Saturday, February 13, 2010

chapter 13

Jean was about completely out of money, but still bought, well OK I bought if you want to get technical about it, some supplies for the Community Kitchen, scrubby pads and dish soap and cheap brooms and mops, as well as canned goods and the odd loaf of bread and sandwichy stuff, for Lori put in mostly ramen noodles and some rather gross mac-n-cheese. Johnny had gratefully accepted her offer to cook in the Kitchen for the overflow crowd during Earth Dance, and asked her to find a volunteer to be the runner between there and the Restaurant, so she volunteered me, but then of course word of these arrangements leaked back to Lori, who forbade either of us to help, and refused Jean's offer to set up Rob's nice lighting for the event, instead making Adam go up a precarious ladder to hang a floodlight from one of Grandmother's long branches, hanging out into the Lawn in front of the stage, despite a county ordinance specifically forbidding the use of floodlights in the mountains, and while no spike was driven to permanently affix this thing, it has never been removed since. So Jean declared herself "on strike" and the duties of the Community Kitchen fell for a while to me, Jean writing BOB'S on the latest flimsy mop and broom and tying plastic flowers to them, as a minor charm that might possibly deter people from stealing them, although I did find that the broom had wandered off to the Taj Mahal once. One morning, not only were both doors to the Breezeway, the tin-roofed ramshackle lattice-work structure bridging Chez le Ronde and the Kitchen, open but the Kitchen door was unlatched, as happened more and more often since the sign urging people not to let critters in had disappeared, and never been replaced of course, since that would not be the Lupin way. As a small herd of deer fled from me, into one door and then out the other of the Breezeway, a little buck with cute spiky antlers took the wrong turn into the Kitchen, and since deer do not do back-ups, and there is little room to turn around, it was a bit delicate getting him out without unnerving him so that he might flail and kick and do damage. Everybody smoking down at the dumpsters agreed that I had "the story of the day", and Adam promised to tell at the staff meeting about my hitherto-unsuspected talents as a "deer whisperer".

For Earth Dance, Maureen wanted Jeff-and-Karen to run the Snack Bar by the pool, as they had started doing back in the days of Terrible Ed, when some things at least had been run in proper business-like fashion, before the Snack Bar was taken over by Carrie for a while and then Phil-and-Issa, but Jeff-and-Karen had been under "house arrest" for six months, ever since some kind of drunken fistfight between Jeff and Ronnie, still paying fees for the use of the grounds but not actually allowed to go anywhere except to park at Flamingo house and go straight inside, so Maureen decided they had served enough time and negotiated with Lori for their release. Jeff sent an appreciative bottle of wine to Maureen, and would thereafter be seen around the grounds with his cute little puppy with the outsized leash, and would sometimes put food in the Kitchen, and would eventually be allowed to be DJ again sometimes, for many of the members liked Jeff-and-Karen better than the Goodess. Maureen also wanted Dennis, whom Judy was the first, though far from the last, to call "Marie", to come back from Palm Springs and assist in the Restaurant, where he had been in charge of food presentation and front decoration until Terrible Ed chased him away, to take refuge in one of Clifford's spare houses, but although Dennis visited, a long heart-to-heart talk between him and Chef John persuaded him that the situation in the Restaurant, and at Lupin in general, was more screwed up than he really wanted to deal with. And however devoutly Maureen wished that Dennis might take an interest in me, it was not to be.

I did have another prospect among the visitors taking advantage of the "Indian Summer", as we call it back east, that we were enjoying, a poet named Gary, who had never been naked in public before but found it very freeing, staying a few days in Kitty yurt, and of course telling me his life story, how he had married and had a child but then concluded that he really was not hetero, which was very hard on the woman of course, so he had moved from New England all the way to San Francisco, and found what I was saying about the gossipy small-town nature of Lupin quite reminiscent of his experience with the poetry scene, where the same few people, even if they don't live together, keep interacting again and again. I got a more disturbing life story from a tall, stocky, and brash Nam vet, who had been on the last transport off the Saigon embassy roof, though originally he had been on another transport, which had been scheduled to take off second-to-last but mortars were coming in by then, and somebody shouted "Everybody out!" and everybody bailed just as an explosion destroyed that aircraft, with some injuries, a couple of them fatal, the last of that sad war. This was upsetting to Maureen, because far away in Indiana that same day of Saigon's fall had been her first husband's last day, and when the vet began talking about his present life in Indiana, it was more than she could bear, so she had to go to Butterfly yurt to hear the Warsaw Concerto in solitude. We were getting more visitors than usual in the unseasonably warm weather, Jack-and-Petey often coming to sit and chat on the swingy chair, Bill to listen to Maureen's arias through the new "Y", for Maureen had finally bought one and offered Turtle his choice of the new one or his old one back, Turtle preferring the "pre-tested" one. But Bill remarked to me, "This must be the only resort in California which has been nearly empty all summer."

The Earth Dance duties in the Kitchen were assigned to Brandy and Carrie, whose docile friendly dog Tighe has no leash, without any objection even from Lori. Carrie originally came here as Robert's girlfriend, but broke his heart because she wouldn't be faithful to him, and has been Adam's on-again off-again girlfriend, mostly on, so of course her relationship with Maureen has had many ups and downs, but let us not speak of them, for personally I have never had a problem with her, and she even said she would try to sneak a photo of the Army of One in the camo-patterned reefer-leaf boxers with which I enjoyed publicly embarrassing him, as the staff stood around with the inevitable cigarettes in the morning by the dumpster, for his birthday, on the day before Earth Dance, a prize I had found in Paramount Imports, where Maureen had also gone for the occasion, asking Rasputin for assistance in hunting through every knick-knack in the store before settling on a coiled dragon of great power. Carrie tried to clean off the Kitchen stove, but two of the burners were enough to kill every scrubby pad in the place, so I went to get more and whiten the other two, and then Dara brought in a load of fifty miscellaneous cups, all at least dusty and some filthy, which I washed because there was no-one else, keeping to use as my own a Hawaii cup which reminded me of a trip there with Padre Dominic, about which I chatted pleasantly with Clifford in the hot tub when he saw my cup. Then Brandy brought in a big load of food and set it on the floor, which Jean considered very bad practice, unrefrigerated, which Jean considered worse, so I went to the Restaurant to fetch huge tubs of ice, while Jean tut-tutted about my hernia, and built up her fury for a screaming confrontation with Brandy, into which poor Will stepped, in an unavailing effort to mediate, until they calmed down, mutually apologized, and began chatting about culinary techniques.

The brewing war was never of course very far below the surface: Justin and Rob were urging all their friends to spread boycott-Lupin messages and to tear down the advertising banners nearly as fast as they were put up, and their musician and DJ friends in particular to cancel on Cindy at the last possible moment, so that we ended up with an odd mix, young thrasher-punks on the upper lawn while New Agey bands like the Butterfly Warriors played down at the fountain, the architect of which came, and gave instructions on its proper functioning. Jean took some Schadenfreude in learning that Cindy had failed to secure visas for a dance troupe from Africa who were to be a highlight, although she did recruit a number of good dance groups, including one from Mexico who performed a moving Aztec rite and some splendid belly-dancers, and was gracious all weekend in dealing with the inevitable temperamental clashes, so perhaps her dark side really was banished. If the attendance was not what might have been hoped for, the event was good word-of-mouth for us no matter what Justin and Rob may have intended, for everyone who was there had a great time, the highlight being Little John's performance on Saturday night, at the top of his form, at one point slapping his cheeks and his mouth in virtuoso percussion, to hear which Maureen stayed up so far past her bedtime that the next morning she left a raspy cell-phone message I have never been able to bring myself to delete: "Bob, I am totally fucked up and inoperative. If I leave a basket of food on the steps, can you feed the cats? Rowdy can wait." Have I mentioned that Rowdy is the cat whom Glyn loves very much but never feeds? And I was glad to overhear the production crew recognize the Army's worth, telling Will, "That Adam kid is the one who really stepped up to the plate for us." All the staff worked their tails off, and John Horne never did get any opportunity to take some time off and go to his ex-wife's to dry out as he kept saying he would, so Maureen told him the hell with it, and gave him a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label, telling him not to share it with anyone.

We lost Gary, who came and did not like being surrounded by mostly clothed people, which was a topic of discussion between me and Jean and Butch-and-Corky on the swingy chair, Butch telling me that he made a special point of working nude precisely because nudists sometimes felt outnumbered, since the place had switched from "nudist" to "clothing-optional", a sore point between him and Lori all the way back, Butch feeling that it was not worth losing the most devoted members to try to compete for business with "textile" resorts, while Jean commiserated with the pale and gaunt-looking Corky about Butch-and-Corky's renewed money battles with Lori. But we picked up some new friends, like the event producers checking out the venue, the Butterfly Group, a name which was a pure coincidence with the Butterfly Warriors, although they were previously acquainted, or with Butterfly yurt, although they immediately hit it off with Maureen, who agreed to spread posters for an upcoming Woodstock commemorative the Butterfly Group was involved with on our boards and at Paramount Imports, and sat at our table all weekend, smoking the inevitable cigarettes. Alan, head of the Group, was a little disappointed that the Naked Human Peace Sign didn't get arranged, so I laid myself down in the circle of the bubble light to make a one-man peace sign, even if the middle leg could not of course reach all the way down to the circle. They were favorably impressed with the potential of the site, promising to visit us again, and thought of maybe organizing a spring equinox festival, although Alan was a little timorous about approaching the reputedly difficult Lori Kay, so I bit the bullet and made the introduction, an encounter which proved entirely satisfactory, resulting in a commitment for the spring, though as with so many Lori Kay promises, we shall have to see whether it materializes. It was to be the last friendly interaction I would have with Lori that year.

For while Brandy and Carrie did a creditable job handling the crowd, the Kitchen was left a shambles, all the propane for the stove gone, and Adam telling me the tank had not been certified since 1972, well before he had even been born, the hot-water heater now unusable, as it leaked all over the floor whenever turned on, and the cold water barely dribbling out either, while my cheap mop had lost its spongey thing and Jean's coffee-maker was destroyed, the pot intact but the lid broken, and the filter holder lost, so we annexed one of Lupin's, considering it ours from then on. Most of the cups Dara had brought in now walked with Jesus, and most of the rest would vanish one by one, including "my" Hawaii cup, so I took to using a cup "Wil Binkley / Humane Society" about which, Maureen told me, there was a story: Wil had been, in the late Fifties, the first single man allowed into this place, by Ethel, the absolute monarch for years and staunch ally, along with Liverpool Fred, of the Boswell Faction, and never married because of a lifelong unrequited devotion to Ethel, whom he sadly outlived, intending to leave all his money to the Humane Society until Lori and Wayne talked him into leaving it to Lupin, supposedly to replace the lower pool but it all went on trips to Paris for Lori. Now, Turtle had said to me that he had been told the morning staff meeting was the official place for residents to bring up maintenance concerns, so when days went by with the Kitchen still a mess, not even any fuel for the stove, I came in to the meeting, but when Lori saw me there, with my inevitable coffee in Wil Binkley's cup, she shouted, "You do not belong here! This is not the platform!" I persisted in stating my complaints about the Kitchen, and everything was fixed before I even got back from work that day, although Jean had a funny story about a vendor coming in to sell a new hot-water heater, greeted with "I only have five minutes for this" by Lori while Jean explained that she had a friend with a hot-water heater he wanted to get rid of which they could probably have for free, to which Lori retorted, "I do not do any more barter with you." But it did get done, even the non-free water-heater installed and working, so I sent Lori a thank-you e-mail, with of course no response.

Manny began sometimes handling the Kitchen, a newcomer who stayed on after Brandy brought him in for Earth Dance, and I took him for a relative of Brandy's boyfriend and assumed he was a long-time member like the other volunteers, but it proved that he had never met Brandy until the week before and had never heard of Lupin. Manny, whose mother was the only person in the world to call him "Refugio", when she was mad at him, and who is the only person in the world besides my mother to call me "Ro-bair" in French, is a Mexican of jolly humor, whose life story involves years as a fire-fighter and then as a bartender, among other jobs, until his present retirement, or semi-retirement since he cannot help but remain active, and Maureen groans at but loves the cornier of his jokes, although their tastes in dirty jokes are not compatible, Maureen finding some of his remarks sexist, so that however devoutly Jean and I wished that he might prove a match for her, it was not to be. The other prominent newcomers, as September passed into October, were Mara, who took Calla Lily yurt next door to me and devotedly saved compost for the garden, making friends with Josh the gardener until he went off to Brazil, and finally Amy, brash, tireless, knowledgeable about both interior and exterior work, and an immediate favorite with everyone. I first met Amy while she was working with John Horne, so I took her aside to warn her about that one, making myself look like an utter fool, for it proved that the two of them had known each other since they were kids, and she joked that not only wasn't she going to get naked around here, but she would demand triple-time if she had to see John Horne naked. I soon saw that she and Robert were an item, which made me happy for Robert, and I was mistaken again in thinking this was news, for not only had they been seeing each other since well before I, let alone she, moved in here, but she was already carrying his child. Then Ronnie explained to me that he and Amy and Robert and Carrie were all part of a circle of long-time friends recruited to this place by John Horne, and proceeded to tell me A Very John Horne Christmas Story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in an apartment complex far, far away, well OK it was in Silicon Valley if you want to get technical about it, John Horne saw a man throwing a Christmas tree into a dumpster, asked if he was really getting rid of it, and could he have it? "OK," the man said, "If you want it, but I have to warn you: this tree might be cursed." He was throwing it out because his wife had just left him. The argument was originally just about the tree, which was the wrong size for the apartment or whatever, until abruptly, without any segue, she turned it into an argument about the children. John Horne shrugged, and took the tree home, where immediately a screaming confrontation broke out with his girlfriend, who stormed out, never to return. So he took the tree back down to the dumpster, where Ronnie saw him, asked if he was really getting rid of it, and could he have it? No, no, no....

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