Camp Recovery, South Seas, Ltd.

pago-harbour

Pago Pago Harbor

Lucy always did the writing they told me. That was the way it worked. Perry would think it up, and Lucy would write it up. They lived off the Internet. They had done fake dietary supplement scams, bogus time-sharing deals, rip-off save-the-wild-things charities. They worked, if you could call it work, at home, but their home tended to wander—from state to state and coast to coast—so in a way they were also commuters. Also their actual names were not Lucy and Perry; though I’d like to think that, given the choice, those would be the names they would choose to be known by. They were a tight couple. One of their stories was that they had been together since high school. Who knows?

I got to know them because they liked getting stoned, and soon after they got to the islands someone directed them to me as their local satisfier. All I could offer them was our homegrown ganja. We call it pakalolo, crazy tobacco. People like L & P pass through here all the time, people getting lost either because they found control or abandoned it. L & P liked to think that they were in control, but—and this is a metaphor here—their helm was not well connected to their rudder. They weren’t yachties, though, not a cruiser couple like those that make up a good chunk of my Caucasian customers. They wouldn’t have survived very long on a boat.

Lucy was cute in a round, white, farm girl way—someone who still thought of herself as “bouncy” and “fun” long after those adjectives accurately described any attributes of her actual personality. This gave her persona an interesting sort of inter-generational drag queen effect—Lolita played by a middle-aged woman. She was a bottle blonde. Perry was invisible, a human chameleon. No two people would agree on his appearance. There was nothing to describe—of medium height and weight, uncertain ethnicity, unremarkable features, dressed to be ignored. Perry who? Stoned, he once showed me all his IDs—six different people rolled into none of them, pure no one.

Well, Lucy had done a good job writing up this caper. It had gotten them this far, all the way to Pago Pago. She happily admitted that she had cut and pasted most of their current prospectus and ads and webpage from other similar sites on the Internet. Tough-love treatment retreats for spoiled, out-of-control rich kids had been around for a while—“high impact intervention…indigenous immersion…relationship driven.” Perry’s addition was to place their purported facility in a survival-TV-show-like setting on the isolated shoreline of a remote and foreign South Pacific island—a sort of Devil’s Island for teenagers, surrounded by a tropical jungle and shark-infested waters in a country that also offered loose, off-shore banking procedures and multiple routes of escape that did not lead back to the United States. They chose the independent island nation of Samoa, American Samoa’s—Pago Pago’s—neighbor in the archipelago.

Unfortunately, they were not tropics people. They were lost in the third world realities of Samoa and its capital Apia, where English was very much a second language and where their scheme to establish their bogus company—called Camp Recovery, South Seas, Ltd.—got bogged down in banana republic bureaucracy and a system of bribes that they refused to take part in, insulted that someone would try to scam them. Also, Perry didn’t feature all the running around from office to office and waiting around. It made him too visible, too often the target of questions and scrutiny. “Most of the time I’m the only white person in the room, and everybody is like examining me,” Perry complained. So, to keep as low profile as possible, they spent most of their time on our island in American Samoa, just a forty-minute inter-island plane ride away. Not that Pago Pago is in any way more cosmo or Caucasian than Apia.

L & P were city people, and feeding themselves without neighborhood delis, take-outs, and fast food joints was almost impossible for them. Lucy called it her South Seas diet. They also had few clothes suitable for the climate, and they went from day to day seemingly surprised by the unrelenting heat and humidity, as if it were just a hot snap that must surely end. It never does. Perry rarely left the air-conditioned room they were renting at a dive called Best Paradise Bed Breakfast & Bar up in the back alleyways of Fagatogo on the edge of the harbor. That’s where we usually met. The room had no windows, just an air-conditioner. Perry chain-smoked when he was stoned, so when I was there the room was blue with cigarette and crazy paka smoke. The TV set was always on, muted with close captions flashing on the screen. Lucy had found nearby a little one-computer Internet café—which didn’t serve coffee—and she would usually go off there when I showed up, try to get on-line to the mainland.

One afternoon I showed up there just because I was in the neighborhood and thought I would try to coax Perry out of the room for a cold beer, at least as far as the downstairs bar at BPBBB. Bad timing. L & P were having a fight. I could hear them yelling at each other when I came up the stairs to their floor. As I turned to retreat, Lucy came out of the room into the hallway, with a “Fuck you” over her shoulder, which was answered by an “Ah, stuff it,” from Perry inside the room. She walked right past me at the top of the stairs as if I wasn’t there. Perry came out into the hallway and yelled after her, “Don’t do it!” Then he saw me, stopped, and shook his head before gesturing me to follow him back into the room. I got Perry out of his room for a beer that afternoon, and not just to the downstairs bar but all the way to the Captain’s Table down on the malae and then to the Seaside next to the fishing boat docks, only because he wanted to get out of there and hide from Lucy.

One of the main reasons I had come back to American Samoa after my ten years in California had been because I missed its what’s-so-fucking-important pace, its rainy days off, its chunky mix of pomp and seediness, protocol and moral laxity. On the mainland I had been just a pawn in someone else’s game, if I was in the game at all. But back home in Pago I was a player, and nobody played very hard. If Perry’s comfort zone was anonymity, mine was the opposite. The more people knew my name, the safer I felt. In the bars I knew everybody, but I didn’t bother introducing the very white guy in sunglasses with me.

The problem with Lucy was that her part of the program was getting too far out in front of Perry’s part. She was getting responses from the webpage and ads, inquiries from parents of potential inmates, while Perry hadn’t yet gotten CRSS Ltd.’s articles of incorporation approved and its license to do business in Samoa issued, without which they couldn’t open a bank account there and start accepting application fees. Perry had to go back to Apia and he was putting it off. At some point after the third or fourth beer he asked me to go with him. He would pay me $100 a day plus expenses, was that alright? I told him I didn’t have any connections in Apia. He said he just wanted the company. He didn’t like the place. I didn’t tell him that I couldn’t risk going back to Apia. I wrote down the name and phone number of an acquaintance there and told Perry not to offer the dude more than $50 a day for helping him out. A couple of days later I heard that Perry was in Apia.

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Fagatogo

The kid’s name, his first name, was Clinton. He was big, blond, blue eyed, maybe sixteen-years old, and on some variety of American pharmaceutical that kept him docile. He showed up while Perry was in Apia. I was playing pool in the shed at the taxi stand beside the farmers market when Lucy, with Clinton in tow, found me. He hit his head on a low roof beam coming in but didn’t seem to notice. Now, of course, L & P had never had any intention of actually opening a Camp Recovery, South Seas. They would just accept application, registration, and advance placement deposit fees for as many kids as possible, then disappear before any enrollees actually arrived. Clinton had been one of their first applicants. Well, not Clinton himself, but his father—a Boston lawyer—had registered him and had been so eager to get his son into treatment in paradise that he had sent him out well before the scheduled bogus opening date. Lucy admitted it was her fault. The Boston lawyer had been so insistent on paying for everything, including six months tuition, up front that she had called him to confirm that he was real. He had traced her call to the BPBBB and had his son delivered to her—accompanied by a private male nurse—immediately. Clinton came with a cashier’s check made out to cash for $35,000.

Lucy explained this to me as she and I stood outside the low shed where the pool game was going on without me and Clinton had found a seat and was watching the game with all the attention of someone staring at a blank TV screen.

“Where’s the nurse now?” I asked.

“Checked into the Clarion Tradewinds, probably sitting by the pool by now. He leaves on the next flight back to Honolulu in three days.”

“And Clinton?”

“He’s registered there too, until the nurse leaves. Then he’s all ours.”

“Ours?”

“Mine and Perry’s I mean.”

“So why bring him here?”

“You gotta help me get rid of him.” When Lucy said this she reached up and held me by the bicep. “There’s plenty of money. We’ve got to work something out. Please.” And she gave me that lonely Lolita look that said ‘and there’s more than money in it for you.’ She moved closer so that our bodies were touching in different places.

I got Clinton out of the pool shed, where he had so not fit in that everybody had ignored him. I asked him if he was hungry. I called him Pres. He liked that. I got the three of us styrofoam teriyaki chicken, rice, and macaroni salad plates from a place behind the market, and we took them to eat in the park near there in front of the court house, on the grass beneath a red flame tree. Clinton had a good appetite, but he didn’t have much to say. I got the impression that he had no idea where he was, but he said he liked the heat. Sitting on the grass in the skimpy shade of the flame tree, he took off his shirt and t-shirt—to “soak it up” as he said—and displayed a rather impressive sculpted torso. “Weights?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said and struck some sort of Schawrzenegger pose. “Nice,” Lucy/Lolita said. This pleased Clinton, who smiled for the first time, or maybe it was just part of the pose.

Back at the taxi stand I hired Rocketi to drive us all to the Clarion Tradewinds out near the airport, and sure enough we found the male nurse by the pool. Clinton went off to his room to change into swim trunks, but never came back. If the nurse had a name, I don’t remember it. He was a forty-something flaming faggot in a Speedo. Lucy introduced me as the head counselor at Camp Recovery. Speedo tried to get personal, but I just asked him for whatever therapy background info he had on Clinton plus his current med supplies and prescriptions. We didn’t hit it off well, but he agreed to have it all ready for us when we took possession of Clinton in three days time. Speedo used a bunch of big terms that I was supposed to understand to tell us what was wrong with Clinton, then he went off to find his charge. It was his afternoon med time.

That night Lucy delivered on her Lolita promise. She was pretty good in bed, if a bit more clingy than I like. She smelled and tasted great. I didn’t spend the night. When I left she said, come again, and I had thought she was asleep.

My cousin Sefo lives in a place that taxi cabs won’t take you to. He also has no phone. So the next day I had to hustle up someone with a four-wheel drive pickup truck. It didn’t take long. A six-pack of Bud Lite and a couple of joints, and one of the plantation boys dropping off his load of produce at the market was happy to go for a ride back into the bush. Cousin Sefo’s got a nice place even if the road in there does suck. He’s got a couple of acres in taro, a couple of acres in market crops, bananas, coconuts, and a private plot of pakalolo. He’s also got a couple of illegal Chinese guys who do most of the work, so Sefo’s gone a bit on the fat side. His wife doesn’t like me much, but that doesn’t matter. We’re family.

The deal I offered cousin Sefo he couldn’t refuse. I would give him this big Caucasian kid to train as a farmer, use as a slave as long as he wanted, and I would pay him $500 for the privilege. If he got tired of the kid, he could sell him to somebody else even deeper in the bush. I didn’t care. We smoked on it, and he agreed. Cousin Sefo always thought I was a fool when it came to real business. Back in town I looked up Lucy at the BPBBB to tell her it would cost her only three grand for me to take Clinton off her hands, but I couldn’t find her.

Two days later, though, she found me, and we took a taxi cab out to the Clarion Tradewinds to pick up Clinton. It was obvious right off what had been going on. Lucy greeted Clinton with a hug and a kiss on the lips, weirdly both girlish and maternal. The male nurse almost threw Clinton’s file and a bag full of prescription bottles at me as he stomped in and out of the room, rolling his eyes. Clinton, puppyish, was all packed and ready to go. On the ride back to town I let the love birds have the back seat, and I sat up front with the cabbie. At one point I couldn’t resist and I turned around to ask Lucy if she had heard anything from Perry. No, she said. Clinton’s hand was up her skirt.

“He’d never had a woman before, not even a girl.” For some reason Lucy felt she had to explain it to me.

“That young body,” I said.

“Well, that too,” she said, giggling.

We were seated across from one another in a dark booth of the BPBBBar. Lucy was stoned and getting drunk. I had just gotten back from dropping an overly sedated Clinton at my cousin Sefo’s place. I kept what was left of his pharmaceuticals. Lucy had kept her sex slave busy in her room for a couple of days before giving him up.

“He was amazing. He would say the most inane things. He thinks everything is man-made, including trees and birds and dogs. He has no idea where food comes from or hot water for that matter. He is innocent of numbers and most colors. He didn’t know how I could pee without a penis. He didn’t even know how to take a proper shower. No one ever showed him.”

“You did.”

She giggled again. “He’d never been that clean.”

I ordered two more rum and tonics. Lucy had given me the three grand when she handed over a stumbling Clinton, and she hadn’t asked any questions.

“Cheers,” she said when our new drinks came and we clinked glasses. “Here’s to the young and the hard.”

It was soon after that when Lucy started to worry about Perry. He wasn’t back, and she hadn’t heard from him. There was a guy I knew who made regular trips back and forth to Apia—not on a plane or the ferry, but in his own boat, at night. He was an importer/exporter. I asked him to ask around Apia about Perry. A week or so later I heard back. The dude that I had gotten Perry in touch with had gotten him in touch with someone else, and Perry had fallen in with him. There was something to do about a hot yacht and a scam run by a Caucasian male that might have been Perry. The authorities thought the pirated boat might be headed for Fiji, but they weren’t sure. The next day Lucy was on a plane to Apia with all of her stuff. I took her by taxi cab to the airport. She gave me a kiss goodbye. It seemed sincere.

I know you are wondering what happened to Clinton. I wondered, too, for several weeks before getting a ride out to cousin Sefo’s. I had to wake him up in the middle of the day. I didn’t want to seem impolite, so we had something to eat and drank one of the six packs I had brought with me before I asked about the Caucasian kid, making it sound like an afterthought.

“Kalini?” cousin Sefo asked. They had Samoanized his name. “Good kid, no trouble, though he eats a lot. He’s been bunking with the chinks up at the top plantation. Works hard, the chinks tell me.  Got himself a girl. The chief lets her sneak up from the village.” Cousin Sefo hadn’t seen Kalini in more than a week. “Gone native, I guess.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pub Poems

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Poets Star Wars Bar & Grill

Ezra Pound once sent James Joyce a pair of used shoes.

Would you buy Faulkner a drink? Have tea with Emily?

Forget that the guests are all dead, would you be on time?

Oh, the company you’d keep. Bukowski vomit in the sink.

Olson vanishing into the Cape Ann fog while Neruda

warms up the waitresses with Spanish love poems.

Back at the bar Berryman and Yeats are not speaking,

staring each other down, while Heaney chortles at them.

Hemingway is passed out. Fitzgerald and Lawrence are

scheming some escape. The haiku crowd has vanished.

Over by the dart board, though, the sonneteers are still at it,

laughing it up in perfect couplets, taking their turns with

end-rhyme darts to pin down the abstract with the real.

They were here first; they’ll be the last to leave.

 

Usual Group at the Window Table

How in Westerns the wheels of the wagons

always spin backwards the faster they go,

how ice and flame at first touch feel the same.

Take a pint and a seat by the window.

 

If all my sins were confessed in Islam

my body would have no extremities.

What do you call what you want to forget?

Take a pint and a seat by the window.

 

There are faults in the sky that insult me,

slick birds with no wings that call themselves souls.

Without your lost beauty no one knows you.

Take a pint and a seat by the window.