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A few more revolutions of this ball of rock and all of us happy water molecule coincidences can introduce ethanol molecules into our organisms and party like it's 1999, or if you prefer, boogey oogey oogey 'til we just cain't boogie no mo'. I will be cowering indoors.

That New Year's Eve falls this year on a Sunday night, the Friday-night factor should be more pronounced than usual, charged with more than just a three-day weekend factor but in a particularly apocalyptic, biblical atmosphere, not only overseas but also, say, on the #2 bus.

A friend of mine, a local celebrity of sorts, Buddy Pastel, Jr., a drummer and son of an even more famous cult figure of a drummer, whose real name is Owen, is a kind of barometer of the Apocalypse, commenting here and there, "It's a sign," meaning a sign of the end. When Arnold became governor and I asked Buddy if it was a sign, he only said, "Please." It was so obvious. But I think he would agree with me that what passes for socially acceptable behavior in public is indeed a true sign that we are approaching those passages in Revelation where we find "the great harlot," and "the Word of God" is "clothed in a robe dipped in blood" and we "behold a white horse."

A young man recently, while riding the #2, leaned forward in his seat and spoke to me, "Hey, dog," was his salutation. "You gotta move, homey. You're scratchin' yer head like you got lice or scabies or somethin'. I don't want 'em on me."

Plenty of seats were available, and he had sat down well after I had been seated. "My name isn't dog," I told him. "Or homey."

"Well what is it?"

I told him, and his response was to ask if I were going to relocate my head parasites.

I did not inform him it was some sort of dermatitis, not because it was gross but because it was far from being gross enough. "Actually, it's a festering syphilitic lesion. I don't think it's contagious unless you yourself have an open wound and I get some blood or pus on ya."

"That's sick, John."

"Thank you."

"Jeez, what is it again?"

I told him. "All right," he said and sat back smiling into his T-shirt that read: "Fuck milk Got pot?"

I rode the rest of the way down 30th Street reading Jurgen, by James Branch Cabell. It was considered "offensive, lewd, lascivious, and indecent" when it first appeared a little less than 100 years ago, but I scanned pages in vain for evidence as to why. I wondered if it too, in its time, had been considered a sign of the Apocalypse.

On page 133 of the Dover edition, I did find the word "naked," but the surrounding prose was so colorfully inscrutable, it might have been written by the fasting mystic author of Revelation:

"Now the hooded man and the two naked girls performed their share in the ceremonial, which part it is not essential to record.

"'None the less,' Jurgen said: 'O cord that binds the circling of stars! O cup which holds all time, all colour and all thought! O soul of space!...'"

A few lines down I found what might have been a sign of an apocalypse: "Therefore by every plant which scatters its seed and by the moist warm garden which receives and nourishes it, by the comminglement of bloodshed with pleasure, by the joy that mimics anguish with sighs and shudderings, and by the contentment which mimics death -- by all these do we invoke thee...."

I got off the #2 at University and thought about a cigarette. It was and is everywhere. Clearly Satanic. I don't need a building to fall on my head, nor do I need to read on to find out Cabell is not talking about Satan at all. We're just doomed. Period.

I am writing this sometime before the ball drops at Times Square (where, I'm thinking, it would be a good place to revel with naked abandon until the end. No, no, cowering is the best bet). Say at the corner of Eighth and 42nd, that northeast corner where -- there used to be anyway -- just down the subway station stairs, a malevolent looking animatronic gypsy told (maybe still tells?) fortunes for a quarter behind a glass and wooden case. I once saw a deranged homeless man talking to God through the gypsy, who would answer him cryptically, saying things like, "This too shall pass," and "All in good time." It was an early sign, about 1972.

I haven't seen Buddy for a few months now. He lives in an old tuna cannery off Midway Drive somewhere and builds insanely beautiful guitars he never seems to want to sell. He lives alone and quietly collects evidence of conspiracy in the JFK assassination and signs of the Apocalypse. The last I heard of him, he was composing a manifesto for the New Libertarian, little more than a diatribe, I'm told, against obscenity in popular music and tips on low-tech, urban farming, all to be tapped out in Morse code during a drum solo in Caravan during performances of Jose Sinatra and the Troy Dante Inferno, his long-time musical aggregation.

I should try to reach him or possibly other members of the band, but certainly any one of them would take evidence of my survival recently as a sign of, you know.

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