the year of the horse

896-899

march of the horse
900-912

april
913-916
917-921
922-925

unprobably merrie
926-928
929-933
934-938

I laugh at anyone who spends so much time writing about what doesn't exist -- mental concepts.
Graham Greene: The Quiet American

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896

The Year of the Horse.

A new cycle of the Tales, and I've decided to experiment with something new. The Tales will appear weekly with a "publication" day on Tuesday. If it's Tuesday, it must be Tale Day. Insh'Allah. We'll see how it goes ... [Later note: I soon abandoned the idea.]

Life has fallen into one of those times when my To Do list is simply much longer than I feel comfortable with. I don't want one of those lists at all, but since I apparently have to have one just now I've decided to take it at a leisurely, steady pace. One item per day, forget the entire rest of the list until deciding which will be the next day's task.

The task for the final day of the Snake was the monthly appointment with the psychologist. This is something which ordinarily wouldn't be a bothersome item on the Must Do list (even worse than a To Do one) because I enjoy my chats with him and February's was no exception. I asked him if there was a term for a phobia of dealing with bureaucracy. No, but he was amused by the question and we talked a little about the difficulties. Even those awful touch-1-for, touch-2-for telephone setups are enough to send me into a mindspin and I just can't deal with them for very long (on top of disliking intensely to use the telephone at all).

Then we talked about the Honolulu Exhibition 2001 and he asked me to bring it up on his computer, printed out "Faith" and the resume. He asked why I started doing the drawings. First answer, it's fun. It has also been a useful device for interacting with the Boys, particularly the Sleeptalker. No, I didn't see much chance to pursue it more "seriously", in the sense of having an exhibition, etc., and I hadn't given much thought even to the possibility of selling any. But early on I realized I needed to establish some foundation with the Sleeptalker, a way of letting him know it wasn't just playing around, so I explained to him that I was setting a very modest level of expectation, so to speak, and that the works would be uniformly priced at fifty dollars per card, with a 50/50 split if it was a work he'd directly participated in. Even that seemed like a fantasy to him, any higher would have been utterly unbelievable. From my point of view, it didn't matter. Trying to establish a market value based on past sales records would have been silly and there was no problem of dealer commissions, recovering framing costs, and all that. Yes, it might have been more sensible to take into account "gallery rental", the cost of making space available on the web or even paying for time to do the scans myself rather than imposing on a friend. But I wasn't looking at it as a business concept. As I told the doc, yes, it began because it was fun to do and it continues for the same reason.

Admittedly, it has revived a long dormant interest in the art world, something I've paid very little attention to except for occasionally picking up an art magazine at the university library and flipping through it or looking around on the web. I didn't even have a collection of art-related links on the Panther's Cave. Now there is one, in its very early stages. There's no intention, of course, to make it comprehensive. Aside from a collection of the most indispensable museums, it's likely to remain more personal, artists I'm particularly interested in or web sites which catch my attention. But even so, evidence of a renewed interest.

So all that was woven into our chat and, as often happens, I left feeling how odd it was to spend a half-hour with him chatting without touching much, if at all, on the topics which one would expect to discuss with a "treating" psychologist. He probably thinks I am much more sane than I am.

I did spend most of the preceding day, Sunday, on campus but deliberately left early enough for a sunset brew in the park, hoping for news of the Sleeptalker. Angelo joined me soon after I arrived, said the Sleeptalker was sitting on a bench in the distance, would join us "in awhile". He didn't, and I wasn't surprised. I figured he'd be embarrassed about his night in jail, probably even more so about having gotten caught. Nonsense, of course, because he'd get no lectures from me. I'm too keenly aware how having that manic indestructible bubble burst can lead to deep depression and I wouldn't do or say anything to contribute to that, would try to subtly do just the opposite. He wasn't ready to deal with it, though, and I don't blame him. I'd finished about half my beer, gave the rest to Angelo to finish off and then bought one more for us to share before leaving him, went on my way to IHS.

He had been sharing the hotel room with Okinawa for three nights, the first two days spent with just the two of them together. Okinawa is usually very outgoing, bubbly and talkative, but Angelo said he gets totally quiet when indulging in the batu pipe and that they spent hours without saying anything at all to each other. Angelo had, naturally, spent all his money on that adventure plus buying a new cellphone and a couple of shirts, was totally broke. He has been quite silly, hasn't taken advantage of the discount bus pass authorized by the psychiatric treatments, so is having to walk from one place to another. I gave him the fifty cents more he needed to catch a bus the next day to check his mail, since he wasn't sure when he'll next have to see the Qualifying Doc and needs to keep a close watch on incoming mail. These Boys almost make me feel totally organized. Almost.

I checked my own mail on Monday, was happy to see a letter from Felix but saddened by the news that Richard Brown Baker died. Felix said there was a fine obituary in the New York Times but I can't find it online or any others. A google search did turn up some interesting references, though, including one to Baker's splendid Pollock.

I was particularly amused by Felix's confession that he, too, now has a little collection of Bad Boys, three of them. Photographs are promised. I suspect his are not nearly as "Bad" as mine.

He started his letter with: "In one issue of Dada News I reported on a letter from Lafayette to Washington in which a reference is made to the Hidden E of Heraclitus. All this time I've been drumming my fingers on the table waiting for some elucidation. Then a book comes out, sold through one of the Anthroposophical presses called Remembering Heraclitus. While waiting for the book to arrive I ask Chalmers if the Freemason book I gave him pre-Dada has anything about E or Heraclitus. No, but another book says there was an E inscribed over the entrance to the cave or what-have-you at the Oracle of Delphi. So now I've read the book and no 'Hidden E' is mentioned, but the term 'Ethos" is probably it. 'Character, Human Nature' is how it's defined in the text. Much is made of the statement, 'I searched my Nature.'"

Ah, my dear Felix. If only I didn't so loathe the idea of cold, snowbound winters, I'd be tempted to move to New Hampshire, close enough to occasionally spend some time with him.

And take the Sleeptalker along ....

Just a teasing fantasy. Meanwhile, I wish all my readers a prosperous and contented Year of the Horse.

897

The Task of the Day on Tuesday was sending "Faith" off to its new home in France. This involved a trip to OfficeMax in search of sturdy envelopes. I had to buy some which were a little too long since a more exact model would have required buying a box of one hundred, not a pleasing option for someone carrying a backpack. Even the packet I did buy was too heavy and I only saved about half of them. At the University branch post office a rather cute young man stamped both sides of the envelope with "air mail/par avion" and made me fill out one of those little green customs stickers. Yeukh, bureaucracy again. He took my money and gave me change but I didn't actually see him put the postage on the envelope so I wondered if it was off to a black hole. It was some months after I'd arrived in India on my first trip there before a "veteran" clued me into the proper procedure in such cases. Give the clerk enough money to guarantee about fifty cents change, tell him to keep the change, and stand there until he pastes the stamps on the envelope and hand-cancels them. Otherwise, more often than not, they'd keep the stamps for resale and throw the envelope in the trash. Or so I was told. As I saw it, the main benefit of that strategy was to use the same clerk on each visit. Since the Indians have no concept of standing in an orderly line waiting one's turn, being known as a "tipper" led to being picked out of the mob much more quickly.

I grow old, I grow old ... simple, everyday transactions hold the key for too many memories.

This is, so far as weather is concerned, the worst winter I've known in these islands. Of course, it's also the first one (aside from the hospital trip) when I'm not carrying or wearing a sweatshirt. It certainly isn't needed during the night at IHS but it has been sufficiently "cold" that it would have been welcome in the early evening and even more so in the pre-dawn morning. And if it's not shivering time, it's wet. If I had that room of my own I'd probably hole up there and not emerge until Spring except for quick expeditions to buy tobacco and cigarettes.

Aside from completing, I hope successfully, the Task of the Day, I spent the rest of the first day of the Horse online or sitting in a sheltered place reading. The arrival of the Horse led me to think of that luxurious job I had in London. The company, officially a private investment bank, was named after the apparently fine stallions raised in the Ferghana valley in what was part of the USSR, and there was a quite handsome logo, a stylized horse, which I wish I'd designed. I did a search on the web and discovered, much to my surprise, that the company still exists, is now some kind of consultant group in the pharmaceutical/medical field. My former boss (and founder of the company) is not mentioned anywhere. But they still use that logo.

It was a bumper day for Bad Boys spotting although with no direct contact, just exchanged waves of greeting. I was waiting at the stop for the IHS-bound bus when Tanioka, Angelo, Rocky and a young lady left the mall nearby. The three lads waved. First time I've seen Rocky in awhile. They seemed to be headed to the park, took one look at the (drizzly) weather, turned around and went back into the mall. And at IHS, Mondo was sitting outside smoking, despite the drizzle, smiled and waved. He has a moustache and a scraggly attempt at a beard which, I'm afraid, doesn't really suit him. But perhaps he prefers looking less handsome.

It wasn't until I got to that bus stop in the evening that I realized it was Fat Tuesday, prompted by Nawlins-faux party people in beads and masks. Got too busy with the Chinese calendar, lost all track of the Christian one. Lent seems early ... Easter on March 31st. Any sign that Spring is drawing nearer is more than welcome.

Wednesday's Big Task was calling the Social Security Administration to arrange an appointment. Of course, many readers, probably most of them, will not understand why that qualifies as a "Big Task". Two phobias: the telephone and bureaucracy. I had to as patiently as possible navigate a lengthy touch-1, touch-2 labyrinth, then finally listen to music for a few moments (I didn't recognize the tune), and then a foreign-accented voice (India? Pakistan?), male, spoke.

He asked me a zillion questions, said I would be receiving a letter in the mail which I should take to my interview on February 20th. Errr ... that's next week. Are they wired enough to have the letter sent from the local office, or do they trust the US Postal System more than I do, expect them to get a letter from Washington DC to Honolulu in six days? (Assuming they are efficient enough to send the letter immediately.) I told myself not to think about it, simply concentrate on what is now Number One on the Must Do List, be at the SSA office at 10:30 next Wednesday. Perhaps light a few candles in the meantime?

He wanted to send me forms for SSI disability, too. One can get SS retirement money and still get Federal Crazy Money??? Perhaps, but I'm not interested in more Crazy Money dances, I just want what I've supposedly earned in this long life, my old age pension. Of course, the favorite nightmare (and daymare) at the moment is getting there and having them tell me the rules have changed, I haven't worked enough "quarters" to qualify. That would only be funny if I needed one more quarter. Anything more than that would be grounds for justifiable homicide ... of self, if not a mass wipe-out of a governmental office.

As is the pattern these days, we traded a few degrees of temperature for lack of falling water from heaven. So I was able to sit in the secluded grove, much to my pleasure and that of the Zebra doves. After eating, they promptly returned to their cold-weather mode, sitting all hunched down with feathers fluffed up. Little feather balls. It did a brief drizzle toward the end of my time there but not heavily enough to send me in search of shelter. After reading the Honolulu Weekly, a not very interesting issue this week, I returned to Nelson DeMille's Plum Island which is described by one critic as "witty". I assume that critic appreciated the smartassed hero's supposed sense of humor more than I do. Amusing, though, that one theme of the novel is the threat of anthrax. These writers who wrote about such things as terrorists flying planes into skyscrapers or bombing them or setting off bacteriological attacks must have sat back and congratulated themselves on their prescience when "real life" caught up with them.

I finished the rather silly book (which got even sillier when the fabled Captain Kidd's treasure was added to the plot line) with my morning coffee on Saint Valentine's Day. DeMille is the Hemingway of cop stories, I decided. (I don't really mean that as a compliment, not being one of Papa H's fans, aside for some of his very early writing.) And thinking about it as I was trying to sink into sleep at IHS the night before, I decided I'd declare a moratorium on Major Tasks until that whopper of them is behind me next Wednesday. Some minor ones on the agenda, but nothing to be overly concerned about ...

A trip to the State Library yielded Patricia Cornwell's Black Notice, filling in another gap in her Scarpetta history, preceding The Last Precinct, and a very fat volume called The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Here I go again, back to the beginning of a series after having read the last one, Caesar's Women (oddly enough, at about this time last year).

It was a sunny, clear day but windy and quite cool. Nonetheless, I went to the beach for a shower. A loony old guy was in there, grumbled because he couldn't have the place to himself. Maybe his secretary should call to make reservations for him? Despite the fact that we've just had a New Moon, an awful lot of people seem to be in Full Moon mode, including the jerk at IHS in the evening who refused to sign in the first person in line as long as the second had a mat in his hand. I wonder if the director of that place is aware of these silly little power games her staff play?

No Bad Boys on Valentine's Day. Dame Fortune must be on vacation. I did chat with Joe Guam when he passed my table bound for his sleeping place and gave him money for a Valentine brew. His benefactor still wasn't back and I wondered if the fellow changed his route or schedule (he drives a truck for a beer distributor, appropriately enough). As it turned out, Joe had just missed him during his Tuesday rounds, but did see him on Friday and was rewarded with five dollars. But then, one way or another, Joe somehow rarely misses his beer for the day.

By Friday morning I reached the conclusion that this has been one of the most boring weeks in quite some time.

At least the weather improved and the bronchitis attack entered its gradually disappearing stage. Then the one who never fails to make life more interesting (in one way or another) appeared. I looked in on Seventh Circle. The Sleeptalker was playing, from the other library. Later he joined me and I bought lunch and beer, sat with him in the secluded grove. He made no reference to his recent misadventure so neither did I. He was in a very happy mood despite having been on an extended indulgence with the pipe, perhaps still a little high. He said he'd been so tired after not sleeping for three nights that he'd fallen asleep in his storage locker! A worker woke him, said they'd seen his feet sticking out of the locker and were afraid he'd fall out (it's top of a tier of large lockers, needs a stepladder for access). He had, of course, spent all his money on the pipe and clothes. (I never cease to be amazed how these young men devote so much attention and so much of their limited resources on expensive clothes and shoes.)

It was tempting to take him to the Garden since there was the usual music session on Friday evenings but he was a little too edgy, despite the overall good mood, and too, I was reluctant to spend the money. Crazy Money lasting until the 16th day of a 28-day month is fine, no need to push my luck. So I left him, presumably to return to the game, and I went to the beach park for a sunset brew.

He arrived on campus again on Saturday morning, took the chair next to me at Hamilton Library. I left eventually to get lunch and a beer, bought a sandwich for him in case he turned up in the secluded grove. Then it started to drizzle so I had to evacuate to a sheltered bench where eventually the Sleeptalker joined me. We stayed together for the rest of the afternoon since he joined me when I went to check the mailbox (notice that it's time for another "re-evaluation appointment" for Crazy Money was the only thing there). Then I bought a round of beer for both of us and we went to the park. As on Friday, he was being outrageously flirtatious. Okay, quite clear that all I have to do is come up with some halfway reasonable justification and we can have round .... hmmm ... I've lost count, who would've thunk it? Yes, okay, I do want it so I'll figure something out eventually. Still the Love of My Life, can't deny it (and he does seem to have a need to re-confirm that now and then).

I enjoyed fantasies on that theme sitting in the secluded grove on a pleasant Sunday morning, then told myself to get a grip on reality, remember that the love of his life is the wretched crystal meth and that's not likely to change. Nor is it a promising factor in the future outlook for anything other than the casual, on-again off-again friendship we share. The computer systems at UH were undergoing a massive upgrade on the holiday weekend and it had been uncertain whether anything would be available on Sunday. To my surprise, everything (except the, for me irrelevant, UH email system) was working so I spent a little time on-line before returning to the grove for lunch and a beer. As had been the case with her Caesar's Women, I was surprised by how engrossing McCullough can make the everyday life of Rome two thousand years ago and most of the day and early evening was occupied with First Man in Rome.

Although the libraries and the little computer lab were closed on Monday, I went to campus anyway, knowing it would be a quiet place to spend the day. But massive though the McCullough epic was, it wasn't enough to last through the weekend so I started the day with a trip to the used bookshop and then a visit to the laundromat. I probably would have put that off had it not been for the dreaded SocSec interview. Lunchtime in the grove set off a day of too-frequent grumbling about pushy beggars. Those zebra doves have not only doubled in population, they are sometimes utter pests if not immediately given something to eat. In the right mood, it's amusing. In the wrong one, it's thoroughly irksome. And it didn't help later in the park when there seemed to be a constant parade of people begging for a dollar, spare change, a cigarette, even aspirin. My India training should have better prepared me and most days it doesn't bother me that much. Like I said, in the wrong mood ...

I saw Tanioka and the Sleeptalker when I got off the bus from campus, told them I was going to have a shower and would be in the park later. I almost missed them there since I was about to abandon the place in disgust after the parade of beggars, but they arrived just as I was leaving. Tanioka seriously injured his ankle, was hobbling on crutches. His trip into town was probably premature but he was understandably fed up with being invalided at his stepfather's house. He bought a round of beer and paid me back the two dollars he'd borrowed (which I had actually forgotten). The Sleeptalker was unshaven and grubby looking, wasn't in the best of moods either. Later he said he needed a cigarette and a beer (another one). Neither of us volunteered so the Sleeptalker wandered off. I waited with Tanioka until his bus arrived, did a snipes run through the mall and went off to IHS.

One night I had a very unusual dream, one I don't remember ever having had before. I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow I ended up in the ocean, no land in sight. I had a lifejacket or life preserver, not sure which, and miraculously two rescue boats appeared. I was waving and shouting, trying to get their attention and was amazed and much relieved when I was spotted, saw the boat come rapidly toward me. Next morning I remembered that recent advice about making sure my own boat is seaworthy before trying to rescue anyone else.

Uh-huh.

898

It is done. As the good Father Greeley's admirable Blackie would say, arguably the most important interview of my life was completed, far less painfully than the dreaded anticipation of it. Quite a pleasant young woman called me into the inner sanctum of the Social Security Administration's Honolulu office, admirably within minutes of my scheduled appointment time. I had all the required documents, was amused she never asked to see the actual Social Security card. There was a choice, to apply either for the earned retirement pension or for the SSI-disability status. The latter would actually pay more, absurd as these things are, but I told her no, I wanted no more of the doctor dance, just wanted what I was entitled to. She said I was not the first person who had told her that, explained that the Federal disability dance is much less complicated than the Hawaii State one, probably only requiring a doctor appointment once every six months. No, I wasn't to be tempted.

So it is done. Alas, the actual monetary benefits from this now lifetime achievement will not begin until the third Thursday of June. Given the current situation with the US Postal Service, I cannot expect to see check-in-hand until July. Okay, so we do the Crazy Money Dance one more time. If the Qualifying Doc gives me just three more months, home free.

I didn't spend long on-line Tuesday, day before the fateful interview, despite the enforced absence on Monday. The Tale for the week was almost complete, just needed a few final touches before putting the link up publicly. Then I stayed in the secluded grove with lunch and a brew, reading O.E. Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth, a Norwegian classic about early settlers in the American Plains, a sombre, often touching novel but a little too heavy for my current mood. I persevered though, finished it only a few minutes before the next morning's interview.

It would have been finished earlier, with my sunset brew in the park, but the Sleeptalker arrived. He looked as unshaven and shabby as the day before, but was in a slightly better mood, although still very restless and complaining of being "bored". He was very vague about the details, but evidently he will get the Crazy Money for March and then will be suspended for six months (!). That's a record. Not because he missed a doctor appointment, but because he wasn't keeping to the prescribed routine of medication and some kind of detox (AA-type) sessions he is supposed to go to. I don't see how they could know about the medication unless he was dumb enough not to get the prescriptions filled or to tell the doc he hadn't been taking it. He can't be that stupid. So the sessions, whatever they were, must be the key. Unless, of course, he's making the whole thing up. I'm not sure.

In any case, I went along with the story, said I saw only one solution, then. GET A JOB. He doesn't like the idea but couldn't disagree.

I gave him money to get two cheap burgers from McD's since he was complaining of being hungry, didn't want to ask Paulo (although he kept wondering what Paulo was cooking, since we could see from the distance he was as usual busy at his grill) and it wasn't a Krishna day, and I bought a round of beer for us both. Then some fellow came along who said hello to the Sleeptalker, ignored me, and went to sit at another table. A weed provider, apparently, because the Sleeptalker then tried to get me to loan him money. I refused. I said I did not want him to walk around feeling that he owed me money nor did I want to walk around feeling I was owed. "If I can afford it, I will give you what I can," I said, "or if I can afford it and you want to sell me what you know I want, then I'll buy that, too."

That put the sex basket right out on the table in the open, didn't it? But he wanted to get high first. Nope, payment after delivery, not before, are the terms. He wasn't ready for that. No problem.

He went over to the other table, probably hoping to be offered a hit. I got up and left, went off to IHS.

The elated feeling of having gotten through the bureaucratic dance only lasted for a few hours on Wednesday, then the gloom of the long wait hit. Hard. The problem, of course, is IHS, not the wait for my monthly income to double. The thought of sleeping at that place for another four months is as bad as facing a prison term. I don't see any chance of doing anything about it in March because that's going to be, by the standards of my strange life, a heavy month. Both the mailbox and the LavaNet accounts will be wanting payment. Bad planning on my part to have them both pop up in the same month. But maybe in May I can find a cheap room (April if I could find one that didn't need a deposit) even if it means three months of empty pockets. That, of course, depends on successfully getting through one more interview with the Qualifying Doc. And making that appointment moved to top spot on the Must Do list. Sigh.

A day at a time, I of course told myself. Be here now. But I still spent a very gloomy sunset hour in the park with a beer, a cheap burger and fries from McD's, Anne Rivers Siddons' Fault Line, and the usual chat with Joe Guam when he stopped on his way to his sleeping bench.

And the internal jukebox went utterly whacko, kept getting stuck on every little breeze seems to whisper Louise .... My reward, I guess, for having spent so much time collecting and listening to pop music of the 20s and 30s.

As if the evening hadn't been bad enough, at about nine o'clock on Wednesday night all hell broke loose at IHS. I was already soundly asleep despite the television blaring when someone kicked me, shouted "get up!" Fire drill. The place did empty out fast enough, comfort I guess in the event a fire did somehow start there, and we were allowed to return to our mats within five minutes. But then it took quite some time to return to sleep. I tried to be reasonable and admit the inconvenience was better than posthumous fame as one of "hundreds die in shelter inferno" headlines.

Although I didn't notice when he arrived at the library, I was in the game on Thursday morning and saw the Sleeptalker appear. He didn't say anything. I've been playing my long dormant cleric, Caduceus, and was about to go up to level 69. That accomplished, I left, went downhill where I decided I'd have one of my "luxury" luncheons, see if that would cheer me up a bit. Too-costly French pate and rolls, olives, cottage cheese and beer. Tastey, but I can't say it really did that much to lift my spirits even if it did fill my stomach. (I went overboard and got some Swiss cheese as well, but it was tucked away with a couple of rolls for leftovers dinner.) I finished the Siddons book and began a Grisham-style yarn about a lawyer-author, The Quiet Game by Greg Iles. I was surprised the Sleeptalker didn't stop by and he was gone when I eventually returned to the library.

He didn't show up at the beach park later, either, so once again the only interruption in my late-afternoon/early-evening routine there was the usual chat with Joe Guam. He's another one I'm tempted to tape for later transcription. Readers would no doubt sympathize with the Bad Boys who have little patience with Joe's rambling style, even though a transcription would be missing all the extended gaps of silence scattered through Joe's snail-paced narratives. When I have an engrossing book in my hand, I must confess I sometimes get a little impatient, too, but tell myself I fall short of the "compassion for all living beings" ideal so often I should welcome the opportunity to practise it with someone as gentle as Joe, no matter how tedious his ramblings can be at times.

I had two free passes for the zoo, suggested to the Sleeptalker when I last talked with him that he meet me on Friday, we'd have a beer in Waikiki and go to the zoo (which he's never visited). But true to form, whenever I've suggested some future activity together, he didn't show up. I didn't much want to go on my own, so two free passes went to waste. The Iles book, although certainly in Grisham territory, was to my thinking better than any of J.G.'s sagas and kept me happily entranced until I finished it with the usual secluded grove lunch, pesky zebra doves and all. I probably should frequent a different lunchtime haunt on campus for awhile, let those birds thin out a little as they seek more profitable habits. In any case, I did complete the topmost Must Do Task, made an appointment with the Qualifying Doc. Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. will seal my fate until SocSec arrives. Let us pray ...

How very annoying it is, the way the telephone company has quietly changed all the payphones from the old 35-cents standard to 50-cents.

I went to the beach park, started Clive Cussler's Atlantis Found, a farfetched contemporary fantasy complete with artifacts from some very-distant past combined with a neo-Nazi conspiracy, etc. etc. Time spinning. Tanioka arrived, to my surprise since he'd said he hadn't planned to come into town until next week. But his foot was better, no more crutches, and as always it was fun chatting with him. Joe Guam joined us for a longer than usual session, too, complete with not-before-heard stories about how he used to be a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman in California. To see him now, it's almost unimaginable.

Tanioka wanted to see "Queen of the Damned". I declined. I had planned to see it, too, even though I think the book is the weakest of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. But a look at some of the stuff on the web strengthened the misgivings I already had because of the lurid cover on the paperback re-issue and I read some reviews which were brutal. I decided I'd pass. We had another round of beer, surprised the Sleeptalker didn't show up, and then it was off to IHS for me.

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I want to do to finish the drawings that are in progress (including four more for "Ray") but I haven't actually done any of it. I can't remember, was winter always a more fallow time for me? Maybe. I know most of what I at the time considered "breakthroughs" came in spring or summer. Whatever the seasonal influence, I'm not too surprised that little is happening right now. Far too much mental energy is going into bureaucratic basics. Time enough later for play, if I survive the transition.

I changed my mind about making the Tales a weekly publication.

899

A mixed bag weekend, gray and gloomy during most of Saturday relieved by a strange hour of sunshine in the late afternoon. Bright and sunny Sunday although with frequent light drizzle, at least in the campus area. I stayed on campus until early afternoon on Saturday, then made a lucky visit to the State Library, found Maeve Binchy's London Transports and the next in Colleen McCullough's Roman novels, The Grass Crown. The Binchy book is a collection of short stories, all set in London, and I was amused to see that it begins with three stories about areas of the city I lived in, Shepherd's Bush, Holland Park and Notting Hill Gate.

I checked the mailbox on my way from the library to the beach park, nothing in it. No one in the park, either, except for Joe Guam so I was free to enjoy the rest of the day with Binchy's delightful tales, a relief to read about the lives of ordinary people after that overblown fantasy by Clive Cussler.

As I was leaving campus to get lunch and beer on Sunday, Tanioka and the Sleeptalker arrived and I returned to join them in the secluded grove. They had beer and an almost empty bottle of tequila, the Sleeptalker never removed the headphones of his CD player and frequently did his gruesome singalong routine. He's more manic than I've ever seen him and it seems almost certain he's going to end up in jail again because he steals something in every store he goes in, during the rest of the day got another CD player, three CDs, batteries, a large bottle of Cuervo 1800 and some miscellaneous edibles! Not even Angelo and C-Two in their glory days went on such a sustained crime binge. A weird memory flash from high school days appeared in my head: aching for a breaking, cruisin' for a bruisin'. That's the Sleeptalker, vintage February 2002. Alas.

He went off to play the game for an hour or so. I had been in briefly in the early morning and was seriously debating dumping Seventh Circle altogether. I'm just weary of that awful English woman who rules as dictator there and think I'll be the next on the lengthy list of veteran players she has driven away. Tanioka and I left, I bought another round of beer for the two of us and we went to the beach park. The Sleeptalker joined us eventually, with the tequila. It was too late for IHS by the time they left so I slept awhile on a bench, then moved to the sheltered bus stop when it started to drizzle. The cops swept through the park just before three in the morning, waking everyone up although they didn't appear to be handing out tickets to anyone, even a fellow who had been brazen enough to put up a little tent. Everyone waited for the cops to leave before returning to their sleeping spots (minus the tent). Then the buggers swept through again just before five. Sheez.

Much as I love Cuervo 1800, I surely do hate the mornings after.

Not to mention cold, damp mornings. People who come to Hawaii for a winter holiday are nuts. The weather did eventually improve a bit and I got to the library without getting soaked, although I would have been happy had they left the perpetual air-conditioning off. The Sleeptalker arrived, spent some time looking over my shoulder at the Jephan de Villiers exhibition in Paris, both of us enjoying his work (and I wishing to see more of it, found an interesting article along with a few other sites). A most admirable artist.

The Sleeptalker followed me out when I left the library, asked where I was going. To Straub Clinic, said I, get my paper signed in preparation for the interview with the Qualifying Doc, and to get my dope refills. I've been reducing the Neurontin intake, preparing for a month-long weaning, and will probably stop the Remeron, too, once the month supply is gone. (I don't see the psychiatrist again until May unless I feel the need for more refills.) But I might as well get myself off all the stuff since I won't have a free supply come July except by going to the veterans hospital, an unlikely prospect.

The Sleeptalker walked off on his own without saying anything further. I returned to campus for lunch after finishing my medical chores, then went online again for awhile. The mostly cloudy day was interspersed with periods of rain, one of which ended my sunset interlude in the beach park and interrupted the usual chat with Joe Guam. Then off to IHS, lucky timing since I got the last available mat. And after that dreary, cold night in the park, it was a welcome relief to settle in the relatively warm, also relatively secure Black Hole of Honolulu.

And then it was Fateful Tuesday. A very windy Fateful Tuesday. After a brief time online, I was sitting in the secluded grove having a final smoke before heading off to the interview with the Qualifying Doc. The Sleeptalker arrived, CD headphones firmly in ears. I have to tell that young man, plainly, that I do not intend to keep company with people wearing earphones. I think it very rude, old-fashioned fogey that I may be. But our time together was brief, and I went off to the dreaded interview.

"They'll send you back to me in June," said the Qualifying Doc in parting. Praise be the Goddess of Fortune. In June, however, the Doc will receive a grateful letter from me thanking him for these months of relative prosperity, but he shall not meet me again, at least not as a supplicant in his office.

My season of Official Dances has ended.

-----

900

Nine hundred tales. Perhaps I'll just go on writing them until I depart this sphere of existence, see how far I can surpass Scheherezade?

After the sucessful interlude with the Qualifying Doc, I returned to campus with brew, sandwich and chips, enjoyed a sunny lunch in the secluded grove, happily sheltered from the gusty wind. Then I spent a few hours online, including going into Seventh Circle with Reting, something I do rarely enough to make it a notable event. Reting the Ranger Emeritus. I am going to quit playing the game but shall let Reting gather up all the equipment of my other characters and distribute it to deserving players. No formal note of quitting, of course ... it's a standard cliche in any MUD, people dying and getting angry, posting notice they are quitting forever and then shamelessly re-appearing in a few days. The Sleeptalker has done that act at least twice. I'll do it a different way. Old rangers never die, they just fade away.

I saw the Sleeptalker again as I was leaving campus. He asked where I was going and I said to the park for my sunset brew, apologized because I couldn't afford to buy him one as well. I said perhaps Tanioka would be there and treat as usual. The Sleeptalker said he didn't want to see Tanioka because "he gets me too drunk." I pointed out the fact that Angelo does not force the Sleeptalker to smoke ice, Tanioka does not get the Sleeptalker too drunk: "YOU do it." He walked off in a huff. I called after him, "true words, my friend, true words."

Not surprisingly, he didn't appear in the park so I returned to my pleasurable reading of events in ancient Rome with my sunset brew. Joe Guam walked over, had seen his benefactor who had given him five dollars ending a brief (but rare) run of beer-free days. Another fellow Joe usually sees each night at his sleeping place is also encouraging Joe to file for his Social Security and get foodstamps. Excellent! The more help I get in that act of persuasion, the better.

I wandered the mall for a bit, collected a full box of snipes but found no quarters. The Mongoose wasn't around so perhaps he has finally given up the game. Can't blame him if so. There was a longer than usual wait for the bus but it didn't matter since they were having a staff meeting at the Black Hole of H, so we had to stand in a lengthy line outside under the light of the almost-fool moon. The lunar influence seems to be strongest this time on those who talk to themselves or invisible friends. They are all in full rant, including the young black man who often stands outside the shelter pacing nervously back and forth, stopping occasionally to rave and gesture at his invisible companion. He was in full array and provided entertainment while we were waiting to get inside.

My esteemed French reader recently sent me a little piece of paper which identified itself, in Arabic numerals, Roman and Greek alphabets, as ten Euro. Of course, except for our rather mystical dollar bill, Americans have no claim to elegantly designed currency, but this Euro thing is exceptionally banal, cluttered and unimportant looking. It must be especially grating for the French and the Italians, both with a history of handsome currency design. In any case, I took the thing to Waikiki intending to use the venerable "A-1 Exchange" service. Alas, that place is no more and despite what I'd heard, the automatic exchange machines do not yet recognize the Euro.

So I went to the bizarre Bank of Hawaii on a corner opposite the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. No human contact there. In a rather sci-fi setup, one pushes a button under a monitor screen. A human head appears, one states one's business, places currency to be exchanged in a cylinder which is whisked off. Shades of department stores of my childhood, the last time I saw such pneumatic tubes in use. While waiting, the monitor provided news headlines and weather reports. A young woman using the terminal next to mine shared my amazement at the news that it was 29 degrees F in Nashville, along with the amused (or bemused) reactions we were sharing to the entire setup of the "bank".

The head reappeared, told me there would be a fee of two dollars for the transaction. Oh well, okay. The cyclinder then returned with a computer printout of details and $6.21 in cash. Three bottles of Colt45, anyway, so a votre sante to the Euro and all who use it, a pox on the Bank of Hawaii for its outrageous greed.

I returned to campus and the usual secluded grove lunch, went online for a little while and then headed off to the beach park a little earlier than usual since it was sunny and at least slightly warmer than it has been lately, decent enough conditions for a beach shower and a sit in the sun. Tanioka arrived, said Angelo and Okinawa were supposed to appear (they didn't), and we drank beer and talked. He told me more of his family's history and his own position in the clan, not a happy one since he's pretty much alone in the "black sheep" spot (unlike the Sleeptalker whose older brother is even "blacker"). It was an enjoyable time with him as it always is and he treated to a plate lunch box of stuff from the Orleans Express. I left all the meat to him but pigged out on the mashed potatoes and gravy plus cornbread. As close to down home Southern cooking one can find in this place.

Although I was much later than usual getting to the Black Hole, to my surprise a mat was still available and it was quickly off to dreamland where I seemed to spend all night looking for an apartment. Really, since it's all just a dream, it would see much more fair to end up with a luxurious penthouse or something instead of spending what seemed like days looking at squalid little dumps with six hundred dollar pricetags.

901

Know thyself.

I understood that intellectually at a very early age but it was not until I encountered "psychoactive" drugs that my understanding deepened and I realized how little I did know about myself. Certainly LSD gets the major credit for increased understanding and knowledge. In the early days, as I've written elsewhere, use of all such substances was undertaken more as a serious quest than the "party method" used by many, especially in America.

That crucial bit of advice has surfaced recently. In one of the discussion groups with devotees of Rudolf Steiner, someone posed the question: if you had a group of people starting a new community, what would be the most important first tenet you would establish? One person advocated "love one another". I disagreed, said no one could really love another unless they first loved themself. No, I thought "know thyself" should be the first commandment.

Then in the research inspired by the letter from Felix about the "E" at Delphi, know thyself once again was brought to mind.

In the March Ice Follies, it was the major message although I didn't truly grasp it until the aftermath evaluation. I've failed to see how "ice" is a tool of self-awareness, not just a party item. But even though I didn't clearly see it during the expedition I was keenly aware throughout how the drug was helping me to step back and watch myself. I wasn't too happy with my performance even though it was, all in all, a most pleasurable experience.

I had borrowed twenty dollars on Friday morning, Saint David's Day, just in case the Fabled Pension Check failed to arrive, not wanting to be stuck with a penniless weekend. No problem, the Check was in the box. I cashed it, went to the discount clothing store where I couldn't find a cheap pair of trousers I wanted but did buy two tee shirts and boxer shorts. Then I got three packs of cheap Filipino cigarettes (one for Joe Guam) and a beer, went to the beach park.

Tanioka, Angelo and Okinawa soon joined me. Angelo and Okinawa went on a shopping expedition. Angelo scored some power tool (destined for the pawnbroker), Okinawa a high class Sony CD/FM/AM player. He wanted to sell it. Tanioka bid twenty dollars. I topped that with twenty plus my old CD player. Offer accepted. I didn't discover until the next afternoon just how good a machine it is, aided by the excellent quality of the headphones. It also meant I no longer had to carry my Walkman radio/cassette player and eventually I "sold" it to Angelo for a pack of cigarettes. I would have just given it to him anyway, but I needed the smokes.

We shared amusement at a newspaper article which caught our attention. It seems there are over 75,000 outstanding warrants on this island alone. [!] The police have only four people involved in the effort to process those warrants so are necessarily devoting attention only to warrant-dodgers who are "a danger to the community" and parole violators. We agreed it was almost an invitation to commit pretty crimes like smoking dope, shoplifting, sleeping in the park, etc. Of course, Okinawa is still on parole (after about twenty months jail time), so he's foolish to risk being sent back to prison just to pick up twenty bucks. Such is the life of an icehead.

When we finished the beer, Angelo and Okinawa asked me to go in on a round of the glass pipe. Tanioka went with us but only until we reached a little cafe they often use where he stayed to eat and the three of us went for the ice (me staying outside the place where the purchase was made). Enterprising lads that they are, they've discovered a new sanctuary, a large multi-story parking garage which is not used on the weekend and has no patrolling security guards or cameras. It's surprising more people haven't found out about it, but then it's surely an unusual set-up. If staying there during the week, it's essential to leave before the staff arrives at six. I wouldn't feel comfortable with that, but it's a welcome alternative for Friday and Saturday nights. The Garage.

Astonishing news: Angelo has a girlfriend, although I suppose "lady friend" is the more accurate label. A 28-year-old local Japanese lady friend. To say she is a disturbed woman is a considerable understatement. She's a mental wreck. She was there when we arrived, sitting in a corner with one wrist slashed and dripping blood. It wasn't a very convincing suicide attempt. She is utterly smitten with Angelo but wants to be his first love, not play second fiddle to the glass pipe. Not much chance, poor dear. She thoroughly annoyed me at one point by collapsing on her side with her head in my lap. Yeukh. After two rounds of the pipe, the lads left to get more, leaving me with "Tiffany", as I decided to call her although "Pathetic Lady" would be more suitable. I tried to talk to her, to warn her that she's going about it the wrong way. Demanding that Angelo give up the pipe for her or trying to get sympathy with feeble suicide attempts just wasn't going to work. When they returned, a big local man looked in (apparently the only regular user of the sanctuary). He had a bottle of vodka. Tiffany asked for some and he gave her the bottle. She downed about half of it within minutes, then swallowed six pills with yet more vodka (I asked what the pills were but she only said "tranquilizers", prescribed because she is "bi-polar"). After another round of the pipe, Angelo managed to get her out of the stairwell into the parking area (which is wonderfully dark, as I discovered later). Only some time later after he returned alone did he realize she was gone and went searching for her. She had left her shoes and purse with us. Even though we agreed her disappearance was only an act to get his attention, he still fretted about it from time to time (although not too heavily). It wasn't until the next morning he telephoned her home and discovered from her mother that she'd been taken to a hospital emergency room. He called the hospital and she had just been released. I had already suggested that was what happened. A drunk woman, shoeless, with caked blood on her wrist was very likely spotted and an ambulance called.

Aside from that drama, the Follies mainly consisted of the three of us sitting there. Forewarned by Angelo, I wasn't surprised that Okinawa remained silent through most of it. I later realized how I'm failing to give ice the same policy of respect for fellow trippers I'd use if it were acid. Far too much of the time, I just couldn't shut up. Fortunately I was able to give the lads a break now and then by going out into the parking area on my own.

I didn't sleep from about five on Friday morning until ten on Saturday night, ate nothing between lunch on Friday and a cup of miso soup on Sunday morning, a "natural high" factor which no doubt helps to account for the fact that I got much more stoned than has happened before with this substance. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I enjoyed and was grateful for the aftermath evaluation, Sunday on my own, which was a invaluable assistance in furthering that goal: know thyself.

902

Up/down, high/low, can't have one without the other, as the Tao te Ching says more elegantly with mountains and valleys as a reference. And of course it is always a fact of life to a druggie. Dance and pay the piper. I got off fairly lightly with the March Follies, mainly because of timing. It was fortunate that the Follies occurred after the arrival of the Fabled Pension Check and before Crazy Money Day, less scarce resources having gone up in smoke. At one point during the Follies, when Angelo was off on a supplies expedition, I counted my remaining money, trying to make sure I'd keep enough to ensure beer and tobacco until Crazy Money morning. I failed. I told Angelo he must have been a banker in his past life and should be one this time. He has a truly uncanny talent at charming money out of people, one he used with the usual success with me and with Okinawa as well. (I did not ask how it happened that the two of them had money so near of the arrival of Crazy Money, better not to know.)

Having failed, I did nevertheless manage to keep enough for two beers each day, helped by running into a friend who gave me four dollars and then an incredible find, a crumpled five dollar bill on the floor of McDonald's Sunday morning. That was exceptionally fortunate timing, walking in at just the right moment, given how many almost-penniless people walk through there each morning. So I did have beer money to ease the post-ice slump and only on Monday had to rely on ashtrays for tobacco.

The weather cooperated, too, with a run of pleasantly sunny days but far colder than usual for this place, especially after sunset and before sunrise. Even at the Black Hole, the beach towel was pressed into service as a blanket rather than its usual role of bottom sheet. For reading I had Graham Greene's melancholy masterpiece, The Quiet American, a surprise find at the State Library, followed by Gerald Seymour's Field of Blood. Vietnam, when it was the French-Indochina War, Northern Ireland where the war seems neverending. Both might be expected to contribute to the post-ice downslope but instead made me feel fortunate to have lived and to be living in relatively peaceful circumstances.

Three fire drills in a row. First at the Black Hole, then at the computer lab on Sunday morning, again at Hamilton Library on Monday. Strange. I left the computer lab on Sunday, went to the secluded grove and didn't return to online life for the rest of the day, preferring instead to read or listen to music. I love that Rolling Stones Stripped disc. All the tracks are better than the original studio versions. But I finally admit, I find Dylan's Love and Theft relatively uninteresting except for the mysterious song about having stayed in Mississippi a day too long. Had it come at another time in his career the collection probably wouldn't suffer as much as it does in the role of follow-up to Time Out of Mind. That one I have to buy again in CD form since I left my tape of it in the Walkman I gave to Angelo. I'd be happy to trade the newer CD for the older one.

Then it was Crazy Money morning. I spent the first half of the day as usual, first online at Hamilton, then with my sandwich and beer lunch in the secluded grove. Afterwards I went to check the postbox and paid the bill there for the next three months. There is a new printed edition of the Tales, the first four years, and Volume One was waiting. I had asked for one three-volume set to be sent directly to Felix and through the vagaries of the postal services, French and American, there was also a letter from him waiting. He had already received the books, was some "50 odd pages" through volume one and said he thinks it's my "best writing yet". I like the implied compliment that there might still be better. Naturally, I read the first fifty pages myself to see exactly what he'd based that opinion on. Acceptable. I wondered if he'd get bored eventually.

There was also written confirmation that I've been accepted for Social Security retirement money. Contrary to what the woman said at the office, this says payment is made on the third Wednesday of each month. I was thinking about that during the Follies, how naughty it is of Dame Fortune to set things up so that I get my monthly largesse just at the time most of the Bad Boys have gone through theirs. A window of opportunity, or a downfall trapdoor?

Time will tell, as they say.

903

The "cold wave" ended with a very pleasant Wednesday, then shifted to the other extreme on Thursday which was as close to sultry as it can get this time of year. Horrible day, heavy feeling air, sweaty and one of those days when nothing went really wrong but little went really right, either. I should have just parked myself in the secluded grove for the duration.

Angelo arrived in the beach park in the late afternoon on Wednesday, unusually on his own, carrying a six-pack of Budweiser. He even offered me one! Extraordinary. The first time he has ever bought me a beer. I can forgive myself for cynically thinking later he only gave it to me because he didn't want to carry it with him. We talked for about an hour, mostly about his wretched lady friend whose latest gambit was to threaten jumping off The Garage. (It would certainly be a more successful effort than slashing one wrist.) Although he didn't say so, I think he left to join her, didn't ask me to go along which was just as well since I would have refused.

To my surprise, Tanioka was on the morning bus I almost always use to get from the Black Hole to the mall, and he sat with me while I had my morning coffee, then went off to some new all-you-can-eat buffet place for breakfast. His latest enthusiasm is joining the Peace Corps and he plans to be on campus next week when they have their usual once-a-semester recruiting session. It's an idea I have certainly toyed with during the past few years, never seriously enough to really investigate it further, and it would certainly be a sensible option for him (or any of the Bad Boys). I'm not sure whether their troubled histories would sink their chances but I guess we'll find out in this one case, anyway.

I have the choice on campus of either heading downhill for lunch provisions or taking a bus further into the valley to a small shopping center called Manoa Marketplace, an option I rarely take. But I did make the trip on Thursday, wanting to get batteries and a new supply of ziplock bags in addition to the usual sandwich and beer. That trip was more successful than a later one to the discount clothing store. My clothes were in need of a laundromat expedition but I didn't feel like doing that so replaced them instead. There was one long-sleeved shirt I should have bought but balked at the eight dollar price tag. Silly, since the one I did get was far too bulky and the sleeves too short as I discovered when first putting it on. I almost always try on trousers in the store before buying but don't bother with shirts. A mistake. Oh well, three dollars down the drain. I discarded the thing the next morning, scolded myself for having thrown away the old, much nicer one instead of washing it.

On the way back from the store, I stopped in the State Library to change into the new trousers and dump the old ones. Okinawa was there, asked for a dollar to get some food. I'd forgotten that he's suspended from Crazy Money this month. No surprise his buddy team with Angelo is suspended for the duration, too. I told Okinawa I was headed to the park thinking he might show up there later (he does have a bus pass), but I guess I should have been more explicit with the suggestion. Tanioka did arrive bearing two bottles of beer and some food and we spent the sunset time together, having to take shelter in the mall when it started to rain. Then he went off to see if he could find Okinawa, planning to buy him dinner. He said the Sleeptalker is in a new buddy team with a fellow who is also homeless but has a car and they're staying under a bridge somewhere, so I guess the Sleeptalker will remain absent for awhile. Wouldn't do him any good to be on campus, anyway, if he was there to play MUD since both Seventh Circle and Ravenloft have been down, the latter possibly for good.

I'm enjoying re-reading the Tales of the first year although I do annoy myself now and then by an overreliance on abbreviated sentences. 'Went to the store' instead of 'I went to the store', etc., and perhaps a little too heavy use of local idiom. 'I stay' for 'I am'. But it is interesting to be reminded of how different that first year was from how it is now, that time before the Bad Boys were anything but intriguing sleeping buddies, when the income was limited to the Fabled Pension Check, when the lack of a "curfew" meant so many evenings listening to local musicians, and when the potency of 'cheap' fiction played almost no role at all.

It doesn't seem either better or worse a time than now, just different. And since there is not really any desired direction or goal, it's not possible to think in terms of whether or not "progress" has been made.

Just keep on truckin'.

904

Main Entry: folly
Etymology: Middle English folie, from Old French, from fol fool
Date: 13th century
1 : lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight
2 a : criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct b obsolete
3 : a foolish act or idea
4 : an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking
5 : an often extravagant picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste

No doubt many readers would say 1, 2, and 3 apply. I say 4, for excessively costly (not unprofitable, though) and 5 only if we're talking about ice castles. I'd say 1 for "normal prudence" but then I don't have such a thing so can't lack it upon an occasion of folly.

Like Part I, the March Ice Follies Part II began late on Friday afternoon and continued until Sunday. I was sitting in the beach park drinking my second beer of the day when Tanioka, Angelo and Okinawa arrived. We soon went on to begin the follies, again in The Garage. Tanioka stayed for one round and then left, alas. Although I admire and support his determination to go ice-free, I do miss his company during these parties. I didn't budge from the aerie until Angelo and I went on a coffee/breakfast run the next morning and then not again until heading out for a bottle of Colt late on Saturday afternoon. Okinawa never left. Even the one time when he agreed to do a beer run, he got prepared and then just sat there ignoring us until Angelo gave up and did the run himself (by that time I just didn't think I'd be able to climb those stairs to the top floor). So it was up to Angelo to keep us supplied during the party.

With the exception of that one awful time with Angelo and Rocky, I very much enjoy Angelo's company during these follies. I begin to have doubts about Okinawa. He is just so utterly self-absorbed and silent, usually even physically unmoving except for occasional bouts of cracking his knuckles and less often partially unpacking and repacking his backpack. In short, he's a bore, but I suppose gets some credit for being a very quiet, unobtrusive one.

Unfortunate for me, I suppose, but fortunate for him, he's also rather "un-shockable" in that state. So when I fall into one of my ludicrous urges to do something outrageous, he's just not a good audience at all. Angelo's had too much experience with me in that mode, so he's beyond being shocked, too. When that mood did strike me (utterly take over, more like it, this time), there just wasn't any way to act upon it without throwing all sense and caution to the wind. I did at one point say to Angelo, in talking about it, that perhaps I should walk to the store in my underwear. We agreed that with boxer shorts which are more modest than much one sees on the beaches here, I probably wouldn't shock anyone that way, either. Naked, perhaps, but I'm not willing to risk being locked up just to satisfy an urge to outrageousness. I did spend some time on my own out in the dark parking lot, the first time I've been naked under the stars since winter began. Then I walked in to get something from my backpack. Angelo grinned. I don't think Okinawa even noticed. So much for being shocking.

That interlude was amusing even if somewhat frustrating, as was an extended time of stronger visual hallucinations than I've yet experienced with this substance. The roughly plastered wall became a panorama of images. My favorite was a spot which changed from a male head to a female one to a cat, the cat being especially delightful. Another favorite was a parade of Easter bunnies marching across a space near the ceiling. There was also a very large phallic image on the ceiling itself, too abstract to be of significant interest.

But there was a lengthy time which reminded me of the acid trips of yesteryear, a time of not being high enough or low enough, stuck in an in-between limbo. To get out of it, I weakened and financed another round of the pipe. Okinawa, of course, contributed nothing to this party since his Crazy Money suspension has him with empty pockets. That clever miser Angelo carefully supplied his half for the earlier purchases, reduced it a little on the third round (after all, he was making the effort to go get the stuff) and then pled being broke to leave the final rounds entirely to me although he did finance one beer round completely. But I know he feels he's got my number, knows I'll eventually want more of the stuff enough to pay for it. And he was right, of course.

When it came time for that final bottle of Colt for me, it took my last dollar and some of the laundry-intended quarters. Sigh.

Well, I did pay the mailbox rent, the LavaNet bill, and bought new clothes. So being flat broke for the rest of the month produces only two major problems: laundry and batteries. I did buy new batteries but gave Angelo one pair. I guess I'll have to limit my listening to the radio, lay off the CD's. And weather permitting, doing laundry in the beach shower is always an option. Tobacco? Ashtrays, of course. Beer? Okay, that is a major problem but I refuse to allow it to be classified as such. If you wanna dance, you gotta pay the piper.

Was the dance worth it? Yes. Although I know it will alarm and concern some readers, it seems likely that crystal methamphetamine (ice, batu) will become for me in these years what LSD was in the late sixties and early seventies. Of course I would use LSD if it were as readily available. It isn't, ice is. The sensible method would be to restrict myself to one Follies per month. I just don't have the stamina to make it a once-a-week expedition as I did with LSD, even if the financing were available.

I made major progress this time on staying out of the motormouth trap, so much so that Angelo asked several times if I was okay since I wasn't saying anything. Little progress at all with the annoying onslaught of sexual urges, not helped when it focused on Okinawa. Ordinarily I have no special desire for him at all, but it was quite strong this trip. I kept it to myself, not wanting to intrude on whatever it is he is doing in these adventures. I did tell him at one point that the next time we're together just drinking beer, I am going to ask about the way he experiences the follies. He just grinned.

Although Angelo didn't forewarn us, which was naughty of him, his Pathetic Lady arrived on Saturday evening. Some time before her arrival, Angelo took his stuff and went down to the level below us. I thought he was just going to sleep (which he did for awhile). I doubt Okinawa wanted to spend the night with just me, so I moved to the level below Angelo, telling Okinawa he could have the "penthouse" to himself. It was only about seven-thirty and despite the all-night, all-day party I still wasn't anywhere close to wanting sleep, still had a little beer left, so I sat there, smoked and reviewed the events of the follies and my reactions to them. The Pathetic Lady came climbing up the stairs. Good thing I wasn't misbehaving myself or sitting there naked or whatever, although she probably wouldn't have provided much of a shocked audience either. After a brief conversation, she and Angelo moved outside, I suppose, since I didn't hear any more from them until early the next morning (or very late at night, I'm not sure), they came walking downstairs, Angelo saying he was walking her to the bus. So even though I think it was rude of him to say nothing about expecting her, at least he kept the intrusion to a minimum.

When I did finally fall asleep, some time after he returned, it was a brief one. I gave it up, packed my stuff and left to enjoy morning coffee in the park. Sunday was a wonderfully sunny and warm day, unseasonably warm for this time of year. So I stayed in the secluded grove either listening to the radio or continuing my way through the print edition of the Tales (up now to early summer of the first year).

I'll have to pay special attention to how I coped with being utterly penniless, see if I can get some tips on how to handle it this time around.

wave to the piper ...

905

As I said, I don't have "normal prudence" but in recent months I've been unusually close to prudent and that seems to be working as a complicating factor in these final days of winter, early days of spring. For several months now, I haven't had to worry about lack of money until only a few days at the end of a month, haven't had more than a day or two of scrounging for tobacco, no days without beer. This makes the prospect of the next two weeks more daunting, I think. Of course, I hasten to add that there's no one or nothing to blame but myself, just in case anyone would think I feel otherwise. Regrets, not a one, but a little twinge of saying "hey, that really wasn't very smart, now was it?"

Thoughts dominating Tuesday and Wednesday, even before the actual drought begins, the deep desert is reached.

Anything but a drought, as it happens. I'd been on-line for awhile on Monday, was sitting in the grove with the third of McCullough's monumental Roman epics (Fortune's Favorites) when the Sleeptalker arrived. I didn't talk long with him since he was eager to play the game and soon went on to the library, but he came to the park later where I was sitting with Tanioka who had bought a round of beer for us. The meeting in the park happened again on Tuesday when the Sleeptalker joined me, Tanioka and another park regular I haven't yet given a name (a session when both Tanioka and the other fellow provided a round of beer, the Sleeptalker one of weed). The Sleeptalker's hair is longer than I've ever seen it and he's very, very thin, so much so his cheeks are a bit sunken. Sleeptalker the Gaunt. Tanioka is revelling in the tax refund he got from those months of construction work, the Sleeptalker in his last month of Crazy Money before the supposed six-month suspension. And the Sleeptalker has now decided to become a purveyor of smoking requisites, that is to say, a weed dealer. Now this would be a reasonable way to finance his own pleasures but I don't think there's a chance in hell he can do it without smoking up the profits before taking the necessary step of accumulating the reserves for the next wholesale contact. Perhaps he'll prove me wrong, but I surely will be surprised if so.

Concentrating on the weed and laying off the more potent substances hasn't done much for his sociability. He always seemed on the verge of hostility, a dance I declined by ignoring him when it veered in that direction even if I did frequently think of saying "sheez, aren't you ever going to grow up?!" I know, I know, just thinking it sent the wrong subliminal messages, so I can't claim to have handled it well, was rescued mainly, I think, because I was genuinely pleased to see him.

But I was also pretty weary myself, mentally and physically, not at all recovered from the Follies, and eventually on Tuesday evening I wandered off, walked out to a bench on Magic Island and spent the night there. The weather continues unseasonably warm, with no indication of falling moisture in the immediate future, and it was a pleasure to once again be sleeping on my own under the stars. At about four in the morning, a policeman arrived on his three-wheeler. He said they didn't want to give out citations so all we had to do was sit up when they arrived and once they were gone we could return to sleep. ?!? What utter nonsense.

Aside from that ludicrous interruption, it was a welcome night of rest even if I am totally out of practice with sleeping on a narrow, backed park bench, was still feeling somewhat stiff when I made the trip down to the clinic for the monthly session with the psychologist. That was a pleasure, as always, even including a welcome cup of tea. I'll miss our chats when this pauper's medical insurance ends, as is likely in July.

Tanioka said one evening, "there are no old ice smokers." Even aside from the fact that, in this form, it's a fairly new drug, I know what he means and agree with him. Anyone starting young and going heavily at it is very highly unlikely to reach middle age, I'd say. And someone starting at my ancient age has to consider the fact that the time of experimenting with it is limited. It needs the stamina of youth or a lengthy recovery time, eventually would surely no longer seem worth the effort. Like Joplin sang, "get it while you can ..."

And heaven help me through the next two weeks ...

906

Spring hasn't sprung just yet but it certainly is near and feels even closer, often seems to already be here. The unusual run of bright, sunny, warm days continues, sweatingly so on Thursday. I stayed on campus longer than has been my usual habit recently. Before leaving the mall in the morning though, I was treated to the latest little tantrum there. A man was stationed in the men's room, radio-contact gadget in hand. No more small army of the homeless there each morning performing their daily grooming routines, can't even brush your teeth anymore. And the rather stressed-looking announcer of the new policy was nervously prepared to call for reinforcements if anyone disagreed. Stuff and nonsense. If I thought getting busted for stealing ice cream was ludicrous, how about the major crime of brushing teeth in a public toilet?!

Perhaps the powers that be are displeased that Honolulu only made the top ten in the list of "meanest" cities, want to hit the top five? "Meanest", in this case, a rating based on how a city treats its homeless population. I'd hate to find myself in one which was "meaner" than this town has become, a situation which is, true, greatly alleviated by the climate and the general affability of the local population, authority-types aside.

I hadn't indulged in my usual daily computer routine, browsing the "what's new" lists or even reading the absurdities on Usenet, so that kept me occupied for several hours. I looked in briefly at Seventh Circle where there weren't many players and no sign of the Sleeptalker. Since I was nearing the end of the Roman epic, I followed lunch in the grove with a trip to the State Library where there was an abundance of Danielle Steel. Trouble is, I need to compile a list of what I've read. I can't remember from the titles or even from scanning the first few pages. So I refrained from taking one of those, selected two other timespinning novels by writers I've not heard of, and went on to the beach park. Time for a shower and for some shower laundry. My first companion was dull but he was soon replaced by a young local Japanese lad in quest of service. I was happy to oblige. Maybe the calendar is off and spring has sprung? Spring on, if so. Sweet.

When I walked back to my usual area I spotted Tanioka sitting on his own and he kindly gave me money for a beer. I told him I need to start a little credit card, make a mark or a notch for each beer I'll owe him when April arrives. At the rate it's going, we'll need a major bar crawl for me to catch up. Tanioka said the Sleeptalker was in the area but he didn't join us. Joe Guam made his usual sunset stop to chat and hint for snipes. Sorry, I told him, had enough trouble keeping my own box full that day (and true it was ... both on campus and in the mall folks seemed to be smoking the damned things right down to the filter). Another of the park regulars joined us a little after sunset but I had to go on my way for one final snipes hunt before heading to the Black Hole.

We did talk a little about the idea of going back to school, a notion which has some appeal to both of us ... if the funding could be found. In my case, sheer laziness continues to prevent further exploration of the idea. I'm told there are grants available for old folks wanting to return to school, that there are a number of older students at UH ("non-traditional students", they are called), and certainly I can easily pick from the available list of options a number of subjects it would be interesting to pursue, especially in the areas of art, history, philosophy and languages. But I still haven't made up my mind about the question of travelling. Do I want to attempt yet one more Journey to the East?

Or just continue to drift through the life of Homeless in Honolulu, albeit slightly more luxuriously?

Questions of a thousand dreams ... and yeah, it's hard to be here now when faced with two weeks of waiting for the Fabled Pension Check and almost three months of waiting for the first even more fabled SocSec Check.

907

On the threshold of Aries and it seems to be coming on pretty strong this year. Perhaps that hitherto-unnamed comet, Ikeya-Zhang is an appropriate herald, supposedly not seen since 1661? As for the moment itself, the Old Farmer's Almanac tells me it arrives on Wednesday the 20th at 2:16 PM EST. Spring is sprung ... almost.

After that highly pleasurable run of warm dry days, the pattern broke slightly on Friday with occasional showers, especially in the campus area which had some brief morning downpours. So I left earlier than usual and went to the beach park where Tanioka was sitting on his own finishing up an also earlier-than-usual bottle of Mickey's. I had picked up one of what may be my few remaining ones for the month on my way there and a little later we were joined by Okinawa and Angelo.

Although everyone was apparently too busy running to find out for certain, it seems likely the Sleeptalker yet again spent the night in the downtown holding cells after he, of the three of them, unluckily got caught during a shopping spree. All three of them seem to be in overdrive, grabbing stuff whether they want it or not or even whether it has potential re-sale value, epitomized by Okinawa's haul of several dripping wet shirts pilfered from a laundromat! To each his own form of Spring Fever Madness, I guess.

Paulo was back, after a lengthy absence on one of his periodic fishing boat jobs, generously gifted me with a little plastic snowy bag, asked where the Sleeptalker was. That made me remember the Sleeptalker's new "occupation" and I hoped he didn't get caught with his own plastic bag in pocket. Seventy-five thousand outstanding warrants or not, the Powers That Be are no doubt still likely to frown more heavily on plant-life-in-pocket than pilfered CD player. Justice in America, where a pothead is a bigger criminal than a thief.

Okinawa and Angelo went on their way, probably to continue the crime wave. Tanioka and I were joined by that fellow who had also been with us in the park recently. Time to think of a name for him, but thus far nothing has come to mind. I did one beer run, financed by Tanioka, and started a little tally of what I owe him when April's Fabled Pension Check arrives, wished I hadn't been quite so lavish with the second act of the March Ice Follies since I probably would have been ready for a repeat even if I had told myself numerous times during the week that my major goal must be to limit the Follies to a once-a-month event. Hmmmmm. Paving the road to hell ...

It's partly the touch of pre-Aries mania. Will this one be like especially zaney ones from the more distant past? Wouldn't surprise me. I don't remember the ones in these years documented by the Tales as particularly extravagant, but I decided to have a glance backwards, was especially amused by the Tales from Aries advent in the third year when I was grumbling about Tanioka and his role as the "ice man". Now he's the only one abstaining.

Saturday again started as a beautifully warm, sunny day. But there was a most unusual weather pattern for this island: east winds. And they blew in some of the heaviest, darkest clouds I've seen in years. I was fortunate in my timing, left campus and went to check the mailbox, returned to the mall just before the downpour began. I had been lucky, found 86 cents on Friday, 52 on Saturday morning, so had enough for an unexpected sunset brew (even if the actual sunset was definitely hidden). So I sat in my favorite sheltered place and continued Gary Braver's Elixir, a fountain-of-youth yarn which was passable enough to keep me occupied until time for the Black Hole.

The only thing in the mailbox was a welcome letter from Felix who was nearing the end of the Tales from the first year, asked, "I'm wondering if in Vol. II or III you talk about Householders who are really nomads and Nomads who are really householders." Ha! I think I've been the former all my life and in the latter category are all the nomads who plod around with heavily-laden shopping carts, more possessions than many householders may have (and far more than any true nomad would desire).

Felix also included a photo of a pair of his "bad boys" and I was struck by how European they look. Aside from the Sleeptalker, my crew doesn't look at all European. Nor, funnily enough, do they look as "bad" as these young friends of Felix do, although I suspect the opposite is true. I shall have to ask Felix if his lads go on "shopping sprees" and what form of refreshments they favor. He's already made it clear he hasn't been as lucky as I've been with the more physical side of things.

We grow old, we grow old ... but in our different ways, mon cher Felix and I aren't doing too badly at it, methinks. This is not to say, in my case at least, the act couldn't be better. Maybe I'm still in rehearsal before I take it on the road?

908

Fifty-four cents found on Sunday, Saint Patrick's Day. But ah, you see, I may have been loony enough to leave myself facing two weeks of dire poverty but was NOT totally insane. I knew there was one day within those two weeks when I'd definitely be crying in my nonexistent beer if it was indeed nonexistent. And that, of course, was Saint Patrick's Day. So I managed to keep four dollars in reserve, helped considerably by Tanioka's frequent generosity.

It was an extraordinarily windy day although clear and sunny for most of it. The wind was so strong on campus that it almost blew my backpack off the bench at one point. Very cool, too, so much so I deliberately shifted position to stay in the sun rather than the usual secluded grove routine of moving with the shade. I'd finished that inconsequential yarn about the herb-of-youth, moved on to an exceptionally good first novel, Killing Floor by Lee Child, was not surprised to discover on the web that he's since written four more books featuring his very-American hero, Jack Reacher. I was progressing through it too rapidly, though, stopped for awhile to listen to the radio where I could find nothing of much interest and so threw caution (and battery juice) to the gusty wind and listened to the Stones' "Twisted" again. Well, I thought, I've got one pair of spare batteries so if the razor's juice runs out, I can always grow a beard which listening to the CD player instead of shaving. And I made a quiet vow to listen to "Twisted" the next time I'm zonked on that white stuff. (No, I haven't been tempted to indulge on my own despite having the means, even though Dame Fortune tempted me further by putting some tinfoil in my path.)

By mid-afternoon I was ready for that second beer even if it was too early, so I left for the mall, got the beer, made a round for snipes and then crossed to the beach park where Tanioka was sitting on his own. Not long after I arrived, the Sleeptalker joined us. As before, he made no reference to his recent misadventure but seems to have had yet another one, tangling with one of the large security guards at the supermarket. Not a very wise move, to say the least (given the size of that fellow), and now the Sleeptalker is banned from the entire mall for a year. This is actually very good news but I don't expect the Sleeptalker to see it that way, of course.

He had, surprisingly, replenished his inventory and I gave him a five-dollar IOU in exchange for a smoke. I wrote it on one of the long cards on which he then wrote/drew some things but didn't show me what he'd done. If he keeps that card, I'll redeem it for double. His merchandise is packaged so as to look very generous but I think he rolls twigs and all to make the cyclinders fatter because they certainly are harsh smoking. I later took one drag, then put it away planning to open it up, clean it more carefully and re-roll. Panther and the fledgling Grassdealer. Well, one should encourage initiative and free enterprise, no?

Tanioka bought another round of beer for the two of us, the Sleeptalker declining the offer and only later wishing he hadn't. That's when the story came out about the mall ban, since Tanioka offered him the money to buy a beer but the Sleeptalker couldn't. By then it was time for me to leave for the Black Hole, later than I should have waited, actually, considering how cold it was. And indeed when I got there, it was a packed house, no mats left. No matter, I spread out my beach towel and was soon soundly asleep. A third bottle of Mickey's is a fine aid to sleeping (even if it does mean a couple of nocturnal visits to the pissoir).

So for the final days of winter, the last week on campus before Spring Break. The timing is excellent this year since the Break week includes two holidays when everything would be closed anyway, Kuhio Day and Good Friday. It was uncomfortably cold on Monday morning and very windy. But oh my, was Dame Fortune smiling down upon me. I had my usual cans of foodstamp-provided coffee, then set off on a snipe-hunting walk through the mall. Outside a restaurant there are two planter boxes which have oddly been left empty for several weeks now. I glanced in one of the boxes in case someone had dropped any butts there, saw a crumpled piece of paper. Green paper. A ten dollar bill! How it came to be dropped in that box is a major mystery, how it came to stay there until I noticed it, a minor miracle.

Then like they say on the game show ... and that's not all! Dame Fortune Airways delivered a melon from heaven in record speed. I expected my readers to unanimously say "silly old man, you got yourself into this mess so pay the piper." I may indeed be a silly old man. But also a lucky one.

909

Day One of Aries 2002. Shattered, wrecked, sleepless for twenty-seven hours (and counting). I left campus on the last day of winter after having a can of tuna fish and a beer for an early lunch (every now and then I get the urge to eat tuna out of the can). I picked up another beer and went to the beach park, was soon joined by Angelo on his own. We walked over to the mall to get him a beer, too, and he asked if I wanted to share a pipe. Rocky must be doing very well right now because he had given Angelo a decent lump of crack. Oh boy.

Both of us prefer the ice and of course I still had the gift bag from Paulo. But it's true, that crack does give an incredible rush even if the high doesn't last very long and it made a very interesting start to what I guess counts as the March Follies, Act 3.

We finished the beer and went to The Garage. I picked up another beer on our way, should have bought two, not to mention coffee for the morning. We continued smoking the crack pipe. Okinawa arrived and joined in. Then we switched to the ice. Although Angelo hadn't expected her, his Pathetic Lady came creeping up the stairs. She didn't make any comment about the pipe circulating, brought a couple of beers. Once the pipe was almost finished, she and Angelo moved down several flights leaving me and Okinawa to get the last hits from the pipe.

I had a really difficult time with the motormouth routine, calmed it a little with the still unsmoked weed from the Sleeptalker. It was too cold to spend much time outside so poor Okinawa was stuck with me through the night. I wonder if he'll ever let that happen again? Wouldn't blame him, if not. I do get way too crazy with that crack/ice combination. I'm sure I said "I'm getting too old for this" at least half a dozen times.

It was just impossible to get control of my mind and that irked the hell out of me eventually making it even worse. I tried several times to leave Okinawa in peace but I strangely didn't want to be alone. I really did want to be sitting there with him, so I did. He wasn't quite as remote as he gets when there's more to smoke and perhaps Angelo and I teasing him earlier about turning into "The Lump" had an effect, too. I'm not sure. But then I wasn't sure about a lot of things during this trip.

Am I learning anything valuable from these drugs?

909a

In some ways I like the day after a Follies better than the party itself. This one started off a bit rocky but then the "second wind" arrives and the aftereffects of the drug(s) plus prolonged sleeplessness and fasting are a high, without some of the pressures of the drug experience.

Alas, it's the second day when the crash comes, this time made worse by a ferocious hangover from a day and evening with too much beer and no food at all.

I spent some time on Wednesday morning searching the web, looking for accounts of actual experience with crystal methamphetamine rather than the numerous medical reports and intense negative propaganda. Not many people write about their direct experience.

Then I left campus, bought the first beer of the day and went to the beach park. The Sleeptalker soon arrived. He was in one of his "looking for something better" moods and wandered down to Paulo's area several times. I listened to the Stones during his absences until Tanioka arrived, then went to the mall to buy another beer for myself and one for the Sleeptalker. Neither of them had seen Angelo or Okinawa so I didn't get any feedback about how Okinawa had reacted until Angelo arrived. He didn't think there was any problem, an assumption which was later proven correct when I went to The Garage and Okinawa was there.

The Pathetic Lady joined us in the beach park, was in a very strange mood. I missed how the thing started, but evidently she accused the Sleeptalker of being gay, he must have said something nasty back to her and the two of them started a slapping match! Tanioka was trying to restrain the Sleeptalker, Angelo was trying to keep her back (and got several nasty scratches in the process). What a hellcat that woman is. Then she went and called the police. The Sleeptalker quickly disappeared, the police were talking to Angelo and her at the nearby bus stop, then one came over to ask us what we'd seen. I said I hadn't seen how it started but added, "she's a very disturbed woman." They left, as did she. Angelo returned to our table and said that was it, he was finished with her. The Sleeptalker returned, still fuming about the whole thing and we had yet another round of beer, still with nothing at all to eat.

We got the bus downtown. Tanioka went off to his favorite night sanctuary. I climbed all the way to the top of The Garage, Angelo and the Sleeptalker settling on lower landings. I still had an unopened beer in my backpack plus about half of another bottle, so I gave one to Okinawa, told him I hoped I hadn't been too much of a pest during the Follies. No problem. He's a funny, cool man, and it was good to settle down next to him again for what turned out to be a very sound sleep.

But oh my, did I feel AWFUL in the morning. Paying the piper ...

910

Fortunately, the "cold wave" which was making life less than comfortable finally ended and after the worst of the hangover was gone on Thursday it was a pleasant day, warm enough for a beach shower, warm enough to seek shade rather than sunshine. Just in time, too, since the unusual routine of sitting in the sun to keep warm was pushing me to the brink of sunburn. I had Danielle Steel's Now and Forever and Barbara Delinksy's The Vineyard for distraction. Both soap operas in printed form, the Steel definitely not one of her best, but passable entertainment and the most promising of a lacklustre selection at the State Library. No Bad Boys appeared either Thursday or Friday and I spent both nights at the Black Hole. I arrived too late on Thursday to get a mat, smiled at myself when I did get one on Friday and sank down on it thinking, "ahhh, such luxury."

There were the usual sunset chats with Joe Guam on both days. On Thursday he'd found a twenty dollar bill in Waikiki, was so excited about it he repeated the story three times, each time swearing on his mother's grave that he was telling the truth. I haven't gotten that thrilled by a "chance find" since that morning I found the hundred dollar bill.

I finally worked on one of the cards-in-progress, tentatively called "Black and Blue" (for the simple reason that it's done entirely in black and blue ink, thus far no collage), and again told myself I should have done both things during the last Follies I was doing then, listening to the Stones and working on cards. But headphone music is a solo thing to be doing and neither Angelo nor Okinawa are likely prospects for collaborators (at least where the drawings are concerned) so I don't know if I'll ever follow through on that intention when with them.

And of course I spent a lot of time thinking about the March Follies. Am I learning anything valuable? I'm not sure. There's a conflict in mind between seeing (and using) the drugs as fuel for entertainment versus the kind of inner exploration which dominated drug use in earlier decades. No resolution to that debate is in sight. Despite my slight grumbles about Okinawa's cocoon act, I do realize and appreciate the fact that the combination of him and Angelo is a treasure, one of the best pairs of "tripping partners" I've ever encountered. I do wonder what it would be like to take LSD with them, although I'd certainly want a more sympatico environment than the brightly lit stairwell of The Garage. (It doesn't bother me at all with the ice.)

So ... a lot of time thinking about it, but no notable conclusions.

As I told Kory K on Friday, one thing I'm determined about. I won't fall into the silly pattern so many of the pipesmokers have of swearing "never again" after each time. I won't go out of my way to score or share in the crackpipe, that drug just isn't for me. But the ice? Sure, although even with it I'm not much interested in solo puffing.

I spent Saturday morning on campus, then stopped by the State Library for more reading material. I had picked up a Stephen King book on my last visit but so disliked the thing I threw it away after about thirty pages. The freebie collection at the State Library has been unusually sparse and uninteresting in recent weeks, time to budget a few bucks for books, I guess.

Tanioka was sitting in the beach park with that still-unnamed new player. Later we were joined by Lord Moana and I was struck by how many of his phrases (right down to exact tones) have been adopted by the Sleeptalker, no doubt the result of the years when they set up housekeeping under a bridge. I'm surprised I haven't noticed it before. Eventually I left on a snipes run through the mall and Tanioka was on his own when I returned.

I always thought "ponce" was just British gay slang, but I find it in the dictionary:

Main Entry: ponce
Function: noun
Etymology: origin unknown
Date: 1872
British : PIMP; also usually disparaging : a male homosexual

Although not mentioned in that dictionary, it's also used as a verb. And that's why it came to mind when we noticed the Sleeptalker go poncing by. He passed by on his way to the showerhouse, on his way back from there to the mall, and one more time on his way down to Paulo's area ... without once acknowledging our presence! Steve Martin also came to mind: well, excusssse me. Silly boy lost out on a beer because Tanioka was going to give him the money for a shopping expedition (since the Sleeptalker is apparently ignoring his one-year ban from the mall anyway).

Oh well. Whatever his game is, I suspect he'll soon get bored with it. And I've got no patience for it right now.

910a

Whatever his game is, I suspect he'll soon get bored with it. And I've got no patience for it right now.

No, "patience" isn't the right word. I thought about alternatives on Sunday, wondered if perhaps "strength" is the better fit. But it's probably more a case of just not finding the game elegant enough to maintain my interest. There's no question that the Sleeptalker still has enormous appeal. Tanioka gave me three recent photos he'd taken of the Sleeptalker and even if I hadn't been seeing the man himself often enough in recent weeks, those pictures would have reconfirmed his lasting hold on me. But the dance these days is boring and his most recent obsession with looking for something better is especially tiresome, however much I may sympathize with his restlessness and greed.

And, as too often is the case, I've got my hands full with myself right now. This promises to be one of those extreme Aries, no doubt exaggerated by the "home stretch" feel, the approaching end of the four-year wait which I knew faced me when I embarked on this so-called nomadic life. Right now it's probably complicated by withdrawal, too, as I end the long Neurontin routine and rarely resort to the Remeron at night. So it's see-saw time, manic depressive rollercoaster squeezed into minute-by-minute swings.

Such a day was Sunday. The forecasters had predicted a rainy day but evidently the storm system bypassed this island and dumped water on Kauai instead. But it was muggy, clammy even, and not at all pleasant. I even considered getting on one of the buses that make the entire circuit of the island, just to enjoy the artificially cool, dry air. Instead I stayed on campus, went on-line briefly, then sat in the secluded grove alternating listening to music with reading Red, White and Blue by Susan Isaacs, a more interestingly written book than some I've been reading recently. And feeling alternately bored and elated.

Then to the beach park. No Bad Boys, no one poncing by ignoring me. The deaf-mute fellow who contributed to card four of "September" came along, first time I'd seen him in quite awhile. He sat with me for half an hour or so with the usual extremely limited communication possible without resorting to pen and paper (which I wasn't then in the mood for, although I later started another card for "Black and Blue"). Then the Weasel came along. He is such a bore, reminds me greatly of the dope-dealers in Delhi, always talking about the next great deal which is just around the corner. I was relieved when he finally wandered off, leaving me to play with the pens and listen to a bit of "Prairie Home Companion". I finished a card I'd begun writing to Felix on Saturday, then went back to the book until it was time for a final snipes run through the mall.

Most unusually these days, a shopping cart was at the bus stop. I took it back and there were two more in the corral outside the supermarket. Seventy-five cents in one swoop, a miracle augmented when I spotted a stroller sitting by its return corral next morning, sitting by it but not pushed into it for the two quarters. It's certainly clear the Mongoose has retired from the game.

And despite the assistance from a kind reader plus a borrowed twenty, it has come down to that game again for me, counting the quarters until there's enough for another beer. Roll on April ...

911

In addition to budgeting some bucks for books, I should check the calendar for the next month and budget an allowance for days when public net access (via the university or the public libraries) isn't available. Entire days without even an hour online are a hassle, even if they shouldn't be, and Holy Week 2002 is about as bad as it can get, with three off-line days. Empty pockets and dreary weather don't help, either. So Tuesday, the Hawaii-only holiday, Kuhio Day, was, at least until sunset time, a mess.

Monday hadn't been much better despite a couple of hours online in the morning. It was a dreary, gray day again although only a few drops of rain fell. The islands are smothered under a huge cloud mass hovering overhead and the wind shifts direction far more often than it normally does. I had planned on only one beer for the day so was postponing it until the sunset hour but after I walked through the mall on a snipes hunt, I sat outside the shop where I usually get my beer, was counting out coins for the planned later purchase, when Bikku arrived, wheeling his bike. "Bikku" is the fellow who has remained nameless until now.

He asked if I'd seen Tanioka, then asked if I'd watch his bike while he went in to buy a forty. His bike is a fine looking model and although he has what appear to be more than adequate security devices, he almost always keeps his bike with him or has someone watching after it. Wise fellow, considering how most of the bike people usually lose theirs to thieves. Then he asked an even better question, did I want a forty? So it turned into a two-beer day after all. He didn't hang around to drink when we got back to the park, so I returned to Red, White and Blue, happy but a little puzzled by Bikku's unexpected generosity (and that makes two I owe him, now).

The unsettled, rain-threatening weather combined with end-of-the-month empty pockets has the Black Hole filled to capacity and even though I got there a little earlier than usual, only the thin rubber "roll-up" matts were left ... and very little choice of floor space. I really should try to find an alternative to that place for the next two months (I told myself yet again).

Then messy Tuesday when I couldn't think of anything to do so spent almost all day just pacing through the mall, scoring a few quarters and other dropped coins, plenty of snipes and a few things to eat. The clouds partially cleared for a couple of hours so I had a shower at the beach and washed a tee shirt. By mid-afternoon I was fed up with waiting for the sunset brew so bought a bottle, planning to drink about half of it then and the rest later. I was just about to sit in Philo Walk until time for the Black Hole when Tanioka arrived and provided the second brew ... and a third, after we were joined by two local fellows I've never seen before (Tanioka didn't know them either). One was only seventeen and could all-too-easily be a major player in these tales and my life, easily but not likely. Still, I did enjoy his company immensely. "I don't mind gay people," he said, "as long as they don't hit on me."

I stayed on my own for awhile after the three of them left. By then it was too late for the Black Hole but it had turned cooler and rain still seemed possible so staying in the park wasn't a great option. What to do, what to do, too drunk to think much about it. So I went to The Garage, settled on a lower floor and could hear conversation coming from above. The Pathetic Lady. So much for Angelo's resolution to be finished with her (I hadn't believed it anyway). I only saw them briefly when they were leaving, presumably Angelo escorting her to the bus stop.

A groaning hangover on Wednesday morning. That's much too soon after the last one. And when I checked my email, there was a plea from the Sleeptalker who said he "has a computer" but couldn't manage to connect with Seventh Circle. He makes it sound like (yeah, sure) he's suddenly got his own place with a computer. I wonder who the new patsy is ... or if he went after Rocky's professor again, which would have been a smart move once Rocky left. (I still haven't heard the story directly from Rocky so don't know any details aside from his having moved out.)

Spring Break means an acute shortage of snipes on campus so I abandoned the idea of lunch in the secluded grove and returned to (sigh) the mall. I do get really fed up with that place in these times when so dependent upon it for supplies. Tanioka was in the beach park, waiting until time for a doctor's appointment. He's trying to enlist in a drug-testing program at the clinic I went to years ago. I don't think I'd qualify for this one since it's to do with "anti-psychotic" drugs instead of garden variety depression. I saw him again after his appointment and he made it past the first hurdle, anyway, had a follow-up physical exam still to get through the next day.

And the next day ... Maundy Thursday ... at last, blue sky and sunshine! Not predicted to last long, but it surely was a welcome change after those gloomy gray days. And before the sunrise, that big fool moon beaming down when I left the Black Hole.

912

The man could switch from charming to abrasive in no time flat. Psychotic? Possibly. Schizophrenic? Possibly. It was also possible that he was mentally fit but simply driven by private demons.

That passage from Barbara Delinksy's splendid Lake News immediately brought to mind the Sleeptalker. It's a better description of him than anything I've written. And he proved it yet again on Good Friday evening when I mistakenly joined him and Tanioka in the beach park. "Mistakenly", because I did ignore an intuitive nudge telling me not to. Fools rush in, and etc.

I hadn't wanted a repeat of Tuesday's aimless day but with little money and no online access, there was nevertheless a day to live through, one way or another and preferably as pleasantly and as least boring as possible. The fine weather of Thursday had, as predicted, vanished, replaced yet again with dreary, gloomy gray clouds and constantly threatening rain. After my usual morning coffee at the mall, I sat and debated options for awhile, then got on a bus and crossed to the other side of the mountains. So far as I recall, it was my first visit there since the weeks after the hospital adventure.

No matter how many years I've lived here and how many more (or few more) I survive, I'll never cease to be awed by the view once the bus crosses over the mountains and the magnificent panorama of the other side is so dramatically visible. It's there that one most clearly understands what a beautiful island this is. The only thing in my experience which compares is the first glimpse of the Himalayan peaks, so high above the surrounding "foothills" that they at first look like clouds. By contrast, on the journey back to this side the view does little but slam a cityscape back into consciousness.

I left the bus to visit the Windward Mall, definitely the first time I've been there since the Kaneohe Misadventure of the first year of the Tales. Again, such a contrast between it and the urban Ala Moana mall, laidback, casual, little evidence of the Mall Cops who dominate life at Ala Moana (probably necessarily). I had to smile at the naivete of some of the store displays, thinking Angelo and Okinawa should move their crime wave to that side, would be far less likely to get caught. Remembering my dream of the previous night, getting busted in a supermarket for eating bread while walking through the store, was sufficient caution to bypass several temptations.

In a nod, at least, to the season, I'd decided to make Good Friday a fast day. Almost. A beer and bread fast. When Dame Fortune put an almost half-full bottle of Mickey's in my path, I conveniently took it as a sign from heaven that it wasn't necessary to adhere to bread and water, a sign confirmed when I did finally return to the beach park with my leftover Mickey's and found two little loaves of bread abandoned at my usual table. All right, agreed, not a very dedicated approach to a Good Friday fast, but at least I had the historical justification for the holy day in mind. Maybe my weaselish approach was at least partly the reason I failed when trying to nudge the Sleeptalker out of his later tantrum by reminding him it was Good Friday and why.

I went to check the mailbox but, as expected, the Fabled Pension Check was not there. Once again I kicked myself for not having at least attempted to get a savings account so that largesse would arrive by automatic deposit (but then I'm not sure, unlike the Crazy Money it might not arrive until the day after a holiday anyway). I really hate the routine of waiting for that damned check and can just imagine how much more difficult it will be when the check is the SocSec one instead. Yes, I must see if I can find a way around that banking blacklist I appear to be on.

Back at the mall, I was amused by the tables set up as a mini-petting zoo with all sorts of rabbits one could touch. Sweet, how rabbits wash and groom themselves like cats (or do they precede cats in evolutionary terms, and cats wash and groom like rabbits?)

Then I saw Tanioka and the Sleeptalker in the park and, despite that little nudge from intuition, joined them. Tanioka offered a round of beer if I'd do the shopping, an easy offer to take. It was probably at least the second round for the Sleeptalker, a partial explanation for his eventual blow-up (if no excuse). But at first he was passably close to "charming", touched me with his plaintive memory of what fun it used to be when we were both so active in Seventh Circle. Tanioka was in an unusually chatty mood and as always I enjoyed listening to him. The Sleeptalker was uninterested in anything either of us had to say.

When we talked about the coming arrival of Crazy Money, at least for me and Tanioka, the Sleeptalker grumbled about how the system was screwing him. How could they ask a "poor, homeless dude" to follow a routine in order to get the handout? I said I thought it was pretty easy "work", all in all. Tanioka urged the Sleeptalker to apply for the easier Federal SSI benefits (easier, once gotten, although much more complex in the initial getting) and he offered to help with the lengthy application papers. The Sleeptalker wasn't interested. I think he wants the additional weight to his "persecuted" image.

"Fuck you, I hate you!" was the Sleeptalker's Litany for Good Friday, and he even shouted it a few times to strangers passing by. I noticed he didn't do it to anyone who looked big enough to walk over and pound his mouth shut. And every name that came up in conversation brought a "I hate her, fuck her" or "I hate him, fuck him" response from the Sleeptalker. Poor old Joe Guam got the treatment, too, but he's no stranger to the Sleeptalker's tantrums and at least the Sleeptalker only said it when he saw Joe approaching, didn't repeat it to his face.

Naturally, the hate-wave turned to me eventually. I left to a barrage of shouts from the Sleeptalker which lasted until I'd disappeared from view.

Rolling Stones, this time. Wild Horses.

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

But could quite possibly make me feel the need to avoid you, my poor, angry young friend.

913

Jonathan Cainer wrote about the first week of April: The question, this week, is not "What will happen?" It is "What will not happen?" You are far more interested in avoiding something than encountering it. You are hoping that a showdown will not take place or that a key development will not occur. This is not because you are afraid. You are an Aries. You fear nothing and no-one. Well, no-one apart from you-know-who but that's another story. Your desire to ensure the non-occurrence of a possible event is based on the most noble of motives; you want to protect a particular person from the consequences of their own silliness. You cannot prevent certain things from happening but you can decide and encourage others not to worry about it. And you should.

Synchronicity. And that's the second time recently he has mentioned "you-know-who", even more aptly this time with that "you want to protect a particular person from the consequences of their own silliness". Well, I naturally thought and thought about you-know-who through much of the weekend, even went so far as to seriously consider making the move to another island. Premature thoughts, because such a move would only make sense in June, not now. If it made sense at all, which is debatable. And I was keenly aware that to avoid the Sleeptalker, whether here or by relocating, I'd have to give up Tanioka. That's too high a price.

Then the whole debate was shelved late Sunday afternoon when the Sleeptalker arrived at the beach park where Tanioka and I were sitting, talking about him. The Sleeptalker apologized immediately and offered his hand.

A reader wrote: I'm sorry about the Sleeptalker. First for you, because even if he is sure to return to better feelings towards you, it leaves a scar each time, doesn't it ? and I'm sorry for him too, because he seems so self-destructive. What's more self-destructive than to insult one's friends? True words. Before he arrived, Tanioka and I were puzzling over how bizarre it is for the Sleeptalker to be insulting all his friends just at the time he's facing six months of no income (and I wasn't the only target of his tantrum as I heard both from Tanioka and another regular in the park who'd had to threaten to wrap a metal rod around the Sleeptalker's neck). But, of course, it's just that knowledge of penniless months which is probably the core reason for the Sleeptalker's tantrums.

What a muddle.

Easter Sunday was a splendid day, blue sky and sunshine replacing the gloomy clouds of Friday and Saturday, matching internal gloom lightened somewhat by the arrival of the Fabled Pension Check on Saturday. I had such an awful night Saturday, filled with horrendous dreams, one so bad I went outside just after midnight to have a smoke. My father and sister had been very real in the dream, but my mother had died and was replaced with a hideous stepmother. Dreadful dream, and there were several more in the early morning hours almost as bad. So I gave up before five o'clock and left the Black Hole, took the bus to the 7-Eleven to get coffee and then went on to Waikiki. I bought a bottle of Mickey's, a sandwich plus a bag of chips, and walked along the beach to Kapiolani Park, settled on an isolated bench in the shade and greeted the day with beer instead of church. I did listen to some religious music, rather obscure English anthems and such, but gave up the radio after Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter Overture". He's one of my favorite composers but that's only surpassed by the wretched Bumblebee in being the least-liked of his works.

I greatly enjoyed Barbara Delinsky's Lake News, think it's by far the best of her books I've yet encountered but the contrast between that (or any other contemporary novel) and the next volume in the backpack was extreme, to say the least. E.M. Forster's Howards End. I read Forster when I was too young. It's time to re-read them all.

The feudal ownership of land did bring dignity, whereas the modern ownership of movables is reducing us again to a nomadic horde. We are reverting to the civilization of luggage, and historians of the future will note how the middle classes accreted possessions without taking root in the earth, and may find in this the secret of their imaginative poverty.

When the beer was finished I considered going for a second bottle and staying alone there in the park. It's such a peaceful place compared to Ala Moana Beach Park, especially on a day when there are none of the sporting events taking place, and it's a more dramatically scenic spot, Diamond Head looming over on one side and the ocean on the other. But I hadn't seen any of the lads on Saturday and missed them already. So back to the beach park I went, picking up a hot fudge sundae from the newly opened Dairy Queen at the mall as my Easter treat, along with that second bottle of Mickey's. Tanioka was already in the park. Paulo joined us briefly, looking absolutely shattered (hitting that glass pipe too hard, probably) and asked for a couple of dollars to buy rice. And the big fellow who'd made the Sleeptalker back down also stopped by only briefly. I was just about to suggest another round of beer when the Sleeptalker arrived.

The reader is right on target. Each time does leave a scar. Love stinks but life would stink even more without it.

914

I should have said "most contemporary novels", not "any other contemporary novel". The leap from Delinksy to Forster was extreme but from Forster to Tan not at all. Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter was as rich and rewarding as Howards End. I haven't read her work before, an omission I'll further correct in the near future. This one added much to the pleasure of the first Monday and Tuesday of April, days which were otherwise unexceptionable but enjoyable, especially the evenings spent in the park with Tanioka. The Sleeptalker joined us again for awhile on Monday and the main entertainment was playing Blackjack. Tanioka seems to have extraordinary luck with cards. Little wonder he's so keen on that return to Vegas. I was sufficiently intrigued by his insistent fantasy that I looked on the web at some of the package trips available but am unconvinced I want to spend almost $450 for five nights at the Hotel California (airfare and meals included). Who knows. Stranger things have happened, as they say.

The Sleeptalker appeared in Hamilton Library on Wednesday morning, remained on campus after I left but then showed up at the beach park later. He was again in his restless, looking-for-something-better mode (or perhaps more accurately, itching to find someone willing to share the glass pipe) so soon wandered off. I was too nearly broke to offer even a cigarette or a beer, alas, much less the batu. A little later, though, Paulo tried to sell me a bag for a twenty dollar IOU payable on Crazy Money Friday. I declined, but didn't say I wouldn't buy it when money is in pocket.

I still don't know what I'm going to do with the April Crazy Money, consider options from the extremes of going into hiding to an all-out Ice Follies. Tanioka wants to have a barbecue in Waikiki on Friday. When I told the Sleeptalker that, he said he couldn't join us because he has "business to take care of". Hmmmmm. Me, too, but it's just a "responsible shopping" expedition since all the necessities are running on empty, business I can easily take care of in the morning. Tanioka is determined to save all of his Crazy Money this month, live just on the income from the clinical study and foodstamps. Okinawa doesn't know when he'll eventually get his since he had to re-apply after his month's suspension and, of course, the Sleeptalker will get none. Money, money, money, what a tiresome object of contemplation it is.

Exactly one cent of Crazy Money to carry over this month, less than a dollar of foodstamps, and the Fabled Pension Check was gone by Wednesday except for one beer's worth of money for Thursday. An empty pocket is an even more tiresome object of contemplation.

A tiny tale.

914a

I must, absolutely must, make one resolution and stick to it. When eating little or nothing, make certain no more than 80 ounces of malt liquor are consumed. Yes, I'm getting too old for hangovers, especially since they can so easily be avoided.

Of course, I expected to have little or nothing to eat on the day before Crazy Money arrived. But I also expected to have only one 40 ounce bottle of Colt45. I even attempted to follow the Joe Guam model, bought the beer at about one o'clock in the afternoon intending to drink half then, the other half at sunset time. Thursdays are difficult because of that AA meeting at the Black Hole, delaying entry until after the meeting ends (officially at eight, but frequently running over some minutes). But even so, that bottle didn't last until anywhere near sunset time. No matter. Tanioka was in the park when I returned after making a snipes run through the mall and he shared some of his second bottle with me, then bought another round for all of us when Bikku joined the party.

In the mall, I stopped to look in a trash can because there was a quite beautiful lei discarded. I didn't intend to take it, was just admiring it. A Mall Cop scolded me, said he'd been following me for some time, thought I'd been looking in trash cans (I was actually checking the ashtrays, luckily hadn't spotted any butts lengthy enough to be grabbed). "Well, you didn't see me reach into any," I said. "No, not yet." Silly bugger. I went into a department store to get him off my tail.

There's a Sony mini-disc player/recorder for $170 now, quite a drop in price from the last time I checked. Tempting, but not yet. One more thing to put on the list titled June Options.

Back at the park, Tanioka said Angelo and Okinawa were planning to join the proposed barbecue. He'd seen the Sleeptalker so already knew about the "business" which would keep the Sleeptalker from joining us. Tanioka suggested we stay at The Garage, start out the day together. I wasn't enthusiastic about that plan since I needed to do my own "business" in the morning, plus not feeling comfortable about sleeping in The Garage when the next day is a working one. I know they're going to get evicted from that place sooner or later, but definitely don't want to be the one who causes it ... and it wouldn't take many times of early-bird staff spotting people with backpacks leaving the building to eliminate it as a sanctuary, maybe only once.

But then Bikku decided to join the group. I said okay, I'd do a final snipes hunt and meet them at The Garage. On my way there from the bus stop I saw Angelo who was on his way to buy an ice bag, financed jointly by Bikku and Tanioka. Naughty Tanioka, backsliding again. I went on to The Garage, climbed to the top, no sign of anyone. It was still early for the Black Hole so I just sat for awhile, then walked downstairs, found Tanioka, Angelo and Bikku sitting there having just finished the pipe. They certainly had been quiet about it. No one knew where Okinawa was. Without his exceptional ability as an "alarm clock" I definitely didn't want to stay, so went on to the Black Hole.

As always at this time of the month, plenty of mats and space, and I was quickly asleep. Horror of horrors, "Jane Wyman" parked himself next to me as I discovered when I woke in the early hours. He's an old local Japanese guy with white hair cut in a classic pageboy style, complete with upcurled ends. And he has the extremely nasty habit of blowing his nose vigorously every morning at about 4:30, can be heard anywhere in the building. If he blew a trumpet it couldn't be any louder. Imagine spending your life living with that. Yeukh.

So when he starting blowing his horn I gave up and left. A very early start to Crazy Money Day.

915

April Crazy Money Day was extraordinary ... in being so ordinary. In fact, it was little different than any other day when I have enough money for beer and cigarettes, except for the added treat of a fried chicken dinner from Lahaina Chicken, complete with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and cole slaw. Last time I did that I made the mistake of picking their baked beans which aren't nearly as good as the common old canned variety; this time the mistake was the cole slaw which provided indigestion for the rest of the day and much of the night.

People who eat very little shouldn't go wild and stuff themselves with a large meal.

After that unusually early start to the day, when I left the Black Hole I walked over to Chinatown, caught the bus there. Two cans of coffee and a blueberry muffin from 7-Eleven for breakfast, then to campus for a short session at the little computer lab, a longer one at Hamilton Library. A fuse blew, fortunately not affecting the computers, so much of the time was eerily spent in total darkness except for the glow from the computer monitors. Then it was downhill for a sandwich, chips and a beer. The birds in the secluded grove were no doubt well pleased to see Crazy Money day arrive.

On my last trip to the State Library I picked two inconsequential detective yarns from the sparse selection, finished one and began the other. Then to the beach park with a second bottle. Since the lads had probably indulged in an all-night ice session, I didn't really expect any of them to still be interested in a barbecue but I did take the bus to Waikiki and have a look, just in case. No sign of ice-hungover-barbecuers but it was amusing to walk through the Hilton Hawaiian Village for the first time since the new building opened. I must remember to change into shorts before going to Waikiki in the afternoon. I felt like a total outsider in my long pants.

Back to the beach park. I did make that purchase from Paulo, tucked it away for sometime in the future when I can play that amusing trick of pulling out the bag when it seems we're at the end of the supply. Or, who knows, maybe even for a solo session next Friday ...

Joe Guam stopped over twice, once on his way to look for his benefactor and later just to chat. As I told Tanioka after the last time we were sitting together with Joe, I'm still a little intrigued with the idea of doing an "oral history" with Joe (although it would probably take half a dozen tapes, all interspersed with long silences).

At one point when I was sitting alone reading, a very old Japanese lady came up to me and said something in Japanese. Her equally aged husband told me she had said I look just like her father used to. I look like I could be some Japanese woman's father???

916

I've made a couple of attempts to begin this tale, the tale of the April Ice Follies, but it's difficult to find the right words. I think the main reason for this is that so much of it is still a jumble in my head. In fact, I was already confused by Monday with some of the chronology and who was where when, went through it with Okinawa but find some of it vague in memory again already.

Another reason for the difficulty is that I really don't know yet, perhaps never shall, exactly what I think about the Follies and what I felt and experienced during them. I remember, again vaguely, what I seemed to be thinking at the time but don't trust much of that in retrospect. And some of it I just don't want to accept. As I told Okinawa at one point, I actually feel quite happy about having passed, at long last, out of the phase of being in love with the Sleeptalker and I'm not in any hurry to fall into that state again, if ever. Famous last words, uttered a few hours before I actually did. But I'm still trying to hope it was a temporary drug-induced delusion.

As I wrote last week, I still don't know what I'm going to do with the April Crazy Money, consider options from the extremes of going into hiding to an all-out Ice Follies. That the debate was resolved with a Follies is no surprise; that it was an "all-out" one is due almost entirely to Okinawa. He has been through more transformations as a character in these Tales than anyone, I think, and even more so in the unwritten thoughts I've had about him. Nothing led me to expect the extreme jump which happened in these Follies.

Since I hadn't done it on Friday, the first thing on the agenda for Saturday was the necessary shopping expedition for essential supplies. I should have made a list because I forgot a couple of things, including glue for working with the cards, and I couldn't find the needed replacements for my very worn slippers and failed to widen the search as I should have. Otherwise I did well with that expedition, bought a beer and headed to the beach park. I can't remember who arrived first and with whom, but I think it was Tanioka, Angelo and I who went to get the smoking materials. I had already bought four packs of cigarettes since running out of tobacco has been a problem at most of the Follies, and I bought more beer plus a couple of cans of coffee as well. Okinawa was at The Garage and the party began. Tanioka left after one round and then Angelo also disappeared. From then on, through Sunday and Monday until Tuesday morning it was just me and Okinawa.

About the second act of the March Follies, I wrote: I begin to have doubts about Okinawa. He is just so utterly self-absorbed and silent, usually even physically unmoving except for occasional bouts of cracking his knuckles and less often partially unpacking and repacking his backpack. In short, he's a bore, but I suppose gets some credit for being a very quiet, unobtrusive one. Well, that's true enough in some ways, and perhaps it at least partly accounts for the bizarre twist which turned him into an object of desire this time. But I can't believe that's the main reason. I don't know, I don't even begin to understand how it happened. I cannot remember ever having known anyone for that a long a time without finding them physically desireable and then suddenly have it happen. It's especially silly in this case because I don't think there's the slightest chance of turning fantasies into reality. But it surely did supply some amusing fantasies and I'm long overdue for a new supply of those. The old ones are worn thin from replay.

Aside from that bewildering and slightly frustrating aspect, I found it to be a beautifully comforting and enjoyable thing, smoking the ice alone with Okinawa. We continued until the early hours of Sunday when the Pathetic Lady astonished by suddenly arriving at The Garage. We told her we thought Angelo was further upstairs somewhere and later heard their voices, then they disappeared again. I still don't know exactly what happened with them after that. Eventually some cleaning people arrived so we left the building and went in search of refreshments (my coffee long since gone). There aren't many places in that area which accept the foodstamps card and even fewer which are open on Sunday so that was quite a walk and I was completely exhausted before we returned to The Garage, picking up two more bags of the white stuff on the way. Okinawa suggested using the other stairwell of The Garage, one I hadn't been in before.

After the first round the visual hallucinations really got going. I've had them before with ice but never anything as seemingly real as these and it was a non-stop process. The roughly plastered walls turned into a constantly shifting panorama and on Monday, in the park, wisps of clouds so clearly spelled out words that at first I thought there was a sky-writing plane at work. It was for the most part delightful but eventually got to be exhausting, as did the internal jukebox which irked the hell out of me by getting stuck on things like four note scales, ho-ho-ho-ho up and then ho-ho-ho-ho down, over and over until several times I said out loud, "oh knock it off". A wannabe-clever voice thought "there are ho's in the garden" a terribly amusing thing, the rest of me didn't agree.

Did we eat anything? I can't remember, although we did eventually get beer on Sunday. I didn't sleep at all from an early rising on Saturday until Tuesday night. And I think we went to the park on both Sunday and Monday, definitely remember we spent most of the day there on Monday where I got the worst sunburn I've had in years. By Thursday the skin was peeling off my forehead like a snake shedding its outgrown sheath and I looked like I had some exotic skin disease.

Okinawa prefers the Kakaako Waterfront Park, a fairly new place which has rarely been mentioned in the Tales, the most notable time the morning when I was there for John Feary's wedding. It's extraordinarily difficult to get any information at all out of Okinawa but judging by the evidence, he does prefer to spend a lot of time on his own and I felt a little guilty when I returned to that park after a brief visit to campus, as if I was invading his private space. Does he mind? I've no idea. If he does, he certainly doesn't give any indication, but then he doesn't give any of being glad about it, either. Ditto for the sleeping sanctuary where I slept until finally returning to the Black Hole on Wednesday night, in need of a long sleep undisturbed by strange noises and the need to be semi-alert, to wake early enough to vacate a "forbidden" sanctuary. Not to mention being undisturbed by being able to look down to a couple of levels below and see Okinawa sprawled there on his favorite landing.

As always, I enjoyed the first day without more rounds of the pipe as much as, and in some ways even more than, the "trip" itself and, as always, the day after that was gawdawful. Only the thought that there may be more times as magical as the April Ice Follies kept me from looking for the egress, that final one.

Yes, it was a magical Follies. And for that, and for being such a strange, enigmatic friend, I do thank Okinawa.

917

The most dreadful thing that can happen to a man is to become ridiculous in his own eyes in a matter of essential importance. Kierkegaard, quoted by David Lodge in his delicious novel, Therapy.

Words to ponder, words to ponder ...

Friday, The Birthday, the New Moon. Jonathan Cainer thought that moon held all kinds of promise. Maybe if I hadn't so firmly resisted temptation all weekend some of what Cainer suggested might have happened. Regret it if you don't do it, regret it if you do. Kierkegaard, again. A quintessential quandry. No, I don't regret what might have been a missed opportunity, perhaps mostly because I don't think anything would have been that much different than it was in the April Follies, just an encore. But I really get no great credit for "resisting temptation", either. If Okinawa had come looking for me, resistance would have crumbled.

I admire him for not being a hustler while at the same time wish a little that he was.

The day itself was nothing extraordinary, pretty much the same routine. A morning visit to campus followed by a trip to the State Library, then to check the mailbox. Birthday melons from heaven. I paced back and forth for awhile, bought a beer and cigarettes and tried to make up my mind: did I go in search of Okinawa or refrain? I drank the beer, sat in the beach park, and conducted the inner debate, one side advocating a party while strongly suspecting I wouldn't get what I wanted, the other suggesting how much more sensible it would be to ease my way through the rest of this month, to enjoy the escape from what had promised to be two weeks of empty pockets.

Tanioka arrived, then the Sleeptalker. Tanioka sent the Sleeptalker to buy a round of beer for us. He teased about Okinawa, the Sleeptalker was surly on the subject. Another round of beer in honor of the occasion got me close enough to being drunk that I was no longer certain I wanted to look for Okinawa, a resistance strategy I followed for the rest of the weekend. And by then the Sleeptalker was helping, getting closer and closer to his Ugly Drunk act. It's so tempting lately to just tell him to stop being a fucking brat, not that it would do any good. Fuel on the flames. So I got up to leave. Tanioka said no, let's go look for Okinawa. If the Sleeptalker hadn't been there, I would have yielded but I had no intention of filling the glass pipe and sharing it with him in Ugly Drunk mode. So I started walking out to Magic Island, then changed my mind and went to the Black Hole.

So much for Birthday 2002.

A more conventional (and safer) celebration on Saturday, a delightful lunch with Helen and Mme de Crécy at my favorite Italian restaurant. Carbonara and two glasses of Bud. Yummm. The rest of the day tucked over at the side of the beach park, sprawled on my beach towel, exiled from the usual area all weekend by a large craft fair. No bad boys except for an occasional walk-by visit from Paulo and the sunset chat with Joe Guam. Three bottles of Mickey's and the David Lodge book which made me very homesick for London. Off again to the Black Hole.

Sunday morning in the secluded grove on campus with roast beef, cheese, rolls and beer, continuing the book. It was an off-line weekend, just not in the mood for the computer world, even when moving from the Lodge book to a "cyber thriller", R.J. Pineiro's Shutdown, with a clever, if I hope implausible, "war" between Japan and the USA, waged with computer viruses as nukes. Then back to the beach park and more beer. Characters come and go in the Tales, sometimes disappearing for such a long time I forget what name I've given them. So it is with the North Shore friend of Paulo's who always had such good weed. He made a brief re-appearance in the late afternoon, looking for a beer. I probably would have bought it for him had he not said he was planning to return to the boat he has been working on to get dinner, making me feel like he was just stopping for the free beer (and yes, why not, if so, but even so ... ). He was planning to stay with the boat for another two-week fishing expedition and then return to life in the park. I'd be happy to see him rejoin the "family", enjoyed thinking about how much fun it would be to have him along for a Follies. I have a strong suspicion there'd be no problem at all about a trade with him. (All weekend the thought had recurred about Okinawa, "if you'll play, I'll pay".)

Stop being a dirty old man, Albert. Get a grip, take up a new hobby, make a vow of celibacy. Remember what Kierkegaard said.

918

While I was having my quietly tipsy weekend alone the Bad Boys were into all kinds of mischief. Angelo is in the county jail serving what seems like a rather peculiar eleven-day sentence after having gotten caught trying to steal two watches from a Waikiki store. That, after he and the Pathetic Lady got kicked out of Restaurant Row, made to sign a one-year no trespass agreement. And Okinawa narrowly escaped getting busted in a Waikiki supermarket but did get booted from The Garage where he, too, had to sign a one-year no trespass document. Heaven knows what the Sleeptalker was doing ... he hasn't been seen since Friday.

I was sitting in the beach park early Monday afternoon when Okinawa arrived, on his own. The long run of beautifully sunny days ended and the sky was almost fully covered with grayness all day but no more than a few drops of water fell infrequently. The moment I saw Okinawa I had to admit that it wasn't just a temporary fit of drugged insanity, alas. Let us hope the crush isn't too long lasting but there's not much point in denying its existence, puzzling though it may be. It's funny how totally different Okinawa is when drinking beer compared to when indulging in the glass pipe, very active and chatty and quite amusing.

We were soon joined by Plato whom I hadn't seen for quite some time and a little later Tanioka came along. So we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking beer and talking about this and that and them and those interspersed with me flirting with Okinawa and trying to get him to turn at least temporary hustler for me. No luck thus far. He has too large a network, too many options for getting that glass pipe, no need to let a dirty old man take advantage of him. That's okay, it's fun trying to anyway. And the fantasies are probably better than the reality would be. Or so I tell myself.

They eventually left to sneak into a film and I lingered for awhile finishing the last beer before heading down to the Black Hole. Angelo's cool-off in jail will probably be good for him, maybe shake him up enough to at least slow down his career of crime. It's a shame about The Garage because that was an especially amusing party place but as I've said, I expected the eviction to come eventually. Once again, it's their fault for not keeping the place tidy ... it was the cleaning people who complained to the security people.

I did get an unusually early start to the day on Monday and noticed from the bus that someone was sleeping on a bench in the old Cloisters. I wonder if it has re-opened as a sanctuary? No solution as a party place, though, never was. And Okinawa is already talking about reviving the monthly hotel party routine, admittedly a much more comfortable way to go about it.

The three of them appeared again on Tuesday afternoon at the beach park but only for a brief visit since Tanioka had gotten a free pass for some new film, was taking Okinawa with him and planning to somehow sneak Plato in. Okinawa hadn't been deterred by Angelo's misfortune, was proudly sporting a fancy new watch. Considering the fact that if he does get busted, he'll have seven months jail time to serve from violating parole in addition to whatever time is added for the new offense, it's hard to understand how a damned watch can be worth the risk. I don't think his condition technically qualifies as kleptomania, but it does seem to be uncontrollable and he hasn't even got extreme youth as an excuse.

He has an appointment with the Qualifying Doc next Tuesday, the same one Angelo and I see, so it seems fairly likely he'll be back on Crazy Money next month, with the added bonus of a partial month's allowance since it begins from the day of application (re-application, in his case). So plans are bubbling for the Second Annual May Ice Follies already. And he's beginning to push for the idea of getting a place, sharing the rent three-ways. Fine with me, I've been in favor of that for months and would be especially so with Okinawa and Tanioka (despite the complication of The Crush). That would make a lot more sense than the Vegas fantasy, even knowing that one member of the team might well be back in jail when the next month's rent fell due.

Plato had the remains of a smoke, very decent weed, he'd gotten from Mondo earlier. They've all been running into Mondo recently, should be my turn soon.

And along that train of thought, not long after they left, Rocky appeared. He was looking (rather anxiously) for someone, probably would have lingered if I'd taken the hint and offered him a beer but, sorry, the pockets are looking a little too empty for further handouts this month. It was good to see him, though.

The continuing saga of Panther and the Bad Boys ...

919

How does one deal with geniune paranoia? Not one's own, if that tendency is present (and I think it is in all of us), but with a friend's attacks of paranoia? Tanioka had a severe attack on Wednesday and I couldn't find any way to help. Most of the time it's mild enough that it can just be ignored. So every now and then he shouts "shut up!" to no one in particular, certainly not as bad as the Sleeptalker's tantrums. But when it becomes a case of everyone who passes by somehow annoying and/or insulting Tanioka, even when it's absolutely clear no one even noticed him, what to say?

It seems at least on one level a desire for attention. The only people who did actually notice him were reacting to his loud remarks and complaints, those furtive glances one gives a madman (or woman), so he succeeded in getting their attention. And that, of course, was the opposite of what he supposedly wanted. But there was no way to convince him he was imagining it all, that if he just sat there quietly and minded his business all those presumably annoying people would just go about their own business, taking no notice at all of Tanioka.

There's not much help to be found on the web, searching cluttered with stuff about software and a game called paranoia plus a bunch of "you're not paranoid, they really are out to get you" stuff. Not that I disagree with that sentiment in most cases of "paranoia" (not surprisingly, almost all of mine), but what Tanioka experiences can only be seen as justifiable on some level of perception which is not ordinarily perceivable, so to speak. That, too, I accept as probable reality, those times when I sense an unconscious reaction, when I wonder if on some level people can actually tell what you are silently thinking. But even with that widening of possibilities, I still think Tanioka is wrong in the vast majority of cases. People genuinely did walk by without even glancing toward our table and I am convinced they were busy in their own inner world and took no notice, on any level, of ours, except perhaps in that way we all scan the immediate horizon to see if anything interesting (or threatening) is in the vicinity. We all? Well, most of us anyway (I think).

I stayed on campus for much of the morning, sitting in the secluded grove after a couple of hours on-line, reading Grisham's A Painted House. I guess he must have said to himself one morning, "I'm going to show them I can write a real novel." Not a lawyer in sight, no grand FBI/CIA conspiracies, blah blah blah, just an old-fashioned American tale of poor folks in Arkansas in the 50's. Consequently it's the only one of his books which touches upon the reality of a part of my own life, a mercifully brief part of it. Yes, I did once pick cotton on an uncle's farm. Unlike the young hero of this book, though, I wasn't expected to be serious about it, my efforts were in no way responsible for the success of the harvesting effort. Just as well, since I hated it. I hated the farm, wasn't all that fond of any uncles, aunts or cousins, found nothing about rural life interesting except the farm animals (at least the ones which didn't terrify me like the geese did). But many moments in the book bring back long dormant memories of childhood, picking cotton, big communal picnics, tornadoes, snakes and catfish. Those times were so brief and so divorced from the usual flow of life that the memories seem almost as much fiction as events in the book.

I continued reading at the beach park. The Sleeptalker walked past, headed to the shower house, ignored me the first time and again when returning toward the mall. He really does need a haircut. Maybe I'll offer to finance one for him next month ... or maybe I'll just mind my own business? Then Tanioka arrived. After awhile, the Sleeptalker returned. He said nothing to me, went with Tanioka to get Krishna food and didn't return. Plato joined us, still fretting about ways to make contact, to be sure to be included in the May Follies. He thought Okinawa's cellphone was still working. I don't think so. In any case, I told him to relax about it, nothing of much interest or excitement can possibly happen next week, not until the following Friday which will be Okinawa's payday (if he gets re-approved by the Qualifying Doc). Plato doesn't have any faith in the current Grand Plan which is to have a barbecue in the afternoon and then launch the Follies. I don't much believe in that plan either, even if it does sound imminently sensible. It wouldn't surprise me if Okinawa instead follows the Angelo method and starts checking for the arrival of the money at 11:30 the night before. No matter, no matter ... que sera, sera.

Another round of beer and an hour or so of listening to Tanioka's rants about persecuting passers-by, then they left. Tanioka apologized. I said absolutely unnecessary, no need to apologize for being who you are. If he can put up with my iced madness, I can certainly endure his paranoid attacks. But I do wish I knew better how to respond, how to alleviate the discomfort.

920

"You'll probably get it one of these days," said Okinawa. He was teasing, of course, but I think he also meant it and I was pleased that he'd even been thinking about it. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, etc.

Friday morning on campus, to the State Library, to the mailbox, to the beach park with books, a letter from Felix and a bottle of Mickey's. I was soon joined by Plato who was being oddly flirtatious even if he protested that he couldn't imagine getting a blowjob from a man. I made my usual "a mouth is a mouth" reply but convincing Plato is irrelevant since I haven't any ambitions in that direction with him. I think these guys have to put on the act even if they don't really want it, just so they don't feel left out or inferior.

He eventually went on his way, discouraged that Tanioka hadn't arrived. But Tanioka did eventually. He had been to see "The Scorpion King", the only major film to open on Friday that he hadn't yet seen. And we were soon joined by Okinawa who had also been to see the film at its first showing of the day (sneaking in, as usual). Someone had stolen his backpack while he was sleeping, poor fellow. So all he had was a plastic shopping bag with his sheets and a towel. "What goes around, comes around," he said. Maybe so. If you steal enough, maybe it's just instant karma, being stolen from? Not a bad philosophy, anyway. I don't remember (honestly, my memory gets worse and worse) when Tanioka left us but Okinawa and I stayed together in the park drinking all evening. My pockets may be too, too close to empty but when it's that "all I have is yours time", no matter. Eventually we grabbed some cardboard and went to sleep at the tennis courts. At about two-thirty in the morning the cops arrived and kicked us out.

That's the first time they've come in there since the corner we usually sleep in isn't visible from outside, but evidently the police patrols have increased since someone was killed in the park during the night of April 9th. It wasn't the first time they've found a homeless body there but the first case of apparent murder. The general opinion I've heard from the regulars is that it was a private dispute, not a random "off a bum" situation. In any case, we moved over to a nearby bus stop. Okinawa slept on the wall behind the covered bench and I just sat there for some time watching him sleep before napping lightly myself. It's funny how sleep just never enters the mind during an Ice Follies but when not iced it seems like a very very long time between about three o'clock and dawn.

In the morning we went over to the 7-Eleven and I bought breakfast for us. Plenty of foodstamps, no problem being generous with those. And they've finally clarified the puzzling situation at 7-Eleven stores. They have a number of pre-packaged items (including scrambled eggs and Spam) in the cooler, but also have some of those items in a heated cabinet. For awhile they were saying you couldn't buy any of those things with foodstamps. It seemed to me an error, since the only qualification for eligibility is that the food is COLD, never mind it can be heated in a microwave. Someone must have made more of a fuss about it because they now have a sign explaining that, yes, anything cold can be bought with foodstamps even if it is then heated in the available microwave before leaving the store. That ruling would have saved me some cash back in the days when the Sleeptalker always wanted one of the fried chicken and rice "bentos".

(I'd never heard the word "bento" before coming to Hawaii.)

Even though I told him he could have anything he wanted (so long as it was foodstamps), Okinawa couldn't resist pocketing a little pastry. Maybe it is kleptomania. What other explanation can there be?

We walked over to the benches outside Border's for breakfast, were soon joined by Tanioka and Plato. They had seen us sleeping in the tennis court but I guess had decided to leave us on our own (how diplomatic). When the bookstore opened, they decided to hang around in there for awhile. I waited until I had finished my coffee and was wanting more, then when Plato came out for a smoke I told him I was going on my way, would be at the usual place in the park later. I didn't see any of them for the rest of the weekend.

The weather guessers ("forecasters" is too inaccurate a term in these islands) had promised four or five days of unbroken sunshine. They couldn't have been more wrong about Saturday because it stayed cloudy most of the day and in the late afternoon began to pour rain heavily. I felt sorry for those folks sleeping in the park, made a dash to the mall and finished my final beer of the day at the remote sheltered bench ("Rain Haven"). Likewise finishing Jon Hassler's almost-wonderful Simon's Night. Another writer I want to read more of.

Given the time of the month and the weather, the Black Hole was very crowded and I was too late to grab a mat. No matter, after that night of little sleep I had no trouble immediately and happily settling down on my beachtowel and didn't surface until morning. The weather was pleasant and I spent almost all day on campus, although only on-line for a brief time in the early morning. The infamous Playroom is back in action. I guess some enterprising enthusiasts must have taken a toolbox in there and eliminated the metal plates. I wasn't much in the mood for participation (cue up "I only have eyes for you") but spent an amusing several hours sitting at a nearby shaded table, reading and watching the activity, surprised the place was even open on Sunday.

There were six or seven men who lingered the entire time, all of them fairly old and quite dreary. Only one time did a younger person go in there (a lamb to the lions, I thought) but he didn't remain long. Fairly stupid, all those old queens dominating the place like that. I wonder if they had enough sense to leave the middle booth vacant? (The main activity is in a group of three booths, all of which have very large holes in the partition walls.)

I finally ran out of tobacco, having raided all the possible ashtrays (limited, since the torrential rains had wiped out some of the more promising but unsheltered ones), so returned to the mall, bought a Mickey's and went to the park. Joe Guam came along a bit later, wailing because he hadn't had a beer all day. He had seen his benefactor on Friday but spent too much of the money on food. Sorry, but not much sympathy from me, silly bugger should have been getting foodstamps for years now. I don't think I'd have given him beer money even if I'd had it to spare, but I'm probably wrong, most likely would have weakened during the earlier part of the month.

The Black Hole was packed again and I lucked out, got there just in time to grab the last mat. Saturday you lose, Sunday you win ... if anything about that awful place can be called winning.

921

Another dead body in the beach park, one less homeless man in the world. Maybe Monday's Homeless Population Has Moved, Not Left headliner in the Advertiser should have been Homeless Population Dying Out. This time it was apparently from natural causes and it's entirely possible, even likely, the man died while I was sitting at a nearby table drinking beer and reading. He was a loner. I never saw him speak to anyone. Every afternoon I'd see him settled on the grass under a tree, always reading when not asleep. Because he was such a dedicated reader I felt something of a kinship with him even if we never had any contact. He didn't seem to smoke or drink, would occasionally leave all his stuff and disappear to the mall for awhile, no one ever taking the chance to check out his belongings (at least not when I was there). He was in the usual spot when I arrived in the beach park just after one o'clock on Monday and I didn't pay much attention, as usual, since he was such a regular "fixture". Later, after a snipes hunt and a beer run to the mall, I headed back to my table, saw half a dozen police cars gathered around, the body under a yellow tarp, his familiar backpack and plastic bag beside it. They had mowed the grass earlier in the day and a man was going around with a weed-whacker trimming around the trees so I guess he must have asked the man to move and discovered he was beyond movement.

Earlier, not long after I first arrived, Okinawa walked over from the mall. He had a new backpack. I'm not sure about the exact details (and am just as happy not to know), but evidently he somehow managed to bag an expensive item from a department store and returned it for credit. How he accomplished that without a sales slip, I've no idea. But he was busily spending the money, afraid if he took too long over it they might discover the refund was illegit. I took it as a timely reminder that I should never concern myself with Okinawa's welfare. If I'd had the money on Saturday, I would have bought him a backpack. Just as well I hadn't. Okinawa the Smooth Operator.

He said they'd gotten very drunk on that wet Saturday evening, that Tanioka and Plato had gotten into a fight which Plato came closer to winning! Once again details were rather vague as to how and why it started, but then that recent time when Tanioka and Angelo started fighting was also vague even though I was sitting there the whole time. Tanioka is usually such a peaceful, laidback man except during his heavier attacks of paranoia, and even during those it's verbal not physical. So it's puzzling how he ends up in these fights, even more so how he and his opponent seem to kiss and make up so readily. (That hasn't been the case with Plato and the Sleeptalker who still are barely speaking to each other after a fight early last year.)

They're all too old for that crap.

Okinawa didn't stay long, said he'd just stopped over to say hello. I went to have a shower and wash a tee shirt, then sat on that side of the pond until the Krishna truck arrived. I hadn't intended to partake of their offering since I'd found a plate lunch box left neatly bagged on a planter ledge, spaghetti in a heavy cream sauce with mushrooms and a large piece of grilled fish, probably tuna. But I decided I might as well check it out since I was sitting so near, then made the mistake of eating most of it. Too much food for one afternoon, good thing I still had some Tums in my backpack.

I stayed on-line longer than usual Tuesday morning, partly because I did some research on Okinawa's family name. It isn't a name I've heard before, doesn't sound Japanese. If I didn't know what he looks like, just saw the name, I'd think it was Italian. But the family appears to have been quite prominent at one time in Hiroshima. There's one WW2 veteran buried at Punchbowl, originally from Okinawa, but not a close relative, according to this "Okinawa".

And a completely different line of research was checking the alcohol content of malt liquors. Old Joe was right, Mickey's Ice is stronger than regular Mickey's, but not by much. Mickey's and Colt are 5.6%, Mickey's Ice 5.8%. But "Olde English 800" is a whopping 7.5% ("St. Ides" next at 7.3%). There's a malt liquor called Panther, brewed in Minnesota. I'll have to check the beer store at Ward, see if they have it. In any case, I continued that line of research off-line, had a bottle of Olde English with lunch. Uh-huh, the difference in strength is decidedly noticeable. It costs fifty cents more, but worth the extra if the goal is to get quickly buzzed. Tastes pretty awful, though.

I played Seventh Circle for about an hour as well, getting my new warrior to level 20 and enjoying the continued anonymity. Then to the beach park after lunch. I'd just gotten there when Tanioka and Okinawa arrived, the Sleeptalker joining us a little later. Tanioka's knees were badly scraped, battle wounds from the fight with Plato. I asked for his version of why it happened but he just said Plato "was acting smart". Okinawa was bubbling on about the day's successful adventures in crime including one of his rather tacky (as I see it) raids on a laundromat where he scored a new shirt and some shorts. I know it's really the same, stealing a shirt from a store or stealing a shirt from someone's laundry, but I don't feel the same way about it.

He had at least made it to the Qualifying Doc in the morning and, not surprisingly, was reinstated, approved for three months. Now he's hoping he'll get the money by Friday. No way to know, sometimes it doesn't appear until the next regular payday (for him, the following Friday since he's in the first half of the alphabet).

The Sleeptalker was in better form than he has been lately, probably because he wasn't drinking, but he had little to say except for stuff about the game where he, too, has started a new character, a mage. We didn't share the secret of our new names.

A reader wrote: I have a question about the Sleeptalker. Reading the Tales again from the beginning, I'm struck by the difference between what you say of him in the first times and what you say now. As if you were speaking of another person. I wonder if it is a difference in the way you look at him (remember this dream where you broke your glasses ?) or the result of his own evolution. Of course the obvious answer is that it is a little of both things. I wonder how much of each, however. Have an idea ?

Oh, he's a very different young man, I think. A few days ago I was looking again at the recent photos of the Sleeptalker which Tanioka gave me. In one of them he looks so sweet and innocent and happy. It's difficult to reconcile that image of him with the way he has been in person in recent months, but easier to link that photo with the bouncy, happy fellow he was in the earliest time of knowing him. I think that's the main clue to the difference, the fact that he is these days genuinely unhappy much of the time. Part of that, of course, is the six-month suspension of Crazy Money and being banned from so many places. He must often wish to just escape somewhere new, start over. And that probably wouldn't be a bad idea even if he would undoubtedly end up in much the same situation, something I realize is also true for me in those times when I, too, think of moving to another island, escape all this.

I thought of that again after the three of them went off to Waikiki. Okinawa tried to persuade me to go with them, said he wanted to smoke with me. Next week, I said, next week. Adding an unspoken "maybe". Despite their mostly amusing company, especially with the Sleeptalker in non-angry mode, I felt rather depressed. Okinawa's incessant stealing bothers me more than it should, mainly I think because he's inevitably going to get caught, as heavily as he's going at it, and I know I'll miss him. And partly because it's just so stupid, he's too intelligent to play such a dumb game, risk so much for stuff he doesn't need or even much want. But there's nothing to be done about it, I have no real influence on him nor any solution. So it's depressing, and I was still feeling it when I woke the next morning (not that a night in the Black Hole does anything to counter a depressive swing).

Nor, for that matter, does the prospect of the next few days, waiting for the Fabled Pension Check. Sigh heavily and keep the treadmill turning ....

922

In a way, it is a good thing you're in love again, as you were in the danger of getting bored. That you were looking for a likely candidate has been obvious for some time, and that O's odds were high was already clear in your account of (some of) the March Follies. Now is his usual silence making it easier, as you can project on him whatever you wish, or is it more difficult, because you don't quite know who you love ? (or is it whom ? I never understood this grammar rule - if one day you felt like explaining it, I would be most grateful).

Ugh. Grammar. I'm afraid I've always depended on saying or writing things in a way that seems most natural, sometimes deliberately ignoring strict rules of grammar even when I know them. A reader once scolded me for mis-using lay/lie and since then I've usually just picked some other word, avoiding the problem. He was sprawling on the grass, neither laying nor lying on it ... etc.

No, it's not a good thing I'm in love again. I'd very much prefer not to be, even at the risk of boredom. I'd rather have the friendship with Okinawa on the same basis as it is with Tanioka, lust playing no role and with no history of intimate encounters to cloud things (as it still does with the Sleeptalker). But yes, it is an antidote to boredom ... and inescapable.

Okinawa's silence during a Follies is often exasperating because there's just no way to get any feedback, to know if you're being a pest, if he's enjoying himself, if he's just wishing you'd go away, if he'd rather you stayed. A total blank. And even when he isn't iced, just drunk and talkative and flirtatious, it's still difficult to get him to say much about how he experiences the ice. It has almost always been the case that people were eager to talk about a drug and how it affected them, so much so it has sometimes been a boring nuisance even though I've usually been the same way. I shudder to think of all the words I wrote about the early LSD experiments. With Okinawa, the only solution seems to be to forget about it, figure if he really gets fed up he'll either say so or wander off.

Falling in love with him, feeling such physical desire for him, does absolutely nothing to help. And I'm still puzzled by it. Tanioka gave me a photograph of Okinawa, as I'd requested, and I look at it and wonder why. So unlike the way it was with the Sleeptalker when there was no question why. There still isn't. The new photo of him I mentioned is certain proof that the desire is still there, even if the way he usually acts these days has dampened it when I'm actually with him. But Okinawa? No, the photo is just a reminder of the way I feel when I'm with him. It's his total presence which has captivated me, not just physical desireability.

Really, I did think this stuff would no longer be a part of my life at all by this age.

Despite being still somewhat depressed in the morning, Wednesday turned out to be a more pleasant day than expected. I stayed on campus for most of the morning, then went to the beach park. Tanioka soon joined me, wondered if I'd seen Okinawa. Nope, and if he had been smoking the glass pipe for long the preceding evening, it was fairly certain he'd be in his isolated spot at the waterfront park, recovering. Tanioka said he hadn't stayed with them long so didn't know how the evening had gone, didn't disagree when I said I thought it wasn't a wise idea for me to join the glass pipe circle when the Sleeptalker is part of it (even though, I admit, it's an amusing temptation). Bikku arrived and we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking and talking. The main topic of conversation in the park continues to be the death on Monday and everyone who stopped by our table brought up the subject.

A report in the newspaper said: Police said they suspect no foul play in the death of a 60-year-old man whose body was found at Ala Moana Park yesterday. A groundskeeper told police he passed the kokohead area of the park near the pond about 3 p.m. and saw someone on the ground. About 5:15 p.m., a group of passing teenagers notified the groundskeeper that it appeared the man was dead. Police were called. The case is being treated as an unattended death. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death and confirm the man's identity.

No one had removed his grass mats or a plate lunch box, so I walked over to pick them up, put them in the trash. And his last book was there, under the mats, a rather ordinary looking Western-genre novel. I threw it away, too, a little disappointed his final book had been so ordinary. But then what would I want to be found reading if I was blessed with so peaceful an exit? Faust?

When the drinking session ended at sunset, I walked over to the mall, ran into Helen R outside the bookshop and she kindly treated me to a chicken dinner from Lahaina Chicken. I need to get a kiddie plate there, if they have such a thing. The portions are just too large for me, but it surely was tastey and nice to have that once-monthly treat unexpectedly repeated (it is the only place I buy cash-money food from except for the almost as rare visits to cheap burger providers). Then it was off to the Black Hole, as usual.

The reader quoted above also wrote: One of the homeless men we recently interviewed said he "never went to shelters because in these places they lacked a sense of humour". First time I get this answer, but I fully enjoyed it. What about the Black Hole ? Full of witty creatures ?

I'm afraid a "sense of humour" has never come close to the Black Hole of Honolulu, much less any wit. Not even close.

923

Angelo is out again. In one of the neverending small town synchronicities, I got on a bus at the State Library. Then Angelo and the Pathetic Lady boarded. He looks splendid, rested and happy. Later he told me it hadn't been that bad, he'd been in a two-man cell with a young Filipino from Waianae, a first-timer who had a tendency to get grouchy but was otherwise an okay cellmate. And he said the food was very good. His only problem was getting cigarettes. I suspect he'd also missed the glass pipe but didn't mention it.

They were headed to a pawn shop, said they'd see me later. I bought a beer and went to the beach park, joined Bikku who was sitting on his own. Lord Moana stopped and talked for awhile. It looked like the Moanas had moved their headquarters to a table in Paulo's area, so much stuff strewn around, but perhaps it was just a temporary encampment. Lord Moana's talk is almost entirely about people who have pissed him off for one reason or another, people he wants to beat up. I wondered (again) how much the Sleeptalker was influenced by Lord Moana in those days when he lived with them.

And I think another factor I should probably consider when talking about the difference between the Sleeptalker now and when I first knew him is, of course, the ice. There seems no question that continued use of the stuff brings about major personality changes, none of them for the better. I don't blame the drug, I think it is just accenting what is already there. And there's no doubt the Sleeptalker has always been an Angry Young Man. But the drug may well be one reason the scale has tipped so far in that direction, rarely these days balanced by the enthusiastic happiness of earlier days. I am also keenly aware that my own view of him then was heavily influenced by being so totally smitten with him. Love is blind, like they say. But it wasn't that blind.

Bikku and Lord Moana went on their way and soon Angelo arrived on his own. He and the Pathetic Lady had been shopping in the mall. She'd used her credit card to buy him new shoes and some clothes. Then Angelo recognized one of the salesclerks as someone he'd gone to school with and somehow the Pathetic Lady threw a jealous fit and stomped off. That woman is unquestionably the most severely unbalanced person I've encountered in years. I told Angelo to just relax, she'd cool off and come looking for us which is just what eventually happened. By then Tanioka and Okinawa had joined us. Okinawa was bubbling over with plans for his ice party. No more pretending he's going to wait until we have that afternoon barbecue. He'll be on the phone every night at about 11:30 checking to see if the money has arrived yet, just as I suspected would be the case. He insists he wants to treat me because I was so generous with him during his month of suspension; I assured him he owed me nothing, I did it because I enjoy his company and sharing the pipe with him. I did say I was rather uncomfortable with the idea of smoking with the Sleeptalker, that it would be better if he wanted to have the Sleeptalker at the party for me to wait until round two when the May Crazy Money arrives. No, he'd rather have me there than the Sleeptalker, he said.

I bought Angelo a beer before the others arrived and by the time the party broke up we must all have been drunker than I'd realized. I walked over and slept at the bus stop, already too late for the Black Hole. And in the morning when I went back to the table where we'd been, I saw two lighters, a box of snipes (including one virgin Kool) and the little zipped bag I keep coins in, all on the ground under the table. Amazing no one had grabbed it all.

Friday was, a little surprisingly, a day on my own, those days I begin to see as "a day off". It was also a one beer day. So I stayed on campus until almost noon, went to the State Library, bought the beer and went to the beach park. I finished Stephen Birmingham's The LeBaron Secret which I'd taken only because there wasn't anything more interesting in the selection during the prior visit. If I'm going to read these grandiose soap operas about the rich and famous, might as well stick with Danielle Steel who does it so much better. Next in line is Dean Koontz's From the Corner of His Eye which will be a change of pace anyway. If I ever do manage to get a room of my own, I'm going to spend months reading classics, have had enough of this so-called popular fiction (or is it pulp fiction, in its new disguise of NY Times Best Seller?)

The Buddha Full Moon seemed to have less effect than most, no raving loonies or unusual happenings. I was reminded of my puzzling in the India Notebooks about how a full moon got designated as Buddha's Birthday, came to the conclusion it was the full moon of May. Wrong, the full moon of Taurus. Well, happy birthday Lord Buddha, hope it was a less boring day for you than it was for me.

The Panther's Tale: 924

924

Falling in love is, alas, no cure for boredom after all. Well, at least not the kind of "falling in love" we're talking about with Okinawa. The final weekend of April 2002 easily qualifies as the most boring weekend of the year thus far. Lack of money plays a major role, of course, especially on Sunday when there wasn't even the price of a beer in pocket and it was an extraordinarily unlucky day, no quarters, not even any pennies abandoned in my path, and none of the Bad Boys in view.

I did see the Pathetic Lady, on her own in the mall. She was waiting for Angelo and Tanioka to return from a pawn shop where they'd taken her watch. She assured me it was not for filling the glass pipe, said Angelo had given it up after she'd given him the ultimatum: either her or the pipe, but not both. I kept my doubts to myself. More power to her if she can accomplish that, but I really don't think it's going to happen, even if Angelo had said rather plaintively to me while we were waiting for her in the park last week that he's gotten "rather fond" of her. Please, please, never let me get a wedding invitation. I don't think I could take that.

I did spend some time with Tanioka in the park on Saturday, even went along to sleep at GovSanc2, although on a bench isolated from where they sleep. It seems a reasonable enough place to park on weekends but I wonder how they get away with sleeping in their spot during the week since it's right in front of a major entrance door. I walked past them when I left very early on Sunday morning, enjoyed seeing Okinawa sleeping, as always. A third person was with them whom I've not seen before.

There seems to be some kind of a migration going on. Lord and Lady Moana have definitely shifted headquarters, as suspected, after years of staying in the same area of the beach park. I doubt Paulo is too happy to have his domain invaded but haven't spoken with him about it yet. And the Ferret told me he'd been in Kapiolani Park in Waikiki on Sunday, was surprised to see a number of people there who used to make the beach park their headquarters.

As for me, I plod along basically the same paths, campus in the morning, mall and beach park in the afternoon and evening, Black Hole at night (aside from rare exceptions like nights on bus stop benches or at GovSanc2). Drinking, reading, smoking, feeling bored. The Koontz book didn't help and I was tempted several times to throw it away even though admitting that perhaps it's as much my fault for being so bored his effort could do nothing to alleviate it.

And I do so dislike being bored. I really do.

Maybe I should have an affair with Cheyne, even if I am wayyyyy too old for him and would probably very quickly get even more bored with his habit of hanging out in gay bars and clubs all the time. He certainly is cute, though.

925

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Not in the romantic sense of that song, or at least not entirely. More in the sense of feeling utterly lost and uncertain what to do, or even if I should be thinking about what to do or just walk on and see what happens. And walk I certainly did. The loneliness of the long distance walker.

I didn't stay on campus for long Monday morning, too eager to check that confounded mailbox. It was empty, as were my pockets, a certain recipe for depression. But I wasn't sure if I'd checked too early, so I went to the beach park, had a shower and then went once again to check the box. Still empty, alas.

I was sitting with the increasingly dull Koontz book when Tanioka, Angelo and Okinawa arrived. They all had beer and eventually first Angelo, then Okinawa offered to share. Tanioka, who is usually the most generous man I know, was in a very weird state of mind, wouldn't yield anything for hours ... anything. Well, that's his right, of course. Okinawa was certain he'd be getting his money in the late evening and despite our conversations about how much more sensible it would be to just wait until the next day before starting a party, that was forgotten history and he was determined to begin as soon as the money arrived, had already made a room reservation at a Waikiki hotel.

A couple of days ago Tanioka had wanted to buy my CD player, offered forty dollars. I didn't really want to sell it, even less so after checking stores and discovering it would cost almost seventy-five to replace it (and that was an on-sale price). But if I was going to accept Okinawa's invitation to an all-night party, I definitely wanted to be able to get beer, cigarettes and coffee or tea for the next morning. So I asked Tanioka if he was still interested. Okinawa wanted it instead, but would only pay thirty. Tanioka dropped out and the subject went on a back burner.

They went off to a pawn shop, said they'd be back. I didn't really expect to see them again, was much surprised when I returned from a snipes run through the mall to see them at the table. They wanted to go to Border's to kill some time until Okinawa's money arrived, then decided they wanted another beer. I'd found four quarters while in the mall, Tanioka yielded and loaned me the extra dollar needed for my beer.

That finished, we stayed around Border's for a boring length of time. I finally decided to leave, went into the store to tell Okinawa but he said no, we'd head on down to the place where pipe filling is available and wait near there until the money arrived.

Well, the money never arrived. Okinawa traded his new watch for a bag and we shared the pipe. Then they tried to persuade me to trade the CD player for a second bag. I said that was too silly, better just to call it a night and try again tomorrow (or later that day, actually, since it was after midnight). They begged for awhile, then gave up and we walked over to GovSanc2, Okinawa and I detouring through Restaurant Row looking for snipes and the whole time he nagged me about the CD player, wanted me to promise to sell it to him for thirty dollars. I said I hadn't really wanted to sell it at all and that it would just depend on whose money arrived first. He kept nagging. Finally I said, "if you let me suck your dick I'll give you the CD player." That shut him up ... briefly anyway.

He settled down in his favorite spot at GovSanc2. I don't know where Angelo and Tanioka were, didn't see them when I looked for someplace a little more secluded than where Okinawa was, especially since there was a snoring stranger already sleeping in that area.

Finally I decided to leave. So I walked slowly through the quiet streets, stopped at 7-Eleven and used the last of my foodstamps to buy two large cans of Japanese green tea and stopped at the mall to drink one of them. Then I continued my walk all the way to campus, getting there shortly before six in the morning.

The main problem is, I think, that these guys are willing to do anything for that glass pipe (well, thus far one exception with Okinawa). They spend all their legitimate income within days and would happily spend all mine, too. Then I end up broke for the rest of the month since I won't steal to get beer, much less ice. And these few days of being flat broke have been much worse than ever before.

Oh well, I guess I can classify the weird last Monday of April 2002 as not entirely boring, anyway. Not particularly satisfying either, though.

926

"Witness Albert, aka Panther, already infamous in some online circles. He ogles cute boys at UH one minute, ponders Greek philosophy the next. He sketches and paints, devours books at Hamilton Library, buys sundaes at Dairy Queen and spends a lot of time people-watching. He is also, among many other things, a self-proclaimed 'urban nomad' (a class others might call 'homeless')."

Ryan Ozawa, writing in the May first issue of Honolulu Weekly

-----


Several readers have expressed concern about my current state of mind. Sorry about that, I tried to go lightly on it in the Tales, always remembering Ophelia saying online journal writers eventually become whiners. But yes, this has been a very down time, one of the worst I can remember. I saw the psychiatrist on Friday morning and so I've at least got a little chemical help to blast out of the pit, a daily dose of 900mg Neurontin, 30mg Remeron, and a new one, Effexor XR (37.mg for the first week, then to 75mg).

A walking drugstore.

As for that other drug ... well, the Second Annual May Ice Follies was utterly bizarre and, probably fortunately, not at all how it had been planned. I had already bought a little bag from Paulo when the Fabled Pension Check arrived but didn't say anything to the lads about it. Tanioka, Okinawa and Angelo were in the park on May Day evening. I bought two rounds of beer for us, paid Tanioka the dollar I owed him. Okinawa and Angelo went on a "shopping" expedition, returned with several rings. I declined the invitation to join them after they'd either pawned the rings or traded them directly for the ice, said I'd rather just wait for the weekend party. After they left I talked for awhile with Tanioka, then went on to the Black Hole.

None of them understand how it is with me and ice. I don't like the drug that much at all and I strongly dislike the hangover price that has to be paid in mind and body. But I love the ritual, the sharing of the pipe. So it's no temptation to me, carrying around a bag for a few days. If it were the weed instead of ice, the stuff would be gone the same day. I'm quite happy to smoke that all on my own, although even with that I like the sharing ritual better. Tanioka, I think, now begins to see what I mean. Angelo and Okinawa just can't, the stuff is too important to them to imagine anyone passing up an opportunity to smoke it.

I was given a heavy silver ring in the "Hawaiian Heritage" jewelry style, was confused because I thought Okinawa had given it to me. But actually Tanioka had bought it from Okinawa, then Okinawa told him he should give it to me. (I know, I don't understand either.)

Angelo came to the park again on Thursday, said we were supposed to join up with Okinawa and get a hotel room. We drank a beer and waited around for awhile, then decided to go to The Garage where Okinawa would most expect to find us. I surprised (and of course delighted) Angelo by producing the bag and we shared that so were already pretty zonked by the time Okinawa arrived. We had a short wait before his money appeared, then they just couldn't get it together about a hotel room. It was already so late I thought it would be too difficult to sneak two people in, suggested we should just get some more smoke and wait until Friday for the hotel. Heaven knows why, but they wanted to go to a Korean bar and drink some beer first. It was a dreadful place, one of the worst such bars I've visited ... and I saw a lot of them in the months with KM2. And bottled Budweiser is so fizzy. Angelo played some hideous music on the jukebox, one television set had CNN, another a grotesque show about animals doing weird things, both with the sound off.

Okinawa had already started nagging again about buying my CD player. I didn't want to sell it.

After two rounds of beer we finally went back to The Garage and smoked. I think it was about two o'clock when I went out into the parking area, was enjoying looking at the moon but disappointed yet again that it was too cloudy to see the extraordinary planetary line-up that's going on. Thus far we haven't been very lucky stargazers. I was probably out there for about twenty minutes. When I went back in, Okinawa and Angelo were gone. So was my CD player.

Muttering "I just can't believe it" over and over in my head, I walked to 7-Eleven, bought a pack of cigarettes and a large can of iced green tea and spent the rest of the night in the park reading Trevanian's wonderfully stylish The Main, occasionally pausing to once again think "I just can't believe it". How the hell can a damned CD player be worth more than friendship? And it's even more baffling because he must have gotten at least six hundred dollars, could easily have bought one.

The CD player, of course, is not important. I'll miss having it (especially the radio) and probably can't manage to replace it until June, but no big deal, my internal jukebox is always ready to rev up a tune. Having a friend steal it does matter. I've no idea how he plans to resolve the situation, return it or give me the thirty dollars he'd offered or just expect me to let it pass? No idea. But it certainly helps resolve that other problem called being in love.

Maybe I am a lucky man.

927

This new chemical stew has me feeling rather dozey and dopey all the time but there seem to be no adverse first reactions to Effexor like the nausea from Paxil and the mood has certainly improved a little already. I do have to be very careful first thing in the morning, difficult to keep my balance, stumbling around trying to pack up and get out of the Black Hole.

The routine there is, if I get there early enough, grab a mat and tell the sign-in person what number is written upon the thing. Most of them know my last name already, but if not I have to give that information, too. The mats have been washed down and are still damp, sometimes quite wet. But rather than go through the routine the more fastidious use, grabbing a bottle of disinfecting liquid, squirting it on the mat, rubbing it down with the (supplied) rags, I just get out my beachtowel and put it over the mat. Take the pack of cigarettes (or butts) from my pocket, take out the plastic teeth, put them in the backpack. Take the little Remeron pill which is so small it can be swallowed without liquid assistance. Get the earplugs out of the backpack, stuff them in my ears. Put a tee shirt over the backpack as a pillowcase, fold one arm over my eyes to block the light ... and go to sleep.

And dream, most nights. Sometimes I have to get up and stagger to the toilet, especially if it has been a three-beer day. Otherwise I sleep on until about five o'clock, get up, pack up, and leave. With this chemical haze, that half-hour is one to be very carefully negotiated. It wouldn't do at all to stumble across someone's mat and fall down on them. Not that there's any temptation to do so with ninety-nine percent of the occupants.

There are some readers of the Tales who hold them in much higher regard than do I. But I am grateful I've written them. I spent an hour or so Sunday morning reading the Tales from this time last year. And I realized it isn't only the Sleeptalker who has remarkably changed, the same goes for Angelo. He's a very different young man now than he was even one year ago. Once again, I think the batu, the ice, is the main reason. It's silly to think of or describe any of these young men as "innocent" but in a sense, that's how they were. "Sweet." That lightness has gone, alas.

The satellite photo showed a huge mass of clouds covering most of the Pacific Ocean, these mountaintops right in the middle of it. So it was no surprise that the weekend was gloomy and gray, with frequent misty drizzle and a few downpours on Sunday. I stayed on campus Saturday morning, made a trip to the State Library and then went to the beach park with my one beer of the day. Scott Turow's lawyers/cops fantasy, Pleading Guilty, provided the reading entertainment for the weekend, a rather silly book but with a finale which was perversely amusing.

I decided I just didn't want to live without music, spent some time checking prices in various stores. No, a replacement for the CD does have to wait until June, but I did buy a radio. I could have gotten one cheaper than I did, but I know from experience how foolish that is. Better to spend a few extra dollars for quality. So I got an Aiwa AM/FM Stereo model with quite decent headphones. I bought it when I left campus to get lunch, didn't notice until I was back on campus that it needed AAA batteries. So I didn't get to listen to it until a later trip to the store for my sunset brew.

I was rewarded with an hour from the Spoleto USA Festival, including a delightfully whimsical piece for clarinet and piano by von Weber. There was a moment in the first movement which made me laugh aloud. A young man walking past gave me one of those "uh-oh, another loony" looks. Quite so, my son, quite so. Tchaikovsky's first string quartet was a pleasure, too. But next was a program of lieder and songs, all featuring a late singer with a vast reputation but one I found annoyingly tiresome, especially with her rolled r's. I won't mention the name so no one will consider me an utter barbarian.

By then it was later than I should have lingered, especially considering the weather. So I was scurrying through the mall on the way to the bus stop. I heard voices calling my name, looked. Tanioka, Angelo, Okinawa. "It's late, I've got to go," I said, and kept on walking.

The White Rabbit.

928

... still I'm sure to meet him one day,
maybe Tuesday will be my good news day.


Monday was the Dutchman's birthday so I marked the occasion by having two large bottles of that fine Dutch brew, Heineken, sitting at an umbrella-covered table at Manoa Garden while the rain fell ... and fell and fell. During a break in the showers I did manage to get downhill for cigarettes and a Mickey's, returned to a sheltered spot just before the worst downpour of them all began, was stuck there for about an hour and a half. Little wonder there was serious flooding on parts of the island.

And Tuesday? Was it good news day?

Bittersweet is more apt. The Sleeptalker returned. His fugitive brother is back in town, somehow has a house out in Makaha and the Sleeptalker has been staying there. He was extremely vague about the details, perhaps not too surprising since brother's photo is still on that poster. The Sleeptalker had been playing Seventh Circle in Sinclair Library, came to the secluded grove just as I was finishing my lunchtime brew. He talked then, and later, about how much he wants to find a job but as always he has it all mixed up with playing the game. A return to the dog grooming job, which he admits would probably be possible, is unattractive because the man's computer doesn't have the right software (!). I did suggest the drill is get a job, get a computer, then play the game on your own time. I did certainly spend time playing during my own working career, but he's unlikely to find a job like that.

He had seen Angelo on Monday, was pleased to hear I'd been worrying about him, amused I'd thought he might be in jail. He debated for awhile about returning to the game or joining me in the beach park. It's a long bus ride in from Makaha, a long way to come just to play that game, but he decided to go with me instead. We got beer and went to the park. He was jumpy and always on the edge of his "looking for something better" mode, but alternated that with sweet and rather touching moments, overall the most enjoyable time I've spent with him in a long while. He asked for another beer, wanted some snacks to go with it. I agreed to the beer but instead of snacks I shared my monthly feast from Lahaina Chicken with him. One of those plate-lunch boxes is definitely enough for two.

Then the unexpected. In fact, I didn't think it would ever happen again. And I've lost count. But he's a sweetheart and certainly picks a special way to earn some ice money.

He went off to smoke then. It was tempting to join in, but wiser not to, both financially and emotionally. Quit while you're ahead, I told myself and, amazingly enough, listened. So I sat with a final beer and the radio. If any proof were needed that Liszt was a maniac, his Todentanz should be enough. And Hesse's elegant flame of Brahms in Steppenwolf was equally well proven by that pompous gentleman's Variations on a Theme of Haydn. If those two met in the hereafter, I could easily imagine Haydn giving Brahms a kick in the butt. That was followed by a really awful version of Mozart's 40th, so bad I turned it off and went to the Black Hole, my head feeling cluttered and muddled by the return of the Sleeptalker and our time together.

The only way I can escape is by leaving this island. But do I really want to escape?

928a

This is a thoroughly unsatisfactory Tale. That admitted, I don't see how at this time to make it any better, so I just append this disclaimer.

A perfect example of Kierkegaard's "regret it if you do, regret it if you don't." He seems to have most often, if not always, chosen the "don't" regret. I tend to go with "do". And regret is perhaps not quite the correct word. Uncertainty, more like. Once something is done, a path chosen, not much point in regret but equally no point in denying an uncertainty about whether the right, the wisest, choice was made.

After that dramatic Tuesday, Wednesday was a rather dull day. Although it stayed mostly clear and sunny in the morning, clouds returned by lunchtime but with little moisture from the skies. I had been engrossed in Mortal Fear by Greg Iles, then even more caught by Strangers from Dean Koontz. The first is an excellent contribution to the "serial killer" genre, with an online-world twist since the killer selected his victims from a sort of erotic version of AOL. And the Koontz is an equally excellent addition to First Contact fables, on a par with Close Encounters. So I did little on Wednesday but spend a few hours online in the morning, read with lunch in the secluded grove and continue reading with beer in the beach park, the only human contact being the usual chats with Joe Guam.

The Sleeptalker had been quite rude to Joe on Tuesday, so I was more patient with him than I might otherwise have been, not really much appreciating the interruption in reading to listen to his usual rundown on what he'd eaten, how many times he'd taken a shit, and how much money he'd gotten from his various benefactors. He rarely talks about anything else except for an occasional gossip about the other park regulars. It's funny how he talks disparagingly about the Duchess, wondering how she can stand to do nothing all day but sit on a bench in the mall, all night sleeping in a sitting-up position at the bus stop (which she moves to in the late afternoon). But he does almost the same, sits all day in the beach park, goes every night at the same time to the boat harbor. About the only differences I see are that he drinks beer and lays/lies down to sleep. I don't see how either of them can stand to exist without reading or music or some kind of activity (knitting, basketweaving?). But it is funny how he doesn't at all see his own position as being so similar.

This seems a very peculiar time, one of the best boosters for the concept of astrology I've seen. The extraordinary four-way conjunction and opposition in the solar system seems to have many people in Full Moon Mode even though the actual full moon is not until the 26th. Some of the park regulars who are usually solitary, quiet types were in full howl on Wednesday afternoon, so much so I wished I'd followed my first instinct to relocate to Waikiki. That option is still high on my list of possible antidotes to my own continuing inner storms.

And Jonathan Cainer's messages for every day this week have been right on target. I hope he's as accurate with his prediction that things will soon change for the better.

929

I decided it was best to be alone for a time. The drugs are helping, no doubt about that. Which of them is responsible is a question which could only be answered by omitting two of them. Oddly, during the conversation with the psychiatrist he said he didn't want to prescribe more than one drug because we then wouldn't know which was effective ... and then he prescribed three.

In any case, even if it's the combined effect of all three, the inner balance has been restored to a state at least closer to comfort. 'Unwobbling pivot' is too much to hope for in this unsettled time. I've dreaded this period for years now, the month before SocSec begins. And I still don't know, am almost afraid to find out, whether the June Crazy Money is already assured or if I have to see the Qualifying Doc once again. Or, of course, whether I just have to live on the Fabled Pension Check for three weeks or so. The uncertainty does nothing to ease my mind.

Nor does the dilemma about the Bad Boys.

In a moment of wry humor, I thought how boring the Tales would be without them as active characters.

The weather continues to provide little assistance, remaining almost continually cloudy, threatening rain although little has actually fallen during the daylight hours. I stayed on campus Thursday morning, then went to the other end of the beach park where I know no one, had a shower and washed a tee shirt, sat drinking a beer and reading Trollope. I hesitated at the bargain table about buying the book because it was an abridged edition of the Palliser novels, all six of them in one volume, published in conjunction with the BBC television version. Well, I did read the originals during my period of enthusiasm over Victorian England, and the elegant introduction by the editor was reassuring. It was an enjoyable read, but I did wish I was reading the original version, especially the one about the Eustace diamonds. I looked the next day at the State Library and they do have the originals, but in such massive volumes I wouldn't want to lug them around in the backpack.

Friday morning's visit to campus was a brief one and after the stop at the State Library I went on to Waikiki, spent the afternoon in Kapiolani Park. The pigeons there are an utter nuisance, incredibly bold and arrogant. If I hadn't waved a book at them several times, I think they would have snatched bread from my hand as I was eating my cheese-and-roll sandwiches. Needless to say, they got no food from me. Pests.

Original Sin is one of the best from P.D. James, kept me thoroughly engrossed throughout the day and early the next morning. As sunset neared, I returned to the far end of the beach park, continued reading with my sunset brew. When I went to the bus stop, Tanioka was there. "Have you been in the park?" he asked. I said yes, and pointed across the street. "Hiding," he said with a grin. Uh-huh. I asked if he'd seen the Sleeptalker. He said no, that everyone was asking about him. So I told him the Sleeptalker was staying with his brother in Makaha, that I'd been with him on Tuesday. The bus arrived before we could talk further. I do miss the chats with Tanioka, was glad to see him even that briefly.

They were playing hideous rap music at the Black Hole and for once I was relieved when they finally switched to television. They play such angry music there and show such violent films on videotape or equally violent sporting events. It seems an odd policy, often aggravating tense situations and there was one on Friday evening which almost resulted in a fight. There had evidently been some trouble there earlier, too, since the police were parked outside. I would have thought more docile entertainment would be a better choice, but then I think the "guards" pick the offerings they themselves want to hear and see with little regard for what effect it may have on the "inmates". (Yes, it does sometimes seem like prison there, even worse because there must not be any prisons which house so many men in such close proximity. It's surprising there aren't more squabbles than there are.)

Mars and Venus together in Gemini. It must be a very strange weekend for the Sleeptalker.

930

Gloom and misery everywhere, stormy weather, uh-huh. Cainer thought the Mars/Venus conjunction might make for an interesting weekend. Maybe if I'd gone somewhere to give it a chance, might have been ... or was last Tuesday's encounter with the Sleeptalker a premature reaction to the heavenly embrace? In any case, no it wasn't an especially interesting weekend, stayed cloudy throughout but with little rain until late Sunday evening. I stayed on campus all day (although I didn't go online on Sunday), went to the far end of the beach park each day for my sunset brew (without a visible sunset). Paulo went by on his bicycle, waved and said "hi, Albert". I guess it won't be a secret for long that I'm down at that end.

I made a visit to the used book shop, was pleased to find Scott Turow's first novel, Presumed Innocent, there. An author would undoubtedly not be pleased to hear his first book praised as his best, but I did prefer it to later ones I've read. Someone must have sold their collection of "legal fantasy" because there was quite a selection of them at the shop. I also got Jeremiah Healy's The Only Good Lawyer, a writer I've not encountered before. Decent entertainment.

A break from books on Saturday afternoon to hear Verdi's Othello from the Chicago Lyric Opera. It's the first time I've heard Renée Fleming and I thought she was splendid, am eager to hear more of her. Not likely until the fall season of the Met, since she seems to be spending the summer in Europe. I'd especially like to hear her doing Traviata, which is scheduled for next April at the Houston Opera. A birthday trip to Texas next year? (Ugh, I hate Houston.) I'd rather go to Paris in June or July, hear her doing Russalka. Fat chance.

The gloomy weather continued on Monday morning after what appeared to have been a night of heavy rain, but at least water stopped falling in time for lunch in the secluded grove. 7-Eleven, to my peril, is trying out the new Olde English 800 "High Gravity" malt liquor, a much stronger brew than Colt or Mickey's although at the same price. I doubt it will remain as a permanent option at 7-Eleven, will probably disappear like Hurricane did. It's odd on the web, some sites say it is brewed by Pabst, others by Miller. But the most authoritative account says it was originally brewed by Stroh, which sold the brand to Miller when Stroh went out of business in April '99. What is different about this new version, as compared to the original Olde English 800, is that it's a full 8 percent alcohol/volume (one web site says 7.91 percent, close enough), and it replaces Olde English 800 "Ice" which I never tasted. One thing's for sure, I need to limit myself to one bottle of the stuff a day, go back to the weaker ones if I want a second brew.

I graduated to the 75mg of Effexor, as well, but don't notice any difference with that increase (unlike the brew).

A trip to the mailbox produced a letter from my social worker, a new one apparently. I've long thought my original one was on the verge of retirement. An appointment with the Qualifying Doc is supposed to be made by June 1st. That suggests my impression is correct and the June coverage is already in place, since a re-evaluation usually comes much earlier than that. But it doesn't say anything to make that a certainty, so that muddle is still muddled. I suppose the safest thing to do is see that Doc again, although I can't say I'm very happy with the idea. I'll make up my mind by Friday, since I have appointments with both treating docs that day. Sigh.

I added to readers write my replies to a reader's questions about the wretched thing called money.

On Ryan's Hawaii Stories plans are being made for a gathering of online journal writers on Saturday afternoon at Magic Island and Cheyne is supposed to be there. Deja vu to the meeting with Ryan and Jay. I wish that guy would start writing again, but then maybe he is and I just don't know the secret new address. I enjoy re-reading the old entries he still has available, though. I wish he'd come back from California and be at the picnic, too, but let's not get too carried away with wishing ...

And I'm torn between going to the picnic or listening to Weill's Street Scene, being broadcast that afternoon (again from the Chicago Lyric Opera).

Some guy started sitting in line for the first showing of "Stars Wars, Episode Two" FIFTY-FIVE hours before showtime.

931

Wherever the canon of conspicuous leisure has a chance undisturbed to work out its tendency, there will therefore emerge a secondary, and in a sense spurious, leisure class -- abjectly poor and living a precarious life of want and discomfort, but morally unable to stoop to gainful pursuits. The decayed gentleman and lady who has seen better days are by no means unfamiliar phenomenon even now.

It's Finals Week at UH, that time when students discard books which they're no doubt glad to be rid of but aren't worth trying to sell. So it was I found of copy of Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class, written in 1899 but still more relevant to life a hundred years later than one would expect. The above quote made me think how I go through that cycle on a monthly basis, starting off with relative luxury and ending up penniless. Of course, in July the cycle will shift forward and the middle week of the month is likely to be the poorest.

This solitary life is stretching the money more than it probably otherwise would have been, but it's certainly not going to stretch beyond a few more days. Adding to the unattractiveness of the rest of May, Hamilton Library will be closed after Friday. The Tales will continue, of course, but perhaps more sporadically.

The cheapest way to smoke tobacco is to pick up lengthy butts from ashtrays or, of course, ask people for one. I don't allow myself the latter and don't at all enjoy the former but resort to it in the poorest times, rarely ignore really lengthy butts even if I have money. The cheapest way to buy tobacco, though, is the roll-it-yourself version and with that option a brand called Top is the cheapest and most widely available, replacing Bull Durham which was the poor man's tobacco in my younger days but no longer seems to be around. With Top, the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes is about 60 cents. It's a method I should always use but as in many other things sheer laziness intervenes when the means is there. The odd thing about Top is that it is processed and packaged by a company in Illinois but the pack of rolling papers which comes with it are "Made in France". Peculiar that it's cheaper for the company to import paper (especially from somewhere like France) than to manufacture it themselves or find a domestic supplier. File in the Small World file, I guess.

Despite dwindling funds, I did make one more trip to the used book shop, picked up two novels by another lawyer-bestseller new to me, Sabin Willet. I read the later one first, The Betrayal, and then The Deal, his first book. Both are firmly in Grisham territory, huge amounts of money, rogue FBI agents, government conspiracies, etc. etc. The Harvard Law School of Fiction Writers.

So both Tuesday and Wednesday were spent lost in legal fantasies, lunchtime in the secluded grove, sunset at the far end of the beach park. The weather finally improved a little, partly cloudy on Tuesday, mostly sunny on Wednesday but until late afternoon with little breeze and uncomfortably high humidity. Springtime weather in Hawaii sucks.

I did at least accomplish one long-postponed chore, a trip to the laundromat, and followed that with a shower at the beach. Albert the Clean Panther, morally unable to stoop to gainful pursuits.

932

Friday marked the End of an Era. Well, I know the time scale doesn't really qualify as an "era" although in some ways it does seem like it. No more Doctor Games. I decided I'd had enough, even at the risk of a very, very poor month of June. So I chatted with the psychologist for half an hour, with the psychiatrist for fifteen minutes, and bid them farewell.

The psychologist's basic parting advice was to just relax and enjoy my retirement. He thought I was being too negative in describing my immersion in fiction as "escapist", asked how it was any different than people going into an office for hours every day (or watching television, I added). With this cognitive school, what you do or even why you do it is not as important as how you look at it. It's a decent theory, I'm not knocking it. And even though I know I'd probably view my escapist tactic differently if I were reading more substantial books, I also know that's to some degree intellectual snobbery. Maybe his office worker example is not so far off. They do it for money, most of them. And I'm being paid (although not so generously) to stay alive. How we get through the time is irrelevant. Maybe.

He asked if I was drawing. No, very little has been produced this year. I think "Black and Blue" is finished, after some was added to it during Othello, but I'll let it simmer for awhile and look at it again. Maybe I'll tear it up and throw it away, maybe I'll tear it up and paste the fragments onto new cards. Don't know yet. In any case, the urge to work on visual images remains basically dormant.

With the psychiatrist, the emphasis was on pills, as always. At one point I told him I didn't expect to find happiness via a pill. How then? "If I knew that, I'd be doing it." He gave me a prescription for three months worth of Effexor. I'll get it filled, but probably won't have insurance coverage for the additional refills. Doesn't matter, I plan to wean myself off the stuff (all of it) gradually, starting by reducing the Neurontin from three a day, take two a day for a week, then one a day, then none.

I've looked back at the Tale of the last visit with the Qualifying Doc, feel sure he did authorize the Crazy Money through June, but I thought that once before and still think the social workers are cheating us all one month, accepting the re-authorization as beginning in the month it was issued even if that month was already authorized. If that's right, then it will indeed be a very poor month.

I don't care. I'm fed up with the Doctor Game.

Those visits taken care of, I spent the rest of the day on campus with the first of a Robert Ludlum double feature, The Aquitaine Progression followed the next day with his final book, The Prometheus Deception (final, unless there are books published posthumously). I'm not really a fan of this spy-thriller genre but Ludlum was a master at it. Both books easily qualified as "escapist" tools. It was odd that they had essentially the same plot.

Sunset brew at the far end of the park, continuing the book.

As I wrote on Hawaii Stories, Saturday wasn't just a bad hair day, it was a bad mind day. I was in a foul mood when I woke and stayed that way for most of the day. I think this was partly because, for the second time in a week, I'd gone to sleep immediately after settling down at the Black Hole, then woke at about two o'clock and couldn't get back to sleep for what seemed like ages. The lost sleep doesn't matter, I am sleeping far more than I would if I had my own room ("escapist" tactic, again). But the time wishing I'd get back to dreamland is still irksome and carries over to the next day.

So I abandoned any thought of joining the picnic. I was glad later I hadn't made that decision in order to hear Street Scene because I didn't like it at all, gave up after about half an hour. I was much surprised because I like Kurt Weill's music. Maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the very broad, almost burlesque treatment they gave the work. Whatever, it seemed like one of those works which are stuck between being a Broadway musical or an opera, not successfully being either, and without the melodic moments which make Porgy and Bess or Candide succeed.

Since I was nearing the end of the second Ludlum book, I went to the State Library, returned to campus and to the murder-mystery stuff via James Patterson's Hide and Seek. Then once again to the beach park for a sunset brew, the Tales Jinx taking over. As I once observed, if I say in the Tales I am not going to do something, I inevitably do it. So I had a second one of those wicked Olde English brews. (I am not going to say I'll never have three in one day).


933

plato

The city medical examiner's office has identified the pedestrian killed in a Wednesday night traffic accident as Raymond Alan Melley, 31, of Wahiawa. Melley died at the scene at 9:39 p.m. when he was hit by a car heading north on Kamehameha Highway, near Wheeler Army Airfield. Police said it was unclear whether he had been walking, sitting or lying in the roadway when he was hit, adding that he was not in a marked crosswalk.

I settled down on the one next to Romeo with a young lad I think of as Plato (ref: the Sal Mineo character in "Rebel Without a Cause") on the one in line with mine. Romeo was already asleep, but Plato was reading. He, at least, must be happy with the lights being left on upstairs, making our area bright enough for books. Plato must be 17 or 18, not sure of ethnic origin. Although I've seen Rocky say hello to him, he doesn't seem to be part of the Social Horror Club.

from Tale 148 [yes, he looked much younger than he was]

-----

Indeed, long after the above was written he told me his age, laughed at what must have been the shocked look on my face and said he still got asked for his ID when buying beer. He was a little guy, a sweet little guy, and looked as if he might still be growing. A scraggly little moustache didn't do much to make him appear older, instead was like the ones young men grow in a deliberate attempt to seem so.

I was deeply saddened by the news of his death which I didn't hear until the following Monday. He wasn't really one of the Bad Boys, but he wanted to be, and I remember one of our last chats together alone when he was plaintively sighing over how difficult it was to meet up with us, now that there is no main sleeping place. And I remembered, too, another time when he worried that he would never find a woman who loved him. Alas, he didn't. I hope he was happily stoned when he was "run down", as the Sleeptalker put it, and that death came quickly.

Aloha oe, poor sweet little Plato.

The Sunday before that dark cloud arrived was devoted, for the most part, to the new Star Wars film. Helen R suggested we have lunch before seeing it, so I met her outside Border's and we went for the first time to an outdoor cafe called Kakaako Kitchen. The food was decent enough but ridiculously overpriced. Then to the Ward cinema complex. Helen had bought the tickets in advance so there was no worry about finding it sold out, but we had to stand in line for over an hour to ensure getting good seats. It was the most crowded cinema I've seen in a long time, but was a good crowd which remained thoroughly engrossed in the film.

I had been very, very bored with Episode One but found this new one quite entertaining, only lost interest during some of the overly extended chaotic battle scenes and even more so during the love scenes. Those "smoochy" ones were also the only times some little kids in front of us got restless. I didn't blame them.

But I must say, that new Anakin is first class eye candy.

This is the interim week on campus, the first summer session not beginning until the Tuesday after Memorial Day, but the place is not as deserted as I expected. After a brief time online Monday morning I went to get beer and a sandwich, returned to the secluded grove. I had almost finished the brew when the Sleeptalker arrived. The sad news about Plato was the first thing he mentioned. It was one of those things that are so shocking the tendency is to sweep it out of mind for awhile, and so I did, not really thinking about it until I was settling down to sleep.

I heard the evident solution to the puzzle over how the Sleeptalker's brother has a house in Makaha. He has married the widow of a friend. The Sleeptalker said she felt she needed a father for her child. He also said he didn't feel right about staying there, planned to return to town. He'd straightened out his situation at the Black Hole so could go there, but had stayed with Tanioka at GovSanc2 the previous night and I suspect has gone back there since I haven't seen him since.

We went to the far end of the beach park and drank beer for the rest of the day. People are usually all shades of gray, but the Sleeptalker is very black and white when it comes to drinking. He either becomes a nasty, angry drunk or a delightfully sweet and affectionate one. The latter was happily the case at that "party", a delayed wake for Plato. We both got drunk.

He went with me to check the mailbox on the way to the park. Nothing there but another letter from the social worker which should actually have preceded the re-evaluation forms. The wording strongly suggests there will be no June Crazy Money, alas.

No more parties for too long a time ... and no more Plato, ever again in this lifetime.

-----

He drew some of the cards with you, didn't he?
asked a reader

Yes, the Hymn to Batu

"I wish we would have a better life"

-----

934

A trip to check the mailbox on Thursday brought to mind Maxwell's silver hammer. Bang bang bang bang, four envelopes from the social worker. All enclosures the same date, undoubtedly spit out of the computer one after the other. A government agency which deals with the poorest segment of the population should display greater sensitivity to waste.

No June Crazy Money, said enclosure one.
No need to apply for re-evaluation, said enclosure two (redundantly, to say the least).
No more State medical coverage, Federal Medicaid only and that doesn't cover medication except in emergencies.
Foodstamps reduced to sixty-three dollars.

All that lovely news could have come in one envelope.

I am a little impressed by the unusual efficiency of the system, the Feds notifying the State, but wish it had been a little less so in this particular case.

Hard times, hard times. Oh well, at least the questioning is over except for one: I wonder if SocSec puts the check in the mail in time to reach a recipient on the third Wednesday of the month or if they wait until then to mail it? Stand by for the answer in about four weeks.

935

Epiphany.

3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery (4) : a revealing scene or moment

For almost three decades, thanks to Ram Dass and LSD imprinting, I've held in mind the idea that BE HERE NOW is what they called on Star Trek a prime directive. Then in an epiphanical (if that's a word) moment, I realized that's not so at all. Perhaps for a monk or a yogi, someone whose life is dedicated to the search for something spiritual, it's true (although even then, if one is searching, it's not exactly being here now, is it).

For people to whom other people mean as much as they do to me, it's nonsense. Selfish, juvenile nonsense.

Equating Shinran Shonin's "live every day as if it were your last" with "be here now" is also a mistake. They are not synonymous at all.

Epiphanies aside, it has been a most unusual time, although mostly in my head. In an exception, as was bound to happen eventually, I crossed paths with Okinawa. He was on the bus headed toward the Black Hole. I was reading, didn't see him and so don't know if he'd already been on it or boarded it after I had. He got off in Chinatown, walked past me either not seeing me or pretending not to. Perhaps he thought I'd pretended not to see him. He looked awful, ragged and weary, post-ice time most likely.

If he was pretending not to see me, it was an unnecessary effort. I've come to realize that he and Angelo did me a great favor. I'd been lost in a fantasy of brotherhood, a notion that made passing that pipe much more than it really was. Popping that bubble was a fine gift, well worth the price of a CD player.

The weather has been splendid. Clear, sunny days, refreshingly cool in the early mornings. Its perfection is marred only by too-languishing tradewinds, making for hot and sweaty afternoons, reminding me once again how I could not live here without those tradewinds. It's too much like Bangkok, walking around dripping sweat and eager to get to the next artificially cool sanctuary. I've already resorted on two days to hopping on a bus, just riding it somewhere for almost an hour, then getting back on another to return to my starting point. Cool reading rooms, mobile.

The reading matter has been inconsequential, most of it not worth mentioning. Exceptions are Downtown by Anne Rivers Siddons and Rosamunde Pilcher's September. The Siddons book is an admirable attempt to capture the feeling of those epiphanical late Sixties, from an Atlanta point of view. She failed, as she suggested in her introduction, but it was no less admirable. A less contrived ending would have added much to the stature of the attempt.

Pilcher's book, equal to her enjoyable Shell Seekers, is set in Scotland in more recent times, essentially a family-saga soap opera but with sufficient depth to make it, too, notable.

Sitting in the secluded grove on the Friday before the holiday weekend, I finally pulled out my "work in progress" packet, decided that "Black and Blue" is indeed finished. "Gon Fishin'", a collaboration with the Sleeptalker, is not. I know what I want to do with it, but that has to wait until I can afford the materials. "Mona", a collaboration with Maryse, is still only two-thirds complete. Not much output for 2002 thus far, but no matter.

I've seen no one I know, except for that brief non-encounter with Okinawa and a glimpse of Helen R crossing a street, talked to no one. And of course, I've thought a lot about my economic future now that I know the exact details. June will, of course, not be typical. Through absurdly inept planning (I couldn't have done a better job if I'd deliberately set out to mis-plan it), almost half of the Fabled Pension Check will have to go for the mailbox. But even when it settles down to the life-long routine (at least so far as guaranteed income is concerned), it's not going to be a rich life, in terms of economics anyway.

That's especially true if I continue to indulge my vices in the way I usually do when I have money in pocket.

So one must, yet again, more closely examine those vices. But then, what better have I to do with these warm and sunny days of late Spring?

936

What is it they call Prohibition in America, the Noble Experiment? Whatever ... I call it, on a national or personal level, Dumb. Nevertheless, I decided to undertake the experiment for the three-day holiday weekend. To have any chance at all of succeeding, I spent what little money I had on the preceding Friday. I went overboard, didn't even have money for coffee on Saturday morning, the foodstamps balance being too low to indulge in the more expensive canned version.

People who say "money, no money, no difference" should spend a three-day holiday weekend without any. They might find it a little more difficult to mouth such platitudes.

Dame Fortune to the rescue, providing exactly the fifty-two cents needed for Sunday morning's coffee. Actually, I'd avoided an all-out caffeine withdrawal by drinking some found remnants of Coke and Pepsi on Saturday afternoon, but even so, that coffee surely was welcome. I think I missed it more than I did the beer, on the first day anyway. I didn't have any problem living without alcohol the first two days. Time seemed to pass far more slowly, a most unwelcome effect at this particular time, but there was no craving. That changed big time on Monday. By mid-afternoon I could think of little less. The Good Dame had again provided money for the next day's coffee and I was walking around saying, look, if that's an omen saying coffee is okay, why not send a similar one for alcohol? I was sorely tempted to go ring Helen R's bell and beg for a couple of dollars, even walked to her apartment house and then stopped myself. But back at the mall, I found an abandoned baby stroller, took it back and there was already a dollar in there!

All right, I take it as an Omen from the Gods: coffee and alcohol are okay.

But then I was just kidding myself. I know Lao-Tse, Gautama and Confucius had it right. MODERATION. In all things.

It was an interesting experiment, though. I was surprised by the lack of difference, especially in the early morning. Waking totally sober, without even a trace of a hangover, meant nothing. But what was really different was dream life. As always after an alcohol-free day, the dream mind went ballistic. On the first night I had one of the most vivid, dramatic dreams I can remember. It was one of those dreams which seemed utterly real and the only departure from truth was that it was set in Waikiki but there was a steep slope down to the beach. Not so. All of Waikiki is flat and only three feet above sea level. Aside from that, it was highly realistic and it was the most horrendous storm I've ever seen. There were two enormous waterspouts on the horizon, looking like Kansas in Oz, doubled. And huge waves swept in, thirty or forty feet high, depositing mounds of rocks and dirt offshore, forming a kind of island reef. I was with friends and we were foolishly standing right on the beach, reminiscent of the day when Hurricane Iniki hit and Jonathan and I had the brainy idea of walking over to the beach to watch. The police stopped that little brainstorm fast, and they did the same in this dream when they eventually arrived and made everyone get off the beach. A man standing near me said plaintively, "Waikiki will never be the same."

Lordy, what a dream. I told Kory K I hoped it wasn't an omen that a hurricane will hit us (the hurricane season having just begun). He said if it did and wiped out Waikiki, great. I can't altogether disagree.

Oddly, each night there was also a dream about apartments, either moving into one or, on the first night, sharing one with a partner who was about to move out. I was worried about what he would take with him. And there was also one dream about moving into an office, this time with two partners. I was hanging some framed drawings on the wall. All the drawings were more amusing than anything I've ever done. How is it I can dream better work than I can actually make?

I did begin a new one on Memorial Day while listening to Mahler's Resurrection Symphony.

Meanwhile, given the unwelcome abundance of bad news lately, there was one very welcome development. They've installed lockers on campus in a place with 24-hour access. Fifty cents! The locker has to be emptied on the first and third Saturdays of the month, otherwise it is only necessary to spend another fifty cents whenever it is opened for some reason. Suddenly the first thing on my shopping list became a small bag, just large enough for my glasses, a book, beach towel and a forty-ounce bottle of brew plus the little green plastic bottle I use as disguise. When there isn't a forty in it, it will be extremely lightweight. The idea of walking around without a backpack is sheer freedom, and it also means I can take advantage of quantity purchasing, a savings which will easily balance the cost of a locker, even if I accessed it more than once in a day (unlikely). Not only is it cheaper than the commercial locker facilities, it's so convenient since I travel to campus every day anyway. Hallelujah.

I did spend most of each day of the weekend on campus, went to Waikiki in the afternoon on Saturday, to the far end of the beach park on Sunday. On Monday evening I finally returned to the picnic table which used to be my sunset "home". Lord Moana rode by on his bicycle and shouted, "hiya Uncle!", and Joe Guam stopped by on his way to his sleeping place, said he'd thought I'd gone to the mainland or something. We didn't talk long since it started to rain lightly (the first of the holiday) but it was good to see him after my time in exile.

I thought on Tuesday morning that someone should make a tee shirt which says "I survived Memorial Day Weekend 2002".

937

Tuesday, back-to-school day. At long last, Hamilton Library re-opened the main structure and walking through the front door was wonderful despite the horrible smell from the new carpet. Even more wonderful, there are twice as many computers now. It is rather poor planning to put them in the front of the place, floor to ceiling glass making some of the computers very difficult to use because of the glare, but even so, a splendid surprise.

Both campus libraries are going to close on Saturday during the summer, so my on-line life will be limited once a week but that doesn't much bother me, especially since I can at least check email at the little stand-up computer lab.

I stayed on campus all morning, then went to the beach park, again returning to my "home bench". I was reading Hideaway by Dean Koontz. Thursday dinner at St. Thomas's Home for Children was always split-pea soup, ham, green beans, potatoes in herb butter sauce, and a square of fruited Jell-O with a blob of fake whipped cream for dessert. Sometimes the nuns got into the sherry or just went wild from too many years in their suffocating habits, and if they lost control on a Thursday, you might get corn instead of green beans or, if they were really over the top, maybe a pair of vanilla cookies with the Jell-O.

At his best, Koontz is such a fine writer I can't help but wish he'd knock it off with the weird and supernatural sometime, just let himself write a "regular" novel, like Grisham abandoning lawyer-fantasies with his Painted House.

A young man with a cast on his foot limped over to the table, asked for a smoke. I let him roll one from my Top pouch, declined when he later asked for a second, saying "people who smoke Top can't afford to give it away." I think that will be my new line for cigarette-beggars. He said he had hurt his foot running. We talked for awhile about nothing of consequence, then I left to check the mailbox (empty) and visit the State Library.

When I was cleaning out stuff from my backpack on the weekend, I re-read the letter from SocSec and noticed that it said "you will receive the check on or about the third Wednesday of the month". Receive. That suggests they mail it in advance. It's doubtful, though, they'll take any special account of the longer mail delivery time in Hawaii. And since the checks evidently come from St. Louis, it's likely to be at least the third Friday of the month for me. Even so, it's only three more weeks now.

I considered going to the clinic pharmacy for my final refills but decided to postpone it for another day or two. One of the first things I decided when I got those cut-off letters from the welfare worker was to throw away the prescription for Effexor. No point in getting my body accustomed to the stuff for another month when I have to give it up anyway. But I will get the Neurontin and Remeron refills. Both work on an as-needed basis (although I also decided this is not the time to reduce Neurontin further than two a day). How odd it will be to eventually be prescription-drug-free.

Back at the park, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Snorer and his lady. Such a long time since I'd seen them. And I was also surprised, although less pleasantly, to see how pregnant she is. It's like seeing tiny kittens on campus, delightful to watch but sad to think of them growing up "homeless". The Snorer's lady seems quite pleased with it all, though, and proudly showed me the sonograms. The baby has its legs crossed so they can't tell what sex it is going to be! Smart kid, I said. Keep your legs crossed.

After they went on their way, Paulo stopped by, tried to sell me a very nice pair of surfer shorts. I probably would have bought them if I'd had the money, but sorry, I borrowed enough for beer this week but definitely not enough to help someone fill the glass pipe, even for a cool pair of shorts in exchange.

And yikes, what an embarrassing moment at the Black Hole during the night. I was dreaming I was with someone (the Sleeptalker, possibly) and reached over to run my hand across his head. AND DID IT ... to the young man next to me. "Oops," I said, immediately waking, "sorry!" He grinned.

Whew.

938

How very silly. A cold in the head. An asymmetrical cold in the head, since the almost non-stop dribble comes ninety percent of the time only from the right nostril. It seems so weird to get a cold when the weather is sunny and warm but I think I have actually had more "summer colds" here than in winter. This one arrived without a hint of warning, just suddenly began on Thursday afternoon. I assume it's an acquisition from the Black Hole, no doubt helped by an auto-immune system weakened by stress and a not very nutritious daily diet. All in all, it seems a most fitting and appropriate end to this unprobably merrie month of May.

Not very nutritious was an understatement on Tuesday when I ate nothing but a bag of potato chips. I could, of course, have gone to one of the soup kitchens but I'd rather starve than eat at the Black Hole and I wasn't too keen on meeting any of the Bad Boys which might have happened at the lunchtime alternative, River of Life. I also could have used the few remaining foodstamp dollars or (blasphemy) a dollar of beer money for a burger. But I wasn't really hungry, so didn't. Consequently the Krishna food tasted very good on Wednesday, even if Joe Guam grumbled about it (as usual) and said he'd thrown most of it away.

At this time of the month a daily visit to the mailbox is the regular routine, one which will change now, since anticipating the arrival of the Fabled Pension Check will be supplanted by the earlier watch for that SocSec scrap of paper. The box was empty until Thursday when the monthly card for dental insurance arrived, even though I know the insurance will end today, the last of May. I should go to a dentist and get a tooth pulled, will no doubt regret it at some future point when I have to pay for the removal. The damned thing is so loose and wobbly I keep expecting it to just fall out, as the one next to it did one morning some years ago. I wonder if I could use the old tie-a-string-to-it, the other end to a doorknob, stand back and slam the door? Or ask Kory K to yank it out with some pliers? But then who knows, it may still be wobbling in there when I depart this plane of existence.

I've sometimes wondered if I'd do that just before SocSec begins ...

Meanwhile, more books not worth mentioning. But I always enjoy first novels, good or bad and of any genre, and Alice Blanchard's debut, Darkness Peering, is impressive. I did cringe, though, at the description of the autopsy of a young man killed by a truck. Too close to recent history.

The secluded grove is more or less off limits now, berry dropping time. I hope the worst of it is over by the fifth when the foodstamps will renew my cherished habit of eating lunch there. So I've been leaving campus after some time on-line in the mornings. On Wednesday I spent the afternoon in Kapiolani Park (Waikiki, for those who don't know this place), returning to the beach park for the Krishna largesse. Thursday at the far end of the beach park. With this weather a daily shower and wash of the tee shirt is almost essential, and the weather-guessers say we are in for an extended time of sunshine, temperature predicted to hit 88F. It's a good thing the tradewinds have picked up some, but they could puff even a little more if it's going to get that warm.

Although Honolulu officially qualifies as one of the "largest cities" in the United States, that's largely because the entire island of Oahu is consided the "City & County of Honolulu". In fact, it often seems like a very small town, as I've said before, particularly when one's usual range extends from Chinatown to Manoa to Waikiki. That thought came to mind again when I spotted Angelo in the mall on Thursday. I ducked out of sight, don't know if he'd seen me as well, left the mall and headed down to the far end of the beach park for that shower. It was funny that I saw him, since I'd been reading some Tales from months ago when he was very much the major interest. And reading those was also a firm reminder of how much he has changed. But I do admit, he looked wonderful.

A reader wrote: The Bad boys are not unlike a pack of jackals: at times scavenging alone, sometimes together, occasionally taking a bite of flesh from a colleague to satisfy a fleeting urge. Erk. I think that's too harsh even if it does contain a grain of truth.

The only ones I really miss seeing more often, though, are Tanioka and the Sleeptalker.

And Plato.

None of them jackals.

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the collected tales