Eskimo Blue Day ~ Part 1

Ike and Roger are bums. By their modest standards very LUCKY bums- for they have stumbled upon a place to live---rent-free and relatively unharrassed---a stone's throw from the beach in beautiful south Orange County. Surely such a sweet deal can't last ........ In PART 1 of this autobiographical  adventure the two friends forage, build their huts, drink a lot, and get acquainted with the other denizens of their little jungle paradise, two friendly if rather smelly 60's-holdout hippies and a not so friendly crazy man...

by Roger Di Prima
FEATHERED DIALECTS!" screams the voice.
I yelp, I roll over, one hand tossing back the top half of my sleeping bag while my other
hand lunges out, finds my glasses and slaps them onto my face as I sit up and confront this unfathomable menace- my eyes struggling to focus on a lozenge of dull yellow light.
Or maybe this is not such a menace, I have already half-decided. The hazy scene dims, brightens, coalesces. A few meters away I see Ike tending a small fire in the darkness.
"You asshole, I was sleeping! What are you hollaring about?"
He gives me a big self-satisfied grin. "Pigeon. I said 'I speak pigeon' ......... I was just messing around. Wanted to hear the echo."
Ike Gorski, my trusty wino sidekick, yelling for absolutely no reason and scaring the piss out of me. And he doesn't seem to be so insanely drunk that he wouldn't know better. Just being a jerk.
I rub my hand over my face. "Well since you woke me up, what have you got there?"
There's an incomplete pyramid of empty beer cans beside him. He drags a fresh one from way down inside the twelve pack in his lap and tosses it to me. I guess this is all the apology I'm going to get.
I pop it open and chug down half of it, relieving most of the gummy dryness in my mouth and throat. Ike grabs himself another can, tosses me the last one, then sets the box onto the fire. It's red and black with a stern heraldic eagle on it. Cheap tapwater beer with some laughably Teutonic name, all gothic crossed z's and and umlauts.
The glossy cardboard box goes up quickly, flooding this concrete enclosure with light. We're in a big rectangular tunnel with a sluggish little stream running along one wall. There isn't a tree or a picnic table or a motor home in sight...
"Say, where are we?"
"We're in the sewers of Paris!" 
"Please Ike. None of your bullshit."
He laughs, "Don't you remember, man? The contest? Winning the trip to France? How the limosine came and got us right in the park and we drank white champagne all the way to New York, then switched to the pink when we got on the Concorde?"
I can now make out the end of the tunnel about fifty yards away, the flat ceiling stopping first then the ends of the walls dropping diagonally- giving way to a region of weeds and rubble bathed in milky moonlight.
Ignoring his prattling, I stick my feet into my boots and wander down there, bootlaces trailing. Take a leak off the edge of the concrete, my pee drumming loudly on something black and glossy half-buried in the mud. An old battered case of some sort with various cryptic bulges in it, like you might carry a bassoon in. Some mighty weird stuff gets tossed out into San Juan Creek here, which in fact is nowhere near Paris.
A weedy strip of dirt as wide as a football feild, hemmed in by angled concrete walls. The creek itself is out toward the center, about calf deep and just a bit too wide to jump across, which is about usual for this time of year. Unless there has been a storm recently, in which case it wouldn't be a good idea to be down here.
A few blocks to my left the freeway bridge that connects the #405 to the end of old 101 swoops down across this engineered ravine on concrete posts, and beyond that lies the creek's tiny delta, the Pacific Ocean and-
No not China. Our beach out there faces south. Antarctica.
I go back into the storm drain, where Ike is still at it: "-and then we got kicked out of the hotel for throwing Suzanne Sommers into the swimming pool, which is how Interpol picked up our trail again, so now we're hiding out down here in the sewer!"
"Thank you so much for enlightening me. Now tell me what the hell is going on."
"We had to get out of the park all of a sudden!"
"That much I figured that out. How come?"
"You should be careful about going outside. It's all still radioactive as fuck out there!"
"You know Ike, there's going to be a time when YOU don't remember what happened the night before," I remind him, insinuating that it's going to be a whole lot of fun paying him back for this. At which point I start to get the truth out of him...
I've written in earlier stories about being kicked out of Doheny, with threats that we would spend time in County if we ever returned. But that had been under the rule of Rangers Don and Mike and Carol, who were used to us and who on some level may even have liked us, taking comfort in these few familiar faces within the State Beach's constantly shifting population. Considering partiers like us inevitable. A nuisance at times but essentially harmless...
It took a wholly different temperament to smash the cycle of our return: A dour, duty bound, cop-minded new head ranger who hated us on principal before he had even set eyes on us. Outraged that these lowlifes were using the State Parks system for a flophouse!
He had told us that he didn't want us weaselling our way back in there like we had done in the past, not in a week or a month or even a year! That Doheny Park was "a family campground for legitimate vacationers", and that "this playground-for-vagrants bullshit is going to stop!"
And when a man like him starts swearing in your presence it's either because he considers you one of his best friends and cronies, or else it's to inform you that you are so far down the scale of human worth that the professional wholesomeness of the friendly park ranger does not apply to you. He swore that if we ever set foot in the campground again we would spend up to a year in jail, and assured us that he would not soften with time as the others had. Despite our outwardly childish ways we were nothing but petty criminals. Cowardly opportunistic rip-offs.
He had kicked out a lot of other people with the same abusive tirade, Ike said. Folks like Jim and Ann in their swanky parabola tent with the inflatable sofa, telling them that if they had any complaints to be sure and spell his name right. Hard working, sober and reasonably clean cut, the couple had been saving toward getting an apartment in San Clemente. Their only crime had been to fudge their way around the campground's fourteen-day time limit by alternating whose name they registered under.
Bleakly I suggest to Ike that if he had kicked them out, the likes of us aren't going to stand a chance!
"Especially not after your little stunt," chuckles Ike.
Don't start, I warn him. But what he says next has the ring of truth about it, bits of memory flitting in and out of focus like the shards of a dream. That I had almost gotten myself hauled away when I decided to stage a one-man sit in, until he and a neighbor had to lift me bodily off the ground.
"I wasn't singing 'We Shall Not Be Moved', was I?"
He laughs nastily, "No, it was that Monty Python song about the sissy lumberjacks. I think it was his hat that got you going on that."
"His hat?"
"It wasn't the baseball cap they all wear but a real Smokey the Bear forest ranger's hat. I guess it reminded you of the Mounties in that skit, 'cause you kept going 'Eh?' at him, and-"
"Nevermind!" I groan. This new head ranger would remember our faces all right.
Ike had almost been nabbed by him when he'd ventured back in there a few hours ago to retrieve the skillet that he had left beside the fire pit. This might seem like a foolhardy move, but I know about Ike and that skillet. He'd travelled across the country with it half a dozen times and claims to have killed a water moccasin with it. It's the closest thing he has to an heirloom.
It's going to start getting light here soon, so we gather up our stuff and head out to find our breakfast, down to PCH to hit the Jack-in-the-Box at the bottom of the hill that leads up into Dana Point. Keeping an eye out for the mean little prick who owns this franchise, we tear through the layers of trash bags and find six neatly-wrapped burgers, well refrigerated by the long February night. Now to find a secluded spot where we can eat and come up with some kind of plan for our day...
I am basically a native to this region, having grown up in the middle-class suburb of Lakewood about forty miles up the coast. I am 5'10" in height, with a big ass and belly and stout legs. My oily brown hair reaches just past my collar. My high forehead and thinnish nose make my face look leaner than it is, given my weight and rounded chin.
I'm partial to wearing obnoxiously loud aloha shirts and farmer's overalls, but recently have been limited to whatever I can find that fits me from the donation bins out in front of the Goodwill stores. My glasses are heavy gray plastic things of no particular style, with lenses so thick they make each eye look like a tiny preserved mollusk inside a jar. There is a bump, a sort of boll at the bridge of my glasses where they have been repeatedly gobbed back together with crazy glue.
I am sure that my face radiates diverse facets of my character (The shrewd gaze.... That noble brow..... Them odious prehensile nose hairs!) but I won't try to be the judge of that. As I approach my 27th birthday I have observed the ruddy flush of alchoholism in my cheeks, but so far none of the specks and squiggles of exploded capillaries. I shave about twice a week---all it seems to take for me to stay clean shaven---in the bathrooms along the beach. My teeth are dingy but my own, for now, and fairly well aligned.
Ike's looks change with his condition. At rest his face seems normal enough, maybe even handsome. But when he gets enthusiastic about something, or pissed off, or drunk (and he's at least two of these three states at any given moment) his features seem to shift, making him look manic and weird- his cheeks swelling into high hard knots around his lopsided smile or scowl, his eyes bulging out to give a crazed emphasis to everything he says.
I really don't have a very distinct picture of Ike's background. At various times he's told me about growing up in Indiana, Oklahoma, or Pennsylvania, and of being raised by his Mom, Grandma, or Uncle; not because he's lying but apparently due to the responsibility of raising him having been reassigned every few years. Each anecdote becomes the nostalgic center of his life, so that at one time or another he has claimed any place he ever touched down as "back home", complete with a drift toward the regional accent. 
These short, disconnected stories always come bubbling up from out of nowhere, after a long spell of staring drunkenly into the campfire. And while he has never alluded to anything too traumatic in his past, some twisted cornholing stepdad (like I'd suspected at first, with how jumpy he is about queers) most of the time he avoids the topic of his past, and I observe the etiquette of the homeless by not pressing him about it...
Oh, and about the queer thing- It's kind of ironic then that he would wind up with me for a road dog. It seems like he deals with my being gay by some serious pretending otherwise, which I will indulge him in right up until he starts telling me fag jokes. Then comes the reminder, that I don't appreciate a joke with hostility toward folks like me at its core; followed by his apology, saying "I didn't mean you-"; and my explaining that if he's putting down ANY gay, lesbian (etc.) I am damn well gonna take it personally. And then we're good for another month or so...
Not that my sexuality (or Ike's for that matter...) plays any major part in this extremely un-sexual novel. But it is there, in the background of our friendship, and I felt it was necessary to mention in a section called LET'S MEET OUR HEROES even if I never mention it again...
Pacific Coast Highway at six in the morning is an ungodly assault on the senses, a roaring jumble of cars and trucks all pushing around each other in a frantic rush to make the light and go screaming up the three-lane freeway onramp beyond. As we stand here waiting for the light to change, it's making my head ache. I'm starting to think I didn't get such a good night's sleep last night.
Ike has his canvas duffel bag leaning against his knee, and his crappy old guitar---all patched up with duct tape---slung cockeyed across his back. I've got my nylon backpack, split down one side and stitched crudely back together with yellow surveyor's line, and this beat-up fake leather briefcase full of my notes and stories. I keep mashing down the button set in the light pole, trying to hurry the cycle of the lights along...
The State Park had spoiled us with its security and orderliness, the sense of having a space you could call your own. We enjoyed places to cook, neighbors to hang out with, toilets that you didn't have to beg some ill-tempered waitress to use. Within its gates you were no longer vulnerable to the law every time you went to bed down for the night. 
It was a lot like those stays on the couch at some old high school friend's apartment, back in the early days of my fucking up, that always ended so badly. And which always left me having to re-orient myself to the hazards and uncertainties of life on the street, to develop the necessary psychic calluses all over again, until I decided that it just wasn't worth it.
I shout over the thunder of traffic, "So do you want to give north-of-San-Diego a shot? The Del Mar area is still pretty nice!"
"Naw. I still think we ought to check out this place I was telling you about."
"I don't know. Private land. That sounds awful sketchy!"
Finally the light changes. Ike grabs his duffel bag and we hoof it across the highway.
He says, "Maybe not. Those people I was telling you about, Billy and his old lady Blair .............. They've been out there for a couple of months now!"
His friends didn't really sound like the most reputable authorities on anything. Mostly he had been telling me about how amazingly dirty they were.
A teenager yells something abusive but otherwise unintelligible from a passing car. Reagan Youth. Getting to any place that is away from this noisy highway suddenly seems like a good idea. "Well I don't suppose there's any harm in checking it out ......... You say it's not far from here?"
"Just up the creek bed. You have to see this place! It's like they're living in some kind of jungle or something!"
Back the way we had just come. Crossing the creek on the narrow wood-piling bridge that veers off from the base of the onramp like a mutated sixth finger, then heading inland on the gravel road that runs along the top of the concrete river bank. We pass under the wide flat belly of the onramp, then go past the slanting maw of the flood-control tunnel we had slept in last night. 
Down on our right is a tiny unprofitable looking boatyard. Then a small sewage treatment plant- grey windowless buildings and open vats of black burbling ook behind barb wire topped fences. We then pass a regimented acre or so of trees in wooden boxes and quonset-framed greenhouses surrounding a beautifully shabby old house with cats sleeping on the big front porch. ONAMI NURSERY is spelled out across the roof's shingles in strips of red tar paper. 
The nursery's lot looks to be on lower ground than the creek bed to our left, so that it---and the whole wooded area just ahead here---would be swampland at this time of year without this massive wall of earth and concrete to-
Wooded area??
It's this huge mass of green, wild and primordial and looking dense enough to hide any number of homeless camps. Ike flings his arm out in a grand gesture and sings, "Taaaaah-DAAAAAAHHH!"
We quicken our pace, not taking the first trail down into it or the second. Along the base of the levee's inner slope is a wall of what looks like bamboo stalks, with enticing little hollows here and there like tiny rooms. Finally there is a third trail, a sandy groove in the dirt bank cratered by boot dents. We slide/shuffle down it and enter a narrow tunnel throught he reeds, the walls steepling together a couple of meters overhead. Gaps open and close above us with the breeze, showing slivers of blue sky.
Then we rounded the corner, and my heart did the Happy Wiggly Dog Dance!
by Roger Di Prima
Copyright 2008
<<< for David Barker. Poet, family man, old-school ufologist. >>>
"They are most irresponsible in the jungle!"
-guide, jungle boat ride, DISNEYLAND TOKYO
It was the way the light dribbled through the yellow and green leaves overhead. Soft and dreamy- dancing over everything in sheets of tiny bright spots and shadows. The sight of it hitting me like a return to some ancestral homeland I didn't even known I had been yearning for. The domain of some bony browed proto-Roger Di Prima, this memory tucked away, dormant and unsuspected for 5000 generations, waiting to be triggered by this exact set of stimuli!
Or maybe not. Maybe genes and ancestors are in no way to blame. I just know that something about the place made me want to shuck off my clothes and roll around in the dirt and leaves.
Billy is hunched over a small circle of stones with a flimsy metal grill upended next to it,
trying to start a fire with a gnarled book of matches, swearing to himself as the faint breeze snuffs out another match. We drop our gear and his head swivels our way, all bad teeth and tangled hair hanging down over his face in clumps. He jumps up- "BBBBBRUTHAH IKE!!"
They hug, thumping each other noisily on the back.
Blair, big shouldered and obese, has been squatting forward on a bent up aluminum beach chair, frowning as she watched his progress with the fire. Now she smiles, and says in the cutesy, on-edge voice of a demented kindergarten teacher, "Hi, Ikey! I heard you guys coming up the river. Who's your friend?"
"This is my buddy Roger that I was telling you about."
"Oh, the writer! Ike said you were very smart."
I let my jaw hang open and bob my head up and down like an imbecile, "Uh-Huhhh!"
Blair claps once, letting out a sharp piercing laugh, then indicates an upended plastic bucket and a big egg-shaped stone, "Have a seat! So you boys are gonna be our neighbors?"
"Looks like it," shrugs Ike as he plops down onto the bucket.
"We were just going to have some tea, if you'd care to join us."
"We'd be deleted!"
I had feared that the current squatters would be jealously guarding a spot as beautiful and secluded as this; wary of what a sudden rise in the transient population can bring in the way of increased attention from the cops. But they seem eager to share their miniature jungle with us. It's lucky for us that they are both so friendly and easy-going...
My partner hadn't been kidding though- they REEK! I'm sitting about six feet from Blair, and even at this distance the stink is pretty bad. Both of us have been known to get a little lax in our personal hygeine from time to time, but these two ........... It's only when she pushes up the cuff of her voluminous trousers to scratch a welt on her calf that I see
that Blair's skin is pale with blotchy freckles and that she must be a redhead.
Although in some odd way this seems to suit them. The grunge that blackens their faces and forearms and lies thick in the creases of their clothes, the twigs and whatnot in their hair, Billy's scraggly goatee and the dozen long hairs on Blair's chin; it all fits in with this
impressionistic hollow under the reeds and vines, making them seem like gnomes or something in their forest lair. Earth People. Not born of regular square-jawed Protestant American parents but right out of the elements, the leaves and trash underfoot.
Ike lights a cigarette, and remembering his giant steel Zippo he tosses it to Billy. 
Billy ignites it, moving it around in front of his face and admiring the robust flame. Then he notices Ike's six string, "Hey, you got a geeter!"
"Yeah, but listen," winces Ike as he picks it up and begins to strum. It sounds like a kazoo, blatting instead of resonating clearly. He sets it down, disgusted to remember (however vaguely) how he had smashed it over the edge of a picnic table one night for some reason now lost to him.
I walk over to inspect the long A-frame structure behind the fire pit, four sheets of thin plywood sagging limply together, nailed to a long weathered plank along the top. "Is this your house?"
"Our bedroom, yeah." nods Blair, pulling back the ancient shower curtain that's tacked across the front of it. "Billy built it for us back during the rainy season!"
"It still is the rainy season," Billy reminds her with a hint of annoyance. Ashes fly up as he fans the disconnected bits of flame with an old pizza box. Finally the kindling catches.
The hut's interior is a large mattress on a mildewed cardboard flooring. Dark and claustrophobic in there. I stick my head in and step back coughing; it smelled like a giant armpit. Ask them, "You've been out here for how long now?"
"Almost four months," says Billy. "We moved in at the start of November."
"And nobody's bothered you back here?"
"They've been super-duper!" he hiccoughs.
"They really have," adds Blair, pointing up through the brush at the vaguely defined top
of the riverbank, "The water department guys always wave when they go by. That's who's land this whole patch is. And last month the Fire Marshal came down here and said we couldn't have any fires, but he didn't kick us out either."
"Incredible! What city are we in? Seems like we're right between three of them."
"It's what do you call it," frowns Billy, "Discorporated. Like it's just part of the county."
Maybe that explains it. An unincorporated backwater with no big agenda for itself,
nobody organizing to kick out all the bums and "make something" of the place. Great God in Heaven! Maybe we really can stay out here!
There is a brief lull in the conversation. Billy and Blair smile sagaciously at us, their expressions saying: LISTEN!
I can hear the downshifting of trucks up where the freeway starts its abrupt descent into this valley, and the raspy bark of that arthritic old seal that begs for fish down at the harbor. Something fairly large splashes around in a pond close by. The fire crackles lazily. The wind soughs through the reeds every few seconds like calm breathing...
This kind of quiet is something that you come to value after you've spent a few years bouncing around out in public spaces, constantly bombarded by other people's sonic garbage .......... And to think we could have been out here for months now if we had been a bit more inquisitive! I had passed by this spot a hundred times, walking up the bike trail on the creek's opposite bank. Had seen the tall stalks poking up from the unruly mass of foilage, but figured it was just more of the same semi-rural acreage that dots this valley all the way to San Juan Capistrano. Somebody's place. A house in there somewhere and some large unfreindly dogs.
Blair indicates my briefcase, "What are you writing, Roggie?"
"I'm working on this science fiction- or no, it's more of a fantasy. But probably not what you think of when you think of fantasy. There's none of the usual stuff, like wizards or dragons or ............ Well there is one character who I guess is a sort of wizard, but he- It's hard to explain."
The UNCLE LEROY TRILOGY really is tough to categorize. And while there are times when you can't shut me up about my writing, I am not too comfortable with the way he goes around describing me as some literary genius to people that I haven't even met yet,
praising my stuff by comparing it to authors he likes, who write nothing at all like I do.
They look at me expectantly. This dude doesn't seem to know what he's writing. Gee, maybe he's not even a writer. Carries a briefcase stuffed full of chicken bones, cellophane easter-basket grass and old enema bags...
"Is it allegorical maybe? Is there satire in it?" asks Blair in an attempt to help me out.
Smart questions. I take a closer look at this homely disshevelled woman.
"Satire, sure. Bits and gags. But no allegory, I don't think ........ It's basically just an old fashioned tall tale. Uncle Leroy is this gawky-looking middle age guy, a real clod to look at him, a real square ...... But he's an expert at so many things, it's just about superhuman. Nobody could speak that many languages. Plus his luck, it's one impossible coincidence after another. 
"Sounds like fun," grins Blair.
Just then a really scary voice screams: "STEP OOOOOUUTTTT!!!"
Ike jumps. His cigarette goes flying and lands on the other side of the fire pit. He scuttles over and retrieves it and now is crouching in readiness, the finger across his lips warning us to be silent.
"WHAT?!" shrieks another voice, really close. Just beyond the wall of reeds here.
There is a pause, then, "I SAY DON'T YOU KNOW THE POWAHHH?! "
Because of the weird changes in pitch I had thought for a second that it was two rabid psychotics having an argument. But now I realize that it's all the same person, a conversation with gaps in it, like someone yelling over the telephone:
My pulse is racing! The last time I had heard rage like this it was coming from a locked room at the county nuthouse, where I was an overnight guest. I fear that some berzerker is about to crash through the brush into our midst!
But Billy is smiling like this is funny, and Blair picks up a tattered PEOPLE magazine and starts flipping through it.
"What the hell is that?" whispers Ike.
"That's just John Henry," shrugs Billy
"John Henry," says Blair as she studies the magazine, "He lives out here too. Used to be a TV weather guy. Those diamonds come from apartheid South Africa, you ignorant bitch!"
This last sentance confuses me, until I realize that it was directed at the television actress in the jewelled tiara who is beaming vacuously up from the pages of the magazine, clutching some award or other. Blair flips the page in disgust.
"RIGHT NOW, IN DOG CLOTH WRATH," roars John Henry, "STEP ....... OUT!!!"
"He was on television?" ask Ike.
Blair nods, "That's what the lady at the 76 station told me."
Hard to imagine him ever having been any kind of t.v. personality. He must have adopted an airier, more sophisticated sort of Georgian accent early in his career; but when he went crazy reverted to the crude syntax and hayseed twang of his youth...
"He says the sky is full of devils, and he's waiting for the end of time," chuckles Billy.
He extracts a slender leaf that had fallen into the lidless coffee pot. Something gritty swirls across the surface of the water that had not been there before his hand went in. He shakes the tea in loose. Catching my eye, Ike points furtively toward the coffee pot and twists his mouth in disgust: We're supposed to drink THAT?
I lean over and expound in the voice of some mush-mouthed rummy old derelict, "Boilin' watah keeeeels joims!"
"W-W-WHAT??!" thunders John Henry.
"What did you say?" Blair asks me.
"Oh, I said-"
Billy giggles. This screaming schizo really amuses them! Ike and I still aren't exactly comfortable but we are calming down.
"Is he a colored guy?" asks Ike. The name, the heavy southern accent...
Billy shakes his head, "Naw, white guy. They say he's been out here for years. That one day he just showed up in town. Got run out of a bunch of motels for yelling in his room. 
Then he was in his car, for as long as he had it. But the voice in his head just kept narrowing it down on him, more and more things that he was forbidden to own or do .......... until it told him he had to stay in that feild and right in that spot until the Angel Gabriel blew his horn!!"
SCHMAW-MILLENIUM-MUSSY-GISHGAW, MASHAWK-" shrieks the unseen man, louder than ever and completely undecipherable for the next ninety seconds, until the concluding: "M-MOTHER ......... S-SSSUCKAH!!!"
Like the final flourish at the end of a fireworks show.
Blair sighs, "That's it for a while. He'll rest his throat for a couple of hours. At least he usually does anyway..."
"And you honestly don't think he's dangerous?" grimaces Ike.
"Not if you stay on this side of those bushes there."
"But why the heck did you set up camp so close to him?"
"We didn't," says Blair, pointing, "Our house used to be a little farther away, but that spot turned out to be on lower ground, and when it started raining heavy we had to drag everything over this way. Seems like John Henry picked the very best spot out here."
Billy intones ominously, "Or his God did..."
Blair strained the tea through a bandana as she poured it into three heavy glass mugs from an A&W root beer stand and the threaded plastic cup from some long-dead thermos. Billy wiped the ants from a jar of orange blossom honey and dropped a big gob into each cup. The stuff was hot, sweet, good.
Ike and I drank up then excused ourselves to go scout out or new home.
"The Bamboos" were a four acre rectangle of undeveloped land. A dense jumble of plant life covered the half toward the river, giving way to a field of tall supple grass on the eastern end, where it was hemmed in by the straight line of the train tracks- a graded rise about eight feet high that gave the jungle near total privacy from anyone on the other side.
We surveyed the whole place, eliminating sites as being too exposed to view, or having too much poison oak around them, or for being marshy. For as big as it was there weren't as many decent spots as we'd first imagined, and our neighbor's former camp---just down the trail from their current place---seemed to be our best choice, or at least as long as the weather stayed fairly friendly. And since Winter was winding down for the year we decided to risk it.
Billy and Blair's new camp was a roomy hollow with a domed ceiling and a smooth flat floor. But this old place of their seemed to be nothing more than the marginal widening of a trail that zigged and zagged over uneven ground. Not an ideal spot but manageable. And we decided that instead of clearing out one big area, we would just made our house a series of smaller rooms. It would keep a lot more visual cover from the road up there.
Ike broke off one of the bamboo stalks and inspected it, bent the slim pole until it snapped, then kicked the stump apart with his shoe. (Of course If these had been actual bamboo plants it would take a well-honed saw to accomplish what he'd just done, but that's what we usually called them...)
As we started sculpting out our living space we came upon a heap of materials that Blair
and Billy must have left behind. Eight cobwebbed plastic milk crates, four sheets of plywood, a rusty old roll of chicken wire and other junk. 
Ike hollared, "Hey, you guys want this stuff anymore? This umbrella stand or anything?"
"I wasn't talking to you John Henry. I was talking to Billy and Blair."
"OKAY, IF YOU SAY SO!" came the response, followed by an eerie laugh that faded into childish sarcastic muttering, glory-this and mothersucker-that. [Note: I'm not trying to avoid the word motherfucker with this euphemism. This is just how he said it.]
"Creep," puffed Ike under his breath, then called out again, "Billy? Blair?"
"Go ahead and keep it!" yelled Billy, but Blair came over and inspected it all before deciding we could have it. We explained the basic floor plan we had in mind: The bedrooms, the living room /cooking area over here, a pantry with milk crate shelves,
and maybe a small "shop" space where we could build things. 
"Oh Brother!" she groaned before suddenly hurrying home. What the hell did she mean by that?
Two of the plywood sheets were cut into semicircles, eight feet long on the straight side. And I noticed that either of them would fit almost perfectly into the inside curve of the trail here, and that the forward slant of the reeds might provide a bit of shelter from the coastal night dew. I ripped out a dozen stray stalks along the edge, positioned four of the crates in the gap, slid the plywood shape onto them, and beat the dust from it with my baseball cap.
When Ike turned back to me a minute later to say something I was laying on my sleeping bag, grinning smugly.
"You bastard!" he laughed.
"It's not done yet. I've got to get some heavy plastic tarp and run it up this back wall, with a flap I can drop down in front when the weather turns bad."
Ike got a cunning competitive glint in his eyes, and proceeded to denude a large chunk of the bamboo patch right where the trail dead-ended.
He wanted to clear a perfect square about twelve feet on a side. I got up and started to help. He said, "Don't wreck the poles. I have a plan for them all."
Apparently his plan is to build himself a classic jungle hut like they had on Gilligan's Island. We trim reeds into uniform seven foot poles and toss them in them in pile for about an hour. We're taking a burger break when Ike starts laughing violently.
"What's so funny?"
He sputters as he laughs, his chest bucking spasmically and his eyes showing panic, like he is afraid he's going to choke on the food in his mouth, until he manages to swallow it, and guffaws, "John He-henry-heee!"
"He's not funny. He's sick. Spooky!"
"I know," cackles Ike, "But that's why it would be so perfect! Because of what ............. Of how Billy and Blair say he sees all those ........... DEVILS! Up in the sky. So we make a ........ like this huge, evil ....... DEVIL KITE!Andwe fly it over him! And we're off in the BUSHES! Going .......... going: 'OOOooooeee-EEEEEE-oooooo-OOO-ooooooohh-'"
[- - - - - - - > And THAT, boys and girls, is the sort of material I am stuck with here. Conversations that, whenever they would deviate from the neccessities of our daily scrounging, quickly degenerate into childish play acting or downright gibberish. And our infrequent meaningful discussions---where serious opinions were stated, fears for the future were expressed, or private shames or abberant desires were confessed to---mostly took place behind a wine-drenched curtain of amnesia. The fact of which, while it helped protect us from having to think back on them in the HEY CHUMP light of the following dawn, is now playing hell with my attempt to wrest readable dialogue from the asinine gabbling that me and Ike would engage in most of the time...]
Old Mr. Hilarity has Ike by the throat. He tries sitting, standing, clomping around ........ as if finding the right spot or the right physical stance will let him stop laughing.
I smile indulgently, "You're flipping out, Bro! I think you need a drink. Or on second thought I need that drink! I want to be coming all unglued like you are! Let's go see if we can find that Von's from here..."
Ike and I met one morning a little over a year ago at the State Beach's campground.I had stayed the allowed four days at the dollar HIKE & BIKE camp once again,and was trudging down the sand toward my alternate spot in San Clemente, when I found a huge pile of scrap lumber on the county beach, left over from somebody's after work beer bash... 
Selling firewood to the tourists had always been a serious no-no at Doheny Park. The rangers hated to see that nice retired couple who ran the snack bar undercut by some construction worker selling scrap out of his pick-up truck as a lark ......... But I didn't see why this should prohibit me from bartering what I'd found for a night's lodging, especially if it was with the sort of camper who would never pay $2.50 for a tiny sack of wood. 
I hid most of it in the weedy dunes along the tracks and---gathering as much as I could carry---headed back into the park.
Ike was the first person I saw who didn't look like he would haul ass into his RV and bolt the door if I approached him. I staggered dramatically up to him (Damn, this is a lot of wood!) and gave him my pitch: "I've got about six times this much pine stashed away not far from here. If you let me unroll my sleeping bag on the corner of your space tonight you can have it all. I'll show up late and split before you even wake up. You won't even know I was here!"
Ike pointed, "Put that down before you herniate yourself and help me drink this beer!"
He was sitting in the open side hatch of a Dodge van, drinking a Miller draft and scratching behind the ears of a golden retriever that seemed proud of the bandana it was wearing. I thought it was his van, his dog, his beer. We spent the day guzzling beers, playing with the dog and just shooting the breeze.
When his roommates, the real holders of the site got home from work and discovered
that he hadn't gone out looking for a job, and that we'd drank all their beer and were starting on the bottle of Beefeater's gin that they'd attempted to hide from him, they offered us a deal. The wood, and our immediate departure from their camp in exchange for them not kicking our asses "all the way to fuckin' T.J."  
Thus began our glorious friendship.
The Von's market, it turns out, was just over the hump of the train tracks and down a crude dirt road that ran along the back fence of an old brick warehouse. It was the biggest store in this small shopping center along Capistrano Beach's main drag. There was the laundromat/dry cleaner's, a five-and-dime, a mediocre Mandarin restaurant and a Catholic store that sold votive candles and medallions with saints on them and such. We had panhandled here a few times when we were staying at the State Beach.
Although the Albertson's in Dana Point was a nicer store in general and had a far better selection of dumpster pickings, bumming money in their parking lot was a lot tougher. You were in full view of both the people inside and the heavy motor traffic out on Del Obisbo, so that you always had a feeling of being wide open and vulnerable. There was just enough time to hit up a few crabby rich people and be grateful if you got a few quarters before your every panhandling instinct told you it was time to get the hell out of there!!
But this run-down string of businesses in Capo Beach was free of that sense of menace. You could sense that nobody was going to call the cops unless you were out there insulting or threatening people. And although the Von's box boys hated bums with a fanatical zeal, they seemed content to just yell and throw eggs at you. To actually phone the authorities would take way too much involvement.
Ike and I split up and began strolling nonchalantly around the parking lot. Not acknowledging each other, approaching people as they went out to their cars, me using my standard- "I'm just seventeen cents short of bus fare to Garden Grove..."
Carefully holding out the 58-cent difference as proof of my claim, the implication being that for a donation of less than a quarter they and their town could be rid of me forever ........... Plus it helped me to justify this begging in my own mind, that I was soliciting an amount so piddling that they would never miss it, hardly more of an imposition than asking them the time.
Ike took longer with each one, starting with an unctuous "Nice day, isn't it?" and then branching out, conversationally, perhaps flattering whatever they're wearing, never giving the same spiel twice ........... and not even mentioning that he wanted something
from them until he was well into it. He sometimes started as far back as his miserable
childhood on a foundering chinchilla farm or wherever.
He got far more rejections than I did- rude angry dismissals when they figured out where
all this chit-chat was heading. But when Ike eventually did connect it would be for far more than I was saying I needed. Usually from a woman who---either out of pity or from fear brought on by his increasingly disjointed, elliptical monologue---would fork over a whole dollar. 
Unfortunately, on this particular outing he still had the giggles from his idea about the devil kite, which was causing him to turn away, braying and stamping his foot like a horse before he could say anything! It was a terrible start to our effort, but he was gradually getting it under control...
Until---standing in front of the five-and-ten and intently haranguing some old bald guy
in a suit, something I could faintly hear about some accident he had with a big glass jar when he was nine, in which he nearly bled to death---Ike glanced into the store's window and saw the big polyethelene kite hanging there. A sort of Japanese-cartoon-art looking manta ray with huge baleful eyes.
Ike lost all cohesion!
I ran over to rescue him. By the time I got there the man was climbing into a dirty diesel
Mercedes and zooming off, and Ike was sprawled in the shade of the plaza's front awning, laughing his fool head off and waving a ten dollar bill at me! 
I hauled him to his feet, muttering (for some reason in a lame ham-actor's Irish brogue)- "Well done, Boyo! Now oop we go! There's a lad!"
We had enough for a mammoth three liter jug of Sacramento Heights Burgundy, and (chiefly thanks to Ike) still had eight dollars left over. He had every right to that kite but I really didn't want to antagonize the crazy man, not without getting a good look at him first; so I appealed to his perfectionism. 
Those kites were all over the place, and John Henry's being crazy did not neccesarily mean he was stupid, and he would probably recognize it for the cheap plastic toy it was. The thing we would fly over his camp would be so strange and so monstrously scary that the poor lunatic's head would explode!
Ike enthusiastically agreed, and instead we got us each a heavy clear plastic tarp at the H. H. Holmes store. As soon as we got around the corner of the laundromat we cracked the wine open. Ike jumped up on the loading dock and stole four of their milk crates for his hut, and we headed off down the trail to the tracks and back home.
###.5 = WHAT-BIRDS
Within an hour the frame of Ike's hut is lashed together and the first reed wall is finished. The flooring is his two sheets of plywood resting on milk crates, and he wants a roof of palm fronds tied to chicken wire. Picturesque as it is, his tropical-fantasy house is gobbling up the tall stalks at an alarming rate.
I tell him, "Ike, you're an ecological disaster!"
"Why thank you," he nods, and lifting the bottle by a pinky hooked through the ring in its neck takes a prodigious drink, his adam's apple bouncing comically. A chug-a-lugging
contest ensues, and soon the bottle is half gone and we've both got that lazy heavy feeling, lounging back across my bunk with blodgy grape-colored peninsulas all down the fronts of our shirts. Finishing the whole camp just this instant doesn't seem all that important anymore.
We could hear our neighbor's conversation coming faintly through fifty feet of brush, when suddenly their voices rose sharply-
"Aw Billy, you're ruining it!"
"Shut up, Blargo! I know what I'm doing!"
"You idiot! Can't you do anything?!"
-but then before it really even started they were reconciled, both laughing over something. Odd.
I indicate their camp, "Should we?"
He nods. Shouts over to them, "Hey! You guys want to drink some wine?"
"You too, friend! You want to have a snort with us?"
"Hey, to each his own..."
"We'll be right over!" yells Billy. Obviously just hollaring back and forth is not going to work here, unless you plan to include the local nutsoid in every conversation.
Some seconds later they round the bend, with Blair in the lead. She's tootling along with a cup in each hand like she's dancing the twist. "Look what Billy found down at the beach!"
For an instant I balk at these enormous plastic tumblers, but then chasten myself for such a stingy impulse. These people are our neighbors. Took us into their home ....... We fill their giant cups, and Ike tries to interest them in his devil-kite scheme.
Billy chortles roughly, "We should, shouldn't we?"
"You guys are mean," pouts Blair, trying not to laugh, "He isn't bothering us, is he?"
Billy swirls wine around in his cup and says lazily, "Accc-tually ........... It's sort of good having him out here. He keeps those teenagers away."
"Yeah, all those stupid brats from Dana Point on their noisy mini-bikes with their ugly short hair and that horrible punk rock music!"
"Hey," I protest, "I like punk rock!"
"Oh you do not!" Blair informs me. "You hear them all weekend down in the creek bed, but they won't come near here. He's better than any guard dog!
Ike asks, "So what does he do for food? I mean if he just lays there all day."
She scratches absently at the side of her boob, "Mostly he dumpster dives, just like anybody. But I think he goes days without eating. He just sits over there right on the ground, not even a piece of cardboard! Watching the 'unholy minions storming the ramparts of heaven'. He wants to fight them, tells them to step out, but they just razz him from up there. We invite him over to sit by our fire but he always says no thanks. He's sort of shy."
"He'd rather drink dog piss!" snorts Ike, still angry over the man's rebuke.
She puzzles over this briefly, then says, "In his own way I think he's very spiritual!"
"Come on, Babe." laughs Billy, "He hates everybody! Punched out some local in front of Buck's Tavern last week. How spiritual is that?"
"But he's not 'of the world'. Not like them," Blair makes a sweeping gesture that encompasses everything outside of these reeds, "With their fancy clothes and their ego-mobiles and closed-off greedy little minds! That stupid wannabe cowboy was probably teasing him!"
Ike and I panhandled some more, bought some generic beer at Albertsons, then drank and worked on the pad until sundown. Crickets pulsed around us, trilling rapidly like they do on warm nights. This place might turn into a real mosquito swamp come summer...
There were these big goofy looking white birds that lived around our pond, some type of heron, that we came to refer to as the What Birds. They came alive at dusk, gobbling up frogs and conversing among themselves with a weird quack, kind of like the involuntary yelp of a Tourette's Syndrome patient- "WUT!" 
And on most evenings John Henry would scream back at them, serenading us with
a harsh interchange that went like this:
"Wut ............. WUT!"
Ike was still unconscious, twisted halfway out of his sleeping bag with his mouth open on the deck of his half-built hut. No need to disturb him. I decide to wander down to Von's to see if the night crew tossed out anything good. It seemed strange after these years of wandering to just leave my things just laying there, especially my briefcase full of spiral-bound notebooks, which I don't think I've lost sight of more than twice in the past year. But Ike was close by, and our new friends said that there stuff had never been messed with out here.
The tall grass brushing against my ankles was soppy with dew as I made my way down the trail toward the pregnant orange sun, the shadow of the railroad grade stretching halfway across this lush field that served as our front yard. I scrabbled up the gravel bank and shielding my eyes against the glare to check for trains, saw our neighbors down by the tire warehouse talking to somebody. I hurried down to them.
"Hey Ronnie!" cried Blair.
"Hey," said Billy.
"Ronnie, this is John Henry," smiled Blair, waving both palms toward the man in a hula-like gesture.
It was hard to believe that this wiry little bum belonged to that great booming voice that had gotten us so spooked yesterday. John Henry looked ........ Well my father would have referred to him as "a dippy guy". Standing there, hunched forward, grinning and nodding like one of those novelty dashboard figurines; mumbling: "Oh ........ Uh huh, uh huh; Izzat right?" as Blair raved about our accomplishments, how Ike and I had built ourselves a veritable mansion in only a few hours.
Scrawny and dirty in a torn blue janitor's jumpsuit, with stiff black hair and a beard like a desert hermit, John Henry smiled and grunted. Crazy as a coot and probably not hearing a word she said. But he was civil enough, even if he did seem mostly tuned in to some other channel. 
So it came as a shock when---after Blair and Billy excused themselves to go sweep up the back area of a local plaster lawn ornament factory for a few dollars, and I had made some joshing comment about them being "a couple of characters"---he stared hard into my eyes, his silly grin twisting into a mask of pure raw hatred, and he snarled: "Oh they're a couple, all right! Couple o' mothersucking WITCHES! I'll be laughing my ass off when they're both DEAD AND IN HAIL WHERE THEY BELONG!!!"
I was stunned. I felt obliged to say something in their defense, but it seemed like if I contradicted his imprecation in any way he might go for my windpipe with his teeth!
As I stammered something about them that was so vague and guarded it was practically meaningless, he turned on his boot heels and stomped off down the tracks toward the beach.
Nope, not a freindly person ....... He would nod and smile at the spaces around your head,
shuffling his feet, then plunge a flimsy 59¢ steak knife into your heart without warning! I vowed to steer a wide path around this kook when I saw him coming.
A few minutes later I am knee deep in a mound of limp lettuce, digging around for any cans or boxes that might be buried within ........... when a black and white sedan swings around the end of the laundromat into this service alley. I stand up, my arms tossed out in resignation, conceding that I've been caught. But the county sheriff just slows down a bit and waves at me.
And it's not one of those knowing, sarcastic "Ha-Ha-I-see-you-and-I'll-get-YOU-later!" sort of waves, but a clearly amiable greeting. As if my being inside of this dumpster was not trespassing, good for an unpleasant bout of harrassment, which has happened more times than I can count.
I wave back, hesitantly, and he continues on like he has already forgotten about me. My God, we've wandered into a FEDERAL HOBO PRESERVE!!!
Nor do the citizens of Capistrano Beach seem too freaked out by my presence as I explore this tiny neighborhood in the shadow of the freeway onramp. Dirt streets and run down houses, many no more than clapboard shacks. Mexican families, and families that look Mexican but are actually Juaneños, who were here when the Spanish showed up. A tiny brown lady with snow white hair watering roses with one eye on the color TV that she had wheeled into the cave-like adobe alcove of her front porch. A leathery Anglo old longhair who looks like he might have surfed with King Kamehameha putts down the rutted alley in a dented up VW Thing...
Just before the train tracks is a lumber yard. It is bisected by the end of this street, the hardware department---a drab prefab box---on the left and the lumberyard itself on the right. The road widens a bit to serve as an informal parking lot, a squat wooden guardrail with remnants of plastic reflectors nailed to it keeping people's cars off the tracks. 
Astonishingly, the whole the lumber department is open on three sides, and is fenced along the fourth only because the warehouse that sits behind it had put one up. Spaced at regular intervals among the stacks of boards are small green dumpsters. Nobody stops me as I head out across the rutted asphalt to the nearest one. It's full of broken boards.
I go over to a man who is trimming posts on a table saw. He shuts it off, "What's up?"
"Do you suppose I could have some of that wood in your dumpsters?"
"Hell yeah, take it all! That'll save us from having to call Del Mar Disposal quite so soon."
I thank him and start to load up on lumber.
Ike is in about the same position as when I left except his eyes are open. "Whoah. Where'dja get all that?"
"Lumber yard. You ready to do some hauling?" 
He pulls his pants on, jabs his feet into his sneakers, lights a smoke and follows me back.
The guy at the saw is taking a coffee break. We introduce ourselves. Ike asks, "We can really have this?"
"Go ahead. Just don't make a mess, and don't take anything that's inventory."
"We wouldn't do that," insists Ike, "We're not rip-offs!"
"That's good to hear. You guys live out there by that crazy bastard?"
Ike mutters sheepishly, "Temporarily ........... until we can find some work."
"Well I hope you find it," he smiles, but doesn't bother to offer any suggestions, so I figure he has us sized up accurately. 
But as we gab through his break all Ike wants to talk about is work. Jobs he's had, trying to impress the man with his scope of experience and vast enthusiasm for hard labor. Part of him clearly misses not being part of this world, which I don't think has to do with work or wages so much as his missing the approval and camaraderie of guys like this. His kid-like fascination with the terminology, props and regalia of any traditionally masculine line of work...
As he is putting his safety goggles back on, Ray (the name on his shirt) says, "I was wondering ........... As long as you're staying right across the tracks there, there is something you might be able to do for us."
"Sure, what?"
"Just keep an eye on the place. Like at night, if you're passing by here and you hear the dogs barking, just kind of check it out. Then tell me what you saw."
Maybe it's the up front way I approached him, but he seems to get that we really aren't thieves. He is implying that Serra Lumber more or less accepts our camp being out there, which is pretty cool.
Ike grabs his hand and shakes it vigorously, "We'll kick their asses and leave 'em tied up for the cops!"
This is such bullshit that I can't let it pass. Ike is no more of an ass-kicker than I am. "Give me a break! What are we gonna do? Dress up in capes and come swinging down on ropes?"
"Yeah, don't do that-" says Ray, "These days you would just get us sued! Just get a look at them, what kind of truck it is, a licence number if you can."
Ike assures him that he can count on us, and shakes his hand again, Ray smiling indulgently as Ike guides him through an elaborate handshake that he seems to be making up on the spot, which starts with knocking elbows together and gets more and more absurd after that...
We gather up two huge armloads of scrap wood, the first of four trips.
We worked on our huts until noon, then hit the Albertson's, scoring a heavy bag of poor boy sandwiches that had been chucked out by the deli department. Twenty-eight of them. Somebody in there had seriously miscalculated.
At home Ike undoes the plastic wrap on one and pries it open, studying it like some ancient shaman consulting his chicken guts. The high priest of dysentary. He sniffs it. "Meat's a good color, no brown in the lettuce, and no mayo to worry about."
I take a look myself and concur. But short of gorging ourselves like a couple of dogs, there is no way we will be able to finish all these before they do turn. I grab ten of them at random and head up the curving green hallway with them... 
Blair is sitting crosslegged in the dirt, hitting a big round rock with a slightly smaller one that she's clutching like a football. Smash ......... smash ......... smash...
"Trying to invent fire?"
"Oh. Hi Roggie. Billy's not here. He's painting stripes in the parking lot at that pottery place today," she says, her tone implying that I can't possibly be interested in visiting her alone.
"That's okay. I brought you some sandwiches."
She puts the rock down and stretches out her hands for them, "Mmmm, these'll be good! I'll have this meatball one and save the rest for my Old Man, if he ever comes home-"
When all at once she startles as if some sort of current is passing through her, and then
she's shoving them back at me, "No, no, that's okay! You keep them! We don't need them!"
I take them back. "What's the matter? They should be all right." 
"No, really! I'm sure they are but we can't, I don't .......... want them!"
She is so desperate to be rid of them that I don't press it. "Well, if you're sure ........You should see our pad, it's really shaping up. So if you get bored or whatever come on by. The door's open..."
I tell Ike about my strange conversation with our neighbor: "...And so she was all set to eat one when suddenly it was like it turned ret hot and was burning her hands! Maybe she just didn't want to feel indebted to us, but it hit her so quick and so strong it was weird! She was totally frantic about something!"
"The voices were probably telling her it was a trick, that you were trying to poison her!"
"Sure Ike."
"No, really! I don't think John Henry is the only one out here who's a little ........ you know,"
he taps the side of his head. "I think old Blair has a few tribbles-in-the-warp-drive herself..."
It's time to dig the latrine. I am complaining about what a chore this is going to be without implements, when suddenly I recall seeing a shovel laying half-buried in the leaves of our neighbor's camp. I tell Ike about it and he goes to get it.
He comes back with it, shaking his head indignantly, "She almost wouldn't let
me borrow it! Seemed to think we were gonna get shit on her nice clean shovel!"
"What? How?! We're just digging the hole!"
"I don't know, ask her how the hell how! Now d'ya see what I was saying? She's a wacko! Oh no, you'll get poop on it! This whole fucking third degree about it before she would loan it to me."
"Okay, that is weird..."
The finished latrine, down where the reeds thin out just before the open field, is deep enough to last us a while, and hidden from both our neighbors to the north (a small ranch or something beyond a wire fence, with a horse we can hear now and then...) and anyone who might going by on the levee. With the left over dirt we pile berms across the various low points surrounding the camp and stomp them down. Not the mightiest civil engineering project ever conceived, but they should help during a light rain.
I bring Blair their shovel back. "Sorry about getting crap all over it!"
"Ver-r-r-ry funny," she growls. She seems to be in a better mood.
"You sure you don't want a sandwich?"
"No, but I am kind of hungry. I didn't dream Billy would be gone so long. I better go take care of him! He gets kind of funny when I'm not around. He could flip out, out there..."
"Really? He seems pretty unflippable."
"You haven't seen how he gets! He needs me there, to ground-wire him. To ground him in reality."
It seems to me that just the opposite is true. She cuts his mooring lines and they go drifting off together into the pink and purple neon psychedelic reverb-infested twilight of your mind...
As the sun set we had our first fire going in the pit in what was going to be our kitchen area. Billy was here by himself. He had bought some wine home and thought we should all party together at their place. But Blair was evidently hoping for a more private and intimate evening with him, which Ike and I understood from seeing her mood earlier, and we were more than content to bow out.
Except that he kept dragging our supposed wants back into it, the "family" that we all were now, until he had her mad at all three of us! Which of course was what he was shooting for, so he could go stomping off---the unappreciated breadwinner---and have a lil' drink with the boys.
We were talking about concerts we had seen, and while Ike and I had each been to some great ones we couldn't top Billy. A couple of years older than us, he had lived in San Francisco back when it was typical to have Hendrix, the Doors and Traffic all on the same billing for like six bucks...
Ike kept trying to cajole her into joining us. Calling out, "Come on Blair! Quit feeling sorry for yourself! Come and join your friends! You should at least have one of these grinders before they're all- Hurry up! Roger's eating another one!"
When she appeared, grinning at her shoes, I figured that his coaxing or perhaps her hunger had done the trick. But there was something unsettling about her smile...
Damn, I didn't think she could move that fast! Before we even realized what was happening she had slapped the glass out of Billy's hand and snatched up the jug, hugging it upside down as Ike tried to pry it away from her and I sat roaring with laughter!
I suppose I should have been horrified as the wine poured out onto their feet, but it was all so cartoonishly domestic- straight out of Maggie and Jiggs or something! All she needed was a bathrobe and curlers in her hair and a big wooden rolling pin...
"Bitch!" howled Billy and lunged for her, his fist raised! But just as he got to her he did a weird jerking dance---barely reigning in the urge to punch her face---and sprinted off yelling obscenities! 
Blair cried out in terror, as if he was now in danger of doing violence against himself, and ran down the trail after him, leaving Ike standing there gazing bewilderedly down
at his wine-sodden legs and feet.    
"Awwwwww," I whine. "Is the show over?!"
"You were a whole goddamn lot of help!"
They returned in about forty-five minutes with another jug of wine, apologizing for their little spat, and we all had an oddly subdued party over at their place.
It wasn't always able to avoid John Henry. But I was coming to see that even though---behind that nauseated grin of his---he might loathe you as a heretic or fear you as a demon in disguise, most of the time he managed to be nominally civil. Although much of what he said was impossible to respond to...
One day I was down at the tracks, sitting on the Toyota-sized cube of concrete that the lumber yard had lain across the end of their railroad spur to keep the cars on the rails. 
Their elderly German Shepard was keeping me company, asleep down in the shadows below my dangling feet as I sipped my red port and worked on the second book of the Leroy trilogy, when John Henry came bopping past. 
He stopped and said hello. "Whatcha writin' there Roggie Boy? A novelty?"
"No, it's sort of a-" I started, then chuckled at his odd joke. He had meant novel.
"Well I guess you could call it a novelty."
And I was suprised that he had guessed right. Because it seemed like whenever a street person found out I was writing they just assumed it was the same sort of schlocky pedantic bad-rock-lyric poetry that a lot of them dabbled in.
John Henry smiled, his eyes darting back and forth, and announced, "Yeah, I seen a couple of them novelties once. They was walkin' around twenny feet tall like they was GIANTS!"
End of discussion. Like the boastful fly in the Dr. Seuss fable, he claimed he could see things that went on miles away. One day he told me that he saw Jesus and the Devil out by the LA County Fairgrounds in Pomona, both "twenny feet tall", wrestling to determine the fate of the world.
And while that didn't strike me as likely, I did get the feeling that his sense of hearing was unnaturally acute. The way his yelling sometimes seemed to be in direct response to
our quietest conversations. And that his insights, though skewed by bad brain chemistry,
were often eerily on the mark. 
Once Ike had been telling us about his brief stint with The Christ Tribe---a busload of wandering Jesus freaks, and what they had taught him about spiritual matters---when John Henry roared from over there: "HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT GAAWWDD?!  YOU'RE NOTHING BUT A PACK OF TEMPLE DEFILING WINOS!"
Ike, Blair and Billy all laughed and applauded, but I felt a spectral chill coursing down my spine.
I think deep down I admired this psycho a lot more than the three of them did, if admired is the word. There was a basic integrity about him, something that was at least more consistant than what you get from so many of these bear-hugging, alliegance-swearing, disability-check-stealing sons of bitches that you meet out on the road.
But I was also a lot more leery of him. In spite of his obvious wish to be left alone, they couldn't resist shouting taunts over at him. And Blair, when she would cross paths with him and chat for a spell, would laugh, "I can't understand a word you're saying!" when his patter got too abstracted. It seemed rude as well as foolhardy.
John Henry moved on. The lumberyard's old pooch circled the cement block, wanting me to lean down and scratch his dandruffy back, then curled up again on the grass. 
These were guard dogs? Even on a trip through their yard at two in the morning they had all been jazzed to see me, the four of them massing around my legs- so desperate for loving that I could barely walk!
I watched the clouds of tiny black birds swarming around the vats at the sanitation plant across the tracks, chirping ecstatically as they swooped down after each circular sweep of the aerator, pecking God-only-knows-what out of the sewage. An Amtrack train clicked lazily past, the late morning commuter run to Oceanside. I toasted it with my bottle in a sack.
Life here was so fine. The ocean. The climate. This mellow little township. These luxurious green (for the next month or so) vacant lots. This wasn't Bukowski's vicious unforgiving Mammon of Los Angeles. This was...
Then it came to me. This was Cannery Row! Or at least as close as you could get
to it here in this state, this decade. A sleepy little working-class beach town lost in time,
where people just wanted to live their lives and let others do the same. How could such a beautiful place actually be ours? Where were all the evil Republican ORANGE COUNTY SHARK PEOPLE?!
IThis would all change of course. Some day---a year or five years from now---it  would all be razed and rebuilt, becoming utterly indistinguishable from the rest of this uptight, status-driven and numbingly homogenized coastline. I'm just glad that I was able to see it, live it, breathe it before it did...
The fire marshal came by today.
On hearing his truck scrunching to a halt on the gravel road on top of the riverbank, Billy and Blair had managed to quickly roll the stones of their firepit into disarray and cover them with trash and clothes. And then when he questioned them they insisted that they had no interest in cooking anything but lived on cold cereal and veggies straight out of the can .......... I don't think he believed them so much as appreciated their willingness to tell him what would sound good in whatever reports he had to fill out about this place.
But to us this approach had seemed like it depended too much on chance, on us not having a fire going when he showed up. Our tactic had been to build the undisputed MOTHER OF ALL FIRE PITS .......... starting with a block of cement as big as a coffee table that we managed to drag to the center of our camp using ropes and a pair of makeshift harnesses, and building onto that with bricks and cinderblocks, so that the finished product had a high concrete back blocking the westerly winds, and tall arms that jutted forward from it with a semi-adjustable oven rack (turning it 90 degrees and resting it in there longways dropped it four inches-) nestled between them. This thing wouldn't have looked out of place sitting out in some backyard in Huntington Beach.
Rising behind it on a base of four upended bricks was a 55 gallon drum full of water (which we'd had to covered with a door from a washing machine after finding a drowned rat bobbing in it one morning-) that we could tip over at the first sign of a fire getting out of control. The space above it was free of branches, the dirt for eight feet around was kept clear with our snaggle-toothed lawn rake, and clustered nearby was the empty from every jug of wine that we'd consumed during our stay here, filled with creek water and recapped, to hurl down on whatever fire might escape the initial flooding.
"And there's more of those every day," boasts Ike.
The fire marshal looks around. The bowls and plates wedged into the chrome shoe rack.
Ike's textbook thatch hut. Our pantry, still under construction...
"I'm impressed! I'm not used to seeing such organization out here. Where did you get the rake and everything?"
Ike says, "When people move, whatever they don't want to take with them, instead of paying the buck to take it to the dump they just chuck it all out behind Von's or the H.H. Holmes."
"I guess people do that, don't they?"
I snigger sardonically, "Hell, they'd dump it out in front of the Vatican if they thought they could get away with it!"
"And you take it home and sort of 'fix it up'?" smiles the fireman. He is being a bit patronizing, but he's the law here so this is a good thing. He scratches the nape of his neck, "I don't see anything here that presents a problem, if you keep it like this. As long as Hal Caldwell at the Water Department says he doesn't mind you being out here I guess you have a home. But see if you can get those two over there to clean up their camp a bit. I'd say the health inspector will be your biggest worry. Nice talking to you..."
Around lunchtime we panhandled our way up PCH through Dana Point to the lookout point on the bluffs, then came back down the other side of the highway, ending up at that garish old yellow hamburger stand across the road from the Doheny Park day-use area. We each got one of their mammoth 99¢ bean burritos, taking more than our fair share of of those small plastic tubs of salsa, to take home and dump into the next batch of stew.
Ike is in love with the skinny 17-year-old behind the counter, with her frizzy hair pulled
back into a hippie-ish leather barrette and enough earrings for a whole wagon-load of gypsies.
My friend is a hopeless fantasist when it comes to women, always nudging me and going: "Hey, how about her?" or "I'm gonna ask that one out..."
And then he'll start these ridiculous, rambling letters to them---with "quotation" marks
around every "third" word for no "apparent" reason---that he never quite finishes; as he shifts his attention to some new supermarket checker or lady park ranger.
But even so he is probably far healthier in this regard than his partner, who feels so inept and fat and out of it---like such a hopeless bum---that he mostly doesn't even want to be reminded of such a lost cause as sex, in ANY of its permutations...
So with the exception of whatever might go on over in Billy and Blair's hut, jerking off
in private is about the extent of anyone's sex life out here. Ike and I certainly don't get it on. (Like I've said, he is not even nominally bi ....... and with me it doesn't take long for a sort of "incest taboo" to kick in with my close heterosexual friends- where I come to regard them as kin emotionally; and unappealling because of that. Or most of the time anyway.)
But I can't help marvelling at my friend's capacity for ego-boosting daydreams and fictions. As he comes back to the patio table with an order of fries he is grinning from ear to ear, and says with love-struck awe: "She really likes me! She gave me six ketchups!"
Billy and Blair were hitting the lumber yard now. They had a modest pile of wood that filled the narrow space between their hut and their fire pit, so they could toss wood on the fire without having to get out of bed. 
But to Blair what was even more amazing than the abundance of free fuel was how nice the crew at the lumber yard was. Their basic decency came as a real suprise to her after her daily run-ins with the young creeps who work at Von's. Who always yelled: "Hey Whale Shit!" at her as she went through the dumpsters out back.
The rest of us hadn't been distinguished with names. We were greeted with uninspired taunts like "Get a jaaaaaawb!" Maybe they couldn't tell any of us homeless males apart. Or perhaps they had used up all their scintillating wit in coming up with 'Whale Shit'.
It helped for you to hang back some distance until they went inside, hiding around the corner until you heard the big roll-up door freewheeling shut.
But Blair would not humor their fuckhead jock mentality with any such servile behavior. She had a RIGHT to that food, and would stroll up to the refuse bins in the middle of deliveries, licking her chops like it was the $1.99 buffet at the Tropicana. Defiant, ignoring their cat calls and thrown produce. And one time she even feigned disinterest as they turned her into a walking Jackson Pollock painting with hurled pints of yogurt!
Until that Coca Cola driver came unglued and threatened to kick all their chickenshit teenage asses. Yelling, "You sadistic shits! What the hell is the matter with you? Don't you have a shred of compassion? Where's your humanity?!"
Now that I've enlisted your sympathy on Blair's behalf, I'm going to reveal what a couple of unbelievably pitiful assholes she and Billy could be...
The lumber in front of their covered bed was old and dessicated, being mostly from a shed that the lumberyard had torn down, and a dozen or so huge rusty nails jutted upward
from the haphazard pile. After a few days of watching them crawling into and out of their hut, treading cautiously betweem the nails, I finally had to ask them, "Why don't you either turn those boards over or hammer down the nails with a rock?"
"Oh no, it's okay," said Blair.
"What do you mean it's okay? You're barefoot!"
"If one of us is meant to step on a nail we'll step on one. It's called Karma, the law of-"
I had never heard anything so idiotic in my entire life! And now she who had uttered
such a mind-boggling travesty of reason was going to lecture me about Eastern philosophy!
I exploded, "Karma? I KNOW what karma is! I BELIEVE in karma! But God damn it! Even a fucking flatworm knows enough to avoid danger when it senses it. Use the brain that God........ that your karma up until now has earned you!"
Billy and Blair looked at each other. What's eating him? Blair said blandly, "We won't get hurt. We have excellent karma."
And right then I had a stupendous flash of insight: They had wandered down through the 1960's disregarding everything that was reasonable, egalitarian or socially edifying about that era's myths and ideas, and instead had taken to their bosom everything that was fraudulent and lame about it. The whole shitload of Aquarian flummery, with its humorless organic puritanism and infuriating smugness. 
Holding onto such crap as that long hairs were cool and everybody else was either foolish or downright evil- except for Blacks and Native Americans and South Seas islanders, who at heart were all stoned lazy drop-outs like us. That Einstein was a hippie and must have eaten psylocibin to gain such cosmic perceptions. That (???) brushing your teeth was somehow the primary cause of cancer, and an imbalance of the four bodily humors, brought on by recent technologies, was the source of all disease! They were an ananchronism, embracing all the superstitious hoakum of the feudal age, but with none of the compensating humility or piety.
Well, not "they" so much ....... Billy was basically an easy going cat, and while he had some strong convictions of his own about things like personal ethics, in most other areas he would defer to "the brains of the outfit", more or less just to keep her quiet.
One night I am stirring up a skillet full of whatever we had on hand---potatoes, onions, brocolli, kielbasa and tomatoes---while Blair goes on and on about the evils of chemicals.
There are advocates of an "organic" diet who seem to kind of know what they're talking about. They can tell you what the different bad food additives are and what they will do to your various systems. Blair is not one of these ........ She has latched onto the idea of chemicals as some malevolent essence, foisted on us by lab-coated ghouls who apparently want to bring about the destruction of all life on earth!
Divvying the steaming glop into four bowls, I have an idea. It's a total long shot, but worth a try... 
"Mmmmm, smells delicious!" I say, and pull out our sandwich bag full of table salt, "All it needs now is some good old sodium chloride!"
Blair must have been counting the little holes in the ceiling tiles on that day in sixth grade science class. There is real panic in her voice, "What's that? What are you doing?!"
"I'll take some of that," leers Ike wickedly, "Wouldn't be dinner without ...... sodium chloride! And I know Billy likes a lot on his!"
"BILLYDON'TYOUDARE!" Blair screams Blair as Billy comes over and peers into the bag. "You don't have to do something just because they're doing it!"
"I just want to try it," he pleads, and licks some off his moistened finger. 
He staggers and collapses, rolls on the ground, his feet kicking in toxic rhythms as he clutchesat his throat- "AGH! URRCK, B-B-B-B-BFLCH!"
Blair fumes silently as we eat. 
I try to mollify her, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have set you up like that! Nobody is a worse sport about being tricked or teased than I am, so believe me when I say I know how you feel..."
"Oh, well that's you!" she huffs. "I'm not like that! I'm a good sport!"
She shovels the stuff into her mouth, mashing and killing it with her spoon and smiling spookily with her bottom teeth. Glaring at me ...... And for the rest of the meal she directs all her talk toward Billy and Ike.
Olie---a former championship surfer who designs and builds surfboards and racing catamarans in his barn-like commercial garage---gave us each $20 to help wash and wax his old Winnebago. He lives in it, in the space between his building and the tracks. He fed us Budweisers the whole while, and we listened to his old Billy Holiday and Johnny Otis and Django Rheinhardt LP's; and HAVE A MARIJUANA by David Peel and The Lower East Side, which Ike just had to hear...
But best of all was his letting Ike use his clamps and wood glue and some fiberglass and helping him repair his six string. Then as he sent us home with our pay and four massive steaks from a swordfish he had caught, he gently let us know that this didn't mean we should drop by unannounced. He had clients and such.
Swordfish seemed to call for better side dishes than what the bins had to offer that day. So we actually bought our vegetables and some pricey Hawaiian sweet bread, and invited
the Gruesome Twosome over at dusk for a feast and a night of serious drinking.
The next morning Ike was strumming his guitar, trying to sing Cowgirl in the Sand. I opened one eye, "You might try singing that a little lower. You're going to strain something..."
He hummed, strummed, twisted a knob, "I think you're right. I'll try my Willie Nelson voice."
Much better. He had Willie's warts-and-all intonation and phrasing down perfect. And the repairs hadn't messed with the guitar's tone at all.
Wanting a drink, I rummaged around for a left over beer, or some tequila, something ........ Oh well, we still each had a little over half of our $20 left.
"So Olie was already up?"
"No, he was gone. The door wasn't latched all the way, I let myself in. Left a note."
"He'll love that," I muttered, afraid that if we pissed him off he wouldn't let me get my mail at his P.O. box anymore. There were only one or two people from my past that I kept in contact with at all, but still...
Billy came by with his bongo drums, suggesting that we all go up to San Juan Capistrano
and play for donations. I knew that my hit-or-miss singing voice would miss by a mile today (in this unreal vagueness that I occasionally wake up to, which I guess is a form of hangover, but it's nothing like the hellish agony most hung-over people describe...) but Ike was up for it.
As they set out Billy asked, "Could you please go check up on Blair in a while? She's not doing too good."
"I can't believe he'd leave me here when I was feeling like this," fumed Blair weakly.
Headache. Puke everywhere. And I knew she was sick when she said, "I'd even take an aspirin if it would make me feel better!"
"You're not much of a drinker, are you?"
"Not really," she muttered---almost apologetically---and chuckled, "I don't need to get
any crazier than I already am most of the time. But it tasted so good, the coconut and everything, I wasn't thinking. And I shouldn't have ........ I haven't been feeling all that hot in the morning anyway lately."
I scraped up most of the puke with the same old grease-stained pizza box that has been knocking around their camp since day one, and dumped it far away. Then I brought over one of our fire-control jugs and dumped it over the remaining slime. Lit some jasmine incense, while Blair swore that she would never touch another drop.
"I hope you don't mind if I go get myself something," I said.
"Sure, go ahead! Just no tequila ....... I don't even want to smell it!"
I went, came back with three bottles of Akadama wine that had been marked way down in the bargain baskets. I heated some bullion and read to her from my novel as she sipped the broth, slouching back in their busted lawn chair, a sleeping bag pulled up to her armpits for a comforter.
It seems to do some good. She is feeling better, sitting upright and telling me a joke about Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan lost in the woods together when Billy and Ike storm into the camp. They are hammered, staggering. Blair starts laughing at the sight of them, "Good Grief!"
They had made a bundle. Today is Sunday, and downtown San Juan Capistrano was packed with tourists and locals celebrating "Old Time Hoe-Down Fiesta Days".
Blair cocks her head, "I thought that was last month."
"No, last month was Gold Rush Hacienda Heritage Days. Hey, look at this!" Billy flaps a stack of dollars that he has spread into a fan, "Pretty bitchen, huh? And it would of been a lot more if the cops hadn't run us off!"
He and Ike go on a store run. When Blair sees the fifth of Sauza Commemoritivo she
backs fearfully away from it, "Oh Jesus! Give me a little of that wine Roggie, I'm going inside."
We party on through sundown, with Blair joining us as a disembodied voice from behind the tropical-fish-and-bubbles motif shower curtain. 
And we must have gotten pretty loud, because suddenly John Henry starts jabbering, shrieking something about the Lamb of God and a white tornado.
"You know, John Henry was down there today too," grins Ike.
"In San Juan?" asks Blair. Ike might as well have claimed he had seen the man being interviewed on the Barbara Walters Show.
"Yeah. But he wasn't wearing a cowboy shirt and jeans like everybody else. He had on like an old-fashioned tuxedo with long tails, and one of them cummerbums."
"He was not!" giggles Blair, peeking coyly out through the plastic curtains at us.
"No, it's the truth! And a top hat, and this fancy cane! So I asked him, 'What are you all dressed up like that for?' And he says..." 
Ike takes a deep breath. Cups his hands around his mouth and yells, directly at John Henry's spot, "I'M STEPPING OUT!!"
"Ike-" I start to say.
"WHAAAAAT?!" roars our neighbor.
"WATTS IS THAT WAY!" screams Ike, pointing off toward Palm Springs or someplace. He sniggers and slaps his knee.
"Come on," I warn him, "This is like teasing a rattler..."
I grab the tequila away from Ike like I intend to hold onto it for good. This gets his attention. "Leave the poor nut alone! He has enough voices tormenting him without you joining in!"
"He BUGS me! We can't say shit around here without him screaming 'WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?' And he's goddamn insulting, you might have noticed!" 
"He's handicapped, as much as any parapelegic in a wheelchair. Hell, probably more so. He can't even think-"
"He's an asshole is all he is! He called me an ape!"
I take a long gulp and relenquish the bottle to him, "Yeah? And some two-year-old last week called me 'Gicky Stink-Bum, you from the garbage!' You have to consider the source..."
Billy laughs hysterically over this. Like Blair, He's more of a pothead than a boozer. He'll drink whenever you're drinking, and will buy it when he senses it's his turn, but we've never come across him having a beer on his own initiative. He's been nursing the same small glass for over an hour, and he is ripped- "Let's go find the little fucker and kick his ass!"
"His mom already did that for us. Gave it a few good swats anyway! You should have seen how embarrassed she got. It was hilarious! So was all the insane shit she screamed at me when I told him, 'That's the spirit, kid! Never be afraid to speak your mind!' She went fucking apeshit! Like it was my fault, or it was me who taught him to say that ............. When it was so obvious he was just repeating the kind of talk he heard at home from Mommy and Daddy! And you can't blame John Henry for what he says, either. The guy's delusional."
Billy points at the bottle, "Hey! Give some to Blair, you guys!"
"I already got mine. This is good wine, Roggie! Thanks!"
"What wine?" asks Ike with interest.
"Some Japanese soda-pop wine I found cheap in the burn-out bins. It's what we used to drink back in high school. No kick to it at all..."
He scowls in disapproval.
"Heeeey you guys ........ I'm completely naked in here!" drawls Blair in a saucy voice. For her this was a very off-the-wall thing to say.
Ike shoots me a disgusted look that I'm supposed to reciprocate (Why? Because she's fat? Well I'm fat!). So I say, "Come dance for us, Blair!"
"Yeah, do your dance!" giggles Billy.
"No, that's alright. Roggie can dance naked for you!"
Ike and Billy cover their faces, howling, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!"
My laughter is a bit forced as we all bust up over this (my big ass being the butt of this joke), but I am glad that Ike seems to be winding down about John Henry.
Blair asks, "So where did you guys play your music at?"
"We started down by the Safeway and worked our way toward the mission. Got as far as the benches out in front of The Olde Antique Barn before the cops came up and told us we had to have a permit," smiles Ike ruefully. "But you know that song from this morning? The Neil Young song? That one alone must have brung in six dollars!"
He hefts his guitar, "But the absolute favorite, most popular song we did today, goes like...
Oh fuck! Ike is bellowing rather than singing, going for maximum volume. Billy joins in, pounding hard on his toy drums. At this point I decide that the situation is out of my hands. You can't keep chasing a moth away from a bare flame indefinitely. After a few more verses like this Ike stops, grinning maliciously toward the reeds...
"STEP ...........  OUT!!" wails John Henry.
Ike is stumped.
Ever helpful, I whisper, "I remember when you had polka dots, baby!" And as he hollars it out I am kicking myself for contributing to this folly.
"IT'S THE DARK SMUCK-LAGOG SPUKKA DEAD BOSHMOG DAYS AT THE END-CAP OF TIME!!!" shrieks John Henry. He is entering his glossolalic phase.
This one has us all baffled, so Ike shoulders his guitar and resumes howling his ballad:
Billy is bongo-ing, and Blair is clapping along inside the tent, when the bushes part and John Henry---who apparently had made his own trail through a thinner part of the reeds---steps through. Eyes wild, a fist swinging on the end of each arm! "What's the big problem over here?"
The three of us are on our feet. Ike's chest swells, "We don't have a problem! What's your problem, Nut Boy?"
"We were just having a party," I say. "Sorry if we got a little loud."
"People get burned down to fine ash for havin' parties like that!"
"Is that a threat?!" snarls Ike.
John Henry smirks at him. "That's a fact of history. Read your Old Testament! Now what was all this yellin' my name about?"
"We were just wondering ........... if you wanted to come over," says Billy lamely.
"And here I am."
"And we are so glad," coos Blair as she steps out of their hut, doing her best to project a profound spirituality.
She is not naked now but is wearing a green striped sheet for robes, in a parody of a Greek goddess. She flows toward, him as if she might keep on going and engulf him in her arms. Or simply engulf him, amoeba-like.
"We thought you might like to come have some wine with us. Or some food, if you're hungry ........ You know, to break bread together in human fellowship," she smiles with dewey eyed kindness.
John Henry watches her hands as she pantomimes this, like there is some dangerous witchcraft in this gesture. "I don't want your damn bread!"
"Or just to share our fire.........To let us warm you, the way you warm us with your presence!"
It sounded like she had meant every blissed out word of it. She has no idea how much this violent loon despises her!
John Henry edges away from her, moving unknowingly toward Ike. He stammers, "That ain't what I heard! You was screaming a bunch of filthy witch talk!"
"Then why don't you fuckin' SPLIT!" snarls Ike, about five inches from his ear!
John Henry whirls, a vengeful blur- and in the time it takes to blink has Ike in a headlock and is pounding him on the temple!
Billy and I jump him and grab his arms, Billy riding back and forth on John Henry's pummelling wrist until he can get his footing. We manage to pry him off of Ike without getting socked ourselves, and send him sprawling into the leaves! 
Ike drops face first onto the ground and curls into a groaning ball, his legs pedalling.
Grabbing John Henry had been easy just now because I hadn't really had time to think about it. But now he is getting up again. I don't have much stomach for fighting and I don't think Billy does either. But we are in this now, and we ready ourselves for what he will do next...
Billy seems as relieved as I am when he just stalks off contemptuously, satisfied that he has punished the chief culprit. Growling, "You people got no idea what it is you're playing around with. Almost makes me feel sorry for you!"
Ike rolls around on the ground for a bit more, then crawls back to his seat.
Billy hands him the tequila. Ike puts the bottle to the side of his head before realizing that a systemic application would be more effective, and taking a long drink.
After a minute of silence I ask him, "So are we gonna go get that devil kite now?"
He squints at me appraisingly, "You know Roger, you can be a real prick sometimes."
>>>>> END OF PART ONE <<<<<
Obviously this novel has nothing to do with Eskimos.
The title is taken from a song by the Jefferson Airplane.


I've got two words for you: Featherly Park

1980 - Six months of living on schnapps, tequila, sensemilla, white beans, cream corn, apples, and commodity butter on day-old bread. A rusty camper parked in a vacant lot in Devore. A pickup truck in a roadside park somewhere near Salinas. Big Sur. Gold Beach. Hawser, Oregon. Blue Bird State Park. The floor of a church in Eureka. The Haight. The back yard of a renegade doctor in Santa Monica. A tent in Featherly Park near the OC/Riverside county line. Picacho State Park in San Diego County. Las Pulgas. Fontana, a derepit motel with DIRT floors where it all came to an end...when Deke (yes, the character from Birdsong) picked me up and pushed me against a wall.

I went down to OC in the morning and got a job pouring beer in the swap meet, sleeping on a couch in my brother's garage.

I remember Capo Beach a few years after that, wondering why we'd never found it when we lived on the bum. Compared to my memories, it looked like the promised land.

I didn't know we'd gone to the same schools, Roger. :)

- Joyce

I've had low spots but not like in your story

I wonder how many people will read your story and never realize that some people really live this way?I was always lucky enough to have a roof over my head when I didn't have a car.But there were times when I had a car that I lived in it for extended stays, lucky to find enough work to keep gas in it.I don't eat ramon noodles or macaroni and cheese anymore and can barely tolerate the ocasional hotdog.Reading your story made me look back at the life I've lived and made me appreciate where I am now that much more.I look forward to reading more.Amy

Beautifully Written

This is really beautifully written. Thanks for the heads-up on it over at Top Shelf.

I really look forward to reading the rest of it, although I'm up against a deadline at the moment that's not going to let me for a couple days. I'm glad I took a break to read this, though.

Have you looked around for a literary agent? I've read much worse crap which got published by major houses. This is quite good.

Gracefully Slick


I actually have similar sentiments to Pippa K's comment regarding this; I really liked what you're doing and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system