Friday, February 11, 2005


1 In my sleep I felt a hard backhanded slap to my shoulder. I woke up. "Hey I got it," I heard Nate say, eagerly.

"Got what?" I said drowsily, still half in sleep.

"I know how we can live - cheap."


"There's got to be a college in town here. They gotta have frat houses. If their anything like the houses at UCLA then they probably rent out rooms for the summer, cheap. Real cheap."

"University of Washington is here someplace isn't it?"

"I don't know."

Nate picked up the phone. I laid back down and closed my eyes, then heard Nate dialing. I was still tired. I heard Nate ask, "Is the University of Washington around here?...Good...That local?...Sigma Delta...I don't know what street...Thanks." Then more dialing. Then he said - I presumed to me, "It's ringing. This is our ticket." He kept quiet awhile, "Damn they’re not answering. Stinkin' fraternity houses - nobody answers the damn phone." He kept letting it ring for at least a couple of minutes then hung up saying, "Damn - well least we know there's a house there."

"Why don't you get some sleep," I said.

I felt the bed move, I looked over, he was getting up. "What are you doin’?" I asked.

"I can't sleep, I'm gonna go get this worked out."

I fell back asleep, and didn't wake up until Nate had later returned to inform us of the details. He sat on the edge of the bed and recounted. He had searched out the University of Washington campus, then the Sigma Delta house. Then he made a deal with the president of the fraternity to put us up for the summer in the house; all of us, for two hundred dollars. Brad was listening quietly, still under the bed covers, then he said, "That's a great idea. The best idea you've had so far. Klug, they'll be all kinds a girls stayin' around there - probably livin' in the house. We always had girls livin' in the house at UCLA during the summers. Goddamn Nate - that's a great idea!"

"Really man - the Nate Einsteined." Klug said.

The University of Washington campus stands prominent over a tremendous abundantly green promontory, on the banks of the waters laying on the north side of Seattle. Driving over, we crossed over the channel Nate had talked about earlier. As we went over the channel, atop a concrete overpass, high over the water, Nate pointed out a blue gleaming expanse to the east and said how it was Lake Washington. Later we were to learn that the channel was considered part of Lake Union. This mostly long narrow waterway, with a couple lakelike liberal widenings, connected Lake Washington with the Sound, was a kind of Erie connecting the inland pure waters with the brine of the sea. The most widened place, about a mile across and almost that wide, became a urban lake, more a wet playground; but for most of its length – about eight miles – this wet body remained fairly narrow, more functional, varying from fifty to a couple hundred yards across. It lay just three or so miles north of the downtown. Earlier that morning we had seen it, I think, but had thought it part of the Sound. The University stands prominently on the corner where Lake Washington streams into Lake Union – on the north side of the east end of the channel, as if strategically placed.

Around the campus, and north of the downtown, the city was an expanse of the usual suburban sprawl, containing gas stationed and strip shopping centered boulevards, tracts of apartment buildings and houses. Most of the houses were older, were of the wood lap sided craftsman type we saw to the southeast of the downtown. Before going over to the fraternity house we took a quick driving tour through the campus.

Running east west was thirtieth street, which ran high on the promontory above the lake. Between the lake and thirtieth street stood the campus. I thought of home, the Claremont Colleges, only everything gone large - buildings, land, and student population. Indeed, after touring the campus, I began to think Pomona and Pitzer and all the rest were mere miniature representations of that phylum – the college phylum. Even Princeton seemed petite compared to this state funded occidental Jefferson ideal. An august melding of modern, institutional, and classically strained architecture over significant buildings which rose out of full-grown, often dense, and meticulously kept landscaping, like a kind of citadel, the campus was encompassed by a wide green belt, about three quarters of a mile wide. This strip of complex landscaping, of trim lawn runways, tree groves, hedgroves and ivy aprons, narrow asphalt and dirt paths, vast hardscape patios, ran from thirtieth southeasterly, a mile or so - along the flat top of the promontory - before running a half mile or so noticeably downhill to the lake. At the southeastern side of the flat area was a large round reflecting pool contained by a concrete sitting wall just over knee high. From that pool southward, ran the green belt, downward, all landscaping, mostly grass runway for the half mile before coming to a stadium on the lakeside – the playing field for the Huskies football team. The stadium had an odd boxy look, the grandstands looking more like those siding a Churchill Downs or Santa Anita, and it was all painted a dark green. Along one side of the green belt, down from the pool, was a line of wide triangular crowned pines; along the other side was a row of cherry trees. The campus buildings were concentrated over the flat high area of the promontory and were mostly variations of the hard lined geometric forms of modern and postmodern architecture; patterned concrete, brick, and glass were the prevalent exteriors. The cube and box was the prevalent shape. Several older buildings however, were understated derivatives of the Parisian Beaux arts and Chateauesque styles; roofs were steeply pitched and covered with slate shingles or copper sheeting, pinnacle wall dormer's rose above windows at the roof lines, ornate floral belt curves ran at perimeter midpoints, and doorways were arched and canopied. A couple buildings I noticed had circular towers with conical roofs projecting from building corners. Extending north for about a quarter mile from the concentration of buildings to thirtieth street, was the remainder of the green belt. There it was wooded with a mixed grove of maturely grown oak, pine, sycamore, maple, magnolia, apple, and cherry trees. Over this section of greenbelt, through the grove, were asphalt walking paths angling and curving in various directions making their way toward and from the various buildings.

Across thirtieth street, across from the greenbelt, on the north side, was a residential area of large, older, stately homes, similar to the older homes in Claremont. Perpendicular to thirtieth street were four streets, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth north-south. On tenth through thirteenth north-south from one block between thirtieth and thirty first streets east-west were located the congregation of fraternity and sorority houses. Throughout the neighborhood, including the Greek houses, were stately larger homes in English Tudor, American Colonial, Neoclassical, French Eclectic. Most were traditionally styled; only a few were modern. Most landscapes were neat, well kept, and green. Apparently, compared to the Greek houses at UCLA, the Washington houses were a cut above, for the neighborhood elicited, as we drove through, minimalist compliments from even the likes of Brad, "These houses aren't bad," he said sounding impressed, "ours at UCLA are shacks compared to these."

"Looks like Claremont," Klug said. It did remind us of home; yet the houses were larger, and the streets were lined and the yards dominated by trees that were even larger and fuller than those in Claremont. It appeared as we drove the streets that the lush green canopy of limb and leaf rising from the large old trees covered most of the neighborhood placing the streets and front yards in an indoorlike Astrodome shade. Walking and milling about throughout the neighborhood were students, most in casual wear, t-shirts, jeans, shorts. Most had knapsacks swung over shoulders. Many of the girls were decked out for the sun in sundresses, or shorts and halter-tops. On front lawns - and we saw some even on the more horizontal and exposed portions of the rooftops - were students on towels and lounge chairs sunbathing. Klug gawking out the bus window taking it all in said, "This could be a good call man, a good call."

"So where's the Sig house?" Brad asked.

We drove down twelfth street, past more of the impressives, to thirty-first, then turned to thirteenth. On the Northeast corner of thirteenth and thirty-first street was the house. "Here it is," Nate said matter-of-factly. "I had trouble finding it at first - no one seemed to know where it was."

Brad was, as usual, harsh in his assessment, but it did seem to capture the general relational ambiance. He said, with disappointment, "This place is a dump."

"This house is low dige man. Sure this is it?" Klug said.

Nate said, "It's not bad - look you guys, we didn't come up here to live in the lap a luxury."

It was not run down or shabby per se. It was just not as well kept and stately as the others we had seen. If Nate would have taken us straight to the house without the Cooks Tour, then we probably would not have said a thing. From the outside front, it was a large house and looked three stories. The style was nominal traditional, white flagstone covered the first story, wide board ship lap siding was above that. The roof was side gabled, and in front had gabled dormers. The white paint over the siding was cracked and peeling here and there. Next to each window were shutters, and a couple were missing, one was dangling at an angle. The door was painted a light turquoise blue, and a brick chimney rising along a side gable was painted gold, with high on the chimney, in purple, the Greek letters Sigma Delta. At the side, set back from the front elevation of the house was a three-story annex. It had the look of an add on, was a simple stucco box dormitorylike structure, with square windows at each room. These walls were also in need of paint, and small patches of stucco had fallen revealing lath and tarpaper underneath. Every house up the street was fronted with an apron of lawn between curb and sidewalk, and each apron was green. The apron in front of the Sigma house was brown and yellow - from dirt and dried weeds. The house was set back only a few feet from the sidewalk, and even this meager strip of yard had gone unattended, and was like the apron, brown and weed infested. I said, "I don't get it - how come all these other houses are antebellum mansions and this ones postbellum?"

"What are your trying to say?" Nate asked with a slight irritated edge.

"Why is this house so crummy compared to the rest?" I said.

"’Cause these guys," Brad said, "are the dip-rods of the Greek system here."

Nate claimed, "There's a few other houses that aren't so hot, and these guys aren't bad. What'd ya expect for two hundred bucks for the summer? Where we gonna find a deal like that?"

"You get what you pay for," Brad said. "I ain't livin' here if I don't like these guys."

"You know Smitty," Nate said, "our house at UCLA didn't win any awards."

"Didn't matter - at UCLA all the houses stunk. Here this is the only one that stinks. I can tell these guys aren't the in crowd."

"What'd you mean? There's no one around outside here," Nate said. "You haven't even met the guys."

"I can just tell by looking at the house." Brad said.

"Well Smitty, we didn't come up here to be in."

"Listen, this was a good idea," Brad said. "We may as well take advantage. Why kill our chances of meeting girls by moving in with a bunch a clucks?"

Nate pointed out that any argument about it was likely futile - he had already paid the rent. So we decided to check the innards, see if hopefully there was improvement. As we were walking up the steps to the front door, the door opened, and an older looking man walked out. He must have been at least forty, his hair was shoulder length, tousled and graying; and he had a scraggly beard, also gray. He wore a Hawaiian styled rayon shirt colored in shades of gold and brown over jeans with rips and holes at the knees, and sandals shod his feet. As he stepped past us, he said with pleasant exuberance, "Hey!" and kept walking.

Brad watched him walk away down the steps and across the dirt yard and start up the sidewalk, then said, "Who the hell's that?"

Nate said, "One of the members."

Brad exhaled, "What - that guy?"

Nate shook his head and said gruffly, "Smitty - he's probably the butler. Will you stop?"

"Probably just hangs at the house tryin' to nail the young chicks," Klug said.

"Yeah - the local rapist," Brad said.

The front door opened into a small entry area with shiny ebony colored slate over the floor. The stairs were immediately ahead and went up in straight half floor flights. To the left was a living room, sparsely furnished in a motif of postmodern Sears & Roebuck with an emphasis on vinyl. Two turquoise couches were against the corner walls extending at right angles from a white Formica topped corner table. Veins of gold sparkled in the Formica. Atop of the table was a large lamp with a bone colored shade and a wide bellied orange base. A long elliptically shaped coffee table, covered in the same white and gold Formica as the corner table stood in front of the couches. A chessboard lay atop the table with the playing pieces scattered over the board and the table. Pulled up to the table next to the game board, across from the couch, was an overstuffed club chair covered with a gold-yellow crushed velvet looking material. Then oddly enough, across the room, was a baby grand piano. The collection was slightly dingy - not exactly an Newland Edwards show room - but not bad really; it was livable.

As we were looking and standing there in the entry, a member, I presumed, came up to us. He looked a couple years younger than us - and looked odd. He was blond, his hair thin and cut above the ears, and combed conservatively and neatly, but was on the greasy side. He was very pale, almost white, his face was covered with acne and his eyes were an unusual turquoise blue. He definitely looked like he could use a shot of Melatonin. His shirt was a plaid short sleeved button down - and looked a size small on him - a white t shirt was underneath and the sleeves came out beyond the sleeves of the button down. He wore khaki shorts, tennis shoes - the old black canvas type - which even then I hadn't seen in years. In his shirt pocket within a plastic pocket protector were three or four pens. A pro-typical nerd. He spoke in a quiet voice, and only glanced at us, would not look at us steadily, "Uh - can I help you?"

Nate looked at him and said pleasantly, "Yeah we're movin' in - upstairs. I talked to Mel earlier this morning."

"For summer? You're moving in for summer?" He said.

"Probably not the whole summer, most of it maybe." Nate answered.

"Well, I'm in charge of summer rentals," he said.

"Oh - well did Mel tell ya about us?" Nate asked.


Brad gave me a slight open mouthed what is this? look.

Nate explained who we were, and what we were about.

"Well no one told me about you guys."

"I already paid Mel for the rooms."

"You guys are moving in today?"

"Yeah - that was part of the deal."

"We don't have any rooms."

"I know, he said that - but he showed me the big room upstairs - he said we could stay there."

"Oh - the meat locker. Well, I guess that would be okay."

"Great then - we'll just mosey on up. I'm gonna show these guys the house."

"Well, it's sort of my job to show the new move-in’s the house."

"Oh, well sure.” Nate said, diplomatically going along. “I've only seen the top floor and what's down here. Yeah - we'd like to see the rest. By the way I'm Nate," he offered his open hand.

"Earnest," the guy said. Then without looking up he limply took hold and quickly shook Nate's hand. His hand was long fingered, almost white, and extended from a long skinny arm that looked almost all bone.

Nate quickly introduced the rest of us. Earnest didn't offer his hand to us and neither did Klug or Brad offer theirs to him, thus nor did I. At his volunteered insistence, we followed Earnest as he took us throughout the house. He spoke little and seemed to be having difficulty being natural and at ease around us. He would hardly look at us, say only the minimal, and never offered up an aside or a joke or any attempt at wit, wet or dry. Nate talked to him cordially, questioned him, I suppose to loosen him up, questions like, "So Ernie what's your major?"

"Chemical engineering."

"Oh yeah - pretty hard major."

"Not really."

"Going to graduate school?"


"For the same thing?"

"Same thing?"

"Yeah - for Chemical engineering?"

"No - medical school."

"So you wanna be a doctor huh?"


"What kinda doctor?"

"I'm gonna do research."



Brad whispered, "Mr. Personality."

I exhaled a quick "Shh."

The house had five levels actually, The bottom level being the basement. We went there first. The stairs in the entry went down into the large darker basement room. Over the floor was gray terrazzo. The ceiling hung low only a couple of feet over our heads, over it were acoustical pressboard tiles glued over whatever was above - a few of the tiles were missing and it looked like wood base planks. The tiles had all been spray painted black. Wood pilaster posts stood intermittently throughout the room; these were painted brown. Over the walls was brown paneling, the pressboard veneered type with the routed grooves. A couple of panels had fist sized holes punched through. In the middle of the room, bathed in the white glow of a long fluorescent light was a bar sized pool table, the green felt I noticed had a couple of small insignificant right-angled tears. At the table playing, were a couple more of the brothers. One was short and stocky with a round face and an almost bald head. When we were introduced he shook all of our hands robustly gripping hard, looking us in the face. Bill Rutherford was his name, he was personable, seemed quick and loud talking and energetic. The other player was John Taylor, he was tall, slim boned, his face was bony and lean, his cheeks fell in some, his arms and legs were long. His hair was wiry and dark with some gray, was thick and over his ears and parted down the middle. He was standoffish, like Earnest, didn’t look right at us, serious faced, seemed to be sizing us up as he slowly shook our hands with a limp grip, saying to each of us only an obliging, “Hey,” with a curt nod.

Bill asked, his voice loud and filled with exuberance, "So Earnie’s is given ya the tour huh?"

"Yeah he's doin' a good job," Nate said.

"You guys sophomores or juniors? You look too old to be freshman rushees," John asked.

Nate straightened John out about us, gave a brief rundown of our story.

Bill said, "Fishin' huh - you ought talk to Sal Friedman about it - he goes up every summer. He’s got an uncle or knows somebody that owns a canary up there."

John, as he walked around the table lining up a shot, "What's that prick gonna tell these guys."

"’Bout Alaska," Bill said. "Don't listen to Taylor here, he just don't like the guy."

John was leaning into his shot, he stroked the stick punching the cue ball then said, "Who does?"

Then Bill looked at us and moved his head back as if taken aback by John's comment, and said loud, "Well I like the guy."

John, lining up another shot, said, "Your 'bout the only one.” Then he stroked the cue again, stroked it hard and the balls knocked loud.

Later I was to say to Nate about John's remarks, "Interesting comments about a fraternal brother."

His reply was sarcastic, "It's a frat house – what'd you expect? Brotherly love?"

Off to the side of the basement room was a door which led to a small room which Earnest called "The Dungeon." It was the TV room. Another cheap paneled lined room. Crowding the floor were several couches - all candidates for the dump; in fact, all looked as if heisted from the dump. Each had long deep slashes in faded and discolored fabric, stuffing was billowing out, springs ascended between cushions, one even had dark crimson stains over it as if it had once served as some kind of sacrificial alter. On one of the couches lay a plate with a half eaten meal. The meal had dried. At the front of the room, a color TV, actually a rather large and nice looking one, stood atop an old freezer box. In looking over the room I felt a little squeamish, watching TV in there would take some getting used to.

The next level up, the ground floor, besides the living room and entry, on the other side of the entry, through a closed door, was another living room. It was very clean and was filled with high quality furniture - obviously some showpiece room, off limits to daily use. On the other side of the stairs was a small closet sized room with a pay phone and wood rack with slots for mail. Also, to the rear of the house - actually the first floor of the annex - was a large dining room. Long folding banquet tables standing end to end formed two long rows, each surrounded by a multitude of metal folding chairs. To the side of the dining room was the kitchen, a large one, filled with the usual stainless steel equipment and utensils for institutional serving. Earnest explained that school was still on for one more week; during that time meals would be served. After that, all tenants were on their own, but could use the kitchen and store food in the refrigerators.

The next two levels were the residential floors. Small two man dormitory rooms, each with a bunk bed and small desk - and whatever else suited the occupants - stereos, girl and sports posters, girly calendars, bean bag chairs, futons seemed to be the articles of choice. The rooms ran along the perimeter of the house, and along one side of the annex. The hallways in the house ran to the inside of the rooms and encircled on each floor a shower, sink and toilet area. The bath areas were tiled in light blue and were clean. Earnest mentioned that once summer school started the lower level baths would be "Off limit's to the men boarders."

Brad picked up on this, "Why's that?"

"Lower area is for the girls."

"Girls'll be living here?” Brad asked.

Frances nodded, "A few."

"Lookin' better," Brad said.

Nate gave him a stern look.

As we were looking into a couple of rooms we came upon Mel Kashawahara, who, as Nate pointed out when he introduced us, was President of the house. He was sitting with Jim Procter, another member and the Social Chairman. Jim was shorter and stoutly framed, had thick red hair and freckles over pale thick skin. He wore a well wrinkled and faded plaid flannel shirt stuffed carelessly into his well faded Levis - his fly was carelessly buttoned with a couple buttons left undone. Mel was a stocky big Hawaiian with a round face and Polynesian black hair and brown skin. He had an open, pleasant, full cheeked face and a well entrenched Anglo demeanor. He seemed casual and low key and easy to smile. He was wearing a t-shirt advertising Primo beer and flowered swimming trunks and thongs on his feet.

After we were introduced, Mel told Jim, "They're up here to get fishing jobs."

Jim said in a thick energetic voice and nodding while he spoke, "Oh yeah - heard a guys doin' that."

Then Mel said to Nate, "After you left I remembered we have a guy in the house that goes up there - Sal Friedman."

Jim said nodding again, "Oh yeah - he does go up there."

Nate asked, "Do you know where he goes in Alaska?"

Mel tilted his head to the side and shrugged, "I don't know," then turning to Jim, "You know where he works?"

Jim shook his head, "Don't know - but I know he goes way up there."

"To the Alutions?" Nate asked.

Jim kept turning his head, "Don't know."

Klug was rather disappointed in Mel. With a name like Kashawahara he thought he had stumbled on the real Hawaiian, a direct descendent of the King Kamehameha, and no doubt a wave rider like himself who could point out the choice spots on the Washington coastline for the elite board men. But no such luck. As Mel explained, he grew up on air force bases, his father being a master sergeant and mechanic for jet engines. Mel confessed to not even knowing how to swim.

"Don't know how to swim?" Nate said astonished.

Mel smiled and laughed a little, "Nope, never learned."

Klug said, "Gotta know how to swim man - your a native, only howly's can't swim."

Mel shrugged with aplomb, "I'm a howly then."

Our quarters were on the top floor of the house, the attic floor, which was a much smaller area than the lower floors due to the slope of the roof. It was just one large almost square room. All four walls angled inward following the roof-line. Windows set in dormers were in all four walls and looked out on three sides to a view of neighboring houses. To the east, the view was of rolling green tree covered hills; and in the distance standing sacredly while crowned in white against a blue sky, was Mount Rainier. Over the room standing randomly were several bunk beds framed with angle iron with a single thin mattress over a grate of wire and springs.

"So how come it's the meat locker?" Nate asked.

"No heat up here," Earnest said.

"Good thing it's almost summer," Nate said.

"It's okay in the summer," Earnest said.

Last stop on the tour was the roof. Accessing through a door just to the side of the stairs was the flat roof of the annex. Over the roof were several single sized mattresses laid out for sunbathing.

"Generally there's people out here on a day like this," Earnest said.

"It's a great day," Nate said. "Always so clear?"

"No. Summer it is – but mostly it rains or is overcast."

When we got back down to the bus to unload our bags, Brad said to Nate, "I'm not sure I want to live here."

"Why not?" Nate asked.

"We should go look for a better house," Brad said.

"What's wrong with this house?"

"What'd you mean what's wrong? It's obvious, and the guys are nobody's. What kinda girls do you think are gonna hang out here? We should go find out which house is the top house and rent there."

"What's wrong with these guys?" Nate said.

"Are you kidding?" Brad said. "That pale face Earnest guy looks like the walkin' dead. That red haired Jim guy - he's got a permanent case of the hick. He can't even button up his fly. And that guy down in the pool room hates our guts."

“The other guy seems to like us,” Nate said.

“That guy? What a loud mouth. And how come he’s bald?”

"You know Smitty," Nate said, "you ain't exactly suave yourself - without your dad's money you'd be just another cluck."

"Like hell. You don't see any pimples on my face. I ain't no hick. And he had pens in his pockets - did you see that? Pens right there - in his pockets."

"Smitty man, your a snob," Klug said.

"Oh Klug - and your not?" Brad said.

"Well man, you know it's a dive, but what the hey?" Klug said.

"And I didn't see any girls hangin' around. You guys see any girls? Who knows, they might all be queer. Why else wouldn't the guy button up his fly?"

We laughed. Nate said, "Smitty you heard Earnie, they got girls comin'. Just cool your jets and shut up, will ya. If you don't like the place you can move out later. That is - after you pay us for your share of the rent money."

Turning to Klug and I, Brad moaned, "See - see how he is - I owe him the money now. I don't want to live here - but I owe him the money."

"No doubt man, Nate is a bastard," Klug said.

"Yeah a prick's prick," I said.

Nate, looking contemplative, said, "A prick's prick. Hmm. You're a poet Joey. A regular poet."

With that end of report, we followed, with bags in hand, the Nate, our Eisenhower of the road, to our new abode - the meat locker.

2 We lugged our bags upstairs and soon settled in. At around five Mel came in the meat locker and told us that dinner was being served down in the dining hall. Brad asked, "Foods part of the deal too huh?"

"Just for the next couple a weeks Smitty," Nate said.

At dinner we were cordially introduced to the membership at large, at least the large that was present at that nights meal; which looked without counting at about thirty strong. I met a couple more of the brothers that were sitting around me. John Taylor was sitting almost across from me, but I didn't notice him looking my way at dinner nor attempting to acknowledge me. Dinner was scrambled eggs with diced ham mixed in. The eggs had been dyed green with food coloring and this elicited loud comments and catcalls, mostly crude remarks toward the cook - who come out of the kitchen at one point and took a bow. The cooks name I gathered from the shouting was Harry, and he was the same gray beard we ran into earlier that afternoon at the front door. The members sitting around me that I met and talked with seemed mostly friendly and accepting of us. I foresaw no problems and had decided Nate had done well for us. After dinner I went back upstairs and laid in my bunk. I was feeling tired not having slept much in the previous forty eight hours and had closed my eyes to get in a nap. Brad and Klug seemed to be doing the same. When Nate walked in, Brad again started harping on the house, "I'm tellin' ya Nate we could do better at another house."

"Smitty, issues closed, we paid, we're in, we're here. Got it."

"Did you see those guys at dinner Klug? That was the ugliest bunch a guys I've ever seen. No girls are gonna be hangin' with that bunch. Did you see that one fat guy? I mean that guy was the fattest guy I've ever seen. And they had a couple black guys. We didn't have any black guys in our house at UCLA."

Brad was right, there was one member who I would have to say was obese. He could have sat on two chairs. There were a couple African Americans, and I was quite aware of why Brad with unabashed prejudice would bring it up as a negative. My supper club at Princeton was considered one of the better clubs, so the reputation went, and we had gone through a few heated and eye opening debates during membership meetings. Twice I had seen after such debates membership denied to someone based simply on his race, creed, or color. Through those invisible men, applying to that club sanctioned by and wholly comprising students from one of Americas great and most renowned institutions of higher and supposedly more liberal learning, even in the post mortem of New Frontiers, Dreams, and Great Societies, I was laid witness to the naked truth that bigotry, and our tribal natures, in various quarters was alive and well. I asked, "Brad what do the blacks have to do with it?"

"A lot - we didn't have any blacks in our fraternity at UCLA."

"Did you have any Jews?" I asked.

"Nope," Brad said

"Just the beautiful people huh Brad?" I said.

"Yep," Brad said.

"Like hell - Smitty was in the house," Nate said laconically.

"Listen Joe don't shovel me any of your east coast liberal crap. That's the way it was at our frat, and we had a good house."

"White and Supreme, huh Brad," I said.

Klug joined in, "Auktung!"

"Listen Klug,” Brad shot back, “don't start - don't tell me you guys had blacks in your house."

"No frats at CMC man. They barred 'em. They promote elitism - not a good thing man."

"I'm surrounded by a bunch a pinko liberals," Brad said.

Nate said, "That's right Smitty, you've died and gone to Red Square. And in Claremont the Smitty money and name is white and supreme - but here the little guy’s just another reseeding hairline."

Brad said curtly, "Think we've heard that already."

Nate said assuming a Negrolike twang, "What's that white boy? You seh somthin' white boy?"

I was tired and closed my eyes, closing myself off to the banter. Soon I was asleep.

A couple hours later I awoke. The others were gone. I went downstairs to the bathrooms to wash and wake up. When I walked in, Nate was at one of the sinks splashing water over his face. He asked, "Nap time over?"

I ignored the question and went over and stood by one of the urinals on the wall opposite the sinks.

Nate said, "Mel asked me to go with him to a bar up the street, wanna go?"

"Thought you weren't gonna nightlife?"

"Just gonna go have a drink. Might be good PR Stay in good with the house pres."

"Sounds like a good excuse to flake off," I said. I had nothing else going. After washing up I joined Nate downstairs in the entry and we waited for Mel.

"Where's Klug and Brad?" I asked.

"Downstairs watchin' TV. I think. What else would Smitty be doin'? That dungeon room was designed for him."

Mel came sauntering down the stairs. He was wearing thongs and with each step there was a hard slap of rubber against his heal. He was still wearing the Primo t-shirt and shorts. We left walking toward what was referred to in the local jargon as, The Ave. It was the next street past tenth. More a narrow storefront lined boulevard, officially tagged University Avenue, it was similar to Yale Street back in Claremont, though a longer street with many more businesses. We had quickly driven the street earlier in the day when first coming to the house. Along each side housed in older brick buildings and a couple new ones in stucco, were small cafes, a few fast food stores, a Pepe's and a Domino's Pizza. One store served only hot dogs - but in five sausage varieties. There were a couple gift and knick knack stores; a small grocery store - Lee's Market; a large drug store; the university bookstore was in one of the larger buildings; across from the bookstore was a movie theater; and there were several bars along the street including the one to which we were headed - The 901 Club.

Because of the high northern locale summer days in Seattle were long, the sun not setting during the longest days till almost ten. That night as we walked to The Ave, though it was well past ten, I could still see shimmers of blue and orange down low in the western sky. The number of students out and about surprised me. Mel explained that the summer rush parties were starting up. Fraternities had parties throughout the summer starting around that week to attract new members for the fall semester. As we walked past the houses on thirteenth, then those on the corners along thirtieth street, I saw that perhaps we had been rather harsh in our initial assessment of the Sigma house and how it stacked up against the others. I saw a few that were as ratty, and some not so ratty; I also saw a few that were quite impressive. At the corner of thirtieth and tenth were two brick Tudors, both large and stately - and impressive. Mel saw me looking at them, he said, "That one's the SAE house and the other one’s Phi Gamma Delta."

"Nice houses," I said.

"Yeah - this streets got all the nicest houses, and the fraternities and sororities with the largest memberships."

Nate said, "Mel - thought you guys were one of the largest houses."

Mel said, "Nope."

We got to the 901 Club and situated ourselves at the bar. It was a long divish small bar in a narrow darkened room, lit only by red lights in the ceiling. Along the wall opposite the bar were round booths in red vinyl. Small round tables with wood chairs were in a line between the booths and the bar. Behind the bar was an old codger, Leo, Mel called him when ordering. He had a round bald head, a garland of gray greasy looking hair, a sharp wrinkly nose, and small tired droopy eyes. Mel introduced us and said, "They're from California."

Leo said in an old cranky voice, "California huh. Lot of good lookin' broads in California - what you boys doin' up here?"

Nate said, "Trying to get a job fishing."

Leo nodded, appearing not too impressed, "Yeah - lot a people do that up here."

Leo left us to go serve a couple other student patrons that had come in and over to the bar. Mel looked over at the students and he seemed to recognize one of them. He walked toward them and said, "Hey Sal."

One of them looked over and recognized Mel, he gave a half smile and lifted his head quick. Then Mel said, "Hey Sal come here."

Sal looked over again, then stepped over. He said, "What's up? I'm all paid up."

"Naw, it's nothing like that," Mel said. "I want you to meet these guys. They're livin' in the house now." Then he looked at us, "This is the guy I told you guys about: Sal Goldstein - he works in Alaska."

Mel introduced us. Sal’s voice came quick and snappy, as if slightly agitated. He shook my hand quick with smallish thin pale hands. He had an impressive look about him, a long equine head and a large softly ridged nose, his skin was pale, his lips thin and moist looking, and his hair was back off his forehead, was black, curly and slightly frizzy, as if he towel dried it and let it go. His eyes, looked at you but appeared to dance around, looking quick at you then shifting on, as if he wanted to see you but was too afraid to hold the stare.

"So you work in Alaska?" Nate asked.

He nodded, "Yep - leavin' in two weeks."

"You on a boat?"

"No - I work in a cannery." He spoke definite, to the point, and lifted his head quick with his brows over the conversation as if hurrying it along.

"Where's the Cannery?" Nate asked.

"Anchorage. So where you guys from?"


"Why do you want to work in Alaska?" He asked, tightening his brows and calming his head.

"The money," Nate said.

"No money in California?"

"Not really, not like up here," Nate said.

"Who says there's more up here?" Sal said.

"That's what we heard," Nate said.

"Shouldn't believe everything you hear."

"There's no money?" Nate said.

"Naw, there is - what'd you guys want to do?"

Mel said, "They want fishing jobs."

"Good luck."

"Why - hard to get a job fishing?"

"Yeah. What kind of fishing?"


"Those are real tough to get. And you got to get with a skipper that won't screw ya."

"They screw ya?"

"Yeah - some of 'em."

"You can make good money though?"

"Yeah - if you get a job, get paid, and the season’s good. It was goin’ good for awhile but then the crabs gettin' fished out."

"Fished out?"

"Yeah - too much of it got fished - now the crab can't replenish themselves. Last couple years the catch hasn't been as good. It's like anything, when it's good, it's good - but it won't last forever."

"You work at a crab canary?"

"Naw - salmon. I really don't know that much about crab. I just go up and spend a month and a half in Anchorage and push paper."

"You make good money?"

"Sure - wouldn't do it if I didn't," he said. "Look I got this guy over here I'm with. If you get a job you should make some money. The industry by and large pays well." He then stepped back over to his friend.

Nate said, "Well that was encouraging."

Mel said, "He's kinda hard to talk to. Smart guy though. I think he makes good money. Some Uncle or cousin’ of his owns the cannery I think. He's Jewish."

Nate nodded, "No kiddin'."

After we finished our beers, we took a walk up the street and went into a small café behind a storefront called Mom's Kitchen. A cheap food a plenty establishment, a simple small eatery, with linoleum floors, stainless steel tables, black vinyl booths, and there were stainless steel panels over the walls. All the stainless made it seem like sitting in a sink. There was a counter with small mushroomlike round stools, and at the end of the counter an old shiny chromed cash register that rang and had numbered tin tabs popping up in a window along the top. We gorged ourselves on king sized omelets and milk shakes and Mel answered our questions to the best of his ability about other environs of the world. Because of his father's Air Force career, Mel had lived in Japan, the Philippines, Germany, France, Australia, Virginia, Colorado, and then Washington.

"Where's the best looking girls?"

"Didn't really start looking until a few years ago. Australia I guess. And here. California's got some good looking girls."

"When were you in California?"

"Last Easter - went to Palm Springs."

"What about Japan?"

"Naw, I like ‘em better in California. People are better looking down there. You guys look different, you look Californian."

"Look Californian? What look is that?"

"A good look."

"Think we're good looking huh Mel?" Nate asked.

He smiled, "Bet girls aren't a problem."

"Mel didn't we tell ya?" Nate said.


"We don't like girls."

He smiled, "Yeah, I heard about you guys from California."

"Just thought you should know."

"I already knew."

"How'd you know?"

"You know any guys that like ‘em?"

Nate and I laughed.

3 Next morning Nate woke me up by making racket as he got out of his bunk and went looking through his bag for some clothes. I opened my eyes and turned my head towards Nate's bunk and through the window, behind Nate, the morning sun shown light directly into my eyes like a headlight beam. My eyes unexpectedly took in the full force of the light and ached a bit even after I turned away. I looked at my watch, but for a moment I couldn't see the crystal because the light had burned white areolas into my eyes. Almost immediately the white turned to red and the watch face, after a couple eye blinks, appeared. Half past six. Geeze, I thought. I was still tired, in need of sleep, and knowing how early it was only emphasized this.

Nate saw me with my eyes opened and said, "Hey - you guys oughta get up - we need to hit the docks."

Brad said in a thick groggy voice, "What time is it?"

"It's morning," Nate said. "You gonna sleep all day?"

"Yeah," Brad said. Then he turned over.

"What about you?" Nate said. He was talking to me.

"Well Nate, it is half past six." I said.

Nate shook his head and walked out of the room. Well I thought, he’s motivated; perhaps too motivated. I fell back asleep.

When I again awoke it was just past eight and the sun was no longer shining in the windows. I got up, showered and dressed, then went downstairs, leaving Brad and Klug still snoozing behind. I had bacon and eggs in the dining room with Mel, who was there dressed in a t-shirt, knee length swimming trunks, and thongs, and had a book filled knapsack on the table next to him, all ready for school.

"For someone who doesn't know how to swim, you always look like your ready to jump in," I told him.

"Don't wanna look like a howly," he said smiling.

After a couple moments more of chit chat I asked him where I could find the "Fishing boat docks."

He explained to me how I was probably looking for the Fisherman’s Warf, and could get there by bus which I could catch on the quarter hour at the corner of thirtieth. Then I just took it to the Viaduct.

"The freeway overpass like the one going to downtown?" I asked.

"No, it's a bridge. Goes over the lake toward Capital Hill. It's easy to find - the bus driver'll know. But right under the bridge on this side is Fisherman's Wharf – I think - so make sure you get off before the bus goes over the bridge, if you get to the freeway you went too far."

Rightyo, sounded simple enough for a Princetonian to handle. But unfortunately not. After more than fifteen minutes on the bus and not seeing any sign of, or signs for a freeway, I figured I had likely gone too far. I pulled the overhead string signaling the driver and soon I was let off the bus on some boulevard I had no idea where. All around me were familiar sites – a Mc Donald's, a Best Western, a Texaco, a Save-on. The usual matrix affiliates. I walked a few blocks against traffic, an occasional horn sounded, loud engine growlings came and went, air swooshed into me from passing speedsters. I kept on until I thought I saw a major road going toward and over to the lake. I went down that way, toward the lake, and I came to a bridge crossing. Stairs went up to the walkway that went along the side of the bridge. I took the stairs and walked out a ways onto the bridge. Traffic whooshed past. It was a concrete deck bridge with a steel girdered arched underpinning. I was way high over the wide channel – Lake Union - at least a hundred feet. It afforded a big wide gorgeous view which in the warm almost noon sun and lucent clean air was rich in deep blues and greens mottled with the salient colors of the objects of the city.

After looking around awhile, studying absorbing the view rather, I thought it well incorporated the ambient of the city, how in the loom of Mt. Rainier just southeasterly and the Cascade range, built atop the uplift and fertile mud that sedimented over the lava flows of this giant range of ancient and supposedly dormant volcanoes, all around me, hugging and pulling away from the waters, was broad shouldered industrial, pedestrian commercial, and polished cosmopolitan settled into a highland rain forested lushness. Directly under the crossing, the lake looked more like a lazy azure river in a slight canyon, each shear brown and green bank was parallel and apart by a few hundred or so yards, at least - and remained so, long into the distance to the east. The broad view to the east was of big blue sky, the suburban areas of the city over green hills and the white still snow shrouded Vesuvian mountains beyond. Further down maybe a mile I could see the channel widening, the high sun shimmering silver over a trilled surface. Just before the channel spread, I could see another bridge crossing - likely the viaduct, where I was supposed to be.

On the west side of the crossing the channel opened up into a kind of lake, the south bank falling away a half mile or so toward the downtown. The city was more low lying sprawl amidst the lushly green tree covered hills rising from and surrounding the lake – I could see peaking out of the greenness the chimneys, roofs, and gables of older houses, glass walled business buildings, whole cubical condo projects. Beyond the hills south westerly rose the high sleek glass towers of the downtown with the Space Needle distinguishing the scene.

Along the immediate banks of the channel were a myriad of brick, wood, concrete, metal and glass sided warehouses, factory, shed, and office buildings, some new, most old, some well kept, some worn, some freshly painted, rusting, or unpainted, or faded needing paint. I could see marinas of yachts here and there in the distance; patches of mast groves sprouting from sleek sparkling white fiberglass hulls jumbled together parking lot fashion. One section of bank along the channel down almost below me was lined with wood cabins, or cottages, charming lake shanty's floating over the water with docks serving as yards, and chromatic flower gardens sprouting from pots and wood sided beds. On the south banks of the channel down a ways where it appeared to widen were a couple sprawling yellow steel sided factory buildings with saw tooth roofs and a row of three round and delicate looking towering concrete chimneys belching forth white steam-like smoke. In the channel, in front of the buildings, were docked several flat rectangular barges each carrying long pyramid piles of logs - trimmed of branches but still clothed in a reddish brown bark awaiting, I guessed, the slaughter of the saws.

Down along both sides of the channel, for half a mile in the distance, in various widths and lengths, was a complex of docks beetling out into the water. Along the docks were boats, mostly commercial - fishing boats, tugs, barges, I saw even a few ships - a cargo ship, a small navy ship - something in the cutter class, and two ships I couldn't figure out. They had the size and look of small cargo ships but, instead of an open deck with cargo masts or container holds in front of an aft cabin and bridge superstructure, the superstructure ran along the entire length, like a passenger liner. But along this superstructure there were no windows, and rows of pipes ran over the top and sides. The lack of windows, the boxy industrial look of the superstructure, the dull and rusted paint, and the complex of pipes running in flat rows of several lengths over the sides and top decks, indicated to me these were not liners or cargo vessels – I guessed likely some factory ship. Also, docked amidst the working class, were a few sloops and large yachts, the sleek hulls and top decks gleaming white – cut diamonds amid the rock pile.

Most of the fishing boats I could see were the smaller wooden kind as seen in San Francisco, but directly on the east side of the crossing, on the south bank, were a couple vessels of the fishing class - but much larger than we had seen in San Francisco. I could tell they were fishing boats from the overall lines and shape. Yet these boats were more sleek, in an industial way, had style and a panache in the smooth slung of their structure lines. Each was made all of steel, and had tall steel crane masts just aft the cabin and flying bridge structures - at the fore of the open aft work areas. One of the boats was much longer than the other, the cabin structure larger and the work area stretching thirty or forty feet longer. Like a stretch limousine, a stretch fisher. At the rear of that ones work area, a large steel frame, shaped like a big saw horse rose over the stern wale. I had no idea what that was about. Several men were crawling over the boat, obviously at work, dragging steel pipes and oddly shaped items, stroking windows with rags, painting the flying bridge, carrying boxes from the deck into the cabin. She was an impressive ship - definitely not of the boat class. Her sweeping hull was painted in a sky blue shiny enamel and had an impressive stylish winged insignia, like a pilots wings, outlined in white at the top of a high sharply edged bow. Her cabin structure was all in a shiny white; and her stack, rising like a smooth oval chimney atop the cabin just aft the flying bridge, was all blue with a white stripe at the top. The other vessel was similar in every way, except length, and lacking the rack at the stern, and color - her hull was fire engine red, had the same winged insignia on the bow; the cabin and flying bridge were a also bright spotless white, and the stack was bright red with a black stripe along the top. I could see the back of the smaller boat and across the stern wale was, in white, her calling - The Eagle.

Most impressive were these vessels, obviously built for a higher cause than the less formidable boats I saw in San Francisco. Their sleek professional site filled me with readiness to embrace Nate's scheme, which frankly still, even then, faintly rattled over my resolve with dubiety. The ships were inspiring, and the view was grand.

I stood on the crossing a long while drinking in the view of that fine city before making my way back across the bridge. As I was walking, cruising up to the over crossing in the middle of the channel was a tug, her cabin an enameled black with a couple red strips around her stack, old tires hung lubberly over her side bulwark serving as bumpers. A long cable was attached to a steel bracket just to the rear of the cabin and ran taunt over the stern wale and over the water for almost fifty feet. In tow, at the other end of the cable, was a long flat dark rusting barge, a water sleigh, carrying large long rectangular cargo containers looking like stacked blocks, each painted in basic green, red, or blue, large blocks sided with thick corrugated steel sheeting. As tug and barge slowly and steadily made their way, a triangular undulation formed in the blue water and swept gracefully back from the tugs dark bow, mantled with a beard of coiled rope.

After I came off the over crossing, I walked to a gas station on a corner about a block away. There, after making inquiries, I discovered I had stayed on the bus a couple miles too long. The Viaduct was back down 30th street, was indeed the one to the east I had seen from the over crossing.

Soon I was on another bus and eventually was deposited on the correct corner. I then walked about a block over to the viaduct and walked on, and again was afforded another grand vantage. The viaduct bridge was a much smaller bridge than the other crossing. It was also a concrete deck laid atop a steel arched crossing. The bridge was lower than the crossing, thus the view was not as encompassing. To the west the view was similar, but being now lowered down the downtown high rises were not visible, and only the northern most opening of Lake Union off the channel could be seen in the distance, and most of that view was obscured by the freeway crossing. To the east the channel stayed narrow. To the west it opened again for, extending for what looked like a mile or so to distant banks.

Directly below the bridge on the north east bank was my destination, the Fisherman's Wharf. Below was a simple maze of long docks of varying widths laying over the water in an area that was hemmed by the viaduct on one side, then by a concrete sea wall along the bank. The wall extended perpendicular for about a hundred yards from under the viaduct - forming a straight shoreline - then took a right angle out into the channel moving below a small promontory projecting out into the channel. After another hundred or so yards, the seawall turned right angles eastward for a couple dozen yards before dissipating into the promontory. On the landward side of the seawall was an expanse of asphalt that from the shoreline extended about two hundred yards into the land. Along the promontory, the asphalt was about fifty yards wide. Running out from the east laying seawall was a complex of wood docks laying over the water. Most lay straight out, looked a couple yards wide; here and there were a few narrow docks extending perpendicular from the main runs. Over the slope of the promontory were stucco and steel sided office and shop buildings. Over the asphalt next to the viaduct were four long steel warehouse buildings with gabled roofs, each ran about fifty yards long, paralleling the viaduct, were abreast in pairs, each pair end to end. Each was painted in a dull pinkish whitewash and looked older, a couple to a few decades maybe. On the far side of the buildings a dozen yards back from the seawall was a one level almost square stucco building, probably around thirty by thirty yards, the walls were painted in a dark rusty red color, and a continuous belt of windows a few feet high wrapped the perimeter and were tinted an aqua blue as if windows in a kind of aquarium. Atop the flat roof along it's width were large metal letters painted black with yellow neon tubing at the midpoint of the letter facing, the letters were in a fanciful script spelling: Fisherman's Wharf. Behind the buildings the remainder of the asphalt served as a parking lot, storage and work area.

Within the hemmed water clustered and crowded gunwale to gunwale all around the dock runs and along the far seawall, covering the dark greenish water almost completely, were fishing boats of all size and class - and all appeared to follow the typical shape and lines. There were small two and three men boats of aluminum and wood, some cabinless, with indoor and even outdoor motors. There were many of the larger wood boats, like those in San Francisco, many I could see were purse sieners with nets on large rollers in the aft work areas. Along the perimeters, along the far seawall, and along a wide dock running below me to the side of the viaduct, were a half dozen of the large steel fishing boats, similar to the two I had seen down the channel. Of the big steel boats, two were almost as clean and sleek and impressive as the two I had seen. The others were similar in shape and line but were obviously older models - and they showed the wear and tear of the profession; lines were less sleek, paint obviously retread and flecked with rust. One boat, almost under the viaduct, was lifted out of the water onto the bank and was held upright atop brackets. The top of its crane mast was only a few feet below me near the underside of the viaducts steel frame. The paint over her hull was well scraped and sanded and a couple men were on ladders painting the hull.

I could hear the whir and scraping of drills and sanding tools. More men were working around the boats tied to the wide dock next to the viaduct. I could see a few out on the boats crowded along the rest of the docks. A few women were also working. On the asphalt, near the warehouse buildings, were what looked like long nets laying in long tangled strips, workers were rolling them up or kneeling over them, appeared to be tying or sewing, repairing probably. There were a few packs of what appeared to be tourists, with cameras around necks, in casual dress strolling aimlessly and gazeing. I wondered if Nate was around but I didn't see him.

I walked briskly down off the viaduct, down the street then into the parking lot. The lot was mostly empty, several cars and pick up trucks were parked near the buildings. On the side of the rust colored building, facing the parking lot, was painted in one corner in black letters, with an arrow pointing around the corner, Restaurant/Bar; and in the opposite corner, Supply Store, with another arrow pointing around that corner. I walked to that side of the building and beyond to the concrete seawall. Small gates and inclined railed narrow gangways led from the seawall to the docks below. Small wheels were attached to the bottoms of the gangways ease movement as the docks rose and fell with the tide. I could see better the steel fishing boat up on the racks next to the viaduct. I was surprised at the lubberly sight - as to how extensive - how deep was the hull. Below the water line the hulls went down another fifteen or so feet. As Nate had explained, much of it was a tank used to store the catch. Now that I was there, had found it, the great fishing docks, the objective of our Seattle invasion, our Portsmouth, the staging area and debarkation point for our Alaskan thrust, I asked myself, "What next?"

I walked away from the viaduct side to the promontory side where the seawall turned and ran out into the lake. The asphalt followed along the wall and spread over into the dirt coming down from the promontory. Directly ahead of me along the seawall were docked three of the large steel fishing vessels. I walked over to take a closer study.

The nearest boat in was newer, much like the two I had seen from the over crossing, but it seemed smaller than those. From bow to stern I stepped it off, and figured it was about a hundred feet. The superstructure was shiny and white, the stack a forest green with a narrow bright yellow stripe, like a halo. The hull was also painted a bright forest green with a matching thin yellow stripe running from the bow and around the perimeter paralleling the top rails. The stern top rails were above the water at about my stomach and I was standing about a yard off the water on the asphalt next to the seawall. The rails stayed this height for well past amid ship to about the midpoint of the cabin superstructure, until sweeping upward and curving in around the cabin at the bow. At the peak of the proud pointed bow stem, the rail rose above me about two and a half times my height.

The work area aft of the cabin structure was about thirty feet across and the deck was covered with wood planking. And on that boat this area was clear of any loose equipment, cargo, or debris. On the port side of the work area, just starboard the cabin along the rail, was an odd looking gate like contraption made of thick silver tube steel, a few inches in diameter, and in the shape of a low garden gate with thick cross bars. It was lying flat parallel to the deck with a couple hydraulic tubes attached to the sides. Above it coming out of the deck attached to the inside of the rail was a steel tube cane with a large pulley at the top end - similar to what I saw on the boats in San Francisco, but much larger and thicker in the shaft. I guessed it had a similar operation - relating to the raising and lowering of the traps. As for the steel tube gate, that would take research to comprehend.

At the fore of the work area, just aft of the cabin structure, was a large crane. The mast for the crane was a steel cylinder, like a column, and rose high in the air about twenty feet. The boom was laid out toward the stern perpendicular to the mast. It was also made of steel, but its cross section was square and a little less than a foot to each side. Next to the crane was a metal control box which looked like a lectern. Poking out of the top were black handled levers - probably controls for the crane hydraulics. About a yard in front of the crane rose the stern wall for the cabin superstructure.

The cabin was all steel skinned with double steel joints – lined with rivets. The stern wall sloped slightly toward the bow - a sleek aesthetic versus practical design touch I figured. Two matching bulkhead doors were on each side of the stern wall, and just inside of the doors were narrow steeply inclined stair ladders rising to the deck atop the cabin - the hurricane deck. This deck was hemmed in with thin tube railing extending to the enclosed navigating bridge, or flying bridge, which rose at the forward end of the hurricane deck. Two narrow doors were at each port and starboard side of the bridge, opening out onto the hurricane deck. The bridge was wider than this upper deck by a couple feet to each side, forming slight wings beyond the extent of the deck. Several thick looking, lightly tinted, square windows, with rounded corners, housed in bolted metal frames wrapped around the perimeter of the bridge, and this narrow strip of wall was leaned slightly outward, toward the bow. Just to the stern of the bridge, at its mid point, rising out of the hurricane deck, was the stump-like oval stack with an aft ward lean. The top edges curled inward and were smooth. Along the side walls of the cabin were a few round porthole windows. The wood planked top deck of the work area ran also along the side of the cabin and side rail. The walkway stayed horizontal to about the mid point of the cabin where a small three step stair led to more walkway that inclined as it wrapped around the cabin rising with the incline of the bow. The stern of the boat was straight at right angles to the port and starboard rails. Across the stern just below the handrails in yellow block italic letters was the boat's calling, The Alaskan, and below that in small letters the port of the boats registry: Seattle WA.

The vessel was connected to the shore at the stern and bow by vinyl rope, thick as a woman's forearm, running out from small rectangular openings just below the rails. The rope wrapped around large football sized steel cleats embedded along the top of the seawall. At the end of each rope embracing the cleat was a loop made by folding the rope over at the end and braiding, intertwining the end fibers into the mid section then wrapping the braided section tightly with twine. No one seemed to be aboard. Everything appeared battened down, the hatches in the deck, the doors and windows all shut, and nothing loose was on deck.

In front of The Alaskan was another crab boat, The Orion. I walked over to it. It didn't have the look of a recent model. The lines and shape were similar - but not as well choreographed, sweeping or sleek. The rails angled down from the bow in a lubberly straight non-curving line then changed to a shallower pitch with a sharp crimp. The hull did likewise - from the bow edge the sheeted steel side angled back straight, not swept; then at the point a few feet back the steel was again crimped inward before running to the bow. At the edges of the stern, instead of rounding, the steel right angled sharply. It was the same with the cabin superstructure, all edges were sharp and squared off, no attempt at a stylish sexy sleekness or blending had been made – pure lubberly functionality. The paint job was dark olive green on the hull and white on the cabin and flying bridge. All over the white paint were chips and rust flecks. The windows on the bridge were yellowing and hazy and a couple were cracked. The work area was cluttered with dark soiled oil drums, mechanical gears, pipes, a few greasy metal boxes, tools, giant wrenches and ratchets and screw drivers - a big sledge hammer.

Stacked on the asphalt next to the boat were several large metal cages framed with steel tubing and sided with nylon netting - rectangular cubes, and large enough to hold a big dog. Crab pots no doubt - giant versions of those we saw in San Francisco.

Then from an open door in the rear of the cabin came a youngish looking man, late twenties, dressed in jeans and a dark blue oyster bay shirt. He was well tanned in his face which was ruddy and sharp featured but rough with pock marks. He wore a cap with a patent leather bill and his thick wiry blond hair dangled out from the sides of the cap over his ears and neck. He was coiling some fat darkly soiled rope near the side rail just outside the door. I considered approaching, but frankly was hesitant. What was I going to ask? I thought. For a job of course - dummy. I slowly moseyed over. He glanced over at me, spotted me looking, then looked back down at his rope. Now was my chance. A less elegant soul would have gone right up, but no I had to await my chance. I stepped over and said meekly, "Ah excuse me?"

He glanced up and kept coiling the rope.

I said, "How's it going?"

He looked up and held the rope and sent me a cocksure smile. His teeth were thoroughly yellowed and chipped, ragged and uneven.

"You the owner of the boat?"

He nodded and in a deep voice thick with a Norwegian accent said, "Yah, I'm the skippa."

After looking at me a second, perhaps sizing me up, perhaps not, he said, "Yo ha fishamen no?"

"Yeah. Well no. I'd like to be."

He nodded keeping the smile, "Ah - wanta be a fishamen."

That was all he said and nothing more, just kept looking at me.

I tried to break the ice more, "Yeah we're up here from California."

He nodded, "Calefornea - ah. Well gud luck." Then he went back to his rope.

I hesitantly took the que and walked off. That was lame I thought. Not an especially auspicious first encounter. So much for overnight success. I walked dejectedly back down along the seawall toward the buildings. I saw Nate come around from the side of the stucco building. He saw me and walked toward me. As he came up, he said, "Least somebody besides me from the Claremont contingent is down here tryin' to make somethin' happen."

"Any luck?" I asked.

"Not really. And from what I've been told things don't get hoppin' around here till July."

"Lot a boats here."

"Yeah, but not many crab boats, and they don't start working on ‘em till then."

It was almost one o'clock. I suggested we do lunch there at the restaurant in the stucco building; but Nate at first decried the idea, again on grounds of frugality. He said, "Why spend for food when we can eat at the Sigma house?"

I pointed out, "Freeloading meals wasn't really part of the deal was it?"

"No - but this is the last week their serving and they won't say anything."

I was frankly hungry and was seeing the point only so far regarding this austerity program. I said, "Look Nate, we're doing pretty good on saving money - going in here and having a grill cheese sandwich and milk won't break us."

Nate thought a moment then relented and we walked over to the restaurant and went inside. Through the door was a small entry area with two openings. One opening was dark with a bluish tint – that led into a bar. I poked my head in and all I saw was a horseshoe shaped bar dominating a small darkened room alighted only with blue bulbs in overhead lamps. The other opening was bright - the restaurant side, more a coffee shop. Yellow terrazzo was over the floors, brown vinyl booths were around the perimeter, round and square wood grained Formica tables crowded the rooms center. An oriental tourismo looking family was ensconced in one of the booths. It was a couple with three children. All three children had plastic toy cameras around their necks. The father had a real one around his. Against the back wall was a sit down counter. Two older gents in work clothes, one in khaki pants and a well faded plaid shirt, the other in a dark green mechanics long john. They were sipping on coffee mugs and just staring ahead at nothing in particular.

A pretty waitress with a short skirt and gypsy blouse which snugly contained an ample topside led us to a booth next to the window. As we sat down, and she handed us the menus, I noticed she had given us a nice smile that seemed to linger beyond professional courtesy; though she was, I noticed, looking more at Nate. What else was new? We were looking down at our menus; I said, "I think the waitress likes you."


"So? She's not too bad."

"Now you too?"

"Me too what?"

"We're up here to get a job. And get one as soon as possible. And once we get one, to do a job. We're not up here for sex."

I looked over the menu, "Are you trying to tell me that you're going to go the next several months without female companionship?"


"Aren't you taking things to extremes?"


"No. That's it, just no."

He put the menu down. "What do you want me to say? Night clubin' and chasing women aren't why we came up here. Both take time, lots a time, and we don't really have the time, or the money to waste the time."

"I see - women - just a distraction."

"That's right."

The waitress came to our table and asked for our order. Again she was most friendly, she had a shapely fleshy body, not overly so though, with a red robustness in her fair skin, her face was full cheeked but pleasant, with large blue eyes under long black cresting brows. She wore her brunette hair up professionally, but some of it was stringing down likely from the rigors of the job. Nate overtly spurned her courtesy by ordering curtly and businesslike without even looking up from the menu. All he ordered was a cup of chicken soup and a milk. I was friendly and returned her smiles, even asked her about a couple items which she charmingly described. I ordered All American - a burger and fries and a chocolate malt. When she walked off Nate looked at me and rolled his eyes.

"What's wrong with being friendly?" I asked.

He shook his head, "Nothing."

While waiting on our food we compared stories on what we had done and seen that morning. When Nate had gotten there it was still early in the morning, just after seven, more fishermen were about. He had asked about work and had received vague and non-committal replies. I told Nate about the Norwegian.

He said, "Oh yeah - that yo han guy on that dumpy lookin' boat. I talked to him. Got no where. I went up to one guy and said hey how's it goin'. He didn't say anything just looked at me with a hard ass look. So I said you guys hiring anybody? He said 'no.' That was it, just no. Not no sorry, or nope not today, or no gosh maybe later, just no. He could have said no asshole, or no suck my dick. Just no, that's all he said. So then I said you know about any work? And you know what he said?"


"How'd you guess? So I said well okay. Then I asked - you work on this boat? He didn't say no. And he didn't say yes, or yeah."

"What'd he say?"

"Yep. Just like that. Yep."

"Hmm, profound."


He had gone down the channel to where I had been, by the over crossing. But he had gone down to the boats. He had talked to the skipper of the blue vessel. He said, "That's a beauty that boat, both of ‘em were. The skipper was just a young guy, mid-thirties maybe, he said his boat was full for the season, but he's the one that told me boats start comin' down in July to get repaired, repainted, and out rigged. He said best thing to do was get a job down here at the wharf working on the boats. You know just odd jobs. That way you get to know some of the skippers and guys on the boats, and if somethin' comes up they got you in mind."

"Makes sense. Get in with ‘em."

"Yeah lobby you know - the American way. The main thing I figure is to work the odd jobs when they come up, but also keep comin' every day. Even if it's just to say - hey just checkin' in - what's up? At Maddox the best salesman I noticed weren't so much the smoothest or best talkers, they were the guys who everyday, no matter what, made a certain number of cold calls and call backs. Just everyday, even if it was only an hour or so. Just worked their territory. I mean it doesn't take a lotta brains - it's the discipline."

Our lunch was served. Again I was friendly to the waitress while Nate kept a fridged shoulder. As we ate he continued to explicate his strategy. He had traveled to other areas around the lake and had seen other crab boats. But he thought it best to concentrate the effort at the wharf where there was the highest concentration of boats and fishermen. He said, "If we're working on a boat somewhere else around the lake were pretty much limited to what's going on with that boat and maybe the one or two right around it. But working here we're in the thick of it. I'm not saying we shouldn't make the rounds around the lake - but when we do, I think we should just go around looking for fishing jobs and limit our working on the boats to what's here at the wharf."

Made perfect sense to me, I thought, as I savored my salty fries and burger made with a pre-formed patty.

After lunch we decided to bus ourselves back to the frat house. When we were back upstairs in the meat locker we found Klug and Brad lounging in their bunks. Brad was in deep snooze cradling an open Playboy magazine over his chest. Klug was reading more of Brideshead. Nate said after surveying the both of them, "Well here they are frick and frack - I see you guys are really getting into the program."

Brad made no reply, he just rolled over onto his side facing away from us. The magazine slid off him and down the side of the bunk onto the floor. Klug said that they had gone down to the Wharf around noon and had scouted around for a couple of hours.

"A couple of hours?" Nate said sounding dubious.

"Yeah," Klug said.

"How come I didn't see you guys?" Nate asked.

"Don't know man - didn't see you," Klug said.

"You guys were there two hours?" Nate said.

"Maybe it was only an hour," Klug said.

"Maybe twenty minutes?" Nate said.

"I don't know man - wasn't really stop watchin' it yeah know."

Klug did mention a few of the sites at the wharf to confirm his claims, then said, "I don't know man, lot a clucks down there."

"What'd you expect?" Nate said, "A bunch a college professors?"

"No man - but I don't think they saw us fitin' in real well," Klug said. "They were given me and Coors Light the evil eye. Like we were too Hollywood - ya know man?"

Nate said, "No - I don't know." Then he fell into his bunk and pushed off his shoes with the toe of one foot against the heel of the other letting the shoes dribble down the end of the bed onto the floor.

"All I'm saying," Klug said, "is we're pretty clean looking and they're real blue collar."

"Whatever," Nate said. "We knew we weren't gonna just stroll in and find a job."

Laying languidly back in my bunk, my shoes off, I decided to change the subject toward less pertinent but more interesting and rarified topics. I asked, "So Klug, where are you in the book?"

"I'm where Rex and Charlie are eatin' at that French place and Sebastian’s given ol' Rex the slip," Klug said.

"Oh yeah," I said, "and Rex is filling Charles in on the dirt."

"Rightyo," Klug said.

Nate said, "I can't believe your still readin' that book."

"Yeah man, it's the bond," Klug said. Then shifting into his English twang, "it's so very inglish ol boy."

"Whatever Klug." Nate said.

"So you like the writing huh Klug?" I said.

"Yeah, it's cool, check this out man," Klug said, and read from the book. Before starting he cleared his throat and deepened and made more silvery his voice, like a very British crooner: "I rejoiced in the burgundy. How can I describe it? The Pathetic Fallacy resounds in all our praise of wine. For centuries every language has been strained to define its beauty, and has produced only wild conceits or stock epithets of the trade. This Burgundy seemed to me, then, serene and triumphant, a reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in it's long passion had learned another wisdom than his." Then coming out of the voice back to his norm, "not bad huh man?"

The hearty tone of Klug's acting seemed more to mock and detract from the words, a lampooning of them. Yet, still the full and simple eloquence of their simple melody came through, as a fine old jazz tune, like the Song of India perhaps, will come through though poorly instrumented.

Nate didn't seem too impressed, he said only, "Serene and triumphant huh. I don't get it, most wine to me tastes like sour grapes."

"It's culture man - you should read this," Klug said.

Nate was falling asleep, fading; he said with a tiring voice, "Now your talking like Joey. It's like this Klug - first we make the money - then we buy the culture."

"The wisdom of Midas," I said.

"Of who?" Nate said.

"Midas," I said.

Nate said just as he was nodding off, "Midas Muffler - what's wise about that?"

I said, "Sometimes, Nate I can see how you spent two years rooming with Brad."

He didn't retort, I doubt he heard me, he looked quite asleep.

Klug said, "Nate's a rhino - but sometimes he ain't real brainy yeah know."

I started nodding off, before I went I said, "That's right Klug. Not everyone can have brains - like us."

"That's right man."

"It's good that you like Waugh's writing Klug, you've got an expansive soul."

"Yeah he's cool man, laid back with that high dige sound."

As I blacked out I said, "Yep - serene and triumphant."

4 I must have napped over an hour, for when I came awake I looked at my watch and saw that dinner was just about to be served. I rolled out of my bunk and re-shod my feet. After noting that my three compadres were fast asleep, I left them to their respective dream states and, still feeling slightly groggy in the head, as if the arteries were hardened, I stumbled down the stairs and into the dining room. That nights fare was a sumptuous and sweet baked beans and weenies with a side of cumulous mashed potatoes. The potatoes had such an even lumpless perfecto consistency that I raved over them to my surrounding newly met dining companions saying that they were the best I had ever tasted. I wondered aloud how so many potatoes for so many diners could be so well skinned and so well mashed. Certainly there must be some mechanical contraption afoot? About mid-meal the cook, again dressed Hawaiian fashion, appeared and the diner to my left yelled, "Hey Niel - this guy likes your potatoes."

Neil looked over, "Least somebody does."

The same diner shouted again, "He wants to know how you mash em."

Neil shook his head and snidely informed, "I don't mash em. Haven't you hot dogs ever heard a freeze dried?"

With that the whole room erupted in an bravura of shouting "YEAH!...YEAH!...YEAH!...FREEZE DRIED!..DUMB GUY! DUMMY!...YEAH!...DIM!...DIM WIT!...DIM!...CALIFORNIA FOR YA!...DIM!...NOBODY MASHES POTATO’S ANY MORE!...STUPIDO!...STUPID!...STUPIDO!!!"

After the waves of shouting and laughter subsided and things got quiet I said, my lone voice carrying over the tables surrounded by diners, "I knew they were freeze dried, I just wanted to know the brand."

This incited more shouting and ruckus, many of the shouts disputed my credibility with the bull manure reference. After the room again quieted down, Neil said, "The brand of those potatoes is A and B Spud Flakes."

Some guy across the room then added shouting in a baritone, "Yeah - got that Spud Flakes! Like California flakes!"

I said, but not real sure how it went over, "Thanks for the info."

The same voice from across the room shouted again, "You’re welcome!"

The room settled down, I went back to my meal trying to eat to myself and keep a low profile. The cannibals seemed especially restless that night. During the dinner announcements I was to get an indication why - that night in the house was to be a party. As I finished my meal my dinner friend next to me expressed his disagreement with my assessment of the tatters - he thought their lumpless, unblemished, communistic consistency blah. He was accustomed to his mothers mushy potatoes, all lumpy and marred with an occasional fleck of grayish skin. On reconsidering, I had to agree, there was something disappointing in this revelation of the lack of the human touch and strain over brown bulbs deemed wholesome and real by the kiss of dirty fertilized soil and mother nature. I felt deceived, made victim to some grand culinary hoax. And who really knows? Maybe they didn't even start as real potatoes - then skinned, mashed, freeze dried and boxed - maybe they were a test tube creation. A veritable Dr. Frankensteinian vegetable, a chemical reaction like the big bang. As I retested and re-considered the cottony swirls I thought it was like dried milk - looked the same, spooned the same, was milky pearly and opaque - but simply was not the same. Too watery, too thick, too white, too something, never seeming quite right. Or rather, too right – too much perfection. That was it. Like a peroxide blond or pygmalianized whore. Too good for the pallets of mere earthen boys made accustomed to lumps, flaws, and imperfections lovingly served.

With dinner done and stomach swelling I roamed, checking the house, looking for something to do or someone to talk with. I thought about going upstairs and reading - I had brought a couple other books along - besides Waugh - but there in the midst of my adventuring reading didn't strike my energized fancy. Since deciding to go fishing, I had gone lax on my reading. I was getting used to the lack of assignments and due dates, waking up each morning with nothing particularly pressing to do - besides the job hunt, of course; which for me when it came down to it was more frivolity than necessity. I was in a vacation mode. I came up the stairs onto the second floor and rambled through the hallway until coming to an open doorway brightly lit. Swimming out of the door and up the hall was Sinatra cooing his melody about it being a quarter to three. I thought well whadaya know a tid bit of the flowering sophisticate amid the dried tubers. I went through the door and found Earnest and another member, both appointed with brooms, each swiping over the floor. Earnest then informed me how he had forgot to show us that particular room on our little tour the day previous; it was the house bar room and they were cleaning and readying it for that nights shindig.

A large almost square corner room, somewhat reconverted, the size of a side den in a well sized home, the bar room was no supreme example of that particular being: the bar being. It was no Golden Gate Grill, No Buena Vista, or El Rancho even, no 901 or Stan's. It was a big bedroom painted turquoise with unfinished pine bookshelves over two walls carrying a comprehensive collection of beer bottles standing soldierly side by side, many unique, all representing, far as I could tell, product from brewery's great and small the world over. Over the other walls were a couple of posters advertising beer and the possibilities of drinking it with the allure of scantly clad amazons, a girly calendar with models fully revealed in more than suggestive positioning, and a large mirror with the Budweiser logo painted on it, framed in a poor plastic imitation of wood. The music resonated from two waist high speakers standing in two corners. A closet housed the stereo components with a tall lean shelf which held the makeshift recording library. The bar was a few feet out from one wall, was constructed out of several fruit boxes displaying nicely done Rockwellian old time painted labels and five empty aluminum beer kegs. The boxes lay abreast on the floor, labels facing out, the kegs stood on top the boxes holding a one by twelve plank. Sweeping the floor with Earnest was Marvin, to whom I was introduced. Marvin said, "Yeah - saw ya at dinner. I like those potatoes too."

I shook his extended hand. He was dressed in flared blue jeans, the sort I had then not seen for at least five years, and a gray denim work shirt, the tails hung loose. He had thick straight dark brown hair that was cut straight all around, an odd-looking bowl cut, and his face was reddish and blotched and terribly scarred with acne. He was from Idaho and was attending the law school at the University. Though older and graduated he returned to the fraternal nest to reside for the summer vacation and take advantage of the social amenities. We discussed briefly law school, I was curious of course. I told him I was thinking of attending. He said he hated it - too much reading, too much studying, and too dry. And the woman pre-legalists "were all ugly." Sounded marvelous. The latter objection I thought interesting considering he didn't quite cut a ram rod Count de Monte Cristo image himself. Maybe it was instead sour grapes - the girls were ugly and yet he was still running stag, still the grand misunderstood soul behind the elephantine mask. I decided to leave the two to their sweeping lest they ask me to join in. When I came back out onto the stairway Nate was going down, he asked me to join him for a stroll over to the Ave while he got something to eat.

"You’re going to spend money?" I asked.

"Yeah - I'm hungry," he said as his only explanation.

A chocolate malt at Mom's sounded delectable and a walk in the fresh clean air couldn't hurt. Outside the evening was still young and quite sunny and again students were everywhere. I said, taking a gander of several females as we walked, "I don't see how you're going to avoid women. There's too many around. It won't be natural."

"It's like this big guy, I got this idea in my brain okay. A fantasy I want to make reality. To do that I gotta follow what my brain says. If I don't, chances are my fantasy will stay just that - a fantasy. And my ideas will be crazy. I don't like it when I'm crazy."

I held out my hand with the palm up and open, "This is my hand. In my hand is your brain. Right there in my palm is your idea. Now your idea won't let me close my hand and make a fist. Until I make that idea reality, I have to walk around with that idea in my palm and I can't close my hand - ever." I looked at my hand, "not being able to close my hand - ever - I think would make me crazy. Try it - try not closing your hand until after you eat."

Nate was shaking his head, "Will you shut up."

At Mom's amid the stainless steel Nate surprisingly splurged. His day had gone relatively foodless compared to the wholesome, well balanced full portioned three per day meals he got back home. He was probably famished and fed up with keeping an open fist. He shelled out a couple extra dollars for that days full course special - sliced turkey with gravy, bread crumb dressing, cranberries, and mashed tatters. I ordered a malt. As we waited on our food two youngish female colligates charmed us with discrete but inviting glances. This I pointed out to Nate saying, "Those two girls there gave us the eye."

He shook his head and said nothing.

"Why don't you just become a monk," I said.

"Right," he said.

"You know there is some sense in what Brad says, and your only young once."

"There's never any sense in what Brad says. And only young once is the biggest flake motto goin’."

"Well, hard core aren't we?"

"Look, with the girls, something comes my way, fine. I'm just not going to be actively pursue'n em."

"Have you ever actively pursued em?"

"Didn't we have this discussion already? Yeah I have. And I wasted a lot a time. They're a distraction. A distraction I don't need right now."

"So while you're up here then, no girls, no sex, nothing? Is that it?"

"What about it? Can't a guy go without it awhile? Everyone thinks they gotta have sex. Think Columbus needed sex? You know Neil Armstrong had to go two weeks without it - two weeks. If he was like you guys forget it - no small step."

"We're going to be up here a lot longer than two weeks."

"Look sex is weak if you think about it. Women make guys weak. It's like alcohol. If there was no alcohol, would there be alcoholics? Guys like Merril always got sex on the brain. Where they gonna get it next? Guys like that will never get anywhere. He'll always be thinkin' too much about sex. Sometimes a guy has to forget about women and put what he has to do above that."

"Yes, a manly thought."

"Don't be smart - you know what I'm sayin'. I read someplace once that when you joined the army in the mess halls they mix some stuff in the mash potatoes that stops the sex drive so guys don't go nuts while they go sexless through basic training. And every meal you get mashed potatoes. You eat so many mash potatoes that you get sick of em."

"You don't say."


"You know the brand of those potatoes?"

"Brand? Potatoes are potatoes," He said curtly.

"Sounds like a malicious rumor to me - some ruse to explain away the army's filling everyone up on the cheap with mash potatoes."

"Maybe - and that's another thing - guys in the Navy go on long cruises all the time, where they're at sea for months - without the opposite sex."

"So maybe there's same sex?"

He shook his head and grimaced, "No - not in the U.S. Navy."

I laughed, "Of course. Blasphemy. How could I think such things about our men in arms on the high seas."

"You know Brad's an idiot - but sometimes, I think he's right - you are too liberal. You should respect certain things."

"Like bigotry?"

"Sayin' the sailors in the U.S. Navy don't rear end each other ain't bigotry."

"The implication’s there though."

"Oh, so we're all in favor of fagotry are we?"

"I didn't say that. I say to each his own, if the shoe fit's and it's legal, wear it."

"Oh, we're trying on some ballet slippers these days are we?"

"No. That's not what I'm saying."

"That's the implication ain't it?"

"Just ‘cause I have an opinion about a group of people doesn't mean I'm one of those people."

"So why defend the fags if your not one?"

"Because people should understand that nobody's perfect, and people should have a right to be what they are."

"You want people to think you're a fag?"

"No I don't. Well frankly, I could give a damn."

"First its no, then its I don't give a damn. For a smart guy you're awfully mixed up. Bottom line - take it from the kid here - you shouldn't defend em. People'll think your one of em."

"That's stupid."

"No - that's reality."

"If I defend blacks - am I black?"

"No - pretty obvious you're not black."

Nate’s food came, and my malt. I noticed his potatoes were lumpy and spotted with an occasional fleck of gray skin. No manufactured sex stifling freeze dried tatters were going to be served up at Mom's. Even the gravy was knotted. I noticed before he plunged in with knife and fork he took up the small glass shaker filled with the divine white mineral and salted his food. Shook it on indiscriminately and plentiful over the entire plate, like he was trying purify the food. I asked curious, "You taste that food?"

He looked at me, "No. Why?"

"How you know it needs salt?"

"It needed it. All my food needs it. I like salt." He gave an irritated shake of his head as he shoveled a forkful of tatters into his mouth.

As I sipped on the chocolaty cold thickness of my malt, I watched him engulf in a few blinks of an eye that entire starchy salty plateful. When the plate was all revealed, after a squeaky swipe with a broken dinner roll, he said, while chewing on the roll, "Pretty good - potatoes and gravy sorta lumpy though."

We paid the bill and exited, pushing our way through the glass pained and wood framed door, and began walking back up the Ave. A couple of bearded and dirty transients were leaning on the side of the building, they held out their hands and asked us for spare change. Nate just turned his head ignoring the request and the panhandlers. I gave one my change and instructed him to split it with the other.

Though it was half past eight, the sky was still blue, but darkening. The sun was low and distant in the sky. Long shadows lay shading over the Ave. On the sunward side of the buildings, on the upper floor, above the shadows, the walls were lightened in an orange glow which made it look as if seen through an orange tinted lens. The trees along thirtieth, and along the residential streets, completely shaded and darkened the streets. After we had gone a couple blocks up thirtieth we heard shouts from behind, "Hey turkeys!" We spun around and saw Klug and Brad at the corner of eleventh walking up. We waited. As they approached Nate asked, "Where you guys been?"

Brad explained, "We went to one of the other frat houses. They all got rush goin' on right now. Some of the houses are havin' barbecues to lure ‘em in. So we played rushee and got lured and got a free meal."

"Your already in a house," Nate said with a bare breath of despite. "You've been in one four years and you've already graduated."

Brad said, "So what? Free dinner and a chance to meet some cooler guys. We went to the SAE house. I think it's one of the top houses. You oughta see the place, top notch and the guys are a lot like the guys in our house at UCLA."

Nate sang his old song, "Smitty, we didn't come here to meet new friends. We got plenty a friends back home."

And Brad sang his, "We can't find jobs at night. I got nothin’ to do at night - so if I can have some fun then I'm going to. Now on the manana they've invited us to a party at their house. From the looks a the place it'll probably be a good one. And I met a couple a girls at dinner. They were pretty damn friendly - one was all over Klug."

"That's right man," Klug confirmed. "Soon as she found out I was from California and I surfed - I was in there. I figure our woman godliness is raised a couple notches up here."

Nate shook his head not approving. As we rounded the corner onto thirteenth I said, "Now let me see if I get this straight, you guys want me to go to this party tomorrow and tell these guys I'm a freshman and that I want to pledge their fraternity. I don't think I want to do that - I just graduated from one of the best schools in the country. And I hope I look older than most freshman."

"Naw, that's not what you gotta do," Brad said. "They think Klug and I are juniors - you guys can be friends of ours up here to get fishing jobs - all you gotta say is your still going to Princeton."

"I doubt I'll go," I said. "But that's tomorrow night. Tonight, they said at dinner, there's a party at the Sigma house - you know - the place where you guys are living now."

"That party won't be any good. There won't be any girls there," Brad said.

5 The Delt house, when we got inside, was still quiet with just some scurrying by a few of the brothers making preparations for the night's party. The four of us – we interlopers - ended up downstairs in the dungeon watching the tube. That evenings selection was a rerun of Gilligan's Island which was in medius res on our arrival. It was the episode where the castaways attempt to culturize their forgotten and forlorn isle by staging musical theatre on the sand atop a bamboo stage alighted with flaming tiki torches. Gilligan did a musical rendition of Hamlet, a solo of the soliloquy. I couldn't help but notice some major editing, to make it fit better, I guessed, within the melodizing of the scene - or within the brains of the audience. The idea came to mind that if by algebra it could be proven that Gilligan was a progenitor of Mr. Bill by some convoluted illegitimate twisting of a family tree, drawing the line perhaps from the immortal barb through Hamlet through Trader Vic, from some backstage hanky panky at the Globe, then later in the foliage on some paradise found lusty intersecting encounter by a later misbegotten island hopping bastardly descendent. After all isn't it riverrun, past Eve and Adam's from swerve of shore to bend of bay brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs? Perhaps not.

Coming to the conclusion that Gilligan's sing songstry was ridiculous at best, I foresaked the shew and left the dungeon to roam like a straying spirit through the house. Still the all quite was sounding, the creatures weren't stirring. I walked around the halls, ran into a couple brothers clad only in towels washing up. I went into the bar room which was now empty. I thought possibly some elixirs could be out on the pine plank bar and I could pour me a one or a two – pre-tuning measures. But no luck, no liquor was about. On the wall behind the bar I happened to lay eyes on several cartoons cut from magazines. All except one were explicit libido driven puns from the minds paid by Playboy and Penthouse. Above the cartoons was a framed magazine ad for men's swimming trunks appearing to be circa the early sixties. The trunk clad model in the ad was unmistakably Ronald Reagan, and I thought if the right wing ex gov ever managed to parlay his way into the White House then the ad no doubt would be an interesting heirloom. Of the cartoons, one especially caught my eye - non-sexual in substance, relying on the mere prosaic for it's humor. I could tell by the look and it's rarified and cunning content - it was from the New Yorker. It showed two Prufrock types standing on the balcony of a big domed observatory, astronomers obviously. Both were gazing skyward at a bigger domed starry night of a thousand eyes. One astronomer said to the other, ‘I have often found it one of the great cosmic mysteries the sudden disappearance and reappearance of men's trouser cuffs.’ It aroused a chuckle from me and then from behind a voice said, “Kinda funny huh?”

I turned around and barely recognized the face behind the voice, then as it came to me, he noticed my hesitation and said, --Sal Friedman remember - the 901 bar.

--Sure, I said. --The light in the bar was bad.

--Lights always bad in bars. They dim the lights so everybody looks better.

He was right I thought, and smiled, everyone does look better in bars, --So that's why all bars are dark.

--One reason I guess. The better everyone looks the longer you want to stay. How many times you got a girls number in a bar then picked her up and thought, yuk - this couldn't be the girl from the other night.

I nodded, --Yeah it's happened. He seemed friendlier. And in the brighter light his skin looked younger, more pale and his features more fine. He said referring to the cartoon, --I put that one up. None of these morons around here seems to get it though.

I thought morons huh? A rather negativo thing to say about ones brothers in the fraternal bond. I said, --It's funny - from the New Yorker?

--Yep. Not too many guys around here would know that - but I guess at Princeton everybody knows about the New Yorker.

--Probably. But you'd be surprised - not too many read it.

--Wonder who does read it? He said disdainfully.

--I read it - occasionally. Looks like you do.

--Oh yeah. I even subscribe.

--Well there – you’re a true cultural elitist.

He kept a mild expression and nodded, --Right.

--So how'd you know I went to Princeton?

--I heard at dinner. Somebody said you'd think an Ivy Leaguer would know about mashed potatoes.

--Nope - too practical. We try to confine our thinking to the more esoteric.

--That's what I figured; like Einstein who had trouble with basic math.

--Yep - two plus two isn't easy when you're running at the speed of light.

--So how'd you get in - smart or family connections?

--Connections - my dad went there.

--A legacy huh.

--Something like that.

I looked up at the magazine ad, --that ad yours too?

--No - wish it was. Bet he becomes President and then it'll probably be worth something.

--He might at that - he's got the look.

--I guess he does. And that seems to be what the country's looking for - a look. Ex-actor and male models the number one guy for the number one job.

--I think he's more than a look - don't you think? He's always been persistent and true to his ideology - that says something.

His head tilted to the side reluctantly, --I guess. I do agree with his politics. I just don't like the idea of the country of Jefferson and Lincoln electing a face for President.

--He was a good governor. He's more than a face I'd say.

--Maybe. He just seems part of a trend I see. Started with Kennedy. The following of a look. Though I'd argue Kennedy was a lot more than a look. It just seems this country gets enamored over the surface of things.

--Carter's no glamour guy.

--No, true.

--Neither was Nixon.

--True, he said with an agreeable smug expression, then continued, --I guess I was just thinking about something I read the other day, how congress is going to award John Wayne a medal of some sort. And the medal is going to say - John Wayne, That's American. Now I just don't agree with that. With all the guys who fought in the wars, laid it on the line, all the people who've written books, made movies, cured diseases, built businesses, gone to the moon, founded charities, and they pick John Wayne for this that's American stuff.

--It's the image he portrayed. He's the archetypal American guy. Rugged individualist, no nonsense, never back away from a fight, face and stare down all the odds type. The bigger than life hero.

He shook his head and pursed his lips, --No - he's a movie actor. That's it. He played characters like that - but he wasn't that. That's the thing about this country, everybody's enamored with the image, the face, the surface. They don't want to differentiate the reality from the baloney. They want to think there really is this guy the Ringo kid, Sergeant Ryker, Rooster Cogburn. Nobody wants to go deep into the fabric and see what's really going on. I'll tell you about John Wayne. During World War II he opted to stay home and make movies. You know all those leatherneck blood and guts pictures. Now take Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable, both enlisted in the air force and flew a couple a dozen missions over Germany in B-17's. Gable said he was scared stiff his ass was gonna get shot off. Same with Henry Fonda and David Niven, they both put their star careers on hold and enlisted. Now that's American. And guess who else stayed home? The guy in that poster up there.

--Hmm, I said, nodding slightly.

--That's right. And another thing - during Vietnam - while the whole country's being duped into its greatest fiasco, Wayne makes that Green Beret picture - two hours of propaganda.

--Can't really blame him for that - like you said every one was being duped.

--All I'm saying is Wayne was a good actor - but I don't think Wayne the man ought to be applauded as the great All-American, cause you know I don't think he was. There are others who are far greater. And Reagan I don't like because he seems to cater to that mentality, that concern for surface instead of substance. You know he dyes his hair? The fact that he thinks he has to do that bothers me. Think Lincoln, or Jefferson would have dyed their hair? What does that tell you about us - the people - voting for that? Jet black Grecian formula hair on a seventy year old guy?

--You sure it's dyed?

--Come on - how many seventy year old Irishman do you know with black hair?

I thought of my grandfather, all gray for as long as I knew him, my father was older, but still mostly colored. I said, --You can't be sure.

--Yeah you can - I've got evidence.

--Conclusive proof?

--Just about.

--What, photos from his beauty salon?

--No - nothing like that,-- he said and motioned his head toward the door. --Come on, I'll show you.

I followed him down the hall to his room. It was apparent he lived alone, for the room was a mess and apparently doubling as both sleeping quarters and a personal athenaeum. The top mattress of the bunk was cover-less and covered with a mess of books and magazines. On the floor were a few more books and magazines scattered, and against the wall under the window was a pile of clothes. Drawers were left partially open in the small wood desk and chest of drawers; a couple of socks dangled; and over the tops were stacks of more books and magazines. As he was tossing aside laundry and magazines, apparently looking for some back issue, I scrutinized more carefully, taking a quick inventory of the reading material laying about. Most of the magazines appeared to be Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Forbes, Life, National Review, but mixed in was also copies of Spy, M, G.Q., Playboy, Town and Country, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The Atlantic. The books were a mixture of textbooks, classic novels, and gossipy biographies. Several of the banana yellow jacketed cliff notes were laying around, a couple opened and folded back to a mid page, and I could see penned markings and notes. Of the novels I saw many of the standard classics, Sound and the Fury, Farewell to Arms, Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, Anna Kareninan, Babbitt, Idylls of the King, On the Road, Naked Lunch, Invisible Man, Tropic of Cancer, Heart of Darkness, Grapes of Wrath, Long Days Journey into Night. There were a couple of textbooks on philosophy, on the history of Western philosophy, and one on Greek philosophy. I saw a copy of H.G. Wells History of the World, several books on the Kennedy's, a couple on Nixon, one on Churchill, Several on Hollywood including Hollywood Babylon, and a David Niven autobio, and off in a corner I saw a stack of books that included Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake, and on top of those two a few on eastern thought, The Upanishads, The Ying and the Yang, an anthology of essays on Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. I noted that on most all the books I glanced over, the edge binding was well creased and cracked from at least being opened a few times and perused, if not from a thorough reading. On one of the walls was, oddly, a chalkboard with mathematical formulas chalked over it. The formulas encompassed both numbers and lettered variables and the symbols of higher mathematics. It all looked about a semester or two beyond my studies which took me into the bare basics of multivariable differential equations and linear algebra. Below the board, on the floor, were stacked several mathematic textbooks, I quickly noted a couple basic calculus texts, one on advanced polynomial equations, something on determinants, another on volumes. Not being ever too enthralled over the numerical slice of life my attention easily left the chalkboard back to John still bent over his Fibber McGee. As he shuffled through the apparent unorganized litter he soon made his way to the closet. Sliding one of the doors aside he revealed a narrow space also cluttered with more piles of books and magazines. As he was bent over flicking through one of the piles of magazines, I asked, --You read all this stuff?

His voice echoed out of the closet mildly acerbic, --No I collect this stuff to look smart. Girls eat it up.

--What's your major?

He said excitedly, --Ah - here it is! Then standing up and coming away from the closet with a back issue of TIME Magazine in hand he said, --Math. He started flipping through the magazine.

--Mathematics huh - that's an interesting major.

--What's interesting about it?

--I don't know - you didn't strike me as a math major.

--Yep - I'm a calculating wiz.

--A knack for numbers huh?

--Something like that. I'm a National Mathematics Scholar.

--Hmm - so how did you earn the right make that claim?

--Took a bunch of math classes and got A's, then was nominated to Phi Alpha Mu - a national mathematics honor society.

--Sort of like Phi Beta Kappa.

--Not quite - but sort a - just another b.s. academic ornament that basically means nothing except that you're good at following instructions.

--Like a diploma.

--Yeah - exactly.

He found what he was looking for in the magazine, a full page picture with Reagan standing in a dark suite prominently in the foreground. He handed me the magazine and said, --Now look carefully at the picture - at his hairline. See how it's gray right along the forehead at the roots - and goes up there in a slight triangle from the part. The separation from the gray and the black is a perfect line. It's dyed.

He was right. It was obvious, gray roots and a precise even line from gray to black. It appeared the probabilities were our future President was a patron of the Grecian Formula, or whatever formula was used for such things. I nodded and smiled then handed him back the magazine, --Looks like it.

As he turned and tossed carelessly the magazine back into the closet he said, --Yep - wonder what brand he uses?

--Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

He sat down on the wood chair in front of his desk, --Sit down if you want, he said motioning with his hand toward the bed.

I pushed aside some books, and sat down across the bottom bunk, leaning against the wall, dangling and resting my feet on the floor.

--I'd offer you a beer but I don't have any.

I waved it off, --That's okay.

--Kind of a mess huh? He said glancing over the room. The carpet was rust color and worn, all the furniture was brown, older and worn.

--Seen worse.

--No you haven't.

I tilted my head to the side assenting, --Yeah - I guess not.

He nodded and smiled quickly.

I asked, --So you really a wiz at math?

--Yeah I am. It's easy for me. But I'm not any genius at it. In fact I don't really like it all that much.

--It's a good thing to study.


--Very practical.

--Like hell it’s practical. See that's what everyone thinks. Accountings practical. Math just develops your ability to think. With his forefinger he tapped his head then said, --See my theory is it's like a muscle - work it and it gets stronger. Leave it set - it stays stupid.

--Good theory.

He smiled at my dry sarcasm and said, --I've seen it with me. Working this stuff has helped me to think more clear, more logical, more theoretical. Hell it's just gets me thinking. Most people don't even think. Know what I mean?

I nodded obligingly and said, --I guess I do. Looks like besides the problem solving you read a lot.

--More than my share I guess. He gave a slight snide laugh then said as an afterthought, --Way more...You read much?

--Now and then.

--What was your major?

--Econ and a minor in English.

--Econ and English. Little Adam Smith and Byron.

--That's right.

--So who's H.L Menken?

--Mr. Anti-Boobwasi, critic of the stockbroker interior decorator set.

--Huh. Not bad. But if you're goin' to Princeton you should know bout H. L. Menken.

--You'd think so.

--So who's Henry Adams?

--Mr. Dynamo and Mr. Democracy.

--Mr. Dynamo? He looked puzzled.

--It's in his autobiography. He saw history as driven by the power of ideas functioning as a force that could be explained by laws. Like the laws of science. And he saw the great motivating force of this century coming from science symbolized by the dynamo. He got the idea from touring the world exposition in Paris at the turn of the century - in a display of electrical dynamos. And he compares this to what he considered in the middle ages as spiritual idealism symbolized by the Virgin as the then motivating idea – which manifested itself in all the cathedrals that got built during that time.

--Well, sounds like you know who he is. You know most a the guys around here wouldn't have any idea who he was. Or they'd take a stab at it and say wasn't he president or something?

--You might be overly critical.

--No. I don't think so.

I thought of Klug, Nate and Brad, --Then again, maybe not.

--You know what Henry Adam's wife said about Henry James?

I shook my head, --No - what?

--That James often chewed more than he bit off.

I laughed lightly, --I like that. I've often thought that.

--Yeah - he's a windbag. I had this class on aesthetics and I had the audacity one day to propose that James wasn't such a good writer. I thought they were gonna to lynch me.

--That is a fairly outlandish statement - I mean Henry James - not a good writer?

--I only said it for the sake of an interesting debate. But you know they all took me too seriously. Still you gotta admit he does meander around a lot and I'm not sure it's all that necessary.

--You have a modern impatient mind.

--I have an American mind. And yes one trained under the auspices of NBC, CBS, and ABC.

--Protégés of the tube.

--You know who else I think is full of it?


--Cooper - dull, Hawthorn, mostly boring, especially in such things like Rappaccinis Daughter, not so much though in the Scarlet Letter; Emerson, some of Twain - it's just not very well written, hack stuff, William Dean Howells, Dreiser, Anderson - he can really be paltry - you know you just go hey - so what? Then Dos Passos, pretty much another windbag, then the king of them all Joyce - gag me.

I laughed, --You’re taking on some heavy hitters there.

--Supposed heavy hitters. I say their just good promoters. Not geniuses.

--You left out Melville and ...

--Genius - easy. He got tedious a lot but in the great works a great mind and spirit is all over the place. Look at the social realism of Billy Budd and the retelling of the crucifixion story, the pre-dating of existentialism and the dehumanization of the individual by the industrial society in The Scribe, and then Moby Dick; I mean come on, any moron can read that and see something significant going on. While Emerson and Thoreau and those guys are restating eastern philosophy and Kant and Schopenhaure in easy to digest chewable tablet form, Melville is slapping everyone in the face with a demonic humanity and a careless random universe – fifty years before everybody else.

--What's wrong with Twain?

--Huckleberry Finn - nothing, except the last few pages – soon as Tom Sawyer comes back on the scene, from that page on the book falls apart. And lot a the rest of Twain is hack stuff. Funnier than hell some of it is though.

--Don't like Joyce, huh?

--Nope. Joyce is just too much forcing the issue.

--What issue?

--That he's some sort of genius, some super being. I'll tell you about Joyce; He was a typical Catholic. Like the grand religion, he created a mind fucking façade of supposed power and alignment with the almighty. All to give off the sense of his superiority. It's all theater, like the church, it's simply a grandiloquent magic show, a protracted version of the old medicine man dance.

--I don't quite get you - there's something to be said for being able to put on the show isn't there and pulling it off?

--Yeah - but that's just it - I don't think he pulls it off. He gets so convoluted with his myriad of meaning I say it's all a lot a nothin'. Like the church ceremony, a neat show - but in the face of modern science – nothin' more really. Bunch a Malarkey. Nope I ain't gonna be duped. Same with that T.S. Elliot.

--Don't like him either huh?

--Elliot I don't know. Too inaccessible like Joyce. That's what Joyce should have been - a poet, he was a hellava rhetorician.

--He did write some poetry I think.

--Sure he did, but no Wastelands or Burnt Norton’s. And if I remember right, the story goes that Erza Pound told him not to publish his poetry.”

--Huh, didn’t know that. Well you don't sound too much like a hollow man.

--Less hollow than most.

--Looks like you've read a lot of these books.

--Are you kidding? If I'd read all these I'd be blind. I've scanned through em, actually read a few chapters in most. Lot of ‘em I've read all the way through - but no where near all. The biography and gossip stuff I've pretty much read. Lot a the fiction. Some of the philosophy.

--All of the Joyce?

--From Dubliners to about third of the way into Ulysses. When I bought Finnegan’s Wake I came home started looking into it - then I tried taking it back and getting a refund. They wouldn't take it back. I creased the cover on the thumb through.

I chuckled, --You sound like Tolstoy telling Chekov that he's almost as lousy a playwright as Shakespeare.

He laughed, --I like that. Maybe I do. Except I'm not Tolstoy.

--Not yet huh. So what are you going to do with all this excess mental baggage?

He shrugged, --I don't know. Be a novelist, go to Hollywood, teach, starve. Cut off my ear. What you going to do with yours?

--I don't know - but I think your carrying around more steamer trunks than I am.

--Think so – that what you see in this mess?


--You read any Joyce?

I nodded, --Yeah - took a class on him.

--That musta been a thrill a minute.

--Like you said it was okay till we got deep into Ulysses.

--You read Finnegan’s Wake?


--Least you tried. His jaw jutted forward as he threw me a test, --The divided line.

--Plato's epistemology isn't it - something dox - huh?

--Doxa and Noesis.

I smiled, --There, you've out read me.

--We're just undergrads, give it time. Time and place for everything.

--Under heaven. The She Wolf?

--Romulus and Remus. Helen?

--Wife of Paris, burned Troy. Cassias?

--Roman Senator, backstabbed Caesar.

A wide smile broke over his face, --Okay Last test:: All the Henrys.

I said slowly as I tried to think and recall, --A big name reaching long into history…There were many Henry's that prodded mankind. Huh, well… I took another moment to get a bearing on my thoughts, then I said, --Off the top of my head I can think of first the string of royal Henrys, the Normans in England, the Saxons of Germany, then huh… the Tudor Henrys, the greatest probably being the eighth with the nine wives. There's the Henrys of the great barb - previously mentioned - Mr. Hal being the most amusing there, then the recent Henry of literature - the one with the red badge and the other with the first name Frederick, husband of doomed anti-hero Catherine Barkley; and lets see now…of course honorable mention should go to the Henry's of Adams and James the latter brother of William…huh the Americano Freud. And last, the star of those great film classics, The Young Mr. Lincoln, Grapes of Wrath, and Mr. Roberts, also father of Peter the easy rider. A distinguished name to be sure.

He laughed, --That wasn't bad. You forgot Fielding, Patrick Henry - the give me liberty guy...

--Henry Fowler.

--Can't expect you to remember him.

--Richard Dana's middle name was Henry.

--There was this guy named Henry Renolds - wrote this essay called Mythomystes - said the ancients studied wisdom - whatever that is - and used allegory to conceal the wisdom from Vulgar minds.

--Never heard of him.

--Little known talent. Sounds like your dragin' a few extraneous steamer trunks.

--Yeah - my brain matter de trop.

He nodded still smiling, --Sounds like we've both definitely overdone it.

--But you more than me, I think.

Maybe, maybe not. I'm still under read in the ancients - mythology and all that. The Renaissance, Dante and those guys, and the Germans - Goethe and Mann I'd like to read more of.

--I'm weak there also.

--Yep, we're just ignoramuses.

--One in the crowd.

He gave a snide chuckle, --No kidding. It's laughable really how people think they're educated cause they got a college degree. College is really nebulous when you think about it. It's really meant for mediocre minds. No one can really teach you how to do something - if you're going to do it very well. Think Ford needed an MBA? Edison a PHD? Shakespeare a B.A.? If you really got what it takes your goin' to learn it on your own.

--Maybe - but college is a good intro and can lead you in the right directions for studying a particular subject. And for some things I think college is necessary, like medicine for example, or law, engineering, architecture. The professional disciplines.

He nodded, --Yeah that's true, college can cut through a lot a the crap. Isolate what's truly necessary to know in a particular discipline. I guess what I'm getting at is the college degree tends to fool a lot of people into thinking they are educated, when they really aren't. In fact aren't even close. You know I don't know how it is at Princeton, but there are guys in this fraternity that'll get a degree from this University and they won't have any idea who Pericles was, or Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Copernicus, Virgil, they'll barely have heard of Caesar and Shakespeare, I'll bet you there's guys around here who won't even know definitely who Winston Churchill was.

I moved my head and shrugged, --You may be right. A lamentable state of affairs.

--It is. A mass circumvention of the Jeffersonian ideal. Believe me there'd be a lot less problems if everyone knew about those guys.

--Think so? A lot of well educated Germans supported Hitler.

He nodded, --You think? Truly well educated? I wonder. I mean I believe in knowledge - but yeah, it's got its limitations I suppose.

--Wasn't it Tolstoy who wasn't a big believer in trying to figure it all out – too many contingencies I think he professed.

--Yet he wrote those great books – he figured something out. Lot of knowledgeable people have played the fool. Nixon's probably a good example.

--I guess he did. You think Nixon was all that smart?

--How do you figure?

--He was knowledgeable and smart to a point, like a lot of people are. But then his rationality got caught up in neurosis. And he went neurotic I think because he didn't have the strength to own up to himself, or do the right thing.

--I don't get you.

--My father was big on the anti-war movement – he always thought Nixon was - in a broad historical – humanistic sense - a coward. The way my father see's it Nixon should have admitted to the nation what was becoming obvious - the futility of American involvement and the devastation we were causing in that war and just pulled us out. He considers the bombing of Cambodia a capitol crime of history. Did you know we dropped more tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than in all of world war two?

--Didn't know that. Sounds sort of familiar though.

--Familiar to what?

--Well Germany's industrial complex used their superior technology to build ovens for the mass extermination of the Jew's and whomever – the Chaff – I think is what Hitler called it. Well think about it – our military-industrial complex built big ass bombs and B-52's to do what? Exterminate with grand technology this supposed enemy all in the fear of communism.

--That’s a pretty controversial analogy, I think. Even my old man hasn't come up with that one.

--Well, whatever – I sort of agree with you're old man – why did we keep bombing the shit out of those people? In the end I think the karma got Nixon. He knew he had big blood on his hands. The way I see Nixon he's hard to put your finger on. Watergate he completely bungled. But that's not really an indication of what I'm saying – about him playing the fool. I think a lot of guys, capable men, would have bungled Watergate just as bad. That was really a lousy situation. How do you tell the country that you were stooping to such ludicrous hyjinx? Soon as the cat was let outta the bag on that one he was screwed. Take Kennedy for example, he was supposed to be Mr. Smooth, picture him trying to explain away pictures of him and lets say Marilyn Monroe doing From Here to Eternity on the beach or something. No way. There are just some situations no amount of deft handling will explain away the dark cloud. Like Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick. Now considering Kennedy and comparing with Nixon, that's a good way to get at what I'm trying to say. Nixon and Kennedy were probably just as well educated; just as knowledgeable. True Kennedy tried to make out that he was a real intellectual - but I don't think so. He read a few good books, most of his intellectualism I think was good briefing - not true in depth study.


--Anyway the thing about Kennedy, as I see it, he was smart as hell, much smarter than Nixon. Call it street smarts. He was a guy who could take care of himself. He was like a great entrepreneur - he could figure out a better way to do what was being done. Like Caesar and Napoleon were creative and advanced beyond the then current accepted ways of doing things on the battlefield. Kennedy did the same in politics. And he did it to the nth degree. He mastered the game of politics, he learned all the up to date techniques of electioneering then went beyond those techniques. He was the first to go outside the old guard and use the primary system to establish the viability of his candidacy. He was the first to see how important the primaries would be for a relatively unknown to gain national attention. And he was the first to see just how important television would be, and the first to study and train himself to exploit it. Before that first debate Kennedy took a couple days off from the campaign and trained and prepared. He even tanned. Nixon kept campaigning, did little preparation. Kennedy shows up a sunned and vigorous Lachynvar, Nixon pale and sweaty straight off the used car lot. And who wins the debate, then the Presidency? Nixon didn't even realize or understand television. He was so over his head. Nixon to me was the typical highly competent middle manager type. Do it by the book, let somebody else make the discoveries - figure out the better way to do things or how to exploit new technology, find the cutting edge, let somebody else take on those risks.

--Kennedy probably realized as the underdog he would have to take on those risks.

He nodded, --Yes - but I think it was more than just that - Kennedy was a risk taker all the way. A brave gun, like his dad the rugged individualist entrepreneur. Like his philandering - that was him written all over it. Living on the edge. What kind of man is it who while the youngest man to inhabit the White House tells the country that it's going to land a man on the moon in less than ten years? I mean that took real balls. Nixon would've probably gone for a moon shot - but Nixon making such a challenge, such a boast, such audacity? No. That's the stuff of greatness. Like Churchill saying the English were going to prevail after Dunkirk and when Hitler was just across the channel in Paris.

I nodded. --Your right - Churchill wasn't much of a politician I guess when you look at his record. He set himself up pretty good with that Dardanelle thing, then his controversial stands with the minimum wage, the public strike, the India question, even that mess with the Price of Wales - I suppose that had Churchill written on it.

--Exactly - Churchill wasn't a politician. He was a great man. He was not a moderate guy. Kennedy was way more the politician than Churchill. The way he handled the missile crisis - moderate. Civil rights you know he didn't come out jumping on a soap box - he spoke out on it only when he pretty much had to. In fact Martin Luther King and his cronies were never that high on Kennedy. But I say that was smart, Kennedy understood just how far he could go. But like he showed with the moon shot - when he thought the time was right - he had the nerve and was willing to lay it all on the line. Intelligent execution of the balls.

--Well sounds like you’re a Kennedy fan. You know looking at it in this way - that whole Munich thing with Chamberlain came about because they were all politicians, afraid to go beyond the de reguer.

--Yes - no one wanted war and so no one except Churchill was willing to stand up and lead in a face off with Hitler. And now there's all kinds of evidence showing that if France or England had stood against Hitler in the late thirties the war may never have come off, that at that time Hitler wasn't even prepared. But that’s democracy. Because it is government by the people - it is typically government by mediocrity - and thus action takes place only when the situation does become extreme. It takes a real talent to look into the future and see what course to follow. So in a democracy the leader may be smart enough to look into the future - but then he has to convince the stupid mob - and unless the situation is grave - the mob likely won't believe him. Because of the nature of the beast - a democratic government is always going to fall into crisis situations.

--Guess Lincoln was no politician either. No politician would split a nation and lead it into war.

--Nope. Again not really a politician - a great man. Nixon was a politician, and a competent one - but not a creative, innovative one. He lacked the full combination for greatness. Like Ben Johnson was a good playwright - but Shakespeare was Shakespeare.

--So you don't think that Kennedy was an intellectual - what about Profiles in Courage?

--Well first I wouldn't call it a profound book. It's an interesting well written book - but from what I've read I doubt he wrote much of it. His speech writer Sorenson did most of the writing.

--Yeah, I’ve read something about that. Funny how he accepted the Pulitzer if he didn't write it.

--Well, what's he supposed to do? Turn the award down and say he published a book under his name that he didn't write - and kiss off the political career.

--Guess that wouldn't be too smart.

--Especially when you got the presidency staring you in the face. I see Kennedy in the light of a masterful politician - probably the most masterful ever in American politics. He was not an intellectual per se, that was just part of the image he was dyeing for himself. But still you have to give him credit he read some damn fine speeches, including an inaugural that's comparable to Lincoln's second and Jefferson's; a lot of politicians have people writing their speeches - but none cranking out anything comparable to Kennedy's - or cranking out books that win Pulitzer Prizes. Speeches that communicated intellectual concepts in a lofty and inspiring style was just another aspect of Kennedy's masterful approach to the political game. Nixon could only pump out dull mediocre speeches where the most catchy phrases were quotes from other sources. Competent speeches of course - but not anywhere near the level of Kennedy's. So yeah, much of Kennedy was image. But his substance was the genius and ability he brought to his field - that being politics and leadership. His ability to bring it all together and create such a magnificent image - that was his substance.

--That Kennedy lived a hell of a life. He had a real destiny that guy.

--Think so - had a destiny - or made a destiny?

I thought a moment, then said --Good question - only the gods know for sure I guess. It's a real mystery. When I look at great men, men like Churchill - and Lincoln, their lives seem to have destiny imprinted all over ‘em - like they were just meant to be. You know Churchill never took care of himself, smoked big cigars, drank, was overweight, never exercised regularly, during the Boer War he exposed himself to great risk. In World War I, same thing - he went and lived at the front in the trenches after he was excommunicated from the George Cabinet. Then in his mid sixties he worked like a madman at crazy hours in the middle of the night to write to earn enough to pay his bills. He lost his shirt in the crash, he was run over by a car during a visit to the states, just the fact the guy was able to live long enough and keep his health to become Prime Minister in 1940 is a miracle enough. Not to mention coming out of complete political obscurity, overcoming a reputation of extremism and inconsistency. And think about it - what drove this guy?

--He made no bones about him being a man of destiny.

--Exactly. Then Lincoln. He was a nobody. A prairie lawyer. Came out of nowhere and the country elects him. Then he turns out to have a mind capable of writing the Gettysburg Address. Like it was meant to be.

--Maybe it was. Think you got a destiny?

I laughed and shrugged some, --I don't know – if I do I'm not exactly chasin' it. What about you? You sure talk like someone who wants to get somewhere.

He thought a moment, his eyebrows lifted, --Yeah - I think I do. You wouldn't know it to look at my record. But being Jewish and not too good looking, my destiny isn't in the great leader category. I don't know what it'll be. But I'm too smart to stick to an average run a the mill just get the bills paid existence. What about you? Your at Princeton, got some smarts, I'd think you'd be thinking along those lines.

I shrugged again, --Honestly at this stage, I don't know - haven't really thought about it. I've sort of have been just playing along and doing all the right things. And I've been doing an okay job of that. The way I look at this destiny thing - I'm not all that convinced it's what it's cracked up to be. I think it's easy to go overboard on it and think wishfully, think that you're being backed by some grand design. Granted Churchill seemed to really defy the odds - to the extent that it can really make you a believer. Lincoln - not so much I don't think. He wasn't quite just a prairie lawyer. He was a prominent lawyer and he served in the Illinois state house, ran for the Senate - and though he lost - the Lincoln Douglas debates made him something of a celebrity in a country that, remember, was still small; so his getting elected isn't all that unfathomable. I think it works sort of like this: picture a guy going to a ball game at a large stadium. He plans on going to the game, he buys the tickets, he finds his seat - all of this action on his part gets him into a particular part in the stadium to see the game. In the stadium are fifty thousand other people watching the game. A foul ball is hit during the game into the stands to where our man is sitting and he catches the ball. Now a religious - spiritual man would probably thank God for the ball, a man believing in destiny would say that he was destined to get that ball. Fate exemplar. And he will think to support his beliefs - what are the odds that I, one out of fifty thousand should be the one to catch the ball? It must be destiny, some controlling force gifted me this ball, it was meant to be. Must be. Well I say - to say it was meant to be, as if the outcome was predetermined is wrong thinking. That guy was simply the lucky one in fifty thousand. Sometimes we are simply that lucky one in fifty thousand. Churchill was simply that one among millions to be right there – the right place, at the right time. And his political efforts over the years are comparable to our man with the fouled ball who drove to the stadium and bought the ticket - those actions were simply measures that put him in the position where he may become the lucky one to catch the foul ball. If he hadn't gone to the Boar War, hadn't stood for Parliament, got himself on the cabinet, bla bla, then Churchill wouldn't have led England in 1939. Like our man who caught the ball, Churchill had made efforts - significant efforts - to position himself for the outcome that occurred. The outcome would not have occurred without those efforts, but those efforts had no guarantees that the outcome that did occur would have occurred. Now you say look at all the odds Churchill overcame and it would seem as if pre-determination was at work. I say maybe not - maybe the odds weren't that great really. How many of the worlds millions had made the kinds of efforts that Churchill had made? Had the connections and background that Churchill had? Not too many really, none really. In essence Churchill went to a game where the attendance was minimal, only a few lets say, he was one of a very few who drove to the stadium, bought the ticket, then went and sat in the stands - any ball hit into the stands had a high likelihood of coming into his possession. And you ask what drove him - well I say he could see. He could see or sense it - that here was this crazy man over in Germany and no one in England, in power, was sufficiently worried about him - Churchill knew that if he was the first to worry and expose the truth then he might have a comeback. I believe a lot of destiny is tied to intelligence. The man of destiny has that genius or vision, like you described with Kennedy, to see things as they are, and where his place is in the scheme of things, then predict or at least sense outcomes - outcomes deriving if things remain status quo or outcomes deriving if things are altered in some way. It's a kind of prescience. The gestalt. It's Shakespeare saying to himself you know these plays I'm acting in here are okay - but I'll bet if I sit down with pen in hand I can do as good - maybe better. Then there is the doing it. It's Henry Ford seeing the combustion engine driving a wooden wagon, then seeing the dirt roads becoming paved and every one switching from horse drawn wagon to a motorized one, and figuring the average guy could use a car – then figuring out how to get it to the average guy – then going for it. You know they taught me in grade school how Henery Ford invented the assembly line – but not really, actually Adam Smith describes such a process in the Wealth of Nations. Ford just took the concept and made it more sophistciated, more mechanized, more up to date. It's Kennedy thinking the whole damn countries going to be watching that stupid box - I'd better look like Cary Grant, because that's what that stupid box is going to do to politics - make our elected officials into movie stars. Churchill saw that dim light at the end of the tunnel and thought maybe - just maybe - and it became brighter, and brighter.

He shook his head, --All you've said here is part of the great mans destiny is due to his efforts. God helps those who help themselves. You can still say he was meant to be. You can still look at it one way or the other, predetermination vs. self determination. Neither have positive proof to substantiate that train of thought.

--True, but consider that just our being here is a twist of random chance. Out of the thousands or even millions of sperm that our fathers produce over a lifetime we just happened to be the one or two or three whatever that happened to connect and fertilize the egg. Or we happened to be the egg that sucked in the sperm or I guess we were each.

--And man according to you is a species, not the species, an evolutionary random accident. And earth is simply the random accident among millions of worlds out there that simply found itself in the exact juxtaposition in relation to a sun with the exact chemical constitution to support ever evolving, ever developing life?

I shrugged, --that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

--What'd you do, take in summer school at M.I.T.?

--Now you’re accusing me of possessing certain ideas. You’re assesments premature. But I will say perhaps looking at it in other ways, such as in Heaven and Hell and damnation ways is wishful thinking, more superstition than logical realistically oriented thinking, the evidence appears stacked toward M.I.T.

--So a man is a countless complexion of chemical compounds – a biological being - his striving is a product of adrenalin or some such compound?

--Well, not quite soulless. I guess is my take.

He looked away and nodded slightly and stayed quiet awhile. Then he smiled, --But not quite soulless? Still you want to believe.

I shrugged.

The party outside the room had become louder and thus beckoned. He said, --Well on that note - we should go and get drunk.

I could see that in our divergent ways there was a convergent theme or channeling idea behind our individual studies and speculations and the ways of our looking at it. We were both young men being prepared, and trying to prepare, and we both, for our own particular reasons and motivations, had gone beyond what was normally done and expected; but we were still not quite sure or knowing if what was being done to us or what we were doing to ourselves was quite the right way. Yet, at least we had made an earnest somewhat concerted above the norm effort – we had engaged our minds and apparently it had taken us into the woods. I asked him, --That's it? Have a drink?

--What did you expect - the answer?

I shrugged, --Guess we won't be opening the eternal curtain tonight.


He stood up and I followed suit. He said, --You know you’re not so dumb for a guy just getting by on his connections.

As I walked through the door and up the hall, --Well thanks – I think.

Approaching the open doorway to the bar room I could see that the room was croweded with party goers, many had spilled out into the hall. The noise level intensified with music emanating from the bar room and the din of talk in the hall. Sal haulted a few feet before the crowd and with blank face and in a simpering tone loud voice said, --Yes, back to the chit chat with the minds less wrought.

--That's a pretentious thing to say, I replied also louder.

--Well I'm a pretentious guy. I got a destiny. Hell with ‘em if they can't take a joke.

--Yes, of course, I said. Then I followed him into the crowd.

6 It was just past eleven when we stepped into the hall. The halls falling back from the bar room were awash with the brothers and friends - and surprisingly, girls. The male to female ratio looked about one to one. I made a quick foray into the crowd and peeked into the barroom - it was wall to wall. Then I took a lap around – a quick up and down the floors of the house to see the extent of the goings on. The party was something of a multi-level affair like a New York nightclub. In the basement was dancing in dim lighting to rakish rock and roll. Everyone was mingling in the halls, rooms, the living room, the bar room, the roof even. In the rooms was a subdued salonlike atmosphere, young people standing around or sitting over the furniture with beer bottle, drink glass, or bong in hand, mingling and socializing cocktail party fashion. Some of the rooms were den-like with sweet smelling smoke from slow burning hallucinogenic weeds swirling and hanging grayish mixing spirit like with the clean air. The bar room was crowded with milling revelers, and out of the speakers came, throughout the night, mixed with the rock and roll, an eclectic captivating and classy program of antique songs from Mac the Knife sung by Ella, Song of India by Tommy and the band, to more of Ol' Blue Eyes, to Astair's Puttin' on the Ritz, then a more melancholy Bang the Drum Slowly, then the upbeat, It's a Long Way to Tipperary. When I came back up into the bar room the Beach Boys were belting in their usual falsetto their tune, Little Old Lady from Pasadena. I ended up standing near one wall with, flowing through my ears, the song battling with the collective choreography of chatter, laughing, some occasional squealing and Bill Rutherford telling me at length with gusto about his sailing exploit's in local on the lake and on the sound regattas. He was saying: "So we came back to the docks and we had been so close to winin'. I mean real close - half a minute. Then the skipper of the winning boat - he had sailed in the last America's Cup - he came by while we were breaking down the sails and he saw we were using hanks. He said gawddamn! You've got hanks?! You guys came in with the showing you did with hanks?! Geezus Krist! Your usein' hanks! I mean the guy sounded like he wanted to sign us up right there to the next America's Cup!"

At the time I didn't quite know what he was talking about - the hanks that is. I was not well versed on the nautical aspect of things, not being of the yachting cloth – no aqua in Claremont. Bill had explained the hanks, what sort of gizmo they were and how they related to life's hazy mazy, but frankly the essentials of the lecture passed me by, were mostly drowned out by the surrounding din of conversation and mirth. Then Marve came by and handed me a bottle of freshly opened Coors. I thanked him for his friendly gesture and he commented that I was appearing too stale and sober-like. He asked me talking loud over the din, "So you’re thinkin' about going to law school?"


"Where you going to school now? UCLA was it?"

"No Princeton."

"Oh yeah?" He said this with his head raising back with a slight exclamation.

"Yeah - my dad went there, and my grand dad, so I had to go there."

"Oh you had to huh," he said smiling incredulously. "Well you must be pretty smart then."

I shrugged, "I don't know. It's easy to think you are."

"No kiddin’. We all like to think so - we just don't have Princeton to prove it."

"You'd be surprised. By and large it's like any place else - most are just tryin' to get by." All modest bull of course. Having to strain my voice to get over the noise in the room I couldn't offer up detailed explanatory responses. Kept it light. The real of it was with Ivy League admission standards then becoming highly rigorous and competitive, the academic equivalent of Navy Seal training, the percentage of students just trying to get by was quite a minority. Most had previous academic backgrounds which carried them well through the undergraduate years and getting by was not the problem per se. The problem lay in reaching and staying at the summit of that stellar student body. My gut feeling and conjecture was that the majority of Princetonians could attend the University of Washington or any great state run institution of lofty learning and roller skate into the upper reaches of the grading curves.

Bill then said, "Don't play modest - I saw ya talking with Sal Goldstein. He thinks he's a genius. Think he's smart?"

I nodded my head to the side with a shrug, "We talked a long time. I'd say he's pretty well studied."

Marve said, "He's pretty cocky."

Bill laughed and shook his head, "Nobody likes him, cause he thinks everybody's stupid."

"Mel seems to like him - you seem to like him."

"I like him," Bill said. "And Mel likes everybody."

Then Marve asked, "So where you gonna go to law school?"

"If I go - back east." I said.



Marve rolled his eyes, "Gawd it's impossible to get in there. You gotta know somebody that's on the Supreme Court, or you gotta be a genius - a real genius, not like Goldstein. I'd give my right nut to go to Harvard."

"Your right nut?" I said. "Bet you wouldn't."

"I don't know - I'd think about it. Can you still do it without a right nut?"

I shrugged, Bill laughed and said, "What's it matter you don't get laid anyway?"

Marve smiled, a little chagrined, and said awkwardly, "Hey I get charity sometimes."

I changed the subject, re-focused our attention onto more minor matters - the beer bottle collection shelved behind us. "Nice bottle collection," I said nodding my head toward the upper shelf. Marve claimed there was over three hundred bottles, and as yet no one had thought of a beer not represented; how over the years even alumni who had traveled to some far earthly corner have mailed the house an obscure brew or two to add to the shelf. I gave it a try after scrutinizing the shelf.

"Anchor Steam," I said, coming up with a brand.

"Anchor Steam?" Marve said, then he looked upward and around the room scrutinizing the bottles.

"Yeah it's brewed San Francisco. They just sell it locally. I don't it see up there."

Marve said simply, "Oh." He seemed disappointed I so easily vanquished his braggadocio with such a relatively near-by brew.

Bill said, "No that ain't up there. Nailed it on the first guess Marve. That's why he's goin' to Princeton and your not." Then he laughed.

Marve shook his head, "Sure there's an Anchor Steam? Never heard of it." He said.

"Yeah it's a real beer." I thought, well – looks like the trip wasn't a waste after all.

Marve again shook is head, "Oh well."

"Gotta get out more Marve," I said.

We talked along such lines a few more minutes until I was able to gracefully execute an exit. Then I took another lap up and down and through the house, stopped here and there to drink down a couple more beers and engage in conversations of the like as I had with Bill and Marve, I ended up in the downstairs living room holding and drinking from another bottle of beer and sitting on one end of the couch. Nate was sitting at the other end. Brad, also with a bottle brown in hand, came down the stairs, strode into the living room, and plopped himself down on the couch between us. He was tipsy, I could tell. Nate said to him, "Well Smitty - this party good enough for ya?"

Brad smiled, slurred some, "Yep - not bad at all."

"Lotta girls," Nate said, "more than you'd thought huh?"

"Yeah - even a few good lookin' ones," Brad said.

Nate said mocking, "Oh - no kidding? Good looking ones even?"

"Yeah - there's this blond upstairs - I think she likes me. She was givin’ me the eye. She's good stuff," Brad said.

"She likes you?" Nate asked. "And she's good looking? What'd you do - tell her about your money?"

Brad shook his head, "Nope. She looked at me. Then came over and we talked. She's got big - you know - I mean the big guns."

"Panoramic?" I said.

"Yep - big." Brad said.

"Big huh," Nate said. "I don't know Smitty - sounds like she's got ya goin'."

"Yeah - she's the best lookin'," Brad said. "I checked ‘em all out. Most of ‘em are like the guys - not USDA, you know."

"Shank portions huh," I said.

"Right," Brad said tight lipped.

Then Brad stood up, "Whelp - gotta run." He left and walked back up the stairs.

Nate looked over at me and said, "Think he's serious? Him with a sexpot? Can't picture it."

I laughed and said, "He is sort of drunk - still you don't give him enough credit. My sisters have always told me they thought there was something about him."

Nate rolled his eyes, "That's cause they've never talked to him longer than five minutes - and your sisters are a couple a gold diggers."

"Hey, lay off my sisters."

I was getting tanked up. I began to notice a surrealistic quality in the room lighting, as if I was looking through a barely opaque lens.

Two girls were sitting on the bench of the piano across the room. Both girls were dressed like most of the girls I noticed at the party, in blue jeans or shorts, tennis shirts, blouses or oxford button downs. One of the girls, the one I was looking at carefully, she wore an unbuttoned darker shaded plaid flannel shirt over a button down; it was large on her, like a jacket, and it flapped ungirdled about her as she moved. Atop her head was a fifties era felt Stetson, the type worn at an angle and pinched at the peak. She had auburn hair that came down out of the hat, that was cut at her shoulders. She and her friend seemed drunk and were making attempts to concerto the piano between pauses of silly-like laughter. She looked over at us quickly once or twice and I could see in the light that she had a fetching fawn-like face. It was Irish in complexion and consistency - soft, pale, lightly freckled, reddish lean cheeks, small tightly drawn mouth and nose - a sly Celtic beauty; and with the hat, obviously possessed with some style.

I noticed Nate looking over at her also. Then to my surprise he got up and walked over to the piano. As I watched he requested the pleasure of their audience asking, "Can I try?"

The good looking girl, in the hat, shrugged, "Sure." And to her friend said, "Slide over."

They slid over, and Nate crowded onto the bench and hen pecked a passable solo noted, "My Country Tis of Thee."

As he was completing the recital I walked over and stood at the side of the piano. I decided not to let this dilettante outshine the Princeton phenom. After he dinged out his final note, and the girl in the hat, who on closer inspect looked even better, said in an exaggerated hillbilly tone, "Sir, I believe you got raw talent."

Nate looked over at her and said in a serious tone, "Hey - you mocking me?"

The girl shook her head, "Nope - not mockin' you - knockin' you." Then she and her friend laughed.

Nate looked up at me, "Hear that? This girl's knockin' me."

I gave Nate a slight pleading look and said with an airy open handed gesture, "May I?"

Nate with a polite little chuckle said, "I believe the girls were next."

The girl with the hat said, "Oh no - you horned in - now let him horn in if he wants."

I raised my brows and gave Nate an expression of mock sympathy and elegantly said, "Excusim wa," as I brushed him aside with my waving fingers.

Before he slid off the bench he looked at the girl in the hat and said, "Don't be too impressed - it's the only thing he knows."

I sat down on the bench and interlocked my fingers, palms outward, and after outstretching my arms to limber the fingers with the flair of Liberace, I deftly hammered out a couple of verses of Moon River with only a few missed tapings. Nate had called it correctly, after two years of youthful piano study at my mothers urging, what I then played was the only song I had managed to commit to memory. I had once played it for a recital. After I had finished with the swooning melody, I then blew on the fingertips of my right hand and rubbed the tips against my shirt. I looked at the girls and raised and lowered my brows. Gestures of triumph.

The girl with the hat looked at her friend and said, "Why - it's Van Cl-eye-burn."

I looked at Nate, he shrugged. When I looked back at the girl I caught her looking at Nate with a smile adorned by gazing blue eyes. Very blue, almost a turquoise. They looked like sparkling pools. I sensed I was in the way so I got up and said, "Well, I'll just leave you all to your chopsticks."

As I walked away I heard Nate say, "Don't mind him, he thinks he's better than us."

I decided to walk outside and take in the sobering effects of some fresh air. I walked over the front porch, down three steps onto the sidewalk. I thought, that damn Nate, first he's dispensing his pronouncements on the debilitating effects of women and foreswearing to dispense with all association with them, then he's right back in the saddle. All in one day. Mr. full a shit Pi-r squared. But all was not to be forlorn for long, for from behind, up high on the house I heard a high noted voice, "Hey."

I looked up, and from my vantage point, there in the rather dark, with only the street lights alighting, I saw an angelic blonded figure - with big - as Brad had described them. She was in the standard 501 Levies and a loose fitting red tennis shirt which hung outside her jeans and lay nicely over her - big - and her legs were long - and even in the jeans appeared quite slender - flamingo legs. Was this apparition shouting to me? I had heard of such things - in movies. I inquired, "You talking to me?"

"Yeah," She said, "What ya doin’?"

Her blond hair appeared full and thick as it wrapped over and hung down from the oval perimeter of her face, appeared to shimmer in the half light, like a nimbus. It was a hallucination, I thought.

"Nothin’ - what you doin’?" I said, entering entrancement.

"I'm standin' here," she said. Her voice was just on the high side for such an elysian looking statuette. "Why don't you come up?"

I was just about to lunge off when my inner gyros halted me and panged me with the thought - get her to come down. So I said, "I was just up there, it's too crowded, come down here."

She thought for a second then said, "Okay, I'll come down." Then she turned and walked off the balcony and disappeared through the door. She was coming, actually coming down. I had hit the pay dirt, the mother load, the El Dorado. Oh my God. My heart began to palpitate toward cardiac arrest. Hopefully I could charm and get accustomed to her face, and with good fortune get on the base pads with her before the paramedics would be summoned. Then she was before me. A beautiful Romanesque browned California face, long blond hair plucked from the wheat field, long spindly legs and arms - as was always the fashion - and buxomed - but not ridiculously, just lustfully. Female perfection personified, mearly once removed form Plato’s ideal world. It was a miracle on thirteenth street. "So what's your name?" I asked.

"Julie Cooper. What's yours?"

After our intros, she explained how she was walking earlier that evening and had seen me and my friends; and then related how she was boarding at the fraternity house next door. She pointed toward it with a long aristocratic forefinger nicely tanned and tiaraed with a longish manicured nail, painted red. Right next door, I thought, for the summer even. Miracle number two. "So are you in this house?" She asked.

I explained my circumstance. She said, "I didn't think you were from around here."

"How's that?"

"You don't look like you’re from here. Especially your friends - the blond ones."

She asked if I wanted to play pool. A rather peculiar request from a feline I thought - but maybe a good icebreaker. "Sure," I said.

She led the way back inside the house. I took note of her backside which even through the Levis translated narrow, concise, and flawless. I followed drunk with alcohol and lust. I pinched myself, just to check. This was too easy, something was wrong. Still I followed. In the basement the pool table was well utilized with layers of standbys awaiting a game. She suggested we go next door to her frat house and play the table there. A fine idea. In her I liked this take-charge style. Of course, in her at that moment I would have followed her right up the Space Needle then off the side into a death plunge. We walked next door. That house was one of the few modern looking edifices. Essentially a box of masonry and concrete and glass. Masonry was also used in the interior and the stairs were metal. There was little ornamentation, and my voice echoed in the entry. In the dim light, the interior had the look of a modern army barracks. She led me into a bottom floor game room - about twice the size of the pool table standing as a centerpiece. The room, the rest of the house, as far as I could see was empty - I supposed all the boarders had gone next door or to other fun filled environs unknown. She immediately set about collecting the balls from side pockets and racked them up within a wood triangle. The balls racked, she selected a cue, as did I, and we lagged with the white ball. I lagged poorly, she won. Then she broke and fielded two plain and a stripe in various pockets. Before missing she knocked in four additional plain.

"Play a lot?" I asked.

She nodded, "My dad has a table."

In the spotlight, bathing well the table in white bright light, I was able to get a better look at her. Her beauty was quite natural. Except the paint on her nails, she didn't appear to wear any other make up. Her blond hair was naturally colored toward brown. Her jawbones were slightly prominent and her nose small and blunted a bit at the end - rounded. She had large blue green eyes under long narrow blond brows. A classically beautiful face with the features softened, dulled a bit – her cheeks and forehead curved some. Her skin was well tanned, actually a little too cooked I thought, but that was a niggardly criticism. Who was I to be so peevish in the face of such God given gifts? She was methodical in the handling of the cue, but most of her dunks were directly aimed. She missed when faced with angular shots that required English or banking. Still, my not being at all practiced on the felty field she beat me handily.

"Well your pretty good at that," I said, as she dropped in the eight ball.

She smiled amiably and said, "Thanks."

She was leaning back against the table, sitting on it almost with her hands on the table at her sides. She was looking at me and smiling slightly. Things seemed to be progressing – but a little awkwardly. At least that was how it seemed to me. She was not much of a talker. I was still a tad drunk. I couldn't tell really what she was thinking. Then she surprised me again and asked, "So you want to go up to my room?"

For a second I thought possibly wax was in my ears. Could this really be happening to me, in this way, in this relative ease, with this neo-classic Venus? I wanted to race her up the stairs - but again my gyro held me in check. I shrugged and motioned an unassuming, "Sure."

I followed her up. The room was small and plain, she had just recently moved in. Most of her belongings were still in boxes. A combo desk-book shelf in white Formica was along one wall and her single width bed was along the other. Red looked to be her color. Her quilt was a country table cloth red and white check with red pillows. A cutsy polar teddy bear was nestled between the pillows. We sat on the bed and for quite a while remained apart and simply talked. We kept things simple, neither one of us tried to impress. I doubt such a strategy even occurred to her. I told her about Claremont and Princeton but skirted the issue of graduating - didn't want to scare her off lest she had an older man phobia. She was from Spokane Washington. Her father was a foreman in a machine shop that made "These metal things for Boeing." I thought, a machine shop foreman, my gawd, a Hope diamond in the rough. She showed me her high school year book. Apparently she was fresh from graduating, had just arrived to the University. I saw pictures of her as a cheerleader and homecoming queen. The book was intriguing. It was bound and looked very much like our yearbook from Claremont High School. The same company probably published it. But in the pictures, in the look of the layout, there were noticeable dissimilarities. I could tell the school served a predominately working class community; there was a noticeable commonality in the faces, in the dress of the students pictured. Julie was in beauty head and shoulders beyond any other girl I saw pictured throughout the book. I told her, "Judging from this you were by far the best looking girl in your school." And as I thought about it, she would have been the best looking girl in my school.

She smiled and truly seemed to appreciate the comment. She said, "You really think so?"

She showed me pictures of her old boyfriend. Your typical BMOC. There were pictures of him playing football, he was the quarterback, playing basketball, and running track. Then a couple of snaps of him alone with stoic and steady and sullen expressions. A strapping and good looking sort I thought - but not quite as sterling as Nate or even Klug. But in his realm a royal none-the-less. In fact, he honestly looked a lot like myself. He could have been my brother. I must be her type, I thought.

"So what's he doing?" I asked, about the boyfriend.

"He wanted us to be married and I didn't want that, I wanted to go to school."

"He's back at home?

"No, he joined the army."

The army? I thought. And as an enlisted man. Gawd. And so another all American couple had parted to circumvent the myths of soul mates and happily ever afters. He down one road, she another. Apparently, from such beginnings, she had the mind over the will to escape - it took a good mind to will such acts.

"Do you see or hear from him any more?" I asked.

"No, when we broke up he wasn't real nice about it."

"That's too bad. This all just happened?"

"Couple of months ago. Before we graduated."

"And he just went into the army - just like that?"

"He had been sorta planning on it."

"Did you want to marry him?"

She nodded, "Yeah - I did. But he didn't want me to go to school and I didn't want to end up living on an army base or in Spokane all my life, so I guess we grew apart."

"Grew apart pretty fast."

"We had to decide."

I put the book aside and shifted myself on the bed laying down. As I shifted I put my arm around her and pulled her over to lay next to me. She willingly went along. Then I looked at her and we kissed. We kissed a while and I got my hand under her shirt but she pushed it away and whispered - the age old line - old as Sumer - about not knowing me yet. Not wanting to blow the whole deal I backed off and soon fell asleep.

When I awoke the next morning I was still in my clothes but oddly enough my shoes were off. Either I had kicked them off or she had taken them off, I couldn't recall. A blanket was over me, actually over us. She was asleep next to me and now clad only in a long t-shirt. I looked at her closely to see if she had also jettisoned her undergarments. The bra, yes I could tell, all was a smooth hilly site. The briefs I couldn't tell; but I guessed they were most likely present and ready to be accounted for if the need arose. I lifted my head a bit - it throbbed. I was hung over. I checked my watch, it was close to seven. I opted to fall back asleep. An hour later I again awoke but still felt the nauseating throb. She also awoke and we kissed more. Through her t-shirt I could feel her calculus had just the right numbers. Again I didn't push matters and soon I kissed her sweetly good-bye. Just before I stepped out her door she asked, "You gonna come by and see me again?"

What a nutty question. Can Picasso paint? I said, "Oh yeah - I'll be back."

As I walked back to the Sigma house it again occurred to me that something was not quite right. Too easy. I had been with easy women at Princeton, and in Claremont, but none so perfectamundo. A case of unrealized value perhaps, like that heirloom on the wall, that funny but somehow attractive line drawing that turns out be a scribble by Van Gough. I walked into the house through the side door going into the dining room, and there, in a group at one of the tables, was Mel, Marve, and my compadres. I walked over. Nate was showered and shaved and ready for the day. Mel and Marve were looking straight from the sheets in faded gym trunks and t-shirts and fuzzy matted hair. Klug and Brad were as I, still disheveled and still in last nights garb.

"All right - stories - what happened to you?" Brad asked me.

"Spent the night next door." I said.

"With who?" Brad snapped.

I starred at him a second taken aback by his unusually quick assault. He was curious. I said, "Some girl."

"What she look like?" Brad asked, again eagerly.

"Blond, tall, good looking."

"Red shirt? Big tits?" Brad said.

"Yeah, I think her shirt was red, and they were sufficient."

"Oh no!" Brad winced and moaned, "You got her. You asshole!"

Nate said, "She miss big huh Smitty?"

Brad shaking his head, whined, "I can't believe it - she was so big, and great looking. She was almost perfect."

"She was lordly," Klug said. "You nailed that home, huh man? Climbed those peaks?"

"Naw." I said. "Just slept over. Nothing much happened really."

Marve said, "Gosh that girl was beautiful, what's it like sleepin' with a girl like that?"

I shrugged, "She warms the bed, like any of em."

Everyone laughed and guffawed, Nate said, "Aw listen to him - the guy think's he's Casanova."

Mel said, "Yeah but we know better. We know he's just Mr. Potato Head."

Nate said, "Potato head? What's that?"

I said, "It's a bunch a crap is what it is."

Apparently Klug and Brad also ended up with girls at other places with Brad claiming he got lucky; but Klug clarifying, "She was no Miss America man."

"Miss Barstow maybe?" Nate said.

"No man, Miss Inyo Kern," Klug said.

We laughed and Brad said, "You shouldn't talk Klug, yours wasn't exactly Queen a the Nile."

"Least mine wasn't fat," Klug said.

"Mine wasn't fat," Brad said. "She wasn't fat at all."

"Well Smitty," Nate said, "see'in as how she was fat - I hope you scored."

We laughed, with Mel and Marve laughing so hard they started coughing.

Brad said, "Your all pricks." Then looking at Mel and Marve said, "Don't choke on it or anything."

That got them laughing more.

Turned out Nate also developed a yen for the girl in the hat at the piano, but he played it down and was secretive as far as any progress he might have made. I, of course, had a marvelous time. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps there was a Bali Hai and if we had come hither.

7 After our group in the dining room had disbanded Nate left for the docks while Klug, Brad, and I went upstairs for additional shut eye. A couple hours later I opened my eyes feeling much less hung over and more vitalized. I showered and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and left for the docks. Brad and Klug stayed behind still in their bunks snoozing, still children of silence and slow time. I found life at the docks almost as I had left it the day previous, though as I walked around more I did notice there seemed to be more people and activity about - tourists sightseeing, workers working, mothers shepherding children. Nets were again laid out on the asphalt over by the warehouse buildings and people were scattered around them untangling and sowing, some sat on chairs, some kneeled, some were bent over like gleaners. I walked over to the dock, by the viaduct, next to where the boat was up on the racks. There along that most westerly dock, almost under the viaduct, were several boats tied up and undergoing work - scraping and cleaning and painting of hulls and decks, outfitting of parts, replacing and repairing of engines and cranes and refrigeration and water circulation systems. Over each boat were small groups of workers; a few were young, around our age, most older. On a couple boats I saw the small white and blue flashes of welding flames. On the boat up on the rack a worker high up on a ladder was applying a disk sanding machine to the hull. As the machine whirred and screamed orange sparks showered down. Electrical cords lay over the dock then up into the boats. The whirring and grinding and mashing of electrical tools, the sputtering and snapping of welding, the jet like hissing of blow torches, a slow loud banging, like a dim knell, rang from a sledge hammer, shouts like, "Hand me that will yeah...More slack…," these sounds came and went from my ears as I walked along the dock, walked slowly watching the work. Though there was nothing unusual about the workers I saw - factory warehouses, construction projects, mines, dockyards, railroads - all industrial enterprises in these states were worked by workers such as I was then looking at - these superb workers, superb as the nation they had made. I looked hard and long as I began to realize the true chemistry behind what we compadres were trying to do. Here was a reality, their reality, away from the gargoyles of Princeton's and the country clubs of Claremont's, it was a chasm that had to be bridged and I wondered if I could do it, if I was even up to it. I was there to become part of their world - though I was probably close to the epitome of that other world - of bright lights and big cities, that world which, because of natures wanton and disproportionate parceling out of ableness and opportunity, they, these men, hunched over and engrossed in their simple repetitive tasks, that gossamer world they would probably never see, would relate it with a trip to Mars, never to dine at 21, discuss Plato's allegory of the cave or wonder with Blake, never to trip the light fantastic at the OZ, or negotiate a leveraged buy out while hiking the glass and granite canyons on the Wall Street trail, be the Talk of the Town, photoed in Town and Country, or in black tie, try to seduce at a ball with champagne and charm a debutante. All of that was a world beyond. They were relegated to the simple pleasures, to tract homes and bowling alleys, to public schools and movie halls, to K-Marts and Elk clubs, to shopping malls and Burger Kings. In another age, in another economy, working under another idea, they may not have faired as well, their work sporadic, families hungry, no chance for education, rude wages, interminable hours, stifled lives and expectancies – the only escape a dark house, a hard seat, and a nickel dream – if they were even that lucky. It was a tough place America, but she had become better at caring for her own. And what a lucky son of a gun I was, born to a lofty perch in the Jeffersonian resurrection of the everyman; and but for the grace of God, DNA, and testate law, here among these good men, there go I.

Toward the end of the dock I found Nate. He was standing in the stern working area of a crab boat with broom in hand sweeping. He didn't see me. I said loud, "Hey Nate."

He stopped and looked up, "Hey, ‘bout time you got here. Where's frick and frack?"

"I left ‘em still asleep."


"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm shagging tennis balls - what's it look like I'm doin’."

"I can see what your doing - I meant did you get a job on this boat?"

"No - not on the boat. I found out who owns the repair yard here, it's this old guy name Olly. Walks around smokin' cheap cigarettes. I asked him for a job."

"He gave you a job just like that?"

"No - I had talked to him yesterday. He said he didn't have anything then - but to check back. So today I checked back. He's only payin' me minimum wage."

"Should I talk to him?"

"Yeah, he said he always needs extra help in the summer. Look I gotta finish here - I don't want him see'in me slackin' off - he's probably around over by the warehouses. I'll talk to ya later."

I walked back down the dock over by the warehouses looking for an old guy smoking cigarettes – as if that wasn't a common enough site - but I didn't see anyone of even that simple description. I asked around, with a few of the workers, but no one had seen him. Nate seemed to be making strides, yesterday a dock walker, today a deck sweeper.

I decided to take a bus around the lake and maybe check with some of the other boats I had seen; see if I could get a better indication, a true prognosis of our chances of finding gainful employ in this northwest piscatorial world. I walked back up through the parking lot to the boulevard and began waiting for a bus.

A bus came by almost immediately, but the driver informed me he would be turning soon and going in the wrong direction. He said a bus going down to the lakeside would be by shortly. I thanked him for the info and waved him on and waited. As I stood there on the street side, I considered how I was passing time there. That my most optimum strategy would probably be to wait down by the warehouses for Olly and, like Nate, ask him for a job. Yet some inner will was influencing me to avoid that strategy - optimum or not. I realized how I would rather take a bus ride around the lake than ask for that job. I was not relishing the prospect of doing that, of asking for a job sweeping decks or of doing such a job. The reality of manual labor - of what we were precisely doing was beginning to hit home.

Another bus came and pulled over, I asked the driver if it was the lakeside bus and it was. I hesitated a second, then climbed on. As the bus rolled into the road, past the sidewalks lined with commercial enterprise, toward a decline that ran to the lakeside road, I began to think more and hard. The reality was, what I had seen along that dock, the sweeping, scraping, sanding, welding, painting, sledge hammering, I'd never seen before - that close up. It was like reading of cave men and dinosaurs then taking a trip to the natural museum and walking past the dioramas. I took note of the men themselves, most were big men, thick boned, a few had tattoos, all were in soiled jeans, t-shirts, hands were greasy, nails dirty. I realized I had held and used minimally a screw driver and pliers, but never a monkey wrench or sledge hammer. Frankly, the thought of holding such objects didn't appeal to me. After years of basking in the cultural beacons of Antiquity, the Renaissance, the Elizabethan, the Victorian, and the Moderno, how was I now to sand and sweep decks? I who had dipped in the debates of Socrates, swam in the visions of Dante, laughed at the puns of Faulstaff and irreverence of Prince Hal, weaned on Riki Tiki Tavi and the Shores of Gitche Gumee, on Thermopylae and Marathon and Valleys of Death, had wondered with the likes of Aristotle and Lock, Kant and Nietzsche; I was a fish out of water. I was not of these people or of this climate, and I would have to acclimatize myself and now that I was faced with it, I was not all that sure I wanted to. And what were we doing? What was I doing? I was beginning to develop a problem with the whole thing. My ego and id were in conflict. Just what in hell was I doing?

The bus was moving steadily down the lakeside road, a winding road that followed the banks of the channel and ran under the dirt and shrub draped cliffs rising to the leeward side. We were headed west toward the other over crossing I had stood on the day previous; I was thinking vaguely of going by the boats I had seen before, go and get a close up look at them. Clustered along the road, mostly on the shoreline, were small commercial buildings, some old some new, some steel, some stucco; mostly shop, warehouse and factory buildings, some retail shops and garages. There were a couple glass office buildings two or three stories high. On the lakeside I could see occasionally rising above the buildings a large boat or a ships uppermost decks, sail masts were frequent and often in congress. Now and then between the buildings the blue of the lake would pop through. Across the road occasionally the cliffs cut back into hillsides. On the hills were houses on wood platforms atop piers rising from the green plant covered ground; an occasional commercial building was nestled into the hillside. Soon the bus came under the over crossing, I pulled on the overhead line signaling the driver and the bus pulled over and stopped, and I got out.

It was another clear and crisply aired beautiful day, with a blue clean sky. Days of that caliber I was to learn are frequent in the region as spring folds into summer. The sun felt warm but in the air was a coolness, felt cool in the nostrils, likely from coming off the waters. The over crossing ran high above, it's steel beamed arch a network of curving and geometric silver girders below the white concrete slab, I could hear the traffic - the whooshing and the banging of the tires as they hit gaps between slab sections. I told myself that while the fishing was not exactly following my bliss, whatever that may be, it was what I had chosen to do for the time being - therefore I should quell any doubts and do my expected duty. I walked between two steel skinned shack like shop buildings making my way to the lakeside. Inside I could hear the clank-like pounding of steel and a loud whirring machining sound.

In the back, along docks laying out into the channel were the same two crab boats I had seen the day before from the crossing above. The red one was still empty of life, everything battened down. But the blue one, like the day before, had several workers combing the deck. I stood on the bank and watched a while. All of the workers looked mid-twenties and up into the thirties. I didn't see any looking older than that. The crane was in operation, the boom was swinging out over the side railing of the boat, and the hook - which rolled along the boom by way of a carriage assembly of ball bearinged wheels and steel cables - was lowered to pick up a length of steel pipe. One of the older workers, a big man with thick arms bulging out of a sleeveless t-shirt was working the crane controls at the lectern. Two workers were on the dock working with the pipe. A couple other workers were bent over at the stern looking down a hatch and one was handing down tools, thick large wrenches – the length of tire irons. A couple of others were walking in and out of the cabin from the rear doors, sometimes appearing with a box or plastic trash bag which they tossed over the side rail onto the dock and into a pile of the same and other apparent discards. The intent of all these movements was, of course, a mystery to me. I stood watching for about fifteen minutes trying to get some slant on it. I was trying to get up enough nerve to walk over and talk to someone about a job. It was funny - it then just occurred to me, I had never asked for a job. I had had one part time job in my life - working for Brad's father in his factory. Brad, Nate, myself, and a couple of other friends, had off and on during the summer and vacations done work at Smith Pipe. I had done some research for my father, and had been paid. But my work experience, and my experience at applying for work, was almost nil. I was really slumming it. This thinking only helped to Nellie my nerve. Then one of the workers, going in and out of the cabin and sometimes emerging with a trash bag, hopped over the side rail and picked up a couple bags off the pile and walked up the dock toward me with spread elbows, schlepping the bags, holding in each hand the twisted tops. A trash run no doubt to dispose of the bags. As he came to the end of the dock he looked at me, and I at him, and he said while passing, "How's it goin’?"

"Good," I said, and stood watching him walk up to a large metal dumping bin behind the shop building and toss in the bags. When he walked back I approached him and said, "You work on the boat?"

He was pleasant and chipper, a couple or three years older than I was my guess, "Yeah why - looking for a job?"

"Yeah - are there any?"

"No - we get a few guys all the time coming around askin’."

"Lot a guys looking huh?"

"Their out there, but it's not like their linin' up."

"How long you been on the boat?"

"A year. I got the job just like your doin' - walkin' around asking. I got lucky - this is a good boat."

"Looks like it. You guys getting ready for crab fishing?"

"No, we're goin' up North in about a month to tender for Salmon season - we're fixing the refrigeration system that's what all those pipes are for."

I nodded.

He continued, "Then after Salmon season we'll head up north for the crab, maybe."


"Well we've been fishin' for bottom fish - the Japs buy it and it's a good lucrative market. And the crabs not running as good as it used to."

"No money in it?"

"There's money in it - if you get a job on a good boat you'll make money."

"So there's no jobs on your boat huh?"

"Naw, sorry. But just keep walkin' around - spend allota time over at the Fisherman's wharf, that's where all the skippers hang out."

"Right - well thanks a lot."

"No problem."

"Who owns that other boat?" I was referring to the red one.

He started walking back down the dock and said loud over his shoulder, "I dunno - they're never there."

So no jobs there. But a pleasant encounter nonetheless. He wasn't so bad at all. Nothing like that yo han drip of the day before. I walked back between the buildings and out to the street. The day before from atop the crossing I thought I had seen more fishing boats westward down the channel. I waited on the street for a bus which soon came by and I waved it down and climbed aboard. We passed immediately the large yellow saw tooth roofed building along the waterfront. It stood about fifty yards from the road behind an asphalt parking lot, and over the side of the yellow corrugated steel wall was painted in black, Pacific Northwest Lumber. Passing that, we came to more concrete buildings, a long office building with a concrete low standing sign - brass letters attached to a white background with a small hedge around the base reading: Seattle Canners. Ahead I saw a large dark green hanger building with an oval roof. Behind it on the lake I could see a couple more fishing boats, probably crabbers, they were older models in bland colors.

I pulled the cord, and soon was walking along the side of the green building. Everything was quiet, no activity or anyone around. When I came to the lake I saw that the building was all closed up and the boats looked battened down and deserted. Then I noticed on one a back bulkhead door was open. After my pleasant encounter at the last boat I was more bold. And I was curious to see what the innards of one of these vessels looked like. I climbed over the side rail onto the boat and poked my head into the cabin, I said, "Hello? Anyone around?"

Immediately I heard a "Right in here." The sound came from the other side of the room. Directly in front of me was the side of a large typical household refrigerator. The light was dim, and more so with my eyes accustomed to the outdoor brightness. I looked over and saw against the opposite wall a rectangular shaped eating table surrounded on two sides with a brown vinyl booth. In the booth sat an older couple eating. "Come in," the lady said.

I stepped over with slight trepidation, "Hi, how you doin," I said. "Sorry to interrupt."

"That's okay, just eatin' a sandwich," the man said. Both looked in their late fifties. He was large, with a small round head, his gray hair was combed and wet looking and thinning on top, he had a full barrel chest and big stomach. He was sitting back in the booth relaxed wearing gray coveralls well soiled. She was small, petite, had gray hair nicely primped, and wore those old lady eyeglasses that had slight wings in the endpieces with small imitation diamonds. Both were smiling and fingering a half sandwich. The table had a raised wood edge to keep the plates from sliding over the side and slight round depressions to hold cups.

I said, "I'm just trying to find a job on a boat - I saw your door open."

The man nodded, "Looking for a job huh?"

I nodded, "Yeah."

"Well I don't have anything, pretty much got a full crew. But I'd just keep tryin' the boats. Every once in a while somethin' will come up."

"That's pretty much what I've been doing," I said, and looked around the room.

Next to the refrigerator was a corner cabinet unit with a small oven with a range top, like something that would be in a small mobile home kitchen. Over the sink was a wood picture frame around a pink and yellow crochet work reading Boat Sweet Boat. Against the aft wall were more cabinets and another sink. There was a narrow doorway next to the oven and I could see down a few feet a narrow steel spiraling stairway. The floor was covered with a yellow linoleum that was well worn and even cracked in places. Over the walls was a light shiny Formicalike imitation paneling - it was also cracked in places and yellowing. "Pretty nice boat," I said.

"We like it," the man said.

"You fish for crab?" I asked.

The man nodded, "Snow crab, we go up north."

"How long have you fished?"

They both smiled broader as if there was something slightly fresh or stupid about the question. The man said, "Oh 'bout thirty years."

I quickly thought if he was sixty then he got into his career at thirty. I wanted to ask him what he did before fishing but I refrained. I said, "Lot a guys looking for work?"

He said, "Yeah, but there always is. If you can't find work down here you can always go up to Alaska, there if you can't get a job on the boats you can always get work in a canary."

"Oh yeah - where in Alaska?"

"Juneau, Anchorage, Kodiak, or even Dutch Harbor if you could get out there."

I nodded, and took mental notes.

He continued, "Yeah then up there too while your workin' at the canary you can keep an eye out for a job on a boat."

I thanked him for the advice, they wished me good luck and I departed. When I got back out to the street without the bus in sight I decided to walk up the street eastward. Now after these minor forays into this brave new world, this direct exposure, this personal contact with members of this alien piscatorial clan, my jitters had mellowed. The old guy and his wife seemed pleasant and normal enough. Everyday people. Just because these people glean their livelihoods in the tempestuous, hazardous and frigid watery fields of the Bering Sea doesn't necessarily make them olympianlike, men are even at best - still men, when they cut they bleed, all are toads beneath the harrow. Then it occurred to me - another revelation – or simply another direction of a wandering mind, after talking with these pleasant people I was more relaxed. Saw the humility in the thing. Before I had questioned my willingness to do the work. But such arrogance had only been a part of the equation. What had repelled me was the gulf I had imagined between me and those people I had seen - those workers. I was different, they were different; and in my mind very different. I wanted into their world, would the water be frigid or tepid? Could I get across? I was plagued some, I realized, by fear itself - and it's many cunning forms – fear of leaving the accustomed, and fear of the very new.

The bus came along and carried me back to the wharf. When I got down to the dock area I saw Nate talking with a bald man with a noticeable paunch, smoking a cigarette. Must be Olly. As I walked up I heard him telling Nate, "Don't have anything more today - maybe tomorrow. Just check back - you fill out a time card?"

"Yeah," Nate said. "Thanks Olly - see ya tomorrow."

As Nate stepped away he saw me and said, "What's goin' on?"

"Not much - I was over on the other part of the lake."

"Anything happen?"

I shook my head, "Naw, not really; talked to a couple guys on boats."

"No jobs?"

"No," I said, and told him about what the one man had said about Alaska.

He said, "Yeah I've heard the same thing - lets say we get back to the frat house."

We began walking through the parking lot.

"So what you do today?" I said.

"What I do?" He said airily. "Let's see I ah swept a deck, coiled up big extension cords, washed some windows - and portholes, helped Bart and Doug scrape and sand the bottom of a hull - that was a marvelous thing. Then I called it a day."

As we came to the street to await the bus I said, "Sounds rather challenging."

"Yeah, rather," he said.

"I'm just trying to decide if I can get in with these people and get into the work."

"Think of the money, just think of the money."

"I'm tryin' - but you know the thing is I don't really need the money."

"Everybody needs money. If you make a ton of money up here that's just less you'll be subjected to your family's purse strings."

"My dad doesn't really lord over me that way."

Nate was looking up the street, "Wonder where that damn bus is?"

I said, ignoring his concern about the bus, "Say Nate, answer me one question will ya - just what am I doing up here?"

He looked at me, then looked away and shook his head, "You know - all that crap about the Ivy Leagues bunk. The only thing it gives ya is good connections. You come up here big guy cause you're buddies came up here and you didn't wanna miss out - and you don't want to go to law school."

He was right of course; but even then I wasn't quite admitting to it. It wasn't that I was opposed, repelled - dead set against law school - it was that I wasn't sure. Wasn't sure that I wanted a legal career to be my future. And I didn't agree quite with the argument that even if I chose another career path outside the law, three years of law school couldn't hurt. What was wrong with choosing a path - then taking the appropriate schooling? At that particular time what was wrong was the choosing. And only vagaries were coming to mind - Journalist, Hollywood Producer, Corporate Board Chairman, Pro Football Coach, CIA or FBI Agent, Congressman, President of the United States. But really when it came down to it I was a yahoo, a floundering soul, a twit.

I said to Nate, "Yeah, I think your right. Problem is I don't know what I want to do."

"Hey - with your money, and all the readin' you've done, you oughta just do what your dad does - or be like a Hemingway write great books - or go into politics be a Kennedy. Supposedly he got laid a lot."

"Yeah, well that's definitely a criteria for a career."

He nodded, not really paying attention, for the bus then came into view.

As we rode toward the University area, I asked him, talking loud over the bustling of the bus and the engine noise, "So what's the story with you and that girl?"

"What girl?" He said.

"From last night - at the piano?"



"Is there an echo?"

"You sort a like her?"


"So what happened after I left?"

"Left when?"

"Left you guys at the piano?"

He shook his head and shrugged. "Nothin’ happened."

He was being vague. "Something happened, I could tell she liked you."

"No - we joked around a little. Then she said she had to get up stairs. Later I saw her dancin' with some guy down in the basement. I was tired and went up to bed."

"Shoulda danced with her."

"Why? I don't like to dance."

"And you don't like woman any more."


When we got back up in the meat locker Nate said, "Wonder where the flim flam brothers are at."

"Flim Flam? Thought it was Frick and Frack."

He sat down on the side of his bunk. "Flim-flam, frick-frack, what's the difference?"

"I'd say it's a subtle difference of poesy. The one phrase conjures devious chicanery, the other deviant imbecility."

Nate looked at me, another one of his quiet wry looks, "Yeah, like I said, what's the difference."

Then Mel walked in. He said, "Got a job yet?"

Nate looked over at him and said in a yelping countryfied shrill, "Mael! Why it's Mael? Hey Joe - it's Mael! How are yeah Mael!"

I looked at Mel and explained, "He's not his usual self today - he's been doing manual labor."

Nate kicked off his shoes and laid back in the bunk, "Hey Mael! Tell me a story huh Mael! Will yeah Mael!"

Mel was smiling shaking his head, "I don't know 'bout you guys." Then he walked out.

I looked at Nate, he had turned toward the wall onto his side to sleep. I wasn't tired and had started thinking about Julie. I considered going next door to see her, but decided to put it off till later. Didn't want to appear too eager. Wondering where Klug and Brad were, I decided to go track them down, the most logical place was the dungeon, but since I was already up there, I tried the roof. Sure enough, emerging from the attic doorway into the warm late afternoon sunlight I saw, atop bunk mattresses laid out on the flat section of roof, a few lounging sun worshipers - including the two girls on the piano from the previous night and flim and flam. I stepped over and stood in front of Klug laying on a mattress. I could see on other neighboring roof tops in view other students on mattresses and beach chairs also sunbathing. It appeared to be a local custom. The girl with the hat from the party was next to Klug in a strapless one piece suite, white with small black polka dots. Her friend was in a pink bikini. Klug, well tanned, was clad in trunks and in Ray Bans reading Brideshead. Brad was on the other side of him on another mattress, also in trunks and sunglasses. His skin was beginning to glow pinkish over his shoulders, chest, and thighs. Klug said, "Hey man, what's the haps?"

"You guys missed a fine day on the docks."

"Too hung over man. We'll check it out manana."

I looked over at the girls. The one in the black dotted suite wore black oval rimmed Jackie O sunglasses; she said, "Van Kliburn."

"Hi there. Where's your hat?"

"Only wear it when I'm drunk." She said.

"I see."

She smiled barely, as if showing me a slight favor. A Garbo smile.

I looked at Klug, "Aren't you going to introduce us?"

"Sure thing man, this is Nancy, and over there's her friend Nancy. The two Nancy’s."

"I see," I said, and looked at them. They smiled. "I'm Joe Kelly. You look sort of Irish - you Irish?" I said, looking at Nancy in the dots.

She said, "Yeah - I'm real Irish. My last name’s Keogh."

"Guess that’s real Irish. As apposed to fake Irish?"

"Yeah - both my parents are Irish. I'm all Irish not half. And I'm Catholic."

"I'm half Irish - and sorta Catholic."

"Your a Catholic Catholic," she said.

I nodded and smiled, "Right."

Her skin was pale and faintly freckled in the Galic way, and beginning to pink in the sun – I imagined it was soft and moist feeling like a flower petal. Hair was deeply red, the color of redwood bark. She wasn’t large or robust looking, Amazonian like Julie, petit really, was actually a wafe of a gal; thin boney body, stringy arms and legs, chest pleasantly formed mounds, but spare. Her nose was pointed and small and looked perfect and distinquishing – like the Kennedy’s and their noses; her lips thin and delicate. The whole face was delicate looking, with cheeks slightly sunken over firm high bones. She covered with the glasses one of her strong points – her eyes, bright, unusually tourqois, I remembered how they looked lit almost. She had a soft real beauty about her - exquisite and fetching.

The other Nancy was blond and plain, hair flaxen and thin, seemed to lay slight on her head. She had rounded puffy chipmunk cheeks and a small roundish button nose, her body looked curveless and skinny, and her skin had an anemic looking opaqueness.

I looked back at Klug, "So how's the book?"

"Still like it."

"Where are you in it?"

"Where Rex bags Julia."

"Their secret engagement."

"Yeah - cause he's dark."

I looked back at the girls, "It was nice meeting you gals."

"Nice meeting you Van," the red headed Nancy said.

The other said simply, "Nice meeting you."

I left the roof and decided to relent about going over and seeing Julie. When I got over there though, I didn't see her around the house, and when I knocked on her door no one answered. Damn.

8 Most of that evening Julie played on my mind with the usual boyfull stream of conscience reveries. Her in bed, I too in her bed - with her. She breathing as if dreaming of lovers. The cylinders of my creative engines were in overdrive imagining how it would be, and how she would be and look. I thought about her when I left her door, when I went back and napped in my bunk - fortunately dinner came along before I needed a cold shower - then later that evening when I went back over to her room and again found the door shut and my knocking hollow and unanswered - and then even later she was there knocking at my subconscious when Klug, Brad and I went over to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraturnity house.

Apparently Brad and Klug had befriended the two rush chairman for the fraternity the night before at the SAE barbecue. And in a recruiting move, one of the chairmen had telephoned Brad at the house and proffered an invite for a mild mannered evening of beer and fellowship with the brothers. Brad asked if I wanted to go along.

"He telephoned over here? At the Sigma house?" I asked on hearing about it, it striking me odd that a rival fraternity would call another looking for perspective pledges.

"Yeah so what?" Brad said. "He knows were just livin' over here."

Julie wasn't around, Nate had gone with Mel over to the Ave to see a movie at the theater. Faced with the dungeon and TV, or the meat locker and a book, or roaming aimless through the house corridors, I decided well what the heck and asked, "Sure it's okay I go - what's goin' on?"

"Sure it's okay," Brad said, "we're just gonna hang out and drink some beer."

"Just go with us man," Klug said, "nothin' to do round here."

"I'm not gonna tell them I'm rushing though," I said.

Brad said, "That's okay - just tell ‘em your going to Princeton. Just don't tell ‘em you graduated."

As we walked over, with the evening just beginning to turn the sky into the darker lucent blue of twilight, I again asked them what their intentions were with the SAE's.

Brad said, "I like the guys better and they got better looking girls around the house."

"There were good looking girls at the Delta party," I said.

"A few," Brad said. "That one you ended up with was one - and there was a couple other ones."

"Thought the two you guys ended up with were good looking?" I said, chiding.

Brad admitted, "Not really. I just said that to Nate 'cause he's a prick."

"So she was fat?" I asked.

"She wasn't that fat, her body was okay. She just wasn't, I don't know - cut off her head and she'd lose a few ugly pounds."

"Her face was kinda fishy," Klug said.

"Well yours was sorta scrawny," Brad said to Klug.

"Yeah - she was definitely cab waiting," Klug said.

"Cab waiting?" I asked.

"You know man," Klug explained, "instead a send the cab home and keep her for an all-nighter."

I nodded. Of course - such a blatant metaphor, how could I have not seen it.

We came to the corner of thirteenth and thirtieth, and approached the house - one of the two Tudors facing on each corner. Laid out the house was like the Sigma house - a house with an added side annex. But it was much larger and far more impressive looking. With patterned brick and stone work in the walls, with chimneys all around rising out of steeply pitched roofs and overlapping gables, an oriel in front, stone framing each window and forming an arch around the recessed entrance door, with castellation over the level roof line of the annex, the Tudor style was imbued with a definite medieval glare. Brad led the way though the door into an interior of inlaid wood floors, golden hued oak paneling over all walls, a living room with an open adjacent library room, both furnished with brown leather sofas and armchairs and oak tables, all in good condition. In the library the walls were floor to ceiling in shelves carrying books in multi-volume sets bound in leather or leather like materials. In one of the living room windows was a pain of smoked glass with the fraternities crest etched over it.

"Nice huh?" Brad said.

"Yeah it is," I said. It was even more deluxe than was my supper club meeting house at Princeton. We went up some stairs with brown darkly stained wood balustrades, then down a hall of white plaster walls and periodically set brown wood paneled doors, to one of the doors that had a piece of cardboard tacked on it. Scrawled in black felt pen over the cardboard was the label: SAE Chapter Rush H.Q.; and below that was taped a piece of notebook paper with another scrawled message: NO ZEROS AT THIS TIME.

I said, "No zeros?"

Brad said, "Yeah - no Sigma’s." Then he pounded on the door.

From inside, elicited from Brad's pounding, came a few lively shouts and pointed crude expletitives and a "go away" and "go to hell."

I looked at Klug, "A callous welcome."

Brad shouted, "Hey it's us - open up."

"Who's us?" Came another shout.

Brad shouted, "Who the hell do you think?"

After a quiet moment the door cracked open a few inches or so, through the slit I could see a long pale face below curling neatly cut brown hair dominated by a pair of thin rimmed tortoise shell glasses. The eyes behind the glasses seemed to brighten as he saw who was knocking. Brad pushed the door open knocking the guy back a little, and the guy let out a churlish giggly laugh and said, "Just checkin' for zeros."

Brad said, "You’re a zero."

Then from inside I heard someone laugh and the guy with the glasses said with humor, "That's not bein' a polite rushee."

We walked into a long room with a wood bunk bed and small wood desks. A small couch was against the wall fronted with a like sized coffee table. A couple metal folding chairs were in front. Snow and water skis leaned in a couple corners and a beer poster hung on otherwise blank white walls. Within a small bookshelf were a few text books and several pictures in plastic frames - a couple of girls and a few group shots - revelers with beer cans in hand, and amusing expressions. On the far narrow wall opposite the door was a large window overlooking the front yard and street.

I was introduced to Karl Mueller - the one with the glasses, and Ben Straun. Ben had short cut wavy black hair and a pale almost yellowing boyish narrow face with small green eyes and small features. He was wearing a yellow t-shirt with the SAE logo in purple over the front and levis; he shook my hand firmly but mildly from his chair looking up at me and smiling. Karl had larger well proportioned features, brown hair also a little wavy and cut and combed conservatively, it was a friendly open face with intelligence - or perhaps it was the glasses. Like Ben, and like a lot of the guys I was to meet up there, his complexion was on the pale side. He was wearing kaki shorts and a white t-shirt with Hawaiian flowers striped around the middle; his legs were almost white, as if they hadn’t seen sun in months. He shook my hand enthusiastically gripping hard, and staring through his lenses unwavering he said, "So you going here in the fall with these guys?"

I shook my head, "No I'm up here trying to get a job fishing."

"Yeah - they told us about that - any bites?" Karl said, following it up with his giggly laugh. "Just a pun there."

I graciously smiled and laughed, slightly, and said, "Not yet."

Ben then said, "Don't mind him - he's sort of corny."

Karl shrugged as he said, "Hey that's me - corny. Corny Karl."

They offered us some beers and Ben asked if I was even going to college. Brad spoke for me: "Hey, he goes to Princeton."

Karl then kidded, "Oh - and your not gonna transfer to the University of Washington?"

"Couldn't get in," I said.

"That's right - gotta be real brainy to go here," Karl said.

"Yeah like Karl," Ben said.

Karl said to me, "Hey I got brains, sometimes. You look like you're kinda smart."

"He's a wiz man," Klug said.

"But no fun," Brad said.

"No fun?" Karl said. "Don't they have fun at Princeton?"

I shrugged, "Now and then, I guess."

Klug said, "No way man. At Princeton they don't have fun, they don't party or rage, they socialize."

Karl laughed, "Yeah, and they don't screw, they intracourse."

Everyone was amused and this led to questions about the women at Princeton.

"Hate to date some chic smarter than me," Karl said.

Ben said, "That just leaves the whole female population - and Annie."

"Oh come on," Karl said, "she's not smarter than I am."

Ben rolled his eyes, "His girlfriend - she's a little different."

"She's not bad," Karl said, then lifted one of the pictures off the shelf, "See - she's good looking."

I nodded, "Yeah - not bad." And judging from the picture she wasn't.

"He just doesn't like women," Karl said nodding toward Ben.

"No - just certain woman," Ben said. "So any girls at Princeton?"

"Yeah - a few," I said.

“Hey, this guy gets all the chicks, he plays football and the NFL’s lookin’ at him.”

“The NFL? Really?” Ben asked impressed.

It seemed to me I better set the record straight – if I was an NFL prospect, what the hell was I doing there? I said, “Brad’s exaggerating some – a couple NFL scouts came to some games last year, but nothing happened. I wasn’t drafted. I don’t think they liked what they saw.”

“He’s just playin’ modest.” Brad said.

“Bet you do get the chicks – I mean Princeton? They gotta be all over that.” Karl said.

I shook my head and said, “Its not what you think.”

“He just don’t know how to capitalize on it.” Brad said.

“Somehow I bet he does.” Ben said.

Another of the brothers came in. He was wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and a checkered blue and white shirt with the parabolic western stitching under the shoulders. His face was narrow and high boned with a small slightly upturned nose; it was a youngish face. He was tall, and not thick – lean; but big sized, and he had healthy looking darker tanned skin. Karl said eagerly, "Hey Star meet these guys - they're from California. This guy here is Joe - he goes to Princeton and plays football – and the NFL’s gonna draft him.”

Star looked us over a moment then in a deeper young voice rolling slightly in the country way said, "Who plays for the NFL?”

"This guy Jack, right here," Ben said, pointing to me.

Star looked at me and held forth his hand and said, "Son, consider yourself pledged."

We laughed and Karl said, "Star I told yeah - he goes to Princeton - he ain't rushin' - he's just with these guys here. They're rushin'."

Then Star looked over at Brad and Klug and said, "How you boys doin'. How well you know this guy?"

Brad said, "Grew up with him."

Then Star said looking at Karl, "Well give these boys a bid - just for knowin' him."

Brad said, "Naw we can't be that easy - we got our reputation. We'll give ‘em a bid later - tonight."

Star was offered and took a beer and sat in. Apparently he was from Oklahoma and was the current President of the house. Ben and Karl were compadres from way back and came from Bellingham, a small town north of Seattle near the Canadian border. "What do they do in Bellingham?" I asked.

"Nothin’ - it's a hick town," Star said.

"Like Oklahoma's a hick state," Karl said.

Star gave Karl a hard look.

Ben said more serious, "There's logging and a couple cannery's."

"Crab canary's?" I said.

"Naw - its all salmon," Ben said. "All the crab stuffs in Alaska."

Then the discussion came around to us living in the Sigma house, Star said, "What you boys doin' livin' way over there? Those guys are nobody's."

Brad said, "That's what I've been sayin'."

"Oh yeah - don't pledge those guys," Karl said. "How come your livin' there? You can live here - we got plenty a room."

"We're not pledgin' that house," Brad said.

"Yeah you boys start hangin' with us," Star said.

"We and the Phi Gam's across the street are the two best houses. There's other good houses, but we're the two biggest and best. Just ask the babes. You ain't gonna see any Theta's, or Pi Phi's, or D.G.'s at the Sigma house. They crawl over this place. And they're all great lookin’. 'Cept for Karl's girlfriend."

"Hey - lay off Annie already," Karl implored good humouredly.

I offered passable though politely minimalist muniments on behalf of the apparent Ishmealmic Sigma’s, "They're not bad guys. They're taking care of us. They had a party last night and we all had a good time."

Karl said, formulating a kind of sales pitch: "Sure you can have a good time with those guys. Just like you can get someplace in a Volkswagen. Here your gonna have a more quality time and your gonna be gettin' there in a Cadillac. Compare our houses, our guys, the girls we get to our parties. There's no comparing us and them. They're nerds - they ain't Greeks, they're geeks."

We laughed, and then Klug said, "So you guys are the rhinos huh man?"

"That's right boy." Star said, "Those Sigma’s are so intimidated by us, it's kinda funny."

We socialized an hour or so more along similar lines until it was brought up and decided that Karl, Ben, and Star, along with a couple other SAE brothers would take the three of us for a night swim in the lake. When the prospect was first mentioned Brad said, "I don't got my trunks."

Klug pointed out, "Your wearin' shorts - use those."

"But they aren't trunks."

Brad didn't seem enthused over a brisk black baptismal swim.

"Just wear your shorts ya wimp," Karl said and laughed.

"Really man, be a rhino," Klug said. "A swim would be alright - I need to get wet."

"What are you gonna wear?" Brad asked Klug, who was in levis.

"Don't know man, probably nothin," Klug said. "I'll just let it hang."

Shouts and hoots followed that and Brad said, "Your a water lily."

Karl and Ben ended up supplying us with trunks and shorts; then we all went downstairs to the house parking lot. Karl walked over to his car, a several year old faded lime green Buick something or other with a landau roof, one from the gas guzzling luxury class. As the big car pulled out of the parking stall Klug asked, "Will it float?"

Ben said sheepishly, "I know - what a hog huh?"

A shiny new black pick up, on raised suspension, with oversized tires and two halogen lights on the cab roof, like bug eyes, pulled quickly and recklessly into the lot and stopped with a short screech head on with Karl's car. In the cab driving was Star and next to him another SAE. Star then turned on the high beams and the lights on the roof washing Karl's car in blinding bright white light. Then he honked and shouted out of the driver side window, "Let's roll!"

Karl shouted out of his side window, "Get those lights off! I can’t see!"

"Your already blind - four eyes!" Star shouted.

We got into Karl's car. Ben up front, Klug, Brad, and I in back. Star reversed the truck to back out of the parking lot and we followed. After we were on the street rolling, Klug said to Karl, "Nice boat man, floats smooth."

Karl then said amiably, "Hey don't say anything about my car. It's my family's car."

"Yeah, been handed down through the generations," Ben said.

"Family heirloom huh," I said.

Ben looked back at me, smiled and nodded, "That's right an heirloom."

"Go ahead," Karl said, "make fun, say all you want. Here I am driving everybody, my time, my gas, my car, go ahead make fun - be assholes."

Ben looked back at us and rolled his eyes, "Karl's had a hard life."

We drove down a few residential streets alit only with bluish florescent streetlights. As we neared the lake the trees became numerous, as if the neighborhood was within a forest. Then we drove down a dark street without street lighting. The trees were dark around us, silhouetted against the moonlit sky, their height closed in over and darkened the street. We parked behind Star's pick up and got out and changed our clothes. We were introduced to Jason Thomson, the other SAE who rode with Star. In the dark, Jason looked medium height and heavy set, not fat or plump - large and soft. His hair shined blond in the shadowy moonlight and his head was rounded. The night felt coolish on our skin. We walked down a pebbly dirt path through the tall pines toward the water. Brad asked, "Is the water warm?"

Jason said, "Hell no - it's runoff from the mountains."

Karl was ouching and ooing over his feet hurting on the pebbles poking his souls.

"What's runoff?" Brad asked.

"It's water that's from melting snow," Ben said.

Brad stopped, "Hey - the waters gonna be colder an hell. I ain't freezin' my ass off."

"It isn't that bad," Ben said. "If Karl can take it, you can."

"What da yeah mean if Karl can take it?" Karl said. "Who are you?" Then he cursed and said, "Ouch! That one was a sharp one. We almost there?"

"Almost Tender Foot," Star said.

My eyes had adjusted better to the dark. I could see the narrow dirt path leading downward another twenty or so yards. At the end I could see a smooth glossy dark surface with silvery shimmers of reflected moonlight. At the bottom of the path we came out of the trees into a small lagoon-like place, a smugglers' cove. A black lustration pool was laid out before us. A half moon along the lakeside created by two terraces lifting out of the lake and curving into the shoreline. A wooden pier, which looked in the dark like a burned over narrow wood walkway, was laid out into the water. Star and Jason ran right out onto the pier and jumped off. The rest walked slowly onto the dock with trepidation. Klug though became impatient and jogged to the end and dove off also. His body knifed into the black followed by a small fountain of bubbling phosphorescent splash. The rest of us stood on the dock awhile watching the others swim. My arms were crossed in front of me - an attempt to ward off the cooling air which seemed to have become cooler on the lake side. Brads arms were also crossed. Then Ben said, "Well here goes," then he jumped. Brad asked Karl, "Is it really run off?"

Karl shook his head, "Naw. It's not bad once you get in and get used to it - it's just gettin' in."

I said, "Well I'm here, I'm goin' in." I stepped over to the end of the dock and heard splashing and yelping out in the dark, then I jumped in. In my ears I heard the kerumpsh sound of spreading then enveloping water, and the liquid slapped cold as I went under. I could feel my breath quicken as I came to the surface. With some swift flailing movement I knew I would get used to it. Eventually Star and Klug had to throw Brad and Karl in. Soon like Apsaras in a lotus pond we were all in swimming and cavorting around.

Jason, Star, and Klug began climbing terrace rocks that rose precipitous over the water and were jumping off. I tried it once, it was a thrill. Climbing about twenty five feet above the water then jumping out into the black night, then into the black sheer liquid. As they were jumping a contest developed. First Jason had gone higher on the rocks, with Klug and Star following. Then once at the top of the terrace, Jason dove off with a swan dive. I was impressed - he was at least twenty five feet up. Star followed also with a dive. But Klug out did them all – he impressively performed a front flip. Shouts and challenges cried out from the dark waters to Jason and Star. Jason went up on the rocks and stood a while trying to muster enough nerve. Ben yelled, "Come on! Your not gonna let the pledge out do yeah!"

Jason ended up diving, and Star said, "I'll do the flip - that's no big thing." He climbed up the rocks and followed Klug's lead.

Klug, as he swam next to me said, "Watch this one man - I'll get ‘em on this one." He scampered up the rocks, like a monkey climbing, his long arms and legs shadowy extensions reaching ahead and grabbing on for balance. At the top, he stood with his back toward the lake and then executed a perfect back flip. More shouts rose up out of the blackness challenging Star. Star swam to the rocks, climbed up, then stood at the top, his back to the abyss. He stood a while and I could see him looking back over his shoulder. A couple times he crouched down as if he was going to jump, false starts. Karl yelled, "Come on - make the dive!"

After a few moments more of standing he turned around and dove off headfirst. Ben and Karl moaned. When Stars head reared to the surface, Jason shouted, "Wha happened? You haired?"

"Couldn't do it - I don't know," Star said noticeably humbled.

"All it is," Karl said, "is a front flip done backwards."

"Then you go do it," Star said.

"Naw - I can't see well enough," Karl said.

"Then don't talk," Star said.

"The pledge nailed yeah - that won't go unnoticed," Ben said.

Star shouted a curse and swam over to the cliff and hurried back up. At the top he again stood with his back to the water and made a few false starts, then did a half-assed sideways flip.

When Star came to the surface Karl said, "You haired again. That was no back flip."

Hearing this Star growled a loud shout and with his arms outstretched overhead, came out of the water chest high, like a rising leviathan, and pounced on Karl pushing his head under water. There was a splashing struggle with Star repeatedly shoving Karl's head under the water. We accompanied with shouting and laughing. Star said a couple of times with the downward thrust on Karl’s head, "This'll shut yeah up a while!" After several dunks Karl's head would surface and I could hear him gasp air quickly and yelp a faint, "Okay! Okay!" But Star was relentless. Finally there was a stillness and Star asked, "Where'd he go?"

"You killed him," Jason said and laughed.

A couple seconds later Karl's head surfaced and he loudly gasped for air and coughed.

"There you are!" Star shouted and started swimming toward him.

Between coughs and quick breathing Karl managed to say quickly "Get away from me - I can't breath you crazy asshole!"

As Star came nearer Karl shouted, "Get him away from me!" Then he swam in a splashing flailing anxious crawl toward the dock. Just as Karl's hand was on the dock, Star caught his leg. Karl shouted, "Let go of my leg! You asshole! Let go!"

We were all well entertained and chortling over the fierce clowning. Karl was holding onto the dock and Star was trying to pull him away, but Karl was kicking up a good fight. Then Star let slip the leg and Karl pulled himself quickly up, chinning himself, onto the dock. He then rolled over away from the edge and amid heavy breathing and coughing and moaning said, "You asshole, you almost drowned me."

We laughed.

"Look at him," Star said, jeering good humouredly, "the beached whale."

Karl then turned languidly over onto this stomach and laid there until we all got out and were drying off.

Jason said to him, "You just gonna lay there?"

"I can't move," Karl said in a hags screechy voice. "I'm mel-ting! I'm mel-ting!"

Ben dead panned, "Well don't melt here - you'll pollute the lake."

Then Karl got up and toweled himself. I noticed as Karl was occupied with the toweling, Star was slyly making his way toward Karl. Then Karl saw him and ran quickly up the pier shouting, "Get away from me asshole!"

Star stepped past Jason who was dry and standing with his towel in hand at the edge of the pier. Star said, "Oops!" As he broadsided Jason with a thrust of his forearm. Jason fell into the water. Before splashing in he squealed a curse at Star.

From the water Jason shook his bobbing head and squirted a jet of water out of his mouth and said, "Star, you’re a prick."

Star replied, "And son - your wet."

Karl shouted at Jason, "Hey we're leavin' - you gonna swim all night?"

Jason had floated over by the dock near where Karl was standing, he held his hand over him holding the dock. He said looking up at Karl, "What'd you say Mule?"

"I said you look kinda wet there," Karl said with his laugh, "and we're all kinda dry." He had stepped closer to the edge to look down at Jason.

Jason looked up at him and said, "What you say Mule?" Then before Karl could answer again, Jason pulled himself quickly out of the water and with a wide reaching swipe of his hand lunged for Karl's feet. Karl danced backward but not quite far enough and Jason caught one of his ankles and started dragging Karl to the edge. Karl was squirming his leg, wiggling it as best he could, but Jason's grip was firm and he slowly pulled Karl, who hopped along with his other leg until falling onto his rear. Then with a hard pull, Jason fell back into the water, still holding the leg, and Karl slid on his rear over the edge. Karl went yelping and cursing and splashing into the water. In the water, Jason tried the same dunking game with Karl, but he was not as powerful as Star and the two ended up wrestling and splashing around. Soon the two were back on the dock toweling off and complaining that the towels were damp.

As he dried off, Karl with mock disdain said, "And they call this brotherhood."

We walked stepping charily over the pebbles back up the narrow steep path. As we drove back Karl mentioned something about a party at the SAE house a couple nights hence and we said we would attend. Karl also said to Klug, I suppose to lessen the sting of Stars hectoring, "You really out did ol' Star there on the cliff."

"Tough dive man," Klug said. "Gotta get used to it in a pool - and helps if it's daytime. Hard to go backwards - the brains sayin' go but same time it’s sayin’ no. Then in the dark on a cliff - no chance.”

I thought about what Fitzgerald had said about genius.

9 Over the next couple of weeks we had gotten in thick with the life of the fraternities between the Sigma's and SAE's. We had taken Nate to a couple of SAE parties and dinners and he too had become as us, fast friends with Star, Karl, and Ben, and a few others. While Brad and Klug were staying aloof from the Sigma's, with our hosts – or landlords I suppose, Nate and I were making efforts to be socially available. We went drinking with Mel and Jim Procter occasionally to the 901 Club - as well as an occasional dinner at Moms. One day Bill Rutherford invited me to go sailing with him on the lake; I accepted, and we started sailing quite a lot together. He introduced me to the University's boathouse, which was well equipped with an array of sailing craft in various small boat classes. Students with registration cards could check out any of the boats for use on the lake. Mel let me use his registration card; the administration at the boat house was fairly laxed and simply showing them a card was sufficient for checking out a boat. It was like having access to one's own yacht club. Soon I became a proficient sailor.

With Julie, my girl next door, my voluptuous Helen, she helped me to all but forget Janie. After spending the night with her that first night I had high expectations for an early and easy seduction; but, I found myself going out with her quite a lot, even sleeping over in her room quite a lot, even doing just about everything quite a lot - but not at all getting to the heart of the matter. She continued to hide behind that archaic standby, that unimaginative worn out road block to the tunnel of love - that euphemism - that typical bit - about us not knowing one another quite well enough. It was a frustrating Sisyphian agonizing toil. We would roll around in her hay devoid of clothes even but still it was the no treatment. I wondered if she was a Sibyl. I of course played the nice and patient guy routine on the come and on the surmise it was a treasure worth mining for. She was such a dish. An eyeful for an eyeful, something easy for reconnoitering eyes to make welcome to the heart. When we would take ourselves public she would not get stares but gawks. Once when we were at the movies an older dashing looking gent with a moustache came up to me and said, "Listen - your an idiot if you don't marry that." I thanked him for his earnestly given advise and added, "Your probably right." But frankly that was not to be - Janie was in my mind - and heart of hearts, my soul mate, the one, my one and only, my betroth to be, my Venus. And no buxom beauty, no matter how angelic and stacked, was to change that. But while that was affixed in my mind, I had all but stopped thinking of Janie. Apparently my willingness to see her side of things, to understand her need of space and her time to career, to keep things distant and let her experience other guys, to postpone any serious long term linkage between the two of us, it had all kicked in and taken it's soothing effect to my subconscious. I was no longer dreaming of her, emoting over her vacancy, in fact I was sleeping well – especially when sleeping with Julie.

Nate was having girl troubles also. Though he had earlier effected a posture of non-chalance toward the fairer sex, I could see he was taken by the Irish Nancy. His courtship was slow out of the gate. First came the incident at the piano. Then since it turned out the two Nancy's were also boarding in the house for the summer, there were encounters of occasional chit chat when paths crossed around the house. Then the Sigma's had another bash and there the two danced, hung out together some - but still Nate didn't seem to be making definite inroads. One day on the bus in route to the docks I asked him about her - if there was a delightful chemistry. I broached the subject from an angle saying, "That Nancy Keogh is sort of a dish."

"Think so huh?" He said seemingly unengaged.

"Yeah, I think so. And I think you kinda like her - I think you oughta ask her out."

He replied simply, "You think too much."

The bus stopped and we got out, and as we walked down to the docks, I prodded further, undaunted by his boorish uncooperative mood. "I don't know why you don't want to talk about her, or ask her out. You’re not gonna be serious about maintaining this priestly thing are you? When a dish like her is out there ready for the taking?"

He kept walking, looking toward the warehouses, "I don't like her that much."

"What's wrong with her?"


"Like what?"

"I don't like red heads."

"Aw, come on."

"I don't have time to lollygag with some girl like you've been doin’."

"I see - so you think if you get involved then you'll start slacken off gettin' on a boat?"

"Yep - just like you."

"I have slacked a little - but not because of Julie."


That was the end of the discussion for we had come to the warehouse wherein cradled atop a metal trailer with racks was the boat we were working on. Nate had been assigned by Olly a sailing sloops hull to sand and repaint with the epoxy-like underwater paint. And he had talked Olly into hiring me to assist. We had been working on the hull with small electric disc sanders, sanding blocks, and sand paper for a couple of days. The rest of that day we worked diligently and talked sparingly, but not about Nancy.

I knew Nancy had a yen for him. I could tell by the way she looked at him that night on the piano bench. The eyes looking through the gossamer stare. Then that observation was underlined a few nights later. Myself and Julie, Karl and his girlfriend, Nate, Klug, Ben, and the two Marys, went downtown to a movie. We went to a Theatre near the downtown that screened old movies. We saw THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. I liked it, but I’ve always been kind of a sucker for those classic oldies. The others seemed to take a tepid acceptance of it. Klug didn’t like the movies pace, and thought it unrealistic, he said: “Kind of a snoozer man,” and added, “I liked the loser guys first wife – sexy party blond. He dumps her for that skinny flat wench, no way man.” Karl said the town in the movie, Boom Town, was sort of like their hometown. He said, “We gotta drug store just like the one in the movie with a counter serving ice cream and sandwiches.” Then Ben claimed Karl was “On drugs,” that the drugstore in the movie was big and crowded, that the drugstore in their home town was small and most of the time empty, that their were no fancy banks in town like the one in the movie, or high rent apartment buildings like the one Fredrick March and his family lived in – and every bar in town was a dive bar, nothing like the clean well lighted place, Butch’s Bar, in the movie. I replied to all that by saying, “In other words, Bellingham is no Boom Town.” Catching the sort of outside double entandre, Ben said, “Pretty much.” Then Karl asked his girlfriend if he went to war and lost his hands – would she wait around for him to come back and then marry him, even if he returned with hooks for hands. She replied, “If you went off to war I wouldn’t even wait around for you. What? I’m supposed to stay celibate and bored while you leave for a couple years?” Everyone laughed, then Karl said, with good humor, but with also I thought a slight tinge of dissapointment at his girls simple honesty, “Well, guess I better not go fight a war.” The two Nancy’s were quiet. I asked Nate when we left the theatre what he thought, he just shrugged one shoulder and said, “Wasn’t bad.” But I could see he was preoccupied when we left, likely thinking about the movie, I speculated. I would have bet the scenes with the handless sailor in his bedroom with the pictures on the wall of him playing football and basketball with a strong healthy body, and then with his girlfriend who came over and loved him in spite of his handicap, struck some inner cord. He was likely reminded, as was I, how we both had a girl next door, that we had lived in a way in that homespun Rockwellian, black and white movie way. And he was likely thinking how he had lost his girl, and he was probably thinking how Maryline was like that girl in the movie – would have loved him all of her days, and would have waited for him if he had gone to war and would have still loved him if he came back handicapped – and how he had taken that love for granted and screwed all that up. Then I thought – but truly, would Maryline have waited for Nate and loved him all her days even if he came back handicapped? Returning from war without hands posed problems enough. How good would the sex be? Judging from the movie, apparently no one had much sex or thought about it much post world war two. Then what if one came back even worse, partially paralyzed, or even worse? Was a young girl supposed to dedicate the rest of her life to this boy next-door love interest because that is what it means to be a swell gal? Maybe Klug was right, Robert Sherwood had written a nice neat screenplay, but perhaps too nice and too neat. Then I remembered about the rumors of Maryline fooling around with a couple other guys, and Nate wasn’t even away at war, just an hours freeway drive away in LA. Then I thought about Janie and saw myself returning home from our fishing crusade and she come running over to my house to see me home with yearning hugs and kisses and her telling me how confused she had been when I left and how she had come to her senses and how she would love me from then on all my days - even if I went to war and lost my hands, or worse. Yes, I actually spun that vision of loveliness around in my simple minded cabeza. I suppose that’s why I secretely liked the old black and white movies, those Capraesque visions; I secretly longed for life to be just like that. Of course it wasn’t. But be that as it may, it was still not a bad movie, I thought.

We all rode in the bus and Karl's Buick. Nancy and Nate at first were keeping apart, then talking and joking between one another now and then, a barely perceptible flirting and coming together. But both were cautious - like sumo wrestlers standing off. And Nancy was at the same time being sly - flirting more overtly with Klug. She sat next to Klug on the way over on the back seat of the bus, sat next to him in the movie, even sat next to him later in the Japanese sushi eatery we went to after the movie. I was even beginning to think perhaps I had miss-called it - maybe it was Thor, the surf god, she actually favored. But after the movie we were standing outside under the marquee, under the bright lights, waiting for the cars to be brought around, and I caught Nancy looking at Nate again with the gaze - with even a half smile this time. And Nate returned it briefly - actually more than briefly. Then when we were sitting at the sushi joint she teased him attentively and charmingly about not indulging in the more peculiar raw Japanese delights: squid. All of us had explored the white cut up finger sized pieces of the formless chance-like apparition of life, but Nate would not, saying, "I really don't like raw fish - and I don't like squid."

Then Nancy said, "Live a little stiff guy."

Even under the prodding he passed on the chewy delicacy. I didn't really care for it myself - but I tried some at least - Nate was a stiff.

I liked this Nancy rather. I could see significant attributes. But Nate had got there first, and well, Nate being Nate it was appearing he was her preference. Besides her classy look she had spunk and humor - sand. We got to talking about the Sigma's, and someone mentioned how Brad, though living in the house, wouldn't even give them the time of day. Then Karl's girlfriend asked why he didn't like them. And Klug said, "’Cause they all walk around with their fly's open." We all laughed about this because, though it was mostly an exaggeration, a couple of them like Jim Procter for instance, did indeed have a habit, as we had observed when we were first introduced, of leaving undone a couple buttons on his fly. I said, "I wonder why they do that - you'd think they could at least square away their pants?"

Then Nancy explained it, "That's they're mating call."

We all laughed. That was one thing about Julie, though a temple of comeliness - she was also a foster child of silence and slow time. She wasn't exactly quick with the wit or even conversation. Nor frankly did she seem quick about or well versed in any matters of the mind. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I passed it off on her extreme youth. In fact when we went out, or were together, just the two of us, I did most of the talking. But she was very nice. A nice person, nice looking, nice demeanor, nice, just nice all around. What else does a guy want? Some scraggly ironing board of an intellectual to philosophize with?

Another thing about that Nancy, she had in her Pacific Northwest way a sense of her style. I could tell she didn’t spend wads on her clothes. She probably couldn’t - a life situational thing. But in what she did spend I thought it was tastefully and smartly done. At that time, the college girls we saw up there, by in large, seemed to dress casually in a fifties and early sixties style - in the post Victorian pre-Vietnam Kennedy and pill box hat phase - when pants were still cuffed and trouser legs still straight. Flower power and flared jeans had been closeted, and up there fashion had reverberated back to the pre-disillusioned button downed narrow lapelled days, days of 501 Levis with rolled up legs, white socks and penny loafers, cotton oxfords - tails in and out, tennis shirts, rayon Hawaiian flowered shirts, some off the shoulder blouses, V-neck sweaters over white t-shirts, all that kind of thing. Most of what Nancy wore was along these lines, and I never saw her wear an outfit that was frilly or dumbly excessive. Julie had a tendency in that way - though she was also mostly in the style - she had a few blouses with bows and frills that added nothing really, except to detract from the smartness - too many buttons, billowy sleeves, nutty looking bows in odd places, wide belts, mismatched colors - the paraphernalia that seems to plague clothes of lesser cost. But not Nancy. And Janie was the same way. I can't recall Janie wearing something ridiculous or even something minorly accented with the ridiculous. Mostly traditional, understated and smart. The night we all went to the movies Nancy wore a jacket that was in the varsity cut with olive green gathered wrists, waist and neck bands to accent the body of the jacket colored in greenish shades of camouflage. It was a duck hunters jacket. Now how many girls would pull that off the rack and think it nifty enough for evening wear? And confidently wear it as an accouterment to their personal style? And look good in it? She was clever and had taste - and her fashion smacked of it. Pacific Northwest chic. The day following the movie and sushi I expressed to Nate some of these observations on Nancy. He replied, "So why don't you ask her out then if she's such a hot number to ya."

"I would but she likes you. Therein - lies her most obvious flaw - taken with you over the Princeton Phenom."

He rolled his eyes.

After the movie and sushi night Nancy was still standoffish with Nate - but he was making progress. Now when they ran into one another in the house the chit chat would prolong. On a couple of occasions Nate and I had even gone down to the two Nancy's room and sat around and socialized, drank some beer, and watched the two ladies smoke cigarettes. During one of these sessions I had noticed a picture laying on their chiffonier of a well tanned sterling looking male type - frankly even more than sterling. I asked, having become meddlesome, "So who's this guy?"

She explained, "Just someone I did some modeling with." It turned out she did modeling in local Seattle fashion shows and sometimes for ads in local periodicals. Nate didn't say anything. I pried further, "He's a model huh - here in town?"

"No, he's in New York now," She said. "He's doing pretty well - he's doing ads for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein."

"Sounds glamorous," I said.

"It's not, believe me," She said.

Woman are funny. And strange. Strange and funny, funny and strange. And didn't the great Bard say something about their name being frail. I read someplace, some wise advise - best to try not to comprehend them - more apprehend - and I would say add - a generous mind and flexible will - and an air of independence. And of course, if you got it – lady-killer looks always help.

When Nate finally linked up with Nancy, fusioned the random emotional nuclei, it was after a night on the town. Nancy had a friend from her home town come to the house for a brief visit. The friend was also a model and was supposedly entering the big time. She was staying the night with the Nancy’s at the frat house before catching a plane the following morning to Paris for several months of modeling work. Before the she arrived Nancy showed Nate and I some photos of her friend in a French magazine. In the pictures the friend looked quite pretty and cute with shortly cut brown blond hair, a high cheek boned triangular face and tiny nose, nice blue eyes under long slim brows, all melded together atop a models body and over perfect appearing brownish pale skin. Impressive photos. Still, I opted to hold off any real judgment until confronted with the genuine article. I had been around enough to know pictures could fib. At Princeton we had a famous movie actress and model in attendance; she had been in a couple of my classes. I had been startled by the difference the genuine article looked compared to the big screen image. She looked so different that if you didn’t know it was her you likely wouldn’t recognize her - or even pick her out as a beauty of particular note. And sure enough, when Nancy’s friend arrived the skin had lost the brown luster, was freckled and even had acne, the hair was thinner - much less full than it appeared in the slick photos. Ah, the renovating wonders of the photographic art. With the friend arrived, Klug, myself, Nate, and Mel, were all rounded up and with the two Nancy’s and friend, we all walked over to a bar on the Ave called Mac's - similar to the 901 only less crowded and with a couple pool tables. We drank, played some pool, listened to nostalgic tunes from the jute box, sat around and talked and flirted. As we drank more, I noticed the friend giving Nate the look - then an overt play - she sat down next to him in the booth we had monopolized all night and started talking away. I saw Nancy looking at this interplay from the pool table. Nate acted the innocent, simply kept talking, and didn't make any obvious overtures. He talked with her for most of the rest of the night we were in the bar, while we all downed more than a few drinks. At one point I had sat down in the booth and overheard her say, "I'll be in Paris almost a year, if your in Europe you should look me up."

Nate replied, "I'll be sure to do that, next time I'm in Paris."

Yeah next time he's in Paris – take the next plane out. What a charmer. As we walked back to the house I noticed now Nancy was hanging close to Nate, and it was apparent Nate saw something was up with her. After all, when all was said and done, Nate could take of himself. At the house everyone split up. Surprisingly, I ended up with the friend in the living room on the couch with Klug and the other Nancy. We talked some, but I was tired so I went up to the meat locker - and there I saw that Nate's bunk was empty. Just for curiosities sake I went downstairs to the Nancy’s room - the door was open and the room was empty. By algebra I figured the two had found a vacant room. I was mildly drunk and decided to go next door and sleep with Julie; which I did - sleep that is.

The following morning I showed up in the dining room at about half past eight, well hung over. I could see in the kitchen Nate cooking on the stove, and as usual, showered and ready for another workday. I walked in, he was preparing scrambled eggs. I asked him, "So what happened to you last night?"

"Last night - what'dya mean?"

"You know - when we got back?"

"I went to sleep."

"Sleep where?"


"Not in the meat locker you didn't."

"How would you know - you were next door."

"You weren't there when I left - you were with Nancy."


"If you can't tell me - who can you tell - so what happened?"

"Happened? What makes you think somethin' happened? Want some of this egg?"


My head hurt. I left it at that and went upstairs and took a few aspirin and fell back asleep. An hour later I felt my shoulder shake, I opened my eyes. It was Julie in shorts and t-shirt looking all together casual and gorgeous. I had opted not to go to the docks that day and had promised Julie to spend it with her. She said, "Thought we were going to breakfast?"

"Sorry I was a little hung over."

She smiled and sat down on my bunk. I sat up and kissed her. My head still hurt, but less so, and I felt only barely nauseous. I said, "Why don't we go sailing today? The suns out - it'll be warm."

"I'd like that."

So it was decided. But first she had some errands to run - go to the University bookstore on the Ave for a book she needed for one of her classes, then she had to drop off some papers at the student loan office on campus. I told her to go to the Ave, then back to her house and put on a swimming suit under her blouse and shorts and in the meantime I would sleep a little longer then get dressed - then meet her next door in an hour.

I caught up to her in her room. I knocked on her door and she asked who it was, and after identifying myself, she opened the door. She was still changing, she held her t-shirt over her and let me in. I watched her as she put on her suit top, she looked at me and smiled. She was coming around I thought. After she slipped on her t-shirt she picked up a small straw bag, about the size and shape of a briefcase and looked at me, "I'm ready."

"Good," I said.

We walked up thirteenth street toward the campus. She had to stop at the housing office which was in the bureaucratically christened Student Administration and Affairs Building. We walked along a narrow asphalt path through a grove of older trees of various kinds. The sun was warming the day and the sky was blue overhead and as we walked through the trees I could feel the warmth of the sun interspersing with the bare cool of the shade. As we came closer into the campus where the trees began thinning and the buildings multiplied, more students were all around milling and walking. The Stu Ad and Af Building was on one side of an expansive brick covered multi-terraced square surrounded by buildings of several stories, all artifacts of Modernism - brick, concrete, stucco, and glass variations of the cube. Over the terraced square were a couple steely sculptured soulful expressions. One was a triangular piece of steel - an isosceles folded along the altitude and suspended with flaps down. The other was a column of junky looking shapes - some statement about the progress of civilization likely. Several young trees stood from circular cuts in the brickwork. The building of our destination was a huge five story concrete and glass cubular monument to tax funded education. Again students were in abundance, most dressed casually, most with knapsacks, singly, milling in pairs and groups, walking to and fro, some intensely, some strolling, many were on the grass areas sitting and reading, or laying sunning. On the square the sun was warm and almost hot. As we came to the building I saw, at the entrance, as many students flooded in and out, a scraggly old man, with long gray hair and beard, and dirty clothes; he held a cardboard sign which said in bold black letters hand scrawled with a marking pen: HEAVENLY GOD!! IT IS US! And the old man was chanting like a carnival barker, what he was saying sounded familiar to me, and as we approached the flow of students coming and going and hurrying through the continually swinging entrance doors I caught the hobos chant: "God is centered everywhere and nowhere!" As we joined the flow and also walked through the swinging doors, I thought there was something familiar about that tune, I even asked Julie, "Did you hear what that guy was saying?"

"That bum?" She said.


"No - he's always there saying something."

I repeated it and said, "He's leaving something out."

Inside the building, we walked down a few crowded halls, then a couple not so crowded. Each hall was walled in white with grayish shiny terrazzo floors and light brown wood doors every dozen or so feet on both sides. Over the doors were small plastic plaques with the office title and room numbers, such titles as, Accounting, Religious Services, Food and Beverage, Yearbook, Housing - and then the office she was going to - Student Financial Aid. We walked into the office and she handed the envelope over to a lady behind a counter, and then we were back out in the hallways. Then she led me to the cafeteria, where we stepped over to a stainless steel counter, and we each took a stainless steel tray, and slid it down the counter and chose our breakfast from the offerings piled in large stainless steel pans. I selected pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, orange juice, and milk. She oatmeal and orange juice. As we ate, we conversed as we normally did with me asking the questions and her answering.

"What was in the envelope?"

"Oh - my loan papers. I had to get them in this week."

"Can you get a lot of money in loans?"

"Sure, at least a couple thousand a year."

"You pay for your college or does your dad?"

"My dad mostly. The loans pay some. He helps me with the loans."

"Sounds easy."

"It's pretty easy."

"What's your major?"

"I don't know yet. I was thinking of English, but they have one called Media and Communication."

"Media and Communication? Sounds very practical."

"It sounds interesting."

"What do you want to go into?"

"I don't know really, it be neat to go into TV news or advertising maybe."

"TV news huh," I said. Couldn't see it actually, I thought. She would have to become more forceful seeming, or powerful seeming, or rather just something more seeming. She had the look - just not the seeming.

"It looks like it would be interesting - don't you think?"

"Absolutely. I've thought of doing it myself."

She laughed.

"What's so funny?"

"You are."

"How's that?"

"Just how you say things - I can tell your real smart."

I smiled, "Your smart too - of course, you already know that."

She smiled again.

I said, "So you like advertising too huh?"

"Yeah, it looks like it would be interesting."

"What do you want to do in advertising?"

"I don't know really. Just work in it I guess - whatever you do."

"You should get a part time job in it to see if you like it."

"Yeah, probably should."

"I mean there's a lot of aspects to advertising, there's account executives, copyrighting, art directing. You may find you won't even like it."

"I know - right now I just think I might like to get into it. I have to get through college first, I guess." When she said this I noticed a slight rise of trepidation in her voice.

I said, "College isn't that hard."

"I don't know. That's why I'm here right now, I had to take some special summer classes to prepare me ‘cause I didn't do so well in high school."

"That's only because you were a cheerleader and had the best looking guy in school as a boyfriend and didn't study. If you study, you'll do okay. This isn't MIT here, the student's you'll be in class with will be just like you - and probably more nervous."

She smiled and laughed, "What's MIT?"

"It's no place - it's this place back east where all these brains hibernate for the winter. It's called Massachusetts's Institute of Technology. Try saying that with a mouthful of food - who want's to go someplace where you can't even say the name while your eating?"

She laughed. I had her going. I added, "Don't even think about that place. Human beings don't go there. They only let you in if you can read Chinese writing upside down. That's why they wouldn't let me in. I could read the Chinese but when they turned it upside down it looked Japanese, screwed me all up and I had to go to Princeton instead. Never really gotten over that."

She smiled, "Your really different."

I looked at her and smiled. I was in lust. She was so darn beautiful that just playing on her looks alone I figured would be sufficient to get her into something interesting - the ad biz, show biz, biz biz, whatever biz. After we ate, like dutiful well trained institutional eaters, we dumped our tray full of leftovers into a bin and left our steel trays in a rack with a plastic sign atop it reading: USED TRAYS. Looking at the sign I said to her, “I think the sign should say, STAINED STEEL TRAYS; what do you think?” She knitted her brow with a puzzled look and asked, “Why?” I realized I should have quit while I was ahead. I waved the comment off and said, “Nothin’, just something I was thinking.”

We left the cafeteria and went back down a couple more hallways, stopped at a small kiosk selling various candy and sundries, she purchased - I paid, a raspberry flavored Chapstick. We left the big building, out another set of doors - also kept almost in continual swinging motion by the in and out flow of students. Outside I was disoriented, I told her that we needed to get to the green belt then down to the lake. She led me down another narrow asphalt path that went through a small grove of pine trees. Within the grove we came upon a clearing. The area cleared looked to be in a trapezoidal shape with the two dis-paralleled sides equal in length. A raised concrete platform, or stage, was at the narrow end. The rest of the clearing was covered with lawn and about a dozen rows of long wood stadium benches with back rests. The benches were painted green. Rising behind the stage was a colonnade holding an arched entablature with three arches. Over the entablature was carved in Greek letters, epea pteroenta.

Julie seeing me looking up at the words asked, "What's that?"


"What's it say?"

I looked at her, "I don't know. Don't know Greek - just Chinese."

She smiled. We walked off the stage and back through more of the grove and soon we came out onto the green belt just below the big circular pool. We started walking down toward the stadium and the boat house. The sun had become almost hot overhead, and the day was bright with light, and clear. Below ahead, I could see the lake, a dark blue under the more pale blue sky. Soon we were on the lake in a small star class two-man sailing boat. The wind was brisk and trilled the surface of the lake. Across the lake was a horizon of forest green hillside with an occasional swatch of lighter color - homes and small buildings. We set our mark to sail directly across the lake, about two miles, to a small marina at the lakeside town of Bellingham. For about three quarters of the length across our sail was quite fine and uneventful, almost a straight tack; the boat was yar, the sun hot on our shoulders and the breeze cooling, and my mate, in her shorts and bikini top, carved finer than any sloop on the seven seas, was an arousing aesthetic sight. Then rudely and abruptly across our tack knifed a speed demon in a Chris-Craft pulling a suicide skier. The machine sent a tidal wave of a wake lapping over our stern. The boat dipped and reared violently shaking and tweaking the fiberglass frame. The hull was awash with lake leaving a tub ready for bath. I disengaged the mainsail line, letting the sail flutter, as we bailed as best we could with cupped palms. Finally with the water mostly cleared, I pulled in the sail. Then for no rhyme or reason the mast busted off at the base and the whole aluminum and styrene sail contraption fell over the both of us. A lubberly dilettantish sight we must have been.

Luckily another power craft happened by and assisted with a tow into the Bellingham marina. No doubt my first mate had attracted their wandering eye. There we had the mast repaired - a simple replacement of what the attendant at the gas dock called a toggle latch. Then savoring our little adventure we sipped cokes at a dockside with our feet dangling languorously over the edge, toes tap dancing on the water. Then with the cokes drank we set off back across.

Near the other side we sailed into a quiet secluded spot, on the lakeside, where over the banks was tall wild grass and thickets and trees higher up. A dozen or so yards out in the water was a small wood platform made of narrow smooth logs, all chained together and chained to the lake floor like a buoy. We lowered the sail and tied the boat to the logs and dove in. We swam and splashed and cavorted dolphin-like around the logs awhile and soon we were embracing. She was ready, in a yes mood. She slipped off my trunks and I her suit, and there in her beautiful altogether, her browned long arms outstretched to each side atop the logs, grasping tight to keep herself aloft, and her firm white mounds lifting and bobbing on the water, she wrapped her long legs frog-like around mine and pulled me into her loins. And there under the opaque pale glazed blue sky, with only the gods pagan and non in the glass bottomed odeum above, and the trout below, most certainly voyeurs to this lusty scene, we, dangling as one, enacted our passions. Yes - insouciant love on a summers noon.

10 Of the four of us Nate was the only one who kept religiously going down to the docks daily, at least for a few hours. Besides Olly, he had befriended a few of the skippers and many of the workers. The word was out, had gone forth, that there was someone young, able bodied, and eager for a job - and he had friends equally young, able bodied, and eager - just not as steadfast. All of this in theory should have given him high probabilities of pinning down a job. But nothing had been forth coming, nor even a hint that something might be coming just around the corner. One morning as we were sanding down another hull, Nate speculated, "Bottom line is the jobs do pay, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to do the jobs, just somebody willing to put up with the hard work - so the jobs are scarce. Where else is some blue collar guy going to make the kinda money those guys are making up there? So nobody quits - and if they do, the skipper likely gives the job to a friend or relative."

"So in other words we're wasting our time?" I asked.

"No I don't think so," he said, and stopped sanding.

"I'm saying it's not easy gettin' a job. We just gotta keep hangin' out and puttin' in our time. Something's bound to come along. I've talked to a lot of guys who've gotten jobs - and they got em, why can't I?"

"What's Olly think?"

"He thinks I can get a job. He says you just gotta get to know the fishermen. We've had a few more boats come in this week. I made the rounds - no jobs. But a couple skippers said they'd keep their eyes open for me."

In comparison to the effort Nate was making, mine was next to nil. Klug and Brad were even worse, advancing into the job hunt only by millimeters. Every few days or so they would pop up at the wharf, stroll around awhile, watch Nate and I work, then would go do lunch. They spent the preponderance of their time at the SAE house playing basketball, shooting pool, watching TV, sitting around gabbing - discussing no doubt the metaphysics of how hops and grains fit into the malted equation. Both had also found gals, Klug in fact appeared to be rotating two or three. Almost every day in the early evening Klug was going water-skiing with Star and a couple of other SAE's out on the lake. I went along a couple of times, watched Klug on a surf board ride the boats wild wake. I tried it and splashed on my ass. For Klug and Brad the trip had become a playful lark, and Seattle an Elysian Field, hardly the intended business venture. Once after Brad was telling me about a particularly eventful fun filled day, I asked him, “Any rivers around here? There’s gotta be four rivers around here.” He gave me a odd look and asked, “What? What are you yappin’ about?” I replied, “Aw, nothin’.” Nate’s only comment about it all, said somewhat scornful, "Smitty already spent four years vacationing at UCLA, now he wants to do the same up here. And that Klug - just like a surf rat."

I offered no comment, plus or minus. I was sitting the fence. Since our arrival into the enchanted forest I had become more fun and games myself. I hadn't read anything, had not even called home, just sent a couple of postcards. I was not going down to the docks on my own volition - only when assisting Nate on jobs Olly had given him, letting Nate essentially lead the way and relying on his generosity to include me in. A tag along. But at the time I was not clearly, definitely, elucidating, or admitting to my new found flakiness. I was spellbound by the fruit's spiraling forth out of this northern cornucopia; and subliminally, though I was working with Nate almost daily, I was still candy assed about my sublimating into the piscatorial set. I was more akin, though outwardly less than kind, to Brad and Klug. When one day they were actually there on the docks, Brad said, "This ain't our bag - look at these rednecks."

And Klug reinforced, "Really man - it is sort of a comedy."

A comedy. Men sanding hulls, operating cranes, washing down decks and walls, scrubbing windows, breaking down engines and hydraulics, painting, repairing radar and electrical equipment, spreading and sowing nets, testing winches, hauling pots and gear onto the decks, spreading electrical cords, welding, drilling, pounding, sanding, junking the old, refurbishing with the new; making black and greasy hands, clothes, and faces; making ready for another assault on natures bounty which lay free and ready for the harvesting - to those who were willing and able to go after it. Another season of bending backs, of reaping. Another of sailing northward and facing the slings and arrows of the tempestuous temperamental Bering Sea - its cold, the slicing winds, and its rolling cycloidal plane. Gleaning raw from nature to bring ultimately fine and well done to a rich man's indulgent pallet. For most of them, the efforts would not end them in a pillared house or in a country club. Yet they come with each new season, as they had come the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that. One fine day when Nate and I had come back to the Sigma house, our jeans and t-shirts, arms and faces, bespattered with grease and paint, we found Brad and Klug in the meat locker lounging in their bunks. Brad looked at us from behind a playboy magazine and commented on our clothes, "Well - new look for summer?"

Nate shook his head, "You’re not even going to try and get a job are yeah?"

Brad answered, "I tried; Klug and I went over to the docks, talked with a couple a the yokels, had a couple a beers, and came back. Then went sailing, swam a little, saw my girl - had a little fun there before she went to class. What you guys do today? Scrape a hull? Grease an engine? Wash some windows?"

Nate gave his head a disapproving shake and left the room for the showers. I grabbed a change of clothes and followed. Down in the showers I said, "I don't know Nate maybe it isn't for us. Brad may have a point."

"Not for us? We haven't even tried," he said. "We've only been going to the docks a couple of weeks."

"Almost three," I corrected.

"Well, three weeks is nothin’. Ya gotta give it some time."

"I'm not sure that Brad's way off base, it just may not be our bag."

"Not our bag? Listen we're all young, in great shape. Hell you just got off playin' college football for four years. Plus we're supposed to be smart. I would think any skipper would be glad havin' us work for him."

Well, perhaps he was right, I thought. It was premature to start being stifled by the doubts. The work we were doing wasn't so bad, this outdoor menial stuff. I had gotten used to it, quelled the earlier anxieties I had toward it.

After we showered Nate and I walked over and had dinner at Mom's. There, over burgers and fries – his well salted - I tried to pry out of him how he was faring with Nancy. I asked, "You guys an item yet?"

He gave me a puzzled look, "A what?"

"An item - you know - one plus one, a pair, two on a seesaw, two to tango, you know?"

He shook his head, "No, I don't know."

"Alright I'll be blunt - you nail her yet."

"Nail? Nail who?"

"Nancy - the subject of our conversation here - you know red hair, flat chest."

"Her chest ain't that flat."

"So then you have."

"Have what?"

"Nailed her - how else you goin' to know that her chest isn't flat?"

"Will you shut up.”

"Sort of testy aren't we - I'm just taking an interest."

"It's none of your business what I've done with her."

"Well excuse me for livin’."

His being so clammed up indicated to me that he definitely had a thing for her; and I had noticed he hadn't been spending too many nights in the meat locker. Nor had I for that matter. Indeed, the previous night he had been en absentia. I asked him, "So where were you last night?"

"I don't know - Leo's, I went to Leo's with Mel."

"No after that."

"In the meat locker - will you quit?"

"You weren't in there last night."

"How would you know? You're never there."

"Julie went home to Spokane last night. If you've been sleeping with Nancy - I'm not goin' to say anything about it."

"Why are you so curious about what I got goin' with Nancy?"

"I don't know, why not? Somethin’ to talk about besides fishing. Today we worked all day - tonight I'll spend the rest of the night with Julie. I don't get a chance to talk about stuff like this. The dirt."

"Julie ain't real talkative huh?"

"Sure she's talkative."

"No she's not - in fact what do you guys talk about?"

"Lots a things."

He looked at me and shook his head and smiled, "You can't be serious?" He sat back in his chair with a wide grin. "I woulda thought you'd be the last guy to b.s. himself about some girl. When we've all gone out - she barely says a word."

I nodded, "Okay - she she's no Jack Parr - but she's a nice girl, and fit's the situation nicely."

"Fit's the situation?"

"Yeah I'm up here, away from Janie - she's great looking, and she's not looking to be long term."

His brows tightened and he became stern, "You still thinkin' about Jane?"

"Sure I do, why?"

He shook his head, "I don't know - you guys had a good thing going and she wanted to bust it up. I say let her hang herself - you can do better."

"I happen to think Janie's good enough."

He shook his head, "I say when they start getting squirrelly, screw em."

"She's entitled to her life."

"You're just Mr. Fair and Equitable aren't yeah?"

"I'd like to think so."

He shook his head.

I said, "Anyway we were talking about Nancy - not Julie or Janie. Those are my girls. We are now trying to establish whether or not Nancy is your gal. Let me ask you simply, have you taken possession of her?"

Nate looked perplexed, "Possession of her? What is that?"

"You know – she and you – you know?"

"No I don't know - I'm gonna finish my fries here."

"Takin' the fifth are we?"

"No. I'm takin' possession of the fries."

After we finished our food we walked back up the Ave to thirtieth, there at the corner Nate and I split up, I had to go over to the 901 to meet Sal Friedman. As Nate started walking up 30th I shouted, "Say hi to Nancy for me."

Rear regardent over his shoulder he said loud, "Nancy who?"

11 Sal was already sitting in one of the booths when I walked into the bar. I sat down across the table from him. He was looking at a girl standing at the bar with her back toward him.

I said, --Hey, as I slid into the opposite side of the half oval booth.

He looked over and when he saw me his expression jumped a little, --Didn't see you. Then he said nodding toward the girl, --Not bad huh?

With a narrowing hour glass figure, she wasn't bad at all, I nodded, --Yeah not bad.

--I hear your seeing that girl from next door - she's really somethin'.

I shrugged and modestly tilted my head to the side, --She's a pretty gal.

--Pretty? He said sounding startled. --She's amazing and then some. Must be nice bein' goy and getting to bed the Miss Universe types.

--Can't sleep with Miss Universe if your Jewish?

--Sure you can - they just won't sleep with you.

I smiled, --Never know.

--Believe me - I've tried - it's hopeless - until I'm rich or something, that is.

--Don't you have a girl?

--Oh yeah. She's at home. She's a stump, a frizzy brunette, bla bla face and sponge figure - and get this - she's Catholic. And her dad hates me.

--What is he anti-Semitic?

--Maybe – or just anti-me.

I smiled, --How long you been seein' her?

--Since high school. She goes to Gonzaga.

--Gonzaga – good basketball team – right?

He shrugged, --I guess. I don't follow it. He slid back into the booth and waved the waitress over. She nodded to him indicating she would be by soon. He said turning back to me, --Service in here stinks. Yeah, it's a college south of here. Very Catholic. Named after some saint I never heard of - except I read the name once in Ulysses - when Joyce goes off into one of his big list the trivia tangents. It was Bing Crosby's alma mater - the schools big claim to fame. 'Cept what they don't tell you is Bing got expelled.

--No kidding. What he do?

The waitress came by and he ordered two Rainier beers, then he said, --Bing was a big prankster. He took a cow up the stairs onto the roof of one of the school buildings. Cows'll go upstairs - but not down, so it was a big mess. Had to chain saw Betsy on the roof or somethin' or other. They expelled people for things like that back then.

I shook my head, --Bing Crosby - a drop out. Imagine that.

--No - a kicked out. Kind of a screwball. Guess it was during the twenties when everyone was going wild. Them were the days.

--Well, Bing had the last laugh anyway.

--Yeah, I think I read someplace or my girlfriend told me they were going to award him a honorary degree but he politely refused.

--Still embittered.

--Apparently. Guess I would be too though, it was just a prank.

--It probably was what got him on his show business career - if he'd of graduated he may have been a lawyer or something run a the mill like that.

--True, never know though, destiny predetermined perhaps - but oh yeah - that's all primitive superstitious thinking, he said.

The waitress came back and set down the beer bottles on the table. I reached for my pocket for my money, but Sal beat me to it, and gave the girl a few dollars and squared the bill. After taking a long multi-gulp drink of his beer he set the bottle down on the table keeping it in hand and asked, --So how's the fishing coming?

--I don't know - still too soon to tell. We seem to get turned down a lot.

--You'd probably have better luck up north. Plus nobody knows you. It's a lot easier if somebody knows you.

--That's what we figure - that's why we're working down at the wharfs - to try and get in with the crowd down there. But who knows if that's really what we should be doing - we're not too well versed on the whole scene, and so far that seems to be the best thing to do.

--Yeah, it's not like you go and draw up a resume and go to the on-campus interviews.

--No. I think it's going to take some time. What do you think?

He shrugged, --About gettin' a job?

--Yeah - about what we're doing - think it's the way to go?

--I don't know - fishermen are strange birds. Their hicks and they don't like city slickers and all that high society kind of thing. And little things set ‘em off. I remember this one fisherman told me when he goes to hire a guy he has the guy come into his kitchen for a cup of coffee. So he gives the guy the cup then they talk. After the guy finishes the coffee if he just sit's there and doesn't do anything with the cup he doesn't hire ‘em.

--What's he supposed to do with the cup?

--He's supposed to get up and rinse it out and put it in the sink. Would you do that?

I shrugged and twisted my wrists opening my hands, --I don't know - depends. I probably would if it seemed like the thing to do. But seems to me some people wouldn't like it if you just got up and made yourself at home by washing your own dishes. That and I never did the dishes.

--No dishes? What, you grew up with servants?

--Not really - we had a maid.

--So you had servants.

--Not servants - servant.

--Singular - plural. Must be nice being waited on in your own house. You really are a fish outa water.

--It's not what you think.

--I'm sure it isn't. It's got the makings of a good story though - Lord Fontleroy goes to Alaska.

--Very funny.

--It must be - you guys probably stand out like sore thumbs down there on Fisherman's Wharf.

--Sort of. Nate seems to be blending in. But your right in a way - the fisherman are a lot different than we ever imagined. The bottom line is we're not real used to dealing with those types of people. We weren't raised in that environment or trained for it.

--Nope - they aren't the Mayfair set.

--Like I said Nate's doing all right. But I guess I'm a little, I don't know...


I moved my head to each side being reluctant to admit, --Yeah - that might be a way to describe it.

He didn't seem that understanding or rather sympathetic for his voice firmed up as he said, --Well you better get over that – ‘cause if your going to do what you came up here to do - bein' an arrogant wimp won't cut it.

His condemnation ambushed me. --Wimp? Arrogant?

He nodded, --Yeah.

--Hey all I'm sayin' is its a radically different environment. Its not really one I was prepared for. And you can say what you want about this Lord Fauntleroy stuff but, fact is, there’s a lot I'll be able to do that these fishermen will never be able to do - and I'll be paid well to do it.

--You gotta prepare for it? Don’t you think you’re smart enough to handle it?

--Yeah, but, well. Okay I guess I’m sounding sort of stupid here.

--Maybe. Be honest with you I had the same deluded attitude when I first went up for the summer in high school. Here I was damn well read for a sophomore in high school, sorta hip, and up in Alaska with all the rednecks. Well I got homesick and went to my uncle and said, like your saying, how it wasn't my bag and how I was better really than all these redneck morons and I flaked out...

--And he gave you a big Knute Rockne pep talk and told you to be a man and stick it out. And you did and you lived and worked you're ass off happily ever after.

--No. He put me on the next plane home. But the next summer I wanted a car and my dad wouldn't buy me one. But he pointed out how if I went to work for my uncle for a summer I'd earn enough to afford one. So I went back up and stuck it out. That's how I bought my first car. But the moral here is during my freshman and sophomore years of high school I was a nobody, never got laid, no party invites, nothing, just sort of a schmuck. And I really felt like a schmuck. In Alaska I was with older people, and you know in the canneries they have these parties. You see, lot a the workers live in the company housing - sorta like dumpy college dorms - a few times a week they got parties going on and there's a lot of single women up there. So I'd go to the parties. And I can't really explain it but being in that environment was a maturing experience. I first got laid at one a those parties. My first time. You know how old the gal was? Twenty eight. Some girl from Oregon with a great body and icky face. She showed me all the tricks you read about in Penthouse. And I got drunk, smoked grass, and even did some coke. Now when I went back to high school my junior year - I was still sort of a schmuck, but it wasn't so bad. I didn't seem to mind it. I can't really put my finger on it - but it changed me. Just like at the Sigma house. Some of the guys like me, most don't. But you know - fuck em.

I made a half smile, --So what’s your point?

--I don't know - just seems to me something brought you up here. Your a smart guy, you oughta be able to figure out a way to get something out of coming up here besides turning tail.

--You sound like Nate.

--And what's wrong with that?

I shrugged, --Nothing, I guess. So you've been working in the cannery's every summer since high school?

--Yeah. Generally I go up right after school lets out in June, this year I may hang around a month or so, here and at home, then go up in August, work out the summer and then some.

--You like it?

--No - not really. I'm getting to the point where I'm ready for a radical break with the status quo.

--What sort of break?

--The thing is - as you've seen I'm pretty well informed - I wanna be where things are more hip. Up here dull is in. And up there in Alaska at the cannery it's like a big gulag - except for the parties. It's starting to wear on me.

The waitress came over and asked if we wanted another round. We both nodded, assenting.

--So what are you planning on doing? I asked.

His expression turned oblivious, --I don't know - I'm tossing around a few ideas.

--If you were us - were out to get a fishing job what would you do?

--That’s a good one. He looked thoughtful as he stayed quiet a moment then said, --If I was you guys I'd plan on taking about a year to get a job; reason is, it might take that long to scope the industry out and get in with the fisherman. And to make it easier I'd go work for a supply house. These are companies that sell everything from Cheerios to Valvoline to the fishing boats. What I'd do is be a delivery guy or even better a salesman. Since you guys are college types you could probably get a sales job easy. It's a great job for getting in with the fisherman ‘cause all you do all day is go meet the skippers on the boats and try and sell ‘em goods. And what you do is get in with a supply house that's got offices in Alaska cause if you don't get a job down here on a boat before winter this year, next spring you transfer to Alaska and work up there where there's a lot more boats.

I thought for a moment, it sounded interesting, I said, --That's not a bad idea.

--Right - and while your looking for a job your making enough money to live easy. Those sales jobs pay a grand or so a month plus commission.

--Staying a year though isn't quite what we had in mind. Our intention was to come up here and make the quick buck. We could have stayed back at home and gotten a real job and likely in a year or two years time made as much as you'll make in a season fishing.

--Not really. The stakes for spending a year looking for a job are there - those crabbers are making fifty grand a season some of ‘em - for three or four months work. What job are you going to get out of college paying enough so you can save thirty to fifty thousand over a couple years?

I nodded, --True.

--Yeah - lets say you got a job paying forty grand - which is impossible - but just let's say. Ten of the forty goes to taxes. If you live like a monk another ten goes to living expenses, by the time your through and all saved up you might have forty thousand after two years. Up here you might get a job right away this year and make that and then some and be home by Christmas. If you wait another year following my plan - and it takes another year - you might make that forty and then some plus you'll be on a boat - and you might want to work the next season. True it's all contingent on you guys having a little luck go your way - but fact is some do make it. Those million dollar floating tanks aren't out there 'cause there's no money in it. This isn't Portugal where everybody floats around in dory’s.

--I can see that - there's some pretty impressive pieces of machinery out there.

--Exactly, and the smart ones are all equipped with the latest in radar and depth finders. The fishery is about a billion dollar industry just in Alaska.

--With all that money floating around you'd think we could get a piece of it.

--You'd think.

--How come you don't work on a boat?

--I got a cush job - and I make decent money. This summer I'll make three or four grand easy. And fishing is not easy. There's good reason why they're making the kind of money they do. And I get sea sick.

--Sea sick? Aren't there pills you can take?

--Yeah Dramamine - doesn't really work though, and it makes you drowsy. See you don't really understand - your not out on a lake - it gets real rough out there. The boats always rolling. And you're out two or three weeks at a time.

--So what do you do if you get sea sick?

--Put up with it I guess. I hear some guys are sick the whole season. But let me tell you I've been seasick and stuck out in a boat for a couple of days - its hellish. I'm too much of a spineless to stay sick like that for a week. And when I was sick on the boat I got to lay down. You can't lay down on a fishing boat. You keep working.

--Gawd, I wonder if I'll get seasick?

His head tilted to the side, --Won't know till you're out there. Some guys do, some don't. Best not to think about it.

--Till you're sick.


--I've been out on boats - never gotten sick.

--Well there you go - maybe you won't get it. I get sick just walking out on a dock.

--What kind of job do you do up there?

--I'm like a clerk - I fill out chit sheets and check the scales when the fish are brought in off the boats.

--You work in Anchorage?

--No Kodiak.

--Ever work in Dutch Harbor?


--Why's that?

--Too hard to get to, and Dutch Harbors a stink hole. And no girls in Dutch Harbor.

--None at all?

--No, there's some - but they gotta be the hardest core of a hard core bunch.

--Guess that's where we'll be headed.

--Yeah, its the place for the crab - best to have a job though - if not on a boat - at least in a cannery before you go up there.

--How come?

--No place really to stay. I think there's a couple of motels - but they're expensive. The only housing I think is connected with the canaries.

--No Sigma houses up there huh?


--Kodiak is a better place to work?

--Definitely - it's almost a town. They got some bars to go hang out in, people aren't as strange. Dutch Harbor's sort of a crazy outback town.

--How much can you make up there?

--'Bout three grand over a summer. This year though I'm thinking of pulling out of the university and working till around November then moving to Southern California.

--And go to school down there?

He nodded, --Yeah - UCLA or one of those Cal State schools. I want to get out of the Pacific Northwest down to where things are more on the cutting edge. I want to try and get a job in Hollywood.

--Lot a money gets made there.

--No kidding - lot more than in fishing. And I need that change - everyone is just too narrow up here, they're all just limping through a tunnel.

--Doesn't seem that bad - people are narrow all over. Believe me our generation in Southern Cal is no different. Perhaps even worse. Just talk culture to Nate, Klug, or Brad and you'll see what I mean.

--I figured that. But somebody down there must know what's goin' on; somebody's pumpin' out all those movies, records and TV shows. You know I'm Jewish, it's a big Jewish enclave down there. I'm educated sorta, more than the average hipster, I just need to get smart on the scene down there.

--Got any relations down there - or connections?


--Too bad.

--Yeah - make it easier. All my relatives are here, in Alaska, or in New York. I figure I'll just go down there, get a place to live and some dipso entry level job at one a the studios or networks. I read about some guy who's a director now who started out as a tour guide for Universal Studios. You know, go down there and street fight my way into the biz. Sorta like what you guys are doin' up here with the fishing game. Only I'm long term.

I nodded and drank down the last of the beer in my bottle then I said, --I'd say you got a damn good chance – you're smart.

--Yep - we'll see.

--What's you're dad do?

--He owns a warehouse here in town with my uncle. They rent out space to store rolled steel that comes in from Japan. Big brain business.

--Well your dad must have done something right to get the warehouse.

--Yeah - he's my uncle's brother - my uncle bought the warehouse and let my dad run it for part ownership.

--What's your dad think about you going to Hollywood?

--He think's it's stupid. That's typical for him though. My Uncle told me to go for it - said he should a gone to Hollywood when he was my age instead of coming to Seattle.

--Sounds like your Uncle's a real go for it type.

--He is - you don't start out hitch hiking from New York to owning two canneries, a warehouse, and land all over the place in Alaska by being stupid.

--No kidding - so how'd he do it?

--He fell into a fishing job. Then got into it on his own. Then he got lucky one season and made enough to buy a canary that was going broke - then he wheeled and dealed with the fisherman - told ‘em he'd pay them higher prices for their fish if they'd wait till he got paid before he paid them. Some went for it - some didn't. Got the fishermen to effectively play broker. And enough went along so he was able to operate that way for a few years, when he was too small to get financing. Now he's plenty big and has plenty of financing - and pays the lowest price per pound of any of the canary's, and pumps out the cans cheaper than any of the canary's. He's a smart guy.

Again the waitress came by and we ordered another round. She took away our empty bottles.

--So what do you want to do in Hollywood?

--Be a director - that's where it's at. I'm not good looking enough to be an actor - and I got a brain. The way I see it Hollywood's down there with all these studios and moguls and agents and flakes and actors and hangers on - just sittin' there looking for the guy who can create - can come up with a good story and can put it all together. Like the publishing business - they got the editors, the printers, the distributors, the booksellers - but it's all there for the guy who can pump out the story. So when you go to Hollywood if you don't have any money, and you don't want to play the acting lottery - you gotta be the guy who can pump out the story - the Orson Wells, the Thorton Wilder, the Frank Capra - the guy with a vision who can put it all together. Hollywood’s all set up for that guy. So I figure I have to go down there, get into the scene, write a few scripts, maybe attend a film school, just work towards being - and promoting myself as that guy who can tie it all together - the writer slash director.

--Be another Spielberg huh.

--That's right. And he's so young - he's just startin’. You know that guy - he got started by hanging out at the Universal Studios lot. He'd put on a Brooks Brothers suit and walk past the guard at the front gate. The guard seein' him in a suit would just wave him in thinking he was somebody. Then Spielberg would spend the day visiting sets and talking to the guys filming - and they'd all talk to him cause, like the guard, him in a suit, they thought he was somebody, a young producer or investor. He even found an empty office and moved in. Eventually they found out about him - but the studio bosses - they just thought it was funny - this kid crashing the gate in a suit and setting up in an office. That's moxy. Now he didn't get a job, but he made some connections which I guess helped him get a job at another studio. But then later he did start working at Universal - probably because of the connections he made there when he was crashin' the gate. Sometimes you gotta do that - be a snake in the grass.

--I guess. Still I don't know - from what I've heard Hollywood’s a tough place. Lot a people go there to try and make it. The competitions gotta be stiff.

--Maybe - lot a people go to be actors. And like I said - that's a big lottery. I don't know - maybe I'm wrong, but sure there might be zillions of people, but I think I'm better than a lot of em. Maybe it's arrogance, or stupidity; I don't know. Weren't you the one that said about people of destiny have that prescience? You know if you sit back and sort of try and take a birds eye view of everything, the world is going to the businessman - to the risk adverse. That’s where all our fellow stiffs in our generation are going. Go to school, get a degree in business, or engineering, or law, some such practical crap, then go out and take your slot. Sheep following sheep. But the guy who'll really get ahead is the one who doesn't swallow all the crap, who'll say to hell with all that, and have the balls to put it on the line, to stand the pain and go against the grain. Now I want to go to Hollywood and direct movies. My frat brothers all think I'm a nut case. But I say their all falling into the twentieth centuries great accomplishment - fencing in a hell of a lot of the world's minions into a fairly comfortable sheep pen. Getting them to work from nine to five, live in stucco houses, take freeways or subways to a cubical cell to do their eight hours of drudgery, then drink Coca-Cola and eat Big Macs at McDonalds, shop at the A and P with dollar off coupons, or at K Mart at the year end sales - and pay for it all with plastic credit cards with twenty percent interest tagged onto every dollar spent on ‘em - just to make sure our good little typical sheep keeps working, grinding away, like a hamster in a rolling cage, to pay the bills like a good little very predictable persona non grata.

Think about it - any adventure in this life now comes from the two weeks vacation they give you each year - and that no doubt will be spent at some theme park or glitzy neon lit town like Vegas. Instead of going to Europe, they go to Disney World where they got all the worlds cultural bastions beautifully imitated in steel and stucco. The fast food version of a world tour. Forget about the hassles of an African safari - just go to the San Diego Zoo. The Great White Hunter of today is a college student drivin' a tour bus. You want excitement, a taste of armed conflict - tune in Monday Night Football. Routine is in. Free enterprise has done what no great philosophy, conqueror, dictator, political party, charismatic leader could do - it has brought peace in our time, organized and whipped into shape the Mongoloid barbaric beastly and common minions. Its Marx come to Main Street but in the guise of hot dogs, apple pies, and Chevrolets. The world's middle classes are being reduced to a Marxian commodity - and it doesn't make a hill a beans if they call themselves Republican, Socialist, or just plain Commie – that’s just part of the sales pitch. In any of the world's systems is the average joe really free?

I was smiling, I thought it was a most impressive spiel. I said, --I see your point. But I would say that life in this country anyway is definitely less oppressive than in China or Russia, wouldn't you say?

--Way I see it in America you can live three ways, first you can live moderately well by going along and doing all the right things, next you can live like a king by going against the grain and making something happen that is successful, and then you can starve - starve by going against the grain and failing and then just doing nothing and being in the unfortunate position of having no familial means of support, i.e. no trust fund or rich uncle. And that’s pretty much it. Most people go along, kiss ass, swallow the bull and live moderately well off lives - if they're lucky enough to be in the ranks of the middle class and above. If your one of the poor saps stuck in the lower strata of the great American society not only do you gotta go along to get along, but then you don't get paid for it. Now is that being free, is that how you want to live if you got any I.Q.? Are the struggling American masses as individuals free?

--Seems to me your saying it all comes down to money. In America one has to buy their freedom.

--You got it - gotta pay to play.

--You and Nate must be related. Seems to me that no matter what the societal structure some are going to make the effort to rise and will have what it takes, and some - well, most won't. But at least in America the avenues for ascendance are plentiful and while there's imperfections no one can deny opportunity is there; and history shows that adjustments - the process of opening up the avenues - are continually being made. Hegel said reason unfolds gradually in history, man is continually striving toward a reasoned existence. I think that is especially evident here in America. True not everybody can be a movie star or a millionaire, but in America today your relatively free to give it your best shot. Sure there are no guarantees - but when in history have there ever been? Take H.L. Menken, he's pretty amusing - but what sort of world would he come up with? The stock broker interior decorator set, that lurid American aristocracy he so loves to criticize, is also the one that's building the factories – the warehouses – the cannery's - running the system, seeing to it that a vast majority of the dumb and numb masses, as you might call them, have a roof over their heads, a chicken in their ovens, and a Chevy in their garage. How would Menken improve on that? And how would you? Perhaps bring in a European Aristocracy with their history of high culture, birthrights, and let them eat cake attitudes. Lot a Frenchy's starved while the halls of Versailles got mirrored.

--Guess it is easy to criticize.

--It is. T.S. Elliot implies the twentieth century is a spiritual wasteland. Yet it's also the one where the human race, led by this country, went to the moon.

--Its also the century where twenty million of the species gassed, bombed, and in general obliterated each other. Don't forget the Holocaust Mr. All American WASP Irish Catholic. How the great nation of Goethe, Wagner, and Beethoven, with stunning technological efficiency annihilated assembly line fashion millions of the supposed inferior minions – the chaff.

--Well, got a point there.

--Hey if all this century had to worry about was spiritual vacuity then I'd say in light of what’s come down it would have been doin' pretty good. The Hiroshima’s and Auschwitz and Pearl Harbors have changed the whole complexion. Mankind can get pretty damn dark.

--So where does that leave us?

--I guess if your smart you make strides to rise above the theme park, Burger King, Chevy driving dough dough’s. Be one of the movers and shakers, get to the top. I don't know. Even at the top you gotta put up with a lot a bull. That’s the thing about the Elliot’s and Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s and Joyce’s of the world. They offer they're penetrating critical insights - but then leave it at that.

--You seem to be seeking some sort of alternative or some plan, some credo or belief to live by.

--Who isn't?


--I just don't want to live a banal life. And I want to get ahead.

I laughed a little, --You know repeated trips on the roller coaster can get banal too after awhile.

--Sure - if it's the same roller coaster. I just feel like I gotta do something big. I want to be somebody. And I think Hollywood is where that is. The new myths and mythical heroes are coming from the big screen, the cinematic temple. The movie house is the new Delphi where you go to see and hear the celluloid oracles. Hollywood is the modern Athens and Grumman’s Chinese the Parthenon, the Motion Picture Academy the Ecumenical Council, the Oscar a new age icon.

I laughed, --Hopefully it's a passing phase and we'll all wise up. The superstar of the silver screen of today is tomorrows just another hack doing a job.

--And that’s how it ought to be. Like that scene in Walker Percy's book The Movie Go’er where the guy who meets William Holden just says how's it goin' - like no big deal.

--Just an overpaid face. Still though, if John Wayne came through the door you'd look over - with a long look.

--I would - there is something about that big screen. Just outa curiosity I'd check him out - see if he was as big seeming in life - you know.

--Thought you were all cut up about him getting' that congressional medal?

--Hey, glamour's glamour. But yeah, it really doesn't make sense that with all the people out there taking on all sorts of risks from fighting fires to starting companies, this guy who happens to look good on film - and on top of that who gets paid a few million because of it - deserves some medal that says he's the prototypal American - and gets the medal from no less than the United States Congress. It just doesn't seem right. He's just a face, that's it, a guy with a face. No cures for cancer, no thousand home runs, no revolutionary all encompassing theories about the how the universe is put together, not even a stinkin' poem.

--So what’s that tell you?

--Tells me to be the face. Forget about countless underpaid hours in the lab staring at blood cultures, or a hundred summer nights in the dugout, or afternoons under a fruit tree waiting to be clobbered with an idea, and forget about Shakespeare. Just be the guy with the winning smile under the sharp nose - and blue eyes. Just be the face.

--Somehow I think it's good that not everybody has that philosophy – sounds like you just wanna be somebody.

--Hey, if you can convince this world that you got a talent of some sort, or your worth just lookin' at - it'll be your oyster.

--So that's what your going to do - go trump up some talent and go peddle it?

--Basically. Somebody's gotta do it.

The waitress came by with two more bottles and set them down on the table, I quickly handed her a five and she gave me my change. Then I said continuing the discussion, --Well I guess like we said before - somebody's got to be a Shakespeare, a Churchill, a Jonas Sault, they were just young guys once in a pub with a vision about their future.

--That's right - and it's hard for us - being so young to stand at this vantage point. We're at the base of the mountain. Not only can't we see the right path to the top, we can't even see the top. It's all fogged over. We have no idea how rugged it is up there. All we know is others have made it - and we're smarter than our peers here at the base. At least we think we are. And lets face it, only a few at the base are gonna have the nerve to make the climb, and even fewer will have what it takes to make the top.

--Yeah - remember the leopard near the summit of Kilimanjaro – what was he doing up there so high?

--Hey a leopard's a fine animal and all that - but he doesn't have the mental faculties to know that the seasons changing and the weathers changing and soon a frost will come in the night and freeze his ass into a spotted carcass.

--Have you written any scripts?

--I've actually done a lot of writing - most of it's short stories and that kind of thing. None of it is all that good. I figure that's going to be the most difficult - developing my writing. But I've got a few ideas.

--You seem to be sort of literary - intellectually inclined - being a writer of some sort, like a novelist, doesn't interest you?

--The biggest problem I have with my writing is I'm too young and inexperienced. I've read a lot of books - but my experience in the real world is limited. For me to become another Orson Wells, lets say, I'll probably have to do what Wells did - team up with writers. I have a few story ideas in mind but my experience is too limited to really develop those ideas. I saw Norman Mailer once on this talk show and the host asked him how he got to where he could write a novel as substantial and successful as The Naked and the Dead at such a young age. Well, Mailer said - I was young - but had a lot of experiences. He had graduated from Harvard, gone to war, been married and divorced, lived in Paris, gone through the experiential ringer so to speak. So the way I see it - I'm too young and inexperienced right now to say what's going to happen. Five years from now, I may be a wash up in Hollywood, maybe have gone to war, been married and divorced and have lived in Paris. Then I might write a novel. Who knows. But right now, I'd say no. Hollywood to me is where it's at. That excites me. And the smart guys in Hollywood are making a killing.

We sat through the rest of our beers and he told me an idea he had for television - that currently most programs appeared too formulaic in their story line and as a consequence television by and large had became stale and manufactured. What it needed he proposed was more realism - at least a more realistic tone and look, and if possible a more humane and head on portrayal of life. Something far a field from the clean cut saintly projection of cops with perfect demeanors and unflappable hair styles - the standard of the Dragnets and Hawaii Five-O's. --Think about it, he said, becoming rather excited even, --TV showing it like it is - neurotic and dumb cops, shyster lawyers, greedy doctors, you know - life. Mean reality. Like it is. You know it seems so stupid - and TV right now is just adding to the problem - everybody's walking around in a zombie like state of denial - pretending that we're these social role models with no hang ups. Well that's crap - everybody's got something in the closet.

--Think so huh.

--Sure, think about it – Bonanza's on how many years? Did Little Joe or Hoss get laid once in those ten years? What's up with that? Americans just want to keep this whole segment on reality in the closet. The networks just think America is a bunch a stupid clucks.

--What's in your closet?

--Lot's a things.

--Oh yeah. My closet not real full be honest with you.


--Figures? So what's in your closet? What do you do - drink? Drugs?

--No - not really. None of that. Schools one thing. I'm a smart guy, but I've never done good in school. I have flashes of brilliance but I just can't put the whole program together. Soon as I start doing my chemistry homework I say hell with it and pick up David Niven's latest autobio.

--You do your math don't you?

--Sure, but like I said I get into it.

--Your an academic flake - so what?

--And I like sex.

--Sex huh. All kinds - or just the norm?

--The norm. I'm not kinky or weird. And I couldn't get it up for a guy - and I'll be damned if I'm gonna bend over for one. I think it's ‘cause I get laid when I go to Alaska; then when I'm down here I get nothing.

--Nothing? What about your girlfriend?

--What about her? She isn't here. It's tough when you're Jewish and not so good looking.

--You look Jewish - but that doesn't mean your bad looking.

--Yeah but I ain't WASP - not like you. I mean gawd if I looked like you - and your buddies - even like that short guy.

--Brad? You wanna look like Brad?

--It couldn't hurt.

--I think you think about it too much.

--Listen - you should see my girlfriend at home - I don't even wanna look at pictures of her.

I smiled, --She can't be that bad.

--She is. You know a lot a guys are always worried when they go off to school and leave their girls at home. Me - I don't worry. I get home she can hardly wait to get my zipper down. Why? Cause she hasn't had it - or even a chance to have it since I left to school.

I shook my head, --So your oversexed; you and the rest of the male population.

--No - you didn't listen - I'm undersexed. So I'm preoccupied with it. You ever pay for it?

--Pay for it?

--Yeah a whore - you know?

I shook my head and admitted, --No - you?

--Yep - sometimes.

--Around here?

He nodded, --Yeah - here's just as good as anywhere.

--What's it cost?

--Depends on the quality - for something I'll mess with - bout a hundred bucks. But I got this one who'll do me for fifty.

--Your a regular client?

--Not real regular - every couple a months.

--Fifty bucks is a lot a money.

--That's why I'm not real regular.

--How is it with a whore?

--Not real good – 'bout a step below my girl friend. This whore I do though is a little better looking.

I laughed, --Naw really? Than your girl friend?

--I guess - or she just gets me going better. I don't know.

--Aren't you worried about diseases?

--She's fairly clean - and I use protection. And we don't make out or anything. It's all business, very professional. If you want I can call her.

I shook my head, --Hmm I don't know - Julie's pretty much all I need - and I got a girl at home.

He nodded, --It's a little different - some guys just want to try it. But I agree - if I had something like that Julie I sure wouldn't be payin' for it.

The bar had filled with more students and the noise level had risen a few decibels. He asked, --You seem to have literary leanings - you going to be a novelist or something like that?

--I don't know. I always thought I could write. I always did well enough on my school papers. I like good writing. And I've read a lot of it; but I've never really sat down and tried to do any. I wouldn't mind being a journalist.

--Wouldn't mind? Why don't you. No money in it though.

I laughed a little, --No I guess there isn't much money there. I guess I've spent so much time just going along fitting some mold that I didn't really give it much thought. Reading and intellectual activity was all something I grew up with, I took to it easily, you might even say I gravitated toward it. I'm supposed to go to law school.

--Supposed to? You have some sort of obligation?

--Maybe - some look at it that way. I was accepted to Harvard.

--You don't say. Well that is impressive. Which one of your relatives wrangled that?

--Frankly I think I actually got in there essentially on my own.

--You must have done real well in school - and you were a good athlete?

--Yeah I did okay, I had a good career.

--What honors did you graduate with?

--Phi Beta Kappa - Summa Cum Laud.

--Oh - come loud.

I smirked and said, --Yeah that too.

--Did you try out for the Rhodes or anything?

--I did - I think I just missed. Lot a candidates in California.

--No kidding. Too bad your not from here - you'd probably be on your way to Oxford.


--Well, so what's going on with Harvard?

--Nothing - I've put it off for a year.

--Oh - I see, He said nodding slowly. --The ol' go to Alaska and find yourself routine.

--Not really.

--Not really? So why you up here? The more I talk to you and get a bead on you the less sense you make.

--We're up here to make the money - try something new.

--You’re up here for the money? You don't seem like you need the money. If you really needed money - you'd be going to Harvard. See I sense there's a fundamental difference between you and I. You don't need certain necessities, like money, peer group acceptance, sex, all that sort a thing - you got all that. I don't. I have'ta figure out how to get all that. I have'ta be a predator. Look at life in terms of figuring it out so I can get somewhere. You - you can just sort take in life. Live life for life's sake. Like I want to go to Hollywood and be what a lot of people would consider an artist. But I'm not really a true artist. I'm more like a businessman. I'll look at art in terms of what's going to sell. If bad art will sell I'll do that, if good art'll sell - then I'll do that - if I have to. You now - you could do art for arts sake. Just letting the chips fall. Just like you're up here to fish. Not to make money really. You're just up here for the sake of it. Just like all your studying - probably everything you've ever done - done just for the sake of doing it. Granted you've done it probably very well, excellence is in your nature - but it's all for the sake of the doing. Me - I do things cause it's going to get me somewhere, teach me some applicable lesson. That's why I don't do well in school - there's so much frivolous crap they try and throw up your ass. I don't need a lot of it - it just lengthens the distance between points A and B. And that's why your here instead of law school - the thought of learning the law just doesn't appeal to you. Who needs it? Right?

I sat back in the booth and laughed, --You’re probably right.

--Of course I'm right. My uncle would say – as if we need another fucking lawyer. And journalism sounds interesting to you. Jet setting to all the hot spots of the world to get a story. Listen if I was in your shoes, I'd be the same way. There's a lot a lawyers - my uncles says there's too many.

--Yeah I've heard that.

--And lawyers, my uncle says, are rust on the wheels.

--A lawyer may counter that - people who can't solve their disputes are the rust. Lawyers are the brillo pads.

--You'd probably make a good lawyer. But don't kid yourself. Lawyers make money on litigation. The more rust, the more money.

--Sounds like your uncle has had a lot of influence on you.

--He has - he's smart. You can't believe how refreshing it is to have a smart mentor.

--And he's your mentor?

--Yeah, pretty much. I've learned a lot from him I'd say. I hope.

I looked around the bar, at the other coeds standing and sitting, most all with drinks or bottles in hand; all performing once again the dance of the barfly. Then Sal suggested we take his car and relocate our conversation downtown to another stage, another scene, another local, where the dance was likely again being played out.

--Got anyplace in mind? I asked.

--Yeah - F.X. Mc Rory's.

--I've heard of it.

--It's kind of a ritzy place - Pacific Northwest chic you know. Hot - very hot.


--No - not really. Too mainline. You'll see. Lot a moneyed types go there. I've been wanting to go but I don't have anybody to go with.

--None of your Sigma brothers will go with you?

--Are you kidding - this place is class - those guys are too intimidated.

--What - a lot of mainline old folks hang out there?

--No, no. You know - guys like you. Young and moneyed - or with the waspy moneyed look.

--I look moneyed? I'm wearing levis and a flannel shirt - I'm a fisherman.

--Don't be stupid. That flannel's fifty bucks from the Beam catalogue, and you're Levi's always look like they're pressed. Fisherman don't look like you. And they don't wear those green topsiders that go for fifty bucks at Brooks Brothers. They don't got a baby face that always, twenty four hours a day, looks clean shaven cause their beard hasn't come in yet.

--I got a beard,-- I said protesting.

--When was the last time you changed your razor?

--Today,-- I said lying.

--If your gonna lie to me - lie better. He got up, --Come on - lets blow this place.

He had a Volkswagen Karmongia which was like riding in a go cart surrounded by a tin can. Over the popping familiar sounding engine he explained how by going with me to F.X. Mc Rory's he figured the girls would be more likely to talk with him.

I asked, --Why is that?

--You know why. I go in there with another ugly Jewish guy - or one of my lowlife frat brothers, they're gonna back off from us like we got the plague. I go with you - I look better and they'll probably give us some looks.

--So I'm the lure tonight.

--Yep, the bait. Don't be offended though - I also like talking to you. Like I said your smart.

--I thought it was knowledgeable - not necessarily smart.

--I think you're smarter than you come across. You'd be good in a Gary Cooper type casting, I think that’s you – a young Irish Gary Cooper. You have that good ol' boy look, with intelligence thrown in - and that manipulative complete baloney self effacement. You play it well, like it's perfectly natural. It's very believable.

--Thanks. I think.

--No – seriously, you're sly – you're like T.E. Lawrence joining up with the RAF to hang out with the crude, rude and uncultured. And you're pulling it off. Like Saul Bellow hanging out in Chicago or kinda like Kennedy not afraid to show off his brain trust – and pulling it off. Those buddies of yours actually like you, actually show you some respect. I could never get that from run of the mill types.

--Well, we grew up together. And we grew up in a town where culture and its accouterments are prevalent. And honestly, while I don't hide it, I don't wear much intellectualism on my sleeve – I do sort of – I guess, but I don't throw it in their face, at least I don't think I do. And being good at games helped.

--Yeah, well – that’s another area I'm all fucked up in. Sports – I'm just too lame.

We pulled off the freeway into a square concrete walled tunnel which went under a concrete freeway overpass. Then we emerged amid the sheer glass and concrete walls of the downtown. A couple minutes and the modern walls turned to brick with wood framed windows. On the ground floors the windows were big and fronted shops and an occasional bar. The facades of some of the buildings had the Frisco Victorian look – the Pioneer style – which from what I could see was simply understated Victorian - some had bay windows, most were simple, merely hinting of the look with slight architectural flourishes like pediments over windows or pilasters at the sides of doorways.

--Been down here? Sal asked.

--No, not yet.

--The Pioneer Square area, lot a old buildings rehabbed. The place is known for it's jazz nightlife. Lot a these small bars have got jazz bands.

Mc Rory's seemed much like the Golden Gate bar - the tony English - Irish - city bar - club look; Mc Rory's though was larger and upscale, white marble was on the floors, the same sumptuous brown paneling was over the walls, and the bar was quite impressive - behind the rather long bar at the front, the wall was covered with shelves from floor to ceiling and with mirrors to the rear of the shelving. Over the shelves was a vast array of likely any and all liquors and liqueurs from the standard fare to the rare from the world over. A library ladder leaned into and ran along the rail set high along the face of the shelving. Around the room over the paneling were Lee Roy Niemann original paintings, including one of the bar. And Sal had called it correctly, the clientele was youngish and from the Seattle nob set - it was a crowd which could easily have been transplanted to the Golden Gate or to the El Rancho; and, as such, Sal in Levis and a button down, and I in my pseudo fisherman Levis and flannel, were slightly below form. We started at the bar. I looked at a couple of girls, one looked at me briefly - then turned away. I guessed her to be a little older, a couple years maybe. While we waited for our drinks, Sal leaned back against the bar and surveyed the room, girls were abundant. His chin was up showing his presumptuousness, yet he seemed well in check. He looked like a determined hunter facing his prey with what he thinks might be an undersized weapon, facing a wild boar with a twenty two caliber, not quite sure what to expect.

--Look at ‘em all,-- he said. --See how they all got bows and bands in their hair.

I took a more careful look, he was right, most did.

--You wonder what happens to all the sorority girls after they graduate and don't rope a guy. Right here. The sorority and fraternity bone yard.

I laughed. The bartender set our beers down on the bar, and Sal paid. I had reached in my pocket to grab my money - but he stopped me, --No - I got it. Your the bait remember.

--You sure?

--Hey better take it - last time you'll get something bought for you by a Jew.

--For someone whose Jewish, you seem to promote the standard prejudices against your race.

--So what. Everybody's too concerned about that crap these days. I'll be the first to admit Jews can be a pain in the ass - even though we're smarter than everybody.

Eventually we ended up at a table. On the way over Sal somehow got talking to a girl calling herself Rosalie. Her hair was brunette, short and wavy, her skin darker, and her body slender and wrapped in a white satin like blouse and black leather skirt which fell just above her knee. She looked older – a few years older actually, and she claimed to be a local actress currently employed with a support role in a play at the local theater, and in a part time role as perfume saleslady at the downtown Nordstrom's department store. Sal was going after her, really querying her as we all sat down, --What'd you say the play was called?

--Northern Roundabout.

Sal looked puzzled and thoughtful, then said, --Think I heard of it - local guy wrote it right?

She shook her head, --No - it was an English writer.

Sal looked at me, --You heard of it?

I shook my head, --No, haven't.

--It's a fun play - you guys should go see it, She said.

--We will, Sal said.

--So what do you guys do? You students? She asked.

Sal slowly shook his head and with complete assurance said, --Naw - teachers. He teaches back east and I teach at the U. We're both PhD candidates.

She appeared impressed and said, --Oh that must be neat being a teacher. You guys look young - like you'd be students.

--We are young - just graduated undergrad last year,-- he said.

She looked at me, --Where do you teach back east?

--I went to Princeton, I said, half heartedly going along.

She didn't quite catch it and said, --Princeton - that's a great school isn't it. What do you teach?

Her eyes were dark brown, and brows narrow and black. Her skin was dark enough that in certain light she could have almost passed for African-American. I guessed her to be Spanish or possibly middle eastern. Before I could say anything to perhaps get close to setting the record straight Sal interrupted, --He's an English teacher - he's one of the countries foremost young writers. He's a real intellectual.

I smiled and laughed barely at this blatant display of gall and mendacity then said, --He's exaggerating.

--I think both you guys are, She said.

Sal said, --No, no really. Ask us about a book you've read - a good book - not some trash thing. We'll know all about it.

--An art sort of book? She asked.

--Yeah - literature; you know classic stuff.

--I don't know - don't read a lot of classics, she said.

--Yeah - you have, he said. --Didn't you ever have to read something for a class?

--I once had to read Death of a Salesman.

--Okay - you've read plays. Arthur Miller wrote that, he said. --It's a great play. The main character is Willy Loman. Did you like it?

--Yeah, it was okay. It was sad though, She said.

--Yeah, well it's a tragedy, He said. --Read any Eugene O'Neil or Tennessee Williams maybe. How about Shakespeare?

--Romeo and Juliet - that's Shakespeare, She said. --And Glass Menagerie.

--There you go, he said; then looked over at me, --this girls read some stuff here.

--She does seem pretty smart, I said.

She looked at me and gave me a slight smile. I sensed she might not be swallowing all of Sal's hype - nor what little I was offering. Either that or she simply was not impressed. Then she said, --You know I have to go up the street to meet a friend of mine. She's there with a friend of her's. I just came in here for a second.

--Where up the street? Sal asked.

--The Depote Club, She said.

Sal nodded, --That's a fun place.

--You guys want to go with me?

--Sure - why not? Sounds like fun, Sal said; then looked at me, --Wanna go?

--Never been to the Depote Club, I said, though I sensed she was not that enthusiastic about us going - her invite seemed rather weak. But then perhaps she didn't want to appear too available. We walked up the street a couple blocks to a smaller bar, more towards a hole in the wall. Behind the front picture windows a three man ensemble, a player on the sax, another on the piano, and one plucking a cello, played a jumping light hearted jazz, almost Latin, conga like. Between the band and the bar against the rear wall were small round wood tables and chairs, and in front of the band was a small open dance area. Rosalie led us to a table where a young couple were sitting quiet, drinking and listening to the band, a couple of drink glasses were in front of them on the table. We sat down and Rosalie introduced us, but the band was too loud so I didn't catch the names. We shook hands with them both. Rosalie had sat next to the girl and was saying something to her, none of the conversation I could hear. The girl had long thick brown hair, and a pale face with some acne. She was not as attractive as Rosalie. Her date - I assumed he was her date - had thick blond hair cut above his ears and large round features on his face. He sat quiet projecting toward Sal and I blank unfriendly almost hard looks. For a while we listened to the band, Sal waved a waitress over and ordered everyone a round of beers, and paid for it all. I tried paying for some handing him a five dollar bill, but he waved it away. I leaned over and said to him loud, --Big spender. He ignored the comment. After a couple more songs the band took a break. The relative quiet now made it easier to talk and Sal asked the girls date, --What'd you say your name was?

--Mark, he said in a slightly caustic tone as if he was going out of his way to repeat it.

Sal ignored his lack of ready gregariousness and asked, --So whadaya do - you a student?

Mark shook his head, --No - just graduated.

Sal looked at Rosalie and the other girl, --So how do you all know each other?

Rosalie said, --I work with Sally. I just met Mark with you guys.

Sal said, --I see - at Nordstrom's?

Sally nodded and Rosalie said, --That's the place. She sells Giorgeo's and I sell Chanel.

--Sounds interestin', Sal said. Then looked at Mark, --So you got a job yet - or taken the summer off?

--Naw - I work in a restaurant on Mercer Island. That's just temporary though.

--Temporary huh - so what'd you want to be when you grow up? Sal asked.

--I'm a writer, I write.

Sal looked at me and nodded toward Mark and said impishly, --He's a writer. Then he looked back at Mark, --Got anything published yet?

Mark nodded.

Sal looked at me again, --The guys a published writer. Then looked at Mark, --What'd you publish?

--A story.

I asked rather impressed, --Where'd you publish?

--A literary journal - put out by my college.

--What college? Sal asked.

--Idaho State.

--Idaho huh,-- Sal said. Then looked at me again, --The potato state.

Trying to smooth over Sal's popping off I asked, --What's the name of the journal?

With complete seriousness Mark said, --The Spud Quarterly.

I nodded and held back a smile. Sal again looked at me and raised an eyebrow. I thought for certain he was going to say something - but he held back.

Then Rosalie said, --Hey their teachers. Maybe you should talk to them about your writing. Pointing at me she said, --He teaches at Princeton.

Mark then looked at me and coming more out of his shelled exterior asked, --You really teach at Princeton?

Before I could say anything, Sal interrupted, --Sure he does - he teaches creative writing. And he's had a bunch of stuff published. Ever heard of the Paris Review?

--Sure, Mark said.

--He won their college short story contest last year.

Mark looked over at me with eyes that were definitely more open and alive. But before I had to bail myself out or resort to the blatant mis-truths Sal was vomiting forth, the band started up again and our conversation ended. We spent the next hour or so, till closing, in the bar consuming a couple more rounds. We danced some. I ended up dancing with a blond girl of uncertain name and origin - I couldn't hear anything she told me over the music. After a couple of dances she walked away from me and went over to the bar and stood next to and started talking to some other guy. Sal appeared to be making inroads with Rosalie. But maybe not, for after my blond departed, Rosalie came up and asked me to dance, which I did for one number. We were all fairly tanked up when the lights were turned up, and the band stopped, and the bartenders and waitresses shouted the all clear out please.

When we got outside Rosalie and Sal were embracing, kissing, and talking. Mark came up to me with his arm around Sally, --You really teach at Princeton?

--I just graduated from there.

--You're a writer?

--Not really. Sal's exaggerating.

--Still to get into Princeton - you must know your stuff.

--Just cause you go to Princeton doesn't necessarily mean you know you're stuff.

--Yeah it does - you don't get into a school like that unless you got a lot going for ya.

--So how long you been writing? I asked.

--Since high school. I always wanted to be a writer.

--What authors you like?

--Karouack. You ever read him?

--Sure - read On the Road.

--Yeah, that's a classic.

Sal then came over and said, --Hey Rosalie here says we should go up the street to Thirteen Coins to get somethin' to eat. You guys hungry?

--What's Thirteen Coins? I asked.

--It's a ritzy coffee shop on the other block - open all night, Sal said.

It was only a short walk, just around the corner. In the restaurant were a dozen or so people in groups of two or more with the same idea waiting in the front area next to the front desk. A host in a blue blazer informed us that the wait was about an hour. Sal then, to my astonishment, slipped him a ten and we were then almost immediately seated. As we walked to our table I said to Sal, --I can't believe you did that.

He shrugged, --We're getting seated aren't we?

--Hope it's worth it, I said.

Though set up much like a coffee shop, with booths, a counter, a short order kitchen, the place had the look of a two and a half star restaurant - the lights were dimmed, the booths were well stuffed and high backed, even the stools at the counter were high backed and with arm rests, and all in sedated browns and greens. We were sat at a large round table toward the back, and we were all feeling mildly fine and dandy from the effects of the alcohol. We played for a few minutes the obnoxious young drunks, burping on demand, catapulting food fight fashion butter patties across the table with our spoons - one flew over the head of an unwary waiter taking an order then splattered on the wall and slowly oozed down. We laughed over that – and the waiter's complete obliviousness - uproariously to the point of almost choking. When our waiter came by, we calmed down and Sal told him at once, --I just want some pancakes.

--No pancakes sir - we do have omelets.

--No pancakes? Gawd I was all set for pancakes.

He ended up resolving himself to a corn beef on rye. I ordered a spinach omelet and a cup of coffee - hoping it would sober me some. The others ordered various items most of which I didn't hear. After the waiter was gone Sal began needling Mark a bit, --So what'd you write about again? He asked with a slight antagonistic edge.

Mark looked oddly confused, --What I wrote about?

--Yeah - you know - what do you write about? Darwin wrote about monkeys, Faulkner about nutty southerners - what you write about?

Mark shrugged, --Life - whatever.

--Life huh, Sal said then looked at me and said almost flippant, --he writes about life.

I interjected here to again temper Sal, --So you just graduated?

Mark looked over at me, --Yeah.

--In English? I said.

He shook his head, --No - journalism.

I nodded. Sal asked, --Journalism - you do much reading for that major?

Marked shrugged, --Sure - a little.

--What writers do you like? Sal asked then continued, --Let me guess - Hunter S. Thompson and Hemingway.

Mark nodded, --Yeah they wrote some good stuff, I like Kerouac.

Sal said sounding stumped, --Kerouac? Then looking at me said, --Who's he?

I shrugged, --Some beatnik.

--Oh yeah - the voice of the beat generation,-- Sal said. Then looked back at Mark, --And you probably think On the Road is a classic.

Mark nodded, --Yeah, it's a great book.

You know what Truman Capote said about On the Road? Sal asked.

--No what? Mark asked.

--Said it wasn't writing – it was typing. Sal said then let out a quick high pitched laugh.

I smiled and nodded getting it – because I knew how Kerouac supposedly wrote the first draft of the book in a mad dash of non-stop typing on a roll of butcher paper. Mike didn't show any response, apparently he didn't get it.

--Desolation Angels is a better book. Sal said.

--Yeah that's good too, Mark said.

--Oh - so you read it, Sal said then looked at me, --He's read Desolation Angels - he knows his Kerouac. You ever read it?

I shook my head, --No, just On the Road.

Sal feigned astonishment, --My God - we have an ignoramus in our midst. Then looking at Mark he said, --He don't know his Kerouac - and he's from Princeton - I know all that Ivy League hoopla was just good P.R.

Mark looked at me, --Who do you think are great writers?

I nodded my head slightly to the side, --Well starting from when? From Homer, or just American writers, or just from this century.

--From this century.

--I guess I'd start with Conrad, James, Drieser, Dos Passos, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Lewis, O'Neil, Tennessee Williams, you know – the standards. Poets I guess would be Elliot of course, Pound, Frost. From Europe I'd include Evelyn Waugh, Thomas Mann, James Joyce. in fact I'd say Joyce and Mann were probably the greatest novelists of the century.

Sal took exception, --That's a pretty sweeping statement. You think Joyce was the greatest? You really think that or were you just told to say that at Princeton?

I thought about it a second and smiled, then said, --Maybe a little of both.

Sal looked at Mark, --There see - you go to the Ivy League and they tell you what you gotta think - the acceptable mind sets.

I laughed a little, --Not quite.

Mark said, --I tried reading Joyce - I couldn't figure him out.

--Of course you couldn't, Sal said, --you and the rest of the whole goddamn world. Your just too naive, so you admit it.

--What'd you try reading of his? I asked.

--The one where he's an artist - and the Ulysses one.

--Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man? Sal asked.

--Yeah that one,-- Mark answered. --I mean what's goin on in that thing?

--Just like it says, I said, and remembered my father's explications to me about it and I repeated them parrot like: --Joyce is showing us the development of a literary artist from just after birth to young manhood, from a simple naive mentality to a disciplined thoughtful, well defining and rational mentality. He shows the fall of the boy from his religious upbringing to his rise as a mature self sufficient, self thinking artist.

Sal challenged, --I think the kid here is right - Joyce was a nut case.

I looked at Sal, --A nut case? I'm surprised you'd think that.

Sal shook his head and seemed to come more energetic, --Hey - unlike all the closet case intellectuals - I'm not impressed. Same thing with that T.S. Elliott. They're both symbolic windbags. They camp in the libraries contracting asthma reading everything in site then paste it all together in some supposed dense montage of meaning that's a complete pain in the ass to read. Tell me you've read Joyce and Elliot and understand ‘em?

I said, --No not at first - but after study yes I think so - but not as well as I'd like.

--Not as well as you'd like - huh? Sal said pouncing almost. --You can read and make some headway with Finnegan's Wake?

I admitted, --No not really. It's a tough nut to crack. Even my professor could only explicate it barely. But you can't tell me that just the intermixing and compounding of languages to create meaning or a sense of meaning isn't impressive?

He shrugged, --Maybe. Then he sat up and forward in his chair, his eyes appeared to widen as his speech became faster paced and full of what I considered an over energized verve: --I guess it's sort of impressive. But so what? Is sifting through all that gobledy goop worth the effort? You know strip away the rhetoric and what do you come up with? At least Elliott seems to be saying some things that are sort of insightful. Joyce - I don't know. I don't trust the bastard. I say genius is taking the complexity on life's surface and simplifying it - making it more understandable. Like in physics - first the Greeks had their atom theories and their guys like Pythagoras and Archimedes' who explained the ins and outs of natural phenomena; then those guys Ptolemy, Copernicus and Galileo, then Merril, now Einstein. Each of these guys had a theory that made more broad and in depth our understanding of how the whole thing comes together - made the seeming incomprehensible comprehensible. If anything I say ol' Joyce is pulling a sock over everybody's head, adding to the incomprehensibleness.

I shook my head, --In Dubliners he's adding to the incomprehensibleness? in Portrait?

--No - your right there - those two works are brilliant. But in Ulysses, sort of; and in Finnegan’s - definitely,-- Sal said. --I think he spent too much time going blind on that green island. He needed to get out and see somethin'.

The waiter interrupted what had become a lively conversation and set down our food on the table. After he departed we again took up the talk, like the undergrads we essentially were, on into the night like women talking of Michelangelo.

I said again offering up more of my dad: --About Joyce what has always convinced me of his superior stature as an artist was the step by step transition of his art. He begins with Dubliners - short story masterpieces told in conventional forms. Then in Portrait of the Artist, he begins to experiment - and the style and story and insight into the growth and character of the artist is presented masterfully and majestically. In Ulysses the experimentation, the leitmotifs, the symbols and style are profound in their complexity and presentation. But still his experimentation is more grounded in the traditional, yet he takes the experimentation to new heights, heights never before reached by previous authors. Now like a businessman establishing credibility by creating a solid long term credible track record of timely paying his bills, he creates that foundation from which he can present his radically experimental work - that without the previous foundation the work would probably have been passed off as sheer lunacy. But because of the credible foundation - the radical work demands our attention. His serious intent was established, verified in the earlier less obtuse works, so though Finnegan’s Wake seems ridiculously complex – we know it's the product of a genius - that fact can't be denied. The previous work demands we take Finnegan’s Wake seriously.

--Sal nodded and said talking while he chewed on his food, --You actually believe that baloney you just upchucked?

--I said it didn't I?

Sal shook his head, --Guess you did. They really brainwashed you at Princeton didn't they? Listen your easily fooled. People change, including artists and businessmen. The brilliant Wall Streeter of today is selling apples tomorrow; artists can make mistakes. Joyce's problem is he spent twenty years making one.

I laughed and shook my head, --How's that?

He shook his head, --You're easily fooled.

--Think so? I said.

--Yeah - here's how I look at it, Sal said, then he put the rest of his sandwich down as he started really rolling, his hands and arms even got involved gesticulating, emphasizing points and lulls like a director over his symphony: --In the old days when the Pharaohs and Druids were running around, the priests were the only ones who could read and write. And they wouldn't teach anybody to read cause once they did and everybody could read then knowledge would be exchanged and everybody might figure out that the priests were really no big deal. But as long as the priest could read and assimilate knowledge then they were smarter and could maintain their power over everybody.

It all started in the primitive tribal societies. There you had these medicine men or witch doctors who were smart and got everybody believing they somehow had magical powers. These were the original silver-tongued elixir salesmen. And they're line of salami was along the lines of figuring out that when the sky goes gray then it's probably going to rain - so when the sky goes gray they tell everybody to get ready to get wet, that they got this power to bring water when the sky goes gray. And then what'd yeah know whamo it rains and now everybody in the tribe thinks the medicine mans got the inside track or something. A couple of tribesman may question the doc but then the doc says the doubters are evil and blames all the problems effecting the tribe on the doubters - saying that the doubters are bringin' evil spirit's or some such. Then what'd ya know, the dummies comprising most of the tribe scalps the doubters or burns them at the stake or something. The witch doctor, if he's really smart prescribes a gruesome death for the doubters - you know slow death by piano wire or something - a sorta subliminal warning to others not to start raising stupid questions against the medicine man. And of course the tribe wants to believe in the hocus pocus cause it alleviates their fears and doubts over the uncontrollability and seemingly awesome insignificance of their situation. So they're easily fooled. Just like today - try going into a church and telling everybody in the congregation that God's just a scientific formula and their just a statistic leading lives of random probability. Good luck.

Anyway - the essential thing here is with any group there's always the smart guy, the guy who's not gonna swallow the status quo - so pretty soon the smart guys start figuring out about the medicine man - start seeing through the docs yak yak. So the medicine man - if he' a real sly dog - in order to stay on top he's gotta come up with a whole new game plan. You know they gotta become subtler - know what I mean. So they figure it out that if they keep on trying to predict the outcome of things, and they lose their hot streak they're going’ to be eatin’ crow real fast. So they go from predicting things out right to being the guys who can maybe persuade the gods to bring on the desired result. Hence the basic transference from medicine man or witch doctor to priest.

Now they're sorta like lawyers. Only instead of hiring them to persuade a judge or jury - you hire ‘em to persuade the all-mighty. And in order to make themselves more believable they start calling themselves fancy names like Cardinal and Bishop, Monsignor, Deacon, and they don't get married, and they wear all this formal glitzy evening wear, and perform all these complicated rituals - you know - they make up all these trappings of superiority. And it's all meant to make everybody believe that they got the know how for the direct line to the big G-O-D. That's why all these religions claim exclusivity - you know - they're the ones - the only ones with the direct link. It's competition - just like in business. More people you got following your religion - the more money you bring in, the more money you got, the more power you got. That's why the Catholics are so damn big - the General Motors of the church industry.

Mark interrupted, --So what's this got to do with James Joyce?

Sal looked at me, --Impatient this guy. Then looked at Mark, --I'm getting to it. He picked up his sandwich again and took a big bite and through the chewing said, --You know Rome wasn't built in a day.

Rosalie was sitting back in the booth chewing on a breadstick. Janet was looking down at her plate moving some peas around with her fork. Neither girl seemed that carried by the conversation. Sal it seemed had long left them at the station as his locomotive of speak chugged and sped on, again he put down what was left of his sandwich to free and deploy his arms and hands. --So anyway what was I sayin'? Oh yeah - so these religions are claiming they're the only ones with the right pill. And they probably actually think that - very sophisticated self delusion. If you're not Catholic, you're damned, not Muslim, too bad, not Jewish you're screwed. Now eventually - again people start getting smart. They pray a lot - nothing happens, they dabble in holy water - nothing happens, they give money to the church - nothing happens, they even memorize verses out of their holy books - nothing happens. And some really smart guys come up with other ideas about things which contradict what the priests have been telling everybody. Like Ptolemy versus Copernicus. First Ptolemy's the trendy guy, then Copernicus says - nope that ain't it. Then another asshole named Galileo comes along with some instrument and proves Copernicus - and then what? All the priests got egg on their face. And more ideas come that aren't in line with what the priests are espousing, and in fact great things happen as a result of these ideas that are contrary to what the priests have been shuffling everybody over the ages. So now the priests have to start scurrying around and rearranging their dictums to make ‘em fit in with what the smart guys are coming up with. Either that or like the witch doctors of old - burn the smart bastards at the stake. But as history has shown though the dummies have burned the smarties, civilization at large eventually gets wise to it all, and the religious lose their hold - become the holding houses of the slow witted. That's sorta the state we're in now.

I nodded, --So you're sayin' it's just a big power play?

--Yes – bingo, he said. --Couldn't have put it better myself. Then he looked at Mark, and holding one hand up and spreading the fingers for emphasis, --And so how all this relates to Joyce and Elliott - same thing. Call it a literary or artistic power play. Think about it. Your James Joyce - or Elliott, somehow you've got it into your head that you're goin' to be a big time immortal literary artist. A big name on the marquee with Homer, Vigil, Dante, Whitman, and the like. You want to be revered as such and your goal is to be immortal. Joyce even admitted to it - must have been a moment of weakness - he revealed his true cards, or color. He said he'd put so many puzzles and enigmas into his writings that it should keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what he meant. And they are arguing and arguing. But the fact is they'll all probably keep arguing because no one can believe there's nothing really there. No one can believe that some guy - like you said - who exhibited earlier genius - would take twenty years of his life to manufacture a labyrinth so tangled and involved as to astound with its surface brilliance, and yet have no real meaningful substantive logical rational end. There must be a significant end. Somewhere a big idea. Or lots of little ideas that are strung together to make a big idea. Some mother fucking insightful comprehensibility! I say what Joyce - and Elliot have done is created an art with a surface that appears to be saying something beyond normal comprehension - something that supposedly only the truly superior mind could comprehend. But they really aren’t saying much of anything. They ain’t Shakespeare.

Like D.H. Lawrence said about Melville and Moby Dick - that it seemed like Herman is putting one over on us. Now with Moby Dick I say no. I'll stand on any soap box and argue for the sheer greatness of that book. But at the same time I'll stand on the same box and argue the sheer vacuity of Elliott's and Joyce's work. It's all posturing. Trying to convince the world what geniuses they must be. But I say at bottom - they're not - why? ‘Cause when you push aside the complex brilliant facade what's left? What great intellectual or emotional insight is there? After all the gleaning what's the nourishment? You say cause of Dubliners and Portrait - the clarity and beauty and insight of those works - Joyce set a foundation to prove his sanity. I say wrong. Just cause he was sane before doesn't mean he was sane later. The business guy who pays his bills on time one day may very well be tomorrows flake. Give me Tolstoy with his War and his Peace and Anna Karinine any day of the week over those clowns.

--You think Joyce went insane? I asked.

He nodded his head to the side, --Maybe that's too strong of a word - insane; but I definitely believe he was possessed with demons of persuading the world that he was somehow smarter then the average bear. Which frankly there lies my suspicions. No doubt he was a great stylist, a hellava linguist, or rhetorician. He had great command of the language. But what did he really have to say? I say he spent so much time studying the language and past literature that he never really spent anytime coming up with something to say.

To me the great artist has some insight into things at large in the human condition that the average guy doesn't have; and he uses the available artistic mediums to bring us that insight. Joyce said it himself you know – he used to review books for some rag; anyway most of the books he would savage ‘em asking if the author had really come to understand something about life. And he said for most of the books he reviewed that they should be consigned to the rubbish heap of history – because they said nothing significant about human life. So now I have to ask what is Joyce saying in Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake about human life? Huh? Where’s the beef under all those literary crossword puzzles? Take Eugene O'Neil - he goes through a lousy childhood and shows us all the ins and outs of twenty years of dysfunctional family crap in two hours on a single small stage - Long Days Journey Into Night. A man over a lifetime takes over the worlds greatest empire and then is assassinated - this and the surrounding politics are analyzed and displayed again in a couple of hours in the play Julius Caesar. A king goes mad from the betrayal of his daughters, King Lear. Four centuries before Freud the manic depressive personality is clearly and dramatically shown complete with probable causes - Hamlet. Now that's genius. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliner's is genius. But the way I see it somewhere amidst Ulysses, Joyce discovered that he was dry - that he was only half a Shakespeare - the rhetorical half - not the half that could look and see things in the human condition and spin great yarns out of them. You know Joyce didn't like Dickens. Okay, maybe Dickens isn't some great stylist - but the son of a gun could put together a great story and crowd it with great characters. When you think of Dickens right away comes to mind Sam Weller, Uriah Heep, Scrooge, Pickwick, Fagin, David Copperfield, Tiny Tim, Pip, Ralph Nickleby, Jonas Chuzzlewit, The Artful Dodger, I could go on. Same thing with Tolstoy - you think of War and Peace or Anna Karaninan - both big stories full of drama, character and life analysis. But Joyce and Elliott? Now you think of archetypes, symbols, a couple memorable characters maybe. I say in the end beneath all the technical dazzle - the plays the thing. Like a movie full of technical wizardry - but a lousy script - what'd you still got? A lousy movie. And that's Joyce's problem - he couldn't tell a story. Elliott - sort of the same thing - but not as bad as Joyce. There's some stuff in Elliott I actually like. Like The Wasteland for example - it's got some good lines. To me Joyce is like the engineer who can come up with all the technical numbers - but can't come up with a plausible design. Or like the manager who can run a business but can't come up with new products or ideas to expand the business. A technocrat - enthralled with the form and technique. But let's face it - you got to be able to tell a story.

I asked, --Prufrock, Stephen Dedalus, Bloom, Molly Bloom? You don't think of them? And if Joyce and Elliott are so vapid and vacuous why are they so widely studied? And wouldn't you say that Joyce instead of presenting a surplus of characters has chosen to examine a few well?

--Hey I didn't say they were vapid. Just vacuous. Look your missing the point of my whole hurang here. I'm telling you we are being hoodwinked! The reason people are studying these guys is it pays for them to jump on the bandwagon. Like this kid here - he listens to us talk about Joyce. Now he's impressed - he's tried to read Joyce and found it hard going - and he says to himself - or maybe just sorta senses to himself - that he's not smart enough to read and figure Joyce out. Now that's bunk - you and I know that. But he may very well think that. And if we say we do understand Joyce - and talk about Joyce with a semblance of knowing what's going on - then the kid here thinks we're smarter than him - cause we can supposedly figure Joyce out - and he can't. But the truth is we've just pulled a Joyce - taking what he writes and pretending to know all about it. Professors love this stuff - they need this kind of thing - it validates their careers, gives them a reason for their existence, a reason for charging poor dumb parental units huge tuition fees. But I'm tellin' you its just another con. When a professor gets in front of a class and says okay folks here's what Joyce is doing - he's got a job - and the class thinks, hey this prof is smarter then we are. That's why this new guy Pynchon is such a hero with the academics. He's another one a these symbolic windbags – a supposed genius that's supposedly saying something under his gobble goop. He's not really - but like Joyce he's given ‘em a lot to chew on. And their jumpin' all over it like ants on a carcass. Joyce, Elliott, and Pynchon - why they've created an industry. When the Pulitzer committee refused to award Pynchon the prize for Gravities Rainbow - my respect for that committee went up ten fold. It showed there was still common sense smarts in the world after all and they weren't gonna be conned by this literary witch doctor.

--Pynchon’s no good either? I asked.

--Nope - not at all. He's not even in the same league. He’s no Joyce. At least Joyce is a great rhetorician and stylist. You know granted Finnegan's Wake does have its moments – it is sorta astounding how stylistic it is.

--You wouldn't say that Joyce and Elliott at bottom were presenting insights into the cycles of history and culture? Insights into the form and structure of mankind's cultural destiny? Perhaps what you don't see is they are getting at the roots of the flux and flow of human history? Finnegan’s fall is mans fall, Lucifer’s fall, Adam's fall, the loss of innocence, loss of Eden, Rome's fall, Wall Streets fall, and Elliott does the same - compares the old to the new, evokes the cycles of cultural change and indicates where man is and the reason for his being there in his current historical morass.

Sal shook his head and smiled, --You know - you should write Cliff Notes. Listen they're all, Pound included, trying to be another Cervantes. They saw what an impact he made and he's their forerunner. Create an allegory or parable on the history of men and become immortal. Be seen as the announcer of a new cycle or epoch in cultural history. And just to insure the immortality, make the work dense and complicated full of tidbit's from current and past affairs and literature.

You know what they're problem was - they were all too damn ambitious. They set out to be the greatest literary artist that ever was. I'm not sure that's such a good idea. I have a sixth sense that great artists are more born and destined than deliberately made. You know Shakespeare sort of fell into play writing. In fact, back then plays weren't even considered serious literature. After he wrote a few plays and found out he had the knack - then he wrote his sonnets to make a serious imprint. What if Eugene O'Neil hadn't had a childhood like he did - what if it was like he portrays in Ah Wilderness? Think he would have become the great playwright? Created Long Day's Journey into Night? I guess what I'm saying is that they're just certain things the artist can't will onto himself in order to create greatness. And I think we see that attempt in Elliott and Joyce.

--You could say the same for Homer, Virgil, Dante, Wagner, Cervantes even - don't you think? Their work is more allegorical, more intellectual.

--No, no. Homer - tells a great story, and same with those other guys. And none of them are as inaccessible and puzzling as Joyce and Elliott.

I shook my head, --I don't know. You sort of got me going with Joyce. But not Elliott - I think your selling Elliott way short. And even with Joyce - you have to admit the effect of the works - even if superficial is awesome - like Michelangelo's ceiling, the creation is daunting and powerful, immense.

--The ceiling is a painting. Most of a paintings merit is how the medium itself is manipulated. But writing for the sake of writing is not enough. Great writing has to be founded on the big ideas, a great story – like Joyce himself said – significant insights into the human condition. Elliott for example criticizes Shakespeare - says Hamlets a flawed work of art. He even goes so far to say the plays subject matter was beyond Shakespeare's abilities. And he says Shakespeare had a tendency to cover up his deficiencies with the cleaver lofty language. I call cheap shot. I say Joyce is the number one deficiency cover up. And Elliott may be number two. Where in Joyce is Lear at the heath, Macbeth going bonkers with guilt and remorse, Faulstaff clowning, Price Hal metamorphosing into kingship, Caesar dieing, Anthony eulogizing, Prospero manipulating, Juliet loving, the Shrew whoring, I could go on and on. What's Elliott given us? Prufrock, cats and a bunch of niggardly gripes that modern civilization is too sexy, drunk, carefree, and disrespectful of Catholicism. You have to admit that guy was a really a stuff shirt.

You know they both lived in one of the most fascinating epochs in human history; but during World War I where was Joyce? Hiding out in Switzerland. Elliott was working in a bank. Now take Hemingway - he was out there on the front driving an ambulance witnessing what the hell was going on. Now to me that's an artist. It's called hands on afflatus. It's like my Uncle says - you don't run a business by sitting in an office. True some critics would say the true artist hides out and does his thing careless to the whips and scorns of the times, but I just don't see how you can be a prophet for an age by staying away from the action. I'll take Hemingway over Joyce any day of the week. Sun Also Rises deals with similar cultural issues The Wasteland and Finnegan’s Wake deals with - and it's a lot easier to read and a heckava lot more interesting.

I nodded agreeing - but also disagreeing. He was passing off these great men too glibly I thought, though I was agreeing with him more with Joyce, than Elliott. And like all tabletop conversations, issues and suggestions were becoming mixed and clouded in a glib stream. Sun also Rises similar in topic to the Wasteland and Finnegan’s Wake? Perhaps – but truly for me - who knows? I had not yet figured the work out enough to know. And also Elliott and Joyce were different kinds of artists than that of Hemingway - more in the tradition of Virgil, Dante, Goethe, and indeed Shakespeare - more learned and intellectually inspired, less the active here and now experience seeking writer - less the adventurer seeking the hands on afflatus as the basis of their art. Shakespeare did not travel the world seeking experience, it had come to him in his back yard in Avon and in London and from books. Did Homer, after all, sail the same sea as Odysseus? I was going to point all this out, issue a counter debate but then I noticed we had long lost the others. Rosalie was sitting back in the booth looking blank faced and tired, Janet had her head on Mark's shoulder, both were back in the booth simply watching and listening. The bill had come. I and Mark anted up a few dollars and tossed them toward Sal who had commandeered the check. Sal paid Rosalie’s share and she didn't offer to contribute. When we had gotten outside the restaurant Rosalie said, --Sounds like you guys know a lot about that book stuff.

I shrugged, --Not as much as I should – or as much as Sal.

Sal walked her to a cab that was waiting down the street in front of another club. While they were gone Mark asked me, --Are you at the U right now?

I nodded, --Yeah, I'm staying at a fraternity house.

--Can I come by sometime and show you some of my writing?

I nodded, --Sure - I'm generally there in the evenings. Sal's not going to be around though much longer – I think he's leaving for Alaska in a few days.

--That's okay - I want you to look at the writing - I don't think he knows as much as you.

--He knows more than I do. Believe me – he's the one you should show you're writing to.

--Maybe - but you went to Princeton. And I don't know – that Sal guy gets awfully worked up.

I shrugged, --Well, he likes to talk I guess.

--Sure does.

What could I say? In my mind this Mike was simply another surface player. Every bit the contributor to a Spud Quarterly. He just didn't get much of it. I had heard the lecturing of my father formally and informally, in both the classroom and just sitting around, I had heard and participated in plenty of undergrad bull sessions – at Princeton - by presumably those from the cream of the undergrad crop, plenty of salon talk among intellectuals at our family dinner table and living room cocktail parties; I had been around the block some when it came to intellectual bull sessions in general – and I thought Sal's talk luminous and provocative, original and risky - up with the nuttier best. At times I thought he was just a brainy undergrad just dumb enough to be dangerous, but I wasn't sure. I hesitated to pass him off and his aria of conversation just talk among the children. I thought he was saying things I had – even post my study - post lecturing by my father - and post some – yes, some - applied thought – thoughts that indeed I was beginning to have – that perhaps twentieth century literature and idea mongering was too easily falling into parody and defeat, too easily throwing hands up and saying to hell with it – that the natural world had become just too damn a tangled web for fictional and intellectual weaving. And this at a time I ruefully felt we, as poor lost humans, especially needed real direction into the real. Sal was saying things I often faintly thought, but was too afraid to say – I was no maverick – or even really a decent thinker - I was too well courteously playing my role of the go along and getting along undergrad – and clueless passive scion of the family academic tradition, never daring to make waves as I flitted in and out of my various rather cloistered societies.

As I politely said to Mike, --I'm only going to be at the U for a month or so at the Sigma house – but sure, bring the work by if you'd like - Janet pulled on his arm and he started off.

He said, --Look we gotta go - the last ferry's gonna leave soon. I'll be by. And they both ran off holding hands down the darkened street toward the waterfront.

Sal came up from behind me, --Gawd what a crummy bitch.

--What's the problem?

--I get her to the cab and I try to kiss her and she wouldn't. Then I try to get her number and she wouldn't give it to me - says she's got some boy friend. Goddamn what a dummy I am - you know how much I spent wining and dining that bitch?

--Obviously too much.

As we walked to his car he shook his head, --Son of a bitch, what a bunch a crap.

At his car he displayed his temper with a slap on the tin roof and a slam of his door as he got in. When he turned the key and the engine turned over and rumbled on he said, --That's what I mean about being Jewish. She would've of at least given you her phone number - if not asked you over to her house.

I shook my head, --Naw I doubt it - we bored her with all our literary talk.

He said thick with resigned disappointment, --I don't know - maybe.

He was quiet as we drove through the almost empty city, down shadowy darkened florescent lit streets, the engine clatter echoing off the glass and concrete walls of the buildings. He seemed to be taking the brush off a bit hard, the pangs of despised sexual longing, but then he had expended quite a sum of money and effort on her. If she didn't like him she shouldn't have let him pay for dinner - but then, in her mind, she was probably justifying it by claiming to herself how she had to sit through his boring jabberwocky.

When we got to the freeway, talking loud over the engine noise he came out of his mild funk and restarted the conversation. --Bottom line is nobody is going to make me swallow Joyce's meandering bull. But Elliott - I haven't read him as much - but I might back off. He's complex - but I think he's definitely more accessible and less full of it - he may very well be more substantial in the big idea department. It's just the way I look at it, a genius - a real genius is a guy whose thinking is ahead or beyond the thinking of his time. While Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman were restating eastern philosophy in neatly wrapped easy to swallow pill form, Melville's telling everybody how religions crap and man is basically full of crap - is arrogant and crazy, egocentric, and see's it all like he individually chooses to, and goes skitzo from easy going to demonic; will take an albino whale, an innocent child of mother nature, and turn it into evil incarnate to be mercilessly hunted down in a pathological hunt for revenge - all in a godless random universe that apparently could care less. Only Hawthorn was coming close to that thinking back then - and maybe Poe with his we're just food for the worms asides. Melville and Darwin - those were a couple of great minds, full of big ideas. And Melville could tell a story. And I just don't see that in Joyce - and maybe only sort of in Elliott. I don't know. In Elliott I guess there are more ideas working through the technical achievement. Or there seems to be.

I spoke up deciding to jump in, --I think so with Elliott - I like the way he mixes symbols to create various levels of meaning, how he uses archetypal myths, the contraction of the past and the present into the density of his lines. And I think there is the big ideas in his works. In Prufrock, the playoff between timid isolation and passionate yearning; in The Wasteland - the ignobleness of the modern age compared to the nobility seen in the past; in The Hollow Man - how blind and weak modern man is spiritually, how he is just rolling through the cycles of birth and death and re-birth unaware waiting on the final cataclysm; in Gerontion - man's loss of faith, in the Four Quarters...

He started smiling and chuckling, we pulled up to the fraternity house and he parked at the curb. I asked, --What's so funny?

--Nothing - you just sound like your repeating the lectures of your professors.

--That bad huh?

--Yeah - you show your education - but not your mind. I'll tell you what I like about Elliott - he's got some cool lines. Definitely cool lines.

I nodded, --A penny for the old guy.

He nodded, --What?

--A penny for the old guy - from the Hollow Men.

--Oh yeah.

--Shape without form, shade without color, paralyzed force, gesture without motion.

--What's that from?


--You got it memorized?

--Naw, just some of the lines.

--Know something from The Wasteland?

--She turns and looks a moment in the glass, hardly aware of her departed lover, her brain allows one half thought to pass: 'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.' When lovely woman stoops to folly and paces about her room again alone, she smooths her hair with automatic hand, and puts a record on the gramophone.

--Yeah that's good stuff. From The Wasteland?

--Chapter three, The Fire Sermon.

We got out of the car and began walking up to the house. I could hear a cricket chirping in the hedge in front of the darkened porch. I said, --I like this line: At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is.

He nodded and as we walked into the door going into the dining room - dark save fluorescent light coming from the kitchen through that door - he asked, --What's that from?

--Burnt Norton.

--Sounds sorta oriental.

--Possibly hints of Schopenhours Will or Kant's Noumenal world – or the Upanishads.

--You know much about those guys?

--A little.

--Yeah, I read a little of that stuff.

As we walked across the dining room floor toward the lightened doorway to he kitchen I recited: --Between the idea - And the reality - Between the motion - And the act - Falls the shadow. From The Hollow Men. I said. --That's more like Kant and Schopenhour also.

--You know your Elliott sounds like.

--Sort of.

In the kitchen we both went to the refrigerator, he opened it up and pulled out a can of coke. I pulled out a pint carton of milk which I knew to be Nate’s. He sat down on the large stainless steel counter, I on a side counter. He said, --Maybe your right - maybe I was too quick on the draw on Elliott, he's got some big ideas, and I like his lines. There's a coolness all over his stuff.

I nodded.

--Take Pound,-- he said. --He was trying to do the same thing as Elliott - relate our culture to the past. I don't think he succeeded as well.

I nodded and just said --Hmm.

Then he said, --Still I don't like Elliott's inaccessibility. You know they all complain what a crummy world it is and how everybody's a hollow ignoramus - but then they create this art only the most sophisticated can follow. It's like their giving the curse to the healed, or like a bank they loan money only to those who don't really need it. That's why I like Frost - he's accessible. The average educated lughead or sort of educated guy can figure it out without spending a couple years in the library. How are you going to influence the world if nobody but a select culturized few can understand what your saying. That's why I like Hollywood. Let's face it - even with all the crap pictures that come out - the impact is tremendous. And then there's the money.

I laughed, --I guess you got a point - to a degree. But I think Elliott and Joyce thought that something had to be done for the utmost sophisticate - and recognized a trickle down effect - they influence the elites who then influence the less able - and they influence the world. Essentially going for the apex in literary achievement - extend the envelope so to speak. Someone's gotta try and break the sound barrier wouldn't you say? Take Wittgenstein and his philosophy, that's not toilet reading.

He smiled and nodded at my simile, then shook his head and said, --The less able? Shakespeare was less able? I guess that's what Elliott wants us to believe. Accessibility means an artist is less able? Or his work is somehow not at the apex? Or at the edge of the envelope. Guess Dicken's was a hack. Another problem here is Elliot and Joyce were trying to define where the edge of the envelope is. Hence Elliot's criticism of Shakespeare. Even Elliott threw in a bunch of footnotes to explain the Waste Land. I say the great artist wants to impact the world - and why trust your message to a trickle down effect. I have to go back to what I was saying about Elliott and Joyce posturing themselves toward genius. Frost wasn't posturing. I think he was making a sincere attempt to speak plainly to the rest of humanity. I say great writing is Stopping by Woods, Birches, Home Burial. The stuff is simple like Lincoln's Gettysburg Address or second inaugural speech. You know there's a letter Lincoln wrote to a lady who lost five sons to the civil war. It hangs on a wall at Oxford. That letter is great writing.

I nodded and thought quietly a moment, then said, --You make good points - but I say an artist has to seek his own level. And to say - seek a level - I'm not sure that's a proper way to put it because it assumes their is some level out there for the seeking - in other words, a correct way to do art. I think Art has to be taken for arts sake and to demand accessibility of an artist is as wrong I believe to demand Inaccessibility. Elliott is Elliott; Joyce is Joyce. We should take them for what they are. And let's face it, they are reaching, making demands of, and enthralling the most sophisticated of us. That says something, and to pass it off as a power play by the sophisticated I think is itself is a power play by the less sophisticated, those that for whatever reason, lack of time or wherewithal or laziness simply don't want to make the effort to try and see if there is something going on in those artists. Something obviously is going on - even just a glimpse of the works, including Finnegan’s Wake strikes some interest. I think Elliott and Joyce were trying to explore ways of taking written art to higher realms. Very much like today's modern art. On the surface apparent inaccessible scribbling, but upon study and contemplation - apprehension. Yes Frost is more accessible - and perhaps more emotional, spiritually and humanly inclined. Elliott more intellectual. Frost seems more primal. Elliott, for example, was critical of Gray's Elegy - a simple poem describing the obvious; he said nothing in the poem stylistically or symbolically attempts to stimulate other thoughts or emotions beyond the immediate situation of the poem. No attempt to compare the present with the past, no theorizing really - vacuous - a simple creation, one dimensional, obvious and commonplace. Elliott was very much to me a citified poet, reflecting that sophistication. Frost was countrified. Each in turn drew their symbols accordingly. And I think Elliott had some important and prophetic things to say about modern civilization - especially his concern with the demeaning of tradition and ritual, and the relationships between the sexes.

--Yeah, like everyone should be Catholic.

--True, I guess for Elliott there was no in between. Ritual was to him inherent to civilized life, and Catholicism to him offered both the methodology and inspiration. But frankly I think he was just searching for an answer to major concerns he had over modern life, over it's sterility and vacuity, sexual relationships with no substantive bonds, disciplined intense efforts toward merely superficial ends, rampant betrayal. The best men in contemporary life intense but superficial, doing only what's necessary to get them by, get them to a materialistic glittering but hardly substantial end. Rex Montrom in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited I'd say manifests well Elliott’s hollow contemporary man - the new artists in the Age of Hooper.

--I haven't read it - I'll pick it up. He sort of like Fitzgerald's Gatsby?

--Almost but not quite because I think Fitzgerald became sort of confused with his Gatsby. He ended up admiring him. Admired him because though he made his money fast and was full of hype - he still ended up doing it all for this ideal. At least he had that ideal - he wasn't just sort of half baking his way through life. The ideal of course was flawed - the woman he was after was hardly the stuff of his idea - just a sell out floozy who looked good on paper. So I guess Fitzgerald was saying of all these bad apples Gatsby was the best of a bad lot, or maybe Fitzgerald really did admire him. I don't know. I don't think Gatsby is one to admire though - for much.

Sal cut in and agreed, --I think he was saying he was the best of a bad lot. If I remember that whole book was peopled by idiots. Maybe you're right about Elliott. I should give him a harder look. But Joyce, no way. I think he's a master till a couple chapters into Ulysses, when Steven is on the beach rear regardent looking at the three master moving out into the snot green sea. After that there's more flashes of brilliance but far too much of this avalanche of stream of conscience that's basically incoherent and yuk to read. I just think he lacked story telling ability. And he lacked it because he cloistered himself in a Prufrokian lifestyle. And at bottom you end up asking - hey where's the meat? Modern arts sort of the same thing - you look at it and go hmmm - yes it seems to be reaching the depths of my inner soul - but modern art is tolerable because it has easy access. You go to these modern art museums and take a gander at the nutty displays and think yes that was uniquely interesting and it was fun - you've made an afternoon of it. But Joyce - geeze. He shook his head.

--You know you might be able to say the same thing about Conrad, Secrete Sharer and Heart of Darkness for example - where's the big message? That's the nature of allegory - it leaves much up for interpretation. Moby Dick is filled with expostulation - much of it apparently extraneous.

He shook his head, --No - now you're missing the point completely, and we're just getting off into gross generalizations. Let me try and explain it this way - Secrete Sharer, Heart of Darkness, Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, The Tempest, all allegorical - but on one level they all tell a story, an interesting story. To me there's got to be something in a novel, a story, a poem, something within a piece of the literary genre that captivates the reader. That works a spell. We touched on it when we compared Elliott with Pound. One thing you can say about Elliott is there is that trendy superior tonality and phrasing - a coolness. He shows well an elevated exquisite mind. Pound doesn't really have it. Elliott gives off the feeling that he's very much in step and at the apex of taste and sophistication for his time. Same with Frost - but in a different way. A countrified sophistication, sometimes he's even corny - but it doesn't matter - he pulls it off. Like Shakespeare could pull it off. Like that movie Casablanca - you can talk all you want about the symbols and the story - and that's all part of it - but there's that extra magic that pulls you in. It just all comes together. It's got the great characters, Bogart, Bergman, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre. And the great lines: Play it again...Of all the gin joints in the all the towns...I came for the water - what waters?... We're in the desert...I was misinformed...Round up the usual suspects...We'll always have Paris...The makings of a wonderful friendship. You know it's just a procession of perfect moments. And it's like trying to dissect why a joke is funny - dissect it and you take the life out of it. And who knows how it comes together like it does. Hell Casablanca was the collective work of many hands - and even if they spent millions of dollars a remake would be impossible - the original came together too well. Why? Because something would fall short. The magic sucked out. The acting would probably be the first short coming, then just the atmosphere of the movie. Somehow some cheep propped up sound stage was perfect. Today they'd spend millions recreating Casablanca and it probably wouldn't look right. For some unexplainable reason every element in the original came together too perfectly.

--Or we just think it is perfect because it was the first one we've seen - and it created an insurmountable standard within itself.

--I don't get you.

--Think about it. Your right, you could not remake Casablanca. It would be like trying to rewrite Hamlet. The original was done so well that it creates in our minds an implacable image - one that could not be bettered. We cannot really imagine a better written Gettysburg Address or, maybe a better example, a better David than Michelangelo's. They have become unto themselves ideals of the form.

--Sounds Platonic. But, I think your right. Nobody's done a better David than Michelangelo. A great artist has a couple of works among all their works that are candidates for the pantheon. All the elements came together into a recognized ideal of the form.

--And you don't think Elliott or Joyce have done anything to merit this pantheon?

--Well, he put his hands up, --Okay the Wasteland poem and Prufrock and a couple of others; then Dublinears and Portrait of the Artist definitely. But not Ulysses, as a whole it is flawed. It simply does not come together well. It lacks the magic. Sorry professor – maybe the things chock full of job security as you interpret away – but where’s the magic? The charisma? Too much stencil, glitter, and gobbledegook on the Ullysees tree. And no way Finnegan’s Wake. Hey even Henry James - Mr. Meander himself says at bottom the audience has to like the work.

--I know a lot of people that don't like Shakespeare. But let's face it - those in the know get to admiring Shakespeare. You may not like it, but there is no doubt you have to admire his creation. Too many good minds over the years fell into admiration – fell into the spell. You can go against those minds if you like - that's your prerogative. And the prevailing mind set, the grand intellectual power play, would be against you. Would it not?

--Maybe, but I just don’t see the magic in Joyce or Elliot even. I’ll tell you about Joyce and Elliot. They got all esoteric and intellectually fantasia ‘cause they couldn’t pull off the big great book.

--The big great book?

--Yeah. The big great book is the kind of book that is a serious minded effort and it keeps you engaged like a Motzart symphony, or like the movie Casablanca, or Lawrence of Arabia; its how Nabakov wrote Lolita – Joyce couldn’t do that; or how Shakespeare did Hamlet, Joyce couldn’t do that, or how J.D. Salinger did Catcher in the Rye, Joyce couldn’t do that, or how Fitzgerald did the Great Gatsby, or Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, or Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, Joyce couldn’t do any of that. He was dry when it came to a story, just a plain old human story.

--He didn’t do that with Dubliner’s? Or Portrait of the Artist?

--He did. But then he was spent. He didn’t have any more in him – so he tried to make up for it by getting hyfalutin’ become Mr. Experimental. I just won’t buy into it. And especially won’t with that guy Pynchon and Elliot even. It’s all window dressing – they were over swinging it. You know what I would compare it to – Ullysees and Finnigan’s Wake especially – and Gravities Rainbow – I would compare these books to a highly stlylized movie where the director experiments with all sorts of shit, camera angles, color, blank and white, sound, just whatever, and the audience is forced to see the technical brilliance of the director, but the story of the movie stinks, and whatever story there is is lost within the technical razzle dazzle.

--I don’t know. Could Hemingway or Fitzgerald do Finnegan’s Wake? Or Salinger, or Harper Lee, or Nabakov even?

--No, probably not – but who cares? Ulysses is all hype and Finnegan’s Wake is all bull. You know some of Hemingway’s story’s said something to me, I acquired some wisdom. But Finnegan’s wake, I got nothing.

--Maybe Hemingway spoke to you at a certain level, at a certain time in your life, at a certain point in your education. Perhaps after some study, Finnegan’s Wake will warrant a look, and something be gleaned.

--Somehow, I doubt it. By the time I know enough to figure that thing out, I won’t need the wisdom.

--So you only read books to glean useful wisdom.

--In a way, yeah. Look, Finnegan’s wake told me nothing, for it to tell me something I would likely have to have the Library of Congress, and a few languages including Latin and Greek up my ass. Well, who’s got time for that? And to glean what?

--Maybe just to experience genius.


--Genius taken to its limit. Like the Pyramids, the Parthenon, Plato and Aristotle, the Pantheon, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Aenied, the Last Supper, the Pieta, the Ceiling, Paradise Lost, Versailles, War and Peace, Hamlet, Moby Dick, Citizen Kane, Mozart.

--Well, maybe I just don’t get it.

--Maybe you don’t.

--And you do?

--No magic in Elliot or Joyce. Hmm, I said, thinking it over.

He nodded quick challenging, --That’s right. No magic. Well, maybe there is some in Elliot – but in Ullysees and Finnigan’s Wake? Come on. I think Joyce is just asking too much – he wants scholars to spend a lifetime deciphering him – is his brain really worth it? Just where was the guy coming from anyway?

--Supposedly he spent almost twenty years on Finnegan’s Wake, that’s a long time to make a big mistake don’t you think given Ulysees, Dubliner’s and Portrait, he deserves some consideration.

--Sure, just not mine.

--So you just don’t like the complexity? The difficult access.

--Yes, the impossible access.

--What do you think Mozart is doing in his music?

--Creating entertaining sound.

--Not sound that moves, inspires?

--Sure, I suppose.

--When you listen to Mozart are you thinking of words?

--No, I guess not, maybe sometimes.

--Okay, so sometimes. What conjures those words from the music, or rather what is it about the music that moves you to picture a word, or even a thought after hearing the music?

--The form of the music, I suppose, it strikes something in me which may inspire a word, or maybe a thought.

--When you listen to Mozart, or any music, do you think often think of words or thoughts, or do you more often feel, or rather are you moved?


--So the conjuring of thoughts and words may not be one of the principle objectives of music, it may be more the conjuring of feelings and emotions.

--And sometimes words.

--Yes, I suppose. When you hear the Star Spangled Banner, do you think of the words to the song, as well as receive a surging feeling of Patriotism?”

--Yes sometimes.

--Would you say there are certain emotions that are more deep seated, or should I say profound?

--Such as?

--When listening to a great symphony, how does it move you, what sort of emotions do you feel?

--Inspired, energetic, sad, glad, to name a few.

--Okay, of these emotions are there any you would call subtle?

He shrugged. –I suppose.

--You just suppose, but you’re not sure?

--I’m not sure.

--Have you ever looked at a landscape alit with moonlight, or a vast rugged and varied terrain and was awed by it?

--Saw the Grand Canyon once, and it was impressive. Alaska’s impressive.

--So you were impressed by these places.


--What was that feeling like?

--Inspired, I guess.

--Inspired? You felt a surge of emotion, of energy.

--Yes, a surge of something I guess.

--Not a sad emotion, not something that depressed, or de-energized, or made even lethargic feeling.

--Right, a motivated, energizing feeling.

--Or something akin to that.


--Do you think there are more profound, or let’s say more subtle emotions or feelings than those you felt when seeing the grandeur of the Grand Canyon?

--I don’t know.

--You don’t? Thus the deepest, subtlest, most profound emotion you have felt was when you first looked at the Grand Canyon?


--Would you call that emotion something akin to awe?

--Awe. He said as he thought about it. –Yeah, I think so. The sight put me in awe.

--Put you in awe? And how did that emotion feel?

--Again, inspiring, motivating.

--You could call it positive? As if a surge of positive power was moving through you?

--I suppose.

--Suppose? You’re not sure.

--I’m not.

--Can you describe it better? Or in another way?

--It was a surging emotion.

--Surging? Something welled from inside you? That describe it?


--Okay, what was this something?

--What do you mean, this something.

--Well what was it that was welling inside you?


--A feeling?


--What did you feel?

--I felt good.

--It was a good feeling?


--To feel good, what does that mean?

--I feel pleasant.

--And that means?

--I feel happy.

--And that means?

--I am not sad.

--Can you describe the feeling beyond happy, not sad, pleasant?

--I’m calmed and ready.






--I think so.

--not depressed.


--Not lethargic.



--No, not at all.


--Yes, a little.



--A welling of positive vibe?

--I guess so.

--From a symphony such as Mozart can you also derive such a feeling.

--I think so.

--Now a symphony is a complex ordering of notes to be sounded on various instruments, correct.

--Right. What are these notes?

--Commands on how to play the instrument.

--How long and in what way correct? The proper pitch and length of the sound? Correct.


--These notes played on a muscal instrument do what?

--Create sounds.

--And sounds created by musical instruments enter our ears and the pitch and order and flow of the music does what?

--Goes into our brain, I guess, and our brain deciphers the music.

--Deciphers? Takes the music and turns it into words or images or emotions? Or possibly all three.

--All three I suppose.

--Could you compare words to musical notes?

--Not really, a note makes a sound and may or may not conjure a thought or emotion in the brain.

--But it may.

--It may, the right sort of note, I guess.

--A word is better?

--I’d say so.

--Words in paragraphs and on pages, if selected and ordered properly can conjure thoughts and emotions like music?

--I suppose.

--What is better you think, a word, or a note – for conjuring thoughts and emotions?


--On what?

--On the word, on the note.

--So a long shrill note played on a trumpet lets say, may be better than the word scream?

--Yeah, probably.


--Better depiction of what a scream is. With the musical note we get a close almost exact depiction of a scream. Whereas the word scream, we have to go back into memory and create in our minds a scream.

--The one is more real and immediate?


--What about the phonetic, Ahhhh?

--Better perhaps than the word scream, but still not as good as the note played on the trumpet.

--Still, words and notes do similar things in the brain? Conjure emotions, conjure thoughts.


--With that in mind, would you say a finely written passage of words will work in the mind like a finely ordered set of notes?


--What happens when we see a word?

--We picture something, or we know a definition – it is an abbreviated version of a longer combination of words.

--Sure, when we see the word run, we either picture someone running or we know it means a thing with legs moving there legs at a rate faster than walking.


--Same when we hear the word?


--And some words are phonetic – like Ah, it sounds close to what it is symbolizing.


--So the look and sound of a word may conjure thoughts and emotions.


--But only if the words are used properly.

--Properly? I guess so.

--What does that mean.

--Per accepted usage.

--The words spelled per the customary usage, a set down in a dictionary, placed in a customary order, per the accepted rules of grammar, and such.

--Yes, of course.

--But if the words are not spelled correctly, or placed in an order that is not customary per the accepted rules of grammar and such, then the words become useless – they do not conjure thoughts and emotions in our brain.

--Probably not.

--There are exceptions?

--I suppose.

--What would that be?

--Alice in Wonderland?

--Okay. Jabberwocky.

--Letters placed in combination that when read evoke in the sound of the pronunciation thoughts and emotions.

--So that’s what Joyce and Elliot are doing – essentially creating word symphonies.

--I think so. Exponential Jabberwocky. Joyce even said Finnegan’s Wake should be read aloud.

My father, when we would sit in his study and discuss a writing I had read, rarely would he simply lecture me on his views of the matter. Typically he would employ the Socratic method, believing that it was a far better than lecturing for instigating and teaching thinking, and for coming to better grasp the difficult concepts he was trying to teach me. Sitting there with Sal essentially imitating my father in trying to defend Joyce and Elliot made me realize how much actual thought and patience my father had to employ in using the method with me; it had also made me realize how often I had sat before my father, like a sophist, thinking I had it all figured out, too generally, or narrowly interpreting a concept, or too easily passing off the thought altogether.

--Okay, so they are creating word symphonies. That still doesn’t get them off the hook for being too obtuse and complicated. He said.

--Think of it this way perhaps, musical notes would you say are similar to letters?

--Possibly, I guess, symbols in sound.

--I think so. Like a letter, or a mathematical symbol, the note evokes an emotion or thought. Such as when you see a plus sign, you think of adding, combining toward a sum. You see the letter I, you think of yourself or another person. Letters in combination, of course make words, and words on site or on hearing evoke thoughts and emotions. Also with words how a word is said, would that not evoke a thought and emotion perhaps different or more particular. When the word Damn is uttered calmly, it evokes the thought, and the emotion of irritation. The word Damn said loudly and harsh, evokes anger, perhaps even loss of control etcetera along the scale of harsh angry emotion.

--So what you’re saying is like letters and words, musical notes singularly or in combination can evoke thoughts and emotions.

--Yes. And I would add that like with a letter or a word – how it is said will effect the kind of emotion or thought engendered, with a musical note, the inflection of the note that will engender various thought and emotions is a fuction of the kind of instrument used to play the note, and the way the instrument is played. The same not played on a flute will engender a different kind of emotion or even thought than one played by a drum or a symbol or a violin, you see?

--Instead of musical notes played by instruments Joyce, and Elliot are creating symphonies with letters and notes.

--Yes. And I think both propose that words can play on our aesthetic sensibility as well, or perhaps even more so than music. Because with letters and words you have not only the sounds created by a reading, a lyric created in the letter and word combinations, but you have the look of the combinations, the thoughts and images created by the combinations; in other words, I think Joyce and Eliot are proposing that a word symphony can play on our aesthetic sensibility in a far more dimensional way than instrumented music. Joyce, in Finnegan’s wake pulls from a vast array of language and word resource to create a hugely complex multidimensional lyrical tour de force. He splits and mixes and matches singular words, utilizes a multitude of languages, uses various poetic, lyrical, and prose forms, allegory, metaphor, symbol, creates both sound and visual images; and to a degree, though I don’t think as complex, so does Elliot. And I think Pynchon, with his Gravities Rainbow is attempting something similar, thought not as involved in the use of various languages, or as lyrical sounding, or poetic, as Joyce and Elliot.

He started nodding and looking off past me as if in thought, --Yes, I see now. He said reflectively. Then coming out of his thought he asked, --Okay, so with his symphony of words – what’s Joyce saying? What are his main themes and big ideas.

Rather glibly I replied, -Honestly, not knowing much Latin, or Greek, or Galic, and just a smattering of French and Spanish, for me to say this is it here, this is the meaning behind the garble, I don’t think I’m there yet.

--I see. Too ignorant.

--Perhaps. I think you have to be an awfully good reader to get in with Joyce. It’s a rarified club.

--You must have some ideas.

--Sure – but I think that’s a whole discussion in itself.

--You can’t summarize it, think like Cliff Note.

I stayed quiet a moment to let my thoughts gather. Thoughts deriving mostly from my fathers many lectures and a few of his books reeled through my brain. I thought I saw how to answer his question, but it came in a sentence that I knew he would not understand and even consider all too simplistic, thus brief, and possibly even ludicrous. I said, --They are addressing the mind through the soul, I think.

I was right he looked blank faced, even numb for a moment, then he huffed out a brief suspicious smile and asked –And that means?

--The word Cosmos? What does the word mean?

--Means all of it.

--All of what?

--Means the Universe, space, all of it.

--Okay, what’s beyond the Cosmos?

--I don’t know. Another dimension?

--If the word Cosmos means all of it, then per that definition then there is nothing beyond the cosmos. Right?

--I guess.

--So to ask what is beyond the cosmos, per our definition of the word, per the rules of our language and logic, in the way we use that language, we can’t ask, what is beyond the cosmos. Right?

--Not necessarily.

--How’s that.

--Well, we can ask if there is another dimension, or another place beyond space, a heaven for example.

--No – not if the word cosmos is defined as all there is. Per that definition how can we ask what is past or beyond or outside of all there is? It is illogical. Such a question does not conform to the rules of our language game. You follow.


--Wouldn’t you say it is akin to asking to accept that two plus two equal three?


--Now that, in very simplified form is what Wittgenstien has proposed, that many of the ultimate questions out there simply cannot be asked by the mind of man because the questions cannot conform to language and logic, cannot be included within our language game. You might say the wrench just won’t fit the bolt.

I had suspended in my mind thoughts of where I needed to go. But I also thought going there by way of the Socratic method would take a meandering whole lot of time. While a fine method for learning and speculating, I knew it was somewhat an indulgent process, time consuming and involved; some knowledge simply had to be taken in as is in chucks without the slicing and dicing, and the paring of terms and concepts with a pepper of deciphering questions. I began stumbling around trying to fine the best way of crossing the chasm, I continued more in a lecturing style, --I think Joyce and Elliot are getting at something that has been realized in the latter part of the nineteenth century, that with all the philosophical analysis and expostulation, the reality of the universe, our situation here on this orb appears to transcend the reach of our minds. The ultimate answers, or substance, or formula, or whatever, is transcendental. Indeed Wittgenstien would argue, I suppose, the ultimate questions are simply illogical to what man has so far found comprehensible in the universe. While Kant says that the fact that the universe is comprehensible at all is a miracle – but how comprehensible is it? We can comprehend enough to harness the atom for bombs and power plants but we still lack complete knowledge of what comprises the atom. Like Plato says, are we in a cave – able to comprehend only so much.

Looking ahead at my thoughts I saw myself waxing on in whole chunks of expostulation, pulling out steamer trunks of various wares got from my education. But I realized, not being my father and not spending a couple decades teaching and writing and lecturing - so intensely immersed in the subjects that I could prattle on in whole flowing organized passages with a definite supporting argument in mind with a solid convincing conclusion, I figured, as was done in most late night student bull sessions I would hack my way through my cerebral storage and mostly toss out vaguely thought through ideas and hope with this sort of shot gun approach I would, at least say something convincing. I had in mind a light at the end of the tunnel I was feeling my way toward, but already I didn’t like what I was spouting, and the way I was spouting it - I was already hearing in my utterances too much gross generalizing that passed over too easily the attempted subtlety and precision in the thought. However, I was explaining Joyce and Elliot, and I suppose a turn that the most advanced art in general had taken in these modern times – I was not trying to re-think the tradition of metaphysics. I brought up philosophy as a supplement to my defense, not as the defense itself, nor even a crutch for that defense. Indeed, I wanted more to somehow de-emphasize the philosophy, and show what I considered its failing, and how that was truly the crux of the art.

I decided my best approach was along what I saw as an historical failure of the grand Metaphysical discussion - with all its involved and varied high sounding terminology, hair splitting and supposed precision - to nail down anything consistent, comprehensive and truly rationally convincing – but – with all the speculation there obviously was at the highest levels of Brain Incorporated much thought given over to matters of the soul. I decided to offer up a quick scant outline with some barest of explication of the subject from Plato to a couple of the moderns, Whitehead and Dewey and the Materialists, with a mind to show how the thought in general vacillated between a transcendental idealism that put true reality out in some netherland of ideal conceptions, versus a more materialistic approach that had reality initially based in the here and now before traveling intellectually into supersensible realms. I also tried to explain how the terminology used among the players was different slightly, but had somehow tended to evoke the same sort of conceptions, and how as the argument was shorn, pared, sliced and diced, as we came into the twentieth century, it seemed to be puffing along in what had become an Amazon of terminology – that I suspected was simply just saying the same things differently. In other words the philosophic metaphysical engine was loosing steam like that little engine that could, and was barely getting over the hill – and somewhere therein would be my defense of Joyce and Elliot, and modern art in general.

But it was just a quick run through, perhaps too quick and too impromptu. I initiated by covering Plato briefly, awkwardly describing his theory of forms as the main thesis in his search for the higher realities. I stumbled through the subject as if more reminding Sal, as if he himself was entirely familiar with the material. I finished by saying, --The soul to Plato is hampered with what he says is the leaden weight of becoming; and that in mind, I said, --With his statement that life is a practice for death, I think definitely leads us that Plato believed in a soul and in the souls place somewhere transcendent from the here and now reality of momentary experience, essentially in some netherland where all the ideal forms reside.

I finshed by saying almost apologetically, --I know that sounds highfalutin.

--It does. He said.

Then I said, --Well what is important is the mind of Plato was concerned about the issues of the soul.

And to that he said a dubious sounding, --Okay.

I briefly went into Plato’s theory of art, how art was twice removed from the ideal form, then I too quickly countered Plato calling up and grossly abridging Aristotle’s De Amina, his principle of life in something material, explaining how Aristotle, though he gave no underlying structure to matter, did say concrete existence must precede abstract existence - how he essentially directly confronted Plato, questioning - how does one formulate a tree prior to there being a tree? In other words, is there a whole world out there ready for the actualizing? --See what’s happening here? I said. --Plato essentially says there is a transcendent reality from where initially everything derives, Aristotle says there is the real, then the abstract.


As I spoke I could hear in the background of my head my father reeling and yelling, “No, no, no, no, not so fast buster, you’re forgetting this and leaving out that, and he meant this, not that. You’re a bull in the speculative china shop with just enough learning to be dangerous - you’re quick gross extreme synopsis is misconstruing everything and doing no one any good at all and is a gross injustice to these great minds. But in my mind I muzzled that little persnickety voice – it’s not like I’m describing brain surgery here - and trudged on running through the principle players as best as my memory could conjure:

St. Aquinas came next and his proposing how the everyday points to God, that the fact of motion in the world indicates the existence of a prime mover, I said to impress: --call it contingentia mundi.

Then Kant and Hume and how for them Being is not a real predicate, how they asked is God all powerful or merely greatly powerful.

I went into more Kant specifically his Phenomenal and Nouminal worlds. This I supplemented with Schopenhaure’s all pervading Will.

This reminded me of Hartshorne and his brand of polytheism and I considered it somehow apropos that I throw that in: how God has an unchanging essence but who completes himself in an advancing experience; I added, --how’s that for a mouthful.? And told Sal to think on that a second.

Cartesians came next with primary and secondary qualities of matter and how all change and movement in the physical world is mechanical.

Then the idealists like Hegel who reduced matter to all mind, saying that matter was simply an experience in the mind, how the spirit is the fundamental reality, how nothing exists but minds and their contents, to that I added glibly, --What you see is not what you get – the existing material world is an illusion, thus cogito, ergo sum, as opposed to - I am, therefore I think.

I reminded how Kant says, as a man acts he transfers himself in thought from the Phenominal to the Nouminal which was the pure spirit world, and sensibility is a faculty of intuitions; understanding a faculty of concepts.

Then Hume again, his claim: take away the temporal element from causality and nothing concrete is left – which, I emphasized, is what Aristotle, Aquinas and Lock all tried to do.

I began to emphasize Kant more, mainly because he supported well what I was trying to get at and having done a fairly thorough reading of some of his works I was familiar and considered him rather insightful and complete enough for such an elusive subject, in other words I was a fan. I said as I wrapped up my little big lecture: --Kant’s probably got the right idea when he says about things metaphysical that it seems for every proof there is a counter - his antinomy of pure reason; but then he says, as if to counter, dwell in what must be thought, not what can be known – thinking must be grounded in particulars for there is no knowledge of the supersensible; now this brings us back to the Hegelian Absolute, that ultimate reality is immanent in experience; then the counter to all that are The Materialists – only matter exists, minds and the corresponding thought are simply modifications of underlying material substance – so man is simply a complicated machine – forget the soul - it all comes together and whamo – like a gased up combustion engine, like Frankenstien after the lightning strike - it starts and comes alive.

I wrapped up by tossing in some fairly recent thinkers who I considered were simply restating what had already been said, but in different ways:

Whitehead: God is a conceptual prehension.

Dewey: the relation between subject and object is not an external one – it is one of a higher unity that is itself constituted by this relation.

James: his mind knowing and a thing known.

Back to Wittgenstein – grossly paraphrasing and re-emphasizing, how we’re all just wasting our time playing trumped up language games that don’t follow the rules of language and logic. I said concluding, -- I guess its sort of like playing tennis with the net down. Dabbling with speculation into areas man’s mind has no business even trespassing.

I finished it all by quoting F. H. Bradley on the metaphysicians, the quote I had read in some newspaper article and was not part of the intellectual diet fed me by my father and Princeton, yet I had always thought it summed it all up, rather simply and well: --They are finding bad reasons for what one believes upon instinct.

Sal kept nodding in a slow narrowed eyed way which I read as a sign that my audience was at least somewhat captive and absorbing, so thus encouraged, and likening the sound of my voice, I continued on and actually surprised myself with how readily I could recall my youthful and undergraduate lessons and actually handle with a kind of fluidity subject matter that was at once broad, academic and problematical - far more knotty than the usual table talk of such topics out of the phenomenal as to whether supply side economics was all hyperbola or if the wishbone formation was truly a revolution in strategy for college football.

--Now this is just off the top of my head here. It just seems that as he tries to search for the higher realities, ask what really exists? Western man has created for himself a whole pile of conundrum. You know some say there’s a plurality of ultimately real things, others say there is only one, then some say what is truly real must be utterly transcendent, occupy a supersensible realm accessible only to pure intellect, or ultimate reality is part and parcel of experience; truth is a function of experience, thought is a function of experience, reality is always changing within the flux and flow of experience, and bla bla.

They try to say everyday thinking will not suffice for what falls within experience – in the investigation of the archai – the study of first principles, that appearances are unreal. But now that leads me to ask, perhaps no thinking will suffice. There just seems we have hit the roof of Plato’s cave, that there is a great void between the world of logic and the world of fact. It seems like Western man keeps jumping from one platform to the next in search of the one permanent grounded foundation, but all the platforms turn to a muddy clay, the basic premises appear able for the bolstering, but at the foundation, at bottom, from where the premises derive, it comes up sand falling through the fingers.

On the one hand we apparently have Wittgenstein slamming the door on Metaphysical thought, yet we have these two thousand years of speculation that seem to say the same thing - that there is something out there, it is just not all that apparent to the mind of man. Truly, except for some semantic hair splitting, just how divergent is Plato’s allegory of the cave from Wittgenstein’s claims? Isn’t Plato in essence saying the same thing? But then again, there may be another way of looking at it, and this is the path, I think, Joyce and Elliott and a few of the other endowed members of the club have decided to follow. What is transcendent of the capabilities of man’s mind, and his senses - whatever it is that comprises the ultimate answer or answers, are the essential make up of all of us and everything. Beyond our minds, beyond all grasping, it is still immanent in each. Like that counter you're leaning against, what is it really? James Joyce says in Ulysses, any object, intensely regarded, may be a gate of access to the incorruptible eon of the gods. Forget it is a counter, forget about that table, try and see past the nomenclature. You know Joyce said that one should read Finnegan’s Wake aloud. In other words, hear the sounds of the words, the lyric of the sentences and paragraphs. I think he was encouraging us to try and go beyond the words, not concentrate too much on the logic and meaning – but rather the intuitive sense conjured by the sound of the reading.

--You're sort of loosing me.

--Think of it this way, the ultimate answer that pulls that counter together and makes it an object, a being, so to speak, that mystery is the same as the mystery behind the Universe, and behind you and I. Take Schopenhaure who wrote: Every thing is the entire world as Will in it's own way.

--Schopenhaure is the guy with the living rocks?

--No, Schopenhauer is the guy who's been cheap shotted with that comment by people who gave his writings scant study and minimal thought.

He nodded and shrugged.

I continued, --I've always thought, in his way, Joyce was doing less obviously what Elliott seems to do, and that is point from the Occident - Eastward. They wanted the dominance of our minds usurped, to take a back seat to intuition.

He got up from the counter and went back over to the refrigerator and took out another can of Coke. Then he walked past me out the doorway into the dining room. He reached over and flicked the wall switch turning on the lights, then sat down at the end of the nearest table. I followed him and sat on the other side. He leaned back in the chair and took a long drink from the can. Then brought the can down and said, --I think we're all eastbound.

--Perhaps – I think when you push aside the concepts, the Wills, the Ideal Forms, the noumina, the ens realissimum, the things-of-itself – the Phenominals, the Nouminals, the Spiritual and Material, the constructions and de-constructions, the real, the temporal, ad nauseum, what you have at bottom is a hair splitting nuanced tradition of essentially trying to determine with philosophical speculation what is beyond the grasp of the mind of man. It just seems like in the West we like to think we are controlled by a rational logical realistic perceiving mind, but really are we? Consider what Schopenhauer called Will – and according to him human reason is merely an instrument of this Will. In fact Schopenhauer goes Eastward as inspiration for his thought - even so far as to borrow some of the terminology. And from what I have read of Hindu writing, that terminology is far simpler than what we use here in the West to meander on about. In the East they don’t seem to fear the evocative over the specific and supposedly precise. It is almost as if here in the West we are afraid to simply talk about it - spiritual matters. Just lay it out there, if you will – as in everyday speech and thought. It is as if the Western mind needs these constructions of terminology and argument, these games of language and logic to support and to persuade. Much like the Catholic Church needs its awe creating Cathedrals and symbols to make itself credible. Or like a bank housing itself in the most impressive building in town. You follow what I’m saying?

--Yeah, I think so. Like Corinthian pillars in front of the bank building somehow giving the place credibility, guys like Kant and Wittgenstien create logical sounding arguments with highfalutin terminology. In other words writing so dense it gives you a headache to plow through, but really at bottom they are saying similar things, just in different ways.

--Yes – in the West we like our facades and nuances and the explicit.

--So in other words, like Occam said, we need to simplify.

--Yes, I think so. But now having said that I can just hear my father and my professors shouting me down how that was not what Occam was getting at. How he was addressing hypothesis that concerns the explication of phenomenon – in other words Occam’s razor is for the experimenting scientist and not the explicating philosopher. But I suppose, like you’re complaints regarding Joyce, Elliot, and Pynchon, perhaps in Western philosophy a dose of Occam’s recommendation is in order – that is, the accepted hypothesis should be the simplest that adequately does the job. But now we’re back on the merry go round arguing whether the simple can indeed do the job.

Anyway, without belaboring that too much, the ultimate answers I think are somewhere in the depths of the soul – if there is a soul. In fact, and I think, Elliot alludes in much of his poetry that western philosophy has long misplaced the mind in the order of things. While the mind is fine for the here and now, for logic, for truth that is proven by empirical workability - there's a lot elsewhere out of the minds reach – or the reach of the senses that is related to the soul - or the inner being or force or whatever you want to call it. It seems to me the mind is more the guardian of the soul, not the master of it like Occident thought seems to place it. Take that scene in Moby Dick, in the Symphony Chapter, where Ahab is calm and senses the immensity of the ocean and starts to weep – ask yourself, what does this evoke? He has stepped out momentarily from his demoniacally charged lunacy. He is sensing himself and the world more calmly and intuitively - and possibly because he is in the right situation, in the right frame of a calmed mind and psychology - he is sensing his inner self. He has come out of the excessive, over rationalized delusions he has created as a kind of insulation from his personal here and now reality. Dropped the walls so to speak. Calmed down, allowed himself to come back closer to an intuitive grasp of a greater reality. A reality that is much greater than the one he struggles with throughout the tale – the one that has twisted his mind into demonizing the white whale and thus sailing the globe seeking vengeance for his lost leg. Indeed in that chapter, for the first time in the tale, Ahab displays a sense of himself, a sense of the lunacy behind his aim, and a sense of something larger having taken hold of himself. He is displaying a calmed more rational, larger and more intuitive mind.

What I am saying is the great minds both West and East seem to be pointing, via their language games, to the same thing: that there is much out there that man doesn’t know, perhaps cannot know, but regardless of whether he doesn’t know or cannot know, he can somehow, in certain instances, when in certain body and mindsets, can come to an intuitive sensing of something greater. In other words, there is something very strange going on and through his intellectual efforts scientific, poetic, philosophic, he gets closer to comprehending the mystery, but in addition to his intellectual efforts, there are other intuitive tools man can use to compliment his comprehension; in other words, his comprehension sometimes is supplemented by apprehension.

--Well that was a mouthful.

--Well think about it. Being the lay men that we are, for example lets try and put what Schopenhaure was saying about his all pervading Will into scientific terms. This Will that all things manifest - what is it? What is it really? Is it the atoms making up all matter? Is it the charged electrons within those atoms? What he is essentially saying is all things in the universe are moved toward existance by some force. So what comprises this force? Is it somehow related to gravity? They say the universe is expanding and contracting. Okay, how is it doing this? What force is controlling this? And what set it all in motion initially? And where did the force come from? See how this gets?

--First you want simplicity, now you sayin’ its all complicated.

--No I am saying it is all a grand mystery, a cunundrum wrapped in a enigma wrapped in a mystery.

--Something strange wrapped in more words.

--Well perhaps. Look, what do you expect? We’re talking here in a kitchen in the middle of the night after a night of drinking.

--Excuses. You know referring to this Schopenhaur Will thing and Kant and Plato, Aristotle, et al, this terminology problem as you call it – that you claim Joyce is trying to get around…

I interrupted. --Not get around the words. Just allow the words to work through us so to speak on a more intuitive level. It just appears in Western thought that we are riding rapids on a Mississippi of words, and we are simply, it would seem, not getting it precisely correct; but I think what Joyce is trying to say, forget the logic and language games, forget the precision, let the words play on your intuition and the general gist will come through.

--So we’re going for the gist in Joyce?


--Allright, so lets have more of the river.

--Consider light - it is a visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum - our senses perceive it in a certain way in our experience, but what is that perception? Is it the essential make up of light? What are we seeing really? Are we seeing what Plato would call the ideal form of light? Or what Kant would call the Thing-of-itself, of light? You know what we call the electromagnetic force what is that really? This electromagnetic spectrum of wavelengths, what are the words describing? What is beyond the words? The Thing-In-Itself? We perceive light only in the way our senses can function at certain wavelengths within that spectrum. What is the absolute form of light? And why does it travel through the universe at one speed? What or who determined that speed? We know that light is electromagnetic radiation; at least that is what we call it. That is what it is within our language game. We know that light bends to gravity, as if it had a kind of mass, but what is it really? What is the essential ghost that is hiding behind the sense perception and then the terminology? Behind the language game? Again are we simply building up and shoring basic premises that are founded in wet muddy unstable clay? What is the essential bottom line of the functioning of our senses, and the functioning of our technology, and at the bottom of our empirical study?

Now according to Schopenhauer, he says at bottom is his all pervading Will; and Nature is the objectification of Will - from the unconscious to the self conscience level. In the absolute, this Will, is a blind, irrational force with no moral intent - only a mere will to be, to live, and it pervades all things. What we do, what we are, how we appear, are all outward manifestations of this will. And perhaps to know what is this will, where it derives, where it is taking us, now that is to know the mind of God, or perhaps what is G-O-D.

--You've lost me. In taking up Schopenhauer’s cause you’re talking in your own Byzantine Babel games. You know I think everyone’s got it wrong about the Tower of Babel – everyone didn’t start talkin’ different tongues – or languages. They all kept talking the same language, just the terminology got out of hand.

I smiled and laughed a little, --Maybe you’re right, its easy to edge too close to the philosophical quicksand.

--No I’m getting some of it here. You’re saying there is something weird going on beyond our comprehension, that we too much argue effect instead of identify root cause, and we can apprehend the weirdness if we make like a Hindu and meditate.

I laughed a little. --I’m not sure that’s not too far off actually. I think that is what the Hindu’s are trying to do during their processes of meditation and chanting – essentially trying to calm themselves and get into a more equalized, calm, accepting – or perhaps receptive, and intuitive state. You know Schopenhauer and Kant, in their way talk about that.

--Get the ol’ antennaei pointed in the right direction?

--Something like that. Maybe we are too glibly tossing out terms and claims of what these great minds said, or tried to say. But with the Ahab example do you see how it seems we're almost describing a process similar to meditation or just calm reflection - or contemplation. Putting oneself in a frame of being that is receptive to evocation. It's part of a process I would call bringing yourself into a state of serenity. Not a serenity derived from a hiding out from reality, not that short lived serenity attained by the shortcuts of delusion, but a more true serenity from awareness of one's place, recognition of ones possibilities and limitations, an acceptance of that place and of our reality. That kind of true serenity I think is a prerequisite for true consistent realistic thought - intelligent thought; and for coming close to knowing true reality – the reality behind the apparent.

--So basically you’re saying the soul, higher realities, God, all of these temporal kinds of things are beyond proof, are in the realm of apprehension.

--Yes, I think so. And our apprehension is aided and abetted, intensified by the extent and intensity of our experience. The better educated, the more experienced we are, the more we think about it all, the more curious and exploratory we are, the more able we are to recognize and apprehend a transcendent experience, or have such an experience - be the evocation come from an everyday occurrence, or through a medium of art, or some sort of intellectual exploration. Its sort of like the apple falling on Newton, and the light going on in his head about gravity. If he hadn’t been educated and thinking about the physics of his time, the apple would likely have simply fallen by way of all those other apples that yearly fall from trees.

--So how does this relate to Joyce and Eliot, or art in general. You still haven’t convinced me, I still think they’re up to their elbows in bullshit.

--Okay, let me apply what I’ve been going on about here to Joyce and Elliot and Art for Arts sake in general. I think it is akin to Plato's once removal from the ideal image – and Schopenhaure’s Will. Art can lead us to a sense of this Will, get to what Emerson called: Thou eternal fugitive, hovering over all that live, that no perfect form could ever bind. A piece of art in the here and now reality can achieve a beauty, a radiance, and lead one toward or give a sense of a Transcendent Vision - effectively lead one to Plato’s ideal image. But Art will always be a representation, a conductor. To say that the novel War and Peace gives a naturalistic realistic description of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, is true in one regard – but is it real, a depiction to be taken literally? As a direct slice from reality? Of course not. It is one writers interpretation, and though convincing it may be regarding its portrayal of the reality of that time – it is still one mind’s interpretation. Essentially a montage of chosen impressions ordered to persuade the audience that the work is indeed an accurate, naturalistic realistic depiction. Now on one level, that’s what Tolstoy I think was doing. Now I think what Joyce and Elliot are doing is attempting to push the envelope for the art of the novel and poetry, or for written Art. They are attempting to show that words arranged for artistic evaluation can direct an audience to other aspects of both the naturalistic here and now world – or what Kant called his Phenomenal world; but also, achieve further, give aid in the apprehension of that mysterious world beyond our understanding.

If we allow it, a work of art will conduct us. Taken as is, a painting for example - the canvas and wood and paint, of themselves do little to move or pursuade us. With a sculpture - the carved rock, or the material itself, same thing; and likewise the ink on a printed page, and the pulp of the page itself, not what the words are doing, or spelling out. The shape of the chiseled rock, the design of the paint on the canvass, what the words on a printed page say, these are depictions. And it is the depictions that act upon us, if we are receptive. Consider Michelangelo's David, we are not receptive to David, but to a representation of David. And how that representation is formed and presented, acts as a manipulator, a conductor, a controller of our receptivity. Toward David himself, the human being, our receptivity may take on a whole different form depending on how we see or experience David in the flesh. But David in marble depicted as he is by Michelangelo influences our receptivity toward certain emotional, intellectual directions. And that takes us to the next step - by reminding us, how something is depicted, how that reminding is done, may bring us to an intense viewing of what the art is depicting, may even create a transcendent experience. If we were to see and experience David in the flesh, he might be doing something, or look in some way, somehow making it difficult for us to apply any receptivity toward him. But David depicted gloriously as Michelangelo's creation, we are reminded of David in a certain way, a way that our receptivity, is made more readily; in fact sometimes almost foisted on us, which is I think the case with Michelangelo's David. Few can view that statue without a sense of something inspiring and transcendent coming over them.

--Hmm. Is all he said initially, then after a moment to reflect he said, --The way I’m hearing things here is you’re saying we perceive what we can, but if we put ourselves in certain states, mindsets, or whatever, then we can perceive more, and may even perceive that which is beyond what is apparent – and art is a tool or I guess an aid to this process. Now this bit about Michelangelo’s David, I say the transcendent experience you’re talking about really only is our admiration for a piece of art well done. It is just an intellectual satisfaction, in other words. We are aware of previous sculpted David’s and we simply admire how well Michelangelo did his, how much better his work is than his predecessors. Essentially what you’re calling a Transcendent Experience, I’m calling it a satisfying experience.

I thought about what he said a moment. Then replied nodding slowly, --I think you make a good point, actually.

--Now, would my reaction be somehow related to what Joyce calls the Radiance of the Esthetic Image?

--Well Joyce with his radiance of esthetic image was referring to art, I believe. But in art – if viewed properly, I still say art can be an effective medium to evoke a transcendent experience.

--To the Inner mystery.

--If that works for you..

--I’m not sure, does it?

--Okay, I think the problem we have here is we’ve gone from criticizing Joyce and Elliot, saying they are really saying nothing, to trying to get at what they were saying via speculation on Western and Eastern thought. To tie all this together in a more neat package I think we should consider the terminology of Schopenhauer and Kant and a little Plato as controlling modifiers. First there is Schopenhaure with his Will. His all pervading life force. Then Kant with his Phenomenal world, and Nouminal world. Phenomenal being that which is in the three-dimensional space that our minds and senses can perceive and comprehend. The Nouminal is that which is beyond our senses, beyond perhaps the three-dimensional, the inner world. Plato’s world of ideal forms would be part of Kant’s Nouminal world, Plato’s forms in actuality, in reality, once removed from their ideal form would be in Kant’s Phenomenal world. Anything Phenomenal and Nouminal are all inclusive in Schopenhauers all pervasive Will – because anything in any world is simply a manifestation of that Will. Now Kant has what he calls a Thing-of-Itself. These are objects in his Nouminal world that I would equate to Plato’s ideal forms. A thing-of-itself is essentially the ideal or essential form for an object in the phenomenal. Follow this?

--Sort of.

--Now in addition to all this Kant has what he calls Moral Conduct, and Schopenhaure his Compassion, these are essentially concepts dealing with what I was calling before - receptivity. Basically to perceive well the Phenomenal or Nouminal worlds one requires receptivity, or per Kant, Moral Conduct, or per Schopenhaure, Compassion. Each has their stipulations and requirements for coming to be endowed with Moral Conduct or Compassion, but for the sake of our discussion, lets just say it’s receptivity were talking about. Now I talked about how one gets into a state of heightened receptivity, I think Kant would add – hence his reason for calling it Moral Conduct, a basically honest psyche, not one full of mendacity or self-delusion or neurosis. A character earnestly seeking out the answers with honesty, a true seeker of truth – no matter where it leads, an open minded, non-extremist. A Democrat willing to vote Republican and vice versa. Okay, so with all that said, this is how we can use the terminology. I say art can lead, be a conductor, so to speak. It can also in effect aid toward development of Kant's Moral Conduct or Schopenhauer's Compassion - the necessary requisites toward apprehending. As Schopenhauer said, in perceiving his Will, it is done intuitively - art I believe can develop that intuition. But that is where art stops. Art does not create a phenomenal thing possessing a Thing-of-Itself. And as such art is a manifestation of Schopenhaures Will only in so far it is an object de art. You follow?”

--So if I put a chair in an art gallery and tried to call it art, it really isn’t art?

--No, it can be art. It can be both art and a chair. As a chair it manifests Will formed as a chair, as art it manifests Will as an object de art – in the shape or representation of a chair. Which it is coincides with the mind that is looking at the chair and doing the interpreting and the perceiving. At least that’s how I’m looking at it.

You see, art may create situations that with intensity draw one toward effective contemplation or knowledge of the Phenominal, even the Nouminal. And like the Phenominal, because Art is typically composed of material from the Phenominal, art cannot be or represent the Noumenal - it can only exist as it is in the Phenominal, remind one of something in the Phenomenal, and even go so far as to perhaps create a reminder in the Phenomenal representation which leads one toward apprehension of the Noumenal.

--A work of art cannot be a thing-of-itself.

--That’s right. It can remind of a thing-of-itself, but it cannot be such. And Plato said the same with his ideal forms – art is always removed from the ideal image, indeed with Plato, the art representation was twice removed. Once or twice removed, I would have to say it likely depends on the representation. Take you’re chair. The chair sitting at a table in a typical house does little to strike our compassion toward it as something more than a chair. But put that chair in an art gallery, put a label on it that says, ART. Now we are, at least for a moment, likely to consider the chair as art, and our compassion in that direction is engaged and the chair thus becomes Will manifested not just as a chair, but also as an object de art. True, there isn’t much for our compassion to grab onto, but you see the point. And the chair, as a chair, I suppose is once removed from a thing-of-itself, whereas the chair as an object de art, I suppose it could be argued that it was in that mode – twice removed.

He nodded. –So like the chair with a sign on it saying Art, I’m supposed to buy into Joyce and Elliot because they have signs on their writing that say, Art?

--Well, I think Joyce and Elliot are offering considerably more than a chair in a room.

--It's still vague with me. The way I’m hearing this, is for example, take an office building. An office building is not a Thing-In-Itself but a collection of Things-of-Themselves – windows, steel girders, air conditioners. And thought in that way – what qualifies a thing to be a Thing-of-Itself? I guess what you’re saying is man made objects are collections of Things-of-Themselves put into an order for a specific end. The building to house workers, a painting to illicit ideas. Now take glass – not a Thing-In-Itself is it? Because it is a man made composite of god made or I suppose you could say elemental natural materials – am I getting this?

I nodded slightly, --I think I see what you're saying, where does Kant's Noumenal world begin? We see a chair, but we can’t see the molecules comprising the chair. But our perceiving the chair, as Joyce says, it is a window to the ineffable. I think reality to Kant was the Noumenal World of Things-of-Themselves which is not knowable through reason. Reality to him was essentially spiritual; he said it is necessary to deny knowledge to make room for faith. He says there is a distinction between objects of experience and their Thing-of-Itself. He says objects as we experience them are never given to us of themselves. Even a chair, like Michelangelo’s David is a representation of the thing-of-itself, and as such are a - once removed - persuasion – my term. Even a simple chair will move us in some emotional and intellectual way, will strike our receptivity, our compassion – something as simple as an inviting feeling of sitting down and resting. Add styling to the chair and the impression may deepen. And what Kant calls the Nonsensical Cause of these representations is completely unknown to us and can't be intuited by us as an object. And that is the gist of it. Essentially he says transcendent metaphysics is not possible as knowledge, is unknowable through theoretical reason. Even imagining a chair in our minds – is to in some way to apply an interpretation, or persuasion to the thing-of-itself that is a chair. But Schopenhauer says reality is Will - a thing of perception is the appearance of a Thing-of-Itself. With Kant however, what we perceive with an object is the projection of the Thing-of-Itself. See the difference here?

He slowly nodded. –So for Schopenhauer objects are simply manifestations of his Will. And I guess with Kant, like Plato, there is this transcendent world out there full of Things-of-Themselves.


--Then like Plato, in Kant, his objects are removed from the Things-of-itself, and he says in the Phenominal we are always being, as you would call it persuaded. Sounds like every phenomenal thing we perceive is, in effect, a work of art.

--I would say better, a potential work of art. Again, going back to the chair with the label on it signifying it as art.

--Okay so you’ve explained Kant, Plato, and Schopenhaure – what do you think?

--Look, all I am doing here is borrowing, so to speak, the terminology of Kant and Schopenheaure to explain what I think Joyce, and Eliot and other moderns are attempting with there art. But what do I believe? I don’t know, is what I believe. But I do see, or sense, or find agreeable even, the intellectual explorations of these minds – and to me it is indicative that there must be something out there beyond the reach of our minds.

--So the fact we have speculation is indicative that something is going on.

--No, not necessarily. Just because the great minds say they are making such speculations does not mean there is something to speculate about. It is my study of the speculations, being impressed by them, that leads me to accept that perhaps there is goings on that intuitively we can apprehend. Take religion, most religions simply say there is a God, there is a spirit, there is heavens and hells and what not and as a disciple you are simply going to have to believe, take it on faith, and swallow it all hook, line, and sinker. Well that’s not enough for me. Telling me just to believe, and shut the fuck up. What I’m telling you, there really is not all that much of a difference in concern between the great minds and the great religions – both are concerned with matters of the soul and other worldly issues. But the approach of the one group versus the other for me is much more convincing, and for me credible. Thus, I suppose, instead of following the religious fanatics, those who simply toss in the towel and say it is what it is – just take it as a matter of faith, I have to go through the process, if you will, and I’ve decided to league with the fanatics of speculation.

--I see. Well, good for you.

--Am I wasting my time here?

--No, no. I’m just still waiting to be convinced that I should go back out and buy Finnegan’s Wake and try to read the thing – aloud.

--Well, I’m not sure I’ll get you that convinced. But I’m trying here. Now going back relating to what I call this Persuasion in an object - Schopenhauer warns that this Will, as it pervades all things, must be overcome or controlled - channeled by the rational toward moral directions. See in most all things the Will cannot be controlled, a tree for example just grows, an animal just instinctively goes about its business sleeping and eating; but in humans, with the gift of rationality – now the Will can be controlled. Thus with dreams come responsibilities. And this controlling of the Will, especially for modern man, can be a complex affair, encompassing gestures of control that are both small, as to what we’re going to eat for supper, to hugely sweeping - engrossing whole segments of humanity and life. I guess I could explain this with the example, that the Will as manifested in Hitler's Germany was such a huge sweep – and some may argue that it was an effective controlling of the will. But our intellectuality in examining that situation in an historical prospective considers the direction of that manifestation of the Will to be tainted with extreme and immoral overtures.


--Yes, you could say that. That is how our intellectuality would define it. An intellectuality formed through the empirical study, and the trial and error of the ages.

--Isn’t that Hegelian? But couldn't you argue that the Demonic does exert a certain control over the Will? You know Hitler's Germany was fraught with discipline and control.

I slowly nodded, --Yes, you're right. I guess you might say it's really all intellectual - the Will can be controlled in various ways. Our intellectuality will dictate if that control is good or evil, or demonic. To some twisted minds, Hitler's Germany was moral.

--Or now we even define it in terms of the psychotic, or neurotic, or whatever along those lines?

I nodded and continued, --Right more terminology. So now in terms of knowing this Will - or identifying with it – seems like the more our science and technology travels, as in trying to find elemental matter – this Will, as it is, in and of itself, is simply unknowable in the Phenominal. The only connection really with the Will, like Kant’s nouminal world is a tangential one. Our connection to it through our senses perceiving it in a certain way. Like we see light in one way, though it encompasses whole aspects of a spectrum beyond our physical unaided senses. We are all walking with bifocals. And we only know the Will is there, that it is a force, and a force to be reckoned with, to be channeled and controlled through the intellect and psyce. And what exactly comprises that force? Well, nothing really, it is simply something that is there, like gravity, a controlling factor in the cosmos, to be comprehended. And as Kant identified, it is that there are these forces, these controlling occults, for our comprehending, that is the miracle.

--So now don't we have to know what is a moral channeling of the Will? Then have the discipline and ability to execute control over the Will?

--Moral or evil control of that force is part of this, we have to know the difference between each to control the force in a certain way. But this is only part of it. This'll sound odd maybe – but I think it is much like a golf swing. There's dozens of intellectual concepts that one must learn about the swing, but knowing how to swing a golf club does not an Arnold Palmer make, you also have to execute the swing, incorporate the dozens of intellectual concepts into the enactment. And I like the example of a golf swing because it is a subtle, tricky thing, even the best golfers never get it consistently completely right. Hegel I think makes a great contribution here with his theory's of mankind's collective evolution toward moral history, that essentially mankind in his history going from the essentially primitive and ineffectual tribal society to high civilization is effectively, through the give and take and travails of history, evolving toward the moral and right way to live.

Now going back to what art does – on one level it depicts goings on in the phenominal, such as the naturalistic novels of Tolstoy. Then art may also attempt to aid in the apprehension of the nouminal - it persuades one to a state where the Will is sensed and the control over it is at it's most subtle, to a point where the will is most acutely sensed and within our power. When a golfer executes a perfect swing - an easy, relaxed, unrushed, apparently serene but forceful movement, where the ball cracks off the tee into a straight magnificent and long flight - that feeling is what I'm talking about - where the control over the force is most ably executed. The more simple art forms, I think, are more able to achieve this - poetry, music, sculpture, painting.

--Music is a simple art form?

--It can be, it can be a simple sing song or a complex symphony. Just like a poem can be a simple ode or an epic. What I should have said was an art form, any art form, given its more simple, more pared down, its purest presentation is more likely to achieve this sense of the Will. Modern painting and sculpture I think strives to achieve with their very basic, pared down forms, forms that appear completely alien to our apparent perception of reality but act as a ready conduit to the Nouminal or the Will. And I think that is what Joyce and Eliot are doing in their art. Like music or modern art and sculpture with an apparent non-sensical representation, they are trying to conduct us through evocation to the ineffable if you will, to the nouminal, to a controlling of the Will. Finnegan’s Wake is more a symphony of words, or perhaps word notes, than a novel – in the traditional sense of the novel. Going back to that scene with Ahab – where else in the book does he actually question his sanity? Actually seem to exert some control over his Will? Actually seem to come out of his madness?

Another example in art of what I'm talking about I think would be Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Frost takes the reader to that point where the will is subtly found and most acutely felt and most ably controlled. At the onset of the poem is a guy making his delivery rounds through the country forest. He is anxious with the nebulous cares and woes of the here and now world; he's worried about who's woods they are; if the owner is going to see him stopping to look at the woods; he is even worried that his horse will think him queer for stopping; all petty, even ridiculous concerns - but to him anxieties nonetheless. And Frost makes it clear that the man is out in the forest - far from civilization: Without a farmhouse near. Then Frost takes this man from the anxieties of his little world, to contemplation of the sylvan scene. The neurotic cares of the everyday leave the man at the sight of the lovely woods - which are dark and deep. There he is at that point - he has tangentially, as you would say, approached the Will. At that moment where he sees and meditates over how the woods are lovely, dark and deep - now he is calmed and on the tangential path, nearing the point of intersection where he is in line, in touch, on the coincident path of the Will. He has become aware, sensed that there is something larger, more substantial, in life than what he can normally see, feel, hear, and touch, and that he is a part of that – that largesse. Again here I'm just conceptualizing - doing the only thing I can do with my mental faculties and whatever else - try and think or conceptualize intuitively - beyond the terms. And then after he has contemplated the woods, the tangential line again leaves the close passing, or commune perhaps, with the Will; and the man goes back into the cares of the every day as he remembers - but he has promises to keep - and miles to go before he sleeps. But notice he is more serene, more resigned and resolved to his moral duties, less plagued with the kinds of unimportant thoughts he had before his contemplation and approach and intersection with the will. In other words, the experience has calmed him - and made him better prepared to go forward to meet his miles to go before he sleeps. And, perhaps, better prepared to meet his sleep. An initiation of a kind has taken place.

But you see how the moral or immoral - such intellectualizing - is only part of what I am saying. The Will can be controlled by good or demonic action, but it is only how that action affects our nervous system that will dictate how we will continue to control the Will and be able to perceive the Will. Controlling the Will is one thing, perceiving it another; both become the same when the act of controlling the Will is done for perceiving the Will. Stopping by Woods depicts this. If you just speed read a poem, or glance at a painting or sculpture, its force will likely go unperceived. Like that Woody Allen joke about speed reading – I sped read War and Peace; it’s about Russia. An intense effort to study and think about, essentially let the work play on you has to be made to get the full effect of a work. This intense study is an act of controlling the Will.

We were quiet a moment as he thought over my words. --So art teaches how to control the will?

--No not quite. Then again yes it does - indirectly I suppose, or rather, it can. What art does is represent a conceptualization, be it real, or unreal, an imitation of reality, be it mirrorlike or ersatz, or an exaggeration of reality - a parody, allegory - or completely unrelated to reality – an extreme parody or even myth or fairy tale. As philosophy offers discourse and theory, art offers the conceptualizations exemplified in depictions. A different sort of argumentation or presentation, if you will. And one aspect of art - but not a requisite for art - could show the moral vs. immoral controlling of the Will, of this life promoting force. Like Stopping By Woods, a depiction of a subtle approach and communion with the Will. But again to say this is good art, or what the best art must do I think is incorrect, too narrowing a constraint for art. Tolstoy's War and Peace, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Henry IV, Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey, all good even great art - but these works are mostly concerned with discussing and depicting the goings on in the Phenomenal. We are all in our way slouching towards Bethlehem. Searching for the way, so to speak. As Hegel said, man’s history is the striving toward reason. I read this as our history is the effort to figure it out - how best to survive - how best to live and perpetuate life - how best to service the Will, this force that we and all things manifest. And the best art I believe makes a substantial contribution to that effort - through increasing our knowledge and awareness of all things Phenomenal and Noumenal, and thus enhancing our reason.

He nodded, --seems to me what you’re saying is essentially approach all things, especially art, with an active effort to understand and comprehend what it’s trying to say or do. In other word’s you’re saying: Think!

--Think, feel, get involved with it, I suppose. Have passion and compassion for it. But I think most importantly I’m saying allow it to play on you’re intuition.

He sat looking blank faced and staring ahead, thinking obviously; then his brow knitted and he shook his head as if shaking me off and falling into a doubt or maybe frustration mixed with a dose of skepticism. And then he said, --Well, I hear the high mindedness of you’re words. I mean you’ve got it down, there’s no doubt about it. And I like you’re comparison to Finnegan’s wake to a symphony of words. But I am still not convinced. This sense of something greater, this transcendent apprehension, just sounds like a lot a ruckus to me. When music moves me – am I really apprehending something there? It is like you’re saying there are ghosts, but you can’t see them, or smell, hear, or taste them, or whatever – but you can sense them. If you listen carefully, or get yourself into a becalmed state, or some sort of AUM induced hypnotic mood then you will intuitively sense or apprehend them. Again, what is this apprehend? What am I supposed to be apprehending? What does it feel like? How will I know I’m apprehending? Does some light go on in my head, does some feeling come over me? Do I have some epiphanic heroin high? You talk about this scene in Moby Dick where Ahab calms down and senses something. But is he truly sensing something transcendent? Some otherworldly ghost? Or is he just calmed down finally? You seem to be placing some high minded terms yourself to just some simple basic emotions.

Our discussion was what it was, perhaps glib, tossing out terms and concepts for quick contemplation essentially running rip shod over the great thinking, like the students we were talking of Michelangelo. But such was the nature of all discussion really – unless you became a Kant or Plato or Aristotle and laid waste your imaginings to the temper of nuance, precision and detail; any lecturing or discussing was a matter of pulling terms and concepts from here and there to fit an individual jig saw of persuasion. And then, it had always seemed to me - that one of the cogency’s Elliot and Joyce were attempting to evoke in their art - that all the rational and logical summoned by the great western minds regarding the essential had become more slippery than consequent Just high sounding cacophony beguiling toward blind alleyways.

I looked at Sal for a moment and realized he was just not getting it, the finer points of my discourse - which honestly I was fairly self impressed over, impressed that I could even prattle on over such lofty topics, that I had such pent up cerebral expression – even if it was more high sounding than truly high minded; but I could see my words, words and more words were mostly gliding over and past him apparently, like thermal air against a sheer mountainside. The vast souls of Joyce and Elliot would have to remain misunderstood and perhaps even despised. And though I was sure my audience was receptive and fairly intelligent, talk is truly only as good as its corresponding ear, and it did occur to me, that because most of what I was preaching was off the cuff and newly pulled from my indulged mostly undergraduate mind, and was essentially creating the motif of the argument and idea as I went along, perhaps I was asking too much of that sows ear. Due to the late hour I decided to take the cue from that tree that falls in the woods unnoticed and is thus perhaps inconsequential, I decided I had rambled enough, I concluded saying agreeably, --Hmm. Perhaps not. Perhaps you’re right.

And honestly, I wasn’t all that sure the sow’s ear was all tin.

He nodded also agreeably and he did me the favor of asking a few more questions to chase the concepts awhile longer until the color outside the windows had gone from black to blue - and as the blue lost the sheen of morning twilight, became more white, Nate came into the dining room. He was dressed for the docks and his face was barely swollen from the night's sleep. He looked at me, --You're just gettin' in?

--Sort of, I said.

He walked into the kitchen and came out with a pint carton of milk in his hand. After he took a long drink he asked, --What'd you guys do - find some girls?

I said, --Naw, we went into town and closed a bar, got something to eat, then came back here, we've been talking here.

Sal was quiet and didn't really look at Nate. I sensed he was a little uncomfortable with him.

After another long drink Nate said, --Don't suppose your goin' to the docks huh?

--Maybe later,-- I said.

He nodded and finished off the milk with another long drink then said, --Talking all night huh?

--Pretty much.

--No girls huh?


He nodded again then said, --Alright, I'll see ya. Then he walked out of the dining room, out the back door.

Nate's appearance had brought us out of our intensity into realization of our fatigue. I guess we had had enough. We decided to retire. As we were walking upstairs Sal asked, --You think that Rosily was Black?

--I don't know. She was dark. Maybe half.

--I think she was.

--Maybe, couldn't really tell though. She was good looking though.

--Yeah, she was.

We paused at his floor and his brows were knitted inward with contemplation and he was nodding. He appeared to be waiting to ask me something, then he said, --You know a lot about this stuff. Not everybody that comes out of an Ivy League education can spout off like that.

--No, guess not. I was a good student though. And my dad teaches this stuff, I told you that didn't I?

He nodded his head, --I think you did.

--I grew up with it.

--Yeah but so what, there has to be an interest there to soak it up. I can't believe your thinking about law school. You got brains, you should do something with it.

I started up the stairs, --It's one thing to dissect the frog, another to create it.

--So just be good at dissecting it, he shouted up at me.

--I'll think about it, I said, as I came to my floor.

He was peculiar, no doubt; but I guess so was I when it came down to it - at least considered from the arrogant slant that my friends from home were somehow normal or less peculiar. And then if I truly wanted to take that slant, I suppose like Brad so boisterously claimed, and Klug seemed to intimate by his behavior, the Sigma’s, the group of them, were modestly peculiar. A peculiar bunch we had invaded. Still, there was something about Sal's peculiarity, for me anyway; I saw its value; for me - its charisma. Tagging along and eye witnessing Nate while on his travails fueled by his money driven ambitions was one thing, but now after listening to Sal intellectually charged and full of idea driven ambition became quite another. His mind struck me as so charged with the vitality of intelligence – and so willing and able to at least listen and consider ideas that came along and try to fit them into some sensible, rational, and hopeful whole. And while I could see that his intelligence was more raw than refined, his head harder than he may have wanted to admit, or realize, and his schooling self-procured and more a smattering of this and that, with maybe too easy a rejection of this and that if testing too readily some inner tolerance. I still admired him – I was smart enough and aware enough, even with my sheltered and over weaned and educated upbringing, to realize that what he wanted to do with himself was likely just what he should do – go to Hollywood and become somebody. I could definitely see him wrangling into a sit com staff writing job and hacking out those dumb downed Gilligan’s Island and I Dream of Genie scripts for Main Street consumption. Sidney Sheldon had made a pile of money being a scrawling wizard in Hollywood; and I thought I saw the same raw stuff in Sal. I’m sure there was a time when Sydney sat in a dorm or frat house room as the local brainiack bull roaring over the latest idea gleaned from a Cliff Note. And Sal had me going too – in the parroting of my father’s teaching and my institutional education getting, I was realizing how lacking I was – and yet in me was perhaps the same sort of kindling – and brand of peculiarity. Somehow I was just lacking the spark – but admittedly Sal had sparked something in me. I talked that night with him like I had never talked before. Even in our half-baked late night bull and gripe sessions at Princeton. I was like an intelligent Catholic kid who passively goes through his catechism and unbeknownst to him absorbs the teachings, subconsciously considers them, then later when an opportunity arises, spouts the lessons and his conclusions. Though I was lacking in some defined and perhaps even fundamental drive, Sal that night had led me somewhere, I think.

Obviously from Sal's perspective life was holding him down while all around him he thought he could see others eating of the fruits - the youthful fruits - of popularity, sexual, societal, and social gratification - fruits that somehow he was unable to grasp much less partake – fruit's that led to knowledge he ached to possess. But he wasn't done in. At least not then; he was going to get his fare share – somehow - and to that end he had dedicated himself. And perhaps that was also what was driving Nate. He had been denied his supposed gilded future but he had seen another and to that hopeful end Nate had dedicated himself and somehow this odd and crazy expedition of ours fit into this dedication. I began to realize such drives, such wills, while mostly vacant in me - something was oddly pushing me forward and pulling at me. I was not going to be let off the hook – but still I did not have this unique and fervent passion that I saw in Nate and Sal. And it was beginning to occur to me - even then - that perhaps that God or the Gods or Whatever was not prodding these fine young friends of mine, but perhaps the prodding was coming my way. Apparently when I looked at it from a certain slant – it truly didn't appear they needed prodding. They had the electricity. It was I who was in need of such will. It was I who lacked, was faint of heart, shallow in soul. Again, such thoughts only occurred to me then now and again, and only fleeting. For the most part I was quite willing and able and happy to keep sallying along. Admittedly too, I had rude suspicions – I wondered – I had a modicum of wisdom even then – enough to take it all in with a grain of leery salt. I think it had something to do with my father's anti-war efforts and his constant decrying of the impetuosity of youth; how young men throughout history have gotten suckered into Homeric endeavors - this suspicion had been drilled into my hard head and somehow had hooked. Thus I did wonder – would I one day look at these times, at Sal's and even Nate's driven efforts and expostulations and whatever came about with me - and I wondered - would I one day look back and with an exclamation point and say: My what intentions we had! That I did wonder.

12 As our stay progressed well into July the status quo was moving along as it had toward the end of June. Nate was staying persistent on the work front and the Nancy front. Brad and Klug were well entrenched on the fun front. I was still vacillating between fronts, work and fun - and Julie. My relationship with Julie had blossomed and probably reached a crescendo there on the lakeside and then settled onto a plateau. She was fine girl, no doubt - and those luscious lines - indeed that moment in the lake would be one of those locked in the memory to reappear many times over, and may even be the final great reverie, like rosebud, as life steals it's final breath. Yet by degrees I was beginning to feel those pangs of paradise ebbing. Julie was my Circe, but Janie always would be my Penelope. Still this fact was just another that was staying put in some back closet of my mind. It had not sauntered into the conscious forefront. This was my summer of tomfoolery and mental daisy picking. I still went to Julie almost nightly and shared her bed and rolled around in it as vigorously as Janie and I ever had. Yet there was much that was missing between us, and the chasm seemed to broaden with each meeting, intercourse, and night we lay together. This space which began with a momentary notice of a little thing, then another, and another, all adding, mounting, vision upon vision, summating into a stale picture as our time together protracted. There was much that I liked about her – those luscious lines - much that I didn't – her relatively stale personality and corresponding mind; simple as that. A guy can only sex around so much. And like an elastic band that as it stretches looses resilience until reaching it's maximum consistency and flexibility - then snaps - that was the relationship. I was subconsciously waiting for the snap, the bubble bursting, with the pixie dust blown away leaving only over the dirty floor the facts as they lay, showing us finally what truly synthesized our heartfelt consistency.

A couple of weeks into July, Ben and Karl asked if we - the four compadres - would like to attend with them the "hydros" as they called it, at what they called the "Tri-Cities." Nancy it turned out had also mentioned the event to Nate encouraging their attendance - she being from Richland - one of the cities in the triad composing the Tri-Cities - or as she called it: the "Dry Shities." The hydros was a hydrofoil boat race on the Columbia River at the point on the river between Pasco and Kennewick - the other two cities of the dry triad. Called dry by Nancy and others because the area was almost smack at the midpoint in the vast low lying valley between the Cascade Mountains and the Blue Mountains, was arid, rocky, moonscapish - undulated with bald dirty hills and uplands, a strange barren clayey advocatus diaboli to Seattle's forested and green humectant vistas. I encouraged Nate to let his hair down, and all of us attend the event after hearing of the invite and listening to descriptions of the event from Karl and Ben: "It's a real blow out, people from all over the state are there. Just a big party. And we got rooms at the best hotel around there, you guys can stay with us." I didn't have to persuade with much due diligence for apparently Nancy had laid some groundwork and he quickly decided to go - though it meant two or three days away from the wharf.

The plan set forth had Ben and Karl driving down with Klug and Brad in Karl's car followed by Nate and Nancy, Julie and myself in the bus. In town Julie would stay with Nancy at her parent's house, while Nate and I stayed with the SAE's at the hotel. While Nate seemed quite content to be going with Nancy in tow, I however, as the weekend approached and the carnival talked up and anticipated, I began to envision it as one of those rowdy and rollicking male bonding type times where drinking and womanizing could reach raunchy and fabled dimensions. And Julie no doubt would cramp that style. Again another indication that the elastic band was getting there.

When I first began to admit internally that my chemistry might be wearing toward Julie, rubbing off like the gold plating on cheap jewelry, was on her birthday. In believing that my relationship was not for perpetuity with Julie, that we were simply misbehaving, having a fun thing, a fun fling, in taking that slant, any vetoing thoughts toward her I easily suppressed. I had casually taken and chucked away those innuendoes as to our evident differences; but that had changed. She let me know about her birthday blatantly - by hanging a calendar in her room and circling the day in red marking pen. Red - that color of hers. So informed, I took her to dinner and a movie. For a gift I bought her some Chanel No. Cinco Cologne. I probably would have shelled out the two and half times extra dollars for the perfume – in a bottle two and a half times lesser - but my finances were dwindling. I had eaten well into my principle - the cash I had brought from home. My spending was well outpacing any replenishment from the earnings coming from the odd jobs Nate and I performed at the wharf. And frankly, it occurred to me, the cologne would probably suffice and the perfume would just be overkill. I figured the boys back home in Spokane - at least those of her age strata - would be clueless about Chanel No. Five, think it probably a French TV station - much less buy her the stuff. With Janie, of course, it would have had to have been the perfume - no cheap stand-ins for her. And I had calculated correctly - Julie was thrilled. She immediately sprayed herself on the inside of her wrist and smelled it, "Ooh, that smells nice," she cooed, and then lassoed me with her long thin arms and smothered me with a long wet one. But then that night after the date - that was it - the change. She wouldn't let me stay over in her room. She said, "I think we should cool things a little." Things being our sex play. As I walked forlornly back to the Sigma House with only a long kiss to insufficiently quench my pent up randy desires, my clogging pipes, I thought this send off a strange, contrary reward for my apparent thoughtfulness. I even thought perhaps I should have sprung for the perfume - could I have underestimated? Naw. I realized it was the opposite. She was making a hasty clumsy retreat, a female version of Dunkirk. She was backpedaling. She was now implying - our ready sex was really not like her, that she did not normally do those things, that sex was synonymous with sacred. She was tossing me a sign, a gesture of true affection which would cast a completely new shadow on things in the larger picture. My Tahitian flower, my far flung fling, my frivolous thing, was turning serious. I was to be Tristan, she Isolde. So now I was well on the highway to heeldom. I realized then, vaguely, to maintain the status quo, I might have to become a fearful suitor, a cad of sorts, would have to prance around the sensitive issues, even possibly fabricate labyrinth circumlocutions around simple blatant questions. Was I willing? Like most foolish males I had gotten to like my Barbie Doll - in that role that is - and didn't relish cutting the ropes. So I did the sensible thing, I rationalized internally that I was perhaps making too much of things – over thinkin’ it - making Appalachians out of anthills.

I decided to put aside all of this gray matter, this real thinking. And it went just fine for a while - except occasionally; as for instance when we began our drive to the Tri-Cities - with Nate and Nancy up front, in the bus, and Julie and I on the bench seat. As we drove out of Seattle into the eastern mountains, with the dense forest around greening our view, I looked over at Julie and caught her gazing at me with that pleasant and contented smiling look girls will often put on for their mates. That look that says they have been made to believe all is wonderful in the world, that there truly is comprehension to the universe after all. And to make matters worse, she took hold of my hand - and again a realization fell over me neighbored with a pang of remorse - that I would rather be in that lime green landau roofed hunk of tin we were following, sitting in the stern seat in too close a proximity between Klug and Brad, floating over that dark asphalt arroyo in Karl's four wheeled galleon christened the Buick Le Sabre.

As we drove on over the mountains, on each side of the highway were walls of dense brown trunks standing rigid and rising into a lush, dark green needle leafed foliage. In the shade of the forest was a thick undergrowth of tall bluish-green grass and tiny Christmas-like trees. Higher in the mountains we came into clouds and all around a misty fog enclosed the view and over the ground were white patches of still untrammeled snow, flat smooth bergs with sinuous edges, some wrapped around and flowed through gray rock formations like miniature glaciers. Then the road began to descend, and for a half hour or so we drove through more mist and forest, then the forest thinned and the land lightened from green to browns and yellows. The undergrowth was drier thistle and sage and the trees wider and leafy, became alders, oaks and elms, and the land began to roll into broad declining uplands. Ahead in the distance I could see the road winding down into a wide valley. Below, the road ran along the down stream face of an embankment dam. The dams shoulders and berms were comprised of white and light gray stones piled. The upstream side of the dam was dry - I guessed it was one of those constructions, similar to the dry dams found in the Los Angeles basins, meant to ward off the disasters arising from the once per hundred year deluge - sibs of the great one. We passed the long and high knoll of stones comprising the dam, then the road lay over grassy brown hills until the land became even drier and the grass sparse. We came over a hillside and far below was a vast flat valley mantled all in a baked brown dusty looking terra firma. We traversed along the high ridge of the hills as if paralleling the basin below. Far in the distance at the other side of the basin were more brown foothills and beyond those a purplish range of mountains. Soon coming into the view was a curving gray blue shining length over the brown floor - the surface shimmering and slate like. It was too wide to be a road. The roads we could see as straight narrow scratches in the valley floor. The blue length was a river running - the Columbia. A few more minutes and I could see a scattering of a town on each side of the river - a tiny sparse matrix amid the vast brown, like an amusing lonely atoll out in a sea. We came down out of the brown rocky foothills and drove into Richland a little after eight. Here we split with Karl and the rest up ahead, they were going across the river to Pasco while we stayed in town to drop Nancy and Julie off.

The town was sparse with tracts of empty treeless land, arid and sandy and salted with small rocks. Most of the buildings were small wood sided, stucco, or cinder block boxes. Empty land was aplenty. Occasionally behind a large parking lot, standing alone amidst the brown expanse was a large grocery store or strip shopping center. The housing was all in tracts, most were small flat roofed stucco and wood sided homes with sparkled rocks spread over the roofs. Arizona bungalows. Tall steel trussed high tension pylons carried wires over the town and bounded over the valley far into a distance. We passed a park, a square green grassy lawn – a sparse oasis amidst the brown - with small scrawny randomly placed newly planted trees. Nancy's neighborhood seemed one of the finer in town. The homes, though still small by Claremont and University of Washington Greek system standards, were larger than those we had seen. Her parent's house was typical for the block, in fact very typical - the houses were all essentially the same. They were two story with a pitched roof over side gables, covered with asphalt shingles, walls were in vertical wood siding, no eaves, and the door and windows were flush with the walls, a small stoop was the front porch. The front yard of Nancy's house was an oval of grass surrounded by an apron of white rocks. A small stone pagoda stood in one corner of the yard. The house was painted in a light turquoise green color offset with a bright red front door. The end of the street simply stopped at an empty lot and the view, around the few streets of the tract, extended for miles into the valley and hills beyond. The sun was an orange discus and the sky went from orange to pink to a shiny blue overhead; and the air was warm, almost hot, and dry.

As we drove through I asked Nancy, “Ever see the Last Picture Show?”

She gave me an unenthused look, obviously catching my intimation. “Yeah, I saw it,” she said flatly.

“Just wondering,” I said.

Immediately it became apparent on our arrival that Nancy's mother was not an especially good sport. Her father seemed pleasant and even keeled, tall with Nancy's pointed nose and a head full of dark gray hair and thick dark eyebrows, he smiled easily at us when we met, his voice was deep and quiet. The mother was small formed, with a rounded smooth face, pink freckled complexion, with red hair like Nancy's only thicker and lighter. Her eyes were large and round and her brows thin, as was her slightly pouty mouth. She didn't smile and her response to the introductions seemed cool. We sat in the living room. A long room with the front door at one end on the side. The furniture styling was understated chinoiserie, and looked well chosen from a moderately priced seller. We all sat on the couch - the four of us, with Nancy's parents in matching well stuffed club chairs facing us from across the narrow room. We talked pleasantries awhile, explained who we were and where we came from, and our intentions for the weekend. When I told them how I was going to Princeton, Mr. Keogh revealed that he had gone to the University of Pennsylvania. I asked him how he ended up on the west coast - as I was thinking - how could an Ivy Leaguer possibly end up in this martianscape, this Hades hole, this Northern Odessa? He explained how he had studied engineering, and that his first job out of college was working on the design and building of the nuclear power plant located in the valley a few miles from Richland; and when they finished construction, "They needed engineers to help run it so I stayed and been here ever since." So neat and convenient, plausible and logical - and ordered. Life was probably good to them there, save the heat and lack of higher forms of plant life.

When the subject of our going out on the town came up, Mrs. Keogh informed us that, "Nancy isn't going to another party tonight - or a bar. She goes to too many parties and bars for a girl her age."

Nancy took up the beat of this rebuke and said, "Mother - they didn't come here to hear you rag over my social life. It's Friday night and it's the race weekend and we're going out."

Undaunted the mother replied, "I'm just telling this young man that I don't appreciate him taking you to all these parties or a bar, tonight or any night."

"He doesn't take me to any parties or bars," Nancy said.

"Your only nineteen Nancy and I just want this young man to know where I stand," the mother said.

During this cacophony the rest of us, including Mr. Keogh stayed silent. Our heads turned between the two in sync as if watching center court at Wimbledon. My impression was that Mrs. Keogh for some reason was not especially thrilled over all of us - an unusual situation for me. Normally parents greeted me and my well scrubbed shorthaired mug, with bright eyes, cordial smiles, and willing handshakes. And I couldn't imagine what would be repellant about Nate. Mr. Keogh hadn't deviated, warmed right up to us. But the Mrs., when Nate and I were introduced, gave us a modest feigned looking smile and stern almost evil eye. She simply did not transmit like.

Then Nate spoke up with a pleasant smile in a polite and political tone, "Don't worry Mrs. Keogh, we're not going to any parties, and I don't drink. We're just going to the Red Lion Inn where some friends of ours are staying."

A sly spiel I thought. He didn't drink? Like when? And no parties? Just going over to the Red Lion Inn where some friends are? Well what were those friends doing? Nate was avoiding the blatant issues with a deft angularity. But the Mrs. was relentless - she was probably wise to such half truths. She had deep female undertows pulling at her – likely extreme bitterness over spending a life in that crummy local. She turned the tables on ol' Nate asking with high-pitched regard in her voice, "Are you all staying at the Red Lion Inn?"

Nancy fielded this one boldly, "No mother - we're not sleeping together. Julie and I are staying over at Ann's."

Oops, apparently a change of plans.

"Ann?" The mother said sternly. "You know I don't like Ann."

"Well mother you don't like anybody - and that's what we're doing," Nancy said then turning to her father she implored, "Dad will you tell her to stop?"

Mr. Keogh looked at his wife with calm, quiet eyes, and with his hand gave a slight downward pressing motion, no doubt a gesture indicating for the Mrs. to chill. When we finally got back out of the house and into the bus, Nancy said, "I'm sorry you guys - she's just a rag tonight. I don't know what it is. We can stay at my friend's though."

We drove out of the neighborhood up a boulevard sided mostly with vacant lots, a couple strip centers, then a gas station - the paint on it's metal walls fading and rusting. We turned into another neighborhood with houses typical of most we had seen before getting to Nancy’s neighborhood - small and flat-roofed. Ann's house was the same, with white stucco walls and black wood trim, recently painted. The roof of the house extended over the driveway forming a carport. Pinkish rocks with shiny speckles were over the roof and covering most of the front yard imitating a lawn. Small cactus plants were along the house. A pink concrete flamingo propped atop a metal rod stood sentry near the front door. I looked at it not quite believing my eyes – that people really did landscape with such things. Nate caught me looking over the yard; he knew what I was thinking - he smiled barely and raised his brows. Ann greeted us at the door wearing snug fitting black slacks and a t-shirt colored with orangish and black leopard spots. She had a lean, pliant face, large brown eyes, and stringy brown hair that hung loosely as if breeze blown, her skin was well tanned, she was shorter than Julie and Nancy, built voluptuously like Julie but without the length of bone to extend the curves; she had a large nose which blended well with her face, and full lips. Oddly, to me anyway, she looked older somehow, though I realized she was probably Nancy’s age, a couple years younger than us. When she saw Nancy she screeched her name and they both embraced as girls will do. After that, Ann, smiling and worked up a little, said for us to "Come in - come in - don't pay attention to the mess." We followed Nancy in and were introduced.

The front living room was long and wide, a big room it seemed for so small a house - possible the main selling feature when originally constructed and sold. I could hear the wives saying in slightly disappointed tones, "Well it's such a small place - but it does have that big living room," and thinking the big front room would give the impression the house was larger than the actuality. A sectional couch in brown leatherlike vinyl was at the middle of the room against the far wall. A matching club chair was on one side, a glass coffee table sat in front of the couch - a long oval pain of glass held aloft by a well sanded and varnished gnarled and twisted tree section. On the other side of the room below a large picture window was a TV - stereo console with speakers at each end. The cabinet was dark skinned and carved with Byzantine like medallions and curly line designs over the doors. A small oak side table held a lamp with an orange bellied stem. A chrome horn shaped floor lamp rose on the other side of the couch with the light spreading forth upward out of the bell shaped end. Newspapers were piled on the couch, the TV was lit, a vacuum was standing idle and an ironing board with a basket of wash was set up in front of the TV. We were given a tour of the house. A door sized opening at the side of the living room led to a small kitchen with a small eating nook. Judging by the appliances - a small primitive looking gas stove and refrigerator with rounded top edges - and cabinets of plywood, the house was likely quite old, twenty years or so. Walking past the kitchen through another door led into a small hallway and two small bedrooms and a separate bath. One room was filled with barbell equipment, the other a waterbed with a dresser in front of it with a small TV on top facing the bed. After the grand tour, Ann stood at the ironing board getting back to work on her ironing and said, "I just got a few more things here to finish."

Nancy said, "Oh don't worry, here let me help you."

"No, no - sit down, sit down," Ann said, and we did, all of us on the couch as we had at Nancy's house.

Ann said, "Doug should be right back - he just went out to get some beer. I got some Orange Crush or milk - or water?"

We passed and Nancy explained what we were doing and Ann said, "So Marge is on the warpath again huh?"

"She's so strung out," Nancy said. "We were gonna stay there but that won't work - can we stay here?"

"Of course, if you don't mind the living room floor. So what's wrong with Marge now? Your doing okay in school aren't you?"

"Yeah - but you know her. It's her same old song and dance about partying too much."

Ann smiled and made an exaggerated face, "What? Nancy party too much? My gawd no."

They laughed; Nancy had obviously had her share of fun.

Then the husband came in. He was well tanned with thick muscular shoulders and arms coming out of a tank top, his hair was thick and longish to the nape of the neck, it was wet and combed almost perfectly in place, parted down the middle. He had a goatee also trimmed perfectly. He was friendly but slightly standoffish, reserved and seemed as if a little suspicious of us. Though our age, he appeared a few years older. On one arm was a tattoo - a shield capped with a knight's armored helmet, and an upside down chevron over the shield. Nate and I stood up to shake hands, he shook our hands quickly looking only briefly at us, and hardly smiling, then handed us a can of beer out of a brown shopping bag he was cradling in his arms. After stepping into the kitchen to put away the beer in the refrigerator, he came back and sat down in the club chair and with the remote control turned the sound up slightly higher on the TV. Ann explained to him that we were going to stay over for the weekend. He said, "No problem babe, kinda thought we'd be gettin' somebody sleepin' over for the races."

Nate asked him about himself, he told us how he was a backhoe operator for a local pipeline construction company, "We mostly do work for the power plant."

"Sounds like a lot a people around here work for the plant," Nate said. "Nancy's dad just told us how he works for it."

"Oh yeah, Mr. Keogh's in charge a all the work bein' done by the power company. He's way up there in the hiarkee," Doug said.

"The power plant the largest business out here?" Nate asked.

"It's 'bout the only big business out here. Everybody's connected in some way to the plant."

Ann said, "They were talking about shutting it down - all the environmentalists were making a stink - if that happened the Tri-Cities would probably become ghost towns."

"They still talking about shutting it down?" Nancy asked.

"Oh yeah - especially lately."

"They ain't gonna shut it down," Doug said with some disdain. "They got too much money invested."

"The environmentalists are saying it's too old and it might blow up or something," Ann said.

"It ain't gonna blow up - that's a crock," Doug said.

"They got these nuclear plants all over the world - none of 'em have blown up."

"It's pretty old - my dads been workin' there almost twenty years," Nancy said.

"That’s right – he's been there from the beginning – that’s a long time to be up and shutin' the place." Doug said.

Nate, Doug, and I basically drank our beer and looked at the TV screen and listened while Nancy and Ann talked about this and that. Julie sat mostly quiet next to me holding my hand. Soon with most of our beer's drank, we decided to bring our things in from the bus and because Nancy and Julie weren't staying with Nancy's parents, Nate and I decided to stay with them at Ann's.

After we unpacked we decided to go out around town. Doug and Ann opted to stay home. Apparently in the Tri-Cities there were only two or three bars around town that were considered nightspots. We drove to one called Lucky Jim's - according to Nancy the most popular. And apparently so. It was in the last space of a strip shopping center and a line formed near the front door and ran ten or so yards along the other storefronts. Nancy suggested we try another bar down the road. We came to the corner of a boulevard that was empty lots on three corners, and on the fourth a small cinderblock building stood back behind an asphalt parking lot. The lot was filled with cars; street type motorcycles, Harley’s and such, were parked along the front of the building. A wood sign running the length of the front with raised brown letters spelling MOOSE HEAD was alighted with floodlights. Nancy told Nate to pull into the lot.

"This is it?" Nate said. "Looks like kind of a dive."

"It's the only other place in town everybody goes," Nancy said.

The asphalt lot was so full of cars more were parked on the dirt lot around the building. Inside it was crowded and loud with what seemed to be a diverse clientele. I was, as far as I could tell from outward appearances, the only one present representing the Ivy League; still I could have been wrong, there were a lot of young people college aged to thirties. Many were like Ann's husband and appeared from the working class ranks. There were a few in black leather - biker, Hell's Angels types. The bar was dimly lit, smoke hung over the room, there were a couple of pool tables, a taxidermied moose head hung on the wall over the bar, and lots of milling people trying to talk and laugh over the hard rock music. We stood around and drank a couple bottles of beer, a round of kamikazes. We ran into a couple of Sigma’s, John Taylor and Jim Procter. Nate bought them a round of beers. It was so loud we could only shout at them. They asked where we were staying and said they would see us the next day at the race, then they disappeared into the throng of reveling shades. After the kamikazes, Nancy ran into a couple girl friends of hers, and by the way they screeched and embraced they were obviously good friends. We were introduced, the girls had a couple of guys with them but I couldn't hear any names. One of the guys wore a baseball cap colored a yellow green with an atomic mushroom cloud embroidered in gray on the front. In black letters sewn around the cloud it read: Nuke ‘em until they glow! The word glow was in yellow. Soon Nancy was saying something to Nate in his ear and he nodded then looked at me and nodded toward the door. Everyone started out, including Nancy's friends, and we followed. Outside Nancy explained we were going to meet her friends at Pelican Point.

"What's that? Another Bar?" I asked.

Nancy said, "No it's just a place in the hills we go to party."

I nodded. As we walked to the bus I said, "Pelican Point - there's pelicans out there?"

"Pelicans out in the desert?" She asked mockingly. "That's just what we call it."

I was thinking the pelicans were somehow tied in with the river.

Nate rubbed it in, "Yeah, dummy - there's no pelicans out here. There all up at the North Pole."

I looked at him confused, "North Pole? Pelicans?"

"Yeah - they like ice - goes with the tux."

Then Nancy said, "No those are penguins, we're talking about pelicans - with the big bills?"

"Yeah, you're thinking penguins," I said.

"Big bills?" Nate asked looking a little perplexed. Then as his expression lightened, "Oh yeah. Pelicans, penguins - so what."

After Nate closed the passenger side door, and Julie had climbed into the bus, I looked at Nate and said before climbing in the side door, "Pelicans in the North Pole - smart, very smart."

Nate said, "Kiss my ass."

I climbed into the bus. Before setting off to our night at the Pelican place, we stopped first at a liquor store, a small store in a small strip center, and bought a couple six packs of beer.

We drove up a dark two-lane road that went straight for quite awhile. As far as we could see in the headlight beams the land was vacant on each side. Then the road began to sharply curve and incline. In the light beams the hillside rose steeply, brown and rock strewn to one side. After several minutes of climbing I could see, to the other side, the tiny lights of the towns below spangled few and well spaced. Then as we came to what looked like the high point of the mountain, Nancy told Nate to slow down, that we were coming to the turn off and that she needed to find the marker. Up ahead in the light we saw a wood post with a steer skull perched on top, "Turn there at the skull," Nancy said.

The turn brought us onto a dirt road. The bus rocked and bounced as it rolled over the dirt. A couple dozen yards ahead I could see the edge of a hillside or precipice and a couple pick-up trucks parked, our light beams seemed to shine out over the edge into a limitless dark. Both trucks were older looking models but appeared to have been refurbished with new oversized tires and paint. Nancy instructed Nate to park next to the trucks. As we came near the edge, I could see it was the edge of a steep drop off, we were likely on some large precipice formed at the mountaintop. Way below was the valley, all black and abysmal with only the small scattering of lights of the town indicating the floor.

We walked away from the cars along the ridge line down a couple of slight berms, then I could see the glow of a small orange flickering light mixed with a white glowing.

As we came closer I could see a slight campfire putting out the orange light, and circling it were small wooden logs and in front of the logs was a thick mantle of sand. Two Coleman camping lanterns were on each side of the campfire putting off the white glow. It occurred to me we had entered a kind of outdoor living room with a nice view, the lanterns were each a kind of lamp and the sand was a kind of hearth. The night was warm so the fire was kept small, so small we could easily step over it. Nancy's friends were sitting in beach chairs well away from the flames. The boys were in the low level chairs with the girls on the ground leaning back against the boys between their legs. We were introduced to Alice and Ginger, Tom and Dennis. There was a couple of extra beach chairs and so Nate and I sat in the chairs while Nancy and Julie in like fashion sat between our legs in the sand leaning back against us.

Nate and I and Julie stayed quiet at first as Nancy and her two girlfriends exchanged gossip and current local news updates. The boyfriends of the other girls were also quiet. They reminded me of Ann's husband, our age but older looking, tanned and well-built from outdoor work and indoor iron pumping. One of them had a mustache. On the forearm of the other I noticed a small tattoo of one word I couldn't make out. The four of them were passing around a pint bottle of tequila while they sipped on bottled beer. Alice looked a little like Ann, dark hair, tanned, compact and curved. Ginger was blond, long limbed, flat chested and skinny. Both were wearing tight jeans and Alice wore a t-shirt that had been ripped at the collar to hang down into her cleavage and Ginger wore a sweatshirt also ripped at the collar and at the shoulders to remove the sleeves. As the girls initial discussion began to fade Ginger looked at us and asked, "So where you guys from?"

"California," Nate said.

"Oh yeah?" Alice said, with her voice raising, seeming slightly impressed. "Where in California you from?"

"Place called Claremont," Nate said.

"Where’s that?" Ginger asked.

"I got an aunt that lives in Fresno," Alice said.

"Claremont's way south of Fresno, near L.A.," I said.

"What you guys do - you here with the hydros?" Ginger asked.

"No their with me," Nancy said. "They're stayin' at the U, in the frat house I'm livin' in."

"You guys go to the U?" Ginger asked.

Nate said, "No, we're up here workin’."

"They work on fishing boats," Nancy said.

Dennis, one arm wrapped around Ginger over her chest, another holding up a beer bottle, non-chalantly nodded his head to the side and looked over and asked, "You guys fishermen?"

"We're tryin' to get jobs fishin," Nate said. "We work on the boats in the harbor while were lookin' for jobs."

He nodded then took another drink from the bottle. Tom stayed quiet and just looked at the fire. The guys did not appear at all sociable, were even rather sullen seeming. The girls again took up hashing over the local dirt with the majority of the discussion pertaining to another girlfriend of theirs who was going through a divorce. Tom said at one point in the discussion, "Told ya they wern't gonna make it."

"Yeah but its only been two years," Ginger said.

"They don't got any money - what she gonna do?" Alice asked.

"She wants to go to college," Ginger said.

Tom chortled, "That girl goin' ta college - that’s humorous."

"Why not she's smart?" Ginger protested.

"She ain't smart, she barely got outa high school," Tom said. "Al shoulda never got hooked up by her."

"Al was doin' pretty damn good by her," Alice said raising her voice slightly. "All he wants to do is fix cars, smoke pot, and drink beer."

"Not a bad life," Dennis said.

Tom agreed, "You can say that."

"This girl the same age as you gals?" I asked.

"Yep," Alice said.

"So they got married right out of high school?"

Alice nodded, "Sure did."

"That’s kind of young. People change, especially at that age," I said. "Heck I can't think of anybody that got married right after graduating from our high school."

"Yeah well people grow up fast round here," Tom said with a serious mien.

Nate looked over at me and gave me a stern look, one I interpreted as a why don't you shut up look. There was a lull in the conversation then Alice began talking about another friend of theirs who had unintentionally – apparently - become pregnant, "This'll be the third time - you know that?"

Nancy shook her head, "No - I knew about one other time - she got an abortion."

"She's had two - this'll be three," Alice said.

Nate looked over at me.

"She know who it is?" Nancy said.

"No - not really," Ginger said.

“She’s going’ ta hell,” Dennis said as an aside.

“Don’t joke about it. It’s not funny,” Ginger said.

Then finaly coming alive Tom said, “Three abortions? Accordin’ to the Catholics she’s committed three murders.”

Then Nancy spoke up and said, “Well I’m Catholic and believe me they don’t know shit.”

Dennis said in his low key way with I thought some levity, as if trying to get the girls going, “I don’t know, it’s a big ass church – they must know somethin’.”

Ginger became riled, “Are you serious? What do they know?”

Dennis shook his head slightly, “I’m just sayin’ they must know somethin’.”

I didn’t think he was at all serious – just goading the girls, especially his girlfriend Ginger. And apparently it was working for Ginger said hotly, “That’s just stupid – cause they’re big they know somethin’?”

“It’s not just them sayin’ abortions murder,” Tom through in.

“It ain’t murder,” Alice said also getting riled. “It’s better not to bring an unwanted child into this world. We got enough kids as it is.”

“I’ll second that,” Dennis said.

Looking over at us Ginger asked, “What do you guys think? You think it’s murder?”

I looked over at Nate, he was staying quiet. Then I just made a diplomatic shrug.

“If you guys got a girl pregnant – would you get her to have an abortion?” Ginger asked us.

Again Nate was staying quiet. I helped him out by trying to lamely joke out of it, saying, “I don’t know, never was in that predicament. Honestly I think I’m shootin’ blanks.”

This elicited a slight deep hearted laugh from Dennis. The girls guffawed. Tom said, “That’s a hellava thing to admit to.”

I couldn’t see Julie’s expression, I figured she may be looking a little embarrassed.

Then Dennis thankfully put the discussion out of its misery by announcing, “You know, we don’t need to talk about this.”

“Typical guy response,” Ginger said, then her voice becoming deeper imitating Dennis or guys in general, “Don’t wanna talk about that.”

I noticed Tom had slipped his hand underneath Alice's sweatshirt and was stroking her over her chest, she pulled on his arm and said, "Tom - come on." He slowly and reluctantly lowered his hand resting it over her stomach.

Ginger went back to talking to the girls about her murderous friend, "She was always fooling around with somebody. Hell I remember in junior high school during lunch hour we both worked in the ball room checking out balls to everybody..."

Nancy interrupted, "The ball room?"

"Yeah, you know - the basketballs and stuff."

"I know - sounds funny," Nancy said.

Tom began snickering then looked over to Dennis.

Alice said, "What are you guys laughin' about?"

"Nothin," Tom said.

Nancy asked, "So what she do in the ball room?"

During lunch she'd pull Darrel James in there and have me stand outside watching and they'd be in there messin' around."

Tom said, "I remember that ball room - lot a guys would go in there with chicks."

"You never went in there with me," Alice said.

"Nope - cause you were ugly back then."

Alice twisted around and grabbed Tom on his jaw and said aloud, "What!"

Tom chuckled, "Yep you were ugly," then he grabbed her head and kissed her and slipped his hand under her sweatshirt lifting it exposing her bare back. Then she pulled away and reaching behind her grabbed his hand and pulled it out of her sweatshirt, "Would you quit that - there's people here. You're bein' too handsy."

Tom said "So," and smiled and grabbed her hand. She struggled a little then leaned back down against him.

Dennis looked over at Nate and handed him the bottle. Nate grabbed it, and took a drink, then handed it to me, and I did the same then handed it back. Then Alice said I heard a joke today, "What's the three biggest lies?"

Then Tom said, "Checks in the mail, all my best friends are black, and I promise I won't come in your mouth."

"You always hear em," Alice whined.

"It's an old one," Tom said.

I said, "I heard one the other day."

Nate looked over, "You heard a joke?"

"Yeah Mueller told it to me," I said.

Ann said, "Lets hear it."

I said, "Okay - first God created man, then he created woman. But man was puzzled about why God created woman like he did, so he asked God why did you make woman so pretty? And God said so you could look at her. Then man asked why did you make her so curved? And God said, so you'd fit against her. Then man asked why did you make her so soft? And God said, so you'd want to touch her. Then man asked why did you make her so dumb? And God said - so she'd like you."

The girls laughed. Nate, Tom and Al were quiet. Nate looked at me and rolled his eyes. Alice said, "That's cute."

I shrugged a little and said, "I thought it was kinda funny."

Then Tom said, "What do ya call a woman who's got a dollar bill on top of her head?"

Nate said, "All you can eat for under a dollar."

Tom shook his head and Dennis chuckled, Alice and Ginger laughed, and Ginger said, "That's sorta dirty."

I was sensing I wasn't fitting in too well there, that my worldliness had reached its limit with this bunch. Nate seemed to be looking at me acrimoniously out of the side of his eyes, as if saying to himself, I can't take him anywhere. Alice and Tom were now going at it, kissing and etcetera rather thickly and uninhibitedly. Nate slid down lower in the bench chair and rested his head against the backrest; Nancy laid her head back and closed her eyes. Ginger and Al also started with each other. I laid back also closing my eyes with Julie resting against me. Soon I was asleep.

We got back to Ann's very early in the morning or very late at night depending on how it was considered. Having drank all the beer we bought and some of the tequila we were all feeling the effects. When we walked into Ann's I immediately laid down on the couch. Julie rolled out our sleeping bag on one side of the room while Nancy and Nate rolled theirs out on the other side. This chasm of room space would give us at least the feeling of privacy. Julie came over and grabbed my arm and pulled me off the couch. I stumbled over and we both undressed down to our underwear careless of Nate and Nancy across the room, then we slid into the bag. The ceiling above seemed to be spinning as I lay there. Under the shield of the covers Julie slid out of her bra and into a t-shirt then turned partially over me and we went immediately to sleep. If we would have been in the room with our privacy I would probably have taken further steps to satisfy the pangs of my libido, but I didn't want to play the grandstander. As I had slid into the bag I glanced over and noted Nate and Nancy seemed to be professionally going about their bedding down. Nancy had emerged from the bedroom in a satin' like rosy red kimono looking robe. Nate was as I, down to his boxers and sliding into the bag. Then Nancy flicked the switch on the wall blackening the lights and that was all I could then see, my eyes not adjusted to the dark. It was then that I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

Later, though probably not much later, I awoke realizing how warm it was. Julie had slipped the bag off her and folded it over onto me for double coverage. I pushed the mess off me. Then from across the room I heard sounds of light foreplay, smacking lips and quiet laughter. Soon I heard more intense breathing. I lay there listening and looking over playing the casual voyeur. I could see in the shadows Nancy's white back toward me moving flame like - a flitting shadowed silhouette moving between the bare light coming through the front window and the room shadows. Nate was sitting up facing against her, both unawares and careless of my spying on their private moment. After it was over in a crescendo of breathing and light moving and laughing they lay back down. Nate was atop of Nancy, his bare rear like a white quarter moon in the dark, and I heard him whisper, matter of fact, "I like you a lot Nancy."

And she said also whispering "Your in like?"

He chuckled a little, "Yeah - I'm in like."

In like. A pretty thought. Witnessing that got me back into a pre-flight mood but I opted to forego for the moment, again self conscious about staging such things. I fell back asleep.

13 In the early morning I was wakened by Julie touching me with light kissing over my neck and cheeks. I was warm, especially with her over me, she was now without her t-shirt and felt moist against me. I was getting worked up but I felt hesitant to pull off my boxers and have at it. The windows were barely alit with a faint bluish tint hinting of sunrise but the light was enough to make everything plainly visible. I saw Nate and Nancy asleep, their bag was down around their stomachs and I could see all of Nancy from there up. Seeing that salacious sight probably got Julie primed. After a few more kisses I came atop of Julie and we quietly went about our business. As I was working away, plowing my field, I thought I saw something shifting in the corner of my eye. Glancing over I thought I saw Doug, his back to me, he was walking into the kitchen via the living room. Julie's eyes were closed so she probably didn't see him. I thought how he was getting a good show, a topless Nancy across the room and me a cheval riding the luscious Julie. After a minute or so I thought I heard beyond the breathing and light cooing of Julie a back screen door squeak open and bang shut. After hearing the door I was able to concentrate more on my work at hand and we ended up having a pleasant but perspiring little session there on the carpet. After I was finished I rolled off her and we were both wet with sweat; yet though coated with wetness I still felt the dry heat of the room.

Apparently I had indeed seen Doug, when we had all gotten up, Ann explained that he had left first thing in the morning for work. Though it was Saturday he was still going to get in a half day of work before the races began. Nate and I showered and dressed then left Nancy and Julie at Ann's and drove to the Red Lion Inn to find Klug, Brad, and the others. There in the white morning light we drove with the air coming warm through open windows into the bus. The sun was a white disc in the east amid airy stratus clouds - white drawn out trails going far into the distance under a white blue sky that fell to a low horizon. I could see just how arid this land was. Greenery - a few trees, plants, a grass lot – were insignificant isolated blemishes amid the rock and brown. The land looked not sandy like a Saharan sea but hard bleak and baked and rock strewn like a dead lakebed or volcanic wasteland. As we drove warm air blew into the bus through open windows and I said to Nate talking a little louder and forced over the engine noise, "You and Nancy got a thing for each other huh?"

He didn't say anything. I think he suspected I was on to something. I said reflectively, "Yeah she's a good looking gal. I could see how you'd have something for her."

He looked over at me expressionless then looked back at the road.

I continued, "But I wouldn't say you were at that point yet where your emotions were... let's see what would you call it?"

Still he kept looking ahead, as if ignoring me.

"The hots?" I said. "No, no - too juvenile a term. Let's see - a yen? Hmm, maybe - no, no, too preliminary. Then again there's always the big L word."

He started shaking his head.

"Nah - not the L word," I said. "That's too extreme. We're too sophisticated for that. Need time for such things. No, but I think I got it - you're not in love with Nancy. That's not it - you're in like. Yep - in like. I like that. I think that..."

Before I could finish, quick as a cobra he whipped a backhanded strike with the back of his right hand connecting a knuckle to the top of my left hand, which was laying on my knee, a direct blow to the bone. The pain was sharp and I wailed a curse, then cradled my hand in my other, it felt as if it was broken. He just kept looking ahead as if nothing happened, though I perceived a slight smile coming over his lips. After the pain subsided I said, "God that hurt you prick." I made fists with my hand to insure it was still normal. To get back at him I said, "I did notice this morning that Nancy's not completely an ironing board."

This time I was ready for him - I held my hands away. But no matter, without even turning to look he thrust out his fist moving like Ricky Ticky Tavy colliding it head on into my shoulder, a locomotive punch. He was ruthless. Pain screamed out of my arm and again I cursed. I had heard the bone knock. Striking him back had occurred to me, but I knew too well he was a superior foe. I sulked in silent retreat. Ahead, surrounded only by merciless sun and desert, I could see next to the road two long two story masonry hotel wings, flat roofed and walled with windows and balconies. Each wing, was at a right angle to the other and at the intersection was the entrance and lobby. A large red neon sign in the shape of a lions head announced our destination. After we parked and we were walking to the lobby I noticed that on top of my hand was a lump. I said, "You prick, my hands got a lump on it."

At the front door as he opened it, he said, "Too bad about your hand."

A clerk at the front desk told us how to get to the rooms occupied by the SAE's. The hotel was not the Ritz, just a modern no frills carpet joint - white walls, thin green carpet, furniture covered in yellow vinyl, indoor full leafed plants added a modicum of interest to the bland decor. One wall of the lobby was a curtain wall facing the pool area. Already the chairs around the pool were all occupied with tanned and oiled bodies sunning. Splashing and frolicking bodies broke and churned the surface of the pool. Nate and I walked down a long hall with white walls and many brown intermittent doors labeled with numbers on small plastic plaques set at eye level.

In the room were Klug and Brad, Ben and Karl. The air was abuzz with jokes and asides about the previous night's revelry. Apparently it was big and bawdy night and Nate was trying to pry it out of Klug and Brad, "Alright - let's hear it - story time."

Brad said, "Funnier than hell, won't believe it."

"Better be good," Nate said.

Klug pulled a T-shirt on over his head, "Lets go eat man, we'll tell ya."

Karl came out of the bathroom, "Crazy last night around here - you guys missed it."

Star walked into the room, "Hey you all gonna eat or what?"

I asked Star, "What happened with these guys last night?"

Star shook his head, "Let me tell yeah son - your buddy's are a couple a dogs."

Nate said, "What happened Smitty – don't try and tell me you and Klug hooked up last night?"

"Maybe we did – what about it?" Brad said.

"So just how ugly are we talkin' about?" Nate asked.

"We call ‘em hogs back home," Star said. "Or cows."

Brad told Star, "Kiss my ass you Green Acres reject. Your just jealous cause all you got to do was watch."

"Watch?" I said. "This does sound kind of interesting." Ben came out of the bathroom and we all walked down to the coffee shop which was adjacent to the lobby. We sat in an extra-large oval booth in the corner. The shop was small, only a dozen or so tables and a small counter. Across the room was a table of three girls, older looking, mid-twenties. Star was looking over at them. One had caught his eye and was returning his glances.

"Good stuff over there huh Starman," Klug said, also looking over.

"Might say that," Star said.

Nate said, "So what's this story, lets hear it so I can figure out how much of it is b.s."

Brad was looking at a menu, as were we all, except for Nate. Brad said, "Just a sec I'm trying to decide here."

The waitress came over and began taking our orders. Star began, "I'll take a steak and eggs with the eggs done over easy, extra bacon on the side, an orange juice, a coffee, a large milk and a - uh, uh - a donut - chocolate if yeah got it." Then Karl was next, "A waffle, a side of Canadian sausage, and English muffin, and hash browns, orange juice - and a coke." As she went round the table she had to write furiously as item upon item was ordered. When she was on her third item ticket she looked at me for my order - a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, orange juice and a coffee. The waitress then looked at Brad and asked, "And you sir?"

His eyes rising from the menu Brad said, "I'll have the breakfast plate with the hash browns, a side of scrambled eggs, orange juice, coffee, milk - and a side of sausage - and a danish, what kinda danish you got?"

"No danish - cinnamon swirls," the waitress replied.

"Yeah bring me one of those - with some marmalade. The sausage is pork sausage right."

"Hmm, hmm."

"Not turkey or anything?"

"No it's pork."

Then I spoke up, "Can I get sausage instead of bacon?" Sausage sounded better.

The waitress, nonplussed, nodded assent. A professional. Then she looked at Nate who then looked at us, "You guys finished?"

We nodded.

"Sure now".

Brad said, "Yeah I'm good - hurry up - I'm hungry."

Nate ordered a bowl of oatmeal and coffee.

The waitress left then Nate asked again, "So what happened last night?"

Brad did the telling. He began at the beginning when they arrived at the hotel to check-in then ended up spending the rest of the evening bar crawling between Lucky Jim's and the Moose Head. Around three a.m. they arrived back at the hotel and as Brad described, "There was room parties all over the place, girls walkin' around drunk in their bikinis, people were runnin' around in the pool and the jacuzzi, it was wild. So we just walked around slummin’, but nothing was bite'n, so we ended up packing it in, back to the room."

"This story gets better doesn't it?" Nate said.

"Just be patient – you’re always so goddamn impatient," Brad said.

"I'm just asking yeah to get to it," Nate said.

The waitress brought our coffee and drinks on a large round tray assisted by a busboy. As she and the busboy set down the cups and glasses Brad talked around her. "So we're wrestling around to see who’s got the beds and who’s got the floor when we get this knock at the door."

It turned out to be two girls - a blond and brunette; according to Klug the blond was a "nine," the brunette, a couple points less. Somehow Brad and Klug ended up walking them around the hotel and drinking beer with them, Klug tagged along. The blond had snuggled up with Klug, the other with Brad. Both were talking with an Australian accent.

"They from Australia?" Nate asked.

"No way - they were just talking that way," Klug said.

"Why were they talking that way?" Nate said.

"Who knows - they were screwy that's why," Brad said.

"How you know they were faking it?" Nate asked.

"’Cause we know - will yeah let us tell the story," Brad snapped.

Nate smiled.

They walked around the hotel almost an hour killing time, Karl had gone back to the room and the couples had separated. They had made preliminary moves, and the blond had knocked on a couple of doors of rooms supposedly occupied by friends.

"What was she knocking on the doors for?" Nate asked.

"I don't know man - looking for an empty room I think," Klug said.

Brad continued: "So I get mine on the lawn. Right out there by the pool. It's like four in the morning and the place is empty, nobodies around. So I get her shorts off and we're going at it right there on the lawn in the middle of the hotel."

Nate shook his head with a perplexed look, "You were screwing her right out on the lawn? In the middle of the hotel?"

Brad's face got red and he started laughing, "Yeah - can you believe it? And so I'm plowin' away and I hear some guy up on the balcony go, ‘hey - look at that! Some guys getting laid down there!'"

We were all laughing. Brad was coughing over his chuckling. Then Brad said trying to calm down, "Yeah so…” he started laughing and coughing more and got red in the face.

"Don't choke," Nate said.

"...So I'm almost done," Brad said. “But I’m sorta worried about the guy I heard up above; so I just figure I’m gonna finish her off fast as I can. But then I sorta look up, you know, while I’m going’ at it, and these assholes," he motioned toward Karl, Ben and Star, "I see these pricks are sittin' on chairs by the pool sitting back looking at us with beers in their hands."

Star said, "Yeah, he did her good."

Nate looked with a semi-astonished expression over at Star, "I can't believe it - this really happened - happened to Smitty - you saw it?"

"Yep - eyewitness," Star confirmed.

Then looking over at Brad, Nate said, "The girl musta been blind – and on heroin."

We laughed and Brad shook his head and cussed at Nate.

Then Nate turned to Klug and asked, "So while this is goin' on - what you do?"

Then they all started snickering and chuckling again.

Klug said, "These guys were gone - the room was empty so I got her in there." Then Klug started laughing, and then Brad.

"So what's so funny?" Nate asked.

Then Karl took up the story, "Brad finally got stage fright and left with his girl, then the three of us go back to the room. So we figured Klug here would be in there maybe so we opened the door real quiet and crawled in on our knees." Karl's face turned red and he started laughing.

"So he was in there with the blond," Nate said.

Through his laughing Karl nodded and whined a "Yeah."

Klug recounted: "I'm up on the bed sitting against the wall and she's on top of me working. Then I tell yeah man," he started to smile and chuckle, "I see at the end of the bed a couple a heads pop up. And they just sit there man lookin, I bit hell out my tongue man trying to keep a straight face."

Everyone laughed. Star said, "She wasn't a bad heifer, nice ass."

"She didn't see you guys?" Nate said.

"It was just Starman and Karl," Klug said. "They only watched for a second. When their heads disappeared, I figured they were crawlin' out so I stopped her and took her into the bathroom."

"She didn't see them?"

"We crawled out," Karl said. "Ben was too chicken to try and crawl in and get a look.”

“Wasn’t afraid,” Ben protested. “I’m just not into bein’ a peeping tom.”

“Didn’t have any problem out by the pool?” Star said.

“That was different,” Ben said. “They were just out there doin’ it in dark on the lawn. We were just sittin’ by the pool.”

“As opposed to crawlin’ into a private room and spying?” I asked.

“Right,” Ben said.

Star rolled his eyes.

Nate said, “Got you’re parameters huh?”

Ben shrugged a shoulder, “Sorta I guess.”

“Fuckin’ boy scout,” Star mumbled.

Then Nate turned to Klug, "So you took her in the bathroom? What you do, pull a Merril and finish her off in the tub?"

"No man we tried - too small, I sat on the john and she rode me."

"On the john – hmm,” Nate said tepidly. "Guess that’ll work.”

"Lid was down man," Klug clarified.

Then our food came. The waitress, followed by the busboy, pulled plate after plate from a couple large round serving trays and covered our table with plates. There was not enough room so she set a rectangular tray atop a folding rack next to the table and set more plates on it. "Anything else?" The waitress asked.

All of us looked around to make sure our orders were complete, "More coffee please," Nate said.

"Some A-One," Star asked, for his steak.

"Some catch-up," Brad asked.

"More orange juice, please," Karl said.

"You forgot my marmalade," Brad said.

"I'll have some more coffee," Ben said.

"Could I get some more syrup?" Karl said.

The waitress nodded at each of these repeating requests.

Then I asked Klug, "So when did you find out she wasn't Australian - before or after?"

Klug with food pressing out his cheeks, "After." He laughed some as he finished chewing his food and said, "After we finished we left the bathroom - but these guys didn't come back in. They were being cool leaving us be."

"Yeah we didn't know he was gonna go hide in the bathroom," Karl said.

Klug continued, "So we went to sleep in one of the beds and later these guys all come in and hit the hay. Karl man, he was horny - I sorta woke up and caught him trying to lift the sheets and get a peak."

Karl shrugged and said slightly embarrassed, "Hey she wasn't bad - they were asleep - she wouldn't have noticed."

Nate shook his head and looked sternly at Karl saying, "That’s kinda despicable."

“No parameters,” I said.

Klug continued: "So anyway man, a couple hours later she wakes up and just like a chick she goes - where am I? And she don't got the accent anymore, yeah know man."

"Oh - the old where am I routine," Nate said. "So how'd you get around that Sherlock?"

"Just said you're in a bed, in a hotel, with me," Klug said.

"Just some bed, in some hotel,” Brad said.

I thought to myself: in some town, in some country, in some state, in some world, somewhere in the universe.

We laughed and Klug said, "Then she goes man, ‘hey - where's my clothes?'"

Karl said, "Like she had on clothes and doesn't know what happened to em."

"So I reach over and grab her bikini off the floor," Klug said, "and when I give it to her - I said - this yours?"

"All you guys are in the room?” Nate asked.

"Yep," Star said with a strip of bacon hanging out of his mouth as he chewed on it.

"We were acting like we were asleep," Karl said.

"Then she was mad," Klug said. "Looking at her bikini in my hand she goes ‘that's all I had on?'"

"Yeah, like she didn't know what was goin' on," Karl said, "like she'd been in a trance."

"Amnesia man - such a comedy," Klug said. "She even asked if we did anything."

"No - she asked that?" Nate asked surprised.

"Seriously man, she did. She goes, ‘we didn’t do anything did we?’"

"After jumpin' on ya in the bathroom? Only a couple hours before?" Nate asked.


Nate shook his head, "Talk about gall. So what you tell her?"

Klug shrugged, "Just played along man; I said nothin’ - just been sleepin’. Right here, just sleepin’."

Nate laughed, "Mums the word huh?"

“She was hypnotized,” Karl said.

With an edge in his voice, Star added, "Yeah - then she goes, 'good,' like a bitch with an attitude then puts her bikini back on and stomps out a the room like she's a tight ass and all po’d off."

"Really man - didn't even say, see yeah, ya know," Klug said.

"Didn’t get her number huh?" Nate said.

"She had good body man, nice hair. She was good man," Klug said.

"Kinda liked her huh Klug," I said.

As Klug said, "Yeah man, I'd do her again," I felt a hard kick right into my shin - loudly I groaned and looked at Nate who was tilting his cereal bowl on an edge and casually spooning the last driblets of his oatmeal as if nothing had happened. I grabbed my shin. Brad said looking over, "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothin," I said.

"Girls man," Klug said, shaking his head, "their always pullin' that cover their ass comedy."

Nate looked over at Brad, “Where were you durin’ all this?”

“Sleepin’ with the chick. We went and laid down on one a the long chairs by the pool and fell asleep.”

“Sounds kinda romantic,” Nate said, slightly facetious.

Admittedly I was a little envious. I had been to Daytona Beach, to Palm Springs, even to Mazatlan on Easter vacations during the high school and college years, and though I was a square peg, I had a couple of nights of wild revel and casual primitive Dionysian like transgression. I had foreseen that weekender as being similar to those spring time jaunts to the dogs. And always I had left Janie at home, knowing full well such climates were not for the wife - or any female one was in anything more than a frivolous attachment. I thought how, damn, I should have left Julie behind and be staying there at the hotel. From all accounts the place for that weekend was a virtual cesspool of fun fun fun saturnalia.

After we mostly finished eating and the waitress came by and dropped the check, Nate picked it up and after quickly scanning it over said, “Just everybody toss me five bucks. Soon green bills were flying toward Nate who was quickly scooping them up and piling them neatly in one hand. Then he quickly counted and left the neat stacked wad with the check and we all in a flurry of sliding over the booth and chairs knocking and squeaking got up and started for the lobby. Star gave Nate and I directions as to where the SAE's were going gather next to the river for watching the race. Apparently, they were going to have some kind of set up with beer kegs and patio umbrellas. Brad and Klug were going over to the river with Karl and Ben. Nate and I left the hotel together to pick up Julie and Nancy. We ended up arriving at the river a little after one.

The river was an alien presence there running Nile like through that arid land. It appeared to make a similar presence to what I had seen of the Suez Canal in my travels to the Middle East - a wide blue expanse of water running through a baked empty land. The riverbanks along the length of the racecourse were crowded with an audience that numbered in the thousands. Most everyone was in beachwear, thus mostly browned and reddened bodies tempered the view along the water. Thousands of typifications of the human form exposed to ready scrutiny. We caught up with the SAE's who had set up a couple of long tables under large purple umbrellas, and hanging from the front of the tables a large purple banner with the Greek letters in gold. Beer, soft drinks, and sandwiches were being served. We stood, and sat, and laid awhile under the sun, drinking, talking, looking over the female forms, pointing out to one another a particularly aesthetic sighting. The race itself seemed a secondary and unessential part of the day - a mere excuse for the gathering. I never heard the results and could only see the flat, low lying, winged boats skimming over the water, shooting up high frothy rooster tails as they sped by. Julie, I noticed, in her white and red polka dotted bikini was like a magnet to every normal male eye within fifty or so yards. Poor Nancy, next to her she was a pretty but pale skinny shadow of a gal. Once during the day I saw walking along the water some of the Sigma’s, John Stewert, Jim Procter, Bill Rutherford, and Marvin even. I waved and they saw me and waved back, but they didn't come up - probably because of our proximity to the SAE camp.

Late that afternoon, after the races, we went back to the hotel, laid around by the pool, strolled into and milled in various rooms that were next to the pool with sliding doors open and where drinks were being served. Nancy and Julie were feeling tired so they went into the room Brad and Klug had stayed in and slept atop one of the beds. Klug was in another room laying atop a bed watching a ball game on the TV. I walked in and sat down at the end of the bed to watch some of the game also. We were both still just in our trunks. People were walking in and out of the room taking beers out of the bathtub, which was filled with bottles on ice. Then a full figured slender blond in a lime green bikini with pink straps walked in through the sliding door. She came in following an older larger muscular guy. She was dripping wet having just come out of the pool, and was twisting her hair, braiding it kind of, as if about to ring it out. As the guy she was with went into the bathroom, the girl looked at Klug, and Klug looked at her. They stayed quiet and smiled shyly at each other slightly a second, then she shook the end of her long hair at him, wiping it like, spraying him lightly with water, then walked out.

"What was that all about?" I asked.

"That was the girl man, nice huh?"

"She is," I said. "You should go talk to her."

At that point the guy she came in with left the bathroom with two bottles in his hands and walked past us out of the room. Klug said, "I saw her at the races taggin' close to that guy."

"Maybe their just friends."

"Right man - just boy friend and girl friend."

That evening we ended up getting drunk as skunks. After drinking and running around the hotel till almost night fall, all of us, including many of the SAE's, went to a party Nancy knew of at another friend of hers - at a house up the street from Ann's house. When we arrived at the party, just past eleven, it was in full swing in the backyard and spilling out into the front yard out and into the house. We didn't know anybody but we and they were drunk enough that it didn't matter. Most everyone there seemed a friend of Ann and Doug, and Nancy. I saw also Nancy's friends we had met the night before at Pelican Point. The house was another flattop like Ann's. The backyard was decorated for the party with overhead lines carrying paper Chinese lamps, and around the yards perimeter were flaming tiki torches. There was a band that played California style surf town tunes with twining electric guitars and rolling drums playing such tunes as Wipeout, Surf City and Tequila. A big above ground aluminum ringed pool served as a christening well as we threw each other in to cool off from the heat of the night. We were all given plastic brightly colored Hawaiian leis to wear. Julie was well in demand on the dance floor which suited me just fine for I ended up tripping the Chinese lantern fantastic with a couple other girls - I even ended up with one in a back bedroom where we enacted some prelims - but then later she flitted off. Nancy seemed to be making the rounds flirting and chatting and dancing with various non-Nate’s. But I caught Nate having some fun also. But the night wound down romantically with us with our original dates slow dancing till dawn to such tunes as Avalon, Moonlight beach, and Surfer Girl. Just as the blue was coming up on the horizon, we bedded down - more like passed out - at Ann's. In the early afternoon, we roused ourselves, and Ann treated us to a brunch of Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, and Lucky Charms; then soon we were off back to Seattle and environs. On the drive back, leaving those bleak but enchanting little towns behind, after we again rose into the forested mountains and into clouds at the crest of the range, when we came downward on the Seattle side, the clouds were not as ready to clear. Fog followed and obscured most of our way down the mountain, and when we came out of the mist, the day we entered was gray with overcast and rain.

14 The following morning, Monday, it was still gray, overcast, and drizzly wet. Nate still went to the docks. I stayed in thinking the rain would last only one or two days, and it would be a chance to get back into some reading. During a lull in the wet pitter-patter I walked over to the college bookstore and browsed among the shelves of books, killing an hour or so. Nothing too eventfull there; when I spend time in a book store, which is normally fairly frequently, once or twice a month at least, generally I will loiter among the new releases, pick up a title that peaks my intrest and maybe read the first few pages; if the writing gets passed that, I’ll flick through and read more here and there, just to get a feel for the writing style, see if there is anything cleaver and unique, or startlingly fine about it. It always strikes me how, even among good, well written novels, there are so many that simply sound the same when you read the first paragraph. So many that simply say to you, the reader – see, how finely and competently written I am? See how you should buy me and spend several hours of your time reading me, because I am so finely and competently wrought. Well, for me, when it comes to the new stuff, I need something more to pique my interest – something about the writing that jumps out at me. That the writer is actually trying to say something smart and significant and unique enough that doing so he is at risk – at risk, he is not simply trying to show me how he can write and think with all the competent others but is trying to show me how much better he writes and thinks than all the competent others, and sometimes it is writing that may even at first glance appear over the top, but at least the writer isn’t trying to sound like all the other finely wrought novels being dumped onto the dustbin of the continuing turning gyre of human history, is actually putting it out there at the risk of looking stupid or of faceing a monumental Mevillian kind of rejection. The only book that day that caught my eye was by the naturalist writer, Peter Mathiessen, The Snow Leopard. It had been out a few years and had won the National Book Award; I had heard of it, vaguely somewhere, probably because of the award and the author – I knew he ran with that crowd that had started the Paris Review, Plimton and Mailer were the leading lights. I did my usual run through the first couple of pages, just a quick scan. I liked the writing, he is fine cometent writer. But it didn’t excite me enough to shell out the fifteen bucks for the recently issued paperback. There was one passage that did strike some inner cord, it was at the front, he was quoting some English guy Rilke, I read the passage a few times:

That at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called visions, the whole so called spirit-world, death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.

I liked that passage and wondered who this Rilke guy was; still I put the book aside and went strolling into the established classic section and eventually made my way to and bought Thomas Mann's, The Enchanted Mountain. I had been wanting to read it and by weight it seemed a better buy.

I spent the day with Julie, in her room. While she did homework I, as many others before me, entered the realm of the great book. I read and stayed with Julie that day and the next. On Wednesday morning I looked out her window and it was still gray and drizzling. She had to go home to Spokane that morning so I ended up back at the Sigma house, and again that day I mostly stayed in and read.

That afternoon I was in the living room reading when Nancy came down and sat on the couch. Regarding my book she said, "That's a thick book - you gonna read all that?"

I was laying back in the couch with a leg dangling to the floor, my head on the arm rest, I looked over the book at her sitting just at my foot, "Naw - I'm just counting the words."

"You can count that high?"

"I don't know - I'm only half way though."

She gave a smiling nod, then asked, "So where's Nate?"

I shrugged, "Still at the docks I guess."

"I can't believe he's going down there in this rain. I'm not even going to class."

"No class? Just ‘cause of the rain? I hear it rains all winter - what do you do then?"

"That's different - then it's always raining so you’re just used to it."

I nodded slowly as if understanding completely. I put the book down resting it face down open over my chest. We then talked a little about the weekend and her friends, then somehow we got onto Julie.

"She was popular," Nancy said.

"Yeah, she's an eyeful."

"I think she really likes you."

"Think so huh?"

"Yeah - she'll probably get over it soon enough."

"True - she doesn't really know me."

"You like her?"

I smiled a bit, wondering about the question, "Yeah - I like her – why?"

"I don't know, she's pretty quiet."

"She is."

"You don't say much either though."

"That's right - especially when I'm talking."

She smiled, "So you going to take her home with you?"

"Take her home? She put you up to these questions?"

She laughed, "No, just thought I'd ask."

"I see. No - I can't take her home. I got a girl at home, and it'd never work out in the long run, Julie and I."

"Don't think so huh?"

"Naw - we're too different. Our backgrounds are completely different. I like her enough - who wouldn't with her looks - but not like that."

"She is a nice girl."

"Real nice - probably the nicest I've ever gone out with."

Then Nate came stepping in through the front door covered in a rain wet plastic poncho colored in the green and brown camouflage shades. He looked like a lacquered monk. He looked over and saw us and walked over. The plastic was dripping over the already well soiled carpet.

I looked up at him, "You're dripping on the carpet."

His face and hair were wet, "Gawd it's wet out there. When's this gonna let up?"

Nancy said, "Who knows? Maybe tomorrow - maybe next week. Maybe never."

He pulled the poncho over his head and water sprinkled lightly over Nancy and I. "Hey watch it," I said.

"What's wrong? Gonna catch cold?" He said.

"Just want to stay dry and I don't think Nancy wants to get doused."

Nate looked at Nancy, "Excuse me."

Nancy said, "Yeah - better watch it."

Then he sat down next to Nancy and gave her a kiss, she smiled. Nate looked at me, "Missed yeah at the docks today, and yesterday, and the day before that."

"Is there anything going on in the rain?"

"Yeah - nothin different - guys are out there workin’. We could use you tomorrow."

I nodded with an ambiguous look, "See if its raining or not."

"Get a poncho."

I nodded - a we'll see response.

"Your not gonna get a job from the couch."

"You getting a job standing in the rain?"

"I'm not standing - I'm working. Most of the guys are out there working, rain or no rain."

I said, "You know it's going on a month now. July was supposed to be the big month. July's almost over, you see any jobs coming up in the near future?"

"You're not getting like those other two bucket heads?"

I shrugged, "Maybe I am, maybe Brad has a point. Maybe the gypsy curse is on this thing for us - that it's not really our bag. It's like us moving to the Tri-Cities and trying to fit in with Doug and his buddies. It's not going to happen."

Nate shook his head and stood up then looked at me, "So you gonna rationalize it off like those other guys."

"I'm not rationalizing - I'm just calling a spade a spade. You've been going down to the wharf everyday - you are just as close today to getting a job as you were when we first got up here."

"That's not true, lot of guys know me down there now."

"Okay - that's what I mean - lot of guys know you and you haven't even heard about a job. It's no big deal. We came up here and tried, we exaggerated a little about what it would be like."

"I can't believe your saying this. That's spineless and you know it."

Then scooping his poncho off the floor he walked across the carpet and up the stairs. Most of what I said was more off the cuff, a response to his sniping remarks about my being couch bound during the rain. But it reflected I think a definite turn in my thinking. I had spent more than several days working down at the wharf, had worked on several boats, had seen many boats come in, get worked on, then sail out - and nothing regarding potential jobs. I said to Nancy, "So I'm spineless. I graduate Princeton Phi Beta Kappa, going to Harvard Law School - and I'm spineless."

She had watched Nate leave the room and was still looking toward the stairs as if what I had said didn't register. Then she mumbled something to me about Nate being, "On his high horse lately."

After a moment she looked at me and asked lightly, "So you and Julie are too different - cause your from different places?"

I looked at her a second not quite getting what she was getting at, then I said, "No, that's not really what I meant."

She nodded, "I know what you meant."

"What I meant was our backgrounds are a lot different."

She seemed to be thinking, biting down some on her lower lip, then she said lightly, "I know what you mean, I think." Then she stood up and said. "Well - I gotta get upstairs." And she walked off.

I shook my head shaking them both off, and went back to my enchanted mountain.

15 "Maybe it was something I said?" I said.

"Listen," Nate said, "all the brains in the world, all the books in the world, all the best schools in the world, won't give ya the wherewithal it takes to keep from sometime, somewhere, somehow, inserting the foot in the mouth. Everyone thinks too much in their own way. You went out with her almost five years - anything you said shouldn't have mattered a hill a beans."

"Guess you're right," I said wistfully.

I was bewildered. This discussion had come about the day following Nate's spiel in the living room questioning my backbone. He had settled down, of course, and I had forgotten it, blown over as nothing but just another Nate hemorrhage. The cause of our discussion was a letter that had come to me from home. Again that day was wet, the rainmaker was relentless, and not to be intimidated by Nate I again spent the day indoors reading. When Nate had gotten back late that afternoon he had checked the mailbox, something I normally did but that day had not done. When he got upstairs into the meat locker he handed me the letter and said, "It's from home - got that girly handwriting on it."

I looked at it and felt the envelope. I could feel the thickness of the enclosed papers and the handwriting was distinctly feminine in its neatness and curvature, and I knew the style, "It's Janie, wonder what's up?" I said.

Nate said, "Its the old kiss your ass and make up letter - her studs probably dumped her."

"Probably," I mused, as I ripped it open and unfolded the light yellow stationery.

I began reading:


I hope everything is going well for you on your trip, that you are having fun and getting to do what you wanted. I'm sorry that I wasn't more definite with you before you left about our break up. I was just very confused about my feelings. I had gone with you so long that it was very difficult to imagine life without you, or caring for someone else as I had for you.

I wanted to write you so that you could hear it from me, and not through someone else. I loved you very much, and you will always be very special to me, and what you and I had for so long I will always look back on as times that were very special to me. But as I've gotten older I guess I'm starting to look at things differently.

When you were here I had broken up because I had met Mark, had gone out with him a few times, and I don't quite know how to explain it, but I guess I had opened myself up to him and we became closer than I thought we would. And like I said, I can't explain it, but my feelings are now so much different even from that last time I saw you.

Its is very hard for me to write you about this, because I know from the post cards you sent, and from how you were and what you said the last time I saw you, that you will find this hard to understand. But a few days ago Mark proposed to me and I accepted.

I'm sorry Joe, I know how you had talked about marriage...

I moved the letter down out of my face. A sinking nauseating feeling of badly wanting to disbelieve a callous truth welled inside me. My lips were pursed slightly and moved to one side. Nate was looking at me from his bunk. He perceived something was up and asked, "Somethin’ the matter?"

I felt a two sided knife blade slowly sliding down my windpipe straight down my vena cava. I didn't say anything to Nate. Didn't hear him as I finished reading:

...but I guess when it comes right down to it we had probably started out too young. If the roles were reversed and you were Mark and he you, then I may very well be marrying you. I don't know. I do know there is much that I admire and came to love in Mark as there was in you. And in many ways I think there is much in Mark that is more like myself than I to you. You Joe are a very outstanding man, with so much ability in so many areas, and I think, one day, like your father, you will be a very important man. I hope everything goes well for you and that you will be safe and find great happiness.

Love Jane.

Well what do you know - how about that, I thought. Nate's voice then broke into my funk as he tersely said, "What the hecks wrong - somebody die?"

"No," I said dazed and perplexed, "Jane's getting married."

"What!?" He said, sounding as surprised as I was.

"Yeah, right here. Wanna read it?" I said, holding the papers out to him flapping them a little. He rolled out of his bunk and grabbed the papers then went over and stood by the window and read. I laid back in my bunk and hit the skids and slid into the dumps. Nate started shaking his head as he finished the letter, then stepped over and handed it back and said, "Lousy break big guy. I thought you'd be the last guy to get a dear john."

"Yeah, well - way it goes I guess," I said solemnly.

"Nate said sympathetically, "Yeah - guess so."

A Gordian knot was tightening my insides and refused to let up. I thought the only way to loosen it was to cut it - with a knife. Suicide. Yes I got a glimpse into why the poorer souls sought impatiently the ultimate answer and went for the early peek at the biggest of questions, faced what dreams may come over the nightmares that came. And I learned about that pretty theory about two souls bound for eternity, how it was a lot of crock, like insurance and the lottery. Fuck, I thought. Double fuck.

The night that I had received Jane's letter Nate and I walked down to the 901 and had a few drinks. Again we hashed over possible reasons that would lead to Jane making the break - then getting married - and so soon after meeting the guy. Maybe it was this, maybe that, and then of course maybe she just plain loved the guy more than she loved me. Simple, that simple. The universe is a vast puzzling place when in its shadows. Even Nate said, "Beats hell out of me what's going on in her head. The only thing I can figure is she's ready to get married. She figures you want to fuck off for a while, that you're really not ready. She finds what for her is an older you – or a close enough version, he takes the bait, and there ya have it."

"Yeah. Fuck."

“That and she probably didn’t think she could keep up.”

“Keep up?”

“Yeah; like she says in the letter, how different you two really are. She’s got it in her head you’re probably going places – ridin’ the brain wave, and she just can’t picture it – her ridin’ along.”

“That’s just stupid,” I said.

“Maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t look so stupid down there in Claremontville.”

I shook my head and muttered, “I don’t know.” And perhaps I really didn’t.

The following day I slept in then went down to the wharf. The rain had let up, yet it was still overcast. I helped Nate do a few chores around the warehouse. He seemed to have almost become Olly's right hand man, running the place almost when Olly wasn't around. Checking out tools to the other workers, re-assigning the workers or letting them go home when they finished their assigned tasks, helping fishermen find tools, running the crane, machining parts for the fisherman, assigning dock space to incoming boats, he even signed time-cards when the workers left early. He had worked himself into the fabric of the place. That evening, when I got back from the wharf I went over to Julie's. But something had changed. It was the end of something. We went to dinner on the Ave at Mom's. I didn't say much. Toward the end of the dinner she asked me if something was wrong. I was acting not so much as if in a daze - but preoccupied, like a scientist musing. And I was indeed preoccupied, when I looked at Julie I wanted it to be Janie. Of course she wasn't, could never be, and I could never feel the same way toward Julie that I had felt toward Janie. I was just killing time there with Julie beating time, mine and hers. I knew I had let things go too far probably. Though I never said anything substantial to her, expressed in words a heartfelt emotion, hypothetical or otherwise, had never uttered the L word - the other one besides like - the implication was always there, albeit the only expression is but physical, mouth to mouth, parts to parts, but not words to words or thoughts to thoughts. My Calypso was enchanting but Penelope was my true want. I felt an illogical dire need to exit stage left - but I knew there was no graceful path, and I knew an abrupt move now or later may be regretted after the emotional fog had passed. When we walked back to her room, not only did I not stay over, I didn't even want to kiss her. I was in a youth bound funk and a half. My thoughts cast her in a morose light - she was always so quiet and slow witted. All looks and helium in the cranium, la bimba classica. I did give her a peck on the cheek, then said, "Well I gotta go tonight, I can't stay over." My too sullied flesh needed melting. And I suppose my ass needed kicking.

She gave me an odd look and said simply, "Okay - see you tomorrow?"

I nodded and said a lackadaisical, "Yeah." And I walked back to the Sigma House.

When I got up to the meat locker I came upon Brad and Klug looking out one of the windows, Brad was sitting in a chair looking through a pair of binoculars. I came up behind them and asked, "What's going on?"

They jumped - a little - not hearing me come in. Brad said, "Quiet - we're looking over there at this girl."

I stood up on my toes to see over the top of them.

In the second story floor of a sorority house, a couple houses up the street, through a window could be seen a girl standing in front of a mirror. Her back was turned, and I couldn't quite make it out, but it looked like she was brushing her hair - and it appeared she was all skin. I asked, “Why do we need to be quiet, she’s fifty yards away behind two walls?”

Brad shushed me, “Just shut up, I’m concentratin’ here.”

"Where'd you get the binoculars?" I asked.

"Bought em," Brad said.

"You bought em' - why?" I asked.

"Look around - through every window you can see a sorority house," Brad said.

"Yeah we got a sexy view here man," Klug said.

I asked to look through the binoculars. Brad stood up, handed them to me and said, "Here, just for a second, she's gonna turn around here."

I looked through and flicked the little round knob between the scopes. From a hazy blur the side of the house came into view crisp in the lens. I scanned slowly and found the key window. Sure enough the girl was brushing her hair and was bare. Then immediately she turned unawares facing the window and I could see all of her from the waist up.

Klug said, "Look at that pair - they're pointers."

Brad said, stirred up, "Hurry up - let me have those glasses."

Then the girl picked up a sweatshirt from below the window and slipped it on over her head. Klug said, "Damn it - she's dressed."

Brad moaned, "Aw come on. I sat there for twenty minutes looking at her combing her damn hair."

I handed Brad back his binoculars and said brusquely as I stepped away, "A girl topless - so what."

As I laid down on my bunk Brad said, "Excuse me for livin’." Then he mumbled to Klug, "Guys got the Nate’s - hope it ain't spreadin’."

The next few days it rained more which conveniently and easily led me to decide to stay away from the docks. I laid around the house and read and didn't really do much of anything, mostly watched a lot of TV. It was funny how much time a guy could waste if he stopped worrying about such things as getting something done. I was not taking it too well, with the proverbial stiff upper lip. The reading and television helped, were good nonprescription sedatives. I began sleeping even later in the morning, became slow to part from the sheets. I was sleeping well some nights. Others I would wake up, toss and turn, then early in the morning finally nod off into a good restful sleep - then I would stay in bed till mid morning. A couple mornings I even slept in till well past noon. Sometimes I would see Jane in my dreams and I would awake suddenly and would feel an aching sickened feeling. I started thinking once that maybe I should fly home and talk her out of it. I even entertained thoughts that maybe that was what she wanted - me to call her like a brazen fool. I even mentioned it to Nate.

He said, "I got the impression from her letter that her mind's made up."

Of course he was right.

It is surprising how things can effect if one's vulnerability is exposed. These were not my best of days, my finest hours. Marven had asked to talk to me one night, I was in the kitchen burning toast. He came in smiling and we exchanged pleasantries, then as I was leaving he said, "Hey Joe - can I talk to ya?"

I nodded, "Sure"

He said, "You know some of the guys have been talking about you guys hanging out with the SAE's. I don't know - they're not real happy about it."

I looked at him straight faced for a while, what he was saying didn't quite register. I then asked, "What do you mean?" And my tone was abrupt, not reflecting my usual patience.

He nodded and awkwardly hemmed and hawed, and said essentially the same thing. "Its just that you guys are supposed to be Sigma’s, some of the guys aren't real happy, we put you guys up and..."

I cut him off sharply and said quickly, "I never said I was a Sigma. And you guys put us up? Marven your studying to be an attorney – you're supposed to be learning what life's about. We paid you guys money - you provided us with living space. Simple. Called a contract isn't it? And I don't remember any conditions about us having to socialize with Sigma’s and Sigma’s only - you tell me Marven - did we forget to read the fine print?"

He became a little flustered. I doubt he expected such a terse undiplomatic response, "No, no. Hey I don't care what you guys do. I agree to each his own. It's a free country. It's not you and Nate. I can see you guys are good guys. I think it's Brad and Klug - they're not too friendly, you know what I'm saying. And they are living here."

"No Marven I don't know what your saying. We paid you guys money to live here. Now were not wrecking the place, I don't think we're taking advantage of you guys. If someone is not sociable to me my attitudes always been - so what? That's his problem. I guess I don't have an answer for you Marven."

He began to nod a lot, somewhat nervously. "Yeah your right, I mean, I guess I shouldn't have said anything, its no big deal."

I walked coolly away. This connection I had made with Marven had been a collision at best. All wrong. My attitude was in the deep freeze. I was just in no mood for sociable amenities.

During that week I avoided seeing Julie, inexplicably I didn't want to see her at all, but I knew I had to go talk to her, that was the right thing to do I surmised. I walked over late one night and knocked on her door. The door opened about a quarter of the way, she was made up for bed in a t-shirt. She looked at me diffident, the room was black behind her, she said simply and almost carefully, "Hi."

"Hi, can I come in?” I said, as carefully.

She nodded. I think she thought by the caution in my voice and my subdued demeanor that what I was going to say wasn't especially pleasant. Still I was just going to explain to her what was going on, not break up or anything. I hadn't completely lost my mind, I reasoned this was just a temporary lapse into melancholia, like catching the flu, that one day soon I would again be normal, and Julie would again be a pleasant sight and companion. She got back in the bed and I sat down on the edge and explained, "Before I came up here I had dated a girl a long time - almost five years, and just before I left to come up here we had broken up. But it wasn't my idea - it was her idea. She started seeing another guy. The other guy is older so I didn't think she was seriously dating him - just trying something different. I don't know. Then a few days ago I got a letter from her and she's getting married."

She kept quiet, her eyes seemed distant, she looked toward me but not at me. I continued, "I guess what I'm saying is that letter has sort of thrown me. I can't explain it but I'm not taking it that well."

She nodded barely and said, "Oh."

I stood up and said, "Yeah; anyway I guess that's about it – I'm sorry, I shoulda told you earlier."

She just said, "I guess you really like her?"

"Yeah, I guess I did."

I stood there a moment. She laid her head back down on the pillow and didn't say anything. Then I said, "Well, I guess I better get going."


Then I walked back to the Sigma house.

Later I told Nate what I had told Julie about Jane. He looked at me coolly a moment, then said tersely, “You did what?”

“I told Julie about Jane.”

He shook his head quickly in stanch disapproval, “Dumb move there. Dumb.”

“What’d you mean? I was just bein’ honest with her?”

“Aw fuck Joe,” he said irritated. “She doesn’t need to hear ‘bout it. ‘Bout some other chick you can’t get outa you’re stupid head.” He shook his head, “Now you’ve queered things with that one. You should of forgotten about Janie weeks ago.”

“Like you forgot about Marilyn?”

“Yeah, pretty much. But that’s sorta different wouldn’t you say? Marilyn died.”

“Well, its like Janie’s died.”

He just shook his head, passing me off, “Shit you’re a sissy. May as well forget about Julie; dunderhead.”

I wasn’t listening to him that well, nor was I that concerned about Julie.

Toward the weekend I started coming out of it and on Saturday I again went with Nate to the docks and worked. That day we sanded and scraped another keel. And it did feel good to work, work did tend to redeem and get the clots out of my mind, but it was hardly penicillin, hardly an almost instant cure all. I would get these melancholic pangs of longing with a sapping somnolence. As if I was on some drug with side effects that occasionally threw my chemistry out of whack. I would go in and out of it. On the one hand I was feeling myself pitiful, and on the other, taking the clinical view, I was up bracing myself to grow out of it, that such blueness was for schoolboys - and I had graduated, supposedly.

I told Nate about it as we worked, still unsympathetic, he said, "Your thinking too much on it - the sooner you forget about her the better – and I don’t wanna hear any more about it."

"Easier said than done."

"Well, what do ya want me to tell you - tough break big guy - now go lay down and be depressed? When Marilyn died, for a long time I thought about it. I could easily have laid around and tail spinned it, and I did for awhile, I guess. But then going to work at Maddox I think made things easier. Got me thinking in other directions. It probably helped to speed up getting my mind off her. I still went in and out of it - like your describing. But bottom line is you either get over it or you don't - and you got to force yourself to get over it. You have to think that way I think. Force your mind onto other things. Move on, ya know. And to be honest I don't think you got a lot a spilt milk to cry over, you went out with her for five years, that's a long time. You had it good for a long time. And your not ugly or stupid, women don't come hard to you. Think if you were a real bonehead - and believe it or not there is a lot of fish in the sea."

"Yeah but Jane had something about her, we seemed so close."

"You're bein' a cueball big guy - Jane's got class - but a lot of women got class - lot a Jane's out there. It's not like she's got some monopoly on anything. If anything, she's the one that's given up the pot of gold. You got a good education, you know about all that intellectual crap - sure you're a goddamn pinhead, but you’re fairly normal. That's pretty rare if you ask me. You got money, a great prominent family. What the hell does she want? And she's marrying some bonehead from IBM?"

"That's what I mean - it doesn't make sense to me."

"Well I ain't no intellectual - but seems to me that's one thing yeah gotta learn to live with brainiack - not all of its gonna make sense."

When I said to him how he was probably right about Julie, he got angry again, "You know for somebody with brains you sure don't know how to use em. I still can't believe you told her about Janie – you shoulda just said you had a bad case of the flue or somethin' and you avoided her cause you didn't want to get her sick. I guarantee you gettin' back with her is gonna be a pain in the ass."

Again I didn’t reply.

That night there was another event at the SAE house. I attended sans Julie - stag with Brad and Klug. Nate stopped in later with Nancy. It was a party like any college bound bacchic. A band played rock music, too loud for serene and triumphant witfull conversation. Some were dancing. I kept to the sidelines, drank a few beers, stood around and small talked loud over the band music with Karl, Ben, and Star, and a few other SAE's I had gotten to know. Somehow I ended up outside on the front lawn talking to a couple of girls, both blondes. Nate came over and joined the conversation. Soon the girls asked us to dance, I obliged reluctantly - I was not in a dancing mood. I could sense also that Nate was reluctant - probably didn't want to chance rocking the boat with Nancy. But she wasn't around so we went round for a number. After the song ended it looked like the girl wanted to dance another which had started right up, but I motioned with a side nod of my head to move off the floor. Back outside I explained, "It hurts me to dance - I got a bad foot."

"Oh - it hurts you?"

"Yeah - I got this thing."

"What is it?"

"It's huh - an Achilles heel." It was the first thing that came into my mind - and it sounded good.

"That's too bad - is it serious?"

"No - not really. Just hurts when I dance."

Nate had taken my lead and led his girl off the floor behind me. We talked some more with the girls, then probably sensing our disinterest they made excuses and left us for new territories. I asked Nate, "Where's Nancy?"

He shook his head, "Last time I saw her she was talking to some guy upstairs, and before that she was talking to another guy, and same thing before that."

"She was sort of doing the same thing at that party in the Tri-Cities."

"I know, she's been squirrelly."

He seemed more irritated than concerned. Karl came by, typically upbeat, "Hey, what you dogs doing out here - should be inside sharkin'. You're only gonna be young once and in college once you know."

Nate looked at Karl, "You just never know though - do you?"

Karl looked puzzled, then laughed a bit. "Yeah - I guess you don't."

We stood quiet a few moments, the three of us just looked around at the girls. I was just killing time, yet it seemed better to be killing it there than in my bunk, but that notion was changing fast. My mood was not at all bent for socializing with the feminine persuasion. I was looking at them with an acutely critical eye; destined for across the board unilateral rejection - disdainful even. Even the best looking I sought out their flaws menial and minute: one was a board, another a chubet, another a rail, another's head was skull like, one had brows too wide, another too thin, forehead too high, too flat, hair too frizzy or too flaccid, body too bony, dress too frilly, hair too thick - wig like, eyes too round, too narrow - eastern like, ears too big – dumbo like, feet too big, elbows gawky, knees too bulbous and knocked, toes pigeoned. My brain was brimful that night with a litany of female flaws, Helen, Cleopatra, Guinevere and Isholt, May West, Garbo and Bess Myerson, all could have paraded by, only to be found wanting, slashed by my evil induced eye. I decided I was doing no one any good, nor myself, so I bowed out of the party, said my thanks and adios's to Karl and Nate, then walked back to the Sigma House. As I walked, I looked into the night and it appeared as it had before when I had first split with Jane - like a blackish fog. The street lamps showered their fluorescent blue light down in a triangular shimmer spreading out against the black. Again I felt that welling, sinking, and thought how I had to throw it out, that Nate was right and I was being weak. I thought how I was then in paradise, girls all around me, willing girls, ready to tranquilize my soul, islands of solace. I thought how it could be a lot worse, I could be a marine on a hot humid south pacific island fighting off mosquitoes and Jap raiding parties and waiting to invade some other God forsaken palm studded kamikaze guarded sand bar. I wondered how many good men had charged the beach at Tarawa or Guadalcanal with careless abandon after reading that lousy dear John from that swell gal at home. What saps guys are. Most of them actually thought that special prize back home was waiting around knitting, saving herself for him. What a crock. Likely she was getting in her yucks with some four-F Don Juan while our dreamy eyed private was shaking off Japs, fear, TB, and malaria. When I got back to the meat locker, then into my bunk, I tried to sleep but could not. I got up and switched on the light and rolled back into my bunk and picked up my Thomas Mann. I read a couple pages then came to this passage:

The field of his study had always been those wide, dark tracks of the human soul, which one had been used to call the subconsciousness, though they might perhaps better be called the super-consciousness, since from them sometimes emanates a knowingness beyond anything of which the conscious intelligence is capable and giving rise to the hypothesis that there may subsist connections and associations between the lowest and least illumined regions of the individual soul and a wholly knowing All-soul. The province of the subconscious, "occult" in the proper sense of the word, very soon shows itself to be occult in the narrower sense as well, and forms one of the sources whence flow the phenomena we have agreed thus to characterize. But that is not all. Whoever recognizes a symptom of organic disease as an effect of the conscious soul - life of forbidden and hystericized emotions, recognizes the creative force of the psychical within the material - a force which one is inclined to claim as a second source of magic phenomena. Idealist of the pathological, not to say pathological idealist, he sees himself at the point of departure of certain trains of thought which will shortly issue in the problem of existence, that is to say in the problem of the relation between spirit and matter. The materialist, son of a philosophy of sheer animal vigor, can never be dissuaded from explaining spirit as a mere phosphorescent product of matter; whereas the idealist, proceeding from the principle of creative hysteria, is inclined, and very readily resolved, to answer the question of primacy in the exactly opposite sense. Take if all in all, there is here nothing less than the old strife over which was first, the chicken or the egg - a strife which assumes its extraordinary complexity from the fact that no egg is thinkable except one laid by a hen, and no hen that has not crept out of a previously postulated egg.

I stopped there and read it over again, then read it once again, my eyes were gliding over the words like skids on ice. I was just in no mood. I closed the book thinking, what a crock of shit.

Then Nate walked in and began to undress. He was moving quick and terse. I could tell something was up with him. "Party over?" I asked.

"Yep," he said, sharp and quick.

"Sleeping in here tonight?" I asked.


"Where's Nancy?"

He was down to his boxers then he stepped over to the light switch, "Want this on?" He asked, ignoring my question.

"No - go ahead." He flicked the switch hard; I could hear the tap. All went black. Then he got into his bag.

"Not with Nancy tonight?" I asked.

"Nope," He said as he turned and fidgeted some in his bunk, getting comfortable amid the squeaking harmonies of the snake spiral springs under his barren mattress. After the springs quieted and we lay both quiet awhile, he said, piercing the quiet, "You know Joe?"


"Take it from me - they're all..." and he discharged that guttural term, that curse they all seem to abhor more than any other spoken vulgarity crudely applied to the sylphin breed.

16 As the days wore on things were not shaping up exactly ship shapely. I was finally starting to come out of my Janie funk and beginning to think more even keeled and sane away from the poles of manic and depressive and again felt pangs for Julie - so one night when I came back from the docks I went over to her room and knocked. The door opened, when Julie saw me her eyes widened and she was awkward. She said, "Oh - a - hi."

"Hi," I said and passed off her awkward seemingness as surprise which it partially was. But, when she opened the door wider, I saw, sitting on her bed, her supposed ex - who I recognized immediately from the pictures I had seen earlier from her yearbook. And in the flesh he was even more familiar as my double; he could have been my younger brother. She turned to him and said, "I'll be right back," and came out into the hall and closed the door. "Lets go downstairs," she said, and I followed her down. At the front door she explained how the ex had washed out of the army opting to give college the old try. He had followed his true love to Seattle and was going to enroll in a local junior college. She confessed to me that her feelings toward him were aptly described by the L word - the one with the V; and me, I too rated an L word, but it was the one with the K. As she sweetly and diplomatically put it, "I really like you a lot Joe, and was hoping you would want to see me again, but Dan and I have gone with each other so long, I know I really love him."

Well lo and behold - another queer turn of events. We kissed, pecks to the cheeks and for the second time in as many months I walked off with my tail between my legs, and thinking gawd, when it came to woman I had no staying power. It was probably for the best, for while I was disappointed I was able to look at it distantly and philosophically and easily shook off the disappointment. When it came down to it my regret had more to do with unfulfilled randy longings instead of the more genuine pangs for companionship. As Nate put it, "She was good stuff. Every guy ought to nail something like that at least once in their life - but most don't."

"No. I don't have any complaints," I told Nate.

"Good, I was afraid you were gonna start whining over her too," he said.

I shook my head shaking him off and went back to work on the keel we were scraping. Also about this time, toward the end of July, it began to dawn on me that we had been told how the crab fishers were supposed to be in Seattle during July, which many had, and of many of the boats we, Nate and I, or at least mostly Nate, had applied for work. But after July would the boats still come? Or were our chances for a job draining? It occurred to me that July was probably our fat chance for finding a job on a boat but that I, Klug, and Brad had essentially squandered the month. Brad and Klug had not worked at all and had only made a few trips to the wharf. I had stayed away during days of rain, and for the last week of July had languidly cut back to working every other day. Even those days I did work, I arrived close to noon having adapted to sleeping well into the mornings. It seemed to me that prospects of our getting a job were looking progressively bleak with each passing July day. In fact, it occurred to me, the prospects were made even bleaker with each day Nate kept religiously going down and working on the wharf. If Nate with all his extreme dedication could not come up with a job - how was I with my fickle dedication going to? Klug and Brad were more than willing to concur with this reasoning as justification for their lagging. Then there was the money situation. Brad of course was being funded by a mere phone home now and again - then funding Klug with low or no interest loans. Nate and I had no such funding, nor had sought it out. Though we were earning some money at the wharf, we had been spending carelessly, more than we were taking in, and our principle - the original amounts we had brought from home - were depleting fast. The bottom line was, one day I found myself left with about fifty dollars in my pockets. What with spending on meals, nights out with Julie, drinking at the 901, the weekend at the races, books, bus fares, laundry, postage, snacks - the problem came on gradually then suddenly. Nate was in slightly better form; he had earned more and had budgeted better, yet he still only had funds enough for two or so more weeks. But as usual Nate wasn't concerned.

"Sure goes fast," he said when I made him aware of my limited means.

"I got enough for about a week more - unless I figure out ways to cut back and do more work at the wharf."

"There's not a lot of work at the wharf right now - but you should be able to make fifty a week pretty easy. That's about what I've been making."

"That's all – you're down there every day?"

"I'm down there all the time - but I'm not working all the time for pay - only when there's work to do on a boat or in the warehouse. It's been sort of feast or famine. I guess I've made more than fifty, I've probably made close to a hundred and fifty a week - you should make that."

"You don't seem very concerned."

"I'm not, I'm earning plenty to keep going. The only reason you're coming up short is you haven't been working. And come on Joe - worst case you could always call home for some money - your dad would send you money in a snap."

"I hate to ask him - he wasn't too fired up about me doing this; remember?"

"So - you made a decision. Another thing - it's not like you're some screw off bleeding the family fortune. If you think about it, you're entitled to some money - as much as your dad's entitled. He's inherited most a his money - like your gonna inherit it. I don't see what you're getting concerned about."

I nodded. Again he was right, in a way. The real problem was I was thinking dully and sullenly. I had become fagged out on the thing, halfway seeking an excuse to abandon the venture. An excuse that would be pliable to my mind in its then state of an abject feebleness.

Though I was not admitting it - this yearning to pack it in and return to the comfort and sanctity of the homestead was what was truly going on within my psyche - in both the organic one and the other - in both the phenomenal and noumenal. But how does a cocksure twenty two year old tell himself that he's spoiled and weak? Or that he’s fretting? Or that he is playing the fool? He likely doesn't. He lets the cauldron simmer and goes about his ordeals a vestige of his former virulence, his former careless, devil may care take all comers self, until he either throws in the white towel or throws off his foolish robes. And probably his greatest crime while acting the fool: the mendacity.

What little I knew and had experienced about anything real at that time, did contain a modicum of info regarding fools. I thought I had an idea of what comprised a fool. I had seen a few – the school chums who loved the mannana procrastination and would tell themselves they could and would catch up on the work load no problem as they went out the door for yet another carouse session; the Merril like characters that somehow deluded themselves about being God's gift to woman because they snared a few loose enders; guys who played or tried out for our games and who in no way or no how had the coordination or ability to play at our level, but they kept at it, playing bench warmer game after game. Foolishness seemed to be related to a mentality that was indolent and delusional, that somehow misplaced basic and essential questions and solid answers, questions that either were not being asked or were answered without detail, ethics, strategy, or structure; questions like what the hell are we doing and why? Is this right or wrong and why? Should we or should we not, and why? Then with the fools, at least the ones I had seen, if these basic questions were being asked, the answers were mitigated with propaganda: lying - and loosing track of the lying - and worst of all, they lied to themselves - and believed their lies. When I had considered my scarcity of funds and brought it up with Nate, and he told me how he too was running low, I thought how we both had a problem. But it wasn't a problem to Nate. I had assumed it was a problem to him - truly I wanted it to be a problem for him. A mind working amid its delusion. I wanted Nate to say, "Yep got a problem - no more money. Time to exit, stage south." Hell, if Nate, who was a daily fixture at the wharf couldn't make it happen - it just wasn't in the cards. It was just not meant to be. There was a kind of solace and rational there I could live with. It was my clean out. But the Gods, whom or whatever they may be, were not to fate me with such a comforting messiah. Nate was holding firm.

Indeed, the argument could be made that Nate in his continued dedication was playing the fool, that he was going against odds that were simply insurmountable. Such was the fuzzy line between fool and non-fool. Yet as I thought it through, I had to admire Nate. Money problem? What money problem? Just phone home, or better yet, work more. You can do it - big guy. Against my half-baked machinations toward weaseling out, Nate was still, intuitively or deliberately - God only knows - compelling me on. And I suspect it wasn't premeditative deliberateness. He was simply hanging tough; his encouragements reflected this. He was simply wearing well, as usual, the robes he had worn so naturally and comfortably for all the years I had known him, those of a leader, a natural pulling magnetic ass kicking force. And as I consider it, I realize, taken all and all, though there was nothing particularly dramatic or earth shattering about it, those were probably his finest hours. I say this because first, he kept the positive slant even though he was in rather the basest of circumstance. He wasn’t a local athletic star and team leader egging us all on with a crowd of revelers and a whole community slapping him on the back, he was a guy, a lone figure, simply laboring for minimum wage in a boat yard. And second, about that time, I could see him beginning to display minor vicissitudes of outward behavior that told of inner strife; yet he still maintained the progressive positive attitude and exterior - he continued to bite the bullet. His old line hadn't changed even though meeting resistance that wasn't readily bowled over. The lack of a job opening on a boat was one thing, being told repeatedly nope no work – these were blows easily absorbed by his resolve and basic psychic constitution. Hopeful thinking was still an effective lance against any doubts arising from such rejection. Then money was another thing - but Nate was right, he didn't have a problem nor did I, nothing that our intelligence, diligence, and resourcefulness could not overcome. Essentially, letting Nate's encouragements and snides get to me, I got it together; I began working more regularly with Nate and began earning enough money that when I again contemplated calling home I opted against - my exercise in self reliance had held steady thus far - no need to squash that until absolutely necessary. Not until the wolves were truly at the door. I suppose when all was said and done, pertaining to our current situation, in this real American world of ours, hazy mazy as the line between fool and non could be - the primary quality of the fool was they were simply too – too – too easily daunted.

The rough undertow I noticed pulling at Nate, some of it I am sure had to do with simply repeatedly crapping out on the job search. Some of it I am sure had to do with doubts about the simple sanity of what we were doing - it was truly an out of the box move, and when it came down to it Nate had always typically played well within the box. And some I think had to do with Nancy – apparently he really did like her, but she wasn't playing along, she was playing la femme fatale. She had turned unpredictable. It had started tenuously in the Tri-Cities, at the luau party: her more than occasional leapfrogging from guy to guy at the party, engaging in, what looked from a distance, to be a protracted flirty kind of tit for tat. At that party Nate didn't give it much of a thought; figured she was just being the hometown social butterfly. But later, back in Seattle at the SAE party, when her leapfrogging became pronounced, more than occasional, perhaps terminal, and she all but seemed to ignore Nate, throw it in his face if you will, he became annoyed. If he was going to be the one bedding her, she darn well could give him the time of day at the parties instead of roaming around in front of him and appearing to look for his replacement. That was how he considered it, and why he had gone up to her at the party while she was talking and batting her eyes at some SAE, and had told her that he wanted to leave. But then to his consternation she told him, "Oh, well that's okay - why don't you go ahead, you don't have to wait around for me."

Not one to make a scene, especially over some girl, he replied simply, "Okay, see ya." And as far as he was concerned that was it, all that needed to be said, the relationship such as it was – was likely all but over. A hard case that Nate. At least that’s how it seemed the next day at the docks when he told me about it, and gruffly concluded with, "Well, to hell with her."

That next day, when he returned to the frat house from the docks, he and Nancy had an uncomfortable chancing on to one another on the stairway. Both were evasive. Nate said hesitatingly and low in enthusiasm, "How's it goin’?"

She said, as if nothing was up, "Good, so how was work?"

"It was all right."

She nodded and they looked at each other for an uncomfortable minute, then Nate said, "Well, I'm gonna go take a shower."

And she said, "Okay - well, see you later."

So they parted, she down the stairs and he up. He didn't see her that night nor the next. Then the next after that I noticed a new face around the house - noticeable primarily because of his unusual good looks. And I recognized the face - another from a photograph previously seen - he was the New York model. Later when I told Nate about it he said, "Well, I guess that explains a few things."

The SAE party fiasco had been one thing. In his mind he may have thought about cutting the relationship - but things could have been worked out, smoothed over. But this visitor from the Naked City, well, that was the death knell. Nate was proud – and lets face it, he was in no mood for extracurricular foolishness. He was on a mission, and if you became part of his life you either towed the line and complimented the mission, or you did not - and you were out. Nancy was now definitely ancient history.

Though I think he had been cautious with his involvement with her, I recalled that night in Ann's living room and their wary romantics - Nate had been the one to stake a claim, make moves toward an expression of commitment. My guess was Nate felt relatively secure about considering her with a more serious eye. While Nancy was fetching, she was no archetypal Queen of Sheba like Julie, no real head turner. And Nate was the Nate, maybe not quite at the level of the New York Fifth Avenue slickster, but he was darn close. And he and Nancy's personalities seemed to mesh, for awhile they truly seemed to have something for one another. It didn't make sense to me that Nancy would throw over Nate for the model. I suspected something more sly, devious, and female was up. That Nancy was perhaps insecure in her relationship with Nate and was trying to show him up, show him that while there was plenty of fish in the sea, she was one of the more sought after. But this was only a suspicion, and a vague one at that. I couldn't clarify or make definite in my mind what was going on. My conjectures regarding Nate were soon to be confirmed, but only subtly. The only indication Nate displayed that he had indeed been dealt a soccer punch of effecting magnitude was, a couple of days after my telling Nate about my sightings of the boffo beaux, I noticed he was not meeting the morning quite as early and prompt. His rise and shine had, as had mine, lost that spark, that readiness, had turned dilatory. One morning, after showering and dressing for a day on the docks, I had to shake his bunk and jostle him awake. A first - me waking him. "You going to the docks?" I asked when his eyes opened.

"Oh yeah - yeah - I'm gettin' up. I'll meet yeah down there," he said. And on that day, for the first time since our settling into the Sigma House, I went to the wharf leaving Nate behind still abed.

17 It was one of those nights where there was nothing much going on or to do. It seemed like everyone in the Sigma house was occupied or gone out and about somewheres. The house was just dead. It was just Nate and I, having come home from a day’s work at the docks, and after cleaning up, just sitting in the dungeon watching TV, our eyes affixed to the colorific tube. We were watching a movie, The Fantastic Voyage, a sci-fi hypothesis where a group of scientist explorers are miniaturized Jules Verne fashion into microbes and sent off in a micro-submarine into a man’s interior seas to see and explore first hand the continents constituting the human body. As a microbe they were able to travel into the most intimate nooks and crannies of the once removed human phenomenal form - brain passages became whole Grand Canyons, veins and arteries the London Underground, the heart was a Coney Island fun ride, cells were giant jelly fish, nuclei dark beach balls. Then unexpectedly, Sal came in. “Hey,” he said.

I looked up and back behind me at him and, as he sat down on the couch behind me, I said, “Hey,” back.

Nate gave him a slight obliging nod of his chin.

“Fantastic Voyage, huh?” He asked.

“Yeah.” I said.

“Where is everybody?” He asked.

I shrugged, “Beats me. We got back from working at the docks and showered and came down here. No one’s around. Must be some shindig goin’ on we didn’t get invited to.”

Nate stayed silent, just kept looking at the TV.

“Makes sense; I never get invited to anything,” Sal said.

“Thought you were going to Alaska?” I asked.

“Couple more days,” he said. I’m cleaning out my room. Packing.”

“That’s gotta be a job,” I said.

“Yeah – too damn many books. I musta schlepped out half a dozen boxes already.”

“Well if you need any help – don’t ask me.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

We stayed quiet a couple minutes watching the movie. Then Sal spoke up, “I saw this thing ten years ago and didn’t like it then – you guys wanna go to Ave?”

The movie wasn’t doing much for me either; it appeared to me, according to the movie makers, the interior of the body was simply a vast winding fluid filled cave. Most of the faked scenery within the liquid looked bubbly or slime snotty or swiss cheesy. Essentially as they went from place to place within the body, from organ to organ, the scenery depicted were simply cells of different shapes, colors and calibers. Concluding that once having seen one depicted gigantic blood cell, you’ve seen them all, I said to Sal, “I’ll go with ya.” Then looking over at Nate, I asked him, “You wanna go?”

He gave a indecisive sideways nod of his head, then shrugged as he said, “I guess, why not.”

And so we stood up and leaving the TV still alit behind displaying to a vacant audience, we left for the Ave.

We ended up at the 901 in a booth with tall sweaty glasses of beer in front of us. Because of Nate’s presence we didn’t get into a continuation of our previous intellectual based conversations. Our talk kept to the usual, the mostly mundane - the endowments of girls in the bar, what the Dodger’s were up to; Nate prodded Sal for info about Alaska and canary work – most of that conversation was a replay of what he had told me. I did notice that as they talked Sal seemed to become more familiar and comfortable with Nate. It occurred to me how just on the look of him, how initially Nate seemed to slightly unnerve Sal. And it also occurred to me how, apparently, I did not have a similar effect. Perhaps that was the essential of charisma: a striking intimidating look that initially put off coined with an average affability; so that at first the charismatic instilled a kind of fear, then gave out a kind of healing manner – and thus garnered such pleasant comments as: he’s not such bad guy, he’s okay really, he’s actually very friendly really, I was pleasantly surprised – not a stuck up bone in his body - really - and other such golly intoned ca va sans dire declarations.

As the liquid in our beers neared bottom Nate observed, “It’s even sorta quiet in here. It is a strange night. Even the Ave was mostly empty.” He looked at Sal, “Sure there isn’t something going on?”

Sal just shrugged, “I don’t think so. Just one a those nights. What is it? A Wednesday? Everybody probably went home for Wednesday night home cooking.”

Nate nodded, as did I. And the statement elicited both thoughts of home, that wonderful place, and murmurings about our Wednesday family meals. Nate said, looking distractedly, “Macaroni and cheese. We always have macaroni and cheese.”

I nodded and said, also looking distractedly, “Yeah, I remember eating over, it’s good macaroni and cheese. You’re mom overcooks it a little. I like it that way, sorta chewy.”

Nate nodded, “Yeah, it is.”

Then I said, “Wednesdays meatloaf night at our house. But it’s good meatloaf.”

Nate nodded, “Yeah, it is – you’re ma could make that meatloaf.”

“She has some secrete thing she does, cooks it with Quaker Oats or something. Sure is good.” I looked at Sal, “What’s you’re family got going on Wednesdays?”

“TV dinners.”

“TV dinners?” I said. “What kind a Wednesday meal is that?”

“My mom doesn’t like cooking.”

I looked at Nate, he gave a well whatever side nod of his head.

We sat quiet some more as we drank down the rest of our beers, with our glasses drained and all clear minus some spittle at the bottom Nate said, “Well, this is boring. Lets say we head back.”

I looked over at Sal who shrugged non-chalantly and said, “Sure.”

I looked at Nate, “After you.”

Nate got up and the three of us followed him out. We left the darkish reddish light through the door onto the sidewalk siding the Ave now well awash in fluorescent street light, that bluish white tint that cast from above dimly washing street and sidewalk and the storefronts. The sky was black, apparently without a moon, and peppered some with tiny stars. It was just after eleven and as we walked up the street we past mostly darkened stores that were housed on the bottom floor of two story brick and stucco buildings. Some of the upper story windows, resident apartments, were alit, yellow light behind glowing pulled shades and curtains. We were quiet, the only noise the shuffling of our rubber souls on the concrete and an occasional shoosh and rumble of a passing car. I asked, “Wanna go check out another bar. Still early, might be more happening somewhere else.”

Nate sort of hedged and hawed with side motions of his head. Sal stayed quiet, presumably waiting for Nate’s response. Then Nate said, “Kinda hungry – you guys?”

I thought about it some and concluded that the mention of food had possibly stirred a dominant hunger pang, I said, “Food wouldn’t be bad right now – we could go to Mom’s.”

Sal said, “I could eat.”

“Let’s head over to Mom’s then,” Nate said.

So resigned to our hunger pangs we rather quickened out pace. But just then I was looking up at the second story of the building we were coming up, which was dark down below. A neon tube sign was shining in a widow. A blue square around a purple crescent moon, below the moon in red was the word PSYCHIC spelled out with a red arrow slanting downward below the word. I stopped and studied the sign and looked to where the arrow was pointing – which was down toward a glass door which led to a lighted entrance to a narrow slight hall and stairs going up to the second story. Nate and Sal had walked on a few steps before noticing my stopping. Then then stopped and turned and looked at me a second looking up at the sign.

Nate said, “What are doing?”

“Just checkin’ this out here,” I said.

“Checkin’ what out?” Nate asked and looked up.

“This psychic thing here,” I said.

“And huh – can I ask why?” Nate said, showing a slight edge of impatience.

“Just lookin’ here and thinkin’ about it,” I said casually.

Nate stepped back from the front of the building closer to where I was standing at the edge of the sidewalk. More cars rambled past. A horn honked. He looked up at the sign. “So what’s so interestin’ about this. It’s a psychic – a gypsy panhandler with an office.”

Sal stepped over also and looked up, and said, “Huh, never noticed that.”

I didn’t say anything, just looked back down and over at them, just looked at them.

Nate looked at me and could tell I was thinking about it. He said, “You wanna go in there don’t ya?”

I shrugged, “Just check it out.”

Nate let his head fall back in dismay, and let out a sighing, “Aw fuck. You’re not serious?”

“Maybe I am,” I said.

“A psychic?” He said sharply. “Come on Joey, you can’t be that stupid.”

I shook my head, trembling it a little, taking as an affront his objections, “What’s stupid? I’m just curious?”

Nate let his jaw go slack and rolled his eyes slightly, “Sometimes Joey you’re a piece a work.”

Now I wanted to check it out more to piss off Nate than satisfy my lightly pricked curiosity. I said, “What’s the big deal. It might be legitimate.”

“Legitimate?” He said with his head shaking and his mouth stretched to the side. “Some asshole puts a neon sign on there window and there in business. What they gonna do, read you’re palm. Telling fortunes Joey is the biggest con goin’.”

“Maybe, maybe not. I’ve read some interesting things about psychics.” I looked over at Sal, “What’d you think?”

Sal shrugged, “I don’t know. I’ve read some stuff too, but I think Nate might be right, it might be a gyp.”

“Won’t hurt to go check it out. Come on.” I said, motioning my head toward the door.

Nate shook his head and rolled his eyes, “I’m not payin’ nothin’.”

I nodded, “Okay, fair enough – you can sit and wait.”

I led the way up the lighted stairs to the top where there was a small landing between two doors. The door on the left had a small raised brass A above a peep hole, the opposite door had a B above a peep hole and below the hole a silver quarter moon out of sheet metal was somehow stuck on. I said, “Must be this door.”

I went over to knock, but Nate pulled on my shoulder to stop me, l looked over at him and said, “What?”

He said slyly, and a little self impressed, “If their psychic – shouldn’t need to knock.”

I nodded and said, “Funny.” Then went to knock.

But just as I was reaching my hand up, the door opened. I think we all stepped back, a little flabbergasted.

We faced in the door frame a slight fairly young girl, long black hair past her shoulders, parted at the middle, pale skin, toward pretty, her brows were long narrow and black. She wore a gauzy frilly purple blouse that hung past her belted waist. She had shopping bag in her hands, seeing us her eyes went a little wide, startled also, I guess, and she said, “Oh, someone’s out here.”

I said, “We saw the sign.”

She nodded. “Oh, okay. I was just taking out the trash here. Just one second I’ll be right back. Then she walked through us with her bag and as she started down the stairs she said, “Go on in if you like.”

We watched her get to the bottom of the stairs and go out the door. After she went out the door, Nate said, “She’s the psychic?”

“Guess so,” I said.

“She don’t look much like a psychic,” Nate said.

I looked at him, “How’s a psychic supposed to look?”

“She does look sorta young,” Sal said.

“This is prob’ly how she payin’ her way through med school,” Nate said.

“Let’s go inside,” I said, and led them into the sanctuary of our sort of pretty psychic which turned out to be an apartment much like any apartment for a young career oriented professional. We walked into a short small phone booth sized entry area, past an opening into a small narrow long kitchen, then into a large square living room. Off one side of the living room was a framed doorway into what I guessed was a bedroom and bath. On the far wall was the window to the street below, with the neon sign hung over it and it’s glow apparent behind the curtains. We seem to crowd into the living room, the three of us, around us were typical furnishings, mod, simple, not too pricey, a little stylish as if off the rack at an Ikea or a similar store – finished wood shelves coming out of one wall, a black music system resting on one shelf, a row of records on the floor. A couple chrome floor lamps sent light upward into the ceiling, a sleek thin Jetson styled padded black leather couch, an accompanying easy chair, same styling, nice wood inlay floors – a white square throw carpet and a spare chrome and glass coffee table, white walls, a couple of items of cheap modern art – two frameless canvases of painted squares. Just squares - a blue one and a red one on white fields. Nate said looking at the paintings, “She’s got a thing for squares Joey, you should ask her out.”

You’re just real funny tonight aren’t ya,” I said.

We stood around some, just waiting. Nate said, “Well this is kinda weird.”

“How’s that I said?”

“Where’s the Ouiji Board?” Nate asked.

Still looking around rather, I said, “Everything does look a little too normal.”

“This looks more like the pad for a high class hooker,” Nate said.

I shooshed him, “She’ll hear ya.”

He just passed me off, “So what.”

“It is pretty normal,” Sal said. I don’t see anything around here that looks – you know.”

“Psychical?” I said.

“Yeah,” Sal said.

“Maybe she leaves the pyramids and crystal rocks in the closet.”

“Maybe…” Nate said then immediately quieted as the girl came back in door.

She closed the door and said, “Go ahead and sit down, on the couch there I guess. Sorry I don’t have more furniture.”

We did what we were told and all three of us poked over around the coffee table to the couch and sat down. She sat on the matching chair. She sat back comfortably and crossed her legs, resting her arms and hands on the plastic armrests. She wore black knit looking pants that were bellbottomed. Her shoes were a black silky looking slip-ons, in the ballet slipper style. We sat sort of uncomfortably, forward, forearms on thighs and knees, hands fiddling.

I looked at her and sort of smiled.

Nate spoke right up and deadpanned, “So you’re a psychic huh?”

She smiled pleasantly and nodded as if she too was going along with our little fun. In the room light, which was a little brighter than out in the landing I could see she was youngish appearing because she was a slight woman, skinny and long limbed, sort of bony at the joints, not much of a chest. Her fingers and hands were long and white coming out of the frilly sleeves of the blouse, and you could see the bony ridges along the topside of her hands. In her face I thought she looked older, pushing thirty, maybe older. There was a slight perceptible thickness and faint wrinkles in the skin. Her face was very pale, she reddened her lips with a slight purple in the red, her nose was small and round and blended smoothly with her face, her eyes were oval, pretty eyes. Somehow she was a little spooky. She said looking at Nate, I guess in answer to his question, “Guess you don’t believe in psychics.”

He shrugged and lifted a brow, and looked sort of away from her.

Then she looked at me and said pointing at me, “And you brought everybody here.”

At first I was kind of impressed by that, and I said, “Yeah, that’s right – that pretty psychic of you.”

She smiled and shook her head, “I wasn’t being psychic, just reading you guys, you’re body language.”

I nodded, and said, “Oh, well, you do that pretty good.”

She nodded, “You’d be surprised what people tell you just by looking at them.”

Nate said, “Oh yeah? So what else can you read about us?”

She tilted her head to the side a little and gave us all a look. Then she pointed at Nate, “You and this one,” She said now pointing to me, “You two are friends. Very close friends. But you,” then she pointed back at Nate, “You’re the boss. And the both of you probably have several good friends that are part of you’re group – you both are popular, but you are the leader.” She nodded still pointing and looking at Nate. I looked over at Nate, he was sort of pursing his lips and nodding, apparently slightly impressed with her reading.

I was sort of impressed, and asked, “So how do you know that, how do you see it?”

“Just by looking at people, you can read people. You’re both impressive people, - well all three of you are.” She caught herself slighting Sal and looked him with an apologetic, nice smile. “But I can tell you two are close friends and this young man in the middle, while being with you tonight, is the odd man out. He likely isn’t from where you two are from and isn’t a close friend, not like the two of you.”

I said, becoming more impressed, “So this isn’t a psychic thing – you’re just getting this by looking at us.”

She nodded, “Yes.”

“Can you explain it?” Nate asked.

She nodded, “I think so. It’s mostly just a feeling I get, but it comes from just looking at you and seeing how you move and act. It is subtle. But first, both of you are darker in the skin, I doubt you both got those tans from around here. You’re both dressed alike, Levi jeans, those topsiders, and the flannel shirts. You both are handsome in the same way, short nicely groomed hair, cut above the ears, combed with a side part, some sun has lightened both of your hair, again I doubt that is something that happened here in Seattle. You are both tall strong looking men, athletic probably. The way you interact even subtly displays a lot of familiarity and ease between the two of you; whereas I get a feeling from you in there in the middle, you’re not quite as comfortable with these two, as if you haven’t known them all that long, and I suspect you’re not quite as at ease in general as these two are, you are more anxious.”

“You get that feeling ‘cause I look Jewish?” Sal asked.

She nodded and smiled, “I’ll bet you do well with the Jewish girls.”

She was a charming psychic or body reader, or whatever she was I thought.

Sal said with resignation, “Not really. It’s okay, I know I don’t look as good as these guys.”

Nate and I looked to the side sort of and squirmed a little, trying to follow up Sal’s comment with some embarrassed modesty. She picked right up this, “Now see that.”

“See what?” I asked.

“You both got a little embarrassed for you’re friend here and you both had almost the same reaction. You both looked off to the side away from you’re friend here and rubbed you’re cheek some.”

Now she had me a little self conscience, I put my hands on my knees. Then I looked over at Nate and he had done the same, so I leaned back in the couch and folded my arms. The psychic smiles and chuckled a little over us.

“So what else you seein?” Nate said.

She bit her bottom lip slightly turning it in, thinking, I suppose, then said looking at Nate, “Well, while you’re the leader, you’re smart, people look up to you. And you handle that okay. Now this one,” and she looked back at me, “You are very intelligent. I can see that. And you’re much more intuitive about things than you’re friend.”

“How do you see that?” Nate asked.

Looking at Nate she said, “You’re bigger boned, thicker and huskier looking. He’s lean, the look of him is more refined; see how thin and long his hands are. His arms are thinner, see his wrists compared to yours. He has a younger boyish refined look. And see his eyes, there is a lively engaging curious look to them. You’re more passive in the face. He has an exploratory face, he wants to understand and know things, you strike me as a doer – you want to do things. You’re all three very handsome, but between the two of you, while you have a similar look there are these differences.”

Nate laughed and said, “That’s not bad. Pretty accurate really – and you’re not doin’ the psychic thing here?

She shook her head, “No.”

“What about Sal?” I asked. “What’s he all about?”

She looked at Sal and said, “Well because you asked, I suspect Sal is more you’re friend and is not very close to you’re other friend. And what you and Sal have in common is you’re intellects. I see the similar things in Sal as you. But he isn’t from where you are from. Sal is from here, Seattle or from somewhere close.

We all sort of nodded, lifted our brows – gestures showing that we so far were impressed.

Then Nate asked, “So this reading us – that help you as a psychic?”

She shook her head, “No not really. There’s lots of people that call themselves psychic and that’s really all they do is read you, and they’re sort of good at it, so often they’re psychic readings are believable enough.”

“So you’re a real psychic?” Nate asked.

She smiled, “I like to think so.”

“How do you learn to be a psychic?” Nate asked.

“You don’t – it’s a gift. You’re born with the ability.”

“How’d you know you were born with it?” Sal asked.

“My parents were psychic, we would spend summers in Florida living in a small town called Neuvo, just outside of Daytona. Living in the town is a colony of psychics. I have a brother, but he isn’t psychic, in fact he thinks we are all nutty.”

“So how much do you charge?” Nate asked.

She smiled graciously, closed mouth. Then said, “Are you all taking classes at the university? Are you all students?”

At the same time Nate said, “Yeah,” while I said, “Just visiting.”

Then she smiled and pointed again at Nate and looking down her finger at him said, “See – you are the smart one. You probably figure if you’re students I won’t charge as much.”

Nate gave a look like, okay, you caught me, I’m a cheapskate lying crumb.

“That’s okay, I won’t charge you boys.”

Nate with a surprised tone, “Really, no charge?”

She nodded and was looking at Nate with narrowed eyes as she slowly said, “No, I don’t want to charge.” Her voice trailed off as she pointed to Nate and said, “I don’t want to charge because I am getting a strange cautious feeling about you.”

With a slight panic in his voice, “Me, what’dya mean?”

She shook her head slowly, “I don’t really know, it’s just a feeling I get, I don’t think you are in any immediate danger, I just feel that you need to be careful. Perhaps you are doing something dangerous or risking something, just be careful. And it is definitely from you I get this. As if you’re being cautioned.”

“Who’s cautioning me?”

She shook her head, “I can’t say if it’s a who, it is just the feeling I get.” Then scrutinizing him with narrowing eyes she asked, “Does the number three hundred mean anything?”

I could see that this did strike Nathan for a surprised almost stunned look fell over his face, then he nodded and said, “Ah, well yeah, I guess.”

“Well I think that number I see is related to the caution I am feeling, as if there is something out there that cares deeply for you and is wanting you to be extra cautious.”

Nate just nodded slowly and we sat quiet for a moment.

Trying to get the spotlight off Nate, I asked, “What about us?”

“I get very good feelings about both of you. Especially you.” She said this looking at me. “What is you’re name?”


And you’re last name?”


“I feel very positive energy or something emanating from you. I think you are on a significant and worthy path. You will do something important, far beyond the average with you’re path. I really feel that.”

“Like I have some sort of destiny?”


“Am I gonna be President or something?”

She laughed and said, “I don’t know. Perhaps, but perhaps not. But I think something significant.”

“You get the same good feeling with me too?” Sal asked.

She nodded, “Yes, I get a good feeling – but not as strong. I suspect you will be very successful, probably make a lot of money; but Joe here will be significant to many others. He will make a mark.”

“And you get a bad feeling about me.”

She shook her head, “Not a bad feeling, just cautionary, that’s all.”

“And I’m not gonna be successful?” Nate said.

She shook her head, “No, no, that’s not it at all. I am just not feeling as strong about you as Joe here. But I am getting this strong cautionary feeling.”

Nate looked perplexed. I’m sure I looked pleased.

Then she clarified, “Keep in mind, just because I think Joe here will be someone significant, it doesn’t mean he will live a happy or even apparently great life. Mother Teresa influenced and helped millions – but she was a nun and lived in Calcutta India, not at all in the lap of luxury; hers was mostly life of sacrifice and service in the life of others. These feelings I get do not necessarily indicate the sort of life you will lead. They are just general feelings, but they do typically indicate the consequence in the whole scheme of things one may have.

“So is this pretty much it?” Nate asked, sounding now not too impressed. “You don’t talk to the dead or any of that?”

She shrugged a little, “Yes, this is pretty much it, sometimes I see more, I get images, perhaps they are images from some other place where someone has passed. I don’t really know. Most of the people that come and see me regularly I think are looking for help with certain decisions in their life, they may be feeling anxiety over problems they may need reassurance.”

“So you really don’t tell people anything specific?” Nate asked.

“Sometimes I do. Sometimes I get a feeling that they should go see a doctor, I’ve had people come to me and that has happened and they have caught a serious disease in the early stages.”

“It just seems so vague,” Nate said.

She smiled, “Too vague for you huh?”

He nodded his head to the side a little, “Yeah, a little.”

“Well, let me show you something,” she said pleasantly. Pick a number between one and a hundred and think about that number.”

“Okay,” Nate said.

“Ninety-seven,” she said.

Nate’s eyes went wide and his head jerked back, “Shit, that’s it. Let me try again.”

“Okay – go ahead.”

After a moment Nate said, “Okay.”

She smiled, “You’re trying to trick me – twenty nine and sixty three.

Nate slowly nodded, “Well that’s pretty good.”

“Let me try,” I said.

She looked at me and said, “Okay – but instead of a number think of a color.”

I thought of Julie’s lips and the bright reddish orange lipstick she would wear.

She narrowed her eyes some and said, “You’re not just thinking of a color, but I see lips colored a bright red.”

“Well that’s pretty good,” I said most impressed. “So you read minds.”

She nodded, “Yes. Not long or involved thoughts but simple things, items, colors, numbers.”

Sal wanted a go at it and she told him to think of a number, and after telling him his number – sixty nine, she said with good humor, “You’re a little young for me.”

I think Sal blushed a little. I laughed and said again, “That’s pretty darn good.”

And Nate said, “So how do you do it?”

She said, “I just see the thoughts.”

“It’s not a trick?” Nate queried.

“No, no trick; its really happening. Reading another’s thoughts is not as rare as you would think. It is not something a lot of people can do, but the ones who can do it fairly well.”

“You learned how to do this?” Nate asked.

She shook her head. “No, as I said, my mother was gifted and when I displayed the tendencies my parents took me to Neuvo to work with others with abilities to try and enhance my ability.

We all nodded and sat quiet for a moment. She wasn’t forthcoming with anything else so psychically we took the hint, with Nate saying, “So I guess that’s it huh?”

The girl nodded and smiled again, “Guess so.”

We all stood up and after thank you’s and slow shuffling toward the door, we left, down the stairs and back out into the night. On the sidewalk out by the street we stopped a second out there under the black sky to stand in the light of the street lamp, gather our thoughts and figure our next move. Nate said, “That was interestin’.”

“That was sorta.”

Nate nodded, “Yep. All I got to say is - if that mind reading stuff was hocus pocus, it was pretty fucking good hocus pocus.”

I looked at him, not quite believing that he had become a believer. “You believe this now?”

“Well, I don’t know.” Nate said. “I gotta think on it some.”

“What was that three hundred all about?”

He waited a second to answer as if he was hesitant, but then he said, “The day before Maryline died I gave her three hundred dollars for the abortion.”

I think my jaw may have dropped a little, I was taken aback. “Shit.”

“Yeah, shit.” Nate said.

Sal said, “Who’s Maryline?”

Nate looked over at him and said, “I had a girlfriend who got killed in a car accident.”

Sal nodded, “Oh, and three hundred has something to do with her.”

“Yeah,” Nate said, nodding.

“Wow, that’s weird,” Sal said. “She’s sorta talking to the dead maybe.”

I said, “Maybe, maybe not. Maybe she was just seeing something in Nate’s mind, in one of the memory banks.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Nate said still befuddled and obviously thinking it all over. Then he said coming out of his slight funk, as if passing it all off, “It was all kinda vague – except for the mind reading. And come on, what’s this bit about she getting cautious feelings about me – and you doing something significant? What’s that all about?”

“Beats me,” I said. “Does sound sort a fishy I guess. Still, the three hundred – that’s pretty specific if you ask me.”

“Yeah, I don’t know.”

Sal said, “Maybe with Joe here its sort of like how they pick the Dali Lama, after a Dali Lama dies they get these psychic monks to go out and find the guy who gives off the vibes that he’s the next guy.”

“Yeah, so Joey here is the next Dali Lama?” Nate said suspiciously.

“You’re just ticked ‘cause I’m gonna be somebody, and she got nothin’ on you.”

“Yeah, that must be it,” Nate said dully.

We all three walked away from our little possible foray into ulterior dimensions quietly in the dim moonless night; we were each caught up in our own swirl of thought over what we had just witnessed, contemplating its authority and implication. We ended up in a booth at Mom’s ordering a healthy dose of worldly nourishment; I ordered a plate of macaroni and cheese, Nate, the meatloaf, and Sal, a hot fudge sundae. Nate had said a few times as we had walked over, “How the hell did she know about the three hundred bucks?” I finally told him, “You say that like you don’t believe she was getting some message from Maryline.”

“Well, I don’t think she was. Its gotta be some sort of trick.”

“What trick?” I said.

He shrugged, “Fuck. I don’t know. Like you said, maybe she read some part of my mind.”

I suppose for him it was simply too alien a concept, getting some a kind of Morse Code from some other dimension. Or even that there may be some other dimension. And frankly I was having trouble with it also. After we sat down and ordered our food, Sal said, “I don’t think it was a trick. There’s something going on.” Then looking at me he said, “It’s like you were saying that night in the kitchen, something that our western empirical here and now minds just find hard to fathom.”

“I thought you didn’t agree with what I was saying?” I said to Sal.

“The apprehension thing and sensing other realities, I had trouble with that, but I sorta agreed with a lot of what you were saying. Then tonight it was pretty interesting.”

Nate shook his head. “There’s got to be some trick. You know, why can’t she be more specific – like tell me the name of the person who told her about the cash? Or where she came up with the figure. And what’s all this about her getting powerful feelings about Joe’s future here and nothing about mine, and how she felt like there was some sort of caution thing goin’ on? You know the whole thing is just vague as hell.”

“It was all sort of Delphic,” I said. “But the three hundred, you can’t really call that vague. I mean, she just pulled that number out of her ass?”

Nate shook his head, “Yeah, but come on. So I got Maryline up there in voodoo land watchin’ my every move? Fuck – I sure hope not. You want the dead lookin’ in on you’re life?”

“Yeah, that could be embarrassing,” Sal said.

“Fuck yeah,” Nate said. “So when I’m nailin’ some gal I got Maryline peakin’ over my shoulder?”

“Maybe,” I said.

“I don’t think I like that,” Nate said.

“How ‘bout when you’re beatin’ off,” Sal said.

“I don’t beat off,” I said.

“Sure you don’t,” Nate said.

“Well be that as it may,” I said, “I was impressed. I agree with Sal – somethin’s going on.”

“Like what?” Nate said. “I mean think about it – there’s some place you go when you die? Then you spend eternity foolin’ with the people in this life.”

“Well, I don’t about that,” I said. “But it’s possible death could be some sort of transformative event.”

“Life’s a transformative event.” Nathen said half seriously half sardonically.

I laughed.

Then Nate said, “You know science has pretty much proven that we’re just biological beings, like ants and dogs and such. Our brain is just more developed. And you should know that; even I learned that in college.”

“Yeah, that’s what you learned,” I said. “That’s the simple prevailing view they teach all the undergrads. The more subtle and complex views you gotta learn on your own.”

“Subtle and complex? Joey, we’ve been to the moon and made atom bombs on what we know. I think modern science pretty much knows what’s goin’ on.”

“See, that’s what I’m talking about. Most of the half assed western educated populace thinks just that. Because our technology is apparently so advanced then science must know what it’s all about. I’m tellin’ you we don’t, even in this day and age of hydrogen bombs, moon flights, and penicillin, we still don’t have any clue what’s going on here.”

“Ah, come on Joey,” Nate said, passing me off. “Is that what you think, we die and go to heaven? Or we die and start another life on some other planet or someplace?”

“I’m saying we just don’t know. That even with all that we do know, we are still coming up way short. That to start coming up with notions based on current evidentiary findings, is thinking that is just as belief and faith based as people that believe in God because it says so in the Bible, or the Koran, or whatever.”

“Come on Joey, I had to take science classes at UCLA and they would not fall for whatever con job that was we saw tonight.”

“Con job?” I asked. “How could you call that a con job?”

“I’m just tellin’ ya – I don’t know how she did it – but it was some sort of con.”

I looked at Sal. “What do you think?”

“I think she’s for real. I sort of agree with what you’re saying. Western thinking has become so dominated by technological advancement, that most everyone just accepts it as a given the scientific view, that we are simply evolved over eons from some one cell life form that somehow slimed its way out of the ocean.”

Nate looked at him, “So we came from some guys rib in some big ass garden?”

“No, I’m not saying that,” Sal said. “I’m saying, like Joe here, that we just don’t know, and there is a lot of things out there we don’t know about.”

I spoke up, “Look Nate, take what happened tonight. I’ve read about such things, okay. I’ve read how people have these what we call psychic tendencies. I’ve read some pretty interesting and convincing accounts of psychic experiences. And I read a few of the arguments from the skeptics. Now one thing I remember about one of the skeptical accounts I read, the writer kept saying how the psychic kept asking questions of the subjects. And the subjects either understood the questions or didn’t – sort of like when she asked you tonight about the three hundred – immediately you saw a connection, a coincidence – and a pretty startling coincidence. Now this skeptic I was reading said that the psychics he witnessed asked a bunch of questions, dozens of questions he said, and some they got right and some wrong. The skeptic said the psychic was bound to get some things right, or ‘hits,’ as he called them, just by the amount of questions they asked. Well, a couple a things here, first in the accounts I’ve read about psychics, they didn’t ask dozens of questions. They asked a few. Some were hits some misses. But they didn’t ask dozens of questions. The point is - this skeptic I was reading was so intent on discrediting the psychics, he was likely hyping the data, so to speak, by claiming the psychics were asking dozens of questions; he was hyping it up to strengthen his argument – which led me to distrust the conclusions. Then in the accounts I read, a lot of times, some of the misses are simply things the subjects don’t put together. But they pointed out how later, after the session, the subjects did put two and two together and the misses thus became hits. And then take what happened tonight – she didn’t ask dozens of questions, She one question – does three hundred mean anything to you. I didn’t hear any misses tonight. But again be all that as it may, I’m not here to argue the validity of what we saw tonight, that we somehow got in touch with some other world. I am simply keeping my mind open to it; and at the same time also keeping it open to question.”

“So you believe in it,” Nate said. “Fine. I’m just not fallin’ for it, that’s all.”

I looked at Sal and said, “See what’s happening here? He was told a few things in a college undergrad science class and he thinks it’s natural law cast in concrete or something. And I’m keeping an open mind and he thinks I’m a dunderhead.”

“Don’t take it so personal,” Nate said. “I just have trouble falling for that show, that’s all. But I kinda see what you’re sayin’.”

“Look, I’ll try to explain it this way: there are believers and infidels – and there can be fanatics in both camps.”

“Infidels?” Nate asked.

“Non-believer,” I said. “Just hear me out here.”

“Look, I’ll listen to it,” Nate said. “But nothin’ you can say or do is gonna get me to buy hook line and sinker that that lady got some message from Maryline tonight.”

“I’m not trying to get you to think that. Just listen for once. You just think you got it all figured out.”

“I’m listenin’.”

“The scientists of today who simply pass off the spiritual and metaphysical as if it’s superstitious belief, who say that the preponderance of empirical evidence is that there is no spirit, no god, per se, no life after death, or transmutation, or reincarnation, no other dimensions, et al, who say we are simply biological beings – and point to the evolution of both matter and living things – they do so with the utmost arrogance because when all is said and done, we still cannot explain or show empirically, or prove rather, how the universe evolved from matter to life, that is, from molecules to cells - biologically speaking. And they cannot explain or prove adequately how it all began. How do we get a chicken before an egg, so to speak? In fact, they hide out as empiricists advocating their scientific methods yet, in fact, their systems of postulations, their Big Bangs, and Quantum Theories are indeed, at the heart, founded on as much on guesswork or belief, as those assumptions of the various believers. They have evidentiary observations and proofs, but when it comes to the essential questions, how a molecule becomes a cell, how matter becomes life, and how this vast thing of nothingness, of space, got there, how it originated, how quarks and atoms formed out of the non-firmament of apparent nothing – they only have theories supported by partial or at best incomplete empirically proven postulates. In other words, they expect you to believe their windbag hypotheses just as much as Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus of Nazareth, Moses, Allah, Buddha, and all those guys and their claims. And frankly, from what I can see, their story, while having some modicum of proof, and technological application is not much better than the allegories and myths of the bible, of Greek, of Rome, of the Gallic, Teutonic, etcetera, i.e. the fairy tale myths. Just because you can land a man on the moon and make a hydrogen bomb capable of ending all life as we know it – is not indicative that we have it all figured out, that we have found answers to ultimate questions, or even that we are close to knowing the mind of God.”

“So behind all that mumbo jumbo you’re sayin’ the scientists are full of it?” Nate asked.

“Not completely, no. I am saying how we still today, when it comes down to it, though our technology and discovery has taken us to the moon and made us capable of blowing all life to smithereens – we still look skyward, and though we look with the help of telescopes, satellites, radio waves, etcetera, as we look deeper and further – we are still, when it comes down to it, only barely less perplexed as our progenitors who walked over the frozen Bearing Straights, dwelled and scrawled in mountainside caves, who found fire in the light coming down from the sky. We finally after two thousand years maybe prove Aristotle wrong and Democritus right and we strut around thinking we got it figured out. I doubt we’re even close. Think – think about it. Space goes on and on, and on and on some more. Even if we can prove how matter all of a sudden appeared in space, I got one question better for ya – space – space itself – where did that come from? Just because it is a vast black nada doesn’t mean it isn’t something. It is something – it is a vast black nada – and thus would it also have some origin? To say that it was just here because it is a vast black nada is just as belief based as believing Christ turned water into wine. And that is precisely wheat science is doing right now in the twentieth century – essentially saying infinite space is a given, that it was just here and will always be there is a given, an absolute. Well, I say forget about the big bang, the ultimate question is why or how or whatever brought about space itself. Why is the space even here – or there? Why? And why is matter in space. Why? Or better yet, how? We’re not even close to knowing – or even likely adequately guessing. Then on top of that, what’s gravity? Why does everything in space conform so neatly to this force? And the speed of light – why is it one constant speed? What got that determined into one neat little package? And take evolution, why do all life forms tend to evolve toward better survival? Why do life forms evolve at all? What is the guiding principle driving that? And where did that guiding principle come from? Now, the scientists, those fanatic in there agnosticism, would say, well man is just incapable of figuring it out – but we have enough evidence that we sorta know what’s going on. Sorta know. That’s all they can do. They are in denial my friend. Their guess work is simply more sophisticated and grounded more in the empirical than our forbearers in the caves. And they use there split atoms, atomic bombs, and space shots to shore up their what is at bottom belief – belief – which is taking things as a given – which is the same as taking things on faith. The scientists taking things for granted are as full of as much faith and belief as the supposed simpleton who attends church service every Sunday and swears their faithful blind allegiance to some superior being.”

"Okay – but think your arguments through," Sal said, "Sayin' we don't know where space came from and thus don't know anything – now apply that to the concept of God, or a supreme being, if there is a supreme being of some sort – just like you can't get a chicken before an egg, where did the supreme being come from? In other words what was before God, and where did God come from? It would seem God couldn't just come out of nowhere."

"Well, that’s just it," I said, "I'm not arguing that there is a God, I'm just saying to discount the existence of such a thing is just as belief based as to believe there is a God. Bottom line is, we as human beings can't fathom the concept of no beginning and end. The question of where space itself came from? We can't fathom that perhaps it was just there. It is there, that fact is known to us – we not only have looked up into space we have sent rockets and whatnot up there, apparently what we see is truly there – so where did it come from? When did it come into existence? It was just there? Is this what I am to believe, just take this as a given? Now the fact that it is there – may also tend to support the existence of a supreme being. Or rather discount the arguments that there can't be a supreme being – because you would then have the question - where did the supreme being come from? To allow that space was simply there, a given, no beginning nor end - could not a supreme being also be a given? Just like space is there, the fact that it is just there, why could not a supreme being be like space – and just be there, without beginning or end, or at least the sort of beginning and end that we as humans can imagine."

Nate was smiling and looked over at Sal and said, “He’s wound up huh.”

“Yeah go ahead and pooh pooh it." I said. "At bottom, we still don’t know how we got a chicken before an egg – and how a molecule becomes a cell; rather, how matter becomes life. And no matter how many times you split the atom and come up with the smallest essential matter – quarks and such, you still have the question posed before you – how did that tiny little thing get into the vast nada? Even if what we’re saying about how that tiny little thing evolved into the earth and the stars and all of it, we still gotta answer for the why and the how did it initially get there, hence, metaphorically speaking, how did the chicken get here before an egg? Essentially my friends, there is still far more to the earth and the heavens than is in all you’re philosophy my dear Horatio.”

“Chicken before an egg? What chickens are you talkin’ about?” Nate asked.

“He’s talking metaphorically,” Saul said. “He’s saying that we got matter in space from seemingly nowhere. And then there’s space – what the hell is that all about? And those are very important questions, that until we know the answers we’re just as much in the dark about things as the cavemen. That to discount religious or philosophical belief based theory because you went to MIT is almost like discounting science because you went to Notre Dame. Is that describing it?”

I shrugged, “I suppose. But I would add this – and maybe I’m belaboring but, oh well - the more we find out about this universe, the more comprehensible it is. That is, it conforms to rules, there is a logic - a comprehensibleness to it - that it conforms to how our minds work. In fact, Einstein said that one of the great realizations of Kant is that the setting up of the external world would be senseless without this comprehensibility. And in this way, Einstein went on to say, the fact it is comprehensible is a miracle. So what I’m getting at – to discount this mysterious thing we saw tonight because it somehow doesn’t conform to what we were told by some college professor in one of our undergraduate science classes, is arrogantly discounting, or even ignoring, the great vastness that remains a mystery, and assuming that just because we put a man on the moon, man has got enough of it figured out. The truth of today is not necessarily the truth of tomorrow. And comprehensive as the truth of today may appear, there is still a lot out there that remains unknown.”

“Who’s this Horatio?” Nate asked.

I shook my head and said impatiently, “Nobody.”

Sal looked at Nate and said, “Shakespeare.”

Nate nodded, “Figures.”

Our food came and we started in eating and the discussion essentially dissipated. It would rear its ugly head now and again as we ate, but only with minor questions from Nate asking for clarifications and what not. After we finished and paid the bill we walked back to the Sigma house where we found it mostly dark and quiet, it being just past the one a.m. hour. Nate went right up to the meat locker to bed and I hung with Sal a few minutes as I wanted to give him my Claremont phone number and address before he left for Alaska. I told him to definitely look me up, and perhaps stay at the house while he got settled into L.A. for his forays into Hollywood. He said he would call, and I hoped he would.

18 As July moved into August and over our golden horizon there appeared more haze, my doubts began to increase even more, I even began harboring such thoughts that if some tokens of improvement didn't start showing themselves then I would likely be southbound ho. Of course, I didn't quite state it that way to Nate, I said, "I'm getting awfully tired of scraping and painting keels."

Then one day to my astonishment after one of my occasional spats of deprime, he said, "Yeah so am I."

"You are?"


"Since when are clouds on your horizon?"

"I was talking to Olly yesterday, he said most of the crab boats have come and gone, that over the next week and a half or so a few more will come in, but after that they'll all be up north. Then I was talking to another skipper in the coffee shop at lunch. He said he knew a guy up north in Juneau that needed a hand. He asked if I was willing to fly up there or pay one of the boats to take me up - I said no problem. Then he asked if I had experience. I told him the truth. Then he shook his head and said his friend would only want me if I was experienced. He says there's a lot of guys looking for work that got experience. He says he's got a black book at home with all sorts of names and phone numbers of workers with experience - most of them are working - but lot a times all he has to do is call a couple up and they know somebody needin' work."

"Well if all the skippers got one of those books then we're really playing against the odds."

"No kidding."

"Did he have any suggestions about getting work?"

"No not really. He said the place to be really is up north, that's where everybody is."

"Up where?"

"In August - Juneau, cause a lot of the crab boats are tendering for salmon season. Then in September - Dutch Harbor."

"In the Aleutian's. So how do you get up there?"

"Fly I guess. Or like the one guy said, pay one of these skippers down here for a lift."

"I don't know Nate, we've come this far and hit sand, going up to Alaska for another wild goose chase I'm not sure if that'd be too smart."

"We've come this far haven't we?"

"That logic can be taken to extremes. Hitler and Napoleon probably thought along the same lines about Russia and look what it did to them."

"We're not Hitler, and we're not Napoleon, and we're not trying to annex all a Russia."

"No, but you know what I mean."

"Look, bottom line - we've only spent about a month and a half of our time here and it really hasn't been all that bad. Some guys have gone to war for years. We can't spend a lousy two or three months getting a job?"

There was no swaying him from his course. But I noticed he was sleeping in more days than rising early.

After I noticed that her New York stud had gone, I told Nate, "Looks like Nancy's friend is back to New York."

"What of it? " was his only reply.

Oh well, dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Poor Nate. It was odd really about Nate. He was by no means a pitiful figure, not with his personality or his looks, and his intelligence and drive. It seemed to me that, well - in primitive cultures he would have been a regular with the medicine man, he was in need of a séance, or an onion around his neck, since his going off to UCLA it seemed as if he was carrying around a dark halo – maybe that was what the psychic meant about her cautionary reading.

One night Nate, Klug, and Brad had gone to environs unknown, and I stayed home reading in my bunk, then soon fell asleep in my clothes. Later someone was pushing on my bunk jerking it and me awake; when I opened my eyes Nate was standing over me next to my bunk his hand over his mouth, he said, "Hey Joey - wake up."

"I'm up - what time is it?" I asked.

"It's about two - look at my mouth - I'm bleeding - is it bad?"

I was groggy but noticed that sure enough he was bleeding. Over his fingers coming from between them oozed the crimson syrup, "Yeah you’re bleeding - what happened?"

"Look," he said then took away his hand. His lip was sliced near the crimp of the mouth down into the chin about a half an inch. Without the hand blood surged down his chin and dripped to the floor.

"Put you're hand back – you're bleeding all over. Your lip's cut, looks like you tried to swallow a knife."

"It won't stop bleeding - I've washed it a couple of times now."

"It isn't going to stop - you need stitches."

"Where am I gonna get stitches this time a night?"

"Beats me. Maybe the school medical center - they might have an emergency room. Call them."

He did call the center, and there was an emergency room that would take care of him. He came back up and requested the pleasure of my company to the medical center. I said in protest, "It's just a cut lip - you'll live. You only need a couple of stitches." I was tired; he had woken me I think when I was well into the REM stage.

"Come on you ass - it won't kill yeah, I might need yeah, what if I pass out or somethin’?"

"You're not gonna pass out - how did you do that any way - it's cut clear through? Yuk."

He persisted in pulling me out of bed, threatened to grab me with his bloody hand if I wouldn't get up. Finally I relented, roused myself, and dressed. We had to walk because Klug had his bus and was nowhere to be seen. He and Brad were likely staying over at the SAE house or were with one of their girlfriends.

On the walk over with Nate pressing a small rag to his mouth the whole way, I heard all about it. Nate had gone to the 901 to have a few drinks with Mel. At around midnight Mel left to go over to his girlfriends. Nate was leaving, then Ben and Star walked in and Nate stayed to down a couple more drinks with them. After the bar closed they gave Nate a ride back to the Sigma House. Before retiring Nate decided to stop in the kitchen for a swig of milk. In the kitchen were four Sigmas, including John Taylor and Jim Procter. Nate was feeling a little jaunty from the booze. He said to the Sigmas, as he stepped over to the fridge and pulled out his milk, "Hey what's up?"

After he gulped down a long drink, and replaced the carton back in the fridge, he turned around and wiped his mouth on his sleeve and noticed the three glaring at him. "And they didn't look happy," is how Nate put it. After a few moments of the staring Nate said, "So – somethin’ up?"

John Taylor took charge and asked snidely, "So where were you tonight?"

Nate didn't reply immediately. He was confused about the question - just where was this guy coming from? He wondered. He said, "Where was I tonight? Why what about it?"

Then censoriously John said, "Out with the SAE's?"

So that was it - the SAE thing. A little problem of inter-fraternal rivalry. Nate, always confident that he could hold his own regardless of what came up was impudent, "Yeah I was, what about it?"

Then John made another penetrating comment, "The SAE's are all fags," and he stepped forward toward Nate.

Never one to pass up an overt provocation Nate replied, "Oh yeah - you're a fag."

As Nate told the story I said, "Well it must have been Armageddon and then some after such brilliant and slashing repartee."

Almost at once as if vexed by some twisted voodoo curse John stepped up to Nate with a robust and contorted face, "It got red and I could see a couple of veins popping," as Nate described it. Then John started a string of several of the most commonly used expletives and crudities describing Nate's and the rest of our groups culpability regarding low I.Q.'s, Oedipus complexes, questionable birthrights, resemblances to body organs and passageways, and supposed proclivities for the more degage in the acts of amour.

This outburst confused Nate, as he explained finishing the story: "I mean the guy was all worked up Joe. Like he had gone nuts ya know. I think I remember a teacher in junior high loosin' it like that. I don't know. The guy was like out of his mind. So I figured the guy wanted to duke it out. Fine. I wasn't worried, he was taller, but I knew I could take him - and the other guys - you know those guys - they weren't gonna jump in. So I held my hands open, held them out sorta palms up - showin' him and I said, 'Okay - you take the first swing. Go ahead.' Well the son of a bitch - I guess I didn't think he would - he swung, nailed me in the mouth. He sorta cold cocked me. I mean I was waitin' for it - but I thought he'd back down."

"He obviously has issues."

"No kidding. So he hits me. Then I swung at him, and I hit him sorta good - on the chin. But then my fist slips off the chin and nails the guy in the chest. He sorta stepped back and slipped and fell back into that rack that holds all the pots."

"The one by the window."

"Right - and the rack bangs all to hell and a bunch a the pots go flyin' and fallin' and end up on the floor. Then the other two guys sorta got in front of us to keep us apart - but it was over."

"You're ruthless."

"Hey, he took me on - the dumb head. I don't know why - what the hell's his problem with the SAE's?"

I told Nate about my short talk with Marve on the subject. After I finished he shook his head and said, "What a bunch a dumb heads. They should be beatin' on Smitty and Klug, not me."

"Yes, it appears you've been played the victim."


The Medical Center was between the avenue and Union Lake on the southwest side of the campus. To get there we walked down The Ave to the south end, among some large concrete and glass university buildings all mostly dark at that time of the morning, save a lighted window here and there. We walked over brick walkways that ran between the buildings like a narrow trail through a sheer walled gorge, dim fluorescent lamps atop poles slightly alit the trail. Soon we came to a wide street and across it was the Medical Center – the University’s medical school and medical facilities - more concrete buildings - concrete, stucco and glass walled multi-storied affairs, some newer, some older, like the ones we had just walked among. It was a big institutional like place. Most of the buildings were darkened. The emergency room was on the ground floor of one of the street side buildings. We crossed a parking lot to the entrance. Two large glass doors, wider than is typical, slid open automatically - open sesame fashion - as we approached. These doors led into a long airspace then into another set of automatic sliding doors which opened as the first set closed behind. Inside we came into a wide hallway brightly fluorescent lit, the floors covered with a white terrazzo flooring, slick looking with a shiny well buffed coat of wax over it; the walls and ceiling were white, and a stainless steel bumper rail ran along each wall about waist high. Along one wall were several sets of double doors with small windows, each sheathed in stainless steel. Small signs hung perpendicular to the wall above each set of doors and indicated the doors led to Trauma Rooms 1, 2, and 3, etc. On the other wall was one set of double doors and a sign reading Exam Room. Beyond that was a single steel door painted orange and a sign reading Lounge / Check In. Several empty gurneys were parked along the side of the hall, a couple were double parked. The hall was strangely deserted of patients or personnel. We walked slowly through the bright fluorescent light. I looked through a couple of the small windows in the doors and saw large square rooms with equipment and cabinets along the walls; more empty gurneys. In each room, hung from the ceiling near the center, were the large silver radar dish shaped surgical lamps I recognized from pictures I had seen of operating theaters. Nate asked, "See anything?"

"No just beds and stuff."

"Let's try the lounge."

We walked through that door into a carpeted room with rows of plastic chairs connected like theater seats. Along one of the walls was a glass window with a round opening for speaking through a larger opening below at the counter for a pass through. A small steel ding-ding push bell was on the counter. In one of the rows sat a young boy and next to him I guessed it was his mother. She was in a yellow scarf covering hair in curlers and wore a long purple raincoat - probably over her p.j.'s. The boy was grimacing and holding one of his arms close to his front cradled in the other, with a bag of ice over the elbow and forearm - broken arm no doubt. No one was behind the window; we tapped on the bell a couple of times. Nate, still pressing on his mouth, said, "Where the hell is everybody?"

Behind us the mother of the boy said, "Good question."

We turned around and Nate asked, "How long have you been waiting?"

"About twenty minutes."

"No ones around at all?" I asked.

"No she'll come - the lady at the desk - it's just getting a doctor. Seems to take forever."

An older gray haired lady in a white smock appeared behind the window. She was plump with a round face and there was a slight purplish hue in her gray hair. A small plastic nametag on her lapel read Mabel. She asked, "What can we do for you boys?"

"I cut my lip, I think I need stitches," Nate said, then he took his hand and the by now well bloodied rag away from his lip.

The lady looked at the wound squinting her eyes a little, "Oh yes, looks like you do. Were you in a fight?"

"No - ran into a door," Nate said.

"I see," the lady said in a way I thought reflected dubiety, yet it could have been my reading into it. "Do you have insurance?" She asked.

"Insurance?" Nate said abruptly, "Huh, no."

"Are you a student?" she asked.

"Uuh - yeah," Nate said.

The lady then nodded and brought out from a drawer a card and a pencil and pushed them through the pass through and said, "Fill out the card as best you can, then we'll put you on the list for a doctor to see you."

We stepped to the rear of the room and sat down in the seats along the wall. Between keeping the towel on his lip and trying to write on the narrow armrest of the chair, Nate was having his problems filling out the card. After some blood dripped on the card I said, "Here let me fill it out."

He gave me the card, and as I began jotting, he said, "Wait."

I looked up at him, "What?" His chin and hand was well smudged with dried blood.

"Don't put my real name," he said quietly.

"What do you mean?"

"Just make it all up."

"I don't get it."

"Look, I'm not a student - and they might try to bill me if they found out."

"Shouldn't you pay for it?"

He rolled his eyes, "Listen will you do what I tell ya - you know how hospitals are - they charge up the ass. We're probably talking a couple hundred to sew this up."

"So who are you?"

"Just make it up - your imaginative - I'm going over to the bathroom to clean up my hands."

I did as told, faked everything - name, address, social security number. There was however, a blank for a student number. Recalling Klug's fiasco over a state bar number, I left it blank. When Nate got back I told him handing him the card, "It's all filled out - but there's a blank for a student I.D. number."

He said, "Just leave it - I'll handle that."

Mabel was back behind the window, we stood up and Nate took the card without reading it from my hand as we walked back up to the window; then he pushed it into the pass through. Mabel took the card and her brows narrowed as she scrutinized it, then she asked, "I can't read this too well, your middle name is Boo-gard? Boo re gard? And you're last name is Plantagenet?"

Nate looked guarded and asked, "Can I see the card again? My buddy filled it out for me – maybe he didn't do it right."

She slid the card back through and Nate grabbed it, read it, and in a whisper repeated, "Henry Boo-regard Planta-genet?" Then he looked at me asking, "How did you spell my middle name?"

"Beauregard? That's it isn't it?" I said.

Nate looked at me with slight scowl. Then passed the card back through and said to Mabel, "He filled out the card and spelled my name wrong – it’s Bogart, spelled just like it sounds."

"Like Humphrey Bogart?" she asked.

"Yeah - like that."

She then wrote Bogart over what I had already written then she asked, "You are a student? You didn't write your number here?"

Nate nodded, "Yeah I've got a number - but it's at home. I don't have it memorized. I can call you later with it."

Mabel nodded and said, "Okay Henry go ahead and wait - we'll call you when a doctors available."

Nate said, "Thanks." And we went back to the rear of the room and sat down, then he asked me irritated, "Henry Beauregard Planta- what the fuck - what is that?"

I said, "It's your name Henry."

He shook his head, "I can't trust you for nothin'."

We sat, and we sat, and we sat, and we sat. Then we sat some more. At one point the lady in the purple raincoat stood up and went to the window and rang for Mabel. When Mabel came out the lady scolded, "My son and I have been waiting for over an hour, he has a broken arm! Isn't there anyone that can look at him?"

Mabel explained patiently, "I'm sorry but the orthopedic specialist on call is treating another patient elsewhere in the hospital, after he is finished he'll be down."

"Isn't there something you can give him for the pain?"

"I can't I'm not a doctor, and all the doctors are busy right now."

The lady retook her seat.

I said to Nate, "Could be worse - huh."

He nodded, "Yeah broken arm be a real pain in the ass right now."

While we waited we talked covering the usual topics - crab fishing, our work, girls, baseball, Brad and Klug, our life in general, and how our satellites were then relating to the cosmos. We would talk a bit, then sit quiet and Nate would look at his watch then wonder aloud what the hell was taking so long. We sat with our hands back against the wall and our eyes closed in semi-consciousness, and in that pose, maintained our idle chitchat.

"You probably won't be able to talk once they sew you up."

"Yeah I will."

"It'll hamper your efforts to get a fishing job."

"No it won't"

"Probably won't heal right - your lip will be all crooked."


"Feel any pain?"


"So what happened to Taylor?"

"Nothin - bump on the chin probably, some pot hit him on the head."

"You could probably sue him."

"You could give him a blow job."

"Wonder how the Dodgers are doing?"

"You don't know?"

"Haven't been following it."

"They're in second."

"They'll probably go the series with us stuck in Alaska."


"So you talk at all to Nancy?"


"Plan on talking to her?"


"Did you like her at all?"


"Not at all?"


"Is that all you can say is nope?"


"A splendid vocabulary you have."

"I know - does the job....So what about Julie?"

"What about her?"

"Just gonna forget her?"

"Yeah, I told you about her."

"Too bad - the guy couldn't cut the army huh. Pretty weak."

"What's weak about it - looks to me like the guy got smart."

"Maybe. Seems to me though the guy made a decision - he should stick with it."

"I beg to differ."

"I don't beg."

"It's blockheads with your kind of thinking that creates Vietnams and other assorted debacles."

"Listen doe doe brain, its guys like me who get somethin' done, guys like you sit around and booze it up and theorize. You read too many books."

"Think so huh?"

"Yeah, I do. Why read all those books anyway?"

"Why not? Maybe I like it."

"You like it. I'm not too sure that’s a good reason."

"Is there a better?"

"Seriously, with all that crap you know – will it really do you any good?"

"You sound like Smitty."

"How many books you figure Mr. Smitty's read?"

"One or two, maybe."

"I rest my case."

"Now you sound like Sal Friedman."

"How am I like him - you told me you thought he was a smart guy?"

"He is smart. Well read and informed but he has a tendency to over simplify."

"I over simplify?"

"Yeah I'd say so - with these cracks of your's about reading and knowledge getting and how the theorists never get anything done. Without the theorists you activists would still be trying to figure out how to make fire."

"Hmm - maybe. So what's that got to do with Julie?"

"Nothing. What's anything got to do with Julie?"

"I know you didn't really like her - just goes to show ya."

"Show what?"

"Nothing much - just that she's a knock out compared to Jane. But ol' plain Jane sends yeah into a tail spin."

"She didn't put me into any tail spin."

"Like hell."

"You're cut up over Nancy."

He let out a snide quick laugh, "Ph-ha – I don't think so - not over that skinny wench."

"You were sleeping in you were so cut up - last week I even had to wake you up."

"I was tired – didn't have nothin' to do with Nancy. Besides I don't like redheads."

I shook my head, "Your so full of it."

"I'm full of it? You are."

"And Janie's not plain."

"Like hell - she's plain - flat and bony, and she probably didn't like sex."

"She liked sex, and she wasn't flat, and she wasn't bony."

"She's a rail. In high school that's what they used to call her - the rail."

"Listen she's well built. In fact I liked her build better than Julie's."

"How's that?"

"I don't know - Janie was firm you know - but Julie she had the curves but wasn't firm."

"Baggy huh."

"Yeah - sort of limp - too limp, like they were water bags attached."

"Yeah, know the feeling. I like them firm too. Paula Mendez - she was a sagger."

That was a surprise. "Paula Mendez - you went to bed with her - when?"

"Couple of years ago - saw her at Stan's then took her out."

"She was stacked."

"I'd say so."

"Wonder what its like walking around with those big things bouncing around."

"Don't know. Maybe it's like dragging a big dick, talk to Smitty."

"I'll have to. Ol Smitty with the big dong." I laughed a bit and said, "He's doing pretty well up here."

"Funny how he's doing well up here - but never did that well down home."

"Yeah it is - I guess we're all more something up here."

"Think so?"

"I don't know - everyone seems to like us up here - except Taylor."

"Yeah - but they like us down there."


"No place like home."

"For us anyway."

"Yeah, it has been pretty good to us. We live in a good place Nate."

"There you go again with your wanna go home crap - were you like this at Princeton?"

"No - Princeton's not such a bad place either."

"And Seattle's no good."

"It's the fishing thing. I don't know Nate."

"I don't wanna talk about it. If you wanna go back, then go. Call daddy Kelly and he'll probably send you the airfare."

"You're an ass."

He shook his head.

"Funny how Brad and Klug haven't mentioned a thing about going back."

"Why leave the party when your still having fun?"

"Guess they are having a grand time of it. Smitty's really gotten in tight with these SAE's."

"We all have - that's why I'm here, the Sigmas got all ticked off."

"Brads the one they should have gone after. Not you. He’s never liked them from the beginning."

"Yeah, well that's not the way it works. I'll tell ya somethin’ else that's funny - our frat at UCLA was no big deal. I joined that house ‘cause Smitty kept coming to me and buggin' me to join. I was still thinking I was going to play ball so I didn't take the frat thing all that serious, so I didn't research it. Well hell, fact is, I joined them, then came to find out the house wasn't considered that great a house. It wasn't a bad house, or the worst house, I'd say it was a step up from the Sigmas up here - but we weren't the top house - not like this SAE house up here."

"What makes you think the SAE is a top house?"

"Come on, its obvious. First the house - it's not just a mansion, its a castle. Inside it’s all top drawer. Then the guys. They seem more aggressive, more fun, more normal, I guess. They all seem like they'd be from the top groups at their high schools. Whereas the Sigmas, well - it's like Smitty says, they're all sort of misfits."

"Not the blue chip huh."

"I guess. Strange how it is - some people are just somebody's, some nobody's, some in, some out. Smitty's a nobody at UCLA, here he's a somebody. Strange."

"Like Klug said - his woman God quotient has gone up a couple a notches up here."

Nate laughed and said as an aside, "Klug, what a beach rat."

"Just another one of God's children."

"Just another knucklehead."

“Shouldn’t make light of one a God’s creations.”

“Oh yeah? So what was you’re God thinkin’ when he made Smitty?”

"Not a believer are we?"

"I don't know. Are you? Oh yeah – you’re keepin’ an open mind."

"Maybe. If God’s around, he's treated us pretty good."

"Yeah, he has - but so what."

"You're being blasphemous."

"Since when have you found religion?"

"You're just mad about your knee."

"No - I'm mad cause he didn't give me enough sense to go to Berkeley or someplace where I would have played."

"Would've been a loser."

"Maybe not - would have played though."

"Think you could have played pro?"

"Honestly, doubt it."

"Wonder if we really are going to get a fishing job?"

"I think we will. Maybe. Hell I don't know."

"God willing?"

"Yeah - he ought to will it - I've been workin' for it."

"Maybe that's it - we should pray."


"Yeah - used to be the thing to do."

"Well that was then. Now is now. I'm not real confident prayin' is gonna do it."

"Never know till you try.”

"I don't think that's gonna do it."

"I think the big man is big on asking right - you know with humility and prostration."

"If the big man is who he is, he'll know where I'm comin’ from."

“And from where’s that?”

“I don’t know. After what happened with Marilyn I’m probably hell bound.”

“You actually think that?”

He slowly nodded, and said rather seriously considering the tone of the conversation, “Yeah, I actually do. I think I actually fucked up. Like those guys were sayin’ in Richland – it’s murder.”

“Nate – first, those guys were joking – just pushing the girls hot buttons. Second, and most importantly, you forget one slight if not crucial detail…”

“What’s that?”

“She didn’t actually get the thing done. You just gave her the money. It’s one thing to propose murder, another to actually do it.”

“She got all worked up and went out and drove crazy ‘cause of me and my tellin’ her to get it done. When its all said and done, I ‘caused it.”

“That’s just stupid. Are you gonna berate yourself all your life over it?”


“There isn’t a court in the land that would convict you of anything.”

“No, but I know what I did.”

I shook my head and decided to change the subject. “So Smitty and Klug aren’t exactly setting the world on fire up here.”

He shook his head and gave a snide slight snort, then said, “You know, Smitty I sorta expected it; but actually Klug, well, I thought he’d be more with the program.”

“Klug?” I said. “I don’t know, on one hand he seems sorta smart, on the other he’s pretty much like you said - a beach rat.”

Nate nodded slowly and smiled slightly on the undamaged side of his mouth, then he said, “Let me tell you about Klug. One day last summer – toward the end of August; it was a Saturday. I remember that ‘cause I was working during the week at Maddox. Anyway, at the end of August down on the coast they get what they call the August swell. The waves come in extra big; I guess from tropical storms off Mexico, or somethin’ like that. Anyway Merril and I are going down to the beach to hang out and go nightlife with Klug; ‘cause his parents lived down there near the beach. So we get down there, it’s a nice day and all, and we knock on Klug’s parents front door; his old lady answers – nice good lookin’ blond mom. I mean, she was probably forty plus but I woulda’ done her – and of course Merril was talkin’ her up. Anyway, so his mom tells us how Klug’s down at the beach surfin’. She says the waves are extra big and how we should go watch, ‘cause they are really somethin’ to see, she says.

“So their house is a couple blocks up from the main beach there at Seal Beach. And there’s this big pier runnin’ out from the street, over the sand and out into the ocean; ‘bout a hundred yards out maybe. Well let me tell you somethin’ she wasn’t kidding. It was an angry sea my friend. The waves were rockin’. I mean they were big. Ten to twenty feet Klug later said they were. I’m talkin’ mounds, hills, of green water just comin’ in and bangin’. The big waves were breakin’ way out there, near where the pier ended. But from there in it was just foamy white water and even though the waves were breakin’ so far out you could really hear ‘em breakin’. The waves were so big as they came in the green water was almost touchin’ the bottom of the pier.”

“Huh. Musta been a sight.”

“It was. Anyway. Merril and me walk out to the beach and there’s a big crowd a people just standin’ there watchin’. Just watchin’ the waves. It was a Saturday remember - so there was a crowd, at least a hundred people. Just standin’ watchin’. So at first I’m thinkin’ their standin’ just watchin’ the waves. But when we get out on the sand I see that there watchin’ not just the waves but these two guys way out there ridin’ these big sucker waves. Just two guys. And near the waterline there’s a whole passel a guys just standin’ there with surf boards under their arms just lookin’ at the waves. Now after watchin’ awhile, I realize all those guys are there lookin’ at the waves and at the two guys out ridin’ tryin’ to get up enough balls to get out and tackle these mountains of water. But they won’t go out. Just too harsh, and they were too chicken. And those guys out there, every time they dropped in – you know started sliding down the face of a wave the crowd would like ooh and ahh. And I tell ya, when the guys slid down to the bottom of the breaking wave, the green face of the wave was way over twice their height.”

I nodded, guessing what was coming.

“So after a couple a minutes I say to Merril, guess those guys out there are pretty good. And Merril says, fuck ya. Duh, already. See what you got to realize is the waves were just an awesome sight. These big massive mounds of green water risin’ up, peaking then folding over and crashin’ just one after another, just no let up. And these two guys are out takin’ em on, slidin’ over ‘em like they were nothin’. So I’m lookin’ around for Klug and don’t see him and I say to Merril, ‘Where you suppose Klug is at?’ And Merril points out at the waves and says, ‘That’s Klug out there guy.’ I looked more careful and sure enough one a the guys was him. I couldn’t fuckin’ believe it. Beach rat Klug. I’m tellin’ ya, he was a god that day. Anyway so we watch him for about a half hour and he finally decides enough is enough so instead of ridin’ back up and over the face of the wave he was on, he turned it in and rode all the way in where the water was pretty shallow. Then he just picked up his board, shook the water outa his hair and just sorta sauntered up the beach. So as he walks up the beach, the crowd just parts, and everybody’s just lookin’ at him. The guys down at the water with the boards were turned around and kept watchin’ him. And we’re kinda at the back a the beach and he see’s us. He nods and smiles at us and comes on up. He gets up to us, “Sorry – just couldn’t leave it man. Just too lordly.”

“Really?” I said, rather impressed.

“Yep. I couldn’t believe it. We’re standin’ there tryin’ to figure out what bars we’re gonna go to that night and I notice most of the crowd is turned lookin’ at Klug, like he was some movie star. I tell ya, that day he was the man. I was impressed.”

“I’m impressed just hearing about it.” And I was; it took a lot to get Nate to concede that perhaps another had something over him, much less go into detail about it.

He concluded the tale by telling, “Later that night I got to meet the other guy that was out there. We we’re in some local bar near the beach and this guy comes in, just another beach rat in shorts and a t-shirt and sandals – but older, mid-thirties. Anyway he comes over and starts talkin’ with Klug. We go through intro’s and Klug didn’t say anything about it. I realized the guy was the other guy when they started talkin’ about the swell – how swell it was, you know.”

“How lordly.”

“Right. Anyway, Klug’s screwin’ off up here; but you know, any guy that can take those waves that I saw that day like it was no big deal – well, I’ll give Klug a pass.”

I smiled. “Yeah, I think so,” I said. “And Smitty?”

“Smitty.” He said with some derision, “Lord a Cucamonga.”

We sat quiet, but only for a short time until the side door opened and a nurse with short black hair, on the pretty side of plainness, called, "Henry Plantagenet?"

Nate looked at me and shook his head, as he stood up he said quietly, "You’re a buckethead."

I got up and followed him as he walked over to the door. Sitting out in the lobby by myself didn't appeal to me, but the nurse looked at me and said, "We normally just allow the patients."

"I'm his brother," I said, figuring if I was a relative she may be more lenient.

Nate said, "I'm probably going to have to wait around in there - can't he just keep me company?"

She nicely relented and nodded, "Alright – you’re just going into one of the examining rooms anyway."

Leaving the lady and her broken armed son behind, we were led down another white walled hall with shiny terrazzo flooring with orange painted single steel doors spread at short intervals. We stopped at a door with a black plastic plaque with the white letters reading: EXAM RM 3.

Inside, again the room was all in white over the walls, the same terrazzo on the floor. Along one wall was a cabinet with a counter and sink all veneered in orange Formica. A few feet off the cabinet was an examining couch in brown vinyl standing about waist high. Three plastic chairs were near the couch, and against the wall was a tall delicate steel pole, like a hat rack, with a short arm extending from the top; hanging off of the arm was an empty glass bottle - an I.V. rack. Next to the rack was a bone colored box with knobs and a small square green oscilloscope screen. Atop the box were two small stainless steel plates with small plastic handles - each looked like a small steel iron. Telephone like coiling cords hung to each side of the box connecting each iron to the box. I looked at the box and didn't know what it was, and beyond simply noticing it, didn't think anything of it.

We sat on the chairs and again waited. After several minutes Nate said, "Good thing I wasn't shot."

"I think that's it - they take care of those guys first. You're just a minor nuisance."

"I didn't see any gun shot victims out there when we came in. Didn't see anybody. Just that kid with the broken arm - and he's probably still waiting."

"The doctors are all probably out having coffee."

"For an hour? We've been here almost that long."

"True - must be with the nurses in the supply room."

"Yeah, they're yeah go - these docs - probably get laid all the time you know."


"That's what you ought to be - a doc."

"No - too much school."

"Maybe - but when you're out you got it made. But, oh yeah - you already got it made."

"You act like I'm J. Paul Getty the third."

"May as well be."

"That's right I'm set to inherit billions."

"That's a lot of money. Think what you could do with that kind of money. Still a guy inheriting money like that probably wouldn't have any idea."

"No idea - how's that? We're not inheriting that kind of money - so we have an idea?"

"No - guess not. But we're gonna get one, like it or not. Either that or starve. Of course you won't be starving though."

"Do I detect a hint of envy?"

"Yeah - all around me are these guys on easy street. You, Smitty, and half of those other nit-wits we know at home."

"Price you pay growing up in a rich town."

"It wasn't rich when we first moved there."

"No it wasn't."

"In fact everybody thought your dad was the richest guy in town cause your house was so big. Jed Clampet’s place."

“Yeah, I remember,” I said with antipathy.

He smiled a little noticing my irritation. "Mr. Smitty's probably the richest guy in town, he's gotta be rakin' in the big bucks with that factory."

"You might be right. He's gotta be doing well."

"With all that money you'd think he'd spend it on more stuff."

"More stuff?"

"Yeah like a real palatial estate. Live maybe in Beverly Hills, get into different businesses. Really go big."

"He's probably content with how far he's gone."

"Yeah, but once you get some money you can really start doing things. Really play it up, you know."

"Maybe - but I'll bet its not that easy. Like he was telling us about those guys he hired to run the business. With all those credentials and supposed brain power they screwed up the business."

"Maybe. But then maybe the changes they made would have worked over the long run. Ya know maybe Mr. Smitty got impatient and cut them off too soon. Like he said he was used to making a profit all the time, so the new guys make changes, they go through a couple of bad quarters and Mr. Smitty pushes the panic button. Sure Mr. Smith always made a profit - but he started with nothing. These guys come in - upset the apple cart when the company was big - they were bound to go through some losses."

"I don't know - didn't sound like they were making a lot of smart moves - firing the salesman with all the accounts, computing things with overly complex systems."

"Yeah, but consider what's complex to Mr. Smith - who never worked with a computer, and what's complex to you or me for example - might be completely different. Sounds to me where the guys went wrong is they didn't pay attention to what Mr. Smith was all about."

"All about? What his goals are for the business?"

"No, no - the kind of guy he is. Mr. Smitty's a simply guy. Keep it simple. You don't come in and fire his buddies, then make the business so complicated that he can't figure it out, then refurbish the place with plants and French paintings and Harvard Business Review Magazines - then loose money. It was too much for Mr. Smitty's system to take. He went into overload."

I nodded seeing the sense and wisdom in Nate’s insight, "You know I think your right. And I could see how those guys came in there so sure of their intellectual abilities, that they didn't even consider the psychological side of the situation."

"Yeah - they go in like logical lackeys and Mr. Smitty's just your basic monkey shine joe."

Our discussion ended there for the door opened and the doctor came in. It was these rare and occasional talks with Nate, that besides the character he more often than not wore, that had me convinced, that though he was then something of a busted flush, he still had many cards up his sleeve and would ultimately find success in life. The attending doctor was a beautiful women in a white lab coat. Well tanned on her striking face, with large brown eyes, with hair that was thick and brown with natural gray highlighting, and perfectly coiffed in a perm with a slight wave - a look more fashionable in the sixties. She had a clipboard, and looking up from it asked, "Henry Plant-gen-it?"

Her voice was womanly pitched, softly intoned, deeper and thicker with a Russian sounding accent.

"Right here," Nate said.

She smiled at us both. On her lapel was a plastic name tag which read, "Doctor Illych." She stepped over in front of us and asked, "So what is problem?"

Nate lifted his chin and showed her the cut, "It's cut right through and starts bleeding every now and then."

She bent over and held his chin and looked at the cut. She made a slight wincing face and said, "You need stitches. You were fighting, no?"

"No - ran into a door."

She nodded, "Oh I see." Then she stepped over to the couch and said, "Why don't you sit up here and I'll give you the stitches."

I was keeping a steady eye on her, I thought for a doctor she was a great eyeful - or for a person in general for that matter. When she turned her back to us and began looking through the cabinets Nate hopped up on the couch and looked at me and flashed his eyebrows. She definitely fit the bill lookswise as a true Angel of Mercy. From the cabinets she brought out a small bottle and syringe with a long looking needle, at least an inch long it looked. Looking at it made me feel weak inside and thought how but for the grace of God there go I. She connected the syringe to the bottle, and holding the two up near her face she pulled the syringe sucking the fluid from the bottle, then told Nate, "You lie back for me to clean the wound and give you shot of pain killer."

Nate lay back, and she began looking through the cabinets again, holding in one hand the syringe. She seemed to be confused about the location of whatever she was looking for. She moved I noticed slightly hesitantly as if in not too familiar surroundings, or not that accustomed to the task at hand, as if a bit nervous. Nate asked, "So you from Russia?"

"No Czechoslovakia."

"Oh yeah. So you married?"

She looked over her shoulder and smiled. I agreed - lets just get right to the point. She was probably asked that question repeatedly. She answered, "Yes - my husband on a training sabbatical here and I on a visiting residency."

"Oh - so you're not a full fledged doc yet huh?"

She found what she had been rummaging through the cabinets for, cotton and something in a brown bottle. She dabbed the cotton with the fluid in the bottle then dabbed Nate's cut. I noticed his head shake a little when she dabbed the cut and the muscles in the side of his head appeared to flex, he was probably biting down the sting. She noticed this also and said, "I'm sorry that hurts. I have to clean though."

Nate said, "It's okay."

She smiled, impressed maybe by his pluck? Then she answered his question, "No I'm not doctor yet. Two more years."

"Too bad you’re married."

This made her blush a little and she said, "You're very nice."

"Think so - your nice too - we'd make a good couple. Why don't you divorce your husband," Nate joked.

She smiled as she looked again at the syringe and needle. A squirt of fluid came out of the needle, then she brought the syringe down to Nate's chin and said, "Okay now you must lay still. I go slow so won't hurt."

As she began poking the needle in, Nate said something, but she shushed him and said, "No talk."

Nate didn't wince, but again the chin muscles flexed. The look of the needle going into his lips gave me a weak feeling; I glanced away. After she finished she threw the syringe in a tin wastebasket next to the couch then from a cabinet she brought out a needle and thread, similar to a sewing needle. After threading the needle she began sewing, poking the needle into Nate's lips and pulling the string through. She pushed and pulled slowly and carefully. I noticed she took her time as she knotted the thread, again seeming new to the procedure. As the needle had gone in Nate moved slightly, but he was keeping quiet. A weak kneed feeling came into the pit of my stomach. She asked Nate, "That hurt no?"

Nate said, "No," but with a slight curtness.

She made another stab and pulled through with the needle and thread, then the door opened and a youngish guy in a white shirt and tie strode in. He looked at me and nodded and said in a loud voice, "How's it going in here?"

He looked down at Nate and said, "Well that looks sorta strange. You in a fight?"

"No - ran into a door," Nate said.

"A door huh. Were you drinking?" he asked.

"No - just not paying attention, it's kinda of a long story."

"I see," the man said in a tone hinting suspicion. He had no nametag but I assumed he was a doctor. He looked late twenties, black short hair, a little mussed with a crooked part. His tie was loose and tied with a wide knot and wrinkled. His slacks were dark gray and cuffed over brown wingtips. He was lanky and pale and moved quick and definite. As he looked at the cut he said to Doctor Illych, "This looks okay - go ahead and complete the knot."

She slowly tied a knot, then he said, "Okay let me show you a faster knot. She handed him the needle and thread. "When things get going in here or in other trauma rooms and you have multiple cases, or cases such as this, you need to get through them quickly as possible. This knot is much faster. I'm going to quickly do two stitches then I'll do one slower - just so you can see how much quicker it is."

As if he was poking a piece of meat he jabbed Nate's mouth and pulled the string through twice and made two stitches in less than a few seconds, "See how much faster that is."

She nodded. Then he said, "Okay now here we'll go slow, he jabbed the needle in again, this time Nate made a short grunting sound. Then the doctor asked him, "Can you feel that?"

Nate said, "Yeah."

The doctor looked at Doctor Illych, "Did you use a local anesthetic?"

She said, "Yes."

"What did you use?"

She picked up the bottle on the counter next to the sink and handed it to the doctor. He looked at the bottle and said, "No - this isn't the right stuff."

He then went to a cabinet and brought out a bottle and a syringe. He quickly prepared the needle and then poked Nate, and shot in the correct anesthetic. I had by now seen Nate get poked enough times to be used to the sight and was numb to it. After tossing the syringe into the wastebasket the doctor looked at his watch, then after about thirty seconds, he went back to the sewing. After showing Doctor Illych the stitch, he quickly jabbed and pulled the needle and thread through and tied five or six more stitches quickly in less than a couple minutes. After he cut the thread he said, "Okay - your all done - go ahead and check out with the nurse up front." Then he turned to Doctor Illych, "Why don't you come with me down the hall to this other case." He walked out and she followed. As she left, she waived slightly and said, "Bye."

Nate was sitting up on the couch; I asked, "Could you feel any of that?"

"Hurt like a son of a fucking bitch. Until they got that other stuff in there. And even then he stitched too soon."

"Should of said somethin'."

"What was I gonna say? I thought that was what it was supposed to feel like."

"You didn't look real good even from over here."

"I got a headache."

"I would of said something."

"Naw - fuck it. I saw this movie once about guys in the civil war, and how after they got shot, lots of ‘em had to get their legs or arms amputated, or they just got operated on, and they didn't have anesthetic back then. This general even, just sat there and smoked a cigar while they sawed off his leg, like he was gettin' a haircut. I thought about that movie as they stabbed me. Guys could go through that - I could take a few stitches - don't you think?"

"Apparently – but you know just cause it was in a movie doesn't mean it was that way. I'll bet that general really wasn't so calm about it."

We checked out with Mabel. There were a couple more people sitting in the waiting room. Mabel reminded Nate to call in with his student number or he would likely receive a bill in the mail. Nate told her, "No problem."

When we got outside, he asked me which address I had used on the admittance card, and I informed him how I had fabricated one. He said, "Good."

I said, "Ain't you going to pay them?"

He looked at me and said, "Are you kidding? As if I can afford it. And look at this place – I think they can afford to give me a few stitches."


“Ruthless? I was a lab rat in there, they were obviously both trainees. They should pay me.”

“Just seems real flaky – stiffin’ the medical center.”

"You think too much."

It was just past five a.m. when we got back to the Sigma House. We went to bed and I slept well past the noon hour. When I got up Nate’s bunk was empty - apparently he had risen earlier and had gone to the wharf.

19 After Nate's tussle the air in the Sigma House seemed to change. Apparently, the word had spread about it with slight variations on the real version, whatever that was. I believed Nate’s version, because I believed he wouldn’t lie about it, and the versions I had heard were just too suspect and unlike Nate. One had him supposedly going berserk after catching the guys red handed drinking his milk that he stored in the kitchen fridge. I knew that was preposterous – he likely wouldn’t have cared. Nate was fairly generous, given all and all; he might have said something – something like, “Hey, that’s my milk you’re drinkin’ there.” But go Beserk? No. Another version had the two scuffling and Taylor pushing Nate into the fridge and cutting his lip, then Nate punching Taylor and running off. Well, I knew that was malarkey. Nate didn’t run from any fight, and especially one with so average an adversary. Then it was odd also how the Sigma versions I heard all failed to mention the verbal argument over the SAE’s. Interesting how that worked, I thought. Thus with all this myth clouding up the air everyone seemed less friendly. There was an edge. Those that knew us best, Mel and Jim Procter, were acting almost as if nothing had happened - yet seemed noticeably cooler toward us. Those live-in members we didn’t know so well sent us outright frigid shoulders. Nate and I sort of laughed about it, with Nate saying, “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.” When Brad had heard about it he said, "That's it - I'm moving to the SAE house before they start after the rest of us."

"Suit yourself," Nate said.

And Brad did; a couple of days later in the thick of the night he moved his bags over to the other house. Nate and I didn't see any reason to move. Klug was a surprise, Brad had asked him if he was with him for the move, but Klug replied only with a "Probably." I thought probably? I was sure he would be a definitely. As it was, both he and Brad were practically living over there anyway. Klug's hesitancy may have had something to do with what happened the next night after Nate had been socked. I had met Nate that afternoon at the wharf and spent a couple of hours helping him scrape another boat. After that we had gone back to the Sigma House, showered and changed, and walked down to Mom's for some dinner. After that we walked over to the SAE house to see what was brewing, if anything. The house was fairly quiet as we walked through toward Ben and Karl's room. We got to their room and the door was closed, we knocked and from inside we heard an untypically sullen, "Yeah come in." Inside sitting on the couch was Star at one end and Brad at another. Karl and Ben were on chairs and Klug was sitting on top one of the counters. Star had a quart bottle of tequila in his hand standing it on his knee; it was about three quarters full. Nate said exuberantly as we walked in, "Hey guys."

Everyone looked decidedly glum. Star and Brad said low, "Hey." Everyone else nodded.

Nate said, turning more serious, "What the hells going on - somebody die?"

Star said slowly, "Yeah - my best buddy in Oklahoma - he died."

Nate nodded and turned low key, and said, "Gee Star - sorry to hear that. When did ya find out?"

"This afternoon. I kinda saw it comin' though."

"Saw it coming?" Nate asked. We sat down in a couple empty chairs.

Star nodded and took a drink from the bottle. Karl said, "He overdosed on somethin' looks like."

This of course was odd, even startling news. Though we had never met this buddy of Stars, going by Star, who seemed to have everything going for him, looks, brains, personality, we subconsciously assumed that any best buddy of Stars would have the same gifts going for him, and thus to overdose on some drug habit seemed ever more tragic and mysterious. Star passed the bottle to Brad who took a drink and passed it to Karl, and the bottle made its way around the room. Star began talking in a low drawled monotone, "Yeah saw it comin’. First it was booze - in secondary we used to put rum in our cokes at lunch. Then it was pot, then coke. He was the best damn athlete in the school - but he'd always have to be tanked up. At football games he had this water bottle with gin in it. He'd come to the sidelines and take a swig. And he still made all league. This last Easter when I was back home he was big in the coke. That's the big thing now. Personally doesn't do much for me, I'll stick to booze - but makes the girls horny. Of course he didn't need any drugs for that. It was like a revolving door with that guy. I saw it coming - but I still don't get it, here's a guy who had all the babes after him, was a good athlete, even in college - hell he was starting for TCU till he got nailed on the drug thing. Then he got suspended from the team. Then his dad was probably after his ass. His old man was a prick. I think it was his old man. I don't think the old man really liked Danny that much. Danny did all these things well but still the old man would give him crap all the time. But it wasn't real obvious - ya know. I mean until you really got to know his old man you wouldn't be able to tell. Like my old man - who can be a real ass hole too - but you know hell I've done some lame brain things - he should be an ass hole. But his old man would always say these things like, 'that's all well and good that Danny can play football - but you can't play football all your life.' Or 'its all well and good Danny's Mr. Popularity, but most a the time those guys later on turn out to be a flash in the pan.' I remember one year Danny had this idea for us to sell fireworks for the fourth. I thought it was a good idea. Everybody else was doing it - why not us?

"So we looked into it and figured out everything we needed to do - where to get the fireworks, a stand, we even had a parking lot where we could put up the stand and sell em. So we went to Danny's dad to borrow some money and he basically weaseled out. Said he didn't think it was a good idea. But my dad he loaned us the money - we had to share the profits - but you know he looked at it, and said hey - the kids'll learn something here and maybe make some money. But Danny's dad said it wouldn't work - well like hell it didn't.

"And you know, his old man had plenty a money. And it was funny cause his old man gave him money all the time, bought him a car, big allowance - ya know - but wouldn't give him money for the fireworks. That really pissed Danny off. Then you couldn't talk about anything with his old man. My old man we used to tell him everything. But not Danny's dad. Danny was gettin' laid all over town but far as his dad knew Danny could'a been studying in the library."

He took a swig on the bottle and shook his head and said, "Yeah Danny's old man - good lawyer I guess - lousy dad."

He passed the bottle to Brad. Klug said, "I don't know man, my dads a real screw around, he's a flake, maybe your buddy just couldn't straighten out."

"Yeah, but it just seems like Danny had a lot goin' for him," Star said. "He wasn't any dummy, he got pretty good grades for not doin' hardly a damn thing."

"Parents are a pain in the ass," Brad said. "My old man's always riding me about somethin’."

Nate spoke up on that, "Come on Smitty - your old man would buy yeah Hearst Castle if you just snapped your fingers."

Brad countered, "Nate don't start in with me with your crap. Every summer and vacation I have to go work in that stinkin’ factory. I'd be there right now if I wasn't here. And soon as I go back that's where I'm gonna be. I'll end up spending the rest of my life in that place."

"Rest of your life rolling in the dough," Nate said. "Sounds like real hardship."

"Your right - could be worse," Brad said. "Your just pissed off cause your old man wasn't a millionaire - well not everybody can be millionaires."

"You're right Smithy," Nate said, "my old man wasn't. He hardly left us with anything. My moms probably gonna end up sellin' the house. But you’re set - you got nothing to complain about."

"Listen - running a pipe factory is a pain in the ass," Brad said. "The guy who’s got it made is Joey here."

"I got it made?" I said.

"Yeah - your family's got generations of dough all you gotta do is hang out," Brad said.

"Hang out? As if that's all I've done so far," I said. "Listen my old man wants me in law school pronto. And you guys know how my dad is - Mr. Academic. My dad, well, he plays golf that’s it. He doesn't even like other sports. You know I've never gone to a baseball game with my dad? Come to think of it - the only thing I've ever done with him is travel, play golf, go to his lectures and sit around and discuss things. Hell it was Nate's dad and yours who taught me how to play football."

Nate looked at Karl and Ben, "Listen to this guy complaining about his old man - you know who his old man is? Ever hear of John Kelly?"

Ben and Karl shook their heads and Ben said, "No - should we have?"

"Yeah - probably. He was big with the anti-war stuff in the sixties. He was in a lot a the papers. He’s written about fifteen books. Plus he's smart as hell and pretty darn good guy." Then turning to me he emphasized, "I don't think you ought to complain."

"I'm not complaining I'm just pointing some things out, " I said. Then to Nate I said, "You're the one who always seems to complain, and your father was a great influence on all of us."

"Granted he was - but coaching a bunch of dumb ass kids is not like making a lot a money or writing a bunch of books. I mean lets face it - that's pretty low on the totem pole of accomplishment."

The bottle was now only a quarter full and had made several passes around the room. The few swigs I had made were more show than substantial gulps and it looked the same with Nate. The others seemed to be drinking, especially Star, and the tequila was loosening tongues. I had probably drunk the sum total of two or three shots.

Then Karl joined in, "I don't know, I think you can always say something about your parents. Mine teach school. Which is okay, but they just wanna do that and live in a small town. I think that's boring. I mean think about it, they grew up in that town and they went to work there and they're gonna live there the rest of their lives. You know they've never even been to New York? Heck now that I think about it - they've never been to Los Angeles. They've gone to Hawaii a couple times. But that's it, Hawaii. I mean making millions and writing books is something completely out there to them. And I don't get it. I don't wanna go back to that town. It's boring. You know what my dad does for fun - taxidermy. Yeah - he stuffs dead animals - like the guy in that Hitchcock movie."

"Warren Bates," Ben said. "Bates Motel - yep that’s Mr. Mule."

Then Star said, "Brads right - my daddy done good, but I'm stuck, I gotta go work in the business. I don't mind really but hell right now's my only time for fun. After college I gotta go work the damn family business."

"What business he in?" Nate asked.

"Trucking. Owns a bunch of trucks. And let me tell you truck drivers are the biggest dummies in the world. And my daddy's a royal pain in the ass. He's always gettin' pissed off. I figure it'll be hell for about the first ten years."

Just as we were all coming around to hating our father's and our familial obligations, Ben spoke up, "Can't be that bad. Nate's right you guys are real set. It must be great to get to go home to run a big business. I'm lucky just to be going to school here."

"How's that?" Nate asked. "Anybody can go to college."

"Think so?" Ben said. "After being here three years and getting to know the ropes you're probably right, but when I was at home in high school I wasn't so sure. Out of our high school graduating class - of about a hundred and fifty - only about twenty are going to college. When you're sitting there in Bellingham just a stupid high school kid you don't know about grants and loans and all that. Unless your parents have gone to college, like Karl's, there's just a lot of things you don't know about. I mean my ma she works in a cannery on one of the packaging lines. She doesn't know what's going on with college."

"What’s your dad do?" Brad asked.

"I don't know, my dad and my ma split when I was real young, he just took off."

"So your mom's puttin' you through school?" Nate asked.

"Partially. I got scholarships too and some loans."

Star said, "Yeah Ben here is the top scholar in the house."

"Yeah, I gotta keep my grades up - keep my scholarships," Ben said.

Klug said, "You mean man that your old lady works in this factory - she didn't marry some rich guy or anything like that?"

Ben laughed, "No - not too many rich guys in Bellingham. She's sorta dated a couple of guys but nothing ever came of it."

"How long she been working in the cannery?" I asked.

"Long time - real long time, fifteen years maybe. Since I was real young."

"She just stayed in the town - didn't date anybody or nothin'?" Klug said.

"We moved to Seattle once when I was about ten. She was dating a guy - but he turned out to be an asshole. He'd hit her and crap. Then she just moved back home."

The images Ben's story conjured up, of a mother working her life as best she knew how to support herself and her son essentially put a lid on all of our woeful tales. We sat quiet a while and then Star broke the silence saying, "Yeah, now I think about it - old Danny boy just had a screw loose. Yeah know – somethin' just not right in his head. Doin' all those drugs."

No one replied, and again we sat quiet until Nate stood up and said, "I think I'm a little drunk. I gotta go take a walk and sober up."

He walked out of the room stumbling a little. I looked at Ben, "Your mother happy you're in school?"

"Oh yeah, that's what she wanted for me."

I nodded, "Sounds like your mothers quite a lady."

"Yeah - she really is."

I stood up and decided to follow Nate's lead, my head was feeling a bit wobbly. I said, "Whelp, I think I'll go join Nate." Before walking out of the room I said looking over at him, "Sorry 'bout you're buddy Star."

He nodded and gave a wave of his hand slightly at me with the forefinger extended. Then I left, walking downstairs and out of the house into the night. I didn't see Nate around so I decided to take a walk through the campus and the fresh air. Outside in front of the house, at the corner before I crossed thirtieth street, I began looking at the greenish blue fluorescent light of the street lamps against the grove beyond. The trunks and the boughs of the trees in the light seemed to come forward golden and effulgent, and backgrounded by the leaves. A mild breeze blew through the leaves and as the leaves turned in and out of the light oscillating, it looked like arrays of thin strips of tin around the boughs flashing silver then dark. It was a unique and unreal enough site to hold my attention as I crossed the street and stood on the sidewalk and looked almost as if rapt. Maybe I was more drunk than I thought. Then I looked to my side and noticed a police car had slowed at the sidewalk, behind me. The officer's inside were obviously espying me. I must have been an odd looking site there on the sidewalk, with my head craned back, simply taking in the tree tops. They probably thought I was on some drug. I turned away from the car and took my attention off the trees and walked into the grove.

Once well away from the street, beyond the streetlamps, into the grove, it was quite dark. Only a few lamps on poles, along the footpath, gave a mild light. The dull yellow white glow rose up into the dark silhouettes of the angling boughs rising into the black sky, like a dull lamp alighting a small area in a vast cave. I was thinking about the T.S. Elliot poem The Hollow Men, just the first few lines. And then I thought of Julie, and Jane. And I thought how with Julie I wasn't fair with her, that I really didn't consider her as a someone, but more as a something. Something to parade around and have sex with, something to entertain me. Something to get me something, not someone just to be with and take pleasure in their company. And I thought how odd it was and our apparent disconnect, how much more noticeable it was after our initial coupling. I concluded at bottom men were just no good, their drives made them callous. Still I couldn't be all bad, I missed Jane. Even after being with her so long, I still missed her. And I wondered how she could just split us up like she did. It just seemed like too much an anomaly in my live, to inexplicable, I just couldn’t see or imagine the pattern to connect the dots.

The path came to a clearing in the grove, where the trees were spread away and the footpath was under an open sky. There in the open was a lamp, and next to it and in its illumination, a bench. I sat down. I thought how, when I saw Julie with her boyfriend, I didn't want to loose her, but it wasn't at all like I was feeling over Janie. I got over Julie, easy. I had had my fun. But Janie I would probably think about for a long time. People want what they can't have - that’s what Hemingway said. He was right I guess - or just sort of right. Who knows. All this thinking – what was it good for? All that education, reading, listening to professors, note taking, homework, exams, all of it – all those PhD’s and poets and playwrights and book writers, what were they good for, really? What answers were they coming up with, really? And what were we all looking for, really? I was degreed from one of the best schools in the land, Nate from one of the best also, Brad and Klug also, but we couldn't even get a lousy job on some fishing boat. I couldn't even hold on to the girl I thought I would marry – and I couldn't even figure out what was going on with her.

The light of the lamp next to me barely glowed into the dark of the clearing and into the initial trees at the perimeter. Above, only a few of the brightest stars shone. We are the hollow men, we are the empty men, I thought. And I was a dweller in groves. The bottom line I finally thought, we were up there, had been up there a while now, and were still unemployed - far longer unemployed than we thought we would be – and far as I could see we had no prospect of a fishing job, we were failing and my mind was in a whiny mood. I wondered, again from my reading, how the hell does a guy like a Caesar get to be a Caesar, so apparently readily find such succession of success? Or a guy like Napoleon? Both those guys, what lives they lived. How does a guy get in front of that historical wave, imprints their age so dramatically?

I heard footsteps - dried leaves cranching - I looked over and coming up the path out of the grove was Nate, as he came up he said, "Hey what you doing out here?"

"Nothing - same as you, sobering up."

"I was walking up from the Ave and saw you cross the street." I stood up.

Nate said, "I feel like walking some more." We walked up the footpath back into the thick of the grove toward the college buildings. Nate began saying, "I've been thinking maybe you're right about this fishing thing. It really isn't looking too good."

"No its not - but I think you've been right."

"’Bout what?"

"’Bout not quitting."

"You know there's a lot of things we just don't know." He said. "We really don't know anything about fishing. And think about it - think we'll get the kind of money we're expecting? What if the skipper of the boat decides to stiff us, what could we do about it?"

"Yeah - in Alaska, fly up for all the court appearances or pay some hack Alaskan lawyer. And that's another thing - I've been hearing the crab is all fished out, that the boats aren't making the big money they used to. Like anything that's got money tied to it - they went too far, the crabs mostly gone."

"Maybe it is - who knows. If it was completely shot I'm sure we'd hear about it."

"Yeah - they're probably just on the downswing of the cycle. There's probably a couple more years left."


"I don't know - I've just been thinking."

"Sounds like a case of thinking too much."

He gave a short mocking laugh, then said, "Haven't been thinking enough I don't think. We got too caught up in the big bucks thing. I think we're up here just trying to get lucky."

"So what made you conjure these dark omens?"

"Just stuff I've been thinking."

We came out of the grove to the outskirts of the square. The school buildings rose around us, dwarfing us, huge dark shadows with squared off corners and hard lines pushing out into the dark dome. The facades were without lights and appeared oddly flat and two-dimensional, the windows and entranceways looked like dark rectangular caves and strange voids. Across the square the small lamps shone like intermittent islands of dim bluish white neon light over the brick. The sculpture now stood tall and shadowy, each of its unique parts shown in various shades from black to a shining silver reflecting the light from surrounding lamps. Over the square the lamps cast several shadows from the sculpture all around. Each shadow's edge was straight with sharp almost right-angled steps on each side - as if each was a black lightening bolt. Nate continued as we walked over the brick and our footsteps seemed loud shuffles in the empty square, "I'm just not sure if working at the wharf is the thing to do anymore."

"What else can we do? We've been around the lake already a few times and still come up empty."

"Next thing would be to somehow get up to Alaska."

"Can we drive?"

"No - I don't think the road goes through and I don't think Klug would be up for it. He's already pretty much flaked out with Smitty. We might try and get a ride on a boat. Maybe pay for it."

"Where would we go up there?"

"Juneau maybe. That's where a lot of the action is for salmon season, maybe even Dutch Harbor."

"Then what do we do up there? I've heard it's expensive. And I doubt there's any fraternity houses up there."

"I don't know - get a job I guess - maybe in a cannery."

"How do we know we can get a job in a cannery?"

"We don't. But I've heard jobs are there."

We had left the square past the library building - mostly all dark with only a few of its windows lit over the glass and concrete face. We had come to the round pool above the green belt. We were just walking, essentially aimlessly - we ended up standing atop the low wall encircling the reflecting pool. The water was still and flat, the surface a flat shiny indigo slate. Nate pulled out a coin from his pocket and tossed it in - it made a little splash and rivulets spread out moving slowly toward the edge subtly undulating the surface of the pool. Then Nate said, "You know Joe maybe Brad's right - maybe this just isn't our bag. You know, like he said, we just don't fit in and don't really know what we're doing, and you know the karma's just not there."

"I think he's right - we don't really fit in and don't know what we're doing - but as far as the karma thing, if you're going to start thinking that way you may as well start wearing onions around your neck and dance around bomb fires. And the thing about not fitting in - that's just us thinking. They don't know we don't fit in, they don't know we've been to college and grew up in relative wealth, have never really done anything manual in our life except toss a football, they don't know that. And as far as not knowing anything - so what? Does everybody that gets hired have experience? I don't think so, I've seen a lot of young guys coming off those boats."

"Well, you're right."

"I am - and I hate to say it cause I'm getting sort of tired of being up here and scraping boat hulls - but we've only been here about two months. We should stay here a couple more weeks and if we still come up empty figure out how to get ourselves up to Alaska. There's not reason for us to go back now."

"Nice to be home though."

Nate brought out another coin and tossed it in the pool then said, "You know if you think about it Joey, we've been pretty much handed everything. We've been lucky as hell. The only time I really worked for something, really got disciplined and worked everyday for it, was after I hurt my knee and tried to come back."

"No - we worked. It just didn't seem like it cause we were just doing what we were supposed to do. We worked out everyday in practices in high school for sports. But it was easy for us 'cause we were naturally gifted and we fit right into it - we strolled right into it like it was a natural course of events."

"Yeah it seemed easy. When I wasn't playing at UCLA I hated practice. Wouldn't really admit it to myself you know. I got to the point where I hated the game."

"So why did you keep trying to play?"

"I knew what it was like when I played, when I was the star. And I had been built up so much I guess I didn't want the let down, and didn't want to see the reality that I wasn't good enough for the big time."

"Oh well - huh."

"Yep - oh well."

I stepped down off the wall and sat down. Nate stayed standing on the wall, he tossed another coin into the pool, then said, "So Joe - what are you gonna do?"

"Do when?"

"When we get back?"

"I don't know. I don't really want to go to law school."

"I think your problem is you could do just about anything you wanted - but you don't have anything you want to do."

"That's where you're wrong. I wouldn't mind writing books or something, and being a journalist. Sort of like a Walter Lippmann."

"A who?"

"Famous journalist."

"Famous huh - that's why I've heard of him."

"Famous in some sectors I guess."

"I don't know - but somethin' tells me you're gonna do something like that psychic said. I don't know how big it's gonna be - but it won't be as lame as just making a lot of money like yours truly here."

He hopped down off the wall. I said, "Making money's lame? Since when?"

"Just if yeah think about it. First yeah got a lot of people in the world. Most of them are lame. Just wanna hack their way through life and not make any waves. Then a lot of those want to make money and they do. Then even fewer are like you're dad - who write books and try and figure things out. I mean think about it Joe - the guys who really do that well are few and far between. I mean the really good ones, the major leaguers - a couple of dozen or so in each generation. How many guys Joey in each generation are superstar painters - or these guys that write poetry or plays or somethin'. Out of all the billions of people how many Shakespeares are there?"

"You're right, there are a lot of guys out there writing but not too many can hit the right cords."

"That's what you ought to do Joey - figure out how to be a great writer - something like that."

"Easier said than done. Guys like that are sort of meant to be I think, they have a destiny for it. I don't think I'm destined for that."

"Destined for it - like it's meant to be?


"I disagree, I think if your smart as hell, learn all about it, then give it a shot you may not be Shakespeare - maybe a Neil Simon."

"Or maybe a Dr. Suess."

"Green Eggs and Ham - that's got you written all over it Joey."

I stood up and turned around and looked at the pool. We were quiet a moment then Nate said, "Saw Julie today."

"Oh yeah."

"Yeah, she was walking over to the school - she was with some guy that I swear could have been your little brother."

"I smiled, "Yeah - that's her boyfriend."

"She likes that look."

"Apparently. I saw Nancy today - she asked about you."

"She did huh. So what?"

"Well that guy from New York has long gone."

"So - and what happens when he comes back?"

"Maybe he won't."

"And maybe he will - and besides that doesn't matter. When he did come out she made a choice, and I didn't like her choice."

"She's probably been seeing that guy a long time - she just started seeing you."

"Doesn't matter I saw where her sentiments lie. I'm not big on being shelved."

Just then from the trees near the pool at the side of the green belt we heard a Tarzan like howl which had a strange familiar tone in the voice, we looked over. Nate asked, "That sound like Klug to you?"

We heard it again, I said, "It must be Klug who else would be acting like a banana head this time a night?"

We walked over to the trees and as we got close we could hear other voices and laughter, and we heard the jungle yell again as we went into the trees following the sounds. Coming out of the trees we came into the clearing where there was the small open-air theater. It was dark and the area shadowy but we could see Klug up on the stage, and Ben and Karl sitting on the benches on the grass, leaning back against the back rest with beer cans in their hands; they were laughing at Klug. They heard us come out of the trees and looked over, Nate said, "What the hell are you hot dogs doin’?"

From the stage Klug said, "Hey man - where you guys been?"

"Near the pool," Nate said. "Makin' a monkey out of yourself again Klug?"

"No man - me Tarzan," Klug said, then leaned back and did another rendition of the famous wail.

Nate said after Klug was done, "That's good Klug - what else you do - King Kong?"

Klug jumped down off the stage. Behind him the columns and entablature seemed to lightly glow ghostly, a bluish white, in the moonlit dark. He said, "Okay Karl man - you do somethin'."

Nate said, "Yeah Karl – you can top the ape man."

Karl said, "I ain't an actor - you do somethin'."

Nate said, "Alright - I'll do something," and he stepped over and hopped up on the stage, the rest of us sat down here and there on the benches. He was quiet a moment, then cleared his throat. Stepping to the front of the stage he said in a clear voice which seemed to project in the night air:

A long night will come down

unbroken even by a star of hope,

unless we conquer

as conquer we must

as conquer we should

as conquer we will

because we will conquer

‘cause in a thousand years

after we've conquered

Men will still say:

--This was their finest hour.

After a silence Nate said, "That's it."

Then Karl shouted, "Yes! BRAVO! BRA - VO!"

We all clapped and whistled. Klug made a deep cow sounds, "MOOooo! MOOooooo!".

I knew it was one of Churchill's speeches – but I knew he had hacked it like the Duck in Huck Finn hacks Shakespeare. When we had quieted down Nate looked down from the stage and asked, "Klug what’s with the mooing?"

"Don't know man - felt like mooin'."

Nate jumped down off the stage. "Okay Karl - your turn and no barn yard imitations."

Karl got up, "No bird calls?"

"No - brain items," Nate said. "Strictly brain items."

As Karl was stepping up onto the stage he asked, "Tarzans a brain item?"

"For Klug it is," Nate said.

"Hey man - lets hear you do Tarzan," Klug said, defensively.

"I'll pass," Nate said. "Okay Karl lets hear it - and it better be good."

"It'll be good," Ben said. "Karl's good at making a fool of himself."

Karl cleared his throat then began in a deep voice half singing, half reciting:

Now sit right back

and you'll hear a tale,

A tale of a fateful trip

that started from this tropic port

aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailor man

The skipper brave and sure

And they started on a... huh

a - tour huh...

He was quiet a second, then said, "I forgot the rest."

We shouted him down with catcalls of, "GET DOWN!..YOU DUMMY!..OFF THE STAGE!..DUMB ASS HOLE! LAME-O!"

Ben threw his empty beer can at him - it clanged and rolled over the stage. Karl pleaded as we quieted, "I forgot it - I'm human."

"That's right Karl - too human, now get off that stage," Nate said.

We hounded him off with more catcalls: "YEAH GET OFF!.. DUMBHEAD!.. GET THE HELL OFF!.. GET A BRAIN!.. THEN A FACE!" We were like a bad night at the Apollo.

Karl hopped down and Nate said, "Okay Ben - you're up. I hope you can do better."

Ben stood up and walked up on the stage. He was quiet then started:

A scout is











clean and


and that completes the twelve scout laws.

Ben was quiet. We gave moderate and snide approvals: "Neat…So what...Very nice...Twelve buckethead laws."

Nate asked, "Say Ben."


"Were you one of those Eagle Scouts?"

"Yeah, I was."

"Didn't you tell me once you wanted to go to law school?"


"You wanna be a lawyer right?"

"Yeah - that's why I want to go to law school."

"Want some advice?"


"You wanna be a successful lawyer?"


"Well you know those twelve laws?"

"What about em?"

"Forget about em."


After Karl had quieted, Nate said his voice carrying, "Oh Ben, unless you wanna show us the scout handshake or some such shit you can come down now."

As he hopped down off of the stage Ben said, "Hey it was either that or the SAE pledge and I don't think I'm supposed to say the pledge to just anybody."

Nate said, "Hey Ben."

Ben looked down at Nate, "Yeah."

Nate paused, and then said, "Case you didn't notice - we're not just anybody."

We all said, "YEAH!..YEAH ASS HOLE!..YEAH!”

Slightly mockingly Ben said, "Oh then I should have done the pledge."

"That's okay Ben," Nate said, "I don't think we need to hear it."

Ben sat down and Nate said looking behind him at Brad, "Okay Brad – you gonna do somethin'?"

Brad shook his head, "Naw."

Nate said, "Figures." Then he said, "Okay guys - its the big finish - if there was a circus he'd be a side show - called the big brain, and people would pay to see him, but we got it for nothin' - alright Joey - show these morons the real stuff."

I said, "I don't wanna do anything."

The rest of them shouted me down, "AW COME ON!..GIT' UP THERE!..LOSER!..FLAKE!"

Reluctantly I got up and as I walked up to the stage I was trying to think of something to recite - I didn't want to overdo it and then I thought of something which seemed amusing enough to me. On the stage I looked down on them, shadowy forms on the dark lawn. I said, "This is an updated version of a T.S. Elliot poem. As you all know, of course, Elliot is the Wasteland poet and winner of the Nobel prize."

From below I heard Nate say, "Yeah, yeah."

I cleared my throat and began:

The Hollow Men

We are the hollow men

We are the empty men

We are the Southern California men




Thank you.

As I stepped forward to leave the stage Nate shouted sternly, "Wait, Wait! Hold on!"

I stopped. No one else said anything. Nate then asked, "First I wanna know what's this shanti shit?"

"Its a word from the east."

Karl said, "East where?"

Nate said, "That ass hole won the Nobel prize for that stinking little poem?"

"No - that's just part of The Hollow Men poem."

"Part? You just gave part?" Nate said. "You're not supposed to hack up the stuff - you're supposed to give us the whole thing."

"You hacked up Churchill's speech."

Karl said looking toward Nate, "Yeah - you hacked it up!"

Nate looked at Karl, "As if you could tell." Then he looked back up at me, "Doesn't matter I'm me - I'm calling the shots here."

Karl looked up at me, "Yeah! He's callin' the shots here!"

Then Nate said, "Listen, I know you know somethin' better. I've had to listen to these jerks - now I want to hear somethin good - do Shakespeare."

The others shouted, "Yeah do Shakespeare!..Do it!..Lets hear it!"

When they finally quieted, I nodded and said, "Alright, well, I’ll try this one, it's from Henry the fifth, the band of brother's speech." Then I paused and cleared my throat for dramatic effect and began:

This story the good man shall tell his son

and Cripsin Cripsian shall near go by

from this day till the ending of the world

but we in it shall be remembered

we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

For he that sheds his blood with me today

shall be my brother be he ever so vile

For this day will gentle his condition

and gentleman in England now in bed

Shall think themselves accused they were not here

and shall hold their manhood’s cheap while any

speaks that fought with us today on St. Cripsian's day.

Klug moooed, while the rest applauded, whistled and shouted, "Ya!..More like it!..Ya!..Excellent!..Ya!

Karl shouted, "VALISIMA!.. VALISIMA!.. VALISIMA!.."

The rest quieted to Karl's odd pronouncement and as Karl yelled his last, Valisima! he looked around noticing the others had quieted, and Nate looking at him.

Nate said, "Karl?"

Karl said, "Yeah?"

"What's this valisima?"

Karl was quiet a moment then admitted, "I don't know."

Nate was quiet a moment then said, "I kinda thought so."

Klug said, "Hey man lets hear another one from Joey."

Nate looked up, "Yeah Joey - lets hear another one."

I said, "Well first let me just inform all of you that valisima is Italian for hurrah."

Nate interjected, "Okay Joey we know you know every god damn thing under the sun. Do somethin' else."

"Just trying to be helpful," I said.

"Well thanks," Nate said. "Now - do some more Shakespeare."

"I don't know any more Shakespeare."

"Then do somethin' else – come on."

"Allright, one more Shakespeare - here goes." I cleared my throat again for dramatic effect and said loudly: "To be or not to be – that - is the question."

There was silence for a moment. I extended my arms a little palms up in a ta-da gesture.

Brad threw his mostly empty beer can at me and it hit me on the shoulder.

"That’s it?" Nate said.

"That’s it," I said.

Klug gave a deep, "Mooooo."

"I know you know more Joey," Nate said.

"I know more – I just don't have it memorized," I said.

"Come on give it up – something good," Nate said.

The other's shouted, "Yeah come on!…Somethin' good!…Come on asshole!"

I held my hands up, palms forward to quiet them, "Okay, okay."

"Let's hear it," Nate said.

I stayed quiet for dramatic effect. They were quiet. I could hear crickets chirping in the bushes behind me. Then I said, "Okay, here it is." Then I repeated slowly with a slight high toned cadence in my voice for dramatis:

Very, like a crab.

After a moment when it was apparent I had finished, Nate shook his head, then he grabbed Karl's beer can and threw it at me, it came close to hitting me in the head. The can clanged as it hit and bounced and rolled over the stage. As the can quieted, Nate said, "Get down off there."

Klug, his voice distinct and disappointed sounding in the quiet air, said, "Man, that ain't even worth a moo."

The others then chorused, "YEAH - GET DOWN!..FUCK YOU!..NO MOO FOR YOU!..GET OFF OF THERE!..ASSHOLE!"

As I jumped down I could see Nate shaking his head as he said, "He makes me tired."

Karl imitating Ed Sullivan said "That was a really shitty shew."

Nate said standing up, "You can say that again – I'm outa here."

The others got up and Klug mooed again and then we made our way out of the clearing toward the pool then the grove; we talked about how none of us would be actors likely, Nate said, "Yeah – especially Joey." At one point Karl asked, "Hey Joe - one thing about that Shakespeare you recited."


"What's the answer?"

"The answer?" I asked. "What do you mean?"

"Which one is it - to be or not?"

Nate said curt, "It's to be - what do ya think?"

Then Klug answered in his quintessential style, "That’s right man - to be is the lordly way."

Later, when we got back to the Sigma House and were bedded down and the light just gone off, oddly enough Klug asked, "Hey - you guys goin' to the docks manana?"

Nate said, "Probably."

"Well wake me, huh man."

After a moment Nate replied, "No problem moo head."

20 The next morning Nate got up early as usual, followed by me - and then by Klug. In fact from that day onward Klug and I became almost as religious about going down to the docks as Nate had been. Sometimes we worked, sometimes we just sat around and watched others work. Olly started calling us the California trio. He would see us sitting on the sea wall and as he would walk by, a swirling exhaust of cigarette smoke surrounding his head, he would say, "It's the trio - and their still on shore." For almost two months he had kept Nate in work more on than off, supplemented occasionally by myself, and when Klug became a regular addition he generously employed him also.

One day as a gesture of goodwill, appreciation, and good politics, we all took Olly to lunch at the coffee shop. After the waitress brought the menus and we looked them over, Nate asked, "So Olly - what you recommend?"

In his deliberate way he said, "Oh - I'd say just about anything here is gonna be good. Salmons supposed to be one of their best."

"You'd probably know huh Olly," Nate said, "considering you own the place."

"Own it - but don't run it. I lease out the space."

"Good way to make money huh Olly?" Nate said. "Get the cash without the headaches."

"There's some headaches - I've had three owners in here in as many years."

"No kidding - why's that?" Nate asked.

Olly shrugged, "Who knows - hard to run a restaurant I guess."

"How are these owners doing?" I asked.

Olly tilted his head reluctantly to the side, "Good I guess - they're paying the rent."

When the waitress came by to take our order the three of us - the trio - ordered the salmon. But Olly said to the girl, "I'll have the steak - medium rare."

"A steak?" Nate asked.

"Yep, just not a big fan of fish," Olly said.

"Don't like fish?" Klug asked. "The owner of Fisherman's Wharf - don't make sense man."

Olly nodded, then rubbed his hand over his bald head and smoothed down the rear aspect of his gray hair, "Nope - never cared for it."

I said, "Probably a lot of fisherman don't like fish - they see too much of it."

Olly said, "Yeah maybe. But in my case I just never really liked it. That fishy taste. I've never been a fisherman. Just owned the wharf. That and let’s face it – with all the crap civilization dumps into the oceans who knows."

Our salads came and were set down in front of us, as we started plunging our forks in and chewing on mouthfuls of lettuce, Nate asked, "So Olly, how did you get in the wharf business?"

Olly smiled and when he finished chewing said, "Well, it was pretty easy - I inherited it. The wharf’s been in the family near four generations now. My great grandfather came to Seattle late last century and owned a hardware store. He noticed a fishing fleet was forming and that they would need a place to park the boats. He had come from San Francisco and had seen the wharf there and thought the same thing up here might go over. He bought the marshland over at the lake side, dredged it, and put in a small dock area and began renting out docking space. When my granddad came along and inherited the property, he built more docks. And back then cars were coming into their own, so he built the parking lot. Then my father he added even more docks - out into the lake - and built the warehouses. Then the city built the locks and the viaduct and things got going pretty good. I took over the property and noticed about fifteen years ago that tourists were coming by to look at the fishing fleet. I thought it might be a good idea to play on that, so I added the restaurant. We had sorta a make shift supply store in one of the warehouse buildings so we built a store next to the restaurant and moved it in there."

"Looks like a pretty good business all around," Nate said.

"Yeah it is," Olly said. "We own it all outright so we can take pretty much anything the economy throws at us. Not bad for having been created out of a lot of marsh land going to waste."

The salmon came tender, we cut it with the sides of our forks; it had been cooked on a grill and glazed with butter and garlic. It tasted okay – a little fishy I thought. Over the main course, Olly, in answer to our questions, told us more about himself. A Seattle native, he had grown up and still lived in Belleview - an upper middle class suburb across the lake. He lived in the same house as his father, and his father before him. He attended the local schools including the University of Washington. His only real stint out of town was during the Second World War when he was stationed in New Mexico which he described as "Too hot, too much sand and rock." After that his traveling thus far had been limited to Canada, Hawaii, and parts of the United States; but never to Europe. Essentially he was quite content to live it out overseeing his lakeside realm moving leisurely about in that microscopic sliver of the universe.

About our getting jobs, he said after a few light chuckles, "It's only been the last five years or so that I've seen so many young guys looking for fishing jobs, and a lot of them are smart like you guys. Never used to get the smart ones. Then again they never used to make the kind of money they're making I guess with the crab."

"They didn't use to make good money?" Nate asked

"They didn't used to fish it. The demand for it wasn't there like there is now. The demands big - and even though its hard and expensive to fish, the market's willing to pay for it. I think you guys have a chance at getting jobs - I wouldn't give up."

"Its just that we've been around so long," Nate said.

Olly smiled, "Only a couple months. The place to really go is up North - lot more boats up there."

I said, "That's what we've been thinking."

"Hitch a ride up with one of the boats - there's a lot of guys up there too - but some guys get the jobs - somebody's gotta do the work."

Under such words of encouragement, and bringing our thinking around those lines, we kept up our vigil. A couple of days when there was no work, instead of looking around the wharf, I again scouted out around the lake for other boats and possible opportunities. As before, I saw a few more crab boats, talked to the skippers, but was turned away. Since my parting with Julie my life had dulled considerably. I had become mostly work and little play. I did meet a girl one night at an SAE barbecue and ended up later that night at her dorm room. But she was a pale comparison to Julie and Janie, and, if the real be told, to even most of the other girls I had been with in my few active years of chasing. When we got to her room we settled in on the carpet next to her bed to watch TV. In an overt suggestion she turned out the light and sat down against me, but I didn't take up the cue. Janie, and in a way Julie, were still playing on my mind - or my emotions - or both. Soon by the light of the TV I fell asleep.

I suppose the big excitement during this phase of our Seattle sojourn occurred a week or so after Nate had been struck in the Delta House. Klug and I had gone to Leo's one night to quaff some beer. The two of us were sitting in a booth when Star and Jason came in. Star had just gotten back from his hometown where he had gone to attend his friends funeral. They joined us and we ended up drinking down more than a few glasses, and our original intention to stay an hour or so protracted to two then three hours. Star didn't say much about the funeral or his friend, except that, sad as it was, it didn't seem that sad, "It was real strange, maybe we was all expecting it. I took his girlfriend out after the funeral. We got drunk and I ended up spending the night with her. She was kinda wild."

Considering the circumstances surrounding his story we discretely refrained from asking for details. As we drank, the bar filled slowly with more students, and then I noticed John Taylor at the bar and a couple of other Sigma’s I recognized but didn't really know. I told Klug, "Hey - there's Taylor."

Klug looked over and told Star, "Hey man - there's the guy who slammed Nate."

Star and Jason looked over, and Star said, "I think I know that guy - he's the one said we were fags?"

"That's him man," Klug said.

Star slid out from the booth and stood up, I said, "Hey Star," he looked at me, "don't make a big thing of it huh - I still live in the house."

"Just gonna have a little fun, I ain't gonna hurt the boy."

Star stepped over to the bar next to John, he said, "Hey Leo - gimme a beer will ya."

His beer came and Star simply stood there drinking his beer and staring at John.

I said to Jason, "He's not going to fight him is he?"

Jason shrugged and said, "He's gonna try I think, he likes to fight - especially if he thinks he can take the guy."

Pretty soon John was glancing over at Star. He tried to ignore him but it was obvious that Star was staring him down. Star was simply standing there looking at him and occasionally taking a swig of his beer. It actually looked sort of funny and we were all smiling and chuckling a little over it.

John, after glancing several times, just turned away and talked to the other Sigma’s. It was obvious all three were working on nonchalance, but were quite aware of and uncomfortable with Star.

After a couple of minutes, others around the bar noticed Star, and Leo saw what was going on and shouted, "Hey! Star! Quit that will you!"

Star looked over at Leo and put on an innocent face and tone, "What? What Leo?"

Leo gave a mocking whiny imitation of Star, "What Leo?" Then changing into a sterner tone, "You know what! Stop trying to cause trouble!"

Star implored, "Leo what? I'm just standin' here."

Leo shouted back, "Like hell you are! Will you leave people alone - you want me to kick you outta here again?"

Star pleaded, "The guy called me a fag Leo."

"So what?" Leo shouted. "You are a fag - now go sit down and leave people alone! Grow up will ya - goddamit! Goddam kids!"

Star gave one last mulish glare toward John then turned around and came back to the booth. As he was walking back I heard Leo grumbling behind the bar, "Damn kids, how can ya run a business. President of the SAE house and he acts like a goddam caveman."

When Star slid back into the booth he was smiling, "That guy's a weasel, he wouldn't fight."

"Just as well Star - you already got Leo all worked up on ya," Jason said.

"I wanted to fight ‘em - nobody calls me a fag, not this old boy," Star said.

"You're a fag," Jason said chiding.

Star looked at me, "You hear that?" Then he looked at Klug, "You hear it?" Then quick as Nate he grabbed Jason on the front of his shirt and yanked him up slightly in the booth, Jason yelped, "Okay - okay Star you're not a fag."

Star let go and smiled at me and Klug and said, "Glad we got that figured out."

Then Jason said low to the side, “You’re just a fuckin’ redneck.”

Star looked over and gave him a look, but must not have heard or decided to let it go.

When I looked back at the bar John and the other Sigma’s were gone.

Klug said to Star, "You're a demon man."

Star laughed, "Just a big old boy."

"A big fish among minnows huh Star?" I said.

"You got that right bubba," he said.

21 My father told me that during the war there was the prevalent belief among the flyers that when your number came up, that was it - your time was up. It was out of ones reach, no matter how you cranked your wrist you simply crapped out, your name was listed in the grand book, and a Papyrus of Anhay had you're name on it, the chariot was already parked and waiting, like that first Apollo, you had a reservation and they were expecting you. The implication here being, that it was all, your life - your number - was somehow predicated on a grand web like design, already spun; it was all turning on some Eternal Wheel of Time. This thinking likely acted well as a narcotic against the anxieties of facing daily the hazardous flying over enemy land. The thought of someone actually, on their own will, with even partial freedom of choice, placing themselves intentionally in a situation of precise juxtaposition where the outcome would be his receiving the ultimate of answers, that one way ticket to the undiscovered country, was probably a thought too close to the existential, too close to the formulaic approaches to the great mysteries. If a flyer could choose between planes A and B and he chose A, just as easily as he could choose 0 or 00, and A is shot down with all aboard lost, and if he could just as well have chosen B - well this implies there is no great book or grand webs or wheels, no preordained destiny. Just some wheel, like any in a casino - you simply blew it Charley, you picked the wrong one, became a was, a statistic, like the fly who landed too close to the swatter, and nothing really more. Not a comforting thought to a man who faces daily the loosing of his ass at four thousand feet while hurling aerially in a steel tube. This bit of wisdom, imparted to me by my father, would occur to me often and especially when recollecting the day Nate got his wish, fulfilled his reason for placing himself in Seattle at the fisherman's wharf when, per se, one of his numbers came up. He, Klug, and I were doing the usual - sanding another dad burn boat hull, when Olly walked up, "Hey guys," he said. And after we, almost in unison, said, "Hey," back, he said, "Well I got some news here."

"You know about a job?" Nate asked.

He seemed cautious, "Well yeah I do. Maybe."

Nate said, "That's great Olly, when did ya hear about it?"

"This morning," Olly said, "But its only one job - and there's three of you."

Nate said, "We can draw straws."

I said, "No Nate be serious - the job's yours."

Klug said, "That's right man its yours - but if they don't like you then we can go for it."

"They're gonna like me big guy," Nate said. "Even if I gotta shove me down their throat."

Then Olly said, "You might have to - they need an extra hand - but what they really need is a cook. So they're going to be hiring a guy that can cook."

"Cook?" Nate said. "Hell I never cooked anything. My old lady did all the cooking."

I looked at Klug, "You know how to cook?"

"You kiddin' man," Klug said, "my ma cooked or we went out."

Nate asked Olly, "What sort of things do ya need to cook?"

"Whatever they eat," Olly said. "Eggs for breakfast, soup and sandwiches for lunches, probably a lot of fish for dinner."

"Can't be that hard to cook," Nate said.

Olly shook his head, "It's not that easy on board a boat I don't think."

"What do you think Ollie - think he should tell them he can cook?" I asked. "What if he has to cook something?"

Ollie shrugged, "Better learn to improvise."

Nate said, "Exactly. Hey it can't be that hard to cook."

"I don't know," I said. "What if they hire you and then find out you can't cook - they'll probably kick you off the boat."

"Nothin’ ventured, nothin’ gained," Nate said.

"And what if they kick you off in Alaska?" I asked.

"Then I'll be in Alaska," Nate said. Then turning to Ollie, "So Ollie where is this boat?"

"The boat was in this morning - that's when I talked to the skipper. He took the boat over to the other side of the lake to the cannery to pick up some supplies. He'll be back later this afternoon over on the end dock there. It's a dark blue and white boat called the Snark. Just go talk to the skipper."

"Will do - thanks Ollie," Nate said. As Ollie walked off we resumed our sanding.

Nate said, "I gotta get this job - I've been here long enough."

"Says who," I said.

"Says me," Nate said

"Maybe the Gods don't think so," I said

"Screw the Gods," Nate said.

"Shouldn't say that man," Klug said, "Gods'll screw you."

For the next couple of hours as we worked Klug and I chided Nate about his intensity over getting the job. I said at one point, "It’s just one job. We've applied for lots of jobs and nothing has come of it."

Nate replied and clarified, "We haven’t applied for hardly any jobs. We’ve been looking for a job that’s open – this is the first one a those. I'm gonna get this one.”

Then Klug said, "They ain't gonna like you man."

"And their gonna like you?" Nate said. "Mr. Surf?"

"No - they're going to like me," I said.

"Yeah right," Nate said derisively. "You're even worse - Mr. Thinker."

"I'm going to tell them you don't know how to cook," I said.

"You do that," Nate said.

"Really man - you can't cook," Klug said. "You'll burn up the boat."

I said, "Look at him Klug - he's sort of lit up, he thinks he's got the job."

"He's a jerk man," Klug said.

After a while, Nate started occasionally walking away from the boat we were sanding, out to where on the dock he could see the lake to spot the boat coming. After walking out there three or four times, I said to him, "May not show."

Nate said simply, "Yep, may not."

Klug said, "Better get there man - before some other jones’r beats yeah to it."

I said, "That's right - better keep an eye out - never can be too careful."

Nate was ignoring us. Normally the three of us could sand a hull in a couple of days, then paint it in a few more, but that day, with Nate distracted and distracting, we were not making our usual progress.

Again Nate walked away to go look. It was almost three. Klug shouted to him, "It sank."

When he stepped back he said to Klug, "Your funny - these boats don't sink stupid."

"Everything sinks man," Klug said. "Just ask the Titanic."

"That's right Nate," I said. "And remember the Bismarck."

"I'm tired of listening to you guys," Nate said.

"Hear that Klug," I said, "he's tired of listening to us."

"Life's a bitch man," Klug said.

"Yep - then you die," I said.

Klug went out on the dock to grab another extension cord. He came back and connected the cord to a motorized disk sander, then he stepped to the other side of the hull dragging the line of connected cords. On the other side he said, "Hey Nate man."

"What?" Nate said.

"What's the name of the boat?"

"Snark - something like that."

"What color it supposed to be?"

"Blue and white - hey you going to use that sander over there?"


"’Cause if you're not I need it over here."

With the sander letting out a loud shrill whirring and with orange sparks falling below the hull, Klug ran the machine over the metal surface. After a couple of minutes he finished, then said, "Hey Nate."


"Finished - want it?"



Nate went around the hull and took the sander from Klug and brought it over to his area pulling the cords with him. Then just before he was to turn the sander on Klug said, "Hey Nate."

Nate stopped and said, "What now?"

"Saw a blue boat at the other docks."

Nate stood still a second with the sander in the ready position near the hull wall, I suppose trying to decide to sand or check if that was his boat. He then set down the sander and walked out onto the dock. In a second he was back, "Your right - that's the boat - I'm goin’ over there."

He left, and Klug and I decided to follow. He was walking quick so we had to jog a little to catch up. When we got to him he asked, "What are you guys doing?"

"Moral support," I said

"Don't queer my deal," he said.

"Don't worry."

The boat had docked on the other side of the wharf along the sea wall at the side. It was at the smaller end of the scale of the crab fishers. In line it was similar to the other boats we had seen and worked on but due to its age it was more boxy, and the lines of the rails and hull were not smooth and sleek as they swept back from the point of the bow - instead angled back in straight lines, then were crimped where there was a change in slope. The hull was painted a dark blue and the cabin was in white. The stack rising out of the cabin was in blue like the hull. The paint looked fresh but the new coat didn't hide the boats obvious age and clunky look.

"It's an old one," I said.

"It's a crab boat - it's all I need," Nate said.

"It ain't the coolest one," Klug said, "but looks like it floats."

"No Klug, it sinks when it leaves the dock," Nate said.

We stood back away from the boat awhile. Nate wanted to watch a second. The deck in the stern was cluttered with rusted pipe lengths, what looked like a few large engine parts, a couple of lawn chairs, and some rubber tires. An old man, skinny looking, cheeks sunken, with a small head covered with short crew cut and gray almost white hair, came out of the rear cabin door. He was wearing blue coveralls, well soiled with grease, and faded from many a washing.

Nate said, "Wonder if that's the skipper."

"Scrawny lookin' guy," Klug said.

Then another man came out of the door, he was in blue jeans and a tight fitting white t-shirt, on his head was a green marine fatigue cap. He was a big man with a large belly which stretched his t-shirt. He had distinctive looking jet-black curly hair that came out the sides of his cap; his eyebrows were thick and black as the hair and were a sharp contrast to his pale skin. His face and head were large and pugnacious looking with full cheeks and a rounded upturned nose. Klug said, "Ah - oh man, look at that guy."

"There's your skipper," I said chuckling.

"Yeah, he don't look like someone to mess with," Nate said.

"Looks like he'll tie yeah to that crane and belt whip yeah," Klug said.

Nate gave Klug a slight stare.

Then another man came out of the door. He was also wearing blue overalls. Under the overalls he wore a white t-shirt. The collar of the overalls was unbuttoned and lay back showing a broad triangle of white. He was also a large man, though not as large as the other. His stomach was also full and swelled out against the coveralls. He was older; his face was ruddy, round and plain. His hair was silver gray with streaks of black, was combed straight back, and held neatly in place with what looked like heavy doses of hair tonic.

"I think that's your skipper," I said. It was only a guess, but the other older man seemed too frail, and the man with the cap didn't look as smart as the other.

"I think you're right," Nate said.

We stood a second, then I said, "You better go talk to him - before somebody comes."

Nate nodded then started walking over to the boat.

"What do you think man?" Klug said.

I shrugged, "I don't know."

"They look kinda like kutes."

Nate stepped up to the side of the boat. We heard him say, "Uh - excuse me."

Klug and I stepped non-chalantly closer so we could hear.

The larger old man walked over the rail, he said, "Yeah - what?"

Nate said, "Ah - Olly sent me over here - said you might need a new hand?"

The skipper's voice was gruff and loud; he spoke quick in half phrases, "New man? Olly sent ya?"

"Yeah Olly said you needed an extra hand."

"Oh yeah Olly - the dock man. Need a cook. You cook?"

Nate nodded quickly, and I am certain that before he had a chance to think about it he blurted out, "Yeah I cook."

"Where you cook?"

"In restaurants"

"What restaurants?"

"Oh Mc Donalds, ah Denny’s coffee shop, at a Hilton Hotel, place called Mom's here in Seattle."

"So you do cook. Cooking is different on a boat."

"I know - I've cooked on sailboats."

"Sail boats - what sailboats?"

"Ah, the big ones - that they race - yachts."

The man nodded awhile as if thinking then said, "Okay you come back tomorrow."

"Tomorrow - what time?" Nate asked.

"Uh - well be here early - eight."

Nate nodded and walked back over to us and we began walking back. I said, "Well that was interesting."

"The guys not exactly Mr. Smooth is he," Nate said

"Not real bond," Klug said.

"And the way you were laying it on," I said, "you forgot to tell him how you're a winner of the Cordon Bleu."

"So I told a few white lies. You saw what that guys like - in his mind he wants a cook - he ain't gonna hire anybody unless they can cook."

That night the news made the rounds at both the Sigma and SAE houses that Nate may have gotten a job. I was surprised that word had gone forth in the Sigma House. There we were treated essentially as lepers it seemed - after the incident at Leo's even Mel had become cooler toward us. I found out that people were talking about it from Nancy - I had passed her later that night on the stairs and she said, "Hey I heard Nate got a job."

"Hasn't got it yet," I said, "but it looks pretty good. How did you find out?"

"From Earnest."


"Yeah you know - the chemist."

"Oh yeah."

If some guy I hadn't seen in over a month was telling Nancy about it, then I surmised the news must have been well along the grapevine. That night Klug and I ended up going to a party at another fraternity house with Karl and Star. We asked Nate to join us - but he was getting to bed early to be wide-awake to make his eight a.m. appointment with destiny. We left him in the meat locker reclined in his bunk glancing over a Betty Crocker cookbook he had purloined from the kitchen. At the party Klug and I met a couple girls from the Pi Beta Phi sorority. After talking and dancing awhile with them they asked us to accompany them to a club downtown called The Laundry - a typical underground club in the basement of an old hotel. A rock band heavy on the steel guitars and drums played loud and primitive amidst concrete walls covered with steel utility pipes which ran all over like rigid vines. The walls had been painted black and the lighting was dim. Small round tables took up half the club, the dance floor and band the other half. After we drank and danced awhile we sat down at one of the tables. Soon we were both leaning over into our girls enacting public displays of affection. I glanced over and noticed Klug's girl with her hand down low on Klug in a key spot. Klug was remaining composed. Seeing that got me thinking optimistically and I shouted at Klug over the loud music and motioned with my head that we ought to exit club right. Soon we were back at their sorority house where they covertly took us up to their room. They were roommates which was convenient but inhibiting. We both ended up essentially rolling around awhile with each of our dates in their beds until we finally got the picture that our libidos would that night stay checked. As we were walking back to the Sigma House in the silent almost dawn I said, "Well we sure accomplished a lot tonight."

"Really man - they were teasers."

"I think I got blue balls."

"No kiddin' man - you see mine in the club, grabbin' me man."

"Yeah I saw that - in public even - I thought they were a sure bet."

"Naw - maybe if they had separate rooms. I saw mine glancing over to see what yours was up to."

Yeah you know - now that you mention it, I think mine was looking at you guys."

"See - each didn't want to be first to go down."

"Makes sense."

"Yeah - and they want us to take them out."

"You going to take yours out?"

"Doubt it - kinda ugly - don't ya think?"

"She wasn't that bad."

"Your's was better man."

"Yeah she wasn't bad - sort a plain."

"That's right man, she's no Julie."

"No. And no Janie."

"I'm tired man, so you ain't gonna try again huh?"

"No. You?"


22 We slept in, Klug and I. Nate was gone first thing in the anti-meridian. When Klug and I got to the wharf around noon Nate was nowhere to be seen, nor the Snark. Olly informed us that Nate appeared to have gone to work on the boat, and that the boat had left the dock an hour or so before. We resumed the sanding work on the hull we had been working on the day previous. In the late afternoon Nate came by the hull. "Well there they are," he said.

"You on the boat?" I asked.

"Yeah - I think so. We just worked today - getting the boat cleaned and ready for sailing up North."

"What you do man?" Klug asked

"Nothing much really. They had to replace parts on the engine and a bunch of pipes in the refrigeration system. All the parts and crud were all over the deck and in the engine room. So I spent the day getting the junk off the boat and puttin' it in the back of Art's pick up."

Klug and I picked up our sanding tools and extension cords and checked out at the time clock. As we all drove back in the bus Nate related further about his day. The skipper's name was Art, the skinny old man was Jake, and the big man was Dean. But Dean was not part of the crew, just a friend and neighbor of Art's helping out with the clean up of the boat. In a couple of days another crewman was supposed to arrive and help with the clean up.

"So you're on the boat or just helping with the clean up?" I asked.

"No I think I'm on the boat. I don't know - he didn't really say anything."

"He didn't say you had a job?"

"No - I was there when they all got there this morning and he looked at me sort of funny - like he didn't really know who I was. Then I reminded him and he said, oh yeah - well you ready to work? I said, yeah, and he said, 'okay come aboard and work.' And that's what I did. All day, picking up pipes and gears and crap like that and tossing it on the back of a pick up. I'm supposed to be back again tomorrow, same time."

"He didn't ask you again if you could cook?" I asked.


I looked at Klug and shrugged my shoulders.

Klug said, "Who knows man - maybe he just wants you to help clean up."

"Better not be all - its a pain in the ass what we're doing."

"That big guy try and hump yeah?" Klug asked.

Nate shook his head, "He's not a bad guy really - and he seems pretty smart. He used to be a master sergeant in the Marine Corps."

The next day it was more of the same for Nate. But the job of getting the boat cleared and ready was turning into a larger job than the skipper had anticipated. Also his other crewman had sent word that he was detained in Alaska and could not come down to help, that he would meet the boat in Juneau. And that day was the last that Dean could lend a hand. Thus the skipper asked Nate if he knew of anyone who could help out for an hourly sum - nominal of course. Klug and I were still working on the hull when Nate came by with the news.

"So who’s it gonna be?" He asked after telling us about it.

"You put more time in than I have Joey," Klug said.

"We can flip for it," I said.

"No - you go man."

As I walked over with Nate I said, "Wonder if this'll turn into a job?"

"Maybe - who knows."

"Maybe I should read that book of yours - brush up on my culinary skills."

"You could do that - but remember we're sleeping in the same room."

So it came to be, Nate and I together, side-by-side, working to make ready the boat. At first I was introduced all around. Nate had been right; Dean was pleasant and likeable; Jake wasn't real sociable at first, seemed quiet and curmudgeonly. And Art, well yes, now Art - I would describe him part Portuguese peasant fisherman, part USA everyman, part small businessman, part Tasmanian devil. When Nate first brought me to the boat and introduced me Art said, "We need help only couple of days. And I can't pay a lot."

I nodded, "That's okay - how much do you want to pay?"

"Four fifty an hour okay?"


"Okay - you help you friend - he'll show what to do."

At first I followed Nate around over the rear deck area picking up greasy motor parts and rusted pipe sections and various items of trash - oil cans, detergent bottles, paint cans - all was being tossed into the back of Arts pick up truck. Dean helped us; Jake was inside doing something unknown to me. Art was running over the deck at a joggers pace doing things here and there; tossing the inside trash into the bed of his pick up; then running to the crane podium and doing something there; then up to the hurricane deck and tying something down or tossing more junk down onto the lower deck; then back down to help Nate and I lift and carry a large part or pipe section and toss it into the pick up; and all the while grunting orders: "You - come here - grab dis....Take it there...Leave it, just leave it...Where that wrench?...See the wrench?...There...Get that will yeah...Tanks...Come here...Turn this...Like this...This way..." And so on - a style honed not by a civilization slouching toward rarefaction, but, I supposed, getting things done on a severe stage.

About one o'clock Art shouted, "Lunch," and we all followed him over to the restaurant. But when we walked through the front door instead of going to the right, to the restaurant side, we went to the left - the bar side. Art saddled up to the bar and we all followed suit. Lunch was an extra tall draft beer - two of them - with Art picking up the tab. Conversation was sparse but nonetheless attempted. When Nate deftly brought up our football backgrounds this perked Art and Dean up. Nate laid claim that we had both played at UCLA. Art said, "Yeah - I like football and I like the college football."

Dean asked, "What's you guy's names again?" And after we told him he said, "Yeah I think I heard of you guys."

"Follow college ball do yeah Dean?" Nate asked.

"Sorta you know - I'm not real intense about it or nothing, but I like to get in a few Hawkeye games every year."

Nate said, "Yeah we've played over there in that stadium."

I stayed quiet.

Dean said impressed, "Oh yeah - must be really somethin' playing in front of all those people."

"Yeah its kinda neat," Nate said.

After Dean pointed out that we didn't quite look like the deckhand types and especially so with college time behind us, Nate went over again our reasons for being up there - yet with some embellishment - he added also that we wanted to attend graduate school and any money earned in Alaska would be to that end. This laying it on I thought unnecessary and later I admonished him about it, "Just cause you lied to him about cooking doesn't mean you got to become pathological."

Nate said, "Hey - he likes football players and I don't wanna tell him your some Ivy League snob ‘cause he probably hates that, and if he thinks were gonna use the money to square ourselves - well that can't hurt."

We spent the rest of the afternoon working down in the hull making sure the refrigeration system was going to work. We were working hard and steadily enough that I barely felt the effects of the four tall drafts. It was probably only an hour or so before I had sweated them all out - especially down in the inside of that hull. Below the working deck was actually a substantial portion of the boat. Like an iceberg, with the deck a couple of feet above the water line, the hull below deck set fifteen or so feet into the water. In the hull was a smooth metal lining with pipes running all around the lining. Seawater would be pumped into the pipes to keep the catch stored in the hull at a cool temperature. Jake, warming up to us more, told us how it was a primitive water based refrigeration system. More modern and sophisticated crab boats had systems based on freon and could chill the interior to much lower temperatures. The cooler the hull the longer the boat could stay out to sea before returning to the cannery in port to unload. It became apparent as the refrigeration system was described to me that the controlling idea behind successful commercial fishing was not squandering time. The legal fishing season was for a set time period - three months approximately; and this would change, lengthen or shorten, depending on the extent of the overall catch for the fleet, and the opinion of the scientists regarding how extensive was the impact of the fishing to the crab population. A boat had only the time of the season to catch as much crab as possible and get it to the cannery - fresh. The more trips to and from the cannery with a full hull the more money that was made. But if the crab was scarce, and the traps, once set were not filling up, it would take longer to fill the hull as the traps were re-set and re-checked. And if the hull could not be filled quickly, then a trip back to the cannery may have to be made to deliver what was caught fresh, though the hull may only be partially full. With refrigeration of course the boat could stay out longer and would have a better chance to fill the hull.

The hulls interior was painted in an enameled based paint, eggshell in color, indeed it was like being in the inside of an egg. The paint surface was granulated and tough, meant to sustain against the abrasion of crab shells, shovels, and rubber soles. We were debolting a round cap on the drain line at the bottom of the floor, then bolting a sleeve to a pipe that protruded from a side wall at the bow. Both items had bolts that were stubborn to unscrew and we had to use a giant crescent wrench, about the size of a forearm, the bolts being almost two inches in diameter. We also used a sledgehammer against the wrench for the bolts that were more irascible. After more than a couple of hours of unscrewing bolts down in that hot humid hull, with a hernia and calluses on the way, I began to appreciate more the pains that had been enacted to steer me toward life's more cerebral labors. I thought of the line some rich personage once said how he was once poor and knew about poor and now he knew about rich – and that there was no contest. Well, the same applied I thought to work, I had done mental work, now lots of physical - no contest.

That evening at the Sigma House I discovered that word had gone out that I also now had a job. I ran into Mel on the stairs and he said smiling - I hoped he was loosening up - reverting to the cordiality of our first moving in, "Now you got a job?"

"No - I'm helping to get the boat ready."

"Maybe you'll get a job from it?"

"I don't know - we'll see."

Nate walked up from behind me and he said loudly exaggerating, "Mel! It's Mel - the big guy!"

As he walked past us up the stairs he sent Mel a friendly slap to his back then disappeared up the stairs.

I looked at Mel and shook my head as if not amused and started to walk up the stairs, and Mel asked, "So how's his mouth?"

"Still big," I said.

I didn't realize until I had laid down on my bunk how hard I had worked and how tired I was. Part of the weariness may have been due to our liquid lunch. Though I had read someplace that the average German received a quarter of their daily nutrients from beer - feeling as I did then, I became skeptical, I doubted the Third Reich had been fueled by hops and grains laced with the aqua vitae. Almost immediately I fell asleep and when I awoke the room around me was dark and only dim moonlight lit the windows. I looked at my watch, the glowing hands indicated a quarter past three. I was starving and in about three hours I would have to be up and again at the boat. I got up and showered. My body was sore. Apparently my athletic conditioning from my football days had waned. My forearms, were especially sore - all that wrenching of those bolts. After showering I went back to my bunk and fell back asleep.

Nate woke me at about six saying, "Hey - get enough sleep?"

I got up and dressed and still felt tired and sore. I was reminded of how I would feel a day or so into football conditioning week. I went downstairs into the kitchen and cracked three eggs into a glass and poured in some milk, then stirred it up into a yellowish nog and drank it down holding my nose. Nate spooned down a couple bowls of corn flakes and milk then cracked a raw egg and poured it into his mouth from the half shell and swallowed. Then it was off to work we went.

When we got to the boat Art said, "We got a lot to do - I wanna leave tomorrow."

That day began with me washing the windows inside and out, Nate helped Jake work on the crane, changing some hydraulic hoses or something. Inside, the boat appeared similar to the others I had been in. The galley and mess was directly through the doors in the stern of the cabin, a table and booth was on the port side, a bathroom on the starboard. Along the stern wall were cabinets with a built in sink and a small oven with gas stove top. Again as in the other boats everything was in a small scale to fit cramped quarters. Built into the cabinets above the stove was a microwave oven. On the starboard wall next to the bathroom door was a full size refrigerator. A wide black rubber strap wrapped tautly around the refrigerator held the door closed connecting in front with a hook and ring clasp. Next to the refrigerator were full-length cabinets then the front wall. A narrow doorway was next to the cabinets. Framed by the door was a narrow yard wide steel spiral staircase that rose up into the bridge. Next to the staircase was a narrow door into a sleeping quarters - a small narrow room about the width of two bodies with half the width occupied by an upper and lower berth. In front of the stairs was a trap door in the floor which was then open revealing a short flight of narrow stairs leading to the engine room. I bent over and tried to see into the room, I saw down low the slanting steel sides of the hull, and between, a flat steel plate with a large diesel engine laying lengthwise atop the plate. Several steel pipes ran into the engine from below, then back toward the stern. On the other side of the stairs was another narrow door opening into another crew quarters similar to the other. In front of the stairs was a low narrow door opening to the skippers quarters - just a small room with a low sloped ceiling and a small narrow bed to the front of the room. Two small portholes, which I cleaned, were in the front wall. A small dresser was against the wall in front of the bed and a small shaded light was mounted on the wall. The stairs wound upward, into the pilothouse, or bridge. To the rear of the house, in the floor, was a rectangular opening where ones' head would appear when coming up the stairs. A waist high pipe railing separated the opening from the rest of the bridge. To each side of the opening were narrow wood doors opening to the upper hurricane deck, stern of the bridge. Windows were in the doors and all around in the walls of the bridge. Each window was an extra thick pain of glass held in place by a steel frame with round headed bolts set on center around the frame.

The space of the bridge was about the width of three bodies lengthwise from the railing to the control panel along the front wall, the width was the same as the width of the cabin. Two well padded and high backed pilot seats, with arm rests, stood in the walk space between the rail and control panel to each side of the space. Each chair stood high so that once seated the occupant's line of sight was well above the control panel, only slightly lower than if standing. The control panel consisted of cabinetry that was about waist high and came out from the front wall about a foot and a half. Atop this slender counter top was electrical equipment in steel encasements, all of it was bolted into the cabinets and onto small steel plates protruding from the walls. Most of the equipment appeared as small boxes with dials and knobs on the front, I guessed most of it to be radio equipment. One such box, obviously a radio, hung from the ceiling above, and hanging on it was a plastic radio mouthpiece with its coiled cord hanging down from the box. One piece of equipment which sat on the counter to one side was a large black box with a round screen protruding out of the top. The screen was covered with a black soft rubber eyepiece which rose from the screen and narrowed into a smaller oval with a crimp at the middle to cradle the nose. I put my face into the eyepiece but all I could see was a milky grayish screen with faint red guidelines marked over the face. At the midpoint of the bridge, high in the cabinet, was a small ships pilot wheel, about a foot in diameter, all of brass in the traditional shape. On the counter above it was another black box with more knobs and numbered dials. Wire and cables taped together into fat cords ran over the counter behind the boxes.

After the windows were all squeaky clean, I swept the metal floors around the stairs and in the pilothouse, then mopped the linoleum in the galley and staterooms. I also cleaned the head and shower compartments which were surprisingly not all that small - the toilet and shower were both almost full sized. After a couple of hours I had the cleaning essentially licked, though everything could only get so spick and span. In going over the boat with mop or rag I could see telling effects of its age and use - cabinet and wall varnish was slightly yellowed, the linoleum was cracked and permanently gray, grease stains were on the walls, the vinyl in the galley booth and the bridge was slightly scuffed, grime was in cracks and corners, paint was scratched, even the stainless steel of the sinks was scratched and dented slightly.

The next chore was a real pleasure. A young sport, clad in jeans and a t-shirt, showed up next to the boat and presented Jake with a pink invoice slip. Jake looked at the slip and said pointing to the pavement, "Just leave it here next to the boat." Soon a flatbed truck drove up and a long rectangular cube of lumber was slid off the end of the tilting bed onto the pavement. It was a unit of 2 x 6's, about twelve feet long. Then Jake said, "Okay you guys - stack it all over here." He was pointing to an area toward the middle of the deck next to the hatch.

Nate and I gave each other a look. Then he said, "Why don't you get off the boat and hand them up to me then I'll stack them."

Sounded like a plan. As I climbed over the rail I said, "Manual labor, I love it."

We moved wood for about a half hour then Art pulled up in a Ford Sedan, an older model LTD, I guessed it to be from the early seventies. He jumped out of the car and came jogging around from the other side and shouted with agitation, "No-no-no not there - don't put them there - in the back put them way back!"

Jake came over from the crane podium and dead panned, "I told them to put ‘em there – what's wrong with em there?"

Art said still a little high on his horse, "Gotta put the car there."

I thought, the car? What was that all about?

Art climbed aboard, he said to me waving quick his hand, "Hey come here help us."

I went aboard and Nate, I, and Art, moved the boards to the bow against the railing. When Nate and I had been moving the boards I thought we had kept a good steady pace. But with Art I could see we had moved slow. Art moved and stepped quick and feverish almost, and Nate and I moved quick to keep up. In no time at all it seemed we had moved the twenty or so pieces of lumber Nate and I had stacked. Then we switched to the pile left out on the pavement and again we moved quick. Sweat poured off Art's brow which was now blushed a deep red. The man was probably close to three times our age yet he moved through the work at a cardiac pace without letting up. It was a lesson and inspiration of sorts. After the last piece of lumber was in place Art then, without taking even a slight breather, turned to Jake and yelled, "That crane ready yet?"

"Almost," Jake said standing working on the podium next to the mast with black levers coming out of the top.

Then Art disappeared into the cabin and quickly returned carrying two straps of wide webbing made of a thickly and finely weaved nylon, each was about three inches wide and about a dozen or so feet long. "Come on you two," he said, as he climbed over the rail and stepped over the car. We climbed over the rail as Art got in the car and drove it close to the side of the boat. He maneuvered the car quick so that it jerked on its suspension as he moved forward and back close to just a couple of feet off of the sea wall. Then he climbed out and tossed the webbing under the car and the three of us arranged the straps neatly to wrap under the car, each just to the inside of the wheel pans and then up and over, the ends coming up over the roof. At the ends the webbing was folded over and heavily sown making a loop. Jake was at the crane pushing on a long bar protruding horizontally from the mast of the crane, this turned the mast and brought the jib out over the car. Then working the hydraulics he moved the trolley that carried the hook out along the jib. The jib was only a thick round pole with two thick cables working as jib ties from the end of the jib to the top of the mast. The system didn't look capable of lifting the car. I asked, as Art was standing on the running board on the inside of the door sliding the crane hook into the loops of the straps, "This gonna work?"

Without looking at me and still working on the straps, he said, "It'd better."

With the hook inside the straps Art signaled Jake with a slight upward motion of his hand to raise the hook and take up the slack in the straps and in the cables carrying the hook. Then he stepped away from the car and told Jake, "Okay - raise it."

Jake, without taking his eye off the car, worked the hydraulic levers at the podium and raised the car off the ground. As the car slowly lifted the straps and cables and the booms of the crane began to tighten and creak under the stress. Yet as the car rose up over the gunwales the crane boom remained ramrod straight showing no sign of overburden. With the car suspended in the air the tires drooped down and slanted inward. Art stood next to the front bumper, holding the car so it wouldn't turn on the single cable on the hook holding the car. When the tires cleared the gunwale Art shouted to Jake, "Akay - move the crane." Then to us he said, "You two hold the car at the corners - be careful case it drops - now as the crane moves push it so it turns."

He was motioning at what he was driving at with a wave of his hands. He wanted to turn the car so it lay lengthwise across the deck, perpendicular to the keel. As the crane turned and moved the car over the boat we pushed and pulled on the car and slowly turned it. It turned easily. Once over the boat and centered Art shouted, "Okay - let her down."

Slowly Jake lowered the car into place onto the deck. As the car settled in and the tires slightly flattened, showing the weight, it occurred to me that throughout the process the boat hadn't moved or rocked at all in the water. With the car in place, Art then again opened the door and stood on the running board and freed the straps from the hook, then Nate and I grabbed and coiled up the webbing. After Art stepped down from the car and closed the door he stepped to the rear of the car and opened the trunk, inside was several brown shopping bags full of groceries. "Okay you two, take the bags inside to put away later, then it's lunch." Quickly Nate and I made the few trips from the trunk into the galley with our arms full of two or three bags. After we finished we again followed Art and Jake to the bar for another liquid lunch. As we settled into our first beer Nate asked, "We still leavin' tomorrow?"

"No - next day," Art said.

I asked about the car. Apparently Art was part owner of the boat with the owner of a cannery in Juneau, and the owner had asked Art to bring him his car, the lumber, and a few other items we would be loading that afternoon and the following day.

Then Nate asked, "So is that the destination after we set sail?"

"First Ketchikan, then Juneau."

Nate nodded, then he said, taking me a little by surprise because I thought it had been settled, "So am I hired?"

Art was quiet a second then said, "You workin’ ain't ya?"

"I'm working here - but are you going to hire me to be a hand and cook?"

"Where'd you say you cooked?"

"Restaurants, a hotel."

"Cooked in a hotel huh?"


"What you can cook?" Art asked.

"Just about anything I guess. What'd you like? Spaghetti, fish, steak?" Nate said.

"Corn beef and cabbage."

"Corn beef and cabbage?" Nate asked looking quizzical.

"Yeah - that's my favorite. You gotta cook that," Art said.

"No problem," Nate said.

Jake was smoking and staring quietly straight ahead looking over his beer glass as if oblivious to the conversation.

Then Art said, "Well it like this - when I hire they gotta work hard. I pay fair, I don't cheat my guys, right Jake?"

"Right," Jake said, pulling his cigarette from his mouth.

"Being new your share won't be big - but if you can cook - then your share will be a good one. We leave; you need gear - boots, wet gear. You know what to get?"

Nate nodded, "Yeah I got some stuff. Will you loan me for anything I might need?"

To this question Art roused up and raised his voice, "Naw I don't outfit my crew. I don't work it that way. I make my guys buy their own stuff."

Nate nodded.

Art said as an afterthought of sorts, "Just don't believe in that."

Apparently a sore point of some sort. Nate let it lay of course, lest he queer his deal.

After lunch while Jake went down in the hole to do some fine-tuning on the engine, and Art left again in his pick up to places unknown, Nate and I were assigned to the galley to stow away in the cabinets the groceries. Before leaving Art explained to Nate, "I know exactly what to buy - this stuff is all we need to get us to Juneau and then some after that. Now you don't cook till we get to Juneau - Jake will cook. But in Juneau he's leaving to work the first of the season in a bigger boat. That's when you cook. So put this stuff in so he can get to it easy."

As we stowed everything away I noticed each cabinet and door had plastic clips top and bottom to secure it, each drawer had to be lifted slightly then pulled out. The small range had four small burners over a top that was a couple feet square. A narrow steel rod railing went around the perimeter, small long springs were attached to the railing and could be wrapped around pots atop the burners - obviously to keep them contained against the rail during rough movements. Below the range top was a small oven for baking and broiling, and above, just above eye level was the microwave. As I studied the culinary machinery, I said to Nate, "Better figure out how all this works."

He said, "Can't be that difficult."

Most of the food was meats, canned vegetables, and boxed dry goods - cereals and mixes of the just add water and stir variety. One box claimed it was a just add water microwavable single layer cake - with bake pan included. I quickly glanced over the instructions. It essentially said to pour contents of pouch one and two into plastic pan with water and stir, then microwave for four minutes, let the cake cool, then spread frosting from pouch three over cake and viola! I said, "Heck, with this stuff cooking will be easy."

Nate said, "Exactly - how hard could it be? And I'm only gonna be cooking for four or five guys."

As we were finishing up stowing the groceries Art walked in then went down into the hull to check on Jake. Soon they were both back and Jake was saying, "It should work."

Then Art said, "Okay you two finished?"

Nate said, "Yep."

"Alright - we're going for a ride," Art said. "Help Jake get us untied."

Outside Jake walked over to the ropes and he quickly, without any help from us, undid the lines and freed the boat. I said, "That's it?"

Jake nodded, "Yep."

Nate asked, "Where we going?"

"Need diesel," Jake said.

The three of us were standing on the deck next to the rail on the shore side. Then we could hear the engine below turn over and then gurgle on. The boat began to vibrate and dark smoke came out of the stack. I could hear a bubbling foaming sound in the water behind the stern. Then the door at the rear of the bridge opened and Art stuck his head out and shouted, "One of you get on the other side and watch for me."

Jake told us, "Just stand here and keep an eye out on this side." Then he walked to the other side and stood next to the rail.

Then the engine revved, the boat vibrated more, the bubbling at the stern became louder and the boat slowly edged away from the sea wall.

Nate looked at me, "Well big guy - this is it we're sailing."

It was sort of rousing, though just a jaunt across the lake; but we were on a boat and on the water, we had come that far. And while the boat was no True Love, it did have a kind of yar about it, I thought, out there standing on the rear deck, the breeze blowing across by face, the deck mildly heaving, the water's royal blue surrounding.

We sailed only a few minutes across the lake to a large gas dock - the seaside equivalent of a truck stop - able to gas up the smaller commercial sized boats, like the Snark. As the boat came in close to the dock Art again shouted out of the rear door of the bridge for Jake to put out the bumpers along the outer rails. Jake then stepped over to a long box next to the crane and lifted the lid and pulled out three pink basketball sized plastic spheres, each with a yellow nylon line tied to a square rubber eyehole protruding from the side. With surprising briskness, Jake stepped close to the stern and tied the free end of one of the lines to the rail then tossed the bumper over the side to dangle. Then did the same with the other two bumpers at different spots on the rail, one near amid ship, the other near the bow just before the hull bent inward. The boat then slid slowly against the dock with the bumpers, jammed between the dock and the hull, cushioning the slight impact. Jake then told Nate and I to jump on the dock and receive the lines. I stood near the stern and Jake tossed me a rope and told me to stand there and keep the rope taunt. With Nate, he did the same at the bow. While we were doing this, a young dock hand clad only in shorts and canvas topsiders came down from a flat roofed hut sitting on land above the doc; he was talking loud to Art.

"Need to top off," Art shouted.

"Pump five over there's out," the hand shouted pointing to a small cast iron pump which looked like a short fire hydrant with a square glass face in front. It was painted a bright yellow and in the face was a meter with scrolling numbers.

Art shouted, "I gotta tank near the bow line and one amidship. Will da other pump reach?"

The hand turned his head, "No - too far - we'll just have to use the one."

"It'll take forever!" Art shouted his voice now edgy.

The hand shrugged and said, "Best we can do."

"Alright - plug it in," Art said, his voice fading, apparently resolving himself to the situation at hand.

During the exchange Jake had climbed down off the boat onto the docks, had taken each rope from Nate and I and had tied the free ends to large cleats on the dock. The dock hand stepped over to the pump and picked up the pump nozzle and carried the nozzle dragging a rubber hose behind it that was at least three inches in diameter. Jake climbed back onto the boat and turned a large cap atop a pipe coming out of the deck snug against the gunwale and rising even with the top rail. The hand then gave Jake the nozzle and Jake inserted it into the pipe then began pumping. The nozzle was a larger version of the type used for automobiles and trucks in any gas station. As the diesel fuel flowed the numbers behind the glass turned so quickly they seemed to whir feverishly clicking off the gallons in tenths. I asked Jake, "About how many gallons are we getting?"

"Five hundred each tank." The gassing up took well over an hour. By the time we were back at the docks it was again quitting time.

When we got back to the Sigma House we ran into Mel on the way up the stairs to the meat locker. He said good naturedly, "Thought you guys were leaving?"

Nate said, "Nope - not yet."

"You really have a job?" Mel asked.

"Think so."

Klug was up in the meat locker lounging in his bunk scanning the latest issue of Playboy. He had spent the day working for Olly, doing the usual and was still in his work clothes. After we told him about our day he said, "Hey man get me a job on the boat - I wanna cruise around the lake."

From his bunk Nate said, "Listen to him Joe - as if that's all we do - sail around."

"Nope, that's not all we do," I said. My back was aching. I spent the rest of the evening napping, making ready for a full night of sleep.

The next morning it was more of the same - loading the boat. More equipment and tools for the cannery up north, all in wood boxes that were so heavy we craned them onto the boat. Apparently these were a couple band saws disassembled for shipping. More lumber, this time two by fours, but in a pile that was twice the size of the two by sixes. And again Art led us all on a high-speed assault on moving the wood. Even Jake helped, though he didn't let Art intimidate him into quicker movements. We loaded a couple large metal toolboxes, each about the size of a small desk, again we craned them aboard. Then just before lunch Art pulled up with the bed of his pick up full of more spheres, which looked like the bumpers. I said, "More bumpers?"

Jake said, "Not bumpers - marker buoys - for the traps."

Vaguely figuring it out, I said, "Oh."

Again a liquid lunch was served in the bar and again as we drank Nate asked, "Still leaving tomorrow?"

Art nodded quick and gruffly, "Maybe."

The afternoon was spent battening everything down. We bolted hatch doors. Tied ropes around the lumber, the crates, the marker buoys, tied everything to cleats in the deck and spars on the inside of the gunwales. We chained the car down to cleats within the deck. I received a lesson in knot tying, learned the bowline - for connecting two ends of a line or lines, the half hitch - for attaching a line to a rail or pole, the square knot - for connecting two ends of a line when the line was wrapped around an object or objects. Jake showed me how while the objective of knots was to connect the loose ends of a line, and connect with surety, at the same time the knot should be designed to allow facile release. I was tying a line around the wood boxes when Jake from over my shoulder said, "That's a granny knot."

"Thought it was a square knot."

"Nah, and you don't wanna use a square knot there anyway. Use this knot." He made a loop at the end of one line, then brought the end of the other line under the loop, then over the line and around the end and under itself, then he pulled the two ends and the lines went taunt and the knot tight.

"That's - a carrick bend - used all the time to tie pots to the drop lines. It holds then'll break easy, see?" Then he turned the knot over and bent it between the two winds of the rope and the winds loosened. "When you’re fishing you don't get time to screw with the knots - ya gotta tie them right so they hold, but when ya want they'll loosen easy."

As I helped him tie down he showed me a variety of knots: half hitch, slipped half hitch, the draw knot, sheepshank, cow hitch, each knot he tied with a weavers dexterity; and not one did I remember how to tie later that evening when I tried on a length of line he had cut for me. Art had shown Nate a couple of knots and he also had trouble remembering the precise turns and layovers. The final items we tied down were two metal patio chairs that were stored on the bridge deck just behind the exhaust stack. Nate and Art were sitting in the pilothouse when Jake and I finished wrapping a line around the chairs and securing the lines with a fisherman's bend onto the handrail. When we walked into the pilothouse Art was sitting on one of the chairs studying his Chapman's tide book.

Jake said, "So - book say we leave tomorrow? Think we're all set."

Art shook his head, "No - day after. Early morning."

Jake nodded slowly then said, "Just as well - got some stuff I wanna do around town."

Then Art looked at me, "Guess you need to be paid huh?"

"Guess so," I said.

"Welp in talking to your pal here - he says you wanna get up north - that so?"


"I figure I owe yeah - how much?"

"Three days worth."

"Yeah about a hundred and a half. I give you half, for the other half I take you North?"

I nodded and said, "Gotta deal."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills and peeled off four twenties and handed them to me, "Owe me five," he said. After re-pocketing the wad he said, "Now you boys bring your stuff first thing tomorrow - I'm being here about eight. Okay?"

"Okay," Nate said. I nodded in accord as I handed him a five.

On the bus ride back to the house I asked Nate, "Now what am I gonna do up North?"

"Look for a job - suppose to be a lot more boats up there."

"What if I can't find a job, and what if I can't find a way to live?"

"What if, what if. You worry too much."

"Yeah - you're right. Think maybe I should call home and get some extra money. With this eighty I'm down to just a little over three hundred."

Nate shrugged, "Do what you think you gotta do."

"You don't think I should."

"You've come this far on your own."


"I mean lets face it - you don't need to be doing this for the money, your doing this for some other reason - maybe not calling home is part of that."

I nodded, "True. I just wish I could figure out why I am doing this. Sure doesn't make any sense."

"Well - maybe not calling home will help ya figure out why."

When we got back into the meat locker Klug was there and again he was lounging on his bunk reading Playboy magazine. Again we told him about the day, and about the deal I had struck with Art. Then he asked, "Hey - if I pay him seventy five bucks man - think he'll float me up?"

Nate and I shrugged, and I said, "It's an idea - what do you think Nate?"

"I don't see why not?" Nate said. "We're taking everything else except the kitchen sink."

I said, "It's a good idea Klug - then I'll have company up there."

"Really man - we can starve it out together - like brothers in the bond, the crabber bond."

Thus it was decided the next morning Klug would go with us and try to strike a deal with Mr. Art. Nate said, "Take him the cash, let him see it - it'll help him decide."

That evening the three of us and Mel went to Mom's for dinner. We talked about various things including the boat, but nothing was said about Nate’s altercation with John Taylor. Later Nate and I spent the rest of the evening at the Sigma House, Nate read a Forbes magazine he picked up on the Ave and I played chess with Mel. Klug went over to a girlfriend's. Before we bedded down we packed our bags. Next morning Klug drove us down to the docks and we were there waiting next to the boat by eight. We waited quite a while, almost forty five minutes until Art pulled up in his pick-up. He got out and gave us a gruff "Hey", to our how's it goings, then walked past us onto the boat and unlocked the rear bulkhead door and opened it. Then he turned to us and said, "Put you bags in the first compartment on bunks."

As we did per his instructions Art went upstairs into the bridge. Klug was looking around the inside of the cabin studying it - it was his first time on the interior of a crab boat. Once our bags were stowed, Nate said, "Let's go up and see what we can work out for Klug."

We climbed the stairway and then crowded into the close confines of the bridge. Art was sitting in one of the pilot chairs again studying the Chapman book. We stood quiet a moment as Art kept studying the book seeming oblivious to us. Then in a sudden motion he lifted his head and looked at us. His expression was blank and expecting, and I thought barely masking some impatience, as if saying - yeah now what? Nate spoke up, "Art this is John Klug, a friend of ours - he also wants to get up North – he's willin' to pay for a ride up north."

Art looked over at Klug a second - for more than a second - as if sizing him up, then looked back at Nate and nodded toward me, "This is no taxi."

Nate nodded and said, "Right - no problem," then motioned with a side nod of his head for us to get back down the stairs. We all walked back down then outside onto the rear deck. Nate told Klug, "Look he's obviously in a bad mood. I don't wanna rock the boat."

Klug nodded, "That's okay man."

I said, "Maybe we're being too cautious here - I say when he gets back down we offer him some money. He'll probably take it."

Nate looked unsure, then said, "Well alright - probably won't hurt to try."

Soon Art appeared out of the back door and he closed and locked it. Then he turned around and said, "You boys - be here to go five a.m. in the morning, no later."

Nate and I nodded and said, "No problem."

Then Nate said, "You know Art - Klug here will pay yeah for a ride up."

Klug then held up a wad of bills.

Art looked at the wad, then at Klug, "How much you pay?"

"I got eighty dollars here," Klug said.

Art was quiet a second, seemed to think about it then nodded and took the money and said, "When we get to Juneau - you and dis guy are off the boat - ya know?"

Klug nodded, "Yeah - that's fine."

Then Art said, "Okay - be with them here. Tomorrow morning, early."

We all then climbed off the boat and as Art got into his pick up we said, "See yeah Art." He gave us a quick nod of his head then drove off.

Klug said, "Jeeze man – ‘nother kute."

Nate said, "What'd yeah expect - Cary Grant?"

After we left the wharf we drove to Mom's and we all ordered a big breakfast, steak and eggs, sides of pancakes and such. After I ordered I said, "Probably should be conserving my money - now that I'm going up there."

"I'm calling home man," Klug said. "I'm gonna have them wire me a loan - few hundred bucks."

"How you been living so far?" Nate asked.

"Smitty man - I owe him like five hundred simolies," Klug said.

"He loaned you five hundred bucks?" Nate said, sounding somewhat astonished.

"Yeah - he's been getting a lot from daddy-o," Klug said.

Nate shook his head, "Must be nice."

"It is man," Klug said, "Smitty's got the life."

"You got money coming from Olly don't you?" I asked Klug.

"Yeah – ‘bout a hundred bucks - I gotta go see him about that today," Klug said. "If I go up with about three hundred - that should work."

"Hope so - that's about what I have," I said.

"Maybe they got frat houses up there - huh man?" Klug said.

Nate said, "Listen once you guys get to Juneau check out the boats - but get yourself to Dutch Harbor. That's the home port for all the crabbing. Get there, and worse case get a job in one of the canneries."

"What's Dutch Harbor like?" Klug asked.

"Who knows," Nate said. "But you can bet it ain't Tahiti."

After breakfast we went back to the Sigma house and lounged in our bunks and watched Klug pack his bags and get ready. Mel came in and after explaining to him how Klug was now making the trip northward; Klug asked Mel if he would keep an eye on his bus until he got back - with driving privileges of course. Mel couldn't see a reason to turn that down and Klug appealed to him: "Try not to demo it man, you know don't let Taylor take it to the Tri-cities and do donuts."

Mel smiled, "Don't worry. I'll watch it."

Then Nate asked Mel, "Seeing as your gonna use Klug's bus can you give us a ride tomorrow to the boat."

Mel said, "Sure."

"It's in the morning," Nate said.

Mel nodded, "Tomorrow fine, I got nothing going."

I said, "Nothing going about four a.m.?"

Mel smiled and shook his head, "You guys gotta leave at four in the morning?"

"That's right big guy," Nate said. "It won't kill yeah - just one morning."

Mel said after moaning a little, "Haven't got up that early since I had a paper route."

Later we went over to the SAE house and drank a few beers with Brad, Star, Karl, and Ben. Brad said, "Can't believe all you guys are goin' up. One day there's no jobs at all, now you're all going."

"Yeah sounds like things really started clicking," Karl said.

"I wouldn't call it clicking," I said. "Klug and I don't have jobs - we paid to hitch a ride up."

"How much it cost yeah?" Brad asked.

"About seventy five each," I said.

"Seventy five - bet you could fly up there for that," Brad said.

Ben said, "No - cost a couple hundred bucks to get to Juneau. Alaska's more expensive than you think it would be."

"How's that?" I asked.

"Everything costs a lot more. A hot dog that down here would cost you a buck, up there is two or three bucks. It's hard to get stuff up there so it all just costs more. That and everybody's makin' lots of money up there."

I looked at Klug and said, "I hope we're taking enough money."

"Guess we'll see sure enough, huh man?" Klug said.

"That's right Klug - that's tellin' him," Nate said.

Toward early evening we broke up our little group. They were going to another party and we opted to pass, to hang low and rest up for the trip. We stood up and shook hands all around and gave one another light chiding remarks. Ben told me, "When you get back and transfer out here from Princeton, come by and we'll think about pledging you."

"I'll do that," I said.

Nate told Brad, "Don't have too good a time here Smitty - know what I mean?"

Brad said, "Yeah I know. When you get back we'll go to Stan's."

"You got it," Nate said. "I might even buy."

As we were walking out the door Star shouted, "You boy's don't drown now, ya hear."

Nate said, "We won't."

Back at the Sigma House we spent another evening lounging. I played chess with Mel and also with Pete. Later I joined Nate and Klug up in the meat locker, the three of us in our bunks reading. Nancy came in at one point. Nate was being noticeably cool, he sat up in his bunk with a Business Week magazine laying face down on his stomach. His arms were crossed over his front. Nancy asked the questions.

"So you all got jobs?" She asked.

I explained the situation.

Then she looked at Nate, "So you're going to be on the boat for the season?"

"Looks like it."

"That's great - that's what you wanted," she said.

"Yeah, that's what I wanted," he said.

There was a strained silence then I interjected, "So Nancy when is summer school out?"

"Not for a couple more weeks. Then they have a short two week session before the school year starts. I'm going to take a class then too."

"Where are you gonna live?" I asked.

"Here, then the dorms in the fall."

I nodded; then she looked back at Nate who was sitting quiet not making an attempt at conversation. She said to Nate, "Well I guess your going to make lots of money."

Nate shrugged, "I don't know - hope to."

She nodded and started walking out and said, "Well good luck you guys."

I said, "You too Nancy, we'll see ya when we get back."

At the door she said, "Yeah look for me, I'll be around." Then she looked at Nate, "Be careful Nate - okay."

"I will - don't worry about me," Nate said.

Then she left and Nate picked up his magazine and went back to reading. I decided not to comment.


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