Island Life

Vol. 16 - No. 15Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday April 13, 2014


Current Edition - Year 2014


Welcome to the 16th 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


APRIL 13, 2014

(hyperlinks repaired)

SOUTHERN CROSS

This week's photo comes from Tammy and is of a floating wharf at one of the marinas. This is just to remind you folks that we do indeed live on an island.

NEW TIMES NEW TIMES NEW NEW NEW TIMES!

This week we dropped in to a sparsely attended meeting in which CALTRANS representatives presented the plans that involved the next stage of the Nimitz overhaul. It is now our turn for the massive project, which this time will handle the 29th and 23rd Street access ramps with associated overpasses and pedestrian as well as bicycle thoroughfares, which directly affects Islanders seeking something so mundane as commuting to work.

The project still needs to go to bid for a contractor to actually do the work, but the way things look the process has already developed a juggernaut momentum in all its phases.

The construction begins this summer on CALTRANS Project 717.0, perhaps as soon as June, but that is overly optimistic. Time frame features major work going on from August of this year to 2018. That's right, the main access to the Island will be under construction for five years or more, so you better get used to it.

Phase I begins with a soundwall on 880 between 29th and 23rd Avenues, northbound direction.

The representatives there solumnly assured us that no access services will be hindered -- which is frankly preposterous -- so we have to consider that going forward will involve more of the same. If you recall the onset at High Street with its infamous piledriver, some of the same stuff will be happening here again.

You can go to AlamedaCTC.org to learn more about funding for this fellow.

There is a facebook page called i880corridor but no one has updated that page since last year. The actual website, www.i880corridor.com appears to have been hacked -- the page displays only what appears to be Chinese.

The city website has only its general EIR about the Point development, which references the 2009 proposal document you find at Caltrans. Go look at the EIR at http://alamedaca.gov/sites/default/files/department-files/2013-09-03/4c_traffic.pdf

The City of Oakland has a document that outlines zoning and proposals all along the estuary, referencing this project as well as the Tidelands protection emphasis, which ought to put a serious kink in those people who want to build 25 story highrises on the water. Have a look at OAKLAND ESTUARY ZONING PDF and pay attention to the way the different sections are divvied up for land use.

There is a website devoted to this project alone and it is published nowhere, nohow and to nobody but right here, so write it down people! Go to http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/projects/88023rd29thovercrossing.

Otherwise, your GoTo Goddess on this project shall be Roquel Johnson, Branch Chief, at 286-6445. She'll be happy to answer the easy questions and give you all the documentation in alternative formats you need.

Last year the Sun wrote a piece on this proposed work. According to the January 27, 2012 article, Local Traffic Changes on Tap, by Eric Sagata,

"Currently, two freeway overpasses at 23rd Avenue provide drivers with four lanes in addition to a direct onramp onto northbound I-880. The proposed project would replace these overpasses with a single three-lane bridge equipped with a traffic signal that would allow drivers access to a new northbound I-880 onramp. At 29th Avenue, the MTC proposes that the current two-lane overpass be demolished and replaced with a four-lane bridge.

The plans would divert traffic onto 29th Avenue and off 23rd Avenue. Additionally, the new northbound I-880 exit at 29th Avenue would eliminate the need for drivers to make a U-turn at the 23rd Avenue off ramp signal in order to reach the Park Street Bridge."

Perhaps because of the midweek timing for the meeting, or perhaps due to general Island "Developer Burnout" with regard to the many projects that seem to be part of a general "land rush" few attended the meeting this week and of those, most public comments complained about graffiti problems more than construction inconvenience, or the fact that even the project proposal notes, "the impact on eastbound Alameda traffic knowingly will increase a backlog along Park Street and feeder streets in Alameda by 10 to 20 percent." Additionally, by eliminating one of two bridges, "Instead of a free flowing entrance onto the I-880 for nonrush hour traffic, vehicles will have to wait at a new traffic signal on the Park Street bridge. Traffic models show that the redesign can back up traffic all the way into Alameda.

So why in Sam Hill is Caltrans doing things this way? A gander at the proposed finished project shows extensive greenscaping around 23rd, which no longer will be an accessway to the Island by design of the project. Now the extensive estuary development plans by independent parties start to make sense, for with all traffic bottled up on the Island, that entire area becomes much more desireable for upscale property development.

A major landholder of parcels on the estuary did show up at the meeting in the form of Jim Connolly, who has his own plans for a 25 story highrise or two, albeit he did say privately "I'll never see that one realized in my lifetime."

Mr. Connolly pooh-poohed the nervous concerns about graffitti as much ado about nothing, suggesting local artists get hired to muralize the walls, which has proven effective in other areas. Only one visitor presented a question, besides us, concerning traffic impact during construction.

The official answer is that there will be backups, but no access services will be inhibited. That and a sack of salt grains will take you far in this world.

NOCTURNE

So anyway, why on earth would anyone convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism? That is like changing your suit from formal tux with a nice boutonniere to a gaudy harlequin's outfit that seems fun at first, but which features a barbed wire chastity belt and explosive dingle-balls.

So anyway again. People always think it is going to be somehow better over there on the other side of the fence. The high population of California has this sentiment for which to thank.

The high fogs have rolled in, which is for the Bay Area the sure signal that things are about to change. The box elders have sprouted out, and now the clouds of midges that will become the swarms under your deck are circling about. Fat squirrels lumber along the fence. Cherry blossoms are erupting in all the strip mall parking lots and bunches of golden poppies now glow at every corner. The Calla lilies, the Calla lilies are in blewm again.

Denby had to get over to The City to handle some business at the Federal Building there and he elected, because it was a light day of Spring air to take the Blue and Gold Ferry from the old Landing where the new floating wharf sits guarded by chainlink fences and an automatic gate at the pierhead, which was not there some ten years ago. The old landing pier juts out dangerously with fallen timbers and rotting piles to the left. Naturally kids love to scamper all over the thing despite the most strict warnings about something bad sure to happen as punishment. As it was a windy, chill day, despite the sun, he put on his dustcoat and his travelling hat from Ireland.

The ferry, a trifoil, scudded over the waves to Babylon where Denby debarked and entered the vast swirl of humanity that is now the Golden Gate, a teeming metropolis that still bursts with extraordinary energy, despite all the degredations. It was late as he boarded with a throng of the initial rush hours crowd the return ferry , which turned out to be the older, sturdy three tier ship called the Encinal. He made his way to the aft cabin area and found a place to stand while ernest dot-commers and Google employees and traders from the PSE remained riveted to their laptop screens. It being a Friday, some people were sipping glasses of wine from the bar, chatting among themselves. As was the custom on this ferry, a band of musicians had collected to play jazz, each performer remained on the boat through a roundtrip as another bandmate got off work to join them. On this trip, after the group had done something Coltrane, the keyboardist performed a Chopin Nocturne with the sun setting behind the hump of San Bruno and the lights coming up all down the peninsula as they steamed toward the estuary mouth lighting up to left and right now with the arc lamps of the port and the old Navy Base.

A woman stood there, dressed in black tights and a short skirt, Her black hair was cut short the way artists do so as to avoid the fuss and she looked to Denby to be starkly beautiful there leaning against the rail, and when she turned her head her eyes caught Denby staring at her and she stared back, then looked away. There are rules about staring in public.

He moved his eyes and studied the tattoos that covered her right arm.

He imagined that she was listening to the music and hearing the same things he heard, because even though he was a trained musician, it was clear she was a trained dancer of some kind. Yet again, most long term relationships and marriages are packed with such imaginings.

Does she hear what I am hearing? In that is all the heartbreak of men and women throughout time.

"I like your hat," she said.

He nodded. "A gentleman never goes out without his hat. Someday I hope to become a gentleman."

Something made him go to the bar and buy a couple roses there, but the commotion of the landing arrival enveloped him in a sea of faces.

At that moment the horn sounded and the rush for the exits began and she was lost in the swirl of humanity seeking the warmth of home and sanctuary. And he was left there, a man in a dustcoat, waiting upon the landing, a seed feeling the ache of Spring's longing to become something.

In the Offices of the Island-Life Newsroom, the Editor relit his cigar. His advice to Denby would be this: Do not fall in Love for it will stick to your face.

Outside the Blakean clouds scudded past the face of the waxing moon, the moon who surveys all at all hours with an impassive watch.

A bunch of roses floated down the estuary where someone had flung them in frustration or despair. The Iranian spy submarine, El Chadoor, lowered its all-seeing periscope after the men had breathed the scent of lemon verbena, and recalled each to his own, the distant and longed-for gardens of Qom, not seen or felt for many years during this strange, long, perhaps forgotten mission.

Many years ago the men had been sent out on this spy submarine to keep an eye on the activities of one of the world's busiest shipping ports, but as time had passed, the sensation that their mission had been administratively lost, shuffled into the wrong folder, misfiled and miscategorized so that all they did counted for nothing any more save the chunk of the bureaucrat's official stamp upon papers authorizing resupplies that were provided only because nobody ever had thought to issue an official order to terminate the mission which had long since lost focus.

Nevertheless Commander Abram remained steadfast in his duty and adherance to original orders and he would pursue his mission until High Command or God should command otherwise. The periscope descended and his men and his sub with all of its terrible longings for home and the the rites of Spring ran silent, ran deep, beneath the great arch of the Golden Gate out to the ocean.

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading docks, its ghosts and its weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked 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.

APRIL 6, 2014

RIDERS ON THE STORM

This week's foto comes from Cindy Manit, who is a businesswoman, yoga guru, entrepreneur based in Babylon across the water. She calls this one "After the Rain."

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

Here are some PSA announcements from BART about some goings on with the transit agency. You probably already know the Hegenberger approach to the airport is under construction so expect some delays that way on getting to your flight.

AC Transit Board To Hold Its Meeting In The Community
Directors Take Policy Discussions To El Cerrito Riders/Public

In an effort to increase public input and make its meeting more accessible, the AC Transit Board of Directors will convene its regularly scheduled meeting next week in El Cerrito.
On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, the directors will meet in the El Cerrito City Council Chambers instead of its usual meeting place at the AC Transit headquarters in downtown Oakland. The meeting will start at 5:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers, located at 10890 San Pablo Avenue.
The change of venue will give bus riders and the general public in west Contra Costa County an opportunity to more easily attend and participate in a board meeting.

Among other things, the board is expected to consider:
" Planning for implementation of fare changes effective July 1, 2014
" Regional planning process for the next generation of the Clipper fare-payment system
" Procurement of ten small transit vehicles
" Assessment of route performance by service category
" Proposed revisions to policies related to Title VI (Civil Rights Act) compliance
" Solar power installations at District facilities

The full meeting agenda and materials will be posted on Friday, April 4 (click on "Board Meetings" from the (homepage).

Also from ACTransit, there is news regarding the upcoming line 51 changes, which were discussed here in public meetings. Here is the scoop from Cynthia Vincent.

A Go-Ahead for AC Transit Bus Improvement Plan
Berkeley City Council approves "Line 51A&B Corridor Delay Reduction/Sustainability Project"

AC Transit has won approval from the Berkeley City Council to proceed with a construction project to improve traffic flow along one of the East Bay's busiest and most congested transit corridors.

The Council approval means AC Transit can now complete construction of "Line 51A&B Corridor Delay Reduction/Sustainability Project" which includes nearly $3 million in traffic and street improvements from the Berkeley Marina to the Rockridge BART station, via University, Shattuck and College avenues.

The improvements include bus stop relocations, traffic signal coordination, priority and upgrades, queue jumps, bus bulbs and more.

The project's primary objective is to increase the speed and reliability of the service. But it will also improve the pedestrian experience and the streetscape with bus bulbs that add public space and shorten street crossings for pedestrians. It does all this without impacting other users of the street, whether in cars, on bikes or on foot.

As two of the most heavily used bus routes in the East Bay, Lines 51A and 51B combined carry 19,000 passengers a day to Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda. At times, service along the entire 15-mile stretch has been unreliable due to bus bunching, late vehicle arrivals and overcrowded buses.

AC Transit has received a $10.5 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.

Construction of the project is due to begin in June, pending final approvals from the cities of Oakland and Alameda. For more information about the proposed improvements, go online at http://www.actransit.org/line51.

One of the main impacts here will be fewer stops for the line along its main route (editorial).

We are gearing up the Calendar again for the Spring and Summer seasons, so look to that for events. Please pay attention to two major changes in annual East Bay Events. Note that the Vallejo Pirate Festival now charges admission for their two day extravaganza. Still cheaper and more entertaining than a Brittany Spears concert -- and probably more wholesome in an ironic way.

Also note that the annual Juneteenth Celebration has shifted to the 21st in Vallejo, probably to avoid crossover traffic from the Pirate festival, which has a very different orientation as well as level of seriousness.

LIKE THE WEATHER

Got the seasonal rainfall report from Mike Rettie who has been keeping track of rainfall since 1998. The recent dockwallopers might persuade people to be cavalier about the rain, but looking at the historical record we see the miserable performance of 2013, which totted up no more than 5.21 inches of rain for the entire year (as compared to a 15 year average of 18.x inches) we see we are still well under what we need. The seasonal total, including the miserly January that added a scant .04 inches, we have 8.41 inches, which sometimes has been a single monthly addition in past years. We now move into the dry season which typically adds less than 1 inch of rain from May to the end of September. To meet the 15 year average we would have to get 8 inches of rain from October through December. That is highly unlikely to happen. In the unusual year of 2002 we had 10.58 inches of rain in December, which caused widespread destruction and havoc.

IF IT WERE NOT FOR BAD LUCK (I'D HAVE NO LUCK AT ALL)

So anyway, a dockwalloper set in, perhaps the last one of the year until Fall, leaving the entire place drenched in cold water and putting off that Endless Summer everybody talks about. All the residents at Marlene and Andre's Household have been fussing and fighting in the cramped quarters of bunkbeds and people sleeping on floors and Occasional Quentin sleeping under the coffee table and for everybody it has been a long, hard winter, a time of privation and denial and annoyance.

Larry took a walk out on the mudflats during the lowtide to dig for geoduck with his dog Incontinence. The mudflats are a good place to go walk a dog, especially one with a name like that. Larry did not bring a scooper or a plastic bag and his dog, a basic schnauzer, ran happily about chasing sand crabs and plashing through the tidepools.

The island hard-pack mudflats extend a good two hundred yards out into the Bay when its low tide. Beyond the shelf there the water drops abruptly. They are caused by currents slowed coming around the point and by a sense of general indolence in this part of the world where so much settles due to inertia and lack of impulse.

Larry was out there a good while, filling his bucket with the evasive long-necked clams as the light began to fade and after a good hour of chasing one difficult fellow with his shovel he looked up to find himself on a sandbar as the tide came in. Incontinence was nowhere to be found.

"Hey!" He called out. "Hey! You Pisser, where you got off to?"

He looked about for his dog and switched on his pocket torch, but the animal had vanished. He went out a bit further and saw the incoming water and then went back to see that a strip of water now separated himself from the rest of the mudflats. There was nothing for it but to get wet -- he was all soiled from the digging anyway, and so he marched into the water with his bucket and his shovel. Of course he sunk right down in the softened sand and spilled his bucket and lost his shovel and fell right over besides. Now geoduck, lacking arms, legs and any other appendages, tend not to move fast, but each clam represented a few hours of work digging and so Larry was much put out as he scrambled to recover what he could in the fading light, snagging those long-necked critters who flailed away with no desire to be eaten by Larry or anybody else for that matter.

By the time he had recovered his damn shovel and his bucket of clams, the water was coming in fast and he still stood a good 150 yards from shore, separate by decreasing islands of packed sand and broad bands of dark salt water.

He scrambled out of there and moved along a sand bar to the next passage of water, through which he bulled his way onto another sandbar that seemed to arc out away from shore, but get close to another one which stood a better chance of getting back in. He could angle in along this one, but the pool there shone black with reflections of the shorelights and this way did not look so good as the first.

So he ambled out the far way and when he got there, this way did not look promising at all, for the incoming water made a foam by its rush there and the shore lights shone bright on the water with no sign of depth and so he decided to head back the first way. Naturally by the time he had zigzagged back the way he had come and found the narrowest spot, the strait had widened. He stood looking at this problem and at the half dozen problems that lay beyond it and as he stood there the water came up and filled his shoes.

He sloshed through this with the water coming up to his waist, his bucket and shovel held high and climbed up onto another sandbar. He went out far to the left where it got dark and he could not see the end of the bar or where the crossing would be, then returned to the right, where he again stood for a moment regarding the crossing with his shovel and his bucket and the thought occurred to him, perhaps he should just drop the bucket and the shovel right now for the situation was getting quite serious. He was still 80 yards from shore and the water was making the little sandbars disappear all around him.

It accord to him that he might die there as the tide came in, just like those people in Maylasian Flight 370, and just like them with no more say in the matter. It's all like that. One day you are out digging for clams and the next you are nowhere to be found and there are people sitting in some church basement sipping really bad coffee with execrable bunt cake to have with it and they are talking about you. "Well who do you think got the dog?" O that dog? I suppose they took it to the pound. Well what about his truck? I think the family sold that. No they gave that to the Immanuel Church for Reverend Bauer. Is he the Minister who rides a motorcycle? I think a truck is more appropriate if you ask my opinion. Well I don't know. He was a queer sort of fellow, if you want my opinion. He was not queer -- wasn't he together with that Linda Light? You know -- the one with the hair? O don't know anything about that -- I think they were just business partners, if you know what I mean. What happened to the curtains I want to know. Who brought in the sandwiches, I would like to know. Was that Looney's BBQ?

They did not talk about his mountain climbing or the time he had survived that plane crash in the jungles of Ecuador. They did not talk about his years of dedicated work at the the firm of Crimson Assurance, LTD. They did not talk about any of that.

And that is the way it is when you die. People don't care about you or your feelings or all the things you did. As if they ever. They care about what you own and whether they stand to get any of it and all about the ham and cheese sandwiches in the next room.

This so distressed Larry that he gave a mighty cry and thrust forward across the sandbars with his shovel held before him like a lance barging through the incoming water until he got to the beach and there found Incontinence waiting patiently with a look that said, "Ok, now we go home and I get something to eat and I will sleep at the foot of the bed as usual.

The terrible thing about near death is that nothing really changes. Nobody really gives a flat flying damn and life goes on as usual, indifferently as if you were not there ever to begin with. The tide comes in, the sandbars vanish as usual, the lights reflect upon the water. The dog barks.

On the way back, instead of a case of beer, Larry bought a bottle of Old Bushmills and, the first thing he did on entering his apartment was pour himself a glass, much to the distress of his dog, who whined in front of his supper dish.

The glass of liquid in his hand looked golden by the light of the kitchen lamp and the aroma of smoky peat bogs wafted from there -- or his salt-sodden clothes. There is good reason they call it the "Water of Life", for the sure fire that descends reminds us that Life is no cakewalk and desire comes with a burning that destroys all that came before. One is alive for now in this moment -- there is not another moment to waste.

He made a mental note to talk about this with Padraic at the first opportunity.

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old Cannery with its its leaf-scattered loading docks, its ghosts and its weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked 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.

 

 

MARCH 30, 2014

SAKURA SAKURA

Nothing says it quite like the annual effusion of those randy cherry blossom trees, which bloom all over the island. This pair is part of a dozen or so that enliven the Mariner Square parkinglot.

The song, Sakura Sakura is not an ancient folksong but a relatively modern one dating from the Edo period. It was as adopted as a piece for beginning koto students in the Tokyo Academy of Music Collection of Japanese Koto Music issued in 1888 (in English) by the Department of Education. The song has been popular since the Meiji period, and the lyrics in their present form were attached then. It is often sung in international settings as a song representative of Japan.

Cherry Blossoms, Cherry Blossoms
(English Translation)

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Blanketing the countryside,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the morning sun.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Flowers in full bloom.

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the Spring sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come,
Let’s look, at last!

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Right off we have a PSA for you regarding impending CALTRANS work that almost certainly will effect YOUR work, or at least getting there on time. As we wrote a while ago CALTRANS plans to demolish the 23rd Street overpass and turn that two lane into a single lane passway. They also will be working on the 29th Street overpass.

So some of you sit there and ponder what this means for your commute for months upon months, as access to the Fruitvale, 880 on and off ramps, and the Nimitz structure itself will be altered.

What it means will be discussed Tuesday, April 8 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Free Library on 155o Oak Street. Estimated costs for this project start at approximately $75 million dollars.

For more info and alternative format documentation contact CALTRANS District 4 Public Affairs at 286-6445.

About the meeting contact RocQuel Johnson at 286-4948.

For the Official proposal in PDF see the website at Proposed Overpass Project

Please note that the hyperlink listed in the public handout from CALTRANS is not valid.

Now that your Monday has been thoroughly ruined, let it be known that the last Amber alert centered here at Madison Street turned out to be a false alarm after the girl confessed she made up her story. Brian Rourock, also an islander, was released from jail with no charges pressing after a few days of harrowing anxiety under threat of kidnapping and child molestation charges in Santa Rita.

If you come across Brian, stand the poor fellow a beer, at the very least.

A brief gander across the water indicates the Warfield will be hosting Ms. Lauryn HIll -- we do hope you pay suitable respect to the lady on May 12. And another lady about whom you may have heard, Emmylou Harris, will show up with Daniel Lanois on April 5. Something is happening there May 6 with a buncha bands, headlined by David Byrne.

Here on the Island, the High Street Cafe has finally decided to commit itself to being a venue - sort of. They now have an online calendar which looks a bit sparse at the moment, but has the hopeful number of the booking agent, Lynda Kretlow at 510-995-8049. Hey, you could be the next Lwellyn Davis.

First Fridays looks like it will be well into April, but the savvy gallery owners will be having their openings and receptions on Thursday before and Saturday after, far from the madding crowd.

ANY STARS IN MY CROWN?

So anyway we had a grand dockwalloper set in this past week, leaving everything gloriously sodden and sending those DPW trucks everywhere to pump things out. Another one is slated to arrive Monday, preserving the old adage, in like a roaring lion and out like a Liberal -- or something like that.

We have never done well with success -- Liberals and Democrats (not at all the same thing) -- are way used to being kicked around on the schoolyard by arrogant bullies, so when it comes around to actually running things, we tend to screw up badly by picking low-grade trailer park types like Monica Lewinsky with whom to have affairs, distribute selfies of personal private parts on the web and kowtow on important legislation to the point that it perfectly satisfies all our enemies, like the medical insurance industry, in the name of bipartisanship.

The Other Side fails in more spectacular fashion by adhering to wildly improbable financial dogma that just does not work in real life, hiring vastly incompetent fools to do important work just because of family loyalties, and spending tax money like sailors on shoreleave while accusing the Democrats of doing just that.

It is now nigh on to April, and two significant events have the boys in the Old Same Place Bar up in arms. April 16th is a sort of National Day of Nastiness, and then we have the Primaries of June. Consequently Papoon and Babar have been spending a fair amount of time in the Local, gauging the temperature, feeling out the hoi polloi, sounding the vox popli.

With this weather, people chose places like the Old Same Place Bar to have their gatherings while the cold rain patters the tiles and the outdoor tabletops. Each week the parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West down by the marina holds the Thursday Mixed Coterie, which features both men and women volunteers getting together to talk about how to raise money for the Cleft Palat Foundation. This tends to segue most evenings into far ranging discussions well fueled by the Old Man Box Wine. Friday nights, the parlor hosts the weekly poker game with Doyle, the Navaho Wiz, David, and Wally, with Paul or Ruth's boyfriend Marty and Kitson, and then the boys get into harder stuff. They have tried various stakes, with Doyle, a landlord, suggesting entire building units, and Wiz, a cowboy actor, proposing women.

"I lay you down a Valerie and those two girls we met in Cabo," Wiz said. "I still got their numbers and they are up for anything."

This latter suggestion got a vigorous thumbs-down from Ruth, much to Marty's chagrin.

Eventually it came down to matches and, on one memorable occasion, cans of beer.

At Marlene and Andre's Household, things are feeling a bit compressed. With the recent rains, everyone has been huddling inside the cottage, which at first was fine for all the warmth in the confined space. As the weeks have dragged on, dank smoldering hose and coats and sweaters trying desperately to dry out in the submarine closets have yielded to a constant state of peckishness among the inhabitants.

Sunday brought a respite of gorgeous cold sunshine streaming down, and all the citizens there spread out into the ironmongery garden and the porch to soak up the rays the way Californian's are reputed to do. Life is hard and savage and cruel and unfair. But for now, the sun shone down to restore vitamin D and sooth the souls of the Household. Out back the scraggly orange tree which had fought the depredations of squirrels and rats and basic urban living hung with several oranges the way those trees will do. The lemon tree fared not so well in this time, for three massive warty fruits hung from its branches, looking a bit brownish and inclined to kiwi's in color.

Oranges are significant in California history for it was the growers who sent out circulars to the East during the Dust Bowl to attract farmers to the Central Valley, promising "scads of oranges hanging from the boughs, free to pick for one and all".

Like many California promises, this one turned out to be thoroughly savage in its retraction. There were oranges to pick enough, all right, so long as you signed up to be a picker for ten cents on the quarter ton as payment. For them oranges you had to work, you damned Okie, and be damned as an Okie for all of that.

And just like their instructors down Dixie way, sack cost you extra for use. Yes, oranges have a long and complex history here in the Golden State. Nothing here is so simple as reach up and grab one from the tree. Everything comes with a consequence, a cost, another extraction.

Pahrump reached up and pulled down a navel orb about to drop, peeled it and bit into the succulent, bursting fruit. Mankind may be packed with lies and deceptions and all kinds of nonsense but Nature does not play games. The odor of orange and sweetness of juice filled Pahrump's senses, for in that orange was all the knowledge and joy of life. At the end of the day, all the struggle erodes before what is really important.

In the effulgence of orange-ness, Pahrump had an epiphany.

Pahrump got Jose and a sack and together they brought down several dozen oranges from the tree. Pahrump strapped the bag on the back of his scooter and drove out to the Friday night poker game at the Native Son's Parlor, intending to tell them they had it all wrong. Intending to tell them joy is in the moment, not in the fiction of history. My people, he would say, burned the hills each year so as to bring the acorns and restore life. We have seen our world totally destroyed before our eyes. Yet still the oranges persist, giving life. Something will always evade your savagery. Spring will still return to the Dead Lands.

As it turned out, Pahrump failed to signal on turning left off of Grand Street which caused Officer O'Madhauen to pull him over and then cite him for contempt and traffiking produce without a license and being suspicion of DUI. So Pahrump got sent to the jail and his scooter with the oranges got sent to impound.

In the Offices of the Island-Life news agency, the Editor began to close down the operation close to midnight. He went along the aisles turning off the errant desklamp after the housekeeper had left and all the news desks had gone silent. Now was come the witching hour when all was silent and still. Lately the issues had been rather perfunctory, glossing over the news rather than digging into the meat of it, and the Editor had to think that Denby's preoccupations with his day job had something to do with it. Everyone's dayjob was a means to an end, a way to pay for getting the real job done.

If you think about it, this is the truth for everybody. Nobody is really the definition of what they do anymore.

Out on the deck, the clouds scudded across the waning moon high above the box elder branches and the budding apple tree, which no one on his staff had determined convincingly was either a crab apple or a demented fuji-apple exponent.

He breathed the night air and felt the rising winds and felt also the small tremors that have been occuring every few hours lately, the incipient reminder that not even the earth upon which we build and walk can be relied upon to remain stable.

A great change was coming and he hoped that all were ready for what came, be it life of Spring or destruction. Time would tell. Drifting on the heavy air, came the scent of cherry blossoms.

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked 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.

 

Sakura Sakura

Sakura sakura
Noyama mo sato mo
Miwatasu kagiri
Kasumi ka kumo ka
Asahi ni niou
Sakura sakura
Hana zakari

Sakura sakura
Yayoi no sora wa
Miwatasu kagiri
Kasumi ka kumo ka
Nioi zo izuru
Izaya izaya
Mini yu kan

MARCH 23, 2014

HEADLINE PHOTO: LIKE A BIRD ON A WIRE

This week's headline photo comes from Tammy who has a regular pair of visitors drop by. One of them has been named "Pepe", and we think this is the fellow.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

Finally got around to poking into the Silly Hall meeting agendas of late and the streaming video of the longish meetings that surely are the punishment for those seeking their fortune via public office. These meetings carry their own fascination in being a micro-slice of small town business and municipal government worth attending at least once in your life if you ever plan to spend a few decades in a place to wonder just why strange things like the Park Street deforestation and the high school "Berlin Wall" ever got proposed by supposedly sane individuals.

Most of these kinds of quasi-public meetings consist of fairly small potatoes stuff that is mandated by set rules, such as approval of the cut-and-dried finance micro-budgets in which the money has already been spent, the sales tax report, or the Babe Ruth playground maintenance contract, along with street paving and resurfacing (anyone driven Lincoln down near the intersection with Benton lately?) and similar tedia.

Of late we have been having more adjournments for "closed sessions" due to the legal foo-fraw going on with land swaps, contested development, and general public dissatisfaction. On Tuesday, the Council adjourned for four discussions, one of them regarding Alameda Municipal Power and its labor pool with regard to a negotiated MOU.

There was an interesting item lumping "construction on Park Street" with the High Street Bridge, which latter part we knew was slated for some time as all of the bridges have been worked over one after another to account for new Caltrans specs for earthquake resiliency. As for "construction on Park Street," well you thought that was all done after the Walgreens gets finished.

Generally there is reserved one item that squats there like a grinning Jabba the Hut. This time around it was the collection of land swaps that include the Encinal Terminals Area and which are allegedly meant to benefit the AUSD and satisfy State low income housing requirements by way of granting land to the Island Housing Authority.

Some people have been complaining about this focus upon low income housing, but the reality is that the City has long been notorious among the ABAG Five County system of governments for possessing such wretched or non-existent public services that some agencies feel "dumped on". This has resulted in a State rebuke and a threat to fine the City unless it does something about low income housing here, especially as lucrative development projects ramp up.

Everyone note that across the water a developer has plans to revamp the estuary front along the entire length of the Island, putting in some 3,000 dwelling units as part of fulfilling former mayor Jerry Brown's "Bring in the 10,000" initiative, a plan to revitalized downtown by importing people who drive European cars and wear silk pyjamas.

This development is most assuredly seen as an opportunity to match the effort on the near shore here, hence the language we have been hearing about "the Gateway to Alameda". Which of course at present looks more like an entrance to a cement mixing plant or a prison than the portals to Oz.

Clearly there is a land rush going on here, so Island residents who plan to stay would be advised to pay sharp attention to all the little deals going on.

And above all, trust nobody. That is a given.

Now for the really important stuff.

Our home boys, Zydeco Flames are performing over at Asheknaz this Tuesday. Do yourself a favor and report to work Wednesday bleary-eyed, inefficiently sloppy, and happily danced out, still alive from the night before.

Speaking of local boys, we note that Adam and his Counting Crows appears at the Greek, fronted by none other than Toad the Wet Sprocket (Walk on the Water). Tix for the August 15th show are now on sale. Personally we think the noble Greek is a more intimate venue than that Pavilion out there in Concord or in Mountain View.

You could do a lot worse than wipe out all traces of the week on Friday and Saturday night at the Fox with Widespread Panic.

Be also aware that Stringcheese Incident owns three days at the end of April.

In Oaktown Sacto boy Jackie Greene performed this past Friday, but you do have Fitz and the Tantrums showing up April 3rd.

Do we need to remind you the not-so-aristocratic Lorde is holding both Wednesday and Thursday at the Fox? Of course not.

Over in Babylon, we ought to let you know about a special benefit titled Acoustic-4-a-Cure. This one is to raise money for the pediatric cancer program at the UCSF Benioff Childrens Hospital and the lineup is pretty awesome as well as highly unusual for an acoustic gig. Artists appearing are: (Billing order is alphabetical by last name)
Sammy Hagar
James Hetfield (Metallica)
Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)
Scott Mathews
Pat Monahan (Train)
Joe Satriani
Nancy Wilson (Heart)

As Scoop used to say, "If you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own."

BLACK-EYED DOG IS CALLING MY NAME

So anyway, 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. It's 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 in great phalanxes 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 swooping and diving, duck sorties, and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.

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 swelling with fatal charms 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. It's 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 Michelina's 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 odalesque.

Spring is also a time when Mother Nature grabs your attention and, be you the most rigid, retentive personality on earth, try you and vie you, you shall not be able, for at least one day, to hold attention as the mind skips the light fantastic to places that, for all we know, are far better, more productive, more useful than that blasted spreadsheet demanded by the CIO by noon.

Which demand shall not be met and shall not be disciplined for that same day the CIO is herself skipping through the sun-dappled buttercups in the bee-loud glade of her own mind

People who do not apprehend this truth are assholes and so can be disregarded.

Over at Mariner Square Village, Nick and Drake, the mini-mall's live-in mascots, appeared together along the border hedges.

Eugene walked out into the backyard garden where the large tree hung down its seeded branches to meditate upon life and love lost. It had been a number of weeks since he had broken up with Sabine, the Buddhist nun, and he still felt a bit peckish. People saw him around town and the ladies at Jacquelines Salon commented that the fellow did not seem to have his usual springy step. Moping about the place for sure. Must be some kind of trouble said Jackie. Ja sure, said Maeve.

Pity the fellow who falls out of love just when everyone else is falling in. But then Eugene has always had a problem with timing.

Eugene gazed up at the waning moon beneath the tree with his head brushing the tips of the branches, searching for a romantic moment and soon found himself cursing and swatting, surrounded by a swirl of boxelder bugs.

In the early dawn Pedro's boat bumped and sloshed through the chop, feeling the differences in the air. Soon the crab and the other shellfish would be done and then comes the time of mackerel and tuna. All things have a season, even the featureless sea.

The Xians were all going through their annual rite of stoic preparation for that gay release called Mardi Gras, but the Wiccans were meeting in the park and having delightful parties to commemorate the harmonic convergence.

On a clear night this week everyone stepped out of Marlene and Andre's Household to sniff the air, along with Bonkers and Wickiwup. Although a sort of chill pervaded the days, cooled the nights, the golden poppies had erupted in all the flower boxes and the blank tree bones budded with green salutations. A great change was coming on and everyone could sense it.

Out on the green diamond of the baseball park below Washington Park the Island Whipporwills collected to shake of the winter's cobwebs, unkink old bones and practice with renewed hope that they would improve on last year's regrettable season against the Oaktown Bears. This rivalry had been going on for as long as one can remember. Longer even than the bitter rivalry between the West End Jets and the East Side Destroyers, an eternal rivalry over a game among games that knows no time.

Other games feature clocks, stopwatches, flags down on the field, and set limits, but in baseball, every game played evokes thousands upon thousands of games going back a hundred years or more. There are not nine or 18 players on the field, but millions, because behind every shortstop stands the ghosts of every shortstop who ever kicked dirt and spat a wad into the grass. And every game between East and West is a reverberation of every other game ever played back to when Willie Stargell rounded the bases in 1926 to leap over Vladimir Humbert at Third in great leap they still talk about with "the Fitz" on Second and Ernest Papa on First, loading the bases so that Clemons could smack that ball sailing into the blue over Dreiser's head, clear over the cane brake -- which was much higher back then -- clear over the pond to win that famous game so long ago.

O that rivalry had been intense for many, many years, and had reached such intensity that an East Ender was forbidden to date, much less marry ( gawd no!) a West Ender. East Enders got good grades, did not steal, and always went to good colleges, while the West Enders were undoubtably ill-bred, possessed of dirt under their fingernails and were inclined, so it was said, to enjoy things like roller derby and pro wrestling. But out on the green sward that bordered the high cane brake patch which formed the Island equivalent of the Big Green Wall, the logical and physical boundary beyond which all hits were declared homeruns, the sun sparkled on the huffing fellows and their prospects. A promising fellow named Mateo had joined them and he had a rangy, casual look about him which gave the fellows some heart. Perhaps this time they would beat the Oaktown Bears for the first time.

So the Man from Minot posted himself in far left field, Pimenta Strife in center, Mateo far right with Lionel on First, David Phipps covering second base, and Arthur on Third. Wally pitched to Lynette and as it so happened Susan up at bat as each took turns.

It may surprise some people that Pimenta took any sort of interest in the game of baseball, but there are always some who enjoy gaming in general and of course there were many who said that Pimenta enjoyed any game that involved balls and would go hot after a maple tree so long as it had wood.

Wally lobbed a gentle one in to Susan, which turned out to be a mistake, for Susan, as a chief mechanic at Berkeley's woman-owned garage, The Tender Cam, was such a one to not take lightly. The crack of her bat echoed across the Crab Cove and the ball lobbed high into the sun to the right with such force and altitude, Susan had jogged half past second before the orb began to descend. Mateo stood right underneath it and it would have been a fair catch had not the tremendous AAAAHHHHH-OOOOGAHHHH! of Percy Worthington-Boughsplatt's immaculate two toned 1929 Mandelville-Brot coupe had not blasted the peace of the park and had not Percy lowered his top down to enable Madeline, longstanding member of Berkeley's Explicit Players, to air her assets in a sort of Spring Celebration of the vernals. With a nod towards the servicepersonnel serving their country she wore a fetching sailor's cap and a little patriotic red, white and blue choker.

As people cheered Susan's great hit, Madeline stood up in the car and Percy tooted his horn again. AAAAHHHHH-OOOOGAHHHH!

It was pretty obvious Madeline was not wearing one of Marvin's merkins. No member of the Explicit Players would be caught dead in such a thing, for that would be cheating. They can be found on the 'Ave during the summer, pounding drums and singing lustily and astonishing the freshmen students and locals with their vigorous sans culottes philosophy.

Mateo, redblooded ball-player that he was, had to pause and look. That is when the ball struck him upon the noggin with great force, sending him down into the outfield. Coming in fast from the left, David collided with Pimenta in something that seemed could have been avoided, especially as the Man from Minot somehow seemed to get entangled in this pileup that landed upon the fallen Mateo, and how that happened is anyone's guess. Occasional Quentin, watching from the sidelines, thought this was part of the game and so he rush over and jumped on with great joy, turning the day's practice into something like a good rugger or a Samuel Beckett play.

"I've got 'em!" Pimenta shouted.

"That's not the ball!" shouted the Man from Minot.

"O for pete's sake," David said.

That night, the Editor removed his Michelina's Chicken Alfredo gingerly from the oven, but managed to sear the edge of his thumb on the second tray (it always takes two of those things to make a meal) despite all his care. He went out to the garden to break off a stalk of aloe plant to rub on his burn and noticed that a ball from the Los Semillas pre-school had come over the fence and lay there next to a fallen avocado from the tree that now was fruiting. A squirrel or a rat had gotten at the avocado but the ball he tossed back over the fence, where the kids could find it next day, and play their stickball game once again in the street, despite the parental admonitions to be careful of the cars.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season. And in baseball, there is no Time.

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked 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.

 

March 16, 2014

BRIDGE OF SIGHS

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This week's image comes from James Hargis, who is an artist living in Babylon who likes to frequent the warmer side of the Bay from time to time.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Remember we reported on the severe damage done to "Isabelle's Bench" in Jackson Park, wondering when the Parks & Rec people would get around to fixing the vintage 1920 memorial? Looks like a number of people in power want the bench entirely removed, including Police Chief Noonan, who says the structure allows criminals to hide from police.

Say that again? The bench hides would-be criminals but the massive bandstand in the park does not? O wait -- The chief would like to raze that one too.

The Recreation Commission met this past week to discuss options for the still massive concrete structure that for 94 years has born the inscription "To All My Dumb Friends". Isabelle Clark's husband had been a great lover of animals and the bench had featured a watering trough for dogs and horses. It would be a shame if yet another quirky aspect of the Island gets removed, turning the place more each day into just another version of Newark.

Did you think the Point development, the old Boatworks area development that's getting a couple hundred homes, the disputed McKay Avenue development with another 200 homes, the development slated for the triangle at the Tube entrance off Constitution Way, the new low income development just finished on Santa Clara between Oak and Walnut, the Park Street Walgreens, the Target/In-n-out Burger complex, the Tidelands property swap (it is actually called "Fortman Marina"), and just about anything associated with Ron Cowan was a bit much, up pops another development, but this time with familiar Tim Lewis, planning to shovel in 414 homes plus shops on the site of the old Del Monte warehouse. The location is somewhat inaccurately described as "corner of Buena Vista and Sherman", however that is the Wind River Campus. The site extends from Sherman easterly along Buena Vista and does abut the Wind River parkinglot where Sherman becomes Atlantic Avenue.

Given that property, which served as a small arms munitions depot during WWII, could not remain idle for long, it sounds like Sacto-based Tim Lewis has some good ideas for preserving the 1000 foot long brick building with its long railroad platform and its distinctive windows.

In more development news, you probably know that Safeway has been purchased and will meld with Albertsons into an even bigger mega corporation, but it does sound like there may be an unforeseen upside. We never really liked the conversion of old Safeway from a place that sold groceries into a hoity toity joint that sold "lifestyles". Prices went through the roof over there at the flagship concept store, which is located here in Alameda at Southshore Shopping Mall.

The workers who stocked the shelves and managed the place were all a collection of personalities, each with unique character. For years there was a manager who possessed an idiosyncratic nasal form of vocal delivery. We called him "Mr. Whipple" and we knew he was in the store by his distinctive voice coming over the PA: "Mr. Richards! Mr. Richards! I do believe your break is up. We would dearly love to have you up front in the cashier line! Do grace us with your presence soon! Mr. Richards!"

Staff probably wanted to murder the man nine times a week, but to us he was a store fixture.

After the conversion to a Lifestyle Store and the higher prices we stopped going there, save for the odd necessity. Each time we saw Mr. Whipple he looked a little more diminished, sadder and careworn, his voice no longer ringing out over the registers. He no longer resembled that prim advertising shill that loved to squeeze a certain kind of paper towel. His once ruddy face gone blotchy with gray troubles. Clearly, he suffered now from ill health.

True, you could go to that Safeway and buy fancy wine and that mysterious bottle of mysterious ingredients called "garam masala". How lucky we are, for there was no need to scrounge up any loose garams running around so as to make our own. That Safeway has fifteen different kinds of energy drinks, nine varieties of cinnamon, eight kinds of tofu, five kinds of edam cheese, and enough weird stuff to cobble together tapas from any country on the map. But we do not shop there any more, save when given a $20 gift card, which was good for a pound of coffee, a brick of plain cheddar and one loaf of bread and perhaps a glimpse of the eroding Mr. Whipple. The place is furiously expensive with no reason to be that way, especially when Trader Joes next door handles most exotica foods quite well and at reasonable prices.

Now we hear that the parent corporation is talking about "downsizing" the Safeway mark, which in the age of zero salary raises, dollar stores galore, and general hard times for the average American may mean that the money spent on glitzy presentation will be redirected toward doing what Safeway used to do: provide groceries.

DARLIN' DUBH DEILISH

So anyway, although Eugene suffered a terrible fright, Mr. Howitzer did not die when his face met the grill of Eugene's truck. He did go to the hospital where he spent some time in a room shared with Mr. Cribbage, who had dislocated a disk while trying to clean the gutters in the middle of a howling rainstorm.

Both of them had the pleasure of looking out the windows of the seismically unsound ICU to see the weather finally turn Californian Gold with sunshine. Their dayshift nurses were named Betty and Gardenia and they were as chipper as chipmunks.

"Hi, I am Nurse Betty," the one said. "And I am going to give you a shot. Although I am your nurse this shift, I really am an aspiring Kansas waitress in disguise. My name is actually Renée Zellweger and my pal here is named Tia Texada. O, guess you don't think that is funny."

"Roll over buddy," Gardenia said to Mr. Howitzer. "You aint gettin' a cath' this time."

"Owwww!" said Mr. Howitzer.

"It may sting a bit, but trust me, you don't want no pipe stuck up your dingus."

"Do you think we'll meet Morgan Freeman in Kansas?", Nurse Betty said, taking care of the metal pans under the bed and checking the IV drips.

"How come you can't put some of that stuff in that shot in that bag," Mr. Howitzer complained.

"O that man is a doll. I'd do him in a New York minute if he weren't so old." Nurse Gardenia said.

"How about Chris Rock?"

"Well personally I think these liberal actors are all . . .", Mr. Cribbage began.

"You hush now. Chris Rock?! He aint nothing like Morgan Freeman. All you Filipinas think we all look alike. Now Jaime Foxx, he's a hottie."

The two of them walked out together. "I like a man with a sense of humor," Nurse Betty said. "I miss the old nurse's cap they used to give at graduation. I think I'd look cute in one of those."

"You gonna wear green tomorra for St. Patrick's Day?"

"Sure thing. I am gonna wear green inside and out. And you?"

"You won't see me wearing no orange, that's for sure."

"Funny, you don't look Irish," Mr. Cribbage said.

"Honey, I am Black Irish," Nurse Gardenia said. "If it weren't for me, them Irish would have no soul at all. I'll be back for your enema at five, so don't go away now."

It was a week of many celebrations as the Island slowly dried out from the monsoons. It being Purim, and Marvin being of the persuasion, offered a 50% discount to anyone name Esther who should come into his merkin shop (Marvin's Merkins - Put a merkin in your firkin!). He put a sign out on Webster so everyone could see his promotion, but Mr. Mianfen, the owner of the Tchotchkes R Us complained about it. The sign read, "Two for One in the Bush - All Esthers Welcome!" Bettina and Brunhilde at the Touch of Wonder Massage thought it was funny.

Along the Strand at Marlene and Andre's Household Marlene put out a basket of hamentaschen which provided great sport for Jose and Javier as they tossed them back and forth to tease both Bonkers and Wickiwup, the dogs. The sport had to shift to the out of doors when the floor lamp became a sudden casualty. Later they had a little costume party and Martini put on Suan's stripper outfit which amused some people and not others.

"Man you gotta lose some weight if you gonna dress up like that," Pahrump said.

Some people have this idea that all the high holy days are terribly serious with lots of wailing an gnashing of teeth and putting on the sackcloth and ashes. Purim is not like that. With some special Deity selecting all your people for Special Treatment and Final Solutions every few years, it helps to cultivate a good sense of humor. So they all sat down that night to a fine faux lamb dinner that consisted of a shank of TVP broiled in special sauce by Marlene.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, things were gearing up for St. Paddy's Day, a peculiar event that is celebrated substantially outside of Ireland by the Diaspora and even more so by people who have not a particle of the Old Sod anywhere in their bodies. Still, America is what it is, and every Cinco de Mayo, flocks of gabachos stumble over their gleanings of high school Spanish, nosh on fake comida with asada, frijoles, y tortillas, and swill cervezas like they were all raised by una abuelta out of Sonora. So you cannot fault people for wanting to feel a little special for a day.

Padraic and Suzie were slinging the Gaelic Coffees (so called by Padraic who felt no decent man of Erse would ever come up with a concoction that would adulterate the Water of Life in the slightest)

Things were going great guns when the door opened a figure strode across the floor to the bar as all conversation collapse into a quivering heap of whispers. The Man from Minot quickly got off of his stool and stood to the side with his drink in hand to allow the newcomer to climb up on the stool.

"A Guiness." Said the man. "And Power. Arthur Power while I am waiting. Make it a double."

Indeed, the Wee Man had returned. All three foot two inches of him. What did he look like? For a start he wore a twill newsboy cap on a head of bright red hair. Red, too was his full beard and cobalt blue his eyes. He wore a green checked waistcoat which sported a gold chain that went into the side pocket and green checked pants. Some say he came from the Spanish Armada that sank off the coast and others say he was of the legendary Firbolg that harried the ancient Romans loose from the Emerald Isle thousands of years before. Some say despite his stature he was related to the mythic giant Finn ni Cuchulain, Finn McCool, whose body extended the length of Howth and that his apparent manifest physical size was merely a kind of trick.

Padraic inquired of this man the reasons for his visit, Padraic being a doughty man of spirit, and some say more of that than sense for all his genial good nature.

The Wee Man downed his uisce-que-bah and set down his cruiskeen luin and smacked his lips and spake as follows unto those who would listen, and indeed, all that sat there in that snug sat rapt as if enchanted.

"I tell you I have been all around the world, seen many lands and danced with the fierce cannibals among the cane, I search the planet far and wide, crossed deserts and fields, seen the cities of man, but nothing suits a man like a pint of plain. I have studied the philosophers and all the great thinkers. Roved the university halls of lore and consulted wise men sitting amid ashes and clinkers, pestered seers and prophets, gurus and sages, to distribute at least a drop of the wisdom of the ages, yet still for all that all of those wise men said there was little to gain, beyond just knowin' all the universe stands in a pint of plain."

Padraic set the Guinness down before the Wee Man, who paused to take a deep draught and so wet his tonsils to proceed. He licked his lips and gazed up at the ceiling at some particular corner there where inspiration nestled like a spider in its homey web. Then he began again.

"I have wooed and wed, romanced many a lass, been married seven times and more and gone off besides. Over these several hundred years laid many a beauty to rest with a mighty tear and a world of pain, but nothing does it quite like a pint of plain. I have builded edifices like Ozymandias and watched them each fall, started businesses and gained princely treasures only to lose it all, but I tell you my lads and my lassies here, nothing stands up like a good glass of beer. So I am come from afar and from near, offer succor and pleasure to the profitless man, only to tell you this great and noble truth as best I can, a pint of plain is yer only man."

And all there sat dumbfounded and awed by this tremendous gift of knowledge and it seemed there grew a sort of greenish, golden light about the place and over the heads of each flickered a little green flame. The Wee Man commanded that each go out and tell the world all about it.

And with that, he drained his glass in a good long swallow, and then stood up upon the barstool and clapped his hands three times. There was a bright flash and a bit of smoke and when everyone could see again, the Wee Man had vanished. But on the heads of each person there perched a little cap of green and Nurse Betty, who indeed had entered the bar after work to sit at one of the tables made a loud exclamation.

"Why it's a nurse's cap! An old style nurse's cap! Finally I won my cap!", Betty said. "O dear! I think he's done something to my knickers . . . "!

"He's as randy as an Italian gigolo in a cute gondola, that one," Padraic said.

And wouldn't you know it but from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked 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.

 

MARCH 9, 2014

FINE AS A BEE'S WING

Had to ponder a good pond to come up with a lyric that features bees, but then the inimitable Richard Thompson rescued the day.

This week's Springy headline photo comes from FB friend Gregory Tyesi, who has besides an excellent macro lens also a good eye for composition.

LOVE IS LIKE A THUNDERSTORM

We look to be free of that Pineapple Express sequence of storms for now. Forecast is for clear and sunny. The rain is certainly welcome, but snowpack remains down in the Sierra. Most weather gnomes predict moderate snow storms continuing through March at elevation, but not enough to forestall drought conditions in the Valley.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Now that the McKay Avenue parcel discussion has entered mediation, the development topics feature a couple land swaps that include AUSD and the City, and the proposed Shoreline Bikeway. Both issues are producing their own forms of contention.

Actually people are not waiting for mediation over McKay to produce miracles of intelligence, given the history of the parties involved. In addition to the existing Initiative on June's ballot, which seeks the voters to direct the property to be employed as parkland, some citizens have started a petition drive to add another initiative to have the property rezoned to designated open space.

Stepping into the fray -- yes, another country heard from, now that the Chronicle, a national news media outlet, and the State Attorney General Kamela Harris have chipped in on this -- we have the Sierra Club coming out in support of the proposed ballot measure.

The Planning Board meeting scheduled for Monday at 7pm is likely to be a contentious one.

Another project features addition of a dedicated bikeway along Shoreline, extending from Broadway to Westline, which would of course eliminate at least one auto traffic lane and parking in an area already tight for space.

Right now there is a walkway that is shared by bicyclists and pedestrians and the occasional DPW maintenance truck, the driver of which who enjoys forcing cyclists into the sand packed with glass-shards.

Its probably not the DPW worker who fueled this biker drive, but the observation from some residents that the four-lane stretch is used by out-of-towners trying to bypass slow traffic up on the parallel Nimitz.

Naturally area residents are not enthused about seeing 617 parking spaces shrink to 431. Bicyclists want fewer cars to be on the road in the first place. City planners point to a 1974 plan that had already described a project like this.

On the upside, next time somebody goes nuts down there in an SUV, the hapless pedestrian will get more flight space to escape.

As for the AUSD land swap, what can we say we have not already said? O dear. The Sun reports that Tim Lewis Properties is involved with getting a parcel that is partly underwater. It is not "useless" for all that, as a Marina sits there now and of course, narrow water stretches like that are not too difficult to fill. Some folks are concerned not enough discussion about actual land value has been made public.

Anyone else notice that the former classy Angela's there on the corner of Central and Oak is up for new ownership? Angela's had tried to parlay a move from Mariner Square Village to the central spot into a trendy hotspot for the hoity-toity hip crowd that swills neon buzzers from oversized martini glasses. That hipness costs bucks, and with the Recession there aint so much of it around here. Looks like the joint will front a catering operation affiliated with the nearby movie theater.

HERE COMES THE SUN

So anyway, everybody loses an hour of sleep, of rest, of their lives due to the DST change thing. Old Gaia sits there on the rickety porch of the world. Now is the time when Gaia tilts her weathered face creased with valleys, arroyos, hills, deserts, plains, mesas, continents and the liquid seas of her deep dark eyes toward a direct gaze at her son, Phoebus Apollo riding in his 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 creaking rails marking the ever ceaseless 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 motionless silence.

Some people confused by Astrological hoodoo believe in this day and age the season warms as the earth spins closer to the sun -- nothing could be further from that deception, unless it be the foolish nonsense of Mercury Retrograde, the classic illusion, for nothing moves with surer purpose than the planets.

As Gaia turns her face toward the light, her ravined face gradually warms with measured steps, quickening life from the once barren soil, stirring dull roots with Spring rain, and everything is precisely where it needs to be right at this moment while Phoebus Apollo charges across the firmament like any boy enthralled with hot rods all bedecked with gleaming chrome. O Phoebus, you scamp!

How this plays out on the Island: the increase of daylight causes the soil and pavements to steam upward, making the air heavy with moisture. Tiny creatures emerge, much as the ancients believed, from insensate matter. Spiders collect in great numbers, ants boil from the floor mouldings, birds erupt from bony trees and the smaller mammals pad about like middle-aged men in morning bathrobes, hunting for cups of coffee or nuts.

Because of the recent overcast weather all the trees are still stark, scratching black limbs against the pearl gray sky.

It being that time of year before Realtors engage in the feeding frenzy of Spring in an area where modest cottages now go easily for three-quarter of a million dollars, Mr. Howitzer made his annual trip out to Colma to visit there the grave of his dear, departed, goddamned mother.

Mr. Howitzer's approach to sentiment of any kind was to kick the wretched animal to the door if feelings did not depart after suitable hints of being unwelcome. This had done him well in business, but had not offered much in the way of family community, and now, after 150 years, the present occupier of the Howitzer mansion, last of a long line of Howitzers who first stormed over the Sierra ramparts in 1849 to rob the Californios and slaughter the Native Americans and in so doing establish a dynasty, now occupied the family hall as Solus Rex, or so they say in chess, save for his manservant, the regretfully loyal Dodd, who departed the place in haste each evening he was allowed, so as to enjoy the warm comforts and sanity of his home and Mrs. Dodd.

There at Colma, Mr. Howitzer cleared the weeds around the mausoleum with its curious inscription, "Here Lieth Abigail Howitzer, 1902-1986, Thank God!" and threw stones at the crows that seemed to delight in gathering in large murders about that particular spot.

It happened to be on March 5th, which is for the Roman Catholics an Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a time of fasting, breast beating and gnashing of teeth before it all cuts loose in a big party called Carnival where everyone has sex with one another.

Mr. Howitzer was hurling stones with such vigor, after actually knocking down a very large raven to his great satisfaction, that one rock glanced off of a pillar that was part of the Eunice Mimblefoot Memorial to Wayward Endeavor. The ricochet came back and knocked Mr. Howitzer flat on his back. There he was when Father Richard Danyluk came along with some gravediggers after officiating the funeral of Senor Gustavo Orellano.

The gravediggers, named Sal and Nick, were uncertain as to whether Mr. Howitzer was dead or not, as this being a massive graveyard the size of a small city, dead seemed very likely although the disposition of the body was not regular. Usually they dropped the stiffs off in some sort of container.

Colma, although quiet and somewhat restful under the flight path of SFO, did not present itself as ideal place to take a nap.

They wondered if he had fallen off the wagon on the way to the embalmers, but Nick had the opinion the man looked fairly well pickled already. In the end, they decided to let him lay there and let nature or Administrative procedure take its course.

Father Danyluk decided to administer last rites, and to cover all options, also did the Ash Wednesday thing, figuring that it couldn't hurt as cremation had become all the rage now that land was so dear.

The three of them then went on their way and had beer at the local pub before the priest drove back to the Island, figuring that if the man were dead, someone would arrive to collect him and pay someone to put him properly in the ground.

Mr. Howitzer eventually roused himself and drove back across the Dunbarton to the East Bay where he encountered curious looks and a significant amount of respect and fear that he had longed for these many years, as wherever he went he presented a forehead clearly marked with an ashen cross. Those who knew anything of the staid man, expressed astonishment.

At the corner of Park and Encinal, the Wee Man emerged from the shadows to take out a conductor's baton, which he used to direct an invisible orchestra in a stately contredance.

As the notorious landlord walked along Park Street, Lionel, dropping a dollar into the box of the old Chinese Pie-Pah player, looked up startled to see the mark of the cross, allowing the dollar to waft away down the pavement where it attracted the eye of Imbecilla Cupcake, who ran after it, knocking against the deliveryman carting cases of cola to Javarama. The deliveryman cursed as several cans rattled loose to spill onto the pavement and roll across the street.

Mike Goughassian, shouldering a length of lumber, came out of El Tomato and dodged a rolling can with his lumber swinging a wide arc that nearly brained Lynette walking along with Susan and their bicycles.

"Hey!" shouted Lynette angrily, which of course made Mike swing back the other way, neatly clipping Mr. Larch as he walked two of his service dog charges from his business Pushy People Anonymous. The dogs tore loose and ran diagonally across the street. This caused Pahrump riding his scooter to slam on his brakes and skid to a stop. The commotion distracted Eugene Gallipagus driving his Range Rover, causing him to drop the Styrofoam cup of coffee into his lap, which meant that he did not see the figure of Mr. Howitzer bending down to fetch the wayward dollar that had nearly escaped little Imbecilla, who cursed Mr. Howitzer with such vile sailor's language that he paused there, two fingers on the dollar bill, looking up only to see the grill of Eugene's Range Rover just before it struck his face.

"Tadaaaahhhh!", the Wee Man said, triumphantly.

Father Richard Danyluk came along then with Archbishop Mitty from the Basilica of St. Pandy beside, and they joined a small crowd looking down at the figure of Mr. Howitzer. Father Danyluk recognized him immediately as the man from Colma.

"Dear god," said Father Danyluk. "I keep seeing dead people!"

"I saw that movie too," said the Archbishop. "I did not think it was very good."

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked 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.

 

MARCH 2, 2014

EXCELLENT BIRDS

Photo is by Carol of the People's Republic of St. Charles.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

The Sun reported that all parties engaged in the squabble over the McKay Avenue property, which bears the temporary sobriquet of Neptune Pointe (sic) have agreed to go into a series of mediation meetings to resolve the fate of the 3,899 acre property.

Since there is a ballot proposition dealing with the issue in favor of turning the property over to East Bay Regional Park District, it is not known how binding any decisions will be coming out of this, pending the election results.

As the Sun indicates, with coverage by New American Media, our little Island once again aquires a national spotlight of attention. In the article Federal Land Auction Raises Debate Over ‘Public Benefit’, by Jonah Most, posted: Feb 24, 2014, the article commented, "The controversy has created a bizarre legal situation where the federal government is threatening to condemn state property in order to prevent land from going to the East Bay Regional Park District and instead to sell it to a private developer, in order to maximize profit from the sale."

NAM reported further down the page, "At the heart of the controversy is the question of how federal property should be sold, whether for profit maximization or the more murky aim of ‘public good.’

Known as the government’s ‘business side’, the General Services Administration (GSA) leans towards business principles rather than public policy.

The GSA is the wing of the federal government in charge of maximizing efficiency. The GSA was established in 1949 with the mission of reducing the inefficiency that often bogs down large, growing bureaucracies, such as that of the post-war United States. The GSA negotiates contracts with private venders, manages federal real estate and vehicle fleets and sells excess government holdings.

In several online auction websites, the GSA has for sale helicopters, a former naval base and even a lighthouse. One GSA auction website has a category heading for NASA shuttles. It was through this system that the Neptune Pointe property was listed in June of 2011 for a starting bid of one million dollars."

Others have a different view of the shenanigans which featured a suspect backroom rezoning of the parcel. “I think it’s greed,” said Karin Lucas, a former member of the Alameda City Council, explaining why the GSA declined the Park District’s lower offer.

To muddy the waters further, the article lists yet another country heard from in this battle -- homeless and low income activists who see the place as ideal to stash low income folks away from the sights and sounds of regular citizenry. Go figure.

In one of the better fotos of the area, one can see just why Tim Lewis's developer outfit drools at the prospect of securing the property for decidedly non-low income folks.

The Sun reported on the AUSD and the City consideration of a land swap deal to benefit rehabilitation of the deteriorating school swimming pools. The agreement has been made final and announced by the School District. Here are the details.

The agreement, which includes both sales and exchanges of land, will be implemented in three steps:

Step 1

The City grants $750,000 to AUSD to pay for renovations to the Encinal Swim Center.
AUSD rescinds the deed to the six-acre Tidelands parcel, which results in the City holding the title.

Step 2

The City conveys a 20-acre parcel of Alameda Point property to the Housing Authority.
AUSD releases the City from an obligation to convey a 12-acre parcel at Alameda Point that was part of an earlier agreement.

Step 3

The Housing Authority obtains title to the former Island High School site in exchange for fair market value of approximately $1.2 million, of which $1.15 million is to be used for the Encinal Swim Center renovation; the remainder goes to defraying legal and consultant fees related to the transaction.

AUSD releases restrictions on the $4.6 million Housing Asset Fund so that the Housing Authority can access it to build affordable housing throughout the City.

The Housing Authority gives AUSD the 20-acre Alameda Point parcel that it received from the City, which AUSD could use for school purposes. The City retains responsibility for general maintenance of the parcel for a maximum of 10 years.

Lauren Do has some commentary on these provision in her Blogging Bayport.

PSA

As you know we have a Primary Election coming up June 3, 2014. The ROV is seeking qualified and mature individuals to serve as Precinct Poll workers. These positions are paid stipends -- not much, but better than just free pizza. The paid portion for attending the mandatory class is about $5. But its something of a Democracy and the way these things work is via elections. Worth doing at least once just to see the machinery involved in this whole hustings thing.

The Registrar of Voters requires ALL Poll Workers to attend a MANDATORY Poll Worker Training Class in order to be eligible to serve on Election Day. Any worker, who attends training class and then cancels on or before Election Day, will NOT be compensated for attending the training class. If you have questions, please email us at rov.pollworker@acgov.org or call our office at (510) 272-6971.

WON'T YOU RIDE, WON'T YOU RIDE WITH ME

So anyway the Island got hit with a series of serious dockwallopers last week, snarling traffic, clogging the drains and soaking just about everybody's panties.

The eaves got clogged up with leaves in a suspicious manner which had Mr. Cribbage out on a ladder trying to fish out soggy plant matter and god knows what else had died up there even though Mrs. Cribbage had ordered him to clean the gutters last summer. How on earth did those gutters get so bad so quickly? I don't know, must be the wind blew stuff in, according to Mr. Cribbage.

In fact on that day, Mrs. Cribbage had gone off to her regular tinting at Jaqueline's Salon, leaving Mr. Cribbage to his devices, and his devices turned out to be less gutter cleaning than practicing putting skills on the backyard green with Mr. Blather and a quart pitcher of sours that featured most of a fifth of Bombay gin. After two or three of those no way either man wanted to get up on the ladder which stood there, somehow necessary and important to signify the job already done. To keep the missus away a bit longer, he had Mr. Blather call his wife, also at the salon to have her hair done. Mr. Blather had Mrs. Blather drop by Pagano's for some work gloves and on the way drop in on Mrs. Dudgeon to find out what kind of tea that was served at her brunch.

That was Earl Grey said Mrs. Blather.

No, that was currant. Or maybe white grape with pomegranate. I am not sure. Might have been Assam . . . .

Ninny, it was Earl Grey.

Well she's on the way to Paganos. Don't forget the gloves. I am helping out the Cribbages with their gutter.

When he got off the cell phone he settled back in the lawn chair. He knew she would deliberately forget the gloves for she hated doing anything for him. But he knew for certain that she would complain to Mrs. Cribbage all about it and the two of them would drop in on Mrs. Dudgeon and have themselves a hen party complaining about each one of the husbands for hours.

"Pour me another one of those, old bean", said Mr. Blather.

Mr. Cribbage fetched two litter-filled garbage bags from his neighbor's yard, where someone had been raking up leaves and hedge trimmings, and placed them next to his own cans.

Now here was Cribbage up there in wind and rain digging out what turned out to be a family of drowned rats with a weed rake. The Island is a typical island with marinas neighboring one of the largest container ports in the world and where you have ships, you will have rats, hence the Island had an abundance of them doing the ratty things rats do -- having kareoke parties featuring sea chanties, scamper-dancing, and living the high life in the fruit trees.

Cribbage could, of course, driven to the day laborer spot in front of Los Marronitas Panaderia and collected one or two guys at the cost of $30/hour as Mrs. Cribbage suggested, but he was damned if he would support illegal immigration in any form or fashion.

Mrs. Cribbage opined that she did not think they were illegals, or they would not be standing in the same place out in the open every day like that, but Mr. Cribbage stood firm on his principles, which stated that proper work featured use of starched shirt and tie.

"Ugh!", said Mr. Cribbage as he tossed down another clump of decay. Wilbur Mills, his dog, sniffed with moderate inquistiveness. joined by Forbes from across the way.

"Get away from that!" Cribbage shouted. Then he thought about how his wife let the mongrel lick her face. "Nice doggie! Scrumptious!"

Down went another fetid clump. Then another. This released something and a great wash of water mixed with the offal of the entire world rushed over his arms as the dogs were joined by Polk, Jackson, Monroe, and Gingrich all getting up a fine canine party of sniffing and nosing each other's butts and the offal on the ground and back again, alternating with bouts of soggy humping between the ladder legs, pretty much as dogs with names like these are known to do.

The ladder tipped of course, (You knew that was going to happen) and Cribbage flailed about at the top of the second story. As the ladder seat smacked into the window of the girl's bedroom right before the nose of Pete Wilson, the cat, Cribbage grabbed the gutter for dear life. The gutter sort of sagged, groaned and peeled away from the roof, sending shingles sailing into the air, detaching at first slowly, giving time to think about matters, then accelerating with a brisk pace as bolts popped out from the frame, sending the bulk of Mr. Cribbage, buccaneer-style on a swing and still clasping his weed rake like a four-pronged Captain Hook with some momentum to the ground where he cartwheeled into the back drive area and sort of lay there groaning with a pain in his ankle and his back and the sluice of the now waterfalling gutter laving his sodden body liberally with mucky detritus.

The Lowell kid from across the street came over with his cell phone and wearing a bright yellow slicker and yellow rainboots. He was talking to somebody on the phone as he arrived.

"Well, I didn't see him fall exactly, just when his body slung around the end of the house . . . what's that ? . . . insurance . . . ?"

The kid looked down at Cribbage through rain speckled, thick eyeglasses. "It's a good thing Mr. Obama made sure we are all covered by medical now, isn't it Mr. Cribbage. Yeah, I am sure he's covered . . . what's that? O think he can afford that. Mr. Cribbage, the man says the ambulance is gonna cost you three thousand dollars. He wants to know if you are okay with that."

"Three thousand dollars! It's only two blocks to the hospital here!"

The kid shrugged. "That's the way it is. The Fire Department bought the city countract."

That is when Mr. Cribbage began moaning in pain.

"I think you better send the truck. He don't look so good." The kid clapped up his cellphone. "Thank heaven for social services, aint that right Mr. Cribbage?"

Mr. Cribbage groaned in response.

"I am so glad we live in a Democracy," said the Lowell kid.

"It's a Republic!" Mr. Cribbage shouted.

Mrs. Sanchez stopped in to Mi Pueblo to pickup some groceries for dinner. She chatted with Lupe there about the weather and what this meant for their gardens and their backyard livestock projects. Like Mrs. Sanchez, Lupe maintained a raised and well-defended chickencoop, clean and snug and dry with straw for the hens.
.
Lupe asked about Mr. Sanchez and Mrs. Sanchez, who used to be Ms. Morales, said his boss, Ms. Percy always wanted more work out of him even though he was doing everything he could right now. Lupe nodded. That is the way with some bosses, they want everything and always more. And more is never enough.

If only we had enough to live on and move to the Valley, maybe have a farm or something, Mrs. Sanchez said.

Well what makes you say that? said Lupe. Of course all of us would like to be gentlefolk farmers.

Ah! Things could have been different. He has a desueno.

You are kidding, your husband has a desueno.

Yes.

A desueno is both everything and nothing in Alta California. A desueno was a land grant issued by the King of Spain long ago, even before Mexico was Mexico. Then Mexico also issued these grants, which consisted as documents as no more than drawings upon cowhide. Each desueno granted the owner many thousands of acres of land. But of course, this system was all cast aside after the gringos took over. Landowners spent an average of 17 years per lawsuit defending their titles after 1836. Many died before the resolution of the case.

Nowadays, these documents are mere curiosities, indicating that one's family had lived in California for many generations. They say only that one is a true Californio. We all know how little this accounts for anything today. Nevertheless, some people, like Lupe, understand what it means. Mr. Sanchez's family was here long before the American Revolution.

In the Old Same Place Bar there is some discussion about who won the Oscars and who won the Olympics in the benighted place that used to be best known at Stalin's birthplace. A few people talked about how the Iranian Naval fleet is approaching the edge of International Waters and now the Russians are within 200 miles of Miami, with only a few people recalling an incident that took place during the time of JFK.

Ultimately the talk revolved to more important subjects such as the newly revived salmon run and the prospects for steelhead fishing on the delta. Soon it will be time for trout. Governments rise and fall, but trout shall abide, not unlike the walleye in other parts of the world.

Crisis and disaster, but in the swift stream, after all of the horrific killing is done in the name of whatever national moloch is now popular, the fins of the still bodies of trout move beneath the surface. Trout shall abide.

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked 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.

 

FEBRUARY 23, 2014

WALKING ON THE MOON

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This week's photo comes from Staffer Tammy on a visit to the new Target out in the midst of the wastelands of the Point. Apparently, the visit struck our reporters as a bizarre experience in American excess. Well, big box stores are not for everyone, but it is telling that the place sits amid a cratered lunar landscape that promises much in the way of what will come rather than what is.

TROUBLE IN RIVERCITY

Anyone else note that the grand old chestnut of the Great White Way, The Music Man, is coming to town at Altadena?

Anyway looks like a heck of bother going on in the halls at Silly Hall and the Unified School District both. What with some imp nearly blowing up the science lab with a loose gas fitting at Encinal followed by the grand daddy of all bad Coverup memos in which staff were ordered "no one is to speak to any reporters". Sprechen ist streng Verboten, ja!

Sensing the Island is a hotbed for controversy, a sub showed up in class at Lincoln Middle School, proudly talked about his marijuana dispensary card and ordered fourth grade students take out their smartphones to browse to www.shitnobricks.com. Seems the fellow has no plans to continue a career in pedagogy. He certainly now has no job future with AUSD.

Stewart Chen is getting some flack about an old issue that predated his election to the Hospital Board and then to City Hall. Seems he got snared in an insurance fraud scam that resulted in a guilty plea following his arrest in 1993.

The charges were dismissed as part of a plea bargain and the conviction dropped from public record after two years, however someone pursued an LA Times article on the case.

About 10 other people were snared by an investigation into a ring that staged "auto accidents" so as to generate phony insurance claims. Chen's role at the time was to allow people to enroll for bogus "treatment" at his chiropractor's office.

Since the activity took place well before Chen's election to office, and his medical license remains intact, there are no overt conflicts under the City Charter or municipal code. Chen is up for reelection in the fall.

On the more joyful side of news, we note with delight that the Bay Area Radio Museum is moving from Berzerkely to the Island. Reason for the move: landlord there at Ashby Avenue, Pham Radio Communications, wants more money.

The Bay Area Radio Historical Society, which runs the museum, has purchased the property at 2152 Central Avenue and we are quite excited to have such an ideal tenant come here. Besides, long time Lifers know that we have a Jones for Old Radio.

The project remains a bit short of the final asking price of $1.1 million for the 7,410 square foot location, but the nonprofit society is hoping for radio buffs to pitch in. A bevy of volunteers is already available to help with the move and the renovation of the former school.

Got the notice from ROV about the primaries on June 3rd. The infamous "midterm" elections are coming up in January, but there will be a prelim roadshow for the various parties to select their candidates before that. Rest assured we will have interesting props to discuss before that, with the biggie being the measure to lock the McKay Avenue in for use by the parks as was originally intended, despite governmental squabbles and GSA hissy fits.

Let the people decide. After all, it is the People's land after all.

Last weekend was dreadful for all of us having to work straight through, missing all the highlights of P-Day and V-Day, so we have no event reportage this time around.

LIKE THE WEATHER

Ok then. Rain coming with a vengeance, starting Tuesday evening through the next soggy weekend. However and furthermore we have great news.

First, Howard Schecter says there is indeed a couple storms looking to drop snow on the Sierra, with the first laying down about a foot of measly powder in the north and the second laying down a more substantial load further south, providing dry Arizona with its first snow of the year. He does say that reports of 9 feet coming are pure horse pucky (our words). These storms are likely to be "dry".

Optimistically we hear that deep in the Pacific, where these things start to happen, an eddy is forming that will likely culminate in something next Xmastide. Yep, it is that big and will take that long, and because of when it culminates these things are called "El Nino". The upcoming El Nino is likely to birth the mother of all storms, if we are lucky, so somebody better start digging reservoir holes right now.

WE'LL NEVER BE ROYALS

So anyway, Commissioner Dudgeon let Denby out of jail after the weekend had passed when the woman he had tried to save declined to press charges, so Denby was turned out on the street with a firm admonition from the harried jurist with a firm admonition never to be seen inciting riot, causing public mayhem, or tossing Molotov cocktails into wedding parties, be there present a swimming pool or not.

Denby thought, given the outcome, he should not mention that it appeared the Commissioner had grabbed the file to someone else's case and he have never incited a riot or tossed back so much as a molotov cocktail in his life for he was a devoted teetotaler and a pacific Buddhist as well.

Then it occurred to him somebody was walking around, setting wedding dresses and ministers on fire without even a swimming pool in which to put them out, but Jose and Javier grabbed him away from that bad place while the Commissioner fumbled to open his child proof bottle of prescription Protonix, finally getting the thing open with a few deft gavel wacks, sending pills skittering here and there and with the Bailiff chasing after them with an envelope.

"What the hell are you still doing there, gawping like some "innocent offender!" The Commissioner shouted. "Get out of my courtroom and never come back, neither as witness, nor jury, and certainly not as some kind of guilty as hell bastard whining for a fair shake! Go!"

Leave the papers," Pahrump said. "Let us eke go!"

Safely outside, Javier, who was a well-read man, mentioned that he had not considered Pahrump a Joycean.

For answer, Pahrump stepped up upon the round pedestal that was designed to hold the memorial bust of former Senator Archibald Sniggins, a memorial that had lapsed in effort due to lack of funding, even as a collection of citizens coming to dispute their traffic citations with futile writs of despair approached the glass doors to the lobby. "I hereby intone the following, Introibo ad altare Lex."

Denby offered mild applause. "Pahrump, you are neither stately nor plump, as was the original Buck Mulligan, but here, here! Here, here! Now let's go get drunk."

This show was all due to Denby trying to intervene between a fist-slinging brute and his target of a girlfriend at the end of the Native Sons of the Golden West Valentine's Ball fundraiser. As is usually the case, the woman had taken to punching Denby for getting involved in a private matter without so much as a by-your-leave and then the boyfriend had done the same until Jose had clocked him with a solid whack on the noggin with a broom.

That is not the thing about which you want hear; you want to hear about the weather. Sudden sunshine has been breaking through to warm the place during the day after mornings of high, dense fog. Evenings remain chill and the raccoons have been keeping quiet. The squirrels have ceased their mad scampering and the night presents only the solitary peeps of the Norway rats going about their business in the fruit trees.

Pre-Spring is an odd time everywhere. You look out and it is still light at the end of the day, the air feels somewhat warmer-ish than the bone-chilling sap of a few weeks ago, but still the ground is soggy, the sky is oystershell gray, and people walk head down, preoccupied with internal things rather than the bland slate-colored world around them. All the music is a reiteration of what was hot a few months ago. Right now the relationship that is doomed is slowly collecting evidence and reasons for the final blowup.

Eugene broke up with his brief fling, the Buddhist nun. The whole monastery was going to do a field trip up to Berkeley to see the Dali Lama, or at least the place they are building for him to stay when he comes to visit so as to help out with labor of construction, but the bus broke down.

So the Rinpoche said, "We are determined and we are hearty. Let us meet this challenge as with the difficulties of any chore. We will walk."

So about fifteen monks and nuns strapped on tennis shoes and, each carrying a stick and a bundle with their red robes, all began marching up San Pablo Avenue after crossing under the estuary through the tube and dodging through Chinatown among a throng of Opas carrying bags and wearing conical hats.

This proved a bit much for Eugene, who parted ways just after the group crossed West Grand. Sabine looked at him with big round eyes and said, "There is the Five Fold Way to Enlightenment, but each must find his own path. I hope you will find at least contentment, for I am afraid you have a long way to go before becoming enlightened. Good-bye!" And with that the nun kissed Eugene on the cheek before turning to march on up the avenue.

Eugene, brokenhearted, entered a sandwich shop and ordered a foot-long roastbeef sandwich. With all the trimmings. It had been quite a while since he had eaten meat during his vegetarian experiment for love of Sabine, but after eating most of the sandwich, he felt better. Soon, it would be time for trout fishing.

It was dark by the time Eugene had returned to the Island, convinced he had finally discovered his true nature. By that time, the little group had no doubt reached Berkeley and been welcomed there to stay in unheated rooms laid with tatami mats. The man lay down alone, without Sabine there, of course, but in a nice warm futon with a down comforter and he fell asleep to dream of lotus blossoms drifting on the black surface of a deep, impenetrable current while a fat golden man sat on the shore and laughed and laughed.

Xavier, who among all the Household had fared the best getting through this past "holiday weekend" by dint of sticking to his core principles of hard work, diligence, discipline and sturdy Mexican character, rested easily in a hammock after a long day working for El Gabacho Senor Howitzer digging a trench. Tipitina woke him to come inside for some of Marlene's bread soup.

Bread soup is a staple of folks at the Household. We printed a recipe once but perhaps need to post that in the sidebar for reference. Should the reader's circumstances ever descend so low as to need bread soup for sustenance.

The Great Recession sowed its bad seeds in 2001, producing economic Fleurs de Mal in profusion by 2005, and becoming a thicket of troubles by 2006. 2009 began the long slow process of amelioration of this thing, but it takes a long time to turn around an economy as big as the United States. Hence, we are likely to need bread soup recipes for quite a while yet.

In the wee hours, cupid safely tucked away by his mother in a feather bed, hoopla and store shelves now given over to either foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, bunny rabbits, and fertility symbols or improbable plastic shamrocks, bearded dwarves, and green tchotchkes, the Editor emerged from his den, frowsled and bearing an armload of empty Michelina's frozen dinner trays. He dumped the entire lot into the trashbin and paused in the garden to look up at the declining moon's crescent.

In the estuary, the Iranian spy submarine, El Chadoor observed all of these things, or at least its commander did via the spyglass periscope.

"To think some of them go to such trouble to avoid love," First Mate Mohammed said. "What a people!"

"Indeed," the captain said. "It should be only necessary to enlist in the submarine service to forever forswear amorous companionship."

Fortunately, all the men laughed who heard that. This crew had been a long time at sea and the submarine service has more than a little in common with the monastic life.

The captain slapped up the handles of the periscope and the sub ran out the estuary to the starlit Bay where it dived beneath the Golden Gate to run silent, run deep out to the freedom of the Pacific Ocean.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights, 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, 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.

 

FEBRUARY 16, 2014

WINTER IS THE CURTAIN

According to Richard Shindell "Winter is the curtain, but Spring takes the bow." It may be cold and rainy out now but the questing individual will notice slow surprises developing here and there. This week's photo comes from Carol of the People's Republic of St. Charles.

Right now a vast frigid chill draped with snow and rime and sheets of ice covers much of the United States. Look beneath the snow and ignore that dour Easterner Puxatawny Phil. There is something happening underneath it all.


HEARD IT ON THE GRAPEVINE

Picked up a copy of the once mighty bastion of prize-winning columnists which battled its rival the SF Comical for nearly one hundred years and found to our surprise the paper which had fallen from classy to cheesy within weeks after aquisition a few years ago had much improved. The SF Exasperator turned from tabloid to newsy -- no more did the front page carry lurid stories of the bat-faced boy and bloated ex-movie stars.

We were shocked, simply shocked.

Can the once grande dame of newsprint rise again from trailor park birdcage liner to hold her head high among the media? Will reporters and columnists once again dare show themselves at Harringtons? Well, we will just see.

February 19, Wednesday, 7:30 pm

ISABEL ALLENDE, Ripper, A Novel
With SF Poet Laureate Alejandro Murgia
First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St, Oakland
Tickets and more info: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/560643

Finally we have an interesting link to a blog run by a talented 19 year old comix artist who has a refreshingly jaundiced view of the V-day thing. http://thisishangingrockcomics.tumblr.com/.

GAMH has its best shows sold out already. David Crosby sails in 2/20 -2/21, clean and sober.
Noise pop Bob Mould is sold out 2/27

But Tommy Castro is coming 3/22 and Zucchero 4/1. We know Tommy for his crunching, firey stage shows, but Zucchero is an odd dark horse here although he is wildly famous through-out Europe. The man has performed with just about everybody, from Placido Domingo to U2 and is likely to present a memorable evening.

Here in Oaktown's renovated Fox, where the booking agent seems to be inspired, we see Amos Lee with Langhorne Slim coming Wednesday, followed by the Pixies on Friday to a show already sold out.

You can, however, catch the jazzy alternative band Umphrey's McGee on March 8th and the not so jazzy Flogging Molly March 14 to get your wearing o' the green started.

Sacto's blues wunderkind Jackie Green comes in on March 21st, supported by the Mother Hips.

The Fox continues on a roll with the suddenly popular pop diva, Lorde for two dates, March 26 and 27th. Better buy tickets now, people.

Then Widespread Panic rocks a two night spread 28th and 29th.

That oughta do ya until April when the String Cheese Incident cover three nights with their special brand of indie alternative sound.

PSA

BART invites the public to a series of outreach events to learn more about the extension to Oakland International Airport and provide comments on key service changes including:
• Replacement of the current AirBART system
• Fares
• Shorter wait times
• Shorter travel times
The dates and locations of these events are listed below. In addition, if you are unable to attend one of our outreach events, you may still provide feedback by completing an online comment form, which will be available by February 24, 2014, at www.bart.gov/oac.

OUTREACH EVENT DATES AND LOCATIONS
MONDAY, MARCH 3, 2014: 7 AM – 11 AM; Locations: BART Coliseum Station Concourse and Oakland International Airport AirBART Pick up/Drop off Area
TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014: 4 PM – 8 PM; Locations: BART Coliseum Station Concourse and Oakland International Airport AirBART Pick up/Drop off Area
THURSDAY, MARCH 6, 2014: 7 AM to 11 AM; Locations: BART Coliseum Station Concourse and Oakland International Airport AirBART Pick up/Drop off Area
FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2014: 4 PM TO 8 PM; Locations: BART Coliseum Station Concourse and Oakland International Airport AirBART Pick up/Drop off Area

AC Transit Buses Fitted With New/Better Fare Boxes : Lighted Displays/Audio Responses/Faster Boardings

As part of its ongoing campaign to give passengers A Better Ride, AC Transit has refitted all of its buses with a state-of-the art fare collection system that makes boardings quicker, less confusing and much easier to tally.

AC Transit is the first bus company in the nation to outfit its entire fleet—569 buses-- with the “talking” high-tech Fast Fare boxes that interact with passengers using full-color, lighted displays and automatic audio responses.

The Fast Fare boxes replace the agency’s more bulky, 14-year-old machines that are now obsolete, prone to malfunction and often require costly and difficult repairs. With smaller frames, the new fare boxes leave more room to maneuver, particularly for wheelchairs. They also have:

• A low failure rate for improved reliability
• Bill and coin validation for more accurate accounting
• Faster processing of bills and coins for improved boarding speed
• Dispenser for Day Passes, effective on July 1st
• Improved, lighted passenger interface with full color display
• Audio response that assists passengers in paying fares
• Modular component replacement minimizing repair time and maximizing bus availability
• Modern design including advanced features for mobile ticketing and smart cards, if needed for future fare payment options.

Although the machines will accept all valid U.S. coins and currency--except for 50-cent pieces— the new fare slots are slightly different, so riders are encouraged to take a good look before inserting their bills, coins, and transfers.

Also, riders should know that the new fare boxes do not accept transfers from BART or other transit agencies. Such transfers should be handed to the bus operator. However, Clipper Card users will still tag their cards on a separate reader at the front of the bus.

CAN'T WAIT TO GET OFF WORK TO SEE MY BABY

So anyway Eugene went on a zen date with his newfound object of desire. Jose, seeking to avoid the same sort of problems that occured last year due to Javier's enthusiastic amorousness, hid himself in the porch hole with Snuffles the bum, getting the old fellow to keep quiet about it by means of the bribe of two gallon jugs of Gallows burgundy.

Javier stomped all over, looking this way and that for a companion to help him get into scrapes. Xavier, a hard working, clean cut boy from Mexico City refused to have any part of it.

The Editor, knowing full well that the leggy Joanna would be on the prowl, had secured himself in his offices behind double doors with a supply of Michelina's frozen dinners and a case of Glenfiddich malt scotch and Netflix supplied entertainment well in advance, and his redoubt was doubly redoubtable by way of the terrific dockwalloper that set in to confine sentient beings to indoors.

Pahrump, Martini, Xavier, and Denby had managed to secure gigs performing as step'n fetchits for the Native Sons of the Golden West Valentine's Ball, which after an evening of hauling ice, pouring beer, rousting drunks would culminate, after everyone had long gone home and the band had been gypped and underpaid, in a romantic round of carrying out the trash and sweeping up the leavings of those who had either left disappointed or in a state of soon to be. Once Jose felt it was safe to come out, he joined them.

It was harsh but the pay was better than a kick in the face or getting into some kind of state of erotic dismay worse than chipped beef on toast for letdown, all aroma and no savor. The band was a Beatles cover band and they were not very good.

One would think the rain would have helped keep Denby out of trouble this year. That and the gig shoving a mop at the Native Son's. For most of the night, it worked. He, like the others, ran about at the bidding of Marston Umbrage, a genuine five generation scion of the Californio's who had no problem ordering lesser species than himself all over the place. About Marston, he would be proud to say of himself -- and he often said it -- Marston was the one who got things done.

All night it was Denby do this. Denby don't do that. Denby go get the bucket for Mr. Creosote. By the end of the night the guy was wishing he was in heaven sittin' down. While he was shoving the mop over by the Hall's belljar encased Heritage Fantod where someone's internal constitution had rejected the bar Hurricane he noticed a gal with straight black hair sitting glumly at a table by herself. She had her purse up there on the table and she had on her hat and she looked to be waiting for someone. By then the place had emptied out and the crew was moving back and forth taking off the covers and folding up the tables and chairs.

Waiting on your ride, Denby asked. We will be closing up soon. He was tired, sweaty, aching and the Hurricane had been made with sticky sweet stuff.

The woman sighed, said most of her life was spent waiting. Tired and bored, ever the genteman, Denby placed one of the decoration roses on the girl's table and continued mopping up. The guys kept on stripping the tables and clapping up the chairs and carting them away. Eventually a big blonde guy appeared at the woman's table, staggering a bit from too much drink and the woman stood up. I'll drive, she said.

Who gave you the rose? The guy asked with a surly voice.

That guy, said the girl, indicating Denby. Let's go.

Next thing Denby knew he was dodging all around the heritage bric-a-brac trying to escape the enormous hamfists of an enraged Nordic giant. A wild roundhouse clipped his right ear and went into the glass-mounted official charter hung on the wall, sending shards everywhere. The belljar encased Fantod, a genuine Remington original of the Founder of E Clampus Vitus mounting a brown bear with his hat flung high, toppled, wobbled and, disastrously, tipped to fall sideways and roll to the table's edge. The giant kicked at Denby and so, jostling the table, sent the club's heritage over the edge to smash on the floor, and there the bronze statue broke into pieces.

Denby stood in horror at the shards of the club's heritage, and in so standing transfixed would have been slain on the spot had not Jose come up behind the roaring giant to smash a cafeteria chair down on the man's blonde poll. And so the jealous man dropped to the floor

Now see what you did, said the girl. How am I going to get this lunkhead into the car?

The crew was only too happy to band together so as to carry the giant, now trolling the cyclopean labyrinth cave of dreams out of the place and into the girl's backseat just as Officer's Popinjay and O'Madhauen arrived.

What's all this then? Officer Popinjay inquired.

Has there been a traffic accident or other vehicle infraction, Officer O'Madhauen asked hopefully. When learning it was a matter of a bar fight, he put away his ticket book with great disappointment.

Who is all involved with this? Officer Popinjay asked.

The girl pointed at Denby.

As the gendarmes carted Denby away in "come-a-longs", he protested that he was innocent of anything.

We'll be the judge of that, Officer Popinjay said. Or the Commissioner. Right after the holiday is over and court starts up again. Come along now!

It was a full moon, the advent of the Year of the Horse. As it was a full moon, Don Guadalupe Erizo sat out upon the sward and regarded the moon's glory, thinking whatever thoughts an echinoderm could conger on such a time while Dame Herisson remained inside, cooking up the evening crepes.

The recent storms had cleared the sky, but the evening high thin fog had thrown a pale transclucent veil over the goddess of the night, glowing high up there, enrapt.

"Ah, Mssr. Professeur! Les creps sont prêts, said Dame Herisson from the burrow. The crepes are ready.

For the life of me, I will never understand why you insist upon the French.

Parce que c'est le langage de l'amour. Because it is the language of Love.

A la, said the Don. No entiendo por qué me eligió. I don't understand why you ever chose me.

Of course it must be noted here that most little creatures of the earth understand all the natural languages, however it is seldom that any one of them encounter a human being whom they feel is intelligent enough to understand them, so the myth that they converse only in grunts and peeps persists. The dolphins, a quite intelligent species, have had great joy playing with humanity for generations, trying to get people to speak in the long unrecorded branch dialect of Urdu-inflected Rhaetor-Romanisch.

Parce que, tu êtes tellement intellectuelle, que vous ne pensez pas à choisi vous-même, Dame Herisson said. "Because you are so wrapped in your head you would never think to chose yourself. So someone had to do it for you.

O! Qué suerte la mía. Lucky me.

Que voyez-tu là-bas? What are you looking at up there? Viens, mon cher.

If you cast your troubles up into the sky they can be the stars in your eyes, my dear.

Toi chanceux, chanceux moi. Lucky you, lucky me.

Ahhhh . . .

Meanwhilte the Native Son's wrecking crew boys have gone to Denny's off the Nimitz to get eggs and sausage with their dime pay and hash browns, o those gorgeous hash browns draped with grease and tabasco and catsup, but Xavier stays behind to finish up -- hashbrowns, hashbrowns, he'd prefer tortillas and beans. And of adventures he had had quite enough that night. The sound of his broom echoes on the hard wooden floor of Parlor 33 1/3 of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

All the Island drifts on the surface of the late night Bay, mutters and snores, laps of wave and clink of mast. Every sheet a luffing sail after storm has passed and tossed beds on the calm seas of sleep. The moon gently strews a serape of diamonds across the lot of unsold and cash promised SUVs before withdrawing into a descending nimbus behind the new higher buildings and the metal framework of the new soon-to be Walgreens rising on Park Street, now tossing a cage of shadows in front of the light reflected by the departing goddess. Leaving the town in the keeping of the one who is sweeping up the ghosts of Valentine's night.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights, 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to romantic parts unknown.

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


A cab combs the snake,
Tryin' to rake in that last night's fare,
And a solitary sailor
Who spends the facts of his life like small change on strangers...

Paws his inside P-coat pocket for a welcome twenty-five cents,
And the last bent butt from a package of Kents,
As he dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes
And marmalade thighs with scrambled yellow hair.

Her rhinestone-studded moniker says, "Irene"
As she wipes the wisps of dishwater blonde from her eyes
And the Texaco beacon burns on,
The steel-belted attendant with a 'Ring and Valve Special'...
Cryin' "Fill'er up and check that oil"
"You know it could be a distributor and it could be a coil."

The early mornin' final edition's on the stands,
And that town cryer's cryin' there with nickels in his hands.
Pigs in a blanket sixty-nine cents,
Eggs - roll 'em over and a package of Kents,
Adam and Eve on a log, you can sink 'em damn straight,
Hash browns, hash browns, you know I can't relate.

And the early dawn cracks out a carpet of diamond
Across a cash crop car lot filled with twilight Coupe Devilles,
Leaving the town in a-keeping
Of the one who is sweeping
Up the ghost of Saturday night...

Songwriter: Tom Waits

 

FEBRUARY 9, 2014

NO LOVE TODAY

If Chris Smither ever comes to your town for a gig, get him to tell the little vignette about how the farmer in the song "No Love Today" comes from a figure from his childhood growing up in New Orleans.

This week we have as an image a capture from facebook friend Erika's homepage. It does echo a common sentiment held around here by the Quirkyalones and just about anyone not looking forward to February 14th.

Note that the song, as sung by Chris Smither is sung in the past tense. We expect he has plenty of love in his life today.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

We hear the Island Gerbil soon will cease being a free weekly in favor of inclusion with any of the CC Times/SJ Mercury paid subscriptions.

Well, the Sun is a warmer paper.

After the message conveyed by the allowed death of Raymond Zack got through to the right parties and money started flowing obediently to Emergency Response, the police boat got refitted and relaunched for the water. Now recently the Fire Department has taken delivery of the Deanna Jo, a slick 32 footer that can pump 2,000 gallons a minute and find still-warm bodies underneath piers with its heat-sensing apparatus.

Truth is, the island has needed something like this for a while, as the only other city with a boat of this kind is San Francisco.

Hi-Tech has been in the news recently, what with the IPD getting Automated License Plate Recognition readers. The purpose of the technology is to help IPD locate stolen vehicles and vehicles connected with crimes.

The devices, which can record thousands of images per hour, collect the license plate and context by imaging, log GPS coordinates and date and time of image capture. Citizens have expressed concerns about privacy, limits on usage, and potential abuse of collected data.

On the Op-Ed page we have County Supervisor Keith Carson urging expansion of East Bay broadband infrastructure. What he clearly wants to do is pull some of that Sunnyvale/West Palo Alto wealth in this direction in a way that will generate new business and job growth. People can go to www.ebbroadband.org for more information.

Google started a trial private ferry service from the Harbor Bay Terminal to cross the Bay to Redwood City Monday. The Internet giant, which now exceeds Microsoft and the largest auto manufacturer in income, has run a trial service from San Francisco to Redwood City since January 6th. Like other tech giants, it has run a bus service in Silicon Valley for a while. The bus service, which has been using MUNI and BART stops has drawn the ire of locals who are getting fed up with being pushed out of their neighborhoods by the skyrocket rise in costs of living.

In the Letters to the Editor we have an unusually well-informed, well-reasoned set of briefs this week. The first concerns the passing of Poet Laureate Mary Rudge, whom we all agree was a dear soul. And we are glad that our island was proud to host a poet laureate, for that indicates a good sense of values.

One letter writer was responding to someone having a beef against a planned VA clinic, which we thought was a no-brainer shoo-in. Heck, a medical facility that unobtrusively takes care of vets is certainly a better tenant here than another McBurgerChuckeeCheeseIn-and-out-Walgreens. Were any of the people protesting this living here when the Navy Base was up and running? We suspect not.

A bright 5th Grader writes about incautious drivers ignoring the crosswalk and the flashing pedestrian lights at Will and Santa Clara, which we understand is barely a block from the high school as well as the Los Semillas preschool. As there were children in the crosswalk as the time of the violation noticed by the young man, and we have personally witnessed rude drivers violating the right of way of pedestrians in crosswalks, we feel another stoplight is not enough -- those folks will just run the red anyway.

There is already a traffic control device there -- the crosswalk with flashing lights. Violation of pedestrian right of way in the crosswalk is a violation of CVC 21950 which states

21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Notice there is no "got there first" provision. Nor is there a "left lane, right lane" provision. Legally a pedestrian "owns" the crosswalk zone once they step off the curb. In practical terms, and with reference to paragraph (b) if the street is four or more lanes wide, that is, if the street is so broad that passing through the crosswalk does not seriously endanger anyone because of distance, then most reasonable commissioners will give the benefit of the doubt to the driver.

Then again, you hit a child with a car in the State of California, your life is over, regardless of statute.

As a PSA we refer to the person writing about mysterious recurring charges on their ACI bill, charges that were supposed to be 1 time per year. This boondoggle flag was prompted by a distribution of a circular by Stop-Waste (which is a valid group pursuing the government mandated Benchmark program.) We have seen a couple other circulars floating about which are most definitely NOT bona fide entities. They are scams, so be on the lookout for anybody seeing personal information about your utility bill, or indeed any kind of personal home information.

Finally, it seems that the McKay Avenue furor continues with Eugenie Thompson's well presented Commentary in which she reveals that the GSA failed to follow proper procedures when it set the property on public auction by accepting a conditional bid based on a zoning status change which was not in the woodwork at the time.

In addition, the State Parks owns the single street that provides access to the property, which makes any sort of planned development impossible. Which makes sense that the EBPRD expected without hesitation the property would fall to them, especially in light of Measure WW's clear directive to EBPRD to expand the interpretive center and "acquire surplus federal property". In response the GSA has threatened to seize the street via eminent domain so that it can be developed to suit housing usage and allow easements for utilities necessary for housing.

In checking the 2009 EIR, cited by the city for its 2012 Housing Element and which itself is being used to push the development project forward on behalf of purchaser Tim Lewis Communities.

The State's Attorney General has stepped in to indicate the GSA failed to follow federal guidelines which require in the Code of Federal Regulations that the GSA is required to first offer surplus property to other public agencies before turning to public auction.

Finally we learn that the city staff failed to follow State Department of Housing requirements for a site suitability and availability analysis for proposed housing sites.

That is a lot of FAIL in this fiasco, and if we were Tim Lewis Communities, we would recommend backing off, as a plethora of lawsuits seem about to crash into this party.

BETTER OFF WITHOUT A WIFE

So anyway a mini "Pineapple Express" roared through the Bay Area this past week. Such weather systems consist of rapid narrow trofs that barrel through with a series of rainstorms. The condition develops from a ripple of highs and low pressure spots that congregate near Hawaii.

This is the misery of Winter, such as it is for California. Of course other places -- even places in California -- suffer somewhat more severe weather and concomitant attitudes inflexible as ice.

Of course when people come here for the weather, just one wildfire, just one earthquake and back they go, scurrying to Idaho and Virginia and their beloved tornadoes.

Cold and ice are bad enough, but losing everything you own, your sense of gravity, and your sanity along with it, well that is more than a lot of people want to endure on a regular basis.

With this weather there is one good thing -- all the snow bunnies are heading up to Tahoe and the Sierra to get in some downhill and spend a few dollars at overpriced chalets and faux mountain eateries, cavorting there with the sprung step of youth.

Now is the time of dank, wet advancement, the steady slog when the ease of Summer feels like an unreal impossibility. The Oakland hills remain shrouded in mist and every room feels like a box sapping the heat from your body. Because the assumption is that it never gets cold here, none of the houses possess wall insulation or double-pane windows.

People look to use the oven as often as possible, looking for ways to employ that out-of-date cream of mushroom soup and the weird can of cheddar cheese soup, which nobody seems to have ever heated up within memory save folded safely within some kind of baked tuna casserole.

Unless you hailed from Wisconsin who on earth would ever eat such a thing straight up? Even Juanita is trying to see if she can finally get the Minnesota Hot Dish down right, save with her special infusion of jalapenos in a spicy nacho can mixed with french cut green beans and Louisiana hot sauce.

People still find boxes of the first attempt she made as an offering to the visiting Norwegian Bachelor farmers in search of their wayward minister. Those fellows, used to food that got no spicier than Matjes Herring left little boxes of her gifts stowed all over town, and even today, years later, folks would come across a magically preserved box of that hot dish in the most unlikely places.

So anyway, the weekend brought on a set of dockwallopers and wharf sizzlers to gently nudge thoughts away from drought. Drought is a function of snowfall in the Sierra and has no relation upon the local rainstorms, which barely wet the arid trough of the reservoirs with their meager additions. A few inches here and there, even one or two torrential monsoons, cannot possibly compensate for entire acre-feet of water level loss.

Word has it Mount Tam got 20 inches of rain in that last deluge, which ought to ease that part of the world some.

A terrible thing had happened to Eugene Gallipagus, one of the worse fates imaginable to a man like him. But before we get into that, we have to tell about what happened the night the big storm began.

Because of the impending drought, Eugene got it into his head to set up rain barrels all around the property. Since a rain barrel cannot catch more than its mouth, Eugene made himself a dinner of a peanut butter sandwich washed down with berry-flavored Sports-Ade and so scurried about setting up plastic-covered plywood sheeting held down with cotton rope and two by fours to funnel all the water from the roof of the building and the garage. Since the setup would likely overflow any one container he had, he setup quite an ingenious system of pulleys and ball-bearing hinges dependent upon sandbag counterweights hanging from ropes. As one barrel filled, its weight would push down a board that lifted up a counterweight which caused an old sailboard pole to shove a notch that activated a spring and a wheel, thus getting the entire open funnel to shift its "spout" over the mouth of an empty barrel. He built this setup hurriedly as there was scant warning of the oncoming Pineapple Express, so the first drops were already falling when he finished off his work in the yard in the dark although he worked like mad in a great effort to get something troubling off of his mind.

The system seemed to work pretty well, at least as far as he could see by flashlight so he went to bed, waking up to the sound of terrific crashing out back. He came out in the sleeting rain to see that his entire forty-foot funnel had upended itself, flinging matchstick two by fours over the fence into Mrs. Almeida's chicken coop where a noisy sort of disarray prevailed among the hens who shrieked a hullabaloo at the raccoons which had gathered to pilfer the eggs. Mrs. Almeida came out and added quite a bit of choice Portuguese as well.

What had happened. Roof rats, stirred out of their dens by the rains flooding formerly dry holes, had found the scent of peanut butter on the ropes holding the counterweights and so had chewed the lines down until they snapped under the weight of sodden wood and rainwater, flinging the half-full rain barrels, one after another up into the air, propelled by the leaf springs from a 1942 Ford pickup truck and sending Eugene's hasty construction cartwheeling across the yard to Poultry Armageddon.

Of course one could talk about what happened next, however the sad truth was that Eugene had fallen in love. Now for many this is not such problem but for Eugene, the captain of doofiness if there ever was one, the event seriously violated his character. Yet again, anything is possible in this great wide world and the actor who portrayed Gomer Pyle, a character with whom Eugene shared many traits, also possessed a great operatic voice.

Its just that nobody remembers Gomer Pyle for opera.

And who should have Eugene's amorous eyes lighted upon immediately after having been skewered by that puckish puto? A nun from the Tibetan monastery Garam Masala, named Sabine. The first thing Eugene said to her was, "What the heck happened to your hair?"

Sabine told him she was with the Buddhist monastery and Eugene blurted out that he wanted to live with her forever. Subtlety never had infected Eugene's discourse.

Sabine rocked back on her heels. "Well, you would have to renounce the world's illusions and practice Zen mindfulness every day."

Of course Eugene was all agog to know what that entailed.

"Well the path to enlightenment is through wisdom and we acquire wisdom through the abnegation of desire."

That path felt contrary to purpose and so this left Eugene much distressed. Nevertheless, he started hanging out around the Tibetan temple with guys in purple robes and he collected some literature and got a book called "The Five Fold Way". He began taking cold showers and he poured out all the last of his Fat Tire ale, which drove a stake through his heart as he did so.

Different churches handle the modern version of the old Roman holiday of Lupercalia in ways that suited their temperaments.

Buddhists drape their statue of His Paunchy Holiness with roses. The Baptists either engage in hella joyful shouting or even more severe diatribes against sin and hellfire and damnation, depending on what sort of Baptist minister held sway. The Lutherans held a Mac 'n Cheese banquet with pink lemonade and happy couples walked the labyrinth in the dark with giggles, holding hands, while Pastor Nyquist sermonized on the differences between Eros, Caritas and that other one no one can remember the name of. They also did a fair amount of singing.

The Catholics of course had their priests dressed up in fancy gay robes with pink pumps -- rather stylish, actually -- and members of Opus Dei tried to hold a condom burning which did not end well, as Father Danyluk had to come out into the parking lot with a fire extinguisher to put out the smoking blaze and berate all of them for acting like fools in spreading the stink of burnt rubber all over the neighborhood.

The Presbyterians behaved with rectitude and held history panels on the famous 1950's gangland massacre in Chicago.

Members of the Church of Truffle Delight put on white robes and drank red wine and ate powdered chocolates.

Jason Arrabiata, CFSM, held a spaghetti dinner. This one seemed to attract a fair number of Methodists as well.

Reverend Freethought hosted a party for all the Unitarians and everyone who came had great fun. Four of them, Reverend Lisa Freethought, Denby Montana, Miles Ni Gopaleen, and Marsha from the Household ended up playing scrabble until late. The Reverend won the final game with a word coined by Mencken, "ecdysiast".

They were all amazed and wondered how the Reverend knew of such a word, but she would not say anything about it. They caught Miles smiling to himself with secret knowledge and he had to say that the word reminded him of great lady, someone whom he had never met, but of whose admirable qualities there was some renown.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie and Dawn and Padraic got busy cleaning up the place, for the weekend at the old watering hole would be profitable.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights, 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to romantic parts unknown.

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

 

FEBRUARY 2, 2014

UNCHAIN MY HEART

This week's headline image is not really a photograph, but a painting taken of a photograph and done by Islander Carol, present resident of the People's Republic of St. Charles, a building fraught with all sorts of talents. These are anchor chains on one of the marina jetties.

WHATS THE BUZZ

A number of folks had a look at the planned OES building, a long awaited item on the part of people who talk into their lapels and carry badges and lethal hardware by trade. Most cities in the ABAG region, sometimes called the "5 Counties" in reference to the counties that cluster around San Francisco, are very aware that this area is Ground Zero for earthquakes, fire, flooding, and now terrorist attack. Alameda County has two facilities to handle potential disasters in its 2.5 million inhabited spread, with the one out at Santa Rita bunkered three stories underground. People who are serious take this stuff very seriously. So the folks whose job it is to be paranoid had planned a 3,640 square foot emergency operations center at the foot of Grand Street with construction slated to begin this Spring after funding came through.

But neighbors and Planning Board folks are protesting the the "giant walled fortress in the middle of a historic residential neighborhood" (John Knox White). Frank Mataresse, former councilperson also has expressed serious concerns.

At present our OES sits in the basement of the Island Police Department and the planned project is tied somehow to the upgrade of Firestation #3, a 90-year old building with seismic issues preventing full utilization.

Various ideas have been floated about where the funding is coming from, as somebody is acting like the funds are fait accompli. Probably because none other than Don Perata has been sent to Sacto to get the money. By hook or by crook, we expect.

Last chance to have a say on the Point's development with regard to the disputed EIR will happen during Tuesday's City Council meeting at the Hall. The Meeting begins at 7pm and the Council is expected to approve the EIR with no dissent.

She was a modest gal from Los Angeles, born in 1928, but raised for her early years in Oklahoma and Texas. She raised seven children as a single parent and founded the Island chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets, fostering awareness of poetics in the schools and reigned for many years as the Poet Laureat of the Island. Mary Roberta Rudge passed away at age 85 last Sunday.

This time tends to be a pre-season period with a few glittering gems in there for those diligent enough to pry. Basically the kids are back in school and everything is about buckling down to schoolwork and general work for band members doing the usual 9-5 to pay for strings and gas for the touring van.

You did know that Bare Naked Ladies bandmates still hold day jobs don't you?

Okay it all breaks loose in the Spring. Even the venerable PHC is taking a "winter break". Look to see Willie Nelson with family at the Greek and a few familiar names appearing at the Fox in April. By then all the disappointments suffered on the 14th of February will have lost their sting.

LIKE THE WEATHER

The recent dockwalloper had us looking forward here to what may be coming in, as we all know that severe drought conditions are in effect, despite this light pattering. Seems a series of narrow trofs are rippling in with some moisture every other front, which ought to make for some schizo temp behavior as some days shine sunny and others dip into the chills. Not enough promised to ease the drought seriously, though.

So we do what all serious forecasters do when doubt reigns -- we go to the Mountain. And there on the far side of the mountain sits Howard Schecter, dispenser of the Dweeb Report, which has proved to be uncanny in accuracy for some twenty years or more.

Schecter focuses on what happens in the high Sierra elevations, as he works out of Mammoth, but what goes for the Sierra goes for the Golden State as all the water we drink, bathe in, swim in, wash in, irrigate comes from Sierra snowmelt.

His forecast is unusually reserved, as in "I just don't know." Which is not often a pronouncement from the good doctor.

According to his latest report,

"We could easily see another 6 to 10 inches more (of snow) by morning over the crest as there is another feature that will come through late tonight bringing another 3 to 6 inches or so by Friday AM. That Vort max will be coming through in colder air so it will be drier with higher snow to water ratios. That should produce more snow from the system with less water. Storm totals over the upper elevations will be between 15 and 24 inches by Friday AM. This has been revised upward about 6 inches from yesterdays discussion.

Mammoth remains on the cyclonic side of the upper jet that will be well to the south of Mammoth over the weekend. The following system that will affect Southern Ca will come though about Sunday night or Monday. The track is a little uncertain with the 12z ECMWF taking it a bit more east. Should that verify…Mammoth would benefit as we become under the influence of the deformation zone. The NE quad slips by late Sunday night or Monday AM. I will update in the morning to see if this is a new trend.

Otherwise, next week still looks pretty dry over all, but there are some interesting possibilities that weekend that I will be discussing next week…..

New 12Z Thursday ECMWF as pretty good storm breaking underneath blocking pattern over Bering Sea. the EC is very wet with this storm bringing in over 2+ inches of QPF late in the weekend while the GFS is clueless at the moment…".
- See more at: http://mammothweather.com/#sthash.wglbwnpc.dpuf

The GFS is "clueless at the moment." Not exactly heartening. Also Howard is talking inches here, when we should be talking 15-20 feet of accumulation by now.


ONLY A PHASE, THESE DARK CAFE DAYS

So anyway, a dockwalloper set in after a warm spell to drench things pretty thoroughly for several hours on Sunday. Heavy Blakean clouds had hung in the chiaroscuro skies all week threatening some kind of godlike tumult, but everything held off until Sunday and no muscular hand reached down to toss members of City Council into the Abyss.

The end of January brought about the first day of the next lunar cycle, and we are not talking monthlies here. Well, a bit, as January 30th was the dark New Moon. All across Asia, billions of Asians go on the march in a vast "chunyun" of waves of humanity washing back and forth across the continent in all kinds of vehicles, from planes, to trains, autos, motorcycles, rickshaws, ferries, paddleboats, ox carts, perambulators, bicycles, floating river barrels, busses, flivvers, animatronic mice, uranium-stoked flip-flops, jet skis, travois, horses of course, mules, donkeys even, all scampering hither and thither to celebrate the new year and the vast majority wearing red knickers to ward off the lion-monster named "Nian".

Nian has sensitive ears, so it is wise to blast obnoxious noise like firecrackers and the Abba songlist through loudspeakers. The red knickers help to escape Nian and maybe help with other things as well, especially if they are lacy.

Jennifer Bao came busting into the Old Same Place Bar with a coterie of women from the Island Asian Promulgation Enterprise (I-APE). Babylon had its famous festival with immense parade and the enormous Gum Lung, Oaktown has its own festival. All the hamlets and towns in the 5 County Bay Area held official celebrations. Now, seeing as City Hall finally had broken the yellow barrier tape in getting a true-blue son of FOB parents into a Council seat Jennifer and her group were lobbying hard for the Lunar New Year to be celebrated here on the Island with its own festival.

So what if there had been a minor flap over raising the PRC flag at City Hall on National Day. The Tibetans had raised such a stink over it the entire ceremony had been ruined. So Beijing was a little bit Communist and somewhat anti-capitalist to a moderate degree. Hey, we are all Asians here and time to celebrate our cultures. With a couple billion people swilling around over there you can't expect everybody to be the same as you. If its Yellow its mellow and that should be good enough. Those darned Tibetans. Just because they got invaded and stuff. They gotta dig the Buddha-man and just chill without messing up the party. Padraic wussup with all the green here? We got the Year of the Horse coming on!

Padraic shrugged. It's an Irish bar and St. Paddy's is coming up . . . .

That's not for another month, said Jennifer. C'mon Padraic, loosen up and do the Gagnam Style! Hey, we got lucky red envelopes and flags and pictures of horses -- this week everybody can be Asian a little bit. Just don't put no stereotypes on me -- I sure aint no Lotus Blossom, that's for sure! She shouted across the Bar at someone taping up a horse's head in the window - HEY! STRAIGHTEN THAT HORSE'S ASS! HE LOOKS LIKE HE IS POOPING IN THE DOS EQUIS! Jennifer buttonholed Suzie. Hey you sweetie, we get you in a silk dress with a slit up to IT and you no need to rent a boyfriend this year . . . .

I think NOT, Dawn stated emphatically.

Over at the Household of Marlene and Andre, the swing shift sleepers snoozed in their blankets and sleeping bags, wrapped deep in the Stygian warmth of dreams, dreams of better times to come, of full bellies and gentle gestures replacing the hard flint of human intercourse today. Jose dreamed of flying with the gorgeous multicolored feathers of Quetzalcoatl, sailing effortless over valleys and rivers, away from all these hard people and the stones of their minds and their wooden hearts.

Javier dreamed, of course, of being caressed by fabulous nearly naked women, none of whom ever wanted to kill him or set him on fire.

In the bedroom, little Adam slept after doing his dutiful homework and cleaning the dishes, sleeping the sleep of the almost, but not quite innocent. His lips open, slack, without a hint of his roguery.

In the bed, Marlene sat up going through her papers at the end of the long day, the thick black reading glasses slipping down to the point of her upturned nose as she kept accounts. The girl with the ruined womb, quietly keeping body and soul together in that quiet house of sleepers. Andre sat on the edge of the bed, quietly finishing up the details of an outlaw love song on his Washburn dreadnought with a bit of soft Travis-picking. The boy beaten and abused by a long short life of unfair and callous, initiated by another stepfather who probably could just as well have enjoyed a beer in the same tavern as the one who destroyed Marlene.

In the heart of Africa, in the depths of the Congo jungle, there is a City of Hope where the women walk from house to house, singing. There they heal the lacunae, the perforations that would obliterate love. The Household of Marlene and Andre is just such a place. As the silver sliver above eased slowly to its next incarnation as the First Quarter Moon, the girlchild woman touched the boychild man's neck and he put away the guitar to fold her in his thin arms, two bruised and battered hearts beating together.

Overhead, silent and invisible, a putto torn from some medieval painting let his bow go slack, let the arrow droop, and the cherub hovered in wonder for a moment. No need to strike here. And so off the little thing flew on tiny wings, bobbing above the rooftops, seeking some hapless mortal to thrust into love's piercing torment with his cruel arrows of chance.

As the mischievous fellow bobbed along who should he see walking a little unsteady from all the beer, but Eugene Gallipagus. The arrow notched let fly and hit its mark. ZING! POCK! Down went the sturdy man, hard to the pavement.

Now who should the hapless poodlehunter Eugene see upon opening his eyes? Maybe next week we will tell you all about it.

For that is when the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights, 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to romantic parts unknown.

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

JANUARY 25, 2013

WHEN YOU SEE THE SOUTHERN CROSS

This week continues the nautical theme that we have been pursuing of late and is submitted by Curley on board his sometime boat home.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

The Island-Life annual Holiday CD is out and shipping across the nation and around the globe. For those of you out of the distribution loop we will post the concluding PHC-esque monologue in the side bar and maybe one of the songs. The usual Staff got involved to a lesser degree on this one, but we assure you that the production values and musical standards remain wretchedly abysmal to the highest degree. A critic in Lemon Grove has said about the work, "That is just awful!"

WHAT'S GOING ON

The newly revived Autobody on Park has beaucoups events going on, including a live performance by

In a strange twist Autobody lets us know about a tribute to Beatles George Harrison, presented by The International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The event is titled A Tribute to George Harrison: His Life, Music and Spiritual Path and will be held Saturday, February 22nd, 2014, 4 - 8pm

Tickets are $20.00
includes a vegetarian feast (Prasadam), served at 7:00pm

LOCATION: Hare Krishna Temple, Berkeley
2334 Stuart Street, (between Telegraph Ave & Ellsworth St)

FOR INFO
https://www.facebook.com/feb22.2014
510-540-9215

Tickets are available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/561472
This event is open to all ages.

According to the promo material, "The event promises to be an exciting mix of live music, an introduction to Krishna Consciousness and a rousing celebration of the life and work of George Harrison.
Although George Harrison is known most often for his pivotal role in the Beatles he was perhaps one of the most spiritual of popular musicians of our times. His spiritual quest began in his mid 20s, when he realized for the first time that "Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot..." This search led him to delve deep into the mystical world of Eastern religions, especially Hinduism, Indian philosophy, culture, and music. Harrison had a great affinity towards India. In the summer of 1969, the Beatles produced the single "Hare Krishna Mantra", performed by Harrison and the devotees of the Radha-Krishna Temple, London that topped the 10 best-selling record charts throughout UK, Europe, and Asia. The same year, he and fellow Beatle John Lennon met Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the global Hare Krishna Movement, at Tittenhurst Park, England."

We have on word from the good people at KQED, an NPR affiliate station which hosts the weekly Prairie Home Companion. KQED will host Member Days at the Exploratorium, Friday, January 31 & Saturday, February 1, 10am to 5pm.
The Exploratorium is located at San Francisco's Pier 15, on the Embarcadero at Green Street.

Admission is free to KQED members who present a current KQED MemberCard and valid ID at the ticketing desk, for up to two tickets total. Tickets based on availability.

For more information, please visit kqed.org/memberday
*Special Exploratorium membership offer for KQED members now through February 2! Call 415.528.0321 to learn more.

Now are you not glad you supported NPR that last pledge drive? Also for members are links to listen to content, bypassing the pledge pitch.

This past week Robben Ford crossed the Bridge of Sighs at Yoshi's East in Oaktown, while the beautiful Sean Colvin caused men (and a few women as well) to sigh at Yoshi's West in Babylon.

For February we pick out the following hot acts in Oaktown:
Feb 11: Charles Neville with Gent Treadly
Feb 12: David Lindley
Feb 16: Roy Rogers & The DRK with Special Guest Carlos Reyes

Charles Neville needs no intro, while people in-the-know about music know David Lindley's session work very well, as he has sided with Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt, Curtis Mayfield, James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Terry Reid, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart. He has also collaborated with fellow guitarists Ry Cooder and Henry Kaiser. Artist Ben Harper has credited Lindley's distinctive slide guitar style as a major influence on his own playing and in 2006 Lindley sat in on Harper's album Both Sides of the Gun.

The native Californian (born March 21, 1944, San Marino) has mastered such a wide variety of instruments that Acoustic Guitar magazine referred to Lindley, not as a multi-instrumentalist, but instead as a "maxi-instrumentalist" in a cover story about his career to date in 2005. The majority of the instruments that Lindley plays are string instruments. They include (but are not limited to) the acoustic and electric guitar, upright and electric bass guitar, banjo, lap steel guitar, mandolin, hardingfele, bouzouki, cittern, baglama, gumbus, charango, cümbüs, oud, weissenborn, fiddle, and zither.

He is known for use of "cheap" instruments sold at Sears department stores and intended for amateurs.

Roy Rogers, named after a oater movie star of the 1950's, is known for incendiary slide work on electric guitar. His shows tend to be quite exciting and packed with flamboyant, Mississippi Delta-infused flavor, although he is also a native Californio (1950, Redding).

SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD

So anyway, most of the world is embedded deep within the reveries of snow and ice-time, and even here in California we have had some pretty nippy mornings. Yet the season advances and still no rain and no word of snow at elevation in the Sierra, so people have started collecting bricks for the toilet, checking out drought-proof ground cover, repairing leaky faucets and getting ready for another hard time with water.

Still, the fog has returned, a bit early, but the early harbinger of things about to change. The squirrels are running like mad on the fences and the woodrats have come out in droves.

After the Hollardays had crept safely away and little Adam went back to school, the House Wrecking crew dragged the decrepit tree from its washtub out the door and down to the beach, there to make a merry bonfire in the sand. As Pahrump and Jose and Occasional Quentin scrounged around for tinder, the careful marsupial who had been living inside the trunk crept from his hole, peered about, and not liking the incendiary future fast approaching, scampered down and out across the sands into the underbrush area between the beach and the low wall that bordered the bicycle path.

Eugene Gallipagus, walking with his date, found in the Craigslist Personals (Soulful gal with youthful spirit loves cuddling, candlelight, nature, long walks on the beach. Seeking Life Partner who does not ask too much . . .".) came across the bonfire just as the Fire Department arrived to extinguish the blaze. As the men came down with their axes and their hose, the leaping shadows thrown by the firelight mingled with the dark fleeing bodies of the Household seeking an escape.

Eugene had perhaps put too much weight on the "loves nature" part, for his stories of hunting Fifi with his Widowmaker 30 aught six seemed to put a damper on the evening which started off well enough at the Sushi House with the big picture windows facing the Bay and the distant glitter of Babylon across the water.

"So you like to carve up once living things with a knife," Sandra said flatly.

"Yep," Eugene said. "Genuine Gil Hibben bowie. Nine inches a' cold steel."

He probably should not have gone into the business of gutting and cleaning the kill at dinner.

By the time arrived for the long walk on the beach it seemed pretty clear even to Eugene, who it must be admitted was not the sharpest tool in the woodshed, that this one was going to go nowhere fast and he was cheerfully resigned to make the best of it. There is a world of men like Eugene, decent enough, hard working, not especially talented or bright, and gifted with sufficient obtuseness to shield them from lifetimes of otherwise miserable loneliness. These brothers of a kind meet on occasion to sling back beers, crowd inside a hunter's shack for poker and stories, greet distantly across the frozen lake from fishhouses. As long as the AFL and the NFL persist, these fellows will never lack for conversation.

Sandra, constructed of more delicate material, was feeling the bony finger of Time's second hand poking her between the ribs at forty-five and after tonight, she felt sure another dreadful V-Day would growl with tumultuous stormclouds seeded with scads of "putee" cherubs as it passed over her with her head kept down, ears plugged into her iPod Nano playing that Eleanor Rigby song over and over and over again.

As the two stood to watch the firemen do their thing, he to admire the equipment and professionalism, she to watch the sparks and mourn the embers, one of the firemen there noticed her and called out her name.

"O hello Sandy. What are you doing here?"

"O walking. How is Susan?"

"O we are not together. She was too much a Taurus, if you know what I mean."

"You two were really an item at Encinal High," Sandra said. "Sue and Brad."

"Yeah, well some people grow up." Pause. "And some do not. You down here by yourself?"

"Well, uh . . ".

"Yes," Eugene said suddenly. "We just met on the beach and saw the fire. Bye now! Gotta go dust the taxidermy."
With that Eugene turned and walked off into the night, for even among dull tools, there are those who sometimes can still cut to the heart of the matter with some understanding.

"You still living at St. Charles?" Brad asked.

"No I outgrew that place. I am over on Park Avenue now," Sandra replied.

"Hey give you a ride back!"

"On the truck! Isn't that like, against the rules?"

"Ah never mind about that, The guys will love it. You can ring the bell!"

As the woman climbed up into the firetruck, the escaped opossum observed all from his new sanctuary of driftwood and high above, floating amid Michelangelo clouds, a grinning putto renotched his bow with an arrow and sailed off on tiny wings to locate another victim.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights; 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to romantic parts unknown.

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

 

JANUARY 19, 2014

FALLING

As we reported a few weeks ago, a palm tree fell on the monument created several decades ago to honor all domestic animals, wrecking the slogan which has tickled generations of Islanders, "To All My Dumb Friends".

City workers have cleared away the tree debris and removed dangerous loose stone, leaving this sad remnant.

We kinda hope somebody finds it in their heart to fund a way to restore the bench to its former idiosyncratic glory.

LIKE THE WEATHER

As most of you know the Governor announced a Drought State of Emergency. Rainfall, while notably low this year is not all of the story. We have from Mike Rettie and his long-running precipitation records the following stats from initial collection in 1998: 2013 got 5.10 inches of rain vs average of 18.69 inches with a max of 26.44 in 2010.

A look at the Sierra snowpack, which by virtual of gradual melt produces our rivers that source our reservoirs and supply the nation's largest breadbasket for foodstuffs indicates that collected snowpack does not rise above 15% of normal in many measured areas.

The LA Times reported "The signs aren’t good when the chief of California’s snow survey has to walk over bare ground to take a snowpack measurement in the Sierra Nevada, as Frank Gehrke did Friday near Echo Summit.

Manual and electronic readings up and down the range placed the statewide snowpack at 20% of normal for this date, adding to worries that 2014 could be a bad drought year.

The meager snowpack was not a surprise. Last year was California’s driest in 119 years of records, according to the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno." (Meager Sierra snowpack is way below average, Bettina Boxall,
January 3, 2014)

The Governor's declaration on Friday was not unexpected. From the Sacto Bee (Capitol Alert: Pass a bond measure for water, California lawmakers urge at rally, Jeremy B. White, January 16, 2014), we got the following on Thursday: " Lawmakers representing drought-stricken districts joined with hundreds of their constituents at the state Capitol on Thursday to press for a new water bond measure and the declaration of a drought emergency.

"I see farmers, I see farmworkers; I see people from urban communities and from rural communities, all here today to send one message: that we need water," said Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno."

While Chicken-Little cries of disaster are not new to California, where the climate has seen steady progression towards aridity since at least Spanish Colonial times, this time around the Golden State is joined by 10 others facing similar circumstances. Quite often housing development projects and water diversion projects hinge on how much any one particular appellant can sway an agency on its particular need for water. Coupled with that are the historically violent land battles over water diversion and political maneuverings over water rights in the Golden State. So it never is so simple as saying the rainfall isn't enough.

AP presented this report (Drought prompts disaster declarations in 11 states, Michelle Rindels, Associated Press, Updated 7:49 pm, Thursday, January 16, 2014) , "Federal officials have designated portions of 11 drought-ridden western and central states as primary natural disaster areas, highlighting the financial strain the lack of rain is likely to bring to farmers in those regions.

The announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday included counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California."

Finally, in a report by USA Today (California governor declares drought emergency, John Myers, KXTV-TV, Sacramento, Calif. 7:08 p.m. EST January 17, 2014) we have the bleaker picture presented which includes both northern and southern California water districts. The SoCal report on snowpack turns out to be relatively optimistic in the LA report, which featured water basins that -- naturally - served mostly SoCal.

"The situation in most of California and northern Nevada is extremely dry, according to the most recent report Thursday from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought nationwide. Almost 99% of California is considered abnormally dry or worse; almost two-thirds of the state is in extreme drought.

2013 became the driest year on record in California; San Francisco had the least rain since record keeping there began during the gold rush of 1849.

For the past few weeks, Golden State lawmakers and California residents have been urging Brown to make the drought official, a situation made clear with bleak news from the first Sierra snowpack measurement of the season Jan. 10.

The northern Sierra has a snowpack that's only 8% of normal for this date, according to the latest measurements released Thursday from the California Department of Water Resources. The central Sierra is at 16% of normal; the southern Sierra at 22%. Last year at this time, snowpack was normal or exceeded it."

We checked the numbers at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu and indeed found drought conditions throughout the West

A quick check on geosat images of the Sierra produced some queasy images of a narrow band of white where normally a broad swath between 50 and 80 miles wide proceeded for some four hundred miles along the Sierra crest.

So this one is no Chicken Little. Remember, "if its yellow, its mellow, if its brown, flush it down." Nevertheless 75% of the State's water is consumed by agribusiness.

UNKIND DIVINE: BAR CHORDS AT THE FIRESIDE

Toddled over to the Fireside here on the Island for some nightlife and to catch a journeyman band that is attracting a loyal following. Always a prelude to breakout in some form or other.

This is the twelfth time the Bar Chords have performed at the Fireside with their special blend of retro 60's - 80's rock. We were pleasantly surprised to find the bass, guitar, drum singer format band to be far more accomplished musically than most of the garage bands out there. Despite some initial technical sound glitches, all musicians entered on the beat cohesively and remained spot on the dime throughout the set. In sound they resemble early Potrero Hill Ribltad Vorden Bar San Francisco Sound. Early Warlocks and Jefferson Airplane come to mind. In fact one of their covers is a very capable "White Rabbit", with alto soprano Bree Desmond putting in vocals reminiscent of a husky Bonnie Bramlett or an unsullied Janice Joplin.

Most of the work performed consisted of originals.

Personnel consist of Jared Selvin, Mike Cooper, Bree Desmond, sister Kara Desmond, and Dominic Rivelli, with Dominic and Jared trading places alternatively on lead and bass, both employing solid-body Fender-style guitars with plectrum and Kantneresque hybrid strumming and picking. All members currently hold 9-5 forty hour a week jobs, but Bree has stated their commitment to doing well "in the business".

In scoping the crowd it was clear the high voltage energy produced by the band gradually infected the people and it was clear the people enjoyed themselves immensely. We joined a group of rocker cuties (attended by dad) on their first night escape from raising a seven year-old. Seven-Year old was on a sleep-over and the cuties were rocking and rollicking like all get out. And getting really, really drunk. We expect that at least one of them had some trouble locating her knickers the following morning.

O to be young and adorable and rocking out. Drunk on Life and Rock 'n Roll. Which is redundant, we know.

As it has been said about 4 Year Bender, another local band with promise, you know it was a good party when you cannot remember in whose house you left your pants.

Experience says that the 9-5 will need to give a little and maybe a lot if that commitment is to hold, and of course their sound will need to evolve as current tastes in retro sound change. Or maybe not, as long as Boomers remain willing to get out and rock the old keister in the niche market and there remain those legions of Gen X and Y for whom the little Middle Eastern raga in mid solo sounds quite original. If they decide never to leave the security of the 9-5, at least their fans and the band are guaranteed to have a rollicking good time while it lasts. Just remember to keep a spare pair of underpants in your car. It's only Rock 'n Roll, but we like it.

ONE, IN THE NAME OF LOVE

He would have been 85 as of January 15th had not some "ten cent white boy" murdered the "million dollar Black man" on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, Tennessee, a place where Martin Luther King, jr. had often stayed during his nationwide trips seeking social equality. The hotel still stands, a very unpretentious place in an unpretentious section of Memphis a couple blocks east of the river.

Rev. King was a man not so easily summarized, by detractors and glorifiers alike, however in all probability he was one of the greatest men, if not THE greatest man, produced by this United States of America.

He did not want to die and was not obviously courageous in the way movie stars portray physical courage, but he knew that someone would eventually kill him if he pursued his chosen path as a servant of his god. He often foretold his own death in speeches and in private conversation. In public reference to a bomb threat which had delayed his plane flight to Memphis, he said, "And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will."

He was unfailingly modest, unpretentious, unadorned, yet he spearheaded the most radical social changes this country has ever seen -- and left it far better off and well on an inexorable path set by him toward bettering itself by righting numerous wrongs and making real the statement in the Constitution "All men are created equal," and thereby turn the Nation away from a condition in which for millions of citizens life was no better, no more free, no more promising than the harshest Stalinist regime that had ever existed. A Nation where prior to MLK the phrase "Land of the Free" was a hideous joke.

He was the subject of intense scrutiny by government intelligence operatives seeking any sort of negative details and compromising situations quite in illegal advance of any accusation of wrongdoing. While the FBI did compile some minor peccadilloes that could be said true of any man of the world, the truth is surprising in that they found so little, for as a whole the man was far more incorruptible than the vast majority of gurus, false religious leaders, mystical pundits, and outright charlatans out there.

While the truth of conspiracy, government or any other sort of organized complicity in his death probably will never be known, this Monday we recognize not the death but the living legacy of a truly great American in a time which has seen both its own changes as well as its own disappointments and senseless violence.

We have now a Black President of this Nation, who certainly solidly clinched the title by overwhelming reelection by a populace that is vastly changed from 1968. What would King say to our current President today on the subject of, say, intensive and illegal violations of privacy, so specifically forbidden by the Constitutional stipulation and originating statements in the Declaration of Independence stating explicitly "that the people shall be free from unreasonable search and seizures"? For King himself was subject to just such illegal wiretapping and searches.

And once again, just as in Vietnam, we find ourselves drawn into foreign involvements that corrupt the endeavor and lead to heinous crimes and sordid excuses for detentions without trial, summary executions by robotic planes, and reprehensible acts of torture.

While there are no more "Colored" waterfountains or whites only entries and seating on a bus no longer has a race line, there remain vast oceans of poverty that persist as legacy of 400 years of slavery. Violent death remains a more vivid likelihood for a Black man than a White in just about every major city in America.

Clearly some dreamers still need to wake to reality and action in the 21st Century America.

THE DOTTED LINE

So anyway, now the Hollar Days are over, that vigorous time of bustling and everybody shouting at one another, shouting whether in the store or seeing an old acquaintance across the street you have not seen for years, shouting for the sheer exuberance of it whether its necessary or not.

"Hey Steve! Long time no see!

"How are the kids? You get over that bronchitis?"

"What?"

"Bronchitis! Cough! Pneumonia!"

"O bronchitis! That's what I thought you said. O that was a while back! Better now!"

Of course any two people with sense would cross the street to catch up, but the Californios are all in a hurry nowadays and the street is no place for reunions.

"You gotta drop by some time!"

"What?"

"Come visit! Bring Martha!"

"Martha? She's fine! Fine . . "!

As for the families, they are all rebuilding themselves into islands of stability after the havoc of temporary proximity in which cousins learned to hate each other all over again in new ways derived by everyone being another year older. Helen is still in a snit about Uncle Jack getting so drunk at dinner and plunging both hands into the steaming mashed potatoes.

Those of us who managed to get through the Season living that Waitresses song with the world's smallest turkey in the oven and no happy ending now are girding up for the Battle of V-Day in February. Kind friends set up parties and blind dates with just a touch of sadism so that Karen/Denby will have some hopeful to cover them up with roses by the dreaded 14th.

"But I don't wanna go out tonight! Whyyyyyyyy?" Karen wails.

"Because," say Chad and Tammy, "We want you to have what we have."

Karen folds her arms and glares from under sharp black bangs. "Wuzzat?"

"We just want you to be happy," Tammy says. "Don't you want to be happy?"

"Overrated," Karen says. "I'll settle for cheerfulness. It's good enough."

A similar conversation happened concerning Denby, with the difference that Bree, Susan and Kara simply did not include him in any decision making for they know that men do not understand the complex mathematics of l'amor.

"Men can have only one thought in their head at any one time," Susan said. "They are incapable of comprehending binomials."

So they set up something at the Old Same Place Bar, knowing that L. and S. were cute as the dickens and pour on a little music, a little booze, why not something happen?

On that night Denby was watching the lead guitarist to figure out the hybrid picking style on his solid body Fender, three humbuckers, to an 80 watt Marshall Stax and pedals on the floor (that is an Fmaj shape he is doing there up to the 12th) while L. and S., cute as the dickens, were bopping along merrily getting drunk. Somehow someway they all wound up taking pictures of each other with their iPhones and L. wound up sitting in Denby's lap and when she got up to go to the Ladies he noted, purely objectively, what a nice bumper there. One of the group returned from the bar with an armload of tequila shots.

Then he got up to go unload his share of beer and he saw out the window Frankie Krick, one of the toughs from The Angry Elf Gang. Frankie had held him down a while ago and had rearranged a couple ribs out of pure venomous spite.

All the members of the Angry Elf Gang were like that. They wanted to put the fear into you so that you lived with it for the rest of your life, so they could use it again.

Denby ducked into the mensroom as the set break arrived and in the stall took out his phone to see himself there with the two beautiful women and him looking like he was, a 56 year old Nevermuch, looking a bit paunchy and unsure of where to put his hands, and his heart sank.

He was old enough to be their father. He turned of the phone, thinking that this all would not end well. It never ended well. As he came out of there he saw to his right the figure of S. crouched hugging her knees on the flagstones in front of the faux fireplace. He had suffered a crush on S. a while back in the most childish way, but had done nothing about it until she went away. He shouldered his way to the front and out the front door and the streetfront where he chatted with one of the musicians briefly, spouting inanities and realizing he was all wrong that night, all off kilter, making crazy connections. Abruptly he said good night and crossed the street to turn left, and as he passed a lighted storefront window he heard a woman cursing softly under her breath while looking at the pink and red marketing display for the next unofficial "holiday."

"I HATE V-day!" she said.

"Me too," Denby said.

The woman turned to stare at him from under sharp black bangs.

"Its BS," Denby said. "Try the Michelinas Schema."

An eyebrow rose underneath the bangs. "Michelinas?"

"Stock up on Michelinas frozen. A buck per entree. And Netflix. No going out, even to the grocery, until the 15th. And practice cheerfulness. Easier to explain."

"Sounds like a plan," the girl said thoughtfully. "That way nobody gets hurt."

"Quirkyalone?"

"Yep. How could you tell?"

Denby motioned at the storefront window with its candy hearts and cupids. "Me too."

"I gotta go. But thanks, bro."

"No prob. Shake?" he held out his hand.

"Shake," she said and did. "See ya."

And the two people parted and went their separate ways. As Denby walked he whistled a bluegrass tune, The Dotted Line, by Sara Watkins.

I've got a story
The dotted line
We both got sins
That's nothing special
Aint that fine, aint that fine

You've got a story
The dotted line
We both got sins
That's nothing special
Aint that fine, aint that fine

We both lived long enough
to know a friend's worth taking care of
We both been pushed down in the mud
And know that it feels better standing up

Meanwhile, from behind the bar Suzie the bartender observed all that happened and the puzzled group with the tequila shots wondering where the galoot with the hat had gotten off to. He had just vanished like a ghost. O well. He was kinda stodgy anyway.

Suzie handled the rush and the band returned to play. Towards the end she found time to return to her anthropology book to read about the Bonobo. "The Bonobo are a cheery group and remain unfailingly upbeat in the midst of adversity, recovering quickly from disappointment to habitual cheerfulness, even when entirely alone in the big forest. . . ".

Its a dark night on the Island that knows how to keep its secrets, but behind the bar of the Old Same Place sits one bartender still pondering Life's Persistent Questions. Suzie Maldonado.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights; 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, 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 in the upcoming year ahead.

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

 

JANUARY 12, 2014

SAIL AWAY COME SAIL AWAY

This meditative shot is of Babylon's skyline seen from Sausalito and was taken by Tammy.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

Now that the new year has lifted anchor and is heading now for the Shoals of Wretched Circumstance and the the rocks of Corrupted Endeavor, we see already some corporations behaving like bad citizens of the Commonweal. Got word from an insider that Staples is cutting hours of part-time employees so as to skip around new laws for mandatory employer-provided healthcare.

Pretty obvious that Staples is looking to put a bullet in the back of the Healthcare Reform Act, sometimes called "Obamacare" . It is also obvious that Staples has already been hiring people at part-time hours for ages now so as to skirt just that. Which, come to think of it, is precisely what "Obamacare" is supposed to cure - a legion of working poor who remained uninsured.

Instead of behaving properly, management at Staples -- not exactly a 25 employee mom-and-pop operation -- has ordered that part- time hours be cut from existing staff and the slack taken up by hiring even more part timers.

Informant has been hired at 30-35 hours per week, and all of us know what that means -- she got paid for 35 hours but really put in 42, with about 7 per "off the clock".

U-Line, CDW, Office Depot and Office Max remain there to serve your office supply needs....

BART sends us mixed news. Most of you know by now that the various labor contracts have been voted and approved and there will be no strike.

Yay!

The AC Transit Board of Directors unanimously approved a new labor agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, endorsing a three-year deal that gives the agency’s 1,625 bus operators and mechanics a 9.5 percent wage increase.

The agreement comes after nine months of “intense but cordial” negotiations between the union and AC Transit management that included a stunning and ominous threat of a work stoppage that never happened.

“I think the process was a very good one,” said AC Transit Board President Greg Harper, noting that the agency still has a “huge problem” in trying to maintain an “unsustainable” employee pension plan. Still, he said, “this is a good contract and I think we have accomplished a great deal. Both sides worked hard to make this happen.”

Under terms of the agreement, the 9.5 percent salary increase will be phased in over the life of the three-year contract. In addition, for the first time, ATU employees will also make contributions toward their health care costs with a flat monthly contribution of $120.00 per employee during the life of the contract.

Last month, ATU members also approved the labor agreement by a vote of 567 to 465, heading off a strike that was twice averted—once by reaching a tentative labor agreement and then a second time by a cooling off period imposed by Governor Jerry Brown.

A walkout by operators would have halted AC Transit bus service for 197,000 daily riders who depend on buses for transportation throughout the East Bay and to the Peninsula and San Francisco.

Ah, but we have this from Mission Control: "There will be a $0.50 daily parking fee increase at many stations in the month of January, 2014. All revenue generated from these new fees will be placed into a special account only to be used for programs for improved station access, including shuttle and feeder service to stations, and much needed station rehabilitation, and modernization."

Closer to home we note the pace of 5150 Psychiatric Detentions remains hovering around seven per week with last week clocking in an astounding five detentions in one day.

One dog bite and one indecent exposure added to Mayberry's crimeblotter, plus a rash of auto burgleries. No, people, stashing your laptop under the seat will not work.

Finally the always entertaining Letters to the Editor indicate concerns about just how 40,000 gallons of fuel is going to get to the planned WETA ferry terminal -- as in over city streets in front of your house?

Another person begs us to not "forget the seals" as in the harbor seals that congregate now in the area planned for that facility.

Another curmudgeon rails against those scofflaw bicyclists, bemoaning the fact that he cannot pilot his SUV over sidewalks and run stop signs with impugnity as they seem to do.

It is good that Democracy runs at such a slow pace -- otherwise we would be making mistakes at twice the speed.

WHAT'S GOING ON

The burgeoning art scene in the East Bay continues to boil with activity. Photo lets us know that Enrique de la Uz opens his socially conscious exhibit CUBA ZAFRA January 16 with a Preview Reception: Thursday, January 16, 6:00 - 8:00 followed by the major shindig Reception: Saturday, February 1, 2:00 - 4:00, featuring a talk by Curator Charles Anselmo at 3:00

Enrique de la Uz started working as a photojournalist with other young photographers and writers in the 1960s. They portrayed the man in the street, specific to the way that they perceived his life. A photograph was never a document, but at the very least a personal statement, an opinion.

The work of de la Uz is devoted to the expression of fundamental ideas through others, through the social landscape. He engages the present, past, and future of every one of us through the medium of photography.

Photo is at 473 25th Street in Oaktown.

Autobody on Park Street continues to push the boundaries with all kinds of interesting stuff. This time around we have a performance piece "Playing My Hand" , a solo show, by Rachel LePell, 30-year veteran of theater, nationally awarded playwright, Bay Area freelance director and writer, Chabot College Theater Arts lead faculty, being performed this month. Premiered at The Marsh in San Francisco in July 2013, this production of "Playing My Hand" is the third evolution of this new play, still in development.

Call 510.865.2608 for info and tickets on the shows slated for January 24,25 and 26, 2014.

Autobody also has a gallery located in Hayward and those people also are doing amazing stuff. Their press release states,
2014 will mark the 25th year of the Annual Children's Book Illustrators Exhibit held at the Sun Gallery, Hayward.

  • WHERE: The Sun Gallery, Hayward Area Forum for the Arts, 1015 E Street, Hayward, CA 94549
  • WHEN: February 7th 0 April 7th, 2014, Reception for the Artists and Book Signing: March 16th, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
  • WHAT: 'Zine making workshop for kids of all ages
  • CONTACT: For more information and images please call: Jacqueline Cooper, Artistic Director 510.865.2608
    jacqueline@autobodyfineart.com, www.sungallery.org


Gabriele Bungardt has announced a triple slam of exhibitions of her work, including Spritzers featuring 11 paintings from the 'American Working Man' series. January 4 to February 20, Spritzers Cafe and Gallery, 734 Central Ave., Alameda. Open Monday through Friday 6AM to 5PM; Saturday and Sunday 6AM to 6PM.

She also will be exhibiting at Expressions Gallery in Berkeley January 25 to April 18 with a Reception: Saturday, January 25, 6PM to 8PM. More information at expressionsgallery.org.

Also ProArts Gallery in Oaktown has accepted two paintings from her "City Live" series. Reception: First Friday, February 7, 6PM to 8PM. More information at proartsgallery.org

Vessel, always the venue for fascinating exhibits in an extraordinary setting on 25th in Oaktown announces "Pareidolia: New Works" by Donald Fortescue.

  • OPENS January 16, 6:30-8PM, Artist Reception.
  • EXHIBITS January 16 - February 22, 2014.
  • ARTIST TALK February 8, 2-3:30PM. Oakland Art Murmur Celebration on February 7, 6-9PM - Open to the Public.
  • WHERE: Vessel Gallery, 471 25th Street, Oakland, CA 94612,
  • CONTACT: 510 893 8800.

"Pareidolia” is the psychological phenomenon whereby a vague or random stimulus (often an image or sound) is perceived as significant or having recognizable form - classical examples being seeing the “man” in the moon, the Shroud of Turin, and the “face” in the Cydonia region of Mars.

The ever tasteful and sensually evocative SLATE lets us know Elise Morris: Paintings; Helen Dannelly: Sculpture ends January 25.

Upcoming there in the 25th Street barn we see Michelle Knox: Perceptions - an immersive glass sculpture installation
January 30–March 8. Opening Reception : Friday Feb 7th, 5–6pm, followed by Oakland Art Murmur 6–9pm

Don't see much happening in the way of concert news, save that Willie Nelson will be at the Greek with the Drive by Truckers, unfortunately without Jason Isbell, but still a show worth capturing from beginning to end. That one is slated for early Spring. Willie has impressed us with a recent repetoire that has forayed beyond the narrow limits of defined Country, but we bet the old outlaw still wears his guns on the outside of his pants for all the world to see.

NOTHING CHANGES ON NEW YEARS DAY

So anyway, Wally's son Joshua is still holed up in the sanctuary of the Greek Orthodox church up on the hill. Mr. Spline, the CIA undercover operative assigned to keep tabs on the man who blew the whistle on the illegal wiretapping of mayor's office phones in the Bay Area and the controversial practice of "bagel boarding", which featured forcefeeding terrier suspects with schmier laced with smoked oysters and ham (oy gevalt!), uncovered the plan to spirit Joshua away to a safe haven country via the secret network of underground Mormon tunnels and so thwarted our hero's escape by stationing a platoon of Marines at the Exits of Moroni.

Now that the Hollardays are done for a while, with no more religiousity to impinge on anyone having a good time until the Vernal Equinox, all the pastors and ministers have been having a good time socializing with one another. Even Pastor Nance Haughtboy of the First Methodist Church has been dropping in for these informal gatherings in the playroom of the Old Same Place Bar where they play boardgames, snooker, and out back, mumbly peg (so as to test the solidity of faith). The Hari Krishnas came and sang and Reverend Jesse Washington of the Second Baptist Church played the piano, which he had learned during his days as an unrepenetant sinner in houses of ill-repute, but now that he was saved, it was all good.

Newly joined to them was Reverend Michael Hursey of the Church of Truffles, who clad entirely in white robes with Sister Tremors brought in a box of messy powdered chocolates.

ArchBishop Mitty brought in some Everett and Jones BBQ and Reverend Leroi Howler brought in buckets of fried chicken, which caused all of them to praise god for the bounty. Naturally, Reverend Rev. Jason Arrabiata, CFSM, brought buckets of spaghetti and meat sauce and there was all sorts of praying and eating and praise and a fine ecclesiastical time was had by all.

The only group which did not show up were La Luz del Mundo de Occupado Parking Space, for those self-appointed aspostles did not mix well with others and were fond of holding not one, not two, but three services lasting each about three hours per day, seven days a week, and so the apostles of LLDMDOPS were sore fatigued from preaching day in and day ou,t and from their competition with the Non Compos Mentis chapter of the National Association of the Directionally Challenged and Traffic Enfeebled.

Indeed Floyd was back in town for the Biannual Meeting Series, which typically spread itself out over the course of two weeks as it was extremely difficult to get all attendees in any one spot at any one particularly arranged time.

Once again the theme for the whitepaper presetation was the arcane art of the Stealth Turn, a maneuver that seeks to employ the turn signals in ever more creative ways.

Many claim that NorCal drivers are the worst in the world. That is not true, for that distinction has been held for nearly half a century by the Italians who live in and around the vicinity of Milano, where the fine art of driving backwards on the wrong side of the road has been passed on from father to son, mother to daughter, for several generations.

Nevertheless, we do practice.

There might be some collusion there between Floyd's group and at least one of the religious groups for wherever the Directionally challenged go in an automobile, there is always heard a great deal of calling of, "O my god! Save us!"

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights; 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, 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 in the upcoming year ahead.

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

January 5, 2014

EXCELLENT BIRDS

This time of year the Eastern ramparts of the Sierra stand dark and forbidding with cold granite slabs pounded by cold ice rain or snow. The approaches are iffy in reliability due to the ferocious blizzards that can seal off passes for days at a time. Hence the area tends to become infrequently visited save for the ski resorts, Tahoe where the crowds clog the resorts and the chi chi chalets. Further down, where the mountains get serious around the Pinnacles and Crowley Lake, the land remains desolate, pristine, beautifully untenanted.

Which is just fine for Islanders Mike and Agnes, both of whom possess serious woodcraft skills. Mike was a card-carrying pulaski wielder on the slopes of fire back in the day and Agnes was a Park Ranger. Hence their holiday pics tend to be like this one taken by Agnes.

WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS

Now that 2013 is finally finished for good, we hope that you liked what was coming to you this past Xmas. We are off to a new start with that year's 51 issues split into two sites and tucked away in the Archives. If you want to relive that special moment or recall the news go the the back issues section.

We will be tidying up the Stories section to clear space on the server and generally sprucing up the layout.

Never fear - the obnoxious "floating radio" will not return.

The annual Island Life Holiday CD is back. It's ready and in the can, with the proviso that we get the Island Hebephrenic Chorus together long enough and on their meds to perform Deck the Halls. Otherwise we will have to make do with the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum group Effexor.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

The venues were packed with unknown fresh talent this Hollarday Season, with extraordinarily little in the way of starpower driving the concerts. We suspect sticker-shock was responsible for much of the stay-home behavior. The NSSN event cost easily over $200 for two people when you factor in the exhorbitant parking fee, surcharges, snacks and drinks, etc.

General word had it that people with incomes to allow it fled the Bay Area in droves for places lacking electrical sockets and LED advertising boards. Mexico, Arizona, even France, according to one reporter. All to escape the "buy now and save" barrage that swelled to a crescendo even as retailers across the country reported sale figures so dismal, they were all comparing the Black Friday results to the wretched year of 2008 the middle of the Great Recession.

Much of the content in the weeklies and in the EBX touch on the state of retail outlets. One article ("Bars, restaurants squeezing out retail", Angela Woodall) bemoaned the loss of long-time retail stores in Oakland, which is seeing a 5% vacancy rate for commercial space in the desireable Tgraph and Broadway corridor between 16th and 27th.

On the upside a front page item hopefully states that the City's sales tax revenue went up last quarter by 5%. So we must be doing something right even though there are prominent vacancies in all locations which reported higher sales tax figures.

Ironically, financial planners are forcasting a swell of escapees from San Francisco's incredibly high rents which are hammering businesses and slowing the process of recovery from the Recession.

Also very good news comes from the 187 report in Oaktown: "Oakland sees big drop in homicides."

The toll of the slain has dropped to 91 in 2013 from 131 recorded in 2012. Of this number 88 were classified as murder, with 3 deaths attributed to "justifiable homicide", generally involving police use of deadly force.

All regional cities in the ABAG area that encompasses five counties reported drops in homicide reports.. San Francisco's tally fell from 69 to 48 for 2013.

Various factors for this improvement are listed, with obvious emphasis placed where agencies want increased funding for projects. A clear standout was the dismantling of two violent gangs due to the results of long term investigations. Another seems to be a main function of the bad economy. There just is not the same amount of money to be earned easily by dealing drugs and robbing people who have no cash, so many criminals have moved to softer targets such as identity theft. This comes from self reports of street criminals convicted of shooting or murder.

Ironically, hard times have put a damper on the kinds of activity that led to violence.

Remember a couple issues back when we warned property owners to take care of seemingly insignificant electrical issues because of fire hazard? Front page Sun article mentions two substantial fires, with the second fire's cause clearly stated as "electrical in origin".

Once again, get rid of that old two-wire and knob construction. It was fine back in the day when it did not matter when poles reversed polarity, but not today. Some of the houses on this island have subpanels that predate the implementation of TV sets as a popular form of entertainment. Let alone microwaves, computers and printers, Ipods, multiple chargers for phones, tablets, cameras, toys, internet devices, grounded COAX, etc.

Talk about a new ferry facility down near the Hornet has reached the level of projected start dates of this summer for dredging and demolition of some existing structures. The facility will service the WETA ferry boats and will also include an extension of the scenic Bay Trail.

The Navy League, one of the last holdover reminders of the big Navy presence here, will be holding its 4th annual crab feed on Saturday, 1/11/14. The event is a fundraiser to support the sea services of Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and the Sea Cadets. Call 749-9175 for info.

COLD RAIN AND SNOW

So anyway, the new year rolled past with only a minor smidgen of hooliganism. The pavement in front of the house down the block was littered with streamers, spent Black Cats, fizzled fizzlers, and sparklers which had lost their luster, indicating somebody stayed up late, but so many people had left town the homeboys could hardly muster a decent barrage of AK-47 from the top balconies in Oaktown. In fact it sounded more like a salute to someone who had passed on than a joyous celebration.

This year is slow ramping up newswise, largely because of two factors: most of the country beyond the Great Divide is freezing its collective buns off with minus zero temperatures and truckloads of snow hammering just about every service, every business, every facility in every state. Secondly, as pundits have indicated sagaciously, nobody has any money. Well, not exactly true, in that anyone who can afford to look at the Stock Market has beaucoups cash. But there are not a lot of those.

Even los migras are packing up to leave, seeing that the American Dream of work hard to improve your standing and yourself is dead.

Yes friends, once again it is Mourning in America.

As for the Island, change always comes slowly. Now is the time of post-event, of afterglow from the Hollardays. No more furious running around to find last-minute gifts, no more frantic driving, no more standing in lines with hundreds of other people snagging those remaining things for the kitchen to serve drop-ins, visitors from out-of-town, Company. The holiday occured midweek but for many, instead of taking the entire thing off, it was just a brief hiatus as the budget does not allow taking time off. There were too many chores to accomplish.

Pedro Almeida is already out on his boat taking crab during the height of the season. Marsha and Tipitina rode the ferry in to the City where no one can afford to live anymore to report to their McJobs. Suan worked through the Hollarday, as supposedly convivial times that feature the mask of assumed happiness become major draws for places like the Crazy Horse Saloon, with its private booths and pole dancers.

Veriflo enjoys the benefits of a strong union, so the factory remained shuttered, save for exempt employees and a few earning overtime, leaving Martini and Pahrump at loose ends.

Little Adam stayed home, as the schools had shut down, so the group of them went out to the Strand to pitch pebbles and walk out on the mudflats under the roiling grey sky of the New Year.

Temperatures were not frigid enough to make people want to move back to New Jersey or Bear Lake, but they remained at the chill level that sapped the heat out of everything, given enough time.

Out there with the seagulls calling their signals to each other and the tide way out, leaving bare the broad shelf of packed sand, they looked across the gelid aqua-green Bay to the City that once promised so much and now has become so average by way of greed.

Javier, Jose, Martini, Sarah and Pahrump stood there with their hands deep in their coat pockets watching Adam run on the beach with the dogs Bonkers and Wickiwup and Johnny Cash. Arthur, of the Soul Brothers Upholstery Shop, had joined them.

Martini was in an emo state of being since an aunt of his, the last of his father's house in Antioch, had died in mid December. He knew her and he had not known her as family, the way it always develops in America. There had been promises of a "great wish" and the promises withdrawn. There had been threats and supplications and complexity. Real and imagined slights. The usual family affair sort of business. Now, all disputation had ended, leaving just the ashes.

"Things have been bad for so long," Martini said. "Ever since the Ronny Raygun. And getting worse."

"Don't see much difference in my direction," Pahrump said. "White men still own Reno."

"Yo." Arthur said, in support of the sentiment.

"My question," Martini said. "Is what next."

The sun was going down beyond the distant undulations of Babylon and lights in the ticky-tacky boxes on the hillsides began building the ropes of luminescent pearls as the pale horizon flushed with bright grenadine and blue anisette striped with creme du menthe colors, indicating the Sun was hellbent on a sweet bender after work.
Good to think that even Mssr. Soleil can kick back with his feet up and enjoy some time off, perhaps starting with a bit of Galliano.

Over at the Church of La Luz de Mundo de Occupado Parking Space where the Minister held forth at length on how to dominate parking spaces for blocks by means of stealth, guile and forcefulness, the congregation was going through ecstatic fits of chanting in tongues, writhing on the floor and doing the busline hokey pokey.

"If they ask you what are we doing here with our three services from five in the morning until ten o'clock at night seven days a week (including holidays) tell them you are 'making something'. Yes!"

"Say it brother!"

"Because we are building the New Jerusalem on earth and in Heaven. Each day we are adding bricks and mortar of Faith for the brand new buildings to house the Faithful unto the Lawrd! We are building a Metropolis of the Saints!"

"O sweet Jaysus! O hallalujia! Hallallujia!"

"And everybody knows a Metropolis needs parking spaces. So go out and seize them brothers and sisters! Other churches meet just for a miserly one hour on one day for the week. We enjoy 20 hours a day seven days a week and we need that parking more than the unwashed heathen who live around here. We come from far distant Antioch and Hercules and Pittsburg and Dublin and we are on a mission to wrest the parking spaces of this world from the debbil! For as all of us know, an idle space is debbil space! So build brothers and sisters! Build! Build! Build! our Heavenly Metropolis!"

"O hallalujia! Praise Gawd!"

Denby, listening to this from outside the hall shook his head. Those damned Developers have gotten into everything such that not even your spirituality was safe from their mantra. And so he walked on from that busy place of light and noise, thinking, "Religion sure has gotten wierd these days".

As he passed the Unitarian Church, he saw Reverend Irene Freethought taking down the holiday lights, which of course featured pan religion symbols, including but not exclusive to the lotus blossom, star of David, menorah, crescent of Islam, hari krishna verses, Sheela na Gig, Krampus, glowing crosses with diagonal stripes, horizontal stripes, no stripes, hooks to recall sun worship, and scads of others.

She was in a precarious position on the footstool, which had legs that sank into the soft sod, nearly causing an ecclesiastical contretemps. Denby stepped forward to assist with thanks, as he stood several inches taller than the Reverend.

Together, the apostate and the preacher labored to remove the seasonal hangings draped along the gutters and the announcement board. Denby did this because that is the way he is and the way things used to be, people stepped in spontaneously to help out each other, knowing life here on earth is fraught with difficulty and danger, and good deeds rewarded themselves. Back in the day of Alta California.

When it was just about done, Reverend Freethought invited Denby in for tea or brandy.

"Don't mind if I do," Denby said.

It was late in the evening by the time Denby left after talking about music and politics and island racoons for several hours. Denby had not thought a minister could have so much knowledge about the world and be so interesting and . . . the interesting way the kitchen light touched her face set with blue eyes and framed by its head of short, practical hair. He thought he might drop in for a visit again some time. A good way to start the year.

Heading out through the Golden Gate on his crab boat, El Borracho Perdido, Pedro switched on his radio to listen to his favorite variety show hosted by the televangelist Pastor Rotschue. This week the Lutheran minister was broadcasting from Nourse Theatre in San Francisco and he had a lovely woman on who sang folk and bluegrass. Well, it was radio, and the woman sounded like she was lovely. Some day he would have to scrape together the dinero and take Mrs. Almeida over there to see the man in person.

The air smelled fresh, the seas were relatively calm and the woman's voice lilted out of the bright cabin over the dark chop with an old song by the Everly Brothers.

Each time we meet love
I find complete love
Without your sweet love what would life be

So never leave me lonely
Tell me you love me only
And that you'll always let it be me

A good way to start the year.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their sentry lights; 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, moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, 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 in the upcoming year ahead.

 

DECEMBER 29, 2013

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

For the final images of 2013 we leave you folks with this somewhat wistful fellow standing all by himself on a postage-stamp lawn here on the island, wishing everyone a happier and better new year.

NEW TIMES! NEW TIMES! NEW NEW NEW TIMES!

Its been a slow news week with the kids out of school, all the public employees attending holiday functions instead of screwing us up some more. and loads upon loads of retrospectives. The Planning Board did sit down to talk about plans for the 22 acre Jean Sweeny Open Space Park. Most worrisome comment made was by PB President David Burton who said, "This is a gigantic parcel of land and there is a wide variety of things that could happen here."

Well you know you all could just leave it alone. But no. Something will just have to be constructed.

In other news fellow blogger Lauren Do made some ascerbic comments about Tony Dasog heavily using Twitter during a Council Meeting in Silly Hall. Ms. Do found it kind of wierd that a councilperson would do that during a meeting, indicating that probably paying attention would be a better use of the paid public employee's time. Interestingly Daysog responded in a manner that clearly missed every salient point made by blogger Do in classic politico fashion by recognizing an issue and then addressing a number of points which had nothing to do with it, inexplicably citing the Sunshine Ordinance before dismissing it as irrelevant.

It is clear why comedy clubs do not fare well in this down - as Mr. Daysog indicated, attendance to any council meeting is free and available to all.

In the police blotter we note a whopping 10 persons 5150'ed, or "detained for psychiatric observation", which usually means being sent to John George for 72 hour hold. Five of those were reported on Friday alone.

As expected we see a plethora of burglaries and grand theft and the usual raft of public drunks. Two cases of dog and cat bites apiece. Could be worse.

Nice pics of the defunct Neptune Beach in its heyday on pages 2 and 3 of the Sun, BTW.

New Year's means that this will be another broken week for some people getting a day off Wednesday only to return to Scrooge and Marley for the painful days after.

New Year's also means a return to the Avoid the 21 cash incentive program -- excuse me, we mean the concentrated law enforcement initiative -- to snag drunk drivers. On the Island virtually every restaurant and venue is doing something, including the gala at the Hornet. Josh Kornbluth will be gracing Rhythmix this year in stiff competition to Silly Hall.

Our readership as shrunk so we cannot afford to lose any of you; so do not drink and drive. We want to hear from you in the New Yeark.

SEE YOU IN THE CELTIC NEW YEAR

So anyway we come now to the final days of the year 2013, which has seen such political acrimony and hardball style that the Commonweal got injured in all the fracas. The Body Politic had taken significant beatings before this, and the Constitution stands now in need of a few stitches and some transfusion to replace all the blood loss. The Nation shall survive, but rehab shall likely be a slow and painful process. Fortunately now is the case that no one can be denied health care because of a previous condition.

With the schools closed Ms. Morales (now Mrs. Sanchez) has been spending her time the way most schoolteachers do on their days off - writing up new lesson plans, mending torn textbook covers, purchasing supplies the District fails to provide, and catching up with former pupils of hers at Longfellow and Encinal.

She has seen a number of generations come and go, from Edison (Go Otters!) to Longfellow and the Home of the Jets high school ("When you're a Jet, You're a Jet all the way") so there is a fair amount of catching up to do. The troubled Karen has managed to stay in college after finding a group of goth kids just like her, and so one potential human arc remained on her trajectory up and out of the small town corrosion that nearly destroyed her.

Some others -- not so lucky. As a teacher you can never take full credit for the failures or the successes - you do your best to be there for them. Her friend Sharon, the Crisis Nurse Practitioner at the Creek Psychiatric Crisis Center sometimes would burst into tears on the phone, saying, "I lost him! I lost him" about some casualty of the 8.5 million metropolis that embraced, sometimes roughly, the tiny little Island city. But then she worked over in Oaktown, where life is a waiting game for many.

Because the Island has no real mental health services she saw many neighbors on the brink drop in there.

"I hate this place!" Sharon says angrily. "Why did they not case manage him when I asked? I should move away tomorrow!"

"Well, you would like St. Paul," said Ms. Morales, who had visited only one other place in the United States other than the Bay Area since coming to this country from the Phillipines.

"O heck no. Too cold in the winter! I would rather go south. San Luis Obispo maybe."

"We would miss you," Ms. Morales said. She knew that Sharon would never move. The sick little island, as she called it, needed her too much.

On the streets of the island, Officer O'Madhauen prowled in his cruiser, looking for the stray crosswalk scofflaw, the speeder, the stoplight shuffler. There had been a rash of burglaries on the Island, but sooner or latter, they'll run a red light and then! He'll have 'em!

In the Almeida household, Pedro is enjoying a couple days off from hauling crab, puttering about the house, repairing the chicken coop, resealing the toilets, and fixing the wretched wiring by running number 10 ground wire down and out to the rod, trying to undo years of lousy two-wire knob and tube that reversed polarity about as often as regulars to one of those fancy dives where the men dress as women.

In other matters he got underfoot and in the way of Mrs. Almeida who was heartily glad the Hollardays were coming soon to an end before she could get pregnant again.

At Marlene and Andre's household on Shoreline, all sixteen souls who called that place home due to the obscene rental situation had been living cheek by jowel during the cold snap when normally the pressure would have eased by folks sleeping on the beach or at the Shelter. As the night extended itself langorously with a purring stretch, the ragged and battered Xmas tree glimmered in its washtub. Deep into the night, as snores and sleeping rustles filled the cottage, a small marsupial snout emerged from the hole in its trunk, followed by a bulbous form that lumbered quietly across the bodies wrapped in sleeping bags, over the coffee table that housed Occasional Quentin and prowled along the floorboards looking for an escape from the madness without success. The opossum sat and wept quietly when no egress was to be found, before it grabbed a macaroon someone had hung from the tree and there sat on its haunches to eat it as a sliver of moon watched through the window.

The animal then crawled back into the washtub and into its hole and curled up there to sleep with the others of that dysfunctional family household.

In the Old Same Place, Padriac and Dawn and Suzie handled the Hollarday business efficiently and with success while Denby plunked on his guitar in the corner. Suzie observed the rituals, the lines, the dances and the happy unifications that departed the bar entangled arm in arm with equanimity before opening late into the evening her anthropology text. "The Bonobo forgo the tedious courtship rituals found in other tribal groups, preferring to simply state the preference or offer, which is usually accepted with alacrity as they enjoy mating at any time of day and any season for procreation or simply for the sheer joy . . .".

As for Suzie, the jewel yet undiscovered, the Hollardays consisted of visits with friends and a single, small, roasted turkey. Per Island Life tradition.

An expletive broke into her thoughts as the door opened to let out a happy couple. The expletive came from a blonde with crooked lipstick at the bar, who said, "Lost him! Nearly had that guy and then that Valerie! Such a bitch! Gimmee a gimlet."

"Life's tough, girlfriend," Suzie said as she liberally overpoured and delivered the drink.

"Thanks pal."

Down by the Estuary near the Park Street bridge abutment Wootie's tame moose herd snuffled and shifted in the darkness. Eunice the moose, for once remained quiet, but deep within her she dreamed of the perfect escape, running through forests in the far north, far distant from these trammels and imagining the cries of dismay from Wootie Kanootie: "Lost her! I've Lost her!".

Eugene Gallipagus tosses in his own dreams in his bed. Of the time the Great Golden Trout appeared to him at Lake Martha. And his great dispair as the line parted with a snap. The big one that got away. Lost him.

Father Danyluk paced in his chambers before going over for the traditional annual nightcap he enjoyed with Pastor Nyquist who seems genuinely happy as Sister Profundity lets the Lutheran into the rectory annex where the fireplace is already burning bright.

It has been the habit of the two friends to have this forbidden meeting each year. As Pastor Nyquist put it, "You and I we have made our seperate peace."

Indeed the Lutheran pastor enjoyed the high quality of spirits kept by the Catholic priest in the larder and the Catholic priest had long enjoyed the superior singing skills of the Lutheran congregation as loaners during the Xmas pageant and Easter.

"You look troubled," the Lutheran said.

"Ah. The Mendoza family would not hear of any help and now Jorge has gone off to San Quentin on assault with a deadly weapon. On top of the robbery charge."

"I heard about that one," Nyquist said.

"Afraid I've lost him," said the priest.

"Can't save everyone," the Lutheran said, inviting a distracting evening of debate.

And as per usual, the social evening ended the same way each year. Both men asleep in their armchairs before the fire.

The Editor bid everyone a good night and a happy new year as the place closed up for the final issue of the year. The Editor stood before the window watching the granddaddy racoon run back and forth in the yard, cigar firmly in place, hands clasped behind his back like Admiral Horatio.

He never knew exactly how to wrap things up. Everything, including Life, seemed always so tentative, subject to last minute revisions. A lot of issues last year had turned out wretchedly bad. But cannot dwell on that. The past year had been packed with many, many disappointments. Old friends had died and others had gotten married. Many things had not gone well. An old friend had come to him complaining about all the evil in the world, all the assholes. She, an otherwise pacific person, said she wanted to line them all up against a wall when the spirit moved her. See them fall.

And for some reason he thought about the replicant in Bladerunner who tried to prolong his life, such as it was, by driving a nail through his palm so as to prevent the hand from closing into a fist.

What kind of poetry is that, to imagine that death is the hand closing into a fist?

And yet as the replicant died and the fist closed, a dove escaped from his other hand. So that is the way it is -- one hand closes into a fist and becomes death; the other opens and becomes human, allows life to continue. That's always the way it is -- can't take credit for the wins or bemoan the losses. Life is tough, girlfriend. Life is being there at all.

In a little while, bottlerockets, fizzlers, M80's and all sorts of ruckus would terrify all the neighborhood dogs in bringing in the New Year. Might as well get ready for whatever comes next.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; 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 weedy 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.

 


 

 

 

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