Sunday, February 26, 2017

Senior (Part 2)

     Our final visit was all the way across campus again, and then some, to the Unit 2 housing complex at College Ave. and Dwight Way.  Unit 2 consisted of four buildings, or "residence halls."  Each was about eight stories, with a plaza in the center and a low building housing study halls and the cafeteria  to one side.  Sparky had regained a bit of pep, and told us he knew the front desk people at every piece of housing UC Berkeley owned.  He assured us we'd be able to see a vacant dorm room, so we'd know what one was like.

     We entered Cunningham Hall, Sparky using a mag-stripe card to buzz the door open.  At the front desk, he greeted the young woman occupying space there with a warm, "Hey, Goldie!  How's things?"
     Goldie didn't quite suppress the urge to roll her eyes.  She said, "Hello, Sparky," in a flat tone.
     "Goldie, meet Jane Osborne.  She'll be a freshman next year.  These are her, um, adults, Bekka and Lenny Schneider."
     "Oh my fucking God," breathed Goldie.  She'd locked on Bekka.  "You're Becky Page, aren't you?"
      "Live and in the flesh," smiled Bekka.
     The girl's mouth was now open, and I could actually hear her breathing heavy.  I checked to see if drool was puddling on the front counter yet.  She said, "You are the reason I'm alive.  You kept me from killing myself when I was a senior in high school.  I owe you so, so much, I'm alive, and I'm a happy person now, and it's because of you."
     Bekka was giving her a surprised and slightly cowed look.  She said, "Um....  Not a problem.  Glad to help.  So, ah, tell me, what did I do to impact your life this way?"
     "You released 'Bewitched,' and then you released 'Rocker Girls,'" said Goldie.  "And in interviews, you'd talk honestly about your life, you didn't hide anything about your sexuality, or your relationships, or anything.  I'm from a town called Coalinga.  It's sort of up in the hills above the Central Valley.  Coalinga's only claim to fame is that's where they built a big facility for the criminally insane, the people who set fire to their children or whatever.  Coalinga is a shit-hole.
     "I'm a lesbian, and there's no way you can come out in a town like Coalinga, especially if you're a teenager.  I had no close friends, obviously I had no romantic life, all I did was school work and watch TV.  My family is pretty poor.  And when I was seventeen, I realized I was probably going to be stuck in Coalinga for my entire life, there was no escape.  So, I began actively plotting ways to kill myself.
     "A girl I hung out with sometimes asked me to watch her parents' copy of 'Bewitched' with her.  It was a revelation for me.  You were just.... so amazing as Ursula.  And your scene with the other witch seemed to say, 'Look, there are other girls like you out there, you're not a freak.'  I saved some money and ordered 'Rocker Girls' by mail.  That was even better, I'd never heard music like that before.  The movie in general felt so liberating to watch.  Then you started showing up in the magazines, talking about your bisexuality and polyamory, just being totally open about your life.  I figured, Becky Page has the guts to do what she does for a living, and tell the world her feelings about life.  She---"
     Sparky stuck his head in and said, "Goldie, I'm giving these people a tour right now, I'd like to show them a vacant room.  Could you give me a key?"
     "In. One. Moment, Sparky," Goldie hissed, looking feral.  Then she beamed at Bekka and said, "So you gave me courage, by demonstrating your own courage.  At one point you mentioned having gone to college, even though your family was poor.  I was a straight A student.  So, I went and talked to my guidance counselor about getting into a good four year college.... like this one.  I guess I was the first student all year asking him for help getting in college, because the two of us applied for every scholarship and grant on the planet, and I got lined up here.
     "Now I'm a sophomore, I've got a girlfriend, my grades are good.... I actually have a life, and you were the impetus for it.  I love you so much."
     "I'm so happy things worked out for you," smiled Bekka.  "It's wonderful you found strength in my performances and interviews, I never knew I was impacting people like that.  So I'm guessing you live in this building, or one like it.  What's it like?"
     Goldie frowned into the middle distance briefly, then said, "It depends on what you're used to.  I'm an only child, and Coalinga is a quiet place.  The first semester in housing drove me crazy, there was constant noise, twenty-four hours a day.  Also, I had two other roommates, three of us in one room.  There is zero privacy.  Um, I live in off-campus housing now, I share an apartment with another girl.  I actually took out a student loan so I would have the money for off-campus housing.  Yeah, the dorms drove me crazy."
      Jane and I were giving each other worried looks.  Sparky broke in with a wobbly smile and said, "Aw, come on, the dorms aren't that bad!  I was in housing until the end of my junior year!  It's okay!"
     "Didn't you once tell me you have five brothers and sisters, and you grew up in a three bedroom house?" Goldie asked evenly.  "I'm sure the noise and activity and crowding didn't bother you a bit.  And I'll also guess you're much happier now that you're in an apartment."
     "Let me have a room key," Sparky said pointedly.  Goldie handed one over.  He gestured at the three of us to follow him.  We stepped across the lobby to an elevator..... No, excuse me, to the elevator.  He hit the button and we waited.
     While we did, I asked him about how many students were in a building.  About 230, he answered.  Was there a second elevator?  Well, there's a freight elevator, but you need a key to use it, it's for the maintenance workers and people like that.  We continued standing and waiting.  The floor indicator lights didn't seem to be working.  Finally, after another two minutes, the elevator arrived.  It held one student.
     We got on, and Sparky pushed the button for the sixth floor.  We stood and waited, and waited, and after the amount of time it usually takes to whistle the "Jeopardy" theme five times, the door opened.  On the fourth floor.  A student got on and pushed the button for seven.  I could hear my beard growing in.  After an amount of time long enough for the Italian government to change three times, we got out on six.  Down a hallway we walked.  It reminded me of SRO hotels we'd visited in San Francisco, only far more institutional.  The carpet had originally been a flat blue.  Now there were so many stains it looked like a Jackson Pollack painting.  Sound emitted from behind every door.  The air was very stale, cigarette smoke would have improved things.  Sparky stopped at a door and let us in.
     There was sturdy, institutional furniture crowding the place.  There were two --- TWO --- bunk beds, indicating the university intended this room to be occupied by four people.  I looked around, then asked Sparky, "Uh....  Where do you put your shit?"
     He pointed at what appeared to be a free-standing closet sitting to one side.  "In there."
     "Okay.  Where does everyone else put their shit?"
     "The students have to share what space there is," Sparky explained patiently.  "We make it clear to incoming residents they can't bring everything they own with them."
     Bekka, looking positively annoyed, said, "They can't bring anything they own with them.  Four students to one room, this size?  Seriously?  The school is stacking them in like cord wood, aren't they?"
     "Some rooms only have two residents.  Some have three."
     "How do you finagle having just one other roommate?" asked Jane.  "I could handle one other person, but not two, and definitely not three."
     "Oh, it's total luck of the draw," Sparky said cheerfully.  "They initially assign everyone completely at random.  If, over the course of the semester, residents want to rearrange things, they just need to let the Student Housing people know they're making a switcheroo."
     I realized there was no other door in the room.  I asked, "So where's the can?"
     "Facilities are down the hall.  There are two sets, one at each end of the floor."
     "Lemme guess, communal showers.  The hot water heater for the floor came out of a motor home.  And the mildew is so bad, there's some growths which are starting to demand rights of citizenship."
     "Oh, it's not so bad...." Sparky said airily.
     Jane quietly said, "I know you said I should spend my first year in the dorms.  If you insist that I do, I will, and I won't complain.  But please, guys, do you think I could just do off-campus housing?  Find a roommate and live in an apartment?"
     I looked around the room again, shook my head, and said, "You'd better fuckin' believe it, pet.  We'll get you a place to stay that wouldn't have a prisoner at Chino saying, 'This seems rather cramped.'  No, don't worry, you won't be staying in student housing.  Hey Sparky, what's the policy on students who aren't living in the dorms using the cafeteria somewhere?  Is there any way Jane can get her meals through the school?  It would be sort of a convenience, you know?"
     "Any student can purchase a meal plan," said Sparky.  He glanced at the three of us and asked, "You don't like the room?"
     "No shit, Maynard," I muttered.
     Bekka said in a patient mafioso voice, "The floor in here is clean, and so are the beds.  The furniture appears to be in serviceable condition.  There seems to be ventilation, and things are in good shape.  And none of that changes the fact that this is like something in a flophouse.  Evidently, you're only allowed to have three changes of clothes, because there's no room to put anything else....  Wait a minute.  There's one desk.  Do the residents have scheduled times for using the desk, or are they discouraged from studying in their own rooms?"
     "I'm going to be bringing a PC with me in the fall," said Jane.  "Where, and how, would I hook it up?  To be honest, a new 486 isn't something I want non-users to be dicking around with unsupervised."
     "Moot point, girl," I said.  "We'll be getting you off-campus housing.  Sparky, thank you for the tour.  It was very enlightening.  We should go ring for the elevator now, so we'll be back downstairs while it's still light outside.  So, any recommendations for a good property management company, or a roommate referral service, or...?"
     "There are a few property management companies," Sparky answered.  "The university has a shared rental listing service as well, you can read it back at Sproul Hall.  Listings will indicate what semesters a person is seeking a roommate for, and the number of persons per room."
     My teeth started to grit involuntarily.  "Wait a minute.  How many people per room?  We're trying to avoid that bullshit by not having Jane in the fucking dorms.  You're saying people are doubled up in bedrooms in the apartments around here?"
     Sparky's cheeriness was starting to tense up. He said, "Yes.  It's mostly a matter of economics.  Rents are very high in the areas around campus, so to afford off-campus housing, a two bedroom apartment might have four or five people living in it..  You may want to check and see what rents are like in the area, before completely dismissing the dorms."
     We walked back to Sproul Hall,   Sparky pointed us at the office where shared rentals were listed, and took off.  I hoped he didn't have to write a report on how his day had gone.  In the office, we leafed through the listings for the fall semester.  Sure enough, actually having a private room seemed to be a foreign concept. There was a smaller binder which had listings for vacant apartments.
     Oy vey.  The rental prices were more appropriate for Manhattan.  $1450 for a two bedroom on Haste St at Bowditch.  $800 for a studio on Channing near Piedmont, a whole 230 square feet.  You'd have to stick your legs out the window to pull your pants on in the morning.  A one bedroom on College Ave. near Russell St., a very healthy hike from campus, was $1100.  There was another problem, too....
     Plenty of these listings had the number for property management companies.  Those which weren't being managed had names and phone numbers for individuals.   And far too many of the individuals had names like Vijay, Reddy, Apu, and Raffi.
      Now, I am not a racist.  I have zero problems with those from India, they are wonderful citizens and well-mannered, intelligent people.  I welcome any Indian who wishes to emigrate, I will applaud him as he gets off the airplane.  I am just fine with Indians....
     ..... Unless they are landlords.  Then, they become curry-eating, caste system-having, Shiva-worshiping shitheads.  When searching for an SRO in San Francisco, I learned a lesson very quickly: if you step into the building and smell curry, don't even bother.  The walls will have holes, the toilets will be clogged, there will be no hot water, the elevator has been on the fritz since Carter was in office, cockroaches, broken doors.... Slum housing.  And the bastards will be asking for median rate rents, not the pocket lint staying there would be worth.
     "Maybe I should poke around the punk rock scene and see if anyone is looking for a house mate in the fall," Jane suggested.  Or how about one of the Oakland H.A.?  I could just bring my motorcycle up and...."
     "I am really, really trying to avoid you having a vehicle up here," I told Jane.  "At least during your freshman year.  Okay, maybe wherever you're living will have some parking.  If you want to ride your putt to school, you'll have to get a permit every semester, and you can only use certain lots.  It's not really gonna be a convenience to have your putt up here."
     Bekka laid into a comment I'd ignored.  "Hold on one hot second.  You're considering having an Oakland H.A. as a roomie?  So you'd live all the way down there, which would pretty much necessitate you having wheels.  Look, the Angels are good people to hang around with, but living with one could be a drag.  Ask Terry about what sort of roommates outlaws make."
     "Wait, what's this..."  I had come across an interesting listing.  It was for a private residence hall on Dwight Way between Ellsworth and Dana.  Residents were two to a room.... Sort of.  Living space (which included a bathroom, fridge, and range) was a common room.  On each side were "sleeping alcoves," spaces about the size of a walk-in closet which would hold a twin sized bed just fine.  There were windows in the alcoves, so they wouldn't feel claustrophobic, but hanging around in one wouldn't be much fun: there was room for a bed, and that was it.  $500 a month, utilities included, pay your own phone and cable.
     "What the hell, let's check it out," said Bekka.  "Maybe we can put a deposit down for fall."
     We left Sproul Hall and started walking.  I had purposely studied the Berkeley street map, memorizing streets and block numbers corresponding to cross streets.  It was about five blocks to the residences.  When we arrived, we were greeted by an older-looking edifice, three stories high, fairly wide, and very deep.  We walked into a lobby attended by a young man with a sociology textbook on the desk in front of him.  There was a vast board of push-buttons on the wall by the next door, each one buzzing a room.  I located the one marked "Manager" and pushed.  A moment passed, then the second door buzzed,  We went in, looking around.  We trudged up to the mezzanine and saw a matronly woman poking her nose out a door to our right.  I asked, and she confirmed that yes, she was the manager.
     "Would it be possible to look at a room?" Bekka asked.  "It's hard to tell scale by the photos in you listing on campus."
     The woman grabbed a key ring the size of a tree stump and led us up to the second floor.  She opened up a room and let us in.  Not bad at all.  About the size of a ranch home living room, with a large window dominating the wall opposite the door.  There was no furniture at all.  A sufficient number of outlets, thermostat on the wall, a serviceable kitchen area.  One door led to the bathroom.  I was pleased to see it had its own water heater.  The sleeping alcoves were useless for anything except sleeping or storage.  It would even be hard to get laid in there, you'd be banging into the walls.
     "How do you find a roommate?" Jane asked.
     "Beyond sharing a room with someone of your own gender, it's luck of the draw.  Generally, the amount of time for two residents to develop genuine disharmony is the same amount of time it takes for residents to begin socializing, and making friends in the building.  A resident may switch rooms, so long as he or she notifies me, and the phone and cable bill are taken care of."
     "Would it be possible to run in a second phone line?"
     The woman frowned down at the carpet.  "I;... suppose so.  That's never been brought up before.  Why would you want a second phone line?"
     "To plug a computer modem into," Jane answered.  "If I have a roommate, it would be far more polite to just spring for a second line installation, instead of monopolizing the phone all the time."
     "Remember, you're a college student, not DARPA," I said.  "You don't need to be connected constantly.  From what I understand, that could be damn expensive."
     "Depends on the ISP you're using," Jane said.  "I checked, and Berkeley is being served by three ISPs, America OnLine, CompuServe, and Prodigy.  I know I don't want America OnLine.  From what I've heard, there's a lot of stuff being blocked at their end.  Like, no Usenet access.  I'll price out ISPs when I'm here in the fall."
     "You're looking for a room for the fall semester?" asked the woman.  "You're here just in the nick of time.  We've got three spaces left.  If you want to move in, you'd better make a decision quickly, and make a deposit."
    "Will she need to re-apply for the spring semester?" Bekka asked.
    "No, residency carries over between fall and spring.  However, it does not carry over across the summer, unless a resident is actually staying here and paying rent.  A simple rule of thumb is to just remember that if you wish to be here for a second year, let us know just after New Year's."
     We all looked at each other.  "This will beat the hell out of the dorms," Jane said.  "I'm willing to give it a shot."
     We went back down to the manager's office, where Jane was provided with a form to fill out.  I was asked to provide a $400 deposit, the amount matching the cleaning deposit.  I pulled four hundred dollar bills out of my wallet and handed them over.  The woman stared at them, then at me.
     "Do you often carry this kind of cash?" she asked.
     The question confused me, as Bekka and I rarely left the house without $1500 cash each.  Jane usually had a few hundred on her, as well.  We were just so used to money being around that what may have seemed like a pile in my earlier life was now pocket change.
     "Uh, yeah," I said.  "I like to have a supply of green grease."
     The woman handed me over some papers.  It was three sheets, stapled together, entitled "Rules and Guidelines."  Pretty predictable stuff, for the most part.  No pets, rent due on the first, no smoking in common areas, keep noise to a minimum at all times, but especially after ten at night.  Mail was in by one p.m.  The "social hall" on the second floor was open at eight in the morning, and closed at eleven p.m., unless prior arrangements are made.
     "What about overnight guests?" I asked, thinking of Smiley and Soda Pop, Jane's two current lovers (besides me).
     "Officially?  No," said the woman.  "Unofficially, well....  So long as discretion is exercised, and someone's roommate doesn't mind, it won't matter. We have the same attitude towards alcohol.  If someone has a six pack in their fridge, oh well.  If they're getting drunk here, we'll give them a single warning.  We have no resident advisers or floor monitors, no dorm mothers. So long as residents are considerate of their neighbors, it's no one's business."
     The woman paused.  "I will warn residents, keep in mind that this is a quiet building.  Um.... Certain noises can carry long and far around here.  Most succinctly, if one has an overnight guest, and there is some passion happening, both parties should try to not be too, uh, vocal while in the throes of passion.  Oh, and if someone having an overnight guest creates a heavy conflict with their roommate, the person will be scrutinized for guests, and the guests will be asked to leave.
     "If a sufficiently deep rift happens between two roommates, and the conflict begins to affect the peace of others, both will be given six weeks notice to vacate."
     "That seems a bit harsh, especially considering how tight housing is around here," I said.  "Maybe some sort of mediation...."
     The woman smiled and said, "I've been running this hall for twenty-three years now.  At this point, I don't want justice, I want quiet."
     "What are the other residents like?" asked Bekka.
     "A very mixed bag.  Multiple nationalities, freshmen to seniors, preppies to punk rockers."  She smiled and said, "This young lady won't be the only one whose hair color does not occur in nature.  The only way we single out the punk rockers and heavy metal fans is to advise them they shouldn't install stereo speakers the size of Stonehenge in their rooms.  They'll only be asking for complaints."
     "That's cool," said Jane.  "And I like there's a variety of people here.  We were over at Unit 2, and everyone I saw was white."
     "What are you talking about?" I asked;  "I saw Asians, East Indians, a few black dudes...."
     Jane rolled her eyes at me and smirked.  "Okay, some people had more  melanin than others.  But everyone was still really.... white, you know?"
     I reflected, and realized she was right.  For God's sake, one of the black guys was wearing an Izod shirt, and had a sweater tied around his neck.  Some might have different ethnic heritage, but everyone at the dorms were all from the same homogeneous suburban upper-middle-class social strata and culture.  I'd be willing to bet the three black guys I'd noticed listened to U2 or Bryan Adams.
     "What about parking?" Jane asked the woman.
     "Jane..." I growled.
     "Not for me.  But what if a couple guys from the Oakland chapter come to visit me, or if Soda Pop rides up?  Or you guys?"
     The woman replied, "There are twelve spaces behind the building.  They are available on a first come, first served basis, no spaces are reserved.  I suggest to anyone with a car that they get a residential parking permit for the neighborhood.  The city issues them to anyone with proof of residence, like a rent receipt or phone bill.  Were you planning on bringing a car?"
     "No....  But I've got a few friends in Oakland who ride motorcycles, and I'm sure they'd want to park off the street if they visit."
     "Motorcycles?  So long as they park along the alley without blocking the way, no one will bother them."
     "Who from the Oakland chapter would be visiting?" asked Bekka.  "I didn't know you'd spent that much time socializing with them."
     "Riley said that when I start school, I need to hook up with them," Jane replied.  "I know you know Riley, he's not gonna let anything happen to me.  I'll talk with Riley, and go to their bar or clubhouse as his guest, sorta like when Roach brought us to the Hi-Lo.  I know Oakland is supposed to be mega-tough, but I doubt they're much different from the Dago guys.  I"d like the camaraderie, you know?"
     "Who are you speaking of?": asked the woman.
     The three of us froze briefly.  I finally said, "Uh, we're acquainted with a motorcycle club down in Oakland.  We're pretty tight with one of the members, and he said for Jane to look him up when she starts school."
     The woman gazed at me levelly and said, "Tell me, would this club have a winged skull for a logo, and ride Harley-Davidsons?"
     I blew air and said, "Yes, they do."
     After a brief pause, she said, "If they behave, they will not be bothered.  If they behave."
    "No problem, ma'am," said Jane.  "Riley, the guy I'm friends with, actually has daughters about my age, and he's a lawyer.  He's not gonna look for trouble.  And I'm sure he won't bring anybody too rowdy to visit me."
     Jane handed over her completed paperwork.  The woman informed us that the hall would be "open" two weeks before the start of class in the fall.  Room information and a key would be mailed to us. Every now and then, a resident would skip out on their last month's phone and cable bills, and new residents moving into the same room would be unable to have the services turned on, unless they paid off the old tenant's debt.  If the utilities were holding that position, contact the woman, who would call Pac Bell and Comcast to remind them these were rental units, and would have fresh tenants every fall.  Send the previous tenant to collections, but don't jam up the new resident.
     Another caveat:  "When you first arrive, bring the basics with you, like a bed, your desk and chair, your clothes and personal effect, and so on.  Don't bring all your furniture and kitchen equipment.  Doing this will guarantee your roommate will do the same, and your room will be stuffed with furniture. Many residents just agree to split the cost of some cheap furniture, then sell it at the end of the year.  Same with kitchen tools.  Figure out between the two of you who can provide what."

     We took a taxi back to the Berkeley Marina Marriott and ate dinner in their restaurant.  Around eight we loaded into the Fleetwood and headed up the I-80 one exit, to Gilman St.  Stopping in front of a shack-like house at the corner of Seventh and Gilman, I laid on the horn.  A few moments later our friend Jerry came from the back of the house, waving.  He stuck his head in Bekka's window and invited us in.
     We went in and drifted into the living room.  Jerry turned on a Lyres album, then distributed bottles of Schlitz.  "You guys wanna do a line of stuff?" he asked.  Sounded good to us.
     Jerry knelt on the floor in front of the coffee table, crushing and chopping some crystal, and arranging it into lines.  He handed a tooter over to Bekka, who snorted up and thanked him, wincing from the burn, one eye watering.  Both of us had pretty much stopped snorting, smoking our meth instead.  Also, crystal meth tends to burn more when snorted.  Jane did up hers and sat there saying "Owie owie owie owie!"  I knocked mine back, then Jerry did his.  We all swigged at our beers.
     "So who's playing tonight?" I asked.
     "Um....  Holy shit, you're in luck!  You guys are friends with the band Chromewagon, right?   They're headlining. I forget three of the other four bands.  The one I remember is a band called Raoul.  It's five fourteen year old girls from Berkeley and Albany being beautifully obnoxious.  They call themselves 'jail bait-core,' they abuse their own peer group in songs, they claim they refuse to fool around with guys unless the guys provide Polaroids of their dicks beforehand, so they can make a well-informed decision....  They're so awesome."
     "Oh boy, eye candy for lesbian hebephiles," I commented.
     We walked up to the club (I moved the Fleetwood into Jerry's driveway, at his insistence), paid, and entered.  The girls from Chromewagon were already there, hanging around their equipment at the side of the stage.  I called to Dolly, who spun to look, then squealed when she saw me and Bekka.  Dolly used to have a heavy, libido-based crush on Becky Page.  Now they're friends, and while I"m certain Dolly still maintains a strong level of lust for my wife, the mystique was broken.  I was accepted as who I am after a little while, Dolly even relaxing around me.  She wasn't a misandrist, she seemed to be genuinely nervous around anything over the age of twelve who had both an X and a Y chromosome.
     After Dolly hugged us all, she told Bekka, "I have bad news for you.  You've been replaced, so far as who I have a crush on.  And I'm kinda ashamed of who the new crush is."
     "Spill it, girl," said Bekka.
     Dolly stared at the floor and said, "Um....  It's that young girl at your studio, Feather.  The one that played your sidekick in 'Succubus.'  How old is she?"
     "Eighteen," I answered.  "When she did her first loop at Inana, she had been old enough to work for us for, oh, four days.  Feather had been trying to talk me into putting her to work, or at least do her photo and video interviews, for months.  To hell with that, I"m not about to go to prison so some high school girl can get her chosen career jump-started."
     "She was really that eager to get into porn?" asked the guitarist.  "At her age?  What's up with that?"
     Bekka replied, "What it broke down to was Feather wanted to get out of her house, as soon as possible.  I don't think I know the whole story, but I do know her father is disturbing, creepy, and unbalanced.  Feather knew what kind of money porn stars make.  She knew it was a job that didn't require a college degree, special training, or a union membership.  Also, Feather has a very healthy libido, and can be merrily aggressive with another person in bed.  Since she's a punk, she has a theatrical flair she was able to exploit while doing her interviews.
     "Now Feather is living in Carlsbad.  She took her fourteen year old sister with her when she left, and I guess Mom signed whatever was necessary to make Feather her sister's legal guardian."
     "I'll be blunt," I said.  "The first time we met Feather, she told us her dad did nothing all day except sit in his recliner in the living room, watching porn videos and jerking off.  He won't stop, no matter who is also in the room.  Feather said it was a drag, never being able to have friends over.  If they did come over, they'd get treated to a nice view of Dad cranking his hog.  Fuckin' scumbag."
     Looking a bit embarrassed, Dolly said, "Do you guys ever worry that porn can actually, you know, kinda fuck people up?  It sounds like it's fucked up that guy."
     "No, not really," I answered.  "The dude was already fucked up.  He was going to have some extremely heavy compulsions, somehow.  It's like, why can one person have a single drink, and be fine, while another can't have one drink, it has to be thirteen.  Or two people each do a line of coke.  One of them will enjoy the high and say, 'Well, that was fun,' and put no more thought into cocaine.  The other one could decide this is the best thing to happen in his life, and start devoting all his time and money into doing more coke.  It's all about compulsions.  You never know what it will be to send someone flying off the handle.  For Feather's dad, it's porn.  But it could have been alcohol, or food, or video games, or stamp collecting....  Whatever."
     Dolly turned to Jane and said, "Hey, Gator Bait.  So, you're on the home stretch in high school."
     "Yeah.  Then next fall, UC Berkeley.  That's why we're up here, we were given sort of a guided tour of the campus, I saw where all my classes will be, and we found housing.  We thought I'd just stay in the dorms my freshman year, but....  Aw shit, the one we went into was just sad.  It's an eight story building, and only one elevator, and it runs so slow it's not funny.  The hallways are all filthy, and the unoccupied room we were examining was set to supposedly house four people.  It was, like, the size of a regular room!  And it didn't even have closets!  Four people could sleep in there, but you'd have enough room to store a single change of clothes, and that's it.  The guy giving us the tour could have chosen any building to use as a demo, and he chose this one?  We said, 'Fuck this shit,' and found a place on Dwight Way.
     "I can tell I'm in for a hell of a time at Haas."
     "What's Haas?" asked Dolly.
     Jane elaborated, "Walter Haas Business School.  The place has cranked out some pretty high-octane movers and shakers.  I knew I was gonna be a business major no matter where I went to school, and I lucked out I'm attending Berkeley.  Haas has pedigree.
     "The thing is, I met one of the professors and we talked a while.  You can probably guess I don't look like the average business student.  Well, this guy got to learn I don't think like one, either.  He was rather put off by my plans and aspirations.  I already know I've got a business to run after I graduate, a high-end escort agency.  That creeped out the professor.  He asked about long-range plans, and I told him I wanted to pretty much rule the world, or at least the good parts of it, and rattled off this plan I had to accomplish my goal.  Okay, I admit, I kept it plausible. But do I look like I should be a supreme overlord, or something?
     "The admission rate to Haas is thirteen percent, it's a hard place to get into.  But this professor told me I'm in.  He said I was smart and on the ball, blah blah blah....  Then he tells me he wants me in because observing me will keep him entertained.  I don't think he expects me to last more than a semester.  Right now, I've got an 'I'll show him' attitude   It's helped me in the past, so I'll let it stay."
     The guitarist cocked an eyebrow and said, "An escort agency?  Really?"
     "Patrician Escorts of Beverley Hills.  Really, as a business, it could be operating out of someone's living room.  But they wanted a real office, and they wanted a status zip code.  The lady running the place now is gonna retire about when I graduate, she'll groom me and train me, be my mentor.  Then she hits the road, and I'm in charge."
     "Aren't those places just fronts for whores?"
     Jane gave a supercilious look, grinned, and said, "Clients are spending $1200 just to have a classy broad on their arm during dinner and a bit of dancing, or whatever.  If he's lucky, the girl will kiss him on the cheek at the end of the meeting.  Now, any dude who will spend that sorta money can offer the escort a bit of fun in his hotel room.  She asks him to describe the fun, briefly.  After he does, the escort starts talking about how she's short on cash this month, and gosh, it sure would be nice if a benefactor, some kind soul, could help her out.  She never offered sex for money, and he never asked for it.  No, these women are far too classy to be called whores.  Courtesans, maybe?"
     "He also hated your ideas of monetizing sex," I reminded her.
     "Yeah, well....  Whatever."  Jane waited a couple beats.  "I wonder if he'll research Intel, and take my advice.  In fact, you guys do the same, drop a huge pile into Intel stock, and let it sit for quite a while.  I'll bet by the millennia, personal computers will be ubiquitous, at least one in every home, and they'll all need processors.  Intel is already a decent-sized company, they've been around for a couple decades and aren't going anywhere.  But they are going to boom, in a big way, by the year 2000.  Gimme eight years, and I'll make you rich."
     And Bekka and I actually talked it over.  We put $250,000 into Intel stock, the only stock we owned.  Others liked to play the stock market, I thought it sounded like the most hideous, soul-crushing way of spending time in the day, every damn day.  The closest thing we had were some mutual funds, and you keep track of the prices on those quarterly, not daily.  Jane already had a basic grasp on how the stock market worked, and she'd be spending a lot of time getting very intimate with Wall Street at Haas.
     Driving home on Sunday, Jane said, "I think I know why Professor Campbell finds me intriguing.  I'll bet he's sure I'm a worshiper of Ayn Rand."
     I laughed and said, "Get your hair cut like that, I'm never sleeping with you again."

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