THE SIXTH YEAR
more tales from the year of the horse

I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light, if not happier,
then at least more active, less hesitant, less distracted by trivia. I wish it had more shape.

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale

and into the sixth
994-1000
1001-1006
1007-1008

over the river and deck the halls
1009-1014
1015-1017
1018-1022
1023-1025

two thousand and three
1026-1029
1030-1034

994

Okay, more "assignments" like that and I'll stop bitching about designated sleeping spots at the Black Hole. I've adopted a new strategy of arriving a little later than my former habit. I guess the overseers don't realize some areas are less desirable than others, or perhaps that's just my way of seeing it. In any case, the first arrivals are assigned to my least favorite area and then the room is gradually filled until reaching the spaces I like best, along the windowed wall. There's not much of a breeze from the windows but a least a little fresh air filters in. So when I got there on Tuesday night, only spaces along the windowed wall were left. Fine with me. My companion on one side was utterly dull. On the other side someone had left his mat and gone back out. It wasn't until I woke later in the night that I saw its occupant. Brandon!

He was wearing only shorts, the kind of things we used to call "Madras Bermuda shorts" which I haven't seen in years. They seemed to be quite thin fabric with a fairly tight fit which proved later to be wonderfully revealing of what they were covering. Chalk up one more solid point in Brandon's favor. And that lightly hairy chest is truly a fine one. It was a pleasure to spend some time just watching him sleep, reminding myself that I really had hugged that fine body.

Now how do I lure him into being a regular member of the Bad Boys Club?

The first day of the Sixth Year was fairly dull, slightly irksome, especially since there is some construction work going on at one end of the secluded grove which requires a noisy generator. Despite the disturbance the kittens were waiting for me when I arrived, the dark one having returned, and I shared a can of Alaska pink salmon with them. I finished The Songcatcher, wasn't too surprised to discover from the author's afterword that the historical material in it is based on fact, the author's own family history. The blend of contemporary material was a little too contrived and it wasn't nearly as successful a use of that gambit as was made by Rendell with Asta's Book. Next in line was Joan Didion's Run River. A highlands waitress could hardly ask me, "you don't read women authors, do you?" At least not without getting a much more affirmative reply than Dylan gave.

Later in the beach park I spotted Joe Guam getting ready to depart for home, ducked over to the mall until he had walked past. The bugger didn't keep walking, sat at my usual table, presumably waiting for me to return. Oh well, sitting in Philo Walk isn't too bad, would be far more pleasant if the big luxury tourist coaches didn't keep their motors constantly running (no doubt to maintain the airconditioned interior coolness). I stayed there for half an hour, then took a peek and saw Joe had gone so returned to the park. The memory surfaced of the Sleeptalker irritably saying one evening to Joe, "what are you doing here?" Maybe I should be that bold, but it's probably too late, Joe would think I was joking. I wonder how much a one-way ticket to Guam would cost?

995

The Sleeptalker talks funny. That was the first thing I noticed. The Waianae influence, leaning more toward pidgin. The hair on his arms seems to be getting heavier and darker. He looks splendid despite a rather scraggly beard, mostly on his chin. And he stayed almost all the time in a good mood, even after two large glasses of beer at Manoa Garden and an added forty zones of Mickey's in the beach park. To say it was good to see him is an understatement, of course.

I'd gone back to Hamilton Library after lunch in the grove. That has to be timed now to coincide with the workers lunch break when they turn that wretched generator off. These construction projects on campus tend to drag on and on so I won't be surprised if this operation, something to do with buried electrical connections, continues for a couple of weeks. The kittens are surprisingly unbothered by it, I suppose because they feel safe up there at the top of the wall. The birds are more nervous about the noise. Anyway, back at the library I looked in on Seventh Circle and a few minutes later the Sleeptalker appeared in the game, playing from Sinclair Library. I suggested having a beer at the Garden even though I really couldn't afford it, but we could hardly sit drinking in the grove with all the activity there. On the way to the Garden I called Tanioka, left a message, but he didn't appear. I don't think he even looks at that pager very often, keeps it silent in his backpack (or else he's just never gotten paged when I've been with him).

As always, the Sleeptalker dodges most direct questions and talks about things with such randomness, mixing in reality and the game, so putting together a coherent picture is something like a jigsaw puzzle. His brother is back in jail, will probably be there for a couple of years. And although he talked a little about the "camp" he'd mentioned in an email, he seems to be spending most of his time in his mother's house. All I could get out of him about school was that he's studying "health". How that helps him get his high diploma, who knows? He was turned down for Crazy Money and isn't getting foodstamps although he should be, he's certainly eligible even though he'd have to follow through with their employment people. He says he wants to get a job but then admitted he'd had an offer and hadn't gone to the scheduled interview. I know what he wants, a job with computer access, get paid to play MUD. (Or more likely, get fired for playing MUD on company time, even if he did manage to find such a job to begin with.)

I still had some beer in my bag from lunch so topped up the one I'd bought at the Garden, gave him the money for another one. Once that was finished we went on to the beach park, getting some food for him at a 7-Eleven on the way along with the Mickey's. He was already debating with himself about whether he should return to Waianae and I don't know if he eventually did or not. Paulo joined us for a little while in the park and the Sleeptalker was quite jolly with him despite having grumbled about how much he dislikes Paulo when spotting him from a distance. When Paulo went on his way, the Sleeptalker wanted to work on a card. He'd forgotten to bring in the ones he had been working on, a third "Jesus Saves", so he named this new one "Jesus Saves IIII" and we did two cards for it. Then I thought it would be amusing to see his reaction to the Renée Fleming CD. It was, even moreso when he sang along with it in made-up Italian.

He's such a sweet man.

996

Sigh. Pay the Piper time. No question, of course, that the dance was worth it with the Sleeptalker but if there's any time I do seriously yield to misgivings about that glass pipe, it's such a time as this.

An extended run of pleasant weather ended with a wet Friday, frequent showers and a few heavy downpours. I had to eat lunch in a sheltered spot but fortunately the rain stopped for about an hour in the early afternoon so I was able to feed the kittens. They're back on a human food basis until Magic Third Wednesday, no doubt eating more expensively than any other cats on campus. Let us all be grateful for foodstamps. I was grateful, too, that the damp weather hadn't arrived the day before.

I stayed on campus for most of the day, managed to get to the State Library in the late afternoon without getting wet and then went to the far end of the beach park where it remained dry for the rest of the day. I listened to all of the Renée Fleming CD, unusual since I usually take it a little at a time, and worked on some cards. I like the "Jesus Saves IIII", shall wait and see if the Sleeptalker wants to make any further additions or add more cards to it. I did encourage him to come in again next week, after Wednesday.

Improved weather on Saturday but it was a rather dull day, designated as a one-beer day which didn't help its prospects. On both Friday and Saturday I spent more time than usual in Seventh Circle, got my warrior to level 60. Five more levels and things will speed up considerably since one of the most valuable areas doesn't become accessible until level 65. People were still talking about the Sleeptalker's surprise appearance on Thursday.

I ran into Helen R at the mall, teased her about how her rubber slippers weren't nearly as elegant as black pumps, was told they are a special collector's item since they came from the now-extinct Woolworth's. She treated me to a baked potato at Arby's, reminding me I really should patronize that place more often myself. One of their large potatoes is meal enough for me and makes for a more sensible economic choice than the places in the Food Court, especially since the "combos" there always have more food than I really want. Not until I'd ordered did I notice Arby's has added a BLT to their selection, so Helen suggested meeting there again on Sunday so I can compare it to the Subway BLT. I hope the staff at Arby's has more sense than the Subway crew and doesn't find it necessary to ask, "you want tomato?"

They had Gone With the Wind in the freebie selection at the State Library. Tempting, but I resisted, went instead for Deer Leap by Martha Grimes and a historical yarn about Cornwall, Once On a Far Wild Shore by Malcolm Ross. Time spinning.

What I really want most in Pay The Piper times is a twelve-hour sleeping pill. Wake up, eat a snack, drink a beer, take another pill. Repeat until Wednesday morning.

997

That damp Friday was just a preview. The tradewinds disappeared and the dreaded Kona winds blew in a huge mass of nasty dark, moisture-filled clouds. Floods, rockslides, etc. etc. Honolulu seems to have been spared the worst of the storm, most of the heavy rain falling during the night. (People who live in the beach park would no doubt thoroughly disagree with that "spared" observation.) And surprisingly, the campus area was more often threatened with rain than actually getting it. I even managed lunch in the secluded grove on both Monday and Tuesday.

Magic Third Wednesday. Let us hope a recent dream wasn't prophetic. I dreamed the SocSec check wasn't in the box. Yeukh! Who needs dreams like that, I ask you. Thanks to Helen R, I arrived at MTW with about eight dollars of foodstamps left, unprecedented. We did try that "limited time" BLT at Arby's on Sunday.

-----

Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2002
Newsgroups: hawaii.test
Subject: BLT Test: Arby's vs. Subway

Have tested the Subway version several times, opting for the six-inch instead of the foot-long. Tested the "limited time" one at Arby's yesterday.
The bread at Arby's is much more interesting. The stuff at Subway smells wonderful when it's baking but actually has little taste.
Arby's is more generous with the bacon but they overcook it. I like my bacon crisp, but not so crisped that it's like those "bacon bits" sprinkled on salad.
Subway wins totally on the financial side, the Arby's version (perhaps only slightly larger than the Subway six-inch) is almost $1.50 more.
Conclusion: I think I'll stick with Subway for my BLTs.

-----

And helping out still more, Helen asked me to dinner on Tuesday, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn-on-the-cob at KFC. First time I've eaten corn since that tooth fell out. It's like running a harvester over a field, leaving a big gap unmown, have to shift it over a bit for a second go. I'm just lucky I can still eat the stuff at all, better enjoy it more often while it lasts.

998

"No. I will do almost anything for you, but I will not buy that stuff for you," I said to the Sleeptalker when he was wavering from his determination to stay away from the ice.

He'd sent me an email telling me he had an important exam on Wednesday evening, but that he would come into town on Thursday. And he asked me to let Tanioka know. Fortunately, Tanioka and Taiwan came to the beach park so I was able to pass on the message. The Sleeptalker arrived on campus at about ten-thirty on Thursday morning. We played Seventh Circle for awhile and then went to Manoa Garden. Chicken noodle soup and Budweiser, sitting outside under one of the big table umbrellas while the rain fell. And fell and fell and fell. It rained nonstop for hours.

He was being quite delightful, flirtatious and amusing, kept looking around at the other people with an almost mechanical jerk of his head left and right, then wondered why I was looking at him and smiling.

The Sleeptalker got impatient, went to send a message to Tanioka's pager and soon there was a return call. Then Tanioka arrived, with Taiwan of course. They're about as inseparable as Angelo and the PL.

Another round of beer and then we went downhill to Magoo's for pizza and more beer. I don't think I've drunk that much Budweiser in years, but then bars unfortunately don't supply malt liquor.

When I took the GED test to get my high school diploma, it was only one long exam. But evidently the Sleeptalker is doing it in sections, says he has "three more books" to go. He wasn't sure whether he'd passed the Wednesday night ordeal or not. If not, he'll have to wait a year before trying again. I don't know why our "rulers" make such a fuss about that damned piece of paper because it doesn't mean shit, to put it bluntly. But I do hope he passed this one, and passes the others.

He started wishing for "budz", the greenery, and I would have been happy to finance that but with the continuing rain it was most improbable we'd find a supplier. When it drifted to the ice, I said no firmly and was grateful Tanioka stuck to his promise not to encourage it when the Sleeptalker was around.

The Sleeptalker has been listening to his mother's CD collection and has oddly gotten very enthusiastic about Michael Jackson and Madonna [!]. I told him he was showing his age, getting all nostalgic for the 80s. He asked for money for the jukebox which I gave him, even though we were sitting so far from it the music was almost non-existent. I suppose my teasing him about his age prompted him to later claim he was only 23. Sorry, I said, your birthday is on the web.

Ridiculously enough, Bartender Bryant asked them all for ID (Taiwan is 33!) and then again they got asked for it when we went on to a Korean bar. That was supposed to be because the bar had cheap beer and a jukebox, but they'd gotten rid of the jukebox, had karaoke which the Sleeptalker and Taiwan wanted to tackle. Nixed when the server told us it was two dollars a song! How very silly and greedy. But like most Korean bars, they did provide free snacks with the beer and we stayed for two rounds before I told the Sleeptalker I was taking him to the mall, buying him (another) pack of cigarettes and putting him on the homeward-bound bus. Tanioka and Taiwan left us at the stop and I stayed with the Sleeptalker until the bus arrived. He wanted yet one more beer, but I'd had my limit, gave him some money and said if you really want it, go get some. He didn't, got on the bus when it arrived, saying, "see you around".

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly ...

999

"I don't know how it happened," said Tanioka, when I expressed surprise that he was broke already, only just past the mid-month mark. Maybe it's some special October virus because money seems to be running through my fingers like water. Very bad timing since November's Third Wednesday isn't until the 20th.

Friday certainly didn't help. I told Tanioka I probably shouldn't write about it at all, but then if I start omitting accounts of times when I've been stupid, I might as well retire the Tales altogether, even if I am so close to the Scheherezade benchmark.

After spending the day on campus, I went to the beach park. Tanioka was there, unusually these days on his own. He'd been to his stepfather's house to shower and do laundry, so hadn't seen Taiwan. After a beer we acquired a glass pipe and the filling, went to The Garage to smoke it. Then he went to get another bag while I waited on a bench outside for him to return. Taiwan had arrived by the time Tanioka returned, so the three of us went back to The Garage to indulge. It was one of those times when I get struck down by the Motormouth Disease, just couldn't shut up. Sometimes I think if I'm going to smoke that stuff I should do it only when I'm entirely alone.

Tanioka eventually wandered off, presumably to a new sleeping place he's found, leaving Taiwan and me alone. I should clarify about Taiwan. Despite the name, he's a real mainlander, not Chinese at all. A Navy brat, which makes more sense of the Taiwan-Tokyo-Mississippi childhood.

After awhile he wanted to have another round of the pipe, offered to do the shopping, assuring me would return. He didn't. Oh well, best to get these fellows properly classified early in the game, so he moves to the list headed by Angelo called "proceed with caution and keep your money in your pocket, an eye on your bag".

I was sufficiently stoned not to care very much, even if I did feel a bit pissed off about it the next day, and I stayed there until about four o'clock, walked to the 7-Eleven for coffee, then had an unusually early shower, pre-dawn, to wash off the dirt from The Garage.

The usual post-pipe wrecked feeling persisted all day Saturday. The touchy stomach is especially a nuisance. So I took it easy in the secluded grove, ate sparingly and sipped a beer slowly. Eventually I had an hour's nap which didn't much help.

The weather finally shifted, tradewinds returning, but remains unpleasantly humid and very warm. The frigid interior of Hamilton Library was most welcome even if I was too wasted to concentrate much on the computer. That week of nasty weather left an unfortunate legacy, though, since it sent my sinuses into the worst spin I've experienced in years. Actually, since the days of the Cloisters, when my sleeping companions sometimes grumbled about my middle-of-the-night coughing attacks. There are plenty of other coughers at the Black Hole, but I still feel badly about being a nuisance. I resorted to some "Extra Strength Sinus Relief" tablets which at least removed the constant slight headache but did little to dry up the gook. It's unfair to suffer from both chronic bronchitis and chronic sinusitis but if I'd stop being such a greedy addict of tobacco it would no doubt greatly help.

Tanioka said the last line of Tale 998 didn't mean anything to him. Just in case there are other readers equally puzzled, it's one of my favorite Jerome Kern songs, from the musical "Showboat":

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly,
I gotta love one man till I die.
Can't help lovin' that man of mine.
Tell me he's lazy, tell me he's slow,
Tell me I'm crazy, maybe I know.
Can't help lovin' that man of mine


Of course there are certainly other reasons to tell me I'm crazy. See above references to Friday.

1000

Both
Jonathan Cainer and Rick Levine think this is a most auspicious time for us Rams. I can't say I see any evidence of it. There's nothing specifically wrong (aside from the continuing sinus nuisance) but nothing particularly right, either. In short, it's a dull, routine time and I can't come up with any bright ideas to improve it, at least not any that I can afford.

I didn't mention reading for awhile because I was thoroughly occupied for some days with Edward Rutherford's monumental novel, London, a fascinating and delightful way to review the history of that noble city, made even more interesting because of having lived there for years. The book spans the centuries from pre-Roman times to the late 1990s, is riddled with amusing trivia, especially about the way place names came into being, and has hundreds of plot-lines about succeeding generations of the same families, detailing the ups and downs of their fortunes. A splendid work.

After that I returned to some lightweight mystery novels. The Mysterious Press imprint from Warner is the first in years I find so reliable that I'll buy a book just because they publish it, and I've yet to be disappointed.

So the routine has been the usual wake up about five o'clock, drink coffee at McD's in the mall, go to campus (where Hamilton Library has begun opening at 7:30 instead of 8), spend a couple of hours on the computer, go either downhill or further into the valley to pick up lunch. Sit in the secluded grove, feed the kittens and the birds, and read. Some days then go back to the computer for a little while. As expected, my warrior in Seventh Circle reached the stage where progress is for a time quite rapid and is now at level 75. Then to the beach park for a sunset brew, ducking over to the mall each day at about six to avoid Joe Guam, a successful tactic for about a week now. No sign of the Bad Boys, no word from the Sleeptalker since his visit.

Cainer wrote on the first day of Scorpio: Hopefully within the next 48 hours or so you will understand why I feel inclined to be so buoyant on your behalf.

Dull routine cycles seem inevitably to be broken by the unexpected, so we'll see what surprises the next 48 hours have to offer.

1000a

from the Sleeptalker:

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 15:21:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: party

dont worry about it. i was just teasing you.
but i might have. it was a spooky idead to anyway.
but thanks for backing me up cause i really didnt want
to anyway.

1001

When they were alone, Scheherazade addressed her thus:

"My dear sister; I want your help in a very important affair. My father is going to take me to the palace to celebrate my marriage with the Sultan. When his Highness receives me, I shall beg him, as a last favour, to let you sleep in our chamber, so that I may have your company during the last night I am alive. If, as I hope, he grants me my wish, be sure that you wake me an hour before the dawn, and speak to me in these words: "My sister, if you are not asleep, I beg you, before the sun rises, to tell me one of your charming stories." Then I shall begin, and I hope by this means to deliver the people from the terror that reigns over them."

Dinarzade replied that she would do with pleasure what her sister wished.

When the usual hour arrived the grand-vizir conducted Scheherazade to the palace, and left her alone with the Sultan, who bade her raise her veil and was amazed at her beauty. But seeing her eyes full of tears, he asked what was the matter. "Sire," replied Scheherazade, "I have a sister who loves me as tenderly as I love her. Grant me the favour of allowing her to sleep this night in the same room, as it is the last we shall be together." Schahriar consented to Scheherazade's petition and Dinarzade was sent for.

An hour before daybreak Dinarzade awoke, and exclaimed, as she had promised, "My dear sister, if you are not asleep, tell me I pray you, before the sun rises, one of your charming stories. It is the last time that I shall have the pleasure of hearing you."

Scheherazade did not answer her sister, but turned to the Sultan. "Will your highness permit me to do as my sister asks?" said she.

"Willingly," he answered. So Scheherazade began.


-----

It has, of course, taken me somewhat longer to reach the 1001 mark, but then the worst fate I faced when skipping a day, or two or three, was having a reader complain. Not quite so fearful a penalty as having one's head chopped off.

-----

from Martha Grimes: Hotel Paradise

I have always been sorry she never got a chance to go to Paris and be famous in a place that's worth being famous in.
*
There was another French painter who lived and worked at the same time and whose name (which I also forgot) was almost exactly the same as this one's except for one letter. And the second one also painted in those watery colors, with tiny little strokes and dots. Now, I wondered how anyone in his right mind could be expected to keep those two M-painters separated -- or even why I should keep them separate. I wondered if it might not be a hoax, and it was all one painter.
*
I guess it makes you comfortable, knowing where you'll be at a certain time and in a certain place. I know it does me. Clockwork habits make me feel safer.

-----

A most atypical novel from Martha Grimes. A mystery element, indeed, but it more resembles Catcher in the Rye, a female Holden Caulfield. I was happy to find it on the bargain table at the used bookshop, especially since I'd thoroughly exhausted it of things from Mysterious Press.

-----

So what did Tanioka think of his pal Taiwan's deception?

I haven't seen him since it happened, am curious myself to see what he'll say about it ... and to see what Taiwan does about it. I guess I'll never cease to be amazed by how greedy and shortsighted some of these guys can be.

-----

And another one : in the Tales, you allude only to one beggar, the lovely Dewey. Is it that there are few beggars among the homeless in Honolulu, or few among those you know ?

Oh there are many of them. Every day some stand outside the shops where I usually go to buy lunch or my sunset beer, always asking for a dollar. The less ambitious ask for "loose change". There's one man who stands on the same corner near the mall, asks for money "to get home" (I did mention him once in the Tales). Dewey's the only "professional" I've met and spent a little time with.

I think I wrote once that it seems there are more beggars here than anywhere I've lived except Delhi.

What is the American law as to begging, panhandling etc. ?

It varies by city. I'm not aware of any state laws. So far as I know, there's no actual law against it in Honolulu (certainly not enforced, if there is). It's against the "rules" at the mall and they do make some effort to discourage it.

-----

Actually, the tobacco beggars are a much greater nuisance than the ones asking for money since they're far more numerous, many seem clearly affluent enough to buy their own damned cigarettes, and they're much harder to spot than the loose-change crowd.

Old bums who want to tell you every detail of their extraordinarily boring day are as much of a nuisance. (Yes, I got caught by Joe Guam on Thursday evening, thinking he'd already departed for his homestead.)

Grotesquely overweight slobs who snore and can't stay on their own mats make the list of special pests, too. I was joined by one of them sometime during the early hours of Friday, was so disgusted by the audio and visual spectacle I moved.

Earlier in the beach park a quite cute young man came over to the table and offered me a cigarette [!]. He said he'd heard I'd bought a pipe recently and wondered if I wanted to sell it since he was looking for one. I assume he must have heard about it from Lady Moana, the only regular who'd been around, but I wasn't going to admit to a total stranger, even such a cute one, that I owned such a thing so I just said my friend had bought it. I guess the young man was as paranoid as I was because after making a comment about my "accent", which he thought was Australian, he asked, "you're not a cop, are you?" Ha! "Would a cop be hanging out with a guy who was buying a glass pipe?" I asked. "Well, you could have been setting him up." Somehow I don't think the Honolulu Police Department would go to that much trouble to bust one user. Probably just in case I was getting the wrong idea, he told me about some Australian girl he knew who has a really cute ass. I resisted the temptation to tell him he did, too.

1002

"It takes a long time to come," said the Highlands waitress. Same thing could be said about my Saturday morning student playmate. If the hard boiled eggs in Highlands had taken that long, they would have been petrified. But good things are worth waiting for, as they say. There's no sweeter sound than the little moans and gasps of someone who is really enjoying himself, and a decided pleasure to be responsible for it.

The drama of the October Ice Follies, Part 2, continues. Lady Moana sat with me for awhile on Saturday afternoon and we were joined by the PipeSeeker. She was complaining about her pipe not having been returned. Good grief, Tanioka paid ten dollars (of my money) just to borrow the damned pipe?! Little wonder he let me think he'd bought it, but naughty of him not to tell me it was just borrowed ... and especially who had loaned it. Well, I shall retrieve it from my locker and return it, muttering to myself all the while that I really should just stay away from that stuff altogether because all these petty irritations just aren't worth it.

Lord Moana stopped by after she had left, was complaining about the morning's anti-war rally. "Woke me up, shouting no war, no war," he grumbled, said he'd gotten up and shouted back, "Yes, war!" I told him they should make him a sergeant, let him go after Saddam. I agreed with the PipeSeeker who said he didn't see why we didn't just send in assassins rather than make war. Good question.

A trip to the State Library on Friday yielded another Martha Grimes novel, The Old Silent from 1989, one of her more typical English mysteries. They also had a couple of titles from the Mysterious Press imprint and I took one of those but left the other in favor of a "Miss Sweeton" book. Strange, that series, three different authors writing yarns about a feisty old British lady in the style of Christie's Miss Marple but somewhat more dizzy. Amusing fluff.

Despite Saturday's delightful encounter, I'm afraid Jonathan Cainer struck out with his "forty-eight hour" prediction. Same old, same old ...

1003

Well, perhaps not as wonderful as Cainer was predicting but things certainly did get more lively (must always remember he is writing from GMT time so a forty-eight hour period gets extended here by twelve). After a quiet Sunday morning on campus I left to meet Helen R for lunch. We went to a newly opened restaurant near where she lives, Cuisine Tony. They have one of the most eclectic menus I've ever encountered, most dishes named after some country or city and covering just about every kind of international style. Even interplanetary, since I opted for a Saturn Pork Chop. I can only assume the sunny-side-up fried egg on top of the chop was the planet and its rings. Helen couldn't resist Fried Rice a la Portuguese. The only thing which seemed to distinguish it from any Chinese fried rice was the addition of black olives (not bits of Portuguese sausage which one might have expected). But despite the oddities of naming dishes, the food was quite delicious and was provided in very generous portions.

I went on to the beach park. Angelo soon arrived, on his own, said it was his 27th birthday. Damn, I'd completely forgotten, wished I had spent a little less on that dumb Friday party so I could have at least treated him to what would undoubtedly have been his most-desired birthday present. Oddly enough, Saturday had been the PL's birthday. I was surprised she wasn't with him, especially since it was his birthday, but I didn't hear the story until the next morning. She was supposed to have met him in the mall at eleven in the morning. He and Tanioka had waited for her but she didn't show up. She did finally arrive at The Garage at about nine-thirty with two bags of gifts, some of them quite silly for a homeless boyfriend and most of them destined to be sold or exchanged for the little plastic bags within hours.

We were joined by Lord Moana who was very drunk and stoned, later by Lady Moana in the same condition, and then the PipeSeeker. I gave Lady M her glass pipe. Despite having ranted at length about how it was her favorite, made of thicker glass, etc., she traded it within minutes to the PipeSeeker in exchange for a fancy sweatshirt which he'd bagged earlier at the mall. They all hit the same department store which must have very lax security, although I did see a young man being handcuffed outside it on Saturday. He'd evidently walked out of the store with a fancy box of Armani toiletries, not even taking the trouble to conceal it in a bag! So the PipeSeeker finally got his pipe.

Angelo walked over to the mall with me when I offered to buy him a beer, wanted me to go to the department store with him. I declined, saying I thought he'd be less conspicuous on his own and I'd wait outside for him. He returned in a few minutes with three pairs of expensive sunglasses. We went back to the mob in the park because he was hoping to get some pipe filling from them in exchange for the glasses. No luck, so we went on to the usual "drugstore", the PipeSeeker joining us. No luck there, either, so they were going on to Chinatown. I said I was dropping out of the expedition and since there was still more than an hour before time to depart for the Black Hole, I went to the benches outside The Garage, where Tanioka soon arrived. I gave him the money to get beer for us and he eventually had to go to Chinatown to find an open store, saw Angelo and the PipeSeeker down there still on their quest. They did return and Tanioka showed us his new sleeping area. Nice, but not really sufficiently sheltered if there was rain, especially windblown rain.

The PipeSeeker wandered off, to my relief. It's clear he's another one of the hangers-on, spongers, whatever you want to call them ("users", in the Sleeptalker's terms) and that's the last thing I need added to my life. Angelo, Tanioka and I went back to the drugstore, finally scored a bag and settled in The Garage to pass the pipe. When the PL arrived, Angelo went off with her and a little later Tanioka went further upstairs to sleep. Angelo and the PL returned, he said he was walking her to the bus and would be back. She is living with her mother again, one of the few sensible choices she's made in recent times. When Angelo got back, it was off to the drugstore again. I gave him what small bills I had left, keeping silent about the fifty dollar bill I had tucked away. Life is going to be too poor for the next three weeks without blowing any of it already. So with a small bag, it was back to the garage and another round of the pipe. A delightful time, one of the best, even if I did get crazier than any time other than that one outrageous party with the Sleeptalker and the Cherub. Angelo is at times so wonderfully patient, tolerant and amusing.

At about four in the morning, I said I wanted to walk to the 7-Eleven for coffee. He came along, stopping first at the drugstore in an attempt to trade in more birthday presents. The poor PL, but then I imagine she had expected him to do just that. No luck, though, so on to get coffee (chocolate milk for him) and an interesting breakfast conversation with him telling me unusually detailed stories about some recent misadventures with the PL. I won't repeat them, seems like one of those violation-of-trust things, but I do hope that relationship doesn't end in tragedy.

He tried to persuade me to go to Chinatown with him, continuing the pursuit of another bag of pipe-filling, but I begged off, said I wanted to go to campus to get a clean tee shirt from my locker and would be back in the park a little later. I got the shirt, very briefly logged on to check email and then went to the far end of the beach park, not in any mood for Lord and Lady M or their courtiers. A long shower, a beer and light lunch, a nap for about two hours ... quiet day reading and dozing. I knew I was going to run out of reading material but just didn't feel like making the trip down to the State Library. So when I finished the book I went to Border's, said not a chance to the absurdly high prices on new paperbacks these days and saw nothing of interest on their bargain table (even those aren't much of a "bargain"). Ridiculous that writers who have been dead for a hundred years or more can't be made available in inexpensive paperback editions.

So I got my sunset brew and listened to the radio, learning more than I wanted to know about the Moscow theatre massacre and a bunch of other stuff, enjoyed Garrison Keillor reading a Bukowski poem, and heard for the first time, I think, Gliere's odd Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra. A good choice for Sutherland since there are no lyrics, just aahhh-ahhh's, so her often irksome diction didn't interfere with her splendid voice. That made me try to remember whether I saw her in Norma and Sonnambula at the Met or at Covent Garden. Can't recall. Then Respighi's Fountains of Rome and Stravinsky's Firebird (so adventurous, our National Public Radio concert calendar). I gave up after about five minutes of the Stravinsky and switched to the hard rock station. Great timing since they launched into several Hendrix classics.

Jimi Hendrix Winked at Me. Good title for a book about the sixties? (He did, actually.)

Off to the Black Hole for a very solid sleep. As I was waiting for the bus to campus next morning, Angelo and Taiwan came along. Angelo said his party had continued all day. More stamina than I've got, that's for sure. I gave Taiwan the deepfreeze treatment. (Neither he nor Tanioka have made any comment about Taiwan running off with twenty dollars, so I guess we're just supposed to pretend it never happened.)

And on the computer was an email from the Sleeptalker complaining because he'd been in town on Monday and hadn't found me on campus.

Sigh.

1004

As I mentioned in a very early Tale, finding a "spot", in the Castaneda sense, is important. I know, Castaneda has been somewhat discredited since the immensely successful publication of his Don Juan books, but it has never been important to me whether he was writing true documentaries or fiction, the ideas were of great interest either way, still are. Of course, for a long time now, there's one bench in the secluded grove which is a decided "spot". I think I've finally, at long last, found the one I like best in the beach park.

It's at the far end, more or less across from the huge Border's store, a picnic table which is a little too exposed for most of the urban nomads, very near the drainage canal which lines one edge of the park. A major attraction there is a very large bird who hovers at the top of the wall by the canal, eyeing the fish below. He's clever enough to know that if someone throws some bread into the water, the fish will swarm for it. He dives down and sits in the water on his spindly legs and snatches the biggest one he can spot. On Tuesday evening, he got such a fat one from my thrown piece of bread it took him sometime to swallow it. He gobbles them (still alive) head first, then sits and clacks his long, black sharp beak over and over as if he is gulping. Half an hour later, he's back looking for more, the greedy fellow. I must look him up in the Audubon book about birds of Hawaii, find out just what he is. From the back, he looks like a big bowling pin.

Another advantage is that there is a 7-Eleven store just across the street, source of a sunset brew. And there's no Joe Guam to avoid, no Lord and Lady Moana and their crowd, and miraculously, thus far anyway, no tobacco-beggars.

One disadvantage is that the area isn't sufficiently illuminated to allow reading after sunset. Thus, the radio returns to a more prominent spot in my day. On Tuesday I didn't pull it out of the bag until After All Things Considered had finished. There's only so much of "news reports" I can stand in one week. There was a very dull four-hand piano work by Schubert, made moreso by the pianists seeming to pound heavily away even in passages which might have been quite touching had they been a little more delicate. I wondered if "four-hand" meant they were playing side-by-side on the same piano or on two pianos. Probably the latter. That was followed by three short, incredibly beautiful pieces by Gabrieli. Then came the second symphony of Saint-Saens. All I could think was that if Rimsky-Korsakov had written it, the orchestration would have been far more interesting.

Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac spot was a bit puzzling. I suppose that it was the anniversary of the premiere of Don Giovanni makes a little sense, but why did the NYC debut of Maria Callas rate mention on a "writers almanac"? Nevertheless, I liked the quote from her which he read, about how she started living the opera hours before she performed it and continued to live it hours afterwards. And I liked a very funny poem he read by a poet I've never heard of, made me laugh aloud.

Laughing aloud, or even talking to an imaginary companion, would rate no attention in that area of the park. There is one horrible woman who occupies the same picnic table day after day and rants away full steam, often shouting loudly. I don't know how her voice can cope with such constant abuse. There's another old guy who sometimes sits at a table near her, jumps up now and then and starts preaching to an invisible audience, waving his arms around as he does it. I think I mentioned him once when he got too near to me and I shouted at him, "shut up! who the hell is listening?!" I still get a dirty look from him any time our paths cross.

Fortunately, my newly chosen table is far enough away from them, their shouted rants are just a faint nuisance.

I'd not only failed to see the Sleeptalker during his Monday visit, I'd also failed to feed the kittens so I bought them a giant-sized can of Nine Lives tuna on Tuesday. On Wednesday, big brother must have been asleep when I arrived, but she was waiting and, I think, consumed the entire daily largesse.

I tend to waver back and forth about Kevin,
The Homeless Guy, but have to admit I was amazed by his announcement on Wednesday that he's established a Yahoo Group to discuss him! No thanks.

1005



Ah sweet memories.

The discussion about Ophelia Z on Ryan's Hawaii Stories brings back many of them. Such a wonderfully strange thing, this world of on-line journals. (I do dislike intensely the word "blog".)

The evening concert was a little more offbeat on Wednesday. I tuned in late and consequently puzzled for some time over what I was hearing. I can usually identify the composer, even if not the specific work, but was totally stumped. Turned out to be something with bagatelle in the title by Dvorak. This was followed by d'Indy's Symphony on a French Mountain Tune which, given the dominant role of a piano, seemed more like a piano concerto than a symphony. The startling thing was, the theme in the third movement was a tune used by Irving Berlin in a WW2 song, worth a grin. Later there was the second symphony of Lalo but I only listened to the first movement since it was time for the trip to the Black Hole.

Writers Almanac had just begun when the PipeSeeker walked up and asked, "what are you doing?" "Listening to the radio." Then he asked for a cigarette. Sigh. I said no, "ashtrays, ashtrays". He went on his way just in time for me to hear Keeler talking about its being Ezra Pound's birthday. He read a quote something like "anything written for pay is not worth publishing". Can't agree with that, Ezra. Nothing at all wrong with people writing to make a living, certainly doesn't make it not worth publishing (and the income of some writers suggests there are plenty of readers who'd agree).

I'd finished Picture Postcard by a new-to-me lawyer-author, Fredrick Huebner, an entertaining murder yarn involving art forgery and dope money, so had earlier gone to the State Library. I noticed when passing the bookshop in the morning that Anne Rice's latest is finally in paperback but that will have to wait until Third Wednesday. I did find a recent (2001) James Patterson novel at the library, though, 1st to Die, along with a Martha Grimes English confection and another stranger from Mysterious Press (so I got greedy and took three books instead of my usual two). The Patterson was thoroughly engrossing, one of his best, I think.

Surprisingly, students ignored Halloween this year. Usually there are at least a few wandering around in costume but I only saw one making the effort and that only with a big, fancy hat. I ignored the holiday, too, particularly avoided the mall. Trick or treat. The only "treat" I got was finding a little bag with some miniature candy bars. The "tricks", alas, were not unexpected but very annoying. I've known for some time now that my reading glasses were at the end of their tether. Convenient though it is to carry them in a pocket, the leather case was not sturdy enough and the earpieces kept getting bent out of shape. Enough times bending one back was sure to mean snap! And did. Fortunately I have the less-liked backup pair I got via medical insurance but those were in my locker so I spent the late afternoon reading with one-earpiece glasses perched precariously on my nose. Then when I got out the music machine I discovered one of those earpieces had also snapped. I stuck it back together and was able to listen, probably can make a temporary repair with some superglue, but I guess I'll have to add new headphones to this month's Third Wednesday shopping list. The third in this series of mishaps was avoided only because I noticed the strap on my bag was about to break, took a needle-and-thread to it. I think I need to forget about costly parties for a month and re-equip instead.

Although Paulo walked by and waved I was otherwise left alone in the park, just as well since I was on my last beer until the Fabled Pension Check arrives (and I do hope it's not late). The main works on the evening concert were Glazunov's Fifth Symphony which I almost gave up on, would have except that Writers Almanac was due next, and Tschaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Oh well, it has been a long time since I've heard it all so I listened. I do wish they'd stop playing so many old chestnuts, though.

For the second time in a week, I had to sleep in the smaller room at the Black Hole. It's ironic that even though that room has much better ventilation and is thus far cooler than the main room, all four overhead fans work and a little too vigorously. I have to use my beachtowel as a blanket instead of a mat cover. But then winter is coming, so a long-sleeved shirt has to be on that TW shopping list, too.

1006

That grumble about "old chestnuts" doesn't apply to Mozart and I was more than happy to hear the Haffner Symphony again, for the umpteenth time. But even more enjoyable was the less familiar Haffner Serenade No. 7, as was an elegant Telemann piece in between. The superglue gambit didn't work on the headphones, so I tried tape with a little more success, at least temporarily. Anything to keep them operational until the 20th.

Big as the beach park is, it's not big enough. Lord Moana ventured down there on Friday evening. Fortunately he just shouted "hey, uncle" and waved as he cruised by on a bicycle.

A new phase with the Sleeptalker has evidently begun. A email on Friday opened with:

all hell just broke lose in my family !
now im back out on the streets again !
but im happy to be gone !


Certainly not unanticipated, but the timing couldn't be worse since I haven't got enough money for myself the next two weeks. That, of course, may be just as well. Even if I could support him, it wouldn't be a good idea and he'd eventually hate me for it. He's just got to get his own act together, he really does. Pushing thirty and still sponging off his mother. I guess I was lucky that I got pushed out of the nest firmly (although I did actually flee the damned place to begin with).

In any event, I didn't see him during the first weekend of his return to town, or any of the other Bad Boys.

.. please understand that religion plays a significant role in the lives of homeless people, writes Kevin. It does??? I haven't seen much evidence of it. He's really getting on my nerves lately, shall drop the link from the Reading Room and move it over to the small batch of homeless links in The Attic. But then unless he's just puffing hot air, he has a "plan" to soon stop being homeless and I can't imagine wanting to read him at all if that happens. How many times have I heard people with grand "plans", though? A lot more than I've heard talk about religion except, of course, from the Sleeptalker (and even with him it seems more talk than a genuinely significant part of his life).

On the Prairie Home Companion Saturday evening, there was a country singer I've never heard, nor heard of, before, and she was just wonderful. Perhaps they thought so, too, since they unusually let her sing five times. Iris Dement. She's done three CDs, oddly the most recent in 1996, although she only just recently made her debut at the Grand Old Opry. I will hear more of her in a couple of weeks, no doubt about it.

Although I more than welcome any anti-war effort, NPR did broadcast a dreadfully pretentious thing on Sunday which seemed to be a mix of letters home from soldiers and other writings about the idiocy of war plus some dreary music. I tuned in and out a few times before giving it up altogether. Prairie Home Companion, though, opened with a delightfully elegant jest about Tuesday's election and especially jabbed at The Bush. He may end up being the most ridiculed President in American history, and deservedly so.

The used bookshop has put everything on the bargain table on sale, four for a dollar! Among the four I bought on Saturday is a most unusual multiple-murder mystery, unique in my experience since it is set in Tibet. There are only two American characters, peripheral to the main action. Eliot Patterson's The Skull Mantra. A well-written, convincing novel can be much more effective than histories or documentaries in telling about injustice and stupidity.

I'll be making quite a few sweeps of that table later in the month since happily the sale continues throughout November.

And now we enter the period of two-week-long poverty, yet again a chance to learn the lesson that it's crazy to blow a lot of money on a few parties, especially that blown up in smoke, and then suffer the deprivation of almost-empty pockets for weeks. I wonder if I'll eventually get the message?

1007

Tuesday was Election Day and one of the (many) oddities about this place is that it's a State Holiday. In most places I've lived, one gets an extra hour or two off in order to vote (as is the case with much of the private sector here), but in Hawaii the State government and the schools close for the day. Consequently it was an off-line day for me and, as usual, that throws my daily rhythm into something of a peculiar syncopation. I did go to campus for the morning and an early lunch. My little feathered friends had better sharpen their alertness because the smaller kitten is developing an increasing interest in them, on Wednesday ventured down into the secluded grove for the first time, stealthily stalking dessert (having already had lunch provided by me as usual). Effort unsuccessful, but she shows great promise as a hunter after more practice. I do not look forward to arriving and seeing feathers scattered around the place.

Then I went to the Moanas end of the beach park for the first time in about a week. No one was around. In the late afternoon I went to get my sunset brew and moved to my new favored table at the other end of the park. The routine of Empty Pockets Time is varied somewhat from the usual. I make a round of the mall (well, one quarter of it) after my morning coffee, harvesting ashtrays, and repeat that after my morning on campus. Abandoned food has been luxuriously abundant. I suppose it probably always is but I just don't go wandering like that when I've got money so I don't notice it. But there has been so much I've not had to consider the Krishna handout or use many of the happily-received new foodstamps supply (more of that has gone on the kittens than on me thus far). That's partly, too, because the magnetic stripe on my card seems to have died and the clerks have to manually punch in the number. A nuisance, as is the prospect of going to the welfare office to get a replacement.

The Sleeptalker finally surfaced on Wednesday, in the game. He didn't say where he was playing from. Probably the State Library, since he usually says he's on campus when he is. He was in punk mode, badmouthing everyone (including me) in the game. He really is beyond schizoid.

On that afternoon round of the mall I always look over to see if anyone I know is in the park. Nope. It doesn't escape my notice how much more frequently I see some of the Bad Boys in the time after Third Wednesday than during their own welfare-money handouts.

I didn't much like either of the candidates for governor but was sorry the one I liked least won. That was nothing compared to the sorrow over the national part of the election, though. It's absurd people turned the Senate over to The Bush party, it really is.

That rather exotic murder-mystery in Tibet was followed by two almost as exotic, one set in Japan and the other in Mexico City. James Melville's first novel, The Wages of Zen (cringe), features a delightful Japanese detective, Tetsuo Otani, who will no doubt be the subject of further installments. The blurbs suggest that Paco Ignacio Taibo II is one of Mexico's star writers of detective fiction and Return to the Same City follows on a series of books featuring the same detective. Very strange writing. As one critic said "as if Garcia Marquez had been taking writing lessons from Dashiell Hammett". A trip to the State Library on Wednesday yielded yet another Mysterious Press imprint, The Fourth Durango by Ross Thomas. Just a small California town as setting this time, although in some ways that's probably as exotic as anything Tibet, Japan or Mexico has to offer.

Not only is Anne Rice's previously-most-recent book now in paperback, a new one just appeared in hardcover and this time another volume in the Vampire Chronicles. And Maeve Binchy's Quentins is also in the bookshop window. Oh my.

My tape repair on the headphones has had to be renewed each evening, having fallen apart after 24 hours in the bag. I must certainly look for a sturdier pair. Not much of interest on the radio, though, since it was dominated on Election Day evening by political nattering and I didn't at all like the work which opened Wednesday's evening concert so listened instead to a new country music station. This is, as I recall, the fourth attempt by someone to launch a country station here and so far this one seems the weakest, especially because the advertising is too abundant for a start-up effort and it all sounds like those hysterically whacko things one sees on very early morning television. Pills that make you lose weight without dieting or exercise, etc. etc. (No penis enlargement pills yet. I guess they leave that to junk email and the web.)

And now that un-lovely deja vu experience of waking up each morning and saying "ah, only [x] more days ..."

1007a

Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002 15:10:49 -0800 (PST)
Subject: ur my only e-mail buddy

fag

-----

Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2002 12:57:32 -1000 (HST)
Subject: Re: ur my only e-mail buddy

That could have something to do with what kind of an "e-mail buddy" you are.

You've called me a dick, said you should have beaten my ass, called me a fag, all in the past few weeks.

Do I need that kind of an "e-mail buddy"? Does anyone?

You really should just get over the fact that I'm gay, Coy. Just get over it. Or like the Fleetwood Mac sang, "you can go your own way".

1007b

Walking toward the Sunset Table on Thursday, I could see two men were sitting there, surprising since that table is almost always empty. Tanioka and the Sleeptalker. No doubt Tanioka's idea since he said he'd read the recent Tales, didn't know until then I'd moved to that area (I had told the Sleeptalker by email specifically where to look for me in the late afternoon).

Tanioka gave me the twenty he owed me which brightens the financial outlook for this [x] days wait. And he said Taiwan was also going to re-pay me. "I'll believe that when I see it," I said, "but unless he does he's definitely off my guest list."

The big news. "Angelo is pregnant." An odd way of putting it. I expressed my doubts about the feasibility of such a thing, but of course, Tanioka meant the PL is pregnant. I guess she's the PPL now. Evidently she wants the baby and plans to have it, but marriage is not being considered. Poor child.

I told the Sleeptalker I'd sent him a "sharp email". He mumbled something about how he might never see it because he's "giving all that up." Email or Seventh Circle, I don't know. If the latter, it's a perennial song.

"He's smoking again," said Tanioka. Uh-huh, what a surprise. Not. "I get so whacko on that stuff," said the Sleeptalker. Well, he's certainly not alone in that.

They were both stoned and a little drunk, went over to the 7-Eleven for food and returned, Tanioka bringing me a beer. The first day I've had three beers in quite awhile. We talked a bit about Kevin's claim that religion plays a significant role in the life of a homeless person, not even the Sleeptalker agreeing with the notion. Somehow we got onto the subject of the Ten Commandments and between the three of us we couldn't come up with all ten. So much for significance.

Tanioka still had half a bag (for some reason they refer to those little plastic bags as a "paper") and they went to the shower house to smoke it. I declined. Half a bag, even one full one, just isn't enough for me to bother with and would probably only have tempted me to spend that needed twenty.

The new sleeping spot has been lost already, a "no trespassing" sign having gone up, so they're back at GovSanc. I declined that invitation, too, for the same reason.

The Sleeptalker was moody but at least not surly and it was, as always, good to see him. Likewise, Tanioka. I did try to persuade the Sleeptalker to at least apply for foodstamps but not with much apparent success. I don't know, I just don't know.

1008

I had just finished taking a shower and washing some clothes on Friday, was headed to the Sunset Table when Angelo arrived. He'd seen Tanioka earlier who'd said he planned to join me. I said I guessed congratulations were in order (I'm uncertain whether condolences wouldn't be the more accurate term, but didn't say so). He looked sweetly wrecked, went over to a nearby tree and collapsed on the grass, was soon asleep. I returned to my book, the third I've found in the Maggody series of very funny detective tales by Joan Hess, set in a small Arkansas town. Later Angelo woke up, came over to sit at the table and I gave him the rest of my beer, offered to buy him another when that was finished. As we were walking to the 7-Eleven, Tanioka came out. He'd been to the movies, explaining his delayed appearance.

Back in the park, I asked Angelo if he'd told his mother about the pregnancy. He said yes and that the first thing she asked was, "are you sure it's yours?" He said he thought so, would have to wait and see if "it comes out black". Or blonde, blue-eyed, I added. The PL, on the other hand, is not telling her mother because she'll be kicked out of the house when mama finds out. They agreed this was the local Japanese way, the grandparents only relenting after the baby is born. Peculiar.

The PL is already using it as a weapon, though. Angelo said they'd had another big argument and the PL threatened to get an abortion as retaliation. [Reprise: poor child.]

On the way to the 7-Eleven he had tried to persuade me to go to the mall first. I declined, and did again after we'd finished the beer, saying I just didn't want to go through all that routine, trip to the department store, trip to sell the proceeds, trip to buy the "paper", and all that for one bag. So he and Tanioka went off on the mission and I dug out the radio, put some more tape on the broken headset and groaned through a horrendously conducted symphony of Mozart. It takes a very special talent to mess up that music, but James Levine has it. In spades.

A quiet Saturday, nothing at all exceptional happening except for finding $1.05 in a vending machine's change slot. I can understand how people forget to pick up a quarter or smaller coins, but four quarters and a nickel? Very strange, because the machine accepts dollar bills, nothing larger. So someone must have made two purchases and left the change from both, or else two different people left their change?

The second of my four-book purchase is Barbara Wood's The Prophetess, also quite strange, but thoroughly engrossing. It's especially interesting because of the way she documents all the born-from-a-virgin, died-to-redeem-mankind "saviours" we've had in history. If people had been a little more aware of all this, they might have said about "Jesus", same old, same old. It's the same old song ... On one of the anthroposophy Yahoo groups there has been a recent discussion about Rudolf Steiner's bizarre contention that there were two Jesus persons. (He found this in the "Akashic Records".) Although there is much of interest in Steiner's work, I'm afraid I've never been able to believe in this particular bit. Sorry about that, Felix.

I had an amusing letter from Felix, including a splendid photograph of him which I'll scan the next time I go to document the new collection of scribbles and one of this year's collection of his Bad Boys, two of whom are particularly alluring. I won't scan that, because he wouldn't approve, but I did tell him I'd use any device, any artifice to see them without their clothes.

Which, of course, reminded me of Little Brother, whom I guess can be called Little Uncle in about eight months time, if the PL doesn't change her mind.

1009

Grief! McD's turned on the Christmas music the morning of November 12th. Now I like most Christmas music, but I'd much prefer to hear it for, at the most, one month out of twelve. One would think they could at least have waited until after Thanksgiving, even if it is unusually late this year. Oh well, it's also too early to launch my Scrooge act, so I'll try not to grumble too much until mid-December.

Monday was not only a holiday and thus an off-line day, it was also gray and soggy. Both the secluded grove and the Sunset Table were rained out although there was just enough of a break for me to give the kittens their lunch. Since there wasn't anything else to do, I sat in a sheltered spot and read, had a lunchtime brew and went on to the mall in the early afternoon. I was to meet Helen R at four o'clock so just wandered around. I did check several stores to see what the choices and prices were for headphones. A bewildering range of options, from $5.95 to $199.95! Crazy, the notion of buying $200 headphones for a $40 CD player, not one which got anywhere near my list of possibilities. The choice will probably be made more on how sturdy the things look. (Yes, the button type things would be more sensible for bag-carrying, but I know the sound from those things isn't nearly as good.)

During my wanderings I noticed a new cafe had finally opened, the first "sidewalk cafe" at the Mall with ornate wrought iron tables and chairs placed outside the very tiny seatless restaurant. California Wok. So when I met Helen I told her about it and we went to check it out. Reasonable prices and a probably too ambitious range of stir-fried dishes. I opted for Chicken and Cashews (which also had water chestnuts and green pepper in the mix). It was too sweet for my liking, became quite cloying before I gave up, leaving about a quarter of it, and the rice was dry and boring. I doubt that place will be a long-time survivor, but it was fun, as always, to have a meal with Helen and to talk more about her participation in this "50,000 word novel" challenge which she, Ryan and Michelle are working on. Progress visible on
the Fiction section of Hawaii Stories.

(I shudder to think what a word count of the Tales would come to.)

More drizzle on Tuesday (and expected to remain unsettled through Friday). I did get to have lunch in the secluded grove but had to abandon the Sunset Table early. When one half of the sky is sunny and blue and the other half covered by heavy clouds, the mountains disappear in a dense gray haze of falling rain and an enormous rainbow appears, it's time to seek shelter. So I returned to the mall and sat in Philo Walk until time for the Black Hole.

People seem to have gone through their welfare money very quickly this month because that place has been at capacity this week. Maybe the A-to-M SocSec people getting paid on Wednesday will relieve the pressure for a few days. Although young, cute residents are rare and, alas, never seem to linger for long, there has at least been a new one to enjoy for a few minutes before settling down to sleep. Otherwise the place is a bore, not helped by the wretched Spot (from the days of the cloisters) returning to the scene and taking up residence. And the Airport Couple are back together, also staying at the Hilton Black Hole, the Fatman having returned after a very lengthy absence.

I did see Angelo from a distance on Monday evening. He was walking from the shower house with a fellow I didn't recognize. (That shower house could be renamed the smokehouse.) Angelo just waved and they continued on their way, probably to the "drugstore". And on Tuesday evening I saw Taiwan who jumped up from a bus stop bench and cheerily asked how I was. I waved and kept walking.

It's worrying that Angelo seems thoroughly locked into daily use of that confounded glass pipe. He's either going to get busted for all the stealing to fill the thing or go off the tracks mentally from such constant use. Abuse. But not much to be done about it.

Meanwhile Kevin is fretting over whether to grant television interviews. [Smirk.]

1010

The Sleeptalker appeared in the game on Thursday morning. He said nothing nor did he when a little later he arrived at Hamilton Library and sat at the computer next to me. I was determined to get the needed replacement card for foodstamps so patted him on the shoulder, said I was going downtown and would be back later.

As always the dread of a visit to the welfare office was worse than the actual experience and I was much surprised it took less than half an hour to get a new card. Rather than go through the routine of explaining how the magnetic stripe no longer worked, I just checked off the "lost" box on the form. The only options provided on the form were "lost", "stolen" or a request to change the PIN. Taking a standard way probably helped make the process smoother.

I stopped to get a beer and some cat food on the way back, would have used foodstamps for some tuna instead of the cat version but had been told it would be two hours before the new card was activated. The Sleeptalker was waiting in the secluded grove, admired the kittens who came running when they saw me and we both enjoyed it later when the dark one came scurrying down into the grove on a bird hunt. They are both definitely killers-in-training.

The Sleeptalker gave me a two page essay he'd written, told me I could keep it and publish it. I thought it quite touching, as I did much of what he said throughout the day and evening. It was especially so when he lamented not having a "bigger dick". I assured him, with total honesty, that he has a fine one and shouldn't be worried about wanting more. After all these years, he's still one of the sexiest men I've ever known and is definitely not lacking in that vital part, either.

Luck ran out at the department store. Tanioka and Taiwan got busted. The Sleeptalker had fortunately declined to join the expedition and was waiting outside, saw them run out. Apparently Tanioka got away but then was crazy enough to try again and got caught, too. Since Taiwan is still on probation, he'll no doubt be back inside for awhile. Tanioka's unlikely to have done more than sit in the holding cell overnight and be given a trial date, either get off with a scolding or community service unless the goods were too valuable (all the Sleeptalker knew was that they were grabbing stuff from the cologne counter which could hardly add up to grand larceny). The Sleeptalker said he hadn't joined in because he didn't want to risk getting in trouble, is determined to finish with the school effort.

Once enough time had passed for the new card to be activated, we walked downhill for more beer and some food. I got some Chicken Vienna Sausages as a bonus for the kittens. They seem quite fond of those, grab one in their jaws and run off with it, probably pretending it's a mouse or a bird. Later I gave the Sleeptalker money for the bus fare to the beach park but the rascal managed to slip on the bus without paying (as he'd done when getting a bus to campus earlier). Another round of beer at the Sunset Table totally wrecked my already-inadequately-furnished "budget" but it was too sweet a time with the Sleeptalker to let money worries interfere.

He has been staying at the Black Hole, sleeping downstairs, and we went on there once it was late enough for the weekly alcoholics meeting to have ended. A fine day with the Sleeptalker, a fine day.

And this is what he gave me:

-----

Life Family Friends Home

My life here under the bridge gets pretty lonely here all by myself. My mind drifts and wonders a lot and I think of a lot of things in my life and change it for the better of me. Now of days it's getting pretty fun because I prove it more often of the people who don't make a difference in my life but rather makes it pretty painful. So I bring a lot of drama towards those people.

Things that has been changing in my life brings me great happiness. The goals that I achieve, the people that help me in my life makes a difference. The fear of failure is what I hate about my life the most. I am more afraid of failure than I am of success. I want to be the best in everything I do. I want excellence in everything I do.

I don't like being a threat to anyone, and I don't like anyone being a threat to me. I want what any man would want and that is an american dream.

I dislike my family cause they were never there for me. The only ones who are truly there all time would be my dad, my sister Jolene, and my Uncle Douglas. My Nana too. My mom and her new family is not there for me. They don't even care. Jesse doesn't care either but to tell you the truth neither do I.

I can handle life on my own without anyone who could care less. I should move on with my life and forget those that never cared. I'll find a nice home somewhere.

My life is not interesting. It's like I don't ever have fun anymore. I make a lot of mistakes. I get involved with things that I shouldn't be even getting involved with. I laugh at myself most of the time because I live a really weird life. Most of the time I don't know where I'm going and don't know where I want to go. I pull some really weird choices sometimes. Most of the time all I do is dream. It's as if I'm ashamed to go out in public as myself. If I do go out I have to put on some kind of show or attitude to hide the fear of people knowing me. I'm getting sick and tired of pretending to be someone I'm not. Or getting into trouble. Something really small could turn out to be something really big in the long run. I don't think I could actually live a normal american life. I feel that I just want to go home. I'm tired of staying out here in town. I live a homeless life and it doesn't matter where I go or who takes me in for just a little while, I'll always be or end up homeless. Sometimes I feel that there's just no hope and at other times I put too much hope. I even think about God a lot and his name scares me too. I think about God every day and I watch the mistakes I make every day. I love God. I feel real bad when I think the things I think and do the things I do. I've probably hurt more people now than I had before. Nowadays it feels like everything's falling on me. I'll think more clearly and one of these days correct my mistakes. I knew I should've went into a transition home. I always make the wrong decisions.

1011

Friday was a miserable day, solidly gray with almost continual wind-blown rain, and decidedly cool. Definitely time to once again add a long-sleeved shirt to the wardrobe. It was impossible to feed the kittens, poor things, but I made up for it with a feast the next day. No question at all of time in the secluded grove or at the Sunset Table and, of course, the Black Hole was packed to the limit. I had to abandon the first place I grabbed because my neighbor was a major thrasher, kept throwing his arm (and eventually both an arm and a leg) over me, and then got mad as if it had been my fault! Sigh. I moved to another place where I really had to squeeze in and one neighbor there was, alas, also a thrasher although not so extreme. All these people should have spent more time sleeping on park benches, have gotten training in sleeping in a confined space. If they acted on a bench the way they do on those mats, they would have found themselves on the ground. Maybe they are all people who fell out of bed when they were kids. I didn't.

The management and security staff at the mall must hate such days as much as the park people do because most of the benches are occupied the entire day by bums who've fled the park for dry shelter. Now when I use the word "bum", I'm talking about people like Joe Guam and Grubby, people who don't bother to take showers or wash their clothes, etc. I doubt Joe's jacket has been washed in at least three years. Grubby obviously gets SocSec so buys new clothes about once a month but never washes them and, even worse, never bothers to unzip his pants to take a piss, just does it in his pants. The stains are obvious, the stink is even more so. His new tactic is to have some horrendous cologne or aftershave which he douses himself with. The combination of heavy artificial scent and dried urine is enough to contaminate McDonald's every morning when he wafts in. If I'm unfortunate enough to be anywhere near him I can only breathe through my mouth and escape as soon as possible.

Well, it's those types who invade the mall on a persistently rainy day.

There does seem to be one advantage to the invasion. With all those examples of the "less fortunate" sitting around, more people leave their leftover food on planter ledges or benches. After a large lunch on Saturday I hadn't planned on having dinner until I found a neatly-tied bag containing a large plate lunch box full of spaghetti from Mama Mia's. So strange that people spend almost ten dollars on a meal like that and eat very little or none of it. Well, it didn't go to waste, and I even left some for the next unfortunate.

a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. Silly language. Why misty but mystery? Why discordant but dysfunctional? I came across the latter in the book I was reading, realized I'd mispelled it in a reply to a reader added to Readers Write. Granted, I prefer mystery to mistery but wouldn't be at all unhappy with disfunctional.

Although there were still frequent showers on Saturday, I did have a nice long lunch break in the secluded grove, giving the kittens a large can of Alaskan salmon to begin their (brief) period of foodstamps food. I took enough of it to make myself a sandwich, augmented later with another of liverwurst (and the kittens got the leftovers from that, too). The dark one came down into the grove and greatly amused me with his stalking routine. He's not yet even close to catching one of the birds but since he concentrates on the rather dumb, big spotted doves, I think he'll eventually succeed. I don't much like those birds so as long as he leaves the little zebra doves, the Brazilian Cardinals and the sparrows alone, I'll root for him.

I thought I'd also get to spend the evening at the Sunset Table but as I was about to walk over there it started to drizzle again so it was back to the mall and my favorite sheltered bench there. Oddly, the other less fortunates don't use that spot much, perhaps because there are two benches very close to each other. One was occupied, though, by a dedicated loner who is usually in Philo Walk every evening. He didn't linger long. Like the Sunset Table, there isn't sufficient light there to read after sunset and, as I discovered, radio reception is very poor there. I could have listened to Prairie Home Companion only by holding the player up at a certain angle for reasonable reception. Not worth it. As I also discovered, alas, not just the headphones are in disrepair (not dysrepair). The player itself seems to be falling apart. I'd need a very tiny screwdriver to try and put it back together. Oh well, it has set a new record for CD player survival so maybe I'll just buy another instead of buying separate new headphones.

Life in that little bag is tough.

1011a

I should add, in addition to my comment on the reader's mail in Readers Write that I have lectured (well, almost "lectured") these lads on the importance of putting in some legal, pay-tax, pay-SocSec, work. Otherwise they will end up my age without any pension at all, and that's a grim outlook. It's also an extremely difficult row-to-hoe with these boys and I can easily understand that. I certainly never expected to live to this age. It still amazes me sometimes that I have. But since I have survived this long, I'm indeed grateful I did put in those days, weeks, months, years to qualify for this life-long pension. They won't listen, of course.

Thanks to this splendid four-for-a-dollar bargain table sale at the bookshop, I've been wallowing in little mystery novels, slimmer books than I'd allow myself if I were paying fifty cents or a dollar for them. Amusing stuff ... and what the hell, if I make a dull choice, throw it away. Not an option I've had to take. But then I found The Ganja Coast by Paul Mann which not only amuses and entertains but revives more complex questions.

And the first of those, certainly, is: DO I GO BACK TO INDIA ONE MORE TIME?

This is a question which has been hovering over me for quite some time now, I'm almost used to it. But I still haven't seen a firm answer.

"In a country where thinness was a sign of poverty, plumpness was an indication of status."

Hmmmm. I've a number of times pondered writing about this. In Hawaii, if you say someone is "fat", you are not talking pleasingly plump, a bit overweight, etc. You are talking grotesquely obese. Some say this is an ancient cultural thing, that chiefs wanted their women huge to prove their status, their wealth. It is reinforced in contemporary times by cultural icons like the musician Israel Kamakawiwi'ole who was so enormous in the last years of his life that he had to resort to a mechanized forklift to get him up on a stage, and the celebrated Hawaiian Sumo wrestlers. But it seems to me that this justification of historic precedence is really a load of codswallop, as the Brits say. I watched an obese woman at the mall swiftly shoveling food into her mouth and felt quite disgusted. If she had a husband, he didn't need her to be doing that to prove he's successful. She was just a glutton, never mind historic justifications, and I have a strong suspicion that is the case for most of the local heavyweights.

Barbara came to the secluded grove on Sunday morning, just after I'd given the kittens two cans of "human" tuna. She exclaimed, with understandable enthusiasm, about how sweet the female kitten is. I quite agree. I'm in love with her, even tempted to forget about another visit to India, get a part-time job and a place to live, just for the pleasure of giving that sweetheart a home. (No, no, that makes even less sense than another Journey to the East). I told Barbara about the latest addition to the campus feline family, two almost-as-adorable black kittens, only weeks old, whom I'd spotted on Saturday morning. Fortunately the Mamacat in that case is keeping them in an area where there are plenty of feeders and I noticed they've even attracted a new one, a student who is bringing a can of food each morning. Kittens certainly are irresistable, no doubt about it.

I think I'll call "my" female kitten "Starlight" and her brother, "Killer". Just a wannabe-killer right now, but I suspect he'll live up to his name any day now.

Barbara gave me two packets of food for them, agreed I should probably wait and supply them later in the day since they were still demolishing the tuna. Just as well Barbara came along after I'd tossed the empty cans in the trash, although she probably would have sympathized if I'd told her why I was using foodstamps to feed them.

And how sweet ... it didn't rain at all.

1012

At last, a few hours of very pleasant weather on Sunday afternoon. I went to the beach park, had a shower and enjoyed my second brew of the day reading at the Sunset Table. Then the rain returned. Oh well, I had planned another scavenger hunt through the mall anyway and the timing was perfect since yet another meal from Mamma Mia's was waiting on a bench, this time green noodles with an interesting sauce complete with chunks of chicken and small shrimp. It used to be that Patti's Chinese Kitchen and Panda Express were the main sources of abandoned food. In those cases, I think it was more because of the large portions than dissatisfaction with the quality of the food. But with Mamma Mia's, these boxes seem to have hardly been touched and that's probably because that place just doesn't cook the pasta long enough. Almost, but not quite. I'm not complaining, given the price (although as I recall, I did complain when I made the mistake of actually paying for some spaghetti from there).

I borrowed twenty dollars on Friday, mainly in case the Sleeptalker appeared again. He didn't, and I also didn't see him at the Black Hole. He probably arrives later than I do but even if he was there in the mass of bodies on the ground floor, I'd be unlikely to spot him as I speed by on my way to the stairs. So instead I had financing for two beers a day and a packet of Top tobacco every other day, luxury in the time just before Third Wednesday.

Changed my mind about the little kitten's name. Lady Grey.

Let us hope she doesn't suffer the same fate as her namesake, Jane.

Killer likes the fat spotted doves the best. Milady prefers the mynahs. Her little jaw starts chattering when they come near. She hasn't got a chance with those punk birds. I just hope they don't peck her eyes out. Both of the kittens got a Third Wednesday treat, a can of catfood each. Her jaw still chattered after she'd finished her lunch. Such a sweetheart.

The thing I like best about Third Wednesday is a pack of virgin cigarettes, no doubt about it. And there's a shop with relatively cheap smokes right next door to the check cashing place, so I went there first. Then to 7-Eleven for beer, cheese, crackers ... and catfood. After I, the birds and the kittens had our lunch, I went to re-pay the twenty. Short-term loan, that was, the best way.

Otherwise Third Wednesday wasn't much different from the preceding days. I went to the Sunset Table, finished the book I was reading so walked over to Borders. I'm spoiled by that four-for-a-dollar sale at the used bookshop, balked at paying eight dollars for the Anne Rice paperback. Hey, that's 32 books worth! If it, like the new hardcover, had been part of the Vampire Chronicles I probably would have bought it, but for one of her ancient Rome sagas, I can wait. I wandered around the CD part of the store and balked at all the prices there, too. These record companies who are whining so much about people ripping off music via the internet have only themselves to blame. There are recordings there I've bought several times, on 78rpm discs, LP vinyl, tape cassette ... and now I'm supposed to pay premium price to get them once again on CD? Humbug, power to MP3s!

This Full Moon passed without the usual outbreaks of lunacy. Not even the ranting "focking punk" guy at the Black Hole did his usual luna-inspired routine.

And oh, what a sweet surprise when I got there on Wednesday evening. A sign: "tv not working". Cheer!

1013

The last day of Scorpio was something of a roller coaster ride. There was an email from the Sleeptalker saying he and Tanioka had been on campus the day before when I was off collecting and cashing the SocSec check. I was just about to send a response when he walked into Hamilton Library, having found a bus pass at the Black Hole. So we spent the day together. He went with me while I did the essential shopping exercise and then we sat in the secluded grove drinking a beer and talking. I bought a disposable camera, tried to get some pictures of the kittens. Someone must have approached them with a camera before, probably with a flash, because they went running each time I tried to snap them. I doubt that any of the attempts will prove satisfactory. I did take a few of the Sleeptalker, there and later during lunch at Manoa Garden.

He went back to play the game for awhile but I stayed in the Garden, drank another beer and listened to music. Closer inspection showed that the little screw wasn't the problem with the CD player. I'm not quite sure what caused the back of the flip-up lid to separate from the base but some strong cloth tape took care of it so I can eliminate a replacement from the current budget. I even tried to repair the headphones with the tape but it didn't last, fell apart again by the next day.

When the Sleeptalker returned we went on to the beach park, were soon joined by Tanioka who naturally wanted to go shopping for pipe-filling. He hadn't gotten busted at the department store last week, had in fact managed to elude his pursuers. The first shopping attempt was a total loss, the stuff wasn't real. They are so silly about buying from total strangers instead of waiting for someone they've dealt with before. A second attempt wasn't much better although it did at least contain some real stuff, probably heavily cut. We went to The Garage and before long, Rocky arrived! He has been on the Big Island for quite a long time and I'd only heard earlier that he was back in town. His hair is longer than usual and with blonded topping, just like it was when I first met him. He and Tanioka wandered off somewhere, the Sleeptalker went further upstairs, so I was alone when the PL arrived, looking for Angelo. We talked for awhile and she went on her way. Moments later Angelo arrived, and hurried off to look for her. A little later they returned together, with Rocky, and Angelo ranted away at me, angry that we'd been talking about him. Actually, we'd talked more about the pregnancy and the PL's decision to tell her mother than we had about Angelo, but then what does he think the PL and I have to talk about? I just shrugged him off so he turned his grumbling toward her instead. I have to admit, I'm getting pretty weary of these schizoid episodes, never knowing from one encounter to the next whether Angelo is going to be his kind and amusing self or his ugly and spiteful one. It's no doubt mostly because of the constant pipe smoking but also because he and the PL tend to stay most of the time in combative mode so he begins to treat everyone that way. And as I know all too well from past experience, he and Rocky make a team which brings out the worst in both of them.

So the range of the day and evening went from some splendid moments with the Sleeptalker to the downer of Angelo's tantrum, and I brought it to a close by going into the outside area and sleeping on the floor, wished I'd had something warmer because it got quite chilly in the early morning hours. Alas, the weather forecast predicts another bout of Kona wind weather is on the way, possibly lasting a week. Yeukh.

Better news: it's the time of the year for pay raises and the first notice was that foodstamps will increase from $66 to $72 starting in December. Then in January SocSec will increase by 1.4 percent. Not exactly cause for dancing in the streets, but every extra dollar is welcome.

Too much beer and not enough food on Thursday meant a wretched hangover, and the ice aftermath was more unpleasant than I would have expected given how little we'd actually smoked. After a brief time online, I spent the rest of the day in the secluded grove, had a beer and a light lunch and started another one of Edward Rutherfurd's two-thousand-year epics, Russka. Not as fascinating to me personally as his London but still engrossing reading.

"You're too hard on yourself," I told the Sleeptalker when he joined me later at the Sunset Table. He said he'd gotten quite high from the pipe and then had been very silly, went on "playing with myself" for a long time, even getting caught by both Tanioka and Rocky. A shame, I would have enjoyed "catching" him much more than they did, I'm sure. He lamented what he sees as his whole life being a failure, even spent some time grumbling about Seventh Circle which is a "waste of time", and fretted over the way he keeps getting in trouble with other people. He'd almost gotten into a fight at the Black Hole which, as I pointed out after hearing the details, would easily have been avoided if he'd just minded his own business. And he felt "homesick" (even if he did constantly bitch about life in the house with his mother and sisters and obviously got himself evicted by making trouble). I gave him money to get some food and we shared a beer, then I left earlier than usual to go to the Black Hole, just wanting to collapse on the mat and sleep. He didn't go with me, don't know if he ended up there later or not.

I told him I thought he'd definitely be happier if he got a job. Any job. The total lack of time structure is surely a large part of his problem. And of course the pipe, especially the crash of the aftermath, certainly isn't helping. For me, the absurd expense and the day-after downer would be worth it if the party itself was fun. This one certainly wasn't, ranks with that horrendous Angelo-Rocky hotel one as about the worst. The joy of smoking the pipe and everyone going off on their own to sit in that garage stairwell all night totally escapes me.

The Sleeptalker gave me this:

-----

THE BIG DREAM

My goals in life had always been big dreams, dreams that I see other people in life succeed. It's been nice seeing them from time to time saying hi or driving by with a smile. I think I can succeed in any dream. That's why I'm going what I do today, seeing things that I never thought I could see. I've always had excuses but one day I stood up for the first time no matter what the excuse was. Know what? I just stood up. I'm kind of proud of myself by accomplishing the things I've accomplished and it makes me happy to know what I really can do and how smart that I am. My goals aren't done yet there just half way through. And I'll just keep on working till I pull them through.

1014

"Sometimes I try really hard to avoid seeing you," the Sleeptalker said on Friday. Rather brutal but also quite endearing candor. One reason is surely his desire not to be a "user" and no matter what I say to assure him I don't see it that way, I can't convince him and that may in fact be best for him.

Another reason is his discomfort with the young heterosexual man (as he sees it) and the old gay man pairing, discomfort which oddly seems to have increased as he's gotten older. I would have expected it to be the other way around. There's not much that can be done about that except, of course, to behave with extra discretion when there are other people around. Somehow I doubt most people see us as a sugar daddy-toy boy couple, but I can sympathize with his concern even if thinking it's quite unnecessary.

In any case, I guess he must have fallen into the avoidance state of mind since I didn't see him, or any of the others, during the weekend and Monday.

Along with SAD, seasonal affective disorder, there should also be WAD. More generally, the W would stand for weather but in these islands it could as easily mean winds. I've never lived in a place where the direction and speed of the wind is as important as it is here. The forecasters were correct in predicting the tradewinds would be blocked (and are likely to remain so all week), but it didn't turn into typical Kona wind weather. On the weekend it was more unusual easterly wind (for which the Hawaiians no doubt had a special word). Although it stayed dry, there was an uncomfortable heaviness to the air and especially on Sunday it definitely inspired WAD.

I piddled through it continuing with Russka which I didn't finish until late Sunday evening. What a bizarre and strange history Russia has had. I was grateful the book, except for a couple of brief afterwords, ended with Lenin.

NPR (National Public Radio) is trashing Sunday evening with a horrendous "Romantic Hour" broadcast which for the most part features hideously affected readers unctuously intoning dreary letters about one thing or another, interspersed with banal excerpts of music. It is undoubtedly the most repellent thing NPR has put together in its history. Saturday evening's Prairie Home Companion was considerably more enjoyable, with a most enthusiastic Chicago audience. On Monday, the evening concert began with two pieces by Chopin. This is no doubt my failing, barbarian that I am, but I have always thought Chopin rather brittle and artificial, have never had much interest in listening to his music. My good fortune, since I switched to a "classic rock" station just in time to hear Lennon's splendid "Imagine". I was a little surprised just afterwards to realize how dated "Gimme Shelter" by the Stones sounds now. Most of their stuff has held up well, but that's an exception, unless it was just my mood. A mood not improved when checking back with NPR and finding a Nielsen symphony was the next thing up. Oh well, I went to the country music station. Alas, the local folks here have an intense love for really ghastly sentimental crap (witness the success "Hawaiian" musicians have had with soppy mommy and daddy songs) and that station, doing a call-in request hour, was saturated with it. I noticed the used bookshop's adjunct, the used music store, has several boxes of CDs they are selling for 25 cents each ... maybe I should check it out.

1015

Almost everything at the mall, including McD's and the restrooms, closed for Thanksgiving so I stopped at a 7-Eleven for coffee and went on to campus much earlier than usual. Everything there closed, too, except the restrooms (fortunately). It was clear I was going to finish the last of my most recent four-book purchase and I hated the idea of paying full price for something from a 7-Eleven so was delighted when I went downhill for beer and catfood to discover the used bookshop was open. Four more books, all lightweight mystery novels, and back to campus. I didn't buy anything for the birds but found some rice for them in a trashcan. I wouldn't be a trashpicker for myself but I'll do it for the little feathered ones.

I had re-repaired the headphones, still not having settled on a replacement, but they'd once again fallen apart. So I taped them and listened to the radio for a time. Much as I've bitched about NPR's choice of American music for Thanksgiving, I'm inclined to bitch even more about them having apparently given up that custom (later it was Janacek and Delius during the Evening Concert ... when it should have been Ives and Copland and Thomson).

Then to Waikiki in the early afternoon to meet Helen R for our traditional all-you-can-eat buffet at Sizzler's. Eating more than I'd usually eat in three days time was about my only "normal" observation of the holiday. The food was good although as I told Helen, the stuffing brought back fond memories of my mother's cornbread version, infinitely better and one of my favorite childhood treats. It's odd that we never had cranberry sauce except at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as I recall. I like the stuff a lot, so it's equally odd I don't now and then buy it to enjoy with roast chicken. I didn't manage a second round of the buffet table after finishing off my initial, heaping plate but did have a little slice of pumpkin pie for dessert. It needed more nutmeg.

Helen went on her way, possibly to see the new Bond film which didn't interest me at all, and I walked along Ala Moana Boulevard, past where I lived those first six years in Honolulu, still there, the only three-storey building left on the boulevard. It was the first time in many months I've walked along there, quite enjoyable in the sunny, warm weather. Then to the Sunset Table which had been rained out the prior evening. Much of that area of the park had been taken over by a huge group of picnickers but surprisingly, my table was empty so I sat there slowly drinking a beer, knowing I was too full to even think of another one, reading and grumbling at NPR once the sun went down and it was too dark to read.

On the bus to the Black Hole and outside it, all the conversation was about where people had eaten free food and which place was the best. I do get bored by "homeless chatter". I thought, because of the holiday, the alcoholics wouldn't have their usual Thursday session, but they did, so we had to wait outside until they'd finished a bit after eight. I saw the Sleeptalker from a distance but by the time I got inside, he'd disappeared into the mob. Horror of horrors, I ended up next to the Airport Couple, with the Fatman beside me. Oh well, at least he doesn't snore, and if I am careful not to open my eyes when looking in his shirtless direction, it's not so awful. If.

People were lined up outside the K-Mart store at 4:45 in the morning, waiting for it to open. At the mall, the Sears store was opening at the unprecedented (for it) time of five o'clock. McD's would have been more ambitious to have opened then, too, but waited until near its usual six o'clock startup. Then as I was walking over to the bus stop I was amazed by the huge line of people waiting for the toy store to open. Americans are beginning to get quite thoroughly carried away by this nonsense of shop-till-you-drop on the Friday after Thanksgiving. No chance of me helping out with the statistics for one-day retail sales, although I did pick up eight more books at the used bookshop since that sale ends on Saturday (taking eight would give them time to replenish the stock so I can check it again on the final day).

The tradewinds returned on Friday. Did they ever, with frequent strong gusts, and the temperature dropped considerably from what it has been, the first day of the season to deliberately pick sunny sitting spots. I'd made a quick trip to the discount clothing store on Wednesday to get a tee shirt for the Thanksgiving feast but didn't see any long-sleeved shirts I much liked. If it's going to stay this cool, I may have to try again without being so picky. After sunset I draped my beachtowel over my shoulders as a shawl, used it as a blanket when I got to the Black Hole.

Winter wonderland.

1016

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ...

Actually, it was the second day of December and he didn't give it but traded it for pipe-filling financing. As I said once before, he surely does pick a fine way to earn a pipe. I was surprised to get an email from the Sleeptalker just after nine on Monday morning and that was quickly followed by two more mails, the last including his plan to see me at the beach park in the late afternoon. Then he appeared in Seventh Circle. All this activity was being carried out in a large CompUSA store. I told him to meet me at the 7-Eleven across from the Sunset Table then, instead of waiting till later, and we spent the rest of the day together, with that very sweet finale before he went off to smoke the pipe. I hope he enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed him earning it.

Just after he left, Tanioka and the ICL arrived. Such a flurry of social activity after a thoroughly quiet weekend with only the birds and the kittens for company. I think I finally got a good photo of Lady Grey (and was given a very dirty look for my effort) and later got a good one of the big bird at the beach park. I wish I could get one of the very funny routines of the little Java sparrows which have joined the lunchtime crowd. They are about half the size of the zebra doves but are fearless in defending their bit of bread, sometimes jump on the back of a dove and ride it around as a way of chasing it off. An avian rodeo.

Never mind the coin oracle, I found an even better sign of a lucky day. Walking through the mall early Tuesday morning I spotted a small plastic bag. Greenery. And I don't mean from a Christmas tree either.

1017

The conversations of the early morning McD's crowd on Wednesday were all variations on how cold it had been during the night. I'm sure it must have been for the park people since it was quite cool in the hour after sunset. But I'd already weakened on Sunday evening, went to Sears and bought a long-sleeved lightweight flannel shirt which was fortunately on sale at half-price. It took a bit of searching to find because so much of the merchandise is just too heavy for this place, even at its "coldest". I don't know how they can sell such winter stuff. Surely most tourists don't bother to buy clothes to take home with them?

Tuesday was a quiet, uneventful day, but the Sleeptalker was on the bus Wednesday when I boarded it to return to campus after my usual late morning expedition for beer and catfood. He looked pretty wrecked, said he'd continued smoking the pipe on Tuesday with Tanioka and was feeling awful. We talked a little about the horrible hangover from that drug. When I asked him why he enjoys smoking it he just gave a puzzled "I don't know" reply. Later, Tanioka answered the same question with "it makes me happy".

I didn't offer the Sleeptalker beer because I thought he'd be going to class in the evening, but no, he told me, he was giving up on this course, will have to repeat it next year. He did, though, have an appointment with the social worker in the early afternoon, so that eliminated the beer offer, too, although I told him I'd buy him one later if he joined me in the beach park. I persuaded him to leave with plenty of time to get to his appointment but he said later that he'd been ten minutes late so it had been rescheduled for Thursday morning. I hope he manages to get the Crazy Money again, but at least he'll have foodstamps either way.

He said quite plaintively that he wished he knew more people he could "trust", that he sometimes feels everyone is his "enemy", a feeling which is undoubtedly exaggerated by that damned drug's tendency to increase paranoia. And it was amusing when he said he couldn't look for a job because he hasn't got shoes, the exact excuse he made over five years ago in one of our earliest conversations. I told him if he seriously wants to go job hunting, I'll buy him the shoes. What goes around comes around, I thought, as I remembered Helen R buying shoes for me so I could do that sushi-kitchen job.

I went back to the computer for a short while after he left and then headed to the beach park for a shower. Tanioka and the Sleeptalker arrived just after I'd finished my slight dinner of nachos, and they came loaded with more of them. The 7-Eleven gives free chili and cheese as topping, as well as sliced tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and stuff, so it makes for a very cheap meal. A shame their chili is so bland, though. We talked for awhile, then I gave the Sleeptalker money for a beer. When he returned he wandered off on his own with it, I guess to continue his hangover suffering in solitude.

Poor, sweet man.

1018

An enquiry to the I Ching about the Sleeptalker gave Hexagram 32, Hang, with lines 1, 4, and 6:

Hang indicates successful progress and no error (in what it denotes). But the advantage will come from being firm and correct; and movement in any direction whatever will be advantageous.

1. The first six, divided, shows its subject deeply (desirous) of long continuance. Even with firm correctness there will be evil; there will be no advantage in any way.
4. The fourth NINE, undivided, shows a field where there is no game.
6. The topmost six, divided, shows its subject exciting himself to long continuance. There will be evil.


A field with no game and evil in two lines, not a very auspicious oracle but understandable at this point, when the Sleeptalker has done his usual pendulum act, swinging from positive to negative as he always does. It's partly my fault. I've been too generous to him since his return to town life and like the proverbial dog with the hand that feeds, he can't eventually resist lashing out at a provider. This is probably mostly because he resents needing assistance. I've also spent too much time with him since he always turns against everyone who keeps company with him too frequently. Nothing to be done about it but wait until it swings the other way again, or just give up on it altogether. As he knows, the latter option would be very difficult for me.

He came to the Sunset Table at about four o'clock on Thursday afternoon, was I think hoping to find Tanioka and get to share a pipe. I told him Tanioka had said he was almost broke, so I didn't think there was much chance of that. It was one of those conversations which seem to hover on the verge of becoming hostile and I'm out of practice after his long absence, but managed to keep it from tilting too far. I gave him the rest of the beer I was drinking, then bought another round. He was listening to my CD, then radio. If it hadn't been Thursday with the necessarily late access to the Black Hole, it would have been a not unpleasant time with him, if not as enjoyable as some of the recent ones. But since there was still another hour to go, I made the mistake of offering to share another beer with him if he went to buy it. I gave him the money, he walked off with the CD player even though I asked him to leave it. And he didn't return.

Oh well, the CD Curse strikes again. I either have to give up owning one of the things or give up my so-called "friends".

Tanioka's birthday is the twenty-second and I said we'd have a party close to the day, since he plans to be with his family on the actual day (hoping for some money gifts). But the way things are going, I begin to wonder if there will be anybody left to include on a invitation list except him and me.

Okinawa was sentenced to a year in prison, a $1300 fine and five-year probation. Time served (since late July) is credited, so with probable early release for good behavior, he'll likely be out in April or May. Out for a little while, anyway.

I saw Tanioka at the Sunset Table on Saturday evening. He told me the Sleeptalker had said someone stole the CD player from him. I thought in the sober light of the next morning, the Sleeptalker would return it, but when he didn't show up on Friday I gave up on that idea. The thing was so beat-up, held together by tape, that it could hardly have been sold but no doubt someone would have agreed to share a pipe for it, so I'm not sure I can swallow the "stolen" story.

At one point Tanioka said he needed to find "more friends". Yes, me too, ones who aren't stuck on the glass pipe ... and already have their own CD players.

1019

I mean the man was such an utter bubblehead, but if you're going to be a friend of a bubblehead, there's not much point in getting furious because he is a bubblehead. That's a bit complicated, but it does make sense, doesn't it?
Lawrence Sanders: McNally's Trial

-----

Sunday got off to a wacky start when a young man managed to set off the Black Hole fire alarm at about four in the morning. They somehow caught him, because I saw two of the security guys escorting him into the office as the rest of us returned from evacuating the building. I had planned to get up earlier than usual because I wanted to get out of the path of the Honolulu Marathon before it started, but that was earlier than I would have preferred. Just as well, since by the time a bus came I could see the fireworks display marking the start of the race.

Sad. A thirty-three year old man collapsed and died after finishing the race.

I had an egg salad sandwich and coffee for breakfast, arrived on campus before sunrise so sat and read until the computer lab opened at eight. Then it was downhill to the laundromat, a visit postponed longer than it should have been, as usual. Catfood and beer shopping, back to the secluded grove, but I wasn't hungry so the birds missed out since there was nothing in the trash for them either.

Tanioka came to the Sunset Table in the evening and I bought us a round of beer and nachos, letting him grab the chili and cheese, etc., since he's much bolder than I would be, takes enough to make a reasonable meal for two. We were drinking Olde English missing, as it happened, a last chance to have a Colt45 at its former price. On Monday, the cost of the things went from $2.18 to $2.70! I do hope the other brands don't follow suit. If they don't, Colt45's market share is sure to plummet.

That kind of leap and the mailbox fee going up to $50/quarter makes me grumble that the 1.4 percent "Cost of Living Adjustment" to SocSec is rather out of step with reality.

I bought two Lawrence Sanders novels from the fifty-cent cart at Hamilton, so had plenty of reading for Sunday and Monday, postponed a trip to the State Library. Since the kittens are back on foodstamps until next week, they got their first taste of mackerel, seemed quite happy with it. Oddly, it's only a few pennies more than catfood-fish, but means an extra walk to the supermarket since 7-Eleven only has sardines and tuna.

And that walk brought a new experience for these islands. A bug flew into the side of my head and I reached up to brush it off. Ouch! A bee. And a stupid bee which left its stinger embedded in my left index finger. Hurt like hell for about twenty minutes, then became a very white swelling and the whole finger mercifully went numb. Half an hour later all signs of it had vanished. I think bees die once they sting. That one gets no sympathy from me.

I had a glimpse of the Sleeptalker who was standing outside Borders when I went by on a bus headed for the mailbox (which had nothing but the LavaNet bill in it). And speaking of glimpses from the bus, I've been by the Moanas end of the beach park a number of times recently without seeing Joe Guam. I sat down there for awhile after returning from the mailbox and even though the Krishna truck was there, I still saw no sign of Joe. I wonder what has happened to him?

And now it's x equals time again.
x = 6

-----

Fantasy, fantasy, all is fantasy. But what would life be like without sweet dreams?
Lawrence Sanders: McNally's Trial

1020

Silly bureaucratic shuffle. Letter from the social worker informed me that my foodstamps will be reduced in January owing to the increase in SocSec. Uncle Sam giveth and Uncle Sam taketh away. So overall, I end up with a three dollar monthly increase in foodstamps for 2003, after having enjoyed a seven dollar increase for one month. Heaven knows how much it costs them to juggle all this stuff, send out letters, etc.

Silly friendship shuffle, too. The Sleeptalker appeared in the game on Thursday morning. I looked around, didn't see him at Hamilton. He said nothing at all, either privately or publicly. A rare event, for him to play silently. When I left to do my lunchtime shopping, I spotted him, sitting on the opposite side of the area where I had been, hidden by a column. I returned to the secluded grove but he must have ducked that when he left, if he hadn't already gone by the time I returned. Silly boy should just say he's sorry and put an end to the dumb game.

Tanioka came to the Sunset Table on Wednesday evening, said he'd treated the Sleeptalker to lunch and they'd then managed to sneak into a theatre to see a film. I bought a round of beer, rather foolishly since the cash supply is running on empty. But then, as I said, it wouldn't kill me to go without beer for a few days and I do have enough foodstamps for the x equals duration. Tanioka was all antsy, twitching for that glass pipe, and he eventually went off to seek some filling. I'm so grateful I don't suffer from that urgent yearning that attacks him and Angelo.

The two John Sandford books I found at the State Library turned out to be a two-part yarn about a whacko serial killer who fortunately got his head almost blown off at the end of the second book. I didn't much want to read any more about this particular creep so was more than pleased with the end of his revolting career. But Sandford either doesn't do drugs or has had little experience, because the villain was credited with popping more stuff in a day than I could handle in a month. Absolutely impossible anyone could take what Sanford claims was swallowed and do the complex stuff his killer did.

It was even more foolish than usual for me to leave an empty-pockets x equals period this month because the mall is horrible. It would be a perfect time to avoid the place altogether instead of being dependent on it for tobacco (although I did also score two quarters on Thursday and two generous boxes of that under-cooked spaghetti from Mamma Mia's, two different sauce styles). That tape of the-worst-Christmas-music-ever-recorded is all too successful and the live performances at CenterStage aren't much better. Of course the place is almost always mobbed with people scurrying around frantically spending money. Macy's opened at seven o'clock on Friday, open until midnight, bringing out an even earlier than usual mob. Christmas turns into nothing but a huge retail scramble and must create terrible tension for most people, especially those with children. What a dreadful holiday it has become.

1021

x = 2

I told Helen R on Saturday that my only New Year's Resolution will be to end this absurd x equals cycle, added, half in jest, that I need a bank account which has an ATM card allowing only $150 per week withdrawal. Of course, with that I'd probably end up penniless on the last day of each week, but at least it would be spread through the month rather than bunched-up just before Third Wednesday. But one real answer is to shift any "parties" to the last week of the SocSec cycle, not the first.

Veteran readers will no doubt be astonished at such a display of discipline, but I saved that found bag of greenery until the Moon was in Aries (what, me believe in astrology?), even though the Sleeptalker had urged me to "fire it up" the last time we were together. Nope, saved it until Friday, Moon in Aries, and a one-beer day. Fine, potent stuff, confirming my belief that I'd far rather smoke the green stuff than the white stuff. If only it were so readily obtainable. If Mondo weren't such a weirdo, we'd be a great couple because he prefers the greenery, too, the only one of the Boys who does.

I was sorry I didn't have music to go with the experience but I did write a few notes in reply to a letter from Felix, scrawled on the back of two photos of Joseph Conrad, since he'd asked if there were any on the web and I'd found those two, printed them. And I thought about a lot of things with the dusted-off perception of cannabis sativa, including the Sleeptalker.

Moth to the flame or flame to the moth? He continued the same routine on Friday, showing up in the game and playing in total silence. Again I noticed when I left that he was sitting as far from where I had been as he could get. Then later in the mall I was sitting in Philo Walk and he came up behind me, gave a little chuckle (endearingly close to that sound from him I love so much), gently patted my shoulder twice and continued on his way. An amusing strategy, this little series of "black-out" skits.

A bow and a tip of the hat to Skoy, the Master Game Player.

Helen R took me to see Star Trek: Nemesis on Saturday. A thoroughly engrossing film, my favorite of the ST's and the only one which at one point had me on the verge of tears. Because we got there quite early it turned out to be the longest waking time I've gone without a cigarette since the hospital adventure. Proof of the film's effectiveness is that I didn't once wish to pop out for a quick smoke. I popped out quickly enough for one afterwards, though.

We had a late lunch then at the Kakaako Kitchen where I had one of the daily specials, three-bean vegetarian chili on brown rice. The beans hadn't been cooked long enough. What's with these places taking pots off the stove too soon? The little green side salad was a treat since it included watercress, not much used in salads here.

Some bum was sprawled on the Sunset Table so I had to have my sunset brew sitting on my beach towel under a nearby tree, before returning to the mall for a final snipes run. One thing is certain: after Third Wednesday I'll no doubt continue to go to the mall for my six o'clock morning coffee but then I'm staying well clear of the place for the duration of these happy holidays.

Speaking of bums, I did spot Joe Guam early on Saturday morning, heading into the park. I guess he must have changed his usual spot in the park. And speaking of spot, that human (well, sort of human) I call Spot keeps trying to get chatty at the Black Hole. I mutter a few brief, semi-polite things before escaping with the sleeve of my shirt over my eyes. He and Joe belong in the same paragraph, being among the most monumentally boring people I've encountered in this long life.

Joseph Conrad, eh? I wonder what Felix is up to, have a suspicion I know. And my grass-enhanced intuition prompted me to write, "no, no, you've got it all wrong."

1022

The Third Tuesday of December may be one of the shortest days of the year so far as hours of daylight are concerned but I'm afraid, like every Third Tuesday, it is for me subjectively the longest day. It certainly got off to an unusual beginning since my post-coffee stroll through the mall not only yielded a full box of lengthy snipes but also a half-pack of Marlboros with disposable lighter and a fine leather coin-purse minus coins, alas, but with a classic brass Zippo lighter. Dame Fortune putting the emphasis on tobacco.

The mall also kindly provided means for a sunset brew on Monday, a profit of $1.50 from baby strollers. It should have been two dollars but one return corral was out of refund quarters. The Mongoose was dashing around frantically, first time I've seen him hunting in a long time. I assume he thought, as I did, that people would be more likely to abandon strollers in this season of hectic shopping. It's very silly of him to rush about so, though. There's no set pattern to where those strollers turn up so it makes more sense to casually stroll around rather than get hysterical about it. Naturally, once he spotted me he speeded up even more but I never saw him find one.

Something completely different in the reading category was also dropped like a melon from heaven. I was about to give up and part with a dollar on Sunday, started to walk toward the used bookshop when I saw a cardboard box with "free books" written on top. So I browsed the selection and consequently am reading Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Well, actually re-reading but it has been years since I last read it. Magister Hardy doesn't need my praise to add to his deserved reputation but he has it anyway.

There is a growing encampment not far from the Sunset Table, a group not unlike that of Lord and Lady Moana and their courtiers. I was afraid I might end up with another Joe Guam when one of the group came over to the table to talk on Sunday evening. He asked where I sleep, a very rude question for one homeless stranger to ask another, but I told him at the Black Hole. He asked upstairs or downstairs, expressed sympathy. He said the police haven't been bothering people in the park, explaining why the population there seems to have grown significantly in recent weeks. I wish some of the Black Hole residents would relocate to the park because that place has been filled to absolute capacity. The first batch of SocSec payments made no dent in the crowd. I hope the second batch does, or that some people have places to go for the holidays. I wonder what they'll do if people show up and there just isn't any more floor space?

My fears about gaining another Joe were eased a bit on Monday evening when that new fellow walked by the table and just waved, didn't interrupt my reading. Joe has made me more reluctant than ever to be overly friendly to old strangers, an unfortunate attitude but not lacking common sense.

No reluctance when it comes to young ones, though, and there was quite an amusing adventure with a campus one on Sunday, a lad in his late teens or early twenties, probably of Korean descent. Sexy little rascal.

It's odd how much the reality of old age differs from what I always thought it would be.

1023

To pay the piper. And that little bastard surely did extract a stiff price for the Tanioka Birthday Follies. I left the Garage at about five o'clock on Thursday morning, took a bus to the beach park picking up two cans of coffee on the way. Once the sun was up I had a shower and spent the rest of the day collapsed on my beach towel softly groaning now and then.

Tanioka told me he had a CD player he wanted to sell for twenty dollars so I was expecting him in the park on Third Wednesday. I had already bought a small Sony AM/FM radio thinking it was wiser to have separate devices rather than a combo. I wanted one with the ability to pre-set stations but that would have meant spending almost fifty dollars so I decided against that. The fifty-dollar hole in this round of SocSec (for the mailbox) argues against another such chunk. The CD player is a shiney red Sony, a sure target for thieves if ever I saw one, but I had already planned to keep the player in my campus locker, take it out for a day when I want to listen to CDs and then lock it up again. Not just because of the tendency of the things to "take a walk" but also because of the beating both the players and the discs get from life in the bag ... and unless there's some new, compelling disc in the collection, I don't usually listen to it that much, more often go with radio.

The Follies began with just Tanioka and me, but we were later joined by Angelo. Although the PL eventually showed up at the Garage, she didn't come to where we were and Angelo is much better company when she's not around. He talked at some length in the early hours of the morning about the problems he has with her. It really is a relationship without much of a future, I fear, and once again feel pity for the poor child if and when it arrives. She keeps taunting him with stories about having sex with other men and even did some heavy flirting with Little Brother. I share her enthusiasm for him (even if seventeen is too young for me ... and her), but really, going after your boyfriend's brother is a bit much.

What fools these mortals be. I think Hardy's Tess is most elegant proof that Shakespeare was right on target, but there are certainly more immediate proofs (even when I'm not looking in the mirror). I followed up that bit of classic reading with de Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses. What a nest of vipers.

But I spent most of Thursday with the radio, very pleased to have music back in my life and, despite the hideous hangover, enjoying the memory of this Follies, one of the more enjoyable in this no doubt ill-advised series of adventures. I wasn't much surprised that the Sleeptalker hadn't turned up at the garage because he is getting Crazy Money again, probably will vanish until he's spent it all. I'm relieved he qualified again, though, since it eliminates any need for me to help out financially.

The libraries will be closed for the next three weekends, UH Winter Break, and of course for the next two Wednesdays as well. So I foresee a slowdown in the production of these meanderings.

1024

The week between the Birthday Follies and [sigh] the Christmas Follies was unexceptional, solitary, the mood dampened by the arrival on Sunday of a cold or virus of some sort. Very unpleasant but mercifully short-lived, especially since I feared in the beginning that it might be flu, what with all the bodily aches and pains. I cancelled plans to spend some time on Christmas Day with Helen and Mme de Crécy.

Standing by my vow to avoid the place I was in the mall only in the very early morning for my coffee, spent the rest of the day in the secluded grove or at the Sunset Table, reading and listening to radio. Not as much of the latter as I would have expected. NPR was so saturated in "early music" that I was wishing for just an hour or two of nothing earlier than 1800, but didn't opt for the exception of the Saturday broadcast of Elektra, doubt I'll be listening to the new opera based on Miller's A View From the Bridge which is next in line. Prairie Home Companion's holiday broadcast from NYC tried too hard to be cynically witty and despite a few amusing moments got tiresome. That gawdawful Romantic Hours on Sunday evening was beyond tiresome but I dropped back in once in awhile to horrify myself. I did hear most of a Christmas Carol dramatization, about my only nod to the seasonal radio.

Since the mall was completely closed on Christmas Day I went directly from the Black Hole to Waikiki, had my (cheaper) senior coffee and a Breakfast Jack from Jack-in-the-Box before heading to campus. The used bookshop was, incredibly, open so I was able to replenish my supply of inconsequential mystery novels. The kittens evidently got quite a feast because after I'd opened two cans of food for them, wondering why they showed less enthusiasm than usual, I noticed two discarded packets of the stuff Barbara gives them. Sweet of her to make the effort to play Santa on Christmas morning.

The mama cat has evidently decided her offspring are old enough now to share and has twice come down to do so, waiting though until they've had a chance to finish off most of it.

Angelo came to the Sunset Table in the late afternoon, grumbling because everything was closed and so he was missing out a day's income. I cheered him up considerably by offering pipe filling as a Christmas present and we went to the Garage to smoke, later joined by Tanioka, and the party continued until a final pipe was passed at about three in the morning. Alas, the Garage's attractiveness has been considerably lessened since there is a now a private security firm's van which whizzes through the parking areas, restricting parties to the stairwells. I got caught on my own the first time but the man was quite pleasant, didn't say anything about the beer except "take the bottles". Thinking they'd probably only do the routine once a night, I was out there again later with Angelo when the van returned. Just as well since I probably would have weakened and supplied a breakfast pipe if we'd continued the party. Instead I walked to the 7-Eleven at about four-fifteen, got coffee, and spent the rest of the day in the park. I'd planned to spread my beachtowel on the grass but a large mowing machine arrived so I relocated to the beach, stayed long enough to get slightly sunburnt.

Tanioka arrived a little before sunset and offered to supply a pipe. We had to wait quite awhile outside the Drugstore for a supplier and Angelo and the PL walked up, laden with bags from their daily "shopping". She looked wrecked and was quite sullen, said nothing to us at all. Tanioka told me later they've been bagging enough stuff to stay in hotels (her paying for the hotel and food, him the glass pipe). Angelo said the day before that the PL has decided to have an abortion but is procrastinating about it. He doesn't seem to care one way or the other.

I wondered if that pipe would perk me up or pass me out since I was by then feeling thoroughly wilted. It did ease the lingering hangover discomfort, no doubt a main reason for the stuff's addictiveness, but I was fortunately able eventually to sleep for awhile with very complex dreams, the kind which woke me up to have a cigarette and then went back to sleep where the same dream scenario continued.

Life won't really return to "normal" until January 6th and the end of UH Winter Break, but I am happy to have December 25th behind us.

1025

Cainer wrote on Friday: Can you face yet another weekend of exuberance and extravagance? Are you really ready for more of what you have lately been experiencing so much of? Even if you feel your brain can take the strain, can your heart, your liver, your wallet? And er... come to that, what about your relationship with you-know-who? Doesnt that now require a bit of restraint if trouble is to be avoided? Tis, of course, still the season to be jolly. Tis also the season for going a bit too far. Even so, there are lines you would now be wise to draw before life ends up drawing them for you.

Uncannily apt, even by his usual standards. Ignoring the warning, the Christmas Follies continued for a third night. As I remember, that's only the second time I've indulged in such an extended party. Tanioka came to the Sunset Table in the late afternoon and I didn't resist his invitation to share the pipe again. I told him he's an "evil influence", but was only joking. He thought "evil" was too strong and I reminded him that was the way the Sleeptalker saw it, as he sees everything in very black/white, good/evil terms.

Not that either he or I haven't the power to say no.

After two rounds of the pipe, Tanioka wandered off, as usual. I was immersed in a very lengthy retrospective of my so-called love life and some memories surfaced which haven't been seen in a long, long time. Suddenly the Sleeptalker opened the door nearest me in the stairwell. He was a wreck, constantly coughing, and he had a bag of filling but no pipe, was desperate to find Tanioka. He kept going away and returning, each time asking me "where's Tanioka?!" Each time I repeated, "I have no idea."

Here Cainer's warning did come to mind, so I maintained restraint through all the exchanges even though I was beginning to get a little annoyed with the constant, uninteresting interruptions. The Sleeptalker eventually tried to smoke with an improvised "pipe" made from a soda can, then continued to fret about Tanioka's absence. Then he wandered off again, no doubt searching the neighborhood. This routine went on until I decided I'd had enough and wanted some morning-after chilled green tea so left and went to 7-Eleven the next time the Sleeptalker disappeared.

It was a more cerebral experience than I've usually had with this drug, no doubt partly because I was feeling pretty exhausted physically from the extended party so the energy went to the brain. That's actually more like my long-ago flirtation with the pharmaceutical version. (I told the Sleeptalker at one point it was a shame we couldn't just get those little white pills, eliminate all the fuss with the pipe.)

And much to my surprise, the hangover wasn't nearly as bad as it had been after the opening night party even though I actually had more to smoke since it had been just me and Tanioka. Maybe that's why Angelo can keep on doing it every day. I still don't think I could cope with more than three nights of it.

Nor do I want to.

One of the side benefits from the continually disappearing sound gear is that every time the replacement radio has been better than its predecessor, especially the reception capability, and the new one is the best yet. There are two NPR stations here but the second one is much weaker and I could rarely tune in to it. This one gets it fine, so I can once again occasionally listen to the evening news report from the BBC Worldwide Service, surely the most civilized such program in existence.

But the real treat of the weekend was Prairie Home Companion with the surprise of Renée Fleming as a guest. She did three things, including "Hello Young Lovers", and took part in a funny skit about an opera singer's recurrent nightmare, forgetting she was supposed to be in a performance at the Met. She was rushed there in a helicopter, quickly hustled into costume and make-up, but kept asking everyone, "what opera are we doing?!" Ha! Neither the costumes nor the sets provided sufficient clues (she listed several widely-disparate possibilities they suggested) and the conductor didn't answer her whispered plea. So she leaned over to see if she could read from the music stands ... and fell into the orchestra pit. Funny, and very nicely dramatized.

And as a consequence of her appearance, the internal jukebox was stuck Sunday morning on Lehar. Oh well, certainly beats "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" which has crept in far too often lately.

1026

what fools these mortals be

-----

A strange ending to the old year, an equally strange beginning to the new one. I'd stayed pretty much in isolation all week, still regaining my balance after that extended party. I was sitting at the bus stop on New Year's Eve, waiting for the Black Hole Special, when I heard a car horn beep several times behind me. Angelo and Tanioka, Angelo's sister's car this time. They wanted me to join them but I said no, I was finished for the year, just wanted to head off to sleep. They went on, but parked and walked over to try again to persuade me. I didn't yield. I was already asleep at a little after nine when someone nudged my mat several times. I looked up. Angelo. As is his usual routine these days, Tanioka had wandered off after smoking the pipe so poor Angelo was on his own and wanting company enough to come to the Black Hole to look for me. Sweet, and a little sad, but I still declined to join him, went back to sleep only waking briefly when the big public fireworks display went off at midnight.

As on Christmas, I went directly to Waikiki for my morning coffee on New Year's Day since the mall McD's wasn't opening until ten, then spent the morning reading on campus. Helen R had invited me to lunch at Sizzler's so it was back to Waikiki at one for a fine sirloin steak, the first time I've eaten "real" beef in a long time. As I said to Helen, when you eat a burger at McD's or Jack it really doesn't taste like beef at all. We both had little bottles of wine to celebrate the occasion as well, also a first-in-a-long-time item. I went to the Sunset Table, vacant despite an enormous picnic taking up most of that area of the park. Enormous and very noisy.

The old guy from that encampment down there brought over a plate of food. I thanked him but said I'd had a very large meal already, just couldn't eat any more. I know he's just trying to be nice but I wish he'd leave me alone, got quite cross with him on Monday evening when I continued reading after he walked over to start a chat and I finally had to protest, saying I was trying to read. You'd think a person would get the message if you turn your back to them and continue reading, but he's like Joe Guam, doesn't get it.

Angelo arrived on his own, wanting to talk. The PL got the abortion. Consequently she was welcome at her mother's house again (even it that seems very odd to me) and was spending the holiday there. He was feeling very depressed by the whole thing with her and talked about it for hours. I bought us a round of beer and finally agreed to his urging me to hang out with him, sleep in the car later. He went on a quick shopping expedition to get pipe filling and we went to Chinatown where he'd parked the car. Then he drove to Mondo's building because he'd made friends with another guy there and knew he'd have a pipe (I don't know what happened to Angelo's). I waited in the car while he went in and smoked, having no desire to join in. Too soon, too soon.

Then he dithered around for awhile trying to contact an aunt he could borrow money from, wanting, as always, more of the pipe once he'd started. No success, though, so we ended up in a dark parking lot not far from the Garage and he climbed into the back seat to sleep. I had more of a series of naps than a real sleep, wondering why on earth I let myself get talked into these things. But he seemed to really need company and someone to talk to, so what's an uncomfortable few hours in a car? A friend in need ...

Too much beer and choppy sleep had me feeling almost as ragged as I would have been had I indulged in the pipe, and I was glad I hadn't. A long run of very pleasant, sunny days ended with a gloomy gray one although it stayed dry. I had to do the monthly routine of collecting the Fabled Pension Check and cashing it, then returned to campus, stopping in the used bookshop and 7-Eleven on the way. The kittens have had to make do with the cheapest catfood for the past few days but got treated to one of their (slightly more costly) favorites. I almost spend more on food for them than I do for myself. Killer made one of his rare forays down into the grove after finishing his lunch (and, as usual, trying to nudge in on what was left of hers). He loves stalking those fat spotted doves but is still too impatient to succeed in nabbing one.

After my beer, cheese and crackers, I tried to take a little nap, dozed a bit but didn't really sleep. I must knock off this thing of having parties on Wednesday nights, what with the delayed access to the Black Hole on Thursdays. Then to the Sunset Table in the late afternoon, a sunset beer, reading and the radio. Some people in England are finally tackling the drug companies for "creating diseases", designating minor psychological problems as conditions needing treatment with some new drug. Evidently the latest such attempt, "female sexual dysfunction", with a female version of Viagra as the "cure", is mainly responsible for the rumpus. Fun and games. And loads of money, of course.

Speaking of that stuff, how sweet it is to have January begin with a Wednesday, consequently making SocSec payday arrive as early as it ever can. Won't happen again until October, but a look over the 2003 calendar shows that it won't be too bad this year except for May when Third Wednesday is (shudder) not until the 21st.

Every New Year since 2000 has seemed like a science-fiction date to me. No exception with this one.

1027

I was walking through the mall after a trip to the State Library on Friday afternoon when I saw Angelo looking very stressed. I was a little puzzled when he just said "hi" and kept going but then I saw the reason: the PL was tagging along some distance behind him, looking equally stressed. We just exchanged "hi's", too. The Stressed Bonnie and Clyde Team.

Later I was leaving the Sunset Table to get a final beer for the day when Tanioka arrived, walked to the 7-Eleven with me and bought my beer even though he wasn't drinking himself. We talked for awhile and then he climbed up on the table and went to sleep. I listened to the radio until he woke up after his short nap, declined an invitation to share a pipe. I told him Angelo had said Tanioka was giving up the pipe (again). "I gave it up for a day," he said. [!]

I think I would have declined in any case, but definitely did since I was meeting Helen R and Mme de Crécy on Saturday afternoon, didn't want to show up in pipe-hangover mode. Since it was the final weekend of the Winter Break, the libraries were closed but I did spend a hour or so online at the little computer lab, lugging my heavy backpack along (First Saturday, time to clear the locker for an hour). Then I went to get lunch for the kittens, the birds and me.

Killer came down into the grove after finishing his lunch, spent an amusing time stalking the birds with his usual lack of success, even climbed up one of the smaller trees at one point in his quest. Then for the first time Lady Grey came down, also stalking the birds with similar lack of success. But she sat for some time in the shade of the bench next to me and I was pleased that she finally seems to be getting a little less nervous about my company. About time! I wonder if either of them will ever let me touch them, somehow doubt it. Probably better for them to be so cautious, though.

Then to the beach park for another beer before walking over to the Ward cinema complex to met my movie companions. After some debate via email we ended up at "About Schmidt" which had opened on Friday. An old folks' movie (can't imagine Tanioka much enjoying it) made more pleasurable than it otherwise would have been by sterling performances from Jack Nicholson and the inimitable Kathy Bates (who gave us what must surely be a record-setting nude scene, brief but brave).

We had a quick meal at Wolfgang Puck's afterward, me settling for a big dish of macaroni-and-cheese with a Heineken, much safer than the awful "tortilla soup" I unfortunately sampled at the place on my first visit. De Crécy is so cranky about cigarette smoke, reminding me how grateful I am that I know so few people like that.

Jonathan Cainer finally admitted that despite all his just-around-the-corner promises scattered through the year, 2002 was not a particularly good one for Aries-born folk. I didn't need him to tell me that. But 2003 will be much better, he says, even "memorable". Well, if the people who think
Planet X is arriving in May are right, then yep, it should be most memorable. Seems to me if that large an object is within months of arriving, it would now be a matter of much wider notice being taken.

If it's going to be a "memorable" year for less cosmic reasons, I guess I'll just have to wait and see what's going to make it so because I don't see any great promise in the current scenarios or cast of my so-called life.

1028

Tanioka chuckled when I said, "now and forever", as they were leaving, the Sleeptalker far enough away to be out of hearing range, I think. Not that it matters, since he knows anyway. After a quiet, chilly day on campus I went to the Sunset Table area although the usual table remained occupied most of the time so I sometimes sat on my beachtowel on the grass, eventually at a nearby table which was vacated. It had been cool enough after sunset on Sunday that I'd relocated to the mall for the extra warmth and it remained chilly on Monday. When Tanioka showed me the new tanktop he'd bought (or bagged?), I told him he should have gotten a sweatshirt instead, might do that myself next week. I had just returned from a trip to the 7-Eleven for my sunset brew plus a loaf of bread and bologna for sandwiches (nice of the store to provide free mustard and mayonnaise packets), and Tanioka arrived, asked for a sandwich as well. I played Mama and fixed one for him, complete with mustard. Then along came the Sleeptalker, looking as sexy as the current poster model in the Guess store window (and that's quite sexy, indeed, and looks more like the Sleeptalker than he'd probably want to admit, or else he's seen it and that's why he's continuing with the five-day-old-unshaven look). At one point he was complaining about the glass pipe, how all he was getting out of it these days is hours of "jagging off". I certainly thought of ways to give his experience variety, but said nothing. Now and forever, uh-huh.

I relayed the big news of the day, from a friend of the Cherub who wrote: He was in New Orleans for only about a month and a half then he came to Kauai. He had some bad luck there. He now has a 3 bedroom house he rents and works on Kauai. He has a pet dog, who he found as a wild puppy covered in mange, he's had him for about 3 months and although the dog isn't completely cured of the mange (he refuses to take it to a vet) its 99% better then when he found it. He has yet to name the dog and wont tell me why he wont give it a name. The Cherub had supposedly looked for me when he was on this island for visits, hadn't found me. He must not have tried the university. His friend said he did plan to look for me there next time he's here. He also wrote: One of the 3 bedrooms has no furniture, but is completely filled with boxes of budweiser cases all thrown in a huge pile in the center of the room. I think its an art piece of some kind. His bed is in the living room. The Cherub and a mangey dog and Budweiser box sculpture, sounds like he's doing research for a neo-beat novel.

Although Winter Break is officially over, I think classes must not have begun yet at the University because the campus continues to be sparsely populated except for continuing business with construction and grounds upkeep. One of the grounds workers even went into the area above the secluded grove on Tuesday, trimming the shrubs up there. Must have greatly worried the kittens, but once he left, Lady Grey was quick to return to the ledge where she likes to sprawl, one paw out in front, watching the birds. Killer had earlier once again come stalking into the grove after his lunch. He came really close to snaring one of the fat spotted doves on Monday and I have no doubt at all that he will eventually succeed, just hope I'm not there to witness it. I don't like those greedy, bullying birds so won't mourn when I see feathers scattered around. They're the only birds I refuse to feed, chase away. Well, I feel the same away about European pigeons but we don't have those on campus. I was shocked one Sunday morning to see some people using air rifles or bee-bee guns to kill off a small flock of those which had somehow wandered there. Shocked, but not displeased. Nasty birds, apt for the "flying rat" designation.

So it's x-equals time again but unless I'm very careless it won't be that much of an inconvenience. No credit to me, since there was some help from holiday melons from heaven. (Not as much, evidently, as Kevin the "Homeless Guy" has had since he's gone almost bourgeois since his last begging plea, bringing himself right to the edge of being eliminated altogether as a link on my website. It won't be the first time I've dumped a "cyber-panhandler". Poor and homeless with a cellphone ... humbug!) (I think that about the Boys, too, in those rare times they manage to have one of those infernal devices, before they either can't afford to keep it activated or sell it for pipe-filling.)

Cainer said the year was getting off to a bumpy start because of Saturn. Hey, big guy, take those rings and shove them.

1029



A boring week, as are most weeks preceding Third Wednesday. Even if successful in avoiding utterly penniless x equals days, I don't think I'll ever break free from the restlessness during the waiting period for the SocSec check even if I know very well it doesn't really matter.

No sight of the Bad Boys all week except in dreams where they played a much more active role than usual, especially Mondo. Puzzling. Maybe the dreams are why my bizarre mind has latched onto a new game, looking at all the men I see and rating them from A-to-Z as a potential new Best Boy. The Z's, alas, are far more numerous than the A's. But then there's a twist because some C's would be graded A if contemplating the amusing notion of introducing them to the other Boys. And I have to admit that under the influence of the glass pipe, most of the B's and C's would certainly advance to A. In the wilder times with that device, though, just about any male under the age of 30 would be an A. Get me to a monastery ... and one where there is no one ranked higher than a W. A place of old, ugly monks.

A couple of standouts in the continuing binge of inconsequential novels, Val McDermid's A Place of Execution and the ever-impressive P.D. James' fairly recent (2001), Death in Holy Orders. Otherwise just time-spinning yarns forgettable as the film I saw with Helen R on Saturday, "Narc". An odd choice, but I suggested it knowing the Boys are sure to see it so it will give us something to talk about (and I have authorities to ask about the strange glass pipes the dopers used in the movie, much more elaborate than the ones used here).

The week was actually designated an "interim week" on campus, explaining why there were so few people around even though Winter Break was over. The libraries were unfortunately closed again on the weekend but campus life will finally return to normal on Monday before Third Wednesday. Well, except for the new anti-smoking rules which are being put into effect, including a ban on smoking in the outdoor section of Manoa Garden. Oh well, it will save me money because I can't see myself sitting there with one of those big jugs of beer and unable to smoke. Humbug. As long as they don't put up no-smoking signs in the secluded grove, it doesn't matter, although a ban on smoking within 50 feet of a bus stop is a bit weird (and seems rather difficult to enforce ... are the security guards going to carry lengthy tape measures?)

It's always something.

1030

And as they waited, their hunger drawn into sharp focus by the male smells of boiling coffee, frying eggs and onions, and sizzling hamburgers, they took the pungent, priceless, and uncostly solace of a cigarette, lit between cupped hand and strong-seamed mouth, drawn deep and then exhaled in slow fumes from the nostrils.
Thomas Wolfe: You Can't Go Home Again

The January Follies began the night before Third Wednesday when Tanioka came to the park and offered to share a pipe, which turned into three, as so often happens. I hesitated before accepting the offer, not being too keen on the thought of going through the get-check/cash-check routine when in hangover mode. He laughed when I said, oh well, I do have a slight yearning for the pipe. So we went shopping and then to what I'll call the Annex, an adjunct to the Garage which has thus far, at least, been ignored by the security patrols plaguing the main complex. It's a very small landing in an open stairwell, sheltered from above if not entirely from the wind. Surprisingly, we weren't joined by any of the others. It was a completely delightful evening and night, filled with candid and interesting conversations. The more I come to know Tanioka, the more I enjoy his company.

And that pleasure continued on Third Wednesday. It was a hideous weather day, cold and windy with frequent squalls blowing through, heavy downpours included. We bought food and drinks, walked to a small park to wait until a store opened, Tanioka wanting to buy shoes. One of the nastier squalls suddenly arrived and we had to shelter in the toilet for about an hour, not a wonderfully auspicious beginning to what turned out to be one of the best days in recent times. Once the storm passed, we went on to the store, waited outside for it to open. Tanioka got a one-time welfare bonus, the result of some mix-up in the past which yielded a windfall of about seven hundred dollars, lucky fellow, and over a hundred of it went for shoes.

Then we had to wait for my mail to arrive, once again having to take shelter when another fierce squall blew in. At least that time we were in more pleasant surroundings. Off then to cash the check, with just enough of a break in the nasty weather to accomplish it without getting drenched. We had agreed to share the cost of getting a hotel room in Waikiki for one night and by the time we got into that room I was more than happy to be there, away from the nasty weather and with no further chores to accomplish. It was an odd feeling to be there with just Tanioka as company and even though I later told the Sleeptalker he should have been along it would no doubt have been a much different experience and probably less enjoyable had any of the others been there.

Both Angelo and the Sleeptalker later reacted quite strongly to the news that Tanioka and I had shared a hotel room, although in different ways. It was quite clear Angelo was curious about one thing only. I quickly volunteered the information that "nothing happened". The Sleeptalker, when I said it would have been good to have had him there, went into a "you wouldn't have wanted my company" routine, only one facet of what turned out to be several days of rather peculiar moods and attitudes from him.

Tanioka surely does love the porn films and we went through at least six hours of watching them. I enjoyed them more from a curious than arousing interest although there was one scene with three men and one woman where the youngest and cutest of the men oddly took the least direct part, standing in the background taking care of himself. My kind of porn movie. As I told Tanioka, I'd get turned on more by a movie of just young men "jagging-off" than by any of the other possibilities. By that time I was feeling thoroughly zonked from the many puffs on the pipe and for the first time with Tanioka, threw caution to the wind, got naked and enjoyed myself. He took the far more modest path of staying under the covers the whole evening, but at least indulged me without negative reaction or comment. He even told me the next day I have a "good body", an assessment I can't agree with but certainly am flattered by.

Another great pleasure of having the room was indulging in long hot soaks in the bathtub, a splendid way to ease some of the physical tension from smoking the pipe, and I had one long soak at night and another in the morning. Tanioka is fortunate in being able to sleep with no problem, as he proved again and again during the Follies, but I had been totally unable to sleep the night before, only dozed for about three hours in that comfy hotel bed.

The exact chronology of the next two days is a feat my memory can't accomplish, nor is it particularly important. The Annex was headquarters and we were joined at various times and for varying lengths of time by the Sleeptalker, Angelo and a young man I've not met before who'd spent Wednesday night with Angelo, once again equipped with his mother's car. Angelo's main purpose in dropping by seemed to be trying to get money, bringing different things trying to sell them to us (even battery-operated toothbrushes!) and he was so obsessed with getting more money to fill his pipe that he never stayed around long enough to enjoy sharing one. On Friday night I'd again gotten very zonked and was lusting after the Sleeptalker, offered him twenty to indulge me with a mutual jag-off. He refused, but then the silly boy woke me up at 4:30 the next morning, asking "you still want it?" He surely did put on a lousy performance, making it quite clear he was determined to do it as quickly as possible, get it over with, and pocket his twenty. I don't think he'll be getting that offer again, although it was a not unwelcome addition to my visual memories of moments with the Sleeptalker.

Almost all of the other times with the Sleeptalker were even less enjoyable, no doubt partly because of the contrast between his ever-shifting, often quite peculiar and sulky moods and the comfortableness of Tanioka's company when alone with him. The Sleeptalker and Angelo again arrived early on Saturday morning, wanting to fill the pipe. I had to drop out of the party since it was Third Saturday when the campus locker has to be cleared for an hour. Although I was grumbling about it to myself I was later very pleased I had been forced to make the effort because I was sitting in the secluded grove when the Cherub arrived.

1030a

The Cherub and I stayed in the secluded grove for awhile and he told me about the rather messy situation on Kauai where his father's company was the victim of a corporate takeover and probable malicious background pressure on the shareholders resulted in his father being ousted as CEO after almost forty years. The Cherub's method of protesting was to get in his pickup truck and make big circles ("doughnuts") on the huge lawn of the man responsible for the takeover. Since his immediate boss is his uncle, he didn't get fired, despite pressure being put on the uncle, but he did get suspended for some days as punishment. It seems unlikely he has much of a future with the company, nevertheless.

We eventually went downhill because he wanted to check the used bookshops. I sat in Magoo's with a pitcher of Budweiser while he shopped, then he joined me for another pitcher and a pizza. I did manage to eat two slices. One of the problems with smoking the glass pipe is the almost total lack of appetite and everything I'd managed to eat during the previous four days had been forced down much more because I thought it was necessary than from any desire for food. I finally got to hear some stories from his time on the mainland. He surely did manage to get into enough trouble, especially in New Orleans where he spent a couple of nights in jail after a bar brawl and ended up doing community service as a sweeper on Bourbon Street!

We went on to his hotel in Waikiki, amusingly enough the hotel where I spent my very first night here. After a shower and a beer I passed out on the floor, didn't surface until Sunday morning. If I'd had my pipe we probably would have indulged even though he was worried that he might have to undergo drug testing when he returned to the job. The bizarre thing at the Annex was that I was the only one who had a pipe, having given Tanioka the money to get me one on Wednesday. But when I had to leave on Saturday morning, I left the pipe with the Sleeptalker so they'd be able to smoke when Tanioka returned, asked the Sleeptalker to give it to Tanioka to hold for me. So the Cherub and I made do with beer while he channel-hopped with the television set. I fell asleep again, not surprising since I'd had only a couple hours sleep before the Sleeptalker waking me at 4:30 and none at all the night before that. Fortunately, that hotel has a later check-out time than most and we managed to get out of the place just in time to avoid an extra charge.

More beer and to the park. Then he wanted to get something to eat before heading to the airport for his flight home. We walked across the street to the shopping complex and ran into Tanioka. Dame Fortune and her cute timing, again. So the three of us had a meal at Compadres, beer for me and Tanioka, a Marguerita for the Cherub. The poor Cherub was sorely tempted to forget flying to Kauai and join us in a pipe or three, but even more worried about his dog than a possible drug test. He'd left enough food for the dog but was afraid it would get bored on its own for too long and start barking, possibly resulting in an animal abuse complaint from his neighbors. So off he went to the airport.

Tanioka and I went to the Annex and the Follies resumed. He, Angelo and the Sleeptalker had been at Mondo's place on Saturday and the Sleeptalker had left my pipe there, but Tanioka bought one. In one of his numerous short visits during the evening, the Sleeptalker gave me a pipe to replace mine. Oddly, it has a "Pyrex" trademark on it, a joke I'd guess since I can't imagine that venerable corporation manufacturing an item which has no use other than an illegal one.

Since Monday was a holiday, there was no worry about vacating the place early the next morning and we ended up staying there all day aside from brief trips to the shop for provisions and more pipe filling. The Sleeptalker stopped by in the morning, sprawled in a corner and went to sleep for awhile, suddenly woke up, stuck his hand down the front of his shorts and said, "the bitch gave me a boner". Must have been a hot dream. He was still there when Tanioka went off for more smoke and the Sleeptalker did a little act of sprawling on his back, making frequent adjustments to his crotch. Memories of the early days at the hacienda when he so often did that little flirtatious routine. I don't know what his intent was this time but in any case he soon got up and left without saying a word. I was much surprised he didn't stay for the pipe, surprised too when Angelo came by much later, asked if we were going to be there as though he planned to return. I gave Tanioka money for one more "paper", thinking to share it with Angelo since we hadn't smoked with him throughout the lengthy party. But he didn't return so Tanioka and I smoked it, with a final early morning puff before having to leave the place.

"What are you going to do today," he asked me in the morning. "Go back to living my ordinary, boring life," I said.

And so I did, but I missed Tanioka's company more than the pipe.

1031

This email is to let you know that your journal has been nominated for a Site Award for the 4th Quarter (2002) of the Diarist.net awards.

Hmmmm ....

My ordinary and boring life has dribbled on during these post-Follies days in an ordinary and boring way, beginning the first day with that always ordinary and boring chore, a visit to the laundromat. This was absolutely necessary because my clothes and bag were so dirty from the Annex that I would have been ashamed to walk into the library. And the morning after a Follies is always a good time to get that chore over with anyway since there's no energy to do anything else. So I sat there while the clothes tumbled and finished Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again which had been interwoven with the long party. It has long been one of my favorite American novels and my admiration for it has increased with each re-reading, this one no exception.

Even with my acceptably clean clothes I couldn't stay long at the library, suffering the usual day-after affliction of involuntary sighs, moans and muttering "oh dear, oh dear". Not as harsh as the Sleeptalker's "oh shit" routine, but still not exactly good library manners. And I wasn't ready to write about the Follies anyway, not until I'd spent more time thinking about them.

In the early days of exploring psychedelics I was much intrigued with the notion of imprinting and certainly came to accept the concept, seeing all too clearly how the way I regarded other people could be dramatically altered by viewing them through acid eyes. I think this is also part of the crystal meth experience and not always a pleasant part (remembering that one awful Follies with Rocky and Angelo, which has had a lasting negative impact on the way I regard Rocky). Mondo and Rocky may have been "downgraded" because of ice experiences, Tanioka has most definitely been "upgraded", but then my thinking about him has undoubtedly gone through the greatest transformation of any of the characters in these Tales. It is quite funny now to recall how much I disliked him in the early days at the hacienda, seeing him (and Okinawa) as evil influences on the Sleeptalker. No doubt many people would agree and could now see him playing the same role with me. But that's nonsense, as it was then.

Tanioka and the Cherub are "trust, without lust" friendships and treasured for that reason but I hadn't realized until this Follies just how much I do enjoy Tanioka's company. Although I fairly frequently spend some hours alone with him in the park, being together for such a continuous time and with the pipe was even more of a pleasure than I would have expected. The drawback, of course, is missing that pleasure when deprived of it. He said on one of the final days of the Follies that he'd like to be able to smoke every day. If it were with him, I'd have to agree. We both know, though, that it wouldn't really be a good idea. Resistance to the drug would increase with constant use and the amount would have to be steadily increased; even if we could afford it, I don't think anyone could survive for too long with a daily habit (and I worry about Angelo in that regard). But I don't have any problem with wishing for it.

Tanioka spent all of his money. I stopped at the point where I still had fifty dollars a week in reserve until the next Third Wednesday. Too extravagant a party by far, but no regrets. This time the piper played so well.

1032

It is odd that the physical unpleasantness of an ice-hangover is usually stronger after a one-night party than following an extended session and, despite the first day of softly moaning, such was the case this time. The psychological fallout, though, is far greater. Part of this is just financial, the dreary prospect of weeks with little or no money, the projects yet again postponed (the second postponement for getting that film developed, or is it the third?). The Boys are used to this pattern, they've been doing it for years, and I've certainly now had enough experience myself to more deeply consider whether it's really worth it. But then if I went back to refraining from the Follies, would I reach the end of a SocSec cycle feeling any better, having accomplished more, avoided the penniless days? Or is the memory of a special time worth more?

Questions of a thousand dreams ...

I remain deeply grateful that the drug itself is not the attraction, that there's simply no desire at all to smoke it by myself. At this point, there's not really any desire to smoke it with anyone but Tanioka. The Sleeptalker is just too erratic and unpredictable, Angelo too frantic about scoring the next one, Mondo too repressed and weird. But smoking with Tanioka is the most fun I've had in a long time and there is something very special about the kind of intimate conversations which are so much a part of it, more special even than the moments of physical intimacy with the others. No fear about getting addicted to the drug, but getting addicted to Tanioka plus the drug is a real possibility.

Aside from the financial dreariness there's also the adjustment back to "ordinary" life. Would it be easier to maintain the life of a hermit than to switch from these periods of constant companionship back to solitude? After all, we do seem able to adjust to a constant routine, no matter how dull and ordinary it is.

And there's no question that my usual routine is pretty dull. Up in the morning at about five, take the bus to the mall for coffee (already reading on the bus). Take the bus to campus and spend an hour or two online. Get beer and read until the beer is gone. Back on the bus to the mall and, when pockets are reaching empty, a tobacco hunt before heading to the Sunset Table with another beer, sometimes adding one more before getting the bus again to the Black Hole. Repeat, repeat, repeat ... Little wonder the Follies are such a temptation.

But what else to do? I'm clean out of ideas.

1033

Scare them Carlisle did, using a PowerPoint horror show that contrasted the image of a normal man's brain against the hideous blood-starved brain of a man on crystal meth. But the shocker came after that same brain had been off ice for four months: no apparent improvement. Said a report in Sunday's newspaper about a presentation to lawmakers concerning the "ice epidemic". I don't remember seeing anything before about the drug creating a drop in blood supply to the brain, but then there's very little convincingly factual material available on the web despite the plentiful sources of stuff which reads more like "reefer madness".

"It's like playing Russian roulette," Carlton said. "There are some people who use ice whose brains do seem to recover. There is another group that, either because their use has been so frequent or intense, that the damage appears to become permanent. The problem, he said, is that there's no way to know which users will recover. The damage is that the drug changes the way the brain functions, so what were temporary hallucinations can become permanent. Where the paranoid delusions were temporary and went away, they then become permanent."

Although visual hallucinations have usually been present, the recent Follies was only the second time when they were really strong and prolonged. Looking up at a large tree which overhangs the Annex, it seemed to be filled with creatures, goblins and animals, shapeshifters as the wind stirred the patterns made by the leaves and shadows. It was fun for a time, as were the more common pictures formed by variations in the plaster covering the walls, but after awhile I began to get weary of it, wanted ordinary "reality" to return. And the idea did occur to me how exceedingly unpleasant it would be if they didn't, as usual, cease after a good night's sleep. So "what were temporary hallucinations can become permanent" is much more worrisome to me than my dopey brain being blood-starved, although I suppose the two go hand-in-hand. I still think the visual hallucinations have as much to do with fasting and sleep deprivation as with the drug itself.

In any case, I'm not unhappy to have personal experience and the close observation of people I've known for years to balance against these public reports (as well as private reports from people who are actually more negative and alarmist than most public writers). Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not saying crystal meth is a good drug and I would not recommend trying it, but the powers that be have helped make it one of the most accessible recreational drugs and I'm not likely to stop using it because of things like the above any more than I stopped taking LSD from fears of chromosomal damage or outright "insanity" promoted by anti-LSD propagandists in the sixties.

The rather bumpy landing (or leveling off) from the Follies finally stabilized a little during the uneventful final weekend of January ... and of the Year of the Horse. It wasn't an easy week, the mood swinging drastically from high (more often, just "medium") to low and, most times, without any reason for the shifts. That good Dame helped a little. Melons from heaven. Or little melons and a grape, anyway. On Wednesday I found a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk across from campus. On Saturday a single outside the supermarket, nicely matching with a two-for-a-dollar sale on catfood. And Sunday afternoon there was a crumpled ten in the mall. Let us all praise careless people.

Tanioka said he would be going "into hiding" and so he has, no sign of him or any of the Boys all week, no conversations aside from the usual impersonal exchanges with salesclerks. Reading more inconsequential novels, declining the opportunity to hear a Janacek opera on Saturday afternoon but listening to Prairie Home Companion twice (the Saturday broadcast is repeated on the other NPR station on Sunday).

And thinking, thinking, even if, as the Jefferson Airplane said, "thinking ain't doing me no good".

1034

Praise careless people, indeed. On Tuesday I walked into the shop to get lunchtime beer and catfood, spotted a piece of green paper on the floor. I scooped it up, put it in my pocket, didn't examine it until I'd left the store. A twenty dollar bill. That's fifty-one dollars in found paper money within a week's time. Amazing, not only that people lose those pieces of paper but that they remain unfound by others even in such heavily trafficked places as a store or the mall.

Much appreciated any time, but even more so when enduring the financial penalties of a major Follies.

I varied the routine somewhat on Tuesday, going back downhill for a second, late afternoon beer and returning to campus instead of going to the beach park. It started to rain lightly so I sat in a sheltered place and drank my beer, listened to the annual State of the Union address. The Bush has some clever speech-writers, probably the best of any president since JFK. The first part of the speech made Bush sound almost visionary (even if hydrogen-powered automobiles hardly matches the grandeur of JFK's pledge to put a man on the moon). What he had to say about Medicare and statutory limits on medical malpractice suits, not to mention restrictions on abortion, was less convincing. But the last section of the speech, devoted entirely to Saddam Hussein, was thoroughly unconvincing. Not that Bush really cares whether he convinces anyone or not. He seems utterly determined to go to war with Iraq.

After listening to the rather ineffective Democratic response to the speech I avoided the radio for the rest of the day, not wanting to hear any of the inevitable dissections and commentaries. There's only so much of that stuff I can take and those two speeches were more than enough.

On Wednesday I once again went downhill for a second afternoon beer and returned to campus, and again had to take shelter when it started to drizzle. I feel more comfortable on campus than in the beach park, particularly since there is a new encampment not far from the Sunset Table with disreputable looking tobacco and "loose change" beggars. I wish those types would go for the tourists and leave the rest of us alone. Last week the police broke up a larger encampment in the same area, as well as the one with the old man who kept pestering me. Oddly, they left a third group undisturbed, maybe because it's mostly Hawaiians or Polynesians? That one is more distant from my table and is frequently visited by people from Lord and Lady Moana's group.

As usual at this time of the month, the Black Hole is filled to capacity. I had been sleeping in the smaller area for awhile but they've once again changed the rules and you have to have a "rest pass" to sleep there now. As I understand it, those are for people who work at night and are allowed to sleep in the daytime, presumably in that area. Why they've suddenly decided to make it a requirement at night is a mystery but I just meekly put my mat in the main area where they tell me to and escape into sleep as quickly as possible.

There's one of the rare new cute young men on the scene, always shirtless and seemingly a little mad. He was wandering around the shower area just after midnight, muttering to himself. He looked me directly in the eyes and I thought, "oh, you sweetie" while firmly telling myself to keep my distance. A cute new Bad Boy would be welcome but, please, not one who's loony. (The chances of one who isn't somewhat loony are pretty slim, of course.)

So the rather uneventful life of a hermit goes on, as this Year of the Horse draws to an end.

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the collected tales