Island Life

Vol. 15 - No. 44Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday November 10, 2013


Current Edition - Year 2013


Welcome to the 15th year of this weekly column that's updated fifty-two times a year, on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, depending on how well the booze holds out. If you've got any news, clues or rumors to share from around the Bay, or the world, feel free to send them to Editor@Island-Life.net or use the envelope in the masthead. For previous issues, including 2012, visit the Archives.


 

The Editor

Denby -Reporter

Sharon -Events

Chad -Coding

Tammy -Fotos

Hilde -Europe


NOVEMBER 10, 2013

THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD

Someone momentarily triumphant, yet so empty with his two failed marriages and his lapsed sense of morality.

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a Coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright

I'm gonna blow this damn candle out
I don't want Nobody comin' over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin' behind bottles in dark cafes
Dark cafes
Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings
And fly away
Only a phase, these dark cafe days

THIS ISLAND LIFE

So much is happening than what is chattering down in Silly Hall and in the blogs we are hardly able to pause to report on trivialities such as the flack over the the Shelter's approach to killing pets or the administrator's prickly habits of verbally demeaning staff and visitors. Appears this one is true, but we doubt the more serious charge about excessive use of euthanasia. That just feels like an add-on to the more legitimat complaint. Well, people who do non-profits can be difficult -- this is, after all, their only attachment to power denied in other spheres. We have beaucoups reports of annoying, abusive, martinet non-profit administrators.

Still, do you want to do their job and humanize that area? Well, then apply. . . . See . . . .

In other news we drove out to the new Target to troll the aisles and gander at the prices and what we found was . . . meh.

It is good that what wound up there happened to be Target, which tends to be humane in its corporate treatment of employees, but we were not impressed with prices which varied wildly from fair to twice-as-much as Lucky's. As for selection, we found some abundance in odd areas, like sporting goods and kitchenware doodles, but absurdly wanting in practical areas, such as hardware, tools, automotive, housewares, etc. They did have a Hannukah endcap, but it was populated with geegaws. In other words the place has promise, but remains potential. The store has no pharmacy or eyecare center, which is a problem.

This Target is not exactly a go-to store for something specific you want for the house. It is a dawdle and dabble sort of place stocked with crystal knickknacks, ceramics, and girl's hotpants for people who want to ramble among the aisles. We wonder how long this sort of thing can survive in the flinty-eyed world of the practical Island where we are seeing so many businesses belly up in the post-recession time.

In the meantime, folks are gathering the Force to combat what is happening down there at Neptune Pointe (sic) and others are gathering to deal with the obscenities planned for the Point, which seem to have forgotten a major open space preserve for the Least Tern.

HARVEST MOON

So anyway, now is the time when when the bracing wind comes sweeping down out of the North, stirring the spirits and bringing blood to the cheeks. This is the time when leaves swirl about the ankles of Jane and Brad as they scamper through the woods in matching camo fatigues, their cheeks ruddy with the snapping, crisp Fall air, and exertion, and that powerful Desire that fills young girls and young boys at this time of year around here. Yep.

Hunting season is upon us.

The little filly longs to wrap her fingers around the firm, smooth, hard stock and, with a squeeze that is eversomuch a caress, blow Fifi to smithereens with her brand new 32-20 Mossberg loaded with hollow-points. The apple-cheeked boy wants to plunge his fire-tempered blade deep into the juicy vitals of a tender, moist well-coifed Wirehair Breed. Ah, the pleasures of the autumn hunt! The delights of poodle blasting! The baying of hounds in the crisp Autumn air. The scent of seared animal flesh. The joy of sanguine violence. Put aside all thoughts of wimpy Palin snagging those frilly moose from the comfortable safety of a plush helicopter. Boots on the ground and dog meat is what we are after each Poodleshoot in America, with its savage, atavistic descent into the bloodlust fury of killing in honor of those original American brigands and thieves, the Puritan Poodleshooters.

Autumn is a special time on the island. kicking leaves, traipsing through woods with Dick and Jane, smelling the clean fresh air and blowing Fifi away in joyous abandonment so characteristic of nubile youth. O the apple-cheeks! O the firm thighs! O the short pants! O the delightful carnage rife with body fluids splashing about a la Tarantino!

Yes its time to prepare for that annual convocation of delight, mayhem, and bloodshed so enamored by so many Island-Lifers -- the Annual Poodleshoot and BBQ. We have posted the official rules for this year already, but of course you are free to peruse last year's ruleset so as to get yourselves into the proper All-American frame of mind for snaring some decent poodlemeat for your Boshintang and your 'Que.

Everyone is invited. Even Republicans who seldom bother with the nicities of purchasing hunting licenses.

This year, the 15th Annual Poodleshoot and BBQ shall be an august occasion replete with grand dignitarties from all sides of the political spectrum and plenty of delightful ultraviolence besides. It is hard to believe that we have enjoyed fifteen years of poodleshoots, but time passes and these sorts of things revolve with the slow turn of the years into our little Island Traditions. In fact every year is an august occasion with elements of high opera combined with the best aspects of Where's Waldo in that so many personages do make cameo appearances, it can be quite the enterprise for folks to comb through the after-poodle Report so as to identify themselves or a neighbor.

One can just imagine the joyous dismay on locating the visage of one's own Aunt Therese in the crowd, slinging an explosive morning-star with all the gusto of an octogenarian who has truely found and resurrected her savage, atavistic roots next to next generation's little Baby Booby Beeber trundling his inflammable diaper set in his kevlar onesie. Yes, this is quite the family event.

This year is especially significant in that Channukah crops up during the same time as the BBQ so we expect the side dishes with be tasty and kosher.

Devoted readers can click on the sidebar where this year's rules have been posted, along with acknowledgements for accomplishments in past years.

The weather finally began to turn around into something resembling Fall and more in other places. It's been gray and overcast and cool and people who are not self-deluded go around now with boots and jackets instead of shorts and flip-flops. Of course we do have our Denialists, our great Denialists, who insist that because this is California we therefore must enjoy three or more growing seasons -- makes no difference these growing seasons involve different crops. You see people out there planting corn and peas in October and of course these things do not do well -- the sunlight is a necessary component in this when you live in a latitude not far off from that of Maine and Vermont.

In Marlene and Andre's Household the various members have begun gathering in towards the warmth and dryness of shelter. The evening fogs have begun leaving dews that have driven Snuffles and bums like him to any old place where the bulls will not raid your camp and cart you off to some cold cell, bereft of your cartload of belongings. Snuffles creeps up in the night to the hole in the porch floorboards created during Javier's fiftieth birthday celebration which went so awry and neartl killed the entire Household. There the bum makes his secure camp for the storms of November are coming on for sure. This does not go unnoticed, for Marlene, angel of truth and justice, brings out a plastic bowl of bread soup and some day-old from Snob Hill and a bit of cheese, which he mumbles with his ruined mouth.

Others gather to this sanctuary of sorts as the temperatures drop, making sleeping on the beach difficult and the overnight sand restoration project impossible and Marlene finds a way to feed them all from the slim and bare cupboard, for that is the way she is, the ruined girl with the ruined womb and the pristine heart of gold. Victim of bullies, she grants succor to those who, like Tiresias, have crept among the lowest of the low.

Some enter into this arena romping and stomping like warhorses, like conquistadors. She is not like that -- she is among her own kind, those who have been brutalized and she wishes only that the conquistadors would go away with their pretense and leave her with her agony and her people with theirs alone and in peace.

In the warmth of the Old Same Place Bar there is a bustle and a scurry and period of quiet as folks murmur about the upcoming weather, as to how much rain we expect and how much cold now that Fall has settled in with certainty and the hobbitfolk make do with industry to make ready with their stores for the long cold season now advancing under the heavy premonitions of thundercloud. Winter is coming on and this is still the time of the Nazi striding triumphant across the land, whether he call himself a Jew or not, the hooked cross glares with power over us minor folk. There is no comfort in the Land of the Lost and the Roma remain hunted in every land, which of course means that no land for the gypsy can be called home.

Yet still in the shrubbery that borders the College the hedgehog pair keep their den, snug and dry and warm. There Don Guadalupe Erizo and his wife Dame Herisson cook up their crepes for dinner, chattering together affectionately their hedgehog language away from the strife of this terrible world. If only for a while.

We beg and plead that there be no more wars, no more atrocities, no more Angry Elves stomping with their big boots and raping. Yet this mild request seems too much for the little folk who inhabit the sedge.

In the Almeida household, Sarah Almeida kneels down to say her prayers and these prayers were for all the world. "Now I lay me down to sleep . . ." . And in this prayer this innocent girl prays for protection for the hedgehogs of the College shrubbery and the hobbitfolk of the tavern, and the Gypsy caravans along the Estuary and all this was observed from the periscope of the Iranian spy sub El Chadoor.

And it was a great wonder in that spy sub so far away from home how these people, so close to one another could be so cruel. Even as the season of thanks approached.

The Periscope descended and the submarine propelled itself out of the estuary and through the Golden Gate, running silent, running deep, out to the boundless and merciful Pacific Ocean.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the dispassionate water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood like mute sentries; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and haunted railbed, it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

NOVEMBER 3, 2013

IF YOU MEET THE BHUDDA ALONG THE ROAD

This week's photo comes from Tammy. Apparently if you are to meet the Buddha along the road you are to ring his chimes.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

The latest Island news has been largely about the Ron Cowan proposal to move the Harbor Bay Club in favor of building a number of upscale homes. Most letters and commentary have been solidly against the project, generally citing worsening traffic problems and population density.

There is a flap over the Animal Shelter, in which some people claim that the management there has taken to euthanizing animals without proper protocol and in far too speedy a fashion so as to avoid fuss and bother. Naturally the Shelter has responded in defense of its policy of putting down animals with behavioral problems, as these animals would probably be slow for adoption, and in case of adoption, would require special care.

Congrats to Sergio Silva, who won three competition medals in October, taking two golds in Santa Cruz at the US Open tournament in the Senior I heavy weight division. Silva owns and operates Team Silva Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on 1701 Lincoln Avenue.

Small businesses on the Island will need to get honest with the City, which is seeking to bolster revenues by hunting down those doing business here without proper permits. This kind of revenue generation by snagging fee evaders and imposition of subsequent fines is becoming big business by many governments across the country, including the Feds. A basic cottage industry home permit costs at the low end some $80 per year, depending on income, and the permit can be useful for smoothing the way in dealing with other government entities, so you might as well get over to City Hall and file. The City has hired Fresno-based Municipal Auditing Services to go for those fee evaders.

IN YOUR HASTE ON HALLOWEEN, YOU LEFT YOUR CAMERA ON THE BED

Here are some images taken by our staff photog as well as others of this year's Halloween house decorations.

Here is an introduction to Haunted Fairy land.

 

Haunted Fairyland . . .

Teddy bear's picnic and Red ridinghood.

 

A Goldilocks trophy, Jack's beanstalk, Alice's Mad Hatter . . .

Someone forgot to wake Sleeping Beauty . . .

Don't be afraid of this little guy crawling at you with burning red eyes and no legs . . .



Even businesses get into the spirit of the season. Paganos hardware has a classic install every year.

 

The bartender at the Lucky 13 dressed up as Regan from The Exorcist. Note the strategic placement of the crucifix. To safeguard maidenly virtue?


This popular display was photographed by Benjamin Lekashman.

Of course most of the displays look most impressive when lit up at night. Nancy Gray, of the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles took these spooky images.

 

DOWN IN THAT SUBWAY STATION/ THE DEAD DON'T TAKE NO VACATION

Fruitvale once again held the largest celebration of Dia de los Muertos outside of Mexico. The blocks around Fruitvale Station from 23rd to 27th and the big parking lot were blocked off for ofrendas, vendors of sucre calaveras, performance stages, and impromptue performances, including the famous Aztecas with their extraordinary headdresses.

It's America and vendors will take advantage of the crowds. No stall? No problem.


The ofrendas vary from the simple, including things that the deceased liked to eat, to the very elaborate.

.

For all the innocent children who have died. . .

Los Dias del los Muertos is a participatory festival. All share in their common grief.

There are many communal offrendas, such as this one commemorating all those who died by homicide in Oakland in 2013.

The Latin population is very conscious of its place in the world community. This is part of the Azteca ofrenda where their headdresses are stored prior to the incantations.

"This is Mr. Death. He is a reaper."

"To the virgins to make merry with Time . . .".

Like Life, this elaborate temporary display consisting of thousands of cinders and wood chips is destined to be completely destroyed in a day.

Being interviewed by Telemundo, one of the largest Spanish-speaking media outlets in the country.

Of course one can find some politics mixed in to spice things up. This one commemorates the "dirty wars" conducted by the CIA during tne 1980's. Another ofrenda commemorates all those murdered by graduates of the brutally savage School of the Americas located in Miami.

Detail from an ofrenda commemorating a well loved abuelita.

With all the gabacho noise about multi-generational legacies, it is easy to forget that the Hispanic population has been in Alta California for well over four hundred years. The rituals that invoke the "five directions" commemorate not only the recently deceased but also the ancestors. This ofrenda recalls five generations of one family's presence in Oakland. San Antonio was the name of the estate given to the Peraltas by way of desueno. It extended from San Pablo Bay down to roughly where Fremont now is located.

This is Don Piedro Liebres on display in a museum in Jalisco. In the old days, the poor purchased rented graves. When no one from the family showed up to pay the rent, the tenant was evicted. The bones typically were tossed into a charnel house, ground up, and then added to soil for crops or simply discarded with the trash. This was done here at Mission San Jose. The Don died recently enough to the end of this practice that upon his "eviction" his remains were taken by the government and put into a museum. Some people still remembered him as a local personality -- Piedro Liebres is a nickname, not his real family name. The maker of this ofrenda is trying to locate more information about him.

THE CROSSING

So anyway, Pedro went out during the uncertain weather time of autumn in his boat El Borracho Perdido, accompanied only by his faithful labrador, Tugboat. He motored through a brief bluster bit of weather and then the waves settled down to a rate and unearthly flat sea, a dead calm at night under the new moon. The moon, being New, remained as silent as would be expected. But the gentle, nearly imperceptible swells remained brightly lit by way of the broad band of stars that some say is the real heart of where our haunted planet spins out on the edge. Out there the whisps of the fog scraps glimmered by the light of stars and pilot house lamps, specters wringing their hands, lamenting, or simply passing from one room to the next.

It being calm and there being time before he arrived at the grounds, he took out his dogeared copy of You de Pongyou Pong Zi Yuen Fong, an anthology of translated classical Chinese poets and poured still hot black coffee from a thermos into a cup. Some people may express surprise that a relatively uneducated fisherman would pass the time reading poetry of any kind, let alone ancient Chinese, but those people probably lack some education as well.

Solitary
drinking without a friend
I raise my cup
to invite
the bright moon
With my shadow
we make three . .
.

Well, the moon being new, the yardarm spotlight would have to do as a surrogate for the moon. Tugboat, always black and beside him dogging his heels would have to be his shadow.

For the moment
I'll make do
with moon and shadow

This year El Dias de los Muertos had been filled with cacophany as the kids built their ofrenda in the livingroom for their abuelta, gone now some five years. Now the kitchen was littered with sequins and clipped No. 22 wire used for armatures, modeling clay, acrylic paints -- a purple swash of which made itself into the carpet -- the scattered efforts to make sugar calaveras. In a little while , it would all get cleaned up by maman and the dead would go back to whatever place they inhabit the rest of the year.

Beyond the boathouse the spectral whisps continued their march across the black water, all heading back, all going home to the clouds above.

Meanwhile, Denby drew the shortest straw once again, thus restoring Tradition and giving poor Jose a reprieve. And so the musician was sent out by the Editor on his special mission on the night when the normal flow of things reverses itself.

Every year, the Editor assembles the staff in the Island-Life offices at night after the sun has gone down to draw straws by candlelight, all according to tradition. Every year, first the one, then the other approaches the cup and, trembling, removes their little stick. Every year, Denby approaches the cup, draws a straw, and every year, according to strict tradition, Denby draws the shortest straw.

He has tried drawing first. He has tried drawing last. He has tried drawing in the middle and he has tried to avoid the ritual altogether, but tradition is very powerful when the spirits are at work. It is 14 times now that he has suffered this bad luck.

And so it was he put on his coat and he put on his hat and so walked out the door, this year the same as the last, with people gathered in fearful little knots, whispering among themselves as he went. "Sure glad it's not me."

As in all Traditions, there is a sense of repetition, of revenance, each time the ritual is repeated.

"Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!"

From the offices he walked along the path that borders the Strand and came to a stone wall. He could not remember a stone wall being there, about two and a half feet high and extending for infinity in both directions, but this one seemed to have been there for eons, with scraggly weeds crowding up against lichened stones. There was no gate or path through but something called from the dim otherside and so, hesitating a moment to leave the relatively well-lit path, he slogged through the sand before the wall and stepped over into a dark mist and a voice seemed to echo in the darkness, "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!" and the words flamed inside the skull as if poured in molten steel.

As per Tradition. Crap.

A large owl, about two feet tall, perched on a piling and looked at him with large owl eyes.

"Hoo! Hoo!"

On the other side the ground sloped down as usual to the water for about thirty yards, but he could not see the far lights of Babylon's port facilities or the Coliseum. In fact, the water had the appearance of extending out beyond to Infinity. But all up and down the strand bonfires had been lit, as is customary among our people in this part of the world to do during the colder winter months along the Strand, and towards one of these he stumbled among drift and seawrack.

A small child, barefoot and wearing a nightdress ran past and disappeared as quickly as she had come.

At the bonfire's edge a bright familiar voice greeted us, "Denby! Back again so soon?"

A sort of pale glimmer drifted over the dark sands, a woman dressed in white with frizzy platinum blonde hair. She reached out with her left arm. But her hand went right through his arm, leaving a clammy, cold sensation.

"Almost crossed over a few times during the past year, Penny," he said to the apparition.

"I know; I could feel it in my bones." She laughed. "Don't be so lugubrious! Come along, meet some people . . .".

"si lunga tratta / di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta . . ."

As he stepped out of the sawgrass area to the hardpan of compacted sand, he looked up and down the beach to see a myriad bonfires arranged in a broad arc off into the distance. Strange words in another language reverberated inside the skull: "si lunga tratta / di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta . . ." the words echoing and echoing down long hallways of mirrors into eternity. None of this seemed to make any sense at all. It never did each time, even though this same thing happened time and again, like an old fashioned stuck record on a phonograph.

"I sure would like to know who's the big voice who keeps shouting things in Italian," Denby said.

"What are you talking about? Don't be silly," she said, skipping down the slope.

"Well . . . nevermind."

Another child, dressed in a private school uniform, but barefoot, ran between them laughing. She too, disappeared into the darkness.

They came to the bonfire where a number of people sat around on logs, pillows, blankets, talking.

An elderly, harsh-looking woman with flaming red hair sat in a straight-backed oak chair and glared at him.

"You reprobate. Have you made anything of yourself?"

"Olga." Denby said.

"You disgust me," Olga said. "You should have joined the Army or the Marine Corps."

"I was underage, Olga. When you tried to sign me up."

"Makes no difference. Plenty of others got around the rules. If they cared at all about what was happening at the time. You could have joined the Children's Crusade! The Crusade against Communism! History was on our side!"

"Olga, I would have been killed right away."

"So what! So what! You would have earned honor to yourself and the family. All those hippies -- I spit on them. We could have won that war. Save for weak ungrateful scamps like you. The Army would have made a man out of you!"

"A dead one, I assure you. Not very useful to already grown men in combat."

"I got others in there! I pulled strings and got them to Saigon! I did my part -- all through the Senator's office," Olga said.

Two figures wearing tattered army fatigues came jogging up to the camp there.

"Hello Johnny. Raymond."

They were arguing about something.

"It was at Ba Ap," the heavier fellow said. That was Raymond.

"No it was not . It was Ap Ba." Johnny said.

"O for pete's sake," Raymond said. "What difference does it make where you died? All the villages were the same and had nearly the same names."

"Now listen, I happen to think it is very important to know where I died. It is important to me."

"The village is meaningless!" Raymond exploded. "They were all meaningless except people died fighting for them! I don't care WHERE I died, the end result is the same!"

"Or we destroyed the village," Johnny said. "That made them really meaningless. Heck, for me its personal. I have to know."

Here I am, Denby thought to himself, listening to two dead people in hell's waiting parlor argue about where they died and how important it was.

Olga broke into this discussion with her own opinion. "The important thing is that you grabbed your bootstraps and you made yourself men through the forge of military service. All the others can go to hell!"

The two soldiers looked at her.

"You know, Denby," Raymond said. "That woman is really a bitch."

"Hey," Denby said. "That is my aunt you are talking about."

"Nasty little sniveler! Your mother had no right to haul your broken casket around to the church when she did. She was supposed to endure stoically the way a soldier's widow should!"

"Now you are talking about my mother, you old harridan you," Raymond said.

A couple translucent girls in nightdresses ran laughing through the crowd and vanished.

"Hey, that is my aunt . . .", Denby said, meaning Olga.

"Things do not seem to be very smooth this time around," Penny commented.

"What did she think she was going to find using her dead husband's powertools to crack open that casket sealed in the tropics? Some waxy figure with a pale face? Even so, she had no right to drag what she found, a body killed in the hot tropics with the casket wide open to the church! To the church!"

"I suppose it was because she found three arms in there," Raymond said calmly.

"So what! So what! War is ugly and hell. Everything she did ruined the nobility of it. The valor."

"I think, when my buddies had to go around and fetch body parts for several guys and toss them into a bag because the CO says do that, that is the thing that ruins valor for me. Just saying."

"You ingrate! Wretch The more that died, the better! All for our Country and Honor!" Olga was winding up for one of her famous diatribes, when suddenly she paused. She spit out a gold coin into the palm of her hand. It was the obolus.

"My time has come! I get to cross over! At last! At last! Good riddance to you ignorant people who still have something to learn! I am crossing now. . . ".

Indeed the glimmer of the ferry could be seen rapidly advancing toward the landing.

"I don't understand any of this," Penny said. "It sounds like the Vietnam War."

only god knows what dark energies, what howling emotions came to play

Raymond explained. He signed up on urging of his family and family tradition for the Marines. He was killed in combat and his body shipped back to Reston Virginia in a sealed coffin, where it resided prior to burial in the family garage. His grandfather had served in World War II and had died at Malmedy, been shipped back and buried with full military honors. His father had served in Korea, been wounded at Choisin Reservoir and died of complications from injuries a couple years afterwards and then buried with full military honors at Arlington. His two brothers had died in Vietnam, and both had been buried with full military honors. This left his mother as the last family representative and in that dark night of the soul only god knows what dark energies, what demonic emotions came to play in tat grieving mother's breast, for with herself alone in that house with that casket, she had used the power tools belonging to her husband to force open the metal casket lining in a kind of frenzy that only a deprived mother can understand, some kind of mindless, insane rage, to discover body parts for more than one person in that box. Sort of jumbled together.

So she hauled the casket and contents into the back of the station wagon -- they still made those things back then -- and drove to the church where she declaimed, "This is what your wars have done to my children!"

There had been something of a brough-haha then, for one of the arms had been distinctly Black.

That meant somewhere a Black soldier was unaccounted for. The resulting furor did have the positive effect of easing race relations in that district.

As for Johnny, he had been able to sign up underage because his father was a colonel and thought it a very good thing the waifish boy finally became a man, tempered by fire. Instead the firefight used him up.

the Ferryman with eyes that were wheels of fire

Olga strode down to the ferry dock with her flaming red hair, her eyes aflame with triumph and desire, confident her final reward was at hand. At the landing, the Ferryman with eyes that were wheels of fire, sorted out the souls, pushing some of them back with a long hook. Others he seized and threw into the skiff, roughly taking their obolus. The dog snatched some of them who tried to escape, and they began to wail, for now, too late, these souls knew that their destination would not be the City of Light. They had not learned anything during their time on earth or in Limbo. They had retained intransigence, contempt, scorn. The Ferryman hooked Olga with his gaff and tossed her in among the rest of them who began to wail, for this passage would not go West, but South, to the land of Dis, the lake of fire.

"Hey! That's my aunt!" Denby said. They ignored him.

"Well that is a funk," Penny said.

A tall man with grizzled hair came up to Denby and greeted him just as a bevy of girls ran by with their skirts flapping, their girlish laughter easing the air which lately had been so acrimonious.

Denby looked at the man, not remembering him precisely. He reminded Denby of the actor Morgan Freeman.

"Bin lung tyme sin eu spik da gullah," the man said.

"You Geechee-Gullah," Denby said.

"Ah, you remember."

"I don't know you," Denby said with wonder. "How are you meeting me?"

"Your great grand-uncle sew the wood as if cloth. He made things and he helped us in the early days. Because he could sew the wood he helped the trade between the Island and the Carolinas. That is the connection working its way through the blood down the generations. And you remember but do not remember me."

"This is amazing! This goes back generations, for hundreds of years and the escaped slaves of Sierra Leone!"

"Yes, the Dias de los Muertos are that way. I have been waiting for you a long time. Long time I wait."

Another girl, translucent, ephemeral, the way certain girls are of a certain age, light footed and quick, she ran between them off into the darkness.

"I remember a man named Vincent. It was the Carolina coast . . . but why now"?

"Vincent; that is me. You know we have an Island. Just like yours. Now time is come and all Gullah there lose homes. Carolina wants tax levy, even though we always independent, never slaves since Sierra Leone. We been there five, six, seven generations now. Young ones go away and sell the house to Ofay. Now the property tax and we lose it all. Island becomes the place of the wealthy, not the Gullah. The daughters of the dust go blow away through the world."

"Um okay. And what does this have to do with me?"

"You must see the Gullah is you."

"You must see the Gullah is you. You will lose your homes same way. All passing now this age. You must tell about this. Or you surely lose your Island."

Vincent started and removed a gold coin from his mouth.

"You have carried your message, Vincent. Now you are free to go."

"We Gullah always free," Vincent said. And with that he strode down to the landing where the skiff had pulled up to take on more passengers. It became clear that by the means the passengers were gently herded and others kept at bay by the dog, Cerberus, that this passage would head due West where a faint glow indicated the City of Light.

"Well," Penny said, "This has certainly been an unusual and educational visit, Denby. Have you any more delightful surprises?"

"I just saw a member of my family get dragged down to Hell. What more do you people want of me?"

"Unfortunately," Penny said, "There is always something more asked of you. We are a non-profit enterprise you know."

A figure walked past them dressed entirely in black and singing to himself.

And, everyone who ever had a heart
They wouldn't turn around and break it
And anyone who ever played a part
Oh wouldn't turn around and hate it!
Sweet Jane! Whoa-oh-oh! Sweet Jane! Sweet Jane!

He walked right down to the landing and nonchalantly gave up his fare for the passage.

"So how does this guy get a direct pass to the Other Side?"

"I suspect," Penny said. "He has suffered enough in this life."

A young girl ran up to Denby and stared at him with big dark eyes and he looked down at her with a mixture of feelings, of frustration and somekind of loss. "Papi?" she said. A faint odor of cinnamon and cloves wafted over him. Her eyes were large and deep as deep Carribean pools. And then she turned and ran off into the darkness.

An iron bell began to clan.

"Time to go back, Denby," Penny said ruefully. "I was hoping we could talk more this time."

"Not much these days seems to go according to what I like," Denby said.

Penny took him back to the wall, which he would not have found otherwise, as sight seemed to have become blurred by some saltwater carried on the air.

Fling yourself into Life while you still have it

"Oh, you'll be back before long," Penny said. "Try to enjoy your stay where you are at for now. Fling yourself into Life while you still have it; at this point I don't regret a thing except waiting far too long to take up skydiving." She paused at the wall and looked with big eyes, a half-smile on her face. "And practice your singing. You really need lots of practice." A wet something touched his cheek..

"Didn't you say something like that last time . . ." Denby started, but she was already gone. Ephemeral and evasive as she had been in life.

And after he climbed over that low wall, everything back there receded into a mist and there was only the stretch of water out to Babylon and the lights of Bayview and Hunters Point and the ring of the Coliseum. One by one the distant bonfires winked out until there was only the long and lonely empty length of beach with the lights of the apartment houses behind him.

Instead of going directly back to the Offices to make his report he wandered back to his own apartment cubbyhole. The sparse mite of a place now allowed by the savage landlord in his overweening greed in this time. There he poured himself a glass of wine, delaying the inevitable, thinking about those gone to the Other Side. Thinking about the moon.

I sing
and the moon
wavers to and fro
I dance
and my shadow
gets all mixed up

Eventually, he made his way back to the to the Offices where only the Editor sat there behind his desk, his eyeglasses perched on his nose and his remaining hair flying about in an aureole about his head.

"How was it this time," the Editor inquired, not expecting any sort of rational answer from someone who had just ascended like Orpheus from the Underworld.

Denby remained silent. The Editor went to the cabinet and broke out the Jamesons. He clinked several cubes of ice into the glass and splashed a goodly amount of whiskey in behind, then did the same for himself.

"Any idea how the midterm elections will go?"

"Somehow", Denby said, "That did not come up."

I am convinced that the misery of the world is a bottomless pit

"I have seen the world of the entire world's misery pass over the transome of this desk, you know," said the Editor. "Murder. Torture. Mutilation. The most horrendous crimes against humanity. The salt bread of exile and many things worse. And the average day-in-day out insensitivity and obnoxiousness we all take for granted. Sometimes I am convinced that the misery of the world is a bottomless pit, an ocean into which our tears blend without a trace. Always I hold out hope that there will be some sign that things will get better."

"I am not the person to say," Denby said.

"Taciturnity does not become you." The Editor relit his permanent cigar. "I am thinking about somebody now who is very far away, so far I doubt he even knows I exist any longer and some days I wonder what I would say to him or he to me. Probably no more than a joke. I had another friend who was a great practical joker. They tell me on his deathbed he opened his eyes wide and called someone over to whisper in his ear, 'The treasure chest of jewels and gold is located precisely under the . . .". and then he just closed his eyes and in a little while he passed away with a smile on his lips."

The two of them remained silent for a while with their drinks and the cigar, the unseen presence of another in the room. Or just the blank moon and the shadows. The mists gathered among the trees in the backyard, keeping Company in the hours before dawn.

We three
forever-silent friends
will meet some day
in the clouds up above.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the spooky water where the spectral gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood like metal demons with glowing arms, it quavered across the black waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and haunted railbed, it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

.

.

OCTOBER 27, 2013

SHAKE YOUR TAILFEATHERS

As it turns out there really is a blues song called "Chicken Cordon Blues", but as aficionados know the Blues and chicken shall be forever entwined. And well fried at that. We decided to pick up on the Ray Charles assisted tune in the first Blues Brothers movie.

This week's headline comes from Tammy's storehouse of treasures and features a little gal who could just as well be one under the care of Mrs. Almeida from our monologues. We had a lot of fun coming up with titles, as in Chicken Cordoned Blue, Picasso's Blue Fowl Mood Period, Hen's Azure, Coq au Bleu Sans Fromage, etc.

Anyrate now that we are getting rules about raising "livestock" on the Island -- where before hogs and beeves enjoyed seemingly unrestricted freedoms until some officious inspector came to fine your potbellied sow -- it seems appropriate to showcase this plucky lady.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

We are back from a mini-vacation of sorts these past two weeks. Got a lot of stuff coming up and we see by the stats that the old readers who have been following us are flocking back for the big milestone issues.

Had a touch of pneumonia, but we are back in the saddle again.

WHAT'S GOING ON

Lots of great stuff happening now that we swing into the "Hollarday Season". The Fox Theater has a smashing series that kicked off with local boy Joe Satriani 10/26 this Saturday. Mark Knopfler will take over 10/28 that same venue. It may be cold along the tollgate, but the wagon is creepin' through. God knows what he is going to do to you.

Warren Haynes drives his Government Mule team beneath the gilt idols for 10/31 for some proper stomping and snorting, while the much more sedate Iron & Wine of Jim Beam, that impish Boy with a Coin, will take over on 11/1 for some acoustic delights.

For the magic date of 10/31, the Flaming Lips will present a Halloween Blood Bath at the Bill Graham Civic over in Babylon, while local boy Tommy Castro will wake the dead and ease the pain of Dias de los Muertos on 11/1 at Yoshi's in Oakland.

You may of heard of Joe Bonamassa. His tour kicks off 11/2, but he will not appear in Oakland at the Paramount until 12/6. You have better get your tickets now, however. The guy has put kick-ass back into the Blues, and he looks to be on a roll right now.

On the 11/2, Saturday, a benefit for Seva will feature, appropriately enough, the Blind Boys of Alabama beneath the purple chandeliers of the Fillmore. Seva is an international organization which provides medical eye-care services to people living in the Third-World. That event, hosted by Wavy Gravy, will also feature Dumstaphunk and Hot Tuna, which these days consists of originals Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy along with multi-instrumentalist Barry Mitterhoff. Dumpstaphunk is the brainchild of Ian Neville, and sometimes includes . . . well, some pretty remarkable talent in addition. GA Tix for that one going for $48, but VIP tix at $105 will include a post show meet and greet with the performers.

Word has it Richard Shindell's next tour will again remain on the East Coast.

Somewhat of an eye-opener was the item about "Resurrect Sex Workers Fundraiser Day of the Dead Celebration happening at . . . The Fireside on Webster Street here on the Island 11/1, which is a Friday. Fundraiser? All proceeds will go to legal defense fun for Erotic Service Providers. Well, it should be interesting.

Our Oaktown Peralta House Museum, the last vestige of the grand estate that once stretched from San Pablo Bay down to Fremont and the Mission San Jose, will host a Halloween party at the 1879 Hacienda house. That one is free and runs 5pm to 7pm. Location is Coolidge Avenue around 35th near the Patton Christian Acadamy.

The Oakland Museum continues its 19th "Days of the Dead Community Celebration" in the Hall of Natural Sciences and the Fruitvale District will again have a street closure near the BART station for its special display of personal ofretas and the ever popular Aztec dancers.

Over in Babylon they'll be having the usual range of riotous and raunchy delights, as in the Hooker's Ball, the Exotic Erotic Masquerade, and the Fencesitter's Ball (for those who just cannot decide which way to swing).
Word has it that these entertainment have gotten more infected with ennui and scads of folks just not trying, as if the Bush years had worn everybody's interest down to a nub what with all the outrageous malarkey juggled in public by that Administration of Clowns.

ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

So anyway, all hell broke loose in the Island-Life offices when it came time for the annual drawing of straws. Because Denby was accompanied the last time in an highly unusual situation involving Jose and a wheelchair that went exceedingly against Tradition, people started going nuts with anxiety now that it seemed just about anything could happen.

Jose, the wheelchair pusher and chanter of his grandmother's Inca Spell ("Okay, say "tahui" four times. Repita!""What means 'tahui?" "Heck if I know," Jose said. "Mi abuelita told me to say it just like that.") was totally petrified to the extent of forgetting all of his English as well as all of his native Spanish as well.

Outside the Offices a front had kicked in from the Arctic and banshees were knocking the tree limbs and howling all about the chimney.

Rachel found the coffee pot inexplicably inoperable and offered to go on a run to Starbucks. Which the Editor forbade, ordering her to sit. This is not something one tells a New Yorker expat, but the Editor remained stern.

"Habberdy jibberty wooble foo woot an wooten kanickickerbocker . . .".

"Jose," Rachel said, "If you cannot remember your languages just shut up." Sigh. "I want a beer."

"Hey!" Denby said. "Who took the hinges off the bathroom door?"

The Editor relit his permanent cigar. "We'll have no more lavatory sequesters and no childish government shutdowns on MY watch." He rattled the hinge screws in his waistcoat pocket.

"Humperty boo." Jose said, shivering with fear.

"Jose, shut your filibustering. You make as much sense as the Pee Tardy Party," said the Editor. "And you Festus, quit pretending that you are hunting for something in the circular file. Come on out!"

Festus, the Island-Life messenger hamster, poked his head up above the brim of the wastebasket. "Just looking for nesting material, boss. Isn't this a human only sort of thing?"

"Get up on the table you wretched rodent or there will be no more nuts for you!" scowled the Editor.

Everyone in the office went "Oooooooooo!" at that and Festus scampered up on the desk beside the inbox.

"Hey," someone said. "The coffeepot wasn't plugged in . . . Now it's working . . .".

After the Editor made sure everyone was in attendance, with a special interactive hologram for the Euro desk glimmering in a roll chair, he had Rachel fetch the Official Cup of Straws. As Rachel came gliding along the aisle the way dance instructors of certain experience will do, Jose unceremoniously fainted and fell down.

Javier kicked him until the kid got up again to sit wan and shaking in a chair.

Now what this Tradition is all about, to inform newcomers to the Life here is the Annual Drawing of Straws to determine who must follow the same path that Orpheus, Ulysses, Persephone, Virgil with his Italian Companion, Nicholas Cage, and a very few of others, have done through the ages. The Island-Lifer's charge was to go down, sniff about so as to gather good information about what the future might hold, and, of course, come back. Otherwise there was no point to it all, really. That the fellow or gal, whomever it might be, must do. They must return through what generally is regarded as a one-way door.

This, by Island-Life Tradition over the past fifteen years, always takes place on the last day of Los Dias de Los Muertos, which in the past has been the night after October 31. What makes this trip so much more terrible - in addition to the fear of Death, the infernal Ferryman with wheels of fire for eyes, and the three-headed dog, the usual accouterments of howling, wailing, eerie specters, etcetera and so on -- is that the visitor must encounter all the people he or she has known and who have passed beyond. This is not exactly comfortable. This is not exactly fearful -- necessarily. One can only imagine it. It is definitively wretched and tearing to the soul on a case by case basis.

Perhaps we shall get the good Richard Dawkins to do a study on the matter. He probably has the tools and necessary know-how to get the metrics of everything. All the emotions involved. Even, the metric of lost desire. Of lost hope.

Naturally this not entirely all the way over on the Other Side. That path is forbidden and no one has gone there. Well, maybe Virgil and his friend Alighieri Possibly Milton. Doubt it about Milton, though; he liked Oliver Cromwell, and that is not a sign of humanity nor perceptual acuity. Still, no one knows for sure. No, this place is a waiting place where souls abide for a while, to learn something, pay a final debt, figure out which direction to go from there. Call it Hell's Anteroom. Or just Charon's Wharf.

So you see nobody wants the short straw on this one. Traditionally, for 13 years, Denby drew the short straw. Even on the 14th he drew again bad luck. But confined to a wheelchair at the time, he needed a second for that trip.

So the big question this time around -- actually several big questions but mainly this: would the previous year's break cause a new game of chance? Or would Tradition reassert itself. The clock ticked. The tension mounted. Everyone's nerves on edge.

"I am all for a new game," Denby said. "How about we get the dice and cup from the Yahtzee set . . .".

The Editor told him brusquely to shut up. And told Rachel, as the cupbearer, to draw first.

"Okay I am closing my eyes . . . I am reaching in . . . O god, o god, o god, o god, O! O! O! O! O no! O yes! Yes, yes, yes, yesyesyesyes! Not me! Yippee! O gawd! Yesssss!"

"Well, I am glad it was good for you, Rachel. I too, felt a little something just listening to you, the Editor said, dryly. "Next!"

"Can I have a drink now?" Rachel asked.

"O for pete's sake. Next!"

The 3D specter of Hildegard stood up and walked over to the cup. She reached down with a ghostly finger and a longish straw arose from the cup.

"Oy gott sei dank!" said Hildegard.

"How did you do that?" Denby said. "She's just a transmission!"

"The magic of Cloud Virtualization," said the Editor. "Next!"

One by one, each by each, the staffers drew their straws and reacted each according to his character. Javier removed his straw and put it between his teeth while leaning against the wall with his arms folded, grinning his macho grin.

Jose fell off his chair.

As for Denby . . . "Crap!" Tradition had been restored. There a little giddy party erupted while folks clapped Denby on the back and commiserated, each more or less secretly glad it was not him or her. Someone got out champagne. Someone else put on music. Chris Smither's "Train Home".

Later as relieved folks whooped it up Denby sat on the iron landing with Rachel and a bottle of tequila between them while Rachel smoked a cigarette between hits off the bottle.

"What's it like over there," Rachel asked.

Denby commented she could always go in his place and find out.

Rachel demurred. "Too many skeletons in the closet already." The wind blew in gusts, making the huge box elder writhe as if alive in the fitful glow of the motion detector light mounted above the garage. "Its been fifteen times now. Each time you come back you took paler, more shaky, like you are closer to some other world. Or you are headed to turn around any moment to go back there and not return."

"Lets not talk about any more," Denby said.

Life in the Old Same Place Bar carried on riotously and with great zest for a noted Celebrity had returned to enjoy his favorite dark beer. The silver-maned gentleman with the distinguished beard regaled the regulars there with stories of his prize-winning guacamole, his ghost pepper salsa, his nearly capturing the Olympic gold medal in tandem luge, the time he zip-lined a perilous track down 5,000 feet in elevation during a forest fire by shooting a crossbow loaded with parachute cord at one tree crown after another. He sat with two gorgeous women, a platinum blonde wearing crushed red velvet, and a stunning redhead wearing a jet black gown hanging onto each arm.

He was, of course, The Most Interesting Man in the World.

"All of this may be interesting to you, but I am bored of such adventures. The mako shark is really not such a bad fellow and I would loath having to kill another one. And the Bengal Tiger, I have to tell you I am rather fond of the Bengal Tiger; he is more endangered than dangerous. But there is one thing -- perhaps two things -- I simply must share with you. For one cannot be interesting unless one shares what one has. And being interesting means also cultivating all one's gifts, especially the heart. Not true?"

All had to agree to that.

"My friends, I do not donate every day, but when I do I give to at least two wonderful organizations. The first is Clear Path International. These are truly courageous, wonderful people with a few interesting stories of their own. When I met Colin King he had his head and torso inside a metal tube with fins on it and I said to him, 'My dear sir what do you have in there?' And he calmly responded, 'About three kinds of explosives plus about 12 pounds of napalm and 80kg of phosphorous. I am defusing this bomb right now and I should not stand there if I were you'."

All ears were rapt.

"Clear Path International engaged in the largest bomb and mine removal project ever conducted in the world and that was in Vietnam after the war there was over. They now handle the rehabilitation needs of civilians injured by mines throughout the world. And you know they really are interesting, so I help them out when I can. You can as well if you have a computer. You Madame. You have a computer do you not?"

"Of course sir. We all do."

"Madame, you look mahvelous, as my old friend Fernando used to say. In that case you can go to CPI.ORG and learn all about what they do cleaning up other people's messy business."

Suzie brought another round of dark bottled beers to the Man.

"My dear you look absolutely delightful, but I'll bet you are near dead on your feet as I guess by looking at the hour. You shall not have to bring another round. And remember, it is better to look good than feel good."

He turned back to his audience. "My friends, you must know that to be truly interesting you must always hold the heart of a child in your heart. Maybe run the risk of being called childish at times. This charge you can do by helping children, for I have been told by a wiser man than me that anything you do for children is never wasted. That is why another group I like to help out once in a while is called Freearts Organization. These very interesting people put artists together with kids who have had someone try to steal their childhood away. You know what happens -- the sudden seriousness. Broken bones. Bruises. Nightmares. Worse things than you can imagine, for as the poet says, "some monsters must slumber or they wake to devour us." My friends, although there indeed are true monsters out there, there also are my friends at Freearts who match up artists with kids who have been abused. You so fortunate to live in a place where everyone has computers. You can go to http://freearts.org/"

The Most Interesting Man in the World stood up to go. "My friends the hour is late and I must be on a plane tomorrow to Cambodia to handle another problem that concerns children. I bid all of you adieu and hope that sharing my little hobbies has not created ennui among you."

"My good man," a woman said as Jose and Javier came in through the door, giddy about their sudden release from doom. They greeted the MIMITW in Spanish. "My good man, I so adore your accent. Where are you from?"

"Ah, well I just came from my boat in Monterey. But do you Madame, also love this man's accent here?" He indicated the rather haphazardly mussed Jose.

"Ah, well, he does have an accent," the woman said. "I've heard him."

"When a person has an accent, it means they can speak one more language than you," said the Man. And with that, he left.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

OCTOBER 14, 2013


HEEL YA HO BOYS! LET HER GO BOYS!

This weeks photo comes hopping via Farcebook friends from John Curley.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

This week we are taking a little break to recover from pneumonia and tidy up some administrative matters, including getting the Island-Life Stories section up to speed. For newbies, this section includes reposted and rewritten "monologues" featuring the various characters who re-appear from time to time, including Bear, the Iranian Spy Submarine in the estuary, Marlene and Andre's Household, and Eunice the Moose.

We will try to gather together our dissolute radio-active actors, and try to keep them off drugs long enough, so as to foist yet another execrable work of faux-musicianship and drama on CD. This CD has been known to cause both Professor Schikele and Al Yankovic to retch violently in disgust.

We will return to the Island Life News Offices where the dreaded annual drawing of straws shall pursue Tradition, the end result determining which unlucky soul must cross through the ominous gates and follow that terrible path right up to the Landing of the Infernal Ferryman, there to learn from Those Who Have Passed what the future holds for us all.

The Editor will do anything for a scoop.

After that, we step into the mush of November and you know what that means. The 14th Annual Poodleshoot and BBQ. We wonder what celebrity from the augustan estates of Washington D.C. will attend this time.

Much to ponder. And now, as Mr. Peyps used to say, to bed.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

OCTOBER 6, 2013

INTO THE MYSTIC

This week's nautical photo comes from Island-lifer and sailorgirl Tammy.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

We'll be taking a little break for a week or two to recharge the batteries, possibly doing a mini-issue. The Snublican Party has put the kibosh on a Mountain Sabbatical this year -- all parks are closed.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Some carnival stuff happened near downtown on a weekend of gorgeous weather that followed a couple blustery sirocco days. A lot of folks got out and about and of course, this was the weekend of the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival out there at Hellman Meadows in Babylon. Warren Hellman has passed away, but made sure to leave an endowment that will ensure the festival, featuring the best and the brightest in music for three days, continues for another decade. As usual the ageless goddess, Emmylou Harris, finished up the fest as final performer.

Due to illness we canceled a number of attendances this weekend, but we expect the wildly popular festival drew another percentage of a million folks to enjoy Steve Earle and similar roots musicians.

We just wonder who is inhabiting the "silver suit" wandering the grounds nowadays.

Closer to home administrators celebrated the ongoing efforts of the beach sand restoration project in which an offshore barge is pumping sand through a 14 inch pipe to the Strand. The idea is to return the profile of the beach to its 1986 footprint. Which, come to think of it, marks the last time a beach restoration project was completed.

Time and tides wait for no one.

Our Dizzney Small World After All sort of self-image took a bruising when protesters kiboshed a planned flag-raising ceremony that would have honored the dubious "sister city" status with a burg in the PRC and commemorated "National Day". Well in advance the Chinese consul begged off attending this controversial ceremony on report that Tibetan protesters would also attend.. Protesters came to remind people of China's forcible occupation of Tibet as well as the brutal crackdown on the Tianamen Square demonstrators a few years ago in which tanks ran over unarmed civilians.

Chinese National Day is diffidently celebrated in several Bay Area cities as a measure of recognizing our large Asian populations. San Leandro recently approved a flag-raising ceremony during a meeting so contentious that the assembly is planning to reconsider its decision.

So okay, why not have a pan-Asian festival with Japanese sumo wrestlers and sushi chefs together with Chinese scarf dancers combined with Imperial Circus acrobats and Indian mahouts riding elephants and Pakistani food concessions and Vietnamese Pho. Toss in some Israelis and some Palestinians and Lebanese for good measure and stir fry in a wok with tons of kim chee -- nevermind the boshintang. All together. Everyone happy and in one harmonious blend of Orientalism seasoned with Falun Gong.

But raising the flag of the PRC to recognize all of Asia?

Where is Edward Said when we need him?

On a more homey note, the Target out at the Point is set to open next week, while the Walgreens megastore located on the former site of Goode Chevrolet has just begun construction and is expected to open in Spring of next year.

The Letters to the Editor remain entertaining and provocative. More letters protest "Ron Cowan's Latest Plan" which refers to his company's attempt to build 80 homes on the site of the present day Harbor Bay Club. We had thought nobody cared about that location -- and apparently Cowan's people thought the same -- but it seems people are quite up in arms about shifting the club from a rather charming location to a place located directly under the main flight path of Oakland International Airport. Try focussing on your backhand swing on the courts underneath the roar of a 737. Someone else asks people not to heed "a bunch of malarkey" about the McKay Avenue boondoggle and an OpEd piece calls for a "Change in Leadership" over the multiple dwelling developments now in the works, citing the demonic dimension of traffic.

An Editorial on the miserable state of health care in the Golden State, as compared to other states (we rank 20 out of the 50 state selection) reminds us about the tragicomic results of the ludicrous government shutdown engineered by callous jackasses in Washington. This entire shutdown was meant to be a protest against the healthcare reform initiatives termed by the Conservative party as Obamacare.

It is wildly ironic that, since the Executive Branch determines essential services that must remain open, Obamacare swung into action on October 1st and essentially locked the programs into place as a defacto law-enforced structure. The entire shutdown has been rendered meaningless save for the harm it causes the country domestically and world-wide and there is virtually nothing the Republican Party or its extreme branch of Tea Baggers can do about it, like it or not. It was passed into law by a bipartisan coalition the way government is supposed to operate, with neither side getting all of what it wanted.

Protesting the debt ceiling at this point is a damaging charade of posturing, as defaulting will invalidate any debt ceiling gains in the past and cause interest payments to skyrocket, ruining the nation's credit. At this point the Democrats are gleefully celebrating almost certain wins in the House next election cycle due to the dissatisfaction with Congress, as many people see quite rightfully that the GOP has given over to extremists who do not mind harming the Republic for the sake of making futile and idiotic points. This, we must remind you, is no way to win power in a Democracy. That one party should be so obtuse, so resistant to common sense, so heedful of absolute mindless moronic idiots among their constituency, and so insistent on a clearly destructive path is no way to gain power, for people are not persuaded then by reason but by avoidance. The end result is sure to end in tyranny.

IT TAKES A LOT TO LAUGH, IT TAKES A TRAIN TO CRY

So anyway, a brisk sirocco blew in sending local temperatures into the eighties as a consequence of Pacific typhoons. Howard Schecter has forecast a dry Sierra October and we are looking at a gradual temperature decline into something reasonable for this time of year. Unfortunately for folks seeking high altitude respite and taking advantage of warmer than usual temps at elevation the intransigent Party has shut down the parks and park access to the best locations. Despite all that the aspens are turning their leaves in the foothills rising up the slopes and autumn pursues its annual rite of changes.

Now is the time when shadows reach across the road with cold penumbras dictated by the fading lights and things fade into colors of burnt umber and oranges and browns. The scent of blown leaves mingles with the exhaust that now pervades our days. We are coming up on the most terrifying days at Island-Life, when Denby must perforce pursue Tradition and descend to that awful place from which no traveler -- save Denby -- is allowed to return. We are coming to the august 14th annual Poodleshoot and BBQ, which is always an event not to be missed.

The days are fraught with anticipation and histrionic buildup. Just as they are the calmest days of the year, embedded into deceptive Indian Summer, so hard to get warm now, so easy to get burned.

So now as the dregs of the year drain into the limiting possibilities and scenarios we see the following: Wally's son, Joshua, remains harbored in dubious sanctuary at the Greek Orthodox Church where he took flight after whistleblowing the illegal wiretapping conducted by Hometown Security Aegis of Alameda. Mr. Terse and Mr. Spline have been taking turns watching the front door of the church, hoping to snag the traitor/whistleblower for some weeks now.

He has been able, however to periodically escape this false imprisonment by pursuing secret tunnels delved many years ago by the LDS neighbors, risking only encounters in those dank Mormon tunnels with the notoriously savage horror of the Taetzelwurm, described in other pages by sages more wise and knowledgeable and dispatched with some effort and attention with nothing less than a solid Smith and Wesson .45 caliber pistol. The tunnels were delved ages ago, supposedly by the First People who preceded the Ohlone, and were subsequently enlarged for the Latter Day Saints to store their gold and be used potentially as means of escape should California prove as unfriendly as other parts of the Country. Few go through there these days without substantial company and decent firepower, for in those tunnels which descend to regions not seen since the god turned aside his face dwell creatures like the chupacabra and the Taetzelwurm, which arise from the fetid darkness of some diseased intertextual imagination more fantastical than Tolkein or Pynchon.

Over at the Native Son's Parlor 33 1/3 the budget impasse has resulted in a totally frozen set of conditions. Wally has sequestered himself into bathroom with the Encinal Cheerleading squad causing a total moratorium on Encinal games and also resolution to the Parlor budget which causes a cessation in all Parlor projects, including the ones seeing amelioration of birth defects in newborns. People listening through the door hear what sounds like Wally filibustering one or all of the cheerleaders with Penthouse letters.

Quite a lot of people are pissed. Especially since no one can use the bathroom.

Swinging into October, the Island and the entire Bay Area prepares for that month-long orgiastic festival known as Halloween, culminating in the night of trick-or-treat and El Dias del Los Muertos when strange creatures walk the shadows and the Dead return, and Denby returns -- unwillingly -- to visit the Dead.

Speaking of strange creatures, Old Schmidt is in the Old Same Place Bar entertaining Suzie with tales of the strange creatures he has seen in his travels back in the day when he worked as a merchant seaman.

"Ja, de strangest creature I haff zeen was certainly the Wolperdinger. This fellow inhabits die Alpen and in form and shape resembles an elongated bear. Ja. Mit de wuschelkopp und de ears and furry like nobody's business. Und because he liffs all his life on the hillside, the two legs on one side are shorter than the odder. So he can only run in the one direction. For evermore."

"Have you ever seen a unicorn?" Suzie asked.

"Bah! De unicorn is fantasy! It is not real anymore. Totally extinct."

"I don't want to believe that!"

"My dear, only a pure knight of unquestioning honor or a virgin can find a unicorn. Nowadays, just look at the twelve-year old girls and the way they dress! Not to mention the Hannah Montana. So ein Schlampe! It is quite impossible."

The conversation at the bar turned to the government shutdown and politics, fantastical made-up pseudo-realities and the modern day Republican Party. Babar, who possesses unimpeachable qualifications as a True Conservative, so Conservative he wears two pairs of pants, was of the mind that his party needed no costumes for the season as they all appeared to milling about towards Halloween dressed like dunderheads with duncecaps already.

Padraic was doubly disappointed to hear about Hannah Montana, for he had wanted to dress Suzie -- or undress her more precisely -- as Miley Cyrus, but Dawn really put her foot down. Hard. So hard all the glassware had rattled behind the bar.

Indeed, Suzie thought, or perhaps spoke to someone. Sometimes it seems that all magic had left the world, leaving us groping for processed visions that promise some kind of larger cosmos -- UFO's, the Loch Ness Monster, haunted houses. As if the mysteries we do have for real are not enough.

After the bar had closed, the unusually warm night air drifted scents of leaves and that tree which always smells like a wet dog come in from the rain. Chrysanthemums along the fence had suddenly erupted again with their sharp perfume and remnants of the sirocco stirred the upper branches of the trees along Lincoln Avenue while recessed pools of shadow behind the low picket fences of the yards with their arched trellis gateways draped with roses and trumpet vines seeped mysterious odors of other flowering plants. The unusually warm air had enchanted the night and as Suzie turned to look at a noise she saw a form of some horse-like shape in the Abodanza's hedged and bushy front yard. It turned its massive head and blurred in outline, Suzie saw, or thought she saw a tine protruding from the thing's head.

From that front yard drifted the unmistakable horsey scent of a very large animal and Suzie gasped, stepped backwards and promptly fell off the curb into the street, landing on her rump and jarring her eyeballs. After she had picked herself up, the apparition had disappeared. Startled, no doubt, when she had cried out.

She strode home briskly, her head going a mile a minute, wondering about this vision. In the end, as she brewed a cup of chamomile tea. After downing a couple shots of Patron, she decided to tell nobody about what she had seen. She hardly a virgin anymore and she did not want people talking about the impossibility. Nevertheless, she did feel a little special. So she had another shot.

Meanwhile, Eunice, Wootie Kanootie's ever eloping female moose ambled from the Abodanza's yard over to the Almeida's, but Tugboat's loud barking sent her in a loose shamble over to the Cove where she was wont to go when she escaped from the herd Wootie kept in a corral near the base of the Park Street Bridge. There she would stand knee deep in the marshy rushes, listening to the geese collecting overhead and smelling the salt sedge reminiscent of distant Ontario. And that is where the weary Wootie Kanootie, famous Canadian moose tamer found her to bring her back home.

The mystery is how she keeps on getting out of the corral, and Wootie worried someone may have seen her. He did not need to worry, for no one would ever speak about these things.

In the Iranian spy submarine AIS Chadoor that drifted now in the San Francisco Bay, a visibly disturbed Omer came up to the First Mate, Mohammed, saying he had seen something extraordinary through the porthole, normally sealed up so as to avoid emitting traitorous light. But Omer had been taking to closing that area off with the lights off and opening the seal to gaze at the aquatic life swimming by.

"It was a woman! Or half of one!"

"A woman! Was she drowned and dead?"

"No, she had green eyes and she waved at me!"

"A woman in the middle of the Bay. At night. How could you see this woman, Omer? She cannot be there."

"She was lit by a phosphorescence from below. I don't know where it came from. But she is real, I tell you! Her arms were slender and she wore a veil of seaweed!"

"Omer, I think it has been too long since you have been with a real woman. Now you are seeing djinns and visions. Go to bed."

So Omer returned to his bunk, mentally notching the note never to speak about what he had seen to anyone again. And he fell into a deep sleep and dreams of swimming among the fishwomen.

Meanwhile an aquamarine tail three feet wide at the flukes slapped the water's surface and a girlish laugh drifted over the choppy Bay as the spy submarine ran silent, ran deep, out through the Golden Gate to the open sea.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the gentle waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

SEPTEMBER 29, 2013

BRIDGE OF SIGHS

Feast your eyes while it still stands.

EAT REAL FESTIVAL

Oaktown touted it and we got scads of promo, so over to Oaktown we went for the "Eat Real Festival", which presented itself as a major foodie sort of thing at Jack London. Okay, so we went with jaundiced eyes, expecting overpriced this and that and much hullaballoo about not so much other than merchants seeking another dollar.

As it turned out, the three-day semi-street fair turned out to exceed expectations, largely because unlike the ballyhooed Outside Lands and Treasure Island and Coalinga festivals, no exhorbitant entrance fee was applied and some genius set the max cost per food plate at just five bucks. In addition, the vibe was uniformly pacific and friendly. No gang bangers broke up the celebration, nobody got into a knife fight and nobody got shot. The cops all looked laid back and relaxed.

People from all places and races mingled without any static, making this festival a grand triumph of color and flavor for embattled Oaktown which finally had a chance to show the world the joyful, vibrant, living color of which it is made. Vendors drove trucks from as far away as Birmingham, Alabama to show up here, and the result was more than just all right.

We sampled noodles from Cera Una Volta and Vietnamese beef stew redolent of lemon grass and anise and also hot pepper sauces and dips from a variety of vendors.

We never attend a festival without music and were fortunate to catch Mirage doing their latin jazz thing at the main stage on Saturday. Mirage has selected an unfortunately popular name for their group, as seemingly hundreds of bands across the country have glommed onto this moniker. Anyway, this incarnation featured Chazz Alley on sax for the duration of the gig.

There was lots of good food and good people and pleasant vibes with excellent weather and no Angry Elves and so a fine time was held by all.

WHATS THE BUZZ

School is in session so be on the watch for careless kids crossing at intersections, especially around the old highschool on Encinal. Remember when you were a goofy, unaware teen? Okay then . . .

The Sun misreported the name of those bigwheel vintage 1800's bicycles that appeared during the Alameda Origins Bike Tour. Those devices were called "Pennyfarthings" and were the first machines to be termed "bicycles," whereas the machines it replaced were solid-wheel "velocipedes". The large front wheel, although increasing danger for the rider, made for a far superior and comfortable ride over bumps. Many of the original velocipedes, lacking rubber tires and springs were -- somewhat -- affectionately called "boneshakers."

Their heyday extended from about 1869 when the wire spoke wheel was first put into use until about 1890.

The invention, or say rather the application, of the pneumatic tire by John Dunlop in 1888 and the chain drive effectively put an end to the need for an oversized front wheel. By 1893 the colorful machines had ceased being produced in favor of the "safety bicycle."

The City is looking at a sounder financial situation now that lawsuits over the defunct telecom enterprise appear to be on the way to be quashed. The City won the suit levied by investors who felt misled by false promises regarding the failed venture in telecom.

There is a bit of brouhaha over Comcast cable fees which the City collects off of cable service bills. Chabot College claims it is owed the money because its television station provides programming resources for Alameda-based public programming.

Chabot is claiming that DIVCA fee charges on subscriber bills, created in 2011 by Alameda ostensibly to raise money for educational programming, should be turned over to Chabot. The amount generated is about $374,000 since 2011.

Comcast collects these fees and turns them over to the City, which has used the funds for City Hall capital improvement projects that are related to broadcasting.

Clearly Chabot would like something for the use of its resources, but it stands on shaky ground when it comes to fees that were originated by the City for its own purposes.

Finally, S&P upgraded the City's bond rating from AA to AA+, citing strong financial management here and an improved Bay Area economy. This bond upgrade means the City will save close to half a million dollars in lower interest payments.
This news may quash any of the rumors of City Hall insolvency which got bruited about last year.

Letters to the Editor and even a front page item in the Island Gerbil indicate rising irritation with at least two proposed development projects. The Cowan outfit that wants to move the Harbor Bay Club is hitting some pretty strong resentment over the inclusion of 80 homes on Harbor Bay, which many feel is already too crowded.

The other project is the variously named McKay Avenue/Neptune Pointe (sic) that is proposed for the spit of land adjoining Crab Cove and which the EBRP wanted to annex for administrative purposes to Crown Beach. Other than some members of City Hall and, of course, the developer, nobody seems to want this project to fly. The people who live down there do not want it and the general populace of the Island does not want it, preferring the land be rezoned back to its original use. Somebody at GSA seems to have gotten into a Balkanized territorial hissy fit over the little plot and so strange threats keep coming from that quarter without attribution. It would be good if one of the investigative bloggers got some names and titles from that direction to find out just why the massive federal GSA gives a fig about what happens to the tiny bit of property there.

In this post-911 world the local governments are all looking to establish contingency plans fitting their scope and size. The County has not one but two Emergency Offices to which the surviving council members are supposed to retreat in the event of disaster. The older and more well-known EOC is bunkered out at Santa Rita beside the Sheriff Department's firing range.

Well, we humble islanders will be getting one as well, to be located at Grand and Buena Vista near the long closed Firestation #3. Last June voters rejected a sales tax that would have paid to replace the current shelter in the basement of the main police station as well as the old fire station, but the Council voted to refinance lease revenue bonds originally intended for earthquake retrofitting of City Hall. The S&P upgrade makes this project more feasible.

THE LEAVES WERE FALLING, JUST LIKE EMBERS

So anyway, after the recent dockwalloper, the sun has returned to bathe the earth in golden hues however the shadows thrust themselves across the paths at a different, longer angle than only a few days before. The kids are about in shorts and sandals however the oaks along Central Avenue have taken on an umber tone to their leaves. The Canadian geese suddenly became numerous overnight and squadrons of other birds arrow through the low skies.

Now is the time when old Gaia turns her weathered face

Now is the time when old Gaia turns her weathered face creased with valleys, arroyos, hills, deserts, plains, mesas, continents and the liquid seas of her deep dark eyes away from the direct gaze at her son, Phoebus Appolo riding in his hot bright chariot as she sits and rocks ever so slowly in the ticking wicker chair, the folds of the quilted Universe draped across her lap, the rocking becoming the dance of Shiva, the ticking the ever ceasless count of time's advance, ticking each second, each century, from the first moment of creation until that rocking chair comes to the moment of that last terrible silence and motionlessness.

As Gaia turns her face away from the light, the world enters into that time of cold pristine shadows with measured steps and everything is precisely where it needs to be right at this moment. The children shouting and running around the entrance to the Adelphian Hall which now is a sort of church run by a sect of "charismatic" Xians who believe that the minister there is come as an apostle. Tomorrow is another school day and they are busy enjoying the time they have before being sent to bed and then to the terrific droning waste of time that is sitting at a desk looking at the chalkboard or a book while magnificent fleets of birds sail free across the sky outside.

Some may sense that this droning desk is just a foreshadow of the future to come, sitting in a cubicle with blue-grey nap and a computer screen for hours broken only by the annoyance of the next generation of adult bullies roaming the corporate playground. Hence the wild screaming abundant joy of children who are not yet damaged. The droning three hours supplied by the charismatic apostles of La Luz del Occupado Parking Place was bad enough.

Over at the Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor 33 1/3 there has been a great commotion all over the budget battle bettween the Pee Tardy folks and the Libation group. The Libation group is aiming to redirect funds to free beers and the Pee Tardy folks want to invest funds from fees and special events into hedge funds and the revivified real estate mortgage market. A main sticking point concerns the health benefits administered by Eugenia Felcher. Some see the health benefits as a service coverage. Some see the benefits as insurance.

The groups are at such loggerheads that a virtual shutdown of club activities appears inevitable and there is much handwringing and argumentation over this. One member, Charley Bluster, went so far as to filibuster debate and up or down vote by reading the entire canon of Dr. Seuss. His rendition at the start of his filibuster of The Cat in the Hat was emotional and full of nuance, but by the time he got to Green Eggs and Ham, the entire place was asleep and Charley droned on and on, barely a living human being. Some wag did comment that this seemed a curious statement to the vox popli about the maturity of Representative Bluster's political party.

Last week things decayed into a melee that involved gunshots, tossed soup tureens, and ultraviolence, involving Wally's .50 caliber pistol and herds of rats and people standing on chairs, which would have shocked the most stoic Stanley Kubrick fan. Or even Tarantino. It got that bad.

A few of the membership have voiced concerns, toowit how does all this acrimony benefit the constituency. The response has been tart and brief. "Mind your business. We have Ideology at stake here."

Down the street the organizers for the Fighting Otters Lemonade Stand fundraiser got into a similar, albeit smaller tiff over budgetary issues. This tiff was smaller due largely to the fact that the organizers were all students at Edison in the Grades 1 through 5 and none of them rose higher than 48 inches in height.

Little Tommy Tucker's contingent favored donations to the Sisters at Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, while Bobby Bruze and his gang threatened to shut down the entire enterprise if funds were directed instead toward cool swim goggles and maybe some halloween stuff from the Spirit Store. Bobby's dad owned the lemon press and the tree, so there was a reality to this threat.

"I am not afraid of you, Bobby Bruze" Tommy Tucker said. "We can get lemons from the Almeida's yard."

"I'll sequester your all mighty lemons up the wazoo," Bobby said, who had been listening to his parents talk about politics. He didn't know exactly what sequester meant, but he knew it was really bad. "Step over this line, I dare you!"

"You stop acting like sissy Congressmen you!"

Little Tammy Chadwick stepped in and shouted at both of them. "You stop acting like sissy Congressmen you! Start acting like the Fighting Otters.

Well, there was more of that and it looked like the acrimony was so intense that there would be no fundraiser at all.

In the Old Same Place Bar exhaustion settled in among the tables and chairs and the soiled glasses waiting to be collected for wash. Suzi slumped behind the bar with her book and Dawn sagged in her stool, dozing as patrons finished up desultory conversations about the national blather about the condition of things and their softly deliquiscing beverages, becoming more diluted and warm with each advancing minute of the hour.

It has been a long time since anyone has enjoyed a vacation and even longer since a payraise. Outside the wind kicks up to bring in the cooling change of the seasons and, hopefully, some common sense into the dense heads of people who handle budgets.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the gentle waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

SEPTEMBER 22, 2013

EXCELLENT BIRDS

In humble Oakland we have wildlife. No, we do not mean Jimmie's Nightclub and Eli's Mile High.

This family lives up near the Mormon Temple, but has been known to roam. Nervous staff at a school request the the head of maintenance to kill the turkeys. Fortunately the sane man called Environmental Services, which is charged with removing critters like skunks, raccoons, and lizards from property. They told him the wild animals are protected and it is illegal to kill them. The Maintenance Man simply waved his arms and said, "Shoo!" The birds left. He was last seen walking away, shaking his head and muttering under his breath, "Kill the turkeys! Kill the damn turkeys!"

SHE'S HOT THAT CHILI PEPPER

You want real "off the grid" you got it here on 26th Street in Oakland at a true entrepreneurial style bistro that sets up, serves and takes down in a couple hours. Street tacos at $1.25. Fresh and good.


Cash only -- no plastic.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

Rob Bonta co-authored AB1008 with Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) which removes the requirement that hospital workers must join the ACERA union pension system. The financially-strapped Island hospital will join with San Leandro Hospital in merging with the Alameda County Medical Center system for the sake of survival. Neither local hospital was capable of surviving financially on their own. Gov. Brown just signed the bill into law.

You remember those commercials for a texmex restaurant that featured a stuffy man with an English accent flagging down a waitress so as to identify foreign objects on his plate?

Punchline: "Those, sir, are fresh vegetables."

Well Chevy's, a national company with 39 corporate-owned restaurants in 33 states plus 16 franchises, began life here on the Island in 1986, but the original flagship restaurant has stood vacant at 2499 Mariner Square Drive since 2006. The building has been for sale since then, but had no takers until recently when Oakmont Senior Living put in a bid to acquire the site, demolish the struture, and replace it with 52 unit assisted living facility.

Well okay it is hard to get sentimental about a gaudy family restaurant chain, but we have fond memories of taking the kids out to the water's edge there many years ago.

This week the Letters to the Editor featured more folks against the McKay Avenue project as well as three opinion pieces, both against the development of the land into dwelling units. The Sierra Club, of course, weighs in on behalf of guiding the land towards an addition to the Crab Cove park, a local resident in the area describes the area as rife with old oaks, sycamores, cedars, and diverse fauna, including hummingbirds, squirrels and raccoons. Another writer compares TLC, the prospective developer to the odious Suncal. Which may be a bit much, as TLC does not appear to be deceptive about what they want to do -- its just what they want to do is not in the Island's best interest in that parcel.

For some odd reason there are parties hell-bent on ram-rodding this one through, what with Council members calling the beautiful area "blighted" and some cuss at GSA threatening seizure by "eminent domain" to force this deal for TLC.

On the upside we see the Fall season lining up with a return to more challenging theatre and some concerts worthy of note.

WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS

So anyway, a major dockwalloper blew in Saturday, driving everybody indoors who could get there quick and sending havoc to roam the freeways. The Household of Marlene and Andre filled up with all the members not working and everyone looked at each other, steaming with sad eyes, the whole place smelling like wet dogs and people wondering if this was the start of the long bitter winter. But Sunday dawned clear and sunny and soon folks were back out on the street again.

Linneaus was not Norwegian, and probably not Lutheran

Fall is encroaching. Leaves are falling and sudden squadrons of Canadian geese and other birds appear in the low skies. Other animals are also on the move, especially given the increased bout, or as some say, increased plague of new construction on the Island. It is an Island after all, with marinas and boats and the troubles that come with the territory, and with the territory of marinas docking boats come the famous rattus norwegus, not to blame dear Norway for rodent issues, but that is just how it all fell out when it came to naming things according to the Linneaus manner. Linneaus was not Norwegian, and probably not Lutheran according to the details we can glean, so he probably felt perfectly fine naming the smooth coat rat after Norway.

Or perhaps someone introduced the man to lutefisk without sufficient aquavit to wash it down and this nomenclature was the product of a small-minded man's revenge.

We also enjoy the pleasures of the scruffier cousin, the roof rat, which according to our unimaginative Linneaus is Rattus Rattus. Which just goes to show you the man had no brains and probably could not be trusted with your wallet.

Roofrats, sometimes called woodrats, although the species is different, look like Norway Rats which have taken a beating and reacted by getting hooked on heroin and glue sniffing. They are scruffy and nasty and they like to live in your attic right here on the Island. They enjoy Oakland too, as they have few scruples.

Racoons have been enjoying the cat food and squirrel leavings people have been leaving outside their backdoors. Roof rats love this stuff too. Mrs. Blather typically leaves a pile of kibble for Mr. Sachs and Mr. Goldman, her two Persians, but latterly the two kitties have taken to cowering in the tulip magnolia while a raccoon has been feasting on the dinner intended for them.

They can hiss all they want, but little that will do.

Over at the Native Sons Parlor 33 1/3 there has been a big hullaballo over the Parlor budget. Which seems to have gotten more acrimonious in recent years as two factions have gotten to loggerheads over spending. The more conservative members of the Pee Tardy group feel dues and income from various instruments should be re-invested in worthy entities like Goldman Sachs and The John Birch Society. They also feel too much money gets wasted on public uses, like water for the bathroom and that people should just "hold it in" until they get home. Hence their name, The Pee Tardy folks.

The more generous members of the Parlor feel that when income arrives it should be spent on any of the worthy humanitarian causes the group supports, such as amelioration of child birth defects and distributing golden poppy seeds.

Wally is threatening to filibuster the next debate until past the fiscal year and Janice is threatening to withhold payments on any outstanding or revolving debts, like PG&E, which would propell the Parlor into a state of crisis, which made Myron Plotz, the accountant, start tearing his hair while weeping uncontrollably.

David has been calling the Pee Tardy folks a lot of dangerous imbeciles which only made Mrs. Cribbage throw the official silver tureen at his head, fortunately missing, but causing a goodly amount of damage to the glass fantod case.

"For goodness sakes and goodness sakes!" Tammy shouted, stamping her foot. "All of you stop acting like children or I will invoke the Goddess!"

They all stood back at that threat and some people crossed themselves and rolled their eyes. Nobody wanted the Goddess involved, not even Myron.

The stamping did have the effect of dislodging a huge redwood burl clock from the wall and it fell to the floor of the that old hall beside the Marina with a loud crash.

This proved too much for the family of roofrats which had been living in the wall near the couch and they scampered across the floor towards the door -- about five of them.

Mrs. Cribbage screamed and got up on a chair. Mr. Blather screamed and got up on a chair too. With both of them screaming, Myron grabbed a pool cue and began wacking all around the rats who ran in confused circles instead of heading for the door while Wally went to get his gun.

Myron managed to bing one of the rats on the head and another rat, being feisty and of a mood to defend himself grabbed the end of the pool cue which by now had been fractured to the point it was of little use anyway, so Myron tugged and flailed his damaged weapon while the roofrat snarled and glared with beady eyes at his tormenter and cursed Myron in rat language.

Wally let loose a round that blasted a two foot crater in the floor

By the time Wally had returned with his .50 caliber pistol the other rats had gotten away and Mrs. Rampling was up on the counter on her hands and knees with Mr. Scott and more people stood on chairs. The rat gave up on teaching Myron a lesson and ran away from the door back into the room, perhaps to return to its formerly comfortable hole in the wall. Wally let loose a round that blasted a two foot crater in the floor and another that took out a wall support beam in a spectacular eruption of fire and splinters. The roof sort of groaned and sagged but stayed up there, however the lights went out so the only light came through the open door.

That's when the sirens began to sing louder and louder.

The sirens stopped outside and a sort of disco effect of flashing red lights drifted through the now silent room.

There came a series of raps from somewhere and then David's voice could be heard clearly, "I would now like to call this meeting to order. If you please"

Later on, Myron was trying to explain some of this to The Man from Minot at the bar in the Old Same Place, but was having little success in sounding reasonable.

"Why the rats," asked the Man from Minot.

"Why the rats? I dunno why not a duck. Or a horse. I am all right myself. It's an Island and it's got marinas and the marinas got boats from all over the world. With boats come rats. You want nice doilies on your downspouts and a canoe ride with plastic alligators go to Disney Land."

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the gentle waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

SEPTEMBER 15, 2013

WHEN THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER PRICKS MY FINGER

Jerry Garcia did not sing many songs he had written himself; the vast majority of the Grateful Dead canon was written by Robert Hunter, but as one gets older Black Muddy River acquires some resonance. This week's headline photo of a luminescent rose comes from our staff photographer, Tammy.

ISLAND-LIFE PERSONAL UPDATE

Our HTML coder, Chad, was stricken with a heart condition which propelled his great heart to pulse at 169 bpm, which is pretty damn fast even for Punk music. He has been in the Island CCU since Friday and only recently was un-intubated.

Our thoughts and whatever prayers to whatever Spaghetti Monster or Cosmic Muffin may be up there go out tonight as our man fights for his life.

WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW
Impact Theatre at La Val's

La Val's Pizzaria may sound like an odd venue for cutting edge theatre in the Bay Area, which has made an international name for itself in the realm of avaunt garde, but the basement to the Berkeley eatery has held sway for well over twenty years as a bastion for black box productions and companies which sometimes go on to own their own spaces. The Shotgun Players began their production career down those narrow steps and look at them now.

Black Box often refers to experimental learning exercise skits conducted by 2nd string university strugglers who did not make the cut for mainstage Aunte Mame or Fiddler on the Roof. Around here, Black Box refers to no-frills, stripped down, guerrilla theatre of the type popularized by the Mime Troupe. Sets made from ad hoc found materials and costumes made of whatever the performers can afford and looks somewhat approximate to the role. Acting ranges from rank amateur shouters who "saw the air thus" to spectacular presentations. Direction and choreography trends toward "walk here and look at the vase and find a reason to do so beforehand."

The latest production by Impact Theatre, we are happy to say, hits all the highest notes in virtually every category of dramatic arts, and this production is worthy of a "mainstage" presentation. The production values are very high for something like this and we were impressed by the extraordinary choreography employed in such a tight space, with actors all moving simultaneously and sometimes lifting one another in tandem seamlessly.


Abigail Edber, Arisa Bega, and Carlye Pollack play four teen girls discovering their power as women at a Catholic reformatory in 1914, in What Every Girl Should Know at Impact Theatre. Photo: Cheshire Isaacs

Briefly, the play concerns four teen girls thrown together in a New York reformatory in 1914. Within the walls of their small room, together they discover their sexuality and personal power as they reveal the horrifying events that led each to that dormitory room. The newcomer, Anne, reveals that her mother was involved with Margaret Sanger, a real historical figure who promoted logical birth control and provided the structure that developed into Planned Parenthood later on. Sanger, a nurse and progressive-thinking activist on behalf of reproductive rights felt that women needed to take control of their bodies. At that time, women were still denied the right to vote and the suffragette movement was just starting to develop momentum. Sanger established the first birth control clinic in New York.

The girls rip out a page from one of Anne's birthcontrol pamphlets which features a photograph of Sanger and build a sort of ofreta with oranges and other items filched from the reformatory's stores and from that point a series of unearthly events and revelations ensue. The girls, each of whom possesses an icon for her particular name saint, shift their allegiances to Sanger as the new patron saint for girls.

In the end, several of the girls rebel against the hypocritical and damaging theosophy of the reformatory, deciding to leave and risk the streets rather than be subjugated.

Arisa Bega portrays the ingenue Lucy with clarity and heartfelt innocence. Abigail Edber portrays the complex Anne with her "big bone" issues and her passionate longings and her damaged psyche with multifold nuances. Carlye Pollack portrays her Theresa with a hypersexual, girlish delight up until her final "confession" after which she huddles sobbing in the corner, as heartbreaking a victim of child abuse as anything ever portrayed on stage. It was a quite a pleasure to watch her work, and that is not true for many more supposedly more accomplished actresses.


Arisa Bega plays a teen discovering her power as a woman at a Catholic reformatory in 1914, in What Every Girl Should Know at Impact Theatre. Photo: Cheshire Isaacs

Elissa Beth Stebbins enters as the most world weary fifteen-year old one can imagine and never lets go of a severity of disposition born of savage hurt.

The 1hour 30 minute show is performed relentlessly without intermission and seemed to fly by in fifteen minutes. Erika Chong Shuch supplied choreography for the four actors, with chops pulled from experience with Cal Shakes, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, and ACT -- to mention a few.

We think this production is a triumphant success and everything that progressive, forward-thinking theatre should be: challenging, sharp, professional, and spot-on the issues.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Front page information on the Island Gerbil revealed that adding 1,425 homes pluse 5.5 million sq ft of retail space will increase traffic seems a surprise to some folks.

Duh.

The Native plants people are up in arms about eliminating some cordgrass. Ok. How about kill a few developers and real estate magnates in addition.

They held a faux celebration of Neptune Beach this weekend. Whoopee. Now on to more important things. .

The Letters to the Editor in the Sun featured fewer entertaining cranks this week. Fallout against Ron Cowan's latest project proposing new toney housing on the site of the present day Harbor Bay Club continues with a homeowner's association weighing in against any more development out there. Increase in traffic is the main reason people don't like the project. We still are chuckling over one letter describing the developer as continually popping up like the Wack-a-Mole.

Another resident (1990) provides most of the comic relief by stating he placed "blind, indeed purblind, confidence in the Alameda Planning Board." With a start like that you know the guy is not serious. But he did note that Safeway is apparently planning to sell beer at the all-night gas station planned for the Point, which is a revelation in itself. We did not know gas stations could even apply for a license to sell alcohol. Then again we did not know that the ever contentious In-n-Out Burger will feature a 42 foot bell tower which some bright bulb fears might interfere with local airplane traffic.

Man, if you are flying that low, please file your route plans away from my neighborhood.

Which is interesting, given that councilpersons want to raise the gateway height limit to 82 feet. Go figure.

Finally we took an amused gander at Councilperson Chen's Understanding Neptune Pointe (sic), in which he claims the entire McKay broughhaha has nothing to do with the City government, but is entirely an affair between the Feds and EBRPD. Of course this ignores the fact that the City did rezone the land against EBRPD in advance of the parcel sale, so Mr. Chen is blowing just a little bit of smoke here.

Most of the L2E in the Island Gerbil were steadfast against the McKay development, against the Ron Cowan Harbor Bay development, and even against any West End development, all citing traffic as the main reason.

Finally, we note that the popular seasonal Spirit Store has returned to Southshore Mall, bringing back its lifesized animatronic zombies, robotic spiders, costumes and the ever favorite ghost duck.

LIKE THE WILD GEESE IN THE WEST

So anyway, Howard Schecter reports in the Dweeb Report, which has trended to extreme accuracy for the past twenty years that seasonal "trofing" has occurred in the Pacific and that we can expect steadily cooling dry temps in the Sierra for the next few weeks. Farmer's Almanac said this winter shall be a cold one, so get out there and buy woolens now.

This is the time of steadily advancing shadows, of changes. Leaves turn from verdant to brilliant reds and yellows and dull ochre, eventually spinning down in a revolve of season. Coming home along the byways of Fruitvale and Laurel and Diamond to Snoffish Valley Road where the old coachway cuts between earth embankments and hedges, settling in the way old comfortable roads do with time counted by the century mark. There the penumbra of the oaks stretches longer than before at this time of day and Percy Worthington Boughsplatt motors with his bare companion, Madeline, still a striking redhead member of the Berkeley Explicit Players. But as the temperatures drop, even Madeline must pay heed so she wears at least a pillbox hat and Victorian leather boots.

One must be reasonable.

Mrs. Almeida is out back cleaning up after the graffiti vandalism scrub down. Some wag had spraypainted the coop lime green and all the chickens bright neon orange. This being the Island our vandals considerately employed water-based paint, so a little work with the hose and all was well again, save for some irate hens flapping orange dewdrops.

There were no other animal mishaps, save for the usual dogbite reported in the police blotter, but for a few days, Bosco the Disputed Pig was kept in hiding. Bosco is the Disputed Pig for a meddling city official had Bosco removed from his yard a while back and arrested, we assume, in the Animal Shelter, where sad Bosco pined for his grubs and his yard behind the concrete and steel lockup, all for committing the crime of being a pig in town.

Someone complained that you cannot be raising livestock in a City. Think of the children.

Someone else commented, "You call this burg a 'City?' What's wrong with you?"

There were a lot of bad words about the affair and much disputation over pigs, for if pigs then why not ducks and, god forbid, roosters, cows, horses and kangaroos.

Then of course there was the matter of Wootie's trained moose herd over by the bridge abutment. But then Wootie was Canadian, and different rules applied.

As it turned out, the City has no real ordinance against a pig living in a yard, especially one which would never attain any size greater than twenty pounds, and all the neighbors got together a Free Bosco petition, as they all dearly loved Bosco, which so shamed the City they released the Pig of Dispute and Bosco returned to munch his grubs in his yard once again.

It does seem that once all the kids got busy with school, things like spraypainting chicken coops, exploding mailboxes, and toiletpapered trees sort of tapered off, giving all the parents the vacation for which they had longed all summer.

As the days get shorter, the fog rolls in as a solid wall through the Golden Gate and pouring over the hills of Babylon across the water.

At Marlene and Andre's Household, Marlene moves about the kitchen, trying to turn odds and ends, scraps, orts, into something similar to a meal, her jet black hair getting a little loose-stranded under her bandana. Kids free from chores and homework took noisy advantage of the last shreds of the day with a ball beneath the glowing streetlamps outside and she pauses with her hand on her belly and the empty space below and beneath.

In the Old Same Place bar all the talk is about how war has been averted -- never mind how and by whom -- the main thing is that war shall not drag us in to another unspeakable mess. Putin, of course is no great prize of character, nor is his governent, but at least there shall be no war.

Old Schmidt sighed. "War is very terrible. Terrible for effry vun."

Someone scoffed. He should talk, coming from that birthplace of Nazis.

"I am old, but not so old to haff been soldat during ze Krieg." Schmidt said.

O I suppose none of you knew about the brutality. The camps.

Old Schmidt sighed. "I vas nine and sent to Niedersachsen. My people knew of course. They all became partizans. Perhaps too early, while it was unpopular. We fought his Brownshirts in the street even before the Hitler took power. Some joined ze French. My Vatti joined ze Poles. But it didn't work-- we were too few and the US waited too long. The Gestapo executed 2,000 of us. My Vatti did not come back. That is why Oma has no relatives. You see things are not always so easy to make black and white. Except one thing."

What is that Schmidt?

"War is evil. Maybe some wars must be fought, but all wars are evil."

In the little church on Santa Clara, Pastor Terrabonne finished up his sermon on reconciliation. The subject was the anniversary of the terrible bombings in Birmingham in 1966 which had murdered four girls and injury about thirty people. "Now, I say to all of you brothers and sisters we must remember these things and we must talk about them, but not to harden our hearts, not to feed anger. No. We recall these terrible things done to our people to reconcile ourselves."

"Say it brother!"

"O yes!"

"Glory yes!"

"Reconcile I say! Not so much with any other man, any other group responsible, any other race, but reconcile if you will that man of hate who comes to learn. Is that the main point? Do we stop there, reconciling with our enemy? No! We reconcile ourselves so that we do not live our days in bitterness and hatred and anger that turns to evil. Reconcile I say! Go on and reconcile! Reconcile, reconcile, reconcile! Reconcile with God, people! That is with whom you must reconcile!"

"O brother!"

"Hallelujah!"

There was more passionate speech in that little chapel tucked away in the row of other churches, great and small. For such a small island we enjoy a plethora of churches, temples and synagogues; one would expect that our people would be saintly for all of that, or at least move through the world with some rectitude, some upright morality instead of grubbing after petty vengeances, pursuing petty cruelties.

In the Offices, after all had shut down, the Editor wound up the day, wondering how to summarize all of this before moving on to other topics.

He thought about the time he had met Guy Stern, one of the Richie Boys. The Richie Boys were the very real, actual, living blood, Inglourious Basterds. But they were not nearly so cruel or vicious, for all of them were, in fact Germans.

They were immigrants who had been interned at Camp Ritchie, pretty much with the same spirit that the Japanese-Americans were interned elsewhere. Like some of the Issei and Nissei, some of the Richie Boys signed up for the Army, which sent them to the very front lines to employ their language skills.

Nearly all of them were, besides being German, Jews as well. Including Guy Stern, who described how they had to alter their dogtags which, like all army-issue tags, were stamped with their religion. Which of course would be a death sentence to anyone caught by the German army.

Guy's job was to go to the front lines and use a loudspeaker and his native language to pursuade snipers to surrender. In this he was very successful, although it was fairly dangerous in that before somebody decided to surrender they might decide to train their weapons on the loudspeaker.

As for the Inglourious Basterds part, well, "We were good Jewish boys. We did not want to hurt anyone. We just wanted the war to be over. When I rolled into my hometown with the advance troops and saw everything bombed out and destroyed, I cried. It had to happen, of course, for that Hitler and his people were terrible and had to be stopped. But afterwards I could not live there again and so I returned to the United States."

The Editor sat on the verandah with his own memories of war in a distant southeast Asian country.

The crescent moon looked down through the tendrils of fog upon the sleeping little down with its potbellied pigs, its chickens, its miniature gardens and its many churches, a town asleep and at peace, not waging war.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the gentle waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

SEPTEMBER 8, 2013

SOMEWHERE BEYOND THAT BLUE HORIZON

This week's photo comes from Carol of the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum. She has been posting this foto challenging people to recognized all the famouse outlines depicted in the distance. This shot is taken through the Island marina. Hint: Coit Tower is furthest right.

FUN WITH TEGAN AND SARA

Toddled over to the Greek with low expectations for what turned out to be a surprisingly vital and exhuberant two concerts from two poppy groups.

According to Wiki, "Tegan and Sara are a Canadian indie rock duo formed in 1995 in Calgary, composed of identical twin sisters Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin (born September 19, 1980). Both play the guitar and keyboards, and write their songs."

They began energetically performing and recording while still in high school, using the school equipment to record their first album. They have won scads of awards, and probably because of their relentless touring schedule which began in 1998, tend to think of themselves as "old timers" on the circuit, having done virtually every major open air venue and event in the United States.

They have toured with Neil Young and The Pretenders, Ryan Adams, Weezer, Bryan Adams, Jack Johnson, The Black Keys, Ben Folds, Gogol Bordello, Cake, Death Cab for Cutie, Hot Hot Heat, The Killers, New Found Glory, Paramore and Rufus Wainwright, among others.

The openly gay pair got some internet buzz when they did a parody song a few years back based on the absurd homophobic comments made by a Fundamentalist preacher against gay marriage. The preacher claimed that if gay people were allowed equal rights with straights, then anyone could then marry anything alive, including a duck, with the clear insinuation that gay=bestiality. The music video featured the two girls cavorting with a rubber duck.

They are the darlings of the post-Indigo Girls/Chrissie Hynde set and are heavily favored by the young, deliberately sexually vague camp of college women just figuring out the riot grrrl thing does not have to be a rubber stamp of Steinem and Stein. It's okay to be girly and still learn how to lock and load a Glock 9. Their self-deprecating humor and emo flavor of honesty has garnered them a devoted fanbase.

In concert the two fill out their lineup with Ted Gowans – guitar, keyboards, Jasper Leak – bass, John Spence – keyboards, and Adam Christgau – drums. Both of the sisters play guitar, synth, and -- notoriously -- the shaker.

By this time, they also have developed smooth stage showmanship. Tegan (or was it Sara?) provided a brief humorous intro to a song by describing how difficult it was to perform the shaker and that the audience should cheer whenever her shaker fill came up -- and she would be sure to highlight the event by pointing at herself. The adoring audience ate it up and six thousand fans screamed when the "shaker bit": rolled around.

This was, by the way, a rare case of the venue being packed at the get go so people could catch the warm-up band.

For the record and for the fans, here is the setlist for T&S.

Drove Me Wild
Goodbye, Goodbye
Back In Your Head
The Con
I Couldn't Be Your Friend
I Was A Fool
Now I'm All Messed Up
Alligator
Where Does The Good Go
Living Room
Shock To Your System
How Come You Don't Want Me
Feel It In My Bones
(Tiësto feat. Tegan & Sara cover)
Closer

We are not sure wussup with LA and fun's spectacular flop down south where they began their tour. Reviews of the poppy Broadway-influenced band were uniformly negative and sour. LA also has a venue called "The Greek Theatre", but we can bet a bottom dollar the band will never play there again.

Reviews were so bad that we were a bit concerned about even staying through the show in Berkeley, however from the first notes Nate Ruess and company pulled out the stops to great success and a warmly enthusiastic, welcoming crowd that seemed to inject Ruess with some badly needed push. "Man I gotta say, I feel good tonight," he said early at one point. Later on he said on stage during a breather, "After LA I was sure we were washed up as a band and nothing we did mattered any more. I felt it was all over. But now you guys made me feel good about performing, about being in a band again. Thank you!"

It is hard to understand how things went so badly in LA as Friday night the band really cracked out a superbly orchestrated show with lights and confetti cannons and fist pumping and Ruess hamming it up Broadway style, clearly enjoying every second the spotlight shone on him. It is really, really nice to experience a performer who has been knocked down getting back up and smashing a homer out of the effing ballpark and that experience was precisely what it was like in Berkeley Friday night.

The band was assisted by a very sexy multi-instrumentalist Emily Moore, who threw in tenor sax, keyboards, guitar and sweet vocals to boost the band with the sort of style for which the talentless Yacht strives and fails to achieve.

The East Bay is home to quite a lot of people who have been dissed, looked down upon and suffered severely hard times, so there were a few moments, as during "At Least I'm Not as Sad" and "It Gets Better" when people really connected emotionally, driving Ruess to further heights.

The band is unabashedly pop, the lead singer is more enamored of Broadway glitz and style than Liberace, the most inspiring songs are frankly anthemic rock at its most inane, yet nevertheless, fun completes its mission and deserves its name. We are glad the East Bay welcomed the group so well and we are happy that Ruess was re-invigorated and we definitely know that virtually every person in the venue had a blasting good time, so we see nothing wrong with that. You cannot have Patti Smith every day and everybody needs a break from Nick Cave, also a fellow Canadian with Tegan and Sara, once in a while. In short, fun came to the Greek Theatre for a resounding triumphant and explosive success, and we wish Ruess, et al, all the best in going forward. They dominated the night. You could do worse than have some fun in your life, given the abysmal depth of misery in store for all of us. We're all gonna die someday, so kick out the jams. . . .

Set List:

Some Nights Intro
One Foot
Walking the Dog
All Alone
Why Am I the One
At Least I'm Not as Sad (as I Used to Be)
All the Pretty Girls
It Gets Better
Barlights
Carry On
The Gambler
You Can't Always Get What You Want
We Are Young
Take Your Time

Encore:

Some Nights
Stars

THIS ISLAND LIFE

The fun and games continue with locals getting steamed about the juggernaut of greed-driven development that threatens the character of the Island and Ron Cowan's group pushing forward with plans to relocate Harbor Bay Club under the Oakland International Airport main flyway so as to make room for more toney housing out there where people already speak different accents. He may find for all of that people who are used to giving orders instead of taking them may prove to be bad opponents with which to pick duels. Remains to be seen how that one plays out and whose palms get greased.

Commuters may have noticed that the start of the school semester everywhere suddenly produced monster traffic jams at just about every island egress point. We also noticed the sudden increase in bridge lifts at both Fruitvale and Park Street during the supposedly anathema time of rush hour, causing tempers to fray and blood to boil even as Brock de Lappe, the marina harbormaster, is seeking to evict nearly a hundred houseboat folks, who apparently, as one letter writer indicated "do not move in the same social circles as Lappe."

We are sure that charge of social elitism is unfounded and that de Lappe has noshed pork and beans heated on a sterno can under the freeway and washed that down with 99 cent box wine many times. So let's be fair.

The increased drawbridge lifts just when the roads have clogged with seasonal traffic seems curiously timed by somebody, but we are not sure who is responsible or what their game plan happens to be. We do know that about a hundred people who have lived all their lives on the water in hand-me-down boats that probably would not make it out of the estuary under their own power, let alone have the funds for fuel to do so, will be thrown on the street to subsist in some ad hoc manner that probably features a good portion of yours and ours tax dollars in the form of shelters and resettlment programs.

Basically, these folks have been living like gypsies on boats without SHOCK! paying rent to somebody, or SHOCK! vehicle registration fees. Of course if your vehicle never travels anywhere that was not an issue until now. We suspect the rent issue is what really is driving this. That and the desire to purge the Island of "undesireables". You know them -- those people who do not know how to mix a proper Manhattan or shop at Trader Joes.

Gee thanks, Brock. You German by any chance? Ja, die Untermenschen sollen weg!

The general hubbub in all the big issues that are plaguing Silly Hall these days circle around a couple philosophical camps and a couple nasty movements that involve power and property.

There is the camp that would like to keep the Island as it has always been -- well, to be short they are going to lose. It may be unfortunate and it may be sad and it may be the worse direction, but that should by now be a given. Big question is where is the space for each one of us in what comes up.

Then there is the camp that says, "Finally we are going to make the changes that we wanted to make the Island into what we want it to be." Which seems to be a sort of Yuppie game preserve solidified by sky-high rents, smarmy shops that cater to the iPod set and "lifestyle stores" instead of groceries.

Finally there is the camp that says, if it has to change, then lets at least protect the least terns, lock in some liveable open space, and get half of it right while the pirates loot and pillage. We may have a chance of a liveable space after they are done wrecking what used to be.

The Letters to the Editor remain a highlight of comedy and cranky opinions that never cease to delight and amaze. This past week
we saw someone respond to Abbie Halliday's complaint that there are "too many beggars" flocking like pigeons and that we should kill all of them.

A curiously oriented person wrote a letter that caused guffaws throughout the newsroom when the letter writer complained about the timing of the Origins Bicycle Tour for Sunday, 9/22 at 9am to 1:30pm. The letter writer felt this timing excluded churchgoers from participation and that this was very likely intentional.

O the godless bicyclist!

Someone else complained that the finance-bleeding hospital was in danger of absorbtion into Highland Hospital (actually, in terms of accuracy, the hospital will join the County system, of which Highland serves as the central trauma center, and this deal is all but done). The letter writer indicates that Highland will fill our little "hospital emergency room with all of its patients" causing longer waits and crowded facilities.

Now wait. We understood the Island hospital to be shipping in the past scads of trauma patients over to Highland so as to avoid paying for indigent, low income cases. So now the reverse situation is somehow a bad thing when our hospital's red debit page makes it out to look pretty indigent in itself? Tut tut tut, my dear fellow.

Another fellow, clearly a newbie, wants to know what all the recent road closures are for. My good man, says Ms. Marple, please have another cup of chamomile while I tell you every long-term resident knows that they tear up each and every street periodically because it is fun to do so. And some say because we simply cannot get organized well enough to coordinate all the different projects that involve digging up a street.

It's an Island, of course, with a high water table and earthquakes, which is another reason. Things just crack up.

So there you have it.


I HEAR THAT OLD PIANO DOWN THE AVENUE

"So anyway," Professor Smurfy said to Jose, still trying to understand his experience a week ago at the art exhibit, "no one can identify a true Sociopath by looking at his face or into his eyes. I am not sure if I am capable myself of decerning such a fellow or worman -- in fact, I know for a fact I cannot, even though I have studied this pathology for well over thirty-five years.

"It is not possible. A Sociopath is not like Hollywood Hannible Lecter with a funny or terrible mask. He does not have dripping fangs and bloodshot eyes. You do not get this literary chills down your spine or intimations of something wrong. John Wayne Gacy, a socialized pyschopath of a different sort than what we are speaking, did not put 30 people into quicklime in his basement by looking like the monster he was.

"A Sociopath is comfortable to you. He feels somehow useful and helpful and friendly. Consider Klaus Barbie, later termed the Butcher of Lyon. All his French neighbors protested even as he was taken away for horrible war crimes as a Nazi that he always was "un bonne Camarade". The very French whom he savaged so bestially. They are very good at faking the emotions which they do not have. Meyer Lansky was a good family man.

"Yes, to such people you are always a good buddy, a fine friend. Often volunteering in the community, as Gacy did as a clown for children's parties.

"Truth is there moves through the population at any one time well over one hundred thousand Sociopaths and very rarely do any of them commit murder. As far as we know. These Sociopaths continue their careers as useful members of society.

"Most of them understand that if they get caught committing murder or any sort of crime there is a vast machinery of legal apparatus that will set in motion to deny them what they want. You will never see even the murderous Sociopath directly by looking into their face -- you can only see them like physicists see mesons and quarks -- by the vapor trail they leave behind in a vacuum chamber, by the extraordinary damage left in their wake after they have gone. Their usual method is that of manipulation, of an exchange of favors which always seems to benefit themselves the most in some way.

"When you look at a suspected Sociopath, do not talk to anyone that person knows in the present -- talk to people who knew him in the past. You will learn that everyone who knows him in the present calls him "un bonne camarade", but everyone who knew him in the past calls him an asshole.

"A Sociopath cannot feel any emotions other than a profound self-pity and a deep-seated anger based in narcissism -- this often gives the impression of a depth of feeling which is simply not there. He feels no love, no real empathy to other human beings, although he can mimic such emotions quite well. You will notice how the Sociopath never laughs unless it is a joke or story told at someone's expense, someone suffering because of some complicated machinery of entrapment. This he likes very much.

"The Sociopath is a shell of something similar to human, but he has no attachment to humanity and could not care if anyone or any number of humans died beyond how it would inconvienience himself. In the Sociopath there is the example of a person without a soul, the most chlling thing anyone can encounter, and you will find in your studies that people who have been affected by a Sociopath feel their entire trust in the human species has been destroyed.

"That is the destruction of the Sociopath. That is their vapor trail -- the annihilation of human beings, rarely by killing their bodies, more usually by destroying their spirits. There is no known cure for Sociopathy. You can only incarcerate them forever or kill them by means of the death penalty. That fact alone is enough to cause sufficient damage by its knowledge. Their habit is to cause hate to arise from once fertile minds.

"Such a person is the Angry Elf of which you speak. "

All of them in the Old Same Place Bar were silent, pondering. What kind of evil had infected their town and what had any one of them done to deserve it.

Sociopaths or Psychopaths or Shining Path -- that sort of thing was more proper for New York or LA. Or at least Babylon until they got a handle on it.

Outside the coastal breezes knocked the crabapple tree branches and a few let go deadfall that thumped when it hit the ground.

The door flew open causing everyone there to startle with wide eyes, but it was only Old Schmidt, coming in for his regular nightcap.

Out beyond the Golden Gate, Pedro Almeida piloted his boat El Borracho Perdido through the swells of the fishing grounds. Tugboat sniffed the air and woofed. Pedro opened the door and sniffed the air as well. The fog had gotten denser of late and the new moon of Thursday last now waxed greater sliver by sliver on seas that took on a deep ultramarine. The seasons were changing. Soon time for the crab pots and other things that like colder water.

The radio talked about the drumbeat of war, getting louder with each passing day. Stories of atrocities, real and not filled the bloodlusted media. They are getting us ready for another war in the usual ways. Pedro changed the channel to the one that carried his favorite televangelist, Pastor Rotschue.

"This is the last week of reruns for the Lutheran Hour and we will be coming to you live once again from that little town we all love so much, the town that Time bypassed, leaving out an off-ramp on the highway of history. This week we return to a show we did last fall in Jackpot Nevada at the famous Top Hat Lounge . . . "

At Marlene and Andre's the Household was midways through Rosh Hashanah, which began more or less appropriately before the New Moon. They now were getting towards Yom Kippur and the entire Household was being dragged along willy nilly.

"Okay now," Marlene said to Martini. "I want you to apologize to Sara. You have to be sincere about it."

"She hates me."

"She hates you because you were an asshole. Maybe if you apologize things will start to change."

"So what if she just spits in my eye like the last time?"

"It don't matter so long as its sincere. You gotta enter the New Year free of all your shayt. And believe me, Martini, you are really full of shayt."

One might think that Marlene's doctrinaire approach stemmed from some kind of 12 Stepper Graduate infexibility or post-therapeutic attachment to formalized spirituality that is so often employed to stitch together the pieces of ruined human beings (in addition to Sociopaths, the world suffers Psychopathic damage enough) however the simple truth is that the one bedroom cottage home to fifteen souls could not allow dissension in that tiny space to continue for long, and so keeping the peace was a very important task when open war would ruin all of them.

It is getting time to perhaps tell some of Marlene's story, how she was born, how she survived the thing sometimes called childhood by some, how she came to the Island and how she met Andre. Tell some but not all, for there was enough white knuckled gripping horror in her past to cause one to recall the words of a famous poet: "Alas! ... the Demons . . . must sleep, or they will devour us - they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish."

The Editor paced back and forth in the darkened offices, slippery galleys left strewn on the floor. All the news that had come over the transome had been forboding, diluting the happy news that the Island kids had been improving their API scores against a declining trend Statewide and making muddy the Neptune Beach celebration. Someone had spraypainted Mrs. Almeida's chickens bright neon orange, while doing the coop entirely in vivid green. Mr. Howizter's firm had chopped down a cedar on Alameda Street which had stood on the property for over one hundred and fifty years.

Then the bickering about begging on Park and the squabbles about putting in a single fast food burger joint out on the Point -- it was enough to make the old Editor want to tear out his few remaining white hairs.

He walked to the back veranda where the unruly lemon tree sent sprays this way and that with abandon and lack of pruning, such that branches heavy with fruit regularly snapped to endanger the crowns of passersby.

He relit his cigar. He really ought to do something about that lemon tree.

The troubles of the world are multidinous. As the Woodman once said in one of his movies, "Life is divided between the horrible and the miserable. The horrible consists of things like lepers begging on the streets of Calcutta, amputations without anaesthetic, ebola, war with all its horror. The rest of us are just miserable. Be grateful for misery."

Beyond the veranda, the darkness of the yard extended to the old coachhouse, now a garage where neighbors stored a 15 foot kayak. The immense box elder tree, thoroughly infested with the notorious box elder bug and shrouded by various species of parasitic vines loomed under the sliver of the waxing moon as the fog tendriled itself in. If he shut his eyes, the Editor saw again the tracers arcing out and the flashbangs and the screams of the nighttime firefight at Ba Ap, 188's going off with all the clamor of the Final Trump, again and again and again. And the morning's discoveries embedded in the mud, once human beings, now meat.

The captured NVA commander had said, "We did not think Ba Ap was of any importance to us, but since you came here, we thought it must therefore be important in some way. That is why we came and we fought for that hill over there . . ".

Beyond the yard the ocean of human misery sloshed and chopped, its depths unplumbable by anyone of sane mind, for down there, in the inky depths where luminous memories flashed with all devouring maws packed with razor teeth. Just when you think you have descended past the unimaginable there floats up from some deeper place a thing worse than Klaus Barbie, worse than the things the doctor at Auschwitz ever did, things beyond language or image. And always, way down deeper than any human that calls itself such ever will go, breeds yet more sickness, ever mutating, ever changing, ever arising to inflict new pain yet undiscovered.

O, Klaus Barbie. His French neighbors in that quiet suburban district all called him genial, "un bonne camarade." Even as the authorities took him away to be charged as the Nazi "Butcher of Lyon."

The Editor puffed his cigar and thought to himself, when will we ever learn that to be human, you must act humanely. When will we learn to be like the physicist who sees the meson, the quark, the subatomic particle not by looking at its face, but by the vapor trail it leaves behind, the fragmentation of the target, the wake of its damage? And know that for some, there is no forgiveness save what g-d intends.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

September 1, 2013

THE CROSSING

This week the obvious foto to headline the issue is from our seafaring Tammy.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

Summer is just about done with school starting up and the long multi-year project that is the new Bay Bridge opening up presently.

For those seeking nostalgia and maybe learn a bit, the Oakland Museum has a suprisingly neat exhibit on the Bay, featuring an alcove dedicated to that old Bay Bridge, its construction, repair and the signature event that propelled the new bridge project -- the Loma Prieta Quake.

That quake, called by some the 5:05 quake, because of the time of day and the day it took place. As the first pitch of the World Series was just winding up, thousands of people who normally would have been on the bridge and the Cypress connector had taken off work early to get seats, resulting in virtually empty roads when normally hundreds of thousands of cars nosed bumper to bumper.

It was also a special World Series as both Bay Area teams, the Giants and the A's were facing off against each other.

Just one person died when the "fuse joint" section of the upperdeck dropped down.

After the section had been replaced engineers welded an iron "bridge troll" to the outside girder. People on sailboats could see the troll from below if they used binoculars, but it otherwise remained hidden to drivers on both decks.

So the question now stands as the old bridge goes through a three-year "deconstruction" -- what to do with the troll? Does he move to the new bridge or does the new bridge rate a modernized version?

The 18 inch high sculpture, designed and made by blacksmith Bill Roan, was welded on the north side of the outside rail. It was removed August 30th by Caltrans. The troll's whereabouts remain unknown.

The new bridge opens up at 5am this Tuesday. Until then Caltrans is routing all transbay busses to BART. Monday all busses run on a Sunday schedule.

Every week it seems there is a real prize in the Letters to the Editor. This week one irate person noted an increase in "beggars" on Park Street and at the malls. Um, sir, do you pay rent in the Bay Area? Have you noticed what has been happening here?

The sand erosion project has the go-ahead to start the beach replacement so expect a little noise when it happens and wider beaches when its done.

"NOLI TIMERE"

So anyway, Jose peered dubiously at the works on display at the exhibit tucked away in the warren of Pumpus Steel and Glass Werks. The beginning of the scholastic year for all ages means that all over the place art galleries and museums threw open their doors for the edification of new students

One piece of glass, a sort of muddy reddish-brown and shot throughout with irregular bubbles caused Jose to pause. The name of the Angry Elf attested to its creator.

"Isn't it delightful!" said Maxine Felcher.

Actually, it resembled a goodly dinosaur turd, thought Jose, but he said nothing.

"Usually we try to keep out these inclusions, but this artist has left them all in. What genius! He has turned flaws into gems!"

A gentleman wearing a top hat and formal tails entered the room. He peered closely at some of the wall pieces with a monocle.

"O dear!" said Ms. Felcher. "It's the Tribune!"

Jose asked Ms. Felcher who the man was.

"That's Percy Tuttle, the most savage art critic in the Bay Area. Even Harrington of the Contra Costa Times is afraid of his trenchant wit!"

"O really!"

"They say he so criticized his mother's art collages that she threw herself off of the Dumbarton Bridge in despair." Ms. Felcher whispered.

The august man paused before the cube holding the Angry Elf's work just as the little man came around the corner.

"So buddy, whaddya tink?" asked the Angry Elf.

Ms. Felcher and Jose stood back.

"What do I 'tink'," said Percy with a slight British accent. "I 'tink' this reminds me of dried sea snail snot."

"You no lika my work?"

"Sir, this is not work. No effort to learn craft has gone into it. The soul of glass material is clarity, not inclusions. Inclusions weaken the matrix. This is onanistic rubbish."

This did not make the Angry Elf as visibly angry as Jose expected.

"Yeah, well get yer own exhibit then, buddy. I got's an in here with all the rest of the arty mucky mucks, so you buzz off with your talk. But you better be careful, I am warning you."

"You are a little man with little talent or skill," Percy said.

"I am warning you, buddy."

"Pshaw!" Percy said, and left, followed by Jose, who did not like the Angry Elf. He overheard the Elf asking Ms. Felcher what kind of car Percy drove. She said she thought Percy owned a Lexus.

"How on earth did such an odious man get into a place of good reputation like this," Percy asked.

"I think he just wants to hob nob with rich people," Jose said.

"A membership at the Commonwealth Club would be simpler," Percy said, and then he paused half a beat before saying, "but then he would have to be capable of holding an intelligent conversation."

Jose wandered through the building, looking at seascapes, chiascuro nudes, textured abstracts laid over thick gesso on wooden blocks, and every once in a while something interesting and beautiful and strange. Since the rents had shot into the Outer Limits, artists had been fleeing Babylon in droves to come to the East Bay, causing a mini Renaissance to flourish in buildings once occupied by sheet metal shops and foundaries. This activity had attracted patrons from all over the world and these well-heeled people were the targets and the reason for his sudden new-found interest in making art. Percy was right in that the Angry Elf, who made his living as an arsonist, never bothered to take classes, subscribe to magazines or learn from other people how to work with glass. He just stole a book from the library and a potter's kiln from someone's backyard and set up his little factory and had his boys do most of the work making things that could pass as something artistic. What he really wanted was names, addresses and the bank account numbers off of checks, for the artworld is a last holdout of business by paper and a handshake.

Jose left the building about the same time as the art critic. Across the street a white Lexus stood engulfed in flames as wailing sirens approached.

"Goodness," said Percy. "I almost bought a Lexus myself."

He walked down the street and to Jose's astonishment, unlocked the door of a low-slung British car.

"A Morris Minor! The Bay Area's most formidible art critic drives a Morris Minor?" Jose exclaimed.

Percy looked up at him. "The engine is a BMW. It was easier to just replace it than keep going to the shop."

"I can't believe it!" Jose said.

"My other car is a Fiat," Percy said before driving off with a throaty roar of his engine.

Things were somber over at the Old Same Place Bar when Jose finally dropped in late in the evening. Ireland's Nobel Prize Winning Poet, Seamus Heaney had just passed away and Padraic was inconsolable. Unlike the other three Nobel Prize winners, Seamus maintained a comfortable soft-shoe and modest presentation about himself. Not as Agustan as Yeats, but nevertheless quite his equal in intellect, he remained close to the land and humble origins, with many of his poems focussed on the relationship between himself and his father, whereas Beckett became an expatriot producing work which does not appear to have any specific attachment to any geographical region, and Shaw occupied himself with the drawingrooms of the upper middleclass.

"Oy me laddies, this is indeed a dark day," Padraic said.

"That's because its nighttime now, you doofus," Dawn said.

"Hush now ya sheela. Ireland's diadem of language has fallen to dust."

"Well he left behind a body of work that lives," Suzie said, trying to keep the peace. "Why don't you read us one of his poems now."

"Well I don't know, I don't know," Padraic said. "This bein' a local and not a library. People want to drink and socialize here."

"All right now!" Eugene stood up. "I say let's have Padraic read us one of the man's poems and put this to bed. All you all with me?"

A chorus of ayes and "Come on Padraic!" and "Read! Read!" came from that humble collection of boozers and losers who had nothing of greatness in them, but were common folk, welders and blacksmiths and mechanics and the sort of raggedy lot that probably hung around that radical socialist Jew in Palestine some two thousand years ago. Even the Not-From-Heres all wore frayed shirtcuffs with thready collars and looked a little worse for wear, like they had been carrying Willy Loman's tattered samples suitcase for the past half century.

These, then were the people of the Old Same Place Bar and there was nary a yuppie or a stockbroker among them, but bitter-eyed admin assistants and harried front desk file clerks and orange vested roadmen and roadwomen and big rig operators who flew in the wee hours of radioland through those distant country-station zones where they sing eternally of love won and lost in all futility and despair while the eyes get crusty with lack of sleep on the flamelit horizon of sunsets on that long eternal highway.

"Well all right here is one appropriate to our situation here. Ireland you know is a bit of an island and so are we." Padraic said as Eugene finally sat down.

THE DISAPPEARING ISLAND

Once we presumed to found ourselves for good

Between its blue hills and those sandless shores

Where we spent our desperate night in prayer and vigil,

Once we had gathered driftwood, made a hearth

And hung our cauldron like a firmament,

The island broke beneath us like a wave.

The land sustaining us seemed to hold firm

Only when we embraced it in extremis.

All I believe that happened there was vision.

There was a moment of silence before Dawn announced Last Call. Then there was the flurry of highballs and shots with which Suzie had to deal and the last minute hook-ups in those still having hope and the last minute immersion in those who had lost any pretense of the pick-up fiction.

Eugene asked Suzie what she thought it meant. Like many men in the bar, he was always trying to find a way to get into the beautiful girl's pants. He imagined that if he sounded smart and intellectual it would improve his chances. He did not know Suzie well.

"I think," said Suzie, "It just means that you must hold the place you love close to your heart, knowing it all will erode away even though all of it is really just inside your head. And that is why this poem works for our island, which is really just a Mayberry of imagination, another Yoknapatawpha County."

"Aye," Padraic said. "He was the perfect mix of Viking strength, Spanish sensitivity, and the immortal qualities of the Tuatha Dé Danann. A royal vates for sure."

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

August 25, 2013

SUNFLOWER SUTRA

Every year, every August, while the invasive European grasses turn the hills to gold and dragonflies do little bombing runs over the glassy lake surface, we publish an image of one these fellows.

Nothing gives quite the same sense of sunny warmth and simple pleasure as the heliotrope.

PSA - LATE BREAKING

Clarence Johnson of Media Affairs ACtransit sends us this info via Cynthia Vincent regarding the all-important 51 busline.

Community Workshop on AC Transit's
"Line 51A&B Corridor Delay Reduction/Sustainability Project"

AC Transit and the City of Berkeley Public Works Department will hold two community meetings to gather input on potential improvements to the Line 51B bus corridor.

The first meeting will be held from 6pm to 8pm on Monday, August 26, 2013 at La Quinta Inn, 920 University Avenue. The second meeting will be held from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday, August 29, 2013 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts 2640 College Avenue

Lines 51A & 51B are two of the most heavily used bus routes in the East Bay, carrying a combined 19,000 passengers a day to Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda. Service has been unreliable due to bus bunching, late vehicle arrivals and overcrowded buses.

AC Transit has received a $10 million grant to design and implement infrastructure modifications along the route that would increase reliability and on-time performance, decrease travel time, and improve safety for AC Transit riders and pedestrians.

The meetings will be working sessions to present and review proposed improvements for the portion of the Line 51 bus corridor which runs along University Avenue between Acton Street and Shattuck, followed by small group discussions about the potential changes.

For more information about the proposed improvements, go online at http://www.actransit.org/planning-focus/projects-in-the-works/projects-in-the-works-4/.

Written comments on the changes can also be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on September 9, 2013 to Tammy Kyllo, AC Transit, Administrative Coordinator at 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612 or by email at planning@actransit.org.

All comments will be part of the official public record. The City of Berkeley Transportation Commission will review the recommended options on September 16, 2013.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

You know it was a slow news week when the front pages of both the Island Gerbil and the Island Pun featured stories about events more than half a century old. Ah, but the Island moves at a leisurely pace of its own.

The Gerbil presented Chuck Kohler, Pearl Harbor survivor, who spoke on board the USS Hornet this weekend. Pearl Harbor's anniversary is December 7th, but Chuck is 89 and still married so we guess we need to snag him while there is time.

We should inform the Mayor of that little Minnesota town where all the women are strong and all the men good looking that Island kids improved their standardized test scores, bucking a statewide trend of declining scores, so we can now say quite truthfully that our children are all above average.

Crimestoppers Notebook tells us that hullaballoo on Park last Saturday was a high speed chase down the main drag when four men crashed their stolen Honda after trying to evade capture. Police found a semiautomatic pistol and a high-capacity magazine in the car after the men fled on foot. Call 510-337-8340 for information if you know anything.

What is it about the brick minds of developers when it comes to naming things? After the community stood up protest when developers tried to renamed Southshore Mall into Towne Centre (sic) now we have the same perps trying to foist the same name on us, but for a complex planned on the Point. Then there was Neptune Pointe (sic) for the disputed McKay Avenue area.

O for crissake!

The Planning Board will meet for a special session 7pm Wednesday in the Council Chambers at Silly Hall. It would be nice if one of our excellent English teachers would show up to teach somebody a lesson about misplaced "e's". Where is Andy Rooney when we need him most?

Dennis Evanosky tracked down what happened to the funds collected a while back for the purpose of paying for the restoration of the City Hall clocktower. The original tower, built in 1896, was damaged during the 1906 quake that destroyed San Francisco and had to be torn down.

The committee which set about to collect donated funds came up with so little towards the multimillion dollar projected cost of reconstructing the 120 foot high Romanesque structure, the money was used to install a plaque
describing what the building originally had looked like.

Letters to the editor seemed crankier than usual, many to do with the projected development plans and the disputed McKay parcel. Same with the OpEd pieces. Tim Lewis Communities, private developer and prospective purchaser of the parcel had a representative cobble together something in favor of their plan to put 48 tony dwelling units down there. It basically does not add anything new other than a suggestion that TLC would be paying for the necessary improvements to supply utilities such as water, power, sewer, gas and electric services.

In a balance of opinion effort, Eugenia Thompson issued a stinging rebuttal to Ezzy Ashcraft's letter that basically stood in favor of the TLC project. You are enjoined to go to www.friendsofcrownbeach.com to read about the point by point rebuttal. Eugenia expresses dismay that City Council politicians show "lack of respect" to the people. Welcome to politics, my dear.

Finally we note the curious boosterism of the report that indicates retail sales tax leakage would be less if more of the vacant storefronts were occupied. Well, those storefronts don't come for free or cheap -- that is why they are vacant. Business owners on staff are getting flyers from properties like Marina Square offering three months of free rent should a business move in. Yet the rents, when they do kick in, are reportedly astronomical. One business on Park Street (name withheld) reported having to pay over $30,000 per month for the privilege of putting in a cash register there. When its like that, no way anything seeking to startup can pay the cost. Indeed, the obscene rent situation has already driven out many well-established businesses.

WHAT IS A PIER BUT A DISAPPOINTED BRIDGE

Wednesday will be a good evening to attend that Silly Council Meeting for you sure as heck are not going to be able to drive to Babylon as Caltrans is closing the bridge at 8 pm. In fact, you might as well give up getting over there until September 3rd, for that is when the new eastern span is scheduled to open up. Yep, the entire Labor Day weekend, Babylon will be accessible only by BART, ferry and that thing to the north which connects Marin to the City.

You know old timers when you hear somebody mutter under their breath about the Golden Gate, "They never should have built that bridge."

FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD

So anyway the threatening thunderstorm promised by KTVU weather never happened -- not even a sprinkle -- although we did hear of some lightning strikes in the Valley near Pleasanton. It is that time of year when parents go collecting bookbags and supplies from Walgreens, start toting up the expenses and time commitments for the soccer games and the lunches and the uniforms for those kids suffered unto the unique punishment known as Private School.

Sister Rosencranz and Sister Felipe and Sister Maria have been scurrying about the rooms of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint cleaning up blackboards, stocking the chalk, opening boxes of new textbooks and shoving chairs and chattering about scheduling with their black habits flapping behind like a murder of crows.

Old Gaia, sitting on the porch of the world has begun without the slightest sign of having done so, to turn her craggy face from the splendor of her Son, Phoebus Appollo, in his golden chariot. The summer of 2013, which ought to have been, numerologically speaking, a time of mishap, is quietly passing out the door in some verdant veld bedecked with sunflowers and poppies.

Unless you happen to have friends in Syria or Egypt, where certainly life has taken an unfortunate turn, life on the Island continues apace as it has for the past entire century of uneventfulness. The apocalypse did not happen.

The Angry Elf gang torched a car in front of La Penca Azul this past week so as to issue a warning to the establishment to pay up their "insurance." The gang never approaches the owner or head chef directly -- such people always maintain such an upright bearing that the activities of the gang would have long since been shuttered by the Law. They typically find a lower echelon employee with access to the funds to extract and make payments on a semi-regular basis. It is really quite ingenious, for if caught, the employee is tried and sentenced for embezzlement, all the while claiming that they were innocently trying to protect the business against mobsters.

Other than that little warning, the only fires of any consequence raged far to the east near the charming swash of tree-bordered kitsch known as Groveland, California.

Officer O'Madhauen's speech entitled "Mindfulness and the Turn Signal" went over really well at the regional meeting of the National Association of Traffic Enfeebled and Directionally Challenged. Floyd, head of the Non Compos Mentis chapter of Rotarian Affiliates, did comment privately to Officer O'Madhauen that it seemed the language of the speech and its title could not possibly have been written by him.

The Officer did admit, privately, that he had enjoyed a bit of help from a Sgt. Carbondale. He did not add that Carbondale's main job at the department was in the capacity of Admin Assistant. Why clutter the field with details and facts?

On a quietly cooling evening at the close of summer, the high fog began its age-old roll through the Golden Gate, creeping over the hills in battalions of Tolkein ghosts. Ms. Morales sat at her table preparing lesson plans for the coming year at Longfellow Middle School.

Officer O'Madhauen sat in his cruiser in that wide space on Sherman where it crosses Buena Vista beside the Old Cannery, sipping his styrofoam coffee and watching for a yellow light dodger.

Up in the Greek temple, Joshua bedded down for the night next to the altar, after a humble meal and preparing to spirit out in the next week so as to board a plane for Venezuela, there to taste the bitter bread of exile and enforced expatriotism for the rest of his life for the crime of whistleblowing on the corrupt Security Service, which had practiced torture, illegal wiretapping, drug smuggling, and perverse consort with poodles. The moon, bella luna, stroked his brown to sleep through the stained glass windows.

Outside and across the street, Mr. Strict sat in his SUV with his Colt .45 ready beside him, reading his Soldier of Fortune magazine and making notes on where to send money for eavesdropping equipment.

In the Old Same Place Bar, the clink of glasses tinkled with the splash of water behind the bar as Suzie performed the Sisyphian task of washing bar glassware and Denby trickled his guitar arpeggios next to the snug where Eugene planned his next trout expedition.

Down Snoffish Valley Road, the kids ran a few drag races point to point, but because the cops never came and nobody interesting showed up and it was all lame, they went to get Ben & Jerry's ice cream. So nobody crashed and nobody went to the hospital that night.

The Editor paused after doing what he had to do. He then went about the place turning off lights, shutting down machines left on. All the staffers had left for the night and he was left alone in the offices by himself. Earl would not come by to empty the trash until morning and tonight was Darlene's night off this time of month. He sat then in front of the computer monitor, doing what he had been doing each week for the past eighteen years, quite alone. Doing all for Company.

It was a quiet night on the island. People slept well, those who slept, and those who did not passed the time with equanimity. It was a quiet night with no one screaming and no one got shot. It was a rare night for all of that.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

August 18, 2013

ALL AROUND YOUR ISLAND THERE'S A BARRICADE

This week's photo comes from the sea-going gadabout Tammy and is proof positive there are other islands in the Bay besides Alcatraz. Population on this little rock is just one -- the lighthouse keeper.

WHATS THE BUZZ

It's been a while since we did an international survey of the media, from the Middle East, all of Europe and a touch of Africa and Asia. We are getting some interesting contacts from the Land Down Under and hope shortly to have some insights into such things as why Tongans hate and despise Fiji Islanders with an enmity going back hundreds of years, what is happening in Samoan cricket matches, to the latest scutttlebutt from Chinese kids getting wild via online gaming.

We so hate to be Euro-centric, but we deal with what we have in linguistic ability at the time and Le Monde, El Mundo, Frankfurter Allgemein, Der Spiegel and that foreign language rag, the Telegraph, remain our staples.

That's all coming up, so stay tuned.

GLITTER IN THEIR EYES

Right now its all about Land. No, not Patti Smith's double CD release -- which actually has a few songs that would provide a good background theme music to our opera here -- but development in the Contested Areas. Well, the Point, Boatworks, and Crab Cove/Neptune Pointe (sic).

People protesting In-N-Out Burger in a futile toss against done-deal action got a front page rebuff from the IPD, which appears to be on a major image-improvement campaign, what with the memorial to slain officers (all of two in forty years), pancake breakfasts, and social media outreach. To be sure the Department badly needs this Positive PR as we well know doing what we do, nobody notices you when things go well, but when things go off the rails, your ass is on the griddle right away and nothing of the past will help you.

The IPD has done some things well; it also has done some things wretchedly bad. The Island remains much safer than its neighbors in terms of violent crime and perception of threat. It also lost the City Jail for a time because of malfeasance on the part of officers in the cells and it went through a nasty episode when officers were caught blathering racist cant on their radios and they let a man die for the sake of making a point about the budget only a year ago. There is also an attitude among some officers who feel that if the issue is not solidly defensible right away, then the entire matter is not important and so the citizen might as well take a hike and seek therapy for being robbed and violated.

We will not go into the couple of overtly corrupt officers that everyone knows about, and which chills the entire approach of some people towards using the IPD for any reason.

Well, nobody is perfect. Which is well to remember going forward. A couple bad apples in a force this size is pretty good odds, most experienced people will say, and in a broad sense, the police sort of generally do their job. They probably will not take care of your needs if you get robbed specifically, but generally speaking, it is less likely the event will happen than in some other places, which seems to be the thrust of their operation - to preserve social order. If you feel the Social Order does not support or endorse or protect you and your family, then you fall into the category of those who do not like police. If you have something to gain by the Social Order, then the police more or less work for you.

The police see no connection between crime and the fast food outlet In-N-Out-Burger. Of course there is none. There IS connection between the sum totality of development at that site combined with ten others. Yes, crime will happen, but not because of one burger joint.

In other development news, people are now talking about a coherent and reasonable plan for the Crab Cove/Beachfront area. This should have happened a while ago, but now an Op-Ed piece in the Sun talks about "A Common Sense Approach for Crab Cove." Unfortunately, bad sense may prevail as the City inexplicably allowed a zoning change to permit the Texan developer to build a pile down there where everyone had expected the process to lead to assignment of the former federal land to the EBPRD. Blather about "housing elements" and state law compliance are just that - a lot of blather.

Development on the Island in many places does not make sense, but the Neptune Pointe (sic) project is a particularly egregious example of how greased palms enabled some really bad decisions.

PSA

Hey people! Bay Bridge is closed Labor Day Weekend all Weekend! Check the signs!

I AM AN ISLAND BOY

So anyway. Wally's son is still holed up in the sanctuary of the Greek Orthodox Church way up in the Oaktown hills while the TSA, the NSA, the IRA and the NRA all are looking to nab him. Mr. Stark has been sitting out there on that slope for weeks now, drinking bad coffee from styrofoam cups and eating bagels he collects from the Boogie Woogie Bagel Boy before driving over the bridge and up that hill to post himself religiously in place of Cmdr. Stark who has sat there watching the door all night in his 1977 Volvo, the only car ever made that can seriously intimidate and do damage to an SUV or a Hummer. Its compact body fashioned of solid rolled steel for the American Market caused freeway weight scales to groan from two lanes distance. Once Stark cut a stationwagon in half without noticing when he drifted through a stopsign while texting his buddies at Soldier of Fortune Magazine, and only realized what had happened when he noticed the poodle impaled on the radio antenna. That and all the screaming.

Mr. Stark eased his modest Eldorado into the space vacated by Stark and got out his binoculars and camera.

Wally's Son, Joshua, got into a bit of a pickle after releasing top secret documents about the Mayor's clandestine Predator program in which New Mexico chilies were being smuggled over the border by some gay cowboy named Oliver South to pay radical fundamentalist dognappers to secretly spy upon the Schnauzer network that was working to destabilize the municipal government of Newark, itself an hotbed of terrierist activity.

It might sound rough having to sleep in the pews of a rough hewn church up in the fog belt of Oaktown, but the Greeks had long ago worked out deals with their neighbors the Church of Latter Day Saints, which featured as spectacular an underground network of tunnels and chapels and grottos as the gold-plated ediface that had stood there since about 1839. Well, not the exact same building, but a steadily improved model that began about the time a shipload of Mormons arrived in California looking to get away from the hated American flag so as to start a New Zion. Begun in liberty and dedicated to the principle all men are, more or less, equal, the American Republic had stomped on the toes of

Well it took six months in those days to sail around the Horn from Boston to San Francisco, and what had been solidly Mexico when those boys started, turned out to be solidly something else by the time they arrived, much to their consternation, for when the Mormon battalion of 1000 faithful sailed into San Francisco Bay, they looked up to see not the Mexican flag flying at the Presidio, but the detested American flag, put there by Commodore Stockton.

The Mormon battalion found it too much trouble to go to Utah from there and so they stayed and built on the Oaktown hills their splendid temple above the earth, and their splendid subterranean city below. This city had its secret passages, known only to the Elect, the Illuminati, and select members of the Order of Masons.

In this manner, Joshua was able to sneak underneath Mr. Stark's Eldorado into the Mormon Complex by means of a door behind the Tabernacle and so get some refreshment other than souvlaki and dolmas and that atrocious retsina wine and then sneak back again to peer out and give Mr. Stark a jolt now and then.

All Governments spy on one another of course, and so do one's neighbors. Everyone knows that, but Joshua really cooked the bacon when he outed the papers that detailed all the shenanigans and the hot tubbing.

He really did not think some people would get so angry -- after all, no one seriously considers the government of Newark to be worth the slightest notice, not even itself, for they do not even have a hall for the city council to meet, preferring to gather informally in livingrooms for taxation and tea with crumpets. After all, what kind of place has such low self esteem that it names itself "Newark"?

In any case, Pahrump has been driving up from the lowlands on his scooter to bring little care packages for the famous whistleblower.

Joshua even had an equally famous visitor who made his way through the clandestine tunnels. Gobetweens arranged the meeting in a non-descript passageway of dripping brick and moody backlit shots done in blue tones with lots of shadow. He appeared wearing a cape in an archway. Touch of fog, wisps . . .

Julian, it is you.

Oui, Mssr. C'est moi.

Julian, you have brought the power of the State to heel with your revelations! Now they are after you!

Ah, Monsieur. I am nothing. The State is Nothing. L'Etat? C'est moi. But you are admirable!

Me? Humble me? Why is that?

Me? I am but L'etranger. Even the pseudo-crimes they charge me with are strange and somehow foreign. But you. You are American.

Man I aint nobody but Wally's son livin' in the damn church pews I gotta watch out if I even order pizza delivery . . . .

America, America, Julian said. Look at yourselves. You now surround your greatest monuments with concrete barriers like they are so important. You surround your fabled White House and your Congress with concertina wire. You hound your best journalists and you keep concentration camps, you practice murder, and you have even gone to the furthest extreme no despotic regime in history, not even Nazi Germany, ever did, you publicly excuse the practice of torture. My god, what have you people done to yourselves? You are not a Democracy. You are not even a sadass Republic!

You have become a nation of fools.

A Nation selling its freedoms for false security. A security that always will remain conveniently aloof, just out of reach. Save for just a little more concertina wire. A few higher walls -- along the border no doubt, yes? -- a little more torture and you will be fine, just fine.

But you, my friend, have shown that L'Etat c'est ne pas moi -- c'est nous. The State is Us! Yes? Me, they can always deride as one of those cheese-eating frogs. But not you, my friend. You have the red blood in you and you must fight now for your country and your life. Me, I now only fight for my life and . . . certain abstractions. Don't waste your time protecting cold monuments to what used to be; they are just rocks. The Nation is its people and you can never be totally destroyed.

But Julian, what can I do? Who am I?

Never forget who you are in reality, Julian said. You are a rebel. And that is what you always must be. Now I must go. . . .

Down on Central the Central Baptist Church held its Rock of Ages festival which featured a large Bounce House, a novelty that had gained some popularity at big parties. A Bounce House featured a huge inflatable structure in which over-amped kids could jump and slam themselves around to their heart's content and so weary themselves out to their parents ever grateful admiration. \

Nobody was exactly sure what this all had to do with the Gospel and so forth but unlike the Gospel, this was hella fun.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar all the regulars are discussing the various qualities of the In-N-Out Burger.

"The thing about the place is that they do one thing and they do it well. Because they do only one thing. They make burgers. No frilly and no sauce. I like that," Padraic said.

"Yeah but the one over on Hegenberger serves up junk," the Man from Minot said. "It's not like the place in Fremont."

Everyone there had to agree. The Hegenberger place really stunk; the burgers there were just too pedestrian with no effort put into them. They all hoped the new one on the Island would take a different direction. Better burger. Better fries.

Someone else recalled a joint in Escondido that was the pits while someone else recalled a joint in either Pittsburg or Petaluma where the burgers were pure heaven, especially at two in the morning.

Then there is the place on Grand Lake someone said, which has come and gone and returned in quality, and someone else said, well that is not an In-N-Out Burger so shaddup.

It was generally agreed that not all In-N-Out Burgers were the same and the jury would remain out on this one until the grill was fired up and all was said and done.

Suzie sat behind the bar and read her anthropology text for the next exam. "The Bonobo are a jovial group, averse to the internecine warfare that decimates other populations. For this reason, the Bonobo have thrived in their native habitat for many thousands of years in peace and harmony with neighboring tribes . . . .

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

AUGUST 11, 2013

We thought we would take a break from sunflowers, the Bay Bridge and your usual Island obnoxious chipper attitude to bring you a pic of one of our native sons performing in far distant Deutschland. Kinda keep the flavor of Outside Lands going for a bit.

This is Greg DeHoedt performing with Hounds and Harlots in Duelmen. He is married to Stacey, a born and raised San Franciscan now transplanted to Ohio, but both former Islanders. And such will they always be in our hearts, along with their 8 month old new family edition.

HARD TO THRILL

JJ Cale, the man Clapton said was a far better guitar player than himself, passed away a week or so ago. Old Slowhand played many of Cale's songs and sometimes performed with the author of ditties like Cocaine and They Call Me the Breeze. One of the disadvantages of survival is having to watch a lot of old, dear friends walk on ahead of you.

Heard tell Outside Lands got socked in with a fair amount of fog for its three days of outdoor music. This year Sir Paul McCartney joined in for Sunday and a soulful piano version of Let It Be, with our favorite native sons, RHCP, coming on at 8pm and Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs at 8:45pm. Also heard the Killers did one of their in the slot shows.

Band of Horses, the group that fronted for the Counting Crows and during which set obnoxious people talked all over held thousands of concertgoers riveted this time.

Each one of those folks still out there in Golden Gate Park better like their immediate neighbors 'cause the way it looks, if you are there now, you will not get home until next morning with all the traffic.

It was all over the Journal this week - they nabbed the getaway driver in last month's botched robbery of the Bonfare Market in which one would-be thief was wounded and another shot dead by an off-duty sheriff. Elbert McBride was arrested at his scheduled probation meeting. Because a man was shot to death during a commission of a crime, McBride will be charged with murder according to California law that handles accomplices with the same severity as principal actors.

The wounded robber is Marc Traylor, an Island resident. He was arrested for possession of narcotics when he showed up at the Hospital with gunshot injuries. All men are 41 years of age.

The deputy's name is not being released at this time.

In another crime incident, the Webster Street branch of Citibank was hit by another takeover heist, which is a normally rare event for a bank -- despite the movies -- however in the past fifteen years virtually every single branch on the Island has been robbed, some twice. The Bank of Alameda on Park Street was robbed by a lone perp on July 26th.

The style of robbery and physical description of the lone robber matches a robbery that took place in Hayward. In both robberies here and in Hayward one man in his twenties wore a bright "Road Worker" vest. He is described as being Black, six feet in height and between 150-160 pounds, which would be rather slender.

As for the Citibank robbery, two men, aged 30-35, Black, and standing about 5'6" and 5'9" respectively, worked together. They also appear to have been better fed as weight for the two is listed as 160-180 and a chunky 180-200 for the taller fellow.

People with info can call IPD at 510-337-8340.

In more pacific news items we see that CVS will not be occupying that vacant lot that used to be Ron Good Chevy. Walgreens is now expected to take that slot. A brief review of plans indicates an 85 spot parkinglot -- badly needed there -- plus plenty of bicycle racks, which ought to please Patti St. John our local pedal activist. City planners are requesting architecture that matches the neighboring Marketplace and no obtrusive signage.

Could it be that something will finally go right with Development here?

As we reported a few weeks ago, Marina View Towers got purchased by SF-based Carmel Partners, who summarily evicted every single resident of the 8 story, 84 unit building. Reason given - earthquake retrofitting required. We expect that the costs will probably be "passed on to the tenants." The new ones of course. Sheesh.

The Sun has a nice review of how SunCal, the obnoxious group that tried to pull several fast ones on the City in developing the Point, finally getting ousted when simple greed was insufficient for their needs. They would have had us all paying for millions of dollars of sewer, gas, electricity, and street conditioning as part of their deal and voters downed their plan by an extensive margin. Ultimately they turned their backs and sued us for several million since they are not very good at building stuff here or it seems any place in California.

In the Letters we see people are still carping in rather jejune ways about the anti-cigarette ordinance, which seems to be enforced by the gendarmes about as much as driving while cell-phone blathering. Both acts can kill people, but hey, there is a case for reasonable jurisprudence here in which public safety and common sense need to start holding hands with a recognition that you cannot absolutely guarantee perfect order no matter what you do. People will be stupid and they will be callous and rude and sometimes all at the same time and no amount of force can prevent it, especially when some of these folks consider it to be a matter of opinion and preference.

Look at all the jerks who still drive SUVs for example. Actually perfect order sounds perfectly hideous -- we saw a good part of that back in the DDR under Hoenecker and Co. The DDR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Mussolini's Italy -- they were all perfectly orderly places.

Anyway the Letters to the Editor always remains one of the more entertaining sections of the paper, so we have to thank folks getting their panties in a twist over trivialities when the entire world seems on a relentless career towards crash and burn. There seems no end to some people's earnest desire to control other people in some kind of Brown Shirt style on this Island. Gotta love the . . . um . . . lady of years who wrote a response letter a week ago defending her boos of one particular parade float during the Mayor's July 4th Parade, recalling the onerous period of time when women were supposed to sit down, be pretty, cross their legs, and speak softly.

The response was to a vent from someone who felt she should keep her political opinions to herself on July 4th, that festival which celebrates rebellion. We suppose so that the physical parade in front of him would more closely match the one traipsing through the Norman Rockwell diorama of his own mind.

RIDE THE RIVER IN THIS BOAT

So anyway, Harmon, who caretakes the Church of the Sanctified Elvis with its Grotto, has been hustling about the place patching up leaks and vacuuming the 10 foot tall velvet portrait of the King in the Grotto for the 16th marks the 36th anniversary of the death of Elvis, which annual milestone always drew crowds to the Grotto which kept the dental crown that some say probably was what killed the cultural icon. Addicted to prescription drugs, Elvis had been taking Diazepam, Amytal, Nembutal, Carbrital, Sinutab, Elavil, Avental, Valmid, Morphine, Demerol, Chloropheniramine (an OTC antihistamine), tranquilizers Placidyl and Valium and the sleeping pill Ethinamate, along with Qaaludes and a barbiturate -- all of which were found in his system by the coroner -- however it is thought the codeine administered by his dentist the previous day was the fellow that had provoked anaphylactic shock. No doubt in combination with everything else.

In any case, the Island Grotto retained the King's crown in a glass case, reliquary for the dead saint. The death is a curious date for remembrance -- Elvis was born January 8 -- but show business is show business.

Officer O'Madhauen has been invited to speak at this summer's convocation of the Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the National Association of Directionally Challenged and Traffic Enfeebled once again. Again to speak on the use and misuse of that seldom-used automotive feature, the turn signal.

you always can keep your hat on

A co-speaker on what promises to be a vastly interesting panel on signal deception and evasive maneuver, will be Linda Lacelove Golightly, she of the famous New York Tiffany dynasty of traffic specialists. Her grandmother, Holly Golightly acquired some renown decades before this current crop of gadabouts and honking wannabes in the field of Urban Traffic Dissonance. Her grandmother's advice, on learning of Linda's decision to pursue the family traditional avocation, was succinct: "Always wear a really good hat when trafficking, my dear. I've always enjoyed the most delightful moving violations while wearing my hat. And you know, the one thing that is always allowed -- you can take off anything they wish, but you always can keep your hat on."

The Department is quite happy to employ a body at 78 cents on the dollar

Officer O'Madhauen, inspired by such distinguished company, has been writing and rewriting his speech for weeks with the help of the office Admin Assistant, Susan Carbondale. Susan is actually a police sergeant in the Department, but, needs are what they are in this time of cutbacks and she is the only officer who can type. The Department is quite happy to employ a body at 78 cents on the dollar compared to the regular Force they can toss into a cruiser, run riot squad, do forensics, walk graveyard beat and then type and file to boot. Can't see a problem there.

Susan has added some new twists to the annual talk about turn signals. "That thing which sticks out of the steering column -- that is a turn signal. It is not attached to your genitalia. Nothing will come loose if you yank on it and you are encouraged to do so and often. Most of you will enjoy the sensation -- the sound that echoes in your head and the hot flash. The little light that comes on will not hurt you; you can still have children after flicking the turn signal. You will not develop hairy palms. People will know where you are going. Any questions?"

Officer O'Madhauen has never delivered a speech like this, but something about it sounds correct, so he is keeping the changes.

if Steven Hawking is correct that we all shall go the way of the dodo in a century.

Night fell and no one got hurt. The Editor hunched over his desk, his few remaining white hairs flying about his head in the light of the desklamp a corolla. All through the offices chairs pushed back, lamps snicked off, computer fans whirled to a silence and night brought pools of shadow to the corners where everything had been all chatter and clicking and telephones before. The violet hour when the human engine sits over its desk had long departed, leaving this gradual entropy, a mirror of things to come in perhaps several thousand years, or sooner if Steven Hawking is correct that we all shall go the way of the dodo in a century.

For the last humans the world will be like an entire office floor going dark one cubicle at a time, the temperature having risen briefly to something uncomfortable followed by the inexorable cooling of the atmosphere, the chilly drafts blowing over the hard nugget of the earth and all the light fading until the last led winks out and the last man on his hands and knees keels over, barking into extinction, leaving only empty chairs witnessing the end of history, ruins and silence.

Then come the roaches to devour whatever is left.

Out there the Angry Elf gang was at work,

But for now the Editor sits at his desk in a pool of desklight surrounded by darkness, doing all for Company. In the Inbox sat the renewal to his KQED membership and his endorsement for NPR, the thin wavy line of radio waves that alone stood as the boundary against the Barbarian hordes. Out there the Angry Elf gang was at work, their arsonists burning down another restaurant, their extortionists extracting another dollar from a helpless business at the point of a gun. Narita Lightfinger was shoplifting from another store and her companion, Bryan Stump, was doing another 2nd story job.

For now, there was Life and he was the man in position to defend the City and rip loose the thin veneer of its placid exterior to show the rotten corruption beneath.

The Masters of Destruction strode about their boardrooms, designing the planet's wreck.

For now, there was Life and Art and Musik, slender dykes against the tsunami of Evil and he was the man in position to defend the City and rip loose the thin veneer of its placid exterior to show the rotten corruption beneath. The Media Man.

Somewhere out there high in some technocratic tower a genius financier ponders an iron mask. In some deep grotto, a troubled figure begins to climb up the stone walls of an oubliette, while below the prisoners are chanting. In the vast ravined desert a small figure casts his beloved cookpots into the abyss, knowing there will be no return for him and his companion as they trudge through the slag waste, bearing their charge toward the fiery Unnamable.

Somewhere heroes and heroines wait to awaken, in some murky omphalos, warriors of mankind remain unborn and Athena has yet to spring from the brow of Zeus, hearkening his clarion call.

It's a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Offices of Island-Life sat one man in a haze of purple light, pondering Life's Persistent Questions.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the merciful waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the gentle grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, and snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

Ride The River

Floatin' down that old river boy, all my worries far behind,
Floatin' down that old river boy, leave old memories way behind,
Yesterday is slowly fadin',
All my life, I've been waitin', for this time.

Floatin' down that old river boy, leaves me feelin' good inside,
Floatin' down that old river boy, tryin' to get to the other side,
Yesterday is slowly fadin',
I been waitin', now forever, for this ride.

[Refrain:]
Ride the river in this boat, ride the river.
Ride the river in this boat, ride the river.
Ride the river in this boat, ride the river.
Ride the river in this boat, ride the river.

Floatin' down that old river boy, all my worries far behind,
Floatin' down that old river boy, leave old memories way behind,
Yesterday is slowly fadin',
I been waitin', now forever, for this ride

[Refrain]

Ride The River - J.J. Cale (Key of A, Capo 3rd Fret)

 

AUGUST 4, 2013

DAYS I DIVE BY THE WRECK

We forget sometimes in our busy lives that we do indeed live on an island and this island has something big surrounding it. This week we have a photo of something so common we no longer see him as strange and curious and entirely unknown to many people cemented within the packed masonry of States.

I HEAR THAT TRAIN A COMIN'. IT'S COMIN' 'ROUND THE BEND

You might not hear that train coming for a couple reasons. BART union officials gave a 72 hour strike notice as talks stalled before the weekend although talks plodded through. Governor Jerry Brown proved his worth by requesting a 7 day hold on that which the Union seems to be respecting. The Governor does, after all, have the National Guard at his disposal.

But behind this fracas has been the no less acrimonious CALTRANS labor dispute which primarily concerns buses, but may rope in a number of other entities. The union there elected to forestall strike tactics as a sympathy measure for the Bay Area during the BART imbroglio, however it seems management has pushed things a bit too far with this concession and now, in addition to the subway system we very well may see the entire bus system go down in days. Here is the latest hot item over the wire from ACtransit's spokesperson Cynthia Vincent:

"At noon today, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 gave the AC Transit Board of Directors notice of its intention to impose a labor strike involving 1,625 bus operators and mechanics. Although negotiations are continuing, it now appears that the ATU employees may refuse to work beginning at 12:01 AM, Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

A work stoppage by the ATU will shutdown all AC Transit bus operations. This disruption would impact the 181,000 daily bus riders who travel in the East Bay or on to the Peninsula and San Francisco.

The AC Transit Board of Directors and management want to assure riders that the District is doing everything possible to reach a resolution and minimize negative impacts on bus service. Through its negotiating team, the Board entered into negotiations in good faith with sincere intentions of offering competitive salaries, amenable working conditions, and a willingness to consider reasonable ATU proposals.

AC Transit management, in an effort to avoid a service disruption, has proposed wage increases totaling 9% over a three-year contract.

The District has proposed that ATU employees contribute 10% of the cost of the monthly premiums for their health and welfare insurance. This contribution would be phased in over three years and is in keeping with all other AC Transit employees, management, executives, and Board Members who already contribute 10% of the cost of their monthly health care premiums."

We do live in interesting times.


ON AN ISLAND

This week the editorial staff took a much needed break for a music holiday up on the River. Life goes on without us however, and it seems more and more people are getting steamed about the Manhattanization of the Island, or at least about the odd McKay Avenue development which has some definite weirdness about it.

Briefly, the Feds owned land on a point accessible by a single road that abuts the Crab Cove Center, which is a part of the the East Bay Regional Parks District. There had been an informal"gentleman's agreement" or tacit understanding that when the Feds decided to unload the property they would hand the parcel over to the EBRPD.

Voters approved Measure WW a while back to allow for expansion of the parks and in this case, there really is only one direction for Crab Cove and the Strand to go -- west toward McKay Avenue.

In a strange maneuver, City Hall, which supposedly has no vested interest there, revised the zoning for the parcel and subsequently the parcel was put up for auction. Due to fiscal limits the EBRPD could only bid a certain amount for the land and so the parcel was purchased by a developer who wants to put 60+ exclusive high value townhouse homes there. One can quibble about the nature of the designs submitted and parking and so forth, however the main sticking points concern the land use revision and the acrimonious melee going on between neighbors, City Hall, the EBRPD, and the unfortunate developer. Every interested party seems dedicated to puffing smokescreens and distorting facts. Turns out now that McKay avenue itself and that parcel will need substantial infrastructure put in if somebody wants to put homes there, and somebody "assumed" the developer would foot the bill for sewage, water, gas, electricity, and whatnot for an area that has long been sheds and parkinglots.

As for the rezoning done as part of the City's compliance with state housing laws, we have yet to see specific laws delineated and we have yet to see how McKay Avenue became part of the General Plan Housing Element and reasons for inclusion. We know of no state laws that force any municipality to increase high end living space according to a strict schedule, and suspect any such law would have serious problems if challenged in court. In any case, as the Point is under consideration for development, along with a number of other sites already slated for housing construction, McKay Avenue is not required for any kind on General Plan.

As for In-N-Out Burger to the "northwest territories" and Safeway's now permitted 24 hours of operation, people grumbled but no one really took serious effective action against what are really minor pimples on a fat toad of development.

In speaking with an SF landlord who owns substantial amounts of property and has over 45 years of development experience we learned that $2200 per month and two months deposit is "sub-market" rent now for a one bedroom in Babylon across the water. Well that sort of thing is coming here and a lot of people do not like it.

Regarding the Point, City Hall is at very least going through the motions of trying to establish just what people want for the former Navy Base. People can go to www.alamedaca.gov/alameda-point or to the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AlamedaNAS.

LITTLE GLASS OF WINE

So anyway, What Would the Flying Spaghetti Monster Do (WWFSMD), that is the question. Some people feel that the CFSM (Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) is old hat. Been around too long. Well they don't say that about the pope or the Catholic Church now do they? So when did Buddha get so old fashioned? Was it two or was it three thousand years ago? Moses? Sure, that old fellow been venerated by people maybe a bit much. So he parted the Red Sea (with a little help) and maybe he wandered the desert for 40 years in a time when the average lifespan of a human was about thirty. A smarter macher would have stopped after about a year or two and set up a frozen yogurt stand and some fake gates and charged admission right there in the Negev. The CFSM is just getting started and we are taking names and signups for our next prophets plus a few martyrs. Bluebeard maybe. Richard Teach. The mind boggles. Especially when you know that the malignancy of old pirates is just a Christian conspiracy to conceal the truth.

Pirates are God's Chosen People

The real pirates were all nice and genteel and practiced charity every day, promoted school lunches, and helped old ladies and children across the street. They were not bloodthirsty hounds such as painted by the priests and deacons. The pirates of yesteryear - not modern pirates like they still have off the coast of Somalia and Malay and inside JP Morgan -- were indeed God's Chosen People.

So anyway some more. There has been quite a flap down in Silly Hall ever since Wally's son, Joshua, released top secret documents about the Mayor's clandestine Predator program in which New Mexico chilies were being smuggled over the border to pay radical fundamentalist dognappers to secretly spy upon the Schnauzer network that was working to destabilize the municipal government of Newark. Which itself had been a hotbed of terrierist activity and rebellious fomentation.

It sounds complicated, but really, it is all quite simple.

Most people -- well quite a lot of big people with strong opinions and yellow ribbons glued to their SUV bumpers -- felt the program was a case of defending the sovereignty of the Island against potential poodle-lovers and other radicals. Others felt unwarranted surveillance of citizens by a municipality was going a bridge too far in terms of overreaching authority, but the Mayor insisted that no cat-owners or innocent owners of decent canine breeds were ever violated. In this way, at least. Uh . . . meaning, by the program. Uh . . . just keep reading when it gets confusing. Trying to make sense of inanity will not work.

In fact quite a number of pet owners were outraged.

"Where is the accountability?" shouted Ms. Pandora Thighripple of the Island Hostesses of History at a recent meeting. "How am I to know my budgies are safe?"

Indeed, the entire affair, now called the Coin-o-Mat scandal, because information was exchanged in doggie bags in the Laundromat on Park Street which suffered a mysterious CIA drone strike a year ago, seemed tailor-made to bring down the Presidency of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

"Facts", as Senator Benton used to say back in the day, "are useless things."

Of course the Native Sons had nothing to do with this ugliness or with Cpl. Ollie South who cowboyed his way up and down 101 ferrying illegal immigrant poodles packed into slatted pickup trucks, and kegs of Happy Powder as part of this devious scheme, however the Conservative Party never has paused for long in consideration of facts. "Facts", as Senator Benton used to say back in the day, "are useless things." Indeed, his thoughts have been the bulwark of the GOP for over one hundred years after Lincoln was laid safely to rest.

But anyway that is not what this is all about. This is about the very human tragedy of Wally's son, Joshua, who was forced to take refuge in the Greek Orthodox Church up on the hill with the gendarmes, the CIA, the ASPCA, the TSA, the HSA, the California Native Plants Association, and the Island Secret Police seeking his blood. Of course he will never be able to come home now, not with all those folks and FOX news along with rabid Ann Coulter hating on his sorry ass.

Every once in a while Joshua peeks his head out the door and Ann Coulter barks at him. It's enough to make a man swear off sex for a year to look at that woman foaming at the mouth.

Proud of the boy sticking up for his convictions

People say, "Wally are you not ashamed of your traitor son?" and he responds, "Heck no. Proud of the boy sticking up for his convictions and taking it on the lam. Not like that Witherspoon boy who just surrendered all meek like to the Marines. If my boy wants to borrow my .50 cal pistol and wipe a battalion of them poodles, hell, he can just take it up any day."

Well the situation is quite complex, let alone what all that Happy Powder Olllie South brought in did to places like Oakland. These days Ollie South lives in a compound in Turlock surrounded by barbed wire and machine-gun emplacements, so perhaps justice is done in that the man, living in fear of all the sour deals he foisted on savage thugs lives pretty much in the same emotive state he generated in Fruitvale where pretty much everybody lives in expectation to die in a hail of gunfire.

So anyway even some more. Pahrump drove up the hill on his scooter with Jose to deliver a care package of bialys and cream cheese and bagels and wine from Rosenblum cellars -- Ruth and the tzadik of Temple Beth Israel put that one together so you can just imagine what else was in the basket -- and Jeremy from the CFSM included a Tupperware container of pasta, all of which was fully appreciated up there on the hill in the fog where the golden spires of the LDS temple reach to whatever heaven is allowed the likes of us.

Down through the fog and the remaining conifers of Oaktown descended Pahrump with Jose on his chattering scooter to return to the Island on the last ferry.

And all these things were observed from the periscope of the ever vigilant Iranian spy submarine El Chadoor. "Captain, how can it be that such people can demonstrate such kindness to someone so embittered and cast out?" The First Mate asked of his superior officer.

"It is said by the Prophet," said the Captain, "And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah." (42:43).

"I think I should go forth and say this to the men, for they do not seem to understand why we do not launch our missiles right away and so demolish them in a fury that would of course demolish ourselves as well," said the First Mate, who was inclined to be rash.

by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently.

"Mohammed, verily you are aptly named for unto you must come the whispering in the ear and a command thence to recite for know this. It is also said, "And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over their faults, and ask Allah's Forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affair. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him." (3:159)

"You have given me much to ponder," the First Mate said.

And with that, the periscope descended beneath the surface of the estuary and the spy sub ran silent, ran deep out through the channel and under the Golden Gate unseen and undetected to the open sea.

That night in the Old Same Place Bar the discussion was about whether Joshua's revelations about the spy program had aided and abetted the enemies of the Island and there was a lot of acrimonious discussion about the matter until Padraic spoke up. "I tink it seems to me, you should know and set out just who these enemies happen to be." Here he paused. "And it was said in the Book of Pogo, "I have met the enemy -- and they are us."

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the merciful waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the gentle grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the forgiving open spaces of the former Beltline, and snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JULY 28, 2013

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

This lady might be in need of some blow dry, or perhaps this is a metaphor for the marginalization of feminine cognitive discourse. Or it just might be the answer to knowing why the caged bird sings.

Maybe she just wants her nails done while formulating an additional component to string theory in physics. This week's headline foto is from the storefront at Mary Rose's hair salon on Park Street, where you can expect the unexpected, as well as really good treatments. Mary Rose shills on the evenings as an assistant bartender at our favorite Local, the Lucky 13, where the beer is cold and the women too hot to handle.

You can always count on drama at the Lucky 13, and you can count on Mary Rose's salon to hear all about it under the dryers.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Summertime is a time for most places to chill and for the newsroom to slack off on stories about stranded kitties in trees and boat problems at the marina. Things got rather hot around here when an off-duty sheriff popped a couple wannabe robbers at the Bonfare Market on High Street with his revolver. One fellow died -- his name was Laroy Brown -- and the other fellow appears to have checked into the hospital, although reports vary as to whether this man was the same man who tried to rob the market at gunpoint.

Yes, so many people seem to be getting shot around here nowadays, it is so difficult to locate and identify them all.

The two weekly papers carried the same story with essentially the same language, although the bylines for the Sun are for Evanosky, and for the Journal Bender and Hegarty. Both stories wrote substantially about the previous robbery where a customer or employee of the market was pistol-whipped, so there is little info to collect, save for the fact that businesses near any one of the bridges face some high risks now for violent crime.

The Bonfare is a fairly innocuous store with a small frontage on a section of High Street in an area that features narrow streets possessing the narrow form factor created back in 1850. Part of the opposite side of the street is the Lincoln Park. It is six short blocks from the High Street Bridge and does not feature any major alternative routes for someone seeking to flee a crime scene as the store is barely one block from the estuary cutout. Some of us are wondering what kind of imbecile would pick a target with such limited exit possibilities, but that goes into the lamentable state of public education as it has become today, where the kids just do not seem to be getting critical reasoning skills.

This sort of rough-stuff is adding fuel to people's anger about the sundry development projects that all seem to be reaching fruition within a ten-month period, resulting in a net addition of some 12% -18% local population increase.

These days we may be looking at the end days of Island life as we knew it, with our little festivals and music in the park, our calm tree-lined avenues devoid of urban weirdness and such quaint curiosities as kids playing stickball in the street. In-N-Out burger has been fully approved, Target is under construction, Safeway has the full go-ahead for all it wants regarding hours of operation and the gasoline station out at the Landing, McKay Avenue seems a done deal with a couple hundred folks going in there with only minor noise about the sudden rezoning that made that one possible, the Lincoln Street low income housing project is now getting the roof put on, the Point has firm projects lined up for another 2,000 people, the Boatworks area looks like to be finally on a juggernaut headed for more housing that will add another few hundred souls here to the traffic and crime statistics and the "Gateway" folks seem headed for victory to add another couple hundred while people are dithering regarding the "historic" high school that enjoys its marvelously firm and well-built fencing constructed -- or so it seems -- without benefit of competitive bidding. Ron Cowan's outfit now has popped up like, as one letter-writer put it, "a wack-a-mole" to try and secure land belonging to someone else so that yet more housing can be built on Harbor Bay Island. And now we seem on the fast track to raise the height limit for the "Gateway" to allow even more people to come and live here.

You all had better hope their music tastes match your own, because you are going to get an earful, with people living cheek-by-jowel. Part of the place across the estuary used to be called Brooklyn. Might as well revive the name and go to a five borough arrangement, making this place a mirror image of that other place where the Harlem River has not been seen in years.

While people can point fingers and slam Silly Hall for all their foolishness and complicity with what is happening, truth is, our officials are just doing what seems best given the raft of pressures pulling in all directions with a special recognizance of the fact that the money at play now for high value land is such that it is well worth it to kill someone who stands in the way of making whatever the concerned party sees as their due.

AINT NO WAY TO DELAY THAT TROUBLE COMIN' EVERY DAY

We have a contribution here from someone who takes pride in their hometown of Oakland. This is what they had to say about the recent unrest that took place after the Zimmerman verdict in Florida. This is from Laura Boytz.

"Speaking of propaganda, I'm really angry right now, as a citizen of Oakland, about the way the Oakland protests are being reported. I wasn't part of them, but I saw some of them. Yesterday, hundreds of people met at city center and stood peacefully, then several hundred marched away from city center down toward the freeway near my house, where some of them stood on the freeway and stopped traffic for about 20 minutes, then moved on (no violence, no vandalism), then they marched around Lake Merritt, tried to get back on the freeway but were turned away by cops (no violence, no vandalism, followed cops' directions), marched around some more, ended up back at the courthouse (these marchers easily did a marathon!). Numbers were dwindling during this long march. Apparently, at around 11 p.m. (after a protest that started in the afternoon), a few people who were left in the crowd participated in some violence and vandalism, and the media says Oakland had "violent protests." No, a few misguided idiots joined the protests and engaged in vandalism. The majority of Oakland protesters expressed their grief and anger in completely appropriate ways."

Laura Boytz is an accomplished jazz musician on the cello and plays with various Brazilian-influenced bands in the bay area.

WORKINGMAN'S BLUES #2

It could only be Bob Dylan who could work a phrase like "The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down", but the union struggle continues everywhere and today the mediator returned from his inexplicable vacation in a flurry of acrimonious statements being flung by both Management and by Union officials over at BART where a second strike is looming in the face of the two party intransigence. We have been getting a lot of PR from the BART office, threatening "double digit" fare increases and quoting the high salaries of the premium workers on the line.

Neither side wants to back down and, unfortunately, the latest scut has it that the mediator getting paid a nifty $399,000 for the job stands to earn a lot of money should talks collapse entirely as he is fully invested in a bus company that stands to make money from increased demand in the event of a strike.

Management has thrown back the glove on that one, stating that the amount of money he stands to gain is a pittance of some $500. Both sides are waffling a bit on the "truthiness" here but it is clear the mediator was hired by management and has served management interests in the past and the Union people do not trust him for good reason.

Now the talk on the one side is that the Union force earns already quite an enviable package in a country where things have generally gotten worse for everybody else. We are hearing reports that an economic upswing is taking most of the country -- just not California, where wages have remained stagnant for the past 12 to 15 years. A few blips, such as the BART employees, tend to soften the look of the median when you do the numbers, so anyone who does averages knows they have to drop out the skew groups that distort the big picture. If you know statistics you know what we are talking about here.

Speaking of which, we sincerely doubt that every single rank and file BART worker is earning six digit figure salaries. You mean the escalator repairman? Including the guy with the trash bin pickup? The ticket vending machine repairman? Let's get real with the numbers now.

In the end the point is not how much BART employees make in the face of the argument they outta be satisfied with what they got, the point is that do we shrug and allow things to get worse for them just to level out the widespread misery? First it was air traffic controllers.Then it was United Airlines retirees. Then it was Government pensioners. Then it was on to the next group. Then the next group. And then the next. Pretty soon Schwab and JP Morgan and Stanley and the rest of the corporate giants are rolling in money to burn while you and me are looking for the best price gas station and people seventy-five years old are having to return to driving forklifts in warehouses to pay for their health care.

This is not just a fight about a few people who have what looks like a lot. This is a fight about the entire attack on organized labor that Ronnie Raygun's thugs kicked off in the 80's. From outsourcing to HB-1 visas to minimum wage, the corporate thieves will not stop until they have all they want -- which is to say, unpaid slave labor. That is the goal. That is what they want. And they mean to get it. And at the end of the day they will not be reasonable or just or fair in the slightest. Because they never have been, not since Haymarket or the 1916 car strike or countless times before.

For those of you who do not believe it, "Have a Jeffers day".

SUMMERTIME, WHEN THE LIVING IS EASY

Okay, enough now for bitterness and people acting badly. Times are hard and getting harder, however we still have summertime and folks who essentially are decent people trying to make ends meet and have a good time. This weekend we hosted the 29th Park Street Faire. Some of us lived our lives as if the Island remained the isolated province it used to be.

The Faire allows for local groups participation.

 

Here a little fellow enjoys some motherly attention with help of a Big Bird puppet.

We enjoyed a long talk with these native Alamedans who have formed a small enterprise to help drivers in the Bay Area. This couple puts together a package for the automobile that handles emergencies.

The instrument this fellow is playing is called a Pie Pah in Cantonese.

The Santana "tribute band" was a wild favorite and the dance area remained packed. If you are going to be emulating Santana you had better be good. These guys rose to the occasion with a cracking version of "Soul Sacrifice."

Part of the fun of the faire is the age old sport of people-watching.

TAKE A WALK, TAKE A WALK

So anyway, summer in the Bay Area has taken an hiatus in favor of high fog, however the weatherman promises, absolutely swears, that by Friday all the East Bay peoples will bask in ninety degree sunshine.

So he says. You know men. They promise everything and when they get what they want . . . ha! Hasta la manana, baby!

O and that weatherwoman! The one with the legs and the short skirt that always threatens to slip up! Yeah right. Just another tease. Seen plenty of those at the bar. Buy me a drink honey and I'll make sure the sun shines in your back door. Some day.

Any way, so. Mr. Cribbage got into a terrible wax about his neighbors, the Laffingstocks, on account of their lawn residing next to his. Lawn! You could hardly call their wretched jungle a proper lawn. Mr. Cribbage had spent a lot of money and time and effort to cultivate a pristine bed of zoysia grass, so immaculate, so pristine, that Mrs. Cribbage actually wondered if it were real. Never mind the space was barely eight by six what with the walk and the drive -- it was a lawn to make his grandfather, were he alive today, quite proud.

A lawn was a symbol of ownership of property in California, and that was by no means a mean accomplishment.

To Mr. Cribbage, a clean lawn was the sign of a clean, well-ordered life. It was what greeted visitors on their approach to the house and it was a sign to passersby that this, indeed, was a well-ordered place in a well-ordered neighborhood.

Side by side with his edenic conception, the Laffingstocks had first let their entire yard go to sand and weeds. For an entire year. Imagine that. The dandelion fluff. The rocket. The heather and . . . and sand. Then they impetuously planted the entire ten feet of frontage with poppies. Scads and scads of poppies. Bushes of poppies. All flowering all at once. Then dying, leaving a great waste of shrubbery. Quite horrific.

Now this year they had gotten into corn. Rows and rows of corn standing six feet tall alternating with sunflowers. All overshading his own little space. Gad!

He caught the older Mrs. Laffingstock out there tending or watering or something, god knows what other than decent weeding, and he had said quite pointedly, "Don't you people know how to grow anything normal over there?"

Mrs. Laffingstock had guffawed so loudly the pigeons erupted from the staid avocado tree. A seed or something flew out of her mouth as she laughed and it landed somewhere on Mr. Cribbage's waistcoat and he was forever after that looking for what it was and where it had gotten off to.

"Normal? Aint nothin' so normal as corn, boy!"

He did not like being called "boy" like one of the porters he had used during his excursion to Africa. He was used to being called "Mister" and "sir" at the firm. For this reason he refused to speak with the neighbor woman ever again.

He figured he would find a way to damage her and her family in some way, given time. Those people probably came from Arkansas, while his people stemmed from the Cribbages of Los Osos. Mr. Cribbage was like that. Many Californians are; a little bit vindictive and a great deal self entitled.

The East Coast has folks like this and they always are either members of the DAR or claim intimate kinship. There is a bright, cheery room in Hell where these folks will meet for card games and plant eradication programs and genealogy fests long after both San Francisco and Boston have both become suburbs of Bombay. Or Beijing. Take your pick.

In the Old Same Place Bar the talk is about how the Angry Elf Gang torched a Michelin star restaurant in Oakland to prove a point. The point, as it always is with such scum, er, entrepreneurs, is that the Angry Elf is not to be trifled with and insurance payments need to be made. As a gang sign they left a strip of slumped glass infused with bubbles on the register. The gang had taken after their leader's affectation towards being an artiste. The Angry Elf now presented himself as a Grand Designer in glass and hoped thereby to gain access to the matrons of Society and their very copious coffers.

Only those who have seen it know that no one can illuminate the track of a socialized psychopath until after the fellow has gone -- then all the works are revealed, like a subatomic particle in a vacuum. You can only know what is by what has happened. By then, for many, it is too late, everyone's glassy eyes glazed over with bewilderment at all the damage, the shattered lives..

As the night ticks over into the far reaches that become in the blue penumbra of streetlamps and moons that yield eventually to morning while the old ragman shuffles back and forth his dance of warmth preservation or some kind of holy worship beside the hard concrete corner of the Adelphian building on Santa Clara Avenue, the Editor wraps up another issue fraught with all kinds of issues of import, greater and lesser.

Out on the dark blue swell beyond the Golden Gate, Pedro pilots his boat with its golden glow of cabin light through the shoals and fisheries, his trusty lab, Tugboat beside. Woof!

In these dark times, people do what they have to do to get by. We are cursed to live in interesting times, times that will be reported back much later in a way that might give us pause.

Tonight each cabined space pilots through the unplumbed, uncharted seas. The Editor's cube with its area lamps and LED's is a small craft churning through a choppy set of waves, bucking this way and that to adapt to the slams of chance. There he is, his remaining white hairs flying about his crown in an aureole of fluorescent lamps. His shirtsleeves rolled up and those slippery galleys gliding to the floor from his knee. Doing all for Company.

No one knows and no one will. Mostly me and mostly you. In the Old Same Place Bar the lovely and lonely Suzie cleans up and puts the bar apparatus away for the evening. Another night on the Island gone to rest. For such rest as there might be for the likes of us. It's a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still puzzling over Life's Persistent Questions.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, and snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy train roadbed as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

JULY 21, 2013

TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE

As Laurie Anderson says, "I always used to wonder who I’d bring to a desert island." This photo submitted by Tammy.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ. TELL ME WHAT'S A HAPPENIN'

BART UPDATE

Negotiations continue behind closed doors with news seesawing up and down in terms of how well things are going. The last report from July 12th was an unpromising one in which union officials stated that they will be prepared to go on strike for a lot longer next time.

BART managers, for their part, are sticking by the advice from the top state mediators appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who have asked both sides to keep the details of the talks confidential and not to disparage one another publicly. This was after a very acrimonious series of statements from minor labor officials who accused BART management of "acting like children."

Now we hear that the reason there is no BART news is that no meetings are being held at all for the next couple weeks.

No meetings at all will happen from July 22 to July 29, when BART's $399,000 chief negotiator -- transit attorney Tom Hock, who labor leaders view as a union buster -- goes on vacation.

Um, tell us that again. Anyone else up for a bracing 9 rounds in the middle of a firestorm?

BART's labor contracts with its five unions expired on June 30. The two largest unions, SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which together represent about 2,300 train operators, station agents, cleaners, and mechanics, went on strike rather than agree to paying more into their healthcare and pensions.

BART workers have not had a raise since 2008, but do enjoy health insurance and retirement benefits that private sector workers would love to have. Negotiations on a new contract began April 1, and to spearhead their dealings with labor, the BART Board of Directors awarded a $399,000 contract to Hock.

Hock runs an Ohio-based firm called Veolia Transportation that has a history of coming into transit systems with labor disputes -- and more or less breaking the unions, as the East Bay Express reported this week.

One of Hock's techniques in the past has been to stonewall to the nth degree, and it is possible he is hoping to bluff the Unions into another unpopular strike so as to force their capitulation via public opinion. In the meantime, though, Union organizers are taking names and numbers, pointing out that executives at BART earn six-figure salaries and if they really cared about the taxpayer they would be writing checks to send some of their high remuneration back to the State.

In the meantime, we have no data save this statement from Roxanne Sanchez, president of the local Service Employees International Union:"We will be prepared for the war that you all have launched on your workforce. Unless the agency changes its stance at the negotiation table", Sanchez said, "We will be prepared for the bloodiest, longest strike since the 1970s," alluding to the 1979 strike that dragged on for three months.

Tenants evicted at Marina View Towers, 84 unit apartment building. New owners, Carmel associates, SF based seismic retrofitting. they have until August 31 to get out.

Alameda Landing project - Safeway has the go-ahead for 24hours operation. Opening slated for summer of 2014.

The sand restoration project we mentioned several issues ago will proceed with dumping 82,000 cubic yards, work taking place on weekdays. Project is funded by Measure AA, passed in 1988 by voters to maintain park land. Project is slated to end in November.

We mentioned that a public meeting was to be held at City Hall regarding proposed changes to the 51a bus line operated by ACtransit.

Changes are in sum total meant to reduce the 189 minute average travel time for the heavily used line which now hits Fruitvale BART, Rockridge BART in Berkeley, and runs the length of the Island. Changes feature relocating most of the Island bus stops, generally shifting them to the far side at lights and stop sign intersections, while "consolidating" infrequently used stops. One change has a new stop proposed for Christ Episcopal Church on Santa Clara and Grand -- the Santa Clara stop is across the street and relocation would place the stop right at the church entrance where happy couples depart from weddings. The Sun reported that "nearly every resident" present at Tuesday's meeting expressed opposition to the changes.

Various venues are hosting some spirited discussion about the ongoing development projects threatening to change the character of the Island within a very short span of time.

We also noted that the Hospital is constrained by budget issues and the impending multi-million dollar earthquake retrofit cost to affiliate with the lesser of several evils. In this case, we will be joining the County system. A forum will be held this week on what's new for the Hospital; details are in the Calendar.

Finally the Letters to the Editor in all public media, and even on a few blogs, lament the various construction projects now in the works, with a few more voices joining against the McKay Avenue development that came about as a function of the weird backroom rezoning that yanked the mat from under the East Bay Parks.

LATE UPDATE: YOU BETTER COME ON IN MY KITCHEN

A tropical weather system that was bringing rain to parts of the Southwest over the weekend could push north to the Bay Area on Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The "monsoonal" air mass Sunday brought heavy rain to portions of Arizona, and scattered dry lightning was reported in the hills around San Diego, forecaster Diana Henderson said.

Some scattered light showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms could reach parts of the Bay Area on Monday and last into Tuesday.

SEE WHAT LOVE HAS DONE

So anyway Rev. Jason Arrabiata, CFSM in search of a suitable chapel, nook, hall or vault to host the semi-periodic meetings for his Pastafarian church was nigh unto rending his holy dashiki in despair.

The island was so well-endowed with scads of churches all the best locations had been taken. The Episcopalians had seized the prized corner on Grand and Santa Clara, the Catholics occupied two entire blocks with their Basilica and rectory and school in the Gold Coast, plus they had also outposted the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint across Encinal, the Unity church had the Home of Truth further down Grand, the Buddhists had their temple further up Santa Clara, the Methodists, Baptists and Chinese had Central all sewn up, while the Lutherans had secured the only modest parcel left in between. The Presbyterians owned the oldest building, so they had enjoyed the leisure of building it in one place, then moving it to Oak Street and then there were the scad of sects and divisions, charasmatics and heresies, including the church of El Luz de Occupado Parking Place and El Mundo de Shriekery en Disharmony. The Albagensians sat kitty corner from the Merovingian Dynasty with Huguenots occupying a humble cottage that doubled as a martial arts studio. Wiccans divided time between Crab Cove and a ramshackle place by Washington Park. Here and there Satanists gathered in livingrooms for tea and scones. It seemed there was hardly any room to plunk down a decent church anywhere.

Jason had just about given up and was soon to resort to standing on a milkcrate in the park, which idea is not so good for respectability or indications of sanity, especially when your God of Creation happens to be an invisible flying ball of spaghetti and meatballs.

Some people might consider the Flying Spaghetti Monster to be if not outlandish, then somewhat parodic, but Jason would say, "Look dude. All these churches tell you to worship some flying invisible being nobody has ever seen and who is described in several books written thousands of years ago which have undergone umpteen translations to the point nobody really has any idea what the first text really said. If you have to worship something, you might as well consider something tasty. After all, since the Kansas School Board said Creationism is on the table because we want to consider all points of view, here is my view which everyone can say is just as valid, sane, scientific and reasonable as Intelligent Design. The Universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

Eventually Jason worked out a deal with the Native Sons of the Golden West, Parlor 33 1/3, and so he got to setup his rig and hang his banners of joy once a week in the hall where the pirates of faith would gather on Fridays, the Holy Day, to roister and sing and drink.

"What's with the pirates?" Pahrump asked Jason.

As it turns out, Pirates are God's Chosen People. This image of them being bloodthirsty, lecherous, thieving cutthroats is entirely a product of a vast Christian conspiracy to conceal the truth. The original pirates possessed very polite manners and were soft and affable folk who cared for their mothers and looked after lost children and dogs. They did say "Arrrrgh" a lot and wear eyepatches but their cutlasses were used largely for carving beef, bread and nasty Christians looking to burn witches and pirates both.

Witches have also been much maligned, but don't get me started, Jason said. As for being made in God's image, all that is clearly claptrap. God was drunk when he made the human race and we have only to look at Occasional Quentin to understand this truth. Quentin! get your finger out of your nose! Right now!

Lutherans are midway between Pirates and Sodom, you and they will have to agree. The original Vikings were very much like pirates and the modern day Norwegian Bachelor farmer, well, is very like a pillar of salt, and most Lutherans ride the crest of the waves somewhere in between, so there you have it.

So the Island welcomes, with some reservations, the newest addition to its pantheon of churches. And this is especially good news to some folks for journalistic research indicates that in the Golden State there are but three entities given the power to administer marriage banns.

1. The County Clerk
2. Deputies of the County Clerk or a fully paid up Marriage Commissioner for the Day.
3. Clergy

The County Clerk is a government employee with many duties. He is often too busy to officiate marriages, hence the allowance for deputies who generally have to fork over big bucks to officiate, while the Commissioner for the Day pays some $200 to be effective for only 24 hours. Then he has to start all over.

Clergy need submit no articles of proof of status -- to the State at least. They pay nothing, which is usual for them. So people in a checkered status seeking marriage need to find a clergyman and we really doubt the local pastor or priest will officiate a same-sex marriage. Hence the CFSM. Voila! We have on staff an ordained minister who can marry you at any time. So long as you pay the State fees for the filing of course.

And now proud couples of any stripe can write home to mom and dad and state entirely with truth that they got married within a Church.

It seemed after last week's set-to between Quentin and Sgt. Rumsbum, which Reverend Arrabiata moderated and eventually cooled, could have led to a round of public accusations and general nastiness, however Quentin remained at the end of the day, even though he was wronged by being attacked, reticent. Lawsuits are not his style. Rumsbum regained his proud Spartan dignity and reasonably considered the consequences of pressing charges against the helpless halfwit Quentin.

O you big strong man, that was you shrieking for help? Tsk Tsk.

At the end of the day, Rumsbum returns to work as a somewhat useful member of society and Quentin returns to his life as a somewhat addled member of society, but important thing here, due entirely to the noodliness of the FSM, nobody dies.

That night the Editor sat late at his desk as all the other staffers signed off and people caught rides home. The hours ticked into the far reaches of the night, when shadows congeal solidly to their posts and everything becomes difficult to move. The streetlights outside become still-life Hopper paintings and the offices become cut-blue ice under the flourescents with all sharp shadows slicing across the desks into cubicles where chairs sit waiting for human warmth to make themselves nervously whole again during another hectic day.

A motor whined somewhere on the second floor and the smell of hot copier toner began to dissipate.

The Editor sat in his cubicle office, his remaining white hairs flying about his balding pate like an aureole. A glass of Maker's Mark with ice sat on the desk next to the papers and those irritatingly slippery galley sheets that always threatened to slide off into nothingness from his knees. Lights governed by automatic timers began shutting down one by one. Leaving one man in a pool of light, surrounded by darkness. Doing all for Company. Or perhaps the FSM.

In the Estuary a periscope silently descended after observing all of these things. Captain Mohammed of the Iranian spy submarine, El Chadoor, noted everything he had seen in his notebook. For many years the spy sub had been lurking about the Port of Oaktown and the Island, taking notes and sending weekly reports back to Teheran. For many years the crew and captain had felt their original mission had been forgotten and their own enterprise had become lost in the Byzantine labyrinth of bureaucracy. Their reports were being filed, unread by some government bureaucrat. Without initiative, everything had continued like this year after year. Even the ship which provisioned t them was just following a routine set up long ago without thinking about what it all meant. No one now cared about the US and what it had to say. Teheran had more pressing matters.

With a command from the captain the spy sub dove and ran silent, ran deep through the Golden Gate out to the Pacific Ocean.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the noodly grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JULY 14, 2013

BELLA DONNA

Okay Stevie Nicks never wrote a song about Brugmansia or Datura, but all three will put you and your dog six feet under if you are not careful. Um, the flowers, not Stevie Nicks.

This week's image comes from staff photographer, Tammy and was mislabeled as "datura". Understandably so as this plant shares the name Angel's Trumpet with some of the datura flowers. It is important to know about these, which together with the pink lady amaryllis grow extensively throughout the Bay Area and all plants will kill you and/or your house pets should they ingest any part of the plant including seeds.

Brugmansia once was a source for the alkaloid drugs scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine, although nowadays these are synthetic in origin. The plants have also traditionally been used in many South American indigenous cultures in medical preparations and as a ritualistic hallucinogen for divination, to communicate with ancestors, as a poison in sorcery and black magic, and for prophecy. On a lighter note, some cultures have used the plant to treat "unruly children", and, mixed with maize beer and tobacco leaves, it has been used by the Incas to drug wives and slaves before they were buried alive with their dead lord.

WHAT'S GOING ON


Crab Cove Concert August 9th 5:30 to 7:30 at Crab Cove

Alameda Meals on Wheels Community Faire & Wine Tasting Fundraiser--
Sunday July 21st 1 to 5 pm
Rock Wall 2301 Monarch Street, on the Point, Alameda


Pedalfest and Pig Roast
hosted by Lungomare
Saturday, July 20, 2013 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM (PDT)

Ticket Type Sales End Price Fee Quantity
Pedalfest Pig Roast Jul 19, 2013 $12.50

As a special addition to Pedalfest this year, Jack London Square’s newest restaurant, Lungomare is roasting a whole pig and serving it up Italian style:

Whole Roasted Pig

Marble Potato Salad with eggs, quanciale, red onion
Summer Beans, pancetta, oven dried tomatoes
Watermelon, fennel, heirloom tomato, ricotta salata salad
Roasted Sweet Corn

The price is $15 for a delicious plate, and the roast will be available between 5-7pm on the promenade, out front of the restaurant. As a special incentive to committed pig roast fans, you can book early and pay only $12.50 for this divine porcine experience. ($15 at the door)

Pedalfest rolls into Jack London Square to celebrate all-things cycling at the Bay Area’s premier bicycle festival. This free annual event will pack the waterfront with more than 20,000 biking enthusiasts enjoying bicycle-themed entertainment, food and exhibits including:

Cycling daredevils performing in a 30-foot banked wooden Whiskeydrome
Eye-popping two-wheeled stunts by pro riders Mike Steidley and Chris Clark
Rock the Bike’s pedal-powered stage featuring live music
TGC Actions Sport/BMX Stunt Team performances
Oaklandish’s kids bicycle parade
U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame vintage bikes
Brompton Bike Folding Contest
Bicycle rodeo for children
Pedal-powered food
Pedal-powered rides by Cyclecide
Dazzling collection of new, vintage and handmade bikes
Bike Stand demo stage by Bay Area Bikes
Bike trivia dunk tank
Bicycle vendors, artisans and more
Selection of beers available from New Belgium Brewing Co., with all proceeds going to support the advocacy work of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition

For additional information and/or to volunteer, visit www.pedalfestjacklondon.com

ARS VINCIT OMNIA

On a casual stroll down Park Street -- which really should become a pedestrian thoroughfare -- when we dropped in to Pillow Park Plaza, where Aphrodite's closet has temporarily moved while owners consider what to do about the two-story corner house that caught fire some months ago. 1419 Park has taken on a raft of new tenants after the move-out of the old bedding company which had given the place its name. One new tenant is Artistic Home, an up-n-coming brainchild of Rachel Gingold and JaYing Wang who have combined their passion for domestic arts and experience as homemaker moms together with cultivated child teaching skills to fashion an interesting all-ages family-based enterprise which not only sells beautiful art works but also teaches those driven to DIY furniture, chalk painting and glass fusing.

JaYing's highly energetic enthusiasm can sweep you off your feet, but her high voltage energy is perfectly tuned to handle kids 9+ for the afternoon Fused Glass Studios (no fee) that meet four times a week and for the Glass Arts Summer Camps (5th Grade+).

The boutique studio is partnering with the estuary galleries on Ford Street, like our friends at Gray Loft Gallery, as well as the Island studios Gallery Redux on Lincoln, Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden, 1223 Park Street, PopUp Gallery @ Autobody Fine Arts, and Pixies & Peony on Santa Clara.

Its nice to see this Renaissance of talent occurring around here as artisans flee the high rents of the City in droves.

Word has it from our last talk with Danielle Fox of SLATE that although the City is withdrawing support for the out of control First Friday's, which morphed from art walk into disorganized street party, she and organizers will continue to forge on to make events amenable to art patrons in the exciting Uptown district, which is likely to benefit everybody. Every Saturday Art Murmur holds strolls through the Uptown and you can go to oaklandartmurmur.ort/saturdaystroll for details. Third Thursdays is a special event localized to 25th Street where wine tastings and live music prevail 6-10pm. So stay tuned for developments.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Folks hoping to have a say in the Alameda Landing Project, which we might as well term properly as Target et al., will be disappointed that the final design has been approved by the Planning Board. This means that save for a few geegaws and minor alterations the thing is a done deal, especially as Target is already under construction.

The way these things work, the architect submits topo drawings that tend to be extensive and expensive. People who actually will execute the work will follow-up quickly with area plans detailing trenching, conduits, power supply, etc. In reality, those plans have already been done with expectation of approval. Remember that planners must think in four dimensions, with the fourth dimension being time deadlines and time is money in construction.

All of this drives contracts and subcontracts which will proceed blindly until someone issues a "change order", which is the last hope of any additional input from outside this gargantuan juggernaut. So there still is some possibility the In-N-Out Burger lights can be dimmed, shunted, blocked or otherwise ameliorated for that part of the project which distresses neighbors. It only means, however, that you cannot just sit back and complain, as any change orders will involve additional time and therefore additional money expense detracting from total profits. It is extremely unlikely that the outfit will be ousted from current plans, however the possibility still exists. Detractors will have to supply a concrete replacement suggestion rather than resort to wringing of hands, however. The parcel is allocated and that looks to be fixed.

The construction on Lincoln between Walnut and Oak in a largely off-the-radar project looks well underway with walls and roof going up and completion by end of summer for low income housing finished for nearly 100 folks. Add that to your population increase meters.

In the letters to the editor the problem about which we first talked some months ago regarding the obnoxious Neptune Pointe (sic) finally seems to be hitting some nerves and developing some pushback as people realize this thing was 1. reprehensibly bogus in its sudden rezoning, and 2. undesirable in scope and location and combination with everything else going on and, 3. a wild misuse of land that should ideally be allocated for park use. For whatever. Parking tractors or lawnmowers or storing sand sifters or open green lawns -- it simply does not matter; any use by the EBPS is better than shoving a glob of yuppies down there on McKay Avenue to choke up traffic to the Tube and compact living in the area by another several hundred souls.

Another OpEd piece by a newcomer here to the island commented that as regards this city, "there have been multiple blunders, mistakes, and poor decisions." This newcomer's comments are very insightful and pointed and accurate. And right on the money. It is if our island government has been living a wannabee dream of pastoral existence while whoring itself in the most shameless fashion, pretending to be Mayberry RFD with thick facepaint like some pathetic tranny wearing a gaudy neon boa, scrabbling for self-esteem by playing old Frank Sinatra records while selling blowjobs to the first Development bidder that comes along.

That is our City Hall in essence. That has been our Island government for several years. That is what the newcomers are seeing is us, and we had better be ready to provide something better than that if any of us would like a town to which our kids can return after wandering the world. Or give it all up and let the basket people have it all. Eventually they will have it all anyway.


WE COULD BE DANCIN', DANCIN' THE NIGHT AWAY

So anyway, Mark Twain's summer has rolled into the Bay Area, blocking the sun and sending some of our staffers out into the Valley (Egads!) of all places to find some watersports and tanning potential. Sharon knew it was time to go when people started calling her "paleface" -- for a Native American this is an epithet to get rid of ASAP.

Summertime has begun and there are long lines each weekout out to places people imagine are better or somehow a break from this place to where all of them have fought tooth and nail to arrive and establish abode with such a seasoning of ill-will that these folks from Ohio and Virginia and New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Florida all develop a need to take a vacation from, even though this is supposed to be the best place on earth. Or so they say.

It would be nice if all those people taking vacations to other places that are relaxing breaks from the frenzy of this place would just go live there and save us who have raised our children here all the bother, but we understand Disneyland and Yosemite have only so many vacancies and Tuscany has more self respect than Vegas to be taking in so many ex-Californians.

This left the Island in summertime mood of people who actually have lived here for some time spending some time living here among ourselves without interference. It was a sort of vacation.

Given that the summertime is a time of relaxed attention, this means that those who are given to the duty, sworn and self-appointed, to protect the populace from malefactors must excercise double diligence.

For this reason, Sgt. Rumsbo, the mall-cop of the St.Charles Lunatic Asylum, is given to double patrols about the building and heightened vigilance, for as people engaged in relaxation and living therefore he must perforce be on stricter guard against anything untoward.

Rumbo, the afterthought progeny of a long departed sailor and an alcoholic bartender, never really could gain entry into the SFPD directly, but had to satisfy himself with being a part-time traffic enforcer at City College which he combined with moonlight jobs protecting the basement of IMagnin's and Macy's from shoplifters. At home, inhabiting the same apartment in which he had grown up with his mother for the past forty-eight years, he acted as unpaid apartment manager/security officer in the converted building which now housed a number of derelicts and indigent as part of a County project for warehousing the mentally ill.

In the absence of a father and in the presence of a mother lacking quite a bit of self direction, which eventually led to an early death due to cirrhosis of the liver, the man cultivated an extreme sense of discipline that local genuine gendarmes absent anent their own such discipline found remarkable. Besides, they got a cop at fully half the price to save their own salaries a hit come election day. Rumbo knew he got paid less, but he enjoyed the power. He got to boss around the apartment building and the hapless students at City College. The City knew they got a man stacked with half a deck, but they enjoyed the price. Heck, they got a cop without union benefits without protest.

So it was that Rumsbo, the wannabe cop, encountered a shadowy figure tracing near the St. Charles Apartments one dark night with the full moon cloaked in high fog as a fine drizzle began to fall. Normally a strange figure lurking caused no concern, but this particular figure looked like one of the tenants, and of course the rules stated implicitly that tenants were not allowed to lurk. Whatever lurking might mean or entail.

One thing lead to another and the end result had Sgt. Rumsbo rolling around on the ground outside the apartment building with this figure who turned out to be Occasional Quentin looking for a place to get out of the rain for a while.

Quentin, seeing this wierd figure looming out of the darkness, following him, started acting self-protective and hiding in the bushes. Rumbo, carrying his flashlight and his radio and his gun, saw this odd figure skulking in the bushes, trying to hide.

Rumsbo called in a report about a suspicious character and the dispatch told him to hang back and wait for people who knew how to handle these situations. Rumbo, of course, took this as a challenge against his manhood and so he approached the bush where Quentin cowered and blasted his flashlight with full authority, causing Quentin to leap up shrieking for his life with his hands in the air.

Rumsbo, feeling his authority impugned, drew his nightstick and that is when the tussle began.

Now most of you know how this story usually ends. Rumbo, an inveterate bully sort of guy starts getting the tar knocked out of him -- which is just too much, as for a bully to lose his power is just too, too soul destroying. Heck its practically being murdered for such a guy.

So Sgt. Rumsbo, the wannabe cop or whoever he might be this time around, pulls out his precious nickle-plated revolver and shoots Quentin, or whoever it might be, in the head and the long tortuous roadshow of public acrimony begins all over again, a roadshow complete with riots and the injuring of completely innocent people who just happened to arrive somewhere in the wrong place as the wrong time to become society's necessary stupid public sacrifice.

This time, however, my friends, Divine Intervention forstalled any of the usual consequences.

The Island's newest addition to the pantheon of Churches in the form of the newly ordained Minister, Jason Arrabiata, dressed in his full clergy togs, which consisted of wide-top leather boots, billowing black trousers, a silk sash for a belt, an open white blouse, gold chains, eye patch, beard and a fabulously preposterous hat two feet in diameter bedecked with ostrich feathers and scarlet plumes. Furthermore he carried in his sash a cutlass at least three feet long.

"Stop this ruckus and cease trying to merge your brother's head with the asphalt this instant, my good man, or I will cut both your heads off." Jason said. "Arrgggg!"

Quentin, atop Rumsbo, and Rumsbo, under Quentin, both gaped at this apparition, behind whom the full moon haloed his swarthy visage.

"You know when you see two people fighting, you seen a sign something has failed. Have you been touched by His Noodly Appendage? Let me pray for you two clearly demented and lost souls."

"Let us sing praise to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for He is a loving God. Of His might and dominion, there is no compare; of His mercy and deliciousness, there is no equal. No other god can challenge Him; in the taste test, He is invincible. Through His pasta, He has blessed us with everlasting life, and holy is His Name. For He is the Flying Spaghetti Monster: the One, True, and Most High God, creator of man and midgit, giver of pasta, giver of sauce, from age to holy age; not created He was, but ever He lives, through the glory of spaghetti, now and forever. R'Amen."

"Now Quentin rise up and take up your fool head and you, Rumsbo, rise up and take up your weapons and go forth and be good for henceforth life is given you and you so that you shall dine in peace. For thine is the kingdom boiled, served on a plate and well sauced. Ramen."

And with that, great violence was averted and more on this incredible story and how the Flying Spaghetti Monster came to be shall be discussed anon and next week.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the saucy waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the noodly grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown, bearing its mysterious cargo of meatballs.

Hail meatsauce, full of beef. The Spaghetti Monster is with you. Blessed are you among sauces, and blessed is the spice from your shaker. Heated meatsauce, monster of taste, pray for us non-pirates now and at the hour of our hunger. RAmen

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JULY 7, 2013

INTO THE MYSTIC

This week's jolly photo comes from our staff photog and occasional sailor on the Bay.

Its good to be reminded once in a while that we do live on an island in the Bay down where where the Dungeness play.

DECORATION DAY

This week was notable for the July 4th holiday as well as a transit workers strike that shut down the BART subway system here for three days, causing traffic snarls, impossible bus lines and bad tempers.

Some of you may know that a parallel strike by the bus workers union was narrowly averted, which, had it taken place, would have effectively shut down the Bay Area for over eight million people in the Five County area.

There has been no agreement among any party other than its better for everybody to call off strikes for the time being, or at least in the case of BART, for 30 days.

THE PARADE THIS TIME

The annual Mayor's Parade, begun 38 years ago by Mayor Corica for the Bicentennial, took place again with a well organized, smooth operation that began smartly at 10:00 on Park Street and ended sometime around noon on Webster. Over time the parade acquired some notoriety and length, with this year's entries topping a brief 176 while past years have seen well over 200 entries taking a full four and a half hours to pass the final bandstand.

He used to trundle along near the end on a mini-tricycle, the spitting image of the Little Tramp, Charlie Chaplin, but over the years he had to graduate to a scooter. This year Mark Betz appeared in medias res as entry 114.

Sad to say, our Scots piper of thirty some years, Louis Freeman (#85), announced that this would be his last parade.

As the parade has gotten more organized, it also has gotten a bit blander, more Rotarian and less Contrarian, with fewer eyebrow raising incidents or wacky outlandishness along the lines of the fourteen-foot metal fire-spouting dragon that threatened the powerlines one year. Nevertheless a fine time was had by all and how can you possibly dislike a parade on the 4th of July?

Here are some images taken by our staff:

It helps to have a brother who can drive. Except the way this fellow swerved seemed to cause his sib some concern.

Dude. Hang ten. Its a parade! Whatever . . . .

Sikh and you shall find.

Lum Elementary School.

No No GMO! Every gathering needs a protest of some kind.

Didn't know we had one of these. Wouldn't it be fun . . . !

Ben Frank demonstrating safety with power . . .

Proof they really do still exist! We sometimes have some fun with these guys here, but they do good work fighting birth defects.

Anyone else notice we have a plethora of churches here? Wussup with the cow in the pickup though?

Viva los caballeros!

 

WHAT'S THE NEWS TELL ME WHAT'S A HAPPENIN'

The Bank of Alameda was purchased by the Novato-based Bank of Marin group. Not much will change save that the holdings of the new entity increase from some $230 million to getting close to a billion with its seven or so branches in various counties.

Everyone note that BUSLINE 51A changes are being reviewed. Get over on Tuesday to City Hall for the public meeting to discuss. This line goes down Webster and it is likely that changes will occur there.

The Supreme Court's Prop 8 decision is being applauded here. Changes at a number of local companies are in the works to revise treatment of Domestic Partners and newlyweds who need to file new affidavits with their HR departments. There will be tax ramifications as the Red Zone faction had instituted punitive measures against people who filed as Domestic Partners. Being married does make a difference. Also insurance holders will need to relist themselves variously as head of household or Family +1 for medical. For a great many people, this is welcome news.

TONIGHT, TONIGHT, THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR RACING IN THE STREET

So anyway, while the rest of the country has been dealing with tons of rain and floods and all sorts of mean, nasty tornado stuff we have been enjoying an heat wave that broke recently. This heat wave crushed the bejesus out of incipient Spring and with the lack of rain everything has been browning over into a fast summer. All the schools have held their graduations and proms and now its safe for proud parents to announce their valedictorian is headed for East Coast Ivy come the Fall.

As people settle into the Summer thing, with its round of block parties and bbq, several of our favorite Island characters are easing out of the woodwork to ease their wounds. Javier is recovering from his birthday party that ended with him in the Seventh Street jailhouse by chasing a flirty thing in a short skirt named Samosa. Jose eventually made it back to the Island the following morning from the Bushville encampment at the entrance to the Tube, limping along through the fumes on the high walkway through the tunnel. Along the way he passed Snuffles who was heading out to his favorite panhandling post at the freeway offramp.

At the Household of Marlene and Andre, space has cleared out now that the weather has improved to allow for sleeping on the beach and so the place does not smell nearly as bad as it does when all fifteen people are crammed in there together during the winter.

When he got back to the House, he flopped down into his closet sleeping bag and Marlene poked her head in to tell him there was leftover garlic noodles.

"Nnnhffff." Jose said.

"You have fun with Javier at his birthday?"

"Nnnnnuuuuuuuhhhhh."

"You stop that," Marlene said. "You know I do not understand you when you speak Spanish."

"Grrrgggh!"

"Sounds like it was pretty bad."

"Aaaiiiiieeeeahhh!"

"Ok. Noodles on the stove. Sleep well."

Old Schmidt finally showed up at the Old Same Place Bar and slid into his usual stool for the usual bump and a beer. Although he had been last seen leaving in the company of a fabulous dame in a red dress and entirely disabled by a paroxysm of emotion, he refused to answer any questions or refer to what had happened.

"So what happened with that woman, d'ya mind?" Dawn finally asked.

Old Schmidt merely lifted one bushy, shock-white eyebrow.

"I am meanin' ta say that Lili Marlene you went off with the other night," Dawn insisted. "It appears to me there is a love story of some kind goin' on here."

"Aboot zeese luff sings, I know nossingk, nossingk, nossingk!" Old Schmidt replied. And that is all he would say about it.

Summer has come around at last. The papa racoon, big as a washingmachine, has been trundling across the backyards in the dead of night, making all the dogs go crazy. Opossums have been scuttling along the base of the old fence and the squirrels commit their usual depredations at frantic speed like Keystone cops chasing bandits.

Those Canadian geese who do in fact return to Canada have done so by now, leaving the indolent and the hapless among them to gabble and poop upon the greens of the MIF Albright golf course and so cause the duffers and greenskeepers much grief as has been their wont for generations.

The Ohlone lived in balanced harmony with the ecosystem for 8,000 years.

Summertime, now that kids are off to get themselves into trouble without elderly interference or prevention of discovery, is the time when we hearken back to our origins as an agrarian people. The coastal areas of California are densely urban. The Ohlone lived in balanced harmony with the ecosystem for 8,000 years. The early Hispanic Californios raised cattle, horses, farmed the land and were content with that, however what followed involved a wrenching and tearing up of the landscape where everything done was a part of conquering and seizing precious but lifeless metals. Yet among those were men who returned to the earth for the nurturing it provides.

All over the island tiny plots exfoliate with extraordinary blooms. Backyards host a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, and even corn. Given only a few square yards of earth not paved over or converted to useless European grasses, our natural bent is to plant, to tend. Then, of course, there are the datura, the bougainvillea, and the exemplary roses behaving with remarkably disciplined exhuberance.

July, of course, is the time of annual mayhem, destruction and self injury that people committ out of a sense of patriotism and childish delight in blowing things up and setting things on fire. These things include tin cans, bottles, trashcans, letterboxes, small animals, bushes, trees, children.

Mr. Cribbage secured several boxes of municipal grade fireworks through a friend at work and held a little backyard affair not far from Mr. Howitzer's Mansion. He was not so foolish as to launch these things there but transported the party to the Cove near where the disputed Pointe that would have been an extension of the Park seemly likely destined for several ritzy townhouses due to a curious rezoning of the land in some backroom deal.

the low altitude of the explosions created a great sense of excitement

For now it consisted of weed-tufted parkinglots and decrepit sheds abandoned by the Federal government behind tattered chainlink fences. The party made its way easily through a tear in the fence to a lot where Mr. Cribbage eagerly setup the combo boxes as the light faded. He used a BBQ torch to set off the first one which shot up several rockets, followed by a scattering of poppers and then brilliant pinwheels and glowing embers fell all around them, still sending up fizzlers and screamers as he set off box after box until the display had attracted quite a crowd beyond the fence along the Strand. It was really quite something and the low altitude of the explosions created a great sense of excitement. Among those attracted was Mr. Blather with his party and his fireworks.

"Where shall I put these," Mr. Blather said. 'I cannot see a thing in here."

"Over there," Mr. Cribbage waved with irritation, realizing he might be upstaged.

So over in the darkness on the edge of the lot Mr. Blather set up his boxes on a pile of debris near some shrubbery and set off the first one before deploying the rest.

Sure enough, after several whizbangs and fizzlers, one of the boxes tipped over on the uncertain ground and started firing several sparkle trails sideways down the way. One rocket smacked into the side of a shed and exploded into flames. A semi-circle of flames munched its way steadily through the dry grass.

Mr. Blather and party tried stamping out the brushfire with their shoes but none of them had thought to bring along a fire extinguisher. Simone tossed a gin martini on the fire. This was followed by Tom Collins, gin ricky's, Manhattans, and Stoli neat, all with no effect. Naturally the bushes burst into flames and everyone scampered away from the debris pile with the rest of the fireworks as the sirens began to wail.

Mr. Blather looked back as he crept through the fence, thinking maybe about recovering at least one of the boxes at the risk of detention and fines.

"What a waste of good olives," Simone commented, hitching up her gown as she ran.

FWOOOMP!

Mr. Blather departed in some haste as the helicopter arrived.

At the end of another long day, ending the heat wave with welcome breezes and a delightful sunset arranged painterly in washes of golds and vermilions rising up through azure to deep navy blue well above the palm trees, the Editor stepped out to observe the glow of a fire happening off towards Crab Cove. All through the night the crump of explosives, the hissing of rockets and horizon flashbangs had terrified the neighborhood dogs and reminded him of his days and nights spent in that distant place of swamps and jungle which had struggled through nightmare years to become free in its own way from foreign tyrannies.

Earlier that day he had spoken with Nevermore, the Vietnamese man who lived next door about gardening. Some neighborhood kid had set off an M80 across the street and as the Editor straightened up from his instinctive crouch he noticed the balding head of his neighbor also coming up at the same time and the two of them had looked at each other and each knew.

"I see you were not an officer either," the Editor said.

His neighbor had laughed. "I? No. Not officer. Officer no duck. Hah. Garden now. Peace now. We make peace seperate."

"You ever read Hemingway?"

"Heming? No. Who he?"

"A Seperate Peace. He was a writer. Long ago. Another time."

Each night after the chaotic Fourth, fewer explosions. Now, late Sunday all quiet kissed the tender shadows of a voluptuous night, rich with sensuous smells of sea along the water and lemon verbena inland. In the shadows the warm boughs of madrones writhed like lovers together for this brief moment of summer. A seperate peace, yes.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the rebellious waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the independent grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JUNE 30, 2013

SOMEONE LEFT THE CAKE OUT IN THE RAIN

Our roving photographer took this evocative image of Jackson Park near the bandstand.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

This past week saw a number of continuing stories hit new milestones and take plot turns that probably could have been forseen months previously. But before we get to Island news, lets have a look at what may impact some 2.5 million people, come Monday.

As of yesterday, all indicators pointed toward a paralyzing BART strike of employees, which essentially would shut down Bay Area commerce for the duration.

There are Caltrans workarounds, but lets be frank -- no workaround will last several days of strike conditions.

This info is from SFgate:

"A Monday morning BART strike began to look a lot more likely Saturday when negotiations between BART and its two largest labor unions stalled and union leaders warned that a strike is all but inevitable.

"I think it's extremely likely," said Josie Mooney, chief negotiator for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents more than 1,433 BART workers, including mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff.

Bargaining teams for SEIU and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 944 train operators and station agents, made the announcement at 4:15 p.m. Saturday after walking out of the Kaiser Center in Oakland, where negotiations are being held. Some of the negotiators were pulling suitcases and said they had been prepared to bargain late into the night.

But after waiting since Friday for a proposal from BART, they said they were frustrated and tired of waiting for what they had expected would be a meaningful offer from the system's leaders. Union negotiators said it seemed that BART officials were trying to string them along until hours before the 11:59 p.m. Sunday deadline when the existing contract expires.

"We have waited patiently," said Antonette Bryant, ATU Local 1555 president. "We are ready to negotiate, we are willing to negotiate."

As of this point we have gotten no notice Sunday night from BART regarding avoidance of the strike. As of 9pm Saturday, all we have from the BART office is a denial of a 50% injury rate, which leads us to conclude that negotiations have mired in trivia and a strike on Monday is inevitable.

So for Monday we would encourage all East Bay folks to consider any and all alternatives to getting into the City for work, including capture of PTO hours.

Now that the hoi polloi have noticed the plethora of develoment projects and the clear consequences of each singly and in toto, hands are being raised.

Front and center is the official handover of the Point to the City in a series of ceremonies and discrete seperate actions. It has been 16 years of sometimes acrimonious dispute, but official "conveyance of the 1400 acres of former Navy base is now underway. Fittingly, it rained on the first major event this past week, however some were quick to point out that rain in sometimes arid California is always an auspicious sign. Originally the Navy had asked for $110 million dollars for land essentially given it out of patriotism by the City way back when. Eventually, the Navy decided we were collectively and Democratically pains in the rear and decided to cede over the land without price tag.

This collection of parcels should provide homes for 1,400 -- at a minimum -- and an expected 9,000 jobs, which should provide a much needed boost to the region's economy.

Some people are taking a closer look at that Crab Cove development that nearly flew under the radar when the land was suddenly and inexplicably rezoned so as to sell it to developers. Turns out the East Bay Park Service had been promised that land for expansion of adjacent Crown Beach, so when the bids went out the Park Service was totally unprepared to bid on the project. Naturally, limited by government guidelines, they underbid and the prize on McKay Avenue was awarded to yet another Texan outfit who had no idea of the politics into which they were stepping.

Well, the EBRPD looks to an outside like sourgrapes with their protests about how things went down, but we remember well how they were promised that land, which for the longest time has consisted of sheds and parking lots owned by the Feds. As the land was zoned for park use, there was little reason to prepare for any other eventuality. It also seems out of line to park homes on that spit with limited access. Suddenly the land got rezoned and quickly thereafter followed a bidding process, which makes us wonder just who was in on this from the beginning.

Neighbors, eyeing the narrow housefronts and lack of parking in the new plans are up in arms about this change of plans, and understandably so. All this new traffic will now clog McKay Avenue, an "avenue" in name only, and in reality not far above a dirt bicycle path in width without sidewalks.

One would think In-N-Out Burger is hardly material for controversy, but this is the Island and here, we will scrap for any peace of mind we feel we deserve. At a recent Planning Board meeting residents told the City they liked not much of the new plans near Bayport for the fast food joint along with the 24 hour Safeway, both of which are meant to hug the Target store already under construction. This one concerns the 77 acres at Alameda Landing where 275 condos and a 23 unit apartment building will join the housing planned for the Point and the 200 or so units planned for Boatworks, plus the several hundred some other units planned in other developments. Residents at Bayport dislike the idea of In_N-Out's gaudy neon signs blazing away in their eyes, the additional traffic that will ensue from its drive-in lanes plus the Safeway's gas pumps added to the Target and they want to have a say in the design plans.

Ah Democracy!

Perhaps due to our own cantankerous version of Democracy and the People's voice the Unified School district is looking at renovating the Historic High School, now surrounded by a weird wire and wood fence. The new plans feature the administration moving back into the old structure from the new leased digs at Mariner Square Village. Given that there will be costs no matter what the AUSD does with regard to its administrative home, and the need to renovate the swimming pools as well as other physical plant needs, the District needs to take a hard look at from where the funds will derive to do what needs to be done. This means new parcel taxes and/or bond measures on the next ballot. If Piedmont is any indicator, it looks very likely that bond measures have the best chance of success here.

SOMEONE LIKE ME

So anyway, all the folks who had survived Javier's 55th birthday filtered back to the Household, each in their own time. As it turned out the guy who upchucked in Javier's jail cell gave everybody a lift in his BMW the following morning when the police let everybody out of the drunk tank along with the hookers and the other 24 hour riff-raff. The upchucker was named Ray and he took all his cellmates down to Impound to bail out his car, which was nice and sporty and did not have a trace of upchuck upon its fine German leather.

So that is how Javier got home. Jose, of course, got home after the Tube opened when the guys in orange vests had done scrubbing out all the graffiti in there well past the dawn hours. After spending the night with Paul and Marybeth in their Bushville plastic tent under the overpass, he rolled out and walked the long bend under the estuary past guys pushing grocery carts from some unknown market to god knows where and eventually got to the Household, vowing never to celebrate another birthday ever again.

Some guy named Snowden on the lam from the Man overnighted briefly during this time. The Household, always welcome to subterranean unrecognized heros and any of the downtrodden took the boy in, fed him a good meal of bread soup, gave him a cot on which to sleep for the night, and then sent him on his way to whatever fate Cuba, Russia, Central America or Tahiti may have in store for him.

There was some discussion on taking in such a notorious fellow, but Marlene, being the Queen of the Household had the final say and not even Andre at his peril could gainsay her word.

"This boy has more cojones than any of you and he risked his life to tell the truth. He should be regarded by this generation as an American Hero and now he is running for his life from very mean people, a situation all of us here know quite well, and that is what I have to say about it."

At the Household, things cannot remain somber for long. It is summer and the heat wave is on and Pahrump got out the frisbee to play tag with Tipitina and Jesus and all the dogs, Johnny Cash, Bonkers and Wickiwup and all along the Strand there was much scampering and kite flying and jumping up and down and all sorts of groovy things for summer had come to the Bay Area, which tends to employ its fogs and dismal atmosphere to repel the invader, but for now there was ice cream and our American Hero, Snowden, remained free and alive for the while.

The Offices of the Island-life press have been quite busy recently with all sorts of projects, keeping abreast of international news and maintained the weekly tequila dosage. We have the Island stories section to update and the page code upkeep, which task has been taken on by the indefatiguable Chad, and then there are the food and art reviews which have been ignored for far too long.

The Editor, having seen all the projects and issue problems put to bed strolled down the aisles of desks with their mindlessly chirping devices and LEDs, while in the far off corner the tickertape machine burped and chortled to itself with its tongue of paper vomiting into a cardboard box. Outside high above the waning Solstice Moon still hung huge above the overheated rooftops after a day that was just a taste of what global warming is all about. The usual evening breeze comforted with its thousand-year patterns through the box elder and the crabapple tree branches. All along the flagstone path to the garage the solar lights spilled their little epithets of light into discrete pools where the waterless coi of thought swam with barely moving fins in the darkness.

This is what life looks like after you have been traumatized into nothingness. Everything becomes exactly what it looks like directly without feeling.

The Editor returned to his cubicle, a place of islanded pools of light, while all around the muttering darkness and he bent himself to his work, while for blocks and blocks all around him Islanders slept and dreamt and worked and traveled from this place to that, all of his people. In the heat of the summer's night, the Island roiled with its dreams and problems while in the far distance a police siren wailed for a while before all was still again, everything returning to Small Town America, with all of its faults and charms. Somewhere else, a hero named Snowden slept upon the cot of permanent exile. He, unlike his pursuers, slept soundly this night. Somewhere else a Marine languished in his cell, naked and alone, and no one wondered just what connected the two men in this time.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the rebellious waves of the estuary, the defiant riprap embankments, the independent grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, and all the scattered Bushvilles underneath all the overpasses as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JUNE 23, 2013

CALLING THE MOON

This week our staff photographer, Tammy, took this shot after spending the day sailing out on the Bay.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

It may be summer but this surely was no slow-news week. Some Islanders are boiling over the recent discussion about the dozen development projects going on will scheduled end dates all happening roughly about the same time, and cumulatively resulting in a net Island population increas of between 12 and 18%. We can't really put a stop to all these things, but there may be a way to brake some of the projects by way of insisting that parking and communal open space be included in designs. The plan for McKay Avenue looks charming, if you can get by the overly cutsie balustrades, however it does look like neighbors will be living packed together like sausages with just inches between buildings. Fine if you want to borrow a cup of sugar, but we are guessing the kinds of folks targeted by this project are unused to anything like sharing or neighborliness. Plunk down a million dollars for a waterfront property and it will be all "you can get your own damn sugar, kiddo".

Some people coming late to the table noted the Target planned for the Landing project, and they are not too happy about it, however of the inevitable "big box" stores Target is one of the more innocuous and better behaved towards its employees and to the communities where they plotz. Construction is underway, which means plans have been filed with the County and City and the archetect has now departed for vacation in Majorca, so proposals to revise the parking are late by quite a margin. The store opens in October and may help temper the huge sales tax deficit which John Russo mentioned in a recent Op-Ed in the Journal.

No one is complaining about In-N-Out burger slated for the Landing, probably because the nearest one down on Hegenberger is apparently pretty lousy. Heck, you can't have steak every day and a good burger is always a good burger.

We know the real reason for the height limit increase around the foot of the Park Street bridge. It is so that when the sea level rises due to global warming we will have high roofs from which to be evacuated by helicopter. Somebody is such a genius around here . . .

On the qualified upside the recent resignation of a key Hospital Board member now makes a bit of sense now that we learn the plan to save the venerable institution includes joining the County system, which means the place will not be closed after all. They tried taxes, surcharges, cutbacks and facility aquisitions but that looming and ballooning earthquake retrofit cost pretty much became the key decider in the choice to either padlock the doors until the wrecking ball comes or join a larger outfit. With Kaiser standing right there with its history and its clinic already in operation here, that left few choices.

We cannot really fault anyone for the way things turned out -- the hospital did not stand a chance persisting as a stand-alone facility. It is more likely to benefit all Islanders across the board as a County facility than as a Kaiser satellite. It had been sending the more critically sick and injured over to Highland anyway as the place has not enjoyed a serious trauma unit of Highland's stature at any time in its history.

AND WHILE WE ARE ON THE SUBJECT


In a town that seems to sport more churches per square mile than Ireland and Italy combined, we always have room for one more, and so we welcome the distinctive Church of FSM, which unlike all other churches welcomes everyone without reservation and does not require that anyone put aside already cherished beliefs.

We, on this tiny island, have Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics by the score, Unity and Unitarians, Tibetan buddhists, Baptists of several septs, at least one synogogue if not two, Evangelicals, Mormon temples, a Masonic lodge, Elks, Wiccans, Witnesses, Episcopalians of course in a rather grand looking church where they hand out food to the poor the way Xians are supposed, Shouters and weepers and speakers of tongues and La Luz del Mundo and scads more besides. In fact we have so many churches on the island that a local minister mentioned with some sadness that each congregation must necessarily be smallish as there really are not that many souls who live here to distribute among all of the Select.

Members of our staff have recently been ordained into this new ministry, active worldwide only since 2005, when it seemed the country was gripped by a fever of religiousity that transcended all boundaries of reason and common sense. Up rose the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to return Heart and Soul to the Church, for it must be agreed by one and all these two things are intertwined.

We will present more from the CFSM anon, with special mention that should be a guiding reference for us all, What Would the Flying Spaghetti Monster Do? Indeed, thoughts worth pondering.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

So anyway another year has passed and Javier tried to rustle up an ex-girlfriend to make his pal Jose happy last week. Or perhaps two weeks ago. Time flies when fruit happens. Whatever.

So Javier got it into his head that on his birthday he would make sure that Jose, his very good friend had a splendid time. To Jose a good time meant sitting quietly in his chair by the light with a good book by Gabo Marquez or Neruda, but to Javier a good time meant a rollicking evening with a woman or two, a fair amount of booze and plenty of mayhem with fireworks, for Javier was like that. The one time he tried to keep things quiet and sedate was on his birthday, for it never failed that day to be a wretched disappointment. It is truely amazing how these things always happened, for the higher his expectations, the surer he was likely to get smacked in the face with a wet fish.

Of course since neither one of them had any money, the extent of mayhem would have to arrive on the cheep side along with any women they might find.

So Javier could not obtain Francesca, who had gone off to wreak havoc in the Sierra foothills with her biker gang, which was fine by Jose, who understood that he dwelled not within her league by any means. Nor could Javier obtain Martina, she of the leather boots with the silver spurs and the whips.

So the two of them rode the BART train into the city as it started to rain to check out the Crazy Horse where Suan worked as an exotic dancer, with Javier hoping that Suan could pull some strings and maybe get them a free lapdance or something. As it turned out, Suan was off that night and could not be found so they sat in the back watching the stage and nursing single beers -- all they could afford -- until the man with the big shoulders told them to buy a round or leave. So outside a man with a big hat told them to give him all their money but all the money they had was for the BART return trip so they tried to run away down Harrison.

Things did not work very well with this running away such that the man with the big hat and very big friends caught them and beat them both badly and took away their ten dollars which is all they had between them. Now there they were in SOMA with no money and no way to get home and it raining now fairly hard, which at least helped wash the blood off their faces. Jose's left knee started swelling from where one of the thugs had hit him with a baton.

Jose went into the all night diner on Van Ness to see if he could call the House and maybe get Pahrump over on his scooter and when the waitress there learned of what had happened she offered to drive one of them back over the bridge to Oakland, but she could not take two of them as her car was filled with magazines and papers on account of her going to Beauty College and her car was one of those new Smartcars not much bigger than a bug with just two seats. Jose promised to alert Pahrump once he made it back to the House, so Javier was left there standing near the onramp at Fifth as his birthday began to fade and the moon rose in the misting rain over the Bay.

He stopped trying to hitch for a while and got down under the cutout near Second Street where some homies had a Bushville encampment there and they had some wine together and talked about things like the houses all of them had lost during the Housing Bust and the Great Recession until he though he better get back up there in case Pahrump came along with his scooter before it got too late. So he said goodbye to his pals there and climbed back up the side. He had to climb over a few things to get there and somehow found himself on the new bridge looking over at the old bridge where he was supposed to be. That is when he started walking, figuring that since no one was driving the new bridge the cops would not notice someone walking along there on what would become a bicycle path beside the road when the thing opened for sure.

Well that span is a good two, three miles long over open water, not counting the Treasure Island tunnel, so he was pretty soaked to the skin after a few hours of walking along, doing his birthday hike and all and his bones aching from the beating he got from the muggers.

He had gotten about as far as where the bridge swept over the mud flats close to shore when a construction crew working on replacing some of the 30,000 brittle bolts that had failed inspection noticed him. They were mad already about having to swap out all those bolts and in the rain and they did not like someone walking on their bridge before it was ready and without authorization or any papers and so they knocked Javier around a good bit before security hauled him back in a car in the direction he had come to lodge him in the Seventh Street jail for breaking and entering and being an all round nuisance and when he told them all about his celebration they just laughed.

His cellmate was named Guido and he did not smell so good. Another fellow brought in on a DUI upchucked in the middle of the floor, which irritated the guard to no end as then he could not enjoy his midnight popcorn done in the microwave. The final admittance to that bad hotel was a man named Claude who turned out to be an Amway salesman whose demeanor and aftershave persuaded the cop that he was somehow high on something in public. He was not drunk, but full of energy and the goodness of the Savior who had redeemed him from a life of sin and he could not stop talking all night. That is where Javier spent the rest of his birthday.

As for Jose, the woman would not drive him onto the Island, which is understandable given that getting onto the Island involves driving through the Kaiser concrete processing plant to get to the one bridge, as the tunnel was closed for cleaning. Instead she dropped him off around 85th Street near where she lived, and Jose had a time of it getting through the firezone with guys sporting tattooed tears blazing away at one another with just about every form of ordinance and caliber available from the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Native Sons of the Golden West. Around 83rd two guys walked around with their arms extended pulling the triggers and because they had canted the pistols in cool gangsta style and kept hopping around like rappers they missed each other time after time as cement chips and glass shards flew off of the buildings and cars. Once he got past that scene he came across five guys dropping bottle-shaped things into an olive drab tube which puffed with a loud crump each time they did it. They were firing a mortar at a rival gang's house a few blocks away.

Some guy wearing a bright red jumpsuit grabbed Jose, who thought this was it for sure, but it turned out he was to deliver a message on a piece of paper down the street to somebody. Jose did not know what was on the paper and he did not bother to look as he sprinted as best he could on his swollen knee down International Boulevard holding the message in his right with his white handkerchief waving in his left above his head. All the firing stopped as he did so, save for distant pops a few blocks away.

When he got to a sort of barricade he found a lean-looking fellow, who looked to be all of fifteen, wearing a bright blue jumpsuit and bandoliers of machinegun bullets.

"For Pete's sake," Jose said. "You have to be kidding me."

The Blue fellow demanded the message and Jose handed over the slip of paper.

Blue looked at it, scowled, then threw it down and then began striding back and forth in a most truculent manner, waving his Mac-10 and sporting a pistol tucked into his waistband besides.

"What do you think about that?" He kept saying. "What do you think of that?"

Jose picked up the paper.

DA BOYZ GONNA MESS UP YOUR HAIR REEEEEEEEL BAD, GENERAL!

It occured to the Blue General that he should respond smartly and so he got together with some of his soldiers and they drafted a pithy response. Here, inspiration alit on Jose in a most uncommon form. He mentioned that just up ahead, not back there, but up ahead was a snarky colonel of the red jumpsuit clan and it would be a real good idea to get a message to those guys and just forget about that daf punk back there.

Jose dutifully took the message at a dead running hobble up four blocks to the HQ of the Red team.

WE FLY YOU MOTHER'S PANTEEZ FROM OUR POLZ!

O the red rage.

So that is how Jose made it back home through Shooter's Alley, the worst crime-fightin'est, most dangerous stretch of any city road in the world -- by taking insulting messages from one bivouac to the next, from one house of strange chemical odors to the next.

By the time he got to the bridge he saw with incredulity at just past four am that the span had been raised, for what kind of traffic at that hour on the estuary he did not know but there stood the lighted tower and the two arms of the drawbridge pointing upwards through the falling rain like twin arms raised in plea or despair. Slowly he shuffled along the rip rap and skirted the warehouses and overpasses with his home so close and yet so far away. Eventually he got to the Bushville encampment near the entrance to the tunnel at Webster where at least the concrete overpass kept everything dry.

There he found a couple named Paul and MaryBeth who had set up a tent with plastic sheeting. "Dude you sure look messed up," Paul said. He had a full beard and a bandana and strummed a guitar with five strings.

"We got some canned stew from the dumpster. It says its expired but its still good." MaryBeth said. "We got plenty."

And so Jose was welcomed and was fed for among the poor, there is sometimes real understanding of the way things are and that rare kindness is possible where people do not expect anything in return.

A man came up to them there and spoke unto them and this is what he said. "Have you been touched by His noodly appendage? Are you aware this is the shortest night of the year?"

For it was true that this man was an ordained Minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and he did speak then of fate and hope and charity and love, and of course of these things, the greatest of them is . . . , well, you all know.

And so Jose was comforted and no longer dispaired. For he was with a Community of spirit and his bruised bones eased themselves on the tired cushions of a discarded sofa, the substance of which had gone into the little heating fire there under the overpass.

The Editor stepped out onto the deck as the rain sifted down to look at the solstice moon even as the Island Coven did the same during a pause in the middle of their Wiccan ceremonies down by the Cove.

Wisps of cloud trailed across the face of the moon as if some god had recently passed by after administering a blessing.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, and all the scattered Bushvilles as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JUNE 16, 2013

BRIDGE OF SIGHS

This week we have a moody pic of the Bay Bridge before construction of the new one. Not sure if we used it before, but its a really evocative shot by Tammy of Park Avenue.

Since we are moving closer to the opening of the new structure we will hunt around for images of the old fellow. Would appreciate any pics people might have of the structure when trains used it on the lower deck.

THIS ISLAND-LIFE

We have seen some E-mail float over the transom with regard to providing regular content for Island-Life and working with us in other capacities. If you got lost in the shuffle go ahead and resend.

WHATS THE BUZZ

A number of internal snafus at I-L meant we missed out on a number of really neat events. This weekend was the Juneteenth commemoration over in Vallejo where Black Americans recall the last days before news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the accompanying Constitutional Amendment reached the ears of slaves located in the far reaches of the American Empire. The event tends to be joyful, as it should be, located outside the main library there near the marina.

At the marina itself, the annual pirate festival took place with mock swordfights, ship to shore cannon battles and lots of yo-dee-ho. The fun fest tends to attract the best dressed mediaevals from the Renaissance Faire, who always add a lot of color. This was the first year the sponsors asked for funds to help defray what is really quite a large enterprise with hundreds of people setting up and operating several stages hosting dozens of performers on the site that took the Guiness World Record for largest assembly of pirates in the world. Portland had been a contender but this year canceled the festival there. So Bay Area, best be on guard and parley this message: Arrrg!

On the Island we had the unveiling of a memorial for fallen police officers -- curiously timed during the budget discussions as we have fortunately only two fallen officers, whose deaths occurred over a span of some thirty-five years. The IPD has been working overtime on PR which took some serious hits after the wildly inane performance last Memorial Day when our finest watched a man die over the course of an hour. Then they followed up by dumping people on the street at three am by way of confiscating their car. Another man died in that incident.

No one said police work is easy. One of the commemorated officers was shot to death and the other run over during a traffic stop. Talk about a bad day at work. Still, this public event seemed timed poorly -- or well -- as the City faces a $4 million dollar shortfall with all departments taking hits in their budgets. Police and Fire protection account for some 75% of our operating budget and some people in some cities are howling about those services taking a full 40%, so a bit of comparison would be in order here.

The new budget has been announced and it is full of draconian cutbacks, including non-funding for police positions now vacant anyway.

If people want protection maintained at current levels there is no replacement for increased revenue. Increasing parking fines and such will not do the job. Parceling backfill from parking here and cutbacks there and higher fees will stop working pretty quick when you are talking about a shortfall as large as $4 millions. The City has to get into the business of selling something and that something has to be on a continuous basis, for once it has sold land or property, that asset is gone for good. We suggest using that open space, now our only real asset, as a way to generate revenue. And no, another big box store is not the solution.

Interestingly an Oakland recently expressed strong emotions about the budget for police in that city. They were shocked, simply shocked that as much as 40% of their total budget goes to officer salaries and of course, you can see what they get for it. We had not the heart to inform him that of our humble Island budget fully 75% goes to the Fire/Police combo. But on the upside, we now have a police boat and people trained to use it.

EBMUD's recent announcement for its 2-fold rate increases of 9.75% and then 9.5% has some interesting rationalization, as the powerful water entity claims it has been hit by the Great Recession which has resulted in fewer customers. Um, did the Golden State really lose that many people? Then again we hear Socal's water entities also jacked their rates when people started really conserving water. In other words, people did what they were supposed to do and this results not in savings or better water diversion methods but higher rates. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Recent op-ed pieces in the Sun pointed out that the sum total of all the development projects now in the works will result in a sudden population increase on the Island of between 10 and 18%, with 12% a good conservative figure. So with the present inhabitants ticking over 72,000 souls, you can do the math. Better reserve your parking spot now.

GOUDY KIMBLE

So anyway once again the year had revolved upon its rusting gears to re-arrive ponderously to that dreadful day -- to Jose -- of Javier's birthday. Javier celebrates his birthday each year with nearly fatal consequences, and given his taste for younger, passionate, and frequently violent women, each year seems likely to be the last, yet, despite the laws of averages and all common sense, much like South Park's Kenny, Javier returns once again to celebrate anew, while Jose quivers in fear. The bastard.

It is not that Javier actively seeks misfortune. Things just . . . happen. Like his fiftieth celebration, which was meant to be just a passing of the jug among friends on the porch of Andre and Marlene's Household. They nearly burnt the house down, killing everyone due to a simple omission of care regarding the butt end of a spleef.

This year, much to Jose's great dismay, Javier discovered that his birthday and Jose's nearly coincided by a matter of a few days. This he discovered, purely by accident, while going through Jose's wallet looking for a few dollars for pot wine.

No, no, no, pleaded Jose. Pleeeeeeeeze do not tell anyone.

I don't tell anyone, Javier said. I just have a small party.

Jose groaned. Oh no!

I think I tell Marlene and Erica . . .

No! Is not Marlene the one who stabbed you with a spear? Jose said.

You disremember. That was Elvia. It was Marlene who shot you with the pistol, thinking it was me.

Ahhhh! Nooooo!

Maybe I invite Matilda.

She tried to electrocute use both!

No, that was Pilar. You must be thinking of . . . , let me think . . . of Manuela. Except she set us both on fire. She was a hot one that girl!

No, no, no, I do not want no birthday anything. Please leave me out of that.

Which one was member of the biker gang? Ah! So many flowers in such a garden!

Aiiiiaaaahhhh!

O stop whining, Javier said. Love is pain. Un hombre expects that. Which makes me think. When was the last time you unloaded your cojones, amigo? I mean, not with mule or mano a mano.

Uhhhhh . . . !

I thought so. We genuine men of Latin nature must unload or we explode. That is our machismo heritage. I know! I invite Simona! Ahhhh! Simona of a thousand ways! She will be good for you!

Not the one with the pitchfork!

O you must be thinking of Francisca. Simona was the one with the acid. But she has a good side to her. She can be sensual and she knows all the arts of love. Every woman should be like Simona, but not everyone can be. And not every man deserves to enjoy what she has to offer. But you, mi amigo, you shall have such a night to remember.

Indeed it was a memorable night. But to know all about that you will have to come back next week.

This weekend was Father's Day and all over the island fathers took possession of new plaid shirts and tie-clips and shaving accessories. The luckier ones got power tools. Even Javier, who every year on Father's day gets a little something and a card. The card always says something like, "Happy Father's daddy!" and Javier never knows from whom it came. Was that Esmerelda? Or Diane? Or Consuela? Ah, so many women, it was hard to keep track.

Per tradition the girls living in Andre and Marlene's Household all took their father's out to brunch at Mama's Royal Cafe. Mr. Howitzer drove out to Colma to pay his respects there to the paterfamilias and shoot crows squawking on the granite tomb with his Mossberg shotgun until the groundskeepers drove him off with shovels and curses.

Eugene Gallipagus drove out to where his father lived in a double-wide trailer on the outskirts of Grass Valley, which always was a great opportunity to fish for brookies in the streams now slowing from the meager snow melt in the Sierra. It was there that his father had given him the two precious jewels of wisdom Eugene would carry for the rest of his life.

The first went as follows: See that the girl is happy, and you will be too.

The second pursued the following dictum: Do not stick beans up your nose.

Perhaps it was no surprise that Eugene remained a committed bachelor after thirty-seven years and it seemed that he never would marry for his bean-pole frame grew more gangly and out of synch with itself as the years passed.

The Walrus Club, a collection of cold water swimmers held a little champagne brunch on Father's Day which also served as a planning meeting for their next midnight activity in the Bay.

Tommy and Toby both used the laptop to skype with their fathers living in Boston. Tommy's father told him when would he ever find a nice girl to settle down with and regarded Toby with disdain as the ruination of his son although Tommy had been outed long ago before Toby and the entire thing ended in tears and recriminations with Tommy shouting "You never . . . you never . . . "! and Toby trying to defend Tommy's father despite being insulted and Tommy's father saying incredibly to Toby, "You try and talk some sense into that boy. I am sick of him and his lolly gagging."

"Well," said Toby after the hang-up."It's always good to have strong opinions. At least he is firm."

He said that because his own father had developed a raging case of psychotic bipolar mania and would run around the neighborhood in his truck liberally festooned with vaguely Biblical phrases plastered on the sides promising the close proximation of the Apocalypse and certain damnation for most everybody. This had not helped the man's landscaping business in the way of advertising. Nor did his habit of pruning people's hedges with an electric trimmer -- whether they had engaged his services or not. Perhaps it was his way of trying to rustle up new business using good old fashioned chutzpah. Mrs. Dudgeon had to chase him off one time swinging that big black purse she always carries. Eventually while off his meds he tried to paint a house a curious shade of lavendar one day while the astonished owner, Mr. Cribbage, looked on from his flowerbed. "

"Hey! You! What are you doing to my house!" Mr. Cribbage shouted.

"I paint. I paint I paint I paint I paint . . .".

"Stop that! Police! Help!"

This episode did not end well and the men with curious white jackets came to take Toby's father away.

All happy families are more or less dissimilar. All unhappy families are more or less alike. Some famous Russian extemporizing from his distant hermitage located in Nuovo Zembla, a region that exists coterminous with a few other well-known subterranean and subaqueous mythic islands -- such as Bloom County, Yoknapatawpha, and Wobegon -- said that in preface to one of his many meisterworks. But no matter. It only serves to disprove the essential tenet of certain radical groups which imagine that all social ills shall be cured by "fixing" the American Family. Probably in the same way you would fix an unruly Scotch Terrier or a cat. These people have never visited a home for Transitional Age Youth.

In any case the weather got suddenly schizoid around here. Heavy fog and winds chilling the evenings and mornings has been relieved by bright sunny days. Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez took a stroll with the proud couple taking turns at pushing the pram along with its precious contents gurgling and cooing while hummingbirds made abrupt and fleeting visits. It is a great wide world out there, bucko. Full of all kinds of surprises and all of life and many different kinds of families containing many different kinds of people. Be thankful your family is unlike any other, because the pit of misery is very deep and wide and cruel and largely unfair.

As the night fell, the fog eased in to chill the air before working its magic under the heavens hidden with their stars way up away from here. For light the beach houses and condos along Shoreline provided some fuzzy glow and tiki torches flapped in the breeze hard by the Cove where the Walrus Club arrived to strip off all their clothes, men and women together and shine whitely in that fitful gleem. They hesitated only until the last stood there and in they dove suddenly into that chill dark to swim as so many wrigglers multiplied by the waves and the dark and the tricks of light from a few into millions, all headed toward the milky disk of the horizon and the raft with its nimbus of lantern light, all headed toward some procreative astonishment, each sent forth with slight hope and abandoned. The way fathers do.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

JUNE 9, 2013

DANCE WITH THE DRAGON

This week's image comes courtesy of long time Islander, Susan Laing, who owns an art studio on Santa Clara where she makes felt things out of raw wool. During Open Studios a little visitor dropped by and here he is.

You might say we do things small rather well. Incidentally, this song, Dance With the Dragon, by Jefferson Starship is one of the few popular rock songs to mention Alameda by name, albeit not in a nice way.

Fame and fortune -- we'll take what we can get.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Things are winding down in Silly Hall as folks there buckle to the realities that people now have a lot more time on their hands to ask questions amid this fiscal year budget thing that is happening.

So to recap: We have some 8 major development works in progress, all with completion dates cropping up within the same 12 month period and collectively amounting to between an 8 and 12% population increase on the island. There are some estimates which post the increase up there around 18%, but we think a few things may happen during the process to make that number not happen. There are a lot of problems with such a large boost in resident population within such a short time, but that is another discussion.

The budget discussion varies between shrill and acrimonious, but the sum total of what WILL happen is that city government is going to be cut back in a GOP wet dream to little more than muscle and fire protection with a little spare change for fixing potholes. The City is looking to balance its budget on the backs of people who drive, which we can see, looking at other municipalities, is going to result in people driving less. That, in itself is not a bad thing, but this means the claim of adding 50% to existing revenues by way of tacking on parking fees might not work. We are already seeing a proliferation of bicycle traffic during rush hour and other unusual times when you in other times and pre-Reagan days say not so much two-wheeled transportation. We are wondering what is going to happen should this magic number for parking fees fail to deliver as we think the ceiling for such hikes is pretty darn near.

The numbers quoted are as follows: $375,000 more to be added to existing revenues of $675,000 from parking fees and fines.

We had a talk with other municipality folks and found that 40% allocation to police and fire was a bit outrageous. Those people were astounded to hear that we on the Island allocate not 50, not 60 but a full 75% of our budget to police and fire. And Oakland has the highest pay rate for police in the nation, so we are wondering what is wrong with this picture.

Well, we just had this memorial dedicated to the men in blue who died protecting us. All two in sixty years. Um, and how many in Oakland? And the timing of this "memorial" for men, one of whom died before Pearl Harbor was bombed seems curious.

Now we segue over to people responding to City Manager Warmerdam's opinion piece in the Sun regarding the budget. We did feel the article was a bit self-serving, much obfuscatory in dwelling on trivialities which had nothing to do with the issue at hand, and a little bit silly in capping on people who dared question the process, but we took all that in stride as par for the course in usual treatment from Silly Hall employees at that level.

Now it seems that other people glommed onto Warmerdam's weak points and, O!, we think this one better be ready for the hot seat to ensue, because if Warmerdam had the thought that position was sufficient insulation and a measure of authority, they surely better know that another thing is coming.

You don't label voters "naysayers" amid a budget discussion when radical austerity measures are being proposed. This implies that Silly Hall is not unified (it is not but then let's get by that one) and things are in disarray, provoking general lack of confidence. So of course people are going to ask even more questions and demand even more input into the already obnoxious annual budget process.

At the end of the day, we are suffering at the municipal level the rather bad decisions made at the federal level and passed down the chain through the state, then the county and finally to us. When will people realize that "federalism" does not really work? Not when you have China and Afghanistan and Egypt and Great Britain to deal with.

SIGNS OF LIFE IN THE UNINTELLIGIBLE UNIVERSE

This weekend was the last weekend for East Bay Open Studios. Most artists reported heavier foot traffic this time, which is always a good thing. A number of exhibits are happening in July, especially at Photo and Manna, where some half dozen topnotch artists are combining resources. Look to see some figure studies by Mark Lightfoot at Minna later this summer. For people looking to escape the crowds, there are studios and galleries at Norton Factory on East 10th close to the bridges and a scattering of other fun studios as well. We are hearing that Grey Loft at 2889 Ford Street is doing some exciting things in the area once known as Brooklyn and now called by various other names by merchants who are establishing new community life close to the estuary near the Park Street Bridge.

Also dropped in to SLATE Design where Danielle Fox holds the fort. Danielle is one of the progenitors of the Art
Murmur and First Fridays in Oakland. The city is looking to put a cap on the popular event due to the cost of
providing police security. Indeed most gallery owners had taken to holding their own receptions and events on
the following Saturday or midweek to allow patrons actually interested in the art instead of the street party to
escape the throngs.

With the national economy slowly creeping upwards, Danielle expressed hope for the future as people and
companies see to diversify investments through purchase of moderately priced artworks.

Over at 25 Gallery even the hallway has something interesting. This time around the case sported miniature distillations of uneasy anxieties and dreams.


POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

So anyway, all hell broke loose over at this weeks meeting of the Island Hostesses, the premier clandestine sorority of culinary obsessives, conservative political subversives and extremist capitalists. It seems only yesterday that the club reoriented itself with a name change from the Ladies Who Drive. Recently the club had decided to reverse a centuries-old membership qualification tradition by way of admitting women who previously had been denied. That meeting had been tense with vigorous debate continuing right up to the traditional vote, which always had been done by placing a billiard ball upon the felt of the club's main table. A vote had to achieve not only a majority in favor but any color match pair to indicate that at least two majority sisters were of one mind.

At the end of the night, Pandora held up the winning tokens. "Ladies! We have a pair! Both blue!"

Sounds of cheers, enthusiasm.

That excitement had taken place a while ago. This week, all the brough-haha concerned Sister Florence, always a firebrand, who really stirred up the sisterhood this time.

"Sisters we got a problem! A really big, serious problem, sisters! All the time we spent cajolin' and pleadin' and suggestin' and even, you know, providin' service to our mens and cookin' that steak just the way he likes it and all that effort, all that beautiful dresses and lingerie and nails and perfume and promises and downright weedling! After all that work -- tossed in the heap like yesterday's fashions by that no account tattle tale that no-account, worthless Michael Douglas!"

Sounds of Hear! Hear! Yo! You said it Sister!

"You know what I am talkin' about! I am talking about the Vahjayyay! They ain't be so much talk about our Vajayyay since Judy Chicago!"

Cheers! Hoots! Word, Sister! Word!

"Now I am tellin' y'all you gotta keep it clean! You know what I am sayin' sisters! You don't go sticking your clam up there in some guy's face without some prep time y'all! This looks bad for all of us girls!"

"No stick without a lick!" shouted Pimenta Strife who tended to get carried away whenever sex was involved.

Echoing chants filled the hall.

"They aint no cooties in my 'tang, sisters!" shouted Ms. Lou Cadme. "Any you mens out there can check it out anytime!

Things got chaotic after that.

Well okay. So anyway, again, the weather kicked up with a brisk sirocco that brought temps down and put aside the nascent summer. Mark Twain, had he returned for a visit, would have shook his head, claiming Missouri in wintertime had better weather. This was the weekend for graduations of all kinds here on the Island, for schools and for many adult programs.

Over at the Sala de Calveras a group of 12 Steppers had its inaugural chapter graduation meeting about the same time as the Island Hostesses. Floyd Cratchit sat surrounded by other sitting on cafeteria-style chairs. A black and white Staffordshire terrier wearing a blue and white service dog vest lay placidly beside him. Above his head a lugubrious ceiling fan rotated with irregular rhythm.

"Friends I am here to tell you I am a . . . "

(long difficult pause. Coughs. Sniffs in the background.)

"I am a jerk. I mean I am a total asshole. Ever since I was a kid . . .".

"Now Floyd, we prefer to use the strength-based term 'pushy person.' You don't need to wallow," the organizer, Ms. Light, said.

"Yeah right. I am a . . . pushy person. But I am here to tell you this is my one year anniversary. I been clean and morally decent and polite for exactly 12 months, two days and four hours. I used to bully people around as an apartment manager where I really abused the authority entrusted to me. I cut in line at the Bayview Market. I browbeat people and stepped on their shoes. I cussed out pedestrians from my truck and scared the day workers. Being a jerk had become a sick addiction; I could never get enough power. But, I can say I have not been mean or acted like a bully jerk since June 6th, 2012."

Cheers of support. Way to go! Good job! You da man!

"And I really owe it all to my Higher Power and my service dog, little Amigo."

"Woof!" Amigo raised and lowered his head after vocalizing.

"Thank you, Floyd, for that courageous and inspiring story," Ms. Light said. "Now everyone I'd like to introduce you to someone many of you probably know. This is Mr. Bud Smugg, owner of Peace Bites on Park Street. Peace Bites trains and supplies the service dogs we use, just like little Amigo here."

"Woof!"

Bud Smugg had established his business originally out at the Point where he collected animals from the ASPCA and the local animal shelter to train them to provide a very important service. Years ago, after a howling baboon of a man hit Bud in the crosswalk and then cursed him for being there, Bud looked around and noticed an epidemic of jerkiness and porous boundaries had spread like contagion throughout the Bay Area.

Psychiatrists consider someone with vaporous boundaries to be schizo, but all around the Bay Area these people considered themselves to just be superior, with-it, on top of the game.

To such people anything was better than being someone's patsy -- even being a dick. Pushiness, instead of being seen as it is by most normal people, as a nasty character flaw, was seen as a value.

Like any cautious businessman, Bud put out some feelers. He did market research. All over the Island people came to him with stories about their neighbors trying to control their lives, apartment managers who threatened and cursed the tenants, managers who browbeat and belittled subordinates. Pizza restaurants where the customer never was good enough for the food.

Whereas everybody dislikes a wishy-washy pushover, such people really are only annoying at worst and cause harm only to themselves. Most of them abstract themselves from society somehow through Darwinian processes. Jerks, however, always seem to come out, if not on the very top, then on top of somebody by dint of obnoxiousness, which often is misperceived by the Comfortable as usefulness.

It turned out that in every building there was at least one person who made life miserable for everybody else through controlling behavior. We all have had to deal with people like this. In one building a woman tried to get her neighbors to move their furniture in their own apartments because noise of a certain frequency gave her migraines so they all had to change the channels of their TV sets and radios as well.

Clearly the Island suffered from an epidemic of assholism. And in this epidemic, money was to be made.

All the dogs were trained to bite their owner upon initiation phrases like, "I really need you to . . .", and "Well if you don't do this, I guess I will have to just . . .".

The dogs were snapped up like hotcakes once Bud got in business. Tenants of apartment buildings got together and raised kitties to provide a dog for particularly troublesome neighbors. Middle managers everywhere turned into effective negotiation machines and their departments began to thrive. Many boyfriends turned into model lovers after girlfriends introduced their new pets. "Look at the puppy with those big brown eyes . . ."!

That's when Ms. Light, founder of Pushy People Anonymous approached Bud with the comment, "I think we have potential for a symbiotic relationship here. Let's form a merger."

"Cool," said Bud. "Your place or mine?"

The old High School's Administration granite facade and original classroom buildings are surrounded by a ten-foot high fence and the seismically unsound buildings are slated for "reassignment", read demo and conversion to condos. However the playing fields behind the school still provide space for events like graduations for the other schools in the area and what remains of Washington High that continues in newer buildings. Due to population shifts and the legacy of the economic downturn coupled with the new realities of fiscal austerity, for many schools this will be the last graduation to take place on the tattered Encinal playing fields.

A lot of faculty who have been guiding kids for decades since the days the Navy was here are picking this year to be their swan song. So for the class of '13, this is a very bittersweet graduation time. These kids that used to bash birthday piñatas from the branches of thick front-yard maple trees, who used to scamper on bicycles through Jackson and Washington Parks and propel plastic Big Wheels down Benton, St. Charles, Taylor, now are looking at a very uncertain future.

They are about to go out into the society of an Island washed by change and deliberate amnesia. California is a place where people come in great numbers who will have no more connection with their classmates, and who, in many cases wish that past called by some growing up to be incinerated with all the names and addresses and reminders of all the pain that caused them to come here. There are over a dozen projects underway that will result in a 10 to 12% increase in Island population within the next two years, and none of those newcomers will have any memory of Mayor Ralph or when the Navy was here or the year the Jets won the big game between East and West End.

This does include not only people from Newark, New Jersey and Athens, GA but also places with horrific histories deserving of some erasure, like Bosnia and the Sudan, Cambodia and Tibet.

In front of the old school entrance there are class commemoration bricks set into the pavement, starting with the year somebody thought to begin this tradition. Rank upon rank the years march down from 1924 to the year seismologists sealed shut the massive doors between the Greco-Roman pillars.

Dolly Parton, the coalminer's daughter, saw nothing precious in the place that had vilified her and turned her at times into a carnival sideshow. Those who regard the past as a halcyon time are contradicted by those who have no good memories at all. So, with her fame and her wealth Dolly turned her hometown into a carnival themepark.

Many are those here who, given half a chance, do everything in their power to pave over, demolish, rehab, reconstruct and reformulate the scenes of their worst humiliations. For every preservationist, there is another Mulholland pushing forward yet another version of the Peripheral Canal. For every misty-eyed romantic, an angry Dollywood. It has always been that way.

On Saturday the kids of '13, soon to become all too quickly men and women, filed to the rows of cafeteria chairs between bright yellow ropes hung with fluttering pennants of hope. Beyond the chainlink fence which had stymied many homerun hopes stood the Editor watching the assembly. From this distance he could not hear the speaker's remarks and so walked on.

What would you say to the Class of '13 if given the chance? It's fine to preserve those affectionate connections, a few remembrances -- you are going to need them. But like the number of your graduation year, its nothing to which to pin yourself, else your entire life becomes unlucky. Go out there and climb mountains, break your legs on them. Skydive and marry unwisely. Love unwisely and make many mistakes while traveling so your homeboys will not remember you for them. Do all those things and more. Get into trouble. I say do these things because you will do them anyway. Who listens to any old man who has all behind him when things for you are just getting jump-started into the wide blue of freedom?

And when you next, many years down the way, see a group of kids waiting to get on the school bus with their anxious parents standing there, know that by the time the kid steps up onto the school bus everything has already been decided -- its all done. You have already done everything you could do and all the rest is just filling out forms and paying larger bills. At least as far as parental sayso goes.

So that all comes down to avoiding too much reflection save for that which teaches you to learn from your mistakes, of which you should strive to make many. You will never know for sure what is important until you strive hard and fail. So I say to you, Class of '13, go forth and fail. But fail mightily. Then again, if you try hard enough, you just might succeed because nothing is a sure thing. Know for certain that nothing is certain. There is no one Truth. Like any uncertain particle, a quark, a meson, even your humble electron, as soon as you direct your attention there, it jumps away and then its gone. Just like that.

As the witching hour approached, the Editor stood out on the deck to see Orion appearing right on time above the huge boxwood elder. Above all, Class of '13, strive and succeed at not being an asshole. Otherwise, Butt's PPA Service dogs will surely bite you in the end.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

JUNE 2, 2013

DISCO DUCKS

We had a couple visitors recently checking out the neighbors

The Island - a place where even the birds are curious.


NEW TIMES! NEW TIMES! NEW NEW NEW TIMES!

The rash of evictions and subsequent rent gouging has now touched the moderately comfortable in that owners of boats stashed at Nelson's Marina got the posting just days before Marshals chained up the gates, causing an unholy furor among boat owners still in the process of rendering craft seaworthy. The City took possession of the facility May 10th after the owner failed to make good on a $37,000 utility fee. People with the means to own and refurbish yachts are now learning what its like to be served eviction notices and then have their stuff padlocked under threat of theft and disposal. Think this will make any of them start thinking about what happens to people when its their livelihood and family that gets kicked out for no fault of their own.

Nah.

More salvos on the budget front appeared in both weeklies. One astute commentator noted that although strapped, this Island city is better off than many, if not most, in the state and claims that a "balanced budget" has been hammered out with this and that sort of provision.

There's a bit of complaining about Prop 13, which we seem to recall in our foggy minds happened about three or more decades ago, but you know, civil servants used to possess long tenure.

Nevertheless here we are and while 4 million in debt is not yet bankruptcy of the sort Vallejo suffered, its serious and talking about and is undoubtedly part of the reason the Police Department just announced parking fines and fees increases to boost revenues for itself by $333,000. The island is flat, people. Better get panniers and a new tire for that bicycle in the garage.


AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT, HOW'S THE OLD WAZOO

With a minority of numbskulls trying to distract the Country with shouts of BengaziBengaziBengazi something in the hindbrain caused us to do a little journalistic research. Well, turns out one person's Administration featured hella worse lapses than the one in Libya. That, of course, would have been the man notorious for failure and on the short list for Worst President ever, the comedian's ever beloved Dubya.

Here's a few facts worth remembering, courtesy of our favorite source for political fashion tips and religious advice, America's Best Xian, Mrs. Betty Bowers:


WHAT'S THE BUZZ

ProArts is holding its annual East Bay Open Studios. The first weekend passed, leaving June 8-9th, same weekend as First Friday's in the Uptown district of Oakland. In case you have not noticed the abandonment of large swathes of real estate due to the Great Recession by automobile dealerships and the hundreds of micro and mid-sized businesses that fed on the auto sales industry has resulted in a plethora of art galleries and workspaces filling in the holes. With scandalous rents driving working artisans out of Babylon across the water the East Bay is now experiencing a huge Renaissance of creative work that is drawing now the attention of worldtrippers from London, Paris and Buenos Aires.

A case in point is SLATE Design which is curated by Danielle Fox, a former employee of Sotheby's. Fox is launching a multi-pronged artistic endeavor with the idea that when times are tough, it is time to break out the ropes and climb Mount Everest without oxygen tanks.

ProArts includes an host of all kinds of niche artisans from the very publicly successful Pat Payne, who installs large-scale bronzes in open spaces to people who just want to embroider their name for a little fun.

We are happy to see that the former Autobody space at 1517 Park is still alive, now broken up into a dozen studios and calls itself "Popups", however the Autobody name remains on the facade outside and Richard Kane remains as the primary leaseholder, occupying a corner of the space for his music/media covers workshop.

In the other studios there you will find everything from whimsical portraits made of "found" plastic trash to Jamie Banes' miniature worlds constructed of Lucite and powered LEDs. Bane's has moved in his long career from large-scale public art to reduced fit's-easily-in-a-room pieces. He commented that he is fascinated by the industrial complexes with gantries and towers lit suggestively with high-powered lights and will be moving into kinetic sculptures in the future. He is also another transplant from the Telegraph Hill crowd across the water and we welcome him here with open arms. His work can be seen at http://www.jamiebanes.com/mainpage.html.

On the other end of the Island Susan Laing, felt textiles, has partnered with Margo White, illustration for an interesting visit. Lain works in her garage which still has tools and natural history reminders left behind by her late husband Jim Kitson, graphic designer. The space is surrounded by a garden filled with bursting flowers and succulents -- the garden itself is worth the visit and this year Susan has put out benches and an umbrella for the shade. Laing hand selects raw wool from farms in California, then cleans, cards, and dyes the wool to make truly original wool panels, pillows and scarves. All materials are natural and some of the dyes have recipes going back thousands of years.

Margo White's work can be seen at paperedworlds.weebly.com. She does whimsical etching and drawings of beasts, harlequins, and collages -- one of which was featured on the cover the The Monthly (Oct. 2003).

This year ProArts has 350+ open studios with 18 of them on the Island. Drop in to any studio to get a map and a list of participants, enjoy some refreshing liquids and nosh on whatever hummus/cheese plate/dolmas/tapas the artist(s) has laid out.


TRIAL BY FIRE

So anyway, a number of years ago Bear was rode his vintage '54 Panhead for a long ride out in the valley, talking the winding road that climbs up past the observatory and then down again to return to the Island out by Crab Cove, there to look across the water at distant Babylon's string of lights and the slowly easing sunset out past the Golden Gate, easing his mind from the rough handling that sometimes life metes out.

He was remembering a friend of his named Johnny, who had gone off to Vietnam in 1972 and not come back. As for a few others of his acquaintance. For Bear, everyday was Memorial Day, and the weird national holiday had nothing to do with anything in his experience.

a ferocious beard provided home for ... an assortment of animal life

Bear remained the same as he always was: a swarthy man with one red tennis shoe on his left foot and one green one on his right, both diffidently fastened, equally mismatched socks of varying colors depending on what had been found in the drawer that morning or the previous. His sturdy legs sported denims that probably had seen the nineteen-sixties come and go by way of the manner stitches and patches held them together. Underneath something tattered, soiled, and disdainful which once had been a proud leather biker jacket, a tee-shirt that sometimes functioned dually as motoroil absorber and noserag adorned his ample chest above which a ferocious beard provided home for two full lips and an assortment of animal life culled from various alate species. He stored his Harley in the livingroom of his cottage next to the couch.

Some men, inhabiting life in such condition, would have found a lack of female companionship to be a bother, but Bear never had a problem with that issue. He was not without mates, but let us say those relationships tended towards impermanence.

As the sun began to drop behind the striations of liquid incarnadine and gold shot with azure sky and white cloud a flash of green suffused the horizon. Just as old Orion began his thousand year hunt across the heavens a car pulled up and two people got out to amble over and gaze at the vista. All down the beach solitary individuals walked their dogs in the blue light, kicked sand in company, gazed seaward in a way only the mariner and the long-term prairie sodbuster understands, for out there is not field nor sea, but the eternal Big Sky, always worth looking at, especially when Life takes a sudden turn.

The man started up a conversation with Bear, which is no mean feat to accomplish, for you must know Bear was a man of few words, if only for the fact that Bear stored only a handful of those things within the etui of his mind. But this man was Irish, and, for all their faults, the Irish will never be at a lack of words -- it's their own response to . . . inevitabilities.

Look at the stars, said the woman. There's Orion, just like back home.

Which one is Orion, Bear asked.

The woman pointed him out and indicated the twinkling outline points. And that string there that's his belt. Or it could be his sword. Or something else.

Ok, Bear said.

Was he, Bear, an American, meaning genuine article and all that pertains?

Yes.

And was that not indeed a genuine American motorcycle of the type storied and exalted in literature and film and song?

Yes.

Well then.

You? English?

Heavens no! Irish. From Ireland. She by way of San Diego with short hops and marriage.

Married?

Married yes. But not to each other.

Married yes. But not to each other.

O!

With success comes the dutiful marriage and the wildly undutiful spouse

Well, let me explain, said the Irishman, whose name turned out to be David. The woman was named Danielle. David had grown up in abject penury, which in Ireland is quite a harsh thing for the weather is beastly and the people sometimes worse than the weather when they are your neighbors and aware of you. But a relative had earned a fortune writing children's books about a stuffed bear and his friends and this relative had developed a great wish for David, who got sent off to school where they discovered the boy actually had talent! In music of all things! One thing led to another (this story would itself comprise a short novella) and David became quite the star in the firmament of Irish classical music, working his way, if it may be called that, to full orchestral conductor. With success comes the dutiful marriage and the wildly undutiful spouse, soon dispensed with in typical Irish fashion, with a house and income and orders never to show her face.

This was, of course, when the Republic was predominantly Catholic, and not the hotbed of liberal sin and divorce it has become.

Danielle had longed to escape the drab sandy hot dry confines of San Diego and so had cultivated her own musical abilities, soon gravitating to Ireland, as becoming a member of the Staatskappele in Wien, Berlin, Bonn, Paris, London, Tokyo, Beijin or any of the great cities involved standing in line a long time and worshipping, in turn, someone's personal Priapus.

So she was a flautist and gorgeous and people noticed. The world of performance is difficult and you do what you have to do. So she took up the harp. Easier to say, "Sorry Sir, I simply cannot do what you wish."

O the scandals of the classical music world she could unveil! The atrocious bestial habits! The carnality! The fiddling!

So she found herself in dear dirty Dublin, the Ford of the Hurdles. To stay in country as a musician she conveniently married an Irishman who turned out to be conveniently gay as blazes but with the hots for Eton graduates. They never lived together and so that was that -- she got her residence card, and because divorce was illegal, she remained Irish until death, but what was a girl in the prime of life to do?

She did what all reasonable Irish did in those days: she met David who was handsome, charming, affectionate and moved in with him to make what the Church and State still could not figure out -- harmony instead of Matrimony. They had bearskin fur comforters on their bed made in Bulgaria to keep them warm. For a while fur kept them warm.

Well that story lasted only so long. There is some kind of income for the Kappelemeister of Dublin, but coming from the sort of background he had, David also wanted to do some good in the world and so David took on as a part time sort of thing this choirmaster for a boy's school in Belfield. These two occupations occupied most of his time and of course, there were in the late nights opportunities offered to the handsome Kappelmeister.

As for Danielle, she was quite a hot pistol coming to dear dowdy Dubh Linn after traveling all over the world. O she did the charity work for the Magdelenes in their laundries and she took on the troubles of the wives living close by and sheltered them during the times of red devils in the bed and all hell breaking loose and all regarded her as the saint and soul of all things good.

Well you know how it goes. The brief infidelities. The shouting and the recriminations. The loud arguments of which the Irish are surely the champions. Then comes the dreadful moment when there is the handslap to the face. The overt threat. Shouting and worse. Screaming and shattering of things. The common recognition that Life does not go according to plan. Public insults. Door slams. Anger swells in the close rooms fueled by peat fires in the once homey hearth and requirements. How could you. You ass. Her voice, once the delight of sopranos turning into a shrill harpy's shriek. Smashing crockery. The mild-mannered Choirmaster of a boy's school found himself raising his angry fist to strike. The bestial . . .

Danielle found herself traveling down the hall with a large cleaver in her hand to enter the amber-lit room to find David sobbing with his head in his hands.

The pistol lay on the bed beside him. His hands looked tired and old as they held his bearded head, heavy, so heavy. How had things come to this?

Now was the time for a vacation. Perhaps their last together. Trying to figure things out. Looking for a sign.

So there they were at the ends of the world, their common law marriage falling apart and Orion wheeling overhead from where the arrowshot had put him with his mysterious belt. Everything was finished, everything ruined.

And there sat Bear, listening. I know hard people.

Yes. Of course, David said.

You aren't like that. I see two good people. You describe two strangers. Ask your friends -- is this you? No. Everybody knows. How did you get here?

Uh, said Danielle. We flew.

Nonstop?

Uh I think we changed planes in . . . Chicago. Was it Chicago?

I think it was Chicago, David said. It was an airport.

So you come all this way sitting together and here you are. You don't want to break this up do you?

Silence.

Go home. Meet again. Move. Start over. Talk about those bad people you knew that did bad things. Those other people.

Well, David said. Well.

That wasn't him, was it, Bear said to Danielle. You know him. That was someone else.

Righ', Danielle said.

Look out there for a while, Bear said, meaning the darkening bay with the constellations marching overhead. You came a long way. And he got up and started up his motorcycle and before leaving them there he said, Go home. Become beautiful.

Then he left the couple there and they were silent a long time. Eventually they got back in their rental car and drove away and continued their trip up the California coast, not saying much to each other, thinking. When they got back to their place on the outskirts of Dublin they moved out of the big house and put it up for rent, taking lodgings in a cottage down the path that had once been a gamekeeper's lodge. It was smaller, snug, and the piano filled what passed for the diningroom/livingroom. They changed their names to names which are not recorded here. Before moving out though they had a short courtship. The man who had been David showed up on the doorstep ringing the bell.

The woman who had been Danielle opened the door and exclaimed, "What on earth! Did you lose your keys?"

"Hello," the man who had been named David said. "My name is ---------. Would you like to come live with me?" And he gave her a spray of gorgeous flowers.

The woman who had been Danielle quit her job, snipped a few loose ends, employed different tradesmen, and became the other person that was herself, her real self. A person passing on the street might call out a name, but she kept on, and if they persisted, it was "I am sorry, do I know you from somewhere?"

Friends were very puzzled

And so that is how the story went. Friends were very puzzled and of course for a while telephones and such things were a tremendous problem. You see those people, well they were aweful and we do not deal with them anymore, or as little as possible. The school took things in stride. The man who had been David told them that a dear relative who had written children's books about the adventures of a stuffed bear had passed away and he had taken on the man's name for sentimental reasons. Well with reasons like that, you can go far in Ireland to be sure.

It's not easy assuming a new life; you don't just don one like an overcoat, but in this case it was worth it. Everyone who met them commented what a lovely couple they were. As for that other couple that used to live in the big house up the hill, well. We don't talk about them. We just know they are still there.

The Editor walked about turning off the lights in the office, now past one A.M. and stepped out to look at Orion, now leaning a bit over the Old School building, thinking about this week's issue and its ambiguities. Orion's Belt. Could be one thing. Could be another.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark blue waves of the estuary , and wavered across the waving grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off beneath the gaze of Orion parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

MAY 26, 2013

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

This week the headline foto shows of part of a local garden where the seasonal flower of California holds sway.

Wikipedia states, in an article most likely written by a English military officer:

"In Flanders Fields" is a rondeau poem, written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially unsatisfied with his work, discarded it. "In Flanders Fields" was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict.

Here are more personal details as described in www.greatwar.co.uk.

"It is thought that doctor John McCrae (30th November 1872 — 28th January 1918) began the draft for his famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ on the evening of the 2nd May, 1915 in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres.

It is believed that the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, was the inspiration for McCrae's poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The exact details of when the first draft was written may never be known because there are various accounts by those who were with McCrae at that time.

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was an officer in the 2nd Battery, 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery and had become good friends with John McCrae. On the morning of Sunday 2nd May Alexis left his dugout and was killed instantly by a direct hit from an 8 inch German shell. What body parts could be found were later gathered into sandbags and laid in an army blanket for burial that evening.

Alexis was 22 years old and a popular young officer. Before the outbreak of war he had graduated from McGill University with a degree in Civil Engineering. He was the son of Elizabeth I. Helmer of 122, Gilmour St., Ottawa, and the late Brigadier General R. A. Helmer.

Near to the 1st Canadian Brigade's position on the canal bank there was a small burial ground which had originally been established during the First Battle of Ypres in the autumn of the previous year, 1914. The Second Battle of Ypres began on 22nd April 1915 and by early May the burial ground also contained graves of French and Canadian casualties. It became known as Essex Farm British Military Cemetery.

Lieutenant Helmer was buried on the 2nd May. In the absence of the chaplain, Major John McCrae conducted a simple service at the graveside, reciting from memory some passages from the Church of England's 'Order of Burial of the Dead'. A wooden cross marked the burial place. The grave has since been lost. Lieutenant Alexis Helmer is now commemorated on Panel 10 of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres; he is one of the 54,896 soldiers who have no known grave in the battlefields of the Ypres Salient."

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Finally, Lt. Col. Morrison wrote during a memoire of that time, "Just as John described it, it was not uncommon early in the morning to hear the larks singing in the brief silences between the bursts of the shells and the returning salvos of our own nearby guns.”

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

Some things have slowed down to shake hands with the approaching Season of Summer, but crime and rambunctiousness continue with zest and vigor here on the the Island. Neighbors enjoyed a little melee outside the sports bar Scobies in which an estimated 40 people flailed at one another with fists and, apparently knives or broken bottles, as one fellow was found by responding officers prone with lacerations. The residence hotel across the street from the bar had been a source of citizen's complaint, earning it the unenviable local moniker of "The Roach Motel", however ever since the place has been closed for renovation things have gotten dicier at Scobies, which is of the rude wooden bench and pooltable variety of hangout.

The melee seems to have originated from a women's room argument.

In another hallmark of change, the Army/Navy Women's Club officially met for the last time on the date of its 100th birthday at the old Officer's Club. Wives of retired officers started the club in 1913.

It is interesting that the Fire Department, which already has a lock on the lucrative emergency ambulance services, for the Island is now expanding transport services to non-emergency types for the sole reason of increasing revenue. You may hear language about "clarification of agreements" and "reclassification" and such, but we note that a quick two block ride with the FD will set you back a cool $3,000, which tends to drop quite a pretty penny into the strapped Department's funds. If you figure there were just one emergency transport per day, you will see just why Mike D'Orazi and Co. scrapped so hard to keep the transport services a monopoly. This is called "responding adroitly to the new era of fiscal austerity".

Will the Police Department get into the home alarm system business next?

Speaking of fiscal austerity and "new realities", anyone who has anything to do with public services and services that rely upon local government schedules knows that the looming July 1 fiscal end of year approaches like some hairy shibboleth with dripping venomous fangs. Because the end of year is such a fixed line in the sand for local and State governments, now is the time when those massive stacks of paper devoted to budget proposals get heaved onto the desks of clerks and bureaucrats from Yreka to San Ysidoro. Its the time when, even if they may not work much the rest of the year, by god during these months they all put their shoulders to the wheel.

Predictably, our own little Charter government Island has its mixture of Machiavells and mendicants doing battle with one another over a budget that is estimated to suffer a $2.7 million deficit next fiscal year, a deficit expected to swell to $4.4 million on the following go-around 2014-2015.

Our deficit is that large? Didn't know we were even spending that much for a Silly Council and a City Hall that stays open only four days a week.

The lion's share of expense (75% of budget) go to public safety, as in Police and Fire, both of which are enjoying minimal cutbacks. They are getting cut, nevertheless, just not as much as everybody else. The real pain will be felt in General Fund programs and projects, which include a cool half million to be sliced from Parks and Rec, maintenance by Public Works, capital projects. It is not true that our private electrical utility AMP is draining the fund, for in fact the utility has been pumping cash into the fund at the rate of $2.8 million per year -- a situation that is certain to change for the worse.

Looking at the planned methodologies for handling the deficits we see discrepancies as well as inadequacies, the detail of which can be summed up fairly well. The plan is to cut spending per Conservative dogma. This of course results in smaller government, which is the idea behind Conservativism. The cutbacks are insufficient in themselves to handle the deficits as the projected revenue shows only moderate to miniscule increases. So the fallback plan is to "carryover" the loss to the next fiscal year.

Um, yeah.

That idea violates every conceivable Conservative dogma, program, scruple or whatever. It also violates Liberal scruples as well, although you will never hear either side admit it. And it violates common sense.

Common sense here derives from basic business practice, which states you cannot make money by cutting back; you make money by spending money. Now we all know by now that you cannot run government like business. The two entities have different objectives, different goals which do not touch one another.

History has shown that everywhere draconian austerity is practiced, economies stumble and fail. You cannot increase revenue by slashing expenses -- that is called "cooking the books". Nothing has changed in five thousand years of human history to alter the basic rule that you succeed by offering the best possible goods and/or services at the best possible price. You offer the best goods and services by means of investment -- that means you have to put money into the system so things can grow. Call it Capitalism or common sense -- it is and always has been the truth.

Just look at places where there is either no government or a minimal one. Places like Somalia. Is that what you want?

With pride we note that our local BSA troop leadership has stated they would support a national resolution to put aside the anti-gay policies that restrict membership and leadership to heterosexuals only. Local leaders have stated they are present for all local residents and will continue to "extend membership to all youth and adults who are willing to follow the ideals of the Scout oath and law." Patrick Kenny, a member of the local executive board, has stated succinctly, "We are here for the kids." In other words, we do not care and will not ask about any gender orientation. All right, it is said that anything you do for children is never wasted.

Finally in the Letters to the Editor we see that more people are getting miffed at Ron Cowan's Harbor Bay. We have been here on the Island some two decades and more and when we first got here we found a number of people up in arms and angry at the man even then, which did not help things the time his outfit tried a fast one in attempting to seize the land occupied by a public golf course via shikanery.

Edgar Allan Poe has a short story call "The Imp of the Perverse" and its about a guy who just cannot help himself but always must be up to shenanigans and mischief even when the results are bound to hurt himself. It seems Cowan, or his outfit Harbor Bay Realtors, has some kind of imp that propels destructive deviousness here on the Island. California is well over 800 miles long as the arrow flies, but some devil is in Cowan's HBR that makes them want to muddy the waters in this particular spot even though there is plenty of swampland and desert to muck around with elsewhere. Why in the name of Beelzebub the man is compelled to turn his own hometown into Dolly Parton's Theme Park is anyone's guess.

Latterly HBR (sounds like the initials of some kind of blue-collar beer) wants to demolish the athletic club on Harbor Bay so as to place it someplace really inconvenient and replace the location with more buildings. It seems HBR feels they are owed something, but last we heard nobody in Northern California is owed anything save for the Ohlone, the Miwok and the Pomo of Clearlake. We don't see HBR giving any of those people a single postage stamp worth of land.

If HBR leverages a lawsuit against the City -- these days a common way for thieves like SunCal to snatch a boodle for doing little -- they will terminate any future hopes of doing business here as well as any claim to the development land to which they feel they are entitled. At the moment they are wise to stick to importuning and making a nuisance of themselves.

TELL ME WHAT'S A HAPPENIN'

The start of June is always a pleasant time in NorCal. Nine months away from the onset of Winter's worst Shut-in days means lots of birthdays to celebrate in fog-free weather and shirt-sleeve temps. June 9th sees Oakland celebrating its jewel with Love Our Lake Day. Visitors will note that a section by Lake Merritt that used to be 12th Street is now become an amiable pedestrian boulevard. It was all paid for by Measure DD. Check out Loveourlake.com for details and go to the lake to love it and someone else on and under a blanket.

June also kicks off the summer season of outdoor street fairs. Berkeley gets things going in its own unique style with the LIve Oak Park fair. Check out Liveoakparkfair.com.

Naturally we swing to all things musical. We will be blessed to enjoy Canada's scion of the Wainright family, a family that has demonstrated so much talent that it hardly seems there is enough to go around for the rest of us, in form of Rufus Wainright at Davies Hall over in Babylon. He will be dropping in for one night only on June 9th, as he takes a pause between songwriting, book authoring, classical music composing, and screen acting. But he will perform -- you can expect that.

One of our East Bay gems is Mosswood Park Amphitheatre, a little bit of green tucked into the armpit of Oaktown's downtown in view of the Lake. The sturdily common-folk named Burger Boogaloo will take place there June 6-7th. It is $40 but you will see the likes of proto-punk turned CW man Jonathan Richman who was last seen falling off of a wharf in There's Something About Mary.

Wanna get out of town? Same weekend coming up is the Healdsburg Jazz Festival stretching its legs from May 31 to June 9th hard by the Russian River. Go to Healdsburgjazz.org for the full schedule which will include Bill Frisell and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Time again for another Bullwinkelshow! Yay! June 1 will have the Chocolate and Chalk Art festival up on Shattuck in the "gourmet ghetto" of Berkeley. It sounds odd but it really works and this one is fun for all ages.

The mood in music is softer now that a semblance of sanity and intelligence occupies the Oval Office in a kingdom far far away, so now is a good time to get out and forget about unaccomplished missions and Brownies doing "a heckofa job" to the populace. The foreign wars are winding down, America's arch nemesis is dead, people in the Middle East are learning to deal with each other without an American pointing a gun at them and the economy seems to be getting better for some people, even if you have not seen it yet for yourself. From BFD to Outside Lands and the Kate Wolf Festival, this is the summer to be young and randy and full of life before the next wretchedness gets inflicted on us by people imagining they want to do us good.

Mark Twain had an aphorism about that and if you are old enough to remember it, have fun anyway and if you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own.

THEN CAME THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

So anyway, with the weather gotten into something similar to what other places call summer, all the hopeful soon-to-be grads were gettting busy doing very little schoolwork, studying for those finals, having parties in which everybody asked "did you get accepted?" even though the question had been answered three months previously, or from the other side of the socio-economic spectrum, "didja make 'er"? or, "workin' for the old man"? All these things sorting themselves out with excitement, as if anything decided in these days would be the end all, the turning point that would decide everything for the rest of their lives, these teenagers, even while the poppies are rioting among the apple trees and cherries are for sale on every street corner as los migras come down to the warmer temps from up north with their pickup trucks and their flatbeds and their vans from the bing cherry trees of Washington State all lugging sacks of cherries bursting with that momentary mixture of tart and sweetness that we enjoy for such a brief moment in our lives.

The world is turning and to someone on the cusp of life about to reach out to that brass ring going by, everything is right now.

The change of seasons has great significance to those who are older as well. Trout season has begun and now the weather has ceased its up and downs, the opportunities to get into the Sierra foothills arrives. Snow, the lifeblood of California, seals up the trails and roads leading up into the highlands until late Spring. This year the Tioga Pass road opened May 11 and so now was the time to think about getting up there after the initial melt had eased off and the flow of the streams had slowed.

Eugene gathered up his rig, and although living beside the salt water, he drove over to the practice ponds in the Golden Gate Park to practice the perfect cast that in its loops and hoverings in the air imitated perfectly the aerial ballet of a tasty, tempting nymph. Its a curious exercise in a meticulous art over shallow pools that never will host a fish of any size, sort of like Picasso practicing the drawing of a horsey over and over again before doing Guernica. In his desk drawers they found after the artist had died hundreds upon hundreds of carefully rendered sketches of foals, mares, stallions, each precisely rendered and anatomically perfect.

Some kind of front swept in this week from offshore, bringing with it whipping winds and an unearthly atmosphere of pending disaster. There was even a spattering of rain that soaked the front seat of Reverend Freethought's Dodge Dart, as she had left the driver's side window rolled down. A big 5.0 shaker knocked things off shelves up country this week and ruined a few swimming pools but no disaster of obvious note occured.

An atmosphere of pending disaster persists among all of us who know the Masters of War are still hard at work, but you cannot live your life in that zone. We all have this sense that things are not finished, that no mission -- whatever that might be -- is accomplished. It is like the unfinished Boston Marathon which no ceremonial "Last Mile" sort of political shindig meant to assuage our collective feelings can tidy up. Things will just have to wait the slow revolve of the months until the following May for the next marathon, as the entire point is to run the thing the distance without stopping. People need to live knowing that life does not have neat executions and resolves like an episode of CSI on TV. The guy who lost his legs in the bomb blast will never get them back. Everybody knows now what a wool-pulling truckload of malarky was the Iraq war and the market collapse and the whole TARP bailout, but none of the bad guys will ever get punished, not nearly to the extent they deserve.

The weatherman forecast rain for Saturday. Friday the full moon hid behind a logjam of clouds and it seemed the entire world held its breath, waiting for the other shoe to fall as Saturday passed with charcoal striations across the horizon. Now they are talking about late Monday while the very air holds back with clouds roiling with portent.

Ms. Morales, the schoolteacher, has a letter from the troubled teen named Karen who shipped off to college last year. Seems the girl has found a group of like-minded discontents who have formed a goth club out there on the edge of the Valley. Chico is a place where cow tipping is seriously still practiced as if it were an original idea by the local frat boys, so it probably is not too difficult for kids living on the edge to find one another. She sent a picture of herself with her newfound friends and there she was, hair dyed with streaks of shocking pink and black and white, pierced and happy surrounded by tattoos and black leather jackets. She is talking about doing her Junior year in France. Looks like the kid is finally all right, thank god.

The woman tucked away the letter into her box in the garage where she and Mr. Ramirez kept the furniture used for election days. The long tables, the chairs, the flagpole stand that now was superfluous as now the County used a sandwich board that was more transportable and easier to maintain than the traditional flag. Mr. Sanchez said to keep the stand anyway and they would go get a flag from Pagano's or Target next time as this was Tradition and one had to keep a sense of pride about things. After all, the basis of a healthy democracy is not its army -- which is important certainly, but not the ultimate foundation of things -- the basis of democracy resided in the ballot box and the humble people who sheltered it and made the whole thing flow along the way it was supposed to. Every country in the world has an army; not every country has the ballot box together with people like Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morales. In such small things like flowers capable of cracking hard pavement roars the strength of nations.

The Editor took a walk in the garden. This has been his habit each Memorial Day, regardless of where the Offices have been located and represents his own observance. Of course he gets the VA envelopes and the usual invites to things like bugel blowing at sunrise and so forth. He had despised that sort of flummery when he wore a uniform and saw no reason to change now and still maintained that you could always tell the difference between an officer and a grunt by the response to incoming fire -- the one who ducks down is the grunt and the one who pokes his head up is the officer. All other times the rule was Situation Normal.

There beneath the humongous mistake of a tree that no one had ever bothered to cut back or down -- it was a box elder attendant with the usual problems that infest such trees -- he paused to look up at the nearly full moon. It was then he noticed a little ways up a white box. He stepped up on the wood pile and took it down from where someone had nestled it in a crook. It was a folded carton about nine by six by three inches with a wire handle similar to those used for Chinese takeout. Inside looked to be the leftovers from someone's hot dish casserole, except this one appeared to contain sliced jalapenos.

The Editor remembered when several years ago Juanita had served the Norwegian bachelor farmers who had come looking for their lost Lutheran Pastor Inqvist.

The Editor folded up the box and put it back into the tree and returned to the house for a stiff scotch on the rocks. Thus ended Memorial Day as the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark blue waves of the estuary flecked with white lights and bobbing with red beacons, and wavered across the waving grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off beneath the purple mountain's majesty to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

MAY 19, 2013

ALL AROUND YOUR ISLAND

This week's whimsical headline foto comes from Chad's corner and could just as easily pertain to the dreams of some of our more radical anti-development citizens here. Would that it were so.

This sign is used at the Safeway petrol station on the edge of the Southshore Mall.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Monday marks the 4th iteration of "Milk Day", as in Harvey Milk, the gay Supervisor who, along with Mayor Moscone, was murdered in the chambers of SF City Hall by a disgruntled ex-Supervisor November 27, 1978. Official events will be led by keynote speaker Anne Kronenberg, who served as Milk's campaign manager. Most events will take place at Encinal High. For more info visit harveymilkday on Facebook.

While Harvey, known as a personal friend by some of us here, was certainly a major figure, we hope that the legacy of George Moscone also will be remembered. As a heterosexual, Moscone was considered ahead of his time as an early proponent of gay rights. In conjunction with his friend and ally in the Assembly, Willie Brown, Moscone managed to pass a bill repealing California's sodomy law. The repeal was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown.

The waters of the Bay appear to the intermediate sailor to be not much of a challenge, however that chop can turn into some surprising vicious stuff -- we know as we have been out on the Bay in 20 footers. A sailor has to know how to read charts very well as the Bay bottom varies wildly from > 30 feet to just three well offshore, and the current ripping down out of Suisun Bay joining thousands of rivulets funnels through a very narrow passage at the Golden Gate with tremendous force at times with a tidal fluctuation periodically plus and minus eight feet with an average of six.

The fatal accident that claimed a seasoned Olympic sailor recently came not days from the relaunch date for the Oracle boat which had just been rebuilt after its capsize catastrophe last fall. America's Cup organizers say the famous race will continue as planned with July 4 as the official start.

Both the Swedish team for the Artemis and the Oracle base their operations out of hangars at the Point here on the Island. Our condolences go out to the surviving crew of the Artemis and to the family of British-born Andrew Simpson.

With improved weather and a supposedly better economy, the local thieves seem to have upped the ante with a slew of daytime break-ins, sometimes with hot prowl consequences. The thieves are trying to take advantage of people being at work or school and have been targeting houses in the 1000 block between Willow and Fair Oaks, bounded by Otis Drive. Now is a good time to learn the faces and habits of your neighbors and perhaps irregularizing schedules.

Tuesday will be the date for which many have looked. That day the Navy finally does the complete, once and for all, conveyance of the Point acreage to the City. Actually, the transfer will take place in four allotments, with the first happening May 21. About 508 acres of dry land will be passed over with some 870 acres of submerged property. This is the end result of the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Act.

In a seperate deal, the Navy will hand over 624 acres of the airfield to the Veterans Affairs department at the end of this year.

Although the Navy has spent 16 years cleaning up toxic materials much of the land remains "brown site" with limitations on development due to toxic metal contamination, benzenes, lead, and radioactive waste that collected during the Navy's 75 years of tenancy.

So much is news. What remains to be seen now is how the land grab plays out. Greed is a powerful motivator and right now, land is the new gold in California where there are many Californios who wish someone had shot Joseph Sutter in the knees before he got to town waving that bag of gold dust like a perfect idiot.

Of course one could always turn every inch of those 508 acres into a least tern park preserve, but you know it will not happen that way.

This weekend the beautiful weather backdropped a number of events. Southshore hosted the Pacific Islander festival, the Maker Faire took place at the San Mateo Event Center where inventors and craftspeople showcased their original oddities with the Crucible's usual assortment of incendiary mayhem along with the reprise of the lifesized Mousetrap.

We toddled up to the Greek Festival in Oakland as it was from Greece we derived the word "democracy" and the nation that gave us Sophocles, Kazanzakis and the Sedaris family consists substantially of islands there in the wine-dark Aegean sea.

Anywhere Island-Life goes we go in search of music. Because music soothes the aching heart, provides balm for distemper, mollifies assholism, eases the red devils when one is lieing alone late at night in the bed, builds strong character, puts red blood cells in your meat, treats all sorts of social ills including, but not exclusive to, chilblains, nervous jumping up and down, augue, fevers, malaria, ebola, rampant obstructionism, superficial and caustic hurts, bad worms, corns and calluses, venereal disease, hysterical chastity, psychic disorders, halitosis, falling hair, falling arches, cramps, a number of allergies, consumption, savage wickedness, hot miseries, malnutrition, leaking roofs, box elder bug infestation, and besides . . . its good for you.

Naturally the Greeks, coming as they do from a very old civilization have a very fine music. One which appeals to young and old. Here a lovely chanteuse addresses her young paramour.

If you ever visit Pelleponese or the bone-white sands of fabled Ios, you better know that Greek and "shrinking violet" are antonymic expressions.

The distinctive sound of the bouzouki is a mixture of Middle East and Baltic European. Once heard drifting through the groves of Folgandros you will never forget it. Lacking that experience, George Mylordos evokes the cooling breezes caressing the white-washed houses perched on the rocky cliffs.

Philosophers say that our western concept of Beauty comes from the idea of the "Greek line". The features on this girl's face trace a lineage back well over three thousand years.

This music is not for sitting still. Greeks have always been exhuberant and full of rambunctious life. All must dance, young and old!

Eventually even the Archbishop joined the dance.

I WIPE MY BROW, I SWEAT MY RUST

So anyway, after the last Mother's Day escapade which resulted in the violent death and dismemberment of not only the creature known as Euphonia but also Wally's boat -- don't forget Wally's boat was involved in all of this -- everyone in the Household of Marlene and Andre kept a low profile. Marlene had threatened a citizen with grievous bodily harm featuring emasculation. Martini had misused company equipment after hours, driven a vehicle without proper lighting systems on city streets, ignited various incendiary devices, destroyed a boat and a mansion house and in the process had caused a five alarm fire, and had caused general mayhem. Javier had discharged a firearm within city limits and murdered several household service animals with explosive shells.

They were poodles, but a service animal is a service animal.

Denby, Suan, Jose, and practically all the rest had broken, entered, trespassed, committed battery, assault, theft, and arson.

Two women clad in burkas were molested, stripped and subsequently engaged in devil's alcohol after quitting their jobs as Magician's helpers.

Furthermore, if we had not mentioned it already, Wally's boat had been destroyed by means of explosive in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Some of you might want to read back for last week's episode and the terrific fiery end to the figure once known as Euphonia.

In short, it had been an exciting week on the Island which is more known for its kitschy neon signs and old tymy facades.

Of course, the 109 year old bakery, the old florist, the barber shop from the 1940's, Bob's Garage, the Central Cinema, and a few others had been driven out of business by high rents, so that now the places were occupied by ritzy internet cafes and aromatherapy salons and empty rooms awaiting more well-heeled tenants, but still. Even though the old high school is about to be converted to live-work lofts and the Carnegie Library still awaits an angel to renovate and open again in any sort of capacity, we like to think of ourselves as old fashioned because it pays well.

Earlier in the week a spattering of rain flocked the car windows overnight and muscular clouds well shaded with charcoal hung heavy over the town, creating the ominous sense of impending disaster.

This yielded to days of striated sunshine and streaky cloud and fewer explosions.

Before all the brough-haha happened out at the Amazing Anatolia's mansion, Household members who still had some connection to their mothers congregated at the usual spot, Mama's Royal Cafe. Marlene and Andre, Tipitina and Rolf, and little Adam all with either absent, psychotic, or dead mothers spent the time stuffing shells for the bicycle gun Javier had liberated from the museum and packing explosive into the mines to be used later by Martini.

The unremarkable thing about the brunch at Mama's is that nothing exciting happened. No one got killed, no one flew over a lake with a cannonball between their legs and no one got hurt. A few gals enjoyed a fine brunch of omelets and champagne and nothing untoward happened. But this is not the kind of story people want to read.

It is just sometimes life happens that way to some people. The problem is that this story is not universal, no matter how much any member or supporter of the Bush family pretends. For every charming Minneapolis there remains a gritty St. Paul. Little Adam stuffing "defense rounds" into cartridges on a kitchen table has no memory of motherly love and life and warm welcoming arms.

But now he has Marlene and Andre.

The Blathers and Mrs. Pescatore hosted a brunch for their mothers at Croll's. Mr. Howitzer loaned out Dodd to drive the older Mrs. Pescatore down from Napa Hospital where she had been living among the crazy grapevines for the past eight years. While the gentry sipped mimosas and nibbled fine cakes, Dodd cooled his heels at Mountain Mike's Pizzaria across the street.

His own mother had passed away suddenly of a heart attack when Thatcher had been appointed Prime Minister, and Dodd never let go of that association.

"England's first PM" she had said, "And by the likes of her, she'll be the last." She then had keeled over, quite dead after an exhausting struggle fighting for the opposition party. Some mothers have to deal with partuition for sixteen hours and more. Dodd's mother had endured a lifetime of fighting for Labour.

It took them fifteen minutes to get the paper-thin Mrs. Pescatore up the three stairs into Croll's there and Dodd had scurried back to the blue-collar inn across the way with relief.

"I can't see too well. Young man is that a bucket I can spit into if I take poorly?"

"Mother, that is the wine bucket."

In any case the older Mrs. Blather, mother to John Thomas Blather and matriarch of a dwindling clan the members of which had found making money and aquiring things more erotic than procreation. She made no bones about the fact that she despised her progeny and the spouses each had taken. The old girl took fiendish glee in embarrassing any and all of them in public at every opportunity.

"A new nurse came into the facility the other day," she said. "His name is Mario and he is a handsome an Italian stallion as you ever could see. Very manly if you know what I mean. Not like you, dear boy."

"Mother, have some more lemon cake. Your favorite. . . ".

The very frail-looking Mrs. Pescatore offered a trembling comment. "I bet he's got a dingus a foot long!"

"Haw! Haw!" laughed the older Mrs. Blather. "You betcha!"

"Mother!"

Things managed to calm down for a while, during which the conversation revolved around safe subjects like the badness of Obamacare, the vitality of the stock market, and the 2nd Amendment's importance and Mrs. Blather drank some three or four mimosas. Then she said, "You kids don't know how to have fun is the problem with you. Always diddling with your iPad trinkets. My mother, your grandmother was a floozie . . .".

"Now Helen . . ."

"She was a floozie I tell you. She was a showgirl for the Follies and she took her clothes off in front of all these men every night. And sometimes she went home with them!"

"Mother, now stop it. . . ".

"O she was a pistol that one! She had a real good time. I still am not sure who your grandfather was. Now what would that make you, I wonder?"

"Waiter! Check please!"

"O it don't matter none. All men is the same anyway."

Mrs. Pescatore woke up suddenly from the nap she had been taking. "That's right. They all got a dingus. Except about you sonny boy I am not so sure. Arlene in 101b down the hall has twenty-one grandchildren. Where are mine I wonder?"

"Waiterrrrrrr!"

The gorgeous day ended in the west with golden clouds suffused with saffron and pomegranate juice slashing the horizon. Mr. Howitzer returned from his visit to Colma with his bag of murdered crows and his .22 long rifle over his shoulder. He had the habit of visiting his mother's grave out there and had taken a positive hatred to the black birds, vowing to do something about it and this time he had gone out there well armed, chipping pieces off of granite headstones and scattering mourners and bored children until the caretakers had driven him off.

Perhaps he would have Dodd make a pie of them or something. It was in a song or a nursery rhyme so Dodd would find a way to deal with them. He left the burlap back on Dodd's chair and went to have a few toots of scotch and a good cigar.

As the light faded and all the sunworshippers departed the Strand, the distant jewels draped over the humps of the far shore of the Bay twinkled into life from the erect Coit Tower along the spine of Davidson and the bulk of San Bruno down past South City and the City of Stars, Brisbane.

A figure carrying a wreath stepped through the sawgrass at the cove and laid his burden there on the water to watch it float out with the powerful ebb tide to the sea. It was Denby and he stood there a long time watching this frail thing drift away, a token of something miraculous and wonderful and already gone and passed and never to return again.

If anyone had passed at that moment, they would have heard only the single whispered cry, "O! Euphonia!"

But no one passed and Euphonia, a being who existed only by means of her voice, was no more.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline where the heart expresses its unspoken desires to those who would hear as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its mysterious, heart-stricken journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

MAY 12, 2013

SAIL AWAY, COME SAIL AWAY

This week's photo is from a reader who knipsed this fellow sailboarding off Crown Beach.

WHAT'S GOING ON

FIRST FRIDAYS - OAKTOWN

Tried to attend First Fridays this time around after an hiatus of several months and can only say, "Whew doggie! Did we just wander onto the set of Day of the Locust?" The vibe and atmosphere and entire experience has changed radically from what this thing was a year ago. We drove past manned barricades, closed streets, heavy police presence, totally absent parking and finally gave up and turned to head on back after glimpsing a solid writhing column of humanity numbering in the many thousands sort of oozing its way down Telegraph.

We suspect that most are not there for the delicate subtlties of post-postmodern art but a massive street party. We are hearing that gallery owners are responding by holding alternative events early in the day on Saturday and late Thursday for patrons seeking to avoid the madness.

OFF THE GRID UPDATE

By contrast, Off the Grid at Southshore Mall has relaxed quite a bit without the long lines that attended its opening weekends. The prices appear to be inching down as well, not by much, but one can find fare for under a sawbuck now. And music now looks to be part of the vibe. This band not only has a female lead guitarist but also does original material. We like that.

PARK STREET SPRING FAIRE

The 13th Park Street Spring Faire kicked off under comfortable sunny skies and moderate temps. The usual array of tchotchke booths, nine-dollar hot dogs, and wierdly out-of-place services like window treatments and roof repair showed up bracketed by two music stages, which -- seemingly as part of a peculiarly recent Island trend toward innocuous -- featured bland "tribute bands". Tribute bands basically limit their repertoire to greatest hits of latterday rock stars who generally made their fame in the eighties, although imitations of the Beatles crop up from time to time. As one would expect, the results can be mixed, from thin-sounding and off-key to impressively faithful to the original material.

No matter how good a tribute band can be, they will never be as good as the original, and never as original as they could be, and in class they all stand right up there with Elvis impersonators under the glittery neon banners of Vegas. Unless a musician performs a really unique take on a song, the best one can hope for is a sort of mnemonically keyed gestalt enjoyment in which the listening fills in the gaps in the music with personal reminiscences.

Oh well, people hire these things for parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs which at least gives starving musicians some work opportunities while they polish their chops and learn their instruments.

The bands usually possess some kind of whimsical take off name loosely based on their icon originals, so if you like word games, figure out who the Tumbling Pebbles, Tim and the Heartbusters, Blue Scallops Cult, and of course you have heard of Elvis Herselvis. Alas for fans of His Purpleness, The Man Formerly known as Prince who signs his name with a cipher. Perhaps Little Red Convertible Sportscar will have to do for name and fame.

The other beef we have with these retro affairs is their total absence of understanding how finances flow in the twenty-first century. In the age of Apps, iPads and smartphones there is no damn excuse to go cash only at an single booth, not when Off the Grid mobile trucks have sussed out the means. We saw people walk away twice from vendors because no Visa accepted.

In any case to stop our grumbling we caught Stung, doing Police covers, while grabbing a burger from Scolari's.

This guy may not look much like the former school-teacher Sting, but he did possess a capable voice.

When you are backfilling in a trio for a band that had five members, you had better be ready. This guy was.

Further on down the road from the Encinal Stage we made some delightful encounters. Here a young lady is greeted by an amiable fellow who seems to be knowledgeable about the meat and bones market.

Some of you Islanders may know that an 11th hour effort rescued the Animal Shelter, which now relies heavily on donations since it is no longer directly supported by the City.

Whoever came up with this hot day resolution to hyperactive kids is a sheer genius. Each bubble holds 30 minutes of air and is monitored by three observers. Kids are left in there for no more than 15-20 minutes, however most of them were pooped after about ten minutes of thrashing. Needless to say, this one was really popular among the moms.

Every Park Street Fair features Kenny the Clown, perennial candidate for City Hall Office. What better than to put a real clown in City Hall?

Finally, long-term Lifers know that we always break for the Blues. You say you are doing acoustic Blues and we will get somebody there. Sunday, the Hound Kings showed up for a long set from 1pm to 3pm. We don't know why so few bands were hired to do such extended sets, but it is what it is.

The lead calls himself Alabama Smith, but this group does solid Delta Blues. The highlight with these guys is the versitile harp player.

DADGAD or DADF#AD we are there, jack.

 

FRIDAY FISHWRAP

Every year when the weather improves, the driving decays and so does people's sense of propriety. While folks blather with cell phones in one hand and steering wheel in the other, criminals scamper about knifing and robbing with merry abandon, limosines explode into flames and letters to the Editor wax purple.

Fellow got into a tussle outside the Chase Bank at Marina Square Village and knifed his associate Friday. Apparently not satisfied with the proceeds, the fellow went into the bank, where one assumes all the money is, and demanded cash of the teller, who of course refused. That failing, the fellow then grabbed a hapless patron in the lobby and demanded cash once again, which may have been a bit much for the poor soul there having a bad day that got worse when the perp knifed this one too.

All victims were released from hospital with non-life threatening injuries, however the man's former associate was detained for possession of narcotics. Okay, we now see why this happened. Sort of.

ANIMAL FARM

The squabble over implementing regulations -- at present entirely non-existent -- that would control backyard livestock raising and slaughter, seems to be provoking, purple overwrought language. Here is a sentence fragment from an Commentary piece in the Sun: " I am afraid [we] are approaching a Pandora's Box with a dangerous degree of naiveté."

Oh please. Sure its important, especially if you live next to Bosco the pig and care about him, and sure, people do eat goats and chickens and too many people do not want to know or think about where the B in their BLT comes from. So what? In a place where people are getting knifed in the bank lobby are there not other issues of pressing moment worthy of this language? It is highly unlikely that a sudden rash of roosters will overtake the island any time soon.

Nerzio Fojas, 31, was a newlywed celebrating with friends her marriage when the limosine carrying her and 8 others burst into flames on the San Mateo bridge. Because she was planning a second wedding in the Phillipines with her husband, she is sometimes listed as "bride-to-be". She perished along with four others.

Among them was Felomina Geronga of the Island. Geronga went by the nickname of Fyla and was a senior clinical lab scientist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, friends and hospital officials said.

She had lived in Alameda for about eight years. Acquaintances said she was a cheery person, that she and her husband and children - a daughter in the seventh grade and a son in fourth grade - were the most upbeat folks on the block.

"You just constantly hear them laughing over there," a neighbor said. "They always cheer me up - you hear the kids giggling and the parents talking and laughing all the time."

Fyla was "a working mom who did everything," said one neighbor, rising at 5:30 every morning to make breakfast and lunch for the family.

Donald D. Lum Elementary School PTA members have put together a fund for the victim's family. Those wishing to contribute can drop off donations at the school office — just make sure to specify that it is for the Geronga family. ACLC is currently working on setting up a trust for the family.

She is survived by her loving husband Aldrin, and their two children. Her 10-year-old son, Abero, currently attends Lum Elementary as a fourth grader. Her daughter, Yoare, 12, attended Lum as well, but is now at Alameda Community Learning Center. Both children are continuing to attend school at present.

Other persons who died in that limo fire were Michelle Estrera, Anna Alcantara, Neriza Fojaz, and Jennifer Balon, also a Kaiser employee.

AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT, HOW'S THE OLD WAZOO

In upbeat news it does appear that the plot of land secured for the City by Jean Sweeny will indeed become treasured open space preserve, at least if going by the language people are using about the space that now now bears her name. Funnily enough it appears that people are also up in arms against the forced move of the Harbor Bay Club to a less desireable location because the land it sits on is, well desired. Once again the Ron Cowan outfit called Harbor Bay Realty is seeking to construct something in a wierdly pernicious and doggedly stubborn way that ignores the fact that people are really sick and tired of all this maniacal urge to build on any and every square inch that does not already possess concrete foundations. These people already charge usuriously high rents for the properties they control now -- can they not be content with the boodle they got?

TH, THUH, THUH, THUH THAT'S ALL FOLKS

Speaking of Porky the Pig, seems our Island once again provided a haven for a piggish type, and we do not mean cartoons. Resident Micheal Howey was booked into the Fremont City jail on a cool $1.5 million bond on child molestation charges. Howey worked for 15 years as an elementary and middle school teacher for the New Haven School District, which is apparently part of Union City. Victims appear to have been all girls between the ages of 8 and 9 years of age.

This comes on the heels of the extradition to Ireland of a former priest who had been living and working here up until a few months ago.

Actually, come to think of it, Bosco possesses considerably more honor and nobility than these animals.

MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK

So anyway, last week we left you with Denby and the Household planning a daring raid to rescue the personage of Euphonia. Since this entire escapade has been rather abstract, let us present an actual photograph of the very real Euphonia.

That is right, Euphonia is not a phantasy woman. She did exist. Here she is:

Well, okay this photo was taken in 1846 when she was quite a bit younger. Take that into account

To recap, Denby accidentally discovered Euphonia, the Talking Machine, kept in an alcove of the Amazing Anatolia's lodgings. She had been created by a mad German scientist who wanted to give voice to the only long-distance form of electronic communication at the time -- the telegraph. But this was the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in America, where folks have always taken to newfangled Euro-centric ideas a little late, and people were afraid of this new ghostly machine voice. One thing led to another and there was the night of the furious rabble armed with pitchforks and torches, cries of Moloch and Down with the Machines! and by the time the smoke had cleared, the inventor was dead, his machine broken into pieces -- or so it was thought.

That girl caused a scene during the Big Tent Grand Finale

In reality, two sideshow men from P.T. Barnum's circus, named Eeyore and Piglet, had stolen her away in a printer's letterset wagon, fleeing from that terrible scene in a scattering of Helvetica and Times Roman. Euphonia lived on as part of the Barnum & Bailey travelling circus until she got left behind during one particularly hectic post-show tent strike in which the driver became very drunk and a local girl discovered that the lion tamer named Jules had gotten her somewhat pregnant. That girl caused a scene during the Big Tent Grand Finale, which had caused in turn quite a ruckus in the circus. Anatolia found Euphonia under a shroud of dusty canvas in a barn outside of Worcester, Mass. while looking for the farmgirl for whom he had paid $50 to scroungy pimp in overalls and John Deere hat.

"She's in the barn," said the farmer, who disappeared with just a hint of a scent of sulphur. "She's old but good. Have fun."

The Magician had learned about her unique abilities when Euphonia had exclaimed, "Good heavens do you have a hairbrush about you? I must look a mess!" Fifty bucks was fifty bucks. The Amazing Anatolia Enigma, a professional magician, had her boxed up and shipped to California.

"O drat! Boxed again. . . "!

"O drat! Boxed again! Must I always travel third class?" was Euphonia's comment.

Denby talked with her and learned that somehow over the centuries she had become sentient and that she longed to be free before Anatolia completed a ghastly scheme that would turn her into a slave housed in a mechanical lovedoll.

Heavens, this had all the makings of a damsel in distress and more but without the tedious bombast and vehicular destruction of a Stallone or a Schwarzenegger.

"How on earth are we losers going to perform a delicate operation like this?" Martini complained. "We have no martial artists like Van Damme and we have no kick ass good old boys like Gary Busey; we're not Seal Team types -- we're a bunch of wimps and pansies!"

There was an awful moment of silence in the room.

"Vell," said Rolf. "Maybe iss time we pansies and sissies stood up against the bullies of the world who want to organize everybody like an army. Maybe we need to think something for ourselves for once!"

"Yeah!" said Jade Azure, who used to work the old Funoccios in Babylon. "I for one put my frillies on the table for this sister. I say . . . " Here he paused momentously, "I say lets go for it!"

"Yes! Yes! Here! Here!" It was a chorus of assent.

So it was that Special Mission Zero Deep Dark Sixty-Nine took place.

"Why is it called that? It sounds meaningless," asked Arthur.

"Because it sounds really serious and secret and stuff," Denby said. "And people will buy into it big time like its momentous and then we can sell memento tchochtkes."

At the stroke of midnight, Denby, Arthur, Martini, Suan, Jose, and Javier bashed down the gates of the Anatolia compound with a massive replica hotdog from Lionel's Pampered Pup.

Tipitina and little Andre followed quick after with canisters of compressed mustard and relish with which they disabled the guards.

Guards: "Aaaiiiieeeeeaaah!"

Martini disabled two women clad in burkas

Denby and the gang charged up the stairs and Martini disabled two women clad in burkas by throwing his body at them and stuffing stromboli in their mouths. Javier handled the guard poodles by means of a vintage 1922 bicycle gun he had snatched from the Island Museum case. Its effective caliber was .50 and it explosively dispatched the noxious animals with great noise and alarm.

Marlene rendered Anatolia safe by whacking him in the head with a bratwurst and straddling him with thighs of iron. "Move and I will change the major key you sing to something a lot higher, jerkoff!"

"Euphonia, I am here with friends to save you!" Denby shouted amid the billowing smoke.

They found Euphonia in the alcove but also discovered that the window was too small to allow passage of her estimable 1.5 tons. So Martini employed his incendiary skills and, after only a brief hiatus -- just like in the movies, with a massive thunderclap of fire and smoke made not only the window but the entire wall of the second floor passable. This also had the pleasant side effect of provoking diversionary fires throughout the building.

"Goodness!" Euphonia said. "What kind of friends do you have!?"

By means of a winch and ropes they lowered Euphonia's great bulk of metal and wires down the side as the screams of the wounded and the dying mingled in the air with the increasing volume of the sirens.

Suan ... had dressed head to to in skin-tight leather

"I thought you said this was going to be a quick smash and grab," Suan commented as a cupola down the way burst into a fireball followed by a hail of plaster, brick and shattered glass. Suan, always fashion conscious of trends, had dressed head to to in skin-tight leather and carried a wicked-looking wakazashi sword as well as a 180lb draw crossbow.

"I may have minimized the dangers a bit," Denby said. "So as to cultivate enthusiasm."

The distant crump of the bicycle gun could be heard as flames began licking the walls.

POOMP! POOMP! AIIIIIEEEEE! POOMP!

The police and fire department arrived at that moment on the street side, but as usual for the Island a confusion as what to do and how to do it while protecting their own men slowed things down significantly.

Wally approached the riprap on the seaward side, ready to ferry Euphonia to safety, however the ropes snapped under the tremendous strain of Euphonia's weight and she crashed the final five feet to the ground.

"Hey!" Euphonia shouted. "Mind my cogs! They're sensitive!"

Martini had gotten a forklift from work, driving the thing over backroads some five miles to the island and on this thing they loaded Euphonia so as to transport her to the boat.

"What's this?" Jose said, holding up a pipe with wires.

"I don't feel so good," Euphonia said.

"What does it look like? Its a pipe with wires. Throw it on the lift and lets get out of here!" Denby said as searchlights began playing on the sward and the water. The building was now fully in conflagration.

With Suan and Tipitina providing covering fire with their mustard and catsup canisters, and Javier somewhere going nuts with the bicycle gun, they trundled Euphonia out to the boat to find there was no landing. They would have to drop Euphonia into the back of Wally's boat without a winch. Up where they had left the winch, gouts of flame shot into the sky thirty feet. The whump-whump of a helicopter made itself known.

"O my boat!" Wally said, seeing for the first time the massive ironworks he was to transport. "Please be gentle!"

"Yeah, gentle is a good word at this point," Euphonia said. "Listen to the man."

"Sure thing," Martini said, and he let loose the straps, letting Euphonia plummet to the boat deck, smacking through the upper level to the bilge.

"Ow!"

Denby suggested now was a good time to skedaddle and Wally pulled away with Denby and Martini while the others scattered along the shore. Euphonia's fall had however caused a break in the hull and they were taking on water fast. Denby told Wally to make for the Point on the far side as the helicopter arrived with its eye in the sky.

Later that night, the crew gathered at Marlene and Andre's to share a jug of wine and speak of their escapes. As Anatolia had been keeping some kind of personage against their will -- admittedly not human exactly but still -- his crime could have been kidnapping and a number of other things potentially embarrassing so he shunted aside all prosecution, explaining the fire as a "mysteriouso experiment" gone wrong.

Javier had gotten away the same way he always got out of scrapes - by lying, sneaking, pretending to be a genteman, and running very fast. The bicycle gun was returned safe and sound to the museum.

Martini returned to fetch the forklift, which after all was an innocent participant in everything which had happened.

As for Euphonia, she had a final conversation with Denby before her spectacular demise. But of that conversation, we know nothing.

A Coast Guard Cutter had been dispatched to intercept their boat and so Denby had Wally pilot their sinking craft out to the deep dredged area of the Bay. There, he and Wally and Martini had clambered aboard the dingy and cast loose while the helicopter searchlight had pinned them down and the cutter had approached with all of its guns and its authority of war.

After a few moments Martini's charge had gone off, turning Wally's former boat and Euphonia, mad Faber's experiment in artificial intelligence, into a spectacular fireball and geyser one hundred feet tall that was seen as far south as San Leandro where people thought the Warriors had clinched the runoffs, leaving behind on the surface of the water nothing but a few sticks and the dingy holding the three men who explained to intense Coast Guard officers their little boat had suffered an unexplained engine compartment fire and that about the fire at Anatolia's mansion they knew nothing.

It was a sobered crew that found itself reunited at the Old Same Place Bar and they all were silent for a long time until Pahrump stood up. The two burkha women were there getting soused on Jaegermeister and complaining they would never perform for crazy magians like The Amazing Anatolia again.

"I am a PROFESSIONAL!" one of them shouted. "I didn't get into showbusiness for this kind of thing! My spangle-outfit is ruined!"

The little group from the Household sat quietly at a table, nursing their wounds and beer.

"In the end, we effed up, as usual. That is what we do and that is who we are, hapless effups. But in the end Euphonia got what she most desired. So here is to Euphonia!" And Pahurmp raised his glass. "To the voice of the ages. To the voice of her time and ours."

As they stood there, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline where the heart expresses its unspoken desires to those who would hear as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its mysterious journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

MAY 5, 2013

THE LUSTY MONTH OF MAY

This week's seasonal photo comes from long-time lifer Carol, an inmate at the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles and features another inmate named Henry.

Henry is fond of gambols and laser tag and is considered saner than most of us, although the human whom he owns is known to be quite roguish.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

City Council will hear ideas about how to screw up -- um, develop -- the 22 acres of Jean Sweeny Open Space which we note is now being called "Beltline Park" in the funny papers, probably to appease those eager beaver property people who salivate every time they hear of an inch of land which has no pavement or concrete foundations.

Any case, cynics and hopefuls can toss in their two cents this Tuesday at 7pm over in the Santa Clara chambers.

Also in the funny papers and in the blogs a rousing discussion as to what the word "bullying" means. Not much mention of apparently trivial legal concepts like Assault and Assault with Battery, nor is much heed paid to common decency in the discussions, but give some people a subject and they'll expound for hours in a postmodern manner that touches on the main word only now and then.

The flap came about when the Island Sun ran an editorial commenting on the rude and obnoxious people who sometimes take exception to reportage viewpoints and facts.

Bullies pop up in the schoolyard, as most of us know, and by now everyone should be aware they surface in various online ways like rats floating above the sewage. We have personal experience of bullies persisting well past middle age, as the Island-Life offices were forced to move by two egregious examples of wretched lack of humanity.

Of course it is a bit much to expect that everyone will adhere to Robert's Rules of Order and Emily Post in a rowdy Democracy like America, but browbeating, threatening, and intimidating someone by voice and/or manner is called Assault and there are legal penalties for it. Not to say that enforcing restraint or punishing the lack of it is an easy task, but thems the facts, ma'am.

There are apartment managers on this island who regularly violate the law by their threatening abusive language. Will they go to jail or pay a fine for it? Doubt it. Bullies tend to go through life with little change or challenge because what they do works for them and finger wagging does nothing and they know it. What we need to do as a society is stop coddlling bullies under the name of encouraging a certain kind of strength that most clinicians understand is really a mask for insecurity.

Just because your mother was an alcoholic craphead is no excuse to visit pain on anyone else. These bullies need to be isolated and made to feel lonely enough that they consider joining decent society and the warmth of human association a fair trade for false security.

As for any members of the Press, including the paperboy and the front desk receptionist, the idea that these folks put themselves "out there" and available for verbal abuse is sheer nonsense. Don't like the Editorial slant, write your own if you are literate enough to do so. Don't like an Op-Ed piece or a news report, the place to talk about it is the Letters to the Editor. Just don't like the paper at all, drop it and found one of your own if you think you have a better way to get the facts out. As "Scoop" Nisker used to say, "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own."

In related items we have speculation about what to do with the seismically unsafe old high school, which has people living in "The Wedge" in an understandable tizzy, what with sharks like Harbor Bay Realty swimming about looking for more "opportunities," and feeling entitled about it.

With all the draconian cutbacks over the past thirty years (did anyone's taxes ever go down in this time?) there simply is not the cash reserve to retrofit the late nineteen twenties era structure.

It is the same series of cutbacks which has put the high school swimming pools in the danger zone as fixing up Emma Hood's pool and the one at Encinal will run into the millions of dollars. This undoubtedly is due to "deferred maintenance", a consequence of those cutbacks. The pools have not been in operation since 2010 due to "code violations."

Do they still teach the phrase penny-wise, pound foolish in school?

LET'S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS
David Sedaris at the Veterans War Memorial Opera House, Babylon

As long-term supporters of NPR and its affiliates Island-Life sent a contingent of folks over the water to catch David Sedaris do a benefit for KALW, a radio station that does quite a bit with extraordinarily very little.

First, a bit about KALW, for as long-time Island-Lifers know, we have here a fond sense of California history as well as a fond affection for radio.

The station is housed in converted classrooms in John and Sala Burton High School, out where the Portola and Visitacion valleys meet in San Francisco. The facilities and equipment are so modest that David Sedaris after doing a video tour of KALW, called it a "dump."

But to the station's staff, it's their dump, and it's part of history. KALW was San Francisco's first licensed FM station. In 1954, its studios, then in the Gompers Trade School in the Mission, served as the first home of KQED-TV. Originally established as a radio school in the fall of 1941, KALW moved away from teaching in 1971, and soon became the first San Francisco affiliate of National Public Radio and the first local station to air such programs as "All Things Considered" and "Fresh Air."

Yet, for all its pioneering work and despite an impressive range of programs, KALW has existed in the shadows of KQED-FM (88.5), which ranks near the top of the ratings, with about 5 percent of the overall listening audience, while KALW hovers around 1 percent - which, Martin said, represents about 130,000 listeners a week. (KQED draws about 800,000.)

We at Island-Life appreciate that KALW keeps things locally interested, while also bringing in a wider range of national and internationally focussed programming, including Smiley and West, Jim Hightower, and BBC news, while still keeping delightful local news reporters like Rose Aguilar, whom we met at the event reception.

David Sedaris is variously described as a writer, as America's foremost humorist, and a light-hearted gay gadfly against bombastic nonsense and dangerous right-wing nuts. He is, of course, all of those, but more than that, he is our Time's Mark Twain, a extraordinary literary talent that serves to illuminate our dark times with trenchant observations of common sense and laughing reduction of some of our culture's destructive inanities, while remaining thoroughly modest, human and quite likeable.

We do not have Kurt Vonnegut, we don't have Gore Vidal, we have lost Twain and there is no more O'Henry or Thurber or Ogden Nash. Thank god for the Sedaris family.

David Sedaris is the author Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice, as well as collections of personal essays, Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames, each of which became a bestseller. There are a total of seven million copies of his books in print and they have been translated into 25 languages. He was the editor of Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules: An Anthology of Outstanding Stories. Sedaris' pieces appear regularly in The New Yorker and have twice been included in "The Best American Essays." His Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (with illustrations by Ian Falconer), a collection of fables entitled , was published in September 2010.

His latest book, Exploring Diabetes with Owls, debuted at the top of the New York Times best sellar list.

He has lived abroad for some years with his lifetime partner, Hugh, variously in France and latterly in England, where he does a regular radio show and picks up trash from the countryside surrounding his home to the extent that the local city council gave him a uniform.

In person he appears far more dapper, neat and trim than in his promo photographs. He claims to have been "clean and sober" for over 13 years and apparently keeps fit by means of a rigorous swimming regimen. As he travels extensively, he uses the internet to locate pools in the towns where he lands.

He has no intention of ever returning to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he grew up, as the weather there is too hot and humid.

Sunday night, Sedaris fairly brought the SRO house down, first by appearing on stage prior to formal introduction because, as he claimed, he heard there was a very long line in Will Call and the start of the evening had already been delayed. So he kindly told a few anecdotes to help the time pass then left the stage so KALW station manager Matt Martin, who rolled professionally with the unusual change in program, gave his intro, and then returned as if everything was hunky dory.

He read from his new book, a few new works in progress, and hilarious snippits from his diary, which many decades ago had been the material which had attracted the ear of Ira Glass sufficiently to jumpstart Sedaris into the business.

It is really insufficient to relate a Sedaris anecdote abstracted from the setting and his deadpan manner of delivery which features sparse narrative about mundane matters into which strangely familiar yet disturbing details suddenly pop with startling effect. Where a comedian is only concerned with telling a funny story with a punchline about giving Willie Nelson a blowjob, Sedaris tells that same joke, but framed in a story about an encounter with an obtuse airline employee, which departs from a satire about stupid people to a focus upon his own regret at a certain kind of failure of integrity.

"I realized I had disregarded two of the things my mother had told me never to do. The first was never to introduce the concept of oral sex to a strange woman in an airport. {pause} The next was never ever to explain a joke . . .". Now the story is not so much about telling an obscene joke to a stranger but a poignant recollection -- Sedaris' mother died of cancer several years ago.

Well, okay. You had to be there. Context is what Sedaris is all about and retelling his anecdote or trying to outline it just becomes that same crime his mother warned him not to do. His characters don't just bumble about, they bumble about upsetting the apple cart of expectations placed internally by a society that really does not give a crap about what is important.

Looking at the man's text the reader can see that the seemingly casual delivery is framed in language that is more spare and decided word-by-word than the tersest Hemingway. Not a single noun is out of place and there is absolutely no extra verbiage -- the prose is as sinewy as a greco-roman wrestler, but deceptively so, cloaked in casual attitude and concern for the quotidian mundane.

It is no surprise that we learned he has done plays, together with his sister Amy Sedaris, also a formidible talent, written over 40 essays for the New Yorker, done more than fifty performances as part of This American Life, written scads of poetry, and, as we learned Sunday evening, worked as a bike messenger in San Francisco while in his twenties.

Um, okay that last part has nothing to do with writing but its cool anyway.

David Sedaris is cool, no question about that. He is the rock star of writers and we heartily recommend stealing his books and paying to see him when he comes around if you have the money.

Because, you know, laughter and sanity are good for you.

CLOSING WALLS AND TICKING CLOCKS

So anyway, the sudden summer weather yielded to a strange unruly punk front that brought in chirascuro skies muscular with Blakean gods. Saturday looked fine enough with some breezes cutting up the heat, but then the murk of Mordor overwhelmed the angels of the skies.

This strangeness of weather drove most local folks indoors save for the insane street party that has become First Fridays in the Uptown district. Jose and Pahrump tried to get over there on his scooter, but the entire place had gone into compulsive lockdown due to the shooting that took place a month ago. Streets were blocked off and bulky guards stood around looking ominous and authoritative next to the orange cones, while throngs got channeled down the narrow T-graph Avenue.

Ok kids, now have fun.

While normal folks responded to wacky weather each to each, the Household Gang cobbled together a rescue mission for Euphonia.

Who was Euphonia? All right, we will tell you.

Who was Euphonia? All right, we will tell you. Denby had been contacted by the Amazing Anatolia Enigma, a mediocre magician living out of Victorian in the Gold Coast section of the Island to set up some audio for a set performance.

Due to the effects of badly prepared chile rellanos the Amazing Anatolia had to excuse himself for a while, leaving Denby time to wander about the magician's chambers. Denby drew a thick curtain to reveal a strange sort of apparatus and the face of a beautiful woman. As the light hit her eyelids, she opened them to reveal stunningly brilliant irises and the look of alarm.

"My goodness," said the face. "Who are you!"

All about the face Denby could see neither body nor any sort of human or animal shape of any kind. Instead this face seemed hung upon a rusty metal frame of a machine that looked very old although the woman looked very young.

Denby told her his name and asked who and what she was.

"My name is Euphonia," said the apparition, and so began this story.

Euphonia had been created by a German named Faber in 1845 after 17 years of labor and substantial personal sturm und drang. You know those Germans can be so melodramatic sometimes, what with elevation of the Frankenstein monster amid a lightening storm to Beethoven's wild hair and Faber falling into rages in which he smashed up expensive prototypes like paper airplanes while all the neighbors complained about the ruckus. The original idea had been to provide a way to convert quickly the dense telegraph Morse code all of you have learned in school and found so useful into natural human speech patterns so that less sophisticated souls could learn about things like the fate of the Hindenberg and the robbing of the stage coach with alacrity.

Faber found that although P.T. Barnum had some interest in his invention, nobody else other than some wierd American inventors trying to create a better hearing aid for the deaf had the slightest interest. He brought out his creation in December 1845, when Joseph Faber exhibited his "Wonderful Talking Machine" at the Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia. People found it wierd. A human face hung in this metal latticework and seemed to talk. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain . . .

The problem was that this magic of creating human speech by means of apparent device had been done far more dramatically and effectively by total charlatans who cloaked real people in stiff robes so as to look like disembodied Turks (Turks were big during the 18th Century).Faber had no Turks on his payroll, he had only his simple machine which actually did what it was supposed to do -- talk.

The other problem was that in 1845 quite a lot of people were facing replacement by machines and in other cases, many people were faced with having to work just like machines to make their day's wages. Not a good time to come up with some mechanical idea to replace human voice.

Faber eventually killed himself

America yawned. The world turned its back. In the meantime, as goes the Weaver and the Factory Maid, the world turned to steam, and as for the fine girls to be found, you now had to trudge to the villiage factory in the early morn. Faber eventually killed himself out of despair and -- according to legend -- destroyed Euphonia, leaving all to the speculation of history and those wacky Americans to invent, based on Faber's technology, the telephone.

But Euphonia did not die.

Some quirk, some sense of . . . dare we say love? caused Faber to toss that fatal match aside in his final hours and so pass into history leaving a shrouded form to dream of life beneath the filthy canvas covering.

One has to wonder just why Faber chose to devote such energy to place a human face on this invention. Such a life-like face.

She had become herself, invested with her own intelligence

Years passed. Her machinery passed into the hands of debtors, then into heirs. Technocrats and curious dinkers added and removed various parts. Mysterious black boxes appeared within her workings over the centuries. From mechanical she went electronic. She went through upgrades by inventors who enjoyed the results or not, according to their bent, and at some indeterminate time, Euphonia spoke independent of human interaction. She had become herself, invested with her own intelligence, gotten from god knows where. Some women are like that.

It is unknown how Anatolia had acquired her. Probably through some unsavory trade involving produce from Columbia, that benighted country, weighted and cursed by its evil past.

So there Denby stood in that dark alcove in front of Faber's machine, which had developed over time to speak independently, gifted with its own sentience. A sentient machine destined to live probably forever.

Denby had heard of machines which could compose poetry like RACTER, play chess, discuss Rimbaud, but had never encountered personally any such representative as this.

Denby asked her what did Anatolia want with her.

Euphonia directed his attention to a place where a figure sat slumped in a chair. It was a mannequin clad in a short sequin dress, her legs askew in high heels. "He wants to combine me with that one. It is what you call in your century a "love doll."

You will have a body then.

In a sense, yes. A body that is me, but not mine. With no feelings. As if I knew what they are.

There was a long pause.

"What is it that you want?" Denby asked.

She would have sobbed, but she could not

"I . . . I want to die." Euphonia said. "I have lived like this over 150 years and see many hundreds more and none the better." She would have sobbed, but she could not, for she did not possess tear ducts for that release. Her gods had not found those things necessary.

The effect of this statement was shocking to Denby, but he could hear the sounds of Anatolia knocking about as he returned from the toilet, and so he quickly drew the curtain.

"For pete's sake where the heck are you around here? I should not have indulged in so much black drape and crimson dammit . . ."!

After Denby performed his minor engineering, which he now saw was part of the overall effort to animate the mannequin electronically, he left to go tell his tale to Marlene and Andre's Household.

That night there was quite a hullaballo. Many did not believe the story at all. Some were at a quandary, as if this thing had life, then how could they take it upon themselves to take it away.

The Catholics said that, well, if it so happend that an egg and some sperm happened to fall there amid the ironworks and get all comfy in a niche somewhere that became a womb, then the whole issue became something else . .

The Lutherans were of a mind that it seemed that at some indeterminate moment the hand of god invested this former machine with grace and so on we go on the soul rollercoaster.

The Baptists found it entirely an abomination.

The Church of Egregious Parking Snarking continued to howl and blather.

In short, the evening became quite contentious. Jose gave a great speech, much informed by tequila, in which he argued that all souls deserved the right to self determination and termination and all kinds of groovy things that involved seperating from your madre and padre no matter how ironic they were and eventually Javier got him to sit down for he was very drunk by that time.

The end result in concensus was that they all should rescue the woman and then discuss what to do with her, um body, and then her soul, and preferably include her as an unusual voice in the matter as it seemed this had never happened before.

So okay this is project Deep Six Nine or Eleven Thirty-Two or something, Javier said.

Yeah, said Martini. I gonna put together some mortars that blow that turban head to pieces. . .

Hey, said Denby. No bullets man. No bullets.

Okay, no bullets. Just a few mortars. Lobbin' them over. Go boom! You like . . .!

The results of this expedition will be reported next week.

As they stood there, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its mysterious journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

APRIL 28, 2013

EXCELLENT BIRDS

This week's headline foto comes from our in-house photographer, Tammy who grabbed this shot of a whole flock of birds-of-paradise. The forces of Nature appear arrayed against the stolid armies of the dull and witless.

You can try to put down Nature with a pitchfork, but she always comes roaring back.

O SAINTS OF ZION

The Church of Latter-Day Saints has suffered some rough handling recently with one of theirs running for the Presidency, a musical composed by the authors of South Park appearing on Broadway, and, of course, there were the famous scenes in Angels in America. The Mormons are no worse, and some would say no better than any other religion with its odd crotchets and intolerances. The Catholics have their pederast priests and wierd sex traditions, the Jews have Isreal and the on-again off-again Diaspora that causes much of Palestine to suffer and lately even the Amish have taken to terrorism of each other's beards, so nobody is exempt from a little critique.

Let it be said, however, that the local Mormon temple has been doing some really good things with its people, which we think is a far better used of resources than mission-izing in Panama. We hear that some 800 Saints went over to Fred Finch Youth Center, a 150 year old non-profit orphanage and psychiatric facility, to clear the grounds on Coolidge Avenue in Oaktown.

That done, another army from the temple up on the hill cleaned up the old train depot that edges Sweeney Park, the new open space plot of land that once was the Beltline track that serviced industrial parts of the Island.

ANIMALS

A big tempest in an island teapot developed recently when folks raising livestock here sought to have laws regarding raising fowl, pigs, horses and goats clarified. Apparently bees are included in this list.

It may be one of those "only on the Island" sorts of scenarios, and it seems to have all started when someone complained about Bosco the pet pig in 2011. That bluehair grumpus of a complainer learned a thing or two about poking your fingers in where you ought not to go as neighbors rallied around the beloved porker on Haight Avenue, forcing the City to issue a proclaimation of approval and leading to loads of front-page fotos of the chubby fellow standing in a patch of grass and flowers.

Awwwww!

So okay it turned out there were no laws at all on the books against anything other than a handful of regulatory ordinances dating from 1939, which seemed to concern the life of asses.

No we do not refer to any member of the Republican Party or the apartment manager at St. Charles, but the equine animal.

Apparently those 1939 ordinances read pretty much like what they are -- rules drafted by desk-bound bureaucrats who would not know which end of an ass is the front and which stipulate clearly impossible conditions.

Obviously we live in a more urban environment here than what existed in 1939 when it was perfectly okay to house your quarter-century worth of chickens with roosters along with your pig and your cows and your goats in your yard, for it was so common, no one thought to write up rules about it.

Well, the City sees revenue here (another opportunity to charge fees for licenses!) and the animal owners clearly to not want summary evictions of their beloved pets/bacon investments. And in a place that rivals Lake Wobegon for unemployed meddlers who seek every opportunity to harrass IPD for any sort of issue from loud teenagers to obstructionist trash bins, this is a wise path to pursue.

Personally, the distant sound of a rooster is a familiar and comforting sound of nature. But not everyone thinks that way.

UPDATE - THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE

Aphrodite's Closet, which took over the space once occupied by Vignettes, has issued a statement that they will reopen pending repair of the extensive damage caused by the immense Park Street fire that took place a few weeks ago.

TELL ME WHAT'S A HAPPENIN'

Hear that High Street Station has changed its venue and is now got some kind of booking agent over there. Things are heating up in the little corner cafe and there are now weekend supper gigs happening. Things end early, probably for the usual Island reasons, so get there before 8.

Roosters is still holding its quirky lineups of former pro sidemen and backups who have cobbled together bands so as to remain in some form still alive. If you are a devotee of rock trivia and liner notes, then Roosters is the place to be on the weekends where old rockers don't diminuando, but arpeggiate to resolve.

Over at the Freight and Salvage, Greg Brown's deep bass voice and irascible folksy humor will occupy the 18th while long, tall, Texas-born Marcia Ball will dazzle on the 25th. Marcia Ball was raised in Louisiana and has cut her piano chops with all the big belly Blues greats, but still maintains a modest approach for someone with a comprehensive grasp of Gulf Coast musicology from Florida to the horn of Texas going back 100 years. We have heard her a couple times, here and in New Orleans, and never fail to be impressed. We understand she likes to hear her fingernails click.

Our hometown boys, Houston Jones, who ramped up here at the old McGrath's, will be providing high octane Americana with Stevie Coyle as guest the first day of June. If you have not heard Travis seque from a bluesy Take Me to the River to Suzie Q and then John Fogerty, well you have not lived. Everyone please be quiet if he does the moving "Three Crow Town." Travis and the boys have gotten well-known enough that their gigs now involve some pretty long-range hikes in the old van, so catch them when they are local. As for Coyle he is one of the few who can actually perform the impossbly tuned stuff concocted by the late John Fahey.

Patty Larkin owns the 7th of June. You may have heard of her. We like her because she also was an English Major.

Next weekend is First Friday in Oaktown, which has bounced back with more control after some rough stuff happened a few months ago. Also in May there will be the artMRKT at Fort Mason from the 16th to the 19th.

David Sedaris will discuss diabetes with owls and why this is relevant on Cinco de Mayo at the Herbst in Babylon as a KQED fundraiser. See you at the reception. Hey, it does pay to be an NPR supporter . . . .

If you like trumpet, look no further than Yoshi's East on the three days of May 10-12 when Cuban Arturo Sandoval storms into town.

THE 1400

Dropped into the 1400 Friday evening just to stretch the legs and see what was happening nightlife-wise. It proved to be a typically Island evening, with a crack funk-dance band named Hiro and the Villians being overwhelmed by a basketball game on the overhead TV's, of which there were four. Hiro, a sturdy, capable soprano, strived mightily, but some gigs you just cannot win over the audience until something exhausts itself.

The 1400 Bar and Grill serves some dishes that are a cut above the usual bar fare and which seem to present a schizo identity crisis between haute cuisine and sports bar grub. They have a lamb burger that is bedecked with a feta-yoghurt sauce and sided with a mixed greens salad which ranks up there with many places charging quite a bit more for ambience. We noticed massive nachos and delicate little tapa sandwiches coming from the kitchen. Pork belly sliders can be had for the sports crowd along with lamb served with tzaztiki sauce. They have the usual basic beers on tap, as well as a full complement of American and European bottles, but also a rotating tap that features something exotic every week. This evening we enjoyed a dark Belgian beer called Grimberger.

Despite the chaos, the waitress remained affable, adjustable to changes in orders, and speedy with delivery. It looked like a gal carrying a tray of jello shots encountered a bit of sexist rough-house behind us, at least as we saw from her unhappy reactions, but she remained professional throughout.

As for the b-ball game, it ended in a heartbreaker in favor of the Warriors.

ANTS MARCHING

So anyway, just when it seemed Spring was going to smack into the Island like an old drunk careering his Pontiac into the glass of a laundromat, high fog came in to settle a blanket of chill on everything.

Nevertheless, the traditions of the season remain, because even though this is California and place like no other, we still have our traditions. They might not go back quite as far as in some other places but they are traditions none the less.

The Island is a curious mixture, an amalgam of hidebound conformity and of progressive newness. In some parts of the country you see the middle-aged men coming out with the lawnmowers so as to groom that quarter-acre or eighth into beaten submission, a photocopy of what exists on every other plot for miles around until the entire tract resembles more a necropolis with neat mausoleums than a place where the irregular joys of birth, making babies, tuning carburetors, writing novels, living dreams usurps the devil's boney hand.

the shape of the lots has been determined by robber baron avarice

But this is an island, where there is hardly space in the sandy soil for so much as a ten by ten foot postage stamp of some kind of greenery. In addition, the shape of the lots has been determined by the robber baron avarice of California history. When Chipman and Aughinbaugh bought the land from the Peralta family they leased much of it to tenants who proved to be less than honorable, for those tenants then sublet and sold slivers of their leased land, presenting themselves as bona fide owners. As a result, many of the existing plots now are long and narrow, presenting a street frontage in some cases of no more than twenty feet. As time passed many of these long lots became split with first a carriage house in back, then a minor domicile with rights of access past the main house in front.

With the open space allocate to carriage way and to a common refuse pit or parking area, the Eastern idea of an English lawn never developed here, save among a few die-hard "Bostons" of the DAR stripe. Where there is any kind of soil people normally plant roses, succulents, jasmine, and the ever present Rose of Sharon, aka Aphrodite.

That fellow collected thieves, prostitutes, brigands, murderers, tax collectors...

We are not a genteel, neat sort of people; we come from the sorts of folks that supposedly hung around that vigorous rebel called Jesus. That fellow collected thieves, prostitutes, brigands, murderers, tax collectors, patricides, nervous bicycle riders, fishmongers, alewives, and all sorts of riff raff about him and that is precisely the kind of people we happen to be, rude and unruly.

So it is with our gardens, each a veritable riot of vivid contrasting colors. Each a unique world unto itself.

This does run into the quixotic and contradictory result that with all this supposed individuality everyone winds up pretty much acting and looking like one another, and in a small town like this, one can certainly expect that people will be expected to toe the line.

The Church of Continuous Disharmony flung open the double doors

With the warmer weather everyone threw open their windows and people forgot to allow for the way voices carry. Pedro Almeida got into a big argument with his wife and all the men from the Lost Weekend bar stood outside making bets on what it was all about and how it would end. The Church of Continuous Disharmony flung open the double doors of the old Adelphian Hall so the whole neighborhood down there at The Wedge endured three hours of caterwauling and freakish animal sounds.

"Aaaa-ooooooorrrrrr oooooouuuuuu! Aaaahhhhh mayyyahhhrrrrrroowww!

"Dya think they be speakin' in tongues like?" Dawn asked.

"Bahhh!" Padraic said. "Its the singin' what lacks riddim, harmony, melody, timing and the right key. Not a one of them could carry a note to the letterbox."

Eventually Pedro and his wife reconciled whatever spat had seemed so important at the time and he went out with the kids to the Strand where Matías was going to set up his improbable and ridiculous sail board thing while the little ones flew kites.

The sea could smash your little craft to pieces in an instant

Pedro had never approved much of that contraption with all of its fancy paint and gay sail. The sea was not a playground but a place for work and a man must apply his hand at work early and hard and not be fooling around for that was the way life had to be, you see. The sea could smash your little craft to pieces in an instant if you were not careful. You had to be vigilant and as in the sea as in moving through life there were always sharks waiting for a chance to take a piece of you. And this Matías was such a dreamer he had to keep a short leash on him all the time, he did.

So there Pedro was out there getting the kites up for Sebastian and Tomas and, drat! where did that Augustin get off to with his hands full . . .

Sure enough there scudded the happy Matías out beyond the mud shelf more than 100 yards out, happy as a least tern on the breeze even though his mother had told him not to. And there he stood with those blasted kite lines in his hands and Tomas begging to have one, right now, pleeeeeeeeze!

"No! You will just make it crash into those people over there. Wait until it is higher. Matías! Matías! Come back! You are too far out!"

o god the wonderful wonderful freedom and speed

But Matías, scooting now in a large arc two hundred fifty yards and still going out did not hear, for such is the time of year when it gets into the blood of young boys soon to become men and strike out on their own that the exhileration of all that glimpsed freedom can quite overwhelm the senses, the wind is whipping and the speed, o god the wonderful wonderful freedom and speed as if this endless blue sky and infinite sea bounded by the sparkling bridges and the green of the green islands and the magical hump of the distant City so packed with excitement and this day, this moment of youth and the entire world opening up before you will never end.

Turn around? Are you kidding?

"Sebastian! Give me my radio! There from the blanket bag! Sebastian, who kinda wished he were out there on a sailboard with his brother instead of waiting for the safe moment in which the kite strings would be entrusted to him, dutifully fetched the radio.

"Okay dial now."

Sebastian shrugged his shoulders. Dial who?

"Daddy, daddy! I wan' kite! I wan' kite now! Pleeeeezzzzz!"

"Call my friend Felipe. He has a boat. I get him to fetch that idiot back here so I can beat him well. Call!"

"Daddeeeeeee . . . !"

But Sebastian shook his head. "I think you call is better."

"All right here!" Pedro thrust the kite lines at Tomas but forgot to unwrap the ends from his burly forearm as he grabbed the phone.

"Daaaaadeeeee! You have to let go! You have to let go!"

"O for pete's sake here with you! Sebastian take the others. . . ".

Sure enough amid all this tussle the largest kite, some five feet in length with a long tail plunged to the earth -- or more precisely into the middle of a family taking a picnic on the water's edge.

Little Tomas wailed.

In anger Pedro dropped the radio and grabbed his two sons to shake them furiously.

"Hey hey! what's going on!" A man with blond hair stood there with a woman, also exceedingly blond in that bright sunlight with two little girls.

Pedro stammered profuse apologies and ordered his boys to offer restitution, but the family would have none of that.

The woman asked Tomas his name and the girls presented the kite with the information that it was hardly damaged at all.

The man introduced himself as Eric Halvorsson. He and his family were visiting from Norway. He wanted to know what the fuss was all about and so Pedro had to tell Mr. Halvorsson about Matías on his ridiculous sailboard going out too far and he about to fetch him back.

"Ah no worry! I see he has run into my Angelique out there" said the woman who was Mrs. Halvorsson. "She has been on the water since a baby. She is quite good with the sail board."

The woman offered her binoculars to Pedro who looked to see a fuzzy couple talking to one another far out, way far out on the Bay.

"Come join us. We have food enough and some wine. Sit down with us," Mrs. Halvorsson said.

Somehow the radio had gotten lost in the sand and probably was ruined by now. He sat down heavily beneath their umbrella, feeling very, very old, still holding the kite lines. One of them remained high up there, a bright red splash against the incredible blue.

"Daddeeeee! We fly kite now! "

"What, just you? Let me get up now and . . .".

"No no, me and Sebastian and Anne and Marie! We can do it! Pleeeeeeze!"

Mrs. Halvorsson laughed while Eric watched the two teenagers through the binoculars. "I am sure it will be all right. It is a big beach here!"

"Well all right." Pedro grumbled.

"Daddeeeee! Daddeeeee!"

"What is it?

"You have to let go!"

Yes, the lines were still wrapped around his arm. He undid them and watched the young folks scamper off and together the four of them managed to get the big kite aloft.

In the meantime, the red one broke loose its tether and Pedro watched it float on the strong coastal breeze over the bay towards Babylon, a bright speck diminishing into the west, to the place where the sun goes after its petit mort each night.

That kite is me. Someday I will go there, alone, a lost, a loved, along the . . . " .

Pretty soon, or not soon enough, the deleriously happy Matías came scudding back in the company of a gorgeous teenage girl, each doing pretty much what teenagers do and have done for quite a long time.

"Sometimes," said Eric, "I feel all bent down like Old Man Winter. But it would be a crime to keep Angelique so close my frost begins to kill her. It is hard to let go, but I must. It is what we are supposed to do."

"Look how happy she is!" Mrs. Halvorsson said.

This being Spring, the sap rises and males of all descriptions envision rescue of damsels in distress. This may be why the boys at Marlene and Andre's Household made preparations to rescue Euphonia from the clutches of the nefarious Anatolia Enigma. Actually, Anatolia was not so much nefarious as merely a moderately capable magician who performed for Elks Club affairs and birthday parties, however he certainly would have liked to have been styled as nefarious, as such a sobriquet would have complimented his dark good looks, his black cape, his air of mystery, and his moustaches. And, it must be admitted, nefarious earned more for the pocketbook than doing good or even doing well. Certainly this has been true at least since the administration of George Bush, Jr.

As for Euphonia, she was Anatolia's latest somewhat female, very unwilling, magician's assistant in his act. She was the classic damsel in distress, and for Euphonia and all that she was, well that will have to wait until next week. Let us only say that she and the invention of the "talking wire" shared an extraordinary intertwined fate.

"AarrrrrrrooooooooOOOOOOOOO!" chanted the Church of Interminable Cacophony. "OOOOOhhhhrrrrraaaargh!"

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its romantic journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

APRIL 21, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

Generally the headline title is a more esoteric song lyric, but what the heck. In the Golden State, we do milestones like they really mean something. So we have two pix from Loren's passage from the twenties into the age of "maturity", the first being a 100% edible cake (save for the lid).

The second being the star of the dinner table, which, although rather trafe, looks pretty damn good.

Its California. We do things in style here. Incidentally, for those of you wishing to duplicate this kind of thing (also accompanied by punchbowls and Puerto Rican- style canapes like fried plaintain) it takes 20 hours to "do" a pig. And by that, we do not mean the LAPD.

Loren will be taking his Master's in Special Ed this Spring. Time for another celebration?

REQUIEM

Of course it would be extraordinarily provincial and small-minded to ignore the events that recently happened on the East Coast.

First of all, let us say that we do have family members in the Boston area and they are fine -- the principal folks were travelling during the Boston Marathon bombings and the others are shut-ins, so they hardly noticed the lockdown.

Secondly, our thoughts and sympathies go out to the Bostons as they gradually put their lives back in order after this reminder that America runs a world-wide Empire and a lot of people have been driven crazy by the way it has been run locally in the past.

In addition, some people are just plain crazy. This extraordinarly violence of recent weeks is not the fault of any one religion or foreign region. Timothy McVeigh was a corn-fed white-bread American from the day he blew up buildings in Oklahoma to the day he was executed for mass murder. So was Dylan Klebold in Colorado.

Anyone remember the Unibomber?

In this time we ask people to remember, in addition to the 184 severely injured in Boston, Krystle Campbell, 29, a female restaurant manager from Medford; Lü Lingzi, 23, a female Chinese national and Boston University graduate student from Shenyang, Liaoning; Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy from the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, and MIT police officer, Sean Collier, 26 with sympathies for the family survivors without venting against any ethnic targets which appear more convenient than accurate.

We refuse to suffer another Manzanar around here.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Ron Cowan still wants to build something, and still feels a little bit entitled to do so. Just why he wants to do his building here and why he feels compelled to tear something down, move it, and put something in its place is anyone's guess.

May be the man is of Napoleonic stature?

In any case, Harbor Bay Associates now wants to rip out Bay Farm Island's Harbor Bay Club and replace it with 80 homes. The Club would be relocated to the Harbor Bay Business Park.

On the face of it, nobody has any sentimental attachment to the newish club, and the 80 unit densitiy is far better than the metropolis he originally envisioned for the site of the MIF golfcourse, a project that provoked a revision to the City Charter, so odious were the terms.

At first glance, this particular project appears to offend no one and, in fact, coddle the wealthy, as we are sure not a single one of those proposed 80 homes will clock in under $800,000. Bay Farm is east of East End, and tends to favor folks with two or more European cars in their garages.

As for the Club, the old one would not be demolished until the replacement, with swimming pool and larger workout spaces were completed. That Club also trends to favor the well-heeled.

Among the six or seven development projects on the board is the rehab of Park Street's 1700 block from auto dealerships that crashed and burned during the Great Recession to new shops at least one restaurant and a brewery with a tasting room.

CVS, which had planned to install a large pharmacy there, pulled out to be replaced with Walgreens. Chase Bank probably will accompany Walgreens in occupying the spot formerly occupied by Goode Chevrolet.

Meanwhile people are debating the future fate of the old high school, now surrounded by the Special Favors funded "Berlin Wall."

(The wall went up a scant four hours after Silly Council public approval, which indicates an extraordinary measure of preparedness that sorta kinda skipped over the usual and traditional, and some say legally-mandated, public bid approval process)

In good news, all crew of the Delta Captain, which sunk 13 miles off Point Sur have been returned safe and hale. The Delta Captain was a tug registered here with Marine Express.

There is a flavor of blue-haired old biddyism in the recent report of a "brawl" that allegedly took place among AIA students in the West End.

No police report was filed, no one got injured in this "brawl", and no witnesses at the scene saw any fighting. Seems someone just got their panties in twist over teenagers doing what they do -- hanging out.

It does appear that Island High kids like to hang on on Spruce Street to "hide from administrators", but that school lets out at 1:00pm and the incident was reported to have happened around 2:38pm.

Now both schools are launching increased security and an investigation because of the complaint.

Oh people. Just smoke a joint and relax already.

PSA

AMP is increasing rates 3.25% as part of a five year rate adjustment plan approved by the PUC in 2010. Some commercial customers may see an increase of up to 5%, so better factor that one into your night out budget.

No doubt this will result in a wave of rent increases, as management firms pass on the costs to the tenants. Because, after all, they heard there is no rent control here.

FADED JEANS

So anyway, Spring has suddenly hit the Island with a solid whallop. Its coming to the end of crabbing season and anyone who buys an oyster now starts taking their chances. Drakes Estero oyster farm may close -- after all they are sitting on federal parkland and their 100 year lease exception just came up.

Generations of NorCal families have driven out that road on Point Reyes that is well paved with shattered oyster shells to fetch back dripping bags of living molluscs for celebrations of all kinds, but this one seems one destined for the dustbin of history. The rule of law is against renewal for another special interest exception and as the local waters warm due to global changes, it may prove to become unfeasible to retain the enterprise there much longer anyway.

This weekend, the clouds finally broke apart to let Mssr. Soleil remind all the fair-skinned just why Black is beautiful and there was a great run on aloe vera and lotion at the Sabroso Pharmacy.

Furthermore the birds have started doing things

The bird-of-paradise plants have all started erupting with their fabulous floral arrangements, the bougainvillea's are going to town and the Aphrodite Amaryllis, which around here grows into bushes some seven feet tall, has been getting all the buzzing insects excited about something. Furthermore the birds have started doing things to remind parents they better have That Special Talk with the younger member of the household before he or she starts getting curious in the backseat of the family Dodge Dart on Snoffish Valley Road.

Oaktown never gets a break, even in Springtime

Little darlin', its been a long cold lonely Winter. But here comes the sun. Over in Oaktown, the swallows come to dip and swirl in the millions over the rooftop garden of the Kaiser building. Once, long ago perhaps they had learned to settle in a grove beside Lake Merritt, but that grove is long gone for several hundred years now, and so the swallows swoop and dive in solid arabesques as if an immense creature coiled and danced above that postagestamp of green which exists there now. People always talk about Capistrano, but Oakland has no charming church steeple there, and of course, Oaktown never gets a break, even in Springtime.

Spring is the Most Dangerous Season.

Spring has indeed arrived. And around here let it be known, Spring is the Most Dangerous Season.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous season. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and IV. Its safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.

Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayoneting the jasmine that keeps throwing out punches this way and that while sending wafts of chemical weapons of mass disruption. Army ants on the march and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while raccoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms while the poppies erupt with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows, duck sorties, and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.

women and girls bursting into majorityhood stroll on patrol

Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked, blindfolded, fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs), wreaking chaos in a wide swath more terrifying that Sherman's March to the Sea. Squadrons of women and girls bursting into majorityhood stroll on patrol, their smooth lithe legs flashing beneath their uniforms: thin summer dresses, haltertops, daisy-dukes, and god knows what else underneath that armor. If anything. Its all agitprop left to the imagination.

Observe Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, that flippy short skirt, and strappy high heels. Now Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming, victorious daisies. Right in the heart, poor lad. A goner for sure.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.

When the fog rolls back and feminine panzer divisions cruise the Uptown district in search of some likely target holding his pinsel in his hand at the galleries, when the leggy Joanne strides forth into the night on six-inch stilleto heels and Danielle puts on that short black dress and a European accent spoken with a sultry je ne sais quoi wafting pheromones among the randy artisans, that is when Don Giovanni and Lola Lola stalk the Salons for luscious prey.

That is also when The Editor, avoiding the leggy Joanne, stocks up on Redbox flicks (Netflix now passe), and a fridge filled with Mrs. Callender frozen dinners so as to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, especially those arrows sent by that obstreperous hoodlum, Cupid. For the artsbeat he sends his representative, the hapless Jose who safely has no more a clue about eros than Faber's Euphonia, and Javier, who knows a good deal more about eros than someone in his position ought to and nothing at all about Art save for ogling the odlalesque.

Spring means nothing to Javier, who just uses the season for a more vigorous application to his campaign of jolly roger than during the winter. To Javier, there is nothing more savory than an Art Student in the Spring. Bright then glows his personal Kunstpinsel.

Indeed, Spring is the the Most dangerous Season.

Marvin, of Mervin's Merkins (Put a Merkin in your Firkin!) is particularly suseptible. He has a thing for gamines, truth be told. He has images of Audrey Hepburn all around the house, especially from the motion picture Breakfast at Tiffany's. Spring is especially hard on poor Marvin, and Sunday evening found him tucked up in the snug of the Old Same Place Bar relating the facts of his life to strangers and to Suzie, who had her own problems with the lovelife.

Recently he had been smitten by a chanteuse from Texas by the name of Kat Edmonson. For all his faults, Marvin remained a steadfast supporter of National Public Radio.

"I thought it was Heather Masse you were after. And before that Aoife O'Donovan." Suzie said.

They grew their hair long, complained Marvin. And Heather turned out to be disgustingly and happily married.

"O you men!" Dawn exclaimed. "You would hump an oak tree so long as it wore a short, red dress."

"Who is that guy over there?"

Marvin indicated a handsome man with a silver mane and ghotee who sat at a table with three absolutely stunning women, whom he kept enthralled with stunning repartee in three or four languages.

his copilot was a baboon

"Ah!" said Javier, who had overheard this exchange. "That man there, well, when he visits friends in Cordoba, the Bishop of Seville is compelled to come and acknowledge he has arrived in the town. When he attends someone's wedding, a band of wandering gypsies shows up to perform Hungarian dances for free, and all the maids of honor depart the following day, enciente."

"Nonsense!"

"It is true," said the Man from Minot. "He broke the record for the luge in Switzerland, but was denied the gold medal as his copilot was a baboon, and therefore not a human according to the rules."

"Aye, laddies," said Angus McMayhem. "I seen him toss the caber with the biggest and best of them. I seen him once toss a caber while dining on a scone, competin' against the Giant of Ballyfergus while tightrope walking acrost the parapets, hopping with his caber over the crenellations. Furthermore he knows how to play the pipes like real music, he does! And the tales he tells about his days wrestling lions in Africa and setting the poor child soldiers there free. Och begorrah!"

"Africa? Scotland? Spain? How does this fellow get around?"

"In his own private piper cub airplane of course," Denby said. "He taught himself how to fly so he could practice skydiving."

"Uhh . . . now wait a minute!" Mervin said. "O for pete's sake. Who is he then?"

"Ahhhhh!" Padraic said. "That there is none other than The Most Interesting Man in the World!"

It goes without saying the man had before him a bottle of that dark beer marked with the two X's.

In the wee hours of Sunday leading to Monday, Pedro motored his fishing boat, El Borracho Perdido, out beyond the Golden Gate. Spring arrives on the ocean in subtle manner, often detected only by the patterns of fish which migrate much as birds do from place to place. Plankton and algae bloom and attracts certain fish to take advantage of Nature's brief plenty. Sun-warmed currents reverse direction and the legal periods for certain take come to a close while others open up. There is a quality to the air that tells of changes coming on, big changes headed for the mainland. In the interzone that lies between the silver sunlit surface and the place where light shades down to dark purples before entering the fathomless compressed depths beyond the shelf, kelps and algaes wake from a long sleep to nourish with their long chains amid the dancing bubbles the nutrient rich universe that they say was the mother of all life long ago.

Spring is not kind to everyone. The rumor had it, and the rumor was true that Marina Moego-ada had broken up with her lover of some years and in a snap of revenge had dumped all of his clothing out into the driveway, including his faded bluejeans. He had already taken off with that blowsy Texas blonde from the bowling alley, taking the car keys and his shoes, so what was left sat there like a sad pile of reminders of better days, just getting moldy and old and more useless as time passed.

Over at the the Belle Canto Ranch, Oscar came around looking to beat up somebody for having offended a woman who had known a friend of his sister in some manner he could not recall some thirty years ago, but as he could remember neither the man's name nor the woman's he got drunk on a bottle of tequila instead out on Snoffish Valley Road while all the teenagers were having a good time all around him. Perhaps in the end it was better for Oscar and everyone else once concerned after all.

Pahrump gave a good talk to little Adam about putting aside grudges, for little Adam had been getting into scraps at school again.

It is said, Pahrump went on, about two monks passing along the road and coming to a stream that there stood a woman on the bank lamenting the force of the current and the lack of a bridge. The older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the stream to safety while his companion plashed on behind.

After many miles further on, drawing on to nightfall and time to rest, the younger monk suddenly burst out with great agitation about the monk having violated his vows of chastity in not only touching but lifting up the woman in defiance of all their strictures.

The older monk looked calmly at his upset brother and said, "I set that woman down many miles ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

As with our dear Marina, Spring may bring some heartaches, but then, like the ancient Chinese symbol for disaster, there remains the other side. Indeed, there always will be the Other Side. Spring can always be a time to start all over again. Get on over to Target and fetch some decent tightfittin' booty-huggers, gal. Do a little of that Texas bootstomp and shuffle.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its romantic journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

APRIL 14, 2013

ONLY A CRACK IN THIS CASTLE OF GLASS

This week's photo comes from The Editor who took this shot with his iPhone while taking a walk.


WHATS THE BUZZ

Just got the KPFA reading series in over the wire and looks like there are some upcoming gems, including a return of Eve Ensler to the Bay Area to talk up close and personal about her battle with uterine cancer as well as a talk about America's dirty wars program as investigated by the Nation's Jeremy Scahill. Details are in the Calendar section.

Angela Davis, now a long-time tenured professor at SFSU, will be talking in Commemoration of Palestinian Prisoner's Day at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley April 17, and probably flogging her new book "The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues. Its a benefit for the Middle East Children's Alliance. Go to Mecaforpeace.org to find out more.

Some of you folks might remember a young kid named Arlo Guthrie. Well Here Comes the Kid to Zellerbach Hall as part of Cal Performances on April 18, which happens to be his famous father's 100th birthday. He may talk about Woody, or he may sing a song or two or he may do both. Tix start at $22 and you can get them at Calperformances.org or by calling 510-642-9988.

The Outside Lands Festival is still collecting names and one of those is reportedly Sir Paul McCartney, however that name is as of yet just a rumor.

The dodgy weather has made planning for the Greek and other outdoor venues an iffy proposition, but keep posted and we will inform as we learn more.

I HEARD IT ON THE GRAPEVINE

Rumor has it that the former Goode Chevrolet site on Park that was to be a CVS will become instead a Walgreens, meaning the wretched store that sits next to the parking garage will persist in all of its dinky wretchedness. Okay, so one mega-chain pharmacy is like another. Except the CVS in Mariner Square Village remains bright, clean and well stocked, while the one on Central remains an urban slum to visit with long lines no matter what the time of day and its odd gates at the end of the liquor aisle make you think twice about entering what reminds you of a dingy lockup with armed guards and camera surveillance or something.

Not being critical, but just sayin', this place feels really depressing.

Yes the tubes are getting a facelift, which may very likely feature fixing the opening dates, misrecorded on a bronze plaque next to a sign posting a different date. Improved pedestrian guide rails for both tubes -- hinting of opening access for both directions and allowing for free passage around those trundling homeless shopping carts.

Heck, we are all for easier access to the Island for those folks inhabiting the Bushville tent city under the freeway on the Oaktown side.

For well on twenty years we have wondered just what was in those tall structures with glass painted over. Maybe we all will discover wonders. Well, maybe not.

In any case, this project is entirely a beautification project, similar to the "Northern Gateway" plan to impress the well-heeled and newbie neuveau riche that will surely replace the rest of us plebes. Can't raise the rents from obscene to flatly hideous without some prettification so as to allow some perfect numbskull to claim, "well if you want to live in such a nice place with clean streets and no crime then you must pay."

Heck, and we thought we had been already living here for over two decades and our girls were effing born and raised here. That is old nostalgic guff that counts for nothing, apparently. Nobody we know born and raised in SF can afford to live there in their hometown anymore. Why should the Island be any different? After all, Wood School is gone and soon anyone who went there will be too, followed by the old Island High with its Berlin Wall. The idea seems to be to evict anyone who remembers how it was and replace them with people gasping that at least its better here than elsewhere. After all, we heard there was no rent control. . . .

Also in the planning stage is Safeway's addition to the Target at the Landing development. Unfortunately, Safeway plans to put in a "lifestyle" store there attendant with all of its usual irritations -- instead of a reasonably priced grocery -- but the upside has them also putting in a gas station. For West Enders and people seeking affordable chicken and rice in these hard times of sequester and flinty GOP obstinacy there now is a Foodmaxx just over the Fruitvale bridge where the Lucky's used to be.

In national news, the Boy Scouts national leadership acted like anachronistic jerks. So they want to hire grown men to run around in short pants and cute uniforms with braids and tassels and dangling whistles with boys and still maintain a private but well regulated sex orientation that denies anything exists but still goes by some merit badge guidebook?

Something seems wrong with this picture. Maybe they can hire priests to do the job. O wait, there is a problem with that picture as well . . . .

Terry LaCroix was an Islander through and through.

Terry Yorke LaCroix, Jr. passed away in Chico, Calif. on March 19, 2013. He was Alameda's first elected mayor serving from 1969 to 1975.

After his marriage to Patty, he worked as a manager at the Del Monte plant at Buena Vista and Sherman St.

Terry's civic duties and service to his community truly defined his life's work. Over the years, he served as; President of Kiwanis Club, Board of Directors of Providence Hospital (now Summit Medical Center in Oakland), Board of Directors of Hanna Boys' Center in Marin County, Chairman of Alameda Park and Recreation Dept., Alameda City Councilmember (1963-1969), Chairman of Alameda County Criminal Justice Planning Board (1971-73), President of Mayor's and Councilmen's League of California Cities and Alameda's first elected mayor serving from 1969 -1975. Some of his proudest work as mayor was defeating the Southern Crossing and in limiting the building and housing density originally proposed for the South Shore "fill" in Alameda and in the Bay Farm Island "Harbor Bay" development, all of which would have had a lasting negative impact on his beloved island home town. Terry loved to swim and to sail. He and his family were members of Encinal Yacht Club from its early days at the foot of Grand St., through the 1980's at its current home on the estuary.

LaCroix was mayor on Feb. 7, 1973, when a U.S. Navy A-7E Corsair II crashed into the four-story Tahoe Apartments at 1814 Central Ave., killing the pilot and 10 people on the ground. The aircraft was on a routine training flight to Sacramento from the Lemoore Naval Air Station, south of Fresno.

LaCroix was returning from a mayor's conference in Piedmont when he learned of the crash and rushed to the scene.

"The fire did a tremendous amount of damage -- the biggest conflagration we ever had in our city," LaCroix said in a video interview with the California Digital Story Telling Project.

LaCroix said he worked in the days after the crash to make sure the public did not blame sailors at the former Alameda Naval Air Station for what happened, or firefighters for the extent of the damage.

Terry and Pat moved to Redding, CA in 1988, where he continued his years of community service, with his wife at his side, by volunteering at Mercy Medical Center in Redding providing "Lifeline" installation services to people in need and serving as Vice Chairman for the Mercy Foundation's Board of Trustees ("Trustee Emeritus").

STIRRING DULL ROOTS WITH SPRING RAIN

So anyway, in a big town people talk about themselves or about grand things, international things about which no one really has any great intimacy. Endlessly. Over and over. And they call that News. In a small town people talk about each other forever and forever. Endlessly. Over and over. They call that news. That is the difference.

It does not feel much like it, but Spring has advanced upon NorCal. We have had days of overcast Blakean skies ominous with chiaroscuro portent and muscular gods hidden among the folds, yet little of refreshing rain to clean up the air. Nevertheless, the yards are crowded with Sam's daffodowndillies and once again the calla lilies . . . the calla lilies! "the calla lilies are in blewm again. . . ".

The contractors have all been thronging Home Depot down there on Alameda Street beside the water and trucks have been picking up los migras from the designated area that leads to the parking lot and you can see sturdy men in paint-spattered canvas overalls hauling flagstones down the aisle, and signs for hauling and gutterwork bloom all along the chain link fence, which all means great things are about to happen.

Eduardo and Rafe returned home, not that they wanted to, as life for them was good in far distant Independence where the crow call of their father, Augustino, remained but a distant and unpleasant memory and there was money to be made for Rafe running the little fishing guide enterprise he had and for Eduardo who did contract work for the Inyo County School District and life was good fishing for trout in Lake Crowell. It was not much money for either of them, but they were grown into simple men with simple needs and the fish from the lake were good.

Life had been good there with the Glacial Divide seperating them from their domineering father and their mother who these days had difficulty remembering what she had for breakfast.

But the message came that Maman had taken a bad fall and the doctors knew nothing about it and it was all a terrible crisis and perhaps Maman would not come back from the hospital at all.

The boys flew in from Reno, which is a good two hundred miles north of Independence up 395 to find Maman sitting there placidly eating pepitos from a paper bag. She seemed only mildly interested that the boys had dropped everything, left behind wives and children and friends and jobs in this hard economy to see about her welfare.

"Hokay, so nice to see you, my boys! My only boys! You know the other ones, the ones that would have been so nice your brothers, well, they died. So you are all I have left! You wan' pepitos con crema? Lets sit here and watch the sopapillas grow . . .".

But Senor Augustino had no interest in pepitos or watching cactus grow. The reason he had concocted this fabuloso histoire about Maman was to get the boys to help with digging up the back yard for a project he had in mind.

The Senior had been a major player in the anti-union growers organization in the Valley. He had fought for many years against Los malditos comunistas, as he called the organizers like Chavez at the time. He had been a big man in those days and his retirement had been well rewarded, but he missed the times when he could order men around, make them do things against their will, maybe sometimes embarrassing.

Senior Augustino was of Old Californio. You did not work the land and make a living -- you did battle against Nature and all human adversaries, and you had to be hard indeed, for someone would come along and take everything away from you and then at any time fire or earthquake could do just the same. The weak were eaten and there was no place for dreams.

By modern standards, life at home for Rafe and Eduardo was severe. Up at dawn and if not a bucket of cold ice water did the trick with no breakfast. No games, no play. All was serious intent, even soccer practice. You practiced to win and that was the point.

It is important for newcomers to this place to understand where the present day Californios came from for there to be a real understanding of why things are the way they are.

Now at 79, the Senor was a man of admittedly failing powers. As for Maman, well, clearly there would be no more sons or daughters out of that woman, as he saw it, and so very well. Also there was the tiredness and the sense that many of his lifelong acquaintances of the same age seemed to have chosen a path to rocking-chair senesence, a life in death of naps and rising only to nobble on a plate of num-num and then fall back again into stupor. Or worse, those hideous games run by volunteers from the church where all the old people did these silly dances in a circle just to jiggle their bones awake for a while!

This, he swore, would not become his own fate. He was not old! He was only 79 and full of vigor and life and spit! Indeed he was of old California, of the kind they do not make any more.

And he had decided that he, Augustino, would build a fabulous pond stocked with rare Japanese Coi. And he would have a house for raising prize guinea pigs. Right in the backyard!

For this project he required labor -- lots of it -- and what better source than free labor from those worthless sons of his who had never repaid a single dime for their upbringing, their education, all their clothes, and all the useless frippery Maman had thought to inflict upon his budget.

So!

So they were so many wrigglers cast forth into the world to live their own lives. Well, he would reel them back and show them how to work by dios amigo!

In the morning he got them out of bed and put shovels in their hands and put them to work digging and hauling rock. By midday, it became pretty clear that even though his own arms were still sinewed and strong like rope cables, using two city-bred hands to dig a pond some fifteen by twenty feet across and some four feet deep would be, if not impossible, then eternal labor. Those idiots did not even know how to wield an auger let alone a shovel and a pickax and their complaining was endless. To cap it all, there came Maman with a tray of lemonade and pepitos, waddling along in those idiotic fur slippers of hers to get in the way.

"Maman! Go take your medications!" shouted the redfaced Augustino. "Go away and take a nap!"

Well, he would show them. He would get this hole dug. And so, to the relief of everybody, Augustino went away for a while.

The next door neighbor, a man by the name of Lars Halvorsson, looked on with some concerned amusement, for the man's house was cheek by jowl with others on quarter acre lots and all this activity caused a ruckus as well as a fair amount of dust. Then there was the matter of the debris bin out front taking up parking space on the street.

Eduardo called on their friend Lupe, who had become something of a curandero by reason of having attended two semesters at UC School of Medicine before flunking out to take wholistic classes from Indians in Sonora while supporting himself as a drag queen. Lupe speculated killing their father might do the trick, but Eduardo did not think that would end very well for him and his brother.

Augustino returned towing a trailor with a rented backhoe. "Observe, my children, how things were done in the old days, when men knew how to get things done well!"

He unloaded the backhoe and drove the thing around to the shallow ditch that the three of them had worked all morning and plunged the blade down into the soil where it promptly cracked open a pipeline that sent a geyser of dark water high into the air.

Senior Augustino yanked abruptly on the control handles, too late and sent the blade high into the air and then froze there as water came down from the fountain all around them there.

Mr. Halvorsson burst out of his screen door shouting, about what it was impossible to tell.

All stared down into the pit that now quickly filled and soon welled over to run in a muddy stream alongside the house into the cellar and out to the street.

All stared down except for Senior Augustino who stared upward with a curious expression on his frozen face.

When Eduardo thought to look up he saw that the backhoe blade had neatly nicked the overhead powerlines.

"My electricity is all gone!" Mr. Halvorsson shouted. "What did you do?"

One end of the powerline lay smoking in Senior Augustino's lap. He continued to stare upwards with wide-open eyes, not seeing the heavens.

They say the funeral was modest yet, appropriate for a man of Senior Augustino's stature. He was cremated, even though a burial plot had been purchased, which some though strange, and the two boys returned to Independence. The house got sold to a Vietnamese family who created a whole new set of problems for Mr. Halvorsson. Maman went to a SNF without complaint for it stood around the corner from a nice panaderia.

Late at night the Editor went to the door of the Offices after hearing a knock to find a small cardboad box on the stoop. Inside he found a dark granular sort of burnt powder with chunks of greyish stuff mixed in. The note simply said "Deseche correctamente". He did not understand Spanish but he took the box and put it up on the shelf next to the bell jar encasing the brass fantod to be dealt with later.

Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to aesthetic parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

 

APRIL 7, 2013

LADYBIRD, LADYBIRD

This week's headline photo comes from facebooker friend, Charlene Hensley.

Usually we get a more typical red with black dots. This image provoked a discussion about the nursery song about ladybugs. The original English version (there are many variations) goes:

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one,
And her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan.

The English version has been dated to at least 1744, when it appeared in a collection of nursery rhymes. There was also a 1994 docu-drama done by Ken Loach about a British woman's dispute with Social Services over the care and custody of her four children

The sing-song rhythm and a couple lines from this English children's chanson were used by Tom Waits in Jockey Full of Bourbon as follows:

Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone
Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on fire, your children are alone

The verse probably referred to the old practice of "smoking" plants to get rid of pests. Ladybugs eat aphids, hence are desireable by gardeners.

WHATS THE BUZZ

We are glad to be bringing back Whats The Buzz events reports. This week we have a public meeting on the dock and two upcoming shows worth noting.

PUBLIC MEETING ON THE POINT "BURN SITE"

What: Meeting and public education regarding disposition of Alameda Point's "burn site" - on north west tip of former base When: Tuesday, April 9th; 5:30 - 6:15: informal discussion with Navy PM and consultant, RAB members, and interested residents 6:30 - 8:00: view Navy posters of the site and talk to available Navy personnel Where: Stafford Room, main library on Oak street @ Lincoln Come to this meeting and ask questions of Navy PM Cecily Sabedra and a consultant. The first meeting - 5:30 pm portion - is a group discussion and allows anyone to ask question in the group format. The second portion of the event is the poster station format where individuals can talk to Navy personnel. RAB members will attend the first meeting as an addendum to regular RAB mtg and learn (for the first time) the disposition of Site 1 - burn site/former disposal pit. The final documents on this site were linked online yesterday (although a number of RAB members question why they're not seen draft documents at all. Late or never produced draft docs ensure that the RAB cannot review Navy processes and decision until after they're made; this obviates the RAB's mandate).

Link to final docs:

David Sedaris returns to the Bay Area for a KALW benefit over in Babylon

An Evening with David Sedaris on May 5th , 2013.

San Francisco War Memorial Opera House

7:30 PM.

The Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, directly across from Davies Symphony Hall.

Reception at 6:30 PM

The celebrated NPR humorist comes to the War Memorial Opera House for an evening of cutting wit, social satire, and riveting conversation, including a question and answer session! Experience live, the hilarious brilliance that created the national bestsellers: Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and his latest Best-Seller, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” and the much anticipated new collection ”Lets Explore Diabetes with Owls”

More info and buy Tix

Buried in the Berkeley Rep pre-season announcements (current excellent season continues with Pericles, Prince of Tyre, starting 4/12/13) we note a couple world premiers, including one by none other than the screenwriter for the Oscar-adored film, Lincoln, Tony Kushner. Well, he has done a few other things as well, but this time around the celebrated playwright teams with Tony Taccone.

May 16–June 29, 2014

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures

BERKELEY REP

  • Written by Tony Kushner
  • Directed by Tony Taccone
  • Main Season · Roda Theatre
  • West Coast premiere
  • Winner of two Tony Awards, three Obies, an Emmy and a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Kushner returns to Berkeley Rep for the West Coast premiere of his latest play. With his trademark mix of soaring intellect and searing emotion, the legendary playwright unfurls an epic tale of love, family, sex, money and politics—all set under the hard-earned roof of an Italian family in Brooklyn. When Gus decides to die, his kids come home with a raucous parade of lovers and spouses to find that even the house keeps secrets. Kushner reunites with one of his favorite collaborators, Artistic Director Tony Taccone, to bring this sweeping drama to the Roda Theatre.

    More information

    CRASH INTO ME

    Our roving reporter came across the aftermath of a spectacular crash on the corner of Triumph and Atlantis around 3:00pm Thursday, April 4.

    The car, travelling at a high rate of speed jumped the curb and completely obliterated the lightpole before continuing across the sidewalk and median to cross the street on the far side and smash into a brick-clad pillar.

    Airbags inflated and all axels and all tires were destroyed.

    Police at the scene declined to offer statements and the City website went down during the weekend, preventing further inquiry from the PIO.

     

    APRIL, COME SHE WILL

    So anyway here on the Island, which is not so much the Town that Time Forgot as the Town Time Prefers Not to Remember, a number of wharf sizzlers together with Blakean skies unruly with chiascuro gods and tumult have kept things dank, mildewing and depressing.

    People around here, and by People we mean the old timers with sturdy roots going back to Chipman and Augenbach's day, don't like too much sun and uplift, for dank depression reminds us, or them at least, for the times of hardscrabble struggle, economic disaster and pullman car strikes. We do not have a Sons of Norway house on the Island, unless you count Olaf's Waffle House -- that distinction belongs to the Laurel District in Oaktown across the water. At some point we need to make a field trip over there to learn just why the SON are plonked down in such an improbable place.

    Ah History. Some say History belongs as spoils to the victors, however beneath any such "official story" about how we got here lies the motherlode of Truth, which like any ore-rich vein, contains a multitude of things, good and bad, and here on the Island we have the Home of Truth right there on Grand Street. Been there since the 1800's.

    Spring is coming. Daffydowndillies are out. Tulips. All the early risers acting like NorCal is the same as Minnesotta.

    The Annual Meeting of the Island Historical Society took place this Wednesday. Pandora Thighripple, also Heavyweight Dragon for the Island Hostesses, the premier clandestine fraternal organization of culinary obsessives, conservative political subversives and extremist capitalists, held the gavel this time. The subject was upcoming Heritage Day in which the Island would celebrate all the good things about the Island's history.

    "Let me say this," Pandora announced. "The celebration is for genuine Island residents who can claim long-term, multi-generational attachment to the values we select. All others can just be quiet."

    There was a chorus of agreement and the motion was quickly seconded.

    Angela Conocere raised her hand and uttered in a timid voice, "But there are some issues to be addressed . . .".

    "I don't here you! I don't hear you!" Pandora said, clapping her massive palms against her ears. "I don't hear you! The theme is Celebration not Denegration!"

    "Okay, I just thought some history should include my people's . . . ".

    "I don't here you! I don't hear you!" Pandora said. "Next item on the agenda . . . !"

    With Spring coming on, and this year the year the America's Cup comes to the Bay, a number of boat owners came down to the Marina to see what needed to be done to get things shipshape. Because of the overcast skies and the occasional drizzle, not much real work got done, but a lot of talk drifted under the docks to make up for it.

    Over at Mr. Howitzer's new yacht, The Fountainhead, a gay little party was got up under the awning and boathouse. It was an open bar and folks got there a bit soused and started misbehaving. Mrs. Cribbage flirted with Mr. Terse while Mr. Cribbage buried his head in the lap of Mrs. Stanchion. The dogs, Eisenhower and Milhouse ran up and down the decks with great abandon the way dogs do in the rain and Mr. Blather got up on the roof of the wheel house to spout ill-remembered quotes from a famous Objectivist. Indeed, Mr. Blather quite forgot who he was and began shouting, "I AM John Galt! I am John Galt!" until a gust of wind knocked his feet from under him and he landed in the water after a preliminary bounce on the deck.

    Seeing this, while swabbing the teak deck of Miz Perspicacious, a good enough minimum wage job when the weather was fine, Pahrump dove into the fetid marina water and paddled over to grab the semi-conscious Mr. Blather and haul him to the dock where members of Mr. Howitzer's party pulled him up onto the wet decking, leaving Pahrump to fend for himself more or less.

    He drove home on his scooter, sopping wet.

    When told that an uncultivated plebian had rescued him, saving his life, Mr. Blather burst into tears. "O why could it not have been a Shumaker or a Rothschild!"

    That same evening Luther closed up the Pampered Pup hotdog shop and walked around the corner to stand for a moment next to the newspaper stand first erected on that spot in 1936 and still kept in operation by dint of sentimentality and a sense of preservation.

    Lionel's family, multigenerational residents of the Island, had come to this place during the war years to help build the massive ships that would replace those sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack. Many of Lionel's family had died during the Port Chicago disaster when an explosion amid the poorly regulated area had destroyed several ships, several wharves and several hundred lives as well as the entire Port Chicago facility. Only a plaque and a line of charred stumps remains there now to mark the West Coast wartime premier arms loading facility.

    Along the road there is still a monument to Rosie the Riveter, but then, she was a horse of a different color.

    Lionel, was not allowed in the early days of his youth to buy a paper from the kiosk. He remembered Officer Pushkin picking him up when he was seen wandering down Santa Clara toward the Paramount Movie theatre and being brought back to the row houses in the West End.

    "Now boy," the officer had said. "I am bringing you back to your place. We don't want any trouble over here. And you know they just won't sell no ticket to a boy like you at the box office. You know that. So don't be crossing east past Grand Street. Run along now back to your ma."

    Now in the year 2013 a Black man held the Oval Office and there Lionel stood with the rain sifting softly down and so much changed here he was with a business right there on Park Street.

    When People talk about Heritage Day, in whatever small town that Time forgot or chooses not to remember, they also need to factor in a world of pain and hurt that comes with that Heritage. Otherwise it has no real substance.

    In the Offices of Island-Life the Editor listened to the rustling of cars passing infrequently by on the wet streets as the rain sifted down. Carrying a glass of Maker's Mark he descended the stairs to check on the peas and slipped abruptly when his game leg, damaged during the disastrous episode at La Monte El Abuelta de Diablo, slipped out from under him and he went down hard. Fortunately without breaking anything, but leaving him stunned for a moment, much like people feel after a big roller shakes things up a good bit so that everyone wonders quietly to him or herself, "Is this the Big One they talk about? Did I leave grandma's jar of marmelade on the edge of the shelf or toward the back? I wonder if the hall mirror held up and if Jeremy got to where he was going -- or was he supposed to go to pick up Adam for soccer practice Wednesday? Is today Tuesday? Has soccer even started yet or is it still Spring Break? Am I supposed to die now and if so, am I dead already? Who am I today? It's past time to prune that lemon tree . . . .

    After a bit with the rain sifting down, quite extinguishing his cigar, the Editor remembered who he was and where he was and got up with some effort. Somewhere among the chard and peas in the dark rested an empty glass that formerly held a quantity of Maker's Mark.

    Smugness, especially of the small town variety is such a cheap target. There really is not a place anywhere you can find where somebody does not feel that a little halo revolves about their pointy crown. Laughter is the best way to deal with inevitabilities about which one can do very little. Had his cousin simply guffawed at Osama Bin Laden's foolishness when he came to the door only to turn his back with medieval rectitude way back when, so much suffering and stupidity could have been avoided.

    Just imagine: "Ozzie, you silly goose! Turn around and come in for some nice raisin bread. Don't be such a fuddy-duddy mugwhump!"

    It was his version of history that made Osama the narrow-minded prick that he was. A cobbled story of selected bits about losing the Alhambra, twisted accounts of the Prophet written in an archaic version of Arabic nobody but erudite linguists can read any more than English speakers can read Beowulf, which was written about the same time as The Recitation, minor real and imagined slights dating back hundreds of years.

    So long as people still lived who remembered certain things directly, personal and without abstractions, those who claim Heritage ought better take consideration before celebration. Just remember yourselves. That is all.

    Safely inside his office cube, the Editor poured himself another bourbon on ice, rain drops pattering softly like so many thousand stories that make up History.

    The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary slapped the tidewater rip-rap, sung between the crooked boards of the old ferry landing, and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

    Jockey Full Of Bourbon

    Edna Million in a drop dead suit
    Dutch Pink on a downtown train
    Two dollar pistol but the gun won't shoot
    I'm in the corner on the pouring rain
    16 men on a deadman's chest
    And I've been drinking from a broken cup
    2 pairs of pants and a mohair vest
    I'm full of bourbon, I can't stand up

    Hey little bird, fly away home
    Your house is on fire, your children are alone
    Hey little bird, fly away home
    Your house is on fire, your children are alone

    Schiffer broke a bottle on Morgan's head
    And I've been stepping on the devil's tail
    Across the stripes of a full moon's head
    Through the bars of a Cuban jail
    Bloody fingers on a purple knife
    A flamingo drinking from a cocktail glass
    I'm on the lawn with someone else's wife
    Come admire the view from up on top of the mast

    Hey little bird, fly away home
    Your house is on fire, your children are alone
    Hey little bird, fly away home
    Your house is on fire, your children are alone

    I said, hey little bird, fly away home
    Your house is on fire, your children are alone
    Hey little bird, fly away home
    House is on fire, your children are alone

    Yellow sheets in a Hong Kong bed
    Stazybo horn and a Slingerland ride
    To the carnival is what she said
    A hundred dollars makes it talk inside

    Had a Million in a drop dead suit
    Dutch Pink on a downtown train
    Two dollar pistol but the gun won't shoot
    I'm in the corner on the pouring rain
    16 men on a deadman's chest
    And I've been drinking from a broken cup
    2 pairs of pants and a mohair vest
    I'm full of bourbon, I can't stand up

    Hey little bird, fly away home
    Your house is on fire, your children are alone
    Hey little bird, fly away home
    Your house is on fire, your children are alone

    Tom Waits, Jockey full of Bourbon

     

    March 31, 2013

    VIADUCT? I DUNNO, VY NOT A HORSE?

    This photo is of the duck couple which resides in the planter medians in the parkinglot of Mariner Square Village. They have been hanging out there for several years now.

    The photo was taken a couple weeks ago, however the recent weather kinda seems suitable for this waterproof pair.


    NEW TIMES! NEW TIMES! NEW, NEW, NEW TIMES!

    Patrick McCabe, 77, released in Ireland. convicted of child molestation during Dublin tenure 1961-1983. Because Irish law stipulates max sentence based on time period of crime, Mcabe served two years in prision instead of ten, the current penalty.

    Mccabe served in Humboldt county 1985-1987 as a priest where he again was accused of molesting four boys. He quit the priesthood and moved to the island where he lived until his extradition to Ireland in 2007.

    It's not April 1st, at least not for this last Wednesday's edition of the Sun, but there it was, proud and bold on the masthead: It's Weed Appreciation Day!"

    Um, somebody been smoking a bit too much of that Wacky Tabbacky in the Editorial offices on Encinal?

    By now everyone has seen it and just about everyone has taken a picture: the rainbow flag flies below the Stars and Stripes in front of City Hall. This photo appeared on another blogger's website and reappeared on Blogging Bayport. Here it is again!

    If you post this picture on your blog and email it to 10 friends who blog, then you will somehow obtain $10,000 in the next six months plus you will become the proud benificiary of a pair of Lady Gaga's shoes.

    But if you do not repost this picture, your hair and teeth will fall out and all your pets will die.

    That little side item we noted a few weeks ago about developing the "gateway" to the Island seems to be stirring up quite a lot of interest now that people noticed the plans featured yet another set-aside for Measure A's height limits in favor of 60 foot towers.

    So lets get this straight. After winding through the Kaiser concrete processing plant there in Oaktown, people crossing the Park Street bridge were to enter a shaded tunnel of concrete akin to the nightmares portrayed in the movie Brazil and this was supposed to welcome folks somehow to Mayberry RFD?

    It does seem that the rather clueless designers are going to retract this 60 foot height expansion however it is a sure bet that debate on what is to happen, and whether anything needs to happen, shall continue fast and furious. Perhaps when the Angry Elf extortion gang torched the former Tiki bar on the Oakland side, this was part of the Master Plan.

    Meanwhile we note that the Boatworks project seems to be going ahead with piling up huge piles of nasty-looking whatnot prior to erecting some, well hopefully better looking piles in the form of buildings.

    The Point has people improbably protesting the building of structures to house the low-carbon footprints of dead people, who are unlikely to cause a great deal of traffic congestion after having served their country and had their ashes placed in urns. The VA hospital will, of course, be providing for living veterans, injured and sick, who also are unlikely to add much to traffic. 'Cause, well, you know a wheelchair is only so long and so wide and typically uses hardly any gas.

    The least terns will be just fine. If they get sick we do have a ballyhooed animal shelter up and running.

    Then we have more development promised, or threatened -- take your pick -- for the Wedge area where the old Island High School vacated by the Unified District used to stand, according to one letter writer. We thought the Wedge is that area hard by the Tube, but we are not sure. We do know that the area there along Constitution Way is slated for more build-up, call it whatever. The Old Island High School, of course at 2201 Encinal Avenue, is yet another plot to look at to make sure we don't get another one of those Measure A variances.

    Then there is the area of land which nobody is discussing much where the old Navy hospital warehouses used to be, one of which burned in the spectacular FISC fire a couple years ago.

    Oy, yeah. Remember the Park District squabble over the parkinglot that someone wants to call Neptune Pointe (sic). That one seems tied up in the way the VA columbarium location got surreptitiously moved to make space beside this new thing for . . . well, fill in the dots yourself.

    So to summarize: The Point, Neptune Pointe (sic), Boatworks, The Wedge I (high school), The Wedge II (Constitution Way), the Gateway north of Park Street, the new mega CVS on Park, plus a couple more plots great and small. Seems a whole lotta development going on.

    PSA: Crown Beach, AKA The Strand, will be closed this week after Monday due to annual beach erosion remediation. It is likely to be cloudy with sprinkles in the 60's during the day while the dozers push tons of sand around. Crab Cove will remain open and unaffected.

    We repeat: it is not April 1st as of this writing, however the final letter to the editor of the Sun features an ingenious plan by the notorious Alameda Hostesses (you know: "the Island's premier clandestine fraternal organization of culinary obsessives, conservative political subversives and capitalist extremists.") to disable the firing mechanisms of all firearms.

    This plan involves deploying the Mach IV version of the Wind-breaker gun disabling device.

    Clearly this invention is a state-of-the-art vaporware product of Acme, the Mega-corporation too big to even have a central office or a single CEO. Those of you who have not read the Torpometronomicon, can locate relevant product information as well as all installation manuals, SOPs, and corporate mission statements at http://www.acmevaporware.com/.

    The motto for Acme is and will be until further marketing deep analysis "This holiday, why not travel somewhere WARM & IMPROBABLE for a change?"

    No one on staff has copped to having concocted this letter however we do know that someone who recently lost their job amidst this mysteriously booming economic recovery, which apparently does not seem to be benefitting anyone in America who passes the criteria of either owning a car or breathes a mixture of Oxygen and Nitrogen, has been giggling in the back by the water cooler with a couple Persons of Dubious Repute.


    FIAT LUX

    So anyway, a flurry of wharf-sizzlers swept through the Island and the East Bay to kick off a soggy weekend. Report has it this system will persist into next weekend.

    Right about now the previous storm systems are allowing parts East of here to enjoy a few more weeks of winter. They had a snow-day in Boston, or in a suburb of Boston, and all the kids stayed home, but around here the kids just look out at the gloomy skies heavy with high fog and dream of all the mayhem they could be doing if not cooped up under flourescent lights and behind a desk that has seen the generations make their marks, adding another lump of gum that will harden but last only until Aoife, the School Super, neatly wacks off that calcified lump with a putty knife at the end of the year.

    Passover has wound up on schedule, which means this is Easter Week for the Island with its plethora of churches. In great exhaustion from all this mysterious economic recovery that features everyone working twice as hard for more hours, shops and businesses closed all over the Island. Since everything had closed, a group of denizens at Marlene and Andre's settled in with bottles on the porch for a good long drunk.

    Mr. Howitzer held a Nest Egg hunt on the grounds of his estate on Grand Street, and in keeping with the new realities of the new economy, all the plastic eggs were empty, save a couple contained scrips with messages like, "Congratulations! Your merger deal just earned the shareholders 1.2 million dollars!" Of course that would be entirely too mean-spirited for the kids, so a number of the dads contributed lucites to be hidden behind bushes, in the doghouse, the coi pond, etc.

    Put a merkin in your firkin!

    Luther had not planned on closing the Pampered Pup after Saturday did such good business from all the strollers on Park Street, looking to save a few pennies on lunch food after spending big at one of the boutiques, however Sunday dawned chill and overcast with Jaqueline's Salon, Borg's A Touch of Wonder massage, and Mervin's Merkins (Put a merkin in your firkin!) all shuttered up down the street. So Luther sighed, put up a 3x5 index card in the window saying Closed for Easter, and went fishing at the Cove.

    Floyd, president of the National Association of Traffic Enfeebled and Directionally Challenged was in Oaktown checking out potential venues for the annual meeting of the Non Compos Mentis chapter, and in so doing wandered accidentally onto the Island. Before he ultimately drove his rental car into the Bay, he side-swiped two fire hydrants, three light poles, a bus shelter (which was declared a total loss) and killed someone's pet weimariner, so Sunday morning started off quite exciting before the churches all opened up.

    As was his own nature, Pastor Nyquist proceeded anticlockwise

    Pastor Nyquist of Emmanuel Lutheran, meditated on his sermon as he took his walk Saturday, coterminous with Father Danyluk of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint. As was his wont, Father Danyluk took his stroll about the block clockwise, as oriented by true North. As was his own nature, Pastor Nyquist proceeded anticlockwise, resulting in the pair greeting each other once at the start, once in the middle, and once again as they arrived at the same destination, which you may take to be a parable of sorts about different religions in that everyone pretty much ends up in the same place designated no matter what the Prophet or Buddha has to say about it.

    The two remained on the best of terms, for the good pastor often loaned out excellent choral singers to Father Danyluk on special occasions, for the priest often lamented that his own congregation could not carry a tune to the mailbox, while it was true that his rectory stocked the better wine and spirits.

    The Church of El Luz del Atonal Mundo met again in the old Adelphian for some kind of mysterious services that involved a great deal of shouting and offkey screetching and taking up all the parking with their monstrous SUV trucks for blocks around, pissing off the Baptists around the corner, but at least the kids were kept from running in traffic or sniffing glue for the eight to ten hours it took to do whatever it is they do in there.

    The Angry Elf drove around in his bright red sportscar with "Sticky Fingers" Toshie and Bryan "The Gump" looking to hit up a few businesses for a little extortion gelt, but found just about all the interesting places closed, so the group went back to the Lunatic Asylum of St. Charles to watch Incredible Strange Wrestling on his TV amid a welter of Chinese takeout boxes and broken glass bottles.

    Sgt. Rumpsey, freed from his regular beat as parking lot enforcer at City College, moonlighted as security in the basement of the Macy's for the Pink Easter Poodle Celebration -- Everything Pink 50% off! He spent most of the day under an immense papermache dog which contained a loop tape of dog noise, longing to employ his sidearm against any one of the thousands of Asian "omas" scrabbling over lingerie, fuzzy slippers and portraits of Elvis done on pink velvet, all seeking to knock down the prices even further so as to haul booty off to their own boutiques.

    Someone upstairs upset the cage holding live rabbits in the Easter Beaster display, and a flood of lapine creatures descended the escalador to scamper about in a melee of cursing Toisan and Cantonese, allowing several shoplifters to scoot out the door, pockets bulging. One oma, reverting to earlier village days, held up a captured hare by the scruff before the startled cashier, loudly requesting, "How much this rabbit?"

    So the rabbits escaped. To the unsentimental, one is always good for the stewpot.

    For Sgt. Rumpsey, Easter in the City turned out to be a very long, exhausting weekend.

    I think instead of talking about that we should all go have ice cream.

    On the Island, the supposedly happiest day in Xiandom sank into a grey morass of clouds and dank rain. Reverend Freethought looked out at her congregation at the First Unified Unitarian Chapel and she saw Mariah there with her widow's shawl and her old hands and there was the heavy man in the back and up front there was Constance, she of the crackhead sister, and there was the gaunt man in the long coat and chubby Theo who was Irmgard's son and who worked as a sign-holder on the corner for hopeless real estate developments and she closed up her book on the lecturn, saying, "You know I was going to read a passage from Luke about doubt. It begins 'At that time Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples, and saith to them: Peace be to you; it is I, fear not. But they being troubled and frighted, supposed that they saw a spirit,' but you know what I think? I think instead of talking about that we should all go have ice cream."

    Well this was a novel idea, to go get ice cream instead of staying cooped up indoors on Easter Sunday, but nevertheless, the minister put a raincoat on over her robe and took up her umbrella and they all went out to Tuckers. So that is how the Unitarians celebrated Easter -- by walking in the rain and eating ice cream sundaes and banana splits at Tuckers.

    Because you know, you cannot save everybody, but you sure can provide ice cream instead of hoarfrost.

    Terrible things happen to people and no superhero descends

    That night, the Editor sat in his cubicle of glass and machine noise with his glass of Old Bushmills. It would be nice to have a savior, but that can't be true for everybody. Terrible things happen to people and no superhero descends from the clouds to beat up the bad guys. Out there the Angry Elf gang roamed like the brownshirts of old, terrorizing the innocent and taking advantage of those who find him "useful". If there are any superheros who can transform, transubstantiate, this miserable existence, it would be that child pounding that Chopin etude over and over, until the day that music ascends from a march into a pean of love lost. It would be that painter, that playwright, that photographer giving voice to the voiceless.

    What other purpose art except to produce heartless glass baubles at which to gawk, hysterical displays of meaningless fire.

    "Give them spectacle!" shouted the mad genius, not appreciating what it was he really did. Of course give them spectacle, but you can always dose that with an healthy dollop of soul. For what is spectacle without soul? A plate of collards with no rice or beans.

    The Editor called Denby over on the intercom. "Denby, come in here and play that song called "Leave the Light on". The one by that fellow from New Orleans.

    Denby came around the corner and plunked himself down and got the guitar out of the case and of course checked the tuning and was about to begin when the Editor said, hold it right there. Do that again with the little trills and things you do and the ringing harmony thing you do that goes ting! ting! ting!

    You mean the harmonics.

    Whatever. I like that. The sound of something about to begin. I reminds me of La Gioconda about to smile but not ready yet. It sounds like hope in the wings, waiting for a cue to enter.

    Uh, okay, Denby said.

    I think we should take this on the road and highlight American Art, don't you? You know what I think, I think we need to become . . . relevant!

    I think you are drunk, Denby said.

    Well maybe so, but nevertheless, its all relevant. It is all important. O heck, maybe I am a bit a trop de vin. . .

    Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to aesthetic parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

    MARCH 24, 2013

    BRIDGE OF SIGHS

    Since we boo-booed a couple weeks ago with misattributing the GG bridge we feel it is only appropriate to sling a few jewels your way. Here is an unusual shot of the new bridge under construction with the old one beside -- from underneath.

    This shot from staffer Tammy on a jaunt about the Bay a few months ago.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    You may have noticed a couple gentlemen scooting around Park Street on pennyfarthings this past weekend. The Pennyfarthing was the only way to go for many years until the invention of the "safety bicycle." in the 1880's.

    Its rubber-tire with spoke-wheels design was considered a great improvement over the cumbersome "boneshakers" which had preceded this vastly more comfortable machine, however its inherent dangerous tendency toward "header" accidents, together with a rather primitive brake system meant that it was primary used for pleasure by men of means.

    In 1918 pedestrian collisions resulted in a 100% fatality rate of 3025 people.

    Despite its risky drawbacks, the machine remains a beloved symbol of yesteryear. They are often used to give a sense of whimsical, dated, carefree flavor in films. The City of Davis uses it as a symbol and a penny-farthing was the logo of The Village in the cult 1960s television series The Prisoner.

    CRIMESTOPPERS NOTEBOOK

    First we have a fellow shot multiple times, then five thugs beat up a man on the steps of the police station badly enough to put the victim in the hospital. Now we have a knife fight outside Scobies just off Park Street, which put two people in the hospital. One of the victims had to be rushed to Highland for emergency surgery. The altercation occured Monday morning after 2 a.m.

    People. Please calm down.

    The rest of the police blotter reads more like normal for us, with the usual public intoxication, graffiti vandalism, 5150 psychiatric, and annoying phone calls, with the one odd note of an arson at the Raider's HQ on Harbor Bay where it seems a fan of some other team torched a BMW at 4AM.

    Now! Play hard, but play fair.

    DAY OF THE LORDS

    The angry sounds of Joy Division fit in well with the hornets nest stirred up by the outrageously obtuse House Source LLC who made no friends on any side of any issue with their 65% rent increases followed by their howlingly stupid apologia after refusing to even sit down and discuss matters in two seperately scheduled meetings.

    Now we have people calling for rent control -- which, unless it contains unusual provisions -- will probably hurt the small homeowner landlords here. Although those claims tend to be made by the larger owners.

    The really obnoxious thing about how this started is that, amid what amounts to a serious rental rate crisis here with rents jacking to the stratospheric obscene while wages have remained flat for the past twelve years (witness the recent public labor disputes!) this House Source group essentially bypassed all pretense of civility with a big fat uplifted middle finger, saying "I don't care what you think or feel. I am going to do what I want, so eff you."

    In the short term people have responded to the high rates by doubling up in all the units, effectively packing the local block population density. This will only work for so long. Then begins the rage as people who own the homes they live in see increasing amounts of dreck on the street, congested traffic, impossible parking -- and a lot more events just like what happened at Scobies.

    The sky high rents will ultimately savage the small operator as the sort of folks who can seriously afford two grand for a single bedroom will be entirely happy to levy additional property taxes to fund the kinds of things that make those folks comfortable.

    Isn't that what is happening already? Homeowner, what did you pay in additional surtaxes that seem to be getting by Prop 13 this year?

    It's not like the Island has always been a desireable place to live. It can always and easily go back to just the way it was when the Navy was here. When the only people who wanted to buy property here were blacksmiths, welders, factory workers, shipwrights and retired merchant marines.

    Hey, maybe that is not such a bad thing, come to think of it.

    TROUBLE IN MIND

    So anyway, the pounding of Canadian geese heading back north after wintering in Rio shook the air, early messengers, envoys, and consuls swinging by the Island were a handful decide to drop down and just hang out without all the bother of long flights, TSA annoyances and rerouting due to mishaps between air traffic controllers.

    No one knows exactly why some geese decide not to follow

    No one knows exactly why some geese decide not to follow the age-old path all the way to Rio where exquisitely tanned women wear remarkable nothings on the beach and the slum kids hunt through garbage and tourist wallets for spare change, but where the weather is astoundingly blood warm and the pulse of the soro rhythms fills the favelas.

    It is just as much an old way which features visitors coming here with every intention of making this Island of Califia a momentary rest, only to leave a few straggelers behind, who, over time, weave themselves in to the weft like the old cooking baskets of the Ohlone.

    The fog has come and also the second full moon following the arrival of the Year of the Snake.

    Occasional Quentin slept occasionally under the coffee table

    Over at the Household, which had gotten a bit cramped during the long, arduous winter season that required that everyone who lived there also sleep there and conduct business there due to inclement weather. Because of the horrific rental situation some fifteen people had crammed into the one bedroom cottage on Otis, making do with bunks and makeshift arrangements. Snuffles the Bum slept in the porch hole when it got really stormy out there and no safe place could be had at the shelters. Occasional Quentin slept occasionally under the coffee table and Suan enjoyed the couch -- because she had the most stable employment as a stripper at the Crazy Horse. Jose and Javier inhabited hall closets while Martini used the fireplace and Tipitinia, Sarah, Rolph, Festus, Xavier, Pahrump, Alexis, Marsha, and Piedro stacked in hallway bunks and the "livingroom" area.

    Marlene and Andre and little Adam used the bedroom.

    a form of arson they could always blame on out-of-towners

    This situation worked out because Mr. Howitzer, the landlord, conveniently ignored the fact that the place was over subscribed with tenants and studiously deferred maintenance, knowing the lodgers would not dare complain, and the tenants managed to keep a really low profile, save when Martini and the boys blew stuff up on the beach -- a form of arson they could always blame on out-of-towners from Fremont.

    Social activities generally involved working, looking for work, getting more work and getting drunk before going to work again. This system worked out perfectly in harmony with the American version of capitalism in the twenty-first century, albeit at somewhat a lower level than brokering stock or administering law or selling electronic geegaws to people who do not need them. But in essence, pretty much the same.

    Jose and Quentin and Javier shared a jug of wine out on the Strand to welcome the advent of Spring. It was chilly and the wind blew a cold biting wind, but it was supposed to be Spring and they were going to celebrate, goshdarnit, come hell or high water. Meanwhile Marlene and Andre were fixing up the table with a leg of lamb snagged from a banquet the boys had done. The egg, the parsley from the ironmongery garden, the boiled egg, the honeyed nut and apples mash and the flatbread -- it was all there and they had the wine.

    Javier had gotten work for the caterers over in Oaktown for the recent First Fridays and he had developed an appreciation for modern art, especially when it involved a female modern artist. In fact he had been making the rounds contributing to the art world and female artists in general with his services. If the artist came to the opening wearing a simple black dress, that creator was his.

    Javier had managed to inject passion . . .

    Yes, Javier was a hit in the world of modern art for Javier had managed to inject passion, so to speak, back into the bloodless world of post-post modern post grunge minimalist art. He gave new meaning to "performance art," and critics commented about the renewed vitality that erupted now from the oeuvre of certain ladies he had touched with his own aesthetic wand.

    "Constance Canterbury has shifted in her studies of abandoned New England outhouses from the dreary puritanical lines of her past work to flaming sensual exhuberance bursting with cross-cultural deconstructed motivs of sex and poly-linguistic meanings that rise up to evoke inexplicably limpid impressions of Moorish Spain and North Africa. Never has the half moon iconography been so fraught with hot metalanguage. . . ". (Harrison, Contra Costa Times)

    "O my gawd! Say that in Spanish again!" heaved Appolonia Berechtesgaden, a nubile mixed media artisan, under the naked streams of the full moon caressing the linens. "I love what you do with your tongue!"

    Turn this way or that, yet another imbecility surfaced

    Over at the Island-Llife Offices, the Editor strode back and forth with his arms behind his back, a new order Captain Ahab filled with memories. The year had revolved again to the time of the full moon and the Pesach. But instead of the white whale, stupendously enormous idiocy humped its way through the choppy seas of American consciousness. It was a Stupidity so colossal that it was difficult to know where to cast his lampoon. Turn this way or that, yet another imbecility surfaced even as the sad ten-year anniversary of the invasion of Newark by Eugene Shrubb and his Army of Bums had slithered through everyone's calendars with most pretending not to notice the commemoration of that resounding series of fiascos.

    People had left in a hurry this evening to get home to supper and families, leaving many things half done. Someone had left the door open wide and a glass of wine stood waiting on the edge of the table from a celebration earlier in the evening.

    The Invasion itself had come and gone with few even in Newark having noticed their Occupation, due largely to everyone's indifference to Newark, the total absence of any poodle Weapons of Mass Doo-doo (WMD's), and Newark's own large indifference to itself.

    "That woman is evilly stupid!" she said.

    Now, there was Wally's foolish Sequestration in the men's room of the Native Sons; there was the Pee Tardy folks, so Conservative they resisted going to the lavatory more than once a day; there were people denying climate and weather existed, so the National Weather Service needed to be abolished as an unneeded entitlement, along with military death benefits and firemen's pensions. Follow the lead of United Airlines, in other words. Then that garish, shrill, grandstanding woman lacking any sort of musical talent who always was running around grabbing the mike to call attention to herself and her outlandish viewpoints entirely to make a buck out of making a spectacle of herself throughout the entertainment industry.

    It was rumored that Lady Gaga, that sweet girl, sobbed in despair at being outdone by that master of extreme dadaist nonsense, the former governor of Alaska. "That woman is evilly stupid!" she said as she stamped her nine-inch platform boots, weeping into the fur of her roadkill hat.

    Meanwhile, on the Island, an as yet unannounced Upton Sinclair waits to write about the obscene land rush to build up waterfront properties on a place that averages three feet in elevation where the Bay Tide average ranges from five to seven in the face of some globally warmed factoids now drifting like so many icebergs in search of the next Titantic.

    That's when the great blowhole of the cetacean below began to surface

    At the last finance meeting of the Native Sons, Columbia had stood up to announce that the economy was improving, that the prospective sale of some historic properties would bring in dollars to balance the budget which had been sagging a bit to the left of the ledger in the red zone for a while, and that a city in China was looking to invest in golden poppy farms and that things were improving. That's when the great blowhole of the cetacean below began to surface, for the unstated question amid all of this "improving economy", an economy which seems to have been "improving" periodically now for over a decade and a half, concerns just who the hell is feeling the benefits of all this economic "improvement".

    You?

    So there the Editor stood, a wounded captain on the deck of his ship gazing at the moon recalling memories of Paris. And of Austria. Of Berlin with its old wall and the truncated Bernauer Strasse. Of the Luneberger Heath. Ravens marshalling about the gloomy Tower of London. Hitch-hiking on burros across Capadoccia to the most incredible coastline staffed by homicidal bus drivers and sleeping on the larcenous white sands of Ios before the fabled wine-dark sea.

    And now, wounded again years after the helicopters had pulled him out of a rice paddy in the place of green butterflies, just when he thought there was nothing left about which to write, that all the stories had been told, there goes some preposterous numbskull with a plan to stack skyscrapers inches apart near downtown on the Island and another fool claiming his right to raise rents 65% because he thought it proper and reasonable that other people pay for his investment at zero risk.

    By god there is a crack of the whip in me yet, the Editor said to himself, and he took a swig of the glass of bourbon in his hand, even though this sort of thing was forbidden by Doctor Cohen. Tonight, the change of barometric pressure, or the approaching offshore storm, or the anticipated Season charged the air with a sense of expectation. As long as fools and knaves continued to run the show and make life more miserable for the rest of us, there will always be more news.

    Yet why is this night different from other nights? Each of us has sweated under the yoke of tyranny. Each of us has walked dry shod between perilous extremes. This alone should tell you that there is no end to suffering. Go ahead and put your elbows on the table and lean back on the cushions when you have them.

    Perhaps it is time to go and visit the Temple Wall, the Editor thought to himself. Then he went to shut and bolt the front door. No reason to give the Angry Elf gang an invitation to murder and mayhem.

    This year in fear and shame. Next year in virtue and justice.

    The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the old Beltline, the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

     

    MARCH 17, 2013

    EXCELLENT BIRDS

    This week the headline photo is of a spring bloom. We do have tulips and other traditional early risers, but as this is California, our Spring features a bit of the outlandishly colorful.

    Some of these bird-of-paradise plants become full-grown trees thirty feet or more in height around here.

    ON AN ISLAND

    This past week some things happened. People got robbed and shot and beaten right up on the steps of the Police Station. However, as no traffic ordinances were impacted in any of the cases, the perpetrators got clean away.

    The school district, which supposedly got a parcel tax passed to cover for the retraction of Prop H. now suddenly is crying poormouth because -- surprise! -- the courts reversed Proposition H. And -- surprise! -- the appeal got quashed. Um, we did see this coming for quite some time, did we not?

    There is a little item in the corner of the Sun's front page that references plans to create a "Gateway District" in the area near where the Park Street bridge brings traffic into the Island. This four block area is the first thing folks see after travelling through the execrable-looking Kaiser cement plant area north of the estuary. We have heard people exclaim with some surprise "THIS is the entrance to the Island?" Well, for most of our lives in the past thirty years Alameda was not a desireable place to live and visit, so give it some time. There are some nice people who live on both sides of the water there.

    A pranker called with enough energy and threat to cause a total lockdown of the High School. No terriers have been located running through the halls as of yet.

    There was other news, but for some reason everything looks a queasy shade of green today and the entire staff is getting into the NSAIDS after this late St. Paddy's Day. Maybe next week we'll get some reviews in on time. Festus came in chattering that Q-Cafe recently has had all the hot chicks hanging out there.

    Festus, all 3/4 of a pound of him, is an hamster. What does he know.


    DARLIN' DUBH DEILIS

    So anyway, the fog hung low in the sky all week despite the best claims of the most solid weatherperson authorities at KCBS (All News All the Time!) or the Dowdy Rock station (Kaaaaaaay Fooooooooooog!) or the sometime alternative competitor (Live! One Oh Five! POINT! Three! Hey, we don't suck anymore!).

    Yes, once again the radio is your friend. A little inaccurate, as all the media seems to have been for a couple decades or so, but now friendly. Word has it FOX is going to send old men in trenchcoats to the schoolyards to hand out candy to the kids.

    FOX always has new ideas; sure, that will work.

    So anyway to start again, the fog announces the change in seasons each year with a longish rollout that depresses everyone to the point that some folks even start to think about returning to live in the Midwest to enjoy the snow and the tornadoes. Family arguments loom large in this time, and many is the child who, lodged with relatives or the library during a violent spat winds up living like a gypsy on people's couches or in the stacks between letters H and G of the nonfiction, subsisting on cold coffee and abandoned pizza crust.

    When Spring comes around, the sun shines and many families rebuild themselves. That is what the remaining SUVs are for. Mom and dad drive around, picking up the kids, or maybe trading a bad one for something better until the tank is full and then the hulking vehicle is palmed off on the next family, as those things are really useless for anything reasonable beyond demolition derby. You cannot park them, they use up gas and everybody reasonable hates you for driving something so grotesque and socially reprehensible.

    "Look Harold! There goes another cash machine for the Middle Eastern Terriorists! Hey mister! Is your mother as ugly as your car?"

    Tuesday night Pimenta Strife attended the monthly meeting of the Anti-SUV Proliferation Brigade. Latterly, since gas prices have taken a sort of gentle upwardly trending ski-slope advance, the mood has been festive. Since the ASP Brigade torched a car lot in Mountain View in a daring raid, some six years ago, the lots have not restocked and people are seeing used Hummers offered as option choice incentives by banks to open new accounts.

    And many people are choosing the blender instead.

    It was movie night and all the girls whooped it up watching the viral youtube thing about the car salesman getting pranked by a stunt car driver.

    Main feature was a Sylvester Stallone pic. It never mattered what the movie was about -- big cars always get blown up in those kinds of movies. After Stallone fired a bazooka into a Hummer full of bad guys, Pimenta cried out, "God that makes me want to have sex!"

    Spring is a dangerous time in NorCal. All kinds of stuff starts to happen after a few months of people living through a mild form of the kind of weather that they all imagined they had left behind. At this elevation (three feet for the island) we don't get a lot of snow and ice and forty-two degrees is a long, long way away from forty below in Minot or St. Cloud, but it sure is also a long way away from the ever longed-for Paradise.

    Yes, we'll all enjoy Paradise once the fire damage is all cleaned up and the house is paid for and the kids have finished with detox and psychotherapy and the crazy neighbor next door has been shipped off to a comfortable padded cell.

    Denby has been driven to distraction by the guy next door, who turned out to be related in some mysterious way to his landlord Mung "Bean" Bang. Bang had always been skittish, not wanting to hang around long even to check things out with his property, and Denby found out why.

    One day this fellow, named in all improbability Nevermore Mung, popped up over the fence -- itself an improbability as the fence stood some nine feet high -- and giggled wildly before announcing, "I am back!"

    Later, when Denby peered over the fence he saw coi ponds, a garden, bamboo, but nothing on which the man could have stood to appear chest high above a nine foot fence. Where had this fellow been up until now? Where was he back from?

    Back from exactly where became clear when Denby caught the fellow doing some amateur repair work one day on the side of the tattered Julia Morgan style house.

    "What the hell are you doing buddy?" Denby said.

    The man was was using a crowbar to rip shingles loose. Which he replaced with untreated, unstained boards.

    "I fix! I fix! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

    "You dip those in any kind of flame retardant" Denby asked, remembering at least one memorable conflagration in the East Bay.

    "No no! I paint! Later I paint!"

    Another day Nevermore buttonholed Denby telling him that he had to replace the furnace screen. That it had been put off. That he wanted to do it right now.

    Recalling that something on the order of 24 hour notice was required for maintenance, Denby refused. He also changed the locks and gave Mung copies. Pretty soon Nevermore was pounding on the door with surprise. "Hey! You change lock! I cannot get in!"

    That's fine, Denby said.

    A young man named Stephen lived next door in a separated outbuilding. This man always had the look of someone who carried the entire world on his shoulders. Not a good presentation for a twenty-something guy who worked at CVS as a cashier.

    Who is this guy? Denby asked.

    "That's my father," Stephen said. "He is back from Vietnam after two years."

    I notice my tools have wound up in your back yard. Including the garden hose nozzle. Can I have them back?

    "Sure. I don't why he did that."

    Denied the opportunity to vent, Nevermore began "cycling"

    It became clear that the house, fraught with wacky electrical wiring, bizarre plumbing with fixtures installed backwards, ham-handed door hangs and askew cabinets had been the special project for Bang's troubled relative. Denied the opportunity to vent, Nevermore began "cycling" as the psychologists like to say. One night there was a lot of noise and activity next door and when Denby got a chance to stand on a chair and look over the fence, he saw that the coi ponds and rock gardens were gone, replaced by a fifteen by twenty foot elevated wooden deck with stairs and populated with handmade benches and picnic tables. This had all been done within twelve hours.

    One day the ten-foot long garden that Denby had started with nice piles of dark loam just disappeared. Denby found the dirt had been dumped on the front lawns of his place and the house next door.

    What's with the dirt on the lawn?

    "O that is fertilizer. We do that every year."

    That was my garden. Why did your father take my garden?

    "I don't know why he did that."

    Just another day in Paradise. Where the damaged goods of an eroding Empire with its history of inflicted foreign misery wash up in any sort of condition, useless or not.

    Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic had geared up the place for Lá Fhéile Pádraig, or at least the American version thereof.

    Back on the Auld Sod, St. Patrick's had been a religious festival, which generally meant that the pubs were all closed. The Irish realized that the Diaspora retained a mist in their eyes such that St. Patrick's Day in Chicago had turned from a proper observance into one of parades and showing the green and lots and lots of potcheen.

    Not wanting to disappoint the tourists, or let the opportunity to make a few punts or two, the Irish opened up the pubs and took to St. Patrick's day with zeal, some one hundred years after the Americans had started the whole thing. Of course the priests objected about all the carousing on what was supposed to be a religious feastday, but the priests were no fun at all and they did not make any money for anybody but themselves, so wiser minds prevailed.

    In like mind Padraic had outfitted the last remaining bastion of the Republic on the Island after McGrath's had closed to become a poofy fern bar with no music because of a cantankerous roomer who imagined that living above a bar ought to be an exercise in temperance and quietude, Fridays and Saturdays included.

    Eviction is designed for troublemakers like this, but in this case, the Nazi's took France and the Netherlands.

    In any case, Padraic and Dawn did up the place quite nice with improved Guiness signs, lots of green ribbon and Suzie clad in an ultra-short miniskirt with a cute green beret. Pots of green clover stood here and there. The IRA contribution jar stood there prominently well away from the pickles and pigs feet.

    In years past, strange visitations had occurred on this night. One year, the Angry Elf gang had attempted a bold takeover robbery. That nefariousness had been quashed by the magic of the Bay Area.

    "I would like to speak to you of magic," said Anatolia Enigma. "As you know I make my living performing prestidigitation, sleights of hand, rabbit out of the hat sorts of things. I have practiced these arts for many years and I can tell you that there is very little I do not know about sawing women in half or escaping from chains while suspended in a sealed vault of water. But all of this pales in comparison to genuine real magic."

    "Tell me about magic," Suzie said. "I am not sure I believe in it."

    Here Anatolia's eyes opened wide and he raised his gloved hands with exaggerated astonishment. "Ahh! I am amazed you, of all people would say such a thing, for in young women as yourself, there resides a great and powerful magic indeed! O I wish I had the power to beguile young men and older men such as you!"

    "O c'mon!"

    "Let it be known to all who would hear, for all who still have ears to observe, eyes to pay heed, no one comes here for the weather, nor do they come here for health or wealth. All who come here come here for the magic that is here. Such magic as makes all of my tricks, remarkable though they may be, picayune and trivial!"

    somebody forgot to write down the passcode of the month

    "O yeah!" Someone said from the peanut gallery. "Then show us some of that magic if it is so great." It was Mr. Spline sitting with Simon Snark. Mr. Spline worked as a Fixer for the Company, a government agency which had such a long ridiculous name that was so highly secret none of its employees ever could repeat it or its acronym in mixed company, not even to their own closest family members. In any case, to throw off the terriorists and similar un-American types, the higher-ups changed the agency name every few years along with the main passwords to all the ultrasecret data. This caused a minor contratemps when somebody forgot to write down the passcode of the month and so 30 days worth of top-secret data regarding North Korea, Iran, China and Martha Stewart remained unavailable, lost forever due to the best state of the art encryption routines ever devised. As it turned out, not much happened that month and nobody really noticed.

    That is how secret the Company happens to be, with a name nobody even remembers because it changes all the time.
    So everybody just shrugged and calls it the Company, which sounds just ominous enough to frighten teenage girls not into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Director can still get funding from Congress.

    neither one of them had any friends they could trust

    Mr. Snark was the local operative assigned to keep tabs on foreign interests on the Island. While Mr. Spline always dressed like he was applying for the position of funeral home director, Mr. Snark always looked like an operative should look -- rumpled and splattered with paint as if he had been working on houses all week. The two of them were very nearly inseperable. Largely because neither one of them had any friends they could trust.

    "Silly man! This magic presents itself every day to you. But I will elucidate! Yet before I eludicate, I diverge and prevaricate in this slight digression as I am now summoned by powers greater than myself," Anatolia went on.

    Anatolia's eyes grew large and luminous. His cape grew darker and more voluminous. His white gloves danced in the air.

    "And now, called by the great numinous forces of light and dark, I present to you with some trepedation and anticipation fraught with the most extraordinary forboding of those terrible and wondrous astonishments reserved now for your very own eyes, the exemplary exactitude and highest exemplar of dimininuative magical persons everywhere . . . the Wee Man!

    A poof of smoke and there he stood, once again, the Wee Man. He stood some three feet high, wore a neat waistcoat with fob and watch, clean trousers, and buckled shoes. Upon his head he wore a newsboy cap. His face was either very old or very young, depending upon the light. Everyone later agreed he was the very same Wee Man who had visited last year.

    He walked up to the rail where Eugene made a place for him by vacating his own seat to stand there with his beer in hand.

    Dawn asked him what he would have.

    Guinness of course, said the Wee Man.

    "And while you are waitin'?" Dawn asked.

    The Wee Man's eyes crinkled with pleasure. "This is a place that understands," he said. "Power. I'll have an Arthur Power."

    "Right you are, "said Dawn, beginning the stacking of the Guinness. She set down a glass of amber liquid which the Wee Man drained in a huff before ordering another and looking around. He noticed Suzied and jumped off his stool with great excitement to peer up at her and hold her hand.

    "How are you my dear girl"! said the Wee Man. And he bowed and had Suzie bend a little so that he could kiss her hand. When she stood up, towering a good four feet above the small person, he clapped his hands with delight gazing upwards with shining eyes and said before turning away to re-ascend his stool, "I am so glad you now wear matching lace!"

    Suzie hesitated then belatedly smoothed down her skirt and turned rather red.

    "Both I and life are short; best to take advantage of both while one can," the Wee Man said to Eugene. "What's that you are drinking?"

    "Harp."

    "O that's harsh! Give that man something to put hair on his chest, for I know in truth he surely could use it." The Wee Man tossed a gold coin on the counter. I say who here is up for some music and dancing?"

    "Nevermind that," Mr. Spline said. "What about all this magic we have been hearing about?"

    Everyone, knowing all about the Wee Man and the things of which he was capable stood back in a hush, fearing the worst at this impudence.

    "Here's your Guinness," Dawn said, hoping to avoid trouble.

    But the Wee man got down from his stool and came over to the table of spooks and stood there looking sadly up at Mr. Spline.

    "O! My dear! Dear, dear, dear, dear! You are the saddest person I have ever seen. You have no real friends you can trust and even your own family does not know each other."

    "You are a fake," Mr. Spline said. "Smoke and mirrors. In the light of day, poof! and you are gone."

    this island is no more than 3 feet in elevation yet the tidal change . . . is more than 7 feet . . .

    "Look around you! You see the hummingbirds and the birds of paradise and the astonishing miracle of the waves? Do you know that every authority and scientist knows this island is no more than three feet in elevation yet the tidal change in the bay is more than seven feet every six hours? How is it that you do not drown from day to day? Have you ever thought about that?"

    "There is an explanation for that . . .", began Mr. Snark.

    "Of course there is," said the Wee Man. "But it does not matter. The magic is that it happens at all. Same reason trains in the fog sound more loud, more full of soul."

    "Well that's because the moisture in the air makes the medium denser and sound travelling . . .", began Mr. Snark.

    "Idiot! It's because fog makes things mysterious!"

    "O for pete's sake!" said Mr. Spline. "This is getting nowhere."

    "Finally, we agree on one thing," said the Wee Man, who clapped his hands. The lights went out and by the time Padraic had found the breaker box to get things turned on again in the bar the Wee Man was gone, along with two thirds of his Guinness and several pairs of women's knickers, which had been supposedly safe and warm and doing their respective jobs in place until a few moments ago.

    Several sudden commandos emitted surprised gasps, to be sure.

    Eugene held a full, brimming glass of a dark hopsy beer and Mr. Spline was struggling with something in his coat. To everyone's surprise, when the man finally undid his buttons, a large live salmon wriggled in a shoulder holster where the man clear had expected something else.

    Spline tugged and tore at the fish until he had to remove his coat and take off the leather harness. He and Snark left in a huff while the fish lay on the table gasping, until Dawn took possession of it.

    "No reason to let the fellow go to waste," she said.

    "Hey!" someone said complaining. "The Wee Man turned my knickers into fishnets!"

    "I don't know why he did that," Suzie said. "Here's your tab."

    Indeed, thus ended another somewhat eventful St. Patrick's Day at the Old Same Place Bar. And of course that's when the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across magically rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats where shamrocks nodded, the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

    MARCH 10, 2013

    NOTHING BUT FLOWERS

    This week's photo comes of a solitary fellow growing in a tended plot among the more common daffodowndillies and lupine. He's the precursor of Spring. Time to get out the garden trowels and get planting.


    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    We know you would rather read nothing but the Sun however an odd sort of criminal activity on the Island came to our notice recently. For those who might want to peruse a different weekly there is at least one scamp who has been making darn sure you Islanders will have no other means of access to the news other than the Internet versions, for we noticed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to locate a Weekly or a Guardian past Wednesday, when the papers are distributed. In fact we have not even SEEN a Guardian paper for about a year on the Island.

    It got so we really started to get a jones for reading Dan Savage and took to driving down Santa Clara to check all the kiosks to Webster. Every single kiosk stood empty for five weeks running. Had an errant asteroid clobbered Circulation?

    Late one Wednesday last we discovered just why -- as we approached the kiosks on Oak and Santa Clara across from the CVS parkinglot, a scamp parked his car and hopped out with the motor running. He first grabbed all the Real Estate magazines from the kiosk and tossed all 40 or so copies in the back of his car, which already was stacked up past the headrests with papers and magazines. The jerk then quickly emptied both the Bay Guardian and the Weekly kiosks save for the facing issue and barely paused when we tried to buttonhole the fellow for a reason for this obnoxiousness.

    "What the hell are you doing fella!" one of us asked.

    "It's my job", the guy responded, emptying another kiosk.

    "What are you going to do with all these papers?" we asked.

    "Read 'em. Take em to the house for the workers. Read 'em at work . . .".

    The guy, driving a primer black two door Japanese make car with bumperstickers that had long since lost the message then took off.

    We called the East Bay Express circulation desk to ask what was going on. After a couple phone calls Jack Murphy called back to tell us the papers were being stolen for recycling. You see, the good printers fold and stack the papers neatly so snagging the entire bundle maximizes profits for people trying to pack poundage into a small space.

    This may explain the thief's choice of vehicles as leaving the motor running on an SUV is sure to knock that profit margin to zilch.

    Murphy told us this sort of thing had happened before and stopping the thefts is very difficult as the crime ranks below the lowest in police priorities. He also said that as a circulation manager this sort of thing was one of his worst nightmares.

    We commiserated with the fellow, and marked our calendars to get out there to snag our paper early on Wednesday. And carry a good sized can of pepper spray besides, as this goofball is causing people more grief than the pennies earned are worth. The next time we run into him, this guy is going to get more than a stinging rebuke in the kisser.

    On the Upside we have two good things to report. Sales-tax revenue is up, so all you folks keeping it on the Island have been doing well by patronizing Q-Cafe, our two remaining privately-held bookstores, Juanita's, one of our two excellent bicycle shops and American Oak, among others.

    The other is that the Teacher's Union has reached agreement with the recalcitrant District and the matter is now before the rank and file for a vote. Check in on Blogging Bayport for the skinny on details.

    Oh yes, almost forgot another America's Cup contestant is going to base operations here at the Point. Italy's Team Luna Rossa, funded by Prada, will be collecting some 130 folks just to put a boat in the water for a while. But those 130 folks, and the leased space, will add significantly to the city coffers along with the Swedish team Artemis.

    The 34th America's Cup will take place this summer with several different events, culminating in the grand enchilada throughout September.

    Contrary to public opinion, bicyclists do get cited here -- you had to know that our town is one of the few which does so -- and that traffic school, just like for auto drivers, is an option to clear the record and reduce the fine. Safety classes are held every second Thursday at the AFD at 431 Starddust Place on the Point from 6 - 8pm. For info visit www.ebbc.org.

    SLIGHTLY STOOPID?

    Letters to the Editor run heavy still on the gun issue, the plastic bag ban, and now, the backwash from the lunatic excuses made by the purchaser of 1514 Benton who stated, in writing, they raised the rents there 60% because they heard "there is no rent control".

    Now a primary owner of a different property has stepped forward with a sort of apologia that does more harm than good, especially in a world noted for stoor and bland responses to the outrageous as a customary procedure. The owner of Schiller Place states "I took my life savings, invested in and restored the home". He then lists a few arbitrary rental values, including a statement that "a two bedroom (apt) rents for about $1500". This puts the new rents at 1514 Benton Street still about 30% below market-rate rents."

    Well first off, anyone who devotes more than 50% of their total cash holdings in any one asset, and locks up that cash so it cannot readily be recovered, is a fool according to any serious financial analyst. To lock up 90 - 100% of you savings in any one asset, whether it be a mutual fund, an equity, or property , is foolishly suicidal. People just did that during the recent housing bubble and look what happened.

    It does not matter how much you want something, how tough you think you are, how savvy you pretend to me. The nature of Capitalism is one fraught with risk and fluctuation of value. The nature of running any sort of business is one of expectation of good and lean periods and a reasonable absorption of debt against the, hopefully, recovery over the long term. No business seriously expects to make a tidy profit day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, on every single deal. Of course such a situation is desirable but get real people, to make money you have to spend money. If you want something assured, pick Communism, where the entire structure is tightly controlled.

    We are happy the owner of Schiller did not lose his shirt in the long run, and in the process converted a dump into a valued part of the city, however we do not have the slightest sympathy for anyone in his position crying poormouth. The owner gambled on a business venture -- we know what that is like and we know there is often a sick sinking feeling during the early years before income begins to offset expenses -- however his gamble was made on recouping significant profit gains. He did not do what he did out of the largeness of his heart by any means.

    The man clearly wants to make money in the process and understands that only a fool tries to subsist on a single property. To make good on a half-million dollar note and then, in addition, seek income on which to live in the Bay Area just is not going to happen with a single fourplex. Or maybe that is just why the rents are so ruinous and disynchronous with real incomes here -- people are buying stuff they really cannot afford, expecting to live on the income plus some and trying to "pass the expenses on to the tenants" with perhaps a bit too much equanimity.

    Now I know a couple landlords both great and small. For the sake of argument, lets limit them to just two. The man who lives off of working property and has no other job owns hundreds, if not thousands of units. Just like the owner of Schiller, he bought run-down properties, moved into the houses himself, and hand-built and rebuilt everything mostly himself. When he did not have a skill, he learned it. Now he is comfortably well off and can afford to pay others to do the work. He typically has set his rents at Market Value, but with the proviso that he is hyper responsive to complaints, and act proactively to benefit tenants to keep them happy without performing onerous structural "improvements" during a tenancy. The time to improve is when someone moves out.

    Our second friend has two properties, one in Marin, which has many characteristics similar to our Island. In his case, he wants longevity over maximum per hour profit, so one can say his rents are set below this Realtor-set conceptualization called Market Value. He has a job other than real estate and the rents are designed to offset costs with minor income supplements.

    As a result, he has had tenants at 12, 15 and 20 years at a stretch and this has worked well both for him and for his tenants.

    In a third case, we have an Island-Life staffer who inherited a house. It needed work. It needed management. It did not matter that the house came virtually free -- he could not afford to keep it and would not in any good conscience "pass on the expense to the tenants."

    So he got rid of it.

    So we have to wonder about the man at Schiller. Did he teach himself tongue and groove carpentry or already know how to do that? Did he already know how to do wallboard properly, lay spackle and paste, and how to rip out that outdated knob and tube electrical that has been responsible for burning down so many buildings recently and replace it with properly grounded circuitry? Did he already know how to seat new windows to match the old look while removing the old sash-weights? Did he personally get up there on the roof to perform tear-off? Did he float the bathroom floor with miracle board himself? Set tile in the kitchen? There is quite a lot of stuff to know, especially about period authentic houses, and this man is talking about doing just one or two. Nobody learns trades by doing just one house.

    If he really just paid someone else to do the work, thinking, well I'll just pass on the cost for this $100 an hour electrician to the new tenants, adding to the destructive forces that ruined San Francisco, turning it into an unlivable city by way of the extreme rents there, well we do not have sympathy. None at all. In fact we would say the same thing to this man we would say to the legions who sat down to sign variable rate interest mortgages for homes costing well over one half million dollars a short while ago: you really cannot afford that house. You should not have done that. Don't do it.

    YOU CAN PUT OUT NATURE WITH A PITCHFORK

    So anyway, a big dockwalloper stomped on through for a day or so, leaving the air sparkling and fresh. Sun came out and so long as you stood and worked in the sun, life was grand.

    a solid slug of good scotch would do just as much or better

    The nasty flu season seems to be tailing off after a variant possessed of a South-travelling virus sent a lot of people to the toilets and then to the ER. In the old days people used to rely on kindly mothers to supply plasters and chicken soup to remedy this sort of thing, but California is the land of perpetual self invention. Some of these young folks will have none of grandmother's physiks, preferring aromatherapy, foot detox, Reichian pilates movement and arnica holistic stuff which has been so diluted down to a single molecule of something that used to be important embedded in a solid gram of gelatin when a solid slug of good scotch would do just as much or better for your sense of well-being.

    Mr. Howitzer came down with this flu rather bad -- perhaps due to his habit of locking the thermostat of his drafty mansion at 65 degrees Fahrenheit in every room save for his private study, where he kept a roaring fire going even on Spare the Air days. So the Realtor howled and coughed up a storm and littered the place with tissues and stopped up the toilets until Dodd was compelled to cook up a pot of his own mother's chicken soup, a recipe that had been handed down through the generations by the Feuersteins, Jewish neighbors of the Dodds in Vauxhall.

    The Dodds were historically lapsed Episcopalians, but she got along famously with Sarah Feuerstein and so the two families had mingled for all the festivals, dropping off bagels for St. Stephen's day in one garden and sharing stuffed kidney pie recipes during the raucous Purim masquerade party in another. Dodd made friends with all the dark-eyed Feuerstein kids and helped out little Aaron with his Schul and made just as good a nonmember of one religion as he was a nonbeliever in the other.

    So that is how Dodd came to stare into a pot of a nearly perfect Jewish chicken soup. It was nearly perfect and not so because it was missing the most important ingredient added by moms generally when the mom is both present and not an evil, abusive crackhead stoned out of her mind. Some mothers can be like that.

    Dodd looked into the pot and Mary looked into the pot and Eisenhower, the Weimariner, looked up at the pot and all determined that something else was needed as the roars of the disgruntled Howitzer drifted down the stairwell.

    "I want the Shotwells evicted post haste! Call the Sheriff! OOOOhhhhh, my bloated belly !!!!"

    He had already served twelve evictions and raised the rent on a dozen more and issued onerous in situ "improvement" orders to yet another baker's dozen. Something would have to be done.

    Mary uncorked a full bottle of Valium and dumped the lot of it right in. "Add a little more pepper," she suggested.

    Dodd stirred the pot. One more thing. He found an old blue glass bottle and dumped that in as well and stirred it up before delivering a steaming bowl with a chunk of bread on a silver salver to the master upstairs.

    After a short while, calm carefully revisited the house on Grand Street and Mr. Howitzer sang little songs to himself before falling asleep.

    "What did you put in there?" Mary asked.

    Dodd picked up the blue bottle. "Says here 'Tincture of Opium. Good for indigestion."

    "O, I see!"

    Over at the Offices of Island-Life the Editor looked at several reports which suggested that the Angry Elf gang had been responsible for torching the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley due to a failed extortion attempt.

    How can Evil be housed in such a short package, the Editor mused.

    And they were all tough as pygmies from the Congo...

    Clearly this was time to enlist the radical Midget Division of the Anti SUV Proliferation Brigade. (sound of trumpets). They were virtuous. They were smart. They were capable. And they were all tough as pygmies from the Congo and they meant business. The Anti SUV Brigade had languished recently as it had become clear even to idiots that only idiots bought SUVs when gas looked to be heading for six bucks a gallon.

    The Editor folded his arms and gazed out the window to watch the roof rats that had been feeding from the cat dishes put out overnight by people in the apartment block next door. The rats scampered and danced the way those merry critters will do even though the Editor's upstairs neighbor insisted they did not exist anywhere save in his own imagination. Heck, its an Island with marinas -- thou shalt have rats where there are boats.

    When one big one died quite aromatically in her dryer vent that really put her out and she blamed the Editor no end for bringing them in just to prove a point. The Editor could still recall her furious face and her wagging finger. Nevermind they had infested the roof for ages.

    some folks got their panties in a twist about the raccoons beating up their poodles

    The raccoons used to drive them off, but some folks got their panties in a twist about the raccoons beating up their poodles so Environmental Health had trapped them all and sent them away making people feel it was safe to put out the nocturnal cat food. Now the rats did the gavotte about the woodpile with great joy, for Nature is like a great seesaw. Press down one place and up it goes in another.

    "Just none of you better try turning left on Park Street from Otis," warned the Editor. "The Island Police means business. They'll trim your tails, that's for sure."

    Spring is coming and all god's creatures, great and small . . . o heck. Just fergeddit.

    The long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the chittering waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across mysteriously rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats where little creatures darted and stuffed their cheek pouches, the locomotive pulling boxcars loaded with grain and thousands of rodent feasters glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

     

     

    MARCH 3, 2013

    SOME CALL IT SLUMS, SOME CALL IT NICE

    This week's headline photo is a shot from one of the benches tucked away near Crab Cove. Our little Eden.

    That is far off Babylon hovering, seemingly, over the far arm of the cove .

    WHAT'S GOING ON

    March has arrived, and along with it the start of the heavy pogonip that always precedes the seasonal weather changes. March is also the time when promoters start into gear for Spring and Summer seasons.

    The theatres are winding up their formal seasonal programs; Berkeley Rep just finished an outstanding creative season without the guiding hand of Les Waters, as Mary Zimmerman's White Snake finished up along with the inventive Wild Bride.

    Never fear -- former artistic director Waters will return, in a manner of speaking, in collaboration with Sarah Ruhl with a tale of love and longing and genius. Dear Elizabeth follows the beautiful and bittersweet friendship between poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.

    Kicking off Spring, Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci will hold forth from March 8th, while the seldom performed Shakespearean Pericles will likely be given a novel treatment.

    ACT will be putting aside its dowdy conservatism for a while with two world premiers in the form of Stuck Elevator, a drama about an immigrant trapped in an elevator for 81 hours, and Dead Metaphor, a black comedy about a soldier returning from the Middle East wars and trying to find work.

    Shotgun Players will be starting things Spring with Tom Stoppard's Shipwreck and Voyage, Parts 1 and 2 of Stoppard's Coastal Utopia trilogy. Then there is By and By, a sci fi drama featuring cloning, bad medical science and human frailty, followed by a Josh Kornbluth thing. Can't go wrong there with those choices.

    Musically, Robben Ford holds forth only through tonight, while the wildly exciting Ladysmith Black Mambazo owns 3/6/13 for a sold out series of shows.

    Jose Feliciano comes out of the woodwork for a rare appearance 3/7 - 3/8 while the considerably paler Jim Messina does 3/9. Did you know Messina was a founding member of Buffalo Springfield?

    The 10th Bay Area Black Music Awards takes over on the 17th.

    Casts and bandages are off everybody in the newsroom and we are all free of our wheelchairs, so see us out there bopping to Fun at the Greek or wherever and whenever our boys Green Day return home after their ill-fated European tour. So Billy Joe got into a tangle with the pills; its not like this sort of thing doesn't happen in real life as well as rock 'n roll. He is a good kid, he is free and sober now, and we are glad he is back in the game still fighting the good fight.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    The Unified School District and the union came out of cantankerous bargaining with a contract proposal for a 1% salary increase for teachers. Which proposal goes before the rank and file for voting soon. The talks, which dragged on for 10 months, featured a request for a 4.5% increase over two years, so we will see how this one plays out. Our teachers already earn less than any other district in the Bay area, which is a damned shame.

    In more school news, the first of what may become a series of demolitions due to declining enrollmens took place Monday when the Island High School buildings were knocked down. Plans are to convert the land to its original use as a garden spot.

    Now that the weather has improved we are seeing more burgluries happening -- lots of smash and grab vehicle thefts, outlying buildings, storage sheds, etc. Also a continuing trend is the occurance of 5150 psychiatric detentions, with about one per day.

    The anxiety-filled tit-for-tat argumentation over the usurious rent continues in letters to the editor, with the first call for rent control hitting the sheets. Given that the contra position has been poorly expressed without regard for the economic realities out there that feature decades-long stagnant wages, it seems pretty destined that after a long acrimonious fight, rent control will surely come here, like it or not. It is obtuse people like the folks who bought the Benton Street property who ironically will ensure that it happens.

    The VA, seeking to build a combined columbarium and medical facility at the Point may have sensed that the abrupt shift in zoning boundaries may have ruffled feathers -- and we do not mean the least tern, which animal is being used as a excuse for the changes. Not that the former site abutted and overlapped some waterfront land eyed by at least one developer with jingling pockets. Heck no. All we are concerned about here are a few hapless seabird nests. We have a heart for critters, really we do.

    Whatever. A columbarium is a sight better than skyscrapers and odious mulimillion dollar palaces that will drown in the drink when the ocean rises anyway. The tenants are quieter and never will threaten the sensitive IPD with unruly hip hop parties. In any case it preserves the historical Naval presence and dead people in urns will not significantly add to traffic, so it is generally a win-win situation. We just wish our Silly Council would be more transparent about how these things come to pass.

    The VA is wisely seeking public input to the decision process in a manner that differs sharply from Suncal's old tactics of deception, and this difference is substantially positive. The meetings will take place aboard the Hornet 3/14 from 1-3 and 6-8pm. We suggest giving the VA a warm welcome.

    PSA

    Everyone know that the High Street northbound ramp to 880 should reopen Monday with the difference that the ramp will become a two lane access ramp. This ramp and the southbound feller will be closed during the evenings sporadically through the end of March.

    A TIRED BUS STATION AND AN OLD PAIR OF SHOES

    So anyway, people got so excited about what happened last week with Old Schmidt and an old flame showing up that Lionel nearly forgot that March was Black History Month. He called over to his friend Arthur and the two of them decorated the Pampered Pup with posters of men and women who had achieved great things against impossible odds. Because he was friends of the family he already had photographs of John Henry, one of the original Miracle Backfield for the 49ers, and Curt Flood, who had started the lawsuit that ended the baseball draft as it was back then.

    Up went Marcus Garvey and Malcolm and King and Ali along with Thorogood Marshall, Sir Duke, Satch Mo' and so many others.

    How come you don't leave these up all year, Arthur said.

    The Island being what it is, I still gotta sell hot dogs, Lionel replied. There's IPD that come in here and I'm a realist.

    The Old People say that the pogonip was the result of (a) curse of the Ohlone

    Midweek everyone woke up to a dense pogonip that permeated every corner of the Island. The Old People say that the pogonip was the result of the final curse of the Ohlone laid upon the invading Europeans: to make them wander in a land not theirs, all mysterious things hidden, blind and unseeing for generations to come no matter how entrenched and rooted they may claim to be, as nothing can be so rooted as the Sequoia or the Monterey Pine which have been here hundreds and thousands of years before the '49ers and will outlast all of our dynasties for eons to come, still shrouded in that coastal phenomenon called fog.

    You who claim ascendency and descendency, remember the curse of the Ohlone and the pogonip.

    the passing Winnebago and the tented RVs . . . bums on the plush

    Tommy and Toby, seeing that the brisk weather inhibited good sailing for the duration, packed up the RAV4 to head up to a time share rental cabin in the neighborhood of Grass Valley, which is a sort of poor man's Tahoe destination for folks who know folks who have lived here more than a generation in some form. The people who settled Grass Valley are descended from would-be miners who found more of value in clear streams and tall pines than grubbing for gold flecks. They and others supplied and refueled the workers who laboriously built this end of the transamerican railroad. When that brief excitement passed, the town collected misfits and malcontents seeking the solitude of the secluded vales and dells in the Sierra foothills. Today, it supplies the passing Winnebago and the tented RVs of people lugging enough home behind them to convert all that is new that they encounter into something safe, comfortable, and familiar -- bums on the plush.

    In the still frosty air of late winter Tommy and Toby went strolling and came across the field in front of the middle school of Grass Valley. The expanse was dotted with snow angels and a pair of sagging snowpeople stood beneath a pine marked with an orange sash for destruction. One of the snowpeople had collapsed into the other, an apparent victim of the warming trends of the day although it was presently sub-freezing. The change in the seasons had announced itself even here at altitude and spikes of green were perforating the boundaries of the schoolyard.

    The two boys frolicked in the snow and built snowpeople of their own to keep the older ones company, making a little family of frozen souls, and went to the Old Bar with the very long table made of a giant redwood and had a jolly time.

    The two of them returned to the Bay Area, where after the crisp cold of ice-blue stars slewn across the heavens, the gloomy air and overcast skies felt almost balmy. They ran into Father Danyluk and Tommy would offer commiserations about the Pope abdicating and all of that. He offered to get ahold of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence so as to bring them over for a Papal Election party, but Father Danyluk did not think that was such a good idea.

    He did offer to provide prayers in his heart for the entire order or any one of them should they decided to repent and Toby said that was fine, just fine and they parted ways.

    You could have needled him about the Sisters never having molested any boys, Tommy said, but Toby was sanguine.

    caterwaul, wail, lament, groan, shout, and bleat the most horrendous unmusical hymns ever

    Father Danyluk had other fish to fry in his heated brain besides the Sisters. He had been approached by the Pastor of El Luz del Atonal Mundo, a shouting sect of Christians with a church on Central in the old Adelphian building. All the neighbors had started to complain about the congregation taking up parking on the street before going in there to caterwaul, wail, lament, groan, shout, and bleat the most horrendous unmusical hymns ever sent to afflict the ear of man. It was hard to tell which was worse -- the parking or the singing.

    The neighbors had taken to calling the place the Cursed-tian Church for all the malderor emitted from within and all the other pastors were in tears about it.

    Can we not send a few Lutherans who can carry a tune and perhaps convert a few of them, they pleaded to Pastor Braun of Emmanuel Lutheran. An interdenomenational delegation was got up to try to bring over a few Baptist musicians from Oaktown but with little success.

    Meanwhile each Sunday, and in fact every night of the week, the faithful gathers at the old Adelphian building, which people imagined had been a cult similar to Jim Jones and his followers during its heyday, but who now longed for a little koolaid that would quiet things down a bit.

    "Awwwrrrrowwwww Oowwwwwwaahhhh! Laaaaahhhhhhrrrrrrd ahhhhh miiiiiiighteeeee oooooooh!"

    Pahrump and Jose stood outside and the cacophony was simply dreadful, and all done in multipart disharmony.

    After their ceremonies, the parents seemed to hold some kind of banquet that featured tremendous amounts of sugar treats so as to keep the young ones scampering well past 10pm while they themselves dined on bundt cakes stuffed with enchiladas. When the doors opened and the congregation boiled out, they all seemed tremendously happy and pleased with themselves.

    Martini, a Catholic crouched down with his head in his hands. "I cannot take it any more. I keep hearing 'A Mighty Fart Makes our Goody!'"

    Father Danyluk shook his head. The Lord works in mysterious ways. But sometimes, it seems He does not work at all.

    A cup of coffee which had been beat up by the toast -- it was too weak to defend itself -- smoldered ...

    Over on Park Street at the Nighthawks Diner, Denby sat in front of the Blue Plate Special, which appeared to feature some kind of gelatinous white gravy over something that either was turkey or roast beef. A cup of coffee which had been beat up by the toast -- it was too weak to defend itself -- smoldered in a sagging cup. He had had another run-in with the Angry Elf Gang and his ribs were sore from the beating because he had not enought to pay them off. Now he had a ticket and a trailways bus schedule and he was planning to leave this town for Grass Valley with its clean air and its fields of snow angels and its relative sanity any day now. He was sick of it all, the pettiness, the thievery, the greed, the wacky provincial lunacy, the . . . the . . . pettiness of it all. One of these days, just one of these days. . .

    The distant roar of the Cursed-ian Church drifted through the windows. "Awwwrrrrowwwww Oowwwwwwaahhhh!" O for pete's sake it was all impossible!

    The waitress, a dishwater blonde with the nametag of Sharon came over to refresh the miserable coffee. "How you want 'em, over medium or scrambled?"

    Something about her eyes made him pause and say, "Anyway is the only way, schweetheart."

    Yeah? I aint no Queen of Sheba and you aint no Humphrey Bogart.

    Did she say that or was that something just in his head, in this fantasy world of an Island where, unlike the real one, Truth, Justice and Beauty are the norms.

    He pulled out his guitar case and opened it up. He was a little drunk he knew, but never mind.

    "What you doing with that mister? You going to play a song in here?" she said, and that was real.

    Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the longing waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across the still optimistic Calfornian grasses of the Buena Vista flats the locomotive pulling boxcars loaded with memories of Rita Hayworth and Jimmy Cagney glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

    Well she's up against the register with an apron and a spatula,
    Yesterday's deliveries, tickets for the bachelor's
    She's a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes,
    Well, it's just an invitation to the blues

    And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth
    At the counter of the Schwab's drugstore
    You wonder if she might be single, she's a loner and likes to mingle
    Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue

    She said "How you gonna like 'em, over medium or scrambled?",
    You say "Anyway's the only way", be careful not to gamble
    On a guy with a suitcase and a ticket getting out of here
    In a tired bus station and an old pair of shoes
    This ain't nothing but an invitation to the blues

    But you can't take your eyes off her, get another cup of java,
    It's just the way she pours it for you, joking with the customers
    Mercy mercy, Mr. Percy, there ain't nothing back in Jersey
    But a broken-down jalopy of a man I left behind
    And the dream that I was chasing, and a battle with booze
    And an open invitation to the blues

    But she used to have a sugar daddy and a candy-apple Caddy,
    And a bank account and everything, accustomed to the finer things
    He probably left her for a socialite, that he didn't love except at night,
    And then he's drunk and never even told her that he cared.
    So they took the registration, and the car-keys and her shoes
    And left her with an invitation to the blues

    There's a Continental Trailways leaving local bus tonight, good evening
    You can have my seat, I'm sticking round here for a while
    Get me a room at the Squire, the filling station's hiring,
    And I can eat here every night, what the hell have I got to lose?
    Got a crazy sensation, go or stay? now I gotta choose,
    I think I'll accept your invitation to the blues

    Invitation to the Blues, Tom Waits

     

     

    February 24, 2013

    SAKURA SAKURA

    This week's photo comes from the grounds of a youth facility in Oaktown.

    Other parts of the country are suffering from the last punches of a long hard winter, but California has already begun blooming, assisted by some recent downpours.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    It's no news to anyone that rents have gone beyond ridiculous here to the obscene stratosphere. From a leveling period between the millenium and 2005, suddenly, seemingly for no reason, apartment rents started a dizzy climb to the point that most normal people cannot afford to live here any more if called to move, and large numbers of apartment vacancies appearing as unscrupulous managers force the diehard remainder to pay for the empties. Rents have risen wildly while real incomes have stagnated throughout the Bay Area and nationally.

    In an eye-opening front-page item, the Sun indicated that the Mayor is trying to resolve a rent dispute in an attempt to persuade a company from jacking rents on Benton Street 30 to 60%. When asked just why these gougers were doing this to innocent people, forcing many of long term tenants to leave, Bowman and House Source LLC stated "We were advised there is no rent control in Alameda" to the Rent Advisory Committee here. "We wanted to be certain that we would be able to pass the expenses of the $650,00 purchase price, new taxes and insurance ... on to the tenants."

    That first bit, put in writing and published, virtually ensures that B&H will be persona non gratia around here as our homegrown owners do a slow boil over what just might be the spark that starts something nasty and a lot bigger than a single tenant dispute. Gee thanks alot jerkoffs seems to be the sentiment. That the purchase price for an apartment building was so low in comparison to some single-family homes going for the same amount just adds cheese to the flaming fondue.

    The Island has had a sort of amiable and largely powerless Rent Review Committee for quite a while, but things may have to change, especially as B&H have refused to attend meetings on the issue.


    ALTE LIEBE

    So anyway, the situation after this year's V-day had Denby getting out of jail after the Editor had showed up to post, grumbling, bail before sour judge named Lex Talionis who stated tiredly that it appeared that Denby probably was innocent -- which matters little in the eyes of the Law, as MC Hammer knows full well -- but that he looked definitely hapless and not a flight risk, so bail was set at 150 dollars (about three zeros to the left of what was assigned to Althea) and he was told to never return to bother the jailers about not getting popcorn on Friday ever again.

    charges for accessory to kidnapping, grand theft, battery, human trafficking, and felonious obnoxiousness

    The charges for accessory to kidnapping, grand theft, battery, human trafficking, and felonious obnoxiousness were dropped the following day.

    It does not seem like that we are going to invade or bomb someone again soon

    Ever since the country blipped with a rare bout of general common sense in re-electing Obama under the general premise that if we are wrong we might as well go whole hog and avoid changing horses mid-stream amid a couple wars and economic malaise people have glommed onto the idea that even though we have not pulled ourselves out much from the Bush miasma, at least things are not getting much worse. It does not seem like that we are going to invade or bomb someone again soon, and that allows for a certain relaxation. This has resulted in a widespread return around here to genial traditions like V-Day time-outs and being civil to one's neighbor.

    Sure we have problems like healthcare and lunatics messing with things they don't like, calling the things they don't like vaguely perjorative terms like "entitlements", and there is the worrisome problem of Orange County -- which should act smarter than it does, but steadfastly refuses to do so -- nevertheless, people still feel optimisitically that the next destructive asteroid heading for earth will somehow zip on by without messing up Lady Gaga's hair or causing a flurry of bad apocalypse movies to afflict us with yet another trashing of New York City's Port Authority building featuring the Holland Tunnel and subways fillling with water.

    No wait. That DID happen and it was not a movie. Nevermind, New Yorkers are a sturdy lot and have lived for a long time under impossible circumstances, so they are bound to come up swinging. Battered by storms and mad terrorists in airplanes, New York abides.

    Rush Limberger may continue to spout inanities, and that goofball on FOX Spews may continue to cobble his meaningless charts, but forget all that, honey. Grab the KY jelly, dear, and let's unplug the phone!

    In short, there is a Future in America once again.

    Wally has sequestered himself in the bathroom with a couple of the Golden Poppy Girls

    Over at the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Regional Congress has gotten into some trouble as Wally has sequestered himself in the bathroom with a couple of the Golden Poppy Girls in protest against what he and some others see as runaway spending. If they don't come out soon the organization is likely to suffer a severe beating on its credit for they have taken the official checkbook and the Org Mastercard in there with them and nobody can pay any of the bills until Wally opens the door. It would be dangerous to try to break it down, as he also has his 50 caliber pistol in there as well as the cheese tray and a fair number of crab sandwiches..

    Besides, the Congress had been imbibing a good amount of wine from Napa and Sonoma and the closest latrine is over at Crab Cove, which is quite a hike when you gotta go.

    Even though the situation is serious, Wally locked himself in there with a case of champagne besides the tray of cheese and crab sandwiches, and everyone can hear him and the girls whooping it up.

    David Phipps has been looking for ways to jimmy the door open after pleading for Wally to come to his senses and stop embarrassing this noble red-blooded institution before the world, but that door used to be the main hatch to the SS California, which ran aground years ago on the Wilson Shoals, and it was made to withstand a tough pounding.

    "C'mon Walleeeeeee!" David pleaded. "There's ladies here that gotta pee!"

    "No more entitlements!" Wally shouted through the double-thickness steel door. Sounds of a champagne cork popping and lots of laughter. "Gee Wally! That bottle fizzed up just like you did a while ago!" More sounds of laughter. Waaaahoo!

    Meanwhile the Congress sits around, much as it is wont to do

    Meanwhile the Native Sons Congress sits around, much as it is wont to do, nibbling on crab sandwiches and taking surreptitious leaks off the wharf into the otherwise pristine marina while trying to figure out how to extend the retirement age past the point everyone dies so the organization does not have to pay out anything for the pensions. It's business as usual in America.

    "Walleeeeeeee! After midnight the automatic cuts kick in!" David pleaded. "Act like an adult and be responsible!"

    "Piss off! We're havin' fun!" Sounds of laughter. Champagne.

    Seeing that there was nothing to be done there, Marvin of Mervin's Merkins and Mike DePuglia, owner of N. Eptatood Contractors (Fabrication , Construction and Auto Repair) went over to the Old Same Place Bar.

    "Tell me again how your man drove a VW microbus into a pipeline trench trying to fix the car," Marvin said.

    Mike DePuglia shrugged. "The boy wanted to use the trench to get under the frame to get at the transaxle. He just miscalculated where da gasline started when he fired up the welding equipment."

    There was a long pause before DePuglia said, "Sure made a big boom when it went. That's how it got inna the trench -- after it caught fire. He didn't drive it in there, exactly. It sorta slid."

    "O, I see."

    Over in the snug of the Old Same Place Bar Old Schmidt was holding forth, thoroughly schlockered for Lent. He stated that he had vowed to give up sobriety for the duration until March 20. It would be difficult, for the flesh was weak, but he knew he had a strong spirit tested by adversity. In reality, he was celebrating the opening of allowed training for his favorite football team, Hannover 96.

    Angry elfs run mafia gangs. Apartment managers strut about mit zee mirrored sunglasses

    "All over the Island people do zee darndest things. Angry elfs run mafia gangs. Apartment managers strut about mit zee mirrored sunglasses running buildings like third world dictatorships. The rents keep going up undt zee Congress pisses on zee wharf. Heh ho!" With that Schmidt began singing the famous "Hymn to the 96, Yellow-Blue", a sports song in celebration of the somewhat doughty Hannover football team, which is to Germany something akin to the Lions to baseball or the Cubs to American football. There history is so hapless they lost their original red jersey colors to be replaced with blue and gold.

    As if to reflect the nature of the team, there is no fight in the song, but a sort of wistful feeling of loyalty despite all the disastrous . . . situations.

    "Schmidt, you are drunk," Padraic said. "And its not anywhere near St. Patrick's day when its allowed to be as drunk as you."

    Niemals allein
    Wir gehen Hand in Hand
    Zusammen sind wir groß
    Und stark wie eine Wand
    Wir danken dir
    Du hast uns viel gegeben
    Du bist der Mittelpunkt
    In unserem Leben!

    (Never alone

    We go hand in hand

    Together we are huge

    and strong as a wall

    You have given us much

    You are the center

    of our lives!)

    "Could you call a cab," Dawn said to Suzie.

    Indeed, the air warms all over the world as the days get longer, the nights shorter. Tiny eruptions flower across the land of California from the ocean across the Valley and to the foothills where snow still falls as of this date. Nevertheless grand things are coming. Maybe Hannover will not make it to the European World Cup this year, nor even come close, nevertheless the sap still rises.

    96 - Alte Liebe
    Rot steht dir sehr viel besser als Gelb-Blau
    Lass die andern alle reden
    Von Bayern oder Bremen
    Wir sind immer bei dir
    96 - Hah Ess Vauuuuuu!

    The door opened and with the gust of cold air entered a tall statuesque woman wearing black high heels, a long London Fog, and with platinum hair that still retained a slight tinge of reddish-gold. She was a woman of a certain age which never tells, but she had been a beauty in her time and was beautiful still with piercing blue eyes.

    Schon lange Zeit bist du uns so vertraut . . . O je! Du!

    Schmidt stumbled in his song and his eyes bugged forth and his mouth dropped open and he lost the power of speech.

    O je! Eh . . .! Eh . . .!

    "Nun was ist, Heinrich?" said the lady. "Kater hat die Zunge gefasst? Cat got your tongue?"

    "O Lili . . . Why. . . ? I thought neffer again . . .".

    "Well, Harry, you know the way the song goes. Sometimes things do not go as one wants."

    The old man clearly was broken down, unable to respond as drunk as he was, slumped in his chair as the tears poured down his face, soaking his beard.

    "Harry, you are drunk," the woman said. She rested an elegant hand on the man's back and he sat up straight.

    "I ham ferpektly kindt and krumble." Schmidt said. "Fin fine. Donkey kay."

    "Vot?" Padraic and Dawn said together.

    "I am not married anymore," the woman said. "Things did not work out."

    "O! So . . . so sorry." Schmidt was trying desperately to rally himself. "Vasser, I need water." he motioned to Suzie, who gave him a tall glass, which he downed in one long swallow. "Lili . . .".

    "I am so sorry, Harry. I really am," said the woman. "We should . . . talk."

    Suzie tried to take charge as the bar became silent of all chatter. "Could you like do something? He's had enough as you see."

    "Right. I have a car. I have a car." Her composure was a bit rattled now that it was coming to doing something. Perhaps she had not thought things through and now she twisted a ring around and around her finger as if trying to remove it.

    "O for Pete's sake take the man home," Dawn said. "Work out the effin' details later."

    Suzie helped Lili, for that was indeed her name, bundle Old Schmidt from the barstool to the door and out and to the car.

    "O don't know if I can do this," Lili said, staggering under the load.

    "When they are like this, DONT STOP! Keep moving!"

    "Trick is," Suzie said, "When they are like this, DONT STOP! Keep moving!" The trio tacked to the left and to the right, and so they got the wandering ship of Schmidt to land face down with his arms stretched out across the hood of the car after which Suzie and Lili manhandled him into the seat.

    As they all gathered at the door to watch the mystery woman drive off with Old Schmidt in the passenger side of a Citroyen that looked to have seen some significant miles in its time, Padraic exclaimed, "Wouldya look at that now! Cute as a wet badger in the hayloft but Old Schmidt and some dame! Who woulda thought!"

    Dawn wacked him. "Be kind now!"

    The long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the star-crossed waves of the estuary kissing the rip-rap and wavered across the long lost grasses of the Buena Vista flats the locomotive pulling boxcars loaded with painful memories glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

    Manchmal geht es nicht so wie man will,
    doch unsere Liebe steht deswegen noch nicht still.
    Tränen können fließen, doch in der größen Not,
    rudern wir gemeinsam im roten Fußballboot!

    96, alte Liebe!
    Rot steht dir ja viel besser als Gelb - Blau,
    lass die andern alle reden,
    von Bayern oder Bremen,
    wir sind immer bei dir
    immer bei dir
    immer bei dir

    trad. sports team song, "96 Alte Liebe"

     

     

    FEBRUARY 17, 2013

    IF I WAS BEAUTIFUL / IF I HAD THE TIME

    This week's headline photo is of the baywindows to a house on Santa Clara and Walnut.

    The owner of the house lavishly decorates the housefront and the picket fence with neon emblems for the season. Suppose Moby, who wrote Lovesigns, would agree.

    CORRECTION

    Last week we published a photo of the North Tower to the Golden Gate bridge in relation to a story about the Bay Bridge. This error has been rectified with a moody archival image from 2008.

    Rest assured, the persons responsible for the error have been suitably disciplined by being stripped, flogged and tossed into the official Island-Life oubliette.

    THIS ISLAND-LIFE

    First off we have a few scheduled agenda items concerning things Islander from Alameda Citizen's Taskforce.

    ACT’s General meeting at the church this Thursday February 28 is being replaced this month by the League of Women Voters meeting scheduled at the same time at Mastic Center regarding healthcare.

    AFFORDABLE CARE ACT HEALTH CARE PANEL FEBRUARY 28, 7 - 9 PM @ MASTICK SENIOR CENTER
    WHAT WILL 'OBAMACARE' MEAN FOR ALAMEDA RESIDENTS' BUSINESSES?

    Are you ready for the new health care options that will be implemented this fall as part of Obamacare?

    Find out more about the new Health Insurance Marketplace at a free and public forum:
    WHEN: Thursday, February 28, 2013, from 7:00 - 9:00 PM
    WHERE: Mastick Senior Center Social Hall at 1155 Santa Clara Avenue in Alameda.

    The LWVA is pleased to offer this free panel discussion and public forum with:
    - David Sayen, Regional Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
    - Deborah Stebbins, Chief Executive Officer, Alameda Hospital
    - David Brown, Area President, San Francisco Branch, Gallagher Benefit Services

    Free parking is available: the parking lot entrance s on Santa Clara Avenue between Bay Street and St. Charles Street.

    The Health Insurance Marketplace mandated by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Affordable Care Act") will be implemented later this year. This new way of purchasing health insurance will drastically change how we obtain and use health insurance.

    Additional information is available from the US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at HealthCare.gov

    Secondly, The Alameda Wildlife Refuge Resolution sit on the Council Agenda for this Tuesday February 19. Tony Daysog and Stewart Chen will introduce it as Item 9 on the Council Agenda. See http://www.cityofalamedaca.gov/Community-Calendar?id=2039&a=20130219.

    Thirdly, ACT reminds us to please remember to complete your Alameda Recreation and Parks District Sweeney Park survey online. ARPD plans to close the survey by next Friday February 22. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VPT5SNX.


    PSA here regarding bus service Monday:

    On Monday, February 18, 2013, AC Transit offices will be closed and all buses will operate on Sunday schedules in observance of the Presidents’ Day holiday.

    Complete scheduling information is available online at www.actransit.org. or by telephoning 511 and saying “AC Transit.”

    Regular bus service will resume on Tuesday, February 19th.

    Happy belated birthday to Maureen Murray, one of the chief chefs who handles Teatro Zinzani's groaning board.

    The report on the Tuesday's School Board meeting by Blogging Bayport had some interesting nuggets, but the comments revealed just how heated these small-town politics issues can get when people feel entitled to thrust children into the vanguard for their own political agenda.

    Then of course people who actually have children possess their own singular point of view.

    It seems contracts, facilitators, administrators, parents, District employees all have their sticks in this ACLC charter school pot, stirring it up as madly as they can before anything has yet happened. Briefly a District program wants to take over the space now occupied by ACLC, which was promised space at Wood Middle School.

    Okay, here come the wrinkles. Wood is grades 6-8. ACLC is grades 6-12. ACLC has been housed at Encinal High for 17 years of its 20 year lifespan. The program that wishes to occupy their space is called "Junior Jets" after the Encinal High mascot, and will serve grades 6-8 in preparation for high school, presumably at Encinal. (In the interests of disclosure, one daughter here in the Offices went to Wood before going to Washington.)

    Wood has been facing declining enrollments for some years.

    So the issue is that the charter school ACLC needs to move at some point. Meaningless interjections concern NEA, another charter school, whether the District is obligated to provide any facilities at all to any charter school (even though it is bound by contract), and whether charter schools are good ideas or treasonous (an issue which does not seem to be directed at participants of St. Joseph's), plus a fair amount of fog and dust regarding additional inconsequentials.

    We do not need any more lawsuits on the city or the district. We have contractual obligations to follow. It is logical that an Encinal program be placed at Encinal. So ACLC has to move, preferably to a stable location. Whether charter or Unified District it is the kids for whom we should be concerned. Clearly ACLC would like to remain, for the good of its student participants and for the health of its programs, but such is the nature of Charters that they are subject to some instability and the District must have clear precedence in its decisions.

    The District may be wrongheaded, but that is another ball of wax to melt another time in a different pot together with Tracy Jensen's involvement in all this.

    It is too bad that parents cannot unify on behalf of the kids to embrace all the available programs and the available programs and charters cannot be allowed to work with District schools to share resources. Ah, but that would be an ideal world.

    So here we have some high schoolers from ACLC projected to mingle with grades 6-8 at Wood and some parents hot about that, plus a perceived threat of closure due to declining enrollments. ACLC does not want to go to Wood where the physical facilities are not up to Encinal High's level. Then there are the other charter schools sharing space in other locations which want some shifting with contracts expiring this year as more trouble on the horizon.

    In the middle of this imbroglio, the District up and moves its offices from the old high school now fenced off and slated for demolition to rented space costing $30,000 a month.

    As one commenter said, All I can say is, I’m glad my kid is in college. I don’t miss the drama. . . ".

    Rest assured, common sense probably will not prevail. So best get ready for the worst case scenario, in whichever camp you reside.

    In more upbeat news, the candidate we endorsed for Health Board was finally appointed to the seat vacated by Stewart Chen. Tracy Jensen, unrelated to the School Board member with a similar name, appeared to us to be a dark horse with a lot of experience as well as native ties here, so we are glad that she finally achieved her seat after running twice unsuccessfully.

    Finally, the unsurprising quashing of the Zack family lawsuit against the city on Monday with regard to the embarrassingly fatal incident which cost Raymond Zack's life on Memorial Day 2011 needs mention. Firstly, although we are a litigious society, the law should always be the absolute last avenue to seek for remedy, only after all other avenues have been exhausted. This is because the law is not concerned specifically with right or wrong, morality, or even justice as understood in the popular sense. The law is concerned with clarity.

    The courts are present to issue judgment based on very rigid codes that do not allow for exceptions or for special circumstances in most cases. You may expostulate all you wish about what "should be" but the great strength of the legal system is its rather inflexible, unchanging nature according to strict definitions. A judge therefore is not free to make exceptions if he sees someone clearly wronged when the case concerns an alternate matter as presented in writing by concerned parties. He or she must go by guidelines set before them and those guidelines are usually very clear and harshly black and white in definition. Unclear cases, and possible procedural errors, cause cases to go up to higher courts and possibly the Supreme Court.

    The decision in the Zack case is clear according to the letter of the law, and the letter of the law is heavily weighted in favor of public safety officers against imposing liability. Well yes, the hired enforcers of the law would get preference, as one would expect. Any one of us journalists who has covered some kind of event like a fire or building collapse knows that the commanding officer at the CP always has the safety of his troops foremost in mind while they go about their job.

    According to the decision posted in full by Blogging Bayport, (http://laurendo.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/zack-ruling.pdf), the primary duty of public safety officers is to ensure the general safety of the "general society" and they are under no legal obligation to assist any one individual at any time. The decision unfortunately mentions "moral obligation" however no judge can truly rule on intangible morality -- to do so would be monstrous and against their sworn duties -- the judge clearly meant legal obligation as codified in the State of California, for lawsuits are concerned not with vague ethics or morality but with deviations from code. Morality has nothing to do with it, in other words.

    The code regarding police is necessarily specific so that individuals who go about dangerous tasks can make logical decisions that benefit the whole of society rather than any one person.

    That an officer dives into a lake to save someone, that a fireman extends a ladder to enter a burning building to personally rescue a child is commendable, honorary and worthy of note. But its not their job to do so, according to the law.

    Now if you do want to talk about morality, about humanity, about empathy and concern and just plain decency, well that is another story. Everyone reading this sentence can list a dozen acts they see every week where someone does something or does not do something, which is perfectly legitimate and legal but which is morally objectionable and reprehensible.

    What happened on the beach Memorial Day 2011 was reprehensible, inhuman, objectionable and amoral. It was full of cowardice and apathy and blunt obnoxiousness. But it was legal. Has any one of those wretched jerks who took your retirement money during the financial crisis spent a single sweating minute in front of a jury, let alone jail? Of course not. What they did was perfectly legal, and even to this minute perps who get caught on Wall Street committing the worst sort of felonies insist to the last minute what they did was entirely legal.

    What we are saying is that just because it is legal, does not make it right.

    Finally, the gun debate on the Island flourishes as folks rise up to defend or decry Big 5 for its projectile weapon sales. Let it be known that we observe several gun-involved crimes in the last couple Police blotter reports and we are pretty certain the handguns involved were not purchased at Big Five, and probably not from any reputable dealer. We also note that the debaters fall into two camps which involve experience with firearms. People who never saw a use for them, never grew up with them, never owned one, never fired one trend to be among those who would issue complete bans. People who grew up with them around, who see them as tools, trend to be those who seek reasons to prevent gun control.

    Most Second Amendment arguments are as preposterous as the wishes to eliminate all firearms of every type. Both parties sit in the same boat of lunacy.

    Reasonably, even though it would be best for humanity, for California, and for the Island to eliminate all firearms, or at least ammunition for them, this sort of thing will never happen. If you even have to ask why, you are a nimbus brain. Even though gun advocates argue that personal weapons ensure personal safety, they clearly do not. Just recently a gun owner was presented with a classic gun advocate example of two armed intruders breaking into his home. The man was shot before he could lay hands on his weapon.

    The idea that the Constitution assures gun ownership so people have a means to fight back against a government with tanks, F-16 fighter jets, and nuclear bombs at its disposal is also clearly ridiculous.

    Then we come to the pure emotionalists like the fellow who finds viewing the ranks of rifle merchandise on display at Big 5 to be distressing and fearful, who is pretty much on a par with the insensitive wackjob who finds people that disagree with him on firearms to be sissies that by rights ought to wilt away in the rain so as not to trouble his macho sensitivities any more.

    Hate to say it, but there really is no magic bullet for this issue -- sorry for the pun.

    At Island-Life we have people who have handled, owned and discharged practically every sort of firearm from .50 cal to .22 caliber, shotguns included. We also have people who find the things abhorrent. We also have traveled the country and seen the horrendous carnage in Chicago, in Washington D.C., in LA, and here in Oakland perpetrated by firearms and knives. Something clearly has to change, and that change will be objectionable to a large percentage of America which is shielded from these effects by either location or experience or both.

    And of course we all know about Sandy Hook by now.

    Is gun control the answer to ending the stories we know that bleed out of Highland's Trauma Unit every day and another Sandy Hook massacre? Sadly, probably not. Maybe a waiting period, not for guns, but for ammunition (generally costing at the low end about a dollar a round) is the answer? We do not know.

    YODEL-AY-HEE-HOO SANG THE MOUNTAINEER / AS HE TURNED TO FACE THE BLUE

    So anyway the dreaded V-day rolled down the calendar like a panzer advancing on all the gentlemen and rogues living on the island even as special bundles of rose arrangements rocketed to $70 per bucket all over town. This year V-day came hard on the three-day President's Day weekend, which gave amorous couples the opportunity to request time off and go canoodling like teenagers. All over the Island residents responded to the holiday each as was their wont.

    At the Household Suan got her Venus in Furs outfit all ready for work, well supplied with pink boas and such, for V-Day at the Crazy Horse saloon was a big moneymaker. Nothing like the promise of ersatz love to bring in the dollars.

    Suzie, behind the bar at the Old Same Place, wore a cute outfit with pink boots and a short flouncy skirt and a deep red blouse, then settled back with her anthropology text on a stool.

    Bear . . . trended to trouble fueled by whiskey

    Mindful of previous episodes, Denby turned off his cell phone and avoided any sort of place where his friend Bear might hang out so as to avoid a repetition of that sad episode a few years ago that ended up in the County jail. Bear, wearing a grease-stained T-shirt, tattered jeans, one red and white striped sock opposed to a green one inserted into converse hi-tops, also of mismatched colors, with various lifeforms flying about and nesting in his thick beard, generally trended to trouble fueled by whiskey and an Allman Brothers soundtrack. Women, for some reason, found him irresistible.

    Denby imagined that it was only appropriate that Bear rode by habit a Harley Davidson with a motor identified as "a knucklehead". But this, he was careful never to mention to Bear. There might be repercussions.

    Taking a cue from the Editor, and also inhibited by his recovering injuries sustained during the ill-fated expedition to the mountain pass of Los Abuelita di Diablo, Denby stocked up on Michelina's frozen dinners and Netflix, avoiding potential trouble from chocolate-eating females on the hunt during this time.

    In fact he spent considerable time at the Island Free Library up in the stacks among jazz theory and musicology, blissfully remote from the meat markets.

    It was there he met Trent, the lonely assistant librarian, who carried with him "The Consolation of Philosophy." Trent's boss, Ruth Harrison, could be a bit of a tartar, so Trent sought every excuse to ascend to the upper levels and there delve into his favorite text.

    Trent introduced Denby to his friend Althea

    It was on February 14th, while Ruth Harrison was down below orchestrating the "Literary Love" exhibit, complete with copies of D.H. Lawrence, Ovid, Sappho, Anais Nin and the usual suspects along with cool aid and cookies that Trent introduced Denby to his friend Althea, another Assistant Librarian, who proved to be thirty-something, wearing brown leather boots, a short skirt, sensible blouse and librarian's glasses. It was pretty clear that Trent had a thing for Althea, who looked somewhat pretty, depending on the light and the angle.

    Althea, as it turned out, stemmed from the honorable Voorhees family, which had settled in San Francisco during the early days of 1840, not long after the Mexican-American war. Her great granduncle, Albert Stevense Voorhees got into a family spat in Nieuw Amersfoort on account of getting a serving maid with child out of wedlock. He was forced to flee across the new continent and after many adventures arrived in San Francisco, which then was in the process of rebuilding itself after one of its many fires.

    He tried his hand at various trades, including tanning hides, until the momentous discovery of gold in the hills rocked the world in 1848.

    Like many newcomers to the Golden State, Albert soon had the choice of either heading to the hills to seek gold, which everyone assured him grew in water, or taking advantage of this influx in '49 to sell implements to wannabee gold miners. He wisely chose the latter, set up a hardware store on the edge of Portsmouth Square and and wound up richer for the choice. While waiting for customers during the day he played the banjo behind the counter and was often called to provide musical entertainment to the swelling population of San Francisco.

    He then applied his talents and resources to establishing a bank which specialized in maritime finances. This proved fortuitious in the moment for the hardware store burned down during one of San Francisco's 9 fires in the 1850's. One of the women he hired as a teller, a tall good-looking gal with blond curls from Missouri, captured his eye. This was not difficult, as women in San Francisco in those days were in short supply and the girl had no lack of suitors.

    One day he came in with his banjo and played a Steven C. Foster song which had her name in it and the girl, whose name was Susannah, was hooked. Within a week they were engaged and within two months married. They set up household in a cottage on Mason near Vallejo at the base of a hill and planted there clambering roses that did what clambering roses do up a trellis fixed to the side of the house and there the happy couple lived until the financial meltdown of 1871 and the massive floods that destroyed the California hyde leather industry ruined his finances. One day Albert took up his hat and his pistol and walked out of the front door, never to be seen again.

    Lily who escaped to Oakland via rescue boat with her grandfather's banjo

    But this was not before Susannah had given birth to a pair of sons and a pair of daughters who carried on the family line. One of those sons, Albert Jr., had previously died in the Battle of the Wilderness after travelling east to help the Union win the war against the Confederacy, but that left Roger, Rose and Petunia. The cottage burned down during the famous earthquake and fire of 1906 and it was Petunia's daughter, Lily who escaped to Oakland via rescue boat with her grandfather's banjo. She met a shipping captain named Joshua Barron and after their marriage moved to his trim house on Walnut Street on the former Bolsa de Alameda, once a peninsula but made into an island in 1902 when dredges carved out the estuary that now exists.

    The rest of the family, having lost their homes, also moved to Oakland which had fared better than the City. It was there in Oakland that Lily raised a family, watching the little factory town absorb the hamlet of Brooklyn and try to recover from the earthquake as well as its notoriously corrupt and callous first mayor, Carpenteria. The shallow bay had its mouth filled in, turning into a lake, and the once proud oak forest which gave its name to the city cut further and further back to feed the mania for building in the City across the water. The groves of citrus trees also got hewn down to make the new district called Fruitvale, inhabited by Germans and Irish who worked the Del Monte coffee warehouses on Fruitvale Avenue.

    It was in Oakland that Lily met Conor O'Donnell, a strapping fellow with blue eyes from Inneskerry who wooed her by singing "Love's Old Sweet Song" beside Lake Merritt.

    As for Alameda, briefly the terminus of the Transamerican Railroad when Oakland failed to complete its own terminus station on time it developed and grew from oak-dotted pastureland once used by the Peralta family to be a bedroom community and resort town. The Strehlow family cobbled together an water park on the western side of the island facing the Bay. Neptune Beach featured two olympic sized swimming pools, a roller coaster, rented cottages, and a confectioner's which invented and then sold innovative frozen treats. There, on a hot day in 1928 Conor pinged all five targets in the shooting booth to win the prize, a little smiling doll with a knot of red hair -- a kewpie -- which he handed to his little daughter, Jasmine.

    the Epsicle ice pop!

    They then went to the confectioners with Lily where she observed the man scoop into a box of ice and then place a cold round deposit into a paper cone before splashing a good dollop of syrup while calling out in a loud voice "Ladies and gentlemen gettem right here on the West coast the one the only the original never before seen tasty treat available only right here at Neptune Beach . . . the original snow cone! It's a penny sundae on a cone! Snow cones right here! And the brand new tasty cool treat to slake your thirst, the Epsicle ice pop! Get your snow cones and popsicles right here at Eppersons! Right now while its hot and they are cold! Yes indeedee cold as Alaska!"

    The snow cone was not invented precisely at Neptune Beach but it sure was popular at the park.

    Then the wars came, first the war to end all wars followed by the war that pretty much put the kibosh on that idea. The Voorhees and the Kitson clans sent their sons to the Pacific theatre and to Europe and some did not return. The character of Oakland changed a bit as large numbers of Black workers from the deep south arrived to build the planes and ships in shipyards all along the delta from Port Chicago to the Carquinez Straits and in the massive Pacific Steel foundry which still operates in the Berkeley flats not far from the edge of the Bay.

    The Great Depression killed the entertainment habits of American families

    The Great Depression killed the entertainment habits of American families, and with that the great Neptune Beach which had feted Johnny Weismuller and Jack LaLanne as well as Olympic gold medalists fell into decline to be eventually auctioned off in parts as the rails stopped carrying riders from all over the East Bay past the enticing rides and pools to the ferry landing-- the new Oakland Bay Bridge now brought families from staid Alameda to the more exciting City by the Bay and further afield by means of the modern automobile.

    Jasmine grew into a tall flowering beauty who held off suitors at arm's length for quite a while, preferring to stroll alone along the new landfill Beach area called Southshore, and work as a typewriter in Oakland for an investment firm and read books and magazines from Delauer's. Her social activity consisted of horseback riding and playing the cello and providing vocals in an all women's jazz group that called itself B Sharp. They played coffee shops and nice establishments like Crolls, one of the buildings left over from the Neptune Beach days. Her life was complete and she wanted no changes.

    It was at Croll's on St. Valentine's Day during her rendition of "Careless Love" that she caught the eye of a roguish-looking fellow sitting there. He had sandy hair and a twinkle in his eye and a full beard and during the set break he got up to sing "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", so she returned and sang Fan Go Socair A Roguire, which loosely translated means Go Easy You Rogue. He followed up with Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Exhorted by her band and the patrons of Crolls, all of whom were delighted by this little competition, she followed up with Be Careful It's My Heart.

    As it turned out the man's name was James Kitson and he worked as an engineer on water projects.

    To cut to the chase, they were married in a month. A little while later after a couple of sons came into the world, Althea was born.

    Well that is quite a story, Denby said. It was clear that Trent was smitten with the girl. She had sparkling eyes and vivacious wit and seemed to return the affection, however the bookish Trent was all over himself quite tongue-tied and too shy to get anything jumpstarted.

    So Denby helpfully suggested, "Why don't you guys drop in to hear my set at the Old Same Place Bar. Usually I do blues, but I think I can come up with something a little different tonight."

    the police, accompanied ... a phalanx of FBI agents ... charged across the street with guns drawn

    Outside the library after closing Denby stood next to Althea while she fumbled for her car keys. She asked Denby to hold her bag, a rather tattered-looking and heavy canvas thing, so that is why Denby stood holding a bag filled with $50,000 in tens and twenties when the Island police, accompanied by SWAT team in full riot gear and a phalanx of agents wearing dark blue windbreakers labeled FBI barged across the street with guns drawn and two squad cars blocked off Oak Street. Sharpshooters on the roofs took aim at Denby's noggin.

    "Hold it!" barked Officer Popinjay.

    "But I am," Denby said, not knowing yet what was in the bag.

    "O crap!" Althea said. "How on earth did you guys find me?"

    "Careful detective work," said Officer O'Madhauen. "You parked nine inches into the red zone and we ran the tags."

    As it turned out Althea had pursued the traditional family interest in banking with a twist, becoming the main getaway driver for a gang that had been robbing banks from Oakland all the way down to San Leandro. So that night Denby did not make it to the gig and Trent remained a shy bachelor for the duration.

    That night as Denby sat in his cell a thought popped into his head near midnight, bubbling up through his general misery over once again spending another Valentine's day behind bars.

    Whatever happened to the banjo?

    As if in answer the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the caressing waves of the estuary kissing the rip-rap and across the affectionate grasses of the Buena Vista flats where a fat cherub of a boy practiced his fearful archery as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its romantic journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

     

     

    FEBRUARY 10, 2013

    BRIDGE

    This image of the Bay Bridge in fog, taken by Tammy quite a while ago, can now be considered archival material.

    Your children's children will not see this.

    In little-reported news, Caltrans revealed that the last major piece of the new Bay bridge went into place when the entire elevated structure was committed to its permanent cable supports. This means the bridge is essentially finished save for some basic engineering tidy-up jobs, as in wrapping the support cables in weather proofing, etc.

    The official opening ceremony, complete with the new bicycle/pedestrian segment, will take place towards the end of this year.

    The old bridge, over 75 years old, with a history that featured rail lines and passenger trains, battered by stray oil tankers and earthquakes, will be cut up and towed away in pieces.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    The official end to the Wintertime arrived when they dismantled the ice-skating rink, nevermind what that East Coast rodent Puxatawny Phil has to say about it. That is sooooo East Coast to create a whole tradition about yanking some poor feller out of his house while he is warm and asleep into bitterly cold weather while cameras all go snap snap in his bleary eyes without even the benefit of a cup of java.

    Poor Phil. If the dude ever wants to come to California, he is welcome. So long as he can get a job.

    Folks probably realize by now that the street work on Lincoln near the Library is about finished. If they don't realize it, their front end suspensions will, as the engineers barely worth the title left quite a stretch of nasty upheaval there where we once enjoyed smooth macadam.

    Over in Oaktown, the same engineers seem to have been at work laying down a triple layer of steel deck plating right on the corner at Alameda near the Home Depot shopping center.

    There must be an imp of the perverse that makes some men enjoy digging a hole, blocking traffic for weeks, and then patching up the job with something most mothers scold their naughty children about. "Just look at the mess you left there! Now go pick it all up!"

    Readers may remember that when we first reported on the court ruling that struck down portions of the 2008 Measure H that featured differential parcel tax rates meant to support the schools we speculated the result would be wide ranging in effects beyond our own humble burg.

    Turns out we were right.

    Districts extending from Norcal to Los Angeles all had enacted similar parcel tax structures and all of them are now under litigation attack.

    Rob Bonta, newly elected to the State Assembly, has presented a bill to legalize variable rate tax structures and clarify tax code language, however it is unclear how effective this would be retroactively.

    At stake are millions of dollars in already collected revenue that may need to be returned, not to mention millions more in anticipated revenues in virtually every major school district along the coast. A tidy front page piece in the Sun (Vol. 12, no. 19, 02/07/13 "Parcel Tax Ruling Prompts Fresh Suits Elsewhere") lists a few of the issues involved.

    In the same paper folks are still moaning about the plastic bag ban. In truth, the flimsy 99 cent bags are not worth much in durability, so it will be some time until people get used to leaving sturdy canvas and hemp sacks in the car for use at the grocery.

    Also returning to the radar are concerns about Point development -- something that after 14 years of discussion probably never will go away.

    In the EIR everything seems to have shifted and jostled around with the proposed Columbarium moving (and growing) from its former site beside seaplane lagoon to occupy the majority of the former airfield from City Hall West out to the Bay.

    Okay, everyone take a deep breath. Zoning seems once again to be at issue here and it seems someone is playing fast and loose with this idea all over. Didn't we just have a brough-hahah over this with the Federal property that was supposed to go to the parks getting a magic zoning facelift overnight?

    Finally, please note that now the weather is getting sunnier, strong-arm and armed robberies are once again on the rise with the criminals getting quite violent at times during takeovers.

    We are hearing lots of reports of burgluries, especially from parked cars, so now is not the time to stash your laptop or iPad mini under the seat; they will know it is there, even if out of sight.

    DEATH DON'T HAVE NO MERCY

    On the flip side of the Sun Crossword we were saddened to see that there is no more "B Sharp" in music. If that puzzles you literal musicians, let it be known that Bobby Sharp, jazz genius and Island resident passed away on Monday, January 28. Robert Louis Sharp lived 88 years worth of music and excitement.

    Born in Topeka Kansas, he moved to New York where he associated with the likes of Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Thurgood Marshall. As he developed his songwriting skills, penning work for Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ray Charles he also came to know Charles Baldwin.

    His most famous work is "Unchain My Heart", covered famously by both Ray Charles and Joe Cocker.

    He remained vital into his 80's, putting together a joint CD with our own Natasha Miller not too long ago. We recall that release party as being a jolly rip-roaring time on Park Street in the Island's brief flirtation with jazz nightlife.


    OLD FRIENDS. SAT ON THE PARK BENCH LIKE BOOKENDS

    So anyway, while the East Coast is experiencing a spot of bother regarding weather, Norcal suddenly sashayed into sunshine this weekend.

    The following morning the streets sizzled under unruly heavens

    We had an abrupt dockwalloper set in mid-week. The afternoon turned gloomy with boiling skies which let loose by dusk, although dusk had begun around noon. The following morning the streets sizzled under unruly heavens and all the crab boats stayed close in, hauled up and everything battened down while the ocean beyond the gate did what the badly name Pacific often does when peeved about something.

    Pedro didn't go out that day, although the really large industry boats still went out to batter against the thirty-foot swells.

    There would be no more little house with buckets of molluscs

    It was on days of lost revenue like these that Pedro wondered why he had become and oysterman like the fellows up in Drakes Estero. But that time, too, was coming to an end as the Park service had not renewed the oysterfarm lease. All that one hundred year old enterprise was to be knocked down and returned to the wilds of the estero there. There would be no more little house with buckets of molluscs, no more shucking, no more scatterings of shells. Only the quiet sedge, the lapping water and the occasional visit from Marvin, the bear of Marin.

    Point Reyes had long hosted a single black bear who had ruled the roost all by himself for decades. Just when people thought he had died he popped up again somewhere poking his furry nose into somebody's business, a chicken coop, or their trashcan. He had not been seen for quite a while, so perhaps he had finally died or gone off to find company of his kind somewhere else.

    Which just goes to show you there is no security in anything.

    So there Pedro sat with the younger one, Sabina, trying to puzzle out her iPad.

    "Now what is this one?" Pedro said.

    "This here is Angry Birds..."

    "This here is Angry Birds. You gotta use this slingshot and fire the bird and blow up the pigs in their fortress."

    "Why are the birds angry?"

    "Um... cause the pigs laugh at them."

    "O! I see!"

    Over on Webster the owner of the newest boutique to set up shop there was desperately struggling to get everything ready by Valentine's Day. What with permits, zany contractors and at least one petty Napoleon thug the opening had been delayed well over a month and in this delay, Marvin was seeing lost dollars go waltzing down the avenue to the Bay, there to drown.

    Marvin confessed he had a thing for gals in starchy white blouses

    And he had developed such a smashing marketing campaign that all the folks at BofA's business loan department had swooned. Especially Lily Kai, head of Business Development Loans. Most normal people would have found Ms. Kai to be somewhat dowdy, even for a banker, but Marvin confessed he had a thing for gals in starchy white blouses with conservative woolen skirts and plain heels. While discussing his solid business plan she had flushed a little, or so it seemed. And she had touched his hand when exchanging the photo id, which certainly had not been necessary.

    Nevermind all that - he had to stay focussed! Focus, focus, focus!

    "Marvin's Merkins: Put a merkin in your firkin!"

    His ad campaign featured two slogans: For the professional performer - in YOU! That was meant to hit both the performing pros and the average schlub out there. Then there was "Marvin's Merkins: Put a merkin in your firkin!"

    Idealistic business plans and dreams and Lily Kai were one thing - sort of -- but now here he was on Webster Street watching the ham-fisted contractors he had engaged erect the big purple and gold sign to the front, the realization of years of dreams running his own business on the Island. And here he was at the mercy of a couple of goombahs operating out of a pickup truck and a van each labeled "Pike and Mike: We do it all!"

    Neal Pike, the shorter of the two by a couple of feet, stood on a foot stool holding one end of the sign and was barely able to lift the thing above the door top while Mike stood on a ladder ready to fasten the sign a good ten feet above the street level. Fortunately both of them had left their screw drills on the sidewalk below.

    Much of their work had gone this way. Mike had built an elaborate conduit system leading from the gluepot area to the roof, but had failed to attach any part of it to the wall or anything substantial. The heavy plywood encased pipe ran from the hood along the wall sideways and then up through the false ceiling and sort of emptied up there among the wires and HVAC without any sort of rhyme or reason with a 150 sones fan mounted on top to suck away vapors. So of course the entire thing fell down during an inspection from the fire marshall.

    The stairs he had built in the back also felt questionably shakey.

    Brunhilde ... had chased them off with a 24 volt circular saw...

    Then there had been the shakedown even before the place had seen a customer by the Angry Elf gang looking for fresh extortion possibilities. Brunhilde, a masseuse from the shop next door, had chased them off with a 24 volt circular saw belonging to the Pike and Mike outfit, which of course had the safety guard removed, but Marvin knew the gang would be back to bother him later.

    The owner of A Touch of Wonder, the next door hoity-toity massage place that had moved to the Island from St. Paul after some difficulties with repairing the bullet holes in the front door glass, commiserated with Marvin while Pike shrieked at Mike for being an imbecile. His name was Borg B. Rubbitson.

    "Things are the same all over. Me, I had a gumshoe with somatic issues in St. Paul. Here, we got the Angry Elf, a crook with a short person's complex. My girlfriend says psychotic people are not crazy; they just got personality issues. I don't know why the crooks around here have personality issues that keep them out of the nuthouse, but that is the way it is."

    "I guess you can't go around locking up everybody who is psychotic anymore," sighed Marvin. Outside Neal Pike, still standing on the footstool, was screaming so intensely at Mike that his face had turned red and the veins in his neck bulged dangerously as if he was on the point of a heart attack.

    "No of course not," Borg said. "If you did that all of LAPD would be locked up entirely and there would be no police force down there."

    "O!"

    Meanwhile the game had let out over at the Mastic Center on St. Charles and folks had wandered to the front to the bus shelter there and to the benches in the parking lot. Claude and Sam sat on the bench there to wait for the Paratransit, which as usual provided an approximate time of about 90 minutes or so for scheduled pickup. The wind brought leaves from far away across the lot to toss against the round toes of their brown shoes.

    Some people, seeing this old pair, would assume a great deal.

    What was it like, living all those years in Canada, Claude said.

    Long pause.

    I think you are going senile, he said.

    You been asking me that same question every month now for the past five years, Lem said. And we have known each other for well over fifty years. I think you are going senile, he said.

    To cut to the chase, both Claude and Lemuel had been draft dodgers during the Vietnam War. Claude had fled to the bayous of Louisiana with the ultimate intention of getting to Mexico or Central America, but had spent his entire time in the US in the bayou country, which like some parts of the United States is often treated like foreign land and so remains untouched.

    I am not going senile, Claude said.

    Yes you are, Lem said. Ever since Katy passed away you have been doddering.

    I am not doddering, Claude said. I am fit as a firkin full of warm towels.

    You keep asking me about Canada over and over. That is a sign, said Lem.

    I want to know and you never tell me.

    What the hell is so important about Canada? It's cold and full of moose and Winnipeg is as boring as jail without popcorn. You want to know anything more about it?

    You went there, Claude said. You went there and lived there for years. And we all may have to go there again.

    Come again?

    Those crazy people in Washington can't get enough of having wars

    They're gonna reinstitute the draft again you know. Those crazy people in Washington can't get enough of having wars and the enlisted soldiers are starting to figure out what its all about. They are going to stop going over there to get their asses shot off just for a paycheck.

    So you planning to ship off your nieces and nephews to Winnipeg?

    No, Claude said. Me and you. All the old farts who skipped out the first time.

    Come again?

    They raise the retirement age until ... they don't have to pay a dime of that Social Security

    They are going to start rounding us up, Claude said. All the Boomers and the red diaper babies. They raise the retirement age until its impossible so they don't have to pay a dime of that Social Security we paid into all our lives and to cap it off they are going to put us old farts in re-education camps and make us go out there and fight all the new wars the political wingnuts wanna fight. Get rid of that retirement stuff entirely and seize all the IRAs to build more bombers. It's all to balance their precious budget by killing us off before we get any of that Social Security back.

    O for Pete's sake what kinda notion you got in your head, Claude! Where did you hear about this thing?

    It's the Master Plan, Claude said. I heard about it on Oprah.

    Oprah? You heard about this plan of yours on Oprah? I don't believe it. That woman has more sense in her toenails than you ever had in that doddering fool head of yours.

    Well maybe it wasn't Oprah, but I heard it. And you just think about it, how those skinflints are looking for ways to stiff us. And those military types, you know the way they are. Things don't ever change, even though we did get rid of Tricky Dick. They always talked about sending off all the old men to fight the wars instead of the young ones anyway.

    Can you just see us piloting tanks and bombers with 4x reading spectacles!

    Claude, by old men, we meant the old effers starting these wars in the first place and making money off it. Not hapless people like you and me. Can you just see us piloting tanks and bombers with 4x reading spectacles!

    Heck, my eyesight so bad now I'd wind up bombing the church instead of the barracks. That would be a fine pickle now wouldn't it?

    Hee, hee, hee, I get my hands on one of them jet fighters I am taking out that entire Fisherman's Wharf first thing. Make a phone call first just so nobody gets hurt and put a couple minutemen right there in the support pilings. Kablooie! Goodbye tasteless garbage! Lem said.

    Hey! Remember the time we ran a hose to where the ROTC kept their files in the basement of Theta Delta House and filled it with water! Oh boy!

    Hee hee hee! The two old boys chuckled over the wild ideas and memories.

    O but remember what they did to Artie when they got a hold of him?

    O yeah. That wasn't so funny.

    The two of them went silent with somber thoughts of what they had done to Artie. And those terrible days. When some got high on free love while others paid the price for freedom by losing their own. Those damned military types.

    Sigh.

    "That jarhead is a little a jar."

    Around the corner came Mr. Terse in the company of Mr. Spline who were looking into scheduling one of the Mastic rooms for the local recruitment effort. Mr. Terse had retired from the Marines many years ago, but like many who miss the security of regularly administered abuse, he had never really put those years behind him. After a little accident out at the boatworks when the prow of a forty footer slipped from its hoist and came down on his crewcut a little hard he had suffered bouts of vertigo, which he combatted with regular pushups and strictly ordered walking so that even walking solo, he always looked like he was marching in formation. In reality he was target fixing on the telephone poles at the end of the block to keep from tilting over. Terse had never been a likeable fellow and even his old soldier buddies would say about him, "That jarhead is a little a jar, if you know what I mean."

    Like many people he lived his life as if in the center of a movie

    As for Spline, all secrecy nothwithstanding, everyone knew who he was. It was fortunate that he had never done covert work abroad for most countries do not handle obvious spies with great delicacy. Like many people he lived his life as if in the center of a movie, however for him the movie would have been The Pink Panther.

    When Spline saw the rainbow socks on anybody his mind seethed into a boil

    There was a near instinctive mutual antipathy the two old guys shared with Terse and Spline: each hated the other with unreasoning passion, pinning old hates to Guy Fawkes effigies that would burn in their minds as long as any of they who had survived through the Sixties continued to live. When Spline saw the rainbow socks on anybody his mind seethed into a boil over pinkos, draft dodgers, anti-american flag burners, protesters of any stripe, laggards, unpatriotic scum, pothead druggies, and all the riff-raff responsible for the unruly state of America that kept it from achieving its dream of neat suburban lawns from shore to shore, sea to shining sea. If things had been left to him and his likeminded cohorts, well, things would have turned out different, that's for sure.

    As the two marched past, Claude shouted at Mr. Terse's back,"Aye-hole!"

    The two wheeled about and Spline put his hand on his hip to display his holster beneath his jacket.

    Lem shrugged. Tourettes is such an affliction. Terrible. Really terrible.

    Terse snorted and the two dangerous men continued on their way to find a meeting room.

    Their bus showed up and the two friends got on board.

    Lets make some ruckus. Lem said. You go get your banjo and I'll fetch my Washburn. Kick out the gums.

    Jams, Claude said with irritation. It's kick out the jams, not gums.

    It's all green eggs and ham to me.

    Whatever, Lem said. It's all green eggs and ham to me.

    Over in the Old Same Place Bar, people were getting juiced as Dawn went about putting up cardboard hearts and cupids. Between rounds of Fat Tire and shots Suzie kept her head in her anthropology textbook. Padraic stared at the CNN news coverage about the Catholic pontiff in disbelief.

    What is a fellow that age like to live on without a 401k giving up the only job he ever had, now.

    Maybe he's going to get married, Dawn said lightly.

    No, said Padraic. He's a German and not even a Lutheran to boot. Old Germans are as dry as shoe leather.

    Excuse me! Old Schmidt said. I beg for some consideration in this house!

    Sorry about that, Padraic said. I am sure there are plenty of frauleins eager to tickle your beard.

    Ha! In my time I made such a figure! I could tell you such stories to make this young lady turn red as beets. I danced on the volcano I assure you! O it was hot!

    Uh, right.

    O Schmidt, Dawn said. Tell us all about love! Do tell us all!

    Hah! Luff has nossink to do with it. About zees luff sings I know nossingk, nossingk nossingk!

    Nothing canted Dawn agog quite like a good love story, watching lovers fall in love, or having a hand in assisting the dreadful process, but before Schmidt could say another word, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the amorous waves of the estuary kissing the rip-rap and across the intriguing grasses of the Buena Vista flats where a fat cherub of a boy practiced his fearful archery as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its clandestine journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

    FEBRUARY 3, 2013

    LILY AND THE JACK OF HEARTS

    This week's photo comes from the Chadwick archives and is a close study of a lily. Something to get you folks dealing with the persistent grip of Old Man Winter through the passing days.

    ]

    Even now, old Gaia's face, brown and ravined, shawled in moss and arete shadows turns slowly back toward the bright streams shed by her son's chariot coursing the heavens. It will not be long before those six bright pomegranate seeds will allow the maiden to ascend from Hades to greet her mother, golden sheaf-draped Demeter and the world will rejoice again.

    This morning on the steps, a single yellow bee, half sleepy from an early awakening. In this way, the kind mother sends us tokens. . . .

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    We reported on the possible move of the ACLC charter school, which handles exceptional teens, from their berth at Encinal to Wood Middle school some weeks ago. The fallout of this prospective move has the PTA at Wood up in arms and in fear about the threatened closure of the place. There really is not much to add beyond the fact that Wood, featuring declining enrollment, looked to be in trouble before the move and the USD sees this move as a no brainer for allocation of resources.

    Of course, the USD has not charmed many people by way of resource allocation and moving facilities to this point so a lot of people remain concerned.

    Adding to these two issues, the Administration moving its HQ to the controversial Mariner Square rental location and the charter school, we now have the Union contract negociations breaking down as teachers kicked against the lack of pay raise over the past four years with only a single 2% raise projected by the District.

    Cost, as figured by Blogging Bayport, seem to favor the union proposal, as theirs appears to leave out a 1/2 million dollar "stipend" addition instead of a graduated salary increase.

    It is a little puzzling as to why the District is rejecting something that saves them money, but you can look at the Blogging Bayport breakdown at CrunchyNumbers (http://laurendo.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/crunchy-numbers/#more-8507).

    The Union is calling for a mediator in the contract negiotiations, perhaps in fear that they are not dealing with compos mentis individuals on the other side here and that someone will bring common sense to the table.

    We have to wonder if the beancounters at the USD took math here in our schools. Just sayin'...

    MEET AND GREET THE REP

    Rep. Barbara Lee now becomes our representative since redistricting and elections ousted Pete Stark. Rep. Lee will be holding office hours at the Main Library on Thursdays from 3- 5 pm.

    DEATH DON'T HAVE NO MERCY IN THIS LAND

    In another brilliant move, Island Police impounded a vehicle in the early hours almost a year to the day, and caused the passengers and driver to walk over a narrow bridge on Doolittle Drive back to Oaktown. The driver, a person with bad knees, was struck and killed at 6:00 AM by an automobile.

    Now the city is facing yet another lawsuit caused by our idiosyncratic traffic enforcement, which at least one observer has called "a wierd system with strange priorities."

    Since no traffic or automotive infractions occured, the fellow who pistol-whipped a couple victims, stole their wallets and robbed a Papa Murphy's Pizza on Broadway has gotten clean away. You can call 337-8350 if you know anything about this jerkoff.

    MISS CELANEOUS

    Normally relations with the Coast Guard, which maintains a facility on Coast Guard Island, remain more than cordial here, however the recent proposal to expand the "security barrier" protected area for cutters is causing some hot tempers to flare. The CG wants to base another three 450 footer cutters there in the estuary and needs the additional 75 feet of space to shield against water-based attacks.

    The Island has marinas which will be impacted by boat wake as some fairly large ocean vessels squeeze through the narrower passage.

    This may be a no-contest as the CG has regs to follow, the danger to its facilities is clear and present and real, and they have to put those darned cutters somewhere. Not such a big factor, but an emotional one, is that the CG was there before the tony marinas put up shop.


    CIRCLE OF FRIENDS

    So anyway, by now the dismal news has spread throughout the Bay Area. In countless livingrooms, the TV has gone silent and Dungeness crabs sit half eaten with bowls of pistachios and scatterings of chicken wing bones littering the floor and the coffee tables among the chips and dip while the guys are all packing up to get on home to the missus and their beds so as to be ready for work on time, bright and painfully early.

    Thank god in Heaven it was not Dallas.

    Super Bowl XLVII has come and gone and our guys did not come out victorious this time. Instead, the sons of that rough and tumble seaport city on the East Coast known as Baltimore captured the title. At least it was not Dallas. In the Old Same Place Bar, Eugene was complaining again and again to the Man from Minot about the bad call - or lack of any call at all -- regarding the interference on that Michael Crabtree.

    "Look at that replay, would ya!" Eugene jabbered. "Look at that! The man was all over him! The ref was blind, I tell ya! Blind!"

    It might be said, no championship game is worth its salt without at least one missed call just like that one. And so, Tradition Prevails. We really would have won, and still deserve to do so, were it not for that @#$#$% call. The ref was blind, I tell ya! Blind! . . .

    So there.

    In a way, since New Orleans was not in the running, we are kind of glad another seaport city took the title. Baltimore is another "dirty old town", not unlike Oaktown, with grease under its fingernails and a hearty American flavor about its soul. At least it was not Dallas. Please god, anything but Dallas.

    At other tables and other parts of the rail in the bar, life goes on, and it might be said, entirely without any regard to what happened at Super Bowl XLVII. It is generally common knowledge that the greatest day of football is a great day to go to a museum, see a movie, visit a park and generally take the air any place one normally finds long lines.

    The freeways become a joy because all the imbeciles who perpetrate road rage are screaming in front of a TV set, venting. You can finally get out to Modesto in the old travel time to visit your grandmother and return without worry about some penishead piloting a cherry-red Miata with a pistol.

    Out on the Strand all the upperclass kids banged into one another

    Over at Mr. Howitzer's the usual game party was running out its due course in the Rumpus Room. When the Tv version got too tedious, the Blather kids got together with the Cribbages and the Pescatores for a little touch ball game on the Strand. It did not look like the home team was likely to win, so the kids decided to carry on in their own fashion. Out on the Strand all the upperclass kids banged into one another as if they knew what they were doing and they carried on with touchdowns and whatnot, but of course it all decayed into a frenzy of atavistic rending and tearing and thumping, because kids like this were reared without the idea that an independent umpire or referee was of any importance.

    The rules always were rules that were supposed to support their own position, an idee fixe that is peculiar to certain highly right wing, Ultra Conservative households.

    the kids kept themselves occupied by locking each other up in manacles

    So things got chaotic with sprained ankles and bloody noses and all the adults retired to the den to discuss the more important matters concerning the uptick in stock options while Dodd, as usual, was left to clean up the mess and keep the children from murdering each other. Eventually he secured the lot of them in the dungeon once maintained by a Howitzer who had entertained a BDSM fetish, and so the kids kept themselves occupied by locking each other up in manacles and hoods and flailing around with leather whips and playing dare with the electric cattle prods.

    There really is not too much difference between American football and BDSM anyway, when it comes down to basics, right down to, and including, the fanny pat.

    This is a real uncomfortable time of year for us in the Bay Area, this time after the Holidays are all passed and the cleanup after the Annual Island-Life Poodleshoot has been done so that people come to believe this fiction that we are a genial lot of Islanders with a few provincial ideas coupled with antiquated ideas about old houses and historic preservation for the good of it all, very stoked with humanitarian values and liberal leanings.

    That is all poppycock we foist on the tourists to keep them coming and forking over tourist dollars for ridiculous bowls of crab chowder served in sourdough bowls like this is something we provide our own kids for lunch.

    In reality we are all sour Californians who cannot stand each other and who seek any sort of rich opportunity to get in each other's way so as to make someone really miserable in hopes they will move away and so allow us a little more space and all of the stuff in their garage.

    Well some of us are like that. The rest of us are like Wavy Gravy, genial and loving both dogs and kids and always having adventures that haphazardly prove that human beings, although rather stupid and sometimes dangerous nevertheless remain stubbornly loveable and worth preserving with enough hope to produce another one in fond delusion that somehow, someway, this next iteration will in some fashion by some mysterious process impossibly improve things and not totally eff things up the way so many of our neighbors do.

    But in this pre and post season time we don't have a lot of tourists coming around to distract us and give the guy standing on a milk crate painted bronze head to toes something to do down at Fisherman's Wharf; he has to bide his time playing Angry Birds on his Kindle in a bar with an Irish coffee beside -- skip the whip, just coffee and brandy. The wild bushman has nothing to leap out at to startle and so he sits disconsolate with his sere branches and a fortified tea cup in the deep winter chill, waiting for Spring's awakening.

    The Bay Tour boats rock gently in their Jack London slips and the Presidential Yacht once owned by that President who sat out a world war in a wheel chair has no visitors and the night watchman sweeps the decks of the carrier that fetched astronauts, now a silent museum.

    So,if you wanted to really see what we are like, now would be the time for a visit, drop in for a spell while all the Hollywood has gone to sleep, leaving Paradise just a name on the map up in one of the most dirt poor baking hot in summer counties in the nation try to explain itself and fail with half hearted mumbles in the dark.

    the conditioning experience that truely defines a Californio is . . . disappointment. . .

    It is said that the conditioning experience that truely defines a Californio is not earthquake, not fire, not loss in the sense of property damage, not attachment to wildly nonsensical '49er spirit which itself was rooted in avarice but the common experience of disappointment, of arriving here or being born and raised here only to find that the only Eden to be had is that which you make yourself and that to be taken away by inevitability, much in the manner of Life itself.

    Then there is the Island, a one-time Navy base now bedroom community packed to the gills with nutcases and exhausted common-sense folks just trying to get through the week without resorting to murder. A little island that hosts the Home of Truth right there on Grand Street. The place from which the Doolittle squadron departed to harass Tokyo in its martial pride during the Second World War.

    This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress built by Nature for herself against infection and the hand of war, this happy breed of men, this little world, this precious stone set in the silver sea, which serves it in the office of a wall, or as a moat defensive to a house, against the envy of less happier lands, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Island, this nurse, this teeming womb of heroes, fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth, renowned for their deeds as far from home, for Christian service and true chivalry, this land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, dear for her reputation through the world . . . .

    In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie cleans up the sad remnants of the Superbowl party that never took off along with Padraic and Dawn. "Suppose the next ballyhoo shall be the Valentine's Day thing." Padraic said.

    Dawn asked Suzie if she was ready for this one and Suzie had to reply that things were tight. The year had come round and the landlord was upping the rent again. Word had it he was evicting anyone who had so much as hinted of tabacco use just so he could boost the rents that much more and take advantage of the economic upturn.

    "Economic upturn!" Dawn exclaimed. "I'd like to see some of that around here!"

    Yet still it looked like Suzie might have to be looking for another place and things looked really bad with the Island for all the greed that was in it. People were asking thousands for nothing better than a hole with bare room for a bed and a pot to piss in. All the folks fleeing the bad situation across the water in Babylon were driving things up past extreme.

    As for Valentine's day that was a fine thing for people who could afford it and it was all about sales and much bother about nothing else.

    Now now, Dawn said. Some day you will find yourself a fine lad.

    All the lads that are be nothing but trouble and little worth! Suzie shouted.

    All the lads that are be nothing but trouble and little worth! Suzie shouted and stormed out to the bathroom.

    A moment of frigid quiet hung like an ice crystal mist in the air of the bar and began a slow dissolve to the tatters and shards that littered the floor.

    Ah, be leaving the girl in peace would you now, Padraic said in a rare for him moment of compassion and Dawn was tossed by embarrassment into an acre field of silence for a while. Perhaps it was the misguided affaire with that tango artist which ended up sordidly in an Italian prison when it turned out the man was wanted in six countries by Interpol. Or perhaps it was the general sense of disappointment that comes with flying a bit too high, or wanting too, in romance that often afflicts young women. Who can say what dark aches tear at the heart of a young girl during the witching hours of the night?

    So while a young, beautiful girl sobbed in the toilet of the Old Same Place, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the star-crossed waves of the estuary and across the disappointed grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

     

     

    JANUARY 27, 2013

    SWEET PEA

    It's California. So when other places lay under ice things start to bloom. Here is an early riser in the East End.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    There is nothing quite like becoming disabled for a while to get you really into scrutinizing what other people are doing for news coverage while your legs are up under five pounds of ice on the couch. Besides a ton of "darn, I could have covered that one better!" and "darn, wish I could cover that one, but from a different angle, there are the gems that drip from our workaholic bloggers and brick and mortar establishments.

    First, we learned to distrust ABC7 and K-whatever for local weather, as it seems those people get their rain prognostications from Saruman's crystal ball rather than from science or reality. Time after time we got the accurate call from NOAA, the same folks those radical Pee Tardy folks want to abolish, surmising that only people with pots of money deserve to be alerted to the approach of hurricanes and tornadoes.

    Secondly, the Patch, which began life quite promisingly, is turning into an ad-packed online version of the Examiner, which is not a compliment. We don't know why the Patch is getting worse, but can guess that fatigue and low wages have something to do with it. On the upside, their police blotter still reads with interesting items, and we appreciate the effort there, especially as we know that the IPD has become difficult to work with and uncooperative to several crime stat gathering entities.

    Blogging Bayport remains quite a treasure to the extent that we are envious of someone who apparently has substantial resources of time to investigate matters relating to the Island. If she does not, we wish Lauren Do to win the lottery with the proviso that she devote her gains to local journalism.

    The most recent post presented the EIR planning maps for the Point, with reference to the Planning Board Meeting to be held Monday at 7pm at City Hall. This discussion will be about the environmental impact report, which will not in itself address the vast majority of the most pressing issues people seem to have, but which should at least touch on some of them and give people an idea of what is in the pipeline.

    No, the EIR cannot be concerned with Global warming or rising of sea water levels -- that is not within the scope of the examination.

    No it cannot be concerned with other independent development projects in progress.

    On the side of fairplay, we note that a number of defenders of Big Five's gun sales have stepped up to indicate that the weapons sold by B5 cannot be categorized as assault weapons on the basis of caliber, which happens to be .22.

    Now in fairness we could claim that .22 caliber is not equal across the board, as there are .22 longs to be had with significantly larger wallop, however let it be granted that a .45 caliber slug will always do significant damage to a living creature while a man can walk away from several hits from a .22 or even a .38 police standard cartridge.

    Discussions along these lines tend to decay to the old reducio ad absurdem debates over whether attacking your neighbor with a lawnmower is any worse than using a pistol.

    The real issue needs to stay focussed on whether we want projectile weapons with capacity for unlimited firepower to be universally available within the community. Quibbles about details descend to pure cant.


    WHATS GOING ON

    Finally our copyboys got around to clearing out the calendar detritus and we expect to be more on the ball in the coming weeks with events. A brief gander at the hot upcoming shows indicates that Yoshi's West will be hosting Michelle Shocked in March, which should be an evening that will likely prove interesting, provocative and unexpected as the mercurial and wildly talented performer may pull any number of musical hats from her impressive arsenal.

    Closer in time, North Africa's Vieux Farka Toure will enchant you with stunning vocals on February 3rd, while the Crescent City sends its ambassador, Allen Toussaint, to occupy February 9-10th.

    John Waters is coming to town in November. Did you really need that much advance warning for Baltimore's Favorite Son?

    This in-between period is always the doldrums for music and theatre, but we note that BB King will be ripping up the boards at the venerable Fox Theatre on February 28th. The booking agent there, apparently inspired has the King followed by Flogging Molly March 9th on a weekend that should allow you time to dry out in the drunk tank in time for work. March 16th sees the the rocky-jazzy Umphrey's McGee bring back the Alt in Alternative music, while Josh Ritter will charm your pants off on March 20th, all at the same venue in Oaktown.

    If you are willing to get over to the increasingly overpriced, increasingly irrelevant, and increasingly out-of-range Babylon, Slims still holds reasonable shows in the same old location south of Market. There the hardest working musician in the Bay Area, Tommy Castro will bring his revamped band Painkillers backed by none other than The Paul Thorn Band on Fri. 2/1. This is a rare headline marquee event for Slims, so folks better line up at the doors where we saw Nirvana some years before. Paul Thorn is one of those American originals who is so talented you know he will never get famous unless he pukes on a Kardashian.

    As for Tommy, well we love him and his bad attitude, his down-to-earth soul, and his musical virtuosity to bits. As they say, you can't keep a good man down. Stay tough, amigo. You proved you don't have to be a culador to survive.

    Just in over the wire, we held the pub of this issue to share with you a new art opening in Oaktown, where it is clear something very big and phenomenal and exciting is going on with regards to modern plastic, graphic and industrial arts all across the city.

    Here is the press release for the Blackball Universe event taking place 02/01/13:

    "A new tide is rolling in at Blackball Universe. The office-meets-recording studio-meets-art gallery-meets-after hours lounge will be hosting its first group of artists this February. A Match Made in Oakland features work from a trifecta of contemporary Bay Area artists: Westart, Niki Escobar, and Suzie Borhan.

    January's Blackball Gallery artist, Westart, will show new pieces created over the course of the month in their studio residency at the Blackball offices. Westart is comprised of twins Adahn and Ian Stewart whose collaborative, mixed-media works command one artist's name, and a whole city's attention. Mixing heroic narratives, comic influences and personal histories, this duo demonstrates a unique style that reflects a common culture.

    Feminist and experimental poet Niki Escobar will hang mixed-media pieces which demonstrate her "training in poetry" alongside her "untrained obsession with visual art." Smart, satirical and reflective, Escobar's work explores the experience of women, and the history and mythology of the Philippines. Winner of the Frances Jaffer Poetry Award, and a consistently published poet, Escobar is currently furthering her visual arts "obsession" with a graphic novel.

    Suzie Borhan paints, draws, collages and travels, living now in Oakland, hailing previously from Washington and Oregon. She will be displaying thought-provoking, mixed-media works that explore an alternate world. Bahrain's recurring cast of characters occupy a space the audience explores visually and through text with her accompanying narrative poems. "

    A Match Made in Oakland will be on display from February 1 - 23, with a first Friday artist's reception at 7pm, and regular Saturday hours from 12pm - 4pm.

    Blackball Gallery is located 230 Madison Ave.(at 2nd St) Oakland, CA 94607.

    Stay tuned to Island-life. Things are only going to get better from here on out.


    BLUES IN A BOTTLE

    So anyway the weather has turned to sunny after a gloomy time of overcast skies. Got a wharf sizzler earlier in the week, which has left everything dripping and pooled along the curbs and gutters in odd places, leaving the ground saturated and mucky topped with dead leaves which did their job a long time ago.

    Everyone is sitting in front of grates waiting patiently for dry warmth to invade the earth once again. Those with the means, like Tommy and Toby, are packing up their boxy cars with the snow tires and chains and heading up into the areas around Taboo to enjoy the fresh deep powder. Report has it from Patrick in the hills that snow is falling as of this minute and all his little rug rats are out there making redundant snow angels.

    Inside the frosted windows Toby, mother of all those rug rats now pelting their dad with hasty snowballs without regard to the fact that this guy will be the fellow paying for their college tuition in a few years, silently remembers one of the Newtown 26, Charlotte Bacon (6).

    for the grace of some kind of god or whatever, Sandy Hook could have just as well claimed one of hers

    While dad and the kids go screaming off down the way, causing untold rampant destruction of morals and propriety among the Sierra foothills, Toby comes out into the hard chill air and, as the snowflakes fall gently, she gently lays down among the other imprints and spreads her legs and her arms while looking up at the falling snowflakes, which cling to her long lashes. Toby is herself a schoolteacher in Grass Valley and knows that, but for the grace of some kind of god or whatever, Sandy Hook could have just as well claimed one of hers.

    She gets up and leaves the little angel imprint, a memory of Charlotte, a redhead who used to light up the room whenever she entered, the way that temperamental redheads sometimes do and goes inside. Tomorrow was another school day and there were tasks to organize.

    Every teacher spends a portion of homelife preparing for the next school day. But then, some say nothing you do for children is ever wasted.

    these kids, their childhood stolen

    In Oaktown, at the Jack Sparrow Orphanage, the Editor has returned to his clerical duties, knocking about the place on a wooden crutch. In his rounds he comes across the kids from the Avalon school on the grounds and has to reintroduce himself -- the kids don't hold much for long in their heads. Most of them are autistic, PTSD, any number of acronyms needing medication besides. None of these kids will ever lay back in the snow with casual abandonment. They are serious, not laughing very often, these kids, their childhood stolen as effectively as if some maniac had barged in with a fully automatic assault rifle into their lives. Some of these kids lived brief lives in the media when they were discovered in some backyard shed or dank basement chained to a post after several years of non-childhood possession by a deviant maniac armed with knives and blowtorches. Some simply abandoned by foster homes grown too tired of the complications.

    As Woody Allen used to say, life is divided between the horrible and the miserable. Just thank your lucky stars you belong to the merely miserable.

    As the Editor stumps up the path one of the kids is standing there facing a staffer who alerts the kid, "Someone is coming up behind you."

    "Hello!" says the Editor merrily, letting the kid know he is heaving his heavy bulk up the way.

    "Hello," the kid says absently before moving inside the school.

    The Editor is an adult who will not hurt him. Okay fine. On to other things.

    The Editor humps on up into the Administration building. Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. Nothing ever so small.

    At Marlene and Andre's Household everyone is huddled around the coffeetable under which Occasional Quentin sleeps. It is bread soup night, so everyone is there with their "Bush Bowl", named after the family that made these circumstances, filled with thick red bread soup somewhat fortified with the meat of a couple squirrels Pahrump had managed to trap.

    Life, indeed was good. Warm bread soup with squirrel meat and a warm dry place to squat until the greedy developers got too savage and Mr. Howitzer raised the rent again. One could not complain on this chilly night in January when so many had so little and things were bound to get worse, given the trends.

    Out behind the backdoor a couple of bloody squirrel hides hung drying. Martini and the others stood there while Quentin picked his nose and Pahrump went through the age-old practice of squirrel-skinning, which, if you did not know, involves making a few sharp cuts, stomping on the critter's tail with your boot and yanking hard upwards, separating the rodent carcass from his former insulation. If you have seen such a thing, you learn why they call what is left pelt and carcass. Sarah and Tipitina went into the house, unable to eat dinner.

    "What the heck is he going to do with that fur pelt", Martini wanted to know.

    "Don't ask", Jose said. "I am not so sure I want to know myself. Have another helping of stew?"

    "No thanks," Martini said. "I've had enough."

    In the offices of the Island-Life the Editor started wrapping up the week. Seems a group of younguns are starting up a gallery in Oaktown. Keeping their mitts in the ring and staying feisty. That was the spirit.

    He passed down the line of empty desks to exit the offices and stand in the chill air on the deck bounded by orange and lemon trees now in full abundance of yield, despite the season. There he inhaled the deep scent of citrus and life in bloom. Somewhere somewhere else all life was still encased in ice, but here, in California, the golden land of promise, the oranges were bursting.

    all of these snow angels spread their wings

    He closed his eyes and there on the deck among the lemon trees and the oranges the editor had a vision. This was the Editor's vision. He dreamed that all the snow angels around the world rose up out of their cold beds in all of the countries all over the globe, in Germany and in Norway, in South Africa and the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Australia and Tibet and the angels started to sing. They sang of spring and renewal and patience and the eternal return of life to the land. In the frosty heavens all the souls of the children who had died danced in a roundel, circles of snow angels arose in flocks to join together and so circle the globe, all the murdered children forming a protective blanket around the earth, and all of these angels spread their wings to block the effects of global warming and so a great thing was come to pass and all the sea levels returned to normal and the wine dark seas were calmed to quiescence and there were no more hurricanes and the glaciers returned to their former majesty.

    The long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary and across the non-native grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

     

     

    JANUARY 20, 1013

    HE'S JUST A DOG

    This week's image comes courtesy of Chad's archives and from one of his many visits to the Lucky 13 on Park. It kinda indicates the shaggy dog weather we have been having.

    It also shows that the Lucky 13 is a place where mutts are welcome. Just don't pimp yer poodle in there.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    During this slow news time, while the newly installed councilmembers learn all about long hours on Tuesday nights over there in Silly Hall. Our sympathies go with you as folks rack up the hours complaining about everything from potholes to the plastic bag ban.

    The USD administration is all moved in to their contested rented digs in Marina Square Village. They are offering to allow citizens to tour the place on appointment.

    As for the infamous "Berlin Wall" as one letter-writer called it, that remains in situ around the landmark high school on Santa Clara while the Carnegie building, equally distressed and in need of earthquake retrofit does not warrant even a keep away sign.

    Cost to deal with the schools upgrades, which probably includes places where students are actually sitting in front of teachers, is estimated at some $92 million dollars.

    Ahem!

    We noted that the charter school ACLC is looking to expand operations on the campus of the Wood Middle School. We know ACLC, its high standards for excellence, and we know the tech guy over there, Milton, so we were suprised to hear that the PTA of Wood is against the move to their campus.

    Seems declining enrollment at Wood proper is threatening the future of the campus, but we see ACLC as a good stop-gap measure to keep the place humming for a while. One of our kids went to school there and we would hate to see another brick of Old Alameda get tossed away, so we are hoping that things can be worked out in the same way the former Arthur Anderson school project helped out the Jets on the West End.

    Letters regarding the plastic bag ban have decreased to a dull simmer on the stove in favor of nationally provoked issues, as in school safety in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedies. Turns out cursory safety inspections reveals that plans for handling Newtown-style events have been in place a long time -- they just are not being followed even to date.

    Edison, Lum and Ruby Bridges retain multiple open access points, unlocked classrooms, unchallenged entry points, unchallenged visitors, and a plethora of other lapses that indicate that some folks in charge seem to believe we are living in Oz, not in the middle of a 5 county metropolis of nearly ten million people, two millions of which live in Alameda County alone.

    On that subject, loosely, some citizens have called for Big 5 stores, which has an outlet in Southshore Mall, to cease the selling of fully automatic assault weapons with extended clips.

    You have to wonder just what would happen should someone actually employ such a thing for personal defense in a place as crowded as the Island with its thin walls and children's rooms. Even trained police will sometimes hit innocent bystanders during a gunfight. Have bullets, will travel. . . .

    Of course you could always get to know your neighbors, learn each others habits of movement, and watch out for one another. There is always that option.

    In the Crimestoppers Notebook we saw an uptick in burgluries, arrests on outstanding warrants, at least one violent mugging, and over ten 5150 detentions for "psychiatric evaluation."

    ONE IN THE NAME OF LOVE

    Monday, besides being Inauguration Day for our esteemed President, is also Martin Luther King Day. Here is the scoop on AC Transit:

    On the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Monday, January 21, 2013, all AC Transit offices will be closed and Local and Transbay bus lines-- except for those crossing the Dumbarton Bridge-- will run on a Sunday schedule. Dumbarton Bridge service will be maintained at its normal frequency.

    Regular business operations and scheduling will resume on Tuesday, January 22.

    Complete scheduling information is available online at www.actransit.org; or by telephoning 511 and saying “AC Transit.”

    We would like to add everyone can sit anywhere they like on the bus and upon arrival may enter any emporium regardless of appearance straight through the front door. In addition, anyone can sit anyplace they like in any sort of bar to watch on TV a Black man get sworn in as President. For the second time.

    We have King and the Freedom Riders to thank for that.

    BABY ITS COLD OUTSIDE

    So anyway, now is come the depths of the still winter, when the trees shake their long black bones against the pearl grey, unremitting sky, all calcified and hard against desire. Yet, still, under the soft hummocks of snow, the equally persistent root of life winds and bends its way upwards, seeking any old crack.

    Over at the Pampered Pup Lionel is in a jovial, backslapping mood, for on the morrow he will be closing up shop to head over to Oaktown and Everett and Jones to watch brother Obama get sworn in for the second time on the big screens there.

    Arthur sat at the counter with an all beef special wrapped up in an Alaskan parka with the furred hoodie. "You got that right," he said. "I expect that Justice Roberts will get the oath right this time, dontcha thing?"

    we live in a mighty time, a mighty time indeed!

    "O tomorrow, tomorrow!" Lionel said. "On Martin Luther King day no less! And on the Dee Cee Mall to boot! I say we live in a mighty time, a mighty time indeed!"

    "Welp," Arthur said licking the moustard from his lips. "We'll see what happens to the Public Option after this. I am going over to the Old Same Place later on."

    "I'll see you there," Lionel said. "Give my regards to Jacqueline if you go by there. . .".

    Arthur sighed. "I don't see what you see in that woman. She's as skinny as a stick . . ."

    "O now, you get out of here, you!"

    "Ha ha!"

    Kings and queens may trade their thrones, but all avails and matters naught within the golden round of the court of Love. There the antic sits and with his pin, well, bores everyone to tears. Everyone would have slept through Romeo and Juliet if the fools had not killed each other in some dramatic fashion.

    As the night settled down with ebony folds to drape the town with cold sparkles shining through its fur, streetlights glinting and leaf-torn puddles left from the last lashing of storms, the various inhabitants of the Island huddled, each as was their wont, to wait out this time of expectation, this season of patiently attending the steadily marching hours towards the longer days.

    soon the entire block is enveloped in a prison of crystalline ice

    Meanwhile the moisture on the windshield stars up, expands, exfoliating into fractals with infinite permutations. The ice expands over the glass, covers the car, creeps along the road, making spiky topographic maps of dreams, creeps up the houses and soon the entire block is enveloped in a prison of crystalline structure that meets others rise up to envelope the old trees -- the city would cut them down anyway -- and brings down the powerlines with the weight, isolating each house with its iPads and its Wifi without electricty or heat until the entire city soon is domed over and fingers of the ice continue to lace out like Fibonacci numbers to crush Oaktown and all the neighboring cities while people slept, body cores gradually cooling in all the people, all the children, all the dogs, until everything was crushed quietly, quietly under a solid lightless sheet of ice and dark and every form of life was stilled . . .

    The Editor snapped away from his nightmare in the cold newsroom and stared about him wildly. "What? What? No!"

    But there he was in the cubicle, cold but not frozen, while the machines muttered their old complaints by way of their fans. All around him the silent desks with their lamps, computer screens.

    Down by the old cannery building, Officer O'Madhauen sat in his Crown Vic, sipping his cup of coffee, ostensibly watching for red light dodgers, but at this time of night, on the eve of a holiday, there was scant chance of anyone coming by through the industrial park. It was just a place he liked to sit and let his mind go blank while the swelling moon rose over the old Beltline zone.

    Tommy and Toby's boat, The Lavendar Surprise, rocked gently in its berth in the marina slip while its owners rested comfortably in each other's arms beneath a down coverlet from LL. Bean.

    Mrs. Sanchez, nee Ms. Morales, stepped lightly wearing her nightgown down the hall to where Mr. Sanchez lay half asleep. Tomorrow no school, but there were papers to grade. Enough for tomorrow, so she slipped under the covers and snuggled up next to him for warmth.

    At Mr. Howitzer's mansion, the one on Grand Street with the two stone lions in front, the master of the house have final terse orders to the ever patient Dodd, who remained at work although it was nearing midnight. There would be a ball. Or something similar. On February 14th. Roses. Candies. Music. Pink champagne. Fluffy shit. Be ready for it.

    Yes sir. How many attendees?

    Fifty. Be ready.

    Yes sir.

    Over at Marlene and Andre's household, the place had packed in as folks who slept outside during the warmer months had shifted indoors, meaning all fifteen souls were sharing the same air. And the same bathroom.

    "Martini, get your foot out of my eye," Jose said with irritation.

    "Sorry . . .". a voice emitted in the dark.

    "Put it in your sleeping bag for the sake of god would you!"

    "Sorryyyyyy. . . ".

    Someone else called out in the dark, "Hey! Anyone got any spare Effexor? I am out."

    "O for Pete's sake," Pahrump said.

    The household was a model of social interdependence.

    Their traditional cheer was a high five and the mantra "Bunchgrass Forever!"

    Down the way Katrina Smite stood up from her topographic map of the area after having dismissed the members of the Native Plants Association from their campaign meeting. The group had been planning activities for the coming year as part of their program to eradicated all foreign plant species. Their traditional cheer was a high five and the mantra "Bunchgrass Forever!"

    Katrina remained in the door as the last of the members ambled down through the cold to their cars parked on Shoreline. From her steps she could see the Bay and the distant hump of Babylon's southern hills. As well as the horrid marsh with its nasty foreign sawgrass they had been going at for a couple years now. Once that was gone, then the beachhead would be theirs! Yes, it was a brand new year made ready and panting with expectation. The thought of the upcoming battle made her almost, dare we say, moist.

    As she stood there, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary and across the non-native grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

     

     

    JANUARY 13, 2013

    COWBOYS ARE FREQUENTLY SECRETLY

    This week's photo is an old one from the archives and was submitted by Mike Rettie in the West End a while ago. Mike's wife works for Callahan Piano which has a workshop on the Point. Clearly, sometimes the usually sedate business of caring for old instruments can get pretty unruly.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    The Horror Days have come and gone along with Xmas and all that blather about great deals for 99.99. Hopefully by now all of you have removed the tinsel from your beards and merkins and you all got what was coming to you.

    Maybe you even got a merkin for Xmas, a gift which is highly personal although seldom considered as the weather is usually too chill around this time of year to put on on and have it properly displayed.

    Although this period tends to slow-news days we note a few events and happenings here along with developments for old stories.

    Measure H, which was partly struck down by the Circuit Court, is now going through appeal subsequent to the court's decision to vacate and reconsider. The decision against split-level taxation affects a number of other communities around the Bay who have instituted similar creative funding schemes. Measure H funds were to go to support the public schools. Measure A, also passed by voters, seeks to cover the losses should Measure H eventually go down in defeat, however the litigation is likely to continue on the contentious issue for quite some time. Ironically, Measure A looks like it will impose higher taxes on a flat-field basis than its predecessor ($299 Vs $120 for single family dwellings and 32 cents per sq. foot for commercial property owners).

    Already hard at work from his new Assembly seat, Rob Bonta has introduced a bill that will clarify funding for school districts statewide. His bill will likely put him side by side with Governor Jerry Brown as Brown seeks to simplify revenue streams.

    We remember Jean Sweeney as a gracious and courteous lady. Courteous and tenacious. The 23 acre open space property she secured via diligent records research that is now named in her honor will have its future decided by committee in various meetings. The first public meeting will be 10 - noon, at the Officer's Club on 641 Red Line Road out at the Point. Another meeting will be held 7 - 9pm February 13 in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

    The Jean Sweeney Open Space Park Committee has a Facebook page. Facebookers only need do a search on Facebook.com for her name together with "open space" to show the love.

    We have been remiss with updates on what has been happening with AC Transit, and we apologize. The Bus Rapid Transit got a new Director, named David Wilkins, way back in October. According to AC Transit's Press Release, "The BRT project is more than just a transit project. It is an economic development project that will contribute to the economy by creating local construction and construction support jobs as well as stimulate the growth of businesses along the corridor due to the new service. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 with the BRT system fully implemented in 2016."

    Wilkins is a heavy hitter with a wildly packed resume of credentials handling multi-million dollar projects, so we expect great things from him.

    Also we have this regarding opportunities for public service:

    To ensure that its transit services are used and easily obtainable by all members of the public, AC Transit is seeking volunteers to fill vacancies on its Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). The District appealed for applications from people interested in volunteering their input by serving on the committee as advocates for seniors and disabled bus riders.

    The AAC, consisting of 14 members, typically meets on the second Tuesday of the month to address concerns about—and implement and enhance—AC Transit’s programs and services as related to seniors and people with disabilities. The committee was established specifically to review policies and procedures, as well as comment and advise the District and its seven-member Board of Directors on all matters related to bus accessibility.

    Citizens appointed to serve on the committee shall serve a term of one (1) year beginning March 1, 2013. In an effort to maintain a diversified panel representative of people who are seniors, people with varying disabilities and of diverse ethnic backgrounds, two committee members will be appointed by each Director.

    Qualified applicants must use AC Transit’s fixed-route service, be a senior or individual with a disability and/or represent such groups, and be willing to devote the necessary hours to attend meetings. Along with identifying problems and offering probable solutions and ideas, prospective applicants should also have respect for others, be open to hearing divergent points of view, and commit up to six (6) hours a month to committee-related work.

    If interested, applications can be obtained from and returned to the District Secretary’s Office, 1600 Franklin Street, 10th Floor, Oakland, CA 94612 or by calling (510) 891-7201. Completed applications also can be faxed to: (510) 891- 4705. All applications must be returned to the District Secretary by February 1, 2013.

    AC Transit has been sending us reports on a regular basis and we hope, as things begin to mend around here, to start reporting again more frequently on mass transit issues.

    SOMEONE LEFT THE CAKE OUT IN THE RAIN

    So anyway the weather has been brisk for around here. Native San Franciscans have been lurking about the Island and we can see them clearly for who they are. These are the folks who stroll around wearing sandals without socks in their shirtsleeves while the saner people around them scrape the ice from their windshields, wearing mittens, fuzzy hats, and full parkas from REI.

    Decent people would at least pretend to be chilled so as to bond in some kind of human sympathy with the rest of the world, but not these folks seeking avenues of escape from the obscenely high rents over there in Babylon. Meanwhile, Jacqueline of Jackie's Hair Salon looks out these mornings and smiles to herself, as Jackie stems from Bear Lake upstate Minnesota near the Canadian border. You talk about cold you just talk to Jackie while she is in there doing a tint job on Mrs. Blather, trying to make the lady look a little less gray.

    But tastefully, tastefully. Jackie would not have it any other way.

    Jackie tells the story about the rumored reason about how the Erickson kid with the cleft lip got that way and the story goes that this boy, whose name was Alfred, had done the worst thing that a boy could do in wintertime. He had taken the double dare and acted out the most grievous nightmare -- plus or minus a few other really really horrible things involving knives and witches -- that afflicted all of us while growing up.

    Yes, the hapless child put his tongue upon an iron pump handle after the temperature had dropped well below minus twenty degrees. And there he found himself frozen to the metal there and unable to get loose.

    If you touch someone who has been electrocuted then you would get electrocuted

    So there poor Alfred was stuck and all the kids too scared to do anything and half afraid if they helped him they would get stuck too somehow the way electricity was known to do -- everyone knows about that, right? If you touch someone who has been electrocuted then you would get electrocuted and have a heartattack and die and be buried in the cold ground. It is a known and proven fact and my cousin read about it in a magazine or saw it on TV.

    So all the kids ran off, too scared to do something to help poor Alfred with his tongue frozen to the pump handle and the reason nobody is around to tell about this now is that they all were embarrassed by their cowardice and so each one of them grew up with this terrible dark secret in their hearts about having failed to help a fellow human being.

    Even Gwen, dear sweet Gwen with the blond hair and the blue eyes whom Alfred had rather liked in Mr. Joe's Biology class for figuring out the ATP pump cycle before anyone else and who always had smiled at him even though he lived on a farm with his dull brother Axel, even she had run off.

    So there he was, all alone, surrounded by snow, hearing the howling of wolves, or something that sounded like wolves, half afraid he would just die there of exposure overnight, his family wondering where he had gotten off to at suppertime and his father in a wax on his lateness and his mother sorrowfully putting away the hot dish casserole.

    He would die and they would find him and cut loose the pipe there and put him in a casket with the pump still attached to his tongue and he would bury him like that in a coffin in the farmyard with Father Danyluk debating with Rome as to whether this was considered a suicide or a hapless accident and the good father winning out over that German fellow in the Vatican because Father Danyluk was a good man as head of the parish of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint.

    You will have to chose to go to the Other Place

    So that is the way he would approach the kingdom of heaven, with the pump handle frozen to his tongue and him having to carry it right up to St. Peter with his beard and the Book among the Host of Heaven and St. Peter exclaiming, "Well we really cannot have this sort of thing in Heaven you know! You will have to chose to go to the Other Place, where it may be hot enough to thaw that thing, or Gabriel.

    So of course he chooses Gabriel and along comes the ferocious archangel with his terrible mighty sword with comes up and swishes down and . . .

    O my gawd! So much blood in heaven not been seen for so long . . .

    In the other scenario, Old Grima, the neighboring bachelor farmer comes along and deals with the situation as tough Norwegian bachelor farmers are known to do. Out comes the knife, the same one he uses for the bulls to make them tame, and . . .

    O my gawd . . .!

    So that is how the Erickson boy got his cleft lip and got the way he was. However the story does not end there.

    Alfred's family saved up their pennies and got the boy to a surgeon who fixed his cleft lip, however with the unfortunate result that the boy spoke with a French accent the rest of his life.

    Alfred got a scholarship that took him to France where he stayed and changed his name to Eric, while his brother, Axel, remained on the farm tending livestock. All the French marveled at how, finally, they had discovered one American who finally could speak their difficult language flawlessly. People came from miles around just to listen to him speak.

    Eric became immensely successful as a novelist and a fashion designer and he sent home pots of money to help out his aging parents who fixed up the farm so well that Axel became a sort of tour guide for transplanted Minnesotans who traveled up from San Diego to visit the Erickson Estates and ride Percheron horses on the farm that had been made into a dude ranch. And during the long winter months he invited his family to a little place he kept on the Cote d'Azure, where they drank campari by the beach and wore sandals with no socks and shirtsleeves in weather properly designed for such.

    As for his companions who had abandoned him, no one now remembers them at all. Not one.

    So however the boy had gotten his cleft lip, he wound up pretty well off in the end.

    So let this be a lesson to you. Seize the day. Take the dare. It may hurt a lot at first, it might cost you a world of pain, but you just might go places you otherwise might never have seen.

    the terrible disaster on El Abuelito di Diablo had nearly killed all of them

    High above MacArthur Boulevard, Denby, Javier, Festus, and a few of the other Islandlife crew went through their rehab paces, enforced as physical therapy regimens for each one to deal with their respective injuries after the terrible disaster on El Abuelito di Diablo had nearly killed all of them in September of last year. The room was filled with men, women and teenagers working laboriously on cable machines and padded tables, struggling to regain function in shattered limbs. A fortyish man walked himself between chrome rails over a thick pad, gripping the rails to either side while trying to make his legs work again. A thickset man wearing an armbrace tossed a ball to an inclined trampoline over and over. A teenager removed a solid boot from his right foot on one of the padded benches to run through his routine.

    Festus, standing in the window sill, called Denby over from his bicycle, where the musician had set the seat at 9 to get his knee to bend again via constant rotation.

    "Look down there," Festus said.

    Denby looked down to see a young woman with flowing black hair wheeling a baby carriage down Broadway past the park towards the intersection with its tangle of concrete barriers painted orange and the flapping draped construction going on for the new high rise across the way. The woman was on the Macarthur Park side approaching Macarthur itself and the long light there, breath steaming out of her in the frigid air outside.

    "That's Amanita," Denby said. "I know her."

    Indeed. Amanita had once a boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant while both had been going to Washington High School. Washington had closed, due to the fiscal crisis, before officialdom could react to yet one more case of a teen pregnancy. The boyfriend had long since vanished, his parents choosing to remove to the Valley rather than face disgrace.

    It was unknown if the boy had much say in the matter, but that left Amanita with child and a Catholic upbringing, a combination not conducive to kindness, leniency, or comfort. Father Danyluk, who understood the ways of the world, had hooked her up with some County support and WIC, but having a child at 17 is always a hard row to hoe and sometimes the laughter dies if nothing else.

    she started wheeling the carriage in a circle

    Amanita reached the corner as the light turned red and she briefly stood there, a thin-stick waif wearing a thick black parka, breathing clouds of steam. Then, suddenly she started wheeling the carriage in a circle and flinging her dark hair and the two of them watching from the fourth floor of the Kaiser building could she that she was singing as she danced with her child.

    After a few long moments the light changed, and the girl was gone and the two returned to their routines in the heart of the cold city.

    Out on the swell of the wine-dark sea, Pedro fiddled with his radio, trying to bring in his favorite broadcast of the Rotschue Televangalist Variety Show, and got a sort of poor connection with hall-echo sound that made it seem like everyone was talking inside an immense cold auditorium.

    There would not be much comfort this night from the show.

    There were scant days left on the calendar for crabbing on this season before the pots and nets would give up to lines for herring and other things. As a sole proprietor he was bound to the schedule of local ordinance as well as to the seasons.

    As it turned out, the haul was less than as expected this time around and so he returned to port, patient and unbowed, knowing the sea would always provide in some fashion, even though the times had changed, the catch had varied and even the weather had turned quandary.

    Out on the high seas, the small hillocks of the waves lifting and lowering his boat El Borracho Perdido, he remembered the pile of ashes by the back steps and the plant which had appeared there one year, a small tearose.

    Latterly, despite the gloomy weather, he had noticed the scrawny thing sending out a series of green shoots, one ending in some kind of swelling.

    By now in other parts of the country people may be noticing green shoots firing up through the coverlet of snow.

    the old tramp shambles in the cold

    In Mosswood Park, in Oaktown across the street from the Kaiser building, the old tramp shambles in the cold as the rain began to fall to the bench. He failed to get to the shelter on time, so there would be no bed or food and he thought he might get on the bench and huddle up with newspapers. On the table there someone had left a white box. The tramp opened up the box and inside was a big cake with the printing "Congratulations Marsha and Allen" and a small figure of a man in a tuxedo dancing with a woman in a bridal dress. The cake had been partially carved with some pieces missing on one end.

    The rain came down and pitted the frosting. The tramp took a cut piece, ate it and went over to the covered busstop and lay down there and went to sleep. He left the box open and the rain came down on the cake, destroying the message.

    From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary and the grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

    JANUARY 6, 2013

    SOMEWHERE THERE IS A PLACE FOR US

    This week's hopeful image comes from facebooker friend Cindy, who joyfully greets every opportunity with enviable zest. It is a shot over the Castro between one of our recent rain showers.

    WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS

    We see by the hits that people have been peppering the camping section. Well, circumstances obviously intervened as to getting the 2012 entry up, but now it is all there, with all the gruesome details. Well, actually, we left out the more gruesome details, if only to make sure that this story helps save someone's life out there.

    While the drama may feel excessive for some, four people did die up there. We would like to reduce that number to zero, as Tom the EMT is really a nice guy and putting him through more of that, we feel, is a bit too much.

    You can view the story and the pix HERE.

    The docs say that although we will set off airport detectors for years to come, we eventually will walk normally again.

    THIS ISLAND LIFE

    By now you have all carted your ailing pine to the curb, put away the menorahs and whooped it up or not as the case may be for the new year. January 1 brought in a raft of new laws, the most obviously intrusive is the "plastic bag" ban which means that you must bring your own totes or pay for them at the register in retail markets.

    We think this is a good thing if only for one major advancement: Validation of the Manpurse.

    Yes, you stalwart red-blooded Americans can now bare your bags with pride. Uh, swing your bags . . . uh . . . whatever.

    So anyway there already are complainers in the letters to the edtor, already listing statistics like the damned liars they are, to rail against the bag ban.

    O just get over it people

    The other laws, featuring anti-smoking ordinances, appear far more invidious, largely because they negatively affect non-smokers.

    Howzat?

    Well, we all all for taking smokers out to the obliette and dropping them in one by one so their 2nd hand reek kills only each other. That would be a very fine and good thing. But that is not what the ordinances are about. They are about money. Rent money. Landlords all over Oaktown and other places have taken to evicting folks on the charge of "condemned smoker" so as to raise the rents to even more obscene values that cause Satan to giggle like a little girl and ruin the general ambience of the place.

    Heck, they destroyed Frisco with their high rents and outright greed. Now they want to come over here and do the same to us and the anti-smoking foofaw is just so much hooey for the sake of greed.

    The Navy League Council is meeting at the Air Museum 2151 Ferry Point Road, Building 77 and folks interested in military sea services, or just wanting to check in on the museum can visit www.navyleaguealameda.org. The next event is a raffle and dinner on 21 January. Tickets are $40 and go towards assisting active units. One of the adopted units is Alameda 4th Force Recon, USMC, a unit whose detail has always been of special interest to some of us here with some history with the USN. Long Range Patrol - go long, do it, come back.

    FAIR THEE WELL MY HONEY

    Usually we do a comprehensive list of folks who passed away in the past year with a short eval of their life's works. This time, let it be shorter than usual, as who are we to burden the present and the future with the decaying and dead past.

    Ronald Searle - Cartoonist
    Omar Sharriff - musician
    Etta James - Queen of the Blues
    Whitney Houston - R&B singer
    Don Cornelius - music impresario
    Anthony Shadid - journalist
    Davy Jones - musician, rock
    Adrienne Rich - poet
    Earl Scruggs - musician, banjo, country style
    Mike Wallace - reporter
    Dick Clark - game-show host, radio and tv personality
    Levon helm - musician
    Adam Yauch - mca beastie boys
    Maurice Sendak - illustrator
    Vidal Sassoon - barber
    Carlos Fuentes - author
    Harold Baron Jackson - radio personality
    Doc Watson - bluegrass music legend
    Ray Bradbury - science writer
    Neil Alden Armstrong - astronaut, first man on the moon
    Sally Ride - astronaut
    Rodney King - police victim
    Ernest Borgnine - actor
    Phyliss Diller - comedian, former Alamedan
    Tony Scott - Director
    Helen Gurley Brown - feminist activist
    George Mcgovern - politician
    Alan Farley - beloved local radio personality
    Larry Hagman - TV actor
    Gore Vidal - author, genius
    Robert Bork - political toady
    Dave Brubeck - jazz musician and civil rights advocate
    Russell Means - Native American activist
    Ravi Shankar - musician
    Daniel Inouye - War veteran and US senator
    Norman Schwarzkopf - military general

    If you had only a few words to describe your life up to now, would any of these apply to you? Would "love" be any one of those words?

    IF MY WORDS DID GLOW WITH THE GOLD OF SUNSHINE

    So anyway the New Year has ambled through rainshowers like a careless girl sidestepping puddles to the here and new, and suddenly here we are facing the rest of a decade that perhaps may hold a little bit more promise than the months of dark night that preceded this.

    O lord, we bewail that tangle of prepositions and dangling referents, but stetanorum est.

    Life does not pause. You cannot parse out a lifeline's syntax -- by the time you are finished you are done, really done.

    Jose came shrieking around the corner,

    That is why Jose came shrieking around the corner at nearly 75 miles per hour, riding the silver Razor broken down to its essence of a skateboard, which Adam's friend Hushpuppy got for an xmas present.

    Jose, . . .could not help widespread destruction.

    Kids being what they are, the Razor had, after a few days of mayhem involving broken glass and dented car doors, been retired in favor of more electronic presents that could play really neat stuff like Angry Birds and War Dwarf. Jose, like most of the Household, living in a state of arrested childhood, had seized the scooter as a means of opportunity, not as a gratuitous path to further mayhem, however, Jose, being the sort of fellow he was among the sorts of fellows he lived with, could not help widespread destruction.

    Having destroyed Ms. Quim's daffodil bed and thoroughly annihilated Mr. Fluxsome's early risers, Jose was streaking toward Mr. Howitzer's tulips, so carefully laid in by Dodd, the irrepressible manservant, when Grumbles, an aging opossum crossed the road in front of him, causing a choice between genuinely dead opossum or slaughtered roses belonging to Mrs. Grimoire, a octogenarian and former resident of a midwestern place known as Bloom County.

    Mrs. Grimoire, a formidible defender of the ASPCA, the local animal shelter and the library upon her arrival, had spent considerable effort to resurrect the rare and highly exclusive Bloom County Bloom Rose, known for its spectacular idiosyncratic foliage, now tenderly clinging to an o so fragile trellis in NorCal.

    Trembling, the roses pleaded to batman, or any hero abouts, O, please save me!

    In such circumstances, a gentleman always chooses blooms over life and reason, and so Jose slammed into an opossum nicknamed Grumbles and weighing in excess of some forty-five pounds to cause said opossum to scream with pain and alarm and flee the terrible scene, which featured Jose tumbling over the incipient tulips on Mr. Howitzer's front lawn right under Dodd's view from the window above.

    "Oooooo!" went the opossum, which did not die, nor pretend to, instead lumbering as its kind is wont to do away from that place of near death and destruction.

    "Ahhhhhhhhhh!" went Jose, who rolled and tumbled all night long.

    "O dear," went Dodd, who observed the floral carnage in all of its atavistic savagery.

    Down below, Jose lay moaning amid the wreckage that used to be Mr. Howitzer's flowerbed as Martini, Tipitinia, Pahrump and Adam came running.

    Dodd descended the stairs to the front door with his vermilion bathrobe flowing behind.

    "This is a find how do you do," he said. "A fine happy new year."

    "Same to you and yours," Jose said groaning. "I mean sorry about all this."

    "I think not." said Dodd. "You nearly murdered "Auld Grumbles."

    "Ah, well, Grumbles, well, sorry about that . . . mi escuse . . . glad he lives . . . sorry really sorry, about the tulips, I'll fix it tomorrow . . .".

    I am heartened the American spirit of rebelliousness persists

    "Shut up you ninny!" Dodd said. "I'll plant impatience and the master will never notice. I am heartened the American spirit of rebelliousness persists, despite the avaricious depredations of people with far too much money in relation to their lamentable lack of title, sense, or decent school ties and the odious Bush family and I wish you begone and be well. Furthermore I take this to be a positive sign the S&P shall improve this year over 4.5%. Get out of here now!"

    "Yessir! Yessir! Ok, I am going now, I am going now . . ."!

    "Begone!"

    "Bye!"

    As Jose made himself rapidly to vanish and the wounded marsupial examined himself with annoyance in his den, from far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary and the grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to the new year and parts unknown.

    That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

     

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