1285

I was listening to the Hallowe'en edition of Prairie Home Companion on the evening before the holiday when it was interrupted with a flash flood warning. We hear them fairly often here, so I didn't pay much attention, certainly didn't know it was destined to affect my life the way it did.

A number of buildings on the University campus were damaged, none more than Hamilton Library, which remains closed and may do so for the rest of 2004.

The Sleeptalker arrived on campus the following Monday, knowing nothing of the flood, so we walked around surveying the damage and then I took him to a nearby net cafe and treated him to an hour on the computer.

As I told Helen R. at lunch on Veterans Day, I find it difficult at the net cafe. To pay nine-cents-a-minute to write one of these things is somewhat like sitting in heavy traffic in a taxi and watching the meter click over and over.

Well, as if the flood weren't enough bad news for one week, there was the election.

1286

Never mind the Solstice, winter arrived here on November 14th. It was a gray, wet, windy Sunday and decidedly cool. I had an extra tee-shirt in my bag so switched to a layered mode, next day changed shorts for long pants. (It always feels so odd to wear trousers after months of shorts.)

These flood-caused online complications have one silver lining, like all clouds are said to have: a much more lively exchange with Felix than usual. After all, I can sit at the mall sipping on a beer and write a postcard with no worries about nine-cents-a-minute net cafe charges or taking up a computer at Sinclair Library when students are waiting to use it or dealing with those dragon lady librarians at the State Library. (Is there some rule which says only a dragon lady can be a librarian?)

Although I usually only spend about an hour or an hour-and-a-half online each day, its absence gives the feeling of having much more time at my disposal. Turn to the classics. So I read Trollope's Barcester Towers. I love the way he now and then steps outside the story and adopts a direct author-to-reader mode. Dickens. Barnaby Rudge. I did have a collected works edition in London in the 60s but don't think I read that one. Then, oddly, I found Great Expectations which I re-read not long ago. I read it again. Poor Havisham. Then Austen's Sense and Sensibility. And not quite in that same pantheon, Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. Maybe I'd noticed it before and have forgotten, but it was in any case a surprise to see how much influence Gertrude Stein seems to have had on his writing at that time.

On Third Wednesday morning, I was leaving the Black Hole when I heard "Albert! Albert!". The Sleeptalker. "Are you going to UH?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "I don't have anything to do until it's time for the mailman."

What's the name of that play with "postman" in the title? In any case, he didn't arrive late, Gott sei dank.

1287

Angelo is in prison. I read a report about a young man who was apprehended trying to shoplift from the new Wal-Mart store here. The culprit hit the security guard who caught him, which changed it from a simple misdemeanor to a felony. I thought at the time, I hope that wasn't someone I know. According to the Sleeptalker, it was, alas. Maybe as much as a year inside.

In the most recent letter from Felix, he pondered hugging, especially the complications of a homosexual man hugging a heterosexual man. On Friday, the Sleeptalker said, "give me a hug". Synchronicity is a wonderful thing.

I spent much of Friday with the Sleeptalker who arrived on campus mid-morning. He was in a very good mood although complaining about "gay guys always wanting to suck my dick". He seems to be getting increasingly annoyed with his current patron. And he has been "suspended" from the Black Hole. One recent night there, I heard over the loudspeaker "code one! code one! parking lot!" A fight. Guess who was involved.

All my children, all my poor sweet children.

1288

most recent postcard to Felix:

I've said it before and I'll say it again. When they play the last note of Turandot Puccini wrote, the conductor should put down the baton and the house should go dark. To swoon in Act Two. Fortunately [the Sleeptalker] had gone on his way by then after letting me lick his bellybutton for five dollars. I knew he needed money. Could've just given him it but he likes the game, too. He ranted for half an hour about his current patron and I strenuously refused to be jealous. Houston has indeed got itself a GRAND opera. Swell, even.

The Houston Swell Opera Company.

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I told the Sleeptalker he is the "Werewolf of Waianae", what with this habit of showing up at the time of the Full Moon. He was in fine form and I think the primary reason for his visit to campus was just that rant about his patron (who is evidently a local Japanese man in his thirties, doesn't smoke ice but is a cocaine enthusiast). I'm probably the only person the Sleeptalker can rant to since he won't admit these relationships to most of his friends and acquaintances.

A pleasant Thanksgiving, quiet morning on the deserted campus with my furry family, then meeting Helen R. to see The Polar Express followed by a huge traditional turkey-and-all-the-trimmings dinner. I was so stuffed I ate nothing the next day but a bit of macaroni salad.

I did tell the Sleeptalker I wondered if it was my last Thanksgiving.

1288a

I did it!!!!!!

I touched Thimble.

1288b

A reader wrote about 1288: You're both crazy.

I don't in the least disagree.

And I emailed the Cat Lady about having gotten the blessing of touching Thimble and she replied: Congratulations! Perseverance pays. You're way ahead of me; I still get hissed at. But they are adorable, aren't they? I would have bet on Andrew the brave. He has let me get almost close enough to pet many times and backs up not out of fear, but of stand-offishness. He moves in and out of the crowd at the bookstore casually and those big black cats just accept him. They are a special family!

Don't in the least disagree with that, either.

Some called her "Pumpkin", but most called her "Peanut". A lovely dark tortoise-shell cat with probably the biggest fan club of all the campus cats. At least three, maybe four, people were feeding her every day. She was wonderfully vocal and would stroll around giving plaintive meows which at first I thought meant she was hungry, but soon noticed that couldn't be the reason. "She just wants to be told she's beautiful," the Cat Lady told me. No problem there. Peanut would usually only visit the Secluded Grove on weekends and when she came strolling through I could quite honestly say, "pretty puss". First the Cat Lady, then two other women I've never talked to before, came to the Grove to ask if I'd seen Peanut. No, not since the weekend before the most previous one. After an intensive search, Peanut's body was found. Well, she was at least sixteen years old, possibly older. And she had been much loved. A good life for a homeless creature.

My batch, who will undoubtedly outlive me, are very annoyed with me since they are having to endure nasty human food. I have tried everything .... tuna, salmon, chunks of roast chicken, turkey Spam, Vienna sausages. No, they want their Whiskas or Friskies. Well, they'll just have to wait until Wednesday, and I surely hope no longer than that.

"She has such pretty eyes," said the Cat Lady, reminding me of the Sleeptalker saying, "that cat has beautiful eyes." They are both, of course, quite accurate, but it's not nice to see those eyes scolding me for bringing more human junk for breakfast.

1290

Felix, musing upon karma, wrote "you had to meet Sleeptalker". Indeed. Why else would I be sitting on this mountaintop in the middle of nowhere?

I haven't seen that young man since the last evening of November when he came to the mall and did his best effort to seduce me into filling a pipe, sharing it with him, and getting the ultimate reward afterwards. Why did I resist?

I don't really know, but I did, and I suspect he is sulking about it.

Tanioka is sleeping on a large piece of cardboard near the mall, in a place where I go in the early morning to get a bus to the campus. He looks thoroughly derelict, but then anyone would who is sleeping on cardboard in such a public place.

I still haven't seen Angelo. The Sleeptalker told me Angelo is out of prison, but then I only have the Sleeptalker's word that Angelo was in prison to begin with (and with the Sleeptalker, the line between fact and fantasy has been very obscure in recent times).

Halfway through December. It hasn't really been a very interesting month thus far which, of course, makes it easier to endure the flood-hampered difficulties of on-line life. I had a Russian-oriented double feature with Frederick Forsythe's Icon and le Carre's Russia House, then went to a totally different place with Virginia Woolf's Night and Day.

Night and day, you are the one .... Then what is it, "beneath the moon and under the sun"? Something like that.

1291

Poor Sleeptalker. I'm like a radio tower broadcasting "I want to see you, I want to see you." I think he's either in the country or in jail. He has been in such a kleptomaniac phase recently. Even if I take him to a shop and say "you can have anything you want", he still walks out with stuff in his pockets.

I did try to appeal to his Christian sentiment, speaking of the Ten Commandments and "thou shalt not steal". His response was "God helps those who help themselves." A most peculiar form of Christian philosophy.

I wish he wouldn't do it in places where I frequently shop, as at the used bookstore where I was buying a book and he was pocketing CDs (and was noticed, even if he did get away).

And I am saddened by seeing Tanioka most mornings, asleep on his cardboard. He really is as derelict as I've ever seen him. There but for the grace, etc.

The Metropolitan Opera began the current broadcast season with I Vespri Siciliani. Much as I love Verdi, I cannot admire that work which seems to me like an extended (very extended) exercise in barely-controlled hysteria. I gave up after an hour or so. But they did present a most handsome production of Tannhauser as their second offering. Some "wit" said Tannhauser was Wagner for people who love Il Trovatore. Okay, had it been sung in Italian there are certainly moments when I would have guessed Verdi had I not known what I was listening to, but most of the time it is clearly Richard Wagner. He did "borrow" from himself a lot.

Christmas week. Sigh. Oh well, it will soon be over.

1292

be careful what you wish for ...

Well, I got my wish. The Sleeptalker arrived at the mall shortly before sunset on the Solstice. He was doing his "punk teenager" act, which is really not too charming at his age. He had yet another new CD player and a few CDs which he'd obviously just pocketed, since he spent some time unwrapping them and filing the discs into a carrier which I'm sure was also pocketed. Unlike Angelo, the Sleeptalker doesn't steal specifically to fill the pipe. He takes things he wants. But then, eventually, he wants the pipe even more, so sells things like CD players. And then has to take another. CD players seem to be the top of his list.

He was wearing a black knit cap pulled far down over his head, covering his ears and eyebrows. I asked him to take it off. He refused. He was obviously "iced". Eventually I said "you can stop the act". "I'm just listening to the music," he said (Bob Marley). "Well, you don't need me for that. Good to see you," I said, and walked off.

The Solstice was a grey day with occasional rain, but the day after was one of those times when it just pours rain non-stop for hours and hours. I sat on a covered bench at the University, hoping I didn't run out of cigarettes before the rain at least slowed down a bit. Finally, mid-afternoon, it did slow so I was able to feed the furry ones and go on to shop for supplies.

The "Santa" at Ala Moana is scarey, even for me. I shudder to think what little children must think of him. He's just too hyper, near hysterical. Maybe the ice at the North Pole isn't frozen water?

1293

This was probably the most banal holiday season of my life. Well, I did have that perverse encounter with the Sleeptalker on the Solstice. On Christmas Day, the mall was totally closed but I got off the bus from the Black Hole and sat at the mall stop until the sun appeared, before going on to spend a quiet day on the deserted campus. (There is little difference between seasons here, but the late sunrise is certainly one of them.)

Tanioka arrived. Wearing one of those white nose-guards people use to protect against sunburn. Errrr ... the sun still hadn't appeared, but okay, I said nothing. "Are you going blind?" he asked. "I don't think so." "I may be going blind," he said. And asked to borrow five dollars. Of course, I gave it to him.

Not quite the same when Angelo arrived a few mornings later. Even though we haven't seen each other in months, without any prelude he asked to "borrow" money. I said no, and he went off without saying another word. That young man really needs some diplomacy lessons.

The next day Paulo also asked to borrow money. Same answer. "Please," he begged. No.

Maryse suggested that I need some new Bad Boys. She may be right.

I do wonder how we can help those poor people in the Indian Ocean area when, after two months, we still can't restore electricity to Hamilton Library.

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the tales