Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Pueblo

Christmas Morning....

The sun has broken through and, although God has decided that the deep snowy sunscape beneath should stay awhile (it's below zero out there), it is nice to have a break. And the presents are under the tree and waiting, which I am delaying going at with my bare hands until I have everything else in the house just right. A few minutes from now. I found a place to make a fifty out of two twenties and a ten, so I have the paper person's tip ready to post. Hopefully, that person will not take 'Halloween' type action against me for a few days, or so I hope.

I have placed a couple of stories inside the body of my posts over the past few days. They have related to Christmas, or the poignancy of it all, in some way or another. Here is one from the mid-nineties when I was not yet 'all that I could be.'

Christmas Pueblo

I found myself inside the confines of the Santa Fe County jail on some vague trumped-up charge. I was in the 'drunk tank,' which is what the cells they use for new prisoner intake are called there. No bars, no windows, just concrete and steel. No way to see out of the ten by twelve box and no ability to hear. Thankfully I was alone for the first few hours, as I had to come to terms with being inside an American institution for the first time (I had already been in a few abroad, so I was not exactly a 'new fish'), and this was not much fun. It was Christmas Eve. Late into the afternoon. The heartless Santa Fe 'Gestapo' had shown no mercy, in spite of the impending holiday. The way I saw it, I was a gringo and they were anything but. They probably saw it in a more 'Harry Callahan' kind of way. The tank did not remain empty for too long. The riff-raff of evening Santa Fe, New Mexico, began to flow in, dredged from a pristine city that prides itself on not having any homeless people. No, they don't, as all of the potentials get combed off the streets and into that heartless modern version of the Bastille, conveniently located five miles South of even the most outer edge of the town.

The cell became so crowded that the entry of one more body meant that there was just no floor space left. And then they opened the door and forced a huge American Indian through. They slammed it shut again, immediately. He stood there for a few seconds, then stared at the man laying next to me on the bare concrete floor. The man moved, finally settling atop the rim of the stainless steel john located in the corner. The Indian took his place, and glared over at me, inches away, when I happened to look into his eyes. This was no Little Big Man Indian of great good cheer and ancient wisdom, like Chief Dan George. No, this was an Indian from hell, more like that one who killed the girl in the Mohican's film a few years back. I showed no fear, but did look away. I was already an old hand at the predation game. You do not show fear to a predator. That is what the predator is looking and waiting for, because it identifies you as prey. No, you meet predation by impassive and emotionless presentation. The predator then takes you for a predator, as well, and there is no point in attacking another predator unless territory is an issue, or survival. You will only likely get hurt, and predators are deathly afraid of injury, as then they become prey.

There was no trouble from the Indian, as the hours passed, nor from any of the usual suspects. Just prisoners inconveniencing the poor guy who's only spot was the on top of the john. He had to move so the drunks could be sick, and worse. Some head of corrections guy must have known a modicum of mercy that night, or, more likely, there were just too many prisoner's for the place to hold, because they came for me. The guards called my name and told me that I was being 'rolled out,' which is prison slang for being released. I went with enthusiasm, but somehow kicked the foot of the snoozing Indian as I departed. "Excuse me White Eyes!" he hissed up, already into a sitting position as I turned. I held together against the pure ferocity of his expression and the penetration of his hawk-like eyes. "My apologies, I was careless," I stated, flatly. Then I moved slowly to join the corrections officer at the door. The Indian's eyes followed me out the door and remained embedded in my mind as I went through the many steps of processing out. Finally, the guards took me to the big door of intake, opened the steel slab with a key about the size of a Waring blender, and shoved me through it. Merry Christmas, the guard said with a laugh, then slammed the door. My relief was immense, until I looked about me. The sodium yellow of the parking lot lamps allowed the driving snow to appear as if I was standing adjacent to Niagra Falls. And it was cold. I wore an old Sheepskin Company coat so I knew I was not likey to freeze, the torso of my body anyway. But I did not know how I was going to make it the many miles to town, much less a few more miles to anywhere I could get a ride. I turned to see if there was a pay phone on the wall to call a cab, but there was nothing. Only the pitiless concrete.

For an instant I felt relief, as the steel door opened again and I saw the warmth that had been prevalent inside. But that was extinguished in an instant, as the big Indian was pushed through the door, before it slammed again. There we were, and I knew fear. He looked down at me with no expression on his face. I tried to look impassive once more, but I knew I was not doing well because I saw a slow cruel smile begin to form around the edges of his mouth. Then he spoke. "Where you going?"

I was surprised. Not that he would talk but that this time he did so in clear unaccented English, not like he had sounded inside. "To town," I murmured, motioning back with my right shoulder. "Never make it. Not on a night like this," he mused, more to himself than to me. He looked out at the scene I had first encountered. The snow was coming down heavier. Then he shrugged. "You can come with me to the pueblo. It's down the way," he gestured south with his own shoulder. I looked off toward the darkness, then looked to the parking lot. But it was Christmas, and i could not stay there, and I knew I could not make it to town. I shrugged with deep resignation. "Okay," I said aloud, then whispered to myself, "let it be Quick." I followed the Indian into the night. There was no trail, there was no moonlight or any other way to establish bearings. So I just followed the huge man closely. We moved downhill, through the La Bajada Canyon, finally trudging under an overpass which held up the four lanes of Interstate forty.

A yellow glow in the distance became the pueblo. The Indian wormed his way between the densely packed mud buildings. Lights glared out, to assure us that the snow had not abated in it's attack. We came around a corner to a wooden door. The upper floor of the adobe structure jutted out above, so we stood and beat the snow from our clothing and boots as best we could. The door opened without anybody knocking. An old woman stuck her head out, then motioned us both inside. I stepped into a different world. The room was filled with people of all ages. They were all sitting at the many tables, seemingly strew about without order. The big Indian motioned me to an empty seat between two young boys. He said nothing. They said nothing. I sat, more in shock and wonder than because I was willingly following rational directions. The two boys reached for bowls and started scooping stuff onto my plate. Tortillas and burritos. I did not even know what Indians ate until then. Corn things, with lots of hot sauces. Everyone went back to eating. They did not look at me, so I started eating as well. I ate the whole plate, so the boys refilled it without any request on my part. When I finished the second plate, they refilled it again. I looked over at the old woman, whom the big Indian had seated himself next to. I saw here smile very briefly. Then the big Indian smiled for the first time, and I understood without any words being necessary. The old woman liked the fact that I loved her food. And the big Indian appreciated that.

"This is my family," he said, gesturing around at all the people at all of the tables. They smiled, as if on cue. "Welcome to the Reservation and my family. I'll drive you back to town tomorrow. But its Christmas, so maybe you want to stay longer for the ceremony." I nodded, only briefly wondering if the 'ceremony' had anything to do with a White Man being cooked in a pot over a roaring fire. "Merry Christmas," I said, as I nodded with enthusiasm, a genuine smile creasing my face for the first time in months. "Merry Christmas," they all yelled back in unison, then began talking, laughing and carrying on, just as if I was an Indian returning to his home.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Nativity Scene

The Manger

It is said that St. Francis of Assisi created the first Nativity Scene in his yard. The mythology has it that he set up a manger, and the then made up other characters from whatever he had laying around. He wanted to recreate the birth of Christ, the best he could, for himself and his friends. I have one. A manger and the Nativity Scene characters. The stable I made myself out of some old wood with a hand saw and some nails. It has survived intact for twenty-nine years. In 1969 I was fresh out of the hospital from getting all shot up in Vietnam. I could not be a Marine and I could not walk, or move well enough, to get a job. So I sat around and waited. During this time I found a small apartment in San Clemente to live in. So cheap that my other dwellers in the six-plex were new immigrants from Vietnam. Strange, to circulate among them every day as I limped around with nothing to do. One day I encountered an older man, who I knew to be the head of one of the families living there. His name was Huang Nguyen. Somehow, he had found out something of my service in his former country. He approached, shook my hand, and then apologized. I didn't get it. I tried to get to the bottom of things but his English was bad. Instead he invited me in to meet his wife and three young children. They treated me very nicely, and I was surprised. In country, the Vietnamese civilians I met had all been cold and remote. Huang took me into his bedroom/office. There he showed me two pictures on his walls. One was of him walking arm in arm with Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the North Vietnamese Army. In the other, he was striding along, a huge smile on his face, with Robert McNamera. I asked Huang who he really was. He told me that he was the former Province Commander of the I Corps area. I was stunned. That was the area I fought all over and had been wounded in. I asked Huang who's side he had really been on. He said that he was on both. He had a family. He did not know who was going to win. He then asked me what I would have done in his place. I thought over that one, and then had to laugh. We shook hands again, both laughing. We would have become friends, I think, except the language barrier was just too great. And maybe, I was too soon from that awful war.

It was just before Christmas, when Huang and I met that year. On Christmas Eve, his oldest daughter, a pudgy cute little thing everyone called Hamburger, because of her proclivity for those things, knocked on my door. She handed me a bag and said Merry Christmas, then giggled and ran. I took the bat in and opened all the small packages wrapped inside. The Three Wise Men. The manger. The baby Jesus. Mary and Joseph. The dutiful cow, sheep and donkey. And a big camel. All the pieces are porcelain and gilded with gold that has not tarnished to this day. The sit this evening in my home-made stable atop a special table near the base of my tree.

I think often of Huang and Hamberger. I wonder what became of them. They were always wonderful to me and seemed to always act surprised that I was wonderful back to them. As much as I could be. I had nothing but limps, scars and painful memories back then. Why did Huang apologize? Why were they so nice? Why did they give me a Nativity Scene, of all things? Today, I don't know anymore than I knew back then, although I have had a lot of time to think and many more battles to grow more experienced. If there is a God. If there really is a Jesus. Then Huang and his family were sent to help me through. To help me understand, at that so very difficult a time, that the Vietnamese people were not to blame. That they were not much different than we are, and were. That my pain did not have to be translated into an eternal hatred. And so I have the set. And it means a lot to me. Christmas is special in so many ways to me, and I wish that the spirit evident in this season would seep through to the rest of the year for everyone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Star Trek

What was it about that show? The many shows? Why is it so popular? Why do people, many of them anything but whacked-out science-fiction nuts, flock to the conferences? Because it is about philosophy, life and the human condition. That series of shows and movies always remained oriented around truth, justice and the dream of a better future. The dream of adventure filled with compassion and caring. Even when using such dialogue as "the need of the many outweighs the need of the few," it was written from a viewpoint of self-sacrifice, not enforced sacrifice. We are tribal in nature, we band of humans. We are not national or international, except by association. We take care of the people we know. The people we like. We admire cult, television and sports stars from afar, and it is to their advantage that most never become known by almost anyone, other than those selected to be in their close tribes.

We are living in a time when we are going to be forced to become more homogeneous, not less. We are not going to be run by some international government, or, if we are, we are not going to care. We are going to soon be forced to look within, to our family, our circle of close friends, our neighborhood. And that is where we shine. Just as the 'tribe' in Star Trek was, in reality, a small cadre of tribal members who manned the bridge of the Enterprise, or appeared on it regularly. There is even a standing joke among Trekkies with respect to crewmen who wore red uniforms. When those 'non-tribal member' crewmen appeared in a scene you knew they were going to get killed by the aliens or in some gruesome accident. And it did not matter all that much. But when a tribal member was lost to the show, as in life, then there was grief and wailing to no end.

Tribalism is good. From the close association of tribal members comes new ideas. Comes synergy of ideas and work. Comes survival cooperation. We are all in this life to survive and propagate. That is it. All that was given to us by biology and physics. But we, us homo sapiens, have taken that to a height beyond what we know to be the case in this universe. We have used tribalism to advance ourselves to the point where we can actually give ourself as one for the good of the many. And that is a tribal achievement. Our young men and women still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, are not dying for the money, the contract they signed, or for the Marine Corps or the Army. They are not dying and being horrendously wounded for you and me. Unless that you and me has a family member or friend doing so. They are doing it for the tribe they serve with and the tribe they have back home. It is how we get through. How we survive. And it is good.

As Obama is organizing a tribe to surround him in the White House, to supplement the family one he is moving in there, we are called upon to do the same thing in our lives. Think. You have time. Who do you want in your tribe? What does it take to have that participation? What must you do to be a member? What must you require of other's for their membership? It is time to take an active role in such thoughts, and then actions. In this direction lies bliss. Joe Campbell. This is about Joe's understanding of mythology and the real world. Come in from the real world. You can only survive the real world by living in the mythical one.

My coming series, called The Mastodons, is all about this. The first book is called The Boy and will be available at soon. Come, adventure with me.

Friday, November 14, 2008


A quiet encampment,
Ulundi hills,
Where lions temper evening moves.
Zulu rest toward coming dawn,
In wait of warming light,
To hunt, as men.

Tribal ways come undone,
Time ravaged then passed,
In hunger's swollen wake.
Young boys unmade alive,
Who pray for prey,
To fight, as men.

Shaka's day came then went,
Advancing industry,
Exchanging liberty.
Unrest, these left and,
Once again,
` To live, as men.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Treasure Pool

The Treasure Pool
James Strauss

The sun was perfect, as I stretched back on my chaise lounge and took in the fall of the sun. It tantalized, still well above the horizon, but low enough to signify its passing was imminent. I looked at the near empty bottle of Corona, my favorite beer, then tipped up the clear bottle and drained the last of its yellow ale. The beach at Kahala. A few people walking up and down, just sort of straying into the near silent lapping waves. An on shore breeze. The trade winds. Wonderful. But I was bored. I had done nothing for weeks except sit around outside, go in to sleep, and then rise to the same routine. Corona beer was ever present, but only consumed between four p.m. and sunset. I am not an alcoholic because I can give up the beer anytime I want. I just have never really want to. I am supposed to be writing. At least that is what I claim to the world. My prior success as a novelist keeps everyone at bay. At least, that has worked so far.
I decide, tossing the bottle back onto the deep Korean grass that grows
from my house to the edge of the sand, that a walk on Waikiki Beach will do me a world of good, and maybe drive away my ennui. I sigh deeply before getting up. It’s a short drive to Waikiki and I can count too many bottles on the grass for me to make that trip safely. I call the number for a taxi to come get me. The number is conveniently taped to the back of the phone, as my days have been especially Corona disabled lately.
I am okay in appearance. Not too old. Not too young. An author of substance. A day old beard, but that's chic for today. My old style OP shorts are too short to really be in, but then I have never been able to quite get Magnum out of my life. Even the Vietnam thing. I went there too, and had a much worse go then he did. And mine was real. My aloha shirt is very in, however. It is much older than the shorts, but that is the rage now. Its pale green and filled with crossing palm trees. An ex-girlfriend told me that it was ugly as sin, but then, she's an ex. My sandals are Teva. Comfortable. Cool. Just right for a walk in the sand. Not too comfortable if I get in the water, but then I am not planning on taking a dip in them.
The cab is the usual Oahu affair. A small white van with a local driver, as loquacious as he is overweight. Finally, I stop him, well short of the beach itself. The road is Kalakaua, and I get out at the Coast Guard Station near the tip of Diamond Head. I once saw Jim Nabors running there and said hello to him as he passed. He said hello back, in that same voice he used for his role in the television series that made him famous. I loved it. And him, until I found out he was gay. I decided, at that point, that I just liked him a lot.
The cab driver shouted Mahalo six or seven times before he drove away, and waved at me with that 'Shaka' hand wave so popular in the islands. I nodded. I had tipped him twenty dollars for a five dollar ride. I always do that. I am not that generous, really, but I always feel that the cab drivers all somehow know that it is me they are taking into Waikiki. When they get the call, I mean. And I want them to want to come get me right away. It must work because they are always there in minutes of my call. But I don't really know.
I walk down to the park along the road. The road is always filled with cars and the walkway filled with runners, walkers and skate-boarders.
After I bought the house, two years back, I ran for a bit. Up the other way, past the Coast Guard lighthouse, it rises at a pretty steep angle there. One day, when I thought I was doing alright near the top, I was passed by an old Chinese woman wearing a kimono. She said "aloha" in that local sing-songy style, as she went by. She was being led by a tiny white dog which she had on a thin gold leash. I think it was the dog passing me that made me quit running. I have not run since, but I still look around occasionally for that old woman in the kimono.
I cut through the park and walk back in the direction I came in from. Before heading into Waikiki I am going to make another attempt at trying to find John Wayne's old house. It is supposed to be tucked in among the local flora just below the Coast Guard station, but I have never been able to find it. As I reach the end of the park I look down. I am walking right next to the old rusted railing atop a wall. Below is the ocean, but the tide is out so there are no waves pounding into the side of the wall. Just at the end of the park, and in front of me, is another wall. This one extends out, beyond the railing, and runs into the water about a hundred feet before ending. Its an old wall, and falling apart. Down in the sand, with small waves lapping across his ankles, crouches some guy faced into the corner where the two walls come together. I stop to see what he is doing. Ita too shallow to fish but maybe he's chumming for bait or something. I stand just above him and stare down. His aloha shirt is older than mine, but looks like it has been worn through all the ensuing years. The man's white cotton shorts are nearly as tattered, and he has no covering for his feet. None that I can see, anyway. I cannot see what the man's hands are doing, but he is moving them in a slow circular way. As I watch I hear him exclaim.
"Got ya! Yessiree babe, do I have you. The catch of the day. Oh thank you God! Suddenly the man stands, his right fist raised up to the sky, as if clutching something. And he see's me. He turns slightly toward me,
his head at the level of my feet under the bars. He's tall and gangly, this strange long-haired water creature.
"Who'er you?" he asks, his hand lowering to his side. He steps away from the corner, then glances back, before looking back up at me.
"Ah, I'm not really anybody," I fumble to say, not having expected the question. "I was just admiring whatever it is you are doing there." I point weakly at the corner he has backed away from. I note that water seems to swirl a little in some sort of natural basin at the bottom, where the two walls come together.
"Doing?" the man says, then smiles more to himself than me. "I was just getten' some treasure from the treasure pool."
"What's the treasure pool?" I ask, not really caring, but the character before me is unusual, and therefore of some passing interest.
"That," and the man points his still clutched fist at the basin.
I stare down at the oddly swirling water. Every time a small group of waves hits the corner it creates a vortex right where the walls come together I see. "Mind if I come down and see for myself?" I ask the strange man.
"Not a bit. Not a bit," the man repeats.
It takes me a few minutes to retrace my steps back to a part of the wall that has fallen. The rail is bent into odds shapes with openings big enough for me to slide through. I cross the sand with small waves lapping over my Teva's, which I have forgotten to remove. I shake my head in disgust. The Teva's take days to dry out, and then sometimes smell for awhile.
I finally stand before the small water carved basin. The lanky man is crouching before the bowl, as if before an altar. I crouch down at his side and stare with him.
"That's it," the man says, in a whisper, then takes his fist and extends it over the indented rock and opens it. A shiny object falls into the bowl and begins to rotate and jump about, as more small waves swirl the water around and around.
"What is that?" I whisper back, staring, and now quite interested.
The man laughs, then plucks the object out of the water and holds it out to me on the flat of his hand. I stare. It is a woman's diamond ring. The metal is obviously gold and the stone looks to be at least half a carat.
"It's a ring," I state rather dumbly. Then I recover. "Where is it from?"
"From?" the man intones, his voice rising from a whisper. "Every day I come here. Sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes, not often mind you, there is something in the treasure bowl. I get coins, rings and even interesting glass pieces now and then. The good stuff goes straight to Kaimuki Pawn, but I still have plenty left in my collection."
"But how does it get into that bowl? I ask, looking first from the ring and then down into the pool. Back and forth my eyes go, several times.
"Hydraulics," the man says. "Or, at least, that's what I think. The water swirls about at high tide and makes its way through the reef there around from the beach in Waikiki. It picks up stuff that the tourists have dropped and then deposits them here as the tide falls." His non-ring bearing hand completes an arc describing the travel of treasure objects from Waikiki beach to this small indentation in stone, while he talks.
"Where you from?" the man asks, suddenly, again catching me off guard.
"Up the way. I have a place on Kahala beach, that way," and I point back toward Diamond Head. He nods.
"Well, be seein' ya." Like a cat, the man twists and vaults upward, catching the lower bar of the railing with one hand and then swinging up.
He is gone before I can say another word. I stare at the small swirling pool skeptically, then retrace my own steps and climb to the top of the wall. I walk Waikiki Beach but my thoughts keep staying back to the strange occurrence at that corner pool. Maybe the man palmed the ring to be able to tell me that story. But why would he bother? He asked for nothing. And he seemed to have almost nothing. I could not get it out of my mind.
Three days later I return. I arrive earlier in the day. As I approach the area I see that the tide is not high but it is higher than the last time I was here. I climb down. My Teva's are left atop the wall this time. I approach the corner and stare down. Six inches of water covers the small bowl and the waves are more active. But there is a definite swirl and spirals of sand make neat designs, as they form and fade in and above the base of the corner.
I lean down closer.
"What are you doing?" a deep voice in my right ear says, as I jump back and almost fall full form into the water. I stumble and recover my balance. "What are you doing?" the voice says again, as the strange man
of days earlier comes around from behind me.
"Looking for treasure," I say to him weakly and, for some reason, with embarrassment.
"But its my treasure pool. I only told you about it…ah hell, I don't know why I told you about it." The man places his hands on each side of his head and presses. After a moment he puts them down at his side. "You have a house on Kahala beach. I have nothing. I live in the bushes by John Wayne's old house. Why would you want to take stuff from my treasure pool?" He shakes his head and a tear falls from one eye. Suddenly, he leaps to the bottom of the rail and does his disappearing act, up and over the wall.
I pull myself up a little and see him, sitting despondently at one of the picnic tables in the park. I get down and crouch over the swirling water at the corner. There is nothing in the worn stone bowl. I take off my watch and toss it into the pool. It’s a heavy diving watch and the water does not move it at all, simply swirling sand around it in different patterns than before.
I work my way back up the broken part of the wall and walk over the picnic table.
"You're right man. It's your treasure pool. Sorry." I sit down, but the man gets up and leaves without a word. He stops at the railing and vaults over. How he lands on the sand ten feet below without hurting himself I don't know. I sit for ten minutes before my curiosity gets the best of me. I walk to the railing overlooking the corner. The man is standing with one fist raised in the air.
"Thank you God," he says aloud. "It's a Rolex God. A God blessed real Rolex. Not one of them phoney one's. No sirree God, this is the real article." I can't help but smile, but then I fade back into the park before being noticed again. I never liked the Rolex. I'll get something else that nobody can identify when I buy a new watch.
Every once and awhile I return to the treasure pool and put some other piece of interesting jewelry into it. I always go early in the morning. I wonder what the strange man thinks of my choices. I always make sure they are things that a pawn shop would like to have. Strangely enough, I began to write again after the incident, and, it seems the more I put into the treasure pool the more I seem to be able to write.
I have never seen the man again,and I wonder if, when I do, he will show me where John Wayne's old house is.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I came back from Vietnam on a gurney, flown
in on one of those planes they called Starlifters at the time.
The gurney followed the plastic sack they had put me in
aboard the aircraft.  Those of us in that fuselage were all
then pinned up to the walls and the center divider.

Now. Phoenix, Arizona.  The airport here.  In one of those little
bar kind of restaurants they have out near the spoke-ends.
Nameless.  Marginal food.  But a place to sit and not be
among all the fidgeting, staring passengers on the black
faux-leather seats near the gate.

I don't have PTSD, even though I go to group every
week at the VA.  I am not suicidal, and they know that.
No, I don't really want to be alive anymore, but that is
different.  I'm here.  And I'm okay.  I don't think
about Vietnam much now, or my lost boys, or
the other people who died because I was there.  But I am
hyper-vigilant the psychologist says.  I notice things.
I notice a lot of things.  The license plate of the car
driving behind mine.  My mind converts the backward
image automatically.  The people around me.  Whether
they have noticed me.  Whether I have seen them before.
What they are wearing.  What they are buying.
It never stops.  I don't want to be afraid of them, so I want
to have never seen any of them before.  I had great
courage once.  People think I do now.  But I don't.
I don't share my fear.  When I shake a little, I move,
like Michael Fox with his problem.  You don't shake
if you move around, just a bit.  He knows that.

My small table is outside the facility but inside a
short metal fence.  My back is against the wall.
That's automatic.  I toy with my bad Buffalo wings, but
really watch what is going on around me.
Then I am surprised.

A GI comes through the outside door.  He's dressed out
in full Iraq mufti.  The new desert stuff, with the
cool buff boots and velcro patches.  I don't notice
what's on the patches because I was a Marine.  I
don't care.  He's Army.  He's okay, but he's Army.

He sits down. He has nothing with him.  Not even a ditty bag.  Nothing.
Unusual.  I note that.  He sits at the next table.  His back is against the wall too.
He watches the people, like me, but does not look at me, or I at him.  I just
take him in from the side.  He orders.  The waiter goes away.  Then he starts.
"Daisy, daisy, ....all for the love of you....I'm half crazy...." his voice is soft
in the singing.  Very soft.  And it is spaced out, the words coming out one at a time.
Then I remember where I heard the song.  2001 A Space Odyssey.  Kubrick.  The GI is
singing just like in the movie where Keir Dullea gets back inside the space ship and is
seen slowly removing the brain parts to Hal, the computer gone bad.  The more parts he removes
the slower the computer sings the song.  Like the GI.  I don't turn, but I am struck hard.
Then, as he sings, his knees start a rapid drumming up and down.  He takes both hands
and pushes them back down, but continues to sing.

I take out a twenty form my money-clip and put it on my table.  I get up
and wheel my roller back into the main bar area and then out the side
to the spoke, where people mill.  I move directly tward the restroom
and into a stall.  I sit on the john with my clothes on.
"What am I going to do," I whisper.  I hold my face with both hands.
I breathe deeply inward. Then I get up and leave.

The GI is gone.  His food is on the table.  The waiter is standing looking
around.  I walk back on the outside of the metal fence.  I take out another twenty
and motion to him.  He frowns, looks at the uneaten food, but takes the twenty.
I get on my flight.  I never see the GI again.

Every once and awhile, I notice someone looking at me, back here, where I live.
Then I realize that I am very quietly singing Daisy, and thinking of the GI.
I stop singing immediately, then start moving.  Just a little.