Saturday, February 13, 2010

chapter 17

On October 29 in preparation for the showdown, I wore Brandon’s black beads under my shirt and took Samara’s sword from the cup, but when I showed it to Rob and said, “See? I have the sword of justice,” he cynically replied, “You know we’re just going to be evicted; the judge isn’t even going to listen to anything.” Chef John never did show, although we put in some urgent phone calls, explaining afterward that Redhead Diane was supposed to cover the Restaurant but had begged off at the last possible moment pleading that she had migraines, and he didn't think he could just leave the Restaurant unmanned, a decision which could have gotten him into a lot of trouble if his testimony had been required and the judge had to be told he had simply ignored a subpoena, but Rob turned out to be correct that judge Pierce was not interested in hearing Jean's side of the case. Ardis, who had told Jean she was willing to testify without any subpoena about how much work Jean had done, did show up but hung out with Lori and her attorneys, and sat at plaintiff's table rather than defendant's when we went inside, so it is just as well that there was no need to call her.

Besides Todd, who had nothing to offer as a settlement except maybe a couple weeks more for Jean to clear out, Lori also had Brad with her, whose function was unclear except to wave and wink at judge Pierce, with whom he evidently had some prior relationship, and as we had been told that Brad was also a judge somewhere in the San Jose system, this struck us as seriously improper. But as we could see from the other little cases that came through this court of limited jurisdiction, which handled evictions only, the judge was thoroughly in the habit anyway of ruling against the tenants as a matter of course, assuming that any argument advanced from the defendant's side was just going to be a deadbeat's lame excuse for inability or unwillingness to pay rent. We had asked that the case be transferred to the court of unlimited jurisdiction, or be stayed until the Labor Commission had ruled on the validity and valuation of Jean's counter-claim, but Todd simply moved that the counter-claim be struck, as "inappropriate to these proceedings", and Amy accepted this as long as this was with leave to re-file, and so it was ruled, which was actually very bad for the Stouts, meaning that Amy was not stuck with Jean's hasty editing of my all-nighter emergency draftmanship, necessary since the Cross-Complaint had to be filed together with the Answer or all counter-claims were lost forever, but was free to rewrite de novo Jean's case, with allegations to support a cause of action for "intentional infliction of emotional distress", which can generate arbitrarily large monetary awards, particularly when something like marital breakup is among the damages, and when the jury was likely to be mostly Mexicans, thoroughly familiar with bosses who pay nothing, claiming that everything is owed back for substandard housing, and eager to stick it hard to someone like Lori.

Lori's testimony, however clever she may have thought it for the immediate context, was fatal for the long run, acknowledging that Jean had done work for her, without any pay, saying that she was just trying Jean "on probation" and would not give her anything beyond room and board, not to last one day beyond when Jean stopped working, until she saw whether Jean was working out. Well, if someone works for you, you have to pay them, and you do not get to decide whether or not to pay extra for overtime, and you have to pay at the prevailing rate for such work if there was no agreement, which in this case there had been, but Lori said the original agreement with Jean and her time-sheets and every other bit of paperwork had mysteriously disappeared. She insinuated that since Jean had worked some shifts in the office, Jean must have stolen all her own paperwork, trying to prove Jean's fundamental dishonesty by bringing up her former married names and maiden name, calling them "aliases", and using the federal charge against Jean, which ought not have been admissible since it was an accusation only without any final disposition. I was only allowed to testify that in my conversation with Lori, whom I was going to call "Lori Mendoza-- that's one of her aliases" except that I forgot the quip when I was on the stand, she had been speaking of moving Jean to the Back Forty, not claiming that Jean had no continuing right to be on the property at all, but the judge was in a hurry to tell me to run along and get to my job, and so I left with the case unfinished but with no doubts about how it was going to end.

When I came back from Cabrillo, I saw Roy and told him, "You wouldn't have enjoyed being there anyway," and he said, "Yeah, that's what I hear." Lupin was a beehive of activity in preparation for the Freakers' Ball, an all-weekend Halloween party which proved to be the biggest event here within memory, or perhaps of all time, with somewhere between six hundred and a thousand attendees, depending on whom you asked, enough of a "happening" that some thought it worthwhile to put counterfeit tickets out on the street, which I warned Adam about, since he had been going all around the grounds with the fire marshall marking off just enough designated parking places and needed the warning that there might be excess people, even though I heard it was friends of Rob and Justin who were giving out the bogus passes. I helped a really cute guy assemble a multi-panel display screen for his light-show, and watched his buddy scramble up Grandmother and Grandfather to hang the screen and the projector, with no damage to the tree, and Maureen and I both thought about asking him to remove the illegal floodlight that was still up there from Earth Dance, but it did not occur to us until after he was down, and we would forget to ask again at the end of Freakers' Ball when he took the screen and projector down, so the floodlight remains. None of this activity, however, cheered up my foul mood, and when I put out a light on the trail while walking back to the Circle in the evening, I told Maureen I was still down, and she said "I've noticed" and suggested I get out of Lupin for a while. I put out the streetlight at the Bear Creek interchange again as I drove by it into Los Gatos, and while I was walking around the town, finding nothing I wanted to buy in any of the chi-chi shops nor anything I wanted to eat in any of the restaurants, I put out two more streetlights as I walked by them, making four in one evening, when I had never done this more than once in a night before.

The situation did put some strain in the relationship between Maureen and Jean, for Jean was now decidedly in favor of destroying Lupin altogether if this was the only way to destroy the Stouts, while Maureen will always love the place and still hoped to save the family as well, and let's face it, however dear they had become to each other, the two are not really the same kind of personality, Maureen being what is technically known as "a hoot", while Jean is what is technically known as "a pistol", not really the type to appreciate Maureen's suggestion that the best solution would be locking Lori and Jean in the sand volleyball court and seeing which one survived, perhaps making enough money on the ticket sales and pari-mutuel betting (I would have to put my bet on Jean) to rebuild the lower pool. I was of course feeling the pain of both Maureen and Jean, and even of Lori, for although it was around this time that I became the first person in the world, though far from the last, to call her "Psycho Bitch from Hell", or "PBH" for short, I was more inclined to Maureen's view of Lori as mentally disturbed than to Jean's view of her as simply evil. Lori immediately cut off Jean's water, technically a contempt of court since the landlord is supposed to preserve status quo after the court rules until the sheriff posts a notice to vacate and five days to vacate have run out, but what else was new? Ronnie got a little drunk and cracked into the rear of Jean's parked car, and according to Jean, Glyn was immediately on the scene and expressed horror, while according to Maureen, she mentioned it to Glyn a while later and he said he hadn't heard anything about it, so as with so much that I hear at Lupin, who really knows? Anyway, Ronnie was banished to guard the emergency exit ramp, with its "Welcome!" and "KEEP OUT" signs, and since he wasn't going to be driving around anymore, Jean brought him some more drink to show that she wasn't upset.

I dressed for the party as Jesus, whom I am told I resemble fairly well, in my purple robe and sandals, with a crown of thorns made of real thorns tied together with copper wire and some string from Veny's cut-up sign, which I paid for by putting a quarter in the knick-knack basket, and some red blotches on my hands and streaks on my forehead, some paint but one streak real blood from a thorn that got me, and although Maureen doubted that Jesus wore glasses or smoked cigarettes, I assured her that the Scriptures had simply omitted those details. Jean was all tarted up in red as Mary Magdalene, although she was busy all weekend boxing stuff, never did get to sell little voodoo dolls or bottles of healing oil as she had once planned for this occasion, and only got to dance with me a couple hours, to the loud and relentless techno beat, from awesome speakers of special manufacture, pointed away from the known houses, though unfortunately pointed straight toward some houses obscured from view by the trees. Jean had wanted Maureen to dress in blue as the Blessed Virgin, but Maureen decided she was neither blessed nor a virgin, and instead put on her slinkiest black, together with every bead-string, ring, bracelet, bangle, and bauble she could manage to hang on at once. Lori wisely decided to go away for the weekend with the children, and while Glyn hung out a little on Friday, he too disappeared, and it was left to me and Maureen to be the public face of Lupin, welcoming everyone, giving directions to the lost, the inevitable cigarettes to the nicotine-less, coffee in the morning to those who were up early rather than still up, a toothbrush to a girl who lamented not having brought one, a ladder to the roadies, and conversation to those who just wanted to hang out. It got back to us from multiple directions that most people assumed we were married, and were the owners of the place, which amused us greatly.

I did explain the situation to a group of kids who were rather taken with us, spending long hours in the Circle talking philosophy while one of the young boys listened through Maureen's “Y” to her operatic music, which I would not have taken him to be the kind to be a fan of, but the earphones were sufficiently insulated to block out the incessant thumpa-thumpa of the techno beat. The girl quizzed me about Lupin politics, and told me, “Oh, so you're the leader of the rebel insurgents,” but I had to correct her, “No, Maureen is really Commandante Zero; I'm just her aide-de-camp.” We went up to the pool and the hot tub, the only area which is not clothing-optional, and she stripped when told she had to in order to use the hot tub, although the boys were shy and did no more than dip their toes in the pool. A woman who was from the Raindance group, producers of the event, would not take off her swimsuit in the hot tub when Roy told her she had to, getting out of the tub but then getting right back in when Roy was gone, and we had a strained conversation, for I agreed with the rule despite her position that it ought to be her free choice, since the presence of clothed people tends to exert social pressure on others to wear clothes, and I never wanted to see the day when the tub was occupied by a half-dozen clothed people and someone who wanted to strip did not feel welcome to, and she got huffy and said “I'd like to see them try to throw me out, when we brought this whole party here and can take it away,” and indeed I have since heard that the Freakers' Ball might go to Mt. Madonna Retreat next year, but I resented that she would invade my home and disrespect our ways, so I protested about her to the head of Raindance, called “Little John” or sometimes “Lil John” but not to be confused with our Little John, for indeed the two do not even like each other.

It was a great crowd, mostly comprised of intelligent, exuberant, and creative youngsters, drawing admiring comments even from old-timers who generally kept to themselves like Richard M, who said he would miss all the kids when they were gone, although other residents complained bitterly about the loudness and the lateness of the music. There were hula-hoopers and acrobats, various kinds of artists including an excellent oil-painter, a magician who let me hold his wand a while and then set it on our knick-knack basket surrounded by a circle of light so that some of the energy might be retained, and I lent some of the bubble-lights to a fellow conducting a Japanese tea ceremony on the stage, and he left me his tea-table, which I still have along with the card of the nice guy "Oz" who had built it, and somebody even left $5 at my chair after the weekend, the only time I have ever gotten a "tip" in my life. The campers on the lawn by Tiger Lily and Calla Lily yurts and Black Haired Diane's house did leave a lot of trash, but most of the attendees were quite good about the Burning Man of "leave nothing but footprints", and although there were plain-clothes deputies on hand, fun to spot since they did not at all blend in and could scarcely have been less undercover if they had been wearing Secret Service earpieces, there was little for them to do, as they were not concerned about such things as pot-smoking or people dancing naked, as a few did, for the weather was sunny and had warmed up considerably, so that I frequently doffed my robe, not just in the pool area but down on the lawn, to signal to anyone else inclined to strip off that this was allowed here. There was an event-producer on hand, checking out the venue and finding it impressive, as at Earth Dance, but on this occasion I had no opportunity to introduce him to the Stouts.

And there was the land acquisition officer from the Open Space Coalition, who introduced himself saying that he had specifically wanted to come up to the Circle and talk to Maureen and me, and I was not sure whether he was just there to enjoy the party or was seeking out dissidents within Lupin to discuss the possibility of a coup d'etat, but I told him bluntly that I had no wish to move out of Lupin, ever. This was the first time I told Will about, when he came to the Circle on Sunday afternoon, Halloween proper, with an offering of a chef's salad from the Restaurant for me, expressing a desire to know how I was feeling about things, and he told me he was very relieved to hear me say I did not want to leave, since he wanted me to stay as well, if things could be worked out, and that I shouldn't worry about Open Space, who did have a right of first refusal on Sal's Canyon but not on Lupin, despite Maureen's impression to the contrary, and had been repulsed from other properties they had tried to muscle in on. Will said he had finally reached a contract with the Stouts whereby he would be taking over all aspects of the management, except only "the financials" which would still be in Lori's hands, so I asked if he, rather than she, would be running the morning staff meetings and the office, and he said yes, and in particular if he, rather than she, would be making decisions from now on about whether anybody had to leave, and when he said yes to that, I made a special point of shaking his hand on the point. What he needed from me, he said, was to keep Jean's case and any other litigation separate from my dealings with Lupin, and in particular not to be talking about Lori's legal troubles with anybody here, “keep low-profile and under the radar” as he put it. I told him neither he nor I could be mediating Jean's case anymore since she had retained counsel, and since Amy's firm had its own process servers I wouldn't be running around tagging people with papers anymore, and while he should know that Lori's testimony had basically “slit her own throat” as I put it, it really wasn't up to me to take her down.

So we both thought thing were settled, and appropriately, when Turtle came back that day from a business trip to the Marianas, he gave me a copy he had gotten at a WWII museum of the Pittsburgh paper from V-J day, with a screaming-red giant “PEACE” and slightly less large “Shooting Ends in the Pacific”in the headline, and for Maureen some atomically hot peppers from Tinian, where the Enola Gay was launched. I took a picture of myself as Jesus and e-mailed it to Glyn and Lori with text “All is forgiven-- go and sin no more.” But the next morning, as I sat drinking my coffee with the inevitable cigarette, I saw Lori come to the Restaurant to run the morning meeting, as if nothing had changed, and when I went down to the office, intending to pay November rent, Lori was there, as if nothing had changed. She put on a look, shooting me laser-beams of intensest hatred, but I returned her gaze steadily, keeping any trace of glare or emotion out of my eyes, and while of course I made a feig with my left fist, I did not raise it to show to her, just kept staring her down until she broke off, and this was to be the last time she ever made eye-contact with me. I found an envelope from Lupin in my mailbox, and took it, wondering if it was going to be another money demand, walking out as if checking the mail had been my only purpose for coming to the office.

But it proved to be just the events calendar for November and December, something typically distributed to almost all the members and residents, although for whatever reason I was hardly ever favored with the routine distributions, and this time Veny had truly outdone himself, to be sure calling Cindy “Goddess” rather than “Goodess” Rising every time but referring to the “Women Sawing Circle-- Diane”, and since it was Redhead Diane who ran the Women's Sewing Circle, I thought of asking Johnny if he planned to take advantage of this opportunity to saw Diane in half, and Veny had omitted November 10 and 11, listing a week of November 9, 12, 13, 12, 13, 14, 15. It seemed to me very ominous that Armistice Day, specifically, was not going to happen at Lupin, but Maureen was most struck by his omission of the hyphen in “co-worker” in a request to tell all our friends and “coworkers” about the place, telling Adam he should ask at the staff meeting what a cow-orker did, and how many of them orked cows. The Army was in a good mood, having survived a weekend of almost non-stop work, during which I recall seeing him come out of the Restaurant to tell me he was finally going to get some sleep, and then immediately hearing Cindy on her cell-phone saying, “Well that depends on why you want him,” and then shouting “Adam!”

Lori actually gave Adam a paycheck, for the first time ever, a whole $150, and in October he had finally gotten to move out of his tent into a trailer, between Little John and Judy's cabin, which he decorated with a spare yurt-dome on top which he kept eerily lit up with LED's of various colors. But a lot of other people had been working their tails off as well, and were not getting anything for it, and in particular John Horne was stung by the accusation that he could not possibly have kept going for over 24 hours straight without doing drugs, and while he angrily told Will that he would take a piss-test right then and there, he was paid nothing at all for his work and was threatened with eviction. Johnny, even worse, was accused of absconding with much of the proceeds from the Restaurant, Lori saying that something in the neighborhood of $15,000 was missing, and as had happened in August with the accusations against Harry, once Johnny had shown that he had turned over every bit of money that he had received, the whole matter was dropped without any accounting of what had actually to the missing sums, a quite larger matter this time.

Johnny didn't get paid for his monumental efforts, and was told that if he wanted an accounting of what he was owed under the unsigned agreement they were still in theory operating under, he should talk to Azeem, but Azeem, it proved, was only working on a historical reconstruction of Lupin's accounts, going back years ago, and had gotten no further than the end of the Terrible Ed regime, and would not be reaching the present any time soon. Since the death of Wil Binkley, who used to take all the cash to the bank, the only person besides Wayne and Lori herself who had seen anything about the current money flows was Corky, until her firing. Maureen found something in her box, a statement for her room and board over the years amounting to over forty thousand dollars, compared with between two and three thousand dollars when she had last seen such a thing at the start of September, which according to Gina should not have been put in her box either, since the Stouts did not contest that it had been agreed to give Maureen room and board for life, and only prepared these statement for tax write-off purposes. So Maureen tore it up and threw it out, then thought better of it and retrieved the pages to tape back together, asking me if I could figure out how she had supposedly spent so much in the last months, and what I found was that although most of the invoice numbers were in increasing order with time, a bunch of large invoices had evidently been retroactively inserted quite recently into the history, going back years, but all numbered consecutively with numbers after the latest of the normal invoices, something I was quite sure the IRS would look rather askance at, so I made copies to add to my personal files and the “nuclear weapons folder” at Amy's office.

I asked Adam to tell Will that I needed to talk to him, but not urgently, since according to the lease, as best I could remember it, for I still had no copy, I had five days' grace to pay the rent without penalty, and I knew that Will was terribly busy. Among the matters that needed to be resolved was a batch of noise complaints from the neighborhood about the all-night techno beat we had been inflicting upon them, so the Army of One zipped around the grounds playing very loud music pointed in various directions while Will drove the surrounding roads with decibel-meters to determine what would and would not generate unacceptable noise levels, and Will gave a decibel-meter to the lady in one of the houses up the hill behind the trees which had had the giant speakers most unfortunately pointed straight at it, with profuse apologies that appeared to soothe the ruffled feathers. Most people at Lupin had been warned that these noise tests were coming, and I had volunteered to Adam one of my CD's with good loud music, but it wouldn't play on his system; however, Turtle had received no advance notice at all, and as he was in the habit of working in the middle of the night and sleeping into the middle of the day, he was utterly furious to be awoken, and tore Adam a new one, which was particularly unfortunate since I had been about to introduce the two of them, thinking Turtle would be a perfect person to consult about Adam's difficulties setting up his LED system just the way he wanted it. Adam referred Turtle to Will, whom Turtle tore into even more angrily, and still harbors resentment against.

Will and I kept comically missing each other, Will once coming up to the Circle in search of me just after I had gone to the Taj to take a leak, and going away again, since Maureen could only shrug when asked about my whereabouts, just before I returned, and me once seeing him by his truck in the parking lot, not surrounded as usual by people all trying to talk to him at once, but I made the mistake of taking a detour to the Kitchen for a refill of my coffee, now in a mug “WESTPAC '68 Bobby” which I guess nobody else wanted, since it never disappeared the way Hawaii, Wil Binkley, and Leonardo da Vinci had, and this seemed an appropriate cup for me, though my own long-gone Grammy had been the last person in the world to call me “Bobby”, and of course once I had my coffee, Will had vanished again. Days went by, the weather turning colder, Jeff-and-Karen taking down the ghosts-and-goblin banner to replace it with a most un-Californian snowman scene, Blonde Diane coming up to the Kitchen one night to tell me Roy had a very bad cough that she thought coffee might be good for and asking if she could make some of mine, so I gave her blanket permission to use my coffee anytime. The lordly crows invaded again, and settled in for a long stay.

Lupin was preparing for another party with a young crowd, again with mostly techno music but less monstrously amplified this time, a “Decompression” for the Burning Man, although the Burning Man was several weeks in the past now and I thought most of the Burners had decompressed rather thoroughly by then. It was rather poor timing to be inviting the Burners the same weekend that Rob-and-Jean, well connected in the Burner crowd, were being tossed out once and for all, although in one more typical petty legal defect, the sheriff's notice to vacate was posted only for Rob and not on Jean's trailer, not that this mattered when she had had no water there for days and had long since given up on any concept of trying to fight this aspect, wanting her money, and only the money, at this point, well OK she wanted some revenge too if you want to get technical about it, with one more aggravation since the tires on Rob's trailer had gone flat, Jean at first suspecting (incorrectly) that they had been slashed, and of course nobody would help until Red Gloves John again came to the rescue. Both chefs, John and Phil, had lots of friends among the Burners, so some good word-of-mouth rippled out, but very bad word-of-mouth rippled out through Rob and Justin's friends, and the attendance was not nearly what was hoped for, although everyone who did come had a good time, except for one out-of-place junkie whom Wayne chased around the grounds until he was found passed out on the trail between Butterfly and Unicorn yurts and had to be taken out by ambulance.

We got a few holdovers from the Freakers' Ball and Decompression weekends, Ancient Nick, Mana, and Keif. Ancient Nick claimed to be an “old soul”, fittingly since Maureen had often referred to Oaktree Circle as “the old souls' circle” and claimed that it attracted such, so Nick could tell me his life story several times over, although he was not the pretentious sort who thought all of his past lives had been as prominent people, and it was to distinguish the two Nicks that I started calling Roy-and-Diane's boy, the video-game player, “Modern” Nick (as for “Medieval” Nick, of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, he has never been to Lupin). He and Douglas the Scot, who did not stay as long, did yoga on the stage under our tree, and were tight with Mana, who was part-Maori and had mannerisms that some found odd but I found refreshing, and both of us heard about each other before we met, him telling me, “Ah, you must be the Professor, you look like a professor,” and me telling him, “That's because I am a professor; and you sound like a New Zealander, probably because you are one.” Neither of them, however, got on well with Keif, who was a good cook and a welcome addition to the Restaurant staff for a while, but seemed to have some issues, telling us that he had been captured in Fallujah, shot a couple times in the process, and tortured for a while with such tactics as fingernail-pulling, then pumped full of zombifying drugs in the VA hospitals after his exchange, until he managed to get out of the hospital and drop all medications except the inevitable marijuana. But after he had some long talks with Adam, the Army of One expressed doubts about his story and wondered whether he had ever even been to Iraq at all.

It was on the Saturday of the Decompression weekend, the last day for me to pay rent, that I finally got together with Will, which was just as well since I might have said too much if I had talked to him earlier. By this point I had decided that however much Lori's continuing role as dictator over the staff might have trespassed on the sphere of authority that Will had thought he was going to be given, that was between him and her, no direct concern of mine, and however unwise it might be to let Lori continue to control “the financials”, I would abide by my agreement not to spread around anything about Lori's legal problems, potential or ongoing. All I asked Will about was the issue of how much I should pay, given the still-unexplained $100 demand and the short-notice “ancillary fees” demand, and my offset claims for the retaliatory eviction on October 13 and the costs to me from Lori's “recreational combat”. Will told me not to worry about the “fees”, which nobody was paying, and asked what I myself thought I should pay. I said, “I would just as soon pay the exact same amount as usual, as if all these events of the past month never happened at all.” He replied, “That would be fine, and I would advise you to put in the memo field of the check that you have an agreement with me.” So I filled out the check accordingly, although Will wouldn't take it then and there, not being responsible for “financials”, so that it didn't actually get to the office until Monday morning, a little late, and I held out my hand, asking, “Nothing happened in October?” He shook on that, repeating: “Nothing happened in October!”

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