Saturday, February 13, 2010

chapter 15

As with so much that I experience at Lupin, it is difficult to recall with precision, but I think the night of the ambulance must have been close to the night of the earthquake drill. The ambulance came roaring up the drive accompanied by two fire trucks and police, on a night when the Restaurant was full so a full crowd of gawkers and meddlers soon surrounded the scene, by Little John's cabin. I stayed away, since there seemed to be no shortage of sidewalk superintendants, telling Harry to call Glyn and Lori, as I have never been favored with the number, and this was to be the last time I asked Lori to handle anything, for no Stouts made any appearance and Maureen had to take charge. Rumor filtered back that Little John was being taken away to the hospital, and somebody said that Gina was a friend of his who ought to be informed, so I knocked on Unicorn yurt to relay this, learning later that I had committed that quintessential Lupinity, passing on distorted information, in so doing, for Maureen later explained that while officer Carroll was loudly insisting that if Little John wouldn't come out and get in the ambulance he would be dragged out, and deputies who knew Maureen were explaining to her that Carroll was new in authority and should not be paid much attention to, Little John was saying it was not an emergency and he just wanted to go to sleep. It appears that his umbilical hernia had popped out, and he had made the mistake of showing his friends and worrying that it would be unsightly if he wanted to perform shirtless, and they thought he should go to the ER immediately which he felt no urgency to do, so all of this gave Maureen and Jean an excuse to bug me again to do something about my inguinal hernia.

The lordly crows disappeared for a while, which I hoped was a mini-migration away from us for the winter, but although this did not prove to be the case, the change of season was marked in other ways, as Jeff-and-Karen removed the bespectacled-flamingo flag from their house, replacing it with a ghost-and-goblins banner, Veny took down all his flags except Germany, Austria, and Switzerland which he wanted up through Oktoberfest, and someone placed witch legs sticking out from under the office, wearing a pair of Lori's shoes, though if she ever got the subtext of that, she showed no sign of it. OG went around to tie down the window flaps on all the yurts for better heat retention, leaving a string hanging by the door to Tiger Lily which I started to find sometimes looped around the door handle when I came home, and I never did figure out definitively whether it was the wind that did that or some person spying on my comings and goings, but I would play games with it, restoring it to the position over the door handle after I had been there a while, or moving it and turning on the light inside Tiger Lily even though I was just passing by. I started warming up with a shower and a hot tub most evenings as well as mornings, drinking coffee now from a Leonardo da Vinci cup since Wil Binkley's had disappeared, and one evening sat in the tub with Brad the attorney and a friend of his, chatting amiability about baseball only, no business, his friend telling of an acquaintance who had started rooting for the Twins just because they were against the Yankees that day, and remained a lifelong fan of theirs despite never having even set foot in the state of Minnesota. This was to be the only time Brad ever spoke to me, verbally or even in writing.

On October 9, late in the evening, I went up to the tub and found Jean there, and we chatted about how much tensions had eased that week, although she was a little puzzled and worried about stakes marked “1A” and “1B” which had materialized by the trailers Up Top, and another remnant from the weekend of the power cord being the severance of her Internet connection, which Will had promised to remedy. The wire coming from the Route 50 cabin to Rob-and-Jean's had actually been cut, and Jean said Butch-and-Corky suspected John Horne, whom I did know to be an enemy of Jean's, having heard him refuse to come up to the Circle once because Jean was sitting there, prompting Maureen to tell me, "Jean does have enemies, and she made them all herself." The Internet router, though housed at Butch-and-Corky's, was Turtle's property, and he told me the abrupt cutting of the wire had reset the router, costing him a day's work to figure out and resolve the problem, which was just one more of a series of irritations he was having with Lupin, going back to the previous winter, when Robert had overtightened a valve to his leaky toilet, flooding the floor of Hummingbird cabin and forcing Turtle to search for the main shutoff, which was not somewhere near the door as in a more normal place but way off across the road almost to Dara's trailer and the Blue House, obscured by the hutch of Dot the rabbit. And Lori had promised that the pool would be kept heated all winter for Turtle's morning laps, but as with so many Lori Kay promises, this did not materialize, and Turtle was in a mood to give 30 days' notice soon rather than stay through another winter.

Jean and I went down, she to make some food in the Kitchen while I sat in the Circle, with my inevitable cigarette, and two strangers came up, asking "Is Jean up in the hot tub?" I replied, "No, she's done, she's in the Kitchen now," thinking nothing of it, and while one of them went into the Kitchen the other asked, "Do you know where Robert lives?" Since I am called "Bob" or some variant, and Jean's husband was "Rob" without variation, I assumed he meant "Robert" the maintenance man and gave directions to his trailer down in the Back Forty. He eyed me suspiciously and said, "That's not right." I introduced myself, "I'm Bob," holding out my hand which he grudgingly shook with a "Gary" in reply, a downward glance indicating that he was a little taken aback to be shaking hands with a man wearing only a bathrobe that he wasn't bothering to close, clearly no Lupinite then. Gary's colleague came out of the Kitchen, and the two of them wandered out into the parking lot to confer, while Jean told me, "They just served me eviction papers," and set the Summons and Complaint down on the table while I rearranged the lights so I could pick it up and read it. Gary and the other process-server returned, and Gary pronounced in a satisfied tone, "Rob's been served," to which Jean retorted, "Bullshit, he's nowhere near here," but Gary just said, "I'll leave you the other copy," which Jean would not take, so Gary persisted, "I'll leave it on your car," at which Jean lost her temper and shouted, "Don't you touch my car!" Gary promised not to touch the car, and it was left to me to explain to Jean that the process-servers had decided I must be Rob, so that the first copy of the Summons which I was reading was "his" so to speak. The Complaint was seeking their ouster from sites “1A” and “1B”, names which had never been used for any place until that day.

We called Will, and when he heard "Jean just got served eviction papers," he replied, "Well that's just perfect. Did you know I was fired today?" Later, Blonde Diane, who is closer to Will than I am, would clarify that more precisely he was "not hired" rather than "fired", since the contract negotiations had fallen through, Lori offering only room and board, the "room" consisting of a parking place for the trailer Will himself supplied, while Will expected at least some kind of salary, imagine the nerve of him, but at the time I thought Will had been fired for having dared to settle Jean's case amicably. I was so irate I could not sleep at all, and spent the whole night drafting an Answer for Jean, for eviction cases in California are set on a very tight timeline, with only five days for an Answer, and she had already been shopping around without much luck for a lawyer, even the free legal clinics unable to help as they were already swamped with cases, and where would she get an attorney on this short a notice? Oh well, she could probably get one cheaper at Home Depot. I had volunteered to act as process server for Jean, since that can be any adult who is not a party, and I wanted to emphasize to the court that I was not a party, despite having been served with the Summons, so my ideal was to have the Answer all ready at dawn, and hand it to Lori as she was coming up for the morning meeting, but this was not practical, since it turned out that Jean needed to do major edits to my text, and besides, we needed Rob's signature as well as Jean's.

So I sat in the hot tub with a group of campers who were travelling about stopping a day or two at various places, and were familiar with Lupin's decline and asked about how things were doing, so I told them the saga and they helped me to see the humor in getting a Summons served on me by accident, and I also saw Claudia who was coincidentally passing through as well, and did not discuss the troubles with her, for she was in a cheery mood and helped mine. Then Rob did come, to look at my car, which had been squeaking so ominously the past week that I suspected (correctly) that it was not really safe to be driving it on mountain roads, and indeed when we took it on a test drive, Rob without a shirt and me without pants so that we were fully dressed between us, he decided that it could not wait one single more day. I had opportunity to reflect on how unalike we were, able to be mistaken for each other only by someone who knew nothing about either of us, alike only in the name "Robert" and that we were both "cowans", an archaic term for those who hang around Freemasons but are not admitted to that brotherhood, and he gave me an earful about his side of the emotional ups-and-downs between him and Jean, but did do excellent work on my car. Unfortunately, I had just put in an electronic transfer moving money between my accounts, guessed wrong about where the money was, and ran up bounce fees that took me months of arguing to straighten out, but Rob got much-needed funding for replacing my brake pads, one of them actually cracked in half, and the wheel bearings and anchoring a mirror that had been hanging loose for ages, while Jean and I finished up on the Answer.

The next day, therefore, I was prepared to tag Lori, appropriately enough in the hot tub, where she was sitting with Brad, who put on his best I'm-not-really-here blank stare, a look for which he is renowned, while Lori shrieked at me, "Back off! I don't do business in the hot tub," which might have raised some questions about what she was doing with her attorney there, "and besides, it's Sunday," not that she had ever shown much reverence for the Christian Sabbath, "and you already served me by e-mail." I had indeed sent an electronic copy, which was always considered a courtesy back in Pennsylvania but not a legally sufficient substitute for a paper copy, so I said, "I have to leave a hard copy, you know that," and thought but did not say, "Gee, you'd think you'd never been in a lawsuit before." Gentle reader, I hope you will forgive me if I say that I enjoyed her fuming immensely. On Monday I had planned to deliver copies to the court and the attorney, who was not Brad for this case but a fellow named Todd who does nothing but evictions, but the courts were closed for Columbus Day, the Monday actually coinciding with October 12 this once, and I told my class that even if the school didn't give us the day off, we could still celebrate, so I spread my arms wide and proclaimed, "I claim this classroom in the name of the empire of Spain foreeeeever!" And after work I went in search of Todd's "office" which proved to be an apartment within a gated complex of buildings, the building numbers not very prominently displayed so that I had to wander all around before finding that building "Y" was the one matching the number I was looking for, and then finding that his apartment door, though visible through the outer door, could not be reached, as the outer door was always locked and there was neither a buzzer system nor any drop box. I could tell that I had found the right place, as boxes of legal papers were spilling out onto the balcony, and thought briefly that it would "serve" him right to just fling the Answer onto his balcony, but went to a Mailboxes Etc. to put it in the post for Tuesday morning.

I was of two minds about whether to serve Glyn at all, for among the various legal defects of Lori's filing, she had named Glyn as a co-plaintiff but not obtained his signature on a sworn Verification that he believed all of Lori's mendacious assertions to be true, and as I pointed out to Jean, "She can type 'Lori Kay Stout and Barack Obama, Plaintiffs' on the caption if she likes, but that wouldn't make Obama a plaintiff unless he signed the complaint." So I thought perhaps it would be better simply not to treat Glyn as a party at all, and question Lori's right to act without him on behalf of the family trust for which both of them were trustees, but it was in Jean's interest to recognize the family trust as the opposing party, since then her counter-claim would go against the trust rather than against Lori personally, and she could attach the real estate to enforce the judgment. The correctness of this decision was reinforced when on a later day Jean and I did get to the court and took the opportunity to research the Stouts' prior cases, finding that they had lost a huge judgment to "The Woodchuck", a former maintenance man whose signature is still on the instructions in the sauna, but then weaselled about paying it off in installments so that there was a giant pile of hearings about enforcing the judgment. So, late on Columbus Day, I ventured to knock, for the first and last time, on Glyn's retreat of a cabin, where only Maureen and some very close friends ever went, even Lori scarcely ever daring, and told Glyn, "I have to give you one of these," as he took the paper without a word and with a look of unutterable sadness on his face. I had always rather liked Glyn, and enjoyed serving him considerably less than I had enjoyed serving Lori.

As evening set in, it began to rain for the first time since I had moved into Lupin, and I drove down to the University of California, Santa Cruz intending to take part in their "First Rain" ritual of running around one of the quads naked, but chickened out not knowing what to say to the person at the entry kiosk, although Jean later told me that I could have just shown my professor's ID from Cabrillo College, a sister school, and probably not been questioned at all, and that the students would have gotten a kick from having a professor run with them. But as it turned out, only a handful of students participated anyway, for it seems that this kind of event is increasingly being discouraged, like the "Naked Mile" which used to be one of my favorite events in Ann Arbor until it got clamped down, and I contented myself with driving from UCSC to Lupin naked, without even the shirt that I usually keep on for appearances, keeping to back roads until I persuaded myself that since I could not see the shirts of any oncoming drivers, they could not see my non-shirt, and so I dared Route 17 and made it home without incident, despite a rapid buildup of rain intensity. The storm was, in fact, a typhoon, which had hit Japan and then retained its integrity all the way across the Pacific, building up strength again as it hit California, and Lupin is famous for having its own little "micro-climate" zone, which meant in this case, according to the Army of One's data, that the funneling of the wind through the channels allowed by the mountains gave us peak gusts exceeding 90 mph, and the usual tendency of rain to fall most heavily near the summit gave us 10.8 inches in the midnight-to-midnight period of the portentious 13th, much more if you count the steady downpour from before and after. I did not put clothes on for the sprint from the car to Tiger Lily yurt, not wishing them to get drenched, and in the morning, again as I sprinted from the car to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I wore nothing, to Adam and Roy's great amusement.

Of course, the power went out, and stayed out for a full day, Lupin not being one of Pacific Gas & Electric's high priorities since we never pay our bills timely, and trees fell or dropped large branches, flattening Dan the landscaper's old tent and some other tents which fortunately no-one else was foolish enough to occupy on such a night, smashing windows in the Community Kitchen so that the whole place was flooded with water and the propane stove not trustworthy. In the absence of any heat or cooking facilities, Maureen suggested that everyone gather at Amberwood cabin, where a generator provided enough power for heat and light and cooking, but when I went to Amberwood, chatting pleasantly on the porch with John Horne and Redhead Diane before stepping inside, Lori took one look at me and said, "Bob is not welcome here!" I did not think she had any right to throw a paying tenant out into a typhoon, but being in no mood for a face-off with her, I made my way with great difficulty, since Old Santa Cruz was completely blocked in one direction by tree-falls and obstructed in the other by the collapse of a water tower, which made me feel very sorry for the people who relied on that water, to Santa Clara to take refuge with Turtle's Diane, putting out the streetlight by the Bear Creek entry ramp as I drove past it. But once I had showered, eaten, napped, and calmed down, I got a call from Turtle saying that the rain was abating, and the temperature actually warmer from the oceanic wind, and that he would appreciate it if I would bring him an extension cord of his so that he could try drawing some power from his car battery.

So I drove back, and as I hairpinned at Bear Creek, a pickup truck came to the other stop sign to my left and waved at me to go first, and after I completed the 360 degrees to Old Santa Cruz, officer Carroll pulled me over and, before taking my license or registration, told me, rather than asking me, "You live at Lupin." When I confirmed this he asked, "How long have you been there?" I said, "Since July first," and he replied, "That's right. Do you have anything in the car I should know about?" I was unnerved that he evidently knew who I was and was specifically looking for me to pull over, since what I was carrying in the car was the stack of papers to file with the court the next day, and I recalled Lori's apparent coziness with the cops on the weekend of the power cord. When I nervously told him that I was carrying legal papers, he said, "No, that's not what I meant: are you transporting marijuana?" At this I was quite taken aback, as I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have smoked pot in a decade, and I have never dealt in my life, so I denied this with some anger, and even said he could search my car if he felt like it, which he declined to do, finally getting around to taking my license, registration, and insurance card. He sat with them in his car for much longer than any policeman writing me a ticket has ever spent in my life, then returned and asked, "Do you know why I stopped you?" I could only say, "No sir, I sure don't," and he accused me of failing to stop at the stop sign, which I also indignantly denied, but he wrote me up anyway.

Now, the last ticket I had gotten in my life, back in Michigan, was from an officer Kaspansky who was eventually fired and heavily fined for writing up literally thousands of utterly bogus running-a-stop-sign tickets, in order to pad his overtime with court appearances, but when the city of Warren finally nailed Kaspansky, they did not reimburse or expunge the records of all the people who had been ripped off by him. I remembered how exasperating and useless it had been to contest that ticket, as the cop lied through his teeth and the worthless judge Chmura pretended to believe him, despite hearing the same protests against the same cop dozens of times that morning alone, but for the sake of principle I intended to fight this ticket also, uselessly no doubt, but my impression was that Carroll was acting on some false report that I was "Frank", the dealer who brings pot into Lupin, and had to write up some kind of ticket to cover for the stop once his fishing expedition failed, looking up my record to find out what I had gotten a ticket for before. So I spent an uneasy night, listening to rain and debris fall on the roof of the yurt and stewing over events, and in the morning as I passed Lori's car on Little Village road, I stopped and rolled down the window, intending to ask her some pointed questions about what right she had had to throw me out the day before and whether she had failed false police reports against me. But she forestalled me, thrusting papers in my face and excitedly uttering what proved to be the last words she spoke to me that year, and the last words she would voluntarily speak to me ever: "It's all over the Internet!"

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