Eskimo Blue Day ~ Part 4

who drove Roger rabid? / jail is jail is jail / one round with a judge / homeless for real like / rainy nights in the visitor's dugout / the grilled cheese gambit / Billy+Blair face an insane accusation / dem bones / Ike's search for Shangri La / and I enter the very blurry phase of my life...

 
ESKIMO BLUE DAY
 
by Roger Di Prima
 
PART 4: MOTHER KALI IN COMBAT BOOTS
 
"How do you like it now, Gentlemen?"
-Ernest Hemingway to unseen persons,
May, June & July 1961
 
 
###.42 = NOT MY FINEST HOUR EITHER...
 
.
A dejected Billy and Blair are herded into our camp. 
 
Then a giant of a sheriff drags in a handcuffed John Henry, more or less carrying him by the baton wedged across his throat. Grinding the stick into the struggling bum's larynx he grunts cheerfully, as if he has found a rich source of entertainment, "This one's trouble!" 
 
He lets go and John Henry falls onto the ground, coughing and weezing. He kicks him hard in the side---eliciting a loud meaty grunt---and then as an afterthought, an insult- right square in the ass. (Ike would tell me later that judging by the state of the big cop's uniform, our lunatic neighbor must have given as good as he had got for a while...)
 
"We have a nice new home for you," smiles the female officer as she breaks out cuffs for the rest of us, "Hot meals, TV, card games. Stimulating conversation with your peers!"
 
As Ike puts his hands behind his back and submits to his handcuffing he looks around the camp and asks, "What about our stuff? My radio, my guitar!"
 
"We don't have room to take your valuables," sneers the one who had subdued John Henry. And suddenly my heart sinks...
 
.
Up until this minute I had been viewing this trip to County as a setback- a hazard of this lifestyle that must be faced up to with philosophic good humor. But in every arrest prior to this my briefcase had been scooped up off of whatever corner I had been making a pest of myself on, to be stashed in the property room next to my pack.
 
When I realize that this time it would not be, I am gripped by a suffocating panic. My book would lay here unprotected for who knew how long! Or would be tossed into a trash bag without a second glance by some wisecracking clean-up crew and hauled to the dump!
I lurch toward my study in desperation, "My writing! Just let me-"
 
They wrestle me to the ground and cuff me with swift, practiced moves.
 
"If we took along every piece of crap that some derelict thought was important there wouldn't be any room for the inmates," explains the hispanic cop, "This one crazy fucker wanted to keep a rusty truck muffler that he called his 'Baby Skoogie'!"
 
"Oh nooooooooo! You throwed way him Baby Skooooooogie!" moans Billy unconsolably.
At any other time this would have been really funny.
 
"Then forget about my guitar and stuff," demands Ike, "He's been working on that book of his for a year now!"
 
"Oh we'll definitely forget your guitar. Your crap stays here."
 
Unlike the fire marshal who had visited us all those months ago, these invaders didn't see
anything clever or industrious about all our salvage work. They just saw a lot of garbage that didn't belong out here. As they marched us forward I managed a last blurry look at our house. Ike's hut, my study, the solar shower looming in the shadows like a cryptic medieval engine. And one ratty briefcase sitting in the lap of a turquoise naugahyde moon chair.
.
 
[====>  Now I realize that---as heartless as I have attempted to paint it---this relocation
we are being subjected to here tonight is a party, a regular birthday party, with a balloon twisting clown and his little fiberglass truck bed merry-go-round ........... when it is scaled against the incomprehensible madness of the Holocaust. And I don't want to trivialize Dr. Viktor Frankl's account of his hellish ordeal by tossing out some blithe comparison between this fairly urbane arrest and the one that led him to the motherfucking death camps ......... But at the time, I couldn't help remembering his book Man's Search For Meaning, and what had been said to him as he was hauled away by the Nazis, after he had protested that he needed to bring his writings along .......... "These papers are important," he had pleaded.
"I'm a doctor. A psychiatrist!" ......... And one of those brown shirted goons had looked
him straight in the eye and stated with hideous certainty: "YOU ARE SHIT!"]
.
 
As they haul John Henry to his feet the woman cop asks him, "You're not going to be any trouble, are you?"
 
"No Ma'am!" he grins, in an amused tone that implies that this is a favor, out of deferrence to her gender, and not due to his just having been whupped into submission.
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
There are three police cruisers sitting by the corner of the lumberyard, but it seems they want to scrunch all five of us into the back seat of one of them. They're NUTS if they think we're all going to fit in there, cries Blair. But they have a system...
 
Me behind the driver, then Ike, then John Henry. Billy and Blair are the top layer of the pyramid, with him half on John Henry's lap and half on Ike's, and her weight shared
by Ike and myself.
 
Trying to scoot in across the tops of our legs with her hands bound uselessly behind her, Blair loses her balance and topples, moaning 'GOOD GRAVY!'  Her head hits the window with a resonant clunk.
 
When our captors finally manage to set her upright, her entire weight is situated right smack on top of my balls! I wheeze, "Oh shit! Shit! Scoot over, Blair! Shit-"
 
"I caaaaaaaaaan't!!"
 
Even though I am pinned by her mass against my own manacled wrists, I manage to squirm that crucial inch and a half to the left. The pain subsides dramatically.
 
"Seatbelts, children!" the Mexican sheriff calls back to us as he and his partner strap themselves in and snick the door locks. We ease slowly forward...
 
In spite of this awful crowding I would rather be here with these two up front than be riding more comfortably in a car alone with that great big cop. Even if John Henry had flown at him with fists blazing---no innocent victim of police brutality---he seemed like he had enjoyed the opportunity this gave him way too much. Seemed ("Hey, this isn't the way to the jailhouse!") alarmingly sadistic.
 
Ike stares morosely ahead. Beyond him, I get the vague impression that John Henry is grinning rapturously. Maybe he thinks he's going to be martyred by the Roman centurions. Billy seems despondent and kind of car sick on his tentative perch up there. And although
all I can see of Blair is a jumble of dirty hair and this shoulder that keeps bumping against my face, she is breathing like she is indignant over the whole affair. She slams against my shirt pocket with the pieces of my glasses in it, and I am nearly ruptured twice more as the overburdened cop car wobbles over the rutted trail to the back of the Plaza.
 
I am relieved when we hit asphalt and the ride smooths out. My wrists have started to send up the chilly pins and needles of crimped-off circulation, but this trip should go quickly once we get on the freeway, which fortunately will be empty at this hour. John Henry chuckles eerily now and then, but no one else says a word as we climb up the 405 onramp and out of this coastal valley.
 
Until the driver suggests, "Crack your window a bit, Katie. It's pretty rank in here!"
 
"Good idea," she nods, and does.
 
The breeze feels really good to me, far better than the congealed, smoky air of that bleak maze we will soon be living in. But Blair snaps at them, "And what was that supposed to mean?"
 
Billy sighs miserably, "Don't, honey..."
 
"It means you people stink," says the driver, "Haven't you heard of soap and water?"
 
Blair's voice peals like thunder through the tiny space, "WE DO NOT! YOU STINK!
YOU STINK LIKE MOUTHWASH AND CIGARETTES AND CREDIT CARDS-"
 
"She can smell your MasterCard, Pasqual!"
 
"OH YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT! I CAN AND I DO! BECAUSE I HAVEN'T DEADENED MY SENSES WITH A HUNDRED STUPID VICES! I KNOW THINGS! WE AREN'T THE ONES WHO STINK! WE SMELL NATURAL- LIKE HUMAN ANIMALS! BUT YOU COPS WOULDN'T KNOW THAT! BECAUSE YOUR NOSES HAVE BEEN STUFFERED UP;  BY GREED AND WATCHING TELEVISION AND THAT PUTRID DEODORANT; UNTIL YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING BUT DRIVE AROUND IN THESE SMOG-MAKING STEEL COFFINS AND BOTHER THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE LIVES BASED ON LOVE AND SIMPLICITY AND BEING IN HARMONY WITH NATURE!"
 
"Testify it, Sister!" laughs John Henry sardonically.
 
And testify she does, a torrent of vitriolic gibberish that I just know will go on and on, louder and shriller with every mile we drive. I have heard more than enough of her slobbering tripe for one lifetime. And I am especially ill-disposed toward hearing it NOW- with my pinioned arms aching, my writing left behind, and the perils of the jail house looming in the very near future!
 
Also, it's just plain embarrassing to be associated in these cop's minds with such
a pea-brained tantrum. She will probably kill off whatever inclinations they
might have toward environmentalism or human rights...
 
"Blair, listen to me!" I plead. "You will never convince these officers to change their whole philosophy of life by hollaring at them while they're arresting you! Our situation doesn't exactly lend you a whole lot of credibility, does it? It might be more effective to just get their names and write them each a nice coherent letter, that they could read and reflect on in the privacy and quiet of their own time?"
 
"NO THEY HAVE TO BE TOLD! IT'S OUR DUTY TO 'SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER' ........ YOUR KIND IS MEAN AND ARROGANT AND IS ENDANGERING THE PLANET WITH YOUR CHEMICALS AND STYROFOAM AND RADIO WAVES AND THAT JUNK THAT'S IN THOSE TUBES INSIDE REFRIGERATORS! YOU GO AROUND LIKE SOME BRAIN-DEAD ROBOTS AND JUST TAKE, TAKE, TAKE FROM THE EARTH! BUT SOME DAY THE EARTH IS GOING TO SAY-"
 
"Blair! SHUT UP!!"
 
"DON'T TELL ME TO SHUT UP," she snarls, "YOU'RE WORSE THAN THEY ARE! BECAUSE AT LEAST YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO KNOW BETTER, WITH ALL YOUR OH-I'M-SUCH-A-BUDDHIST!"
 
"It's for your own good, damn it! If you were a man they would have pulled over and knocked you senseless by now! And as it is they're only going to take so much! At best you're going to wind up in the Med-Iso unit in four point restraints!"
 
"YES, I'M SURE THEY WOULD DO THAT! AND YOU KNOW WHY?!! BECAUSE DEEP DOWN THEY KNOW I'M RIGHT! DEEP DOWN, THEY SEE US, AND THEY'RE JEALOUS-" 
 
Our escorts are laughing uproariously. 
 
She shrieks, "THAT'S RIGHT YOU TWO- JEALOUS!! BECAUSE YOU KNOW IN YOUR SOULS THAT YOU'RE NOT FREE! SO YOU NEED TO PUT ALL THESE LABELS ON US, LIKE WE'RE THE CRAZY ONES! YOU'RE ENSLAVED BY ALL THE MAYA AND THE MARA IN THIS AGE OF KALI YUGA! IT'S ON THE HINDU CALENDAR: THE AGE OF KALI YUGA! A TIME OF GREAT DARKNESS AND OF BESTIAL MIND! AND IN THIS AGE OF KALI YUGA-"
 
"For God's sake," I groan, "It's not the 'Age of Kali Yuga'-"
 
"Yes it is. That's what my friends in the Krishnas call it!"
 
"I doubt that. In Sanskrit the word yuga means age! So that's like saying 'The mountains of the Rocky Mountains'! It's just Kali Yuga..."
 
"I know, Age of Kali Yuga!"
 
"Could you stop being a dipshit for one second and listen to what I'm actually saying?!"
 
"YOU'RE THE DIPSHIT!" she snarls, and then goes on yammering at them, going: Age a Kali-YOOOGA! Age a Kali-YOOOOGA!! Age a Kali-YOOOOOOGA!!!; like the grating toneless scream of a Model T's horn! Says it five times, six times, seven- 
 
Until I cannot tolerate another second of this! I bellow, "THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING BLAIR! SHUT UP!"
 
"OH THE GREAT ROGER HAS SPOKEN! LAST WARNING! BIG MAN! BIG MAN! WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT, HUH?! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A FREE COUNTRY! A CITIZEN IS STILL SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK HER MIND-"
 
This thing Blair is wearing was not originally an article of clothing. She had come up with it during the latter part of her pregancy---when her pants stopped fitting her---and has been wearing it ever since. The blanket, homemade sari or whatever is tied behind her neck in a huge tattered knot, leaving a sweaty shoulder exposed an inch from my mouth- I bite down hard!
 
She starts to scream as I bring my teeth together, grinding and snapping my neck around like a bull terrier! Her scream dies out as she gasps and arches backward in pain. After a few more seconds I let go...
 
Finding her breathe again, she shrieks, "HE BIT ME! THE FILTHY SWINE ACTUALLY-"
 
"GOD DAMN YOU! SHUT UP OR I'LL DO IT AGAIN!!"    
 
They sure will have a story to tell at the cop station. They're laughing so hard that I'm afraid they will crash the car! 
 
She twists her head around, trying to see the nasty red crescent of dents that I have put into her flesh. She mewls, "That really hurt, Roggie!"
 
"I INTENDED IT TO! NOW SHUT UP!! SHUT UP!! SHUT UP!! SHUT UP!! SHUT UP-"
 
I am beyond all reason. I will chew my way clear to her flabby heart if that's what it takes to stop her endless screeching bullshit harangue! Blair senses this, and after a few more murmered complaints suffers the rest of the trip in silence.
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
Ike nods his approval, squinting crookedly like Columbo. Billy reads off the slogans on the advertising billboards with a pitiful false nonchalance. John Henry whispers communiques to his mother ship. And me...
 
I am amazed to realize that it has been over a year since I went on one of these trips to Orange County Jail. All in all it was a fabulous year, and I am most thankful for it. I am also really thankful that it never occurs to Blair that she could retaliate quite effectively by simply moving two inches to the left.
 
.
###.43   = LAND OF 1000 YOGIS
 
Jail was ............ Well, jail. The long serpentine booking process. Cops with cameras, cops with typewriters. Getting stripped, showered, sprayed with insecticide and then given a jump suit and some boiled tennis shoes. Each step taking you upward and inward---away from anything like a window---toward the housing modules.
 
Once again I have been arrested on a Friday, and must wait until Monday to see a judge. The upside of such a long wait has traditionally meant that when I am finally sentanced, I am credited with the days I have already spent locked up and am released that night. But my having been through this often enough to speak of traditions argues for the "substantially longer sentance" that numerous judges have warned me of.
 
The only charge against us is trespassing, but if we are in here because of all the sleazy crap Yogi pulled this could secretly influence our sentancing. Best not to dwell on this, or on that black vinyl briefcase sitting in the weeds twenty-seven miles south of here.
 
Putting my work in that briefcase was a big mistake, and I had know it for years ......... When I walked out on that last apartment back in '79 I had held on to it as a sort of totem,
a souvenier of my old life, an ironic whim- only to find out it was a magnet for street thieves. They were drawn to its shiny blackness not because it was expensive (the thing was a joke) but because it was the only item I carried that looked like it held the least bit of promise. Maybe the act of unpopping the clasps on an actual piece of luggage was asthetically irresistable to them. That officious "Click, click- Oompf !!" sound it made.
 
The third time I awoke to find it gone---rifled through and tossed into a nearby trash
can---was when it first occurred to me to deliberately "ugly up" something that I owned. I slashed it, then bandaged it up with CRACKED magazine and "I'M A BURGER KING JUNIOR JEDI" stickers running across it in two artless lines. They still went after it, but not nearly as often now. I got into the habit of never losing sight of it, of tossing the end of my blankets over it at night.
 
And now four years worth of words on paper might soon be blowing up the valley all the way to Ortega Hot Springs. And as more and more doors lock behind me there isn't a thing I can do about it...
 
Ike somehow manages to land himself in C MOD with all the tough guys, but Billy is placed in A MOD with me and the rest of the drunks, the petty shoplifters, and the fellows who had laughed off a glove box full of parking tickets. We joke around a little, but mostly he just sits and frets about how Blair is faring over in the women's wing. She has gotten her ass kicked in jail before for her unorthodox views on bathing.
 
The one thing that seems to cheer him up is the three daily trips to the chow hall. Not the gluey pale flavorless starchy food that awaits us, but when (since we're being herded like cattle) it inevitably occurs to some comedian to start lowing like a bull. Which causes others to join in, until the corridors resound with this chorus of a hundred men groaning like mindless beasts. The guards usually allow us this small symbolic protest.
 
My glasses are in the pocket of this stiff orange jumpsuit. Which has one advantage .......
If some macho dickhead is hard-eyeing me I will seem as cool and unperturbed as a rock about it, instead of the signs of nervousness I would probably display if I didn't happen to be as blind as a rock. Common wisdom has it that constant vigilence---being aware of even the most distant threat---is the safest thing in jail, but what would I do about it if I was? Jump bad on the motherfucker? I fish out the lense and use it as a monacle whenever there is something that I need to look at.
 
In the chow hall we sometimes spot Ike, who seems to be getting along fairly well with
his module-mates over there. He'll nod some cool, brief greeting at us, but will pretend not to know us when Billy starts to act too silly, making faces at him or flying a piece of toast around in his hand like a toy airplane...
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
Monday rolls around. The morning head count, then the Voice-of-God coming over the
intercom with a list of names. Me, Billy and about a third of A MOD are led down the central bank of escalators to these pens across the basement from the admissions tank.
 
In our absence those remaining behind will poke through our bunk areas and steal whatever we've left here, including our bedsheets and towels. They like to stockpile them for some reason. And later we will be held responsible for these items by the jailers; as if we could have prevented it from halfway across the county if we weren't such sorry fuckups. We will be issued replacements for them with great reluctance and an air of all around disgust.
 
I hope I won't have to go through this petty ritual of degradation tonight but will be making my bed on an abandoned sofa or in the seclusion of the ledge up under some freeway underpass, free...
 
Those appearing before Central Court are called first, led down a tunnel under the street to the Santa Ana court house. North Court is called away, then West Court. As the pens empty we find places to sit. Ike is in the next cage over, and John Henry in a tiny private one beyond that.
 
Finally it's just those of us who are going to South Court. We are braceletted together by twos and led across the loading dock and into the last bus still parked in this concrete courtyard at the base of this bleak seven story well. We are sent to the back end of the bus, and a door made of plate steel and catwalk-mesh panels is slammed and locked- seperating us from the forward seats.
 
The guy I am handcuffed to makes a joke like he is looking for the gun that was planted under the seat for him, and he's going to escape using me for a human shield. Joking, but also letting me know (in case there was any doubt...) that he has no regard for my life whatsoever.
 
A door opens way off down the loading dock, and there's a good natured pandemonium
as a waddling little matron with a side arm brings out the line of female prisoners. They are handcuffed together in pairs the same as we are.
 
In the lead two Chicana girls, who look about sixteen, twirl around and curtsy at all the horny shouts and applause. These dudes are reacting like they have been away from pussy for a thousand years.
 
Next a tough little bleach blonde of about thirty struts out (her obvious brown roots a guage of how long she has been locked up-), smiling with one side of her mouth. Yeah sure, you buncha limp-dicks! Waving us away like an annoying odor .......... She is cuffed to a haggard, withdrawn old woman who is scowling like she is in here for chopping her husband into tiny cubes.
 
"I got the hot one on the left!" leers my new buddy, "You kin have the skanky old bitch."
 
God, I hate jail! This guy is an absolute piece of shit, and I would be getting the hell away from him in any normal situation, but here I am chained to the asshole, yucking along with all his digs at me and at what is obviously a sad and troubled old lady.
 
What am I supposed to do? Lecture him that this "skanky bitch" is a human being and deserves at least a modicum of respect? Probably. But I have seen what happens to the poor schmoes who take on the ethical status quo of this place with only their faith or rhetorical prowess to back it up.
 
I lift his cuffed wrist by raising my own, and protest, "But hey, I'm on the left! If you take the one on the left I'll be hanging off to the side."
 
"Use that free hand you got there. That's all you're good at anyway," he jeers, then bolts upright in his seat- "No wait! Oh shit, get a load of this! Here comes your date!"
 
It's Blair. She isn't paired with anyone. She has her wrists shackled to a chain around her middle, like some fuming stir-crazy gorilla. The hollaring from the men turns vicious:
 
"Ewwwww what is it?!"
 
"I wouldn't touch that with your dick!"
 
They are shouting, making sure she hears every word of it. Billy is ready to explode.
 
"What the fuck is it?!" repeats the skeletal balding speed freak with the grotesque twisted buck teeth, huge zits like volcanos all down his neck, and absolutely no chin.
 
She clumps up the steps into the bus, graceless and dazed, lost to the world...
 
Suddenly I wish that I wasn't sitting so close to the front. As I try to hide behind the large tattooed Aryan in the seat ahead of me she marches up to the mesh divider and zeroes in on me with angry swollen eyes.
 
"THANKS FOR BITING ME, ROGGIE! THEY TRIED TO GIVE ME A TETANUS SHOT!"
 
The bus explodes with manly mirth.
 
"Oh Roggie! You animal!"
 
"All right, Lover Boy!"
 
"A tit-ness shot!" screams the freak with the teeth.
 
And so on. All the way to Mission Viejo...
 
.
###.44 = JUDGE BABY
 
We sit around the South Court holding tank for an hour, recapping our adventures in the housing modules. Billy shouts encouragement to Blair, whose voice comes echoing from down the hall some place. John Henry lies mute, slumped awkwardly against the far wall with a button-eyed grin, like a scarecrow that had fallen from its post.
 
One silver lining to this last election is that some new judges have been put into office. And even though this man might be far more politically reactionary than the last person to hold this spot, it's definitely to my advantage that we have never crossed paths before. 
 
We are ushered into the courtroom and into the railed defendant's box. With the baliff right here we can't really talk, or do anything but sit.
 
A few minute later we are bid to rise for the Honorable Donald Brownmiller, and as he makes his entrance I burst out laughing. The elderly judge had come in yawning, and with his round face, pug nose and whisp of hair sticking up, for an instant he bore an amazing resemblance to the baby on the Gerber baby-food labels!
 
Everyone turns to look at me. I cover my laughter by faking a coughing fit.
 
John Henry is the first to be called before Hizzoner. He reads the charges against our neighbor, and when he asks him how he pleads, John Henry mutters something indecipherable.
 
Judge Brownmiller cups his ear, "Would you repeat that?"
 
John Henry says irritably, "I was there, yeah."
 
"Is that a plea of guilty?"
 
"Yeah, I was there."
 
"I'll assume it is then," grimaces the judge, skipping the technicality of making him actually say the word guilty, and sentances him to 'time served'.
 
Ike, seated behind me, gives me a thumbs up gesture. This will be how it will go for the rest of us. We'll be out by tonight! As much as we might repulse him personally, this new judge has had nearly a year to discover that with the jail's overtaxed housing space he needs to focus on locking up the real baddies.
 
He asks gravely, "I have one more question for you. Where will you be going, now that your illegal home of all these months has been taken away from you?"
 
"I go where the Lord wants me," says John Henry.
 
"If that means that you're going back there, you'll just be picked up again."
 
John Henry erupts, "I AM BRIGHTER THAN ALL THE STARS AND SUNS OF THE FIRMAMENT!"
 
The robed man starts to get angry but then he pauses and skims through the file folder at the top of his stack, nodding as he reads. He sighs, "I guess I'll be seeing you again."
 
So now we know what he was going to ask us, and my chums all answer this last bit correctly, with Ike even volunteering that he is heading out for the Palm Springs area as soon as he gets out. It's nice out there, says the judge, and bids him a hearty good luck!
 
But for some reason ('Cuz I stoopid, dat da reason!), some egomaniacal impulse that tells me I can win over someone like this with my (Stoopid! Stoopid!) skilled oratory, I am compelled to qualify my response with: "I will never camp out there again, of course not! But I can't leave the book I'm working on just sitting out there. So for about a minute, less than that even, I need to swing through there-"
 
"You can't do that," he frowns, "You can't go out there again for any reason for any span of time, whether it's for a month or for a second. It's trespassing!"
 
"Look," I huff, "All I'm saying is, there's some writing out there that is very important to me-"
 
"You're asking me to give you permission to commit, to repeat a crime. I'm afraid I don't have the power to do that even if I was inclined to. So a little discretion on your part might be best."
 
"But it's my life's work- OW!!" Something has jabbed me hard in the small of my back. Ike's finger. He is gurgling urgently for me to cool it! Fine...
 
"Never mind, Your Honor. I'll just let the rats make a nest out of it. Nothing that someone like me produces could be of any consequence."
 
"It's not consequence you should be concerned with but conse-quences. You chose to break the law, and are receiving what is by any account a lenient sentance-"
 
"Broke the law? After we had explicit permission from both the Water Department people and the Fire Marshal to stay out there?"
 
He indicates the stack of folders in front of him. This has been amusing but he has work to do. "Do you wish to change your plea to Not Guilty?"
 
"That would be more truthful, but it wouldn't be practical. All I want is a minute---sixty lousy seconds!---to go retrieve something that ............. Say, have you ever heard of the book MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Victor Frankl?"
 
"I think I did read that. Years ago. Had something to do with the Holocaust, didn't it?"
 
Ike groans. 
 
I tell Hizzoner my anecdote, delivering that concluding "You are shit!" with real gutteral  Ubermensch gusto.
 
"That's an extremely unpleasant story. I seriously hope you aren't trying to draw some parallel here!" says the judge. He isn't smiling now. He looks very pissed!
 
Remembering that time I was slapped with forty-eight hours for contempt of court (I toldja
I stoopid!), I quickly backpedal. "No your honor, there's no comparison. The American system of justice is the best on Earth, guided like it is by our Bill of Rights, an amazing document. But the way this document has been expanded on over the years to more explicitly cover the rights of the, uh ......... disenfranchised, shows that we, each of us---since we can't help being a product of our culture and our times, the 'zeitgeist' if you will---are capable of conduct that we see as normal and just and right, but which will look damned shabby to future generations."
 
"Zeitgeist?" he chuckles, "My, my ...... So we're supposed to let the homeless just run amok? Do anything they want? Is this what the enlightened people of the future will be doing? Let them set up house in the lobby of the Fluor Building, because they're poor and they need it? Well gee, I guess it's okay then!"
 
This draws a round of affirmative laughter from the room.
 
"I didn't say that. But it would have been nice if our possessions had been taken a bit more seriously! It might not have looked like much, but that was stuff that we needed to get through winter. The way we were arrested leaves us with nothing but the clothes on our backs!"
 
He indicates the stack of folders in front of him. This his has fun, but he has work to do. "My job has no connection with that whole end of it. I didn't arrest you, and I didn't order your arrest. In fact I didn't even know you existed until a half hour ago! So isn't that between you and the Orange County Sheriff's Department?"
 
"I guess it is."
 
"And they have an office that you can take up a grievance of this kind with. Time served!"
 
 
###. 45 = DIAMONDS
 
Dumb to haul us clear back to Santa Ana instead of just letting us loose in our own neck of the woods, but we aren't complaining. Our freedom is now a matter of hours, not days or weeks like we'd feared...
 
The release process is nearly as laborous as all the nonsense on the way in. The same mysterious detours to go sit in some bare alcove, like we are pieces on a game board with things like YOU LOOK AT JAILER WRONG. LOSE 2 TURNS printed on it. But by four in the afternoon we have wended our way down to that last puke-colored hallway where your clothes are returned to you...
 
I am released first. And being first I am supposed to put a few of these big office buildings between me and the jail and panhandle up a bottle. It's tough trying to bum money in a real city; they've heard the same pitch already twenty times today. But my claim that I need some crazy glue for these fragmented glasses must be a new one to them; and a dozen professional-types give me enough for a big jug of Night Train. Also enough for my glue and our bus fare home.
 
I hightail it back to the benches out in front of the visitor's lobby. Blair is there, waiting for Billy. All is forgiven between us, which seems very strange. She has nurtured interminable grudges for things that were nowhere near as bad as that bite I gave her! Maybe she is just happy to be away from all those mean women, free to squat down and pee on the ground the way nature intended ......... Or maybe she's proud of me for that idiot stunt I pulled when I was talking to the judge.
 
With twilight a cold breeze picks up. We shoot the shit as I carefully reconstruct my glasses on this mustard-smeared sheet of wax paper. A lot of pieces here this time.
 
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.
 
Ike bursts from the exit in full Holy Goof mode. Dancing and hopping and yelling "YEEEEEEEEE-HAAWWW!!", flipping off the jail in a general way; but wisely not directly at those glass doors he had just left through, where people are gathered to see what the ruckus is out here. His sneakers clip-clop noisily as he runs up to our bench.
 
We welcome him to the outside world. I would pass him a drink of wine, except that every cop and jail employee there in the lobby is looking at us now. 
 
He asks, "So should we wait for Billy and all ride home together?"
 
"No. My husband always takes forever to get out, the rat fink! And you've got to go make sure Roggie's stories are okay!"
 
Heavens yes! My stories.
 
When the glue on my glasses has dried to where it won't sting my eyes, we catch a bus down to Fashion Island, linking up with the #1 Coast Highway bus just as it gets there, and finding two seats toward the rear.
 
Ike slouches back imperiously, brazenly slurping from the bottle as he stares down the scowling young man in the plaid coat who is holding a fancy zippered Bible primly on his lap. Only his regular checking on the driver's face in the mirror (making sure she is not glaring back at us from up there) betrays that Ike is not really the Absolute Lord Potentate of the Transit District.
 
He asks, "So why don't we just move the whole deal across the fence?"
 
"The fence? Onto the Moriarity Brother's property? Are you crazy?"
 
"It's a big spread, lots of reeds at the back end. Yogi and I checked it out. There's a part
out behind their pond that they can't even really get to. They'd never know we were there!"
 
"Sure, until we made a campfire. Or the first time we got looped and started hollaring!"
 
He chuckles, "You do have a point there."
 
"We'll never find a place like that again, at least not on the coast! Setting up some elaborate camp will just mean trouble! Whatever we find we should keep it small. Not build anything that looks like a hut."
 
"That would suck. I don't want to go back to just a sleeping bag on the ground, I want a place like we had! What about that spot down near San Diego you were talking about?"
 
"Oh yeah! Down in Leucadia. We can go check it out, but it could be all houses by now."
 
The closer the bus draws to home more anxious I become about my briefcase...
 
Even though it has only been a few days I am somehow surprised to find the camp exactly like we had left it. There is a note on the edge of my desk, weighted down by four fat rocks:
.
 
 
IKE, RAJI-                             . 
 
I HAVE YR TRILOGY + GUITAR
 
                            OLIE.
 
 
.
He would tell us of how he had been working with varnish in his shop, and was out walking, clearing his head, when he had spotted a bunch of cop cars off down the tracks, next to the jungle. He stayed back until they'd carted us off, then took my briefcase and Ike's guitar home with him.
 
But for now this note has put my worries to rest and we hurriedly collect the essentials, leaving with just a little more than we had arrived with. Our clothes, bedrolls, and of course Ike's radio and skillet.
 
Ike picks up a heavy stone and grins wickedly, "Should we smash it all up?"
 
"Naw, maybe someone can move in here some day. Just imagine some weary old sot stumbling out into the bushes to bed down for the night and finding a palace like this..."
 
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.
 
We dropped my typewriter off at Olie's. He was happy to get it. His IBM Selectric was
on the fritz, and this would fill in nicely until he came up with $3000 for one of those amazing "word processors" (I'd played with one in Sears---falling madly in love with the thing---until they chased me away from it) But this gift wasn't enough for him to offer to put us up for the night...
 
He simply knew better, having had a number of shiftless friends during his twenties, who had become long-term guests at his bungalow in Huntington Beach, and then headaches, and then resentful detractors- haranguing everyone down at the Golden Bear about what a tight-assed phony that Olie was as they scoped out some new sucker to mooch off of.
 
We spent that night in one of the dug-outs at the baseball park that sat directly across
the creek from the sewage treatment plant. A concrete trench with a bench running down it, a weathered green wooden roof and chain link strung across the front. There were four diamonds in the park, and each of these eight dugouts had its minor pros and cons, but we settled on the one farthest away from the tiny parking lot, because we knew the cops rolled through it late at night, or sometimes parked there---their cruisers side by side in a 69 configuration---to gab and drink coffee.
 
Sitting in there, staring out at the grass of the outfield, it dawned on us that we would
no longer have the upkeep and improvement projects on our jungle home to keep us busy. We were truly homeless again. Time hung... 
 
By now it was a reasonable time to go to bed, but neither of us was sleepy. We scrounged up another fifth of Night Train and returned to the dugout, but even with a good drunk on and the music from our radio playing softly it was almost as boring as it had been before. Then around midnight Ike had a brainstorm...
 
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.
 
We leave our bunker and positioned ourselves along that dark stretch of bike trail
across from the bamboos. Sure enough, within twenty minutes we see---from our levee
which fortunately is just a bit higher than the opposite one---a caravan of black and whites rolling down the dirt path alongside the warehouse with their lights off until they get to the tracks. 
 
Soon flashlight beams are coursing fitfully through the brush. It must be spooky but maybe also kind of fun for them- a midnight C.H.U.D. hunt down at the swamp. Even if they manage to spot us clear over here we can be long gone before they get halfway across the creek.
 
Ike whispers, "I hope Billy and Blair aren't trying to stay there tonight!"
 
"Jesus! Out in front of the jail today Blair was kind of talking about that. Saying how the cops will usually never sweep an area so soon after the last raid, because they're figuring that you're figuring that they're going to come right back ........ So they give you at least a week to lower your guard and come creeping back in."
 
"That is usually how they do it," he nods, "But after a warning like we got it would be awful dumb to try and outguess them like that. I mean, there they are!"
 
"Then it's a good thing Blair never does anything dumb..."
 
"She might. But Billy's not as flaky about things like this as she is. He wouldn't go for it. Not if it meant going back to the pokey!"
 
"I think you're right. Besides, if she was down there we'd be able to hear it from here!"
 
"Wouldn't that be a trip? 'ALL YOU LOUSY PIGS-FROM-THE-ESTABLISHMENT AREN'T NATURAL! YOU DON'T KNOW STUFF LIKE WE DO! AND YOU'RE GONNA GET THE HERPES FROM USING THEM PLASTIC COMBS IN YOUR HAIR! YOU GUYS ARE ....... Y-Y-YOU'RE ........ Y-YOU-" He sputters like Tommy Smothers for a second before giving up on his Blair routine. Asks, "Do you think they got John Henry?"
 
"If they did I hope they take him to U.C.I. Medical Center. The whole environment there is just a lot less ....... punitive I guess you'd call it. There's women in there too, at least there were in the Evaluation Unit, so it doesn't have that whole sick machismo thing going on."
 
"Oh yeah," he laughs, "You did get put in there that time! What did you do again?"
 
"These cops down in Garden Grove were going to bust me for drunk in public, so I said all this stuff about the alien mind parasites in my head, and begged them to shoot me before it spread; and so they took me there instead of OCJ. It was one less arrest on my record, and---lucky for me---the shrink kicked me out the next day for being a faker and a freeloader.* But with John Henry it's no act. And he really does belong there instead of in jail..."
.
 
[*See: Walk Normal in Norwalk by Roger Di Prima, coming soon to FICTIONEER.]
 
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.
 
They missed John Henry that night. Unwilling to climb into the maw of one of those demon infested Beelze-buses he walked the entire way back, spending the night in Orange County's last remaining tiny orange grove out by Tustin, and hiking the rest of the way the next day. At least this is what I gathered from the garbled epic he told us when we ran into him a couple of days later out in front of the five and dime...
 
He moved back into his patch of grass and was never bothered by the sheriffs again. They must have decided that a single non-drinking bum---who won't be inviting all his rowdy thieving hooligan buddies out there---was an acceptable annoyance for the citizenry to bear.
 
.
###.46 = WEST BANK SETTLEMENT
 
Each ball field has two small racks of wooden bleachers. The one by our dugout faces away from the traffic on Del Obisbo, which means we can lounge around on it during certain hours in relative seclusion, moseying off whenever groundskeepers or whoever show up. We don't want to be readily associated with this place.
 
A few mornings into our stay we're up on the very top bench, catching the first of the sun's rays, when we spot Blair trundling up the bike trail. We yell and she comes over.
 
"Good morning, campers! Is this your new home?"
 
"For now. Until we find our real spot."
 
"Billy and I sure found one!" she chirps, "It's beautiful, a lot like our old pad. Has the same sort of energy. You should come see it."
 
"We got laundry to do," says Ike, "But we'll definitely come by later. Is it hard to find?"
 
"Not at all," she says, and gives us directions. 
 
We wash our sleeping bags at a laundromat on this side of the creek, that the big machines. Our few nights indoors had made us aware of just how stinky we had let them get. As the washers run we peek behind the Round Table next door, and find two pizzas in take out boxes that must have never picked up. (HOBO TIP #53: You can do this intentionally- phoning in fake orders late at night and retrieving them from the dumpster after they close; until they catch on and start dumping the ashtrays and such out on them...)
 
We eat one pizza at the laundromat and head up the bike trail along the creek with the second one, a housewarming present. We pass by the ball park again, and then the vacant field directly across from the bamboos that we used to cut through to get to Albertson's. We scan it, but even with the recent rains there isn't enough greenery to conceal any sort of camp.
 
"Do you remember seeing anything down this way that might be what she was talking about?" asks Ike. Blair's directions hadn't been very clear.
 
"No I don't. It's kind of funny that she didn't offer to let us stay with them."
 
"Not too funny. Did you see her shoulder? It's all purple where you chomped on it."
 
"Shit! I really lost my head, didn't I?"
 
"You sure did. But everyone in that cop car wanted her to shut up as bad as you did!
And it's not like you broke her jaw or anything."
 
I sigh, disgusted with myself. "No, but I broke ....... Oh hell, nevermind!"
 
"What? Your code of chivalry? Never hit a woman? I totally hear you on that, but-"
 
"Never hit anyone! Not unless they hit you first; and certainly not over some stupid verbal dispute."
 
"Well guess what, Roger. You're human."
 
"Oh Christ. Is that supposed to cheer me up?"
 
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.
 
After the empty field comes the first of four new housing tracts, not the sort of place you would expect to find a homeless camp.
 
"Could we have passed it somehow?"
 
Then we see it. In the narrow space between the development's back wall and the slope of the creek's bank lies a circular clump of reeds about the diameter of a motel jacuzzi.
 
Ike is aghast. "This dinky thing?"
 
"I think so," I say, pointing out the trickle of pale smoke wafting up from its center.
 
We lope down a sandy trail in the embankment, which also leads to a gap that had been left in the cinderblock wall. The path to the bike path appears well used by the residents of the subdivision. All around the scraggly little island of reeds is a network of trails and tiny hillocks, where children obviously ride their motocross bikes.
 
"Kids," grumbles Ike. "Bad news!"
 
It's a sentiment that is substantiated toward the end of our visit with Blair, when four young boys show up, taking her up on what is plainly a standing invitation. She introduces each one to us. For some reason they all have funny Bible names like Izlach and Jehazediah...
 
Billy and Blair had hauled their plywood bed-house across the creek and reassembled it in here. Since this grove is just big enough to hide both it and the little dresser they had found from view, we can see why she hadn't offered to put us up here. Someone would have had to lay with his legs sticking out into the dirt lot.
 
The boys seem vaguely fascinated by these weird people that had moved into their playground. As Blair prattles amiably away---raving about their new home's vibes, and the "excellent feelings" she has about it----they sit and stare at her, confused but vaguely fascinated; as if they are watching a video monitor showing a scene so alien that they have no frame of reference for it. The dicyclic varidening of Zone 7's secondary flasnons.
 
The lads decline the tea and pizza that Blair offers them, and roll their eyes at each other when they think we aren't looking. Either she is oblivious to their smirky, condescending amusement, or she notices it but feels it is her duty to educate them nonetheless, these poor souls born into the robotizing nightmare of suburban Amerika.
 
She turns to me and Ike. "So, how do you like the baseball park?"
 
I cringe. And Ike too must have hoped that she would make no mention of where we are staying, because he drawls resentfully, "Nobody fuckin' showed! Practice was at nine sharp, and damn do we need practice! They must have figured it was gonna rain, the wimps! I was watching the news---at my HOUSE---and the weatherman said there was only a 30% chance of showers."
 
Nice try, Brother! But we're sitting here unshaven, drinking tea out of old soup cans with this mad woman, our greasy backpacks right here alongside us, and me with this faded Abraham-Lincoln-vs.-the-Space-Aliens eye patch on. We look about as much like weekend softball players as we do Argentine gauchos...
 
Blair laughs, "Oh you guys!"
 
On our way back toward the beach Ike sighs, "Her and Billy are fucked, aren't they?"
 
"I can hear the phones being dialed as we speak. They won't last a week out there."
 
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.
 
I resumed my habit of carrying all my stuff around on my back, while Ike preferred to hide to hide his in the bushes and walk around town a bit more incognito. But if you do this enough times eventually somebody is going to find it and mess with it.
 
Our "couple of nights" in the dugouts went on for much longer than we had originally planned. We knew we were pushing our luck staying in a place as obvious as this---and in the same park where the Sheriffs regularly cooped---but that low flat roof kept the rain off us so well that we kept giving it one more night.
 
We started hazarding trips into Doheny's day-use area. The landscaping crew had known us since we were staying in the campground, and they were careful not to toss out Ike's frying pan and whatever cans we stashed with it in the thick banks of oleander bushes. 
 
Our evil nemesis the Head Ranger said he couldn't keep us from using this side of the park, but if we were there one minute past closing, or got detectably drunk, or stuck a single toe inside the campground area we would be in jail so fast our heads would spin! This meant we were stuck using the cold outdoor beach showers on the day-use side, which would be less and less fun as winter progressed, but they did the job.
 
And it was great to be back at the park in at least some capacity ......... This pleasant expanse of well-kept lawn you could step off of and be right on the beach.
 
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Around sundown we're back at the baseball park. We're in our dugout but haven't unpacked anything. The next hour should tell if we can settle in for the night or if the floodlights are going to come on and we have to split for a while. Even though it's not baseball season there is still the occasional game here. If there is one we will panhandle a bit, then go to Round Table and dawdle over a pitcher while Ike plays video games. He was mortified when they took out his beloved Pac Man and replaced it with Ms. Pac Man ("Ike, it's the same exact game!"), but now he's quite taken with this Donkey Kong.
 
We're finally getting around to reading the newspaper I'd grabbed out of the laundromat this morning, each taking a section. Ike says, "This is today's paper isn't it?"
 
"I'm pretty sure it is."
 
"Well look at the date."
 
Wednesday, November 24th 1981. Which means nothing to me. And then I catch on.
"Oh wow! I guess we know what we're doing tomorrow..."
 
.
###.47 = TWO THANKSGIVINGS
 
Last year at Thanksgiving time the Doheny camp sites had all been occupied, reserved months in advance, so we were exiled until Monday, bedding down in a field someplace. But on Thanksgiving Day we made use of the State Park's picnic area. We'd found a loaf of dill rye and a pack of Muenster cheese and decided to toast some cheese sandwiches. 
 
We got there early enough to claim a table and the boxy grill-on-a-steel-pole next to it.
We kept stuffing the cooker with those nuggets of driftwood that you find along the mouth of the creek, letting them burn down into an even mass of red coals.
 
Some of the larger picnics seemed to have been plotted out with the precision of military
campaigns: The advance troops showing up at around seven, grabbing whole clusters of tables and stapling plastic tablecloths to them, tacking poster board arrows (ANDERSON PICNIC THIS WAY!) to the trunks of palm trees, firing up the propane cookstoves. From around ten o'clock on the rest of the clan would show up, until they had overflowed however much room they had staked out and began dragging chairs and whatnot out of their vans and carrying it over.
 
We felt a bit overwhelmed by it all. We just didn't fill up space, possessing it the way they did- with everything from volleyball nets to video equipment. People kept eyeing our table, wondering who the hell we were to claim a whole table for just the two of us. Next to us a mom with a bullhorn was yelling at her two boys to stop firing staples at their baby sister.
 
Ike had slapped together a couple of whopping sandwiches and was about to stick them on the grill when I stopped him, "You know, with all these people around, there must be someone who'd be willing to donate a little butter or margarine."
 
"You gonna go hit them up?" he asks.
 
"Unless you want to."
 
"No thanks, you go ahead..."
 
I guess it was a really Norman Rockwell kind of scene, not exactly the place for our ragged selves, so I selected our potential benefactors with great care.
 
The dad was striding off toward the parking lot. Three well-mannered children were setting the tables. The mom---a brunette sinewy from years of sunbathing---was tossing bits of chopped chestnut into a pan of dressing and stirring them in. As I approached she sang out apprehensively, "Yes?"
 
"Hi there! I was wondering ........ We're making grilled cheese sandwiches, see? And I was wondering if maybe you could spare a little butter for them."
 
She cried in dismay, "You can't have grilled cheese sandwiches for Thanksgiving!"
 
"There's not much else you can make out of bread and cheese. Maybe some funky kind of taco..."
 
"Oh hush! Grilled cheese sandwiches, for God's sake! You go sit down with your friend and we'll bring you over a real Thanksgiving dinner!"
 
Five minutes later the dad and one of the kids brought us each two helpings, the heavy pressed-cardboard plates so laden down with food that they sagged precariously. Me and Ike and a gray haired old coot we saw bicycling along under huge sacks of discarded soda cans ate like kings that day!
 
In the months that followed we talked about that epic feed so often---reminiscing about the perfect succulence of the olives and so forth---that it had attained the status of a legend. And so when the holiday came around again we just knew we had to give this another shot...
 
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This year we've brought along a little boxed chess set Ike found, and his stereo, to help legitimize our use of a table. Billy and Blair---familiar with the story of that feast---are supposed to be showing up at any moment. We had to buy our bread and cheese this time, settling on 25¢ a loaf generic sponge-rubber white bread and a packet of pre-sliced Cheese Flavored Imitation Food Product. Given the utterly contrived nature of our plight today it would probably serve us right if we wound up having to eat this wretched muck, surrounded by all these delicacies.
 
"It's your turn to do this," I tell Ike, motioning toward the other tables.
 
He seems as hesitant about this as he was last year. "But you did it so good last time!"
 
"Fine, it's Billy and Blair's turn. Let's wait for them."
 
"Billy's turn, not Blair's. She'd probably ........... I'd hate to think!"
 
I laugh, "She would, wouldn't she? Billy can do it."
 
We wait for them for over an hour, getting a fire going. Ike insists on teaching me to play chess, until he realizes I am dropping my pawns, knights and bishops into his pile of captured pieces when he's not looking.
 
Finally I wade out into the throngs to try my luck. I have picked what seems to be a likely bunch, not far from us, but as I draw near I notice a disturbing pinata hung over their space. A lantern-jawed harradin decked out in flaring bell-bottoms, a Red Chinese worker's cap, and an overloaded paisley bikini top.
 
It stops me in my tracks. What the fuck is this?! Some bizarre ritual as yet undiscovered  
by anthropologists: The Annual Harvest Smashing of the Evil Hippie Bitch Totem?!
 
They notice me at the edge of their spot and glance over with concern. The pinata looks familiar somehow .......... like a caricature ......... or a political cartoon-
 
Holy shit! It's JANE FONDA!! Okay, I get it.
 
And while it is still a rather bizarre thing to do at Thanksgiving, at least this pack of upper middle-class Orange Countians is coming from a place I recognize with their effigy of our nation's most hated traitor since the Rosenbergs. I decide to go with my initial instincts,
and continue on into their midst.
 
"Howdy! I was just admiring your Hanoi Jane effigy. Where on Earth did you get that?"
 
The mom, a plump woman not much older than I am, grins mischeviously, "At Clarion Call Books in Yorba Linda. Isn't it a hoot?"
 
"It's sure something! Say, I was wondering. Me and my partner over there---and oh---our two friends-"
 
And no sooner do I utter the words "grilled cheese sandwiches" than she repeats almost verbatim what the woman had said to me last year! And over to our table comes turkey and salad and corn on the cob, cranberries, green beans, cobbler, and even four big plastic cups full of wine!
 
Real nice folks. Don't these dumb conservatives know they're supposed to be suspicious and hateful, selfish and uncaring? How can I villify them for you after they have sported us to such a fine holiday meal? They even come over and talk to us for a few minutes, dragging their silently mortified eleven-year-old daughter along in what is probably a prelude to that lecture about how she should be thankful for what she's got...
 
We are eating slowly, trying to save the bulk of it until our cohorts arrive. Ike says, "Hey, do you remember about the bugs?"
 
"What bugs? There's no bugs here. Have some more wine and the bugs will go away!"
 
"No, Billy's bugs! Having bugs for Thankgiving! Remember?"
 
"I don't, and it sounds like it would be hard to forget. Was this something you and him did on a dare?"
 
"It's just something Billy said. When we told them about doing this last year, and how it all went down, he said that if we got all that food by telling them we only had some bread and cheese, just think what they might have gave us if we told them all we had to eat was some bugs!"
 
"Wow, that's brilliant! We'll have to try that next year."
 
We kill off our plates, drink Billy and Blair's cups of this delectable blush rose. And
then---making sure that the bunch who had fed us are the ones to get our table---we
go sit on the low concrete wall where the beach begins and crack open the Thunderbird we'd bought; keeping an eye out for our two friends.
 
Ike's radio informs us that it is snowing like crazy back east. Now there's a real Thanksgiving Day thought for you...
 
By an accident of birth I am sitting here at the end of November under these lovely palm trees where it's 75 degrees, while those poor homeless bastards back there are hunched over an exhaust grate in the sidewalk with snow on their backs, knowing that Winter isn't even officially here yet. Which I guess I could endure if I had to, but...
 
I become slobberingly, inanely grateful; and send off a prayer to the God I for the most part believe in.
 
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.
 
At the dugout that night we have the other two plates for dinner... 
 
WHERE THE HECK ARE BILLY AND BLAIR??
 
 
###.48 = FIASCO
 
In the middle of the night Billy comes stumbling down the concrete steps, yelling hysterically, "Roggie! Ohmigod! Ike! Fuck! Help me! BLAIR'S IN JAIL!!"
 
We sit up to make room on the bench for him, but he's not about to sit down. From the way he was yelling and crying I had thought at first that he was having a bad acid trip or something, but he isn't. He paces frantically up and down the narrow trench.
 
"Calm down," says Ike, "It's not like she never went there before. These things happen."
 
"No they DON'T!" shouts Billy, "I mean she's really in jail! For MURDER!"
 
Ike's voice drops an octave, "You're shittin' me!"
 
"Shitting you? We were asleep! And they ................ They came in, they grabbed us, they took us down there. To the police station! They questioned us in different rooms. Oh my God what am I gonna do?!"
 
"Well, the first thing you do is you sit down," Ike commands him, "And then you tell us just who it is she's supposed to have killed."
 
He drops to the bench and starts rocking, his arms making an X across his stomach,
"Nobody! She didn't kill nobody! They say she killed Jimi!"
 
"Jimmy Haywire from Laguna?" gasps Ike.
 
"No- Jimi! Our son!!"
 
Oh Sweet Jesus. Those fucking idiots...
 
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.
 
The wheels had been turning since just after our arrest back in the bamboos, when it had dawned on that female sheriff that the pregnant transient she had been observing around town was now neither pregnant nor carrying an infant around.
 
Homicide seems like a pretty drastic conclusion for them to leap to from this alone, but they are all too serious! In the course of being rousted from their new pad just before dawn, he and Blair were hauled in and questioned about the kid, and she had been formally charged. Billy had to make his way back from Santa Ana, on a holiday, with no busses running.
 
I look outside, trying to guess what time it is. That orange glow coming over the levee isn't dawn, but the sodium vapor lamps over at the sewage treatment plant. The stars---and our friend Orion---are obscured by a low slung sheet of clouds.
 
"It won't stick," Ike assures him. "She'll explain what happened and they'll let her go."
 
"And the law is, they have to prove she did it, not the other way around," I add.
 
"You don't know that," groans Billy, "You don't know that! Blair always said this was gonna happen; because of how nowadays is like the end of this big huge cycle of things, with only bad shit happening ......... that Age of Calagari you and her were fighting about. And how they are gonna ban all music, have this big golden dollar sign and make everyone bow down to it. And yeah I know some of that's just her stuff, but a bunch of different religions all predicted it happening the same. How did they all do that if there wasn't somethin' to it?!"
 
Suddenly I am not so sure that Blair will be released. If anyone could manage to get herself wrongly convicted of murder, she could. What sort of idiot diatribe might she be treating her captors to at this moment? A rhetorical but disasterously-timed lecture on infanticide as something that animals do naturally, in the wild? Anything could come tumbling out of that yammering yap of hers! And for some reason they have released him but not her...
 
We let Billy crash here tonight, but he's got no blankets or anything. I let him borrow my sleeping bag, announcing that I've already had enough sleep for tonight and am going to start my rounds. Leave them sitting here, talking...
 
When I get to the Denny's in San Clemente the snazzy 1950's starburst clock says it's only 2:30 in the morning. I drink their ugly coffee until dawn, the beginning of a weird, achy eyed, draggy-tired and VERY long day...
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
This morning's Orange County Register only gave Blair a single terse unemotional paragraph in the regional section. But this was also the day the local weekly paper came out, and they must have been up half the night rearranging the stories and making MURDER MOM the headline item. And for them it's a long article.
 
But because they obviously didn't have a lot of information about the affair, much of the article deals with the "transient question" in general, with passages that appear to have been lifted whole from earlier articles. It ends with a boastful account of our being rousted out of the Bamboos. Maybe I am just oversensitive from being tired, but a lot of the terminology they used---how a "teeming colony" of these vagrants had been "eradicated" in Capo Beach recently---seems to echo the vermin and disease metaphors of some jingoistic Movietone Newsreel from some bygone war; subtly or not so subtly implying we were just a bit less than human...
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
On Saturday two deputies from the coroner's office went out to retrieve the infant's remains. They brought a rubber sack full of bones and liquiscent flesh back to their boss, who told them, "This isn't her baby. These are the remains of a dog."
 
They must have thought they had found something remarkably evil when they stumbled on that strangely assymetrical little cross reading: 
.
 
MEAT
HOOK
  
OUR
BABY
 
.
On Sunday I went to the $1.99 barber shop down by Camp Pendleton and got a severe haircut. I was all ready to testify, and knew I could tell them what I had seen that day in clear and consistant detail. Blair's wretched bereavement and the color and appearance of the baby.
 
But on Monday Blair led them out to the real grave, and the coroner told them that there was insufficient evidence against her and that they had to let her go. The prosecutor acted
like she had simply gotten lucky; unwilling to admit that the whole arrest had been
an ill-conceived fiasco.
 
.
###.49 = THE EL DORADO TRAIL (Epilogue...)
 
The headline article in the next week's GOLD COAST FOGHORN was about a stop sign that fell over. Or maybe it was about some clothespins.
 
Even though it was chronically desperate for anything like actual news, the slimy little rag made absolutely no mention of it of Blair's exoneration. And although she and Billy had long been used to people's distain- this exponential jump in the terror and loathing being beamed their way was more than my two friends could handle.
 
The abrupt loss of their charity job at the birdbath factory. The current of hysteria that surged through the La Paloma Preschool whenever they would pass by outside the fence.
And how those sad, wistful looks that Blair would cast at a pair of pudgy little arms reaching up out of a stroller had taken on a ghoulish significance in the local's minds!
 
But even if THE FOGHORN had bothered to follow up on the story it might not have mattered much. Too many people here would assume that "insufficient evidence" meant just that. This was not some mundane bit of eccentricity like talking to yourself or never bathing, but one of the worst crimes that human beings are capable of. Such a ghastly notion fevered the imagination, and even the most apathetic or brutal parent could enjoy feeling all righteous and loving by comparison.
 
And besides, anybody who looked and acted like those two was capable of anything! After a few nights in the dugout across from us they packed up and left the area.
 
Ike and I aren't glowered at as consistantly as when people saw us with them, but the whole tone of our life here seems to have changed, the folks here having reassessed their attitude toward these "others" in their midst. Merchants who used to greet us civilly or even cheerfully ("Hey! It's the vagabonds from the back of Von's!") when we would pass their shops now watched us go by in distainful silence. We're just not so cute anymore...
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
As the rains started to become a regular thing, and far heavier than last year, Ike finally did wander out of here, heading up to the state of Washington.
 
The tramps who gathered down at Doheny's day-use area couldn't fathom why he would
be going north at this time of year, striking out for the region that many of them had just fled. They snickered about his lousy sense of timing, calling him "Wrong Way Ike"...
 
But in secret he told me about his destination: A camp in the woods near a brewery that some wino had told him about, where there stood a row of seven mammoth dumpsters chock full of discarded beers. Bottles with rumpled labels, cans on which the pull tabs hadn't attached properly, and like that. The old drunk said that he had left the place out of the fear that with that kind of access to alchohol he would drink himself to death way ahead of schedule! Ike actually had a map, which he would pull from his pocket and carefully unfold for me.
 
If anything ever tempted me to drag my ass up into a boxcar, it was this scrap of paper with directions to Boozer's Paradise on it! It was like some senile old mule skinner's tale about them easy pickin's out there in Callie-fornie; Where them gold nuggets is s'pose ta jump right out th' ground and inta yer pockets! Hee hee hee! GOLD I tell ya!
 
And ultimately it sounded just about as likely to me. I stayed put.
 
But meanwhile there was a gold rush of sorts going on right here- the Christmas panhandling season! More people felt a lot more charitable for these three weeks every year and far fewer cussed you out. And about one time each December some guy would roll down his car window and give you a few bucks without your even asking! I stayed gloriously wasted right up through New Year's.
.
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
John Henry kept on living like he had always done, on his sanctified patch of ground. Scavanging for food, hollaring at the What Birds and waiting for the trumpets of Revelation to sound...
 
A few years later I read that he had been run over by an early morning Amtrack. And then it came out that he had apparently been killed first, and then lain across the tracks to make it look like a train had gotten him. I guess he finally went off on the wrong person. Maybe some illegal aliens who---suddenly confronted by this incomprehensibly raving lunatic---had somewhat understandably picked up something and bashed his head in with it. Whoever it was has never been caught. 
 
[For a while I suspected that it was someone acting at the behest of the local developers, trying to remove all impediments to Capistrano Beach's gussied up new image, as roads were paved, beautiful historic adobes (deemed "hovels") were levelled, and pointless aesthetic regulations proliferated. If this sounds paranoid, I was. I was living a rather different life by then, but often lapsed into these strange flashbacks---usually when I found myself in a  place that was just too tidily wholesome and All-American---of a pariah's mistrust of the society I'd rejoined; a panicky "I don't belong here!" sensation. Still do...]
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
Ike swung back through the area in March, confirming what I had suspected about the brewery up north. Most of the beer he'd pulled from those dumpsters had been flat, or weird tasting in some other way, though the little band of terminal sots he'd hooked up with didn't seem to mind at all. 
 
Nor did they mind too much that you had to mangle yourself on shredded cans (like a dumpster full of razor wire) to get to it. They all had oozing cuts all over them, white-rimmed red slits that would never quite heal in the continuous rains. 
 
He stuck around for less than a week before making his way south again. Had been to Austin Texas, a crazy party town, and now was going back. Did I want to come along?
 
I waited at the Union Pacific right of way with him until a southbound freight pulled over,
and handed him his duffel bag and guitar after he climbed up onto the SeaLand flatbed.
The engineer tooted his horn.
 
I'll always remember that last conversation with my good friend...
 
"Hey Roger. This is you!" he said, making a bizarre face and going Bleeeeeeeaauugghh! 
at me.
 
"Oh yeah? Well here's you!" I jeered as the train crept forward; and danced around, my arms outstretched, like a brain damaged Zorba the Greek, "Blooble! Blooble! Blooble! Blooble!"
 
"No, that's not me! But here's YOU! Hudja-mudja deedle deedle Fweep?!!"
 
"'Fraid not! You go ROOOOOOO! ROOOOOOOO! ROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!"
 
.
And then he was gone.
 
=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=X=
.
 
If I had known that some day I would go the hallelujah-sobriety route and even rejoin the employment grind, with only the rare four day vacation in which to travel, I might have been more of a wanderer. With both Doheny and the bamboos closed to me I travelled a bit more widely, but nothing near what I should have done. And if I had known that this phase of my life would become my main source of material for autobiographical stories I would have lived more wildly and had better adventures.
.
 
But there were a number of increasingly blurry years ahead before I stumbled---shaking and hallucinating---into that alchohol detox center.
 
After leaving the baseball park I found little niches to sleep in, some better than others, but never had anything like a house again for the rest of my time on the street.
 
I drank and went to the beach a lot, finishing the trilogy and then my dystopian surrealist transformation novel City of Light, which I lost someplace.
 
I dumpstered and panhandled and banged on pay phones; and sold my blood plasma every week- until the day the woman at the counter asked me, "Have you participated in a homosexual act in the past ten years?"
 
I got to know local drunk tanks and county jails from San Diego to Santa Cruz.
 
I hung out in libraries, reading hundreds of books.
 
.
As my glasses continued to disintegrate...
.
 
.
 
>>>>> THE END <<<<<
 

 

Overall an interesting read

It's sad that I don't think there are enough people willing to read thru a story like this or would even believe that life like this really exists for some.On the other hand some over educated idiot might grasp unto it and sell it as some type of it's a wonderfull life.Thanks for your effort.Amy

Blue Note

I can hear the music. Thanks for this.

- Joyce

This Was Really Amazing

I'm not going to be able to write a book review that does this the least bit of justice, nor to adequately express my gratitude for having been allowed to read it.

It's really, REALLY good. It's a riveting read.

Despite my trolling the fiction sites as much as I do, I actually do read actual books now and again. Not only is this worthy of being published, it's better than an awful lot of things that have been.

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