, Rocky told me. He knew immediately who I was talking about when he asked who was staying at the hacienda. Rocky and Luther had a major punch-up not long ago. That must have been quite a fight.

Angelo had called the Iceman, said he hated it in Kauai and is returning this week. And Chinatown-B had shown Rocky the airline tickets, so if the Sleeptalker doesn't back out at the last minute, they'll be off to Orlando soon. Silly Sleeptalker, he could have done so much better.

All my children ...

620

Ugh.

I spent my next-to-last dollar on a Monday nightcap bottle of Mickey's, enjoyed it while continuing Eric Lustbader's exotic thriller, French Kiss. The weekend reading had been Grisham's The Rainmaker, engrossing but annoying in the way all his books are. I don't know much about the legal profession but I've worked enough with insurance companies and brokers to know his depiction of that industry in this book is nonsense. I suspect the legal picture is equally so. Lustbader's global yarn is probably even greater nonsense, but one isn't asked to really believe it.

I was feeling extremely down all day, burdened even further by the prospect of hunting for quarters for the almost two weeks before the Fabled Pension Check arrives to soothe the pain of waiting for the Crazy Money. The last time I went through something like this was in late 1988 when my nephew and I arrived in Seattle and had to wait for a replacement credit card to arrive before we could set out on our expedition through the USA west of the Mississippi. Those days of waiting were heavy, as are these. I'm just no good at the game of waiting.

So I only wanted to get to the hacienda and collapse on a bench, escape into sleep, even if dreams, too, have been shadowed by this money idiocy.

Luther and his buddies were already asleep with, alas, no vacant bench beside them. But on the back bench of the front row, there sat the Sleeptalker and Angelo, beer bottles in hand, Rossini asleep on a bench in front of them. I sat outside to finish my cigarette. The Sleeptalker asked me to drink some beer with them. I just waved and shook my head, signalling that I'd had enough already. Angelo peered around a column at me, and I waved to him.

It has been such a long time since I last caught a glimpse of the Sleeptalker I'd almost forgotten just what magic chemistry there is between us, how utterly desireable he is for me. But I couldn't talk to him. I knew there was no way I could not be bitchy about his hideously ill-advised journey with Chinatown-B.

I finished my cigarette and left without saying anything, walked over to the New Cloisters and slept there, despite the bright flourescent light and the chiming clock tower, a later-arriving bench companion rocking the boat every time he shifted position. At least I was with strangers, no sexy Bad Boys to bewitch, bother and bewilder me.

621

Perhaps not a saison in hell, but sometimes three days can seem like a season. I really shouldn't complain. This year has been relatively free of real downers. And certainly it wasn't entirely unexpected after that brief swing into manic mode.

But the severity of it does catch me offguard. I can't call it suicidal because it's deep enough that it doesn't even seem worth the bother to jump off the Aloha Tower.

I've tried to break the causes into individual segments, look at each and see what can be done about them.

Nothing, in the first case, and perhaps the most crucial. There is nothing I can do about the Sleeptalker and it would probably be a major mistake to even try. With that one, I just have to accept the fact that it is justifiably an extremely depressing situation which is beyond my control or ability to influence.

There is, likewise, little I can do about the bureaucratic dance, although if it continues to be stalled for much longer I shall visit the office and ask my caseworker just what is going on and what I am supposed to do. It's absurd that more than two weeks have passed without receiving further word from them, especially with that obligation to attend twice-monthly therapy sessions pending.

As for the money itself, well, I know completely it won't really make that much difference, especially after the novelty of it has dimmed. But I also know that suffering through two weeks of hunting quarters only to have that largesse dumped in my lap is asking for trouble. That I could do something about, or at least try to, so I asked for a loan against the Crazy Money. Request was granted.

It will be interesting to see just what effect that has.

622

Day One of the Crazy Money wasn't much different than any other Wednesday in recent months. As on the day of the Fabled Pension Check's arrival each month, the first reaction was "duh ... money in pocket, now what?" A little more intense this time, of course, since it's just the first of several melons from heaven coming up in the immediate future.

I did well enough to be pleased with myself. The lion's share of the day's expenses went for beer. $14 for beer, a tie between cigarettes and a book at $8 each. Add a bowl of chili, the price of which I didn't even notice, and that was the cash money outlay for the day.

The beer was extravagant but it's refreshing to pay extra for quality.

And the book was Maeve Binchy's Tara Road which I've been longing for since it appeared in the shops a few months ago. No doubt about it, she is my favorite living author.

When I got to the hacienda the night before, Angelo was sitting on the steps talking with an older man I'd not seen before. I was tired again, just waved and settled on a bench, was asleep before they'd finished chatting. I had to smile in the morning, looking at Angelo asleep, wearing white jeans. Considering how fussy he is about his clothes being clean, those pants must mean visiting the laundromat almost every day. Funny sweetie, he is.

I was a little surprised he hadn't come looking for me since his return from Kauai, but then I spent very little time at the mall and was only in the park in the late afternoon long enough to drink a bottle of Colt, eat a sandwich, and treat the birds to some buttermilk biscuits which they seem especially fond of. I know the Gypsy Boy uses his foodstamps to feed Cat, but I wonder how many of us spend plastic money on bird feeding?

Of course, Angelo doesn't know I have money, although he undoubtedly heard about me buying a beer for Rocky. And Angelo most likely came back from Kauai with birthday money from Mama, since he turns 24 next week Friday.

The day was made complete by ... at last ... arrival of the written confirmation that, yes, I indeed do have Crazy Money coming for six months. They are certainly treating me differently than they have any of the Bad Boys. It's entirely up to me to arrange the therapy sessions and apparently they will not even monitor it on a regular basis, simply warned me that if I hadn't complied at the end of the six months, I'd be dropped. But I was a little irked, although not surprised, to see I'll get less than Angelo or Rocky, thanks to the Fabled Pension Check. Humbug, the price of honesty. Never should have told them about that, since they would most likely never have found out about it.

Still, it was a relief to get that confirmation, as it was to get the cash advance, even if, like I said, the main reaction is "duh .... what now?"

623

Crazy Money letters:

Subject: I may be crazy, but ...

... I ain't nearly as crazy as The System.

After waiting two and a half weeks, I finally got written confirmation that I'm officially crazy, unable to work "more than 30 hours a week". There were three letters, posted separately, arriving at the same time. One of them warned me again that I must seek "psycho therapy" [yes, two words] twice a month or be dumped from the program.

The Jewish doctor had told me to go to Straub Clinic.

I went there, letter in hand. The young lady at the reception desk hadn't a clue what to do with me. She called my "caseworker", who then spoke to me. The caseworker said she couldn't tell me how to fulfill the obligation, just that I had to do it.

As the receptionist said, "this letter doesn't make any sense." I assured her it was the most sensible of the three I'd received. The one explaining my actual cash benefits is an utter classic. It starts off saying I would get $31 a month. I have absolutely no idea what that is, but it's nonsense, because I get $350 a month, eighty dollars less than most people I know because of my Fabled Pension Check.

Well, she thought maybe I should see the psychiatrists. Errrr .... yes, I think that is what "psycho therapy" implies, but they have moved from Straub Clinic next door to the First Insurance building. I went there. The security dude told me the psychiatric section of Straub was on the 10th floor. That was the Straub Foundation. Back down to the 8th floor ...

Now, my largesse began on October 1st and yes, bingo, suddenly $350 appeared on my plastic card. And my obligation is to have those two sessions monthly. The first time the Straub headshrinks can see me is November 28th.

I tell you, if they try to disqualify me for this, I am going to raise HELL.

And if I hadn't just spent an entirely delightful afternoon treating some Bad Boys to beer at the Mai Tai Bar, Ala Moana, I'd think the whole effing exercise is incredibly stupid.

p.s.

You know, what I think is most disgusting and even amoral about this ...
To convert the Crazy Money to cash from plastic, one is forced to use a bank's ATM machine.
And the bank charges one dollar for each withdrawal.

-----

And it was indeed an absolutely delightful afternoon at the Mai Tai Bar, the best time I've had with the Bad Boys since those delicious days with the Sleeptalker. I owed Rossini, he has been so kind buying me beer when I was broke. "I don't owe him anything," I said, looking at Angelo, who grinned and said he'd drink ice water. But we went through forty dollars of beer and two shots of Cuervo 1800, one for me and one shared with Angelo. He was being a scandalous flirt and I could actually have ended up in bed with him.

I just wasn't sure I really want to. Oh, I do want it, no use denying that, but the friendship is so sweet and amusing with him having that bait to dangle before me. I can't give it up unless I'm really sure I want his body that much.

Each day the main extravagant gesture has gotten larger, time to slow down already. On Thursday that GUESS bracelet finally fell off without me noticing it, probably thanks to the two jugs of Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew I'd consumed before sensing something strange about my wrist. Yes, it being naked. I went to the Silver Rhino at the mall and bought a Balinese sterling silver replacement. Like some New York Jewish lady, Angelo admired it, asked, "and it was how much?" Heh. Twenty-four, I said. He also admired my new tan corduroy trousers and asked how much they had cost, had I bought them at one of the posh department stores? Five dollars, I said, and no, at Savers, where I had also acquired two new shirts. One of them is a dusty medium-blue tee shirt with a fleur-de-lis and FIRENZE ITALIA elegantly embroidered in gold thread on the front. Odd journey it must have made, from Florence to a bargain clothing store in Honolulu.

But then its new owner has had a pretty odd journey to Honolulu, too.

624

Here we go again, the hacienda declared off-limits. The "assistant director" of the place came out at about ten o'clock on Saturday night and woke us up. He explained that they didn't like to do it, but there had just been too many people treating the place like a nightclub, drinking beer and leaving bottles scattered around. As I said to Angelo, walking over to the New Cloisters, "now who would do a thing like that?"

I had gotten there fairly early, hadn't even noticed the time after having a third bottle of Colt in the park at sunset, and it was only me, Angelo and Rossini who were at the hacienda to be evicted. Surprisingly enough, it was also only us, with one later addition, at the New Cloisters where Angelo and I shared one of the long benches. I suspect the bright light and the chiming clock has made the place less desireable as a sleeping sanctuary. That's fine with me, earplugs in place (not that they block out the midnight peal especially) and shorts folded over my eyes to block the light. And certainly it was fine to be sharing the bench with that sweetie.

As resolved, I did manage to slow down on Saturday. Morning on campus, then a trip to Chinatown for cheap cigarettes, stopping by the State Library to pick up a couple of books, since I was nearing the end of Binchy's fine Tara Road and thought it best to postpone buying another of her books until next month. There are now only three or four I haven't read, and I want to read them all.

Whether I would have held it down to 40oz bottles of cheap beer had any of the Bad Boys come along, I doubt, but on my own it was no problem. I'd considered going to the gig at Gordon Biersch in the evening but was sufficiently oiled to know I'd never last until Makana's nine o'clock start. As I told Kory K last week, I just can't drink as much as I used to be able to. And that's not a bad thing at all.

Sunday was dreary, despite Cainer's predictions of some brightening influence. It was cloudy, the air heavy and sultry, tempting to find some air-conditioned place and not budge. For some hours I did that, staying on campus in the computer lab, avoiding the mall where there was one of the awful "sidewalk sales" and larger than usual crowds. But I did go to the park for a late lunchtime sandwich and brew which just slightly improved my mood. No bad boys all day. Angelo and Rossini are into a heavy inseparable phase, which happens now and then, and I wonder what they are doing all day.

After a late afternoon return to campus the mood was sagging again, didn't improve much over a nightcap. When I got to the New Cloisters, Angelo and Rossini were sharing a long bench, Angelo looked up and we exchanged waves. It was almost a full house, but amazingly enough the one solo bench was free, so I grabbed it. It's less sheltered from the wind, which kept blowing the shorts off my eyes and letting the bright light wake me up. I thought I should do a "What's My Line" routine and get eye masks ... just in time for Halloween. Restless sleep and strange, strange dreams.

The Young Hardhat was at the mall on Monday morning, a bright start to the day. He looked right in my eyes the second time he passed me, with a totally neutral expression. He's so damned cute he must have plenty of experience with both sexes giving him lustful looks, but he certainly shows no sign of acknowledging it, either positively or negatively. I thought, if Rocky's worth fifty dollars, this guy is worth a hundred.

Money, no money -- no difference. That's a crock. Maybe it's true on an abstract philosophical level but in the so-called Real World, there's just no way it doesn't make a difference.

625

Finally made it!

Tuesday, I stayed on campus the entire day, indulging in the most intense session of MUDding since 1987. Now, as then, I was very close to the top of the ladder. For months I've played at level 99 in Seventh Circle, not much concerned with the rather tedious crawl to 100, the max. But Monday was a thoroughly dispiriting, even depressing day in the game. And with a certain irony, it may be that the two most important elements of my life in the past two years are about to disappear at almost the same time.

My preoccupation with Seventh Circle was in the beginning, of course, entirely the result of the Sleeptalker playing it. Then I began to enjoy the company of many of the players, having been fond of these games for so many years and well aware that the success of any particular game depends absolutely on a group of interesting, loyal players. Unfortunately, Boss Brook has run this game for so long, and has evidently spent so little time looking at other free MUDs on the net, that he's lost sight of that. And the most influential "Immortal" on Seventh Circle, who calls herself "Darkana", is such an egomaniac she has probably never known it.

So Brook has decided he wants to run an entirely new MUD and is still uncertain whether he will keep Seventh Circle up on a different port address. He's crazy if he thinks his player base will switch to a new game, starting from scratch, unless it's a very, very good MUD and he finds much better "Immortals" to manage it than he has done with Seventh Circle. And Darkana, especially, is being a total bitch about the whole thing, probably miffed at losing her "Immortal" status, and insisting that we have to prove we are "worthy" of having the game continue on a different port (without, as Brook plans, any Immortals at all). As if playing the thing for years hasn't already proven our commitment to it.

So I decided it was time to make that final effort, reach the top, if only because I knew it would irk Darkana who has never managed to do it with her earlier "mortal" players. And it was delightful to reach the peak while she was on-line. She was the only player on at the time who didn't offer hearty congratulations. Heh.

The situation within the game had me in a totally foul mood by late afternoon on Monday, but I had agreed to meet Mme de Crécy for after-work drinks at Gordon Biersch and her always fine company plus the pleasure of sitting out by the harbor on a warm autumn evening considerably improved my state of mind. After walking her home, I went on to the New Cloisters and was much surprised to see Rossini there without Angelo. Angelo's grandmother had given him some money when he returned from Kauai, but he'd said his mother was sending his birthday money this week, so I assume he got it and was, as usual, holed up in a Waikiki room with his glass pipe, reason enough for Rossini to be on his own.

After the more cheering day in the game on Tuesday, I went directly from campus to the New Cloisters, the first person there. Despite a large gathering in the meeting hall, I was so tired I fell asleep and didn't even awaken when the crowd departed. I did stir slightly when someone took the other end of the bench, a young man I've mistaken for Angelo several times, and did again. It was only when I more fully woke up later that I saw it wasn't Angelo. This fellow surely does toss and turn in his sleep, and I finally moved to another bench. Odd how the population count there changes so much each night, even more odd it didn't turn out to be a full house since it seemed to rain throughout the night.

And it's also odd how little it can take to make a crazy old man welcome each dawn. I'm so smitten with the Young Hardhat, though, that he's the main reason I look forward to still being alive at the next dawn. He has changed habits, now goes to McD's each morning, arriving a little later than I do. As he passes my bench, he's on his own, but twice he has met a co-worker in McD's so returns with company. On his own, he has each time looked me directly in the eye. With his buddy, he ignores me, and I am careful not to make my adoration obvious then. But either way, how I do treasure those moments each morning.

626

Oh gawd, he's back. Angelo told me the Sleeptalker and Chinatown-B had a fight, which explained why the Sleeptalker had been at the hacienda a couple of weeks ago. But he had gone back to Chinatown-B the next day. I guess they must have had another fight, because the Sleeptalker showed up at the New Cloisters on Wednesday night, sometime after I'd been asleep.

Once again, I was the first to arrive there and took the one solo bench. A little later I woke to the eleven-chime clock serenade and saw Rossini was on the bench next to me. Just before the midnight chime, I was awakened again by yakking. The Sleeptalker. I pretended to be asleep, could see him from a gap in my shorts-over-eyes cover. It took him ages to settle down and after first trying a bench on the other side of the area, he moved to share the one with Rossini. Then he started chatting to Angelo2. His parents have moved again, his father to Makaha and his mother to Nanakuli. He told Angelo2 about his mother having the restraining order against him. I think the Sleeptalker's quite proud of that, and he always gets the "amazing your own family could do such a thing" reaction. You have to know him better to understand just how they could be driven to it.

He has a truly dreadful haircut and is extraordinarily pale, must not have left the apartment for weeks. And he looks so much older than he did a year ago, although far younger than 25. Still, undeniably a sweet vision when he finally settled down and pulled his tee shirt up to reveal that slim torso, stuck one hand down the front of his pants. Sigh.

He was carrying a large, well-filled Nike bag, so maybe this time he really has left Chinatown-B. I have half expected him to back out of the Florida trip and am curious to see whether he does stay away from Chinatown-B this time, but I still want to keep my distance. It's all over now, Baby Blue, and I don't mind if it stays that way, even if I can't deny I love the guy as much as ever.

Dame Fortune gave me a sweet bonus gift on Wednesday by timing my arrival at the mall for lunch, the first-ever midday encounter with the Young Hardhat. I followed along behind him on my way to supermarket, smiling when he stopped to admire a puppy in the pet store window. One sweet puppy admiring another. But, alas, no sign of him on Thursday morning. Maybe he'd joined one of the mobs of young men in line outside stores in the pre-dawn hours, waiting for a chance to acquire a Playstation 2. I wonder how many people called in "sick" because of the first day of sale for that gadget?

Speaking of gadgets, I acquired a Braun battery travel razor. I'd had one when I started this trip three years ago but it eventually gave up the ghost and I've relied on blades since then. Nice to have that little touch of luxury back again.

But as expected, the greatest luxury provided by the Crazy Money is the end of snipe hunting. A close second, though, is being able to go to the Paradise Palms cafe on campus when I feel in the mood for a hot breakfast. Scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, toast .... yes, that's luxury.

627

There are plenty of fish in the sea.

I couldn't help thinking of that as I was walking along the beach in Waikiki at sunset on Thursday. So many handsome, even beautiful young men, slim brown bodies, surfboards under their arm. The dear Sleeptalker would have looked like a total wimp beside any of them, and a very white wimp. But when I woke during the night to see him sleeping again on the bench with Rossini, no use denying he's still Number One in my sea.

I'd stayed on campus for the morning, went to the park for a lunchtime brew and Swiss cheese on rolls, the birds getting the major share of the rolls. How brutal Nature can be. A tiny zebra dove had fallen out of or prematurely left the nest. A fat white European pigeon rushed over and appeared intent on stomping it to death. Yeukh. Needless to say, I jumped up and chased the pigeon away, but I suspect that baby zebra dove was doomed, one way or another.

The pigeons are such a menace in the park, make it so difficult to feed the little doves. I've taken to wedging bread in between the slats of the picnic table so the doves can peck away at it in peace, but it often means having to chase the bolder, greedier pigeons away when they try to join in rather than being content with the crumbs which fall beneath the table. By now those damned pigeons should know what "let the little ones eat" means.

I stayed in the park until late afternoon before heading to Waikiki. I'd told Angelo I'd take him with me to Aunty Genoa's birthday gig at the Hawaiian Regent but he didn't show up at the mall or the park. I saw Rocky, who wanted me to buy him lunch, said he was starving. "You poor baby," I said, and went on to the supermarket. I needed to change a twenty, would have given him five if he'd still been sitting outside but he had gone on his way. Just as well, I really shouldn't pamper these guys.

So I went to the gig on my own which was also probably just as well, easier to enjoy the magic of the evening without chatter. And it was, as always, indeed magic. A rather sweet new bartender was looking after me well all evening despite the enormous crowd and the heavy workload. He spotted me wiping away a tear or two after Jerry Santos joined Genoa for a duet, and gave me a beer. Now that's a routine I'd never thought of, sitting weeping at a bar and being pitied enough to get free beer. Hmmmm.

I went straight to the New Cloisters after the gig. Angelo, Rossini and the Sleeptalker were there. Although I can never be sure with Angelo, it's always absolutely clear when the Sleeptalker has been at the glass pipe. He talks in a funny high voice like a cartoon character. I told Angelo I'd looked for him, said Rocky had been looking for him, too. "So you spent all mama's money already, eh?" I asked, and he grinned, admitted he had. I wished him a happy birthday, a couple of hours early, and went to a bench on the other side of the area, was quickly asleep, earplugs blocking their continued chat.

Looking at the three of them still asleep when I left in the morning, I thought "seems like old times" .... and wondered how long it will be before they manage to get us all kicked out of this sanctuary, too.

628

Hmmm, replace the Bad Boys with some Good Boys? Maybe. Of course, just how "good" they are, I can't say yet. Accepting free beer from a Dirty Old Man is just being smart, not necessarily "bad". And certainly they seem like earnest young students, are very sweet and polite, and apparently allow themselves one night a week of drinking at Manoa Garden. Sweethearts, all of them, but one is especially so.

In utter contrast to Thursday night with Genoa and friends, Friday at the Garden featured a band that call themselves THC. Caribbean types, or wannabes, with enough hair to make a thousand wigs. One of the keyboard players was fairly old, a grizzled white beard, and dreadlocks hanging down below his knees! They were very impatient with the two lads on the soundboard and walked out after playing for a couple of minutes. I guess they debated losing whatever income they would have gotten from the gig, because they returned after about ten minutes. The music was rather indifferent, neither good nor bad.

But the main pleasure for me, and the reason I stayed longer than I otherwise would have, was watching the three young men at a nearby table. As I said, one of them was a real sweetheart. Two were drinking large bottles of Heineken, watching every young woman who came into the place. One of them finally got up the courage to approach a rather pretty girl who gave him an abrupt cold shoulder. The sweetie noticed me watching the routine and we exchanged grins. I told the server to give them two more bottles of the Heineken and they came over to shake my hand and thank me, returned to do it again as they were leaving and said they'd see me next Friday. Yes, I think they'd do very nicely as a replacement for the Bad Boys.

Another surprise of the evening was handsome young Gregory walking through, the first time I've seen him in ages. I told him he looked like a real surfer dude, as he did, and he laughed, said that's just what he has turned into. I offered to buy him a beer but he's stopped drinking. Clever fellow. Alcohol is such a lousy drug (says I, groaning through the morning-after evidence).

After debating whether or not to have the roast turkey I'd seen was a Friday lunch option at the campus cafe, Paradise Palms, I went instead to the park for the usual sandwich and beer combo. I'm sure the zebra doves were grateful I'd decided against the turkey. Walking through the mall afterwards, I spotted Mme de Crécy and her sister, visiting from North Carolina, sitting outside at Bubba Gump's so I joined them, had two of that place's excellent "Boilers" ... a glass of Bud and a shot of Cuervo. How do I love tequila, never mind what a lousy drug it is.

They went on to do some birthday gift shopping and I returned to campus, played Seventh Circle for awhile, then sat in the secluded grove continuing A Certain Justice, an elegant tale of murder from the always delightful P.D. James which Mme de Crécy had kindly given me on Monday.

Then to the Garden, those sweet encounters and far too much of the Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew. Fortunately I had the sense to throw half of the last one away, got on a mall-bound bus and fell asleep, woke up to find myself way up in the mountains. Ooops. The driver thought it funny, said we'd be taking a five minute break and then he'd be going through downtown. It was beautiful up there, so incredibly quiet, with the twinkling lights of the downtown skyline off in the distance.

Quiet it was NOT, however, at the New Cloisters. The Social Horror Club was in full swing. The Sleeptalker sounding like Minnie Mouse, Rossini literally staggering drunk, even the dreaded RedEye back. I wished Angelo a happy birthday again and left. No, it won't be long before they get everyone evicted from that sanctuary, too. Back to Park Place, Sidney and Mr. Clean, Long John missing. Darkness ... and quiet ... and sweet thoughts about Good Boys.

629

Make someone happy, make just one someone happy ...

Impossible. If you make someone happy, it also gives you at least a moment of happiness, so you can't do it for just one someone. Each day I've tried to do at least one little thing to make someone happy, whether it's a free beer, a pack of cigarettes or even, in the case of Sidney, just three cigarettes. Heaven knows, I have more knowledge of who needs what and just how much is appropriate than anyone else at the mall and in the beach park. So far, only one strike-out. The Queen Mum always carries two large plastic bags and one of them is getting really battered. So I thought I'd buy her one of the big cloth carrier bags from the Old Navy store. Silly buggers wouldn't sell me one ... they're just for use while shopping in the store. ABC charges almost $12 for a similar canvas tote bag, but that's way overboard for the Queen Mum. It's important not to give too much. I'll have to look around at Savers next time I'm there and see if they have anything suitable.

The weekend was again quite unexceptionable, mornings on campus, afternoons in the park, as little time as possible in the ever-crowded mall, although I did stay for the Hawaiian Thistle Pipes Band gig on Sunday afternoon. Hearing a group of bagpipers launch into "Amazing Grace" always sends a chill of pleasure through me and this was no exception. What they had to do with the French Festival entertainment, I'm not sure, but no complaints.

No Bad Boys all weekend, very strange since they must all be quite broke by now. I do wonder what they're doing with themselves all day, and where, even if I haven't really minded the break.

There are two areas at Park Place, one on the south, the other on the north, and I've always slept with Long John, Sidney and Mr. Clean in the south part. But there had been a Taiwanese Festival there all day Saturday and were still tables and stacked folding chairs in the sleeping area, so I went to the north one instead. There was just one other man there, and he didn't snore. Most excellent. So I returned on Sunday night and had the place to myself. I suspect this is mainly because there's little shelter from the wind there, so once it gets cooler, or if it's wet, the south area would be the better option.

But despite wondering at sunset whether it was finally going to feel cooler than comfortable during the night, since the wind was gusting and it did indeed feel cooler than it has since last winter, the wind died down and it was again a very warm night. It was enough of a warning, though, to move the question of acquiring a flannel sheet or somesuch to the top of the list, despite having no joy in the thought of lugging the thing around until spring.

All I want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air ... with one enormous chair, oh wouldn't it be luverly ...

Nawwww ... unnecessary luxury in these tropic climes. Still, I have to admit it's a winter fantasy.

630

"You saw your buddy?" Rocky asked, although I was sure he knew I had. "Yes, I saw him twice last week." "And you were real happy?" he grinned.

"No," I said, "I stopped sleeping there." He was surprised. I explained that they always wanted to party but I had already partied elsewhere and when I got to the bench I just wanted to sleep. One nice thing about the Bad Boys is the grapevine they form. I can always count on saying something to one of them and know it will circulate. And I was glad to let the Sleeptalker know it isn't something personal against him.

Of course, Rocky asked me to buy him something, this time breakfast. I refused, but offered him a McD's coupon for a free sandwich. He didn't want it. "Picky, picky," I said, and went on my way.

As difficult as it is sometimes to be with my "buddy" in person, it has almost always been a pleasure to have the Sleeptalker in Seventh Circle and I was happy to see him login on Monday morning. I figured he'd eventually return to the game, especially when broke, and as usual, I helped him out with some difficult-to-get gear, enjoyed our exchanges. But I didn't change my plans, left while he was still playing, saying I had to go to Chinatown to buy smokes and then do laundry. And I did, making a stop at the State Library to pick up a book. The silly laundromat's machine was out of soap, so I ended up going back toward campus and using the laundromat there.

Stupid that laundry technology has improved so little, that it takes so much time to wash and dry a few clothes, but I had a bottle of Colt with paper cup and straw, sat on a large boulder outside (with a view of my machine), smoked, drank and contemplated the chalky corpse of a little gecko which was laying belly-up on the sidewalk.

I had seriously considered the notion of just buying new clothes from that very cheap discount store instead of bothering with laundry anymore, but failed to reckon on acquiring some stuff I like well enough to want to keep for awhile, at least. So what is needed is a Star Trek type replicator, could just put the dirty ones in it and get clean duplicates. After all, this is almost the 21st century, can't we get a little decent progress?

631


November began with a gloomy, gray day, not once a trace of sunshine. It did, at least, stay dry until after sunset and then seemed to rain all night, continuing in the morning. I got to Park Place North just before the rain began, so no problem, although it did mean more people in residence than usual.

After having the place blissfully to myself for a couple of nights, I woke up on Tuesday night to see that the Wild Man had settled on the other side of the area. I've seen him in the park for many years, long before I joined the tribe. He is a determined loner, rarely speaks to anyone. He almost never wears a shirt, just shorts and low boots, carries two stuffed bags and a guitar. Every day he takes over a picnic table in the park, spends more time shadow-boxing than playing the guitar, and makes occasional trips to the mall, I think mainly for snipe hunting. I've showered with him several times but have never exchanged any words with him, so it was a surprise to see him sleeping so near me. He was back again on the wet Wednesday night, along with a man with a bicycle, and later a rather noisy couple abandoned their usual place in the park and took shelter with us. The man was either a loony or drunk, kept making a grim cackling noise. It was too wet to switch to Park Place South, so I adjusted the earplugs and went back to sleep.

I stayed on campus all day aside from a quick trip downtown to collect the Fabled Pension Check and to Waikiki to cash it, celebrated its arrival with three jugs of that Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew. "I'll almost be glad when this stuff is gone," I told Bartender Bryant, "almost." It is most excellent beer but so strong. Only by spreading those three jugs over seven hours and following up the last one with a Mexican dinner did I escape misery the next morning.

My appropriate-for-Halloween reading material had been Orson Scott Card's charming fantasy, Enchantment, and Danielle Steel's The Ghost. Both of them blended a contemporary story with one from the distant past, Card's via a portal in time, Steel's with diaries from a woman who had owned the house the contemporary hero lived in. Both good reading, and again one of Steel's better works. And now for something completely different, discovered on Hamilton Library's fifty-cent cart, Anatoli Rybakov's Children of the Arbat, set in pre-WW2 Stalinist Russia. It makes me very, very happy to have arrived on this planet in the USA and not the USSR.

I only discovered later in the day that the Big Island had been utterly drenched with record rains, roads washed out, houses even shifted from their foundations by the raging floods. There was a Flood Watch on this island and heavy thunderstorms predicted later. It actually turned out to be a fairly pleasant, although heavy atmosphere, mid-day and I went to the Garden for a Sam Adams and continued the fine Rybakov novel. I saw the Cherub and offered to buy him a beer but he was eager to get home before the weather worsened. When I got back to the computer lab, there was a message from Kory K offering shelter for the night. Ahhhh ... yes, a comfy futon was a very much nicer prospect than a damp concrete floor at Park Place.

Luckily the heavy late afternoon rains paused long enough for me to pick up a big steak and some brew, getting to Kory's place without being drenched. Comfy place, good company (including the ever delightful Keali'i) and lousy television. If I had that room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, I would NOT want a television set in it.

632


The university was closed for Election Day, necessarily making it a day very different from the usual routine. So I decided, for the first time this year, to spend the entire day in Waikiki. It was such perfect weather, as I said elsewhere the kind of November day which truly makes me feel lucky to live here. I sat in Kapiolani Park reading during the morning, walked over to get a bottle of Colt and returned again to the book, stopping to watch a group of hula dancers practising in that elegant new bandstand. Then I grabbed an abandoned beach mat and settled on the sand to soak up the sun for an hour or so and watch the handsome young men frolicking in the water nearby.

I had determined to limit myself to a twenty-dollar budget for the day, knowing that being offline would make it more of a temptation to buy my way out of boredom. But as it turned out, I didn't even spend half that. I resisted the ever-increasing internet cafes, walked into Duke's but saw it was quite crowded and without anyone particularly interesting, considered visiting the new Hula's for the first time but rejected that idea, too. So breakfast and an early dinner at Jack-in-the-Box and two bottles of Colt, a final one as a nightcap back at the mall ... that was it for outgoing money.

There had been neither Bad nor Good Boys on Friday. Aside from a quick trip to Chinatown to buy cigarettes and lunch at the beach park, I spent all day and most of the evening on campus. I was surprised not to see at least one of the Bad Boys at the park, equally surprised the lads from last week weren't at Manoa Garden for the evening gig.

The band was called Syx Pack, had more potential than most I've heard this season at the Garden although like so many of the local young musicians with ambitions to rock, they just don't understand that making a lot of noise isn't the most important thing. Too much effort to arouse enthusiasm, not nearly enough attention to making the words of the songs comprehensible. I left after the first set. Flash was there, the first time I've seen him in over a year. He either didn't notice me at all or just didn't want to leave his friends to say hello to the old guy sitting in the back. But otherwise the crowd was mostly the old tenured UH workers or professors who seem to spend much of their lifes sitting in Manoa Garden, mid-day and evening, sucking up the cheap beer.

On Saturday I didn't even go to the beach for lunch, stayed on campus until the computer lab closed at 4:30. I decided I'd see how quickly I could level a new character in Seventh Circle, got him to level 35 in two days, enjoying everyone trying to figure out who is playing him. Back at the mall, I bought Card's Ender's Game which had been highly recommended. I really dislike shopping at Waldenbooks because you always have to put up with their song-and-dance about joining the Preferred Reader Program. I feel like saying, "shut up and give me the change", but instead say, once again, "I don't shop here that often." And I wouldn't have then, either, had it not started pouring rain soon after I got to the mall.

Thanks to the wet evening, Park Place North was packed. I got there early enough to grab space in the most sheltered corner, woke later to see the Wild Man had settled less than three feet from me. Amazing ... eight people and not one of them snored. Even so, on Sunday I returned to Park Place South, LongJohn and Sidney.

I wasn't surprised to see no Bad Boys on Sunday since it was Crazy Money Day and they'd no doubt be holed up somewhere with their glass pipes until the money runs out. I'm amused a little by realizing it is actually Rossini I most miss. He's just such an easy fellow to be with, made even more so by having no big physical yearning for him. But I miss Angelo, too, and in the game, the Sleeptalker. Only in the game.

632a


I walked into the supermarket, picked up the Swiss cheese, rolls, and bottle of Colt for my lunch and headed to the checkout counter. I thought I was having a morphine flashback, had stepped into the Twilight Zone or had actually gone crazy. What the hell was the Sleeptalker doing on the cover of People magazine??? And with the banner, "sexiest man alive"???

Not that I disagree whatever with the banner.

I could only see the top half of the cover, the rest blocked by other stuff. Those eyes, that hair, that expression.

Ahhhh, now I understand why I suddenly became so interested in the career of Brad Pitt.

633


I woke on Friday morning, wondering why they'd turned the lights on. No electricity involved ... it was that big glowing ball in the sky shining in my eyes. Looking over, I saw the moonbeams were also softly illuminating the figure of Sidney, once again laying there stark naked, slowly stroking his lengthy pole. I lit a cigarette, lay there and watched. He must have known I was looking but evidently wasn't concerned, and he seemed to be just enjoying playing with it, not seriously trying to get off. When I finished my smoke, I rolled up my mats, went over and knelt beside him, handed him two cigarettes. "Thanks, man," he said, "you're the best." As before, he showed absolutely no concern about being there naked with a hard-on. I rubbed my hand across his chest and down over his flat belly, but when my hand touched the base of his hard pole, he gently pushed my hand back up, not away, and chuckled. I patted him again on his belly and walked away with a little wave. Strange fellow, and really quite a sweetheart.

Although every day I see plenty of interesting, sexy young men, especially at the beach in Waikiki and on the UH campus, it's surprisingly rare that I see one I really want. Lightning struck twice on Wednesday, though, with the first amusing shower companion I've had in weeks and again later at Manoa Garden. The young Korean sharing the shower kept his shorts on but I enjoyed his fine body and even more when he finally did remove the shorts. Very well equipped, he was, and it soon was on its way to full glory. Alas, someone else came in to wait for a shower. Rotten timing. I felt like giving the guy two dollars, saying "go have a beer on me, come back in twenty minutes." Oh well, Dame Fortune can't be expected to come through every time.

I'm not usually attracted to the beefcake type but sitting in the early evening at Manoa Garden, drinking my second Sam Adams and reading, I looked up to see a very muscular hunk, dressed in shorts and a tanktop, sit at the table right in front of mine, legs widely spread, facing me. Such large, strong arms. If I were fortunate enough to rub my hands over those muscles, it would be a record, easily the biggest biceps I've ever touched in my life. He was aware of my attention but ignored it, concentrating very hard on something he was writing, but the third time his cellular phone went off, he glanced at me and grinned. Be still, my beating heart. A fourth call must have prompted him to make a move, and he smiled again as he left.

Ah yes, lightning twice in one day. I'm getting too old for this.

I haven't mentioned yet the event which began this hideously political week. Some time ago I received an email from a student asking if I would be willing to participate as the subject of an "oral biography", a class project. I agreed, replied to a basic-statistics questionnaire she sent and then arranged to meet her on Monday morning in the secluded grove. As she had warned me, she turned on a tape recorder and spent an hour asking me questions. She's a very attractive young woman with warm, friendly eyes and an enigmatic smile which was the response most of my answers received. She's aware of the Tales and has some knowledge of local online history, so many of her questions concentrated on that, with surprisingly few about the more distant past. I'd had some moments of dread about the exercise after having agreed to it, but it was actually quite pleasant and amusing.

Then, sigh, the dreadful Election. For a country which has spent so much energy, so many lives, such an abundance of resources trying to push our ideal model of government down the collective throats of the planet, it's absurd we can't just let our people vote, efficiently count the results and determine our leader for the next four years. The entire concept of the Electoral College is antiquated and useless in this technological age, if it ever did make sense. And to take so long to come up with the definitive result is almost unbelievable, an embarrassing moment of history for the United States.

Little wonder I felt like drinking beer and losing myself in lustful thoughts of handsome young men.

634

Books.

Twice recently, I've seen the one-time Curmudgeon of Usenet. The second time, he asked "you still reading that?" But it was three books down the line since I'd last seen him. I told him that reading keeps me "sane", but I deny I ever said that. I have to be crazy if I'm getting the Crazy Money, don't I?

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is a fine, provocative sci-fi novel. I much enjoyed it, but oddly not enough that when, later, I was in a bookstore holding the sequel in my hand, to buy that one. Maybe at some future time, in a used bookstore. And let us thank the Fates that Jelly's has moved their book enterprise to Puck's Alley, just downhill from the University. Another fifty-cent "cart" to peruse. But no, they don't have the Card sequel, nor do they have Jordan's eighth Wheel of Time volume. I only noticed in the mall on Saturday morning that he has the ninth one now available ... hardcover only, thus far. I can wait.

What I did have was Danielle Steel's Family Album. Extraordinary. Dell Books reprinted a special edition of it, as she says in the intro, one of her favorites, and gave it away FREE to celebrate the publication of her FIFTIETH novel last month. Okay, strange, but certainly Family Album is one of her best.

Pete Hamlin's Loving Women was good, too. A definite Kerouac influence. Growing up in the Fifties, young virgin man from Brooklyn joining the Navy and being sent Down South. The novel really should become required reading for any teenager wanting a REAL manual on the troublesome subject of sex. Never mind the thing depressed me big time.

And the boys ....

Sidney is crazy. Ignore his penchant for getting naked and showing his dick to the world. I saw him at the bus stop on Friday evening and offered him two cigarettes. "Thank you, sir," he said, "but I only smoke Marboros." [!!!] Oh well, I give up on that lad. Angelo's a little like that, very much prefers Kools, but what the hell. If I have the nicotine craving, I don't care what brand it is. I like Pall Malls but I'm not paying more than twice the price of "native" brands to smoke them. Silly boys.

And in the game, a new player appeared named "Mondo". There are only about half a dozen people, aside from Readers of the Tales, who know about that nickname. Now which of them would start a new character in Seventh Circle using that name. Not the real "Mondo", I'd wager.

635

The nights are too long. Yes, of course, we're heading into the darkest time of the year and even though there isn't nearly as much difference at this latitude as there is further north, the nights are still discernably longer. But that's not what I mean. My inner clock has gone whacko, drifted out of sync by an hour or more. I'm almost always ready for sleep by nine, sometimes even eight, but then wake up sometime between three and four as if it's time to start a new day. Nothing to do at that hour but buy coffee from 7-Eleven and sit drinking it and smoking until the world wakes up. So instead I look at my watch, sigh, and force myself to lay back down again, perhaps drift into light sleep for another hour.

I'd had enough of naked Sidney for this Fool Moon cycle, moved back to Park Place North. The crazy couple were there on Friday night but had mercifully fallen asleep early. On Saturday I had the place to myself most of the night, although a bicycle fellow arrived in the wee, wee hours and quietly settled on the other side of the area. Despite the quiet space, I don't think I slept continuously for more than two hours either night.

Another off-line day was expected because of the Veteran's Day holiday, but although the State Library closed for the entire three-day weekend, at UH they staggered it. The libraries closed on Friday, but the computer lab stayed open. It closed on Saturday, but the libraries were open. Everything closed at five but at least it made access available during the day. I went down to the park for lunch on Friday, but stayed on campus all day Saturday, hardly spoke to anyone either day.

I wonder if someone is still trying to write that mythic "Great American Novel"? If so, wasting their time. It was published two months after I was born, written by a twenty-three-year-old woman. The art of writing novels simply doesn't get any better than The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, don't care what country we are talking about.

Not an easy book to read, though.

636

It must have been a rough weekend for the young'uns. Both the Young Hardhat and Rocky looked totally wrecked on Monday morning. Rocky came into the men's room as I was shaving, said nothing but headed directly to a stall. I looked for him afterwards, would have bought him breakfast just to hear the latest gossip, but he was nowhere around. At least one of the Bad Boys is alive. And not the only one, as I discovered in the course of the day.

Sunday was a dreary gray day with frequent drizzle. I stayed on campus all day but had to abandon the secluded grove for a sheltered spot at lunchtime because of the wetness. Reading, drinking beer, playing Seventh Circle, returning to the mall for a baked potato at Arby's and a nightcap Colt before heading to Park Place North. The bicycle man from the night before was there, sound asleep with a squawky little radio yakking away. Sigh. I moved to PP South. Just LongJohn and his bicycle man buddy, no Sidney, a quiet night, once again waking a little after three and feeling like it was time to start the new day.

The morning was again gray, with frequent drizzle, even one torrential downpour on campus, but then it cleared and was quite pleasant. I played the game until late morning, then went downtown to buy cigarettes. Back to the mall, cheese, rolls and a bottle of Colt for lunch in the park. Rocky, again. He has a new boy. Very tall and slim ["spare me, please", I moaned to myself]. So tall, Rocky looks like a real little shrimp beside him, barely comes up to his shoulders. I ignored them, Rocky ignored me. They were at a nearby table with a lad who is part of a small colony which has been camping in the park for some weeks. That fellow has a magnificent body but when you get close to him, you see what a hard, almost cruel face he has. I told myself to just forget about it. The three of them left at one point, went back to the mall, but returned and sat on the grass near the little dome tent that colony has erected.

Lunch and beer finished, zebra doves stuffed with my excess rolls, I went back to the mall for a refill. Angelo! He didn't see me, was all alone. I followed along behind him. Looked like he was headed for the favorite store and I had no ambition to "spin" for him, but he by-passed that and continued, probably headed to Border's. I stopped following, went to get another bottle of beer. Treat 'em like cats. If he'd wanted to see me (or Rocky) he would've checked the park. Of course, he's probably avoiding me since he owes me twenty dollars. Silly boy, if so, since I'd planned from the start to write it off as a birthday gift. Would've been nicer if he'd handed me twenty and I'd given it back to him, but then it's probably not fair to expect such young fellows to understand style.

Back then to campus, after finishing the second beer. Sitting at my favorite terminal, seeing someone hadn't closed the telnet program ... and had been logged into mud.oro.net:4000. The lingering message bid farewell to the Sleeptalker.

637

Having enjoyed sitting in the chair still warm from the Sleeptalker's cute butt, I took a smoke break. In the game my 14-year-old friend had immediately told me I'd just missed the Sleeptalker. Outside the lab, I saw the Cherub who repeated the news. They had talked briefly. The Cherub said the Sleeptalker was "looking good". "That's the problem," I sighed, "he always does." The Cherub laughed. It's odd and quite touching that such a straight young man is so sympathetic about this bizarre romance between the Old Man and the Waianae Kid.

Although he didn't mention it until the next morning, it was the eve of the Cherub's twenty-fifth birthday, so I was doubly glad when hearing it that I'd treated him to beer for the evening. He was broke again and he's been kind to me when the situation was reversed, so I owed him anyway. We downed two large jugs of that wickedly strong Sam Adams Oktoberfest brew and when the Garden closed, went on to the house where he rents a room and killed a large bottle of red wine. I ended up happily cocooned in a comfy quilt on his floor, slept so soundly that when he woke me and asked if I wanted to get coffee, I thought he'd just laid down for awhile and then decided to have coffee. But it was 6:30 in the morning. That's the first solid sleep I've had in a long time.

The Cherub seems to think I'm being too hard on the Sleeptalker. I think he's being too hard on his mother and her role in the pending divorce. So we spent some time discussing both situations. We're probably both right.

I felt pretty wrecked the next morning but scrambled eggs, bacon and toast helped remove most of the fog. I had to make a quick trip downtown to collect mail but otherwise stayed on campus until heading to the beach park for lunch. I would've had lunch on campus as well had I not wanted to shower. No Bad Boys in sight but that Dome Tent Crew at the park has a new member, very much in the Sleeptalker style, who was a pleasure to watch as they tossed around a frisbee and then he did some fancy moves with a skateboard before settling by himself a little distance away to read.

And on that subject, Andrew Greeley's Irish Gold is a delightful book, and sure don't I have to be careful not to start writing like himself. Bad enough for my thoughts to be coming out in Western Irish idiom.

638

Winter arrived on Thursday night. The usual annual conversations in the mall next morning: "didn't it get suddenly cold", "I hate it when it does that", etc. Not exactly thermal underwear time, but certainly reviving the layered look, a tee shirt and a polo shirt over it, windbreaker over that during the night. I did shop for a suitable cover last week but didn't find anything compact enough, thought I'd just go to a fabric store and buy a couple of yards of heavy flannel. I guess it's time to stop putting it off.

And it does look like this will be a wet and windy winter, judging by its start. It poured rain for much of the night on Wednesday and I had to get up at one point and move my mats further from the edge at Park Place South, then make the long walk around the tennis courts in the morning since the usual walk across the grass would have been a very soggy one. Although it was pleasant during the day on Thursday, it began to rain again as I was on the bus headed to the park. Fortunately it stopped long enough for me to cross from the mall to Park Place. I started out at North but that dreadful couple were there. She was obviously ready to sleep but he wouldn't shut up, and her screeches at him to "fock it off" were more annoying than his incoherent mumbling. I switched to South, as usual, far more crowded in such weather but at least only with loners quietly sleeping or preparing to ... and about a dozen cats all sitting and watching me as I settled down.

When I bought Greeley's Irish Gold from the fifty-cent cart I noticed the sequel, Irish Lace, was there, too, and was very pleased to see it still there when I realized how much I was enjoying the first book, quickly went to the store for the second. It's totally remarkable that one of the most charming and endearing female characters in contemporary fiction has been created by a Catholic priest. Equally remarkable that favorite line of mine from the first book. When told the Mass is now called the Eucharist, our heroine replied "the focking Mass is the focking Mass". Yes, a priest who can be that amusing is certainly on my list of most-treasured writers.

And wasn't it grand indeed that after a few drops of the malt taken during the day while reading the second book, I was given a free jar of the stuff to enjoy while finishing it after sunset. Brilliant.

639

A gray, damp Saturday morning (after yet another rain-drenched night) was suddenly brightened. Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is ... the Young Hardhat. Looks like his schedule has changed to include working on Saturday. Fine with me.

And so is that new young fellow in the park, the Discus Thrower. I'd like to see him posing as the classic statue of that figure. After the usual trip to Chinatown for cheap cigarettes and the State Library for books, I went to the park for Friday lunch. Enjoyed the cheese and rolls, and the beer, the birds enjoyed sharing the rolls. But I most enjoyed watching the Discus Thrower and his buddies playing frisbee catch again. Then the Discus Thrower made a wild pitch and the frisbee ended up stuck in the top of a tall palm tree. For half an hour they tried to get the thing down. One of the guys was very good at palm climbing, made it nearly to the top and knocked off a lot of dead leaves but didn't manage to dislodge the frisbee. The Discus Thrower tried climbing, much fun to watch, but barely managed to get about five feet up the trunk before sliding back down. Then he stood there throwing big rocks into the tree. More dead leaves fell, but no frisbee. They finally gave up. I was tempted to go to the mall and buy them a new frisbee but tell myself it's wiser to keep my distance, especially with such apparently permanent residents of the park, and with that one being so very much in the Sleeptalker style.

A young lady at 7-Eleven unwittingly did me a great favor when she asked if I wanted the beer charged to my plastic as well. Wow, didn't know I could spend the cash part of it directly in the store. I surely did. There was $20 cash still on the card but no way to get it from an ATM since the dollar withdrawal fee was missing, so it was like suddenly finding an extra twenty in my pocket. And considering the state of those pockets, a more than welcome discovery.

Back to the secluded grove with that, the third Colt of the day, and continuing reading at sunset. From one of the most clever heroines of contemporary fiction to one of the dumbest, the central figure in Doris Lessing's The Good Terrorist. What kind of nutty female would live with and support a layabout gay wannabe-terrorist for fifteen years? Amusing novel, but sheez, is that woman stupid or what.

Three 40oz bottles are enough for one day so I refrained from the Friday night gig at Manoa Garden, went off to Park Place at about 8:30. There was some big gathering underway but as often happens, the north gate hadn't been opened. The Wild Man and someone else were already there asleep, so I settled in a corner and joined them. Then the Dreadful Couple moved in when it started raining, squabbling away as usual. With only two exceptions I know of, every male-female couple on the streets constantly bicker and bitch at each other. Fortunately they shut up fairly quickly, but they had woken the Wild Man who then decided to sit up and plunk on his guitar! People are so damned self-centered and inconsiderate. I moved to Park Place South. Ye gawds, yet another squabbling couple. Mercifully, they, too, soon shut up and it was a peaceful night except for once again having to get up and move further from the edge when the rain got too heavy.

Earlier, I saw the Cherub briefly. He was happy about landing a part in the production of "Faust" here next April and him being in it gives me yet another reason to look forward to it. Not to mention looking forward to spring, full stop. Here it is just Thanksgiving week and I'm already wishing winter was over.

640

Unlike one of my favorite on-line journal
writers, I don't have anything nearly as interesting as "flying fat globules" to talk about, just another slightly dull, routine weekend. Oh well, get Thanksgiving out of the way and one more slightly dull, routine weekend and we can go full force into that annual Spirit thing. A cute young fellow passed me Sunday evening who seemed to already be infected, was merrily whistling "Joy to the World". I looked up from my book and smiled at him. He returned the smile, went back to whistling, and then looked back once more with another smile before going on his way. Dear Santa, maybe there's room in the stocking for the Young Hardhat and the Young Whistler?

A reader has been teasing me about having turned into a Capitalist since I got the Crazy Money grant. Hmmmm, maybe so. The thought of returning, even for a few days, to totally empty pockets, snipe and quarter hunting, gives me the shudders. Hanging onto every penny. Another reader kindly suggested what sounds like an ideal solution to the sleep-cover problem but examining those pockets and what's left on the plastic, I decided I'd risk a few shivery nights and wait until the Fabled Pension Check arrives before checking out her idea. Just enough cash for cigarettes and beer until then ... and McD's senior coffee in the mornings, helped a bit early Monday morning when a stroller was just sitting there waiting to be returned for those two quarters. No more scrambled eggs until December, though.

I ran into the Cherub late Sunday afternoon and we chatted for awhile sitting outside Sinclair Library. He amused me with stories of the rehearsals for "Faust", especially the simulated orgy scene in Part One, and with an account of a "rave" he'd gone to on Saturday night. There's a young lady in the "Faust" cast he's developing a major crush on and he was worrying about getting a "miniature rose" and giving it to her. Would she think it was stupid? I told him he knows her, I don't, so he's in a better position to judge whether she'd think it was stupid .... or sweet and stupid. Young love.

I'd lined up a Danielle Steel double feature for the weekend and much enjoyed Wings, another of her best. Funnily enough, the Cherub has to write a book report on her The Gift, half-jokingly suggested I write it for him. Then he said the professor would never believe he had written it. I'm not sure if that's a clever compliment or a clever insult, but I can't imagine writing a collegiate-type report on a Steel novel. The second one of the weekend was Five Days in Paris, more her fluffier type of yarn about the rich and famous but entertaining nonetheless.

I stayed on campus all weekend, only returning to the mall for a nightcap before heading to Park Place South which was mercifully peaceful both Saturday and Sunday nights. Such odd dreams on Sunday night, buying a tiny Miro painting. It wasn't at all his style, a dreamily realistic study of a small restaurant with quite magically done glowing balls as lights. Why I thought it by Miro, I don't know, but I did manage to buy it for an absurdly small amount of money. There was a second painting I was after, too, but I can't remember anything about it or who the artist was. Maybe that's what a bedtime snack of cottage cheese and potato chips washed down by a Mickey's does to the guy who lives in the dreams (which much of the time just doesn't seem to be me at all).

641

You keep coming back like a song ...

"Cute as ever," I said to Angelo, rubbing my hand through his gel-stiffened hair. Big grin from him, splutter from Rocky, "hey! what about me!" I had been in the park for rolls and cheese and beer and when returning, on my way to the bus stop, there the two of them were sitting on a planter ledge. After that little exchange I walked on, just waving as they tried to call me back.

Arriving on campus, logging into the game, there was the Sleeptalker, bubbly and chatty. I had been keeping a couple of gifts for him, so handed them over, told him he should have stuck around that day he was last on campus since the Cherub and I had spent the evening drinking. Wicked of me. I didn't tell him the Cherub had asked me to have drinks again later, didn't want to strain my already too-thin budget buying beer for the Sleeptalker. Next month, maybe.

He had to leave to meet Angelo for a soup kitchen dinner anyway and shortly after he did, the Cherub came along and we went to the Garden. Drizzle, drizzle, but we managed to stay fairly dry under the shabby umbrella over the table. More talk of "Faust", his new crush, and more effort to persuade him to be kinder to his mother over the divorce, listening without much enthusiasm to his all-too-enthusiastic reaction to the news from his father that he'll be getting a Ford "Explorer". I've just never been able to work up much interest in automobiles of any kind, with the exception of KM's wonderful white pick-up or Harold Kama's delightful jeep, and that had more to do with the driver than the vehicle.

The Cherub had an evening rehearsal so I finished my last beer and went to the mall. Wow, luggage lockers being installed! But gasp, a dollar an hour, maximum time of five per day. I suppose there may be special enough evenings when I'd be willing to pay that to be rid of the backpack for a few hours, but I certainly would have made a lot more use of them had they been a little more reasonably priced. That rate is even worse than the airport version.

On my last visit to the State Library, one of the books I'd found is Terry Goodkind's massive Wizard's First Rule and it is incredible for a first novel, as good as (possibly even better than) Robert Jordan. It wouldn't be too difficult to do nothing but sit and read it until the final page, number 836.

But I finally pulled myself away from it as the mall was closing and headed over to Park Place South. Uh-oh, just before I got there I saw a police scooter pull in. I had noticed earlier that all the dome tents were gone, assume they must have decided it's time to discourage the ever-increasing population taking up full-time residence in the park. One of the fellows at Park Place South got up, rolled his mats and left, but LongJohn was still there when the police left, was pacing up and down in his usual limp. I probably should've gone over and asked him what the cop had said, but decided I'd just hop on a bus and head to the New Cloisters, hoping there would still be bench space. Only four people there, no problem, so I settled at the other end of a long bench occupied by a young man in flowery surfer shorts, with the Roadrunner on the floor nearby. By morning it was a full house, though, and I saw Angelo had arrived after I'd fallen asleep. That goofy clock is still chiming one hour fast, even though the clock hands are in the accurate position, but it was a relatively peaceful night.

I do wish the Powers-That-Be would stop playing these changing rules game, though. For years the police have always told people found sleeping elsewhere to go to the beach park. Now they're going to harrass people there, too? They expect all those folks to just vanish into thin air at night?

642

The Cherub certainly was right. The Sleeptalker is indeed "looking good", better than at any time since the night, almost three years ago, when I first saw him. Then his hair was like a blonde bearskin cap. Now it's longer than I've ever seen it, with straight bangs over his forehead down to his eyebrows. Adorable.

I suppose I should be grateful he doesn't sound as good as he looks.

He was at the New Cloisters on both Wednesday and Thursday nights, both times, of course, paying no attention at all to the fact people were already there sleeping, holding down the stage with his antics as always. Both nights I just pretended to be asleep. One of the regulars is a Filipino man, probably in his late 40's. He's very strange, seems never to sleep more than an hour or two at a time before sitting up and fiddling around with the stuff he carries in one shopping bag. If anyone is unfortunate enough to wake up and he notices, he's ready to yak, no matter what the hour. He's probably gay, always tries to grab the attention of the youngest, cutest guy there, and I saw him very early Thursday morning sitting there gazing at the sleeping Sleeptalker and thought, "uh-huh, know just how you feel".

Perfect audience for the Sleeptalker, of course, and provides a most amusing demonstration of how the Sleeptalker, consciously or unconsciously, mimics. He talks to someone in the same accent they use, but just slightly, subtly exaggerated, and hearing his copy of that rapid, clipped Filipino English is as funny as anything Frank de Lima has ever done. But what nonsense he does spout, crap about "his girlfriend" (which he hasn't had since high school), all his big plans about the next trip to Vegas (even though the Iceman vowed never to use the Sleeptalker again), etc. etc. Still, even though it went on for an hour Thursday night and I just wanted to sleep, I couldn't help enjoying the act.

And I certainly enjoyed gazing myself for a few minutes each morning, watching him asleep on the bench across from me.

I saw Mondo at the mall early on Thanksgiving morning, but just waved to him, kept on walking. He looked thoroughly stoned and equally thoroughly happy. And while I was waiting for Helen R outside Sizzler's in Waikiki, Rocky came along with a fellow I've never seen before. He wanted to borrow five dollars. I told him I just couldn't do it, still had another week to get through. He took it well and bounced on his way, after pulling up his shirt and giving me a glimpse of his brown belly and fancy boxer shorts which I complimented him on.

Helen had kindly invited me to the traditional all-you-can-eat holiday buffet there, which we also did two years ago. As I told her, it's a waste taking me to these all-you-can-eat things, would have been more sensible to have ordered their usual turkey platter at half the price. But I did eat so much I was utterly stuffed, returned to the park and napped on a picnic table bench for a couple of hours. I was still so full that I couldn't finish my nightcap bottle of Colt later. Blasphemy, throwing away a quarter bottle of beer.

But aside from that, Thanksgiving was a bore.

643

I had heard the Filipino Insomniac warn the Sleeptalker that we probably wouldn't be able to sleep at the New Cloisters on Friday night since they were having one of their big craft fair/bazaar events on Saturday, would have security men around during the night who would chase everyone off while things were being set up for the next day. It's always something.

So I decided I'd take a chance on returning to Park Place. At the worst, I'd get a little sleep before the cops arrived. There were two people sleeping already at Park Place North when I got there, nice and peaceful until the Wild Man arrived shortly after I'd fallen asleep. He was chatting to a friend, softly most of the time but louder at moments when he appeared to get angry. For all I know, his "friend" could have been a six foot rabbit. He was certainly invisible.

It's a little difficult falling asleep when you're wondering if any minute a cop will shine a light in your face, but maybe that visit before was just one of the sporadic harrassment routines, a bored cop with nothing better to do, because we were left alone all night. After two nights of frequently Sleeptalker-interrupted sleep, I enjoyed the quiet so much I slept until seven. Being snug in my heavy Gordon Biersch sweatshirt no doubt helped, too.

I had retrieved that earlier at Mme de Crécy's, also enjoying a second Thanksgiving dinner, much yummier than the first, throwing my dirty clothes into the washer/drier and watching "The Green Mile" via DVD. Interesting film, certainly one of the better adaptations from Stephen King, but its credibility was seriously damaged by having one moronic, sadistic prison guard with the rest all being intelligent, rather sensitive men. A very unlikely scenario in a Southern prison in the late 1930's, never mind the for-King subtle supernatural aspects of the tale. It's odd how Tom Hanks, having been such a cute young man, has turned into a rather bland, nondescript adult, however talented an actor. Not one of those where "cute" turns to "handsome".

Mixed blessing though it is to sleep near the Sleeptalker (unless it's very near), it is a pleasure to have him in the game and I was delighted to see him login on Saturday morning. The game is so much more amusing when he's there and he played all morning. I played until the weather switched again, after having alternated between pleasant sunshine and dreary drizzle. Once the sunshine returned, I went downhill and got a sandwich, chips and a bottle of Colt. Then it was cough, splutter as I was sipping on the brew and read:

"Thought you was some bad-ass Top Rank gangbang motherfucker, but you just some bitch-ass sissy like all them elderly niggers down at the corner by Best Way Liquor with they forty zones of Colt."

My "Bad Boys" are complete angels compared to the ones in Scott Turow's The Laws of Our Fathers. Forty zones of Colt. I like it.

Back to the game, then, until the Cherub came along. I took a smoke break and sat outside with him for awhile talking. He wanted us to get eighty "zones" of Colt each, on him, and sit somewhere getting drunk. Well, it was back to a dreary drizzle cycle so nowhere too pleasant to go and, besides, I know he has two books he should be reading if he's not going to flunk his Modern Lit. credit, so I declined, told him to go off somewhere quiet and read instead.

When it was closing time at the computer lab, I went back to the mall, saw Angelo with a young couple I'd never seen before (or so I thought). He had been in Waikiki with the Sleeptalker and Rossini, went to the military hotel to have a shower (never mind he had no business being there). While he was in the shower, someone stole his backpack. Poor fellow. He wanted to borrow money. I declined, reminding him his credit isn't exactly good with me. And there was something fishy about it, too. Rossini surely would have given him some money, and what was Angelo doing back at the mall, hanging out with that couple if he was in such desperate straits? And I guess at the base of it all is me just feeling a little weary of these guys who never have any time for you unless they want something. So I resisted the further pleas and went on my way, getting forty zones of Colt and acting like some elderly nigger enjoying sunset in the park with it.

644

Well, I was wrong. The final weekend of November 2000 wasn't at all dull and ordinary.

Okay, okay, I know anyone silly enough to read these things is thoroughly weary of hearing about the Sleeptalker. But I got a hug from him on the last Sunday of November and said softly into his ear, "you know I love you".

And yes, I do. Six decades on this planet and there has never been anyone I have more loved and been "in love with". Big difference, if you haven't yet discovered it. In this case, it's both, and sets another record. I've never been "in love with" anyone that long before. Three years, almost.

I played the game for most of Sunday morning, then walked downhill to get a sandwich and "forty zones" of Colt. When I got off the bus headed back to campus, I heard "hi, Albert". The Sleeptalker.

He was all excited about a fight he'd gotten into on Saturday night at the New Cloisters. The young couple who had been there a few nights ago. The Sleeptalker said the fellow had been noisy and woke him up [!!!!], so he'd told the guy to chill out, he was trying to sleep. Well, the fellow apparently had to prove himself to his ladyfriend and challenged the Sleeptalker, so they had a punch-up. I'm so glad I wasn't there. And the really weird thing is, that was the same couple I'd seen the previous evening with Angelo. Seems like a big time split amongst the Bad Boys.

We were walking down the path and I asked, "you going to the computer lab?" He said he didn't really know. "Well," I said, "I'm going down there to have lunch and will be at the lab later", gesturing toward the secluded grove, not inviting him to join me. In the grove, I'd just opened my book and started to read when the Cherub came along. I told him the Sleeptalker was on campus. We chatted for awhile. He's very interested in Andy Warhol, although I can't really imagine why, so I again tried to tell him everything I experienced with Andy, starting with the day I walked into the Stable Gallery and saw it littered with stacked boxes of Campbell Soup (or so it appeared), and tried to explain what a threat all that was to the old-timers on the scene, the second (or third) generation of "Abstract Expressionists", etc. etc.

I'm a museum piece.

I told the Cherub if he bought me a bottle of Colt, I'd buy one for the Sleeptalker. The rascal said he'd buy it for the Sleeptalker, but not for me. Okay, so we went to get the Sleeptalker, walked downhill and got the bottles, then sat in the secluded grove and talked. The Sleeptalker now has decided he wants to be an architect! Great, I said, do design something better than that awful Bachman Hall, the administrative center of the University of Hawaii, which we were looking at.

We heard the entire story of the fight (again), then eventually the Sleeptalker pulled out his precious cellphone and called Rossini, so we heard a slightly different version of the story, which included the news that the Sleeptalker had supposedly loaned that fellow a hundred dollars. Hmmm, the Sleeptalker said he has given up smoking the ice, but I wonder. The Cherub and I exchanged a few discreet raised-eyebrow glances, but said nothing.

Then the Cherub, as he's done several times recently, started musing about getting something stronger than forty zones. Ahhhh ... the Sleeptalker roused himself to the challenge and they went off together to do some shopping. That's when I got my hug.

"You gonna be here?" asked the Sleeptalker. "I want to hang out with you."

[sigh very deeply]

645

After the Cherub and the Sleeptalker left for Chinatown, I went downhill for another brew, enjoyed it and continuing the Turow book at sunset time. I was semi-hiding out at Sinclair Library but they found me when they returned, carrying ice, weed and a bottle of wine. I declined the ice, as did the Sleeptalker, and went very easy on the wine, but enjoyed the smoke. That finished, we went down to Magoo's for more beer. The Sleeptalker by then was well stoned and drunk, casually threw up in the corner by the table and continued with the next glass of beer. Very Roman of him.

He suddenly looked terribly gaunt to my stoned eyes and I said to the Cherub, "Dostoevsky", nodding at the Sleeptalker.

I thought it was too close to a possible meltdown point, so despite protests I went on my way, too late to linger for a bus, easier to walk slowly to Park Place and snuggle up in my sweatshirt.

I'd been on campus for about an hour Monday morning when the Cherub and the Sleeptalker arrived, both looking rather shattered. The Cherub eventually wandered off, but the Sleeptalker stayed on campus all day, playing Seventh Circle for hours. In the late afternoon we went down to get two bottles of Colt but he only drank about half of his before getting itchy to return to the game. Okay by me, I finished his bottle and mine, thought about what deja vu the whole day had been. By mid-afternoon I had half been wanting to just flee, the other half of course very much enjoying his company.

He complained, as he has in the past, about how eventually none of the Boys want to hang out with him, seems genuinely puzzled by it. I didn't suggest that it could be because he inevitably pulls some kind of asshole act that makes people decide it's best to shun him for awhile. Instead, I just talked about how cyclic it all is with the Boys, how two of them hang out together constantly for awhile and then change partners. I mentioned the one exception, the Fatman and the Cowboy, who were together for such a long time. The Sleeptalker had seen the Cowboy at IHS being taken off to hospital in an ambulance, but didn't know what was wrong with him. He also told me the Iceman is in jail, but doesn't know whether it's for drugs or something else.

He said he felt like his life was falling apart but admitted there isn't really anything that much different than it has been for the three years I've known him. And he's a little envious of Angelo being able to at least maintain contact with his mother and sisters, says he misses his family very much but they don't even want to talk to him on the phone. Poor confused young man. There is so much about him which is genuinely sweet and gentle but he always has to counter any evidence of that with his tough guy routine. As it has always been, there's not much to say that could help and I guess just having a sympathetic listener is what he most wants, along with knowing there is indeed at least one person who does love him.

646

"Tell, me, did you have to have a drink before you came to see me?"
"Yes, of course."
"No, I mean did you have to?
"I heard the question and answered it honestly."
"Why?"
"I knew it would relax me."
"Would you smoke marijuana instead of the beer?"
"Yes. Absolutely."
"So why not?"
"It's too expensive."
"How much does it cost to drink the beer you want each week?"
"Four dollars a day, say thirty dollars a week."
"And the marijuana?"
"Two hundred dollars."

He grinned, and retired.

Yes, I quite like my psychologist. He isn't a psychiatrist after all, but since he's a Ph.D and I'd been told "doctor" I had just assumed he was the whole nine yards. Japanese heritage, but probably local. I'll ask him next time. He asked at the end of our amusing interview, "do you have a question to ask me, I've asked you so many?"

I said, "no, I'll think about it, and ask it next time I see you." [on the 14th of December].

He was, right off the bat, amused by the fact that I'd answered on the questionnaire I had to fill out before seeing him, when being asked why I was there, "because it's required by the GA [General Assistance] program". He'd never seen that before, had no doubt seen many elaborate answers, but not just a straightforward, honest one. I told him I wasn't all too happy with the whole thing, had gotten lots of coaching and advice about what I should say, but I had decided just to be straightforward and as honest as I could be. All I really want is this luverly welfare payment until my real Social Security arrives seventeen months from now. I didn't say it quite that blatantly, but almost.

Unless I totally misjudge the dude, I think I'm home free.

Alas, the Sleeptalker didn't return to campus on Tuesday. I'd told him I would be around in the morning, but would disappear by lunchtime. But I imagine I'd been a letdown when I didn't stick with him on either Sunday or Monday nights. Always been the problem, I just can't be a 24-hour buddy, not this way. I know how I could be, and I'd even be willing to work for it, but that's not what he really wants and in this case, he's probably smarter than I am.

647

I guess I just got lucky that undisturbed night at Park Place. On Wednesday night, the police returned. "There's no camping in the park. I'll be back in five minutes and if you aren't gone you'll get a citation." A citation? Like a parking ticket? And then what, pay the fine or go to jail? A free bed, anyway ...

So it was back to the New Cloisters. The Sleeptalker apparently reconciled with the Young Couple because he was there with them and Angelo. Unusually, the lights were off (as were the chimes on the clock), so I didn't say anything, just settled on the most distant bench with a stranger and waited out the time for them to quiet down so I could fall asleep. I couldn't help but grin at the memory of the Sleeptalker's complaints about people making too much noise since, as usual, he was the loudest of them all. The Young Couple evidently went away shortly after eleven o'clock and it was just the Sleeptalker and Angelo there in the morning, still asleep when I left. So I guess they are the new Buddy Team of the Moment again. The Sleeptalker will be getting his money on Sunday, Angelo on Tuesday, so the New Cloisters will no doubt be peaceful for a week or so.

But it is indeed unfortunate to lose the park as a sanctuary. As has been the case with all the others, the loss is largely the fault of the nomads and the homeless, especially those who just won't be discreet enough about their presence there. I'm sure it was the increasing number of people setting up tents and making almost a permanent home of their particular area, complete with a kitchen set-up and clothes hanging on lines, which inspired this new crackdown. Just as it was the Bad Boys and their Party Times which closed all the others. And I won't be at all surprised if they manage it with the New Cloisters, too.

The psychologist's favorite "gimmick" is "cognitive therapy". His example was "if you say something is grim, it will be." I don't want to rain on anyone's parade if they think they've found an answer, but as I see it, if a spade is a spade, it's a spade and calling it a heart isn't going to change it. And this neverending crap with the Powers-That-Be over a place to just lay down and sleep a few hours is a bummer-type spade.

I went drinking with the Cherub again on Tuesday night, starting at Manoa Garden and moving eventually to Magoo's, staying until we were both drunk enough to go back to his place, where I collapsed on the floor again and slept soundly. He's leaving there on the fifteenth, so is less concerned with what his landlord thinks about what the Cherub is doing. And the Cherub seems determined to end his collegiate career (for now) in one long binge. Lordy, can that boy drink, too. Of all the people I know, he is in the most danger of becoming a true alcoholic. He's a pleasant drunk, though, aside from eventually getting too sassy with young ladies and thinking he's being subtle when he's as blatant and offensive as it can get. Aside from one episode like that, it was a delightful evening, despite paying the price of a very fuzzy head the next morning. He has decided not to return next semester, will go to Kauai for the holidays and then be back here looking for a job, planning to finish up his degree work either in the summer or next fall. I'll miss him being on campus, but have to admit it's probably for the best, for both of us at this point.

He bought me scrambled eggs at Paradise Palms on Wednesday morning, so there was one more round of eggs for November after all. Then he went on his way and I played the game until lunchtime. No sign of the Sleeptalker.

He will hear the wagon, but he won't know. So there will be one within his hearing before his seeing. And then he will see me and he will be excited. And so there will be two within his seeing before his remembering.

If someone had shown me that passage and asked me to guess who'd written it, I would instantly have said Gertrude Stein. Not. William Faulkner. Light in August, an extraordinarily strange novel.

648

Confounded Edna, making me wait for the Fabled Pension Check this month, when I would have been very happy to see it on either of the last two days of November. On the final one, I was even reduced to snipe and quarter hunting, neither very successfully. I did have two-Colt money already, so wasn't really putting that much effort into it, true, but they've changed things at the mall, added corrals and such, which makes it more difficult, too. After about an hour, I said to hell with it, and went off to have my sunset brew and continue Faulkner's incredible book. I have to adjust, remember it's necessary to time that sunset brew a little earlier now if I want enough light to read by before the bottle is empty.

I know, of course, the first answer to the New Cloisters problem is to arrive later than I'd prefer. That runs the risk of full benches, but spares me at least some of the Social Horror Club. The Sleeptalker, Angelo, Mondo and the Young Couple were all there when I arrived. I returned their greeting with a wave and went over to my usual corner spot, settled down. Mondo walked over and asked for a smoke. I only had about ten virgin smokes left but gave him one of them with a sigh. The lights were still on so it was my first chance to really look at the Young Couple. They are indeed young, very much so. Sad to see a teenage couple like that living on the streets, sadder still to suspect she'll eventually get pregnant and neither of them are ready for that, obvious just by looking and listening.

They had sheets and a blanket with them this time, settled on the floor near me. I'd already fallen asleep when Mondo apparently left and a young man who mercifully only occasionally snored took the other end of my bench. It's probably the least satisfactory night sanctuary yet, but I guess it must be better than the shelter if so many veterans of that place prefer the New Cloisters to returning there.

That wretched check didn't arrive on the first, either. Okay, okay, I know the lesson already. Foolish to expect its arrival a couple of days early, even to expect it on the day it is due. But, of course, I had. What to do but shrug, grin and say, "oh well, one day without beer won't prove fatal."

I went to the mall for awhile at lunchtime, found not a single quarter and not all that many snipes, but at least an abandoned plate lunch box provided a hearty meal of stir-fried vegetables and rice. Back on campus, in the game, there was an amusing time when they declared one day a year as an official Seventh Circle holiday: "Reting Day". All because I finally was pleased enough with a new feature in the game to post a public note of compliments.

The Cherub came along, said he still had about six dollars on his credit card so would get two forties and come back, we could sit outside the Garden and listen to the bands later. It was "Alternative Music" night, aka punk rock, not very promising, but forty zones of Colt was sufficient reason to suffer some terrible music for awhile. Oddly, though, the Cherub never returned and he wasn't at the Garden when I strolled by there on my way to a mall-bound bus. I hope he didn't do anything crazy like try to stuff extra bottles of beer in his backpack and spend the night in the lock-up, but it wouldn't greatly surprise me.

The mall was packed and I thought I was very likely to go into a major "Bah Humbug" mode before this whacko season is behind us. I'd spent some time researching "cognitive therapy" on the web earlier. The key ingredients appear to be thought pattern modification and behavior modification. My instant reaction was to think of old dogs and new tricks, but okay, if the Doc wants to have a go, I'll play along. So I guess I should deny my usual bah humbug frame of mind and start humming Christmas carols. Hmmmm ...

The snipes supply was good and there was more food, but again, not a single quarter. How very odd. I lingered until almost ten, knowing that's when the lights go out at the New Cloisters. Only Angelo there, the other Bad Boys and the Young Couple missing. The Sleeptalker must know someone whose name begins with a letter in the first half of the alphabet. They get their Crazy Money on the first. Angelo came over and asked, "you got a cigarette?" I said, "why is it everytime I see you, I hear 'you got?' and never 'you want?'". He laughed and said that was because he never saw me when he had anything to give. Uh-huh. I told him, nope, out of cigarettes and money, but gave him a snipe and settled down to sleep. Without the Sleeptalker and the Young Couple, it was an unusually peaceful night there.

On Saturday morning, I checked to see that I'd set up everything okay with returning PicoSearch for the Tales. Funny stuff, the results it gives, almost automatic poetry of sorts.

The Panther's Tale: 641-644 641 You keep coming back like a song ...
"Cute as ever," I said to Angelo, ...

... game, there was the sleeptalker, bubbly and chatty. i had be ...
... buying beer for the sleeptalker. next month, maybe. he had t ...
... inly was right. the sleeptalker is indeed "looking good", be ...
... ing at the sleeping sleeptalker and thought, "uh-huh, know j ...
... ct audience for the sleeptalker, of course, and provides a m ...


649

At last, the Fabled Pension Check arrived. Aside from going to collect it, cash it and buy cigarettes, I stayed on campus all day, very much enjoying that first Colt after the day of drought and finishing Faulkner's magnificent novel. I knew it would be impossible downtown until quite late because of the annual festivities with the "City Lights" being turned on, so I dawdled in the mall until almost ten before heading to the New Cloisters. Everything still in full swing, alas. Angelo and the Sleeptalker were there, but the Sleeptalker wandered off shortly after I arrived, without saying anything.

So I sat talking with Angelo for awhile, both of us wishing the music would end across the street since we were ready for sleep. After the third Colt of the day, I was more than ready. We gave up, settled down even though the music was still booming. I gave Angelo a five dollar bill, told him to have breakfast on me. He's such a sweetie, even if I don't really lust after his body, but can't tell him so. It was a pleasure to share the bench with him through that constantly disturbed night.

The Sleeptalker returned with the Young Couple, then they went away again. Awhile later, he came back once more and woke me up to ask for a cigarette lighter. The three of them seem to have stayed up all night, disappearing and returning, and then I saw them at the mall just after six the next morning. A strange trio, they are. Strange, too, that Angelo seems to have split off from them and that Rossini is still missing. I doubt I'll ever really fathom the mystery of these guys and, of course, they probably won't either.

Sunday evening I saw the Godfather of them all, Rocky, sitting glumly at the bus stop in the mall. I asked if he was heading to Waikiki and he sullenly said he was on his way to the soup kitchen to eat. "Ahhh," I said, and gave him a five dollar bill. "Here, have a beer on me afterwards." That cheered him up. What the heck, I'd had more than enough reminder of how it is to be flat broke ... and just for one day. These guys have suffered it for a couple of weeks now. Their own fault, of course, but then I got more pleasure from giving away those two fives than I would have from the 200 zones of Colt they would have bought me.

I had considered going to a performance of "The Messiah" but if I was to sit in polite society in a church I would've needed a shower and a trip to the laundromat. Too much trouble. I made do with playing my favorite bits in my head.

Again, I stayed on campus all day, playing the game, drinking beer and reading John Gardner's The Sunlight Dialogues which, oddly enough, is very Faulkner-like in mood even if the writing is not even close to being as stylish. By sunset I suddenly realized how intensely hungry I was, as if somehow it had just escaped my notice that I hadn't eaten all day. I headed back to the mall, ate lasagna at Sbarro's, got another bottle of Colt and continued reading.

So there I was, sipping beer discreetly from paper cup with straw, when I hear loud ranting coming my direction. Ah, one of the most loony of the regular mall-loonies, a grubby bearded man who now and then decides to harangue some poor passer-by as if the stranger had somehow deeply offended by simply existing. He was accompanied by four security guards, escorting him from the mall, and he certainly wasn't going quietly. A police sedan pulled up behind my bench. Gulp. Two cops got out and went to join the security guards, too intent on the ranter to pay attention to me and my Pepsi cup, or to me at all. The bearded one eventually went on his way over to the park, piece of paper in hand. A one-year no trespass agreement, most likely. I can't say I'll miss seeing him at the mall.

It was a fine, peaceful night at the New Cloisters. The Sleeptalker would have gotten his Crazy Money, so he'll be missing for a few days, and without him as catalyst, the Young Couple just settled down quietly when they arrived. I didn't even notice them until I woke in the morning. Or rather when I was awakened. The dreadful Filipino Insomniac had taken the other end of my bench and just before five had put on his headphones and was beating rhythm to the music, using the bench as a drum. Sheez. "Thanks for waking me up," I said sarcastically. "Oh, was I making noise?" "Yes, you were." "I'm so sorry," he said. Likely story.

Never mind. The Young Hardhat was at the mall. I'd missed him all last week. And there's no better way to start a new one than catching a glimpse of him.

650

Crazy Money Day. I'm not quite sure what I like most about it, getting the money myself or knowing that it signals a week or so of peace and quiet while the Bad Boys are off in Waikiki spending theirs. I took a hundred cash from the card and told myself, okay, that's it, not a penny more of cash money until at least the fifteenth. That Christmas-New Year's time is bad enough without getting through it flat broke. I can look back at last year and again feel grateful for having escaped it all in that comfy hospital bed.

I was sitting in the secluded grove reading this really not-very-good Gardner novel, wondering if I should just toss it in the trash and go to Jelly's, see what was more interesting on their fifty-cent cart, but kept on plodding through it. The Cherub came along. No, he hadn't done an Angelo, but in his way, just as bad. He had bought a money order for his rent, at the new place, cashed it instead of sending it to his landlady and spent the money on booze and drugs. Then he called his father who, foolishly, sent him another hundred. I was a bit hard on him all evening, telling him it would probably be best if his father just cut him off, would be even better if he cut himself off. It's absurd to be twenty-five and still living off one's parents.

He told me more about the divorce. His mother sounds like a bit of a wild woman, but then his father doesn't sound altogether sane, either. His father had bought a large boat, was having it delivered to Kauai via the Panama Canal. He'd flown down there to meet it and they sailed to Los Angeles. There his mother joined in and apparently had an affair with the young man who was the "captain". More power to her, I said, but of course, the Cherub doesn't quite see it that way.

A young Japanese woman walked through the grove, the Cherub lusting heavily. I said, today's your day, yesterday was mine. There's an old song, "have you ever seen a dream walking?" Well, on Sunday, I did. An absolutely beautiful blonde, tousled hair boy with a Sleeptalker-like body. How on earth had I missed him all this semester? The Cherub thought he knew who I meant, said he'd seen what was probably the fellow up at the Business Admin complex. Ah, I rarely go there, so quite possible. My mistake, if so.

I offered to buy the Cherub a beer at the Garden, but he had class, went on his way. After awhile he returned and we did go to the Garden, stayed all evening. By then, I'd already had two Colts and by the time we left, him leaving a little before me without finishing his last beer, I couldn't finish mine either. Yes, it really won't be a bad thing, him heading off to Kauai soon. I'll miss him, but I just can't keep up with him.

And it's such a mistake to drink so much without eating, and I knew it well once again on Tuesday morning. Scrambled eggs, bacon and toast, a half-pint of milk did help .... a little. That's another thing I'll miss. The Paradise Palms Cafe on campus will close for the last two weeks of the month. On the other hand, so will the Garden, which will certainly help my budget considerably.

But still, bah humbug.

651

Well, there was one time before. That morning I wrote about when the Sleeptalker came stumbling into the mall, barefoot, wearing nothing but shorts. Even his slippers had been stolen. That time I had to hold him up and get him across the street so he could collapse and sleep for a few hours. Yes, he looked as wrecked that morning as he did on Wednesday.

I had to go to Chinatown to buy cigarettes, so thought I'd have lunch at the beach park. Swiss cheese and rolls, a bottle of Colt, the rolls as usual being shared with the Zebra doves. The Sleeptalker and Angelo approached. The Sleeptalker walked very close to my table and kept on walking without saying anything at all, went to a nearby table, sat down and put his head on his arms. Angelo stopped and talked for a few minutes.

Okay, the Sleeptalker is hooked on methamphetamine. No doubt about it. And there is absolutely no one on this earth who can save him except himself. Been there, done that, I know.

One of the Doc's questions was, naturally, asking what about my life depressed me, and I told him one thing was seeing these young men, with their whole lives before them, and just not knowing how to help them. "Why do you want to help them?" he asked. Excuse me if I glare. What a stupid question. I should've said that, but I was trying to be polite, since we'd just met for the first time. Why did I let him get away with it?

Polite, kind. I'm sick of being that, maybe most of all to people who are getting paid to put up with whatever someone wants to dish them.

The encounter with the Sleeptalker thoroughly depressed me and I fled back to campus. The Cherub came through the secluded grove, stopped to chat for awhile before going off to continue working on his Danielle Steel paper. And I kept chugging on through that tedious Gardner book although I haven't the faintest idea why I bothered. After half-heartedly playing the game for awhile, I went to Manoa Garden, had stir-fried chicken and vegetables and a nightcap jug of Bud. The food there sucks. I really should remember it.

At the New Cloisters a sizeable crowd was in the process of leaving. Apparently there had been a funeral. The Sleeptalker said not a word again, quickly settled down on a bench. I took my usual spot in the most distant corner. Angelo walked over and gave me a cigarette which I accepted even though I didn't need it. I figured it was some kind of a consolation offering since he must have been a little uncomfortable with the Sleeptalker's withdrawn behavior. Me, too, but what's to be done about it?

652

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and fame ...

Louis from Rio, strumming his guitar and singing Rolling Stones for us. Such a funny fellow he is. Us? Ahhh ... from one extreme to another, or almost.

I decided on Thursday morning I'd finally stop putting it off and headed directly to the laundromat after coffee at McD's. Clean clothes, new slippers, what a refreshing start to the day. By the time I got to campus, had bacon and eggs for breakfast, and logged into Seventh Circle, the Sleeptalker was already there, playing from the State Library. To say I was astonished to see him in the game is an understatement. He was all chatty and friendly and being exceptionally witty with his public remarks, a most entertaining morning.

He was still playing when I returned from Colts-and-sandwich lunch. I'd finally finished that weary Gardner book and went on to the far more enjoyable Doctorow: The Waterworks, set in Boss Tweed's Manhattan. I was engrossed enough in that to go for the second Colt and continue reading. I'm not sure if the Sleeptalker had taken a lunch break or had played right through my absence, but he was still in great form and I wondered how on earth he'd gone from his shattered isolation the day before to this bubbly, sociable clown.

As sunset approached, I said I'd had enough of the game for the day, was heading to the Garden for a beer. I'd seen the Cherub earlier, had asked him to join me, but he had a three-hour rehearsal of "Faust" he had to be at. Much grumbling about how unfair it was to schedule that just as the dreaded Finals Week arrives and while I agreed it seemed a bit strenuous of the director, still, the Cherub needs to remember how lucky he is to be part of the thing. I seem to spend an awful lot of time lately scolding him. He's leaving for Kauai on Monday, so I told him to join me at the Garden the next evening, then, for beer and music.

I was sitting outside at the Garden with a large jug of Bud and continuing the book when the Sleeptalker walked in. He had obviously been hitting the pipe and, in fact, brought it out later as we were heading off to the bus stop, but it was a happier high than he usually seems to hit and it was a delightful evening with him. The Finals Week stress hit the Garden at one point when there was a major punch-up between two young men and for a moment it looked like it might turn into a minor riot as their friends were trying both to separate them and almost starting to fight each other at the same time. Security arrived and chilled everyone out. Fun and games.

It was when we were leaving that we saw Louis from Rio coming along, guitar case in hand, and got treated to the impromptu recital. Then off to the New Cloisters. Angelo already there, and the Filipino Insomniac (the Sleeptalker insists the fellow is Hawaiian but I don't believe it). The Sleeptalker and I shared a bench but I don't think he got much sleep. Everytime I stirred, he was just sitting there staring blankly into space. He had said he was trying to quit smoking ... tobacco. I told him he should concentrate on quitting the pipe, never mind cigarettes. Fat chance.

653

Until sunset, anyway, Friday was a quiet day. As I said, I'd asked the Cherub to join me at the Garden in the evening. The very popular local reggae band, Ooklah the Moc, would be playing and it was the Cherub's last Friday at the Garden until sometime next year. Although he's only planning to stay on Kauai until the day after Christmas, the Garden will be closed until January eighth because of the after-holiday "Winter Break" week. I'd asked the Sleeptalker to join us, too, and Angelo, but didn't really expect them to show up.

The Cherub arrived at the computer lab, had a forty in his backpack, so we went to the secluded grove and talked while he drank that. I declined the offer to share, having had two during the afternoon. Then to the Garden which was already getting crowded, arriving luckily in time to secure one of the few tables still vacant. Shortly after the music started, to my surprise, the Sleeptalker and Angelo arrived. The Sleeptalker had gotten a haircut, a more subtle one than usual, was acting rather strange, going back and forth between a kind of tense withdrawal to bubbling grins and amusing exchanges with the Cherub. Angelo was his usual mellow self, appeared to be enjoying his first experience of the Garden on gig night. The beer flowed, as did my money, but what the hell, what's one more broken resolution in a lifelong string of them? I kept passing on most of my beer to the Boys, keeping their glasses filled. Then someone abandoned a full mixed drink of some kind which the Cherub promptly retrieved and gave to me. Nice citrus mix, probably with vodka, strong but quite refreshing, and I nursed that for the rest of the evening.

Angelo would catch me every time I drifted into reverie over the Sleeptalker, give me his big knowing grin. Then a friend of the Cherub joined us, handsome hunk of a fellow who amused me by continually looking down at his bulging biceps as if checking to see they were still there. They all had a full supply of beer so I decided it was time for me to be on my way, a nice formal handshake from the Cherub and thanks for the party. Okay, that's my party-for-the-season and went more smoothly and amusingly than I had expected.

It is, after all, Crazy Money, and if I don't spend it crazily, isn't that really cheating?

Besides, I am. Crazy. And still in love, after all these years.

Heaven knows what was going on at the New Cloisters. The place was a quarter full of Christmas trees and there were people there with a big boombox. I don't know if they were going to give the things away to poor folks or planned to sell them but it was soon clear there was going to be all-night activity. At first I tried sleeping on one of the too-short benches some distance away from the usual area, but even there the boombox was annoying. So I left and went exploring to see if I could find some other spot to catch a few hours sleep. Much to my surprise, I saw about half a dozen men sleeping on benches at one of the large government buildings, so settled there, wondering how early someone would come around to throw us out. As I recall, I had once slept there when escaping a Social Horror Club shindig at the hacienda, and a guard arriving to open the building had told me before dawn "you can't sleep here" and I'd thought "I just did." Perhaps because it was Saturday morning, no one arrived before I woke just after five.

I'd finished the entertaining Doctorow novel, went on to the one I'd been saving for the weekend, Father Greeley's Irish Whiskey, the third of his books with the delicious Irish heroine, Nuala Anne McGrail. As expected, it cheered me up a lot. Despite the relative success of my "party", I was for the most part depressed by it. I love these guys, one of them exceptionally so, but I do now and then have moments when I wish I'd just sat quietly in that focking insurance job, kept on paying that exorbitant monthly rent, and never met any of them.

But only fleeting moments ...

654

As it turned out, my party at Manoa Garden was a farewell in more than one way. Goodbye, too, to the Garden itself as we've known it. There's an outdoor courtyard there with about fifteen round concrete tables, three curved concrete benches around most. And most also had a battered metal umbrella. Some benches were missing and, in fact, my favorite table was missing its umbrella and had only one bench left, an ideal spot for a man on his own.

All smashed to smithereens on Saturday morning. Well, it's a long overdue refurbishment but a little surprising they didn't wait until after Finals Week to launch into it. And the buggers also took away two round tables under shelter outside the Garden. I hope they replace those, too, because they've been my favorite place to sit when it's too damp to use the Secluded Grove.

All things must pass ...

I played the game a little, read a little, drank too much beer, finished the Greeley book but couldn't decide on something from the fifty-cent cart at Jelly's so headed off fairly early to the place I guess I'll call GovSanc. Only four of us there Saturday night, and it was a restless night for me, I think partly because I know we really shouldn't be sleeping there and half expect to get awakened at any moment. But it was also because Marathon Sunday was arriving before dawn. Ah yes, the Honolulu Marathon would be going right past the building shortly after five in the morning.

I was already up and on my way by the time the fireworks went off to mark the beginning of the race, wanted to get out of the area before I was hemmed in by two streams of runners heading into the downtown district and then back out again. Buses were all diverted from their usual routes, so I had to walk awhile before I could get one to the mall, luckily crossed the marathon route just after the front-runner zoomed past. He was a good two blocks ahead of the next batch of them. African fellow, I'd guess.

There are apparently two men named John Gardner writing novels, one American and the other English. The latter has written a few books continuing the life of Fleming's J. Bond, which I can happily do without, but his The Secret Generations is entertaining stuff. I picked it from the fifty-cent cart when I realized it wasn't, as I'd first thought, by the American Gardner, enjoyed it with a Colt and sandwich for lunch.

As sunset time approached, I went for another Colt and was continuing the book when the Cherub came along for one Final Hurrah, a bottle of tequila in his backpack. So much for my plans to keep it a light-drink day. I don't have too clear a recollection of just how I did it, but I ended up eventually asleep at the New Cloisters where, happily, the lights had been turned off and everyone was quiet. I slept so soundly and had such vivid dreams that when I woke it felt more like I was asleep and dreaming than it had when I was actually asleep.

I spent some time both Saturday and Sunday reading the Tales from this time two years ago. There weren't, of course, any from this time a year ago since I was off on the Moon with the Japanese Emperor. In many ways, the Tales from two years ago are as far-fetched as those morphine dreams. And who would've thought the Sleeptalker would still be such a major player in the drama? Me, probably, but I'm not sure even I would have believed it.

655

The last Fool Moon of 2000 came and went without much hoopla, even the Sleeptalker causing no more disturbance than usual on the night of fullness. Angelo was already at the New Cloisters when I arrived. I settled on the other end of his bench, he raised his head to see who it was, smiled, and lay back down. The Sleeptalker didn't arrive until I'd been asleep for awhile, naturally had to chatter away for half an hour to a young fellow I didn't know. I adjusted the earplugs which still didn't totally block them, but at least made it impossible to understand what was being said and thus easier to drift back into sleep. The Sleeptalker eventually settled on a bench directly across from me and since the lights were left on, thus provided something nice to look at when I woke during the night. It's not just little kids that should be seen and not heard.

It had been a fairly dull Monday on campus. The game was down all afternoon and evening, was still unavailable early the next morning, and none of the alternatives had enough players to be interesting. Reading, drinking, sharing lunch with the zebra doves in the secluded grove, a usual day in the life. I saw the Cherub one last time in mid-morning, fretting because his ticket to Kauai still hadn't arrived. I assume it must have later, since I didn't see him again. The game did finally return in the early afternoon Tuesday but I didn't play for long, wasn't feeling all that well and even decided to drink some Pepsi instead of a lunchtime beer. I lay down for a couple of hours in the secluded grove, wondering what kind of unpleasant critter had invaded my body this time. By late afternoon I debated it and thought I'd feel worse from the tension of no beer at all than I would from drinking, whatever was the matter with me. So I walked downhill, bought a Colt, and returned to drink it and finish The Secret Generations. It did, indeed, relax me but I refrained from a later follow-up, went quite early to the New Cloisters and collapsed on the bench just as the clock chimed eight.

I did get a little sleep before the Social Horrors arrived. The Sleeptalker, Angelo, Rossini, Mondo and someone I don't know. I just left my shorts over my face blocking the light and drifted in and out of sleep despite their chatter. Rossini went off at some point and, judging by the pops, brought back a twelve-pack of beer. Excellent. Once they'd (very quickly) guzzled that, they all settled down and the rest of the night was peaceful. How I do wish for an alternative sleeping sanctuary, though.

Physically, I felt a little better on Wednesday. Not much, but enough to swing toward the idea that this is just one more instance where the "chronic" in "brochitis" tilts toward "acute". The weather has been unusually pleasant this month, much warmer than usual, but it did get a bit cooler on Tuesday and on Wednesday there were also times of dreary gray skies and drizzle. The outer echoing the inner? This is not a happy time.

But then I did not expect it to be.

656

Summer colds here are often so mild you hardly notice having one and they vanish within days. This baby, though, is a full-fledged waterfall-nose Winter Head Cold. Little surprise I wondered on the first day if I'd gotten the flu. By Wednesday afternoon, though, it had settled into blow nose every five minutes mode, most of the aching joint flu-like symptoms abated, at least sufficiently to be masked by aspirin. So much for the wonders of taking vitamins. Uh-huh, I finally yielded on the first and bought some of those 100-percent-of-all-good-things pills. Okay, okay, I know afficionados will say something like two weeks isn't long enough to have gotten your cells saturated, etc. etc.

The Sleeptalker and Rossini came into the game on Wednesday afternoon for about an hour, playing from the State Library. When I first started playing this thing, almost three years ago now, Rossini had one of the highest ranking players from Hawaii. But when he went into heavy glass-pipe la-la land he lost interest, and it was the first time I've seen him in there all year. A huge row erupted shortly after they left and I was glad they weren't there because the Sleeptalker would undoubtedly have joined in the yelling and gotten himself frozen or worse. The Bosses (aka "Immortals") in Seventh Circle are just so inept at diplomacy, refuse to accept the fact that they simply cannot demand respect but have to earn it. I kept my mouth shut for the most part, while trying to calm some of the kids down with private messages warning them they were fighting a losing battle. By the time I got fed up with it and left, about half a dozen players were "frozen" for 24 hours as a penalty, one of them even had all his stuff taken away. The worst storm we've had in there for a long time.

I had stopped down to the State Library earlier myself to pick up a couple of books, was delighted to find Father Greeley's Happy are the Oppressed and spent much time reading it during the afternoon, continuing with a sunset brew. It drizzled on and off so I kept having to re-locate from the secluded grove, but it cleared just before sunset.

This is the winter, I think, when I finally stop being in love with the Sleeptalker. I doubt I'll ever stop loving the man, but he's just being too much of an asshole for anyone to be in love with at this point. Even the Cherub said he'd thought the Sleeptalker was being a "jerk" at the Garden Party, and by the Sleeptalker's standards recently, he had actually been almost charming now and then that evening. But sheez, at the New Cloisters he's just a boor, a loud, tedious boor who seems to really think he can get away with convincing people how wondrously happy he is by acting like a fourteen-year-old brat, jumping up and down and yelling. Mercifully, someone came along to get him. I heard the Sleeptalker say, "Let's go!", and off they went, happily not returning. I do hope he soon finds another old queen to look after him for awhile, leave the rest of us in peace. The other Bad Boys are so quiet and considerate when the Sleeptalker's not around.

I'd finished my morning coffee, was on the way into the men's room to shave, when the Young Hardhat approached, went in just in front of me. As usual, he looked right into my eyes. He went into a stall, I shaved, and when he came out I was putting my razor away. He looked into my eyes again and I could swear it was like the light bulb finally went on. "So that's why you look at me all the time!" Could be wrong, but that's the distinct feeling I had. And as he was leaving, he turned his head and looked back at me one more time with a slight grin. Lordy, what a sweetheart.

Do I want him? YES! Could I have him? I really think it's quite possible, after that little exchange. But even if Dame Fortune doesn't have that in her cards, I deeply appreciate the sweet moments with him she has given me.

"You're a gift to a cognitive therapist, a challenge," said the Doc. My second round with the Doc. Okay, I can really understand now how some of the lads are CRAZY enough to miss their appointments, because I didn't want to go. Not at all, at all, as Father Greeley would say. But I did. I talked a little about the Bad Boys. The Doc at first misunderstood, thought it was someone else who was destroying our precious sanctuaries. Uh-uh, it's my "friends" who are doing it, I explained. I haven't yet gotten to talking about the Sleeptalker specifically. He asked me what I do with the money I get from this program. I told him about the Garden Party and how, because of it, I would certainly run short this month. "You're too nice," he said. Hmmm, a Freudian this man is not.

He's nice, too, though.

657

"Wow," I said, "you've put on some weight." Rossini thought that very funny, so I suspect Angelo has now and then teased Rossini about his tendency to get a bit chubby. Angelo had gotten up from the bench we were sharing to switch tee-shirts, grinning as I watched the display and made my observation. Then he strutted over and examined his image in the reflection of the nearby windows, said his arms were as big as Rocky's. I was kind, didn't mention the fact that Rocky's belly is still very flat and brown.

I was feeling sufficiently better to chat with the lads a bit when I got to the New Cloisters on Thursday night, made easier by the absence of the Sleeptalker. Angelo, Rossini, Mondo and the new lad I'll call the Karate Kid because of his ... errr, to my decadent mind, rather suspicious ... fondness for trying out various martial arts routines involving close body contact. The Karate Kid is a rarity among the lads because he's a devoted reader, will usually pull out his book once everyone has settled down and read for an hour or so. But he's also something of a bore and it will require some effort to keep our contacts at least neutral.

There was a gathering at the church which didn't end until after nine and then some cleaning people making an awful lot of noise until midnight, so it was a far from peaceful start to the night but this time not the fault of the Bad Boys.

I was, as usual, sitting outside McD's at the mall early next morning, on my refill cup of coffee, when Rocky came along. "Just cruising," he said, in reply to my asking what he was doing there so early. The Cherub had given me some award vouchers for free breakfast sandwiches/bagels, so I offered one of them to Rocky and this time he accepted. A steak and egg bagel was too much to resist, I guess. He's a sweetie.

Further to the question from the Doc about what I do with the money, I said "spend it on others, buy cigarettes, beer, books and food." Yes, in that order, although if one thinks of foodstamps as "money", then food would move into first or second place.

He supposed it wasn't possible to find a private space to rent with this welfare largesse? No, not really. I told him I'd be happy to give someone a hundred a month just for some floor space in their garage or carport, some space with shelter from the rain where I could, from 8pm to 6am, lay down and LEGALLY sleep. Oh, I'm sure there's someone out there who would be happy to pick up such an easy hundred a month, but Dame Fortune has to connect us. Otherwise, as I told the Doc, I just have to survive until May 2002 when SocSec makes it possible to get that room somewhere, far away from the cold night air ....

Friday. The End of Finals Week. Gott sei dank. Hard to know which is worse in December, the mall with its holiday shopping madness or the university campus with its final exam madness.

December is most definitely not my favorite month of the year.

658

"Hey, loan me five dollars," Rocky asked, again appearing at the mall in the very early morning. I told him I only had three dollars in my pocket. "Well, loan me three then." I said "that's MY three dollars". He laughed, "okay then", went on his way. It was especially funny because I had dreamed of him during the night, had almost crossed the Rubicon and given him twenty dollars for his body but mercifully woke up before completing the transaction.

GovSanc is certainly providing a fine solution, however temporary it may be, to the problem of a sleeping sanctuary. The building doesn't open on the weekends, so on Friday and Saturday nights there's no concern about the security man showing up early to open the place. And there are only three or four regulars there, all of whom say nothing to one another but just quietly settle down and sleep, leave very early in the morning. I think the main reason the place isn't more popular is concrete. Literally. The benches are made of molded concrete and they are very much colder than the wooden benches at the New Cloisters. When first laying down it feels like the cold stone will drain every drop of warmth from the body, but eventually at least the surface of the bench does absorb sufficient body heat to feel comfortable enough. And a quarter hour or so of the cold slab is far less of a discomfort than a couple of hours of the Social Horror Club.

Of course, on Monday morning there was the concern about the arrival of the security people, but it's only a five minute walk to the New Cloisters, so when I woke at about three-thirty I left and went there, happily finding the other end of Rossini's bench vacant, and slept for another hour and a half. The risk is finding a full house, but for an hour or two, it wouldn't be that bad on the too-short benches nearby, and there are always plenty of them. I guess I'm not the only one using the early-departure system because when I left GovSanc all but one of the men who'd been there during the night had left and the remaining one was preparing to.

It looks like the Sleeptalker has found a "new boy", as they say, because he was missing again. Good, very good. Just Angelo, Rossini and the Karate Kid there from the Horror Club. Pity about the Karate Kid ... without him, Angelo and Rossini would settle down quietly, too. But splitting the night between the two places is a fine solution.

The campus was quiet and mostly deserted on the weekend. Despite the inconveniences of this holiday time and the following Winter Break, it is indeed splendid to have the place more or less to myself. The other welcome find on my trip to the State Library was Anne Rice's Lasher, the second volume of the Mayfair Witches saga. As Nuala would say, "brilliant, focking brilliant". I was so impressed by it that I went to the used bookstore and bought the third volume, Taltos. Fortunately they had 50% off on all fiction as their weekend special, and it's more than worth the two dollars I shouldn't have spent on it.

So it was a weekend of bread and cheese and beer, quiet hours in the secluded grove, just me and the ground doves ... and witches and Ashlars.

Most excellent.

659

Oddly, I had GovSanc entirely to myself on Monday and Tuesday nights. When I arrived at about nine on Monday and saw no one there, I thought, uh-oh, someone must have chased everybody away. If so, they didn't return. I'd much prefer to have at least one other person there. The only place I've felt totally comfortable on my own was the hacienda and those were rare nights indeed.

Both nights I shifted to the New Cloisters between 3:30 and four, finding a vacant spot on Monday but on Tuesday having to test the theory that a too-short bench would suffice for an hour since it was a totally full house, with four people on the floor. The too-short bench was fine, though. The lights were out at the New Cloisters both nights so it was difficult to tell who was there. I did recognize Angelo's cover but couldn't make out who the others were.

Since the university closed early on the weekend, I had gone to the mall on Sunday evening. Yeukh. I fled to the park after about half an hour of the madness, even if picking up some quarters would have been welcome. The idiotic supermarket has added to their stable of carts but the new ones have chains that are so long the quarter can be self-extracted. Stupid ... why bother with quarters at all? So the parking lot was littered with carts missing their quarter. And the stroller corrals were out of refund money, as I discovered on Monday morning when returning one to a corral and getting zilch for the effort.

Oh well. It's certainly nothing rare in my life to be broke at Christmastime, so why should AD 2000 be any exception?

After that thoroughly unpleasant, brief time amidst the shopping madness, I decided that by far the wisest thing was just to stay on campus all day and evening. I'd finished the Anne Rice trilogy on Sunday, went to the State Library on Monday, found Hanover Place by Michael M. Thomas, a fascinating century-spanning tale of a New York City family, second only to J.P. Morgan as a financial power on the Street. It could have degenerated into sheer soap opera, but Thomas is literate and stylish enough to make it more than that. If I had any money to spare, though, I would certainly have gone for more Anne Rice. I want to read all the follow-ups to her Conversation with the Vampire. And I want to read the rest of Greeley's work, especially the non-fiction ones. Patience, patience. Maybe instead of giving my monthly party in January, I should just head to the bookstore on payday.

I had to grin when I saw the current Honolulu Weekly, noting that the Garden Party rated as one of the top musical evenings of December. Cool.

Cool, too, that the Solstice is upon us. I'm tired of getting up in the morning to such darkness that it feels like the middle of the night, more than pleased that we now start the climb back into Light.

660

I got my wish for just one other person. A bicycle man was at GovSanc on Wednesday and Thursday nights, arrived somewhat later than I did, still sleeping when I left, although on Friday morning, I was so soundly asleep I didn't awaken until about 5:15 when the man arrived to open the building. He turned on the lights inside the lobby, which immediately woke me up, and then made some banging noises, but didn't come outside to shoo us away. The bicycle man was still asleep when I left for the bus stop.

A long spell of sunny, warm days was broken on Wednesday by heavy grey clouds and occasional drizzle, which meant both lunchtime and sunset brews under shelter. Then it rained quite heavily during the night, although I was lucky, changed from GovSanc to the New Cloisters during a dry interval, settled on a bench with some unknown person and an hour or so later woke up to the sound of really heavy rain. The person who had been sharing Angelo's bench had left, so I sat in that drier, more sheltered spot until the rain subsided enough to walk over to the bus stop.

It was quite clear the money was going to run out completely, so I negotiated a Christmas Eve loan to keep the rest of the year from being truly dismal, could then relax and just figure out how to stretch the few remaining pennies until the 24th. Cigarettes or beer, which has the priority? Still fifty dollars in food stamps, so no worries about food. Sheez, what a crazy life.

I finished Hanover Place which really did get a bit carried away with the anti-Jewish schtick and went on to Scott Turow's The Burden of Proof, once again involved with high-finance types and amusing enough if nothing to recommend. Since the State Library was closing for all three days of the holiday weekend, a quick trip down there on Friday was necessary to make sure I had enough mindless diversion to distract me for the duration.

Speaking of mindless diversion, I got quite entranced by Am I Hot or Not, a clever web site where folks submit their photograph and we all get to rate them from one to ten. I read about it in another on-line journal and since Hamilton Library is not heavily used during this interim period between semesters, I spent far too much time on a Web-capable computer there looking at boys who aren't half as cute as ones I see every day in the mall or on campus.

Seventh Circle was down again for much of Thursday and when it finally returned on Friday there was, of course, no explanation for what had happened, as usual. I played another MUD, started by a former immortal and now persona-non-grata player from 7th, but he's such a jerk as an immortal, I almost gave it up for good. Still, despite him, it's a fairly decent mud and many of the disaffected players from 7th have migrated there, so I played awhile again on Friday. I won't mention the link to it, at least not yet, because I'm not at all sure it deserves the publicity. I looked in on Bartle's MUD2 but, alas, no one there except one other immortal, afk [away from keyboard]. I just don't think there's much hope for Bartle's delightful game as long as he thinks he can find people willing to pay $25 a month to play it.

Happily, the nasty head cold departed without the usual prolonged postnasal dripping crap, but just to make sure I'm not totally relaxed with the body, that crumbling molar has been twitching again. With nice synchronicity, I found a subscription drug plastic tub with lots of little white pills in it. Ultram, they identify themselves. I looked it up on the Web. A pain killer. One of those where they say, much to my amusement, "it works but we have no idea how". Heh. I read the horror stories about side effects and long-term addiction, etc. etc., but sampled one. Yeh, it works. No side effects.

Cainer keeps screeching about what a great Christmas it is going to be, Solar Eclipse and all. I just read him and mutter, "bah humbug", and wait for the whole nonsensical mania to be over.

661

Wisconsin has an extraordinary new boy. Tall, skinny, young with very dark hair, totally in ultra gothic punk style. Heavy black leather jacket with spiked metal studs on the sleeves, a large marijuana leaf crudely painted on the back. White pants roughly cut off below the knee, worn over full length black ones, covered in scribbles, things like "KORN" (with a backward K) and FUCK repeated in a column down one leg. They instantly take the Most Unlikely Couple badge away from the Fatman and his new boy.

One wonders how Wisconsin and his Punk Boy can be together without feeling embarrassed by each other. Admittedly, I'd be happy to see the lad stripped of all his regalia, a privilege Wisconsin has probably had and paid handsomely for. Can't blame him for that, if so. I wondered if people saw me and the Sleeptalker, or me and Angelo, as that unlikely a pair. Probably not. The Bad Boys are oddly very conservative in appearance.

The Fatman's new boy is actually on the edge of being too old to be considered a boy anymore. He's a small fellow, at least part Filipino, and rather cute although not even close to the Cowboy. They were at Hamilton Library twice during the week. The Fatman just never stops talking, not for a moment. I've never once seen him when he wasn't chattering away. I wondered if he stops long enough to suck the boy off, if that's possible at the Shelter where, I'm told, they both stay.

It was a pleasant Friday, the weather staying dry and balmy. Lunchtime hotdogs and brew in the secluded grove, continuing the Turow book, treating my little flock of zebra doves to hotdog buns. A little time in each of the two MUDs, the newer one amusing in the early afternoon but once again in the evening having no one there at all except the owner, AFK. That despite his boasts that most of 7th's best players have deserted it for his MUD. Odd, then, that there were ten players in 7th at the time. I'd like to find a SMAUG-based MUD which is sensibly managed but where I know no one and am known by no one.

I returned to the secluded grove for a sunset brew, would like to have had a third but realized that would have meant only one on Saturday so abstained. The Bicycle Man was already at GovSanc when I arrived, grateful to have a place where I can settle down quietly to sleep even though it's just past nine o'clock. Sometime later a large man who had been there before also arrived, quietly enough that it didn't wake me. All I want for Christmas, dear Santa, is to have GovSanc left undisturbed as a nighttime sanctuary.

The advantage of the weekend, of course, was being able to sleep there until time to head to the mall for coffee. It was drizzling lightly, but not enough to be a real bother, and at the bus stop was a definite number "8". Sweetheart of a local Japanese lad, kitchen worker, judging by the black-and-white checked pants he was wearing. I wonder why kitchen helpers almost always wear those kind of pants, and where they get them? I've never seen them in a shop anywhere. A few wear black-and-white striped pants, but most of them wear the tiny checked ones. He got on the same bus I did, but left at Ward Warehouse, must work in one of the restaurants there. I was surprised I've never seen him before.

And then at the mall there was a large group of young Japanese lads, numerous "eight"'s among them. Who needs Am I Hot?

662

What a way to start Christmas Eve, a snipes run (well, walk) through the mall. Not a very successful one, either. Although the mall had been open until eleven the evening before, they must have kept enough of the cleaning army around to do a final sweep of the place after closing. Hunting snipes, what fond memories ... NOT.

"Hey, loan me a couple of bucks," Rocky had said yet again on Saturday night. "No can," I said, "I'm broke", and left him, went to buy a sunset brew. No, I didn't feel in the least bit guilty drinking my beer instead of having loaned him the two dollars. I almost wish he'd do an Angelo, borrow money and not pay it back so I'd have the perfect reason to say no.

Christmas seems to be having a Fool Moon effect on some folks. That bearded loony who was recently evicted from the mall was at the bus stop on Christmas Eve morning, pre-dawn, loudly applauding each passing vehicle [?]. And Blondie was outside McD's, ranting away in Japanese at the top of her shrill voice. I guess she finally got hungry enough to shut up and go inside to get her breakfast. Such a strange woman, she is. I saw her not long ago just after she'd left the shower, without her usual very heavy make-up. She's good with that face paint, looks at least twenty years younger when fully disguised.

Although everything else on campus was closed, surprisingly the little computer lab stayed open, so I spent the morning going back and forth between the two MUDs before having an early sandwich and brew for lunch. Then it was down to Mme de Crécy's for the late afternoon and evening ... and an absolutely scrumptious Christmas feast, one of the best I can remember. I was so stuffed I didn't eat a bite the entire next day.

And the next day, Christmas 2000, was one of the briefest I've known. Very much to my surprise, I slept right through the night until almost seven o'clock and was back asleep on the same bench by seven that evening. Knowing the mall would be a closed, shuttered ghost town, I went directly to Waikiki for coffee from Jack. Later I saw the McD's across from the beach was open, unusual for them, so had a second coffee in mid-morning. Like Christmas Eve, it was a clear, sunny, very warm day and by ten o'clock I was seeking shade. Watching all the half-naked boys romping in the surf, strutting on the beach ... uh-huh, here we know that Christmas will be green and bright ... and sexy.

I sat in the park all afternoon, making trips over to the ABC stores to buy brew three times, watching the boys some more and reading Mary Higgins Clark's The Cradle Will Fall, engrossing enough to actually distract my attention from all the brown flesh around me.

At six I was supposed to have met Helen R for dinner, but was far too smashed to consider it, instead got on a bus bound for the bench. A cute young Japanese lad was sitting next to me, didn't move his leg when I let mine brush against his. A fun ride. Angelo, Rossini and the Karate Kid were at GovSanc [sigh]. I returned their waves but didn't say anything, and since the Karate Kid was as usual yakking away a mile-a-minute, I went to the most distant bench and settled down, was very soon asleep. They didn't spend the night there, must have just been waiting for a gathering to end at the New Cloisters.

So, one of the dreaded holidays over with. Roll on January 2nd ...

663

I do not believe in much, defining believe in as accepting something as truth which one really has no way of knowing whether it is true or not.

Thus, I do not believe in God. I do not believe, most especially, in the God of the Christians who, according to the Jews, has been known to us for over five thousand years and then more-or-less two thousand years ago decided to impregnate a young human woman, somehow leaving her a virgin in the process, and producing his one and only son (in plus-5000 years??) who was destined to be rather cruelly killed, thus in some utterly unfathomable way relieve the rest of us of the sins of the first Man and Woman, not that it was our fault at all that they ate from the fruit which that God had absurdly put in the Garden to tempt them (nor was it theirs either).

If a current day sci-fi writer wrote such an outlandish tale, I am sure it would be immediately rejected.

And, of course, that is one reason why I have such a problem with this annual madness we call "Christmas" and am quite happy another has come and gone.

As the end of an "Anno Domini" approaches, even not believing in the Domini and realizing what a patched-up, botched job it is of keeping track of "time", there is an introspective mood which creeps along, making me think what I was especially grateful for in the past one.

No contest there. The Sleeptalker. Of course.

If he lives long enough, which isn't too likely, I hope somehow he understands eventually just how kind he was to an old man, and I hope someone does the same for him.

663a

Although the Sleeptalker certainly tops the list, having been responsible for both the highest and lowest moments of the year, there are plenty of other reasons to be grateful for AD 2000. All in all, it was one of the best, smoothest years of my life, despite having begun it flat on my back in a hospital bed, unable even to walk.

Those kind and caring folks at Castle Medical Center are definitely on the list, as are the friends who provided moral support throughout the hospital stay and, most especially, in the very difficult weeks which immediately followed leaving that sanctuary. It's easy to forget now, as I effortlessly climb the steps onto a bus, that it was then such an impossible task.

All the Boys are on that list, too, of course. Rocky, Mondo, Angelo, Rossini, the Young Husband, the Cherub ... and even those who gave much briefer moments of happiness, the Young Hardhat, Travis, and many un-named ones, some encountered only once.

And this beautiful island, this mountaintop in the middle of the great Pacific Ocean. If the Sleeptalker has any near rival, it is surely the island of his birth. And Dame Fortune, who brought me here, and continues to smile ... most of the time. The hacienda, the New Cloisters, GovSanc, the beach park, Waikiki, and very definitely the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The Internet and access to it, the libraries and bookshops and their generous supply of free or very inexpensive books which made AD 2000 one of the best years ever for memorable reading.

Beer. Oh yes, those cheap 40oz bottles of malt liquor are on the list, for sure. The foodstamps and the Crazy Money are there, too.

Cue up Sinatra ... it was a very good year ...

664

The right place at the right time ...

I was sitting outside McD's on New Year's Eve morning. An old couple walked past and the man handed me an unopened pack of cigarettes. I thanked him, wished him a happy new year. "Happy New Year to you, too, my friend," he said.

On Thursday the decision had to be made. Cigarettes or beer? Ah well, back to snipes hunting. For any newcomers to the Tales, "snipes" and "shorts" is street-talk for cigarette butts, and we are fortunate here because of the Japanese habit of lighting cigarettes, then putting them out after a few puffs. A stroll through the mall during peak hours usually yields at least one full box of lengthy snipes. Saturday morning the supply was especially bountiful. They must have discontinued the late night cleaning crew. Life returns to normal.

But Dame Fortune really outdid herself with choreographed timing and circumstance on Saturday evening. A lunchtime brew had used the last of the paper money. It was time to revive the Quarter Hunt. Six were needed for a sunset brew. After a not-very-successful hour, I was grumbling about how a beer really wasn't worth all this effort, then found an abandoned stroller. Two quarters ... excellent! Finally, the six were in hand and I went to the drugstore for a bottle of Mickey's. They were sold out. Sigh. Back down to the supermarket. And who should be there but the Cherub, back from Kauai!

Yes, that was brilliant, Dame Fortune. Had the final quarter showed up just a few minutes earlier, or had the drugstore not been sold out, I would certainly have missed the Cherub. It's indeed rare to run into him at the mall. He was in a hurry to get his groceries home, so we only chatted for a few minutes, but he gave me money for New Year's Eve brew in exchange for a promise that it would be my turn when Manoa Garden re-opens on the eighth.

Beer money, a pack of virgin cigarettes. Yes, the right places and the right times.

The last week of 2000 was otherwise quite ordinary and unexceptionable. As I said, it was a good year for reading and went out on a high level with two more volumes in Orson Scott Card's Ender saga. Speaker for the Dead, easily standing on its own, is definitely one of the finest science-fiction novels I've read, with a fascinating vision of what an alien species might be like. And Ender's Shadow is an exceptionally bold, and successful, book based on the exact same time frame and events as Ender's Game, seen from a different perspective. I was amazed at how well Card pulled that one off.

Alas, then it was dependent upon the freebie selection at the State Library to provide holiday weekend reading. Since the library would be closed for the three-day weekend, I stopped down on Friday, looking for a couple of nice thick ones. No question about thickness when it comes to Michener's Alaska, but it's still open to question whether I'll finish it or not. I'm not particularly a Michener fan nor, for that matter, all that much interested in Alaska. I've never read his Hawaii and loathed the movie but, still, I thought I'd give this one a try. So I am, with a Danielle effort (improbably involving the Russian Revolution) held in reserve in case this Michener thing doesn't get further off the ground than it has in the first two hundred pages.

Speaking of reading, there is a new reader of the Tales who discovered them not long ago and is making his way through them all from the beginning. A formidable task! As is my habit, I read the past year's Tales at the end of a year or in the beginning of a new one, and just that is enough for me of reading me.

No Bad Boys all week. I was especially surprised not to see at least one of them at the mall on Saturday, since I was there from about four in the afternoon until almost nine. I do wonder what they're doing with themselves during the daytime, particularly Rossini and Angelo. The Sleeptalker must still be with his "new boy". Rocky had asked me if I was jealous. Not at all, I assured him. I'd like nothing more for the Sleeptalker than for him to find a playmate closer to his own age, and for it to last longer than his usual buddyships.

The Fatman and his new boy seem to have split already and the new "boy" was at Hamilton one afternoon on his own. He sat at a terminal across from me and was so deeply engrossed in whatever he was doing that I had a chance to look at him more closely than before. He must be in his early thirties, is certainly a very sexy man but rough looking, so much so I'd not even think of approaching him even just on a friendly basis. Brave Fatman. Meanwhile, he has hooked up with one-half of the long-time Airport Couple. Funnily, that one talks as constantly as the Fatman, and I see them strolling along together, both chatting away at the same time, obviously neither of them listening to the other.

I had hoped the Fabled Pension Check would arrive on Saturday. No luck. I shall no doubt be grateful it didn't when it does eventually get here, since I probably would've spent a lot of it on the holiday weekend. And three cheers for that nice stranger and the Cherub stepping in to at least partly fill the gap.

Aloha oe, AD 2000.

665

The first morning of the new year began clear and sunny but anyone who has lived here for long knew it wouldn't stay that way. The mahukona, the wretched Kona Winds ... what a nasty omen for the beginning of a new Anno Domini. I suppose most places in the Northern Hemisphere, folks welcome a wind from the south in the midst of winter, but not here. As expected, it was soon completely overcast and the nasty volcanic gook in the air shrouded the mountains in haze. Despite threatening all day, it didn't rain until nightfall.

After a quiet New Year's Eve day on campus, when the computer lab closed at 4:30 I headed to the mall, found enough quarters to ensure New Year's Day would also be a two-Colt one. I'd had one with the Eve lunch but had little to eat all day, so the second one after sunset had me sufficiently buzzed. I wasn't tempted to unwisely splurge on a third. I got to GovSanc a little after eight and slept until about ten-thirty when a man with a flashlight, wearing a jacket that said SHERIFF on the back, woke me and said, "you can't sleep here, sir." A polite eviction. I suppose they were detailed to patrol the downtown buildings to make sure clandestine street parties weren't in progress since most of downtown was full of swarming celebrants.

Oh well, it was in a way appropriate that I spent the final hours of the old year and the first ones of the new on a bench across from Angelo and the Sleeptalker. When I arrived at the New Cloisters, still a bit buzzed and groggy from my couple of hours of sleep, the Sleeptalker called me over and tried to get me into a bizarre argument he was having, insisting that Angelo was Mexican. As I told Angelo the next evening, it hadn't seemed worth telling the Sleeptalker that Angelo has a very famous Spanish surname, or to point out that most Mexicans are of Spanish origin anyway. Angelo laughed and said I'd seemed too far gone to care anyway, and I said, at that point the Sleeptalker could have insisted you were an Eskimo and I wouldn't have argued.

The Sleeptalker was totally wound up, chattering away non-stop in his best mock Filipino accent, so wrapped up in his family, as usual. Much talk of "my grandfahdah and my grandmuhdah" filtered through my earplugs as I lay on the bench across from them, admired Angelo for his patience, and felt sorry yet again for the poor Sleeptalker, so bound by a family which wants nothing to do with him. The Insomniac arrived with a few beers and surprisingly, after they finished those, both the Sleeptalker and Angelo quickly settled down, were asleep by eleven-thirty and didn't even stir when the expected explosions greeted AD 2001.

I knew McD's at the mall wasn't opening until ten on New Year's Day, so went directly to Waikiki and enjoyed my dawn coffee at a McD's there which has added a little patio with tables and chairs, a most pleasant place for morning coffee when the weather is fine. Then I strolled along the beach in that brisk wind which was blowing in from the ocean, making the water unusually choppy, sat for awhile in the park enjoying the early sun and watching slim brown boys using the nearby exercise area. Judging by the litter in the streets, the police must have given up on trying to enforce the no-drinking laws the night before and the cleaning army had enough to do clearing all the cans and bottles that they hadn't gotten to the ashtrays. Two full boxes of lengthy snipes just by walking through the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.

Late morning, I returned to the mall. By then it had clouded over and I spent a lazy day alternating between wandering around the mall, sitting for awhile reading, waiting until early afternoon for the first brew. I saw Rocky, who was all bouncy and happy because he's got a new job, starting the next day at some unspecified task in the Convention Center. It's funny how very happy the lads get when they land one of these jobs and how very quickly the enthusiasm begins to lag, but I congratulated him and teased that now I can ask him to loan me a couple of dollars instead of the other way around.

Poor Angelo. When I told him later about Rocky, he rather mournfully told me Rossini has found a place to live. One with a job, one with a room, leaving Angelo feeling left out, I guess.

I thought it probably best not to return to GovSanc, just in case that lawman paid a follow-up visit, and luckily got to the New Cloisters during a break in the drizzle. I chatted briefly with Angelo and then settled on the other end of his bench, hoping the Sleeptalker wouldn't turn up. He didn't, but some even more disturbing people did, two Filipino couples. They made a great deal of noise, would then settle for awhile before once again starting to yak away and didn't finally quiet down until just before the big clock chimed midnight. If it hadn't been so wet I would have moved over to one of the too-short benches, but by then the rain was falling so heavily I would've gotten soaked just from the short distance between overhead cover. Oh well, I told myself, I really need to adjust my inner balance anyway. I've been sleeping too much, really do not need a full eight hours of sleep. And I certainly didn't get it, because those jabbering Filipinos were at it again by five in the morning. I assume they must have long afternoon naps somewhere.

I had plugged on with the Michener book until the transition of Alaska from Russia to America and the Klondike goldrush, then decided I'd had it with the thing. It has what must be the potential for twenty novels but as it is, each story just begins to get interesting when it ends and the next begins. Like many such oversized paperbacks, it had started to fall apart physically as well, so I threw it away, turned instead to Danielle Steel's Zoya which does, indeed, begin with the Russian Revolution but gets through that part in less than a quarter of the book. I am sure he wouldn't agree, but I think Steel is a much better writer than Michener.

So the New Year began with about five hours on a bench looking across at Angelo and the Sleeptalker. Despite the dreary south wind and, even more importantly, the lamented absence of the Fabled Pension Check, it was a pleasant enough day. And despite the annoying companions it was, too, a pleasure to spend the first full night of the new year with my favorite sleeping partner. Okay, AD 2001, what else can you show me?

666

Erk. 666.

Two of the treasures had been missing for so long I was beginning to think they might be gone for good. Still not sure about Travis, perhaps he has left the supermarket, but the Young Hardhat finally appeared on Thursday morning. As always, he looked right into my eyes. He is such a sweetheart. I'll be sorry to see the construction project at the mall come to an end.

After a morning spent mostly on-line, I went to the State Library on Tuesday, picked up a couple of books and then checked mail. No joy. So in the late afternoon I headed to the mall to look for the three quarters I needed for a sunset brew. The Mongoose was back on duty. He has dyed his hair. It is so blatantly obvious a dye job that he looks even more absurd than usual. Mme de Crécy had suggested watching "2001" on New Year's Day and although I declined, I asked for a film rain check, Visconti's "Death in Venice", come birthday time. That film, among its many influences on my life, particularly brought to an end any thought of hair coloring. Thoughts that made the New Year entry from
Terri even more amusing.

With the Mongoose active, it seemed unlikely I'd find those missing quarters. I was taking a smoke break, sitting on a planter ledge outside the supermarket, when the Cherub walked up. Amazing to run into him at the mall again so soon. He first gave me the quarters I needed, then changed his mind about going home and bought us two 40s. We went over to the park to drink them and I finally got the story of what had happened during his holiday visit to Kauai.

His estranged parents had launched the thing in classic style. Mother was supposed to have sent the plane ticket, but didn't. Father refused to step in, saying it was her turn. The Cherub ended up having to borrow money to get the ticket himself. I said I wouldn't have gone at all.

He spent the first half of the time with his mother, never saw the two of them together. When she flew off to the mainland for Christmas with her family, he then stayed with his father. Father thinks of nothing but a reconciliation and talks of killing himself if it doesn't happen. Mother, on the other hand, said how wonderful it was to live without someone else being "in control". Yes, when I questioned it, the Cherub admitted his father is indeed a control freak, even down to being a fanatic about where things are placed in a room. His father's last words to the Cherub as he was about to board the return plane were "pray for me", understood as meaning pray for the reconciliation to happen. What a dreary way to have spent the holiday.

We walked over to the mall where he bought two more bottles and we continued the discussion back in the park. Then I went on my way to the New Cloisters, settled on one of the too-short benches rather than endure those chattering Filipino couples again. I finally figured out a way to sleep on those little benches, picking two that are side-by-side and bending my legs around the metal armrests. At about four-thirty I was awakened by three young men who were sitting on the floor not far away, all in speedy motormouth condition. Sheez. Since there's no problem sitting anywhere and talking all night, why do these yobs have to pick a place where people are sleeping?

I reminded myself of what I'd said about not needing so much sleep anyway, and took the bus to the mall, sat outside McD's reading until it opened. Zoya is classic Danielle Steel. Riches to rags to riches to rags to riches. Funny stuff, quite enjoyable. Next in line was Pandora from Anne Rice, expanding one of the characters from her Conversation with the Vampire and providing interesting lunch-time reading while I enjoyed the brew made possible by the Cherub's quarters.

Then again downtown to check mail. Hurrah, at last that damned check was there. As I recall, this is only the second time it has been as late, so I shouldn't complain. And a few days of being dependent on snipe hunting provided a good reminder of just how grateful I am for that Crazy Money, never mind once again dreading the upcoming appointment with the Doc.

Off to Waikiki to cash it and celebrate with another brew and a pack of Pall Malls, surrounded in the secluded grove by zebra doves who were so disappointed I'd brought nothing for them that I dug in a trash can, found an abandoned plate lunch box and gave them the rice. When it got too dark to read, I returned to the mall, continuing the celebration with yet another bottle. Once again, along came the Cherub. He's turning into as big a mall rat as I am. This time, though, he was on his way home, intending to settle in with a bottle of wine and a book. He'd seen the car his father is buying for him, said it wasn't in very good shape and in any case, he didn't at this point know how he'd be able to afford the gas anyway. He has applied for several jobs, thus far without success. I was hoping his application at the bookstore near campus would be accepted, would have been fun to have him working there, but he hadn't heard from them yet.

Back to the peace and quiet of GovSanc for the night, undisturbed by the man who quietly arrived during the night and took the bench next to mine or by the man who was equally quiet on the bench across the way. My kind of sleeping companions. I wish a little that Angelo would move to GovSanc but that might bring all the others there, too, so I'll keep a lid on that wish. And, of course, with Friday being Crazy Money day, the Bad Boys will all disappear with their glass pipes for awhile.

As for me, I'm just glad those empty pockets days passed as pleasantly as they did.

667

Oh man, on a list of the most dumb, most crazy things I've done in my life, this ranks right up in the top. Would you believe, I missed the appointment with the Doc! Sheez. Okay, I had slightly dreaded it, again, but I was well prepared. He'd told me the last time to continue my research as "homework" and I'd begun a book called Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond by the daughter of Aaron Beck, the man who concocted this method of psychotherapy in the 60s. I figured that would more than cover the assignment.

I'd had breakfast at the Paradise Palms Cafe so didn't plan to eat lunch, went downhill to get a bottle of Colt and check the fifty-cent cart at the bookstore. Then I sat reading in the secluded grove until the beer was finished. It was only about one o'clock, too late for another brew but early enough not to have to worry yet about making the three o'clock appointment with the Doc. So I returned to the computer lab, got so engrossed with on-line activities that I just didn't notice the time pass. Finally I looked up at the clock. Erk! It was 2:45. No way to get downtown in time. I called the office, apologized to the receptionist, set another appointment (for the 24th) and asked her to tell the Doc I was reading Judith Beck's book. Sigh.

If he follows the guidelines strictly, they'll cut off the Crazy Money and make me go through the whole application procedure again. What an idiot. All the Boys have done this at one time or another and we've always agreed it was a certain sign that they deserved the Crazy Money. How crazy can you get?

Aside from walking around the rest of the day muttering to myself, "I can't believe you did that", I also had to wonder why on earth I had. If you don't believe in accidents, then there had to be other reasons besides just losing track of the time. I had asked Helen R to join me for dinner at Smorgy's in Waikiki, an open-air laidback restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet, so shoved the pondering to the backburner and went off to meet her. Yikes, was late getting there, too. 01/05/01 was definitely a day when my clock went whacko.

As always in such places, I ate more than was wise so frequently woke in the night, still feeling stuffed. I have a more difficult time coping with overeating than overdrinking.

Meanwhile, Pandora was, all in all, a disappointing book, judged by the high standards Anne Rice has herself set. After finishing it, I wondered if she'd scribbled it down for contractual obligations. On the other hand, Silent Honor is a noble attempt by Danielle Steel to write a novel that needs to be written. The attack on Pearl Harbor may have been a "day that will live in infamy", but the treatment of Japanese-Americans in this country afterwards, even those of Japanese ancestry who were born here and were American citizens in every sense ... years that will live in infamy. Danielle made a fine effort and I admire her book.

In fact, the more I read of her work, the more I do admire her. The Cherub hovers always on the edge of being an intellectual snob, so is quite patronizingly indulgent when I mention Steel, even if he did have to read her to get that one collegiate credit he needed. But yes, she's an excellent novelist, one of the best we have in this country at the moment, and Silent Honor is proof of it.

Thanks to the bookstore cart, it's a Steel double feature because they had her Once in a Lifetime. Interesting this one, the first of her books I've encountered where the main character is a female writer of best-sellers. The plot circumstances don't seem to have much to do with Steel's own life, what little I know about it, but surely most of the observations about that kind of success must mirror her own.

The Cherub said, during our last conversation, "you seem to be closing the door on life." Hmmmm. Am I closing it, or is it closing itself? I've enjoyed reading the tales of the past year, enjoyed being reminded again of some of its sweetest moments, even enjoyed being reminded of how very much I love the Sleeptalker. In retrospect, it doesn't look like any door had closed at all, but the Cherub is probably right on a very basic level. Any crumb of interest that comes along, whether a decent book or a tender, brief love affair, is at this point the proverbial icing on the cake. The door is closed, but now and then opens a crack.

With or without Crazy Money.

668

Sunday, the seventh day of AD 2001. Eight quite splendid hours with the Man I Love.

I was in a foul mood on Saturday, for no particular reason which is the worst kind of foul moods to be in. And I knew it was one of those mental states where there's really nothing to do about it but wait for it to pass, so I stayed on campus, alternated between being on-line and sitting in the secluded grove, reading and drinking. Since it's the last weekend before school starts, everything but the little computer lab was closed and it, too, closed at 4:30. So I had one last brew after that and went very early to GovSanc, slept for almost nine hours, just me, a man on a bench across from me and the more-or-less regular Bicycle Man quietly on the bench next to me.

I had just bought my coffee at McD's early on Sunday morning when the Sleeptalker walked in. He'd had a fight with the fellow he has been staying with, had left there in the wee hours and, I guess, came looking for me. He had a job for awhile as, incredibly enough, a security guard. Consequently, he lost the Crazy Money allowance and, of course, before long, the job. He had one final check coming but couldn't collect it until Monday. So he was broke, and believe me, the Sleeptalker is at his best when he's broke.

And his best is very sweet indeed.

I bought him a coffee and then we went to campus, played both MUDs for several hours. He was hungry. I had a craving for a Bloody Mary, which happens now and then. It was still half an hour too early for the East Side Grill to open, so I got him some food from the 7-Eleven to hold him over, then we went to the Grill. I drank Bloody Mary's, he drank Long Island Iced Teas. Lots of weird sports things on the multi-tv setup, basketball on one, football on another, and on the one directly in front of us, first sumo, then a bizarre series of contests to determine "The World's Strongest Man", coming from South Africa. An enormous fellow from Fiji won.

More rounds of re-filled glasses than I could count, but who was counting. The Sleeptalker is an uncle again, for the fourth time, his new nephew having been christened "Justice". That sister is one of the few members of the family the Sleeptalker can still visit, so he had seen his nephew. How he does love talking about his family. I hadn't heard before that his mother is a member of one of the churches which indulges in the "speaking in tongues" (which he called "speaking languages"), am not sure why but had assumed he would have been raised as a Catholic, given the Filipino and Portuguese backgrounds.

And for the first time in many moons, I could finally, safely tease him again about what a total sweetheart he is, both in the bar and, later, back in the game. It's finally okay again, he has gotten over it at last, and can relax about the fact that I adore him.

That pretty well sums it up, too.

I wasn't unhappy when he said in mid afternoon that he had to go look for Angelo, although I hadn't quite understood why he was so eager to find Angelo when he'd mentioned it earlier. The Sleeptalker is thinking about using his final paycheck to go to Kauai for awhile. He has an invitation from someone to stay there, so I suppose he wanted to talk to Angelo about details. Not sure, but, no, I wasn't unhappy to see him go, was just very pleased to have had such a completely pleasant time with him and to have been reassured that, yes, I'm still the man he looks for when things go wrong and, yes, I still seem to have the knack of helping him sort it out.

That's exactly what I want for him ... and for us.

669

A reader wrote: Don't know if you can read the files, they're supposed to be the best approx of a panther I had in my collection. But I'm no expert, not many of these animals where I live.



Heh. Well, not many panthers here, either, and mercifully no critters as fearsome as that, although there may be a few human animals which come close.

As is not unusual, Fool Moon time brought with it an extraordinary encounter. I went to Manoa Garden to welcome back Bryant the Bartender, was sitting outside with my brew and Father Greeley's Happy are the Clean of Heart, wondering if the Cherub would appear. He didn't. But a quite handsome young man, the perfect image of a Hollywood Jesus, came over to my table and sat down. Collar-length dark hair, slightly tousled, a neatly trimmed beard and moustache. He noted the book. I explained the title was a paraphrase of the Beatitude, "blessed are the pure in heart". He said he wasn't happy, put his head down on his arm and sobbed.

Not just a handsome young man, a handsome young madman. I patted his head, he recovered, asked my name, said his was Octavius. No way I can come up with a nickname better than that for him, so I'll use the name he gave me, although he said later it wasn't his real name. He asked why I was there and I explained that the bartender had been a friend for many years, so I had come to welcome him back. Later he repeated the question, I repeated the answer. He wondered if I wasn't really there to pick up a young man! Well, I said, I now and then meet interesting young men here, but no, that's not the reason I was there. He told me he thought sex between men was "wrong", but said it more with a feeling of sadness than conviction.

He said he wanted to "dominate the world", reached over at one point and gently touched my face, said, "if you followed me, I could make you young again." I told him I didn't really want to be young again and that I couldn't follow someone who believed in "wrong".

"Do you have a gun?" he asked. "Why on earth would I have a gun here in Honolulu?" I replied. A little later, he asked the question again.

I finished my beer, didn't really want another although I considered and rejected the notion of offering to buy a second round. So I got up to leave, patted him on the shoulder and wished him pleasant dreams. "Pleasant dreams to you, too," he said. Such a gentle, strange, sweet madman, such a very very strange conversation. Those Fool Moon's eyes, indeed.

After the Sleeptalker had left on Sunday, I'd spent the rest of the day reading in the secluded grove. Maeve Binchy's delightful Evening Class had been on the fifty-cent cart and was, as all of her books are, wonderful to read. I'm only sorry there's just one of her works I haven't yet found, but several of them are well worth a second read. I stayed on campus until after sunset, then went directly to GovSanc for a quiet night. In the morning I walked past the New Cloisters. The Sleeptalker was there, on his own, asleep and looking angelic. Thinking about it, I remembered he'd said something about wanting to sell his foodstamps and that was probably why he was eager to find Angelo, the expert on that subject. But it looked like he'd have to wait until Angelo's money runs out, as I'd warned him.

The first day of the new school term. As usual, the campus was like a swarming, disturbed anthill and, as I'd planned, I left and made the lengthy trip out to the discount clothing store. A dark brown tee shirt with a Hawaiian design in a band around the chest, a polo shirt from Bill Blass in a most unusual color, sort of dusty brownish plum, I guess it could be called, and plaid brushed-cotton boxer shorts with an embroidered image of Winnie the Pooh on them, originally from the Disney store. I didn't find any trousers I liked as much as the ones I have, but it was nice to have the novelty of the other new things and amusing that an old homeless guy is walking around wearing Bill Blass.

To Chinatown then for cheap cigarettes and finally, after having eyed it for several months, a silver Tibetan ring, deeply engraved with what I think is "om mani padme hum" in Tibetan characters. Such a lovely young woman working in the shop, making the transaction even more of a pleasure. Then to the bookstore, selecting the Greeley book (despite its higher price tag) and another one from Danielle. A sandwich and a bottle of Colt, a cornbread muffin for the birds, late lunch in the secluded grove which wasn't very secluded. There seem to be more students this term, or perhaps it's just because so many had to be there for the first day.

Another Colt, continuing the as always totally charming book, back on-line for awhile and then to that mysterious encounter with a man who wants to dominate the world. A shame he thinks it is "wrong". I would have been happy to instruct him in my theories of how to stay young.

670

Fierce hangovers two days in a row ... ugh. When will I learn that three 40s is my daily limit, even when they're spread over an afternoon and evening?

The Cherub came to the computer lab on Tuesday afternoon and we went to Manoa Garden, drank until early evening when he had to stagger off to a Faustian rehearsal. I told him about Sunday with the Sleeptalker, Monday with Octavius. I was hoping Octavius would be at the Garden again, it would be interesting to see him and the Cherub interact. And I want to see Octavius again, plain and simple. Not that day, alas, nor was he there on Wednesday evening when I walked past and saw the Cherub there again, although the Cherub said people at a nearby table had been talking about Octavius. The Cherub had made a mistake, thought he was supposed to be at rehearsal that evening, too, but he wasn't needed. I'd already had my three 40s but didn't decline his offer of another, as I should have. Pay the price, pay the price.

Although she obviously took the writing of it very seriously, I don't think Danielle Steel's Message from Nam is one of her better books and I'm puzzled why she went with such an utterly improbable ending. I knew I was going to finish it on Wednesday so made a trip down to the State Library to check the freebie collection. Most excellent timing, since there were two of Father Greeley's novels.

For a change, I went to the beach park for lunch, then, instead of returning directly to campus. Same old bums in the park, no Bad Boys there or the mall. Finishing the Steel effort, on to Greeley's Ascent into Hell, heavier than most of the things I've read by him.

"You'll understand, however, only when you find what you're looking for."
"Which is.... ?" he asked.
"God .... who else?"

I told the Cherub that if I lived where Father Greeley was saying Mass (okay, the Eucharist), I'd go to church every day, just to hear the sermons.

The weather was pleasant and it was quite warm in the sun but I was grateful someone had left the shower room unlocked on campus so I'd had a hot shower earlier, no need to contemplate a cold one at the beach showers.

At first on Thursday morning, the campus seemed somewhat less crowded than it had been all week, but that changed by late morning. There really must have been an increase in enrollment numbers this term. I can't remember it having been quite this dense before. But certainly no complaints. There are so many interesting young men in this new crop, even an old jaded soul like me is often quite amazed.

671

A reader corrected me. It's no longer sermons at the Mass, it's "homilies" at the "Eucharist". And he pointed to the
Father Andrew Greeley website, where some of those homilies I'd hear every day if I could are collected. I might have known the inimitable Father Greeley would have a website, should have done a search. It's taking me awhile to catch up with this newfangled Mother Church. There's also a site with some newspaper articles he has written. I promptly added both links to my Reading Room.

Father Greeley's novels certainly are those oft-cited, but not always accurately, "impossible to put down" books. I finished Ascent into Hell by the end of Thursday and went on to his Love Song, while reading a little from the two web sites as well. I think his often thoroughly thought-provoking comments on the subject of religion are possibly easier to take when they come flying at you in the middle of a engrossing fictional tale than in a "homily".

After those two hangover-plagued days, I was determined to limit myself to two 40s on Thursday, consequently felt almost human on Friday morning. There was a strong temptation to yield, have a sunset brew, but fortunately Octavius was again not at the Garden, making it easier to resist the temptation. That other extraordinary young man, however, did make a surprising appearance in the game at sunset time, playing from the State Library.

He was most pleased to have been given his security guard job back. Judging by the Sleeptalker's prior record, that probably means he had failed to appear for work one day and had just assumed he'd get fired. But evidently when he went to get what he thought would be his final check, he was invited to stay on. It surely won't last long, but it's equally surely better for him than the Crazy Money routine. They must be quite desperate for men to walk around premises, punching in at the required checkpoints along the way.

He hadn't seen Angelo, speculated that Angelo had either gone to Kauai (unlikely, I'd think) or was staying with someone he named but I don't remember having met. The Sleeptalker said he wanted to find somewhere better than the New Cloisters to sleep, there was a "doper" staying there now who was irking him by constantly yakking about cocaine. In Judith Beck's cosmos with its thoroughly unconvincing excerpts from supposed case histories, it should be a simple matter of pointing out to the Sleeptalker how he condemns most strongly those who behave just like him. That would almost instantly change his way of thinking. Sorry, Dr. Beck, I just don't think the real world works like that, am certain the one I live in doesn't.

The Sleeptalker asked if I wanted to "party" at the New Cloisters later. I said that by the time I got downtown, I'd just want to sleep, had overdone the party routine in the last two days. I suppose by "party" he had just meant drinking beer, but I could easily think of more interesting possibilities. Patience, patience.

As Cainer had written earlier this week, "all you have to do is wait."

672

Then, my turn to attack, I disrobed my man.
I devoured him, uncovered, full-length,
Explored, then reveled in his youthful strength,
And traced his wonders with my eager hand.


The good Father Greeley inspiring at least one of his readers to thoughts of committing mortal sin. I thought he was paraphrasing the Song of Songs and went to have a look. No, incredible as that particular book of Holy Scripture is, there are no lines in it which correspond to those, at least not directly enough to be recognized. Still, I suppose nudging the sinful-thoughts reader to check out the Book is some kind of balance.

What a strange Friday. After a peaceful night and, as I said, waking with the relief of not feeling physically awful, I went as usual to have pre-dawn coffee at McD's, then to campus. I had resolved, without making it one of those absurd New Year's things, to spend more time on The Panther's Cave, checking links, correcting addresses, getting rid of deadwood. So I did that, luckily finding a vacant web terminal at Hamilton Library to make the process easier (not helped by four or five homeless persons, only some of whom may merit the nomad definition, who occupy said terminals for too much time daily).

As mid-day approached, I went downhill for a sandwich and a bottle of Colt, already having three sesame-seed hamburger buns leftover from Thursday for the zebra doves in the secluded grove. Although I have been closely observing them for over three years now, I did see a first. One of them flew in with a large twig in its beak and proceeded to do a backwards circle dance. Was that an invitation to build a nest? I'm not sure, and perhaps none of the others were either, or else they just weren't interested, because he (or she ... I can't tell male from female with them) dropped the twig and joined in pecking away at the chunks of bread. Delightful dance, though.

I was so engrossed in Father Greeley's Love Song that I returned downhill for another Colt. When I got back to the secluded grove, a security guard was taking his break there. Okay, the brew had to wait until he finished and went away. So much for "secluded".

That finally opened and finished, I said no, you will not at this time have a third, but had best, instead, make the trip down to Chinatown since the last pack of Seneca cigarettes had been opened. Alas, that may be the last pack of Seneca cigarettes for a long time. My favorite vendor was shuttered and closed. The nearby competitor no longer offered any "Native brands" at all. Crackdown, obviously. I returned to campus and searched the web site of the local newspaper, found this item:

"Beginning Jan. 1, cigarette and tobacco wholesalers and dealers will be required to affix small square stamps to individual cigarette packages as proof the 5-cents-a-pack taxes were paid on the smokes."

Deep sigh. Well, it certainly was fine while it lasted, and I shall miss that Seneca brand which wasn't only cheap but quite decent smokes. Just why paying that five cents, which they should have been doing all along, and affixing the stamp should raise the price of the cheapest pack by one dollar is a question. Time to cut down, time to reinstate the snipe hunt full-time, not just in the broke last week of the month.

The long run of sunny warm days ended as sunset approached. Gray clouds and light drizzle arrived just at the time the band was to start at Manoa Garden. I didn't mind, wasn't at all in the mood for crowds, so didn't plan to go. I did walk past to see if Octavius was there. I guess he's just not a regular at the Garden, or else is a late arriver. It certainly was crowded, though, despite the threatening weather.

To the mall for a nightcap instead, continuing and almost finishing Love Song. Then the next unpleasant surprise of the day. All the lobby lights were blazing at GovSanc and a crew of workmen were doing something in there. So on to the New Cloisters. Several people were still awake in the main area and I didn't see either Angelo or the Sleeptalker. I settled on the too-short benches and was quickly asleep although I later had to switch to another pair of benches when two yobs sat at the ones next to mine and were yakking away, at one-thirty in the morning. Sigh.

It seems to have rained all night and although the Saturday sky was fairly clear at dawn, by the time the computer lab opened on campus it had again clouded over and a light drizzle was falling. As within, so without ... or vice versa.

673

Conrad certainly has a big dick. I really don't like the man and it had never occurred to me to wonder what's in his shorts. But I could hardly fail to notice when I was walking to my usual bench in the mall and he was standing there with it hanging out, pissing in the planter box. Wrecked again, obviously. He goes into a rehab/detox place, after a month comes out cleaned-up and sober, sits around in McD's a lot looking gloomy and miserable. Then it's back to the sauce, starting with 12-packs of beer and soon on to bottles of harder stuff. He gets incredibly drunk, almost unable to walk, and obviously too far gone to care if he pulls out his big willie right in the crowded mall.

So he's back again, as is Bla. No idea what happened to him, but he's been missing for months, finally turned up at McD's on Sunday morning, gave me his usual upward nod and smile. Sexy man. The Whore, who is no more sexy than Conrad, has also rejoined the early morning McD's crowd altho he seems to have permanently abandoned the Quarter Hunt. Not so, the Mongoose, who was whizzing around on his bicycle Saturday evening. Alas, both Travis and the Young Hardhat were missing all week.

The weather brightened by late morning on Saturday. I went to the State Library where the selection wasn't very interesting. Pity, since the place would be closed on Monday, but I guess I can sacrifice one Colt's worth of money at the fifty cent cart in the bookstore. I did get Danielle Steel's The Ranch, returned to the secluded grove with hotdogs, a Colt, fed the birds and started the book.

"What's for supper?"
"Stew."
"What's in it?"
"Everything but the kitchen sink," was inevitably my mother's reply.

That pretty well sums up this epic from Danielle, too. Suicides, divorces, attempted murder, a forest fire, AIDS, etc. etc. Amusing fluff, though, if certainly not one of her best.

The Fatman and the Pirate (formerly referred to as his New Boy) were at Hamilton when I returned. The Pirate was wearing those gray-blue-white camouflage fatigue pants, combat boots and a tanktop, from a distance looked fascinating. Up close, I continue to be put off by his very tough looking face. I thought how much fun it would be to see the Sleeptalker in that gear but it's just as well he never wears camouflage fatigues. I really don't need any added incentives to lust when it comes to him.

I went back downhill for a second Colt, stopped to watch the football boys at an informal practice, most of them bare-chested and wearing sweatshorts. The Freshman of the Year was stunning, his title secure despite some heavy competition from the new crop.

I must have spring fever and it isn't even spring ... not by a long shot. Guess it must be the tip of the tail of the departing Dragon.

674


I am a very lucky man, indeed. And despite all the complications and occasional storms, my three-year friendship with the Sleeptalker is without question the most treasured evidence of that "luck". And even as it was happening, I knew there was also no doubt that Round Seven with him would forever be a highlight of that friendship and one of the sweetest memories of this long life. Yes, one of those times when a man sighs deeply and says, I could die happily after that ... and really mean it, in my case, even wish it.

The university was closed for Martin Luther King Day, so it was an off-line day and, as always with those irregularities, I was somewhat at a loss as to what to do with it. I'd slept at GovSanc, didn't have to arise early since the building would be closed for the holiday, and went as usual to the mall to have coffee when I did get up. Then I went to Chinatown to further explore the cigarette situation. My favorite place appears to be permanently closed and once the shops having a "close-out" do in fact stop selling cigarettes, it looks like the cheapest will be $3. Hardly worth a trip to Chinatown, since 7-Eleven offers one brand at $3.18.

Then I went to Waikiki, strolled along the beach in the early sunshine and thought how much better the hunk-watching is on campus, with a few notable exceptions. Of course, the advantage of Waikiki, with those exceptions, is that one sees a LOT more of each. On the other hand, I feel terribly overdressed with long pants and the backpack, strolling amongst slim brown lads wearing nothing but shorts. And there was going to be a parade for the holiday, ending at Kapiolani Park which was already quite crowded with folks staking out their picnic areas.

So I decided I'd go back to the mall and beach park, forget about Waikiki. A fortuitous decision. I had an early lunch of Swiss cheese on rolls with a bottle of Colt, returned to the mall for a second bottle. I saw Rocky sitting on a bench, wearing expensive-looking new headphones, and we exchanged waves but didn't speak. With the bottle in backpack, I went back to the park, saw the Sleeptalker, Angelo and Rossini sitting on the grass, heard them calling me over.

They had an eighteen-pack of Budweiser, so I uncapped my bottle and joined them. The Sleeptalker was full of tales of his security guard job, as always jumping up now and then to act out the more amusing stories. He was in absolutely top notch form, unbeatable. After a couple of hours he and Rossini began to negotiate the acquisition of filling for the glass pipe. Evidently Rossini has again changed his mind about totally staying away from "ice" (aka crystal methamphetamine) and agreed to buy one helping if the Sleeptalker would buy one. I said I'd just stay in the park and maybe see them later, but all three of them urged me to join them. Angelo had been staying at a place in Waikiki, a studio apartment in a building which is mostly hotel rooms. The man who lives there had gone to the mainland, so Angelo had the place in the meantime, didn't tell us until the next day that it would, in fact, be the final one.

So I tagged along as they walked to a nearby bar to buy the goods. Sitting outside was a young local couple who had joints to sell, so the Sleeptalker bought one, as did Angelo. If I'd known how good the stuff was going to turn out, I probably would've too. Most excellent quality for street weed.

The tiny plastic bags with the white powder having been obtained, off we went to Waikiki. The apartment was just hideous and very tiny, but on the 22nd floor and with a large lanai (balcony). Unbelievable that someone was paying seven hundred dollars a month for the place (or had been).

The Sleeptalker was utterly delightful in the tender way he instructed me in the proper use of the glass pipe, getting the stuff smoking and holding the pipe while I gently inhaled from it (after he had softly scolded me for puffing too hard), his fingers touching my lips. The problem is, the smoke has no body to it, impossible to feel that one's lungs are filling up with smoke. It reminds me of smoking pure hashish in a pipe, something I never liked as much as mixing it with tobacco, and for the same reason. The smoke needs more substance. Still, I carefully followed the Sleeptalker's instructions and eventually mastered the technique, although, with no complaints from me, he continued each round to do the firing and holding the pipe for me. If I had not already, and for so long, been in love with the man, that hour would most certainly have done it.

I was addicted to methamphetamine for a long time, thought ice would be much the same. A wrong assumption. It shares certain things, especially my tendency to abundantly sweat and that not so happily remembered tenseness in the jaws. But it actually reminds me more of heroin than any other drug I have experienced. Mellow, very mellow. I don't know how it is that the Sleeptalker has so often seemed hyper on the stuff and wonder perhaps if those times he hadn't been smoking "crack" instead of ice. Certainly I saw for the first time what Angelo had told me about the Sleeptalker under the influence of ice. He gets utterly withdrawn and absolutely, totally fascinated with mirrors. Narcissus in person. He sat for at least an hour on the end of a bed, gazing intently into a mirror on the opposite wall. Fine with me, since I could sit gazing just as intently at him, with occasional glances at Angelo who was smirking, but kindly, at my adoration.

Angelo told us we were all welcome to sleep there. The Sleeptalker was supposed to be at work at six the next morning, said he had to go downtown to get his uniform from his locker. I volunteered to go along with him, partly because I was concerned about how thoroughly stoned he was. So was I, but I have a lot more experience than he does. It was a strange trip, with very few words exchanged but at the same time as if in a very intimate space bubble, just the two of us, no matter how many other people were around us. When we returned, the pipe was passed one more time, as were the two smokes. Zonked, utterly zonked. I had offered to pick up some beer on the way back, but the Sleeptalker said (rightly) that we didn't really need it. Angelo and Rossini were quite eager for some, though, so I went to the shop downstairs in the hotel and bought two six-packs. The clerk mysteriously only charged me for one. I certainly didn't argue.

We were watching, for most of the evening, one of those dreadful "top one hundred" things that have come to dominate VH-1, this time the top one hundred "hard rock bands". The three of them played poker for awhile. I said I was too stoned to remember which card combinations were higher than others, so would watch, just as well since the variation of poker they played was totally new to me. Rossini was the first to conk out, settling on the floor between the twin beds. The Sleeptalker was reading the Bible, now and then asking me the meaning of words which he didn't know. Synagogue, palsy, tempest and even, to my surprise, persecution. He asked plaintively at one point if we didn't spend a lot of time "repenting", said he seems to be doing it all the time even if he does continue to do things that he knows he will feel a need to repent for afterwards. I suggested that we really have to decide ourselves what is "right" or "wrong" for us, not just accept other guidelines, but knew I'd have no impact, not up against his extraordinary dance with Christianity.

Angelo then collapsed on the bed nearest the windows and I settled on the floor between them and his bed, the Sleeptalker still sitting on the other bed, again entranced by the mirror. I didn't really sleep at all, just now and then dozed. The Sleeptalker came over and gently patted me several times during the night to ask for a cigarette. I don't think he slept at all, either. Sleeplessness is another thing ice has in common with plain old methamphetamine, although Rossini and Angelo seem immune to that particular effect.

I got up at about 5:15, preparing to alert the Sleeptalker on his get-to-work deadline. He was working very nearby, so didn't need much time to don his uniform and head off. But he would sit up, sit there thinking and again looking in the mirror, then lay back down again, eventually said he just couldn't make it to work. I urged, encouraged, than wondered perhaps if I left he might change his mind, so said I was going out to get coffee. When I returned, Angelo was up, the Sleeptalker still there, laying in bed but awake. Angelo went out to get cigarettes and also brought back a six-pack of beer. Yikes. The three of us drank that, Rossini still sleeping. They wanted more, so I got another two six-packs.

Rossini finally woke up, said he had to go to his mother's and left. The Sleeptalker tried his best to get something from the empty pipe, with no luck, and he started wishing for another little bag. I guess my expression must have been very obvious, because Angelo saw what I was thinking before I'd said a word, and he thought it very funny. Okay, wicked of me, but when he accused me, I admitted, yes, I had thought of a way the Sleeptalker could get that pipe filled. To my amazement, the Sleeptalker instantly agreed, said to give the twenty to Angelo and let him go shopping.

The minute Angelo was out the door, the Sleeptalker lay back on the bed and said, "okay, let's do it, but it's not already hard". Minor problem that was, a situation that promptly changed. Oh so sweet to finally be in a bed with him, alone in a locked room, time to take it slow and easy and relish every moment of it. And he was far more responsive than he's ever been before, adding to the delight of how well we've come to adjust to each other physically. Twice he was on the brink and deliberately eased off and when he finally did let it go, I felt as close to utter happiness as I've ever been or am likely to be. I told him afterwards I felt a little guilty, that I should have just given him the money instead of making him pay for it. "That's okay," he said, "I enjoyed it."

So say us both.

Angelo returned and again the pipe made its rounds. The Sleeptalker vanished into the bathroom for a long time. Then someone tried to enter the apartment, but went away without knocking. Angelo finally confessed that the guy who rented the apartment was supposed to have been back the previous Friday, the rent was overdue, and they'd been told the place would have to be vacated on Tuesday, i.e. today. So he assumed it was the landlord coming around and we made an effort to tidy up the place a bit, expecting him or her to return. She did, not long afterwards, was very pleasant but told us it had been agreed by the tenant that the place would be vacated. I knocked on the bathroom door, told the Sleeptalker we had to leave, and we did, me putting six cans of beer from the fridge in my backpack.

Downstairs, they debated about what to do next. I said I had to go to UH for awhile, didn't want people worried by my continued absence on-line. The Sleeptalker was agreeable to going along, but Angelo had something to take to a pawn shop. I thought that the Sleeptalker, after the pipe and sex, would probably be happier out of my company for a bit, so suggested they take the beer and go on the pawn shop, that I might meet up with them later. They both seemed relieved by the solution and both thanked me as my bus came first and I got up to leave. "No. Thank you," I said to them, "I've never gotten off on that stuff before and it was good to finally experience it."

"And especially, thank you," I said to the Sleeptalker, rubbing my hand through his hair. He grinned. Sweetheart just doesn't say enough.

675


When I finally, after almost forty-eight hours, really fell asleep there was a kaleidoscope of amusing dreams making we wonder if Rossini's apparent ability to use ice in sleep isn't more fortunate than me and the Sleeptalker and our sleeplessness. The inspiration for one of the dreams was clear. Not long ago I was at Hamilton Library when all the web terminals were occupied. To amuse myself while waiting for a vacancy, I looked around on one of the terminals which is restricted to other library websites, including the Library of Congress.

They mounted an exhibition of treasures from the Vatican Library and I read from the catalogue the early history of that collection and how it was expanded by various popes through the centuries, progress often interrupted by death of an interested pope. In the dream, which was one of those maybe-a-past-life kind, I was employed in the court of a major Emperor who was dedicated to founding a great library. Alas, the very enjoyable (and realistic) career of examining and cataloging rare and ancient texts was interrupted by the death of my employer. He had gone to use the royal outhouse, the seat had collapsed and he had fallen in! I trust none of the papal patrons had such an unfortunate finale.

It was highly interesting to observe the very different reactions the four of us had to ice and equally so, to the next-day aftermath. My own experience was probably not what it would typically be, more analytical and comparing. There was at first a truly shocked surprise at finding myself so stoned, more than I've experienced in a very long time and I was much involved in comparing it to pharmaceutical amphetamines. There was none of the zinging clarity of thought or the ever-amusing dance of words exchanged with someone equally affected. No doubt just as well, since that was the main reason I got so hooked on methamphetamine, that and the enticing feeling that one was always just on the verge of understanding everything.

Rossini and Angelo were more social, although even during the poker game their conversation was subdued. None of us seemed to fall into the tendency to jabber away which was usually part of my previous experiences with speed, altho I noticed myself doing it the next day with the Cherub. Perhaps I would have been inclined to be more talkative the previous evening had I not been exercising a lot of caution, not wishing to intrude on what the other three were experiencing. That thought, especially, with the Sleeptalker in mind, since his way is so solitary and withdrawn, the impromptu Bible Class notwithstanding.

And it is the Sleeptalker who seems to suffer the most intense next-day hangover, who certainly appeared to be enduring some kind of psychic pain. I've long noted how all the lads repent, as the Sleeptalker would put it, the day after sessions with ice or crack. I think a large part of that is financial, though. Ice is a very cheap drug, probably the cheapest available. An eight hour high for $20-25 is a bargain. But for all of us, that represents a substantial outlay and for them, one round is not enough if they have sufficient money in pocket for two or three. The aftermath then inevitably includes regret at having spent so much for what afterwards seems a very short time. I've been through that routine so much for reasons other than drug expenditures that it's not a factor for me. I was amused to discover a definite feeling of thinking, "maybe I should take some time off, clean out my system," and that was stronger after the second day of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. But I was surprised not to feel a greater droop in spirits, especially after that memorable hour alone with the Sleeptalker.

I had just finished writing the previous tale when the Cherub arrived at the computer lab on Tuesday. He had Faustian rehearsal at seven, but there was time for a beer at the Garden beforehand. He had gotten quite drunk there on Friday, was worried about whether he might be in trouble with Bryant the Bartender. I told him my experience was, best thing to do was just openly apologize if so. He almost hid behind me as we stepped up to the bar and I told Bryant the Cherub was worried that he might be in disgrace. No problem, he seems to have over-amplified whatever it was he'd done and failed to realize Bryant is so busy on Friday evenings the Cherub would have had to be pretty outrageous to even get Bryant's attention.

As we were sitting outside with the beer, I realized I was indeed falling into speed motormouth mode, forced myself to knock it off. I was still feeling thoroughly buzzed from that lunchtime pipe and perhaps even more so by the thoroughly unexpected interlude in bed with the Sleeptalker. The Cherub, after such a long time of knowing both me and the Sleeptalker, was of course a perfect audience. Not surprisingly, he was envious of the pipe experience, if not the rest.

I returned to the lab briefly after he left for rehearsal but was by then feeling pretty exhausted, wanted to at least lay down somewhere even if I suspected I still wasn't ready for sleep. Angelo and the Sleeptalker had said they'd be at the New Cloisters for the night, but they may have meant another church they'd told me about where they say Rocky has been staying. In any case, the Sleeptalker wasn't at the New Cloisters when I walked by, although Angelo may have been one of the bodies totally concealed under sheets. That place has become such a social club, half a dozen people sitting there yakking away. One young man whom I've seen before but don't really know waved for me to join them. I said I was just looking to see if the Sleeptalker or Angelo were there, and went on my way to GovSanc. Work was again going on in the lobby which was brightly lit, so I settled on a bench around the corner from my usual spot, the darkest of the other options. The Bicycle Man was already on his bench despite the light and the Fat Regular arrived later, like me settled on one in the shadows outside.

It took quite a long time before I did finally fall asleep but it was good to just relax on the bench and think about the events of the two days. I had been thoroughly engrossed in The Hellfire Club, an elegant mystery by Peter Straub, but hadn't taken it out of my backpack since that early afternoon encounter with the lads. It was one of those too-rare times when real life was far more interesting than any fiction could be.

676


I got word that an envelope, "hand-addressed", had arrived from DHSS. Uh-oh. I thought it was probably notice that the Crazy Money had been cut off because of my missed appointment, and the mind immediately began to ponder the consequences, the adjustments that would have to be made. I'd already been scolding myself for not having made the necessary shift in my routine to allow more time for snipe hunting. If I don't have the fortitude, or desire, to quit smoking or to very sharply cut down, then I just have to spend more time looking for those butts during the next two weeks or so and should make it a permanent part of my routine until the SocSec Era arrives.

At first, I thought I'd wait and pick up the dreaded envelope on my way to GovSanc but I couldn't stop thinking about it, decided I might as well make the trip downtown. The buses to and from campus had been packed all day with Japanese folks, older than usual, who appear to be housed in the Pagoda Hotel near the mall and, I suspect, travel to campus for something that's going on at the East-West Center. That bus was the most crowded yet but I got lucky, managed to get a seat. When the bus reached a stop downhill from campus, I saw Angelo, Rossini and Mondo standing there. They didn't notice me, evidently decided to wait for a less crowded bus. Just as we were about to leave, Rossini spotted me, told Angelo, and we exchanged waves. I was relieved the Sleeptalker wasn't with them, hope it meant he followed through on his plan to arrive at work that morning, telling them he'd been too sick the day before to make it.

Whew. The envelope wasn't what I feared, just the papers I have to fill out for the six-month re-evaluation appointment which has to be made before February 16th.

I debated about returning to campus for a sunset brew, or just stopping at the mall and having it in the beach park, but I was afraid the Boys would be there and although I had been delighted to see them from the bus, I really wasn't ready to spend more time with them yet. Too much mental digesting still in progress. So I did return to campus.

Two bottles of Colt is not, I suppose, even close to "cleaning out" the system, but compared to what had been absorbed in the previous two days, was almost teetotal-ish. I'd had the first with lunch in the secluded grove which this semester really needs to be renamed the unsecluded grove. One young woman annoyingly took a bench right beside mine, even though there were other possibilities, but fortunately she didn't stay long. That security guard who had been there before (and amusingly enough, works for the same firm as the Sleeptalker) evidently plans to take his lunch break there every day. His job is really only concerned with the parking garage, but I'm certainly not going to take the chance of filling my beer cup if he's in view. It would indeed be witty of Dame Fortune if she arranges a spot on that team for the Sleeptalker, not impossible since the firm apparently switches people around frequently. It would probably be disastrous for him, though, because he'd be tempted to jump on a computer on his lunch break and inevitably get too wrapped up in the game to stick to his work schedule.

Mental digesting. Yes. A reader wrote: Hope the post coital angst will prove to be decreasing for [the Sleeptalker]. I have to wonder if my "post coital angst" isn't probably greater than his. No matter how much I desire it, no matter how much I love it while it's happening and cherish the memory afterwards, I'm just not at all sure if it's the best thing for him and for our friendship. So each time I spend a lot of time afterwards, if not "repenting" then certainly pondering.

Judith Beck irked me immediately by the almost arrogant way she assumes that she knows what "dysfunctional thinking" is, and I definitely don't agree with some of the examples she provides. I don't think it's necessarily dysfunctional and I certainly don't think it can be altered as easily as she claims. Fodder for my next meeting with the Doc. But yes, okay, I'm not claiming to be free of "dysfunctional thinking", not at all.

And I'm inclined to think a very good example of that was realizing on Wednesday that it's easier for me, in some ways, to cope with an unpleasant time with the Sleeptalker than a pleasant one. Yes, that's dysfunctional. After the (actually very few) truly unpleasant interactions, there was just the simple acceptance of it being time to break off contact. After the pleasant ones, and the more pleasant the more complex the aftermath thinking, it's almost as though I want to write "The End" on the story. Can it ever happen again? Can it get even better? Wouldn't it be best, for both of us, to end it on such a happy note?

And the most ridiculous thing about that kind of thinking is the absurd notion that I have any choice. Oh, I do, but I don't want to.

Okay, that's all dysfunctional. But Doc Beck ain't got the easy answers she thinks she does.

677


Tale 676 certainly provides a clearcut example of violating the concept, Be Here Now. Embarrassing but, no, I won't yield to the temptation and edit it out. Probably even worse, it provides evidence that I am still foolish enough to think I might know what's better for someone else than they do themselves.

Reactions from readers. Well, the easiest first: objections to paying for sex. One was quite touching, expressed the idea that it's clear I would be a kind and generous lover, there must be a young man who would recognize the value of that, and thus it is sad I would have to pay for it. A sweet thought. However, one must deal with things as they are, not as how they could be if Dame Fortune wished it to be that way.

I have never had the slightest problem with paying for sex, did it even at a time when I was capable of getting a much higher price for my own body than I paid for another. I wanted his body, he wanted some extra cash for a trip to Fort Lauderdale, everybody happy. As for now, there is nothing in this world I want more than that which only the Sleeptalker can provide. It would be stupid, idiotic, to deny myself that because of money, although there may well be other reasons I should.

And, as I told one reader, it makes it easier for him. With the exception of the ill-fated Sixth Encounter, it has always been a case of exchanging something he wants for something I want. Thus no need for him to even consider he may have wanted the sex himself. The young man earnestly believes it is a "sin". How much heavier the "repentance" if he has to consider he wanted to commit it, rather than the easier out of a necessary evil to achieve something else that was wanted?

A more difficult protest. No, I do not believe the Sleeptalker was using a calculated strategy to set me up as a steady provider of the drug he loves so much. Yes, I know he has time and again used gay men, he has been very open in talking about it with me. But I also know those men, like I, had absolutely no objection to being used, at least not initially. Some of them were too stupid to hold onto that acceptance, wanted more, and lost the Sleeptalker. I won't do anything for him I don't really want to do and, as he has discovered, there is a limit to how far he can push me. He's a very intelligent man, has the smarts to have survived on the streets for eight or nine years now, but he doesn't calculate like that. He's much closer to be here now than I am.

If I am wrong and the reader is right, I still have no objection. If I were to reach a decision not to have sex with the Sleeptalker again, it would certainly not be because of money or reluctance to exchange the glass pipe for his body. If he's comfortable with it, I am.

And the expected objection. The drug. Yes, I am very aware it is a dangerous substance. I only have to recall the imagined scene of Mackey Feary hanging in his cell to remind myself of that, should I begin to forget it. But in that case, as in every other "drug wreck" I know, whatever the substance, the problem was not really the drug. For all the horror stories about heroin, I also remember the charming American I met in Kathmandu who had been living there for a very long time and for even longer had used heroin daily.

And no, absolutely not! I am in no way recommending that anyone should try it. Not it, not any drug, not caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, none of it. I am absolutely convinced the best way to live this life is to do it free of any of that stuff. The Mormon, the Hindu ascetic ... they have the right idea. I am not strong enough to walk that path, but if I were to recommend anything to anyone, that would be it. I don't, however, want to preach and I most certainly don't want to preach what I don't practice.

For economic reasons alone, the lads are limited in how far they can go with their desire for and enjoyment of this drug although, undoubtedly, if the Sleeptalker were really calculating, he could find someone who would go much further than I can in buying his body for a pipe-full. But at least for now, I am not that concerned for any of them going too far with either of the glass-pipe fillings, however much I may have been annoyed from time to time by the effect on them of indulging. And, of course, that was annoyance because of the inconvenience to me, not genuine concern for their well-being, wasn't it?

Much to my surprise, I have heard from another reader who has only now discovered the Tales and, like the other I recently mentioned, is reading them from the beginning. Extraordinary. The new one mentioned being at Tale 66. I naturally went to read it. Oh dear, what a mess that time was, what growing pains as this strange new life began.

How very much sweeter and, yes, even enlightening, is this amazing continuing dance with the Bad Boys.

678


Although not even remotely as heavy as the Sleeptalker's apparent morning-after anguish, the hangover or slump did arrive and on Thursday afternoon I was feeling utterly drained, the epitome of tired and weary.

I had finished Peter Straub's The Hellfire Club with lunch on Wednesday. Stephen King is quoted as saying it is Straub's best book. From what I have read of Straub, I'd reserve that for Ghost Story but Hellfire is, as I said, definitely an elegant mystery, thoroughly enjoyable reading. Enjoyable, too, was Danielle Steel's A Perfect Stranger which followed. It is, I think, the earliest by her I've yet read (1981) and lacks the sophistication and depth of her more recent books. A decent soap opera, though, made perhaps more relevant to me just now because of its old man in love with young woman theme. I wish this old man had the money that one did but I know that would most likely not make things any better, not really, might even make them worse.

Since it clearly wasn't going to last that long, I made the trip to the State Library late morning on Thursday. Ugh, heavy backpack. Stephen King does write some very thick books. But first, John Grisham's The Partner, one of the few gaps on my mental shelf of his collected works.

I had gone to GovSanc fairly early on Wednesday evening, more than ready to collapse on a bench. Alas, the lobby work was still underway and, even worse, on the shadowed bench which I had substituted for my usual one sat a very dreary wannabe blues singer, plunking on a guitar and making vocal noises which I assume he considered singing. Not at all what I wanted for an early night on the bench, so back to the New Cloisters. I slipped by the main area unnoticed and went to one of the too-short benches. The Karate Kid was almost shouting away, sounded very stoned, drunk, or both, and was so loud I could hear him from a considerable distance, even with earplugs.

What a blessing those Pflent's earplugs are, though.

He was still ranting when I fell asleep but apparently went away at some point since he wasn't there when I left next morning. Nor were Angelo or the Sleeptalker.

Heeding my day-before self lecture, I stopped by the mall after my State Library visit and did the rounds for snipes. Snipes are relatively abundant on campus, too, but during the day there is almost always someone sitting near the ashtrays so I try to keep my hunting for the evening hours. I'm glad the dreadful False Prophet doesn't smoke. He has become major competition for any abandoned plate lunch boxes but at least doesn't raid the ashtrays. He seems to spend all his time on campus these days, must have found somewhere there he can hide away during the night. Perhaps I should follow him one night and discover where, get him banned from campus for a year (naughty thought, but I can't resist having it even if I don't follow through).

The trip downtown and the stop at the mall meant getting to the secluded grove later than usual, just in time to see that security guard leave. Yes, I guess I'll have to adjust my routine, plan to take my beer and sandwich break an hour later than I have been doing. That's okay, I suppose he's doing me a favor, helping me to postpone the first brew of the day, especially these days when two has to be the absolute limit unless I want to hunt quarters.

Like so many of Grisham's books, The Partner is absolute nonsense, but ridiculously engrossing and his usual snide sarcasm is dished out with a lighter touch in this one. It seems to be a personal fantasy turned into a novel. I was enjoying it enough to grab another Colt and continue reading. By then, though, I was feeling that slump, more physical than drooping spirits, mercifully. Of course, I was much occupied with thoughts of the Sleeptalker, of what I had written in Tale 676 and of reactions from readers to it all. Not even Grisham's captivating ways could stop that flow.

At sunset, I stopped down to visit Kory K for awhile, catch up on what he and mutual friends have been up to, the first such opportunity in this new year. I probably would have made it a much longer visit had I not been feeling so exhausted, went directly from there to GovSanc. Lobby work still underway but, praise Allah, no blues pseudo-singer in residence. No one there at all, although the Fat Regular and the Bicycle Man arrived after I'd fallen asleep.

It was the first night I've awakened feeling rather chilly. This is such a mild winter. Each morning I've promptly removed the sweatshirt when arriving at the mall. I saw Wisconsin for the first time in weeks, was surprised to see he's at last shaved those frizzy white sideburns (a definite improvement in appearance, anyway) and was more than pleased he didn't return after a passing greeting.

The normal balance, if such a term can be applied to my strange life, began to return on Friday. I even noticed a couple of cute young men. After that so sweet time with the Sleeptalker, I had no interest at all. Brad Pitt could have walked by and I might not have noticed. I only wish the effect were longer-lasting, like a lifetime's worth.

I interrupted my reading and went back to the computer lab, caught up with email. My habit is to keep, among my mail folders, two called "tales" and "later". Often I tuck something into those folders and go far too long before replying. Oddly, I'd had two similar queries from readers, both now answered, about how I regard responses from readers. I'm still amazed I have any readers to begin with and welcome the responses, even when negative. I enjoy the prod they often give me to think further about what I've done and how I've written about it, appreciate seeing things from a different, possibly more objective, viewpoint.

Back downhill for another brew and beginning King's massive Bag of Bones, waiting for that "normal balance" to continue its return, wondering what on earth is going to happen next in the life of the Old Man and the Bad Boys.

679


Yearn.

Function: intransitive verb
Etymology: Middle English yernen, from Old English giernan; akin to Old High German geron to desire, Latin hortari to urge, encourage, Greek chairein to rejoice
Date: before 12th century

1 : to long persistently, wistfully, or sadly
2 : to feel tenderness or compassion

Lovely word, not a very comfortable state of mind, however, especially when definition #1 is dominating. The wretched internal jukebox, rather than picking that twenties song, "Yearning", which played such a role in Steppenwolf, instead got stuck Saturday on "That Old Black Magic" and just wouldn't give up. By late afternoon I was beginning to think I would go totally insane before the end of the day.

This is just not what I thought old age would be, not at all. Never mind ice, never mind alcohol, just give me one of those drugs where a strong side-effect is losing sexual desire. That's usually considered a negative. Not for me right now, it wouldn't be. Spring fever in January is ridiculous.

I wanted to run away. In all these years I've lived on this island, I've never felt such a strong desire to head to the airport and get on a plane, no matter where it was going. The other islands wouldn't be far enough, different enough, but at least I wouldn't see anyone I knew there (well, except maybe in Hilo) and I wouldn't be walking around thinking I might see a certain someone or hoping that I would. I should stay away but what can I do, I hear your name and I'm aflame .... Don't even have to hear it, just think it.

Yes, Saturday was grim, the worst day of the Dragon. Only three to go, but will the Snake be any different? Given the phallic association, maybe even worse. No, that's not possible. It can't get any more obsessive than it was on Saturday.

But how to break loose? How to get out from under that "old black magic" spell? I just don't know.

When everything closed at UH, I went to the mall. Would have, anyway, because I wanted to hear a new band that was playing at six. The Waihole Ditch Band is a decent group of musicians, immediately brought to mind the Flying Burrito Brothers, something no other local band has done. And the biggest surprise of the gig was their version of "Brown Eyed Girl". I don't like that song which is a favorite of local bands. But their version was wonderful, made me wish I'd had a tape recorder with me.

Since I couldn't stop thinking about him, I decided what I'd do was survey the always-crowded Saturday night mall and see how many men I could spot who could fill his place. Incredibly enough, only two possible candidates were spotted. One of them, amusingly, is also a security guard. I've had a slight crush on him for a long time but he's noticeably lost weight and looks even better. Too much better, I got lost in lust just watching him when he took up his post during the gig almost directly in front of me. Out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

Alas, he and the other possible substitute could only be like one of those drugstore remedies which are for "temporary relief", not that either of them were likely to be interested or available anyway. A number of possibles were eliminated because even though they had great physical attractiveness, it was clear that they knew it. One of the Sleeptalker's great charms is that he really doesn't know how cute he is.

I'd had a lunchtime Colt while continuing King's slightly outrageous Bag of Bones, another in late afternoon. As I said, two has to be the limit unless I want to hunt quarters. During a round of the mall to collect snipes, there were three abandoned strollers in my path! Okay, so I wasn't deliberately hunting quarters, but when two shopping carts then showed up together, I said, yippee, a three Colt day after all.

As had happened the evening before, the orchid walk, already dominated by bums, attracted some noisy people, this time a grandmother with her two little monsters, each with those fancy scooters. So much for a quiet time with brew and book. I fled out to the park. The book was so riveting I could have sat there until the wee hours of the morning finishing it, but once the beer was gone, I went on to GovSanc. The lobby dark for a change, the Fat Regular and the Bicycle Man already asleep. They certainly got up early on Sunday, though. I woke, had to water the bushes, saw they were both gone and couldn't believe my watch said 3:30. How strange. But it's also strange how we are the only three regulars there, unlike all the other places where the population constantly varies. Count your blessings ...

Now could I kindly be blessed with some solution to this madness of being possessed by thoughts of the Sleeptalker?

680


Stephen King writes, in his interesting afterword to the book, "I hope Bag of Bones gave you at least one sleepless night." No, it didn't do that, but it may well have inspired one of the most unusual dreams I've ever had. I was a black boy. My mother was straightforward Hattie McDaniels, complete with a voluminous red skirt echoing Mammy's petticoat in GWTW. Never, ever dreamed I was black before. It woke me up.

King also says, "I have been routinely accused of writing to outrageous lengths." There is certainly much that could have been left out of Bag of Bones, the best of his works I've yet encountered, but I'm glad he did indulge himself by letting his hero, a best-selling writer, make some wry observations about his colleagues on that yardstick of success. One he seems particularly to admire is Richard North Patterson, making it appropriate to follow up his book with Patterson's Degree of Guilt, found on the fifty-cent cart at the used bookshop.

I wonder if he's right about Danielle Steel writing several books in a flurry of creative energy, then stashing them away for publication over a commercially-sensible interval? (He doesn't say it quite like that, but the implication is clear, since his fictional hero did the same.)

Fiction. What would I do without it giving me a least some moments of freedom from the endless meanderings of my own mind, dysfunctional or otherwise?

With the doc appointment looming, I thought I'd better spend some more time with Judith Beck. Gawd, she's a boring writer. She's clever enough to anticipate much of the possible criticism regarding this system called Cognitive Therapy, but either too self-confident or too blind to answer in advance the reader who thinks she is boring, totally lacking style. Both Freud and Jung were far more stylish, not to even mention Laing, whether one accepted their theories and ideas or not. And Beck limits herself to one particular case history which is so damned simple it seriously undermines the book as a whole. A lonely, repressed female college student with almost no self respect or confidence? An easy mark, eh, Doctor Beck?

I'd like to see her tackle the Sleeptalker. On the other hand, there's too much danger she'd make a mess of it. Look who's talking ...

I am touched by a reader who wrote: "... when I happened to speak to young homeless people, it seemed that being singled out by someone who loved them made a difference in their capacity for survival". It would be wonderful, indeed, if I could believe my love for the Sleeptalker helps him at all, much less on so basic and important a level. I know, have seen again and again, how he comes to me when there has been an emotional storm in his life. I know that's my main role in his life and it's one I am more than happy to play. A large part of me wants to play only that role, but this lusting beast still too alive in an old man's body isn't content with that. The Sleeptalker is just too damned desireable and that most intimate contact with him too sweet.

The final Sunday of the Dragon, if not as frantic as Saturday, was still loaded with the mental and emotional storm which had been brewed by that magical Tuesday, no matter how much I tried to grab hold of the reins and stop the runaway carriage. At least the penultimate day of the Dragon found the internal jukebox had finally switched its tune, was firmly stuck on "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". A puzzling song, indeed, but not as intimately disturbing as that old black magic called love.

After being prompted by the new reader to have a look back at Tale 66, I got sufficiently interested to go on reading and was amused to come across a later episode where someone had suggested making five wishes before sleeping each night as a way to clarify what it is I really want. I wrote: One would do it. I'd like to have fifty dollars a week income, in addition to the pension check which could then be used for "capital expenses" like new slippers, or mosquito repellent, or toothpaste. Took three years, but the Crazy Money finally granted that wish. Of course, I never manage to spread it out so there's fifty per week and certainly haven't in January 2001. When I made that wish, though, I had no idea I'd end up hosting Bad Boys parties when the wish came true. At that point I'd been sleeping next to Rocky for months without exchanging a word with him. When I next see him, I'll tell him about his first words to me, "what you looking at?"

I'll soon reach the point in the "stories" (as the Boys call the Tales) where the Sleeptalker makes his first appearance. The last time I saw the Cherub, he asked if it really had been love at first sight. Ain't no doubt about it.

681


At last, on Monday I finally started to calm down a little. And I understood the virgin ice experience plus sex with the Sleeptalker had thrown me sideways, more so than I had at first realized or wanted to admit. If the drug has as much impact on the lads and their inner balance as it did on me, little wonder their lives are often in such turmoil.

Little wonder, too, that the folks who most need help from The System aren't getting it. You have to be at least together enough to dig through the bullshit.

As I mentioned, I got the order to set up a re-evaluation appointment. The instructions were to call the doctor, then call my social worker so she could obtain the necessary medical coupon. Okay, there's seventy cents they shouldn't expect a street person to have, no reason why the paper couldn't have just told me when to be at the doctor and the coupon enclosed. Far too easy, of course. I had the advantage of access to a friend's telephone. Most of the street people I know don't have even that.

I called the doctor's office, had extreme difficulty in understanding the young woman who answered. Their rules are utterly rigid, one must accept the next available appointment, and that was at 9:10 on Tuesday, the following day. The last time I went through this, I'd had to go to the social worker to pick up the coupon. I was concerned I might not be able to get it in time, so asked for a later appointment because of that. No, not possible. I said I'd talk to my social worker and call back (tack on another thirty-five cents, for most people). Naturally, the worker was unavailable, please call back. Sigh. Instead, I called the doctor's office again and accepted the appointment. Then I went to the social worker's office. She was at lunch.

"I need a beer," said I (to myself), went to the nearest store selling the stuff. The only malt liquor they had was Cobra, price unmarked. I asked the clerk. To my surprise, the standard $1.99. Bottle in backpack, I went to a nearby park, luckily finding a large paper cup, lid and straw on the way. That park is bizarre. Not a single bench in the place is in shade. So I sat on the grass under a small tree, filled my cup and returned to the Patterson book, my watch beside me so I could keep an eye on the hour which needed to pass.

Dame Fortune decided to tease me. Two young men in tee shirts and shorts arrived to play on the nearby basketball court. One of them took off his shirt. If I had been far enough away not to be able to see his face, I could easily have thought it was the Sleeptalker. Slim, lightly and enticingly muscular, no hair on the chest until the little brown line near the navel. And he struck poses so much like the Sleeptalker's routines that I had a most difficult time paying attention at all to the book. Funny lady, that Dame.

Back to the office. The social worker came out, said she had the coupon and she was mailing it to the doctor (?!) and if he had any questions, he should call her. Sigh again.

And again say, I need a beer. So to the mall, a round to collect snipes, a stop in the supermarket for a sandwich, chips and Colt, and over to the park to, this time, concentrate on the most enjoyable book. Yes, fiction, please give me some relief, stop me from thinking about this insane thing called reality.

I returned to campus briefly. The Sleeptalker was to have gotten his paycheck on Sunday and had Monday off (an unwise piece of scheduling on the part of his employer). I hadn't expected to see him at the mall or in the park and wasn't much surprised when he wasn't in the game either. It surely was glass pipe time, wherever he might be enjoying it and with whomever. And part of the calming down was accepting the fact that I probably won't see him again until he loses the job. That, of course, is not likely to be too far in the future but in the meantime, I should at least try to stop thinking about him so much.

The lobby work was again underway at GovSanc, the workers just inside the glass wall by the benches we usually sleep on. It was very windy, making the alternative bench a rather unsatisfactory place for the night, so I walked over to the New Cloisters. Much to my surprise, only the Filipino Insomniac and a couple I hadn't seen before were there. The Insomniac said something about how long it's been since he'd seen me, told me Rossini had gotten a place, wondered why the Karate Kid wasn't there, etc. I settled on a bench, but then the couple (who were on a blanket on the floor) started squabbling. Sigh. I got up, waved to the Insomniac and said, "it's quieter over there", and moved to one of the too-short benches. Someone else had already done likewise, and was asleep already.

Off to the mall at five in the morning. Coffee in hand, I tackled the form I needed to fill out for the psychiatrist, went downtown well in advance of the appointment time and sat in his barren waiting room. He came out, motioned me to sit on the one extra chair in his office, asked my name, shuffled through the papers on his desk, and said he had no record of my having an appointment. Grrrr. Okay, so I was to call his office and make another one. Thirty-five more cents, and this time I did spend it, using a payphone downstairs. Don't even think of asking why the man couldn't just give me an appointment right there in his office.

So that dance is re-scheduled for the first Monday of the Snake. Like I said, at least together enough to dig through the bullshit. And with change in pocket.