THE FIFTH YEAR
more tales from the year of the snake

quietude, sort of
847-850
851-855
856-858

"Oh, you've been fine," Aurora said. "You've indulged me quite a lot. In your own way, you're exemplary."
Larry McMurtry: The Evening Star

crazy eleven
859-862

turkeys and reindeer
863-865
866-868
869-871
872-876

There was about him the air of a man who knew no home now but a razor's edge.
Clive Barker: The Great and Secret Show

out with the old, in with the new
877-880
881-886
887-891
892-895

847

I've fallen into a truly colossal BAD MOOD. Fortunately, this is not an experience which comes along very often. In the past, I'd just shut myself inside my room or apartment, unplug the telephone and refuse to see anyone until it passed. I don't have that luxury this time.

Monday was the fourth anniversary of this Homeless in Honolulu trip. The Sleeptalker appeared on campus unusually early. Since I had an appointment with the psychologist at one o'clock, the Sleeptalker and I shared a late-morning bottle of Colt in the secluded grove and then I left, agreeing I'd meet him around three o'clock. He was being amusing and affectionate, fine antidotes to my own slide into grumpiness which had then only just begun. The chat with the doc was of no great significance but pleasant, as always, and I picked up two more bottles of Colt on my way back to campus. The Sleeptalker soon appeared, said he'd seen the Cherub who a little later joined us. They wanted to do the grill-steaks-in-the-park routine. I agreed but said I'd prefer to do it in Waikiki. Parking problem there, though, since the Cherub had his car, so we went to Ala Moana as usual. Paulo was busy so the Cherub and the Sleeptalker used Paulo's portable grill and with considerable elaboration managed to get a fire going. The Cherub had found a place which sells very cheap beer and had quite a few cans in his backpack, so long before the steaks were cooked the Sleeptalker was well on his way to drunkeness. Then, inevitably these days, he revs up the horrible phoney-jive talker, the worst of his many alter-egos. Even when in the happiest of moods, I can't take much of that guy. I got up to leave a couple of times, allowed them to persuade me to stay but finally fled. As an Anniversary Party, it had been a good day and the earlier time alone with the Sleeptalker was especially sweet. I just have to renew my resolve to gracefully disappear when the Muthahfuckah Guy appears.

Aside from that time with the Sleeptalker and the Cherub, though, I'm trying to hide out for the most part. I don't feel much like writing but I did begin work on some new cards on Tuesday despite the grumpy mood and Joe Quirk's surreally capricious first novel, The Ultimate Rush, has provided a few moments of amusement.

Otherwise ... nothing to do but wait for the mood to shift.

848

"You got any money?" asked Angelo. I suppose I should appreciate his exceptional candor. No messing around with social fluff like "how are you", "what you been up to", etc., just immediately to the nitty-gritty even if we hadn't seen each other in quite some time. I gave a vague reply, though, and turned my attention to Tanioka who was using the more usual social gestures, including a handshake.

I'd had a couple of chores to do on Thursday which required bus rides and by the time I was finished, decided I'd just get myself a beer and sit at the far end of the park where I don't know so many people, forget about going to campus. As I'd done on Wednesday, I mixed reading and drinking with short naps. The flu, which I thought had about run its wretched course, returned with a vengeance and Wednesday afternoon was a blur of fever, sweats and chills, aching joints and muscles. No one will have to remind me never to have a "flu shot" again. It was again a little better on Thursday but I still felt more like sprawling on my beach towel in the park than doing anything else. As it neared time for sunset, I decided I'd have one more beer (Wednesday had been so awful I didn't even want the usual sunset one) and walked to the nearby 7-Eleven. I heard people calling me, looked over and saw Angelo, Tanioka and RedEye at a table, obvious brown bags with 40oz bottles making it clear what was actually in the paper cups they were drinking from. Sometimes I wonder if these guys actually get a kick out of thumbing their noses at the forces of law and order (and often I don't blame them at all for it).

I waved a signal that I was going across the street to the store and would return, which I did, to be greeted with that all-that-matters question from Angelo. Silly boy. His charm skill is out of practice. He tried several more times, though. The second time he asked, I again made a vague reply and asked Tanioka, "What about you? You got money?" "I always have money," he said, and laughed. True, very true, and I suspect he'd paid for all the beer and fish on the table. Heaven knows RedEye hadn't paid for any of it. I have yet to see that man spend one penny.

They had obviously been puffing on the glass pipe and the main discussion (aside from how much money I had in my pocket) was about getting more. I guess they thought I'd be eager enough to join them that I'd put up some of the needed cash. No joy. Sorry to disappoint you, boys, but the old Panther just doesn't care that much whether he has the batu or not. They decided to look for The Man, to borrow his pipe (I assume Tanioka had a little plastic bag already), so I walked down to that end of the park with them. The Man wasn't there, though, so they were going to use an improvised tinfoil pipe and went to the shower house. Three guys going into the handicapped booth at once was a bit flambouyant and I declined the invitation to join in, went for a walk along the beach and took an early bus to IHS.

I saw Mondo there, lining up with the downstairs crowd to get a mat. Curious that he doesn't sleep upstairs, but I guess he just doesn't want to bother with registering and getting the ID card updated each month. So there had been the Cherub and the Sleeptalker on Monday, Angelo and Tanioka and Mondo on Thursday ... only Rocky was missing from the time-honoured all-star cast. Actually, I'd seen the Cherub briefly on Wednesday, too, when he woke me from a nap in the secluded grove. He was on his way to class, so only stopped to tell me he'd taken the Sleeptalker home with him on Monday, said the Sleeptalker was very drunk and was yelling about what a mess the place was in, then fell asleep on a plastic bag on the floor which made so much noise when he shifted position that it kept waking up the Cherub. The odd couple, indeed.

And along came the Sleeptalker on Friday morning as I was finishing my refill cup of senior coffee at the mall. He was in a post-batu hangover, so easy to diagnose with him, and said little, didn't answer at all when I asked if he was going to campus. When he's in that deep a funk, nothing to be done about it, so I said I was going to brush my teeth, stroked his brushy hair and went on my way.

Aside from the always fascinating, if sometimes irksome, times with the Bad Boys, the main treasure of this week has been Servant of the Bones by Ann Rice, a "standalone" work outside of her two major series, and an excellent example of how delightful her imagination is and how well she can translate that into such engrossing novels. I enjoyed it so much I am tempted to part with the money to get her newly published Merrick. Apparently she merges the Mayfair witches and the vampires in this one, a monumental task, although one I've long expected her to tackle.

And, of course, now and then some more time with Love and Theft. "Sugar Baby" is without question one of the most depressing songs I've ever heard in my long life.

849

Then she says, "you don't read women authors, do you?"
Least that's what I think I hear her say,
"Well", I say, "how would you know and what would it matter anyway?"
"Well", she says, "you just don't seem like you do!"
I said, "you're way wrong."
She says, "which ones have you read then?" I say, "I read Erica Jong!"


Maybe that's what Dylan thought he heard her say in the first line, but it surely isn't what I thought I heard him say in the original version of Highlands. And it was one of the lines which were subject to considerable debate on the Usenet group devoted to Dylan. Now, of course, we have the handsome website provided by Columbia Records with lyrics to all of his songs. I assume those versions are the way he actually wrote it. They certainly aren't always the way he recorded them, even the first time. And maybe he wants to preserve the fun of devotees trying to figure out just what he is saying ... the lyrics to songs from the newest album are missing, so far, although the titles are listed.

But in any case, his answer to the Highlands waitress came immediately to mind on Friday when I spotted Erica Jong's Fanny in the freebie collection at the State Library and promptly grabbed it. So far as I can remember, I've not read her before although it's possible I read Fear of Flying years ago and remember nothing of it. I only vaguely remember the original Fanny Hill but have little doubt Ms. Jong's bawdy romp is the better read of the two and was thoroughly enjoyable.

I walked over to the State Library after my monthly half-hour with the chemist. I mean, psychiatrist. He unintentionally (I presume, although perhaps incorrectly) lifted my mood considerably. One of those bus trips I'd made the day before was to pick up an application for a disability bus pass since my current one ends at midnight on Halloween. He made the necessary marks to authorize the new one and when I looked at it once downstairs, I was surprised to see he did it for a YEAR this time.

That little ray of sunlight was more than overwhelmed, though, when I spent some time in the evening listening to the radio. It's difficult not to get angry at some of the ludicrous propaganda which that soundbox can spew forth these days, even from the usually more "detached" National Public Radio. And the noble BBC World Service, too, is resorting to propaganda-style window-dressing although, happily, the actual content of its programming seems to be balanced and informative. And scary as hell. The mind, though, loves hiding behind diversions (and who can blame it?). An image which occurred to me was that of an little Afghani kid running into the family hut shouting, "Mommy, Mommy, a big box of food fell from the sky and squashed Grandma!" More seriously, I wondered just what "food" we did drop on the Afghanis ... after we'd dropped bombs. Canned goods from surplus USDA stocks, the kind churches give us poor folks? Poor buggers might not even have a can-opener, so I hope the packers remembered to include one. It seems unlikely much of the food will be eaten, except perhaps by animals. Surely most people would suspect those gifts from the Great Satan are poisoned?

And I wondered what the propaganda leaflets we supposedly also bombed them with said, would like to see one (honestly) translated back into English. Such things will no doubt appear on the Web eventually if they haven't already.

It was a surprise we admitted that one bomb went astray (not that one did, that was no surprise at all). I suppose since the thing fell in a residential area of Kabul it was likely to be noticed. Sigh. Father Greeley says most of what I feel like saying in his columns for Chicago's Daily Southtown, so read those and I'll shut up about it.

I told the doc that Remeron was working fine as a sleeping pill but I didn't think much of its anti-depressant qualities. Funny that the only benefit I get from one of these chemist's concoctions is from its side-effects. I also mentioned that dream life is far more enjoyable than real life these days (and nights) and such is certainly the case. All star dreams, indeed, although I have forgotten who the (famous) young woman was on Friday night, the one I was trying to tell why Katherine Hepburn is so wonderful (a difficult task when faced with someone who doesn't even know the name). Serves her right that I've forgotten hers, she wasn't that young.

Saturday came and went without anything exceptional happening, but on Sunday the Cherub found me and we spent the late afternoon and evening together, drinking and talking in the secluded grove. The conversation was so engrossing it was after nine o'clock when I finally checked the time and he kindly drove me to IHS. It was too late to get a mat so for the first time in weeks I had to make do with my beach towel on the floor. It was also the first time in awhile that I followed the order to refrain from taking the little Remeron pill when "drunk". I was close enough. Much of the conversation had been about philosophers, starting with Aristotle, and as usual I was appalled by my ludicrously ineffective memory. I think I've had Altzheimer's all my life.

850

When I looked in on the game Monday morning, the Sleeptalker was playing and later he joined me in the secluded grove. I bought beer and sandwiches for our lunch and we spent the rest of the day together. He is sleeping at the beach park because he got mad at someone who works at IHS (no details given), so I left him and got the bus to IHS. The Sleeptalker and the other boys all complain because people at IHS like to play stupid "mind games" now and then, and I understand more now what they mean and how legitimate their complaints are.

The night before, I had arrived there shortly after eight o'clock. The door to the upstairs area was still locked although it's usually open by eight at the latest. An Alcoholics Anonymous type meeting was going on in one section of the downstairs area, so I stood and listened to what the people were saying. I didn't feel participating in such a session would do me the least bit of good, but to each their own. Then the gruff woman who fortunately isn't often involved with the upstairs finally unlocked the door, said only "volunteers" could go up (volunteers being people who perform various services, like dishing out food, etc.) and the rest of us would have to go outside and join the (long) line already formed there. Some reward for attending the meeting! The few of us who had been listening to the meeting ignored her order and stood at the front of line, just outside the door, and since no one complained she, amazingly, let us go in.

On Monday, I was a bit later arriving. All the mats were gone, but the young man in the "guard office" gave me one of the roll-up foam mats they sometimes have as back-up. (Why they can't work out the number of mats that are really needed upstairs, I don't know.) I settled into a spot, fell asleep, woke a bit later to him nudging my leg. He said I had to have a shower and change clothes! Now if I really had been stinking dirty, why hadn't he said something when I went into the office to get the mat from him, I wondered. I said I'd already had one shower that day, had no intention of taking another and that my clothes were certainly not dirty by the usual standards of IHS regulars. "Well, you have to wash your feet," he said. Just plain harrassment, no other thing to call it. Shrug ... I washed my feet and went back to sleep.

As I was walking away from McD's with my refill cup of coffee on Tuesday morning, I heard the Sleeptalker call me. He was up unusually early for him and I walked over to his bench, shared the coffee. Then he spotted Chinatown B (yes, he's back on the scene, although an appearance at the mall is atypical). The Sleeptalker hurried after him, but soon returned grumbling. I guess CB had no glass pipe filling to share. Then the Sleeptalker went off to the toilet, but returned before I'd finished my coffee, asked if I'd seen CB pass again. No, I hadn't and the Sleeptalker left to look for him. I was reminded of the line in the I Ching: "Take not a maiden who, when she sees a man of bronze, loses possession of herself." Not that poor Chinatown B can remotely be described as a "man of bronze", but uh-huh, same idea. The Sleeptalker sees Chinatown B as my rival and, of course, I did too at one time, and I suspect CB still sees me as one. I don't anymore, it's irrelevant. I'd had my fill of the Sleeptalker's company on Monday, truth be told, and would have been just as happy to enjoy my coffee on my own, didn't mind in the least when he left.

I did tell him I wouldn't be on campus until later because I had to go the pharmacy (for a Remeron re-fill), and I left to go there, then went to the discount clothing store. What the heck, show that idiot at IHS by arriving in all new clothes. I got a pair of tan trousers, a "Hawaiian Style" tee shirt in a just-slightly darker shade of tan, and a "chocolate-dyed" tee shirt, all for $7.50, thanks to the twenty percent Senior Discount on Tuesdays. Cool.

You will have no doubt surmised that October's budgetary efforts have been more successful than usual, reaching mid-month still having money available for beer-and-sandwich luncheon parties and clothes shopping (however cheap). There's still going to be the usual dismal last week of the month with empty pockets, but at least some progress has been made.

After getting the new clothes, I returned to the beach park for a shower before exchanging the old for the new and then got a bus to the State Library for something to read. The Sleeptalker was on the bus! (Dame Fortune does overdo it some times, she really does.) He was going downtown to get lunch from River of Life, a Christian-based place where the food is much better than IHS. He said he had killed off all his characters in Seventh Circle. Sigh. A long-time veteran player had done that on Sunday and I guess the Sleeptalker just couldn't resist grabbing some of the spotlight by doing the same. Of course the Sleeptalker almost immediately changed his mind and started his characters from scratch. Don't ask me ... I just don't understand what the hell he's doing or why. In any case, he said he didn't plan to return to campus.

But when I eventually did go there myself, the Sleeptalker was sitting in Hamilton Library busily playing his re-created characters, all now, of course, very low level. I checked mail, looked around at some stuff on the web, and then played the game for awhile, was very irked by an arrogant bulletin board post from the Boss Lady and quit, left campus and returned to the mall without saying anything to the Sleeptalker.

I'd planned to just enjoy a sunset brew and one of the books I'd found at the State Library, all by myself, but Joe Guam found me even though I'd gone to a different area than usual. On Monday, the Sleeptalker had sighed about "getting off this rock". Yeh, I can sympathize with that.

851

One book I found in the State Library was Glenn Kleier's The Last Day, a thoroughly fascinating and engrossing novel. I was so entranced by it that interruptions from the Cherub and the Sleeptalker were not as welcome as they might otherwise have been, but then books are always with us, friends aren't. The novel and the continuing turmoil in Seventh Circle dominated Wednesday until late afternoon when the Sleeptalker took the reins until after sunset.

As I wrote, I'd already been thoroughly irked by the game on Tuesday, was sufficiently further annoyed on Wednesday to resign leadership of the Ranger's Guild, stopping short of emulating recent protests by outright suicide. The Boss Lady continually creates problems and controversy where no real problems exist, all, I think, symptoms of her discontent with her limited power. I also suspect she simply doesn't know the coding language well enough to fix some things that have been broken for months, things which made the game much more fun to play and were far more important than these self-created "problems". The latest bee in her bonnet is merging the guilds into four groups rather than the present system of having a guild for each class, a proposal which has been almost unanimously opposed by veteran players. She posted a rather arrogant notice saying that since there was such opposition, the plan was dead, the subject closed ... and then spent hours on Wednesday morning discussing it yet again. Thus my resignation. I shall become Reting the Ranger Emeritus.

I left that silly tempest after the resignation and had lunch in the secluded grove with rolls and cheese and a bottle of Colt, returning to my reading. The Cherub stopped by briefly, said he'd just watched "The Bicycle Thief" and was off to the library to do some research for a paper on it. His daddy is coming to town, will be staying at a posh hotel out in the country and asked the Cherub to join him there for two nights. The Cherub had replied that he didn't know if he'd be able to afford the gasoline! Subtle ... not. When I told the Sleeptalker about it later, we agreed ... take a bus. Daddy should have told him that.

Since one of the most vocal opponents of the merger scheme in the game was banned for the day, I went back to play my thief for awhile. The banned player constantly comes after my thief, attacks him when he's in the midst of another fight. Fair, but not very noble. Without him around, though, my thief was able to advance two levels with no difficulty.

I was then walking across campus on my way to the bus stop when I crossed paths with the Sleeptalker. So much for my plan to head to a remote area of the beach park with a sunset brew. Instead I bought one for each of us and another round later, playing further havoc with my well-intentioned but doomed budget scheme. No matter ... it's only money.

A reader supplied information about those food packets we've been dropping on the Afghanis: "A high-calorie meal - peanut butter & jelly, carbs, dried fruit, etc., enough for one day." Peanut butter and jelly! The poor buggers have probably never seen peanut butter before. I don't recall ever having seen it in northern India. But it did provide some amusing conversation, both with the Cherub and the Sleeptalker. And at one point as we were sitting in the park drinking, a helicopter flew over and we said, "drop some peanut butter and jelly!" Sure, why not? The packets would probably be much more popular in the beach park than they are in Afghanistan, although the reader did add that the report on ABC also included the news that people there were gathering up the packets and selling them in local markets. Whoever would have thought that mana from heaven might be peanut butter and jelly ...

The Sleeptalker, meanwhile, is still having difficulty adjusting to the fact that I'm just not as entranced with his body as I once was and he did one of his best seduction routines, quite delightful and amusing. But no, sorry, my boy, I was not interested in trading my CD player for his body. Still, it was an interesting and entertaining time with him, as have been all our recent encounters. I'm happy, though, to have "outgrown", if that's the right term, the lust.

He arrived at Hamilton Library early on Thursday morning while I was being bombarded by the Boss Lady trying to drag me into the continuing controversy. I told her there is more than enough fuss and fuming in this country right now, that some of us would just like to escape for awhile by simply playing a game.

Ain't it the truth.

852

As I was walking across campus on Friday morning, a notice on a bulletin board caught my eye. It was from the campus "chapter" of the NAACP. Hmmmm. Political correctness, as I understand it, no longer allows for those of the Negroid race (and even that may not be politically correct) to be called "colored people". So shouldn't it be NAAB? Or is "blacks" no longer correct either?

For only the second time since I've been staying at IHS, I woke when the lights went on and the voice on the loudspeakers said "good morning, gentlemen" (reminding me of Robin Williams and his Vietnam greeting). As had happened the only previous time I've heard that announcement, the fellow had the day right, but not the date. Yes, it was Friday, but it was not the 18th. Not that it matters to most of the people still asleep at IHS nor did it much matter to me, except that I didn't want the calendar turned back to add one more day to the waiting time for empty pockets to no longer be empty. Okay, okay, I know, that doesn't really matter either, but it seems to sometimes.

I think I'd slept such a long, undisturbed sleep because I'd been feeling really down and exhausted by the time I'd gotten to IHS on Thursday night ... and maybe having taken a double dose of Remeron had assisted, too. The doc had suggested taking one and one-half tablets. I told him the pills were too tiny to cut in half, so he left it at one-a-day. But I thought, why not two one day and one the next? I'd just take two every day except that the prescription would run out so far ahead of time the pharmacy might question the re-fill. (Not that all this really matters, either.)

The Sleeptalker was at Hamilton Library on Thursday. I left after a brief time in the game, went downhill and got myself a beer and bread+ham for sandwiches. As I was walking from the returning bus to the secluded grove, the Sleeptalker came strolling down the path. "You got beer?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "for me, myself, and I." I told him the day before that would probably be his last brew from me this month unless unexpected money appeared from somewhere. "You'll just have to go back to your richer friends," I said. He sat with me for awhile in the secluded grove, saw I wasn't going to weaken and then went on his way to get lunch from one of the downtown soup kitchens.

I returned to the library, played the game briefly, then went to the Korean Center building for an announced showing of an upcoming BBC television program. I don't know anything about the "magicians" Penn and Teller, although I've heard of them, but evidently they have done a series for the BBC on "magic" in various countries of the world, and the episode being shown was in India. A UH professor was consultant and participant in this episode and he spoke briefly before showing the tape. Cringe. Penn and Teller couldn't possibly have been more patronizing toward India and Indians ... hasn't anyone told them the Raj is long-gone? And they concentrated entirely upon "street magicians" (i.e., con men, albeit with something of a cultural heritage) and within that, the most grotesque. It was fun, the brief glimpses of Delhi street life, but otherwise an embarrassment. I didn't stay for the Professor's concluding remarks. And I definitely don't recommend viewing the program when it appears eventually on PBS, as I assume it will.

Maybe as a kind of penance, I went back to the library and worked some more on revisions to my venerable (or at least, aged) Journey to the East page. I'd already checked most existing links earlier in the day and added a section for Afghanistan, then decided on a major re-arrangement and finished that. When the original version of Panther's Cave began on the web, the collection of links was almost encyclopedic, especially with the Hawaii and Hawaiian Music pages. Now it is much more a collection of sites I find useful and/or attractive since any attempt to be comprehensive is no longer possible. Only the Hawaiian music page has all the relevant links I'm able to find or hear about. And, admittedly, the only page I use every day, aside from the Tales, is the Toolbox.

After that long sleep on Thursday night and before going to campus, I went to check the mailbox for the first time this week. It seems always to happen that when I get discouraged and lose momentum, think of ending the Tales or, in this case, closing the Exhibition, something comes along to restore confidence or at least interest. This time it was a supply of blank cards, not only more of the posh Arches ones but also a packet of "panoramic" ones. I'd say CinemaScope but I probably have readers who are too young to even know what that means. The first idea that came to mind was dividing each card into three blocks, making a comic strip. Later I saw the Cherub and told him about it, said I'd then considered doing a primitive stick-figure collection and getting the Sleeptalker to add captions. Perhaps if I made them "dirty pictures" he'd at last be forced to contribute to cards leaving Jesus out of it? No, I wasn't serious, just amusing myself with mental doodles.

But I had been seriously considering declaring the Exhibition closed, especially after the current nine-card work in progress is finished (if it ever is). After all, it is the most unsuccessful "exhibition" I've ever taken part in, with not a single work having been sold. I know, that shouldn't matter, any more than glowing reviews in art magazines should have mattered back in the days when those were an important part of the process, a more important part to most working artists than they ever should be. Working in a vacuum, with little feedback positive or negative, isn't encouraging though, as I discovered in those early years in London. Perhaps it is easier for writers to do so than for visual artists?

The Cherub asked, during our brief chat on Friday, where the Sleeptalker was. I said that perhaps he was mad at me since I'd refused to buy him beer the day before. But I think the more accurate answer is that his usual impeccable sense of when it's time to disappear came into play and that his return will have more to do with when he thinks his company is again being missed than with finances.

This time, though, it actually has little to do with him or with finances, at least from my side. I'm just feeling uncertain and somewhat lost and when in such a state of mind have little patience with other people, all the limited energy devoted to wallowing in self-indulgence. Ridiculous, but so it goes as Libra 2001 comes to an end. And good riddance to it.

853

The Cherub's tactic may not have been subtle but it worked, and Daddy gave up some cash upon his arrival in town. So there was beer and tobacco on Saturday, compliments of Daddy, and again on Sunday. The Cherub couldn't stay and drink with me on Saturday since he had to meet Daddy at some posh buffet affair in the evening, but he bought me two bottles of Colt before heading to suburbia. The Crazy Money came to its end when I bought another bottle later. I was totally caught up in Janet Fitch's White Oleander, an impressive first novel, albeit a little heavy on the metaphor pedal, and also thoroughly depressing, the kind of book which needed an ample supply of some drug to get through the experience of reading it.

I finished it with my Sunday morning coffee and headed to campus, to the stand-up computer lab and its fancy iMac machines. The Sleeptalker arrived quite early, much to my surprise, and when I left just before noon and walked over to the library I saw the Cherub. He suggested having a beer and going to see David Lynch's new film which opened on Friday. I asked if we should include the Sleeptalker and he said yes, so we went to get him. Three rounds of beer later I backed out of the film since the plan was to get more beer and drink it there. Not only did the Sleeptalker need no more (he'd already had too much), that theatre is too small, the aroma would have been evident everywhere. So they went off together. I learned on Monday, when I saw the Cherub briefly, that they'd managed to sneak into the theatre through a side-door but had only stayed about half an hour, the Sleeptalker being too restless to sit still. Then he'd persuaded the Cherub to go with him and buy some batu, surprise, surprise. I was even happier I hadn't been along.

It was an amusing afternoon, though. The Cherub is a wonderful buffer zone between me and the Sleeptalker, especially after a second beer. And he said some cheering, interesting (and surprising) things about the cards. He assured the Sleeptalker that if the right dealer happened along, the cards would be a commercial success. And he's probably quite right: simply but elegantly framed, they'd no doubt be just the right small object to provide a curious conversation piece for a savvy collector, even one not necessarily versed in that particular niche of contemporary "art".

We disagreed completely, though, on the subject of Oprah Winfrey. I greatly admire her, the Cherub does not.

And I stepped out of the discussion once it turned, as it inevitably does with the Sleeptalker and beer, to religion.

By the time I finally got onto a bus headed for IHS, I fell into one of those reveries or-whatever-they-are and was well beyond where I should have switched to a different bus, had to get one back toward downtown. Since the official reason I get the special bus pass is because I get disoriented and have trouble using the bus, I think that may be one of the few things about this weird Crazy Money dance which is truly justified.

Monday was one of those days when almost everything goes wrong, but at least I did find Father Greeley's Happy are the Merciful at the State Library, so spent most of the day at the beach park with it. I had a shower and washed tee shirts, then read while they dried in the sun. I'd vowed not to get involved with the Quarter Hunt game this month, to look only for the two quarters I needed for the next morning's coffee. Those quickly arrived when I found an abandoned baby stroller during a snipes hunt. And then I had a craving for milk and cookies, so that was dinner, reducing remaining foodstamps to under twenty dollars. An alcohol-free day. The sense of time is so different when not drinking.

Even with Remeron, getting to sleep is not as easy after an alcohol-free day.

And sitting in the library on campus Tuesday morning, I looked up and saw the Sleeptalker and Mondo arrive. Mondo walked over after a few minutes and asked if I had my pipe. "I don't smoke that stuff anymore," I said, and wondered if maybe I shouldn't just get out of town.

854

Wed Oct 24
Im getting sick of this clan/guild
so you can have someone rewrite it
I got my family members names used as the mobs in clan
so Im just asking that they rewrite it
well anyway I thought your clan was more rad
and tell everyone Im sorry but they dont care
and Id like to say thanks for letting me have one of my own
even if I did steal Stokers once
Im going to quit mud for good beacuse it always seem to lead me
in the wrong direction
I enjoyed playing with you all even if it was
13 on 1 heh heh


The Sleeptalker was making such an ass of himself in the game on Tuesday. I didn't get out of town, but I did get out of the game and fled the campus, didn't check the game again until Thursday when I saw the above whine. Of course, he knows and I know it isn't MUD that leads him "in the wrong direction", it's that damned crystal meth pipe. But I hope he means it this time and stays out of the game. I probably won't play it nearly as much if he does, but at least when I do I'll be spared witnessing his dumb act.

The last full week of October ... not an especially happy one. Three whole days without a drop of beer. It bothered me more than it should have and even though I knew it shouldn't there wasn't much I could do to stop it. Finally I hocked some of next month's income and got toasted on Thursday. I even tried to consume four bottles but gave up and couldn't finish the last one, gave the leftovers to Joe Guam.

IHS is such a nightmare. It's bad enough in the beach park, the same deadbeats day after day, but even worse at IHS where there isn't a single person I ever want to see again, much less know. I keep it to an absolute minimum, of course. I get there, find a spot (more often than not with nothing but my beach towel as a "mattress"), stick earplugs in my head and the sleeve of my flannel shirt over my eyes and sleep. It's a little surprising how soundly I sleep there, with or without Remeron. Sometimes I don't awaken at all during the night, just escape into dreams which continue to be more interesting than anything in waking reality. In the morning I quickly put away the beachtowel and get out of the place. Then there's ten or fifteen minutes of excruciatingly banal company at the bus stop, waiting for the "Bums Express" to the mall. I could, and probably should, walk some distance to another stop, as I did in the early days there. Starting each day with those boors isn't a good idea at all.

Reading material during the early part of the week was Anton Myrer's Green Desire, one of those almost-designed-for-miniseries epics which I would have abandoned had I not been too lazy to make the trip to the State Library for something better. At the same time I headed to the store for beer on Thursday, I checked the fifty-cent cart at the used bookshop and found The Bones of Time by Kathleen Ann Goonan, a real oddity: a science fiction novel set mostly in Hawaii. Just to add to the oddity, one chapter is in Kathmandu. She only made a few goofs about the local scene ... but it is a good yarn nonetheless. On then to Peachtree Road, a melancholic Southern ramble by Anne Rivers Siddons. What would I do without the escape of fiction?

Radio certainly isn't much help. One afternoon I was jumping from station to station, came upon one of those idiotic call-in talk shows. The host was in raptures about the greatness of George W. Bush. [cough, splutter, change stations ... ]

And pondering how to set about writing a new script for this weird life of mine. Just drifting along doesn't seem to be working very well at this point.

Of course, Dame Fortune will no doubt tear up any script and replace it with her own, so why ponder. I didn't know until this week that another name for the Three Fates is the Weird Sisters. Now that is weird.

855

It rained. And it rained. And then it rained some more. I was sitting in a relatively sheltered spot on campus, reading, grateful I hadn't finished the bottle of beer from the night before so I could enjoy the leftovers while the rain poured. It transported me back to that monsoon summer of 1973, sitting on the bed in that tiny room at the Mussoorie YWCA while rain fell in torrents outside the small window, escaping then, as now, into fiction. Wet, wet Saturday, the most continuous heavy rain we've had here in quite some time.

I had been in the library earlier, checked email and wrote 854. After finishing the beer, I went back to the library. The Cherub was at a terminal, "Waikiki" on the screen. I think I'd feel faint if I walked in like that and saw a stranger with my images on the screen. I looked in at the game, not much was happening. When I got up to leave, the Cherub was reading a Tale. "From great art to great literature," I joked, gave him a pat on the shoulder and went on my way. Luckily the rain took a break and I managed to wade through the puddles, get on a bus and to the mall before it started raining again.

I spotted Rocky, first time I've seen him in weeks, but he didn't see me and I turned around, went in the opposite direction. Later, when I got to IHS I was reminded that there is one exception to what I said about that place: Mondo. He was standing outside smoking, despite the light rain, had his shirt unbuttoned. I just waved and went on inside. Too great an object of desire, that one, far too much so for my present mood.

The rain departed during the night but in its place came fiercely gusting wind on Sunday. I spent an hour or so in the little computer lab, then returned to Peachtree Street. I'd looked at the website devoted to her and found a quote from Siddons about the book: "I'm getting a lot of comparisons between Peachtree Road and Gone With the Wind, which just drives me wild! I guess that's inevitable when any woman from Atlanta writes a big book. But as much as I respect Margaret Mitchell and love that book, it was not the truth about Atlanta, and it perpetuated some pretty dangerous myths." The comparisons are "inevitable", I think, not because she's a woman from Atlanta who wrote a big book, but because Peachtree Street does for Atlanta in the 1940s, 50s and 60s what GWTW did for it in those days just before, during and after the War Between the States, and does it with the same sweeping grandeur. One thing about the book which is certainly different, though, is its first-person narrator ... and a male one, at that. It's one of the most convincing attempts by a female writer to speak, and think, as a man that I've encountered. And it's almost as good as GWTW.

As I was walking toward the library I met the Cherub who had already been inside and was out for a smoke break. Then we spent the rest of the day drinking, smoking and talking. He corrected me, said it had not been the Sleeptalker who directly asked for the batu (although he thought the signals were being sent clearly enough indirectly). And he said he was surprised I so rarely use direct quotes rather than paraphrasing what others have said. That's a memory thing, of course. I'm rarely certain enough that I remember exactly what someone said to risk attempting a direct quote. I told him of the temptation to buy a mini-cassette recorder so I could capture and transcribe conversations but I haven't yielded to it because I spent so many hours of my life transcribing tapes that it seems too much like work. Admittedly, I'm sorry I don't have tapes of some conversations with the Sleeptalker although I'm not sure if the transcriptions would be as interesting for most readers as they'd be for me.

I remember some of the things I said in that long rambling conversation with the Cherub, though. When I talk about my direct experience, I seem to hit the right notes, as in saying Motherwell was a sweet man and a true scholar. When I pontificate from opinion, who knows? Maybe I'm right in saying Dali will be a footnote in the history of 20th century art; it's probably too soon to know if my presumption is correct, that Picasso, Pollock and Rauschenberg will be seen as the Big Three.

When I got to the library on Monday morning, I checked some sites for Bunuel, one subject under discussion. I'd been unable to remember which of his films I've seen. Considering how often I borrow "obscure object of desire", it's a little bizarre I'd forgotten that one. For me, though, the favorites (once my memory had been refreshed) were Belle du Jour and Simon of the Desert, which I'd like to see again.

And I was delighted to find Mencken's The American Language in a searchable version, surprised to also discover the Mencken translation of Nietzsche's The Antichrist. I was reading that when the Sleeptalker walked into the library, settled at a computer across the table and some distance down. I left.

I'd had very little to eat on the weekend, was feeling truly hungry, a most unusual condition for me. With only a little more than four dollars of foodstamps largesse remaining, I was reluctant to buy something. I was just about to give up and head to IHS for free lunch when I spotted a large bowl of ramen probably left by some Japanese person unsure whether to throw all that liquid into the trash receptacle in the food court. Those used to turn up with some regularity, although it has always been a matter of luck, finding one before the diligent cleaning ladies dump them. Fortified a little by that, I was sure I could manage until the afternoon Krishna handout, and went to check the mailbox. I didn't really expect the Fabled Pension Check to be there and it wasn't, but there was a little melon from heaven. What perfect timing. It was a conditional one, the edict being "SPEND IT ON YOURSELF". Hmmm, a bit rude, considering the Cherub's generosity the day before but, okay, I always follow any condition attached to heavenly melons and started by returning to the mall, buying a bottle of Mickey's and hiding out in a less-frequented part of the park. With the sunset follow-up bottle, after the usual unappetizing but filling Krishna plate, I went even further out on the peninsula they call Magic Island and enjoyed the simultaneous sunset/moonrise with Mozart's first flute concerto, adding a few marks to the still-untitled set of cards in progress.

The original of Ray #8 had also been in the mailbox. It's much more vivid and dramatic than the scanned version.

When I got to IHS, the Sleeptalker was standing in the courtyard talking to some people. I just walked on by and upstairs. And for the first time at IHS, I dreamed of being at IHS. Yeukh. It was, though, even more strange. They only allowed people to go upstairs one at a time, said security measures were tightened because Osama bin Laden was in the area. I must be going crazier in dream life than I am in the waking one ...

856

The combination of Hallowe'en and the All Saints Day Full Moon didn't produce as much luna-cy as expected, partly I think because the weather was very unsettled with frequent squalls of windy light rain. During my (futile) trip to the mailbox in quest of the Fabled Pension Check, I had to take shelter several times and wait for the next break in the often almost-horizontal drizzle. A few hardy souls were wandering around in costumes, none of them especially interesting. The usual costume contest at the mall was cancelled this year. I suppose there was the parade of costumed folk strolling through Waikiki but I gave up going to that years ago and wasn't at all tempted this year either. And there had been more craziness at IHS the night before, mostly inspired by yet another fit of power play. It has been the custom for people who arrive early to drop their backpacks or belongings in a space on the floor to reserve it while waiting in line for a mat. They called a halt to that, yet another case of not having the sense to let the community be "self-policing", interfering with a system which had worked without complaints or problems. There was almost one fight when someone's friend "saved" a spot next to his mat and another man, already annoyed because he'd been made to retrieve his own backpack, was angered by the attempt to ignore the new rules. Stuff and nonsense.

A similar fit of power play took place in Seventh Circle when that weird Boss Lady got so annoyed with uncomplimentary notices being posted on the public bulletin board, she removed the entire board instead of her usual habit of wiping out any notices she doesn't like (which inevitably include almost all of the few I bother to post). She also managed to get rid of yet another long-time veteran player, not one I particularly liked although I often agreed with his criticisms. By the time the real Boss wakes up to the damage she is doing to the game, it will probably be too late. Once people wander off and begin spending time on another option, they generally don't return. I may resume my own searches for attractive alternatives.

I was poking around on the web Wednesday morning and came across this item:

Johns, Jasper. Letter to the editor. Portable Gallery Bulletin (New York, N.Y.), no. 3 December 1962, n.p. Reply to Albert Vanderburg November 1962 issue regarding a photograph of Robert Rauschenberg's combine painting Short Circuit. Reprinted in Kirk Varnedoe, ed., and Christel Hollevoet, comp., Jasper Johns: Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews (New York, N.Y.: The Museum of Modern Art, 1996)

How very odd. I certainly remember my original article, have written about it in these Tales, and I well remember the telephone call from an outraged Leo Castelli. But I just don't remember us getting a letter from Jasper, or printing it (although, of course, we would have), and I'm amazed by that significant gap in memory. Very odd, indeed. Alas, no copy of that book in the university libraries. I'd like to read the letter.

What I have been reading, and finished on Hallowe'en, is Shirley MacLaine's It's All in the Playing. I grumbled at it more than I did her other book which I recently read, but still greatly admired it. Her website is admirable, too. I'll be making one of my rare purchases of a new paperback when her latest book, The Camino, makes the transition from hardcover. Some of the grumbling at this one was over her chirpy, repetitive insistence that we create our own lifes. I grumbled again when the FPC wasn't in the mailbox. Yeh, sure, Shirley, it's all my fault it didn't arrive a day or two early like it usually does. (Maybe she's right and it really is my doing, in which case pardon me while I kick myself.)

The trip to the mailbox wasn't totally futile, though, since a copy of the printed edition of the Tales had arrived from Paris, this one containing Nos. 760-846. Once again I am much surprised by the difference between reading them on paper and via computer, and by the way it seems almost like reading someone else's writing.

So ... another October has come and gone, another Fool Moon survived. Any Celtic New Year's resolutions?

857

Cainer says about the first weekend of November: Here comes a challenging weekend. Will you enjoy it? Yes if you rise to the challenge. No if you sink beneath its weight.

Unless the third mail call of the month is better than the first two, the main challenge will be patiently waiting for Crazy Money Monday. The Fabled Pension Check has still not arrived. I suppose the Anthrax Panic and the reduced number of flights to Hawaii are to blame, never mind Shirley and her ideas about us creating our own lives.

Even though she mentions karma now and then, that notion that we create our own lives is very bound to the concept of karma. So while she may be right, it doesn't mean we create the circumstances of our lives within this one, and she somehow avoids looking at that aspect of it.

The most recent visit to the State Library was about as dreary as the ones to the mailbox and I'm making do with Alvin Toffler's Powershift until something better comes along. The trouble with this kind of book it that much of it is history only ten years after it was written, things have moved even faster than he envisioned.

Meanwhile, I've almost finished the latest printed volume of the Tales and I must say this year sounds much more interesting than life seems at the moment, so not only does it feel in a peculiar way like reading someone else, it also seems like someone else's life.

Despite empty pockets, Dame Fortune made Friday a decent enough day. I needed one quarter for a sunset brew and she put an abandoned stroller in my path. The supermarket is apparently giving up on the quarter system, alas (poor Mongoose!), so those baby strollers are the only hunt in the mall these days. There was also a splendid plate-lunch box abandoned, grilled fish, corn and the inevitable macaroni salad. If only local people had become as addicted to mashed potatos and gravy as they are to mac salad (especially since the local version of that stuff is so bland). The fish was rather dry, probably accounting for it having been discarded, but drenched in the fake tartar sauce, not too bad. And most importantly, it saved me from resorting to that awful stuff the Krishna people dish out.

I saw Rocky a couple of times on Thursday, but only in passing, otherwise my social life consisted only of the usual sunset chats with Joe Guam. He has a black friend who gives him a few dollars whenever their paths cross and he'd seen the fellow earlier, then had found two dollars in the park, so he was feeling very pleased. He apparently doesn't get any kind of public assistance nor is he interested in trying to. All he wants is two 40-ounce bottles a day and a little food and, with few exceptions including me, just wants to be left alone.

In some cases, literally overnight, the decor in the mall switched from Hallowe'en to Christmas. Only a few shops have the style, and good taste, to create an interim Fall Harvest/Thanksgiving theme, Tiffany and Ethel M Chocolates the best examples. But then the first Christmas trees appeared in September at the new "Holiday Magnifique" shop which I suspect won't last much past the Yule season. I'm really not looking forward to all the fuss and nonsense.

Or to this weekend if that envelope isn't in the mailbox ...

858

The Fabled Pension Check didn't arrive but the penniless weekend wasn't as bad as the anticipation of it, just rather boring. And, of course, on Crazy Money Monday it no longer mattered. Those Crazy Money paydays got extended again after a visit to the Qualifying Doc early Tuesday morning. I'm not quite sure whether he extended it for three months or six. All he said was "they'll send you back to me in March", which suggests six months since it would run until May. If that does turn out to be the case, I won't be seeing him again.

I saw the Cherub briefly on Sunday. He's broke until mid-month, so I told him I'd buy beer on Monday, and did. We ended up in the beach park with beer, chicken, mashed potatos and macaroni+cheese, a splendid sunset picnic.

There was an appointment with the psychologist on Tuesday as well, so I didn't make the trip to campus, left his office, had lunch at Jack in the Box and checked the mail. The FPC was there having oddly been sent to the old address despite the previous month going to the new one. Somebody must have picked up an old back-up or something. Who needs these irritating glitches?

As I was going to the supermarket for my second bottle of brew, I saw Mondo, offered to buy him one as well. And when I got outside he was with Angelo. That silly fellow missed last month's appointment with the Doc so his Crazy Money is suspended until next month, thus no November Follies. A new lad was with them, a 22-year-old local boy of Filipino descent, quite cute and amusing. I've seen him occasionally at IHS, one of the few young men in the place but of course there I diligently ignore anything remotely close to being an obscure object of desire. Angelo was in fine form, the best I've seen him in a long time, and it was another most enjoyable sunset in the park. I bought a second round of beer for us all and was consequently close to smashed when I finally left to catch a bus. They are staying at the old Park Place but with just a beach towel for cover, I wasn't keen on joining them there. I would have been just as well off if I had, though, because I got to IHS too late, ended up sleeping in some nearby bushes, grateful it remained dry all night.

The Cherub gave me Anne Rice's Merrick. It's splendid.

859

The November Ice Follies.

Dramatis personae: Panther, Angelo, Chico and Mondo, although to our mutual mystification, Mondo wandered off very early after some beer and food, didn't stay for the white powder.

Chico is the new Bad Boy, first mentioned in the last Tale. I was mistaken, he is 21, won't be 22 until next July. "Chico" is not my choice. It was a nickname he was given in the past and likes. He was born in the Philippines, raised on the mainland USA, in Florida, Georgia and Texas. He is, as I said, very cute. And he is the FIRST of these lads to openly admit to being "bisexual". He is also currently at the top of my wish list, and I have an idea that wish will be granted in the very near future.

However, for these Follies, it was Angelo who was the star. I understated things when I said he is in "fine form". He is in topnotch form, surpassing even the Sleeptalker. But as has been the case in the past, he made me promise to keep the details of our dance together a "secret". That's easier to do this time because I'd be very embarrassed to admit to some of those details.

But it was sheer madness and totally delightful, again surpassing that last wild ice fling with the Sleeptalker.

It is now 9:40 on Thursday morning. I last slept about five on Wednesday morning, and there is as yet no desire at all for somnolence. There was unanimous agreement that the little bags of white powder were exceptionally good, stronger, I think, than any I've experienced thus far, even allowing for the difference to be expected after a four month abstinence.

I was sitting in the Philodendron Walk, since the weather was uncertain, reading and drinking my first bottle of brew when the three arrived. I bought a beer for each of us and we went to the park. Mondo was listening to the radio, didn't remove his headphones or participate in the conversation throughout the first beer. Someone had given Chico a tiny, adorable kitten. If I had a space of my own, I would have become its new owner. Chico took off his teeshirt and wrapped it around the kitten who promptly went to sleep and looked just like the kitten on a pack of playing cards I remember from childhood. A total sweetheart.

We had walked over to the cheap tobacco store for packs of $2.50 Filipino cigarettes and then to the nearby 7-Eleven for the beer and a little container of milk for the kitten. I made Chico wait until the milk had warmed a bit before offering it the kitten, but it wasn't interested, just wanted to sleep. Most fortunately, on a later trip to the mall, some man seemed to instantly fall in love with the kitten and bought it for five dollars. Lucky kitten.

For some reason I don't remember, Chico wandered off to the mall and came back with a young woman. He's very female crazy and it was fun watching him try to arrange a liaison. Whether it actually happened or not (was supposed to be a meeting at midnight), I don't know yet, but after drinking a little beer, she left. Then we all returned to the mall for another round of beer and some food. That was when Mondo vanished.

To the park again, and then Angelo started longing for his beloved batu. He had obviously sold his foodstamps, so offered to go half on the first bag. I insisted I had vowed to wait until Christmas before indulging (I'm dreaming of a white Christmas), but like I said, Angelo is in great form and when he's like that he can persuade me to do almost anything. He did fail later when he wanted to do the hotel room trip, but despite that, overall he succeeded admirably and was a most delightful partner in our dance together when Chico again wandered off and left us alone.

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

A second bag of the white stuff, then, and I really was spaced out. I haven't been that far out since the last time I took LSD, have never experienced that high with the Ice before.

It was close to midnight. Angelo said he was feeling "bored" [?!] and wanted to go to Waikiki. I waited with them until a bus arrived, but said I didn't really want to go there, would just stay in the park.

A night on Magic Island, moving around from bench to bench as the sprinkler system went through its routine. And being about as outrageous as I've ever been but only for a brief time with a witness, a young man who was also spending the night wandering around. I thought he, as Mae West so memorably said, "could be had", but he didn't make the jump so I didn't either. After the earlier events of the evening, I really didn't need it.

There was light drizzle now and then which finally became heavier around four in the morning. I went to the 7-Eleven for coffee and cigarettes, ran into Lord and Lady Moana on my way back. They had been up all night with the glass pipe, too.

I finished Anne Rice's Merrick with my second round of coffee from McD's. My condition, mentally and physically, was absolutely perfect for the finale of that delicious book. And three cheers, indeed. Lestat finally woke from his very lengthy sleep, and the ending of this one strongly suggests we'll be reading more about that seductivly powerful character.

And then I bought a bottle of Colt for breakfast.

The November Ice Follies.

860

Monday was a holiday, the one known in my childhood as Armistice Day, created to commemorate the end of the first World War. Later it became the more generic holiday set aside to remember all veterans, and Veterans Day 2001 was probably the first since the Vietnam debacle when it was once again an honorable thing to have connections, past or present, with the military. For me, it was a quiet, solitary day spent mostly in Waikiki's Kapiolani Park, eating sandwiches of turkey and cheese, drinking beer, and reading John Updike's collection of autobiographical essays, Self-Consciousness.

It is the third in a row of memorable books, beginning with Anne Rice's Violin. It's somewhat unlike her other books, no vampires or witches, with a strange ghost, but not quite ghost, as the star. Perhaps a variation on purgatory, roaming the earth for centuries after the first death, visible to few. The writing is lush and exotic, generally fulfilling the intention expressed by the female narrator to use words like music. A thoroughly enjoyable read. That was followed by John Grisham's The Testament, my favorite by far of his always engrossing but sometimes irritating novels.

The reading was an anchor of sorts during a somewhat hectic week. Life had, indeed, been far too ordinary in recent weeks, or so it seemed to me, and a spell of hyper-activity was not unwelcome even if I did several times during it wish a little that things would slow down. As I told the Cherub, it is almost as interesting an experience, observing and examining the aftermath of a dance with Ice, as the drug experience itself. It seems inevitable, and this I have observed in everyone I know who uses the drug, to feel a deep need to refrain not only from that substance but from all such elements in one's life. No more ice, no more alcohol, no more tobacco (or the prescribed poisons), as if the experience with ice demands a period of purification and abstinence. But the hangover is so brutal the demand for relief overpowers that yearning. Most people I know deal with that by smoking more ice and continuing to do so until their money runs out. I would have done that myself, at least the first day, but was spared by the absence of suppliers.

That wasn't my idea, but the Sleeptalker's. My own solution, as it has been in the past, was to stay slightly drunk all day on Thursday, the day after the Ice Follies. Stay slightly, continuously drunk, lost in a fictional reality, and that method prevailed from breakfast until late afternoon when the Sleeptalker arrived in the park. He was in a very strange mood, twitchy, hyperactive, unable to sit still for long but jumping up to pace back and forth on the lawn around the picnic table. He was, in a weirdly belated twist, very upset by the events of September 11th but, no, reduced to "practical reality" had no intention of rushing off to join the Army. Later conversation, after a round of beer, and further talk the next day suggests his real problem is the addition of yet another sugar daddy, a "friend" who lets him stay overnight but wants him to look after two large dogs. This is unacceptable to the Sleeptalker and I can't blame him much. Giving up his body should be more than enough "rent" for a place to sleep. Of course, he also apparently gets the bonus of some quite decent weed to smoke, as was evident when he arrived again on Friday afternoon. He had the remains of two joints already smoked plus one as yet unlit and although still very hyper had been sufficiently mellowed by the smoke to remain seated most of the time.

He offered to let me have his body in exchange for a bag of ice, an offer I would have accepted as much for the drug as the sex, but neither our usual supplier or Paulo's was in the park and I was too weary (and drunk) to join him in a wider hunt for the treat. But we had two rounds of beer and when I got up to leave for IHS, he said he was returning to his "friend". I fell asleep on the bus, deeply enough to sleep right through the bright lights and stop-starts of the swing through the airport, only luckily awoke a little distance beyond, near an airplane maintenance facility. On a side road, there was a long, covered bus stop. A man was curled up asleep at one end, so I did likewise at the other.

The Sleeptalker and I were joined during Friday's late afternoon drinking session by Angelo and Mondo. Mondo was listening to music via headphones, had little to say, but during a break when the Sleeptalker went off to buy another round of beer, Angelo was very sweet and amusingly teasing about our ice games together. "You aren't supposed to remember that!" I protested when he teased about one episode, but I was grateful he plays with such grace and generosity, even more grateful there is none of the Sleeptalker's guilt and angst afterwards. We had yet another round of beer and then the Sleeptalker and Mondo left for IHS. Angelo was vague about his plans but wandered off soon afterwards and I fell asleep on the picnic table bench, later moved to the nearby bus-stop when the irrigation sprinklers woke me, the first time I have slept at that place, the habitual bedroom of the Duchess and Wobbly. I was too drunk to consider any more distant options.

Although I did make the trip to campus each morning, I had no desire to write, postponed answering email and only very briefly looked in on the game, as was the case again on Saturday. The companions for that late afternoon and evening drinking session arrived, Chico and a rather chubby Waianae girlfriend. It's proof of my fascination with Chico that I bought them a round of beer; my usual reaction in a case like that would be to make some excuse and leave. She got quite smashed on one bottle and after an amusingly lively conversation went over and collapsed on the grass. When Chico joined her, I quietly departed with the remaining half-bottle of beer and went out to Magic Island. Michael Lasser's hour of theatre music was on the radio, an hour oddly devoted to "jungle songs". I was sufficiently engrossed in that I didn't notice the police had arrived in droves. When a pair of them stopped at my bench with a large flashlight it unfortunately illuminated my open backpack and the bottle of beer inside it, so I had to pour the remaining brew out (no great loss since by then it certainly wasn't needed). The young and quite handsome policeman explained they were doing a "sweep" of the park to give warnings. They would be returning the next night and anyone drinking or "camping" (aka "sleeping") in the park would be given citations. So much, once again, for the claims of the politicians that their anti-camping laws are not aimed at the homeless.

Those isolated morons really should be forced to spend a night at the shelter, experience for themselves just how crowded it is, how near to being so full there will simply not be enough floor space. Anyone hardy enough to brave the winter nights sleeping in the parks should be encouraged, not discouraged.

After the police left, I listened to the radio for awhile longer, then settled on the bench to sleep with my beachtowel, rather inadequate protection. Someone woke me. I was still sufficiently drunk and half-asleep, thought my waker was the Sleeptalker. Well, there was a definite similarity but I quickly realized it was a stranger when he asked "can I suck your dick?" I don't know what drug he was on, but it seemed clear he was on something. I said sure, but only if I could do the same to him. He immediately pulled down his shorts, was already standing tall. But he didn't want to take it to conclusion and didn't want me to, either, when he got his wish. He wanted more and lay facedown on the grass beside the bench to offer it. I said there were too many people around, a more gentle way I hope than being honest and telling the poor fellow I just didn't want it. He said okay, pulled up his shorts and went looking for a more cooperative playmate. I hope he found one.

On Sunday I bought rolls, cheese and beer even before heading to campus, was sitting in the secluded grove with that and the Grisham book when the Cherub arrived. We spent the rest of the afternoon together drinking and talking. He had been given tickets to the basketball game that evening but I declined the invitation to join him, that activity being my least favorite of America's team sports, and he didn't seem all that keen on it himself, was quite late in finally leaving for it.

A full and thoroughly enjoyable week, even if with too much beer and too little food, even if with that wicked drug ice (yes, I seriously do think it's a "wicked" one), even if with what is sometimes too hectic a social life for this old man and his hermit leanings. No complaints, though, no complaints whatever.

861

I'm always premature, jump the gun, and never moreso than with the seasons. Here I am, already in the winter of our discontent mode and there are still five more weeks of autumnal discontent to get through. Why, one may well ask, after such a relatively dazzling beginning to the eleventh month of 2001, do I reach the midpoint of it and feel discontented? Well, of course, I don't really know, which is pretty much what discontentment is all about, in my experience. I just don't feel happy with my life but haven't got a clue what to do about it and so just feel discontented.

Larry McMurtry's touchingly amusing The Evening Star is helping while at the same time discouraging. Such a delightful cast of old folks (or, as the heroine prefers, "late middle age" folks). But they, like I, now and then sigh because "late middle age" just ain't the calm, peaceful, non-lust-infected time we thought it would be.

And I've been feeling again that mood I mentioned not long ago, the one where I want to get a tee shirt that says I HAVE NOTHING FOR YOU, LEAVE ME ALONE. I get so weary of people asking for things ... spare change (why would a man in my position have any spare change, for God's sake), tobacco, beer, food, sex ... Well, okay, that last one doesn't happen often enough to mind, but the others are daily intrusions and I get fed up with them. I heard the Sleeptalker calling me early on Wednesday morning. He was at the bus stop, presumably to catch a campus-bound one. I just waved and indicated I was headed to the men's room for my morning wash and toothbrushing. I'd been grumbling through my morning coffee about just wanting to be left alone, even though I knew I'd soon grumble even louder if I were. The grumbles intensified when old Joe Guam stumbled along and asked for a smoke. So it wasn't a good time for the Sleeptalker to appear, and instead of going directly to the bus stop later, I wandered around upstairs in the mall looking for snipes, the thing Joe Guam should have done instead of pestering me.

When I got back to the bus stop, no sign of the Sleeptalker, nor was he in the library when I got to campus. But as I was boarding a bus to pick up my lunchtime sandwich, chips and brew, I saw him getting off a bus and go walking across the lawn. I wasn't sure if he'd seen me or not, although he told me later he had. I sat in the secluded grove with my lunch and the book, expecting the Sleeptalker to arrive at any minute. Instead, he waited until later, came walking over to my table in the park as I was having my sunset brew. He did ask for smokes but at least didn't ask for beer and I didn't offer any.

He'd been with Angelo since our last time together in the park but Angelo had gone somewhere, was supposed to have met the Sleeptalker in the mall or the park but didn't show up, so the Sleeptalker had spent all day by himself, the one thing he hates most. I asked what progress he was making with the welfare dance and it seems on track thus far. He has an interview with the qualifying doc next week and is determined not to miss it. He also has an interview lined-up, once again, for one of the government sponsored education grants which would allow him to attend school of some kind (where he wants to "study computers"). He went through that before without success but maybe he'll get luckier this time ... if he keeps the interview appointment.

He left to get the bus to IHS, was still there when I walked over to do the same. He was chatting away with a man I've never seen before, so I stayed some distance away and discreetly glanced their way now and then. They sat on opposite sides of the aisle on the bus and it was most amusing to watch the Sleeptalker do his flirtatious act. Although the stranger seemed friendly enough, I guess he wasn't taking the bait, because the Sleeptalker suddenly got up and left the bus in Chinatown rather than continuing on to IHS. What a slut, I was thinking, but with affection.

Then I dreamed I had just arrived in San Francisco, had a small stack of hundred dollar bills but knew they'd eventually run out. Some people were trying to get me to work for them. A woman showed me her messy weekly calendar, wanted me to maintain a nice, tidy computerized version for her, but I knew I just couldn't cope with that kind of work and was worrying about how to make the contacts to find out how best to live the homeless life in a new city. Meanwhile, in this so-called real life, I'm hanging onto my last twenty dollar bill as if it was a life preserver and I'm on a sinking ship. Only problem with that is, I know the damned piece of paper will sink right along with me. Still, considering the temptations of early November, I guess I've done better than could be expected to have even that one bit of greenery left.

862

After a visit to campus on Friday morning, I stayed offline through the weekend. The early Friday visit was necessarily brief since it was time for another half-hour with the Psychiatrist, a very very unsatisfactory one which left me grumbling all day. I suppose I should appreciate his candor, just quietly smile my way through his temperance lectures and take or not take his prescribed dope as the mood strikes me. He said he would not ordinarily give any medication to a patient who drinks alcohol, was only doing it for me because the Qualifying Doc thinks I should have it. Since surely the majority of people who see him with problems of depression indulge in the one legal, cheap drug they can get, his attitude is peculiar, as I see it. In any case, I think he is just reconciled to seeing me since insurance covers it and he's doing nothing much but ensure I continue to get the Crazy Money. And of course, I am grateful for that even while I grumble about a "psychiatrist" who doesn't want to talk about anything but chemicals. He wants me to taper off the Neurontin, eventually stopping it altogether, while doubling the nightly Remeron dose. Shrug.

Rather than return to campus, I just stayed in the park for the rest of the day after visiting the State Library and getting some inconsequential lawyer yarns to pass the time.

When I got to campus on Saturday morning I sat in the secluded grove rather than heading to a computer, and was finishing my early lunch and first bottle of beer ("you are self-medicating yourself", the Doc had said) when the Cherub arrived. We went to get more beer and talked for awhile in the secluded grove, then went to the beach park. We hadn't been there long when I said, "ah, here comes the hot tamale". Angelo.

I ended up spending the night with him, sleeping on sheets of cardboard in a tennis court, grateful it didn't rain. I hadn't realized we were in a meteor shower and was dazzled in the pre-dawn hour by seeing more "falling stars" in a few minutes than I've ever seen before. The hour before sleeping was equally dazzling in its way. Angelo is a real sweetheart and, yes, "hot tamale" is affectionately accurate. I never expected to find it out and didn't expect it to be a repeating pleasure, one which becomes increasingly so with the more relaxed dance that familiarity always brings. I am a lucky old man.

We had breakfast together on Sunday morning, then separated as I went to have a shower and then to the laundromat. End of the November Crazy Money, as my accumulated quarters were reluctantly fed into the washer and drier. I must force myself this time to get darker trousers. It's just impossible, wearing light tan pants with the life I lead, especially with often-grubby park benches and the almost-as-grubby floor of the shelter where more often than not I end up with nothing but my beach towel to sleep on.

That place has been surprisingly less crowded recently so there has at least not been the problem of finding floor space, but they continue to keep too small a stock of mats on hand (or put too many of them downstairs for the "walk-ins").

Helen R is going home to Kauai for Thanksgiving so we will not have our usual pig-out at the Sizzler in Waikiki. (This is sensible, since I just can't eat enough to justify the all-you-can-eat-buffet tariff.) So she kindly invited me to an early dinner on Sunday and I once again wallowed in the delight of the hot roast beef sandwich at the venerable Likelike Drive-In. Never mind all-you-can-eat, that plate of bread, beef, mashed potatoes and yummy gravy always leaves me feeling stuffed.

Earlier in the afternoon I had been keenly interested in a lengthy program of new American music played on NPR and was delighted to finally hear a worthy composer who is carrying forward the tradition set by Copland and Thomson. Mark O'Connor. His "American Seasons" is a fine piece of music and his "Appalachia Waltz" is so good I am eager to hear it again.

After the feast with Helen, I sat in the park watching the sunset. Paulo came over, seeking a beer. Sorry, my friend, try again in ten or eleven days. Joe Guam stopped to say goodnight, didn't ask for anything (much to my surprise), but was moaning because he had no money for Monday's beer.

I have enough for Monday. Then we begin the usual end-of-the-month poverty act. Je regrette rien.

863

Meanwhile, I survived the Mars-Saturn square, was more or less tricked into indulging in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, heard some most excellent music on several occasions, saw two amusing films (Mars Attacks and Star Trek: First Contact) and always had plenty to drink: that was the holiday that was.

The first Thanksgiving of these homeless years. On the second one, I fell in love again on Thanksgiving Day, this time in the old-fashioned All American way, with an image on the Silver Screen. Brad Pitt in "Meet Joe Black" is the Cat's Meow, the Top, the smile on the Mona Lisa, etc. etc. Scratch everything I've said about good-looking men. He wipes the slate clean, eliminates all competition. That was with Helen R, at the Kahala Mall, followed by the all-you-can-eat buffet at Sizzler's in Waikiki.

The third was spent in the Castle Medical Center and I recall absolutely nothing about it, although I'm quite sure it didn't include the traditional turkey dinner, unless the stuff had been ground into the mush I had to eat for such a long time.

It was back to Sizzlers in Waikiki for the fourth Thanksgiving: 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.

And the fifth? Well, we shall see, since this is being written on the eve of the holiday.

I do not have a single memory of Thanksgiving in childhood although it's fairly certain the earliest ones were spent with my maternal grandmother. Unlike a few things my mother cooked (including her cornbread stuffing), I also don't remember anything at all which my grandmother served us through the years. Odd. I'm sure my memory of the two songs I most associate with the holiday originated in childhood ... "over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go" and "we gather together to ask the Lord's blessing" (the latter, as I recall, sung to the tune of the Dutch national anthem). Although we might have crossed the San Antonio River on the way to grandmother's house, there surely weren't any woods and no question of a horse-drawn sleigh.

Memory doesn't serve any better in later years, at least not until 1973 and the Thanksgiving feast offered by the wonderful Bahai lady at Unity Restaurant in Kathmandu. Then there is again a blank until the early years in Waikiki, preparing the usual fare for my nephew even if the holiday was a new tradition for him. We had no oven in the Waikiki apartment, so I braised boneless turkey breasts lightly, then filled a huge cooking pot with stovetop stuffing (fresh celery added) and the turkey, let it sit on very low heat until it was all "baked". Mashed potatoes (the real kind, not the instant crap I sometimes resorted to after a day in the office), cranberry sauce, wine. Those were the best Thanksgiving celebrations I remember.

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to this one, Dame Fortune has been kind. Much to my surprise, I managed to acquire nine quarters in the mall on Tuesday after having already found enough for a daily brew. Discipline called forth, I did NOT (also somewhat to my surprise) yield to the temptation to have two, saved it for Thanksgiving Eve. Despite Remeron, I had a very difficult time getting to sleep Tuesday night, not helped much by seeing the Sleeptalker making a wild dash out of IHS just as I arrived and Chico trying to grab me for conversation or whatever as I went up the stairs. "I'm just going to sleep," I said. "This early?!" Uh-huh.

Earlier I had gone to the State Library to make sure I had enough mindless reading to get me through the unpromising holiday. Angelo was there, had just come in from Waianae where he'd gone after our night together. Later I saw him again when I walked over to the River of Life soup kitchen where he was standing outside talking with RedEye. I thought they served lunch at one o'clock but discovered it was at 1:30, didn't want to hang around so said goodbye to the lads and returned to the mall and the bountiful Quarter Hunt. The food supply was more than bountiful, so there had been no need to wait for that lunch anyway.

The holiday reading is a David Baldacci double-feature, his 1998 The Simple Truth (he tackled the Supreme Court before Grisham?) and his following novel, Saving Faith. I do envy slightly the way these people can turn out one best-seller after another.

Meanwhile, what do I have to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving? Well, it's all in the Tales, isn't it?

864

The Thanksgiving party took place on the Eve. I walked over to the park, sat down to enjoy my sunset brew after giving up on the Quarter Hunt even though I was still two quarters short. Tanioka came over, said they were sitting at a table further down and asked me to join them. Angelo and RedEye. The party continued until it was too late to get to IHS and I was too drunk to go there anyway. Vodka and orange juice, a little roast chicken and several varieties of Angelo's beloved raw fish, a major dent in the $31 I'd been pleased to still have on my foodstamps balance, and an extra dollar in pocket for that holiday brew.

The major gossip item of the evening was the news that Rocky's sugar-daddy, the UH Professor, had finally gotten his new apartment and both Rocky and the Sleeptalker are staying there. The poor man and/or the lucky man? One thing's for sure, it's an arrangement that can't last long. Rocky apparently has a job with long hours and a very early start, so I guess the Sleeptalker must have the place to himself for most of the day. Odd he hasn't taken advantage of the computer, but maybe he's not permitted to use it when Daddy's not home. Odd, too, the Sleeptalker had been at IHS the night before, although I don't know if he'd actually stayed there overnight. It's too dark when I leave in the mornings to identify the bodies on the floor.

Since I couldn't get to that hellhole, I spent the early hours of Thanksgiving Day sitting alone on my favorite bench at Magic Island. I didn't sleep until after three in the morning. Fortunately the night was not disturbed by rain, the sprinkler system, or the police.

Most of the day itself was a quiet time, alone in the secluded grove, reading Baldacci's Saving Faith. I went to get that bottle of Colt in the early afternoon, enjoyed that with the suspenseful finale of the book and then worked on some cards, continuing the first work using the panoramic cards and deciding to call it "Faith".

And Michelangelo finally came down
After four years on the ceiling
He said he'd lost his funding
And the paint had started peeling
And he told us that his patron
His Holiness, the Pope
Was demanding productivity
With which our friend just couldn't cope
And he rode off on his skateboard
With his brushes and his blade
Muttering something 'bout some food
And the Thanksgiving Day Parade
... from Dan Bern's "The New American Language"

I decided not to take advantage of any of the free food opportunities but when I finally went to the beach park at sunset there was, as usual, a lot of food deliberately left on tables by early picnickers, including one large roasting pan filled with large chunks of turkey, corn and yams. I noticed in the distance that the table near Lord and Lady Moana's usual territory was loaded with foil-covered pans and dishes, guess they must have gone around gathering up all the offerings they wanted. The one day of the year when folks feel obliged to share with the less fortunate. I heard on the radio that the Salvation Army's annual holiday meal served more than 2500 people. I'm glad I decided against attending that one, for sure.

IHS was less crowded than usual and after my brief sleep the night before, I was very quickly off in dreamland, happy to have gotten a mat for the first time in many nights.

When I got to the mall, used the now almost-extinct foodstamps for two cans of chilled coffee, I had to sigh over the long line of people standing outside the toy store and the people who had already managed to get inside the place, were lugging away huge shopping bags of stuff. At six-thirty in the morning!

The madness begins.

865

Thanksgiving Day may have been a quiet, mostly solitary day, but it certainly was sandwiched between two extravagant parties. I had three Thanksgivings this year.

After a few hours on the mostly deserted campus Friday morning, I went to the State Library, picked up a couple of novels, checked the (empty) mailbox, and returned to the mall. It was densely packed. Food was abundant, tobacco even moreso. It looked like people arrived, parked their cars and then took a few puffs off a cigarette before the urge to shop overwhelmed them and they stubbed out the smoke. But not many people were visiting the supermarket and by late afternoon I'd only found one quarter, reconciled myself to its being a no-beer day.

I was searching for a discarded cigarette box since the one I had was stuffed with lengthy snipes. And I detoured past the Ethel M Chocolates shop to have another look at that handsome Micronesian fellow who works there. A crumpled ten dollar bill was on the sidewalk in front of the shop! The little melon that fell not from heaven but no doubt from someone's pocket or purse. Oh lucky man.

So I bought a bottle of Colt and went to the beach park, started reading We'll Meet Again by Mary Higgins Clark, a somewhat irksome multiple-murder yarn so littered with red herrings that it's hard to keep track of them, much less guess which are important. The Sleeptalker walked by at a little distance from my table, made no sign he'd seen me. He headed down to where Paulo usually sets up his "kitchen", but soon returned, paper cup in hand. Whiskey, from the smell of it, and he was already fairly buzzed. I'd seen Paulo earlier in the mall and he was not just fairly but totally zonked. He has been getting regular work on a fishing boat lately and I suspect all the profits are going into food, booze, weed and, of course, the glass pipe. The Sleeptalker said Paulo had been taking care of him for the past three days.

I told him about the Thanksgiving Eve party. He said Rocky was mad at him. Well, I wonder why, my son? It's not the Sleeptalker's fault, naturally. He doesn't want the Professor, the Professor wants him. Left unsaid is the obvious; he may not want the Professor, but he wants all the luxuries the poor man provides. He had talked to the Professor about me, said the man told him I was "taking advantage" of the Sleeptalker! Cough, splutter. My friends tell me the Sleeptalker is taking advantage of me, his friend says I am the one taking advantage. Well, I reminded the Sleeptalker that I'd told him just that myself.

Having emptied the cup, he walked back toward Paulo's table and, much to my surprise, the Cherub came walking over the little bridge. I'd expected him to stay on Kauai for the weekend. The Sleeptalker returned and the two of them went to the mall for a round of beer, which was followed by two more such trips during the course of the evening. The Cherub had spent the holiday with his Mother and brought along some turkey and a little jelly glass full of truly excellent cranberry sauce. I haven't seen one of those little glasses in a long time. Instant childhood memory, since it was just such one-time containers of jelly which provided our drinking glasses, the "good stuff" only brought out for company.

Later some black man I've never seen before joined us. One would think that having a bona fide black man at the table would have squelched the Sleeptalker's horrendous "jive talk" act, but no such luck, and after the Cherub had given him money to buy some weed and we'd smoked it, the Sleeptalker got even worse. I got up and walked off, the Cherub following me. "He is just a bore," I grumbled, surprised at how deeply I meant it ... and how true it is.

So another night on a Magic Island bench, having to switch sides of the island when the sprinklers erupted in the wee hours. It's really getting too cold for nights under just a beach towel. I either have to get a tarp and lug it around or give up on these late, drunken nights. But at least it didn't rain, except from the sprinklers.

Saturday was another day alone in the secluded grove. I finished the Clark book. She did manage to weave most of the red herrings into a sensible conclusion but it became far too obvious who was the real culprit long before the ending. I'm spoiled, I guess, by Agatha Christie, prefer my murder mysteries to remain a mystery until the final pages. Next up was Danielle Steel's The Long Road Home in which she puts the heroine through just about every horror that could happen to a human being.

I went downhill for a brew in mid-afternoon and then as sunset time approached went to the mall for another one. The Sleeptalker was in the supermarket. He looked awful. I've never seen him looking more derelict. Life with Paulo must be continually burning the candle at both ends.

I passed near Rocky twice. The second time he surely must have seen me but acted as if he hadn't. If he's as mad at the Sleeptalker as reported, he's probably looking upon me as the enemy, too. Unlike the Sleeptalker, Rocky was looking good, very good.

The Sleeptalker didn't come over to my table later although Joe Guam stopped for the usual post-sunset chat. And then it was off to IHS where once again I was lucky enough to get a mat and there was a vacant space right by one of the large floor fans, my favorite. It's hard to discern any pattern to that place, why it's sometimes so totally full.

This is certainly the time of the year when I would most like to unplug the internal jukebox. All it needs is to hear a few bars of a seasonal tune and it plays it for hours and seems, perversely, to get stuck on the silliest ones. At least this year the mall has broken the usual pattern and instead of continually playing a loop of holiday songs performed by local musicians, have instead put together a more classic collection ... Crosby, Fitzgerald, Sinatra, etc. But I still think a whole month of the stuff is just too much, wish they'd wait until two weeks before Christmas. And I wish the internal jukebox would shut up.

I was sitting in the Philo Walk with my Sunday morning coffee when the Sleeptalker walked by, sat on the next bench without saying anything. He looked even worse, must be really on a downhill slide. The overhead lights went off so I put my book away, picked up my coffee and said "too dark" and went to sit somewhere else.

Jonathan Cainer is taking some time off to work on the next annual messages and has brought in a substitute who writes in much the same style. His message for the last week of November begins "You've finally run out of patience."

He may be right.

866

... in that cool lockup look of six inches of pastel undershorts showing. The fashion statement got started in jail when inmates had their belts confiscated so they couldn't hang themselves or someone else. The trend had crossed over every racial and socioeconomic line until half the city's pants were falling off. Patricia Cornwell's explanation in Hornet's Nest. I didn't know the style was a Mainland one, never saw it until I came to Hawaii. It sounds like a plausible theory for its origin, too.

That I find rather charming in its way, but I do not find anything the least bit charming about white boys imitating what I, in my old-fashioned way, see as black "jive talk". Three local lads passed me in the mall on Monday afternoon, all loudly in this trashy mode. So it's not just the Sleeptalker, alas. Ugh. My first thought was, how quickly can I manage to get out of this country?

It wasn't the first time I've thought that in recent months.

Although the Cherub stopped by the secluded grove and we talked for awhile, Sunday was again mostly a solitary day. When I returned to the mall in late afternoon I quickly found enough quarters for a sunset brew, then lingered over it longer than I should have at this time of the month since IHS was almost out of floor space when I finally got there. The same thing happened on Monday night. I went to campus for my usual early morning on-line time, including awhile in a new MUD I've been playing for a few days, Elysian Fields. It's similar to Seventh Circle but unfortunately doesn't seem to have as many players (the "Immortals" usually outnumber the "Mortals" three-to-one when I've been on). Still, it's fun to play where I'm a complete stranger ... and don't have to worry about the Sleeptalker suddenly appearing.

Then to the State Library for more reading material. I wish they'd enlarge the space for their "honor collection". The mailbox was empty, except for a reminder that the rent is due in December. Back at the mall, snipes were again plentiful but quarters were not. I finally gave up, was taking a break in Philo Walk when Tanioka and Angelo walked by. Tanioka was all wound up and excited about an idea he has ... he wants to start a non-profit business "to help the homeless". I'm afraid he is thinking much more of the salary he could pay himself (and Angelo) than in actually assisting the homeless, although I suppose he'd at least be helping two homeless people. Make that three with his scheme to hire me as a consultant. I told him it was fairly easy to set up a not-for-profit business, isn't at all easy to get non-profit status which allows people to make tax-deductible contributions, and also mentioned he'd have to come up with some decent ideas to match or better the competition (including IHS). He doesn't seem to have a single one at this point, but what the hell, if it gives him and Angelo some amusing moments of fantasy, no complaints from me.

I told them I was still searching, needed four more quarters, and was going to resume the hunt, as much to escape the "business meeting" as from any expectation of actually finding the money. They were going to bag some vodka, asked if I had foodstamps to buy juice. I lied and said the stamp money was all gone, and it was, except for the few dollars needed to ensure morning coffee until, I hope, the Fabled Pension Check arrives. I know, I could have spent my quarters on juice and joined in the vodka party but I really wanted beer. I am not an alcoholic, I'm a beeraholic. Weird thing was, I found those four missing quarters almost immediately, despite the Mongoose prowling the area. (He must have discovered that the Quarter Hunt has improved a little, albeit not much.)

So I got my sunset brew, looked over to see if Tanioka and Angelo were in the park but didn't see them. I hope they didn't get busted.

A reader wrote: Running out of patience ? I don't know. You sound more worried than out of patience. Perhaps so. But I really should know by now what wasted energy it is to worry about the Sleeptalker. He always finds someone to take care of him, even if most of the comfortable situations he lands in are short-lived. True, he is looking much worse than I've ever seen him before and that is a little worrying, especially since he should be getting Crazy Money in a few days. How he'll cope with the glass pipe when he's already so wrecked, I don't know. But there's not anything I can do about it. I suppose more importantly from my own side at this point is that I'm not sure I'd try to do anything even if I could, and that perhaps is the relevance of "running out of patience".

I'm more inclined right now, moreso than I've ever been, to find a different path for myself. Premature, as always, since any genuine new path is far more likely to happen on its own when April arrives. I researched the situation with Social Security, discovered I can apply in late January and that payments will begin with April, not May as I'd been supposing. And there's a nice little increase in benefits starting with January, too. Since I'm planning to start early, I'll get 20 percent less than I would if I waited three more years, but there's not a chance in hell of doing that. So that largesse, added to the Fabled Pension Check, should bring in a little more than $750 a month. No great luxury in this costly corner of "paradise" but certainly enough to make a significant difference in my present lifestyle, especially if I managed to rid myself of some of the company I've been keeping. The question is, of course, whether I really want to do that ... or is this just one of those times when patience is, indeed, at low ebb.

867

It was raining lightly when I left IHS on Tuesday morning but even before I saw news reports it was clear the night had been a stormy one since the bus had to detour through downtown because fallen trees or branches had the usual road closed. Even on the detour route, one lane was closed because of fallen branches. The sky was solid gray, utterly devoid of any distinguishing feature, and it stayed that way all day. Rain almost never stopped and was very heavy at times.

I hocked ten dollars of December's income, bought a lunchtime beer and was trying to find a sheltered spot at the mall (Philo Walk was full all day). I ran into Mondo. "You just bought beer?" he asked. I admitted I had but did not offer to share it, went on my way looking for shelter. Ah, I hadn't before considered some benches at the far west end of the mall which are indeed under shelter. When the sky is less clouded, those benches are in full sunshine all afternoon, one reason I've never taken advantage of them. Another reason is the crazy woman who hangs out there all day, busily lecturing some invisible friend, complete with aggressive waving of her left arm. Whoever she scolds must be extremely bored with her. Me, too. But she stays on the benches near a store entrance and there are two others at some distance from those and I took up residence there for the rest of the day, adding a sunset brew as the time approached, although there was certainly no visible sign of the sun dipping below the horizon.

As expected, IHS was very, very crowded and all mats were gone by the time I got there. Mondo was there, asked if I had a cigarette. No, I didn't, nor did I offer a snipe.

The dreary weather was predicted to last three days but by early afternoon on Wednesday it had begun to clear. I made the usual morning trip to campus, had found an almost full plate-lunch box abandoned on a planter ledge at the mall so warmed it in one of the microwave ovens and had a splendid early lunch before returning to the mall for a bottle of Colt. Then to check the mailbox, a daily chore at this time of the month. The last volume of printed Tales I'd received had been prepared in a different binding machine than usual, the other machine having been under repair, and it had almost fallen apart just from its trip through the postal systems of France and the USA. So a better-bound replacement was waiting along with an elegant little catalogue of an exhibition in France of some variations on the Mona Lisa. It was tempting to start cutting it up for collage but I decided to hold off on that for awhile and dropped the whole package off for safekeeping, along with two works for scanning. Once those go up, the "Honolulu Exhibition" will be completed for 2001.

No Fabled Pension Check, alas.

Then I returned to the sheltered benches even though there seemed no danger of rain. The advantage of that new spot is that it's off the beaten track and I'm not likely to encounter any of the Bad Boys, at least until they discover I've taken refuge there. Then Cainer lectured on Thursday morning: All good things in life have their side effects, their drawbacks and their downsides. The sky suggests you are currently so conscious of a certain disadvantage that you can hardly see, any more, the positive purpose of a person, a situation or an item. You simply need to alter your vantage point. And you should.

Hmmmm ....

868

The Fabled Pension Check came and went, or almost. The December Follies, without the ice but with enough beer to fill a small swimming pool.

After finding the check in the postbox, going to cash it, making a stop at the State Library (futile gesture at being "responsible" rather than buying books), getting beer and cigarettes, I was sitting in the beach park when I saw the Cherub in the distance. As I told him, he, the Sleeptalker and Rocky are three guys I can recognize from their walk long before I can make out their faces. He had sold his car and had a pocketful of money which I suspect will probably vanish with record speed, even by my standards.

After another round of beer in the park, he suggested moving the party to the mall's Mai Tai Bar. On the way we stopped in the about-to-go-out-of-business "House of Music" where he contributed to the purchase of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass", the 'thirtieth anniversary' two-CD boxed edition with eight extra tracks including a new version of "My Sweet Lord" recorded last year. That's at least the third time I've bought that set, the LP-version getting more play than any of the Beatles albums.

The old fellow who runs the cheap tobacco store had Harrison playing on the radio when I was there. I said I never expected him to die so young, although back in the Sixties we would all have thought 58 absolutely ancient. Now it does, indeed, seem he died too young.

There was a group of very local fellows at the bar who the Cherub somehow knew (although I haven't yet heard any details). I enjoyed listening to the conversation and especially liked the young man who was sitting on the barstool beside me, a truly sexy man. But eventually I got up and left without saying anything, too far gone to trust myself in such enticing company. Incredibly enough, one of the shops at the mall sold me a bottle of Colt. The way I was staggering had me seriously doubting they would (and it's a cinch the supermarket clerks would have turned me down). Heaven knows I didn't need it, but out to my favorite Magic Island bench I went, beer and George Harrison and the full moon. Luckily the night wasn't disturbed by policemen, rain or sprinklers, a minor miracle which was repeated on Saturday night when I was once again too sloshed to consider getting to IHS.

I saw Angelo, Tanioka and the Sleeptalker in the mall while I was looking for a place to enjoy my re-fill cup of Saturday morning coffee. The Sleeptalker looked a little better but was being very sullen, so I ignored him and talked with Angelo instead. Tanioka and the Sleeptalker headed off to the supermarket, I went to brush my teeth. When I returned, none of them were around, so I too went to the supermarket, bought beer, a sandwich and some potato chips and got that look the salesclerks always give when you buy beer at nine in the morning.

A little later Tanioka and the Sleeptalker joined me the park, none of us knowing what had happened to Angelo. Tanioka sent the Sleeptalker over to buy beer for them and after that, the Sleeptalker loosened up a bit. He's mad at Paulo already, still feuding with Rocky, and did something to have a new CD player and a twenty (or more) in his pocket. He said that black man who had joined us in the park the last time had traded a Walkman in exchange for "sucking my dick". Sheez, what a whore. Silly one, too, since he'd then thrown away the Walkman because of feeling guilty over how he'd gotten it. He made a trip to the mall, returning with a round of beer for us. I followed up with a food run, surprising Tanioka with a pound of raw fish. "I'd never pay cash for it," he said, when I answered his question about still having foodstamps in the negative.

We were joined for awhile by a young local couple, the first people I've met from Kahalu'u, a town on the other side of the mountains. The young man and the Sleeptalker made a beer run to the mall, returning with a large pizza as well. Then the Sleeptalker scored some weed, only enough for one smoke but ten dollars even so. It was very good stuff but that's more money than I'd be willing to pay. The couple went on their way and shortly afterwards Angelo arrived. Eventually the Sleeptalker wandered off without saying anything, didn't return.

Tanioka had declined sharing the smoke earlier, said he was in a "drug free" state except for alcohol and tobacco, but he more than made up for it with the brew. I've never seen him so drunk, and he's a very amusing drunk, too. He and Angelo had a lively debate about what makes a person "gay", Tanioka holding with the idea that having sex with another man, even if it's just getting a blow job, means you're gay. Angelo and I disagreed, Angelo adding the proviso that doing it for money was the key factor. They are both firmly convinced the Sleeptalker is gay. At this point, I think the Cherub and the Sleeptalker himself are the only people I know who would disagree.

They were going to GovSanc for the night so we parted and I returned to my Magic Island bench, had a very restless night since the gusty wind made it difficult to keep the beach towel tucked in, but at least it stayed dry. The wind continued to blow on Sunday and after almost being hit by a falling branch in the secluded grove, I decided it was time to sit in a safer place, finally left the campus and returned to the beach park for a sunset brew, listening again to the second disc of the Harrison set.

A sunrise doesn't last all morning, a cloudburst doesn't last all day ...

All things must pass.

869

The December Follies didn't stop, maybe still haven't stopped even though it's the eighth of the month and I'm having a little of that candle-at-both-ends feeling. It was more than a little on Friday morning when I felt worse than I have since those days and nights at Castle Medical Center. Alcohol poisoning, exaggerated by having failed to eat more than half a sandwich the day before.

Crazy Money Eve was the calm before the deluge, one of those rare times when it was just me and Tanioka, drinking sunset brew in the park. Angelo had been at the State Library earlier, had lost his Crazy Money card so had to spend the day getting that sorted out ... and he hasn't been seen since.

I had chores of my own to do on Crazy Money morning, including a trip to the discount clothing store and stopping by the postbox place to pay rent for three months. I decided not to go to campus afterwards, went instead to the beach park, had a shower and bought the first beer of the day. I felt something tickle my ear, thought it was a fly and reached up to brush it away.

Chico.

When I walked over to the mall to get another round of beer for us, I saw the Sleeptalker who joined us a little later. He's not taking his displacement with much grace but correctly sensed that it has happened. Chico is the man. And such a sweetheart. If Angelo is a "hot tamale", Chico is jalapeno hot as I discovered, much to my pleasure, later in the evening and again the next day. The Sleeptalker bought some weed, then got aggressive as he often does when stoned and drunk, but Chico shrugged it off. When we had the same combination going on Thursday, along with Mondo, the Sleeptalker and Mondo almost went at it, but the Sleeptalker backed off. He's itching for a fight but wants an easy target. Silly fellow.

After another round of beer Chico left to sleep at IHS, the Sleeptalker wandered off, and I staggered out to Magic Island to the bench, later had to move inside a shower house when it started drizzling. There was only one man in there, already asleep, and except for the bright light that stays on all night, it's actually quite a pleasant place to sleep.

I started on the beer far too early on Thursday, largely accounting for the misery of the next morning. Chico had a job interview so I wasn't expecting him until mid-afternoon, but the Sleeptalker came along around noon, sat there with his headphones on and had little to say except for making a few wisecracks about my "new boy". When Chico arrived I walked over to the mall with him to get more beer where we saw Mondo. After another round of beer, we had the near-fight scene, Mondo left and I moved with Chico to another table, leaving the Sleeptalker to sulk on his own. And yes, why not yet one more round of beer, after a repeat of Wednesday's delightful drink from the Fountain of Youth. Chico is by far the most natural and affectionate of the lads.

The Sleeptalker rejoined us but was still in his looking-for-a-fight mode so I wasn't at all unhappy when he again wandered off. Chico left for IHS and I was so sloshed I just walked over to the covered bus stop and slept there.

I felt on the edge of being sick throughout Friday morning, helped only a little by having cereal and yoghurt for breakfast. Then back to the beer and the book. I've been reading M.M. Kaye's Shadow of the Moon, a grand historical epic set in Victorian India, a strange work to have interwoven with all the real-life events of the week and made even more strange by its echoes of things that are happening in that area of the world now.

The Cherub arrived. As expected, he has gone through the car-sale money already. We went to Manoa Garden for a beer, the first time I've been there in months. Bartender Bryant greeted me warmly but pointedly ignored the Cherub, obviously still out of favor there. Then it was to the beach park for roast chicken and more beer. Surprisingly, none of the other Bad Boys appeared. I wouldn't have minded at all a third round with young Chico, not at all.

When it came time to make a move, I decided I'd go to IHS (for a change), so the Cherub went to get a bus home and I waited among a bunch of old veterans in town for the 60th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, finally got to IHS and collapsed on a mat, didn't surface until almost six on Saturday morning. One thing that place really does have in its favor is providing the security to totally disappear into dreamland, and by then I was more than ready for just such a disappearance.

"Have you disappeared?" asked a reader about my absence from on-line life. "Like the Cheshire Cat, nothing left but a grin," I replied.

870

Poor little Chico. I'm afraid I just cannot be the Sugar Daddy of his dreams. Certainly there is a part of me which would love that role, but I can't afford it. Financially or in terms of energy, especially that mysterious energy called sexual desire. I know, sitting in the park on Friday evening, drinking beer with the Cherub, I had thoughts about how much fun it would be to have round three with Chico. But when the opportunity actually presented itself on Saturday evening, I declined. Sometimes I really am an idiot.

I enjoyed a quiet, solitary day on campus, spent a couple of hours catching up with on-line life, then sat in the secluded grove with a beer and a sandwich, finishing that excellent M.M. Kaye epic. I think it's one of the most accomplished novels about India, equal to her earlier Far Pavilions, even with its improbable but satisfying happy ending. Considering how many British perished in that uprising, it seems unlikely her hero and heroine would have made it. But the biggest shortcoming of the book was how little it touched on the people of India themselves, concentrating almost entirely on the (often, in those days, very stupid) British. Or so I see it.

On my second trip down the hill for another beer, I stopped in the used bookshop which was offering 25% on all used books. With that extra incentive, I abandoned the fifty-cent cart and splurged a little on Andrew Greeley's White Smoke. Father Greeley is, to use one of his favorite words, arguably, the only writer who could have tackled the idea of writing a novel around a conclave of the Catholic Church, an election of a new Pope. He's also probably the only priest who would dare to write about the present Pope in the way he does. As always with his books, it's also just a very entertaining read, aside from its controversial and thought-provoking aspects.

When I finally returned to the mall for my sunset brew, it was raining lightly so I stayed in Philo Walk and thus missed seeing Chico earlier since he had been in the park looking for me. I resisted the temptation to have a fourth beer, was waiting somewhat impatiently at the bus stop when he walked up, asked where I'd been and told me he'd been hoping to see me. A friend had cut his hair and it's now one of those slightly comic affairs with shaved sides and a thatch roof on top, the thatch left longer than most young men have when adopting this fashion. Chico is young enough and cute enough to get away with it, but I think he'd be much more attractive with something less severe. I didn't say so.

He was ready to go, willing to give it up just for a beer. Sexy Chico. I declined as gently as possible, blaming it on feeling tired and just wanting to get to IHS and go to sleep. I gave him the money for a beer anyway, thinking he'd go off to buy it. Instead he put it in his pocket and waited for the bus, too.

Fortunately, we arrived when there were still a few mats left and, equally fortunately, I grabbed a spot with no nearby vacancies. I really did just want to go to sleep and didn't want the distraction of having him too nearby.

No, I'm just no longer up to the role of perfect Sugar Daddy.

871

A reader wrote: I had also wondered, lately, if you weren't falling out of love and being depressed as someone who finds his world suddenly becoming empty.

I replied: Well, there is certainly that aspect of life just now. It's not easy adjusting to the fact that the long, long "love affair" with the Sleeptalker is over, and I suspect poor little Chico is just a way to temporarily ease the discomfort. I'm sure the infatuation has little chance of developing into the kind of dance I had with the Sleeptalker.

And it is not, of course, absolutely certain that dance is over. It won't be the first time I thought so and was forced to dance some more.


"Forced to" is the wrong phrase. "Charmed into". And the Sleeptalker turned it on full force Sunday evening when he joined me in the park. It was, indeed, charming even when he went into amusingly obvious overkill that would once upon a time have been irresistable. He was sitting on the table beside me, his feet on the bench, and twice lay back, pulled up his shirt and rubbed his flat brown belly. Cute, sweet ... and contrived. He even went to the extreme of leaving aside his precious CD player rather than his usual routine recently of keeping the headphones on constantly.

I saw him briefly earlier when he walked through the secluded grove, asked how long I'd been on campus. "Since early morning," I told him. "The bus is running?" he asked, and I told him it was. He continued on his way. Questions about the bus had been part of the day from the start since it was Honolulu Marathon day and although buses were running, they took extensive detours to avoid the race route. Shortly before the Sleeptalker passed by, the Ferret had stopped to chat for awhile. He has found a room in a building which sounds similar to the one Mondo lived in, single rooms with a washbasin but sharing a toilet and shower with three other rooms. The Ferret is paying three hundred a month for it which seems very high for such an arrangement but so things go in this costly "paradise" and it's a possible option for next year.

Aside from those two encounters it had again been a day of quiet solitude, a brief time on-line and then sitting in the grove continuing Greeley's fascinating book. I went downhill once to get lunch which I was still eating when the Sleeptalker walked by. I may be one of the few people who enjoy Campbell's "Chunky Chicken Noodle" soup eaten cold from the can, crushed saltine crackers added. I could no doubt find a container and warm the stuff in the campus microwaves, but I like it cold, even if it does seem a little too "hobo" to be sitting, eating directly from a can.

Late afternoon, I returned to the mall, got beer and cigarettes and went to the park. I didn't expect to see the Sleeptalker and was surprised when he did arrive, even more surprised by his friendly, chatty manner, but maybe not so surprised when he turned on the seductive charm. Eventually I told him I will always love him but I'm no longer "in love" with him and added that he really should be relieved by that. I don't think he believes it. And there is no question that he's still very desirable physically, proven by the barechested episodes which probably would have turned me on had it not been so comical.

Someone had left a shopping cart, complete with its quarter, very near our table. So when Joe Guam walked over and begged for the dollar he needed to get beer, I gave him three quarters and told him to take the cart away. I was tired of sitting there thinking I should be doing just that and considering the amount of effort I sometimes put in to get my own beer money from those carts, I thought it wouldn't do Joe any harm to do the same, at least once. He didn't want to, though, continued to plead for that one more quarter. The Sleeptalker didn't have it, said he'd left his money in his storage bin (?!). Finally I told the Sleeptalker if he wheeled the cart back and gave the quarter to Joe, I'd buy him a beer. Once again, a little to my surprise he did.

So when he returned, we walked back to the mall together for more beer and a tub of raw fish since he said he was hungry. The beer, of course, didn't help at all with his earlier charmingly seductive routine. He just can't drink without the anger and aggressiveness surfacing or least showing through cracks in the shell of charm. I didn't mind, find it easier to deal with him as he really is than with the act, no matter how delightful it is. I responded to his grumbles about Chico, "You're the one who told me there are plenty of fish in the sea. So I hooked one." And I said once more, "You should feel relieved." Probably again incorrect phrasing there. "Was hooked by".

The early part of Monday was again a quiet time on campus, finishing the Greeley book and so making a trip to the State Library in mid-afternoon. Back at the beach park, Joe Guam made several stops by my table but fortunately had beer already and was only hinting for tobacco. I had a box of meagre snipes ready, a neat ploy when there are two packs of cheap smokes in the backpack. Then the Sleeptalker arrived. "Aren't you hungry? Don't you want a burger?" which translated to "buy me a burger". I declined, said if I was hungry I'd walk over to the Krishna truck. So he asked for a cigarette. I declined again. If the rascal is keeping his own money on ice in his locker, he would have been smarter to have kept quiet about it.

He got up to make the walk to the Krishna truck, said he'd be back to "nag" me some more. But a short distance from the table he stopped to talk to an old, probably local Japanese, man and the two of them headed to the mall instead. I guess the Sleeptalker had found his burger. Further proof that I should stop subsidizing him in any way at all since he not only gets more money than I do, he also has what seems an inexhaustible supply of part-time sugar daddies.

One more chance to say no during a day of saying it over and over since Chico was sitting outside at IHS, loudly called "give me a cigarette!" when I walked in. I just shook my head.

No fool like an old fool, but even we have our limits.

872

I begin to feel about the Sleeptalker and his daddies as I do about the Quarter Hunt. I don't really care how many are scored but I'd be happier not to actually see it. Dame Fortune, though, seems to be working overtime on arranging unexpected encounters and the first on Tuesday was when I got on a bus headed back to campus after a trip downhill for lunch. The Sleeptalker was on the bus. He stayed in the secluded grove for a short time, complained of being hungry. Foodstamps all gone already? Yes, and he blamed Angelo for persuading him to sell the foodstamps to fill the glass pipe. I suspect Angelo hadn't had to work too hard on that persuasion. And the Sleeptalker had blown the rest of his Crazy Money as well after leaving me on Monday afternoon.

He hadn't met the man he left with before, he said. The fellow works on a ship which goes back and forth between here and California, so is only in town about every two weeks. He had taken the Sleeptalker home (a hotel maybe, details were sparse) and fed him spaghetti. "Maybe he's gay," said the Sleeptalker. Uh-huh. Whether the man had actually scored or not wasn't revealed but I suspect that was the case. In any event, afterwards the Sleeptalker had bought lots of beer and got very drunk. I'm glad I was spared that.

I didn't volunteer to buy lunch for him on Tuesday, so he left for IHS. Later I was sitting in Philo Walk since it was drizzling yet again (and had at frequent intervals throughout the windy day). The Sleeptalker walked by with yet another daddy, obviously enough gay there was no maybe about it. How does he find them all? I doubt he could grab them any faster if he hung out in the town's gay bars. And I won't be much surprised if he eventually starts to do just that. If only he could just relax and admit to himself that he actually wants and enjoys sex with men. Anyway, as I said, I do wish the Good Dame would spare me the encounters.

The Sleeptalker arrived in the secluded grove again on Wednesday morning. Since he doesn't rush off to play MUD as he used to, I suspect his main purpose is the hope of getting free lunch and/or beer and he got lucky because the Cherub joined us. We talked for awhile, the Cherub asking the Sleeptalker if he had any ideas about how to make money aside from selling his body. Good one. No tips from the Sleeptalker on that score. Eventually I got up to leave, make a trip downhill for beer and lunch. "Aren't you taking him with you?" asked the Cherub. No, I said, if he's crazy enough to have spent all his money and foodstamps already, let him suffer awhile. When I returned to the grove they weren't there, but I guess they'd made a visit to Sinclair Library since I saw them walk past a little later. Then they returned with beer, indirectly supplied by the Cherub's mother who had sent him money for Christmas. She was clever, since most of the gift was in the form of gift certificates (now done with plastic cards) from Border's and Macy's. The Sleeptalker didn't have a backpack with him so was going to sit there with the forty-ounce bottle clearly visible in the thin 7-Eleven bag. I said I wasn't taking a chance on getting busted, left to sit somewhere else. No matter how enjoyable the company, getting banned from campus for a year is too high a price to pay for it. I know, it's a risk to do it anytime, but I do try to be as discreet about it as possible.

I returned to the mall and beach park once I finished my beer. I was reading Frederick Forsythe's Icon and was inclined to take it back to the State Library and find some alternatives. The spy novel is not a form I've ever much liked, no matter how well constructed or written. But by that time I'd gotten far enough into it to be curious about how it unfolded so I put off a visit to the library until the next day and stayed in the park after first stopping by the mailbox. Oh lucky man, a nice holiday melon had fallen from heaven, doubling my cash reserve. It's a little unfair of me to scold the Sleeptalker when I really haven't done all that well myself, at least with the cash part, and even with the unexpected addition will undoubtedly have the usual end-of-the-month drought, made worse by the holidays. At least the foodstamps are being better rationed.

Joe Guam visited twice but as he'd told me in the early morning, he had been standing outside a shop waiting to buy beer and a lady passing by gave him ten dollars. So I knew he was supplied for a couple of days anyway and again used my box of limited snipes as a strategy to dodge requests for smokes. I had to use it several times during the afternoon and evening with other seekers.

The wind continued to be ferocious, as it has for days now. It does get to be very tiresome, that constant buffeting. Just after sunset the wind was joined by rain. Little wonder forecasters have such a difficult time predicting weather here. I look at the morning satellite view of the islands, see no sign of clouds anywhere within hundreds of miles and then within hours it's heavily cloudy and raining. I left for IHS which was solidly packed, not surprising considering the weather. One of the favorite silly games people play there is shifting the position of the large floor fans and I was awakened several times during the night when one of them was turned so it was blowing directly at me, relieved when, as usual, someone else returned to the fan to its "official" position.

It was still raining on Thursday morning with wind even more vigorous than it had been on Wednesday, expected to continue through Friday. In my early years here, I thought winter was much the best of the seasons. Now I'd like nothing better than to spend the remaining winters of my life in northern India, even if I would no doubt miss the Bad Boys. I'd probably soon have a new pack there, though, wouldn't I?

873

A journey as far as India to find a new group of Bad Boys may be out of the question, but I think it's time to look for replacements. Some readers may well sigh that it's long past time and at this point I can't seriously disagree.

Continuing what seems to be the obligatory daily "chance" encounter with the Sleeptalker, he was standing outside the State Library when I went there late on Thursday morning. Okinawa was with him, the first I've seen him in a very long time, and he looked good, seemed in high spirits. I'm not sure why they were there, since the Sleeptalker is still banned from the library. He asked for a dollar to get a burger. I declined. Then I lingered longer inside the building than I would have, waiting for them to go on their way, an enjoyable interlude since I browsed the shelves of a section I hadn't yet explored and discovered a number of things I'd thought were missing from the fiction and literature areas. I just don't understand that new classification system invented by the Library of Congress, would much prefer to see all the work by one writer in a straightforward alphabetical arrangement.

Appropriate, since it was Saint Lucy's Day (let Lucy Lily, Lily, let Lucy ...) I read a little in a collection of Gertrude Stein's work, an essay on writing poetry or the nature of poetry or whatever it was she was intending it to be. She had a major bee in bonnet at the time about writing, especially poetry, without naming things. What a very strange writer she was. I may check that little volume out eventually and peruse it further.

It was a little overwhelming, seeing so many books it would be good to read or re-read. There can't be enough years left in life.

The weather continued unpleasantly windy and frequently wet, so I decided not to return to campus, bought beer and a sandwich, moved from one sheltered place to another within the mall. I'd found Colleen McCullough's An Indecent Obsession at the library and was having an enjoyable time on my own with that. (My amused first reaction to the book's title was to think how perfect it would be for an account of my long dance with the Sleeptalker.)

There were some breaks in the clouds by late afternoon so I made the mistake, as it turned out, of taking my sunset brew over to the park. I heard people calling me, saw the Boys at an unusual table, so joined them. The Sleeptalker, Tanioka, Angelo, Okinawa. A grand debate was underway about what made a person eligible to be considered "white", the Sleeptalker being the only one of them who thought himself eligible. Not with that American Indian and Filipino blood, I fear, but what difference does it make anyway (I didn't say). They all had bottles of Mickey's and the Sleeptalker was soon drunk enough to, as usual, get obnoxious. It's hard sometimes to remember how he often used to be a happy drunk, at least until more than one bottle. These days he doesn't seem able to drink even half of one before getting aggressive and nasty. Tanioka managed to calm him down, at least a little, but when they decided to relocate to a more distant table, the Sleeptalker sat alone and sulked for awhile before rejoining us, then wandered off after more verbal tantrums.

They wanted more beer and some fish, so I put in some money. Angelo was to do the shopping. If it had been just me and him, I never would have trusted him, but I thought it would be okay since Tanioka was there. Wrong. Angelo and Okinawa never returned, and I'd be willing to bet a month's FPC that the money went on glass pipe filling. Never again, never again, I tell myself (even if not for the first time). More sensibly, I'm inclined to drop that young man, Angelo, permanently. He certainly can be a sweetheart but he's an icehead thief who just can't resist taking any possible opportunity to fill that pipe and I don't see much reason to go on knowing him.

While waiting for their return, Tanioka got once again on the subject of that fabled Vegas trip and the missing Jason, still missing. Everytime I hear the story it changes and gets more bizarre. I suspect they were all too stoned the whole time to know what really happened. It would have been amusing to have heard the Sleeptalker's contributions to this particular re-telling, but given his mood earlier, it was no doubt just as well he hadn't returned. Eventually Tanioka reached Okinawa by cellphone and yes, indeed, they were not returning. So I walked over to the mall with him, he went to get another beer and I headed to IHS, having had more than enough of all of them for one day.

Jonathan Cainer wrote about Friday's solar eclipse: Today's eclipse is part of a family of eclipses which began in 1208AD. For some people, it's thought to indicate sudden endings to associations or relationships. With the moon involved, there is naturally an emotional influence too. However, as Pluto also plays a large part, there is also a transformative element, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

I'm not so sure of the firebird part, but the rest seems apt.

I was walking through the mall on Friday morning after an early visit to campus. Angelo, Okinawa and Tanioka walked past. "Hi, Al," Angelo said in his best seductive voice. I kept walking. I know, Angelo thinks he'll get away with it, it has been that way all his life so he's not likely to change for me or anyone else. But I should make sure he's wrong this time.

When I was at the State Library, I'd taken a book by Tom Wolfe I thought I might like to re-read but quickly changed my mind. Since the McCullough book was almost finished, I went to the library again and got the bus back to the mall. Angelo and Okinawa were on the bus. They got off at the stop near where the Sleeptalker has his storage locker, so I guess one or both of them also have storage space there. Okinawa said hello as they exited, Angelo didn't acknowledge seeing me. And one more time, on the bus to IHS, Okinawa was there. Dame Fortune working overtime again. I just waved to him, stayed near the front of the bus and he got off before reaching IHS. To complete the cycle, the Sleeptalker was there, came over to talk as I was settling down, asked if I'd played the game. I had, briefly. Who had been playing? I didn't remember.

Like Angelo, the Sleeptalker thinks he can get away with it, be nasty and abusive one day and all chummy friendly the next, blaming it all on having been drunk. I grow increasingly weary of the game.

873a

Isn't it a pity, isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts and cause each other pain


That afternoon when I got on a bus and sat down, then spotted Angelo and Okinawa in the back, the internal jukebox revved up that gem from George Harrison and has played it frequently since then. Much better, indeed, than some silly ditty about Santa Claus or jingling bells, but rather blatantly trying to influence the jury. I've been reading too many lawyer novels lately (and am in the midst of one now). The internal dialogue all seems to be set in a courtroom.

Of course the Harrison song necessarily suggests a gentler, kinder mode than has been dominating my thoughts since the evening Angelo put the glass pipe before friendship and there is undoubtedly something of a struggle going on within me over that incident and my reactions to it. Jonathan Cainer weighed in with his message for this last week of Autumn, talking about floundering boats and just how much one can share one's own not-very-stable craft with the other sinking rats. Don't pursue a noble but dubious plan. First, ensure your own stability and strength. Then you can do what you can to help others to repair their leaks. Sound advice, methinks.

But when in doubt, always call in the consultants. The oldest, both in terms of its own age and on the basis of how long we've been acquainted, is the I Ching. Asked about the situation, it offered the oracle of "Holding Together", in itself apt enough. However it emphasized a particular line and said, "you hold together with the wrong people." I ask you, how is it some complain that venerable document is vague and ambiguous?

Good advice not withstanding, the problem continues to bother me.

874

You keep coming back like a song ...

Conrad coming back is about as welcome as a silly Christmas ditty repeating on the internal jukebox, but once again, he's back, probably from another of his periodic sojourns in some rehab center. He was on the bus going to IHS and on the bus leaving it the next morning. Fortunately, when he's sober he never recognizes me. Given his usual record (plus the time of the year), I'm sure he'll be drunk within a week and then, alas, he'll remember me.

And Amadeus is back. It is extraordinary, he looks at least ten years older than he did a few months ago. I've never seen such a rapid transformation and at first thought it was just an older man who looked like Amadeus, wondered if it could be a brother. But no, closer examination proved it was indeed Amadeus. Poor fellow must have been having a very hard time of it.

I had a quiet weekend, mostly spent hiding out on campus reading, spoke to no one except for brief sunset chats with old Joe Guam which as usual were mostly about what luck he'd had during the day (supply of snipes, free food, found coins) and how many more days of beer money he had lined up. The weather had finally broken out of the unrelenting gray skies and frequent drizzle or downpour, was at least partly sunny for most of the day on Sunday, a most welcome change and giving me the chance to have a needed shower at the beach. Yes, it's a little silly not to take advantage of the hot showers at IHS but when I get there at night all I want to do is put my shirtsleeve over my eyes to block the light and fall asleep as quickly as possible. And I haven't been waking early enough to use the showers in the morning when there is usually a waiting line.

Finals Week on campus, so Monday was the first day of tense, stressed looking students desperately leafing through thick textbooks they probably haven't spent nearly enough time with. Then those funny scenes when you see them emerge from an exam, some looking like they just escaped death by firing squad and others looking dismally depressed. I wonder how many of those reactions end up actually matching the exam results?

I stayed on campus until mid-afternoon, then left to visit the State Library and to check the mailbox. Extraordinary news from England. My dear Jonathan is going to university! It's difficult to imagine him coping with that, remembering how twitchy and nervous he used to be when we'd visit the campus here. I suppose actually being a student makes a difference. Even so, it must have been a major challenge for him, especially in the beginning, and I'm proud of him.

I took my sunset beer over to the park, got there a little later than usual and saw Joe Guam already heading off to his nighttime sanctuary. I'd only been there a few minutes, hadn't even opened the beer yet, when Tanioka arrived, on his own. Had I seen Angelo? No, I hadn't and was quite happy not to have. We talked for awhile about that. Tanioka is also a fan of "lawyer novels" so understood when I described my inner debate, how it seemed like a courtroom scene. And as I told him, Angelo has a very good lawyer. Just a lousy case. Tanioka sympathized, said he thought Angelo should at least apologize. I suppose he'll end up attempting to play conciliator but I have doubts about his chances for success if he does. Angelo's "lawyer" may be good, but he's having a difficult time, with reason, overcoming my common sense. As I told a reader, Maybe it's all for the "Lessons to be Learned before April File" with this particular one being "Get Rid of People Who are Prepared to Steal From You"?

The mall has been, as expected, very crowded all the time. One little side benefit from the seasonal madness is the place staying open later than usual, evidently without the cleaning army making one final sweep through the place before closing. So snipes are abundant in the early morning. Despite all the shoppers, the Quarter Hunt has been almost fruitless, although I did score one early on Wednesday morning, missing my bus to campus when an old lady abandoned her shopping cart and got on a bus which arrived just before mine did. I suppose things will pick up at the supermarket in the next few days when people shop for their holiday feasts. Meanwhile I debate whether there's any point in saving the last few dollars to ensure a Christmas beer or two ... or just go ahead and spend it all so I don't have to think about it anymore. Ho ho ho.

In the ho-ho file also goes the absurdity of having an appointment with the psychiatrist on the morning of the Winter Solstice.

875

Angelo did apologize, probably having been prompted by Tanioka.

But we'll go back to where the last tale left off, the long, long farewell meeting with the Cherub. Unless his plans go awry, that will be the last I'll see of him for a long time, maybe ever. After the cruise with his father he is planning to fly to California, then get a bus to New Orleans. With his usual lack of style, Daddy held out the promise of a check (amount unspecified) only if the Cherub behaves himself on the cruise. We agreed it might have been more incentive if Daddy had said just how much the check was going to be. In any case, it should probably be enough for his travel expenses and a little to keep him until he finds work. Mama will no doubt help out, too.

The cruise is not, as I'd thought, one of those which goes from here to places like Bali and Tahiti, but just to some island south of here where there is apparently not much but a beach. Why someone would spend hundreds of dollars to get to a beach when there are plenty of them right here is a mystery but maybe Daddy thinks he'll hook up with some nice Norwegian worker on the boat?

The Cherub thought he'd done well with the first of his Economics final exam, had another one to get through the next day, but said he'd only done "so-so" on a third exam, subject not mentioned. He showed me a rather funny graph he'd done illustrating the economic connection between fish and beer. Whether it actually made sense I can't say but I knew if I'd been the professor I would have given him high marks just for the humor of the thing.

Naturally, we talked about the Sleeptalker. He said the last time they'd been together, when I went off and left them, the Sleeptalker had gotten very drunk and ranted about me, how I am a "racist" and an "asshole". The latter may well be true, but racist, I think not. Another case of the Sleeptalker looking in the mirror and pretending he sees me.

Since the party started just after noon and continued until I had to leave for IHS, we too were fairly drunk, but it was a good party and I'll miss the Cherub even though I know we aren't very good influences on each other.

I started off the last day of autumn by having a shower at the beach and then making a needed trip to the laundromat even though I hated spending the price of beer in order to get clean clothes. The correlation between beer and washing machines ...

Then I sat in the park until it was time to check the mailbox. That heavenly melon patch dropped again and Christmas suddenly looked much brighter. I decided against making the trip to campus and spent the rest of the day and evening in the park reading, only talking to Joe Guam a couple of times.

The Solstice. An early visit to campus and then off to the psychiatrist. That medical center is dropping its participation in the State program for the indigent and we are being switched to another insurer. Although that will cover medical services, it will not cover psychiatric care. Weird. Since the doc knows I only have three more months of this game, he will continue seeing me ... in fifteen minute appointments! Shrug. Fine by me. He gave me a prescription for three months worth of Neurontin. As usual, we talked about nothing but drugs, how much I'm drinking, and the insurance shift.

Then to the park again where I was soon joined by Angelo and Tanioka. The apology was first on the agenda. His story is that he and Okinawa got caught trying to shoplift something but the police hadn't been called. Then they used the money for cigarettes and food. Hmmmm. (He knows I don't believe it.) But the apology was gracefully done so, okay, he's on probation.

The Sleeptalker reportedly has a new sugar daddy, this one with a car. I was amused during the talk with the Cherub when he told me he didn't keep a note of my web address, just goes to one of the search machines and searches on "sleeptalker". Yep, I tried it, and the Tales come up several times on the first page of options. Immortality.

876

If there's anything certain about the Bad Boys, it's that they have a seemingly endless ability to surprise.

Saturday was a beautiful day, sunshine, a light breeze, only a few fluffy white clouds. I stayed in the secluded grove for most of it and it was truly secluded (for a change). It's Winter Break, the campus will be mostly deserted until the new term begins on January 16th. The libraries are closed on weekends, only open from 8 to 5 during the week. Fortunately, the little computer lab will be open except for Christmas and New Year's Day. Unfortunately, they are very sloppy about keeping the server up and running there and lately it has been down almost as much as it has functioned. It did stay in service on the weekend, though, so I made brief visits there on both Saturday and Sunday mornings before parking in the secluded grove with a book.

Reading material recently has been about as serviceable as watching soap operas, daytime or evening versions, on television, but not worth mentioning by name and title, at least not until I found Danielle Steel's Fine Things on the fifty-cent cart and even that isn't one of her best. Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's Interest of Justice was the next time spinner, followed by Steve Martini's first book, Compelling Evidence.

By the time I got to the beach park on Saturday, Tanioka and Angelo were already there and they had a beer for me. It was Tanioka's twenty-eighth birthday and we had an amusing evening together. I had a bottle in my backpack, too, and then when they got up to leave, Tanioka left another half bottle. With all that, I decided I'd just sleep on the bench rather than bothering with the trip to IHS. Luckily, it stayed dry, but was rather cold with just a beach towel as cover. Then I told myself what a wimp I was in the pre-dawn hours, shivering my way to the mall and passing all the more hardy souls who were in the ocean or washing in the very cold outdoor showers. There's never been a time in my life when I would have given up a nice, warm bed to go splashing in the ocean before sunrise.

On Sunday I returned to the mall a little earlier, spent some time gathering snipes and then took my second brew of the day to the park. Angelo and Okinawa soon arrived, followed not much later by Tanioka. The big news was that the Sleeptalker is back in a detox/rehab center, not the Christian one this time although they aren't sure exactly which one it is. There was general agreement that it's the usual Sleeptalker scam, but I can't say I blame him. It's not such a bad option for someone with empty pockets, facing the holidays and knowing he'll have a bed to sleep in, plenty of food (and probably better than usual because of the season), and people to feel sorry for him.

Rather oddly, Little Brother was a main topic of conversation. Tanioka said a few uncomplimentary things about him, all of which seemed to me not far off the truth, if at all. We agree he's an adorable young man but basically a punk teenager with a smart mouth and he has dropped out of school again, is apparently spending much of his time with some gang. After another round of beer, the conversation got more heated and Tanioka jumped up, took off his cap and glasses and challenged Angelo to a fight! So they went at it for awhile, Okinawa and me shouting at them to knock it off, chill out, etc., to no effect. Finally, after they'd each scored a few good slaps, they sat down briefly, then went at it again. In the second breather, I got up and said goodnight, went on my way. Later I saw Okinawa in the mall alone but he just said hi and kept going, so I'll have to wait to find out how the evening ended. But it was indeed a major surprise. Tanioka is usually the main peacemaker and it's the first time I've seen him lose his temper like that. It's also somewhat bizarre that Angelo felt it necessary to defend Little Brother's reputation since most of what was said has been said before, some of it by me, and Angelo hasn't reacted. I can only suppose there is some underlying story here, some reason Tanioka and Angelo are irked with each other, and that the fighting actually had nothing to do with Little Brother or what had been said.

I stayed on campus until early afternoon on Christmas Eve, then stopped by the State Library where I was happy to find Herman Wouk's Youngblood Hawke in the freebie collection. Given its thickness, no problems about reading material for a few days anyway. I'm sure I've read it before, but remember nothing about it.

No Bad Boys in the park, just the usual sunset chat with Joe Guam who told me I should have gotten there earlier since two women were handing out envelopes to people and his had seven dollars in it. I spent more time than usual wandering the mall, wanting to grab enough snipes for the holiday and finding a few quarters as a side benefit. Then off to IHS. I'd considered staying in the park again but the weather was a little uncertain and rather chilly.

So for the first time, I surfaced on Christmas Day in a men's shelter. Better, I guess, than in a hospital, but not much and I'll be more than happy if it's not only the first but the last time. The mall was completely closed for the day, so I first went to 7-Eleven for coffee and a holiday-treat pastry, then spent the rest of the day in the beach park aside from two trips for beer. A man and woman came along in mid-morning handing out two hot dogs (odd holiday fare), later The Man and his lady walked past, wished me a merry Christmas and she gave me two oranges. I could have gone to one of the places giving out Christmas meals but was happy just to sit in the sun, read and drink beer.

Even more happy that Christmas 2001 is now part of the past.

877

In some ways, the homeless people here form their own "country" and it's split into several "villages". Although I spend time in a few of those, I only feel like a real member of the village in the beach park and that on campus. I'm just a temporary visitor at IHS, someone who shows up to sleep and that's all. The beach park village has several gossips who eagerly spread the news. One of them is Dewey, the somewhat slimey fellow I've mentioned before who leeches off people in the mall by begging for a dollar for food. He stopped to talk early on Thursday morning, had the rather dramatic (for our small village) news that both Lady Moana and Lord Moana had been busted on the Feast of Stephen day. She for "credit card fraud", nabbed in Sears, and he for unknown reasons, just seen being taken away by police. That's bound to be the talk of the town for days. Since Lady Moana has at least one grown child working, she'll probably be out on bail fairly quickly and whatever he did will likely result in one night in the holding cell with a court date later which he'd probably skip. No big deal, but like I said, for our little village, quite dramatic. The Gossips will love it, as will those who have no fondness for either Lord or Lady Moana (and that's probably the majority of the village members).

Dewey somehow lost his van and is sleeping in one of the shower houses at the beach. I hope I don't pick that one if I find myself there one night and it starts raining (a time when there is little alternative but to take shelter in one of the five options). He said he has been doing very well with his begging bowl routine, had twice been given a ten by women he asked for a dollar. 'Tis the season ...

For me, it's back to the Quarter Hunt in a serious way if I want to drink a beer each day until the Fabled Pension Check arrives. I found five quarters and several pennies on the Feast of Stephen day, despite competition from a very active Mongoose. I almost feel sorry for that man. He dashes around with such an angry, distressed look on his face as if missing one single quarter will be a great disaster, and he obviously thoroughly dislikes seeing me in the mall, even at times when I'm not in the least bit interested in finding quarters. When I do want eight of the things, I still find them in the usual way, casually and not very quickly strolling through the mall, happy when Dame Fortune makes my path cross an abandoned stroller or cart but not worried about it. If I don't find them, I don't drink beer. Shrug.

I'm just grateful that the generosity of two readers and one enemy has made it possible to get to the 27th of a month before having to think about the Quarter Hunt at all. I say "enemy" because he enjoys his role-playing as enemy even if he really thinks of himself as a friend. He plays too well, though, and I truly loathed him at one point, would even now never think of asking him for anything. But I'll take a gift, even if I don't want to examine the horse's mouth too closely.

The Ferret was on the bus to campus on the morning of Stephen, gave me a Milky Way bar. I'd forgotten how yummy those things can be as breakfast, had far too many of them as a child which has since assisted the bank accounts of many dentists. I was engrossed in Youngblood Hawke, so didn't spend any time chatting with the Ferret. As I read the book, it stirs a few memories of my past encounter with it, but not many. As I recall, it received quite a roasting from the critics when it appeared but I think it's a decent American novel, possibly one of the best about actually being a writer (far better than Steel's ventures into that territory, for example). Supposedly, Hawke is based on the life of Thomas Wolfe. I don't know anything about his life, so can't comment on that aspect of the book, but surely a lot of it is autobiographical. I can't see how Wouk could write such a book without giving the "hero" some of his own thoughts and experiences.

Among the memories it stirs are those from the Upper West Side apartment I was living in when I first read it, I think. The apartment had three fairly large rooms, a small kitchen and a generous bathroom (especially the tub, the largest I've ever had). The ceilings were so high, we were able to divide one room into two by building an elevated double-bed-sized platform with steps leading up to it from the lower section which was lined in bookshelves. It's one of the rooms I'd list as the favorites of my life. I think the whole wooden structure was painted a dark, matte gray, but can't be sure of that. The bookshelves were full, there was one beautiful hanging double-globed brass lamp that I remember clearly. The entire apartment was furnished with American Victorian furniture we'd acquired through the years at estate auctions in rural New Jersey, including a large round pedestal table with unmatched but interesting chairs which dominated the dining room.

A fine home, one of the things which made it very difficult to abandon New York City and move to London. I don't regret at all having made the decision, but I often wonder what my life would have been had I chosen differently. I strongly suspect I would not have ended up homeless in Honolulu.

One of the things I like best about reading fiction is how some of it stirs memory. Surely everything is stored somewhere in that strange thing called memory. Recalling it is something else, however, and my power of recall is much weaker than I'd like it to be. (I'm not unaware that could actually be a blessing.)

After a few hours on campus on the morning of Stephen, I returned to the mall, quickly found the quarters I needed to make it a two-bottle day so had one for lunch, along with a splendid abandoned plate-lunch box full of roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and the inevitable macaroni salad. A Christmas dinner one day late. Then I went to check the mailbox which was empty, returned to the Quarter Hunt, collecting three boxes of of lengthy snipes in the process. It always seems odd to me that so many people flood the mall on the day after Christmas, even with the generous sales luring them. You'd think they'd all be sick of shopping. Especially amusing are the people with evidently abundant storage space, buying stuff like wrapping paper and ornaments, etc., at bargain rates and stashing it away until next year. Puzzling though the entire process is to me, I was grateful they left such barely-smoked cigarettes and dropped some coins.

I saw Angelo from a distance, sitting alone at a bus stop, but didn't go over to talk with him. A reader asked Why do you all think the Sleeptalker is not sincere when going to a detox center? Well, isn't it obvious? As Tanioka said, if he really wanted to stop doing one or all of the things he's supposedly getting rid of in such a place, he'd just do it (as Tanioka has, as I have, with ice). The Sleeptalker is just looking for a surrogate family, one which will impose the kind of limits he thinks a family should. He sees us as his family, too, but we're too lenient, let him get away with almost anything. And he soon gets fed up with any of his "families", flees to another. It really has nothing whatsoever to do with "detox".

By the end of the afternoon, I was still short two quarters for the next day's brew but went ahead and bought a sunset bottle anyway, sat enjoying it and continuing Hawke in Philo Walk rather than returning to the park. I got so engrossed I missed the bus I'd intended to take, got to IHS just a few minutes too late to grab the last mat. Oh well, what's the difference between sleeping on a concrete bench and sleeping on a concrete floor? (Hint: there's space around a bench.)

At the mall in the morning, I had coffee I'd gotten with the almost-gone foodstamps and after the newsy chat with Dewey considered just getting on a bus to campus rather than making my usual early stroll through the mall. Good thing I changed my mind. In one planter box there were two quarters, just sitting there (???), and I found two abandoned carts upstairs. Happy man, beer coins in pocket that early in the day.

I really dislike these end-days of the month, this repeating routine, but at least it's a short one this time. In fact, I even have seventy-six cents of Crazy Money left on the card. Wow.

878

Jonathan Cainer wrote about the last weekend of the year: Though you are keen to see the back of the year, for various understandable reasons, you may yet have cause this weekend to feel much more positively about it.

Perhaps so.

It began with a thoroughly entertaining Friday evening with the Sleeptalker and Tanioka. Yes, the Sleeptalker. Reading between the lines of what he said, my guess is that his new sugar daddy wanted to get rid of him but didn't want to just put him out on the street, so the rehab place was his idea. I had told Kory K earlier in the day that I was sure the Sleeptalker would be out of the place in a flash when his Crazy Money arrived, but he didn't wait that long.

They were already in the beach park when I arrived, but were sitting at a distant table and I didn't see them. The Sleeptalker walked over and asked me to join them. They were probably on their second round of beer and just as probably, I should have left after finishing the one I had (my second of the day, too). But the Sleeptalker was in a happy mood and Tanioka listened to my CD player for awhile, then sent the Sleeptalker to get another round of beer for us all. "Give me a card," the Sleeptalker said, "I want to do a card."

I had three of the "panorama" cards left, so we passed those back and forth. I think it's finished but may add a touch to each just to make it a 2002 work, the first of the New Year (although a three-card one is also in progress, variations on the Mona Lisa). The 2002 exhibition is looking good. Amazingly enough, the Sleeptalker left Jesus out this time.

But into the third round of beer, up came the subject of religion. Sigh. Three homeless guys in Honolulu debating a question of the ages: how is it if God is all-powerful, Satan exists? Eventually, the Sleeptalker pulled out his Bible and starting reading the Gospel of John, "in the beginning was the Word", etc. How that says anything about the question escaped me (and Tanioka) and the Sleeptalker got increasingly angry, tried to pick a fight with me. Must be the season for Bad Boys Fighting.

I declined the challenge, of course, although probably if I stood up to him, he'd back down, or I could even win a fight with him. Not interested in the least in finding out, I said goodnight and walked to another area of the park to finish my beer, the Sleeptalker yelling at me as I left.

How I do love that man, despite everything.

I got to IHS quite late, spent much of the night with just my beach towel as a "mattress", but woke around 3:30 and saw someone had left a mat so I had a more comfortable two hours of sleep. When I got to the little computer lab there was a small army of young men moving stuff out of an office. Amazing how often they shift stuff around in that place. So aside from a quick check of email, the day was an off-line one.

Then what a surprise! The Fabled Pension Check was in the mailbox. Off I went to cash it, bought beer and cigarettes and spent the rest of the day in the beach park, with two trips to the mall for more beer. I had met with Mme de Crécy early in the morning, having offered a CD trade which was accepted. Years ago, when I was still a householder, I badly needed money. I wasn't as used to being flat broke in those days as I've become in these four-plus years of life on the street. I didn't want to ask anyone for a loan, so offered to sell her my copy of "Four Saints in Three Acts". Now I traded George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" to get it back.

I've only listened to the first disc of "Four Saints" thus far, but it solidly confirms my long-held belief that this extraordinary "opera" by Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson is certainly one of the best musical works of the twentieth century, perhaps the best. That Virgil could take such a whacko text and set it all to music (including the stage directions) is a feat of the first magnitude and the result is indeed a pleasure. I'm very happy to have the recording back, wish I also had the original version of excerpts which Victor appears to have let go out of print yet again (it is listed on Yahoo Shopping, but as unavailable). And I also wish I'd seen Robert Wilson's staging of the work in 1996-7.

Yet a third wish is that I still had the version of the staging I wrote in the early sixties after Virgil had given me a copy of the score.

Ah well, it's splendid to hear it again.

I was much enjoying "Prairie Home Companion" when Slimey Dewey arrived, sat down at my table despite strong hints that I'd prefer listening to the radio. Sigh, again. Then Joe Guam joined us. Dewey kept boasting that he'd bought me a beer. Yes, he did once, months ago. He kept on and on about it. Finally I got out two dollars, gave it to him, and said "here, go buy yourself a beer and we're even." He gave the money to Joe. But at least I don't owe Dewey anything and I'll keep it that way. I'd be quite happy if he'd just disappear and will give up my usual sunset table if he makes a habit of joining me.

Once again, I did one of those fade-outs on the bus, didn't notice where I was until we were some distance from IHS. I could have walked back there but instead just settled on a sheltered bus stop bench and slept until about 4:30 before walking to Chinatown and catching a bus to the Convention Center and 7-Eleven. It's wonderful how those places maintain their open-24-hours policy, what would I do without them?

879

A festive and amusing end to 2001, sitting in the beach park with Chico and his lady on New Year's Eve, getting plastered. The drunker we got, the more Chico ended up between us and he clearly loved the stroking from both sides. He's a sweetie and she's a very funny lady. They staggered off at about nine and I went to my favorite bench on Magic Island, fell asleep until the barrage of pre-midnight fireworks woke me. The large public display near Aloha Tower was not as spectacular as some such shows I've seen here and the number of private explosions was also smaller than usual, although there was a heavy haze of smoke throughout the park for hours. There were also quite a few people planning to make it an all-night party, so I gave up on the bench, walked to the bookstore and got two of the cardboard boxes they always have stacked outside and finished off the night's sleep at the tennis courts. It easily rated as one of the coldest mornings I've known here and I was more than happy to get to the mall and sit in the warmest area where a restaurant kitchen makes one bench a winter haven.

Everything at the University was closed on New Year's Day so I stayed in the beach park, listened to a broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic's traditional mostly-Strauss concert, rather amazed that Seiji Ozawa had never conducted the orchestra before and by the surprise news that he's given up the Boston Symphony post to become head of the Vienna State Opera. Lucky Viennese. I missed the last half-hour or so of the concert because the Sleeptalker arrived.

He lost his bus pass again, so had walked to the park from IHS. And he had almost gotten into a fight with one of the food-servers there and was once again suspended. He said he was going to get his stuff and would never go to IHS again after that. (I wasn't too surprised when I saw him there the next night, though, sleeping downstairs.) He has an evaluation appointment coming up so talked a little about that, worrying about what to tell the doc. I suggested he tell the man about this tendency the Sleeptalker has lately of trying to pick a fight, for one thing. Since the Crazy Money is awarded to people who are unable to work, anyone who constantly gets into or almost gets into a fight should certainly qualify.

He came close to apologizing for his behavior the last time we'd been together, wondering why he so often ends up being nasty to me even though I've long been good to him. You always hurt the one you love. And he fretted about the game which he hadn't played for two weeks. I told him it wouldn't have done him any good to try, the game went down the day before Christmas Eve and still hadn't returned. I assume it won't until the Boss returns from his holiday trip and reboots the computer. The Sleeptalker also went through a litany of dislikes, as he so often does. Rocky, Mondo and Angelo are all on the dislike list at the moment (or at that moment, since these things change so abruptly and frequently).

I showed him the additions I'd made to the cards we started. He thinks the third one needs more and I agree, but he didn't make a move to add anything himself. I think we'll call that one "Gone Fishing".

I was just finishing my first beer, so we walked to the mall for more. Then Tanioka arrived. Eventually the Sleeptalker and I went for another round of beer and when we got back to the table, the Sleeptalker pulled out of his bag a large collection of those little miniature bottles of vodka and various kinds of whiskey, plus a medium-sized bottle of Cuervo 1800! They didn't know about the 1800 stopper being a (generous) shot glass, so I demonstrated. Three times. Little wonder I was surprised when I got to the table the next day and saw a crumpled piece of paper, opened it up and saw that the Sleeptalker and I had both scribbled stuff on it. That will definitely be the third work of the new year.

Although I don't remember us doing that and I don't remember what happened to pull the Sleeptalker's happy/nasty switch, he did make it as usual and I left them, went to IHS. When I woke up the next morning, I still had an unopened bottle of Mickey's in my backpack plus one of the miniature bottles of whiskey the Sleeptalker gave me. I was glad I hadn't drunk them, surprised I didn't have much of a hangover despite all I did drink.

Happy New Year [hic].

880

I had the second day of the New Year to myself except for a sunset chat with old Joe Guam, but on the third day Tanioka arrived in the beach park unusually early, just after noon. Angelo joined us briefly. They've patched up their quarrel but there was still a feeling of some reserve and reticence in the conversation. Angelo had an interview for a possible job with the Salvation Army. Peculiar. He said he'd return later but didn't. The boring RedEye appeared, though, and Tanioka kindly bought us all several rounds of beer. I had been carefully measuring out the Fabled Pension Check, making sure I kept enough in reserve for two bottles of brew a day until Crazy Money's arrival, so Tanioka's generosity jumped that to three bottles daily. It seemed as if the New Year's party went on and on.

Tanioka is certainly a man who enjoys elaborate fantasy notions of things to do in the future. This time he has a grand scheme for he, the Sleeptalker and I to travel. Anywhere ... mainland USA, Europe, Asia. I told him it had been one of my earliest fantasies about the Sleeptalker to take him to India, but I seriously wondered if now I could possibly go anywhere with him. Nevertheless, it was an amusing conversation and interesting possible-future speculations.

Crazy Money Weekend. Dreary, gray skies and frequent drizzles with a few real downpours. I went first to the discount clothing store, once again got lucky since they were having a sale on men's clothing at half-price. So I bought more expensive stuff than I otherwise would have, including a long-sleeved shirt from Ralph Lauren, black, white and gray plaid in wonderfully soft cotton. Back to black and gray this time, after a couple of months wearing "earth" colors. The store also sells used books and I grabbed Andrew Greeley's Patience of a Saint and Maeve Binchy's Lilac Bus. Father Greeley's splendid novel I've read before, the Binchy is one of the few of her books I've not read, both getting the new Gregorian year off to a fine satisfaction of my addiction to reading.

I didn't go to campus, spent the rest of the day alternating between the beach park and a sheltered spot in the mall when water fell from the sky. I listened to some of "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" from the Metropolitan Opera but it's one of those operas I only really enjoy if I have the libretto at hand. "Prairie Home Companion" was being broadcast live from the Hawaii Theatre downtown in the evening, so I kept an eye on the watch to make sure I tuned in. Some of the jokes, especially about the Hawaiian language, were a bit lame and dangerously close to patronizing, but the musical parts of the show were wonderful.

It was during one of those that the Sleeptalker arrived. He looked wrecked and was very jumpy and hyper, wearing a beautiful new shirt in bold rectangles of black, gray and white. We're both going black and gray for winter? I kept one side of the headphones on, listening to the music, gave it to him during a particularly fine song by George Kahumoku, Jr. Then he discovered his keys weren't in his pocket, jumped up and said he must have left them, had to go get them. "See you later," he said, but never returned.

Tanioka was supposed to appear on Sunday, too, but didn't. Just as well, I'd already spent more money than I should have (clothes, books, food, essentials like toothpaste and such), wasn't too keen on the idea of going to a bar which we'd thought about. I did make a brief visit to campus, will be glad when the week is over and life gets back to normal after the Winter Break. The rest of the day was again alternating between the park and the mall depending on the rainfall and no Bad Boys appeared, just several chats with Joe.

I'm already starting to feel a little pressure, what will undoubtedly be steadily growing impatience to get through these last months before Social Security largesse begins. It's so good to walk around with money in pocket, to stop in cafes and eat when hungry, to look in bookshops and record stores knowing I could buy something if I wanted to, even if I didn't. Money may not make the world go round, as some say, but it does make the turning sweeter.

-----

881

As if we needed to prove to the world how much we deserve the Crazy Money, Tanioka and I took the Sleeptalker to Hula's, Honolulu's most venerable gay bar.

I stayed on campus Monday morning, some of it on-line but most of the time sitting in the secluded grove and reading Binchy. She really has mastered her favorite device, taking a small village and telling the same story over and over, each chapter written in the voice of a different participant in the happenings. And this edition also has "Dublin Four" at the end, four short stories which are complete jewels.

Seventh Circle was still down, hasn't been available since the day before Christmas Eve. So I played Bartle's MUD2 for awhile, embarrassed as always by how much I've forgotten about that place, my initiation into MUD playing. Still, I have gotten my character, Thumper, to superhero although I almost died when I was jumped by the nasty eagle and three dwarfs. Gangbang in the Dwarfen Realm. And in MUD2, when you die, you really die, no longer exist and have to start all over, unlike Seventh where you just lose some points but keep your money and, if you can find your corpse, can get all your gear back.

I went downhill to get a beer and lunch, using foodstamps for the first time since they arrived. I didn't mention it, but that seventy-six cents of Crazy Money was still on the card, "rolled over" into the new supply, not that it's going to be much of a help. Off to the check the mailbox for the first time in a week, nothing but forms to fill out for the insurance switch. Boring.

Picking up another brew at the mall, I crossed over to the beach park and saw Tanioka sitting by himself at one of the usual tables. Angelo had gone home to his sister's place, was still there. Tanioka and I were talking about this and that, I mentioned I'd always been amused by the idea of taking the Sleeptalker to Hula's. He liked the idea. Just at that moment, the Sleeptalker appeared.

So after a little persuading, off we went to Waikiki. Of course, the Sleeptalker instantly attracted about half a dozen admirers. Little wonder, even though he wasn't looking his best, since he was the youngest looking person in the place. And no surprise that he enjoyed being admired, no matter how much he denied it. His strongest reactions to the crowd were over the lesbians, especially one who kissed her friend, a little lower than the mouth. One of his admirers even bought us a round of drinks, several came over and introduced themselves, speaking to all of us but clearly interested in one. Eventually I made up the scenario that Tanioka and I had been lovers for years and the Sleeptalker was our toyboy. I think the story was believed.

Tanioka did provide one truly astounding piece of information when we were talking about other gay bars in Waikiki, the news that Angelo had been to Michelangelo "several times". That's a bar which is frequented by young Japanese gay men, one I've been tempted to visit but have never quite worked up the nerve. Angelo. Wow.

Four (maybe five?) rounds of Budweiser, shots of Cuervo 1800 for me and the Sleeptalker, staying until mid-evening when we had something to eat at a Jack downstairs. Then they went on their way, probably to drink some more in a less unlikely place, and I headed to IHS.

The tail end of this Year of the Snake is turning out to be quite amusing.

882

It is not I who seek the young fool;
The young fool seeks me.


That thought from the I Ching immediately came to mind after a brief meeting with the Sleeptalker on Wednesday, an encounter which ended with him saying, "I'm not hanging out with you anymore" and walking off. I was sitting in the secluded grove eating lunch when he arrived. He'd been in the library, discovered Seventh Circle was still down but had been playing Elysian Plains. I added a link to it on the web page I keep for him, thinking it would at least give him something to play if he made the trip to campus and Seventh was unavailable. We talked a little about the new game and I told him about some of the differences. He helped himself to my bag of potato chips without asking, but when he also tried to share the beer I refused, told him to buy his own. And when he asked for a cigarette, I declined, reminding him he had sneered when I'd offered him one on Monday, saying he wasn't smoking "those cheap Filipino cigarettes". So he stomped off with that parting remark.

Well, if you intend to make the pleasure of your company available only if free beer and tobacco is provided, the least you should do is make some effort to see that it is, in fact, a pleasure. It had been on Monday, mainly because it was so much fun to watch his reactions to a new setting. It hadn't been on Tuesday when he'd arrived at the beach park late in the day and in a very surly mood, and it wasn't especially charming in the secluded grove, either. The Sleeptalker in batu-hangover mode is really not a pleasure to be with anytime, alas.

I stayed on campus for most of Tuesday morning, then went to the State Library since the bargain counter at the used bookshop hadn't been very interesting the day before. As I was leaving the library I saw Tanioka and Plato standing outside. Tanioka offered to buy a round of beer but wanted to stay at Restaurant Row to drink it. So we sat with paper-cup disguises and had an amusing conversation. At one point Plato tried to persuade me to go half on a bag of batu. I deflected it by suggesting I'd agree only if his body came as part of the deal. I'm not really that much interested but was curious to see what his reaction would be. I suspect that later in a month when his money was gone, he'd probably accept.

When the beer was finished, Plato went off on his own, probably to get that bag without my help or making the self-sacrifice, Tanioka and I went to the beach park, picking up another round of beer on the way. We both think the Sleeptalker has been lying about not getting the Crazy Money, a suspicion given more weight by the way he disappears for a few days, turns up wearing new (and not inexpensive) clothes, with premium cigarettes and obviously in a post-batu funk. So it was when he arrived, after I'd gone to the mall for another round of beer.

I had misunderstood about Tanioka and his stepfather; he is allowed to keep his stuff there and to stay overnight, but he can't hang around the place in the daytime since his stepfather thinks he should be working instead. Tanioka was planning to take a seven o'clock bus home that evening, so when the Sleeptalker arrived in surly mode I took the rest of my beer and left them.

I'd been very pleased to discover Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga at the library, a collection of all his Worthing works including the full versions of some early short stories which he'd incorporated in later works in condensed form. Fascinating reading, as has been everything I've read by Card, and I got so absorbed in it I was later than usual getting to IHS, so had just my beachtowel as a "mattress". The place is already starting to get crowded again. I guess the Bad Boys (and I) aren't the only ones who run through the SocSec or welfare largesse quickly. For a few days after that arrives there are always mats and plenty of floorspace, no matter how late one gets there. Now it's back to black-hole time again.

(Not quite that bad for me with the money control, although with a third of the month gone and already half of the money gone I suppose "control" isn't quite the accurate word.)

I stayed on campus for awhile after the Sleeptalker left, then went to the beach park for a shower, drank another beer while continuing the book, and stayed on the other side of the pond from where I usually sit. I got a plate from the Krishna truck when it arrived. As is usually the case in recent times, the food was only just edible but at least it's filling and saves some of those foodstamps. The restaurant run by the Krishna folks got quite a good write-up in the current Honolulu Weekly which leads me to suspect I was wrong about the hand-outs being leftovers from the restaurant. Not even first time around would that food rate a favorable review.

The weather has been so strange, no tradewinds in what seems like eons, very warm on both Tuesday and Wednesday (sweatingly so), cooler again Thursday morning. The wind isn't exactly the infamous Kona wind, more from the west or southwest than due south. It will be a relief to see the clouds moving in the "right" direction again.

Of course, it would be a relief to see myself moving in the "right" direction, too. Just not sure what that is, or if such a thing exists at all.

883

Because I re-arranged the collected Tales, I asked Picosearch to re-index the site and while there browsed through the reports they compile about searches made. In the list of those searches which found no references in the Tales:

masturbated
testicles
circle of friends
cum
semen
56

Bizarre. Only the search for "Circle of Friends" was made by me, since I wasn't sure whether or not I've read that Binchy book (evidently not). But the rest suggest I have some readers looking for more earthy topics. Sorry about that. "56" is a total puzzle ... why would someone search the Tales for that? I wondered why it hadn't found Tale 56, but then realized it's 056. I wasn't much surprised to discover that "sleeptalker" is the champ when it comes to the word most often searched for with positive results (so to speak).

Thursday was a solitary day except for a couple of chats with Joe Guam in the late afternoon. The weather finally shifted and the clouds did start moving in the "right" direction although very slowly, a whisper of tradewinds. But both Thursday and Friday were beautifully clear, sunny days, quite warm during the day but cooling off at night, and it stayed that way through the weekend.

After spending Friday morning on campus I stopped to get beer and those "cheap Filipino cigarettes", went to the beach park where Tanioka was sitting on his own. I told him about the Sleeptalker. "He doesn't mean it. He likes you." I know, I know, but we agreed that it is a pretty annoying routine, this thing of hiding out in the early days of the month until all (or most) of the money has been spent on clothes and premium cigarettes and the glass pipe, then coming back and expecting friends to take care of you.

Angelo is evidently considering the military now. Coast Guard or Army, said Tanioka, but I later learned the National Guard is the current favorite idea. This time last year, I would have said it's a great idea. Now, I'm not so sure, although Coast Guard should be relatively safe, the National Guard even moreso. Somehow I just can't see Angelo in either and have to wonder if it's not just post-pipe dreams, looking for some way to escape which, once taken, would be fairly difficult to get out of. Still, it would be a smart move, especially since it would have the bonus of a free college education afterwards. I'll be surprised if he follows through, though. (Tanioka and I agreed the Sleeptalker is the one who'd really have a problem with that path.)

Joe Guam joined us for awhile at sunset, by which time we were on a third round of beer and I'd contributed two slices of pizza to the party as well. Tanioka is trying to get into better shape, working out at the YMCA and limiting his diet. Of course, for him and for me, the best way to get into better physical shape would be to forget about limiting the diet, limit the beer instead. Neither of us is much interested in that solution, though.

I stayed on campus for much of Saturday, deciding not to go to the big Korean Festival in Waikiki. Since I hadn't read it, I went to the used bookshop and bought Binchy's Circle of Friends which I'd debated during my last visit there. After a couple of murder-detective-lawyer yarns, it is especially refreshing to read Binchy and her very real people.

I'd just sat down in the beach park to continue it when Angelo, Little Brother and RedEye arrived. Little Brother is a delightful puzzle, a very cute young man but so painfully insecure and so like a younger version of the Sleeptalker. I bought a round of beer for us and shared tobacco but declined all yearnings for the white stuff, even after Little Brother got out a glass pipe and lovingly toyed with it. Pleadings for loans were also declined (especially from Angelo!). I left them when the beer was finished, went off to IHS instead of joining them for the night in the park. I was too close to the edge, about to give in even if it would have meant spending the rest of the month penniless.

I am going to be in trouble when April arrives, might as well get myself in shape with some practice now. And I'm not talking about physique.

884

"THE ALL IS MIND; The Universe is Mental." -- The Kybalion

Or as Clive Barker puts it in his extraordinary The Great and Secret Show, everything's like a movie. Hermeticism Nouveau. The Kybalion also says "To change your mood or mental state - change your vibration. One may change his mental vibrations by an effort of Will, in the direction of deliberately fixing the Attention upon a more desirable state. Will directs the Attention, and Attention changes the Vibration. Cultivate the Art of Attention, means of the Will, and you have solved the secret of the Mastery of Moods and Mental States."

I had my monthly chat with the psychologist on Monday morning and one of the topics of conversation was the current theory attributing depression to organic causes. Never mind I'm taking drugs, the efficacy of which are based on that presumption. As I told the doc, I think it's all in the mind. Hermeticism Albertus.

We also talked about the coming changes April will bring, a subject which is increasingly demanding thinking time. I told him that right now the leading scenarios are two. One, travel, whether alone or in a group. Two, get a small apartment or a room (albeit only if in a situation where it was an independent room with private entrance ... I wouldn't want to share a house). And I said if I were really sensible, I'd keep it a complete secret, would tell no one I had it. Of course I admitted that I am not generally speaking a really sensible person.

And we talked about the Bad Boys. He was surprised to learn about their devoting resources (and much attention) to clothes. They all place far more importance on clothes than makes any sense, but if Angelo spends fifty dollars on a pair of shorts that's fifty less going up in batu smoke, so all for the better. Far better, too, that they take that route than the one of wearing the same filthy rags until the point of disintegration.

Not that they're lacking in social graces otherwise. Well, some of them. Well, one of them in particular. That wacky Sleeptalker. Evidently Paulo is back on his Good Guys list. On Sunday evening I was nearing the end of the Binchy book, wanted nothing more than a quiet place with sufficient reading light to enjoy my sunset brew and the book. I scanned the beach park from the mall, Joe Guam was already gone and I didn't spot any other distractions. But I hadn't been there long when I felt the approach of the Sleeptalker. (Yes, I really can feel his presence, even at some distance.) I escaped to the mall. Then early on Monday morning, I saw him heading over from the park, again managed to avoid him. But on Monday evening he left the group which gathers around Paulo and walked past my table, said loudly in passing "figure it out yourself!" ??? What's to figure out?

For me, more important to figure out just how to work with Will directs the Attention, and Attention changes the Vibration.

Meanwhile, a possible solution to one puzzlement. A reader wrote: Maybe I am guilty of the "56" research, if Alceste found that it was strongly linked to one of the themes and I checked. OK, it's 056, but I'm never quite awake before 11 am. However, I disclaim all responsibility for the other researches (not being a liberated woman enough, alas, to have thought of them).

Guess I'm not a liberated man enough, either, since I wouldn't have thought of searching the Tales (or anywhere else, for that matter) on those other topics.

885

(16) 4. The fourth NINE, undivided, shows him from whom the harmony and satisfaction come. Great is the success which he obtains. Let him not allow suspicions to enter his mind, and thus friends will gather around him.

In olden days, especially in the late 70s/early 80s in New York City, I would usually consult the I Ching at least once a day, if for no other reason than to ask advice about how to get through that day as a "Proper Man". My old friend Felix and some of his friends would consult it almost constantly. I always knew when Felix was in an agitated state of mind because I'd hear the jangle of coins in the other room. I don't bother it often now, but Wednesday I turned to it twice and in an even more rare imposition, asked it about the same subject twice. It has a way of telling you to bug off when you do that, almost (in its style) saying, "look asshole, I told you once, you ask again?!" It evidently looked upon me more kindly this time and I got away with it, the above line being its reply when I asked yet again ...

... about me and the Sleeptalker.

He really irked me on Tuesday evening. I was in the beach park, for once didn't notice he was in a group of people sitting under a tree at some distance, I suppose because none of them usually sit on the grass. Tanioka was also in the group and eventually walked over to chat. It was only then I saw the Sleeptalker was also there. Maybe he was miffed because he thought I'd been ignoring him? In any case, Tanioka and I chatted alone for awhile. Then the Sleeptalker walked up, nasty and growling. Tanioka said they had to go, would see me later. I suggested that if so, he should return alone. The Sleeptalker knocked my beer off the bench onto the ground and walked off. Grrrrr.

Fortunately, I use a small green plastic bottle (originally filled with Japanese green tea), so only about ten ounces was wasted but it was the petty nastiness of the act which was, of course, more important than wasted beer. I vowed to, first thing on Wednesday morning, zap the web page I keep for him, the only way he can get telnet links to MUDs via the UH set-ups. I did just that, then felt a little guilty, asked the I Ching about it. The first message seemed to say it was best not to, although it was somewhat ambiguous. So I put the page back up again. Then later, sitting in the secluded grove, I looked up from my book and saw the Sleeptalker walking past, looking back as if to make sure I'd seen him.

Go away, just go away ...

I took the web page down again. Then Cainer weighed in with his message for Thursday: Life is short. Time is precious. We none of us know how long we have left. We must make the most of every moment. Does it follow therefore, that we must do our best to win every argument and beat every opponent? Is it essential for us to use every trick in the book to get our own way? A tense situation is now arising. It seems very urgent and very important. You have a choice. You can get right into it or you can stand right back from it. No prizes for guessing what your astrologer strongly recommends. Okay, I put the web page back, even if I think the Sleeptalker really doesn't deserve any help from me at this point.

Tuesday was such a weird day, with lots of static-filled encounters (and Mercury hasn't gone retrograde yet, although it soon will). I made a trip to the State Library, found James Patterson's Kiss the Girls which, despite being about two gruesome serial killers, is almost light reading after that Clive Barker epic. I did check to see what the library had by Barker, even though I knew I would take a break before checking one out.

After that absurd routine from the Sleeptalker, I left and went to the far other end of the park so they would be unlikely to find me if and when they returned. Then when I was waiting for the bus, some man sat on the bench beside me and after a few minutes accused me of having stolen his cigarettes! Errr, I reminded him he'd just seen me rolling one, asked why I'd use rolling papers and tobacco if I had a full pack. He insisted he had put the pack down on the bench between us and it was gone. I got up, said, well, I haven't got it, and went to stand a distance away. Then he came over, apologized profusely, said he'd found them. I was glad to get to IHS, grab a mat, fold my black tee shirt over my eyes and escape into dreamland (even if it was almost as bizarre as waking life).

I liked the Advice for the Day at the Old Farmer's Almanac: Choose neither mate nor linen by candlelight.

886

Figure it out yourself!

Well, okay, I spent more time thinking about that. First brick in the wall: refusing to share beer and cigarettes with the Sleeptalker. Then he undoubtedly heard about me buying beer for Angelo, Little Brother and RedEye. Then he no doubt saw me scurry off as he was walking toward my table. Then I told Tanioka to come back alone if he was returning to me, and I guess that pushed the poor Sleeptalker over the edge and he could react only with some hostile move like tipping over my bottle.

Pushing my luck again, I asked the I Ching for advice based on that assumed scenario and it said: The fourth NINE, undivided, shows (a case in which) firm correctness leads to good fortune, and occasion for repentance disappears. (We see) the fence opened without the horns being entangled. The strength is like that in the wheel-spokes of a large wagon.

Can't say I feel as strong as a spoke in a large wagon, but at least the outlook appears optimistic.

I don't spend all my time thinking about the Bad Boys, honest I don't. And I was thinking about the Euro. There has been a little fuss about it here but I'm sure it's nothing like it has been in Europe. I'm not at all surprised by England dragging its sterling feet, but am puzzled by the Norwegians and the Danes. I hope I find an issue of The Economist for the week of the transition, would no doubt find some explanations there.

But I can't see the unified currency as the huge transition most writers on the subject make it out to be (my mind immediately went to the thought of vending machines, what a nightmare it must have been to convert them all). Seems to me, the truly great unifying revolution would be a common language.

Heaven help them if they pick English, although that would seem to be the most sensible at this point. It has been a long time since linqua franca meant anything (except perhaps in some antiquated cultural circles). Then I got to thinking about conjugation of verbs in English. See, about as distant from thoughts of the Bad Boys as one could get.

It is odd that most verbs (at least that I could think of) in the present tense only get changed for he/she/it, usually with the addition of an 's'. It really should be I do, you do, he/she/it dos, to be consistent. But that's nothing compared to the horror of "to be". Am, are, is, are, are, are. If I have it rightly. Ridiculous.

I stayed on campus almost the entire day on Wednesday, spent a lot of time on-line, playing in Usenet more than I have in a very long time. It brought back memories of the time with KM2 when much of the waking hours was spent in computerland. No ICQ at UH, though. Just as well, much of the trouble I got into resulted from that. Of course, MUDs are similar to ICQ or chat lines. And on that subject, it begins to look like Seventh Circle is gone for good. I don't know why he doesn't just turn the damned thing off. You can connect but then nothing happens, no login message. I played Elysian Plains for awhile, leveled my Ranger there to 11, but they just don't have enough players. I wish I could let some of the Seventh players know I (and the Sleeptalker) are playing there, but I never made the effort to collect email addresses.

The newsgroup I was responsible for getting into the maze of Usenet is still there: alt.steiner.coffee.bar. At the time I was really irked by the mail-list devoted to discussion of Rudolf Steiner. It was maintained by an arrogant fellow called "Lefty" and we constantly locked horns. It was partly to piss him off I got someone to create the newsgroup, with the idea that it was a coffee bar where people could just kick back and chat about Steiner's work without all the stuffy formality of the mail-list. Didn't work, the newsgroup just got lots of posts about coffee, people selling coffee machines, etc. Now I see Google isn't archiving the group anymore. Good, it makes the place even closer to what I had in mind. I discovered there is a very active "Group" on Yahoo devoted to Steiner, though, and subscribed to it using my Yahoo email address so Lefty, if he's still around, won't know it's me. Not at first anyway. I wonder, shall I tempt some of them to stop by the coffee bar?

I finished the so-so Patterson book and was astounded when I read the notes about the author and discovered he's the Chairman of J. Walter Thompson. Then on to Patricia Cornwell's Black Notice which has a weird deja vu feeling about it since I've read the next book in this series and know what's going to happen to many of the characters in the future. I thought I should undertake the vast project of compiling a reading list (from the Tales) so I'd know for sure what I've read and could arrange my future reading so I take things in chronological sequence. Problem is, I don't specifically mention quite a few of the books I read because they just don't rate mentioning. Either they're bad enough to warn people about or they're at least passable entertainment. So my list would be incomplete. Still, it could be an amusing exercise for an empty winter afternoon (or three).

And I started a new work, probably a three-card one and thus far without any collage although that may change. I like it just as it is now, too, so may decide it's finished. If so, it will fall into the "minimalist" class like "Oahu Requiem" although even a bit moreso. Untitled, as yet, although I considered "Requiem for a Friendship".

But the I Ching seems to think that would be premature.

887

I joined that Yahoo group discussing Rudolf Steiner and will probably promptly get in trouble by writing things like the reply to a message I sent this morning:

Elaine wrote: I have read very little of Heindl (on another list and such), but so far, he does not appeal to me. There is something there not quite right sounding, for me. And I replied: There is quite a lot of his writing on the AMORC (California Rosicrucians) site. It's heavy going and riddled with the kind of pseudo-esoteric phrasing which especially irks me, the "I have a secret but this is all I can tell you at this time" kind of stuff.

I see some of that on this list, new though I am to it. I firmly believe there is no such thing as an "esoteric secret" which cannot be openly discussed. If a person is not ready to comprehend it they will not even if you put it on a billboard in their front yard.


"Mystics" usually get pretty riled up by talk like that.

-----

Far more important to me than such esoteric stuff was this, received on Friday from the Sleeptalker:

Subject: Bud
Heh heh heh......
Its so funny how you are so nice to me after the way I treat you. Still putting stuff up in my web pagey. Its nice to know how nice you can be to me and to think of the shit I've put you through. Huh huh. Damn! Im a fucked up drunk! But I wanted to say thanks anyway because it feels good to have someone treat you nicely. You really are a really cool dude! Ha! Ha! Ha! Thanks for the warmingahup!
Your Bud,
Skoy

-----

He was playing Elysian Plains at Hamilton. We had some friendly exchanges in the game but no actual contact. We probably would have (and I probably would have weakened and bought him a beer) but the weather interfered. Just as well, methinks. A step at a time, and I do after all now have a perfect excuse (actually a reason) not to buy him beer. If, as even he admits, he is "fucked up" when drunk, and that state makes him angry with the world, including me, it just doesn't make sense to help him get into that state of mind.

The weather. Wind began to blow on Thursday with occasional showers, but on Friday the wind was really blowing and the showers were torrential downpours. I got caught once, had to take refuge in a covered refreshment kiosk even though my destination was only a few yards away. Standing there was like standing behind a waterfall, reminiscent of MUD2. There's a waterfall there. If you just try to walk through it, you get smashed, have to use the umbrella (and ensure it's unfurled) to safely pass through. I didn't have an umbrella, so I took two of the quarters I've been hoarding for the laundromat, bought coffee, and waited until the downpour stopped.

Good news for quarter hunters. They've replaced the poles on the baby strollers. They'll be much easier to spot when abandoned in the parking lots. But I should have at most only a day or two of serious quarter hunting. The strategy of keeping most of the cash on the plastic card is a good one. Next month I have to increase that amount a little more. Not only does it eliminate temptation to hand over a twenty for a bag of weed (or other such refreshments), it means I have to walk to a store which accepts the card. Yep, a good strategy.

I did manage to get downhill, pick up lunch and return to the campus on Friday without getting wet, but the rain was beginning when I returned so once again, as on Thursday, the secluded grove wasn't a viable luncheon venue.

Nor was the beach park a wise choice for the sunset brew. Gimme shelter is the song of the moment. Even IHS is welcome. I feel sorry for people who are living outside. But I can't complain. Friday was the first day I've kept my long-sleeved shirt on all day. Compared to those poor people slogging through snow and ice, can hardly moan because I have to wear the shirt, can I?

At the State Library on Thursday, I found John Grisham's The Brethren. We love to classify people, place them in convenient niches, a process I really hated in the New York art world. Sometimes it helps, though. I realize the reason I've gotten so irked by many of Grisham's books is because I've had him in the wrong niche. I was thinking of him as a Realist. He isn't.

We think of Fantasy Fiction in terms of folks like Tolkien, the supreme icon in that niche, but there is also Contemporary Fantasy. That's where Grisham is, maybe even in a sub-genre niche called Contemporary Legal Fantasy. And The Brethren is a shining artifact in that collection, one of his most entertaining books. Realism it is not.

I'm enjoying my new routine, staying on-line more than I have in months, staying on campus for most of the day. I did go to the beach park at sunset on Thursday to wish Joe Guam a happy sixty-third birthday, promised him a beer or two when payday comes as a late celebration. His benefactor is going on a two-week vacation, said he'd have something special for Joe on Friday. He was hoping for a twenty and I hope he got it, or more. He's such a sweet old man.

If I'm going to buy beer for someone, it should be Joe Guam, not someone who turns into a "fucked up drunk". However sweet that one is when sober.

888

Hawaii weather at its worse, except perhaps when hit full-force by a hurricane which mercifully doesn't happen very often. Totally erratic and unpredictable. Fierce gusts of wind between long spells of gentle breeze, sudden downpours, often while the sun is shining at the same time and, in the early morning especially, quite chilly. Of course, this is the first winter I've gone without a sweatshirt since it certainly isn't needed at IHS. Even there though, the long-sleeve shirt has become pajama-wear. And I suppose the Pollyanna way of looking at it is: lots of beautiful rainbows.

I left campus early on Saturday afternoon, went to the State Library and picked up three books, since they wouldn't be open on Monday. Then to the mailbox which was empty, on to a 7-Eleven for a too-early sunset brew and to the mall, forced by the weather to sit in Philo Walk rather than go to the beach park. Lady Moana walked up, asked if I'd seen the "big man". No, not all day. "He's got a new muffin," she said. I expressed disbelief, listened to a vague story about how they'd been in a Waikiki hotel and the "big man" and the "muffin" had disappeared, presumably together. Lady Moana asked for spare change, I said I was broke. (I did have change, but certainly none I regarded as spare.) She spotted another park regular, rushed off to, no doubt, ask him the same questions, then she headed into the mall. Not five minutes later, Lord Moana arrived and asked for spare change. I gave him the same answer and told him his lady had just been there. He went off to look for her. Later, after a snipes hunt, they were both sitting on a bench in Philo Walk, her ranting, "how could you do that to me!". I took a bench as far distant as possible.

I'd been happy to find one of Jonathan Kellerman's 'Alex Delaware' novels at the library, Private Eyes, and was immersed in it when the Sleeptalker, Angelo and Okinawa arrived. All shook my hand and Okinawa launched into a lament about how he'd been suspended from Crazy Money for a month after missing an appointment with the doc. Sigh. I keep telling these silly boys that all they have to do if they miss an appointment is immediately call the office, give some halfway plausible excuse and ask to re-schedule it. That way they don't get reported as missing. They don't listen. Oh well, as Okinawa said, February's a short month. They said "c'mon, let's drink some beer!" (I assume Okinawa was buying, since the other two are broke, or were at last notice.) I told them thanks, but I was finished for the day, and they went on their way.

The Social Whirl of Philo Walk.

Everything at UH was closed on Monday for MLK Day. There were more frequent intervals of sunshine, albeit often with light rain as well. I stayed on campus, finished the Kellerman novel and returned to the realm of Contemporary Fantasy with an unusual one for David Baldacci, The Winner. Since there was nothing much to do but sit in a sheltered place and read, I finished that, too, before heading off to get my sunset brew. I was about halfway through the bottle when Tanioka arrived. It was one of the most amusing times I've spent with him, much of it talking about the "five things" he's done that he regrets. I only heard about two of them in detail and neither are anything to be ashamed of. I said I wouldn't write about them, so I won't. He has been reading the Tales and confirmed my feeling that I've done a pretty good job of concealing real identities by saying he wasn't sure who "Mondo" was until he read about the tattoo. You do have to know them to guess their real identity, except of course for the few (like Kory K and Helen R) who don't mind their real names being used or the Sleeptalker who has pretty much given his disguise away via the Exhibition.

The weather finally improved on Tuesday, a very pleasant day despite the arrival of quite a nasty head cold. Well, actually more of a chest cold, since it skipped the dripping nose phase and went straight to the coughing-up-gook one. Yeukh. I stayed online for most of the morning, catching up with what I'd missed on Monday and playing for awhile in Ravenloft, another SMAUG-type MUD which is almost exactly like Seventh Circle. Seventh had surprisingly been up on Sunday, with no notice at all about why it had been down for almost a month, and it was down again on Tuesday. The Sleeptalker was on campus and when he stopped to chat for awhile in the secluded grove I told him it didn't make much sense to invest any more time in Seventh, recommended he take up Ravenloft since many players from Seventh supposedly play there and it certainly seems a more stable site. One thing that surprised me about it is the apparent total lack of rules about language. I heard just about every dirty word in the English language during the time I was playing there. I actually like Elysian Plains better but it doesn't have enough players, and the Sleeptalker isn't much interested in making that his new base.

He'd seen Tanioka after we'd separated on Monday evening. And yes, he had been mad at him because Tanioka had "left" him. I told him Tanioka had said he didn't want to be around the Sleeptalker or Angelo when they were on the pipe, perfectly understandable not only because Tanioka is maintaining his abstinence but also because those two aren't particularly amusing company when ice-stoned, especially the Sleeptalker.

The Sleeptalker asked if I had beer. I showed him the inch left in my plastic bottle, drank it and said "no". I told him I wasn't buying beer for him since, as he admitted, he gets "fucked-up" when drunk, that if he gets to a point where he can once again be a happy drunk, I'll be happy to buy beer for him. Odd incentive, I guess, but it does make sense.

He went back to play whichever game he'd decided on and I went to the State Library for more reading material. I doubt I would have picked Irving Wallace's The Miracle were it not for the blurb quoting praise from Andrew Greeley. Fascinating book, makes me want to look more into the history of the Lourdes phenomenon. So I had that and another bottle of Colt to enjoy during the beautiful sunset, interrupted briefly by a chat with old Joe. His benefactor, alas, had only given him fifteen dollars, definitely not enough to cover the two-week vacation period. I guess I'll have to avoid the park until the Fabled Pension Check comes because I don't have enough money left for a beer-a-day myself, can't yield to Joe's pleas.

Bring on Spring.

889

I was sitting at the bus stop waiting for my ride to IHS when Wisconsin wheeled up on his bicycle and stopped to chat. He was all excited about the tenth planet and sees the discovery of it as a certain sign that the end is nigh. He was also ranting on about some huge object (comet? vagabond planet?) which is supposedly heading toward our solar system from the direction of Orion, claims it will pass between the sun and earth, blocking the sun for three days, which is foretold in Biblical prophecy, and setting off massive tidal waves and earthquakes. There was a certain overkill when he claimed this "object" is "larger than Jupiter". Errr, if something as large as Jupiter came between earth and the sun, I'd expect more than just darkness, waves and quakes. I told him it sounded like I should buy a flashlight and head to the mountains. Unfortunately, he couldn't say just when this event is to occur (sometime within the next two years).

However, a little research on the web explains he was talking about Nibiru, the "12th planet" which "is allegedly in a binary orbit between two suns" and last passed by earth at the time of Exodus. Its arrival this time is "late Spring or early Summer of 2003, probably May or June." And the thing is inhabited! A race of war-prone hominids referred to in ancient texts by either their earlier Sumerian name of Anunnaki or their later Hebrew name of Nefilim. "The Zetas report that the Anunnaki have access to a plant (or tree), native to Nibiru, that prevents normal aging and bodily deterioration. Sumerian texts referred to it as the Tree of Life. Later, the Bible referred to it as Knowledge of The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden story. Only Anunnaki royalty had privileged access to the Tree of Life (sometimes called Ambrosiac in Sumerian texts). They absorbed this substance into their bodies by taking baths soaked with this life extending plant. This special bath water was the origin of the story of The Fountain of Youth".

Weird times, my friends, weird times. I'm glad Wisconsin brought all this to my attention, and promptly added the more interesting links on the subject to my Underground collection. It seems to be quite a hot topic on the net.

More mundanely, I saw Okinawa and Angelo pass by at the bus stop, too. They both waved and Okinawa did his little flirtatious routine. What is that boy up to? Looking for some help in his coming no-crazy-money month?

Thursday was otherwise a routine day, unrelenting dreary gray sky with little differentiation between cloud cover, rather muggy but dry. I stayed on campus most of the day. The wretched cold went dripping-nose phase until night when it turned to clogging congestion. I wonder if the Anunnaki have a cure for the common cold? (Well, aside from killing off a third of the earth's population, which probably wouldn't get rid of "cold" viruses anyway.)

Friday, too, was gloomy and gray with falling moisture occasionally added to the mix. I stopped up to see Kory K who was headed to Hilo on the weekend for a funeral. Thinking about that, I realized I have never been to a funeral. Quite a few weddings, but no funerals. I would no doubt have been at my maternal grandmother's but when the decades-long false alarms ended with the real thing, we were in Europe and at that time transatlantic air travel was not commonplace.

Kory thought sitting out the Nibiru disasters on an Oahu mountain-top sounded like a plausible option. The long-dormant volcanoes here are extremely unlikely to erupt since the island has presumably shifted so far from the "hot spot". Earthquakes could certainly be expected but as Kory said, unless you were dumb enough to pitch camp under large trees, not much danger from the shakes, either. The problem, though, would be self-sufficiency in food and water, since it would undoubtedly be a very long time before these isolated islands received any relief from outside and all the urban infrastructure would be destroyed by the tidal waves.

How to make 2003 a more interesting year ... already?

889a

"You're addicted to books," the Sleeptalker said during our most recent conversation in the Secluded Grove.

Quite so. If I had but one dollar left in my pocket, the libraries were closed, and I had nothing left to read, I'd spend that dollar on books before I'd spend it on beer. Or food.

But I think I've reached saturation point with contemporary American fiction of the "sweeping" kind, the ones which span all or most of the decades of the last century.

It's inevitably World War I, then high life until the 1929 stock market debacle, that surely somewhat unique time in human history when so many went from riches to rags. The depression of the 30s, World War II. Most of these yarns skip over the Korean "Conflict". The murder of JFK. Vietnam.

Perhaps my saturation comes from reading two of these things in a row, Belva Plain's Tapestry and Erich Segal's The Class.

Belva's effort is certainly more admirable than the same territory as covered by Danielle Steel. Segal I have not read before, although I saw the insipid movie made out of his Love Story. All three writers I respect for having written these decade-spanning epics and for the success they've achieved in doing so.

But I think I've had enough of it to last me for the rest of this lifetime.

Sunday was again gray and gloomy. How did I ever survive all those winters in England where this is the norm? Well, I know how I did it, by having splendid nests in which to more or less hibernate.

And better books for company than I'm unfortunately having in Hawaii in this gray and gloomy winter.

890

Andrew Greeley surely does influence my so-called intellectual life even when I'm not reading him. Without his quoted praise, I wouldn't have read Wallace's Lourdes book. Doing so led me to explore the subject of Lourdes more thoroughly and from there to look for information about Fatima. (My conclusion about both is that those dudes in the big starships were playing around with us.) Then recently at the State Library I noticed two, very new looking, little volumes by someone named P.M. Carlson. The cover designs were attractive, obviously designed to make them a uniform edition. And they were billed as "A Maggie Ryan Mystery". Maggie Ryan, eh? (The Ryans are Father Greeley's favorite fictional family). I would have taken the books but realized they'd be not much more than a day's reading, so went for something heftier. But when I made my most recent visit to the library, there was yet a third volume in the series there. I took all three.

I was right, they do provide little more than a day's reading but are quite delightful and stylish, an American Agatha Christie (as critics probably have noted). The suspicion entered my mind that these are actually written by Andrew Greeley in disguise.

Murder Unrenovated kept me happily engrossed on Sunday, moving on to Murder in the Dog Days in the evening. The weather stayed gloomy and wet in the morning but there were a few welcome hours of sunshine in the afternoon. But I had to enjoy my lunchtime brew under shelter on campus and my sunset one under shelter at the mall since the clouds and rain returned.

Much of my time online was spent in further investigation into this Nibiru phenomenon which promises to be a sociological event whether the cosmic happening occurs or not. There was originally one Yahoo Group which became so crowded it has split into four, the original group remaining just as an archive of past messages (thousands of them). I subscribed to three groups, adding them to the three Rudolf Steiner discussion groups I've already joined. Yahoo Groups may replace Usenet ones for me. They're far more civilized, even with some of the goofy folks who write to the Steiner group. Goofy but civilized. (However, Steiner has always attracted a lot of goofy people, maybe because he was one himself.) It's odd that thus far Nibiru hasn't rated its own Usenet group. A proposal to create alt.nibiru failed, basically because those who interest themselves in new Usenet groups creation say enough of new alt.* groups, tack it onto an already existing alt.* ... alt.*.nibiru. The person who suggested it in the first place seems to have lost interest and Nibiru turns up mainly in alt.astrology and alt.alien.visitors.

The Nibiru folks on Yahoo Groups run the gamut from those who are thinking they should go ahead and kill themselves now to those are dedicated to survival, to figuring out the safest place to be and what equipment should be acquired (along with thoughts of what earth will be in the aftermath, most of which envision a Mad Max kind of scenario).

I don't see the least point in committing suicide now just because you may die in a cataclysm next year. Live it up, do what you want (and can get away with ... spending the last year of earth as we know it in prison isn't a great option). The survival types include some almost-as-loony folks as the suicide ones, people debating what nutritional supplements they should stock. I'd be more concerned about finding a safe place up in the mountains here where I could stash lots of gallon jugs of water, pounds and pounds of dried soup packets and such and ... about a hundred cartons of cigarettes and cases of Colt45. Maybe a case or two of Cuervo 1800, too, just for holidays in the Brave New World. Not to mention a few thousand paperback books and dozens of huge, heavy duty plastic bags to keep them dry. Not many people even mention things like seed packets to start post-Nibiru gardens.

There are lot of people who also think Nibiru signals our ascension into the Cosmic Congress, so to speak, the Federation. I'm not sure we'll be ready for that until the next time Nibiru comes around in about AD 5602. Of course, as a reader wondered: It's an interesting conjecture...my concern is that, if this occurs every 3,600 years, where's the hard evidence of worldwide disasters around 1600 BC? Good question.

In any case, I'm enjoying the research and observing how people are reacting (which will surely get more and more frantic as the time grows nearer). It's very surprising the supermarket tabloids haven't already started screaming about the story. I decided on Monday morning to give it top-level access on the Cave with a separate file of links.

Exploring the world of Yahoo Groups has also occupied a few hours of online time. There are over 700 with Hawaii-related topics, including a special one for "hawaii-diarists". Some of the members seem to have joined thinking "escribitionists" means "exhibitionists". Well, it does, of course, but not quite in the way the confused ones mean it.

Except in my case, but I very much doubt anyone is interested in exploring both aspects.

891

from the Sleeptalker:

Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002
Subject: Bust!

Hey Bud!
[Tanioka] acting weird like you now as always!
take care!

Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002
Subject: Oooo!

Albert you have always had a way to make me laugh. Especially when you give me "Re:" letters. But antway I seem to like playing Roloft better beacuse I get to understand the game better than I do the Elysian one beacuse its more familiar to me.

Just hope you take care of yourself when Im not around or [the Cherub] either. I know that hes been telling me he worries about you alot especially when your doing the "clear" and we both dont want you doing thazt at a man your age! So even so we want you to take care of yourself. And just drink the fire water or the bubbly stuff instead.

Just your average friend who cares,

-----

My response to the first one was Look who's talking! and to the second, quite touching, one, I said the Noble Weed had to be included in the acceptable vices list. He agreed. His reference to the "clear" is to ice/batu/crystal meth. "Clear" seems to be an increasingly popular nickname for the stuff.

The Sleeptalker arrived at the library unusually early on Tuesday morning, sat in the chair next to me saying nothing and only stayed for about twenty minutes, left also without saying anything. I was engrossed in my usual morning online routine, didn't pay any attention to what was on his monitor so didn't know until I next checked email that one of the things he'd done was send a mail to me.

It was another miserable day, perhaps the worst yet in the current series of nasty winter weather. Very heavy rain at times with few intervals. When I saw the official reports the next day, I learned it qualified as "a storm" and that I really shouldn't have complained. Honolulu got a bit over two inches of rain in the twenty-four-hour period but there was one place on the Big Island which got fourteen inches! Yikes.

I did manage a trip to the hospital pharmacy (Neurontin refill) and the State Library without getting too wet. Andrew Greeley struck again. In his praise for the book, he wrote: "A parable of grace and redemption, it is unquestionably the best book about the Catholic priesthood since Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory and Jon Hassler is certainly one of the very best Catholic novelists since Graham Greene." I would have put Father Greeley himself in that praise but nonetheless didn't hesitate to add North of Hope to my backpack and thoroughly enjoyed it. I hid out for the rest of the day in an isolated, sheltered spot in the mall, had one beer and a sandwich and read.

On Wednesday, the Sleeptalker again arrived at the library early, sat at a computer across from me, a bit further down the tabled complex. In addition to the above email, we exchanged a couple purely about MUD and then he asked me for advice on filtering mail in Yahoo. As I was leaving to get my lunchtime brew, we traded waves but he stayed, engrossed in Ravenloft which he's decided will be his main MUD now. Miraculously, the sun was shining and I was able to sit in the secluded grove. Eventually the Sleeptalker joined me, rode downtown with me while I checked my mailbox (no Fabled Pension Check, alas), and then we went to the beach park, sat on the grass under a tree some distance from all the park regulars.

He complained about Tanioka's elaborate schemes. I reminded him that he, too, has fantasies about things he'd like do and what it would be like (a return trip to Vegas probably being top on his list). Tanioka keeps his, more or less, within the realm of possible attainment. With me, my favorite one of the kind of place I'd like to live in is way off the possible scale, unless I find an Aladdin's lamp somewhere. So I don't talk about that, just keep it comfortably around to develop further, especially if I have trouble getting to sleep.

The Sleeptalker has a job on Friday. Doing what? "Cleaning." Another one of these jobs obtained by a chance meeting with someone on the street. Yes, I agreed, the man no doubt wants the Sleeptalker's body as well. "Just get a good price for it," I recommended. He managed to weave that thread of conversation together with the fantasies one and okay, yes, I had to admit I still want his body, too. He was pleased. He can be such a sweetheart sometimes.

We walked over to get plates of food when the Krishna truck arrived but it was such awful stuff neither of us ate much of it. There was something, a cross between bread and cake, which tasted mouldy. Yeukh, they should at least check to see if the junk is that far gone. Birds ate it, anyway. Then the Sleeptalker went on his way, wanting to get different clothes from his storage bin (even though he said everything in it is dirty) and to shower and shave.

That was one of the most satisfying conversations I've had with him and I was especially pleased that we touched on both the fact that he uses me as a mirror (the above email about the "clear" is addressed to himself as much as, or more than, to me) and his seemingly inevitable habit of eventually lashing out at anyone who is kind to him. Answers I have not, nor does he, but I think just getting him to talk about it may be helpful.

I returned to North of Hope and a sunset brew, the last until the FPC arrives unless the Quarter Hunt becomes a more profitable game than it has been in recent months.

deja vu ...

892

At sunset time on Thursday, Tanioka arrived in the beach park with a young man I've not met before. I thought he was Japanese, but instead he was a Japanese-looking Vietnamese. He apparently speaks several languages but hardly made use even of English during his time with us, saying little but when speaking, doing so in a loud, almost explosive fashion which was both unsettling and amusing. Tanioka was hosting the beer party and while I did the trip to the mall for more supplies the Vietnamese vanished (somewhat to Tanioka's suprise, although he said the fellow doesn't drink much). The two of us drank until mid-evening when Tanioka went off to their new sleeping place. It was too late and I was too zonked to consider IHS. Since it looked like it might be a dry night (rare, these days), I just slept on the picnic table.

Tanioka's newest scheme is a trip to Vegas. Him, me, the Sleeptalker. And in the course of talking about that I learned more about the Infamous Vegas Trip of yore, including the interesting information that the Missing Jason was in his thirties. Maybe one day I'll collect all my references to that trip. Many of the assumptions were well off the mark, partly, of course, because each of the participants tell the story differently and have even themselves sometimes told different stories than their other versions. One thing is for sure: that legendary trip hardly promises great things for a repeat. Nor, as I told Tanioka, do I have any great desire to see Las Vegas again.

When we parted, he said he'd be in the park again on Friday afternoon. The day began with a visit to the psychiatrist which, with its fifteen-minute limit, could hardly be anything but a quick discussion of drugs. I asked for more Remeron. Although I don't take it every day, it's very helpful at times when I'm finding it difficult to sink into the escape of sleep. Happily, he gave me a two-month supply. That may be my last visit to him since SocSec is probably going to make me ineligible for the state-sponsored health program and the national Medicaid version doesn't pay for drugs. I don't mind these drugs the doc has given me, but I wouldn't spend real money on them.

Since I thought the Sleeptalker was going to be working on Friday, I decided not to go to campus, stopped instead at the State Library for a quick check of email. There was one from him wondering where I was. I replied telling him I'd be meeting Tanioka later but I think he must have left before then anyway. I grabbed a couple of books, sat in Ward Warehouse reading until it was time to check the mailbox. The Fabled Pension Check was there so I went to cash it, picked up beer and cigarettes and went to the beach park. I'd gotten a bottle of beer for Joe Guam but he wasn't around, was probably waiting to see if his benefactor was back from vacation (he wasn't). Tanioka arrived with his beer, I drank the one intended for Joe, and then took Tanioka to Bubba Gump's for dinner after it appeared the Sleeptalker wasn't going to join the party. One thing I love about Bubba Gump's is how they let you substitute mashed potatoes for fries, even if they were a little heavy on the garlic. And the Boiler (a shot of Cuervo plus a Bud was a "little heavy" on the drink schedule, too).

Once again I stayed in the park since it was late for IHS and also because this wretched bronchitis attack which was set off by that cold has me hacking and spitting to the point where I'd be a total nuisance. I bought some "deep congestion" capsules but hadn't yet seen much sign of them working. As it turned out, they do suppress symptoms for about four hours but don't seem to do much about clearing the gook (I wasn't cheered by a web search on Monday which said some people have this post-cold bronchial cough for months ... yeukh). For me, it should only be a week more or so, judging by the last time there was one of these extended episodes (when my sleeping companions at the Cloisters did grumble).

The capsules did have me feeling not at all well on Saturday so I stayed in the secluded grove reading, much of the time in a prone position. There was electrical work underway on campus and both the library and the little computer lab was closed. Didn't matter, I wasn't much in the mood to be online anyway, even if I had missed Friday. And when I returned to the mall, I sat at the distant sheltered bench rather than crossing over to the beach park. I vahnt to be alone.

I didn't get online Sunday, either. Tanioka and the Sleeptalker arrived in the secluded grove in the late morning. The Sleeptalker had two cans of peanuts, limes, and a large bottle of Cuervo 1800. He wandered off to play the game occasionally (Seventh Circle returned, again without any explanation for the extended down-time). The last time he stayed away longer, I was running out of cigarettes, so told Tanioka I was going to get tobacco, a beer, and would be in the park. He didn't show up there but the Sleeptalker did. (I suspect Tanioka was drunk enough to head home and collapse because he hadn't been sparing on that bottle.) The Sleeptalker was, too, and I guess this was his demonstration of how he can be a happy drunk. But as always, he wanted to get "higher", get some weed, some "clear". I said even if I had the money, I wouldn't buy anything else after drinking all that beer and tequila, just wouldn't be any point.

Well, he didn't agree and went off to get fifty dollars. I was right, he had been lying about the Crazy Money. He has been getting it, but this time he really did get suspended, I saw the letter. He said he'd lost his bus pass (yet again!) and couldn't get to the doc in Waikiki. Hmmmm, for four hundred bucks, I would have walked there, but perhaps he didn't find the pass missing until it was too late. Nor, of course, did he call the doc's office and explain, ask to re-schedule it. So for February, he'll just have the two hundred in foodstamps and that, being sold at a fifty-fifty stamps-cash exchange rate, will undoubtedly soon be gone.

Life with the Bad Boys.

893

During the Vanderbilt years in NYC, one of the major-minor players was a young man named William S. (In the overall scenario, he was a minor player, but of those, a major.) The thing most memorable about him was the uncanny way he seemed utterly desirable when not physically present, almost not at all in person (even on the one occasion I was in his apartment and he changed clothes, stripping down to his briefs). He was keen on esoteric activities, gurus, books, diets, and it was his particular interest in some man's "mucus-free" regime which brought him to mind. I'm not sure if it was Arnold Ehret, although his ideas are certainly the same.

And as things go in this Information Age, there are thousands and thousands of web sites devoted to the subject. My interest, of course, was finding some way to alleviate this wretched bronchitis attack which is making life miserable. I diligently began to follow one of the most-advised techniques, a three-day fast or at least three days of nothing but fruit and nuts. (Oddly, most of them make no mention of alcohol at all; milk is the evil beverage.) So on the weekend I only had nuts, cashews on Saturday, peanuts on Sunday. I weakened on Monday, though, had a small bowl of lentil soup for lunch (Bartender Bryant surprised to see me in Manoa Garden buying only soup, to say the least). And then I just totally lost it in the evening, felt so miserable and hungry I ate a chicken sandwich from McD's.

Trying to get back on track, I stopped in a supermarket on my way to campus, got fresh-squeezed lemonade, three tangerines, some chicken boullion cubes and (naughty) a peach yogurt. Unprecedented first use of a newly-arrived supply of foodstamps dollars! I was irked later when I realized I'd forgotten spinach miso soup packets, corrected the oversight on my next visit to a supermarket but then forgot to keep my coffee cup from McD's in the morning so had nothing with which to prepare boiling water for the soup packets or boullion. This kind of nutritional exercise would be much easier if I had my own space, either a room or a storage locker. As would supermarket shopping in general, since Americans certainly have been conditioned to buy things in huge quantity.

No results in cutting down the over-production of mucus, alas. What a wretched design, this human body.

The arrival of the Crazy Money was naturally cheering but even that didn't really counterbalance the physical imbalance. What's the use of green paper if it can't stop the mucus factory? (And most references on the web, even from orthodox medical advisors, say antibiotics are of no value, are usually prescribed just to make the patients think something is being done for them.)

Bronchial ponderings.

Monday was another gloomy, damp day in paradise, too, which certainly didn't help. I stayed on campus all day, having the rest of my liquid lunch on a sheltered bench after eating the lentil soup at the Garden. I had another one of Jonathan Kellerman's 'Alex Delaware" novels, Over the Edge, which I'd found on the fifty cent cart at the used bookshop, along with James Patterson's Pop Goes the Weasel. I thought, once finished, that duo will undoubtedly send me quickly in search of less gruesome imaginations, no matter how skilled both authors are in writing yarns that truly deserve that "gruesome" label.

And so it did. I've enforced a discipline which allows me, when the Crazy Money arrives, to purchase one CD or CD-set and either one new paperback or two used ones at higher than bargain rate. I skipped the CD option in January since the used CD store didn't have any of the ones I wanted. But I quickly took the book option for February, getting Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Chrisopher Columbus and Andrew Greeley's Angel Light.

If there's any true palliative relief for acute bronchitis, it's a good book and a pleasant day to sit outside and read it. Wednesday provided both. On the website described as "the official Orson Scott Card" site, it says: Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is the sine qua non of alternate history novels, in which time travelers return to keep Columbus from discovering America -- or at least from returning to Europe after having discovered it. Another category slot. I would have put it into Contemporary Fantasy, but Alternate History is a better tag. Both apply, however, and with whatever category tag, Pastwatch is a splendid, ambitious novel. I've enjoyed everything I've read by Card, but nothing more than this one. It kept me happily engrossed during most of the day, so much so I didn't get around to looking at the new Honolulu Weekly until finding one on the bus during my two part journey to IHS (campus to mall to shelter).

I started the day with a trip to the discount clothing store. Both trousers I tried on were fine so I chose the slightly heavier cloth of the Perry Ellis ones, then found a tee shirt in almost the identical color, just a hint darker. What to call it? Pale olive? Khaki, with a lean toward olive? Something like that. My aura must have changed again, for this range of hues to feel most comfortable. Well, that's what a mystic would say, and I do lean toward that now and then just as this pale olive leans toward tan. Another tee shirt, much darker (leaning toward black?) was only 99 cents and was worth buying just for the laughs it will get from the Boys. On the front it says "if you're not living on the edge". On the back, "you're taking up too much space."

The Sleeptalker got on the bus when it went through downtown, grinned and waved. Then we both grinned as we sat there listening to two black Mainland folks with wonderful accents going on and on about the difficulties of air travel in the post 9-ll world. He got off the bus one stop before the clothing store, and I wondered where he was going and why. Then Helen R was on the bus back. I swear this place seems like a town of about 500 people sometimes.

Father Greeley's Angel Light is perhaps even more enjoyable than the other one in this series I've read, Angel Fire. No doubt about it, I got very lucky with my "premium discount" book option this month. I wonder if I'll find "Candide" or "Camelot" when I check the CD store?

894

When I saw the headline in Saturday's newspaper I immediately thought, "perhaps the last of the great Fag Hags of the twentieth century is dead." I only use that term in a derogatory way if I'm referring to a woman who is a fag hag but doesn't have the sense or style to realize it (a "closet fag hag"?). But most of the time I use it with admiration and respect, many times with personal gratitude. So it is with Princess Margaret Rose, a formidable lady in a class with Dietrich, Garland, Callas, Vreeland, and Jackie. And one of the few women who truly but delightfully awed me. Aloha oe, funny Princess.

On Wednesday, I stayed so long in the drug store examining all the remedy labels that there were probably security people eagerly waiting for me to stick one in my pocket. No, I was just trying to weave my way through the myriad brand names, comparing the ingredients and dosages. Almost all of the cold/congestion concoctions include acetaminophen, alas. I'd rather they left the painkiller choice to the customer. In fact, some company should get smart enough to put out a kit, separate pills for each usual function of these mixes: painkiller, nasal decongestant, antihistamine, cough suppressant, expectorant. Not many have the expectorant stuff. I had first experimented with one that does, Comtrex Heavy Congestion red geltabs. That's the other range of options: pill, capsule, geltab or liquid. I didn't think the 'expectorant' was useful enough to justify the additional expense of the Comtrex, finally settled on a generic storebrand with all the other ingredients, to be taken every six hours rather than the usual four.

It works quite well in suppressing everything for about five and a half hours. Then, of course, there's an hour of heavy coughing to clear the accumulated gook. And taking another dose in the middle of the night extends that clearance time. Still, it seems the right solution for night, especially.

The weather was pleasant on Thursday. I stayed on campus all day and, for the very first time, took the bus directly from campus to Chinatown even though it means a short walk to get to IHS from the nearest stop. The Sleeptalker was the main reason for that, since he joined me in the secluded grove as I was just finishing my forty zones of Mickey's (shop was sold out of Colt45). He had been playing Seventh Circle for hours. I had only stopped in briefly in the morning, have no great desire to play there until it has been steady and available for a month, at least.

I told him the good news of the day, that "Faith" had been sold. I think that finally did it. He has been hovering on the edge, trying to figure out whether I've just made up the whole Artist Trip or if it's the real thing (apologies to Coca-Cola for slogan infringement). The Cherub almost nudged him off the fence by speaking about it quite seriously, but that someone would actually pay money for a work is no doubt more meaningful to him, understandably. He did, not long ago, amaze and amuse me by saying he'd been exploring some "modern art" on the web and had seen some things which he could relate our drawings to. I'll get that guy into a studio yet.

Since that wasn't an option on Thursday evening, I took him to Manoa Garden to celebrate with one of their big (32oz) jugs of Budweiser. If he's consciously working at showing me he can be a happy drunk, he's certainly doing a most excellent job of it. He was in fine form, especially amusing with a lightly-pidginized account of eating balut, that horrible Filipino "delicacy" which I tried once and shall never eat again.

And as I was writing the above paragraph on Friday morning, he arrived at the library. The weather had returned to hideous, solidly gray cloud cover and almost continual drizzle. We stayed in the library all morning. I played for a few minutes in the game but otherwise left it to him. I had planned to invite him to share beer and sandwiches in the secluded grove but the weather stomped on that idea, so instead I took him to lunch at the Garden. He was still in a jovial mood but became increasingly pensive as the day went on, wouldn't tell me what he was thinking or what was bothering him. We went back to the library for a couple of hours and then returned to the Garden for another round of beer. Fortunately, there wasn't much wind so we could sit at one of the umbrella-covered tables outside and in our second visit had the whole place to ourselves. Bartender Bryant said they would be cancelling the live music in the evening if it was still raining at three-thirty, and it was. I didn't mind, had no great desire to see Syx Pak again anyway.

The Sleeptalker tried to get another round of beer out of me but took it gracefully when I refused. As he neared the end of his, he said, "I'm bored." "Well, you must do something about that since I know you can't stand being bored for even five minutes." "You don't know what I'm thinking," he said. True, I admitted, and asked what it was. He wouldn't say, got up and said "thanks for the beer" and went on his way.

It is interesting how many books I've read recently in which the internet plays a major role, from the charming fantastic way in Greeley's Angel Light to the sinister territory covered in John Sanford's The Devil's Code. I finished the latter when I returned to the mall, got a bottle of Colt, and sat in a sheltered place reading until it was time to catch the IHS-bound bus. And then to a surprise find at the used bookshop, Mickey Spillane's The Killing Man. I was a big fan of Spillane and especially his Mike Hammer books but drifted away eventually, had no idea he had written this one in 1989 and another in 1996. Like all his books, it's fun reading and especially admirable that he hasn't fallen into imitating himself, so to speak (as quite a few other mystery writers have).

The Greeley book and, still, Card's Pastwatch continue to dominate my dream life. Friday night was amusing, although not conducive to especially restful sleeping, because even though I was asleep, I deliberately stopped some dream sequences, saying this is boring, I don't want to dream about it anymore. A couple of times it tried to return to the halted scenario and I stopped it again. Reminiscent of life with the internal jukebox. That thing has been stuck on the Supremes for the past few days, enough to make me think I really am going crazy this time.

895

The Buddha invited all of the animals in the kingdom together for a meeting, but only 12 creatures attended. The first animal to arrive was the talkative Rat (who was aggressive enough to jump off the back of the Ox in order to be the #1 arrival) next in place #2, came the serious, enduring and hard-working Ox with the honorable Tiger, and cautious Cat. The outspoken Dragon joined the others, along with the philosophical Snake. The physically active Horse arrived with the artistic Goat. The spirited Monkey and the showy Rooster came as well. The last to join the others was the watchful Dog and the meticulous, resigned Pig. Buddha gave each animal a year of its own, bestowing the nature and characteristics of each to those born in that animals year.

Trying to fathom the mysteries of the Chinese calendar as we stand in the doorway to the Year of the Horse. It is commonly being referred to as the Black Horse, as in this somewhat cryptic explanation from the web: Year 2002 is Yang Water Horse, the 19th of the Stem-Branch in the system. Because Water is equivalent to color Black in the Five-Element system, Year 2002 is also called Black Horse year. In Chinese astrology, Horse contains Fire element and color Red can represent Fire. Since Fire element in the Year 2002, therefore the water is not cold anymore.

Nice, I suppose, that the water won't be cold. But I don't recall ever having heard this color scheme before. From the following, I thought white equals fire: "You are Green Chicken, born in the year of White Dragon" since I've long known my birth year is the Elder Fire Dragon. That the day is a "Green Chicken" one is a surprise indeed. (Since we ordinarily refer to it as the Year of the Cock or Rooster, that's a little better, aside from the Jolly Green Giant innuendo.)

Continuing research, I found a site which gives this color/element linkage: Metal/White, Water/Black, Wood/Green, Fire/Red, Earth/Brown. According to that version, my birth year should have been Red Dragon. If all this isn't confusing enough, just have a look at the various options for what number the new year will be: 4699 seems to be the majority vote.

In more mundane online research activities, I've come to understand that the counter on the main Tales page may represent the time until I qualify for retirement benefits but it certainly doesn't look like that's when I will actually get the loot. Sigh. I foresee one more round of the Crazy Money Dance. They do give you the run-around. I went to the SocSec office at the Federal Building. Just getting into the building itself is a high security routine ("do you have a knife?" "yeh, sure, I'm gonna stab a Judge with my three-inch Swiss Army knife.") Fortunately, they weren't mind-readers. Maybe fifty people in the waiting area at the office. I look around, see no forms anywhere. Nope, not that easy. The guard tells me to try the free phone service. It's one of those press-1-for, press-2-for, kind of recorded message mazes which I gave up on after about twenty minutes. Most of the information kept babbling about how wonderful it is, one can apply ONLINE! I wondered how many Americans my age even know what online means, never mind how saturated I may be in it. I tried the online method. After some experimentation and refusals, I discovered that one cannot actually apply online unless one wants benefits applied directly to a bank account. Sigh. Next step, call and ask for an appointment. At least it's a toll-free number.

And in so-called real life? Well, it changed from gray drizzle to sunny breeze but by the standards of these islands, quite COLD. Kathmandu style winter, where it's warm in the direct sun, chilly in the shade. I had Andrew Greeley's Blessed Are Those Who Mourn for company, and always good company it is when the main character is the inimitable Blackie Ryan. Since I hadn't been there for several days, I went to the beach park for a sunset brew, was soon joined by Tanioka and, later, Angelo.

During one of the times with him last week, the Sleeptalker had said he was becoming "kleptomaniac". I don't think so. I saw the same symptoms before with C-One and Angelo that I now see in the Sleeptalker, an air of thinking "I can't be beat, I won't get caught." And the more successful bag-jobs, the stronger that (unfortunately mistaken) belief becomes. Tanioka said the Sleeptalker had gone to his favorite source to bag some vodka and didn't come out. Methinks the man spent the night in the downtown holding cells, perhaps two nights if they didn't bring a judge in on Sunday morning to clear the place out. Unless he had any outstanding warrants (and if he does, none of us know about them), he'd be brought up before the judge, given a trial date and released. I hope that's what happened.

Okinawa, who supposedly was not getting Crazy Money this month, somehow had a Waikiki hotel room. Ice follies time. Even Tanioka yielded, after months of abstinence, alas. (He told me not to write that, but come on, it's integral, a prime example of how that wretched drug won't let go for those who can't resist the lure.) But on Friday night Okinawa was turning everyone away at the door, saying he wanted to be alone. Just enough to send the Sleeptalker into an even greater manic spin.

The tail end of the Snake is indeed slippery.

-----

the collected tales