Maureen's payment on the 15th came half-and-half as before, which was evidently to be the new pattern, and the staff didn't get paid again, a more disturbing new pattern, along with the closure of the Restaurant most days, which had not been the practice during the off-season in any previous years, although Jean had suggested it the winter before and been rebuffed. The Stouts stocked the Kitchen somewhat better than before, although it was still up to me to get cleaning supplies, and give staffers rides to visit the Food Bank for handouts, or cash small checks they had come into somehow and get some groceries. My role as cigarette-store also became more important, as I often had the only nicotine on the mountain, some like Ronnie making sure to give me a quarter for each cig, others needing to promise to get back to me later, but as I pointed out to Carrie when she bummed one, “You may have to start asking Lori for cigarettes soon.” A padlock was put on the Kitchen, and although Kief was nominally in charge of the Kitchen, I was the first one Manny gave the combination to, and as Kief could not get the hang of the lock, instinctively always trying to turn it the opposite direction from the way it needed to go, and would not always be available to open the Kitchen anyway, I gave out the combination to known and trusted people. Manny told me, “Careful, once you give it out to too many, the messes will start again,” and I responded, “Well, I'll give it out to one at a time, and then we'll know who was the one person too many.” The padlock never worked all that well anyhow, and after a few weeks busted, so that it would not lock anymore, perhaps breaking of its own accord or perhaps assisted to do so.
All the staff got drafted into a project to redecorate the Restaurant, in particular to strip, sand, and restain the floor, for Christmas and New Year's, a project that got started way too late, so when it became evident that the Restaurant would still be all torn up by Christmas, any hope of having Christmas Eve festivities was abandoned, although the New Year's Eve party was too big a deal with the Dave-and-Ardis for there to be any thought of canceling that. The sign outside the office advertised the activities planned for New Year's Eve and for “the year 2110”, which I thought must have been Veny's handiwork, but when I went into the office to check mail and let Faye bum the inevitable cigarettes, Faye confessed that she had done this, for which I congratulated her: “Glad to see someone is planning for the future!” Robert-and-Amy threw themselves into the floor work with a passion, perhaps to help put what was impending out of their minds, and Maureen also got involved in the redecoration, sewing all kinds of things, until on Sunday, as I was out Christmas shopping, well OK window-shopping if you want to get technical about it, since I had already bought about as much as my limited budget would allow, I got a distressed call from Maureen that Wayne and Redhead Diane were throwing her out of the Restaurant. Redhead Diane had given her a little teddy bear as an early Christmas present, but now she and Wayne were telling some contractors, who came to the Restaurant to do whatever job, that Maureen was just a crazy old woman who had no business being at Lupin in the first place, and obstructing her from finishing the tablecloths, so I left a message for Hickman about it, and wrote a stern letter to Brad, who had come out with a proposed payment schedule so that I needed to respond to him anyway, and Maureen took a knitting needle and skewered the teddy bear from the butt through the heart, saying, “See? I'm learning something from you and Jean.”
That evening, I was working on these memoirs, as I had begun doing after the 15th had come and gone without a scene, whether just for private therapy, if I was left in peace at Tiger Lily, or for public dissemination, if not, for it was still not clear whether Lori really intended to go through with my eviction or not, but I was not surprised when a strange man carrying a folder of papers came up to the Circle and asked, “Are you Bob?” I asked him back, “Are you the process server? I've been expecting this,” and took the Summons and Complaint without fuss. It was interesting in a few ways, for I finally got a copy of what purported to be “my lease”, except that the only thing Lori had kept from the document Harry and I had prepared back in June was the signature page, the rest being made from the same or a similar form-lease but with the fill-in-the-blank spaces all typewritten, instead of handwritten and initialed, and with a column misalignment indicating some cut-and-paste, and for whatever reason Lori had tampered with the copy of the 30 days' notice, erasing the “14” in the November 14 date and writing in a misaligned “15”, although I could not think of any motive for this seemingly trivial forgery, and most of all I was interested to find out what grounds she would allege for my eviction, which proved to be: none at all. As in Jean's case, the Answer was due in five days, nominally therefore on December 25, particularly rude timing, and although it would probably have been acceptable to get it in on the 26th, as the legal holiday didn't count, I felt it safer to finish by the 24th.
I thought it would be the most perfect symmetry if Will would be my process server, especially if I asked Adam to have him come over, trying to redo November 15th backwards, but it was unlikely he would be willing, and then Jean volunteered to be process server anyway, which was also quite symmetrical, and she had fun decorating the envelope with Lori's copy of the Answer with Christmas tree designs, and writing out Lori's name in florid script as if this were a card from Lori's Grammy, if Lori ever had a Grammy, with return address “1 North Pole Blvd., Nome, Alaska” and a message on the flap side, “Keep Christ in Your Christmas” in the same florid script, which Lori was sure to appreciate. I did ask Adam to have Will come over to see me, for symmetry, but just because I thought Will ought to have a copy of the Answer to read, and a warning that I would have to subpoena him. I would also have to subpoena Harry, and Hickman, who explained to me the procedures and the costs to issue a civil subpoena to a deputy, and was happy to testify, uttering to me a sentence which must very rarely have been uttered in the whole history of the English language: “I shall be eagerly awaiting your subpoena!”
The envelope with Todd's copy of the Answer did not get quite as nice calligraphy as Lori's, but still a large fancy-script “MERRY XMAS TODD” which we hoped would annoy him, his last name making it fairly certain that he was Jewish. His office proved to be even more inaccessible than before, for on Christmas Eve, perhaps because many of the residents were away and none of the Mexican gardeners were keeping an eye on the property, the whole gated complex was locked up, and without gate codes it was impossible even to approach the buildings, but later in the day I found a driveway that gave access to building Y, and with a dexterous flick of the hand I managed to send the envelope sliding under the outer door with just enough momentum to top at the foot of the door to the apartment nominally called Todd's office, which was a breach of the proper procedure on my part, since Jean, or someone else not a party to the case, was supposed to effect the delivery. And while I was dealing with all this court stuff, I stopped by the traffic court as well, to deal with the ticket, and after all the trouble I'd been through to set up for fighting it, I decided just to pay it and be done with it, not needing the extra aggravation in my life, and though the clerk told me I could pay a little extra for a session of “traffic school” and get the point taken off my record, I preferred simply to avoid getting any more points, which I thought I could manage, rather than to pay for a “school” that probably did not teach how to deal with a cop who is determined to give out tickets. On Christmas Eve, or maybe the day before, officer Carroll gave Adam a ticket for a headlight that was out, and at least this time Adam's headlight, well OK it was Maureen's headlight if you want to get technical about it, really was out, but it was annoying that after it was fixed, when it was supposed to be possible to clear up such a ticket just by flagging down a policeman and showing that it was fixed, officer Carroll was nowhere to be found.
It soured my holiday spirits considerably to be forced to deal with such stuff on “Christmas fucking eve” as I put it to Turtle, who chided me “We usually just refer to it as 'Christmas Eve'” and took me in for the holiday again, and really, aside from the litigation, it was not a bad Christmas. For Jean, always a challenge to get a present for, as she is such a formidable shopper and gifter, I found “something useful, something frivolous, and something for old times' sake,” a big padlock since she had complained of a shortage of locks, and a crystal etched with wolves baying at the full moon in a mountainscape, and a bag of Spanish moss, which she wondered where I got, but I have to have some secrets. In return she gave me a metal vine of candle holders, which will look lovely with a half-dozen votives in it, on the glass table in Oaktree Circle on a warm summer evening if ever that is possible again, or wherever else it is that comes to be my home. And I succeeded in finding at Rasputin's a copy of Our Children's Children's Children, remastered and with a bonus CD of live performances, finally completing the shopping task I had set for myself back on Maureen's birthday.
Lupin was not in a very holly-jolly mood, Maureen told me in a phone message imploring me to buy more cigarettes on my way back from Turtle's, in which respect I was way ahead of her, and adding that there was no Christmas dinner at all, just a pot-luck, but “they have no pot and no luck” as she put it. The contrast with the magnificent spread Jean had put on the previous year was sad in retrospect, but eventually the Stouts relented, and Wayne came up with one of those large platters with a hemispherical lid, prompting Maureen to ask, “Are you bringing her head?” If Wayne got it, he showed no sign. Lori made a lengthy speech, while all the hungry people were waiting to eat, expressing hope that in the New Year, there would be a new beginning and everyone would start to pull together, but apparently this simply meant that she was hoping everyone would start giving in to her on everything, for it quickly apparent that she had no intention of changing on anything, in particular her campaign of expulsions. OG was told that he had to be out by January 15, and while at first he took the attitude, “I ain't going nowhere,” and offered Lori a few hundred a month out of his Social Security check if he was just left in peace, she would have none of it.
The Restaurant refurbishing continued, with all sorts of things taken outside, including a towering wooden statue all wrapped up in blue tarps and standing by the sorriest-looking of the dingy beige umbrellas so that it looked like, Manny pointed out, a cowled monk bending over what might be a student in some Benedictine-run school, saying to him, Manny guessed, “You're tall, but that's all,” although my guess would have been, “If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding!” But other things that were taken outside were not covered by any tarps, and Maureen was incensed at Manny when he promised to cover up the chair cushions, and failed to get around to it before many of them were soaked by the rains, so that she had to sew new ones. It became clear that after me and OG, the next targets were being painted on Manny and Keif, and Maureen as well as Lori was on the outs with both of them, with Keif because he had bummed many packs of cigarettes and promised to buy Maureen a carton, adding gratuitously, “It wouldn't be a problem for me to get you two cartons,” although in fact it would indeed be a problem for him, and when Maureen upbraided him for making promises he couldn't keep, he got very huffy, adding it to his grievances about how he was being treated at Lupin that she was “disrespectful” to him. Eventually he got some money from his dad and bought a carton, but withheld two packs, giving Maureen eight because that was his count of how many he owed, and while Maureen did not disagree with his bookkeeping, she thought he was being a bit silly.
That Sunday, Keif would not work in the Restaurant because it was the Sabbath and he was a strict Christian, which irritated Will greatly, and while I told him that he certainly did have a legal right to have his religious beliefs accommodated, I had to warn him that he was developing an unenviable reputation as a whiner and a shirker. Maureen did not like it when he said that Amy knew exactly what she was doing but Robert did not, thinking that he ought not have been criticizing anybody's work when he himself was not doing any, and that he especially ought not to be criticizing Robert under the circumstances, when he was putting in long days of work and they were his last days in freedom for a while. Keif told me he was going to be kicked out of Lupin soon, and I said, “What could be more Lupin than that? I never felt more like a Lupinite than when I was served eviction papers!” He was not too upset about it, because a girl in Nashville was going to take him in and get him recorded, and I thought but did not say, “You do play a nice guitar, but Nashville has always had an oversupply of half-decent, over-ambitious musicians.”
Maureen herself had gone to Nashville when she first came to the United States, and had sung in a chorus at the Grand Ole Opry, where Minnie Pearl told her, “You'll never make it here with an accent like that,” to which Maureen responded by putting on a Southern accent and telling Minnie, “Y'all come back and see me sometime, y'hear,” amusing Minnie so much she took off one of her many rings, a smoky topaz, and gave it to Maureen saying “You've earned this.” She still has it, despite having dropped it and lost it in the Circle a couple times, unlike the new green amethyst ring which Jean dropped somewhere in Lupin, just after having bought it, on one of her last days there, which never did turn back up, and though I thought to reassure her that this meant a part of her spirit would remain, she was more in a mood to put Lupin in the rear-view mirror. Well, too bad, I kept using her towel that she had left behind, rather than returning it to her, and would leave it on my chair even when I was not sitting in the Circle, and now Maureen has it, and similarly I assured Maureen that no matter what happened, I was not going to remove the tiger's eye and turquoise I had buried, not that I could lift the pillar Boaz to retrieve the turquoise anyway, since it had taken two hands to hoist the rock and a foot to kick the turquoise under, and I think it would take three hands to get it out, but in any case I would not want to attempt the task before my hernia is repaired.
That same Sunday night after Christmas, I was sitting in Tiger Lily yurt working on my book, “NOTHING HAPPENED IN OCTOBER: The True History of Lupin Lodge,” when the power went out, and as always when this happened, I immediately went outside to verify that this was a general outage in all of Lupin, but this time I found that only Tiger Lily was out. Well, I had had not only the space heater that came with the yurt on, but also the radiator that Turtle had lent me when he cleared out Hummingbird cabin, plus both lights and the laptop, when I boiled some water, and though the water finished boiling without a hitch, the boiler of course was still drawing power to keep the pot hot, and it seemed quite possible that one of the heaters had been off and tried to kick on, exceeding what Tiger Lily could do. But it also seemed possible that I was about to experience my own version of the weekend of the power cord, and my anger at this possibility was such that I just had to get out and go into Los Gatos, before I did anything rash, and as I came to the Bear Creek on-ramp, the dubious street light was out, until I passed it and turned it on, something I had never done before. I called Will, who assured me there was nothing intentional or malicious going on, and said Lonnie was already dealing with another local outage, from a downed tree by the Barrington house, and would have my power back on before I got back, so to atone for my evil thoughts I bought a pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups before returning, to lay on the porch railing of the Blue House for a peace offering.
The weather was indeed hard on the trees for weeks, El Nin~o sending us wave after wave of rain storms, and although the diseased oak tree never did topple, it shed large branches worrisomely often. One of the wings of the Flying Pig broke off, and one of the gargoyles at the bridge disappeared, then reappeared on the steps of Unicorn yurt. Jeff-and-Karen marked the season by exchanging the snowman banner for one with a cocktail glass and the line “It's 5 o'clock somewhere,” while Dave-and-Ardis decorated the Restaurant for the New Year's Eve party in a Phantom of the Opera theme. The floor restaining did get finished on deadline, by the skin of everyone's teeth thanks to some all-night work by Amy, and while I did not buy a ticket to the party, I did check it out and everything looked gorgeous, and everybody seemed to be having a good time, and while Maureen and I both made a ritual point of being naked at least briefly for New Year's, one member actually had a ritual of staying naked the whole 24 hours from midnight to midnight, no matter how chilly, and I admired his balls, so to speak. Maureen, though, felt badly hurt when members whom she had known for years snubbed her, pointedly turning their backs on her, presumably having been told that she was trying to take Lori's children away from her, or whatever, and she said feeling friendless until all kinds of people came by the Circle to pay their respects, Ronnie and Amy and Harry, even Manny and Keif despite recent irritations, Red Gloves John who was leaving Sal's Canyon over some woman that he and Sal both had an eye on and got into a quarrel about, and towards midnight Roy and Blonde Diane, who engaged Maureen in a long talk about where to get the best vibrators and other such toys while Roy and I tried not to say much of anything. Manny had a story to tell about how he had been drafted as a dishwasher although he had already put in more hours than he was supposed to, and had no hope of course that any pay would be forthcoming for hours beyond what covered the rent, which should have been near nothing since all he had was a tent in the rain, and then when he was done washing dishes he was given a beer, which was nice, but then told not to stand where people could see him, which offended since he got the distinct impression that it was because he was brown, rather than white, that he had to be hidden away from the members' sight.
Ardis made sure to get a promise from Lori that the 20% gratuity added to the Restaurant tabs during the party would be distributed to Johnny and his staff, not pocketed by Lori, but as with so many Lori Kay promises, this never materialized. So of course I heard more complaints from Johnny, and while Will did agree that he was owed a lot of back money by now, he was starting to get irritated with Johnny and thinking he should leave, and Johnny quit and un-quit, was fired and un-fired, a few times in the early weeks of the year. I advised Johnny that he really ought to talk to a lawyer, but I do not know whether he ever did, nor do I know whether Ardis ever inquired about whether the promise she had extracted had been followed up on. The Dave-and-Ardis faction seemed to have closed ranks behind Lori's continued management, the Gilroy plan having fallen through by sheer inaction, which is of course the Lupin way. By now, there is no cook in the Restaurant, on those days when it is even open, with any better skills than Redhead Diane, even Brandy having been chased away after a bunch of her friends came in one night and somehow attracted a lot of attention from the sheriff's department.
On Monday I went into the office for the ritual offer-and-refusal of the rent, and things went a little unexpectedly, as I should have come to expect, for when I held out the check out to Walt, saying that I knew he could not take it from me, he said “I'm not sure if that's still true. Maybe you want to come back later, and let someone with authority tell me.” Wayne was sitting there with him, but did not seem to count as “authority” and did not look at me, as he had not since the weekend of the power cord, and I had had no other dealings with the man except to pick up piles of butts and scraps of papers from Little Village road when he would dump full ashtrays out the truck window. I came back the next day, and Walt and Wayne were there again, but Walt just said “Nothing has changed as far as I know,” adding mournfully, “Nobody ever wants to talk to me.” I thought but did not say, “I know the feeling,” and though I also needed to ask the office staff what Harry's last name was, for while no-one can recall who was the first person in the world to call him “Harry Button”, everyone was sure that was not his real name, I decided Walt would not be the best person to ask, and waited until it was Faye, who needed to bum the inevitable cigarette from me.
The newly-stained floor did not look so well the morning after the party, not having had time to set properly so that it got all scuffed, and Amy being the perfectionist she cannot help but be, a Virgo by astrological sign as fellow-Virgo Maureen had immediately guessed upon meeting her, she asked Lori if she could retouch it, and of course Lori said yes but did not supply nearly enough stain to finish the job. So one morning I was up early and found Amy in a frazzle, saying she needed to get into town quickly to buy more stain, wanting to put it down before the neighboring patch was dried so that there would not be a visible mismatch, and I told her, no problem, I could ride her into town, so she called up Lori to get the money, a bad mistake, she should have just borrowed from me. Amy told me that Lori asked “How can you accept a favor from someone you're taking to court?” to which she replied, “Well I'm not taking him to court; I have nothing to do with that,” while I thought but did not say, “How can you take to court someone who keeps doing you favors?” But Lori insisted that only Lonnie could ride her into town, and Lonnie wasn't even up yet, telling Amy she had to make coffee for him first, and he wasn't even ready when she got down there with his coffee, irritating her since she really did need to get the stain quickly.
I finally had a court date for January 15th, after Todd first moved for a default judgment, proving that not only did he have no receptionist at his “office” but that he did not even go there much himself to check whether papers had been delivered, and then once he knew there was an Answer filed, he rudely demanded and got the date of January 14th, the only date in the month when I had an appointment, to deal with my hernia, without consulting me or answering my phone call to him protesting this choice of date, but the court did agree to my request to reschedule. So I told Harry and Will when I would need them to testify, both of them saying it would be no problem, and then I had to go into San Jose and prepare the subpoenas for Harry, Will, and Hickman. Manny wanted to go into San Jose too, to return some overdue books to the library, but I had filled the front seat with more stuff, that I did not want Lupin to dispute my right to take, namely the coffeepot that Carrie had given Jean and me in lieu of Jean's pot that had been destroyed during Earth Dance, and the radiator heater Turtle had lent me, which resembled some heaters Lupin had, but was Turtle's property. So I took Manny's books with me and paid the library fines myself, got the subpoenas and paid the sheriff's department to serve Hickman, and returned to the question of who would be the process server for the others. Jean of course could not come in to tag Will and Harry, and while Maureen had served on Todd the request for a change of date, she was worried about the fact that she was not a citizen, and while the language of the rules stated “any person over 18 who is not a party” she did not want there to be any shred of an excuse.
I was inclined to think Adam the safest choice, since Lori was bound to resent whoever did it but probably recognized that the Army of One was irreplaceable, but left it up to him without pressure, and he said he would get Will's opinion about whether it would be safe for him to take on this role. Keif then took on half the burden, when I saw him one night and he told me he had been ordered to leave by Friday, so that I expected to have to give him a ride to the bus station on the way to court, though as it proved he was expelled quicker than that. The bubble lights around the edge of the Restaurant patio were failing off and on, as the bubble lights in the circle had been doing for quite some time, and Keif said he had seen a “nymph” fixing them, and took a picture, which showed no girl but only an eerie glow, so I guessed that Miss Jasmine was saying goodbye to him. Keif was not willing to tag Will, but would tag Harry. Harry told Keif that the name on the subpoena wasn't right, and that he would have to ask Lori whether it was OK for him to testify, so I had to confront him myself, and he told me his right name, which Faye had twisted into an Anglicized version, and said, “If you need me to testify, you don't have to subpoena me, I'll be there.” Of course, he didn't show, in accordance with the Lupin way, and afterwards told me that he didn't really really promise to be there.
On the portentious 13th, there was less drama than expected, since a hearing before the Labor Commision in Jean's case which had been scheduled for that date was cancelled, Amy the attorney preferring the civil-suit route, since Lori's attorney, not Todd or Brad but another lawyer unknown to me, still had not come up with an Answer and was perilously close to default judgment, and the Labor Commission would continue to look into the matter with or without that hearing. Lonnie, with dubiously valuable help from Keif, was busily cutting down the wisteria-choked pine, one of the two that Maureen had paid $1500 apiece for back on the day of the trees, and Maureen had some thoughts about how to deal with the remnants of the wisteria to keep it from growing back, which I tried to relay to Lonnie, but Maureen forestalled me saying she wanted to speak to Lonnie herself. This surprised me, as I still thought of them as enemies, but of course seeing Lonnie doing good work changed Maureen's whole attitude about him. Big White Sambo came by, for the first time in ages, giving me some warm tingles, and when he went up to the hot tub, I avoided going up to the tub myself for as long as I could. As Adam reported that Will did not think it a good idea for him to be the process server, Maureen tagged Will, reporting that Will was in a gruff mood about it, thinking the whole case a waste of time.
On the 14th I had to spend all morning at the hospital listening to informative talks about what a hernia is, as if I and the other patients there did not already know what a hernia was, before finally seeing a surgeon and getting my date scheduled in March. I returned to Lupin rather exhausted, but found that there was an urgent need for me to on a cigarette run, getting an order from a pack even from Lonnie, who had finished cutting the tree and was posing for a victory shot taken by Adam, but when I got back and gave Lonnie his pack, it immediately disappeared after he had gotten only one cigarette out of it, and nobody knew who had taken it. It was a warm day, and I got in some naked time, and found an odd thing, a little square of mirror glass in the Circle, which I decided to set at the base of a tree east of the Blue House, more or less on the way to Tiger Lily, so that whatever Lori sent out towards me would reflect back on her. And in the morning I dressed carefully for court, in my best suit but, in place of the usual belt with the metal buckle that always had to come off at the metal-detector, threatening to expose my bare butt to the deputies, I cinched the pants with the sash from my purple Jesus-robe, put on my bloodstone-and-turquoise Navajo ring which I used to wear all the time but now only put on for special occasions, and around my neck wore not only Brandon's black beads but also my jade Kuanyin figurine on its red cord, retrieving Samara's sword of justice again from the cup on the table in the Circle to carry in my pocket.