Eskimo Blue Day ~ Part 3

My year in the Bamboos continues. Things are going well in our little jungle village when the criminals move in. Ike is lured to the Dark Side. There goes the neighborhood...

by  Roger Di Prima
"Hey hey Boo Boo! Let us get us a pick-a-nick basket!"
-Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi
I had only run into my friend Suzee once or twice since my summer on the lawn along Main Beach in Laguna. Those long days spent hanging around under the spreading Torrey Pines by that historic pink wedding cake of a hotel, spontaneous and carefree, but it seemed always with one eye on our audience there on the boardwalk; making sure that all these pathetically unhip tourists from all those nowhere states (with their snow white legs and dripping waffle cones, all their gauche unaffected ooh-ing and aw-ing over the scenery) could see how amazingly cool we were.
Hanging out there was kind of fun---in a vegetative sort of way---and I had formed a few solid friendships, mostly with the few older, seasoned transients, who had their own little circle within the regulars there. But you paid a price for the idyllic scenery and the dubious prestige of being able to call yourself a real Laguna Beach Bum. There were just too damn many of us! You would pass your bottle around the circle and would be lucky to get it back for a second gulp... 
So most of us spent most of our time wishing we were more than only vaguely high, and any serious boozer soon decided that a bit of scenery and all this ludicrous posturing was no substitute for actually getting drunk, and moved on.
Suzee liked to party with us somewhat poorer lowlifes but she rarely had to make the long trek up to the camps in the canyon where the rest of us were staying, since her work as a prostitute usually netted her enough to keep a room someplace. She charged less than what you would think a trim, large-breasted twenty-three year old girl with a reasonably pretty face could have gotten ........ But she performed a number of quickies each night, and since she met her tricks hitchhiking up and down Coast Highway she didn't have to share her profits with any sort of intercessor. It also helped that her taste in drugs rans more toward downers and Safeway vodka than quality cocaine.
There was a vulnerability about Suzee, an apparent lack of "street wisdom" that was kind 
of odd for a hooker. She seemed so hurt when other Main Beach hanger-outers made snide comments about her trade (a lot of them being creeps who did far worse than the victimless crimes of spreading your legs for money) that you felt bad for her. And even though we all knew it was something of an act, it was this air of hers---of being sad and lost and confused---that made it hard for those of us who considered her a friend to turn her down when she needed something.
I didn't suppose that she even knew where I lived, so I was a bit surprised to see her standing at the edge of our camp, doing her timid little Gee-I-don't-want-to-intrude dance. But I wasn't terribly surprised to learn that since she was here she had a favor to ask...
She had these dear sweet friends, see, who desperately needed a place to stay. And could we please let them pitch a tent in our bamboos for a few weeks? They were really excellent people!
What could I say? This wasn't the Temple of Osiris Lodge or whatever, where you scrutinized each applicant and cast your votes with black or white marbles. You just woke up one day to discover that you had new neighbors. Doug and Monika, for example.
Or like that giggling schizophrenic fucker with the filthy old rusty muffler that he lugged around and talked to with fatherly affection, who for most of August had inhabited the sandy concrete culvert that passes under the tracks; and who made John Henry seem like a genteel southern aristocrat in comparison. We didn't blackball that spooky son of a bitch, he just represented another of the diverse species that migrated through our miniature jungle. And besides, any friend of Suzee's...
I muttered some vague words of assent.
[====> Later I would wonder if she hadn't simply been dumping them off on us, trying to disentangle them from her life. Because she didn't come by to visit these two dear, dear darling friends of hers once in the whole time they were our neighbors...]
They had been waiting on the path just outside my camp listening to her pitch, and now they stepped forward. A guy and a gal in their late twenties, Yogi and Sharyn. She with lustrous brown wavy hair and a solid womanly body. Very pretty, if a bit forbidding in her Harley jacket and don't-fuck-with-me stride. But the guy...
Every cubic centimeter of my brain screamed out in warning as I smiled and shook his hand! It wasn't the ratty denim vest that showed off the muscular arms with all the clumsily rendered tatoos, or his ragged beard, or the baseball cap with an artless insult stitched into it in bright red letters. Most of the men I knew dressed something like this.
It was his eyes. There was a supremely guarded cast to his gaze that spoke of long periods of incarceration, and which refused to change along with his expression no matter how hard he tried to seem relaxed and affable.
Like now, as he laughed at some half-assed joke of mine and said it was a real pleasure to meet me, and that it sure was decent of me to help them out like this. While those eyes considered me an irksome unknown quantity and sized me up for weakness. Every time I have run across a pair of eyes like that it has meant serious trouble. Creep. Sociopath.
But then we really didn't have anything for him to steal, and his girlfriend exuded a
genuine-if-muted gratititude and warmth. I showed them to the best remaining spot out here, a clearing down by the Moriarity Brother's fence; a small rounded dent in the brush;
a bay of sorts in where the sea of dry grass butted up against the landmass of the bushes. It didn't have as much cover as the rest of us enjoyed but it did sit on slightly higher ground, something to consider as we entered the month of October. I offered to help them set up their stuff, and we hit it down the trail to their truck by the Wetback's Camp. 
I suppose I could have shown them the hollow in the oaks over by the tracks where Doug and Monika had stayed. It would have put them in the far opposite corner of the jungle from us. But I didn't know if it was presently occupied or not, and some instinct told me to keep Yogi away from the Mexicans.
Suzee has to be getting back. She gives Sharyn and then me a big warm happy hug, and stumbles off down the trail on her heels.
"Where's my hug?" mutters Yogi.
Sharyn says, "She doesn't hug you because you get all turned on. Don't you think she gets enough of that?"
Yogi stares at me. I shrug and grin as if I am baffled, yet happy to have copped a feel.
On our way back to the truck for their gear Yogi is craning his neck around, surveying the field. 
"To hell with carrying all this shit by hand," he announces, and---waving away my objections---has us hop in the truck's bed. He goes tearing down the base of the railroad bed at a precarious angle, spraying up a wake of small rocks, then veers out onto the grass and accelerates madly!
"You really need to slow down here!" I hollar but he just laughs, pleased by the notion that I am afraid of his driving. Oh shit-
I tell Sharyn to hang on as we approach the hidden rift that bisects the field. About two feet deep and obviously dug by someone years ago- it's hard to spot even if you know about it. I spit out the gum I am chewing and press my back to the rear of the cab. We hit the ditch with a horrendous jarring bang and fly over! Yogi pounds on the horn---a brief
angry bark---and accelerates.
The field narrows into the shrubby cul-de-sac of their camp. At the last second he slams on the brakes and cranks the wheel hard. We slide sideways, coming to a neat stop against the wall of bushes at the back of this notch in the foliage. Dust hangs in the air.
He climbs out, "Why didn't you tell me about that fucking ditch back there?!"
"I did. I said slow down!"
His scowls intensifies. I have him there.
Maybe there had been a second or two in which I could have screamed it out more insistently---"Hey, whoah- STOP!!!"---but the way he just laughed off my first warning angered me, and I'd had this fleeting fantasy of how he would bottom out and mess up his alignment, then decide that this whole place was jinxed somehow and search out other lodgings.
It worries me that this leadfoot has brought his vehicle out here. If he makes a habit of peeling around our "front yard" like this for fun there soon won't be much left of it!
Their brand new nylon tent goes up quickly. I let them share our new latrine, six feet from the old one that we had just capped off; so they are essentially moved in within an hour. The remainder of the work consists of disguising the truck under a pile of shaggy branches.
When I sense their reluctance to do this I tell them trust me on this, this is important.
Which they plainly don't, but assist me in my camoflage job as if humoring some pointless quirk of their eccentric host. I drag them up onto the levee to show them what I'm talking about...
The finished result falls short of making their camp invisible but does help blunt the effect, keeps it from instantly screaming out at anyone passing by up on the levee. And if somebody does spot their place it will seem more haphazard and tenuous looking, more in keeping with what they expect to see down here.
"Yeah, well we're not going to be here that long," shrugs Yogi.
A red hawk hangs on a thermal overhead. Down in the creek sandpipers are skittering around. When I spy the rusty, misshapen steel pan of an old Radio Flyer wagon down there, which I had passed dozens of times on the way to Albertsons, I get an idea.
I go pry it out of the dirt and bring it back, and try to hand it to Yogi, "I represent the Welcome Wagon. Here you go!"
"Cute," he says, staring at it, apparently thinking I'd done all that for a bad pun; and that it would be best not to encourage such behavior.
"No," I explain, "it's a fire pit. For cooking in."
Still looking dubious, he takes it. "Well thanks."
###.28 = Why I Fucked Up My Typewriter...
When Ike gets home and finds that there are two more of us out here, he offers to go buy a bottle of burgundy and throw them housewarming party. Billy and Blair show up and offer to contribute their $1.23---which is entirely in pennies for some reason---toward the party fund.
Yogi tells us to keep our change and pulls out two twenties, insisting that we "do this
wing-ding up right", and sends Ike out to get hot dogs, some sodas, pretzels (Rolld Gold, not that cheap shit!), and two fifths of Jack Daniels. The Jack and 7 Up is a delicious change from the utilitarian sticky-sweet wine we're used to.
I drag some chairs over to the new camp for us to sit on. We pull them up around the improvised hibachi. Yogi pours in a half a bag of briquettes, drenches it with starter fluid and tosses in a match.
"OOOOOO-ooooooo-Ooh!!!" we all cry as the fireball mushrooms up.
Ike tells him, "You really don't have to be spending your bread on charcoal. We know where you can get all the firewood you want."
"Firewood?" snorts Yogi, "I don't want to be fucking around with old newspaper and all that crap! You see how easy that was?"
"Those things are loaded with chemicals," warns Blair as she slides another shiny beige hot dog from the package and chomps off half of it. "Benzene, all kinds of bad stuff!"
"You know Blair, speaking of chemicals..." I begin to say, but Ike shoots me a warning glance. He doesn't want her to go flailing around spitting out half-chewed pork spleens in front of our neighbors.
We cook hot dogs on lengths of coathanger, drink whiskey and sing songs we all know- Blair whapping on the Playskool tamborine she found. Yogi has a harmonica and riffs along with Ike's guitar, but everything he does sounds exactly like "Reveille". 
We teach Yogi and Sharyn our Hobo Jungle Song, which they seem to find less than entralling .......... After about two minutes of "HO – BO – JUN – GUL!! HO – BO – JUN - GUL!! HO – BO – JUN – GUL!! HO – BO – JUN – GUL!!"; when it becomes clear that this song is going and is in fact meant to go nowhere---Sharyn breaks in with forced enthusiasm, "
I know! I know- Free Bird!"
"Come on," I groan, "Do we have to live out the cliches every minute of the day? How about Voodoo Chile, or ....... Shit, nevermind."
Because by now they're all singing it, all maudlin and reverent- this anthem to ditching out on all your commitments under the guise of being an untameable, poetic soul. Blair catches my eye and mouths the words, "I like them!"
But there is one brief flareup between her and Yogi, after she casually says something about the lives of "street people like us"...
This angers him. "I'm not a 'street person'!"
"Sure you are," Blair corrects him.
Now he is even more pissed off, "You don't know the first thing about me, do you? So where the fuck do you get off telling me what I am. I might party at Heisler Park but I don't live here!"
"No, you live here."
He puts his face right up in front of hers and explodes, "What did I just tell you? Are you goddamn DEAF?!"
"Hey, back off!" Billy warns him.
"All right, all right! You're not a street person," says Blair, stunned by the intensity of Yogi's rage. And where she usually needs to get the last word in, she settles for an accusing, "Sheeeeeeeesh!" before settling into a silent, wounded sulk.
But as the conversation moves on Sharyn draws her into a little side chat, just the two of them, and the way they are hitting it off seems to cheer her back up in no time. And with her ebullience recharged and that bit of unpleasantry forgotten, she rejoins our discussion of the important topics of the day.
Like which characters had been fucking which on Gilligan's Island...
This has been a real, "Take a big old drink!" and "You call that a drink?!" kind of party,
and I am the first one to call it a night.
Returning to our camp I do a quick inventory of our stuff in terms of what might be desireable to them, or could be sold for some quick cash. I count:
Typewriter. Radio. Samaurai Sword. Guitar.
My Underwood is an old model but was in excellent shape and might bring in five bucks somewhere. I grab our two cans of spray paint and scribble red and brown whorls all across its steel flanks and top. Take the peen hammer and dent the hood in here and there; enough to make it ugly but not enough to impede the keys as they leap up to punch the ribbon.
"Good night, Roggie," Blair calls out sleepily as they pass through our camp. I guess Mr. Daniels has claimed two more casualties...
I grab the electrical tape and go to Ike's radio, taping it up along one side as if it had been dropped and is all busted up under there-
"What the hell are you doing?" cries Ike as he comes through the door.
"Just some protective coloration," I say with a nod toward the new camp. "Trying to make everything we own that's worth anything unpawnable ......... If I was you I'd take that sword off the wall and hide it under the bed for the next couple of weeks!"
He asks sarcastically, "You think they're gonna rip us off just because they're bikers?"
"Don't give me that crap. I never said anything like that about Sharky or Dan or Red or any of them, did I?"
"You didn't like Red much."
"I still don't. He's an asshole. But that's just a matter of personalities. This is different."
"Then why the fuck did you let them stay here?"
I toss my hands up, "Beats the hell out of me! The truth is I hadn't even seen them when I agreed to this. Suzee asked me if these friends of hers could stay here so I said-"
"Suzee the goddamn whore? She's the one you have to look out for!"
"Sure, everybody knows that. Suzee is Suzee, you don't put temptation in front of her. But this shifty-eyed joker here ....... All I'm saying is you'd just better keep an eye on your stuff!"
"You could've just told me that. You didn't have to wreck my radio!"
"I didn't hurt it, it only looks like it's busted. Pull that tape off of there and it'll be good as new! But then don't come crying to me when it turns up missing."
"I think you're just getting paranoid. They seem okay to me..."
And well he might, if you're just going on the available evidence. Aside from Yogi's blowing up at Blair (and who the hell hasn't?), all I really had was a hunch. Our new neighbors held their liquor well, and didn't do anything awful. They didn't string us up from the rafters and stick us full of meat skewers. Didn't cry, barf, have visions or try to light farts on fire; and in general seemed like far saner and less theatrical drunks than the four of us tended to be.
But it wouldn't take long at all for my hunch to be proven to be entirely justified...
###29. = CHINK MEAT
Early the next morning we see an inky column of smoke billowing high above the reeds. We hear a whoop of triumph, then, "Hey you guys. Come see what I got!"
We shrug. Trip over there. 
Yogi has a charcoal fire started, and an enormous blue ceramic platter with a frost-covered chunk of dark beef about the size of my head on it. A slender disk of frozen blood like an 45 rpm record juts up from one side. 
"Check out what I liberated from the villagers," smiles Yogi wolfishly.
Ike comes to a stunned halt, "Where did you get that?"
"It was just sitting there! Behind some-"
"On the step behind the Chinese restaurant in Capo Beach Plaza? In like a little tent made out of screening?"
Yogi nods, grinning hugely: AIN'T I SOMETHING?
"They put that out there to thaw out. Put it back!" demands Ike.
"The FUCK I will! They were dumb enough to leave it outside. I'm cooking it!"
I tell him, "Not for about four or five hours, you aren't! You've got to let it thaw."
"It'll thaw out while it's cooking."
Ike gazes at him doubtfully. Says, "You know, these people are our neighbors. They're actually pretty decent toward us, compared to a lot of places I've tried to live. And-"
"Okay! I won't do it again, alright? I didn't know you were so tight with the House of Fing Fong Fooey! But fuck, just look at this thing! It's like a whole roast or something! You guys can live on old burgers from behind Jack in the Crack if you want to, but me and Sharyn are gonna have us a feed."
We had given them our old oven rack to cook on. Yogi plops the roast---hard and shiny as a rock---down on this over the still-flaming pile of charcoal in their wagon.
"I don't know, Ike," I say under my breath as we head back to our camp.
"He's new here. He'll learn."
"I sure hope so..."
They must have never made him a cook back in prison or wherever, because he basically torches the beef to a useless cinder. An hour later, after our morning dumpster runs, we hear him screaming- "Lousy stupid Chink piece of meat! Goddamn fucking fuck- it's RUINED!!"
On the outcome of a coin toss I get to hit Von's this morning while Ike has to negotiate the creek, take the longer trip to Albertson's. I get to the Von's dumpsters to discover that The Gweek has beaten me to them. This is getting old...
An extremely obese old man with fat drooping lips and an archipelago of rumpled moles angling across his bald head, the Gweek has been pulling up here and taking everything except for fruits and vegetables. Today he has about a dozen loaves of white bread, some cold cut variety packs, a stack of t.v. dinners and God-knows-what-else piled into boxes that he must have brought from home.
Seeing me, he grins spitefully and starts hurrying like he's making off with gold ingots! The '81 Cadillac's deformed-looking trunk is brimming as he slams it shut and waddles briskly around to get in.
I call out amiably, "Boy, you must be feeding an army!"
"What are you? Writin' a book about it?" he sneers as he clambers in.
Slams the door. Hits the locks. He flips me a sarcastic peace sign---his mouth a jolly mocking triangle---and lurches off down the alley.
I trudge down the trail with my sorry cluster of bruised bananas, becoming more and more enraged at the disgusting old toad! At the ungrammatical insult he had bleated in that loathesome whine of his. At the corruption I had perceived in his squinty little eyes.
I am even pissed off at his grotesque travesty a Cadillac- one of these new ones with the stupid hunched-up trunk, painted a nauseating doll's flesh orange. To think that he had selected this model, this color. Had paid top dollar for them. The slimy old fuck actually thinks these are classy! I arrive home in a state of blind rage...
To find Yogi tiptoeing stealthily across our camp with an aluminum baseball bat, heading for Billy and Blair's place.
"What the hell's going on?" I whisper.
"I'm gonna find that asshole who keeps screaming his head off!"
"You mean nobody told you?"
Surely one of us must have said something about John Henry. A word of warning or even just a joke about our resident messiah...
But maybe not. Come to think of it our neighbor had been unusually quiet yesterday. I tell him, "Don't worry, that's just John Henry."
"Who? All I know is this shit has been going on since four o'clock this morning, and it's freaking Sharyn out!"
He listens in astonishment as I explain the situation. 
"And you mean to say you put up with this bullcrap? I would've straightened his shit out a long time ago! He'd of been on the next bus back to Psychoville the first time he started that yelling!"
"I don't think he could even negotiate buying a bus ticket. He's mentally impaired."
"I could give a fuck!" he roars, and points with his bat, "I got my Ol' Lady over there! I don't need some froot loop creeping around here at night with a fucking meat cleaver!"
"He's harmless. And anyway, he never comes down this way. He just goes from his own tiny spot to the stores and then back again."
"He better not! That loony cocksucker tries anything with me and-" he whirls around.
Sharyn has crept into the camp brandishing a big pry bar. She smiles with relief, "Oh, there you are! You were gone a lot longer than I thought you'd be, and I started to get worried. Did you go check it out?"
"Naw. Roggie says it's just some nutso, lays out there and yells at clouds and shit!" He snorts incredulously, "Part of the local color. I'll be glad when we can get the hell out of here and go back to Laguna!"
As they leave Sharyn says softly, "I think it's nice here. So quiet! Even with this yelling guy it's quieter. Not like that damn racetrack we were living on, with P.C.H. five steps from our front door! And it's pretty, all these trees and things..."
"Oh yeah, real pretty. You're not the one with spider bites all over your ass!"
"Well they like you! They just wanna-"
Mumble, murmer, fade. They stroll off, arms around each other, their clubs dangling forgotten at their sides. Paleolithic love...
Ike gets home from Albertson's, empty handed and cursing The Gweek.
"I tell you, there's something abnormal about that old geezer! He's out there seven days a week, cleaning out every dumpster for miles! What does he need all that food for?"
"You ask me that every day. I didn't know yesterday and I still don't know."
"Probably to feed all the Avon Ladies he's got locked up in his bomb shelter, trying to build a three-headed-tit-monster!" he declares, and then recoils- "Oh god that's SICK!"
I shrug, "Well you are talking about the King of the Weirdos here. So if you want to know how he thinks, why he does what he does, you have to go to the outer limits."
"No thanks, you can go there. Do you know what that bastard said to me?"
I blurt out excitedly, "Oh, hey! Speaking of weirdos, I caught Yogi and Sharyn sneaking over to investigate John Henry. They were prepared to mess him up royally. Didn't we tell them about him?"
"Sure we did, when-" his expression clouds, "Maybe not. So what did you say to them?"
"I lied my ass of for him. Said he was harmless and he never comes over this way."
"That's good. I wouldn't mind seeing him get the snot kicked out of him, let him get a taste of his own medicine. But not just for yelling in his own camp!"
In truth we had caught him spying on us several times, peering through the bushes like Boo Radley, but it usually had been preceeded by us shouting drunkenly, hammering on our solar shower, or doing something else that might be mistaken for those DEMONS! DEMONS! DEMONS! clawing their way up through the ground...
It's about four days later. I have volunteered my moon chair for the proceedure and they're doing it here.
Blair reclines in it with her hair hanging down in back, clutching the armrests tightly, like someone about to undergo backyard surgery. She swears a few times as Sharyn starts yanking the comb through it, but then begins to relax. 
Sharyn picks up the first bucket of water, "You sure you don't mind if your chair gets wet, Roggie?"
"It's an outdoor chair. Splash away!"
She douses Blair's head repeatedly, I suspect trying to give her something of a bath as well. The water---hitting Blair's skin---sends rivulets of silty mud running down her neck and arms.
By itself, Sharyn's coaxing and reassurance might not have moved Blair to such a radical action. What had done the trick was a jar of shampoo from a beauty supply outlet that had things like ALL NATURAL! NO HARSH CHEMICALS! running this way and that all over it in big letters meant to resemble stencilling...
Cutting her hair is a far harder sell, until Sharyn hits upon a flaky enough rationale for it ("These split ends are letting all your ch'i energy out, which is why you get so tired..."), and Blair submits to a token trim.
It's the warmest part of a warm, summerlike day, the perfect time to do all this. Ike, Yogi and Billy are down at the river, plinking at cans with a pellet rifle they had bought off of some kids. I write, half listening to the relaxed and pleasant tones of the girls talking...
The other night at the housewarming party, when Blair mentioned her miscarraige, Sharyn had confided that she had lost a baby too, at five months. It forged a bond between them, with Sharyn (although younger and only half Blair's size) assuming the role of the slightly patronizing big sister, and Blair actually looking up to her in certain ways.
Bossy toward Billy, and mostly sticking to glib superficial yackity-yack with me and Ike these days---there was a real reciprocity at work between her and Sharyn; a lowering of her defenses which revealled this far softer side that I had never really seen in her.
But then, considering the preponderance of males among the the homeless, and the fact that normal female citizens size her up at first glance as something repellant and possibly dangerous ............. I guess Blair hasn't had a lot of opportunities to make friends with other women.
The fact that Sharyn wasn't put off by the sight or stink of my neighbor but waded in with outstretched arms has reinforced my cautious approval of her. A reaction that is 180 degrees from what it would have been only a month ago- when to tolerate Blair at all was a sign of your having grave defects in judgement and character...
Although she sits peacefully through the wash and trim, Sharyn's attempt to put some makeup on her proves to be too much! Blair snaps out of her sleepy reverie as the evil mascara gooper descended toward her eyes, knocking Sharyn's arm away and bolting to the bucket full of water to scrub furiously at her face while sputtering about makeup and Stanford University and lab monkeys and Parkinsonism!
After she has calmed down and is admiring her new haircut in Sharyn's compact, Blair confesses to her, "You know, when I first met you, you looked really mean to me. Like you were, I don't know- hard. A 'hard ass'..."
"That's because I don't like to smile a lot when I first meet people, with this fucking missing tooth."
"Tooth? Let's see ............ Oh yeah! And right in front. But that's nothing," Blair shrugs and bares her fangs, "Lookit mine!"
Sharyn can't help but recoil. But while Blair's screwed-up teeth are barely noticable amid all her other weather-beaten features, the gap in Sharyn's white incisors jumps out from her sultry beauty as if some clown had been doodling over a Cover Girl ad in a magazine.
"Don't worry about it," puffs Blair, "It just shows you're a human being and not some stupid plastic Barbie doll..."
When Yogi and his crew come home Sharyn trims Ike's beard into a dapper sinister Van Dyke, like a Klingon from the old Star Trek series. Then she wants to get me into the chair. I say perhaps a bit later.
"Don't let her near you with those scizzors later." laughs Yogi, pulling a twenty from his wallet-on-a-chain, "Later she's gonna be shitfaced!"
Then he sends me and Ike off again to get liquor and beer and snacks. And while I realize it's a standard practice that whoever's paying for the party doesn't have to make the store run, something in the way Yogi does this made me feel like we're the Big Shot's errand boys. The lists of specific items---with their acceptable substitutes listed in a rigid descending order---that he alone dictates. The bowls of dip and plastic plates of cocktail weenies sitting around our jungle camp lend these parties a subtly surreal tone, like this is some cargo cult's reinactment of those parties that straight-laced suburbanites throw about twice a year, discussing lawn care while quaffing highballs with hinky names that went out of fashion twenty years ago...
But it really wasn't the way Yogi partied that I found so troubling. It was those activities that I suspected he was engaged in beyond the borders of our 4½ acre estate... 
The ones that would end up getting us so brutally shafted.
We have been trying to build this shower since September.
The first one had collapsed spectacularly the first time we filled it with water, and this one---though it looks like a proper solar shower---does not heat worth a damn. It's what's known as a "passive solar-heating system", but methinks it is just a bit too passive. If it's sufficiently warm out to heat the water, it's warm enough that you don't need it heated.
So now we are hanging mirrors and chunks of mirrors around the rim of the derrick, a ring of them cupped around the big inner tube like the petals of some homely junk-art flower. Hopefully this will double the amount of solar radiation it gets .......... A while ago whenever we climbed into the moving company's big dumpster we had considered mirrors to be nothing but a hazard. Now they're our main reason for going down there.
As we wrestle the door from an old bathroom cabinet into place and try to secure it, I am treating Ike to yet another of my anti-Yogi spiels: "All I'm saying is they've never made it clear what they're doing here!"
"Why are any of us here? They needed a place to stay..."
"But why out here? You might have noticed how they're not the most outdoorsy type people, and as much as they've been spending on booze and munchies for us all they could have gotten themselves a nice room for a week; which you would think would be Mr. I'm-Not-A-Street-Person's top priority. It seems to me more like they're hiding from someone ......... Use that heaviest wire there, this thing weighs a ton."
Wires trail down from the tall central post. Ike wobbles precariously on the chair he's standing on as he twists the fattest one around the steel door's latch. He smiles mysteriously, "Maybe they are hiding..."
"Okay, so you know something. What?"
His voice drops to a whisper, "Okay I wasn't supposed to say anything, but you know those three banks that got robbed in one day last week?"
"You mean the Window Washer Bandit?" I laugh."Yogi told you that?"
Ike braids the wire to itself with his fingers, "He didn't actually come right out and say it, but he sort of did-"
"Oh bullshit!"
[The guy had entered each bank with a paper sack over his hand and what he claimed was a .45 in his fist. When it was found in the parking lot of the third bank the bag turned out to contain a metal squeegee, its blade folded into a crude approximation of a gun barrel...]
We climb down from the shower and take a few cautious steps away from the suspended mirror. Ike spaces off a rectangle between his hands, "And he showed me the bags. You know those canvas bags with the strings they put stacks of bills in?"
"Banks toss those out all the time! I've got a shirt from a set of hospital scrubs, that doesn't make me a surgeon. What a load of shit this guy has sold you!"
"Well somebody held up those banks," says Ike defensively.
"Sure. And that somebody is in Vegas right now, snorting coke off a showgirl's belly, not squatting out here in the bushes with us!" I scoff; when it suddenly dawns on me that our discussion has become rather loud.
I point, "Why don't we take a walk?"
As we're clambering up the slope of the creek bank he mutters hopefully, "But they could be, you know. Laying low out here..."
"It's more likely he burned somebody on a dope deal, or ripped off their pad in a way that it was obvious who had done it, so he's pulled a short-term geographic. Didn't you notice the way he was probing us for information: who we knew from Laguna and if they ever came down to visit?"
"Well fuck! He just wanted to know if we knew any of the same people. It's called con-ver-sation, Roger. Some people actually have conversations. They don't just go off on some two hour lecture about some funky melted-looking telescope in Germany, or some other weird crap that nobody cares about but you!"
Ike is walking fast. I lean forward, almost trotting to match his pace. "Telescope in Germany? Oh, that observatory. The Einstein Tower ......... It was more like a two minute lecture, and when I showed it to you in that library book you loved it. You said it was the neatest building you'dever seen. You wanted to go live in it! And where did this attack on me and my interests come from? What does it have to do with anything?!"
"What it has to do with is how you're always tripping on stuff. You've been going on about him being some kind of rip-off since they got here!"
"You just said he was a bank robber!"
"But not a goddamn RIP-OFF!" he shouts, and enumerates the differences as if to a simpleton, "A rip-off has no courage, no pride, and doesn't give a damn who he steals from. And that's a long way from taking a chunk of meat from behind some restaurant! Plenty of your old Doheny pals used to always boost bottles from Party Time Liquor, but you never got so almighty righteous about that! You were always right there to help them drink it."
"As I recall we both were."
"But I'm not the one who's bagging on Yogi all the time!"
"I guess that is a bit inconsistant of me," I admit.
"It's like you have this need to always be getting weird about somebody ........ First it was John Henry, and how dangerous he is. Then, after he almost takes my head off, you decide he's okay- No, not just okay; but like he's actually saying something with that crazy shit! Some heavy duty meaning-of-life motherfucker sitting up on his mountain!
"So then you start in on Blair. For five months you carried on about what a disgusting bitch she is. She could not even breathe without it proving she was the world's biggest dipshit. You would not shut up about it. And so now she's all right, and all I'm hearing is 'Yogi, Yogi, Yogi!' In spite of the fact that he's been a real brother to us. Sometimes I just think you're jealous because he has .......... Aw, fuck it! Lets go hang that last mirror and see if it does any good."
We are on the gravel road overlooking the nursery. A young Mexican watering a bunch of little junipers in five gallon pots waves at us. I wave back perfunctorily, pondering just what it is that Yogi has that Ike decided was too cutting or too truthful to utter...
A truck? A girlfriend? Balls?
"All right, I'll try to cool it about Yogi," I promise as we start back. "You managed to stay fairly restrained when I was hanging out with Doug and Monika, who I know you did not dig at all. But damn it, at least they had sense enough to keep a low profile. While these two ................ Like that truck of theirs. You can see it from up here, and you know that's not cool!"
"I checked it out. I couldn't see it."
"Not at first. But now it's really obvious."
"Nnnnnn-" he grunts with concern, "Show me."
As we go past the dent in the top of the foilage that we know is our camp we can hear the rhythmic cracking sound of somebody chopping wood. I point out the truck. There is a whole lot more of it showing through the pile of branches now than is covered. Like it was camoflaged by blind people.
"I see what you mean," says Ike. "Let's go say hi, and tell them about it."
We shamble down the embankment. There is Yogi, shirtless and weilding a stubby little hatchet, his back to us. 
I whisper to Ike, "Hey, what's he chopping wood for?"
"Why do you think? Last night he asked me to show him the lumberyard, so I did."
"But he hates using wood. It's beneath his dignity as a modern convenience-oriented
kind of guy! Could it be that the great bank robber is out of money for charcoal?"
"Goddamn it; You just said you weren't gonna do this!" he hisses, then calls out, "Hey hey there, it's Yogi Bear!"
Then we get a clear view of what he's been chopping up. There is enough wood here to build a dining room set for eight. And it sure looks like one of their costliest lumbers, as if Yogi had priced it all, figuring that the most expensive would burn the best.
He blurts out preemptively, "I know, I know! But the damn junk-wood bins were empty!"
"That happens," I nod calmly, "But there's always all those redwood spacer slats laying around. They may not look like much but there's tons of them everywhere, and they burn great!"
"It was pitch black out there. And once those fucking dogs realized Ike wasn't with me on that trip, they went berzerk!" he squints defiantly at me, his face a ruddy mass of horizontal lines. "Look, I know you don't like me, Rah-Gee! But we'll be gone from here in a couple of  weeks, finally living in a real apartment again. So don't have a spazz attack!"
I pretend not to notice his pronouncing Blair's quasi-nickname for me like there was something grotesque about it, or his attempt to assert their superiority with this talk of a REAL APARTMENT. I say cheerfully, "And that'll be great for you, Yogi. To have a place that you can go home to, kick off your shoes, crank up the thermostat, put on some music, grab a cold one from the fridge ........... I mean that really does sound nice!
"But for those of us who are trying to stay out here as long as we can; most of us---being burdened by some type of uh, social idiosyncracy or other---we might not ever have that option. This might just be the best home as any of us ever gets. We can't give them any excuse to run us out of here," I grimace, tapping the pile of finishing planks with the toe of my boot.
"The Law rousts you because they can. They don't need any excuse."
"Around here they seem to need one. So far anyway ........ This here isn't like what you had in Laguna. There's a certain anonymity in living where there's so many other street folks, which is something we completely lack down here. People in this town know who we are, and they know where we are, to within about fifty feet. So if things start turning up missing..."
"I don't think your good friends there, who are so nice to let you dig through their trash, are gonna miss a few boards," he sneers. "Besides, they don't even got a fence! It could of been anybody!"
Contempt. For my acceptance of the debasement of scavanging ........ What I see as living off the surpluses of a foolishly wasteful society---something to take pride in---Yogi sees a shameful cowering marginality. He would rather steal from them than risk being demeaned by a generosity that has something offhand about it. It's like one way or another he's going to matter to them. And if the chumps were dumb enough to not even have a fence around the place...
I don't think there is any possibility of communication here. I gesture to Ike and we start to leave. Ike says, "You know, you can always borrow wood from us if you can't find any in the bins. Stop by later. We'll probably have some beers or something."
"Will do," grins Yogi, making a chummy pistol-cocking gesture at him. But not at me...
Later we're coming home from another futile trip to the back of the Albertson's across the creek. The Gweep had beat us again. We are nowhere near starving, but I can see a place down the road where this could start to get serious.
And this would have to happen at a time when one of the six markets that we can get to without resorting to buses has replaced their open topped bins with a truck-sized trash compactor that is fed from inside through a big square duct. And another store---which was even closer---had cordoned off the entire back area with a tall chain-link fence that they only open to let the delivery trucks in. An ominous trend...
Ike seems like he is lost in some rumination as glum as my own. He is silent until we descend the cement bank and start to pull off our shoes, then says, "He does have a point, though."
"Who? The Gwerp?"
"No, Yogi. They're not going to count every single board every day..."
"Wait a minute! Aren't you the same young gallant who was telling Ray Verdugo how we would hog tie and drag to justice anyone who laid a hand on their inventory?"
"Yeah I did, but-" he suddenly grows concerned, "You're not saying we should tell them, are you?"
"HELL NO!!" I cry.
For in spite of the fact that I was fond of the lumberyard crew and despised Yogi, he was technically one of us. And---as messed up as this might sound---"we" did not go to "them" and their law enforcement machinery to resolve our differences. And not just because of the threat of physical retribution or at least being ostracized as a fucking snitch...
But because once you open that particular can of worms it might be you who gets ratted on, next time, if someone should take exception to the ethics of something you're doing. And everybody on the street has a different place where they draw the line.
One evening back in July I was reading a detective paperback in the ample florescent light of the laundromat when a resourceful old codger---who claimed he had worn the tires off of over fifty shopping carts in his travels---showed me a neat trick. It was something that he'd had to wait until the adjoining dry-cleaner's shop was closed to do.
The washers here were the top-loading kind, with a large agitator held in place by a cheap brass knob. This knob unscrewed, and after a few hard side-to-side tugs the fat nylon propellor popped right out. And there at the bottom of each of those thirty-six washing machines---like the manganese nodules that litter the ocean floor---was an astonishing tapestry of dimes and pennies and nickels and quarters! Many now in strange oxidized hues, but nearly all of them quite spendable.
I couldn't very well go rushing ahead of him opening machines and scooping up money, but he did buy us a bottle with a portion of his proceeds. And then he trundled off toward San Diego, pushing his cart full of crap, leaving me with the deed to this motherlode.
Five of the washers had knobs that I hadn't been able to undo by hand, but with a sock and our channel locks I was able to get these ones off as well. My first few hauls---spaced a couple weeks apart---were phenomonal, but since I've been farming the steel basins more regularly I am lucky to net more than a buck each time.
This morning I am here in the two hours between when the laundromat opens and the dry cleaners does. I have hit all the ones on the narrow room's left side, and am coming back up the right side, when I see a stout woman in a drab beige sack of a dress that is so ugly it has to be expensive, blocking my progress up the row.
Her arms are crossed. She asks imperiously, "Do you mind?"
The stance, the short haircut, her haughty Massachussetts Blueblood accent are all calculated to make me go scuttling off like some timorous little field mouse that had gotten in here by mistake. 
I straighten up and look her in the eyes, "I don't know if I mind or not. Would you please be a little more specific?"
"Do you mind not molesting the machines?"
Oh Jesus H. Fucking Christ! A concerned citizen, asserting her right to do her wash without having to witness the unsavory rummagings of some "transient" .......... I've probably lived on this chunk of coastline longer than she has, so who's the transient here? These rich snobs come into an area that has a well-established asthetic and way of life, and immediately start throwing their weight around. God damn her priviledged hide! 
I mimic her tone exactly, "And by what authority are you telling me not to do this?"
She growls throatily, "I happen to own them."
"Oh really?"  
She had looked and acted so unlike your typical unpretentious rags-in-the-back-pocket laundromat owner that I hadn't even considered this. I chuckle as I stroll toward the laundromat's side door, "Own them. Well that's---heh! heh!---certainly good enough for me..."
She just stares, her head tilted officiously.
"Own them, that's ......... wow. Well blow me down. And here I thought you were just another overbearing plutocrat asshole. I, er ............... gottago-"
Zzzzzzip, and I'm out in the alley alongside the complex, the grey light of this overcast day.
I had demanded that she justify the effrontery of telling ME what to do, and so she had. Owns them. Too hilarious. It sure beat the hand I was holding. I guffaw like an idiot all the way home. But somehow I don't think she found our encounter as amusing as I did...
It has been drizzling since dusk. I'm in my studio with the side flaps rolled halfway up, candles burning toward the back of this big box that I've cut into a cubicle and lined with aluminum foil to help direct the light. Water sloughs lazily down the ridged fiberglass panels over my head.
I've blundered into a quagmire here at the end of the trilogy. I can see several ways
to go- but each of them appears to lead deeper into the shit-swamp of inconsistancy,
the story's internal logic all draining out through the huge holes in the plot. I can see now that the time-travel-paradox angle I thought was so clever was a collosal blunder. I have been drawing doodles in the margins for the past hour...
Ike and Yogi are "out driving" in the truck, have got it all stocked up with beer and smokes and 8-track tapes, and are tooling along with the motor off, the music blaring, and a panoramic view of the branches piled across the windshield.
I am amazed at this sudden metamorphosis my friend has undergone. How quickly he has come to think and talk and swagger like Yogi.
Usually I am nothing but glad for Ike when he finds someone that he likes to hang out with. Someone who is a bit more interested in typical guy-stuff than this wimpy egghead he's got for a best friend, whose idea of a rowdy good time is to sneak a bottle of brandy into the Newport Beach Art Museum and spend a day sampling their collection of strange and often deliberately tedious video films, and who invariably weasels out of anything involving the slightest bit of risk. And I'll admit that my distaste for competition and my aversion to feats of daring ("Now explain again why are we doing this?") often borders on pathological...
So I don't begrudge Ike his comradeship with this macho dude. It's a side of him that clearly needs to express itself. But why does their sense of adventure always have to be coupled with this fascination for all things predatory and criminal?
Ike is so fucking malleable! He tends to be about as honest as whoever he is with, and Yogi is manipulating this trait; knowing he will do just about anything if it's couched in the framework of some game. So he puts these suggestions that they go rob people in terms of pirates, famous American outlaws or renegade soldiers marauding in some bomb-ravaged theater of operations.
Like this pellet rifle business. I've played with the thing myself, plinking at cans, and I didn't really think twice about their story of how some kids had sold it to them.
Until Billy caught me alone one day and told me that it hadn't been so much purchased as strong-armed off of the two boys. He had been there with them when they did this, and said that although Yogi had given the kids ten dollars for it, he'd used his spooky grin and some oblique threats to force a transaction that they didn't really want to make. And what had surprised him was how Ike was going right along with this, the silent lieutenant, staring them down with a cold merciless glare.
It was a disturbing bit of news, but what was most disturbing about it was that I didn't doubt it for a second. It made a horrible kind of sense, Ike at last having found someone he was badder than; and that by attaching himself to Yogi he could indulge in this sort of posturing in relative safety.
Things progressed rapidly after this, although thankfully it's all been a lot of talk so far, and fairly stupid talk at that. Like now they're pretending to be the founders of this vast, diversified crime syndicate that Yogi has named THE CORPORATION. They bought a couple of dirigible-sized cigars and a gas station map of the area, and began plotting their grand strategy at my plywood desk.
I just hope it stays in the realm of fantasy. Because if they do run into any big time dope smugglers, racketeers, whatever the hell it is they think they're going to be doing ........... it'll be like kids with squirt guns going up against the Soviet Third Army.
###.35   = HAND JOB
The next morning Ike gets home, a huge plastic sack over his back like Santa Claus, howling, "I did it! I beat the Gwork there by ten minutes!"
"We'll I'm glad one of us did," I say. My own trip had been a bust.
Ike drops the sack onto my desk, fumbles with the knot in the bag, then just tears it open. We start putting stuff away. Crackers, packets of roast beef, macaroons (!), soups from some small company up in Oregon that seem like they'd be a whole lot better than Campbells.
"Oh man, you shoulda seen it!" he grins, "He couldn't just turn his car around and leave like somebody halfway normal. He was yelling and gunning the engine like he was going to ram the dumpster! And then when I start to climb out to go ask him what the hell his problem was, he gets all scared and rolls up his windows. Fuckin' Gwork!" he laughs.
I guess we're calling him the Gwork today. We change it a little each time we discuss him, as if he doesn't deserve to have a single consistant name. Because he really is an aberration...
Tramps, winos, jobless people with families to feed- nearly everybody who hits these things shares a creed of "Leave a little something for the next poor slob..." I'm sure that some of them are doing this more from necessity---having no way to lug it all home, or no home to lug it to----than out of brotherly love or some sense of class solidarity ........ But even that one Mexican family, with their stake bed truck, coveralls, and whole choreographed routine (who are feeding pigs and chickens as well as themselves) will usually forgo some of what's in there, leaving it lined it up on the flanges that run along the dumpster's sides for you. Maybe not the choicest items from what they're finding in there, but some token of sharing. It gladdens my heart to know that the poor aren't garotting each other over mystery cans just yet...
I shake my head, "I always seem to get there just as he's splitting. But some of it, I don't know what possible use he'd have for it! I warned him, 'Mister, those pork chops are green! No amount of cooking is gonna bring those back!' He gives me this look---like 'How DARE you even speak to me!"---and goes, 'Ask me if I care!'"
"Well I sure got him back for you. I kept showing him whatever I found before I put it in the sack. It was driving him insane! I took it all, like he would have, just to piss him off. And I got some great shit too."
"I can see that," I say, hefting a can, "Lobster Bisque? I don't know what it is but it sounds good."
"And then as I was leaving, I dropped some shrivelled radishes on the hood of his car. He started screaming like he was gonna call the cops. What a freak! Well whatever it is he does with it he'll be doing a lot less of it today."
"Actually I think I've finally figured it out. After seeing that meat he was taking at Von's, I'm wondering if he doesn't just chuck it all out somewhere else. He's some kind of vigilante, trying to starve out all them dirty vagrants. It gives him a sense of purpose, something to do in his retirement..."
"Shit, that would explain it. Like he doesn't really know what it is we eat so he just grabs it all. What an asshole!"
"Or maybe he really will scarf down those pork chops, and our problems will be solved."
Yogi and Ike have been absent from our tribal get togethers more nights than not recently. I hate to admit it but it's kind of nice hanging with just Billy, Blair and Sharyn. To not have the evening's conversations dominated by all their bluster, their improbable scheming. But why on Earth would Yogi want to drop a neat gal like Sharyn off with us, or to leave her at home reading those dumb Flowers In the Attic paperbacks, so he can go sit down by the tracks with Ike and spin scenarios for holding up the commuter trains? I don't know, it's weird.
But tonight the whole gang was here, and Sharyn did the palm readings that she'd promised us a while back. I didn't believe or totally disbelieve her claims to psychic abilities, but I believed that she believed in them. The way she had built it up, about the conversation she'd had with some elderly friend of the family in her room as a kid, and told her folks about it, who got a phone call an hour later saying the woman was dead...
So I was hoping for something a bit more eerie and inexplicable than the readings she gave; a transparent melange of generalities and fantasy like any two bit carny psychic could dish out...
Like how Ike will soon become a superstar rock and roll guitarist, and marry some foxy long-legged British entertainment columnist that he's going to meet on his first world tour. I thought Madam Sharyn was trowelling it on way too thick, but Ike was grinning from ear to ear. Although I don't see how this is going to take place without his actually auditioning, submitting demos, or joining a band.
And how Billy and Blair would succeed in bringing forth a child---No, two ......... wait make that three kids!---with Billy earning a good living doing "something with his hands" such as crafting jewelry...
In Blair's case there were just so many titanic forces, such power conveyed within her lines that the reading was tough to make ("Oh, that's just where I cut my hand on some barb wire..." ~~~ "Yes, but nothing happens by accident. And these marks from your past speak clearly of your future!"), but Sharyn saw many people seeking her counsel, in some idyllic communal setting "up north someplace"...
After hearing the sort of stuff she was slinging I declined a reading. She would have me being awarded simultaneous Nobel Prizes for Literature, Economics, Peace and Steer Roping. Some bullshit like that.
Or then again, maybe Sharyn did foresee all their futures and was sparing them the truth.
I mean how do you tell your friend that you see them living out their days as a stumbling pariah, until they are swept into the blades of a Soylent Corporation "protein harvester"
in some bleak futuristic alleyway.
Ike has gone off with Yogi to "see some people" up in Dana Point, the way he said it hinting at some dark criminal business. It was a beautiful day, and had I told myself that I would go for a walk up to the mission. But I've been hunched over the typewriter since before noon, only stopping to light my candles when it got too dark to see.
All at once I notice that my entire back is one vast ache- from my kidneys up to my collarbones! How long have I been ignoring this state? And what time is it? I guess I should have bought that watch off of Johnny D. at the bloodbank for a buck. I clamber stiffly out of my chair and stretch, hearing a cacophony of greasy pops coming from various points inside me. Twenty-seven years old.
It is dead quiet over at Billy and Blair's place. They've been turning in early these days and it's too late to go visit them.
I wander out into the moonlit field. It's one of the first truly chilly nights around here, there's a mist in the air not quite dense enough to call fog.
A radio over at Yogi's place is faintly thumping out 'My Sharona'. So they're back then.
Boy, Yogi's place sure is visible at night, once you're on this side of the tracks. The truck, the tent, Yogi and Ike silloetted behind a low bank of orange flames. On an impulse I decide to see how close I can get before they notice me, then jump out yelling "BOOGA! BOOGA! BOOGA!"
Ike's voice carries sharply over the music. "I know they are pretty sad, so I see how you can say that about Billy and Blair, but not him! He's always working on that book of his."
"That's not work," exclaims Yogi, "that's fucking around! If you ask me he's the biggest one of the whole bunch. I mean the first thing out of his mouth when you meet him is what a low-down drunk he is, and how happy he is to be in the freakin' gutter!"
Me. They're talking about me. I feel a feverish sense of unrealness sweeping through me.
"But he just says that. But you should see Roger busting his ass when we work for this guy we know over in town, who makes surfboards and stuff."
Yogi jabs the air with his Marlboro, "Well he sure says it a lot! And what gets me is when he says it about you too!"
"When did he do this?"
"When doesn't he? Like when I snagged those boards, and he started whimpering like a bitch about how we can't bring the heat down on this place because you're all such flakes and losers that you're never gonna do any better than this stinking weed patch!"
"He has a point about the cops, though."
I have halted my progress toward them and taken cover behind a bush. This had not been eavesdropping when I started, but it's too late now to just clear my throat and go strolling up with a casual howdy-do. 
My face is burning, and I have this horrible sense of déjà vu! Or maybe déjà vu isn't the word; It isn't so much that I have experienced this before but that I can feel in some physical way that this was destined somehow. Here is the grim fruition of every paranoid fantasy I'd ever had about what people are really saying about me when I'm not around!
"But hell Ike, you don't need to be living out here like this. Fuck this place! Get yourself a little pad. That guy Earl that we watched the game with works construction, I'm pretty sure he could get you a job. I mean what the fuck? What are you gonna do when you meet some chick? You gonna bring her out here to meet these people?"
"Yeah, but I never did so good with jobs and finances and shit," laments Ike. "I always wind up pissing away the rent money somehow. Longest job I ever had was seven months, back in '75. I remember I got that tax refund. How neat that was..."
"So you fuck up on the rent- that happens sometimes. You stall them 'til you get your next paycheck, then skip out and go get a room across town. Or go stay with friends for a while. But you don't just give up and go be a bum! I think you been listening to your buddy so long he's got you brainwashed."
"Nobody tells me what to think," declares Ike indignantly.
"Sure does try though," Yogi snickers, then assumes the nerdish twang of what must be his Roggie-voice, "Gee, we can't do nothin' ........... We're just a buncha dair-a-licts! We're gonna go dig through some garbage now! Hey, you wanna hear our song? Ohhhhh, Uh-Hobo-Mobo-Jojo-Dodo! Jojo-Roro-Mofo-Yoyo-"
"Cool it, Yogi!"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to disrespect your national anthem! I know how much that song means to you all out here. Those lyrics are just so heavy!"
"You just have to understand Roger's sense of humor, is all. He's really big on like the Marx Brothers, Ernie Kofax, Monty Python..."
"Monty Python doesn't live in the bushes, does he? It's one thing to tell jokes, but it's but it's a whole 'nother thing to be a joke! I mean what's with that goofy picture on his glasses? People take one look at that and go Whoah!" Yogi demonstrates with a double take, then says slowly, "You've gotta be able to hold your head up, Bro! And I really don't see that happening as long as you keep hanging around with a bunch that doesn't have any dreams bigger than finding a dollar bill on the sidewalk. It's like they spit on the whole idea of being somebody!"
Ike opens a new beer, "They kind of do, huh?"
"You bet your sweet ass they do! I mean isn't that what bums do? But me, I know I'm going places. It's out there, you just have to get it; You know? I'm gonna build this thing into ......... I mean, talk about paying your taxes! By this time next year I'll need some fake business just to hide all my bread from the IRS. And I'd like to see you get in on this on the ground floor."
"But what would I do?"
"Whatever you're good at. You're pretty sharp, we'll find something. But you've got to cut these losers loose, and start looking more like a legitimate citizen. That's the key right there. I know a guy, has a wife and kids and a nice house down in Rancho Magdelena, to see him you would think he works at Sony or GE or someplace .......... But he's a heavy, heavy operator-"
I've been backing away from them, along the wall of bushes that leads back to the trail to our place, and at this point the discussion becomes unintelligible.
###. 37 = HALLOWEEN 1981 (short version)
Halloween rolls around. There's a party over at Yogi and Sharyn's camp. Us residents plus about six of Yogi's friends. Some have motorcycles, big American bikes with all the usual bikerish customizations, but only one of the guys has club colors on his back.
Despite Yogi's insistance that these friends of his really knew how to fuckin' party, in a wild and dangerous way that would show us a whole new definition of the term; and in spite of the big ceramic platter that is circulating, that had once held that chunk of beef but is now heaped with yellowish crank, half of a drinking straw and a single edge razor ........ We ultimately end up hunkered down around what is left of the fire, doing nothing more outrageous than fidgetting and rubbing our noses and telling ghost stories.
A girl named Sandy tells one, about a pair of newly-wed virgins whose car breaks down
out in the sticks, and they are forced to fuck while an escaped lunatic skins them alive. 
And then they die. The End.
As we go around the circle the tales are all pretty much like this, with plots either in the "urban mythology" vein or else lifted whole from old Twilight Zone episodes.
Yogi's tale is a little better. Or at least it's one I haven't heard before, about a woman who after an exceedingly difficult labor gives birth to a monster. They refuse to even let her see it until she starts screaming hysterically, demanding they bring it to her, knowing from their queasy evasion that something was terribly wrong with it!
Finally two nurses brings in an enormous glistening eyeball on a velvet pillow, and when she wails, "Oh God! Oh God! What could be worse than this?!" her attendants all jeer in unison: "It's bli-i-i-i-i-i-i-i–i-i-ind!!!"
Sharyn and Blair exchange a pained look over this tale and the rough laughter it evoked. Yogi glances around, sensing that the enthusiasm for his joke is not unanimous, but he's not quite able to figure out why.
Second week of November:
Earl, who I had first met at the Halloween party was becoming a Hobo Jungle regular. He was living at a seedy motor court on the north end of Dana Point while he was working at a remodeling job around here, knocking out the old walls and putting up new ones inside a restaurant on Coast Highway.
The location looks promising at first glance, with traffic pouring past it at all hours. But in the few years I've been around I have seen it go from a Mexican place to a French bistro to an Italian joint. Now it was being reconceived again, as a pricey "rustic American" eatery. A restaurant/bakery/deli, all cutesied up with calico tablecloths and farm tools on the walls; trying to cash in on this Republican groundswell of parochialism and volkische nostalgia.
Earl had noticed that during the remodelling---which called for a whole lot of new wiring---one of the things that was shut off was the building's alarm system. And that the gigantic antique cash register, though empty of money, was in itself worth stealing. He already has a buyer lined up for it, a guy in Van Nuys who owns a bar in another state. He is using Yogi's truck, but needs two extra sets of hands, willing to do an hour's work for $25 a piece plus whatever they might find in there that is of interest to them.
"Hey Roger, you have a strong back!"
"Sorry, Earl. Every judge in South Court has threatened me with six months if I ever wind up in front of them again. And that's just for drunk-in-public. I hate to think what they would do if I suddenly moved up to breaking and entering."
Earl nods, "That's probably smart."
"Forget him, he's usless!" sneers Yogi. Then he jumps up, full of phony energy, and I notice Earl's whole carraige stiffens in resentment at how he has taken over this recruitment drive: "Hey, let's get Billy the Kid here! How about it Billy? You ready to sign up with The Corporation? Maybe stand lookout for us?"
"For twenty-five bucks? I'm not stupid!" snaps Billy, and walks out of the camp.
Yogi waves his arm dismissively at him, "Fine, bigger shares for us then."
Ike of course is all for it. He, Earl, Yogi and Sharyn pull the truck out through the field,
then crawl stealthily along the edge of the tracks to the dirt road into town.
They're back in less than an hour, the truck stopped up on the creek bed while Ike unloads his share of the loot. The walk-in refrigerator had been well stocked here a week before the place's opening, and they had relieved it of whole hams, slabs of cheese the size of cinder blocks and salamis like fence posts. "Make room in the box for the meat. Just chuck out whatever's in there! I'll pick up some ice on the way back." 
Then he comes scooting down the grade with a huge armload of fresh bread, "One of these bags is those cross-oint things you like. Cool huh? But wait 'til you see THIS! Come here..."
We trudge up the hill. The truck is idling, the headlights bright beacons on this black stretch of the river bank. I'm about to say that all this will never stay fresh out here, and that I'm sure they could find other friends to unload it on.
When Ike reaches down into the truck bed and shoves a couple of jugs into my hands.
My arms drop like I've been handed two anvils- they're huge! I had thought that three liter bottles were the largest that wine came in, but each of these has "5.5 L" cast into the bottom edge in fat rounded numerals!
"I know it's early, but Merry Christmas! Those are yours, completely yours," he grins, before yanking four more out of the truck and setting them at my feet, "But you're gonna have to split these other four with me, you alchoholic motherfucker! I don't want to come home and find all these empty and you laying there OD'd on table wine."
Behind his gruff humor is a plea for concilliation. And his hopes that I will re-examine my stand on their thieving after a haul like this.
I gawk at it all. Six bottles at 5.5 liters each. That's, let's see. One half times six is three liters. And five times...
Yogi climbs halfway out the window and says urgently, "Come on, let's go!"
"We gotta split. We're going to some place called The Valley," says Ike, making it sound like a mysterious enchanted realm. "You got these okay?"
"I got them."
He jumps in and bangs the door shut and they peel out.
[=====> The rest of what had been under the tarp in the truck's bed had been claimed by Yogi and Earl. The cash register, and according to a story in the local weekly paper: a skill saw, a drill, a nail gun, a power sander, a case of candle-flame light bulbs, and three chandeliers made out of 120-year-old stage coach wheels.]
I lug the fat bottles down to the camp two at a time. Find a cup and open one of them, reflecting on how quickly my protests had evaporated when I saw all this alchohol.
For some reason I think of Sargeant Schultz, that loveable fat dimwitted P.O.W. camp guard from TV's Hogan's Heroes. A man so weak, so hopelessly strung out on food that he was always ready to sell out his Fuhrer and the whole Axis cause, handing over the blueprints for the top secret V-9 high altitude rocket bomber for a scrumptious plate of strudel.
But since the system he was betraying was so evil, by falling prey to his addiction he was really doing good, and on some level he must have been aware of this. Because we all know that dear old Schultzy could never hurt anyone...
Unless you offered him strudel.
###.39 = MR. JUN
Even though Earl had plotted and carried out the single undeniable felony of this whole pissant crime spree, I somehow could never work up the same rage about it that the pettiest of Yogi's boostings evoked in me. Earl's displays of kindness and his pitching in with chores around the camp were a far cry from Yogi's ostentatious largess. The way he spoke to you was unaffected and genuine, and he seemed to thoughtfully weigh what you had to say. I'm sure that someone he had just robbed wouldn't see any difference between the two of them, he was every bit as much of a criminal. But Earl as a person just didn't give me the same awful heebie-jeebies whenever he came around.
What horrified me most about Yogi's thieving was its sheer thoughtlessness. A sloppiness and compulsivity that caused everything and anything to gravitate toward his grubby little fingers. And there was a malice under it all, a mean brat's satisfaction in the grief of others. And then this morning I heard the worst of it.
On my way to Von's I was called over by the Korean man who ran the dry cleaners next to the laundromat. He had some glass cleaner and a razor blade and was removing a radio station bumper sticker that some kid had slapped onto his shop's front window. As he chipped at the gummy paper he told me that these "new people" of ours were bad trouble.
And it wasn't just some general impression he had. Several times in the past ten days they had gone into the laundromat and snatched the purses of the Mexican housewives who were the place's main clientele. Grabbing them off the folding tables when the women's backs were turned and running out the narrow side door back by the boarded up bathroom. Then bee-lining straight back into the bamboos with them...
Some of their victims---with whatever impediment to opening a bank account---had been carrying their entire roll in those bags. The rent, everything! And they had run to Mr. Jun, weeping that they had been wiped out!
The thought of making some denial burbled briefly around in my head, but what he had described sounded so "Yogi" that I just couldn't force the words from my mouth. Plus the fact that he had seen them- through the dutch door counter that connects the two
businesses. All I could do was nod glumly and tell him, "I'll see what I can do..."
He said gravely, "What you should do is turn them in. Show that you are not in league with these animals. Someone making this kind of trouble will make it bad for you too!"
Walking home along the fence trail I can see---mixed in with all the other more innocuous trash---ID cards, bus transfers, consmetics, curlers and grocery receipts that had been flicked this way and that as they fled back into the reeds while rifling through the purses. Suddenly that plastic accordion sleeve of family portraits that I had examined and then discarded a few days ago takes on a bleak new meaning. On a hunch I peer into the culvert that passes under the tracks and find a pile of handbags, their contents strewn across the sandy flooring.
I sit at the mouth of the tunnel, sickened at the thought of anyone stealing from somebody so poor and marginal and voiceless. God damn it! These shit-hearts have got to go!
Despite his continuing complaints about the accomodations out here Yogi seems to be getting more comfortable with the place every day. But if I told him the truth, that the law is hot on his trail, he could engage in a "strategic retreat" or whatever asinine term he would invent for it ............. I am touched by the fact that Mr. Jun had come to me about this business. Even a relative stranger like him can see the difference between our brand of irresponsibility and the trechery of a Yogi or a-
Sharyn. It had been easy to believe that Yogi could be so rotten. And I can believe that he might be able to talk Ike into a thing like this if he could feed him the right justifying fiction. But I was shocked when the counter man described Yogi's accomplice in such detail, right down to her missing tooth. I'd been telling myself that she was a good person who for whatever reason was in love with this asshole. But now...
I had always prided myself in being able to spot a sociopath, with my keen instincts about human nature and so forth. But maybe I've only been detecting the very clumsiest ones. Like Yogi, with his flawed range of expressions. Maybe a real pro could snow me completely, with the intoxicating illusion that there was this fantastic emotional exchange going on, fondness and high regard all around, when they in fact felt nothing for me but merciless reptilian contempt.
Or maybe she does care for our little family out here, but can't project her empathies as far as anyone she doesn't know. Or she had sensed better than to say so around a couple of bleeding hearts like me and Blair, but is so racist that Mexicans are no more human to her than the washing machines that I glean coins from are to me.
Or whatever. Her motivations don't really matter. Even if she was as pure of heart as Granny Yokum, she and Yogi would still be a danger to our living out here. And they're an unhealthy influence on Ike! That stupid salami heist has whetted his appetite for still bigger scores. He talks about raiding THE OLD SPORTING GOODS DEPOT up in Capistrano- getting us ready for winter with down sleeping bags, gas heaters, firearms and vibram-soled boots. Forcing them to leave would help return his aspirations to a less prison-bound level.
I grab up the purses and march to their camp, gearing myself up for this confrontation, somewhat apprehensive about how Yogi will react when I tell him that I will personally drop a dime on them if they are not out of here before the sun touches the top of the levee. I don't think he is going to take being threating well at all, but I've got to take care of this...
And they're gone! Tent, truck and beach chairs all vanished. The only sign of them is an empty Jack Daniel's bottle, a few odd chunks of lumber and a burned spot on the grass around a charred toy wagon full of fuming ash...
I stand there dumbly holding my armload of purses ("I'm Super Fag! Able to carry Six purses in a single limp wrist!") as a car rolls to a stop on the river bank and a woman holding a squirming Siamese cat across her shoulder hollars down for directions to some pet hospital in San Clemente.
Things have grown quiet since Yogi and Sharyn split. We have made a rule that nobody gets to stay here on the western end of the bamboos unless all of us agree. The first grim traces of government out here...        
Ike feels more betrayed by their abrupt departure---by his not having been informed of their whereabouts---than he does by the news about their purse snatching, which he says he will have to hear from Yogi's own mouth before he believes it. But as the days pass and he realizes they're gone for good he is saying this with less and less certainty.
With all that wine we had to drink we had neglected to buy ice for our steamer trunk with any regularity, and the food inside has gone bad. It is now radiating quite a stench. Some of the cheeses might be salvaged by hacking through the mold to the good stuff beneath, but since the flies have gotten into it (maybe originally only one fly originally) nothing in there seems very appetizing any more .......... A wastebasket-sized mass of aged swiss is now a nightmare of fuzzy mold-clogged holes and burrowing larvae!
What could have lasted us a month did not even serve up a weeks worth of meals.
Although personally I am kind of glad to be getting rid of it. These aren't the sort of quantities that we would ever buy or find in a dumpster. They would be hard to explain.
So in a way I'm actually kind of relieved as we pick up the box by its handles and lug it up over the levee.
It rained last night and the river is raging impressively. As we creep down the concrete slope Ike reminds me not to fall in. I cackle wildly, "You're telling me!"
I had waded across San Juan Creek one drunken night recently with my pants and shoes held in one hand. It had only been waist deep right out in the middle that time, but I found out that trying to cross it when it was even that deep was insane of me, after I had gotten halfway across and barely managed to dodge a whole tree torpedoing straight at me! For one terrifying second I was ensnared by its root ball, tottering, until it tore free! And today the creek is deep enough to float a good-size boat- the churning waters coming halfway up the embankments...
The plan is to park our butts just above the torrent with the trunk between us and then flip it over, whap on the bottom to knock out whatever maggots might still be hanging on in there, then rinse it out with this bucket. 
But when it starts to get away from us on a slick patch of mud Ike blocks my attempt to lunge for it- "Fuck it, let it go!"
The trunk's top had been unlatched and when it hits the water it rolls, the contents surfacing, the salamis and cubes of cheese forming a snazzy abstract pattern; until everything turns to align itself with the current. Ike compares it to a World War II naval convoy, these sleek destroyers protecting a pod of barges.
But the entire flotilla must be in trouble. Everyone is abandoning ship. For the few seconds before it swept downstream we can see maggots churning out out through all the jagged slits, more than I ever would have dreamed were in there. The Swiss cheese actually seems to deflate as it tumbles along just under the choppy surface!
A whole line of seagulls that had been watching us keenly from the opposite bank explodes into the air in a screaming mass! Ike makes machine gun and bomb noises as they swoop in, greedily snapping up the confused and drowning larvae. They pivot and flap nimbly above the water, following the rotten food, making sure that not one of the worms will get away. They all disappear under the freeway bridge.
I say in a pompously bright, phony voice, "My, that was disgusting!"
"I know," laughs Ike, "We should've invited the Gwerp along. He woulda paid big money to see something as gross as that!"
For now we have the really story of the Gwerp's daily dumpster foraging, and I still can't quite believe it...
I had been at the post office last week, poking through the trash cans in the lobby for re-useable 9x12 clasp envelopes, when I ran into Olie. We talked a bit, and as he described a disturbing thing he had witnessed, he cleared up our mystery for us.
He told me about this weird old fart he kept seeing down at the harbor, who would drive up to the foot of the jetty and dump a hundred pounds of food right onto the dirt. Potato chips, bread, meat, cartons of melted ice cream; everything he had gotten that day. It was a precise and methodical ritual; how he would remove every bit of paper, open both ends of a can and push the glop out in a neat cylinder, making as compact a pile as he could with it all. Then he would back up about fifteen feet, open an umbrella...
And when those seagulls saw such a sheer dense mass of food they would swarm in and fight for it with greater than usual savagery- flapping and screeching and gouging at each other, the earlier ones driven off by successive waves of arrivals; while the old man rocked and laughed with a spooky glazed look in his eyes ............ his jaw bouncing mechanically until the last bird flew off!
Imagine going through that whole time consuming routine just to do that. An not just once ("Well that was kind of interesting...") but EVERY DAY! And the deep anxiety he showed when it looked like some hungry soul might diminish his sick thrill by a package of tortillas or two!
So to his sneered rhetorical question of a month ago, I can answer:
(Ah, that felt good!)
###.41 = FREEZE
It's a couple of nights later. Ike is down at the end of a square metal tunnel, backlit by a sick and ominous yellow light. He is squatting on a little metal blimp-shaped ........... to tell you the truth I'm not sure what it is. It has a jeering cartoon face painted on one end. He repeatedly claps his knees against a pair of spring-return levers on its sides, powering the mechanism that spins the tiny solid wheels. 
Ike is bucking and twisting as it zigzags toward me, waving a big white Stetson hat in his fist, hollaring, "Roger! Roger! The mail train came today! You got a huge advance on CAPTAIN PAPPYJACK'S RANDOM HORNPIPE! We're gonna be rich!"
"Mail train? Captain who?!  I never wrote anything called-"
As I start to get up into something with my chest. His palm. He's leaning over me now. The odd light is gone and he has lost his cowboy hat...
He brings his face close to mine in the darkness and whispers deliberately, "I said: The cops are coming! I can hear their radios! We have to get out of here, now!
"Does this mean I don't get that advance?" I mutter as I lift my legs and wriggle into my pants, then slip on my t-shirt. I reach for my glasses, right where I always put them. 
They're not there! I grope around for them.
"What are you doing? Come on let's go!" he groans as I lean out of my plywood bed,
feeling around in the reeds behind it.
"Come back for them later," he hisses, but I have found them. With my foot.
Oh shit- they're in more pieces than ever! I throw the covers the rest of the way back and gather up the chunks, pocket them, then start to put on my boots.
"Just carry them, we don't have time!"
"Out here blind and barefoot? Fuck that shit! Maybe one or the other, but-"
The camp is lit up by a pair of dusty beams. Two sherriffs come in with their guns drawn, each pivotting this way and that in a paranoid waltz until one of their lights falls on us.
My mind can be a dangerous thing sometimes. Literally. In that instant I come up with a brilliantly comical response. To grab myself around the middle and shake, sputtering,
"Bb-b-b-brrrrrrrrr!!!!!" Like I am freezing, get it?
But in the next millisecond I think better of this! Because these two sheriffs would think I was reaching for my gun and shoot me dead. Even though they've got guns on us, they are far jumpier than we are about this encounter than we are. We know who and wat they are, their uniforms make that pretty obvious. But for all they knew they were walking in on a den of painted cannibals with crossbows...
Two weeks have passed since our asshole neighbors split the scene. And the assholes are not here to reap the fruits of their asshole lifestyle. Which I realize is exactly how I had expected this to happen...
"Okay. Keep your hands up where we can see them! Step out here into the middle," says the one who had first spotted us.
Two more enter by the same trail. A lanky blonde woman and a wide, squat dark-haired man with a Mediterranean pallor. I can't see much at all but I believe these two still have their guns holstered. 
The guy asks, "Is this all of them?"
"There's supposed to be a couple more. That fat preggo freak and her rat-faced little boyfriend."
"You mean 'Sergeant Pepper'?"
"BILLY! BLAIR! IT'S THE COPS, RUN!" howls Ike, but in an effort at misdirection he faces the path to the latrine when he does.
"RUN! SCRAM! ROUTINE TWENTY-SIX!" I yell, adding that last bit to further confuse the sheriffs. And I'm about to continue on in this vein when I notice that one of the original two has traded his gun for his club and is wagging it at me in warning.
"What are you two fools yabbering about?!" comes Blair's voice, loud and clear and giving away their location.
"Very clever," grunts the lady cop. She and her partner start down the trail toward them...
Blair calls out crossly, "I told you guys this kind of stuff isn't funny! I swear, ever since those crooks gave you got all that wine we can't even sleep at night without- OHHHHH MY GAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWDDD!!!"
>>>>> END OF PART THREE <<<<<


It's like running with scissors

It's all fun and games until someone puts an eye out. SNL humor.

I never was a dedicated bum, I did it for love. When I got tired of Cliff's shit, I left.

Looking forward to he next installment. :)

- Joyce

Help Me Name Part Three

Hi friends...
I don't like any of the names I've come up with for Part III here. It used to be PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and there had been a clever tie in with the ride at Disneyland in one chapter, but they went and made those movies...

If anyone reads it and has a suggestion, I'd appreciate it. Thanks, Roger

Smarter than the Average Bum?

With question mark? :)

- Erin

Left holding the bag

It seems that yogi and his girlfriend have left the jungle folks holding the bag.I've met more than my share of his type and have also known a few career alcoholics and even a couple of the rare functional alcholics.But the yogi type is pretty risky to associate with, more times than not the bag of crap your left holding is heavier than all that you've gained.

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