1303

Such a contrast on the penultimate weekend of the Monkey Year. "You're always welcome here" countered with, more or less, you're not welcome here, go away, sleep outside and come back tomorrow to talk about it.

Yes, when I got to the Black Hole on Sunday evening, I was told I was "suspended" because I hadn't responded to the questionnaire.

What questionnaire???

I assume they had put the thing into the mailroom, but if they had taken a moment to look at their computerized records, they would have seen that I did not want the mail option at the Black Hole so I naturally never check for mail there.

Even if that was too much of an effort, couldn't they have just handed me a copy of the questionnaire and asked me to complete it before spending the night?

Too reasonable, I guess.

So I went first to the old GovSanc2 but at a little past midnight some people wearing "Sheriff" jackets chased me away. Nearby I found a dark corner spot where I could hide, and I've stayed there each night since. No sheriffs or security patrols, but there is an early wake-up call when the newspapers are delivered (the first one arrives just after three in the morning).

My body is having some difficulty in adjusting to the reduced sleep time, but then I was spending much more time than I really needed in dreamland so it's probably for the best ... or will be, once I adjust.

Seasonly, of course, it's very bad timing because it has been almost constantly gray skies and continuous rain or drizzle and it's quite cool. I added to my wardrobe a lightweight shirt, part cashmere wool (the first time I've worn wool in many years), after the initial hours-before-dawn shivering.

Oh well, as Gilda so aptly said, "it's always something."

Grubby has been spotted. I think he must have gotten himself banned from the mall again because he stays at the bus stop on the fringe and makes quick forays into the mall to check ashtrays and trashcans in the early morning hours. Joe Guam is still missing.

I listened to the State of the Union address, thought the highlight was when the opposition said loudly, "no, no, no". First time I've heard the United States Congress sound so much like Britain's House of Commons. (You will no doubt have heard that the response was to Bush2's Chicken Little attitude to the future of Social Security.) At least the creep said that those of us over 55 can expect no changes. If one can trust him, which is extremely doubtful.

1304

Preface: don't waste your time urging me to see a doctor.

It seems quite possible that I had a mild stroke in my sleep on the last Thursday of the Monkey. What is certain is that I suddenly awoke and had to vomit. And when the newspaper man arrived and woke me for the new day, my right arm seemed to have lost its strength. The hand has lost most of its dexterity. I have great difficulty reaching into my right pants pocket to get coins out.

If both arms and hands had been affected, I'd be in big trouble.

It would be very good if this is just some temporary thing, but in the meantime I have to re-educate myself to using the left hand more often. I hadn't noticed before what a weak grip I have with the left hand. Shall I hire a boy to open my beer bottles for me?

How sweet it would be if the Dark Corner had a wider wall. It is so narrow I can't really sleep too deeply for fear of tumbling off into the surrounding greenery. So most of the time, I emulate the Duchess and sleep sitting.

Well, catnap, anyway.

1305

People. People who need people ...

A long-time reader made a rare visit to the mall on Saturday evening to check, in-person, whether I was okay. Sunday morning, the Cat Lady came to the Grove and we had a most amusing chat. She was delighted by the "President story", shook my hand and congratulated me on meeting him, something she hasn't yet managed to do. Later in the day, a man stopped and asked "are you the guy who has been putting the books up there?" (gesturing toward the former post office building). Indeed, I've long made a habit of leaving finished books on a little sheltered counter there. He gave me a book and thanked me for my contributions.

No newspaper delivery at the Dark Corner on the weekends, so I was able to sleep a bit later. Although it is, without question, not as comfortable physically, it is preferable to the Black Hole. The anxiety, of course, is being discovered and evicted and then where ... ?

We have dozens, probably hundreds of habits, routine ways of doing things. And when suddenly we are prevented by our body from following those ways, it is quite disconcerting. It has improved a little. I've been doing what would seem logical "rehabilitation" exercises, making a fist and squeezing, doing elbow bends. There's so little strength. I can manage to hold a cigarette between my middle and index finger, but if I should drop it, I can't pick it up. My usual routine is to open a bottle of beer, hold the cap in my hand while I also hold the camouflage bottle to fill or re-fill it from the main bottle. Can't do that ... the right hand will not multi-task. But at least I'm able to twist the cap on the main bottle. For the first two days, that was a MAJOR task. I thought I'd have to buy some kind of tool.

Perhaps most bizarre is the difficulty in brushing teeth. But with only eight real ones left, maybe that's not important.

Most annoying, though, is that I can't use a pen without extreme difficulty. I tried to write a postcard to Felix and gave up after the first shakey sentence. Guess I'll have to use the computer, print it out and paste it on a postcard.

Well, maybe it will get better ...

As I told the reader, if my body is going to start crumbling, please just collapse all at one time, not do it bit by bit.

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the tales