Island Life

Vol. 18 - No. 30Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday September 25, 2016


Current Edition - Year 2016


Welcome to the 18th 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 2016, visit the Archives.


The Editor
Denby -
Reporter
Bea -
Artwork
Chad -
Coding
Tammy -
Fotos
Hildegard -
Europe News


SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

FIVE LEAVES LEFT

This week we have a photo from Tammy of a "donut tree", a sort of landscaping curiousity particular to this island where the power utility shares space with the Corporate Yard folks.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Ron Cowan does not have a name that resonates with pleasure among many old-timers here, and recently his real estate development outfit has pursued several quite obnoxious lines out at Harbor Bay Isle, however we owe his unusual commute to jump-starting the renewal of the ferry service that dominated cross-bay traffic for over 100 years until trains got put across the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate was completed.

Those bridges killed the enormous ferry system which had existed up until bridges kiboshed the slower trans-bay intercourse. But in 1989, Ron Cowan was flying in his usual helicopter commute from Marin County to the Island when the infamous 5:05 Loma Prieta earthquake snipped the Bay Bridge and dropped a mile-long section of the Cypress Freeway in the East Bay.

Cowan worked with Bill Lockyer (D - Cal. Senate), Willie Brown, and Don Perata to create the Water Transit Authority that now oversees the extended ferry system which today carries more than 2 million passengers to and from five cities and which also forms a substantial part of the emergency response system to disaster.

In recognition of his efforts, last Thursday, the Water Emergency Transportation Administration (WETA) broke ground at Alameda Point for its $49.5 million Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility and named the facility after Ron Cowan.

NO MOVERAN

It is no surprise that the Letters to the Editor feature a number of irate-in-advance protestations about the rent control initiative to appear on November's ballot. It is interesting that the anti-initiative letters begin with phrases like "we had planned on " and "we took a calculated risk". Well, some sympathy can go to people who stretched their means to purchase something that turned out, in all reality, to be unaffordable. Of course people want to own their own home -- look how lousy it is to be a renter in these parts -- so it can be somewhat excused that people engaged in a little rose-tinted viewing when looking at a future that counted as an inflexible line item income that would not only provide substantial income, but also help pay off mortgage costs and still provide for retirement set-by (all on the basis of a single unit).

But you know, "calculated risk" features the key noun "risk" and as it so happened, things got economically sucky all around. You can blame Liberals and you can blame intransigent Republicans, but who is to blame is entirely beside the point that the average joe is worse off than before Ronnie Raygun rehabilitated a bunch of criminals indicted under Nixon's regime and a bunch of Democrats failed to keep it in their pants to our cost.

It now costs $8,000 and more to move -- we just saw several households do it -- so if you evict somebody as part of your personal economic plan, it stands to reason that somebody needs to pay the cost to be the boss. The renters do not have that money -- if they did, they would own their own homes. And it is all too common, and becoming the rule, that landlords are "retaining" 100 of the security deposits, adding further cost to the expensive proposition of shunting services and belongings to another place which certainly will demand yet another unrecoverable "deposit."

Look. We have sympathy for anybody trying to make it in these times, and there is no crime in owning property. There is also no crime in making decisions based on calculated risk. But we assume this calculation -- because it IS calculated -- includes the options to recover should the investment NOT payout, not achieve favorable outcome. Right now, we have that scenario precisely.

And the big elephant in the room about which no one on either side is speaking, is that Rent Control is neither the big problem nor the panacea. Things are going to be bad no matter what happens in November, and Rent Control is the least problem about which the small holders should be concerned. As for the relocation costs, we are sorry but we cannot sympathize with someone who is treating tenants with Baronial indifference on eviction simply because that is the most convenient thing for the landlord to do. Use people for months or years to pay your expenses and then turn them out on the street to fend for themselves and have them pay their own costs to desperately find a place to live in a heated market.

Some have said, "if you are so foolish as to live in a place you cannot afford, then you deserve your pain."

Well, that statement applies to both landholders as well as renters. If the house costs too much, just refuse to pay the price. It is as simple as that. Anything said about people living beyond their means about renters goes back the other way. While in the middle of all this, the Big Property people, the management companies and realty firms from out of state -- and a couple residing here -- continue to make big bucks no matter who loses. Win or lose, they will always get the commission.

At some point, people just need to stand up and say collectively, "This costs too much. I refuse to pay." That is when things will change as they did during the Prop 13 revolution. It might not be for the better, but things certainly would change.

NIGHT MOVES

So anyway, things had started cooling properly when suddenly we all got body-slammed by an end-of-summer heatwave that steadily rose through the weekend, which had folks scurrying to the Strand to cool off. Now that school is back in session and we have no holidays for a long stretch into the formal Horror Days of Winter, life routinizes. Larry Larch gets up each morning at 5 to do his morning jog, read the NYT and have his Noah' s Bagel before trotting off to the office. Tipitina rouses herself in the Household to trundle out of her rented cot to pedal over to the ferry and ride across to Babylon for another day at the office. Martini heads out in the early hours on the back of Pahrump's scooter for his commute to the Veriflo factory in Richmond where he worked as a sawboy, cutting the immense 30 foot alloy ingots into workable four pound chunks.

As is customary with him, The Editor arises from his narrow cot and cranks out 25 good ones with his chin touching the floor on each rep, followed by 100 crunches. Then the 5 mile run out along the Strand, around the base of the disputed Bicycle Bridge, out to Mount Trashmore and back along the Estuary before the sun comes up. 15 more good ones, remembering the days when he could crack out easily 100, and then a shower and the day begins, but with a new ache around his sternum.

Before going to the Offices, the Editor looks out from The Point at the shrouded Golden Gate and the misty headlands to the north. Musing, he asks for help to tell the story of an ingenious man of many devices, one who was never at a loss. He wandered far after the fall of Saigon. He visited many cities in his travels and learned there the ways of different men. He suffered many woes in his heart upon the sea, seeking to save his own life and the return of his comrades. Yet even so he saved not his comrades, though he desired it sore, for through their own blind folly they perished — fools, who devoured the kine of Helios Hyperion; but he took from them the day of their returning. Although he longed for peace he was kept on an Island by the goddess Calypso for many years.

These things The Editor thought while gazing across the water at the distant, misty Headlands. He breathed the air of Autumn, the Season of Changes. And as the seasons revolved, the year came in which the gods had ordained that he should return home, and all the gods pitied him save Poseidon who continued to rage unceasingly.

He entered his office and touched the long object that leaned against the wall: crossword puzzle answer, canoe propeller, boat propulsion, sturdy flat-blade thing. Soon it would be time to shoulder this thing and walk with it until he came to the place where no one knew its name or its use.

It was coming to the time that he must leave Calypso's Island.

As the day's temperature rose higher to break all records for the hottest September day ever recorded, people fled the burning streets, although some herded their little ones to pools and other water sources. Even the bandit lemonade stands stood empty as the land baked and kids looked for things to occupy themselves when running around proved too treacherous.

"It's hotter 'n a witch's titties" said Jimmy. They were sitting up in the Parkinson's tree that overhung the yard. It was okay to climb in that tree because this part overhung their part of the property so it wasn't trespassing.

"How you know about that?" said Jonas.

"It's what people say," said Jimmy.

"I bet you know all about witches and their titties," said Jonas.

"I do not," said Jonas. "It's what people say."

"You like to feel 'em up, dontcha?" said Jonas. "All wrinkly and baggy and stuff. That's disgusting."

"It's hot enough to boil an egg," Jimmy said.

"Hot enough to fry an egg you dumbass!"

"I aint no dumbass. Let's go get an egg and put it out on the curb and watch it."

In a little while Mrs. Moreno came out the back, shouting. "Hey! Somebody left the refridgerator door wide open! And the eggs are all gone!"

"O for pete's sake!" Jimmy said. "We better go hide. . .".

Time on the Island that forgot Time nevertheless advanced to bring long shadows and sun spearing the eyes of people still driving in the late afternoon. Moms stepped out on their porches all over the Gold Coast area to call their kids in for supper. It might be fajitas and frijoles. There might be rice and beans. But there would be no huevos, that evening or in the morning.

Mr. Cribbage paused in his driveway, noticing something over on the curb as he unloaded his golf clubs and so walked over in his plus-fours to stare down, puzzled, at a fried egg sitting there quite nonchalantly, with no sign of egg shells around it. He looked up at the trees. Darned blue jays, probably. They are known to be nest robbers. He then went in for the first of several gin rickeys.

Mr. Howitzer sat at his desk in his study attending to property matters until he came to the reciepts for the house on Otis, the one occupied by that punk and his squalid family. Looked like the rent had not been raised in a while and he really would be a fool in this market not to get every penny he could out of that place. Thank heaven it was all income for he refused to put a single dirty sou into maintenance. So much the better. He would pop them another thousand for the cottage and they could pay it or move out. Simple as that and best to do before that darned rent control got passed. That it would pass, he had no doubt, for he knew Kane realty as the prime mover against it and he knew Kane to be a miserable incompetant boob who had botched things right and left, although he did admire somewhat her viciousness. He set the papers aside to deal with on the morrow. About a thousand more felt about right and he could always jack it up again in six months or so. Maybe three.

After all, there was no rent control as of yet.

At Marlene and Andre's the Household members, living in the house owned by Mr. Howitzer, all were sprawled outside in various states of limpid undress until the evening winds shifted around to bring cooling air to the land. Andre came out to strum his guitar on the deck beside the hole created some years ago on Javier's fiftieth birthday when the house had nearly burned down. Mr. Howitzer had never put in smoke alarms or sprinkler systems so everyone would have died that night had not the four impromptue firemen not fought until dawn to get the thing under control.

"Helllllllo. I've waited for you," sang Andre softly. "Waited everlong."

Marlene came out wearing her black tee and cutoffs and leaned against the post, her long black hair flowing like midnight. Rolph lay in a lounge chair down below facing the Bay. Martini came around the side after dinking in the ironmongery garden until it was too dark to see. Pahrump finished fiddling with his scooter and Javier brought out the inevitable three gallon jug of wine. Snuffles the bum soon joined him. Piedro had his book, lit by a cap light fastened to the bill of his Oakland A's souvenir. Tipitina, born in the deep south, wore a simple long dress after work and talked quietly with Sarah and Marsha. Suan had gone to work at the Crazy Horse, where she figured she had only a couple more years left doing the pole thing there.

Looking out Andre noticed that almost everyone was there on a late September evening. He knew their stories, how each one had been damaged and descended sometimes in fire sometimes in rain to dwell there in that Household. And then, there was Marlene, her figure now a silhouette created by the crescent moon. Her hair dark as midnight.

Andre downtuned the bass and strummed a 3/4 time.

Xavier brought out the switchbroom and swept out a place on the deck so he could sit down there.

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin'
We could dream this night away.

As the fragile human beings continued their lives up above the rats scurried through the understory of the old house, flitting through the frayed wiring and the fallen insulation and the rusting central heating unit, which although it had not been used in a long time, still had live connections to the mains, connections which had been installed without relays or switches in the days before codes and inspections. And of course Mr. Howitzer was a fond patron of that thing called euphemistically "deferred maintenance."

One rat paused to sniff the corpse of a fellow who had made the bad mistake of chewing at the insulation leading to the still live igniter. Something had happened here. Something was about to happen again. The rat reached out tentatively to touch the bright copper made shiny by a ray of moonlight.

"What was that?" Marsha said.

"What was what?" Tipitina said.

"I thought I heard some animal cry out." Marsha said.

Just then the howl of the throughpassing train ululated from across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights, quavered across the starlit waves of the estuary, over the riprap embankments, over the moon-silvered grasses of the Buena Vista flats and over the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the defunct Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

 

SEPTEMBER 18, 2016

ON THIS HARVEST MOON

We looked about and found nobody on staff had taken recent pics of the moon. Heavens! Indeed, heavens. We are shocked, simply shocked. So here is an image taken of the 2015 "blood moon" over the trees in Bishop at an elevation of 4800 feet on the far side of the Sierra during the last Island-Life Mountain Sabbatical.


THIS ISLAND LIFE

There was a recent power outage in Oaktown across the water, but due to our independent power company grid, Islanders barely noticed. The area affected runs from just west of Interstate 980 to Broadway, and north to south from 16th to 11th streets. Power was back on end of Friday evening.

While a certain bankcruptcy that affected a major Asian shipper put a kibosh on deliveries and Port income, another service identified as Calco-C announced that a weekly stop of vessels coming from Asia would increase cargo volume at the port by as much as 30,000 20-foot containers per year. This will certainly boost the area economy by a significant factor.

The new service is operated by Tokyo-based K Line, Taiwan-based Wan Hai Lines and Pacific International Lines from Singapore. The three ocean carriers deploy seven ships for the service. Each ship is capable of carrying between 8,000 and 9,000 20-foot containers, according to port officials.

The weekly arrivals at the port's Oakland International Container Terminal are scheduled to begin on Nov. 6 and should result in a boost of hiring for longshoremen.

Friday was Mexican Independence Day, which is not exactly the day that Mexico achieved definitive independence (that occured ten years later in 1821) but this is the day that the revolution led by Father Hidalgo and co-conspirators Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama began in the town of Dolores by ringing the church bell as a call to arms.

This date is significant to California, for as of this date, Mexico, already diffidently interested in the northern department of Alta California, completely abandoned its territory as it struggled to organize itself as a new nation, leaving the California department as a defacto independent state until the Mexican-American war of 1846.

WHATS THE BUZZ

Looking at October we see Richard Shindell has a new Cd out and is coming to the West Coast to promote it! Yay! Richard Shindell left the USA to live in South American when the Great Pretender George Bush was appointed by his father's friends to be President and so has been sorely missed around here. He will be appearing at the Freight October 6th. Expect this one to sell out.

Also showing up for a rare appearance will be Chris Smither, a singer/songwriter who just seems to get better and better with age. He will be skirting the NorCal district, appearing at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center on Saturday, October 8th, and then the next night in Santa Cruz at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center before heading north to Point Arena for a date on the 11th. Smither just might be the only musician out there writing stuff as good -- or better -- than Bob Dylan, and we do not say that lightly.

Also showing up to blow your doors off, the inheritor of BB King's Lucille, none other than Robert Cray who will occupy Yoshi's on the warmer side of the Bay December 12-13th. Definitely expect this one to sell out quickly.

At the Oakland Fox, we have those cute-as-the-dickens-pair Tegan and Sarah performing October 1st. In November, Joan Baez will provide a blast from the past on the 6th and 7th.

The Paramount goes high style with Wynton Marsalis on September 29th, followed by Men of Soul and then Toni Braxton, each demanding an evening that requires some dress-up so better put aside those tattered blue-jeans to show some R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Bob Weir looks to be getting his old bones out of Marin to pop up here and there in the East Bay, so look for him in unusual places. Which oughta suit the old Deadhead just fine.

The Fall highlights seem to lift up mature performers for the mature crowd. So go dig into your old ducktail wardrobe and kick out the jams to keep hizzoner Rock 'n Roll alive.

To paraphrase a somewhat famous radio DJ, if you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own.

STARLIGHT BY THE SIDE OF THE CREEK

So anyway, what we hope is the final heat wave rippled through parts of the Bay Area, spiking temps into the high nineties just a couple miles from the coast and into the triple digits inland. Naturally, people are saying that this weather is all unnatural and all George Bush's fault for ignoring the climate change stuff, which is probably untrue, but as the cuss was such an ignorant, irritating smirker lacking in all common sense in other avenues, it is hard to avoid pinning any and all such ill manefestations on the wimp. According to some people he caused the 911 disaster, the ebola outbreak, climate change, junk science, the oil problem, the bad economy, the financial meltdown and the destruction of New Orleans, and really, only the latter issue can probably be fully laid on him and his stupid hirelings.

Due to recent events, Lieut. Steif and Sgt. Terse have been patrolling the Island, peering into trashcans and dumpsters with guns drawn, while Mr. Spline continues to keep an eye on Joshua, who is allegedly holed up in the Greek Orthodox church after blowing the whistle on a number of formerly clandestine municipal evesdropping operations. Some folks have been looking at lobbying for a pardon for Joshua, largely because all of this secret operative sneaky stuff costs money and he really is a good boy scout at heart, albeit somewhat impish. News of this sort makes Mr. Spline furious as he would dearly love to shoot Joshua for the crime of being unAmerican and unafraid.

Meanwhile the elections fast approach and the Conservative Party has split into the Definitively Conservative Party, with Babar as its champion, and the Radical Shrieking Conservatives, spearheaded by Ronald Rump, who maintains that only by shouting louder than everybody else can one succeed.

The Somewhat Vaguely Liberal Democratic National Consortium, with Papoon running on the age-old platform "Not Insane!" has been nonplussed by the vitriol expelled by the RSC candidate.

Many people have expressed concern unthinking nonsense has become the order of the day, but they have been shouted down. A debate is supposed to occur between the RSC candidate and the SVLDNC but nobody wants to be moderator between an hysterical egotist and a miniature squirrel.

At the Household of Marlene and Andre, all the residents have started to gather together again after the long, hot summer. Regardless of foreign adventures with their inevitable consequences and political posturing and all the kool aid that seems flowing from barrels these days to encourage idiocy and blind devotion to stuff and nonsense, people still need to get by and latterly, the folks in the Household have lost patience with Motivational Speaker kool aid and with poltical shenanigans and all the fear mongering that always leads to the inevitable War.

Everybody gathered around for a satisfying meal of bread soup prepared by Marlene. Because after Obama had rescued the country from impending economic disaster, the corporations were flush with money; so things worked as they usually do -- nobody got paid any more than usual, but a lot of free cheese seemed to appear everywhere, just like back in the day of Ronnie Raygun. That meant there was plenty of parmesan and Asiago for the soup this time.

Of course Mohammed who lived down the street with his kid Ephren, got dragged away one day by Rump's Brownshirts and put into a cattle car, but the State remained feeling safe and good about itself.

No matter who gets elected, it is always the quality of the soup that matters. Because somebody always gets dragged off in a cattle car to disappear in smoke and ashes. "Arbeit macht Frei" has not changed as the motto in this new world order.

"Where's my daddy," asked Ephren.

"We don't know," Andre said. "Maybe District 9."

"You can stay with us," Marlene said.

"It's cool, man." Little Adam said. "I'll show you how to make a flic-knife."

"Now Adam," said Marlene.

"Okay," said Ephren.

After the dinner was over, the kitchen cleaned up and the inhabitants of the Household largely retired, Andre sat out on the porch with the Tacoma and softly played Workingman's Blues #2.

"Whatever shall we do in these times," Marlene said, coming out with the dishtowel still in her hands.

"Same as we folks have done for 5,000 years. Stand upon the palm of the indifferent god holding us up, waiting and watching," said Andre, "And hoping for some small mercy. We can do nothing else."

The howl of the throughpassing train ululated from across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights, quavered across the starlit waves of the estuary, over the riprap embankments, over the moon-silvered grasses of the Buena Vista flats and over the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the defunct Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2016

DO YOU REMEMBER THE VERY 1ST TIME IN SEPTEMBER?

This week's image comes from artist Carol Taylor who likes to take pics on her daily walks about town. Here we see a maple turning colors in front of an Edwardian house in the Gold Coast area.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

A touch of the flu knocked down the majority of the staff these past two weeks, but we are slowly coming back on the mend. There have been a few staff changes, a few relocations, and some Life changes as well. We should be back in the saddle in no time soon.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Seems Mayor Trish has gotten herself in hot water again, a now familiar scenario for the increasingly controversial Mayor who was elected on the wave of change sentiment that swept all the old guard from power a few years ago. The City charter calls for a City Hall to be governed substantially by the City Manager, with the Mayor fulfilling mostly a swing vote position as well as public representative presence for the City, however the idea that the Mayor should provide leadership in times of trouble persists and the option for the Mayor to provide substantial directional guidance does exist. In the past some mayors have succeeded in guiding the Island successfully through large civic projects, such as the beach expansion that produced the lagoon, so it has been quite disappointing to observe how the woman elected on a platform of "moderate considered growth" has dropped the ball and sometimes goofed badly in public representation.

Some may remember that in June of 2015 Trish Spencer managed to insult foreign dignitaries and the entire Filipino community with culturally obtuse comments. One can take issue with a casual comment about eating rice, but the truth is, when you prepare to meet officials visiting from a foreign country, one had best show respect by being prepared with at least a brief prepared speech that at least addresses easily researched aspects of national and cultural pride instead of resorting to off-the-cuff silliness. The Filipino visit and her unconscious verbal manhandling of the Fire Department tend to convey a picture of an airhead who does not take her job seriously.

The latest flap is over the botched interviews where the Mayor had the opportunity to really shine by listing all the good qualities the Island possesses. Instead of being the Island's prime booster, the Mayor hemmed and hawed on reasons to love the Island and then said the schools were a mess and then, to cap it with icing and cake, started laughing about how deplorable the schools are.

We do not believe Trish Spencer is a bigot or against the Fire Department or has serious objections to teachers. We do observe that she steadfastly refuses to think about what she says and that because of that lack of preparedness, the most public representative of the City often comes off as a fool, which certainly detracts from those times when she does make perfect sense.

She did make a telling statement a few months ago in response to some people in a Council Meeting by saying, "You know, this is no small town any more; this is a city."

Indeed when we first witnessed the police letting loose the dogs on a man just half a block off Park Street, witnessed guys shooting craps in the driveway, witnessed savage assault and battery in the neighborhood, and a number of other observances, we more than realized that the Island has 80,000 inhabitants soon to expand easily and quickly by another 20,000. This fact may have been what caused Trish Spencer to essentially give up. She seems to have said, "Well, you guys are so head-in-the-clouds foolish, I can do nothing but laugh about the situation!"

Well, the woman still has a job to fill, no matter how badly paid, and the City still has good things going for it, even though the Mayor has trouble recalling them. The Island is not yet a lost cause and there is time to get to work on the problems while keeping the good stuff in place.


(WORK, WORK) OH, WORK IT OUT BABY

So anyway, the days have been sunshiny but cool with mysterious breezes at dusk. At dusk the ramparts of the pogonip come rolling over the hills of distant Babylon and before anyone can notice, the top of Grizzly Peak is also fortified with a thick cover of mist. We had a momentary burst of heat, but the fog coming in this way announces the change in seasons. People crossing the bridges pass from a gray overhead ceiling through the Twilight Zone mid-span where anything can happen.

Bosco the pig came out to snuffle curiously the changed air of the Gold Coast, and observed how a leaf detached in the breeze to swirl in the air, before shuffling back into his hovel. It is what it is. Nothing a pig can do about it.

The leaf danced in the air above the telephone lines and went down the block to where Officer Rumsbum, no longer even an imitation officer guarding the parkinglot of City College or protecting the basement floor of Macy's in his retirement, stood with his hands clasped behind his back, stiffly at ease with his cordless phone in his backpocket on the fire escape of the building he had inherited as the son of the previous live-in manager. He did not get paid for the position, but he did enjoy having the run of the place and telling people what to do.

A Toyota pulled up in front of the building and started to park in the narrow space between the two garage entrances.

"No parking! shouted Rumsbum.

The driver leaned out of the window and looked up. "Whaaa?!"

"No parking!" Rumsbum took out his phone and displayed it. "You're gonna get towed!"

"O for Pete's sake," said the driver, who nevertheless departed.

Rumsbum had thought about moving after his retirement to Tennessee where he had kinfolk; it was cheaper there. But he had been living in the same room for 48 years, the same room he had shared with his mother before she passed away due to cirrhosis. He liked being in charge here. And the people were nice; they always did what they were told. And in a few minutes he would move his truck from down the street to the now empty space between the garages in front. Life was good.

The leaf sailed past a squirrel who scampered along the lines to the pole where he leapt across to the lines passing in front of the empty storefront where Pagano's Hardware used to be and a tree hung over close enough to be safe haven from the Cooper's hawk that just then circled overhead before heading southeast.

The hawk noticed activity down there near Otis and swooped down to have a better look, but it was only Martini fussing in the ironmongery garden at Marlene and Andre's place.

He finished checking on the bean plants and sat down to have a cigarette. Andre came out to join him on the steps.

Martini asked howzitgoin.

Feelin' old, Andre said. Hard work, low pay, mouths to feed.

Just you wait, Martini said. Give it enough time and you will surely feel old for real.

Tell me about it.

I remember when they pushed that 580 connector right through the heart of Oaktown. My daddy fought them right up until the end and in the end they just took the house by way of eminent domain. Heck I can remember when this land we are sitting on was all water.

That was Mayor whatsisname filled all this in. Made the lagoon, Andre said.

Yeah, old whatsisname is right. Got people so mad they set his car on fire.

He kill himself?

No, you're thinking of Mayor Ralph. Mayor Ralph had nothing to do with it.

The two of them sat for a moment, thinking about massive construction projects, demolition, and solitary midnight despair while a bee clambered over the broad face of an autumn sunflower in the garden.

You ever married? Andre asked, thinking about his own problems.

O that is a story, Martini said. I could tell you the story all about how I met my first love at the county fair and how it never panned out and I could tell you about a French exchange student I knew one summer, then there was Diane of course -- can't forget that one -- and I could tell you about Elizabeth . . . how for years . . .

Martini paused and looked down, looking like the saddest man in the world.

It's okay, Andre said.

The truth is, said Martini, I have been graced by the presence of beautiful women, shining from inside to out. And how it ended does not matter so much as I was gifted by knowing a few precious souls who gifted me with their light for a short while. Let me tell you I had a vision the other day when I was in the City. I saw a man sitting in Vesuvio's with a cup. He was obviously from Tuscany -- I could tell. He wore a beret over hair gone silver and a mantello and he had a walking stick leaning up on the table and he sat there looking out the window, not seeing me but remembering something because there was a faint smile on his lips.

I want to be that man someday, Martini said. I think the story ends better that way. For me anyway.

The bee on the sunflower arose heavily and bumbled off over the fence, passing a late monarch butterfly that dodged and dipped until it wandered through Lincoln Park and over the green bench dedicated "To all my dumb friends" and then fluttered past the front of Chad and Tammy's bungalow where she stood chatting as the dusk light faded with an old friend come to visit from far off Marin County where people can afford to take things like aroma therapy seriously.

In New York City, on Christopher Street where the trees grow in a line surrounded by cobblestones, a woman walking alone past a line of political posters, featuring the angry face of a demagogue with an open mouth, heard the sound of a plane overhead and looked up into the night sky. It was an American Airlines jumbo jet leaving New York for San Francisco and she thought to herself, "It's been fifteen years now. What was normal now feels sometimes strange and what we used to take for abnormal we take as a matter of fact." She put her head down and descended into the subway.

Far away across the continent packed tightly with the masonry of States scored and lined by the work of harvesters and combines, sat the Editor at his desk, lit by the circle of the desklamp. There had been a nasty flu going around which knocked people out with nausea, water poop, coughing and general misery. The entire office had gotten it and now everyone was coming back, tentatively, with pockets stuffed with Kleenex and ricola lozenges.

After coming back from HIS war, the one that took place in hot, sweaty jungles instead of hot, sweaty deserts, he had been convinced people are just meat. Now he knew better; looking at all the trash bins piled high with tissue paper, he knew for certain people are bags of mucus. Back in the day of knee-britches the kids would dare one another with the most ridiculous dare-you-cross-the-line things. Back before anyone had ever met or seen a real communist, they all knew that Communism was a real bad thing because of the way the Folks talked about it. So the dare came down: would you allow yourself to be forced to join the Communists by stepping up on a dais and swearing on a stack of bibles, or would you rather piss on your grandma's grave and drink a quart of camel snot. While standing neck deep in a vat of donkey poop. No! Worse! Bear poop! Neck deep in liquid bear poop while drinking camel snot.

Kids that age know about poop. It can be said they have not left that age so far behind which featured all kinds of smelly messes and so they know what IS and what's SNOT.

All these childhood memories surge back with a vengeance. Sometimes these memories surged up the front and sometimes they impelled out the back. That's just the way it is. As the Counting Crows said, "The price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings."

Back in the day, when he was three years into his time at Poly High in the City they had all gone to Playland at the Beach to take the rides and scoff at Laughing Sal, the animated fortune teller who had seemed so fearsome when they were younger.

When they were younger! They were older but not so much older than they all are now.

He knew that Rachel was in the park somewhere and he fantasized about what he would do if he ran into her. The Rachel that worked in the newsroom had the same name and was a decent enough person, but this earlier Rachel had short hair, hair like corn silk and eyes that were cornflower blue and she was already on the varsity teams for soccer and cross country and she wrote deep, incisive, biting articles for the school newspaper which contained very few if any proofing errors and he imagined running into her at the rides where she would say something like, "These rides are puerile. Lets go somewhere else." She liked words like puerile -- she had been AP 4 in English.

He went over and did not see her and so got on the whirl-a-gig thing, which turned out to be unfortunate as something he had eaten, either the hot dog or the cotton candy started doing a sort of slow simmer inside him when he got off and he sort of staggered along the midway until he came to the shooting thing and there she was and he forgot how he felt, although he did feel sort of hot and flushed and she was so overjoyed to see him, or so it seemed, and she said, "This stuff is so juvenile. Lets take a walk. You look like you could use some fresh air."

So they went down to the ocean beach and she actually put her hand in his, this girl he had watched for so long and they walked in the dark a long ways toward the Cliff House lights and she said, "I really like you. You are not like the others; you really get me."

She turned her face up and was standing very close, their bodies touching and the surf was going and the stars above and the salt wind and her lips were deliciously full and they both were young and filled with life and he felt very hot and something clearly was about to happen.

That is when he threw up.

Much later, after his recovery from pneumonia, and after his father -- a third generation Californian Baptist of the Hellfire variety -- had put him through a rigorous physical regimen meant to toughen his soul and save his body -- or vice versa -- he graduated from high school and she went on to Northwestern University in Illinois and so he joined the U.S. Marines. Not long after that they closed Poly High and tore down the old high school buildings.

A moth banged onto the screen window from somewhere up above in the darkness.

Somewhere out there, beyond the curtains of muttering dark night, with the eyes all around, somewhere out there was a like mind. Somewhere out there was another Creator of a different sort, also longing in his or her heart. And so he sat at his desk with his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole, lit by the pool spilled by the desklamp, persisting after all these years, doing all for Company.

The moth remained on the screen and he saw clearly it was a Sphinx. It was still warm enough to keep the windows open, but autumn was coming on and soon it would be chill. He stood up after putting the Issue to bed and stretched his old bones. It was coming on autumn, a chill breeze came through the window, and the hour was late. He wondered what would become of this newsroom after he was gone. At the end of the day, that which remains is all we have ever done up to the point our building collapses around us. That which we have done. And that which abides yet still.

The howl of the throughpassing train ululated from across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights, quavered across the starlit waves of the estuary, over the riprap embankments, over the moon-silvered grasses of the Buena Vista flats and over the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the defunct Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 


AUGUST 21, 2016

WHEN THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER

This week we have a portrait in sepia by Island-Lifer Carol, who lives in the Barbary Coast section of the Island.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

School is back in session this upcoming week in all districts. Our own Charter schools started a week earlier, but the throngs begin Monday. So be mindful of the little monsters crossing the road in the AM and at dusk.

News about the Island rent control initiative is spreading wider around the Bay where other areas are starting to get restive on the same subject. It is no joke that the current situation is a Bay area-wide crisis with people getting evicted and uncaring landlords running wild over law and people's rights.

Frank Bette Art Center, closed for these past three months, reopened after some needed structural renovations to the old building.

FB is a place for older art, but the hot Autobody gallery, sometimes called "Popups", on Park near the bridge has been going great guns for contemporary work, partnering with other galleries over the estuary in the "Jingletown" area for ProArts events. It is always worth a visit up the narrow stairs.

Island-Life will shut down for a couple of weeks to allow staffers time to re-orient their moonbeam antennae, recharge emotional batteries, heal from various wounds, and restock the cognitive fridges with Fat Tire. See all of you guys in the Fall.

FATHER OF MINE

So anyway, Little Adam was to start up school again and everybody in the Household of Marlene and Andre chipped in to help out the youngster who had endured such a bad start in life. Marlene got him a new used backpack and Suan and Tipitina sewed on glitterstars to make it stand out. Martini got Adama solar powered calculator and Jose gave him an important book called "How to Defuse Aggression and Deal with Difficult People", which everyone agreed was just the thing for learning how to deal with all kinds of personalities encountered in California Middle School on up to High. Javier gave him a couple narrow-rule theme books and Snuffles gave him a pencil that had been hardly used.

The night before the First Day, Andre sat down with Little Adam in the livingroom dormatory where five or more people slept at night and had a talk.

"Now when you go to school know that the learning is mostly about dealing with both the System and with people in it. The people have no choice, so please remember to keep your knife in your pocket. You want to be the winner in all this and remember the idea in all fights is to be able to walk away and go to work without gauze bandages and stitches and stuff. The other guy has no job and can afford to fight and lose, but not you. You gotta remember you be better stuff, unnerstan? You gets the job and you gets paid next day for workin' but not if you got a cut on top of your head that make you look like a fool. Don't go looking for the fight."

"I know that Broderick be there," says Little Adam. "I beat his Juvie ass for sure soon as we meet up."

"No you not fight him," said Andre. "You already won without a punch. He is going to Juvie and then to State House and will never raise no family or hold a job but be complaining his whole life about things. He is gonna bounce from school to school getting ousted each time he fights and never make any friends.

"You gonna do right and make Marlene and me proud of you. The whole war is already over and won and you don't have to throw any punches. You know at the start you won already and he can feel it and he just wants to drag you down."

"O maynnnnnnnnn . . .". Adam said, flopping down on the couch that was Suan's bed when she was able to sleep at all. She worked the Crazy Horse on the pole as a dancer and did not get much sleep time at all. That seemed true for most of them theater types.

"Adam, just remember this: Two people fighting means something went wrong, something failed along the line. You see two people fighting and you see a sign of failure. Don't be part of failure. You want to succeed."

And then Adam said something that made the old punk's heart melt to all the extent that it could.

"Ok dad."

And so Andre sent Adam off to brush his teeth and get ready for bed and at the end of the long day, he stood over him, the surrogate father who had never enjoyed a decent father in his own life, his arms entwined with tattoos there in the half light as Little Adam drifted off to dreamland. He and Marlene could not have children of their own because of the damage inflicted by their own parents, but this one would survive. Yes, this one would succeed despite all obstacles and every setback.

The howl of the throughpassing train ululated from across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights, quavered across the starlit waves of the estuary, over the riprap embankments, over the moon-silvered grasses of the Buena Vista flats and over the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the defunct Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

 

AUGUST 14, 2016

SPEAK, MEMORY

A while ago we reported on the saga of the Jackson Park bench, first constructed and left unfinished in 1926 by the widow of a man who loved animals, and then about the destruction of the bench during violent storms a couple years ago.

It took some citizen involvement to have the bench restored, as there were grumps who wanted the thing entirely removed, due to the danger of it being a locus for illegal activity.

?!

Now really people. Fortunately whimsy and good sense prevailed and so here we present the bench in its restored glory along with its double entendre logo.

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

Drove by this past week and we noticed the SWAT team raiding a house in the 2000 block on Park Avenue in the same block as Jackson Park. Seems members of the Angry Elf gang had been using the house as a haven for collecting stolen credit cards, bank account numbers, and general fenced stolen goods as well as blackmail material and extortion as well as arson info.

You never really know your neighbors, do you.

On more upbeat news which impacts the Economy -- a subject that which was once a hot button topic during electoral season -- we see that the Port of Oaktown had Busiest Month in a Decade and that export volume increased for the sixth time in seven months. Holiday shipping has not yet started, according to a port official.

Last month the port handled the equivalent of 223,619 20-foot cargo containers - the most since it handled 227,996 20-foot containers in August 2006.

Cargo volume has gone up across the board and may signal a spike in the upcoming peak shipping season, port officials said.

"These numbers are encouraging and with holiday shipments set to commence, this could be the start of something good," Port of Oakland maritime director John Driscoll said in a statement.

Well now and welladay. From near universal financial collapse during the Bush Administration, we turned around to this during the Obama Administration.

Can you say "Thank you"? We knew you could.

Drive slow: school in session. Students in Alameda Unified School District head back to school on August 22, so everybody mark your calendars for when the little urchins start scampering across the roads to catch the bus.

Glad to hear that the spurious Agit-Prop initiative sponsored by Big Property failed to get valid signatures for its repressive measure. ARC is still looking for contributions to help fund the ongoing effort to fight Big Money and get something done about the rental crisis. You can have a look at what is going on and contribute by going to ARC .

SUMMERTIME BLUES

So anyway. Pedro headed out toward the sealanes and the fishing areas, bouncing along the chop in his cabin of the commercial boat El Borracho Perdido, plexiglass windows dashing the spray to either side. Out there, beyond the Golden Gate, the swells grew calmer in this season before the storms of autumn and the boat rolled up and down with its lines thrown out and the panoply of stars marching overhead. The time became devoted to work, to doing the things one needed to do. Lines needed retrieval. The hold needed tending. The sudden burst of incoming wealth needed sheparding with the tools of the trade - the gaff, the rake, the spear . . . . The Perseids began launching arrows across the heavens to assault once again Orion's head. And the Milky Way spun out its age old stories, waiting for the next genius storyteller to arrive. Pedro hauled about . . . .

Out in the Valley, Sanchez bucked and rolled with the ridges of ploughed earth as he sat in his iHarvester cabin, chaffs of straw stuff tossing against the windowpanes as he came to the turnrow. Out beyond the waves of planted grain undulated beneath the breeze to the furthest hill under the moonlight and with the fog rolling in, those hills islanded themselves as the denser air settled around their banks. With the dry heat and this pernicious drought, he had found ploughing in early morning and early evening worked the best to keep the dust settled. It was rotation time to keep this field fallow for a season, much as he hated to do it, but giving the earth a kind of rest.

He paused, letting the tractor idle, having come around to the turn-row, and he watched the first streaks of the last of the Perseids from within the cab, where sometimes he felt as he imagined how the ancient mariners felt, looking out over the rolling landscape and waves like hills vanishing off to the big sky horizon of indigo and stars.

Out on Snoffish Valley Road the high fog had begin to steal the day's warmth and the girls wore sweaters and hugged themselves above their daisy dukes, while the guys did one peal out after another, smoking rubber to get one last summer's heat in before it all shut down. Jason had his 454 Camaro hybrid and Roscoe had his hopped up Mustang something or other and it was all hang on St. Christopher through the smoke and the oil, buckle down the rumble seat and let the radiator boil. The racers all returned to the circle and everything got quiet for a while with people talking about school and work and stuff. Diane, wearing Bobby Brooks, leaned on the warm hood of Jack's Valiant and sipped a warm beer in the still soft summer night while a Bob Seger CD played from someone's console somewhere out in the darkness. Overhead a shooting star did its thing and the night was left hanging like a blanket with holes punched in it.

In a loft upstairs, Diane lay with Jack and refused everthing, but did not leave, and so surrendered in the last hours of that summer night. From outside a stranger could see the girl's arm reach up to turn out the bedroom light. Down on Snoffish Valley Road the racers set to make one last run for the night as the last Perseids went mad overhead in showers of sparks.

In her snug bed, Ms. Morales rested her head on Mr. Sanchez and remembered the scent of the fresh heirloom she had picked that day, which had spurted juice over her and his arm. The tomato plants all looked about done for this year, although all hanging heavy with fruit. The room brightened briefly with the light of an asteroid falling to earth.

We are so elemental, she thought to herself as she drifted to sleep. We are all ephemeral scent and essence and momentary lights of earth. The scent of tomatos in summertime. . . .

Out on the sealanes, Pedro hauled in the nets and the lines, fresh catch flopping into the hold. The way the sea swelled and the way the fog hung about told him that soon, it would be time to drop crab pots again. The news was about how the old Drakes Estero oyster farm was returning to its natural state. But the crab. The crab would abide. In some form or other.

The howl of the throughpassing train ululated from across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights, quavered across the starlit waves of the estuary, over the riprap embankments, over the moon-silvered grasses of the Buena Vista flats and over the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the defunct Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

 

AUGUST 7, 2016

STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER

Nothing speaks about the ephemeral nature of life and joy than the sweet strawberry of summer. This image is courtesy of Chris Lindberg.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

The latest distraction is the Olympics, which now, more than ever, matters very little. The robbery, the violence, the uncertain security that envelopes the Olympic village this time, the Zika mosquito pestilence, and the general disruption of the world makes this Olympics seem very unnecessary. The entire Russian Paraolympic team was disqualified from contention due to drug doping and daily we hear of nasty injuries and violence against athletes due to the wildly foolish idea of hosting such an enterprise as the Olympics in a Third World developing country where it seems the leaders are more endowed with hubris than sense.

Meanwhile the US presidential election contest remains a joke, a run-off between a criminal supported by the desperate and a fool supported by the lunatic fringe of American idiocy.

Here at home, the obscene Rental Crisis continues to devour bodies and souls. It has already produced some blood and by the intransigent looks of the Big Property people, it certainly will spurt gallons more before this is over. It is not going to "settle down" and people are not "going to get used to it," any more than people get used to getting kicked in the balls. Threats and use of officialized terror will not work any more than it did for former President Pervez Musharraf.

The renters on the Island are furious about what is happening and even if this election fails to produce rent control, it is inevitable that one day it will pass with certainty, like it or not. Good legislation or not. It is very likely that this sentiment will spread beyond the borders of the Island, as other Bay Area counties are feeling desperately squeezed by the greed of absentee landlords.

Meanwhile some landowners stick their heads in the sand, pretending the old Baronial rights of peonage still apply, continuing to violate tenant rights in direct and flagrant violation of State laws, entering premises without notice, conducting harassing visitations, jacking rents well over 35% at will, evicting without due cause, destroying tenant property, illegally harvesting deposits, and generally acting like civility and law do not apply to them in the slightest.

Only recently we heard one landowner say to a tenant who complained about the destruction of their hard-worked garden and out-of-code electrical plugs, "If you don't like it, MOVE."

That is right. Force people to move when you are stealing their deposits, costing them thousands of dollars to escape you so as to go over to somebody else who will steal your deposit.

Sounds like such a deal. At some point you are compelled to stand and fight, back against the wall.

WHEN THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER PRICKS MY FINGER

So anyway, the recent heat wave yielded to a pattern of cool air and dappled skies in late afternoon. The fog returned to drape the golden hills in the morning and cloak the trees where the hawk continued to cree-cree. At dusk, earnest fawns went about their business and adolescent deer stood in the intersections, trying to puzzle the meaning of it all as drivers cruised slowly past, also wondering what this all means. Ears of corn remain on sale at Paul's Produce at two for a dollar, so that means the Fall is yet a ways off.

Teachers are talking about how their summer season came to an end on the 15th, when the real work began again with seriousness and so the more serious among them are looking forward to that time.

An old Irish tune lilted across the Island in the form of a Grateful Dead song, although few remember that the tune is copped from the traditional "Aislean an Oigfear" going back now some five centuries, but first translated in 1792 by Edward Bunting and set in verse by Thomas Moore in 1805 in Kilkenny.

So there is some truth to the old saying that the best of the English was wrought by the Irish

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone
When I can't hear the song for the singer
And I can't tell my pillow from a stone

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

As night fell along the Strand the strands of Pegasus began to gallop to the West and the new crescent moon set with the flaming Jupiter for company. Across the water the skyline of Babylon burned with usual ferocity as the City's soul consumed its soul in lights of neon and halogen, producing a new Hell that did not require death or travel to get to. As night advanced across the land with engulfing shadows of strangulating fear and the sun became ever more a distant memory of freedom and light and warmth that once was the rule, the stars emerged in their age-old patterns of majesty. Some things do not change.

Kathy, returning from walking the dog, pointed out Andromeda, chained to her rock, before going inside. Denby remained out there, looking until he found Pegasus. All the world was aflame out there beyond the horizon, in DC and Idaho and Kandahar and Babylon and Rio de Janeiro with violence and shouting, and the two immense front runners went at each other like the Greeks and the Trojans, but in a short while, in a few days, the Perseids would begin; still, it was yet difficult to find from where they would emerge. Taurus marched argumentatively to the West and Beatrice called from inside the house about a problem with the voicemail system, so he left the dark to enter the light, leaving the gods to argue among themselves in the heavens.

In the offices of Island-Life, the Editor hunched over his desk, his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole lit by the lamp. A timer stood on the desk, placed there by Jose some hours previously before going out. The Editor continued to work . . . .

In a dank basement, the Angry Elf lit a candle in front of his shrine to his idol, Meyer Lansky, and renewed his singular vows not to kill anyone again this year while plotting new ways to hurt people he imagined have dissed him in some way. He picked up the revolver at the center of the shrine and caressed the barrel. The revolver was said to have belonged to Bugsy Malone. Angry Elf contemplated the next punishment fire his gang would light to get even with somebody falling behind on payments. He smiled and replaced the gun between the candles.

At the open space where Sherman and Buena Vista come together, Office O'Madhauen sipped his Styrofoam coffee, waiting for speeding scofflaws and red-light runners. A brief flash of a comet or shooting star lit up the cruiser, then all was dark once more.

Piedro stepped out of the office of Express Mess in South City to look at the light show taking place overhead while his colleague, Xavier, cleaned his Glock 9 and the lights of the Island across the water went dark with people retiring for the night. There had been no need for a weapon while working in the dispatcher office of a courier service, but you never know. Some people want to be ready for anything.

On the Strand, Pahrump and Snuffles and Jose and Javier all fell asleep on the sand among the bulrushes with the empty five gallon jug at their feet, and their dreaming eyelids were crisscrossed by the streaking stars, causing visions of a more better world free of anxiety, free of homelessness, free of stupidity -- foolish and unrealistic visions, but visions of possibility nevertheless.

In his apartment, the Amazing Anatolia Enigma put aside his cape and his top hat and his cane and fed his rabbit Chechesque, before stepping out on the balcony to observe a far more awesome magic show than he ever could devise.

Out on the sealanes, Pedro minded the lines while overhead the Hunter pinwheeled amid a flurry of shiny, startling arrows. He glanced at the dark radio face, and wished that someone was still there to accompany his lonely hours. Perhaps in October things would change for the better. Ferryboat went "Woof!" to remind him he was not entirely alone for all that.

In Marlene and Andre's Household, the sleepless Marlene got out of bed, leaving her sleeping mate there and walking past the zonked Little Adam, she went down the hall past the snoring people in the the bunks to the bathroom where she did her business without turning on the light.

As she came out a sleepy voice said, "Who zat?" And she said, "Shh. It's just me. Marlene."

"O . . . ! Zzzzzzzzzz . . . .".

Rather than disturb anyone else in that household of shattered lives, misfits, and ne'er do wells, Marlene went out the back through the kitchen and stood in the back area near the ironmongery garden that Martini had welded together for the pole beans and the vine squashes, which now clambered quite high. The garden planted with corn, beans, tubers, root veggies and herbs helped supplement their visits to the food bank, as the collective living there had little money and no one could afford the obscene rents now charged by the landlords everywhere. So fifteen lives had found each other and sufficient space to get out of the weather in that one bedroom cottage. Life was often wretched and packed with horror, but in this place, each had found like-minded souls. Beneath the floorboards, the wharf rats scurried back and forth around the shell of the old central heating furnace.

As the Girl with the Ruined Womb stood in the garden, flashes of light from falling stars began to illuminate the yard and she looked up in wonder. She felt a presence behind her and Andre sang quietly into her ear.

When you wish upon a star
Matters not who you are . . . .

The punk boy from Oaktown put his arms around her and held her as the stars fell around them.

And the Editor continued to work in his windowless cubicle deep within the offices of Island-Life, as the timer continued to tick.
Before leaving for the night, Jose had asked if the Editor was going to watch the big show tonight.

"TeeVee? No time for that nonsense," said the Editor.

"No amigo. It's the sky. Something special."

"Hrrmmph . . . ". The Editor wished his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. "What is it?"

Jose went out and returned with the digital timer. "When it goes off, take a break and go outside. You will see." The boy then left.

So there the Editor sat, his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole lit by the pool of the desklamp while all around hung the blank darkness. Somewhere out there beyond the light was a like mind, seeking Company. Somewhere out there in that ocean of pitch black nothingness was a sympathetic consciousness. There he sat, constructing his meditations, one failure after another, working hour after hour, doing all for Company.

The alarm shocked him into the next moment.

He reached out and silenced the thing and sat a moment, staring into the void. He then got up and moved down the aisles of silent desks and dark computer screens to the back door, which he opened to step out on the deck and there he stood looking at the Old Fence and the trees, still in the windless summer night. Something flared from above and he looked up and stood with his jaw open as the heavens began the show. And there he stood for more than an hour with his hands on the railing, looking up. The Perseids had begun.

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 starlit waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the moon-silvered grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey beyond the stars to parts unknown.

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

'Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love's shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?

Thomas Moore

JULY 31, 2016

THE MOON WANTED MORE OF MY NIGHT

A few weeks ago we enjoyed a "strawberry moon" and we have several images on file for that event, but did not get around to posting any of them. So to emend the error of our ways here is an image of the moon knipsed by Tammy over Bungalow Court on the Island.

Line reference above is to "Calling the Moon" by Dar Williams.

CH..CH..CH CHANGES

You will note the new and improved masthead with staff images, done courtesy of Beatrice, who is an artist that lives in Marin. Beatrice used to earn a living as an illustrator and carpenter. She is the one who painted the Fairfax "Scoop" Ice Cream Parlor sign some forty-five years ago. She also created the paper mache cow that stands above the register.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Lots of development issues resolved last week in a trend that will see the Island changing its face radically for generations to come.

It looks like Francis Collins finally has the green light for his Boatworks project. That parcel has been the site of industrial manufacturing from 1909 to 2002 when the Pacific Coast Engineering Company closed its doors.

For the past few years, Collins has been busy cleaning up the heavily contaminated site of industrial pollutants.

The plans call for 182 residential units built on 9.48 acres. as well as open space that includes both a community green and a concrete pier on the Oakland Estuary.

In other action at the meeting on July 25th, the City Planning Board approved Site A’s design review application. The design in question involves surface materials, street trees, as well as street lights for Site A and the rest of Alameda Point. The board gave Park Esquina a unanimous nod to proceed with its project at Park Street and Blanding Avenue.

Board members also approved Kevin Lam’s plan for a 7,100-square-foot building on the West End near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Webster Street.

Three down and fifteen more projects to go. . .

Since we have the elections process inexorably underway, we note that our rent control initiative is making headlines in other parts of the Bay Area. An attempt by Big Property to shove through an initiative that orders the Council to avoid meddling in rent issues appears to have stalled due to questionable signatures (at least 6,461 signatures need to be validated by the ROV, and this does not look like it will happen by the deadline).

These kinds of tactics are not surprising coming from people who are overly used to skirting the law in practice.

The renter-friendly ordinance this initiative was intended to counteract was approved to be on the November ballot on July 6. The renters’ measure, sponsored by the Alameda Renters Coalition, would cap annual increases at 65 percent of the change in the Consumer Price Index for the previous year. It would also create a five-member rent control board to enforce the regulations.

JACK OF DIAMONDS

So anyway the recent heat "dome" we have endured gave way to the usual fogs and evening sea to shore breezes, leading to clear spangled skies scored by the scratch of falling stars. The days proceded in a lively march of teenagers and pickup trucks rattling down Snoffish Valley Road, en route to pick up girls for hanging out, for swimming, for all kinds of things only teenagers can remember.

Down on the Strand, the Almeida family enjoyed a rare holiday together in a birthday party for Santiago as Pedro took a small break before pushing to the end of crab season in August. And Santiago, well, of course was an entire year older and this was an important thing. This year the crab season started late when the Fisheries people closed the opener in November due to toxic algae. He was hearing that razor clams were also on the short list due to high domoic acid content around Humboldt and Del Norte.

What was the world coming to. Poison crabs and poison clams of all things and a man has gotta work to live and they won't let him work.

Little Santiago started yelling; he had let loose his birthday balloon and the thing now soared aloft past the trees over the inlet.

O well. Let it go Santiago. Only grief comes from too much attachment to things that fly away. The crab shall return next year. And the clams. And the corn shall again pierce the intense blue sky of Minnesotta, ignorant of everything we consider important for ourselves. He tilted his hat and let the sun caress his weather-beaten, sea-battered body.

Denby stood outside, thinking of somebody and the heavy sky was a blanket with bullet holes punched in it.

He looked up at the sky, recalling the news release that Jack White's 3rd Man Records had just sent a turntable into space, playing Carl Sagan's "A Glorious Dawn" sextet the entire time until the balloon lifting this cargo burst at an altitude over 98,000 above the earth.

In a few thousand, or perhaps a few thousand years, long after the extinction of the human race, radio waves from that transmission will reach strange creatures living in a distant galaxy and they will wonder even as the battered, space-riddled Voyager drifts into their solar system, bearing a disk on which is recorded, among other things in other languages, Dark was the Night by Blind Willie Johnson.

He paused, breathing in the night air, cool after the long heat in the Valley where he had spent the day. Somewhere a garage band practiced in fits and starts. Crickets rubbed their hindlegs and somewhere else somebody practiced the horn. Music filled the night and made everything worthwhile the way music always does. Soon, it would be time to go to bed, but not after doing a bit of reading by lamplight. Perhaps some Paul Bowles.

At the Household of Marlene and Andre, Little Adam was put to bed and those members who did not work graveyard shifts or weekends had all tucked into their bunks and sleeping bags. Snuffles Johnson snored in his hole and Occasional Quentin stretched out beneath the coffee table. The bunks in the hallway were all filled up with silent, dark bodies. Marlene sat up late with the light of the lamp and the old Singer machine humming as she darned socks, fixed shirts, tried to keep the tack and raft of this household presentable and afloat for just a little while longer during the desperate times of the Rental Crisis. Below the decks, around the decrepit heater unit, the rats began to scurry this way and that, getting ready for the night of foraging. One rat paused to sniff at the dessicated carcass of his brother who had been electrocuted by the bad wiring job going to the central heating control unit. Beneath the carcass there was a little glow and the delectible odor of fried rat. But this time, the rat moved on and left his brother. Time to investigate that later. And the little glow grew ever so slowly and inexorably beneath the rat that was beneath the house owned by the landlord Mr. Howitzer, who refused to pay for a properly wired and renovated central control unit.

To Mr. Howitzer, the tenants were just so many lab rats, useful only as a subsidy for the property maintenance.

Denby tucked into his book, lit by an Upstart Crow reading lamp he had filched many years ago while doing construction. Now Upstart Crow no longer existed, but he still owned the book lamp. The book was about a Western world traveler remembering Tangier and the Arabic world.

"I relish the idea that in the night, all around me in my sleep, sorcery is burrowing its invisible tunnels in every direction, from thousands of senders to thousands of unsuspecting recipients. Spells are being cast, poison is running its course; souls are being dispossessed of parasitic pseudo-consciousnesses that lurk in the unguarded recesses of the mind. There is drumming out there most nights. It never awakens me; I hear the drums and incorporate them into my dream like the nightly cries of the muezzins. Even if in the dream I am in New York, the first Allah, akbar! effaces the backdrop and carries whatever comes next to North Africa, and the dream goes on."

Out on her Gold Coast veranda, Ms. Morales stood looking at Orion tumbling over the Mastic Senior Center. The Summer Session had taken a break and now there was nothing to do save for preparing for what started in September; an endless, unpaid cycle. What was the future. In the future, the world would implode and creatures like Ronald Rump would ramp about with their shouting mouths and all the stars would fall and be overwhelmed.

A bright streak lit the heavens and startled her into exclaiming, "O!"

Soon the Perseids would begin to astonish the August sky.

Mr. Sanchez emerged from the shadows behind her.

"Un problema?" Mr. Sanchez asked.

"Only a shooting star," she said. "Una estrella fugaz."

"O! Did you make a wish?"

"Tal vez. Maybe."

"Somos como las estrellas, misterioso y brillante y se han ido rápidamente," he said. "We shine for a while and then are gone."

"I did not know I had married a poet," she said.

"Of course you did," he said. "That is why you married me." And then he clasped her in his arms as all the stars fell.

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 moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its starlit journey to parts unknown.

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

 

JULY 24, 2016

IF LADIES WERE SQUIRRELS

This week's headline photo comes courtesy of Tammy and is of a local resident termed Mr. Nutcakes.

As for the headline itself, we were deluged with ideas, from the obvious Squirrel Nut Zippers band to Primus, White Stripes and Fleet Foxes, all of whom have referenced the daffy fellow that acts totally crazy all the time and gets away with it. Save for the occasional roadkill mishap.

Finally we decided on a song best known as one written by Utah Phillips and covered by Joan Baez, among many others. The full text of the lyric goes, somewhat cynically by a lovelorn fellow as follows:

Now the nights are so long, Lord sorrow runs deep
And nothing is worse than a night without sleep
I'll walk out alone and look at the sky
Too empty to sing, too lonesome to cry

If the ladies were blackbirds and the ladies were thrushes
I'd lie there for hours in the chilly cold marshes
If the ladies were squirrel's with high bushy tails
I'd fill up my shotgun with rock salt and nails

Well, we don't wish any harm on Mr. Nutcakes. No certainly not. For one, he aint no poodle . . .

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

Word has it that the Angry Elf gang has been at it again. Suspicious fire broke out 12:13 am, Wednesday, July 20, when AFD responded to a report of a fire at Allsafe Self-Storage at 1 Singleton Ave. Firefighters arrived on scene to find heavy smoke and fire coming from inside a single-story row of 32 connected storage units. They pulled several hose lines and attacked the fire and used saws and tools to force entry and ventilate the building.

Flammable material in the storage units fed the fire. Firefighters managed to knock the fire down by 1:15 am. and fully extinguish the blaze by 3 a.m. They were able to confine the fire to seven units, which all sustained severe damage. The remaining 25 units sustained minor to severe heat and smoke damage. The fire destroyed or damaged ATV’s, motorcycles and automobiles stored in the units. There were no reports of injuries. A total of 39 firefighters responded to the fire.

On the Rental Crisis front, it is interesting that citizens in other counties are sitting up and taking notice of what is happening here. Someone in far off Marin recently called attention to our notice about the two rent control items on the ballot this coming November.

This is likely to be a very hot electoral season.

Interesting also was the Letter to the Editor about the proposed hotel on Harbor Bay and the rerouting planned for the Bay Shore Trail -- apparently through the parking garage. Seems the letter writer is more than usually informed and well researched on the issues. And as we last recall it was the Ron Cowan outfit that was proposing such an hotel out at Harbor Bay.

We just wonder why Ron Cowan wants to ruin his home town and not somebody else's in all of his projects. Ron, wussup with that dude?

Police blotter reports ten people detained for 5150 psychiatric evaluation at John George. Crazies, we got 'em. There is a slew of burglaries, but we expect San Leandro Police or Oaktown will collect the perps as we have no detective department. So wanna come here and buy some property?

We do, however, actively demonstrate that we love our police. That is in fond hopes that they will not kill somebody or watch another one of us die over the course of two hours so as to prove a point in the budget. As they have done in the past.

Fond hopes indeed. We are not like other cities; we pay our police not to kill us.

AINT NO CURE FOR THE SUMMERTIME BLUES

So anyway, recent days have been filled with animal portents. Deer galloping across the road, foxes appearing on the edge of parking lots, raccoons lumbering up the tree trunks, hawks crying and displaying themselves with sudden abandon.

All around the Island-Life Offices the high pitch cree-cree of a lone hawk searching for a mate echoed through the lonely trees.

Over at the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Severely Conservative Convention ended a couple days ago after Ronald Rump obtained the nod for the SC candidacy for the Presidency of the Bums after a bitterly fought primary election. The AC failed during this massive heat wave and all the delegates flung sweat as they spoke and gestured. As part of his concession speech, former candidate Ned "Red" Cross refused to endorse the party's nominee due to the acrimonious nature of the Primary contest.

"I lost, I guess. And looking at what we get, I guess all of us lost. Certainly we did lose civility during this contest."

Sound of boos and "Up yer Rump!" chants from the partisan gallery.

"But I tell ya, we agreed, we all agreed, if you remember way back in Elementary, there is one rule we all gotta obey . . . ".

More boos and calls for an abolishment of all rules and regulation, especially for debates and political parties that have the most money at hand.

"But I swear the main golden rule of all still stands. No mothers! You can kick and punch like a girl, Except if you are Rhonda Rousey. You can use loogies and wedgies, but no mothers! Aint it true? Moms are sacred! No mothers man!"

From the side Ronald Rump responded to the concession speech with his usual grace, magnanimity, and generosity large as elephants.

"AHHHHHH, LOSER! LOSER! YOU AINT NOTHIN' BUT A LOOOOOOOOOOSER! BLFTHFTHPT!"

Some felt the Bronx cheer was moderately excessive. Others felt that Rump indicated true Presidential quality. It was difficult to determine what people really felt as everyone who was not a true Rumper, as the Rump adherents were called, had been ejected from the hall by men wearing brown shirts and black armbands.

Some of this theater may seem strange to people not familiar with the Lost Coast and California's hidden traditions. Every four years the bums gather in Northern California to elect from among themselves the person who most exemplifies California Bum values.

For years, members of the Hippie party dominated this caucus, but latterly the Severely Conservative Party and the Pee Tardy Party have overwhelmed opposition, largely by means of the tactic of shouting the loudest. The SCP espouses a government that does virtually nothing, which, if you think about it, perfectly embodies the epitome of bum values with regards to indolence. The SCP has the motto of "Do no harm and do no work!"

The radical Pee Tardy people hold such an extreme Conservative point of view that people should be compelled to pee less than once per day so as to east the strain on the Infrastructure.

There were few PTP people in evidence at the Convention, largely because gangs supporting Rump went around beating them up and setting their homes on fire.

A lot of people with sensitive eardrums were glad when the SCP Convention ended, only to endure the Somewhat Liberal (If You Don't Mind) Convention that followed. This campaign also was characterized by some acrimony, with the young Ernie supporters reacting with dismay and disappointment when their beloved icon failed to gather sufficient delegates to become the nominee over Hilarious Blimpton, who nevertheless made history as the first woman in history to snag this pole spot,

The outgoing President made an appearance to endorse the new candidate.

"I am sorry I may have failed y'all. I fixed the Nation's economic system when it was heading for a tailspin, I rescued Detroit, I reassured our allies we are not all nutcases ready to invade other countries on a whim, I jumpstarted renovation of the collapsing health care system for everybody in a way even the insurance companies like, I repaired relations with Cuba, I brokered a multinational deal on nuclear arms proliferation with one of our former enemies in the Middle East, I also successfully brokered bipartisan budget deals 8 times to minimize and avert total government shutdown that would have permanently damaged the nation's international credit, and I did a whole lotta other stuff people don't remember.

So I am sorry, I failed you; I just did not get around to giving the White House a new coat of paint and fixing Climate Change. I guess I just was working too hard trying to keep the Country from looking ridiculous."

"It's okay Mr. President," Hilarious said. "It seems the SCP people -- and we know who they are -- never expected that a Black Man could roll up his sleeves and work harder than anybody else. I guess they expected you to be a Bum. This seems to have upset them a bit."

"It does look like they can't get over something," agreed the President. "I am sorry I am not a good bum."

After the Convention was over, Jose, Denby, and Pahrump went to work taking down bunting, sweeping up confetti and tossing banners into the trash.

"You sorry that your main man Ernie Sandman didn't get the nomination?" Jose asked Denby.

"At least he changed the process a bit," Denby said. "Never expected the Establishment would allow him in."

"So what he do?" Jose asked

"He turned a circus that involved two red-faced people shouting extreme inanities at each other into a three-ring." Denby said. "Which makes for better TV.

"O!" Jose said.

As they dragged the stuffed garbage bags out to the dumpster, they heard a high pitched "Cree! Cree!" overhead.

"What about you, Pahrump?" asked Denby. "What do you make of all this?"

Pahrump wearily heaved his sack into the dumpster. "We been hoping for years the White Man would just go away, watching his imaginary kingdom shrink to the point even a people as blinkered as they cannot ignore it any more. Now they wanna restore a kingdom that never existed in reality. Nothing any of them gonna do will bring back our homelands and the big steelhead runs up in the Lost Coast. This country been around for 400 years -- it can stand a little twist and tug. It aint gonna melt away like bee pee on cigarette paper."

"Fo' shizzle," Jose said, who was significantly younger than Pahrump.

After they were done they sat out on the front steps looking out over the marina and the white effulgence of the waning moon, still gibbous after last week. Everything was silvered over -- the trees, the lawn, the houses, the boats and the wavelets out on the cove. Ship masts clinkered in the distance although there was not a breath of air on this hot summer's night.

"CREEEEE! CREEEEE!" came from the trees where the hawk had found shelter.

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 moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its patriotic journey to parts unknown.

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

 

JULY 17, 2016

THREE CROW TOWN

This week the headline comes from the slushpile of good stuff and features a trio engaged in a small family spat. This one was shot by Tammy in a series of a neighbor's roof.

Houston Jones is no longer performing as such, but if you come across Travis performing around here, have him do the old HJ song by Chis Kee and you will not be disappointed.

INDEPENDENCE DAY REDEUX

We had photos from an entirely different parade posted last week, but our photobanks include a fair number of images taken of America's biggest little small town parade. Let it be said, our Sikhs are chic. Here ya go . . .

 


LIFE ON THE ISLAND

Most of the issues floating around have to do with the rental crisis and the ongoing land development projects -- nothing new to report as Silly Hall hunkers down for the elections and Islanders prepare to vote on the first rent control initiative in November -- there are likely to be others.

Bill Poland wants to develop the industrial shipping area into a tony area featuring 275 apartments at the usual rent gouge, 125 expensive "townhomes", and approximately 150,000 square feet of commercial space, including 115,000 square feet dedicated to maritime uses. His proposal is sitting before City council now but he is trying to elicit warm and fuzzy feelings from the people by way of an open letter (published in the Sun) and website that is high on promises, but wretched in terms of detailed information.

One positive that comes out of this, is the sense that developers are realizing they can no longer just move in with bulldozers and excavators without informing the community any more. Which is a step in the right direction.

More positives: Irene Dieter Construction crews recently placed a new haul-out platform for the protected harbor seals. The platform replaces and relocates the old dock that has been used by the seals for a while. The idea is to provide some shelter for the seals during the expansion of the WETA ferry facilities at the Point.

We checked a few other locations where this kind of thing has been done, along with other measures, and it does seem to work so long as the humans and their pets obey the keep away signs.

SUMMERTIME BLUES

So anyway, it's been overcast and positively drizzly at times around here while other parts of the Bay Area have been awash in cool sunshine. All over the place, wherever there blazed a patch of sun left unencumbered by developers lifting their scaffolds, tomatoes and roses swelled in profusion. Corn plants stood about three feet high in some yards and ruby-throated hummingbirds zapped this way and that from feeder to feeder.

Mr. Spline got called off of the Whistleblower Watch up on the hill, where he had been conducting surveillance of the Greek chapel in which Joshua Rainman had taken refuge, so as to help stake out the home of suspected Islamicists on Santa Clara. The name of the family allegedly living in the alleged Islamacist house was Jeddah, which Ms. Felcher back in the CIA office had found to be a name of a city in Saudi Arabia. Also the alleged Mr. Jeddah sported a suspicious beard and had never been seen going to synagogue or church. This, itself, was a serious omission on an Island which sported more churches per square mile than Jerusalem. Spline joined Simon Snark, a clandestine operative working for an agency so secret no body knew the name of it. His security clearance badge had the name redacted by someone with a black magic marker.

At first, surveillance was easy, because the people inside had drawn up the blinds to the big picture window for the main room and Snark sat there patiently with his field glasses and camera while Spline played with the radio.

They talked together in special code.

"Cotillion?" asked Mr. Spline.

"Walrus," answered Mr. Snark.

"No foxtrot?"

"Nope. No elephant."

Conversation with Mr. Snark could be problematic, as even his small talk had been scripted by his handlers. He talked only about the prospects of the Chicago Cubs winning the world series and nothing else.

"I don't think you ever even lived in Chicago," said Mr. Spline.

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, you never talk about anything else."

"Are you sure about that? How do you know what I talk about when nobody is there?"

This had Mr. Spline beat for a moment. "There are other things in Chicago besides the Cubs."

"Like what else? What could be more important than the World Series?" Mr. Snark said.

At this point they were joined by the red-blooded All-American Mr. Terse. Terse was an ex-marine, but had volunteered to continued the fight against Communism. In his mind, the Islamacists were all Communists by another name as they were known to provide free medical care and build schools in places like Palestine.

"The Cubs record is an American Tradition." Said Mr. Terse, coming into the conversation late.

"Well, like the Loop," said Mr. Spline.

"Shows what you know. The Loop don't go by Wrigley Field."

"Are you sure about that? It seems to me . . .".

"Fornicating bats!" exclaimed Mr. Snark.

"Uh, I don't remember that code, . . . ".

"They closed the blinds!" Snark said, lowering his field glasses.

"O! What are we going to do now?"

"See if we can get a better view. Maybe plant a mic or two."

"Isn't that going to happen by the carpet cleaner tomorrow? Maybe we should just stay put."

Mr. Terse was disgusted. "You CIA career bureaucrats got no ambition."

So this is how the three clandestine operatives got to creeping around to the backyard. Essentially, the two approached the open gate along the side, and figuring this was a too obvious approach, went around the block, crept along the drive of the apartment house behind and came to the fence

The still fit Mr. Terse, who began each day with 50 pushups, easily scrambled over the chainlink, followed by Mr. Spline, but Mr. Snark got his pants hung up and he fell ingloriously into the jacaranda, knocking over a bucket.

The back door opened and the house owner peered out with a flashlight, exclaiming over his shoulder, "Damn raccoons are into the vegetable garden again, honey!"

The three operatives, caught, sprang into action. They rushed the door, knocking down the man standing there and took position with their guns drawn pointing down at the terrified man laying on the kitchen floor.

A woman wearing an apron at the sink stood there with a dishrag and a look on her face that would have startled Edvard Munch.

A nappy-headed kid about six peered from around the corner with round, brown eyes.

"Please don't kill my daddy," said the kid. "He's not read my bedtime story yet."

"Don't worry," said Mr. Snark. "We are police."

"O saints preserve us," said the woman. "We all gonna die for sure!"

"Why you come bustin' into my house?" said the man on the floor. "We done nothing wrong. We not driving while Black even!"

"Your name Jeddah," said Mr. Terse. "That's Middle East."

"I'm from Jamaica," said the man. "And Sarah was born in Oaktown. And the name is Jeremiah, not Jeddah."

"How come you gonna shoot my daddy?" asked the kid.

"He's a suspected terrorist." Said Mr. Spline, grimly.

"No he's not," Sarah said. "He's a landscaper."

"Moderation in pursuit of terrorism is no virtue," said Mr. Terse.

"That sounds familiar," Mr. Spline said.

"You bust into my house wearing black suits and black ties as if you be Mafia, knock down my husband with guns, and you destroyed the jacaranda. Now who is terrorizing who here!"

"Pleeeeze don't shoot my daddy!" wailed the little kid.

"Now now," said Mr. Terse reaching over to a bowl on the linoleum table. "We are here to serve and protect. Wanna cookie?" He offered a chocolate chip to the kid.

"Sorry ma'am," said Mr. Spline. "Just a little mistake . . .".

"Get outta my house!" shouted Sarah.

"Well okay," said Mr. Terse. "Keep alert and watch your neighbors carefully. We are going, but do not hesitate to call Homeland Security if you see anything suspicious."

"O for Pete's sake," Jeremiah said from the floor.

Outside the three headed for Mr. Spline's covert black SUV as lights flicked on all up and down the block. Someone called out of a window, "Sarah?! You and the kids all right?"

A group of teenagers came out and started filming everything with their cell phones.

"Dang, those cameras everywhere now," said Mr. Spline.

"It's getting difficult for us to do our jobs anymore," said Mr. Terse.

"O shut up," said Mr. Snark. "I need to change my pants."

Mr. Spline looked down. "Say even your underwear is red, white and blue!"

"Of course it is!" Snapped Mr. Snark.

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 moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey through the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave to parts unknown.

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

JULY 10, 2016

THERE'S A BRIGHT SIDE SOMEWHERE

Roving photog Tammy took this shot of a neighbor's front yard while strolling through the Gold Coast the other day. Kinda brightens up the day.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

You may have heard there is something going on in the news lately about police in America. Foreign countries are warning citizens visiting this country to be extra careful around police. Riots are tearing up, once again, the hearts of our cities. Once again, innocent people have been slain in the course of trivial traffic stops. And once again a lunatic has gone wild with firearms in a public place, this time specifically targeting police officers.

That the victims are police officers should not distract from the greater picture of now regular mass shootings in public arenas. This time police. That time Jews. One time sausage factory health inspectors, who apparently have no presskit of their own. Children and teachers in another instance.

So it appears that our IPD enjoyed a certain amount of community support recently in the wake of the Dallas shootings which claimed the lives of at least five workingmen just doing their jobs.

That is okay for what it is. Nobody should have to fear for their life going to work. It is nice that people who are the main beneficiaries of the stable social order provided by police express their appreciation. It also should not distract the discourse from the two issues that are pressing upon the entire Nation right now. Gun violence has surpassed epidemic proportions and is causing a series of unwanted changes in the fabric of our daily lives and much of this could be dealt with effectively were it not for a powerful industrial lobby we do not even have to reference by its acronym to identify.

The other issue is the horrific carnage being inflicted upon Americans by a supposedly defensive entity that is entirely too hyped, too violent, and too driven to employ overwhelming deadly force to resolve difficulties. One classic case is that of Oscar Grant who was shot in the back in Oaktown by Special Force Officers. Grant was face down with an officer the size of a linebacker pressing his knee into his neck when Officer Mehserle reached for his sidearm and, believing he had a taser in his hands, shot and killed Grant.

Now, Grant, a slightly built man, was entirely subdued and at the mercy of the police, so there was no reason to taser the man in the first place. And so many others have died while complying fully with police and obeying all the rules that the question begs itself to be answered, what level of subservience is necessary to avoid being murdered in "accidentally" or in cold blood by authorities and should we be subservient at all in a supposedly free and Democratic society becomes a serious question. Certainly struggling with an officer and then running away seems certain to result in a death sentence in the United States. In other places, the police either talk the man down or let him go so as to retrieve him later, tactics that just do not ever seem to happen here.

We turn to Le Monde for the numbers, and it should surprise nobody that entire world is aghast at what is going on here. Every single major foreign news outlet, including Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Mundo has featured the face of the Dallas Policechief David Brown in agony over what has happened recently and there follows images of President Obama's response in transit to Spain for trade talks there. It was up to the French to take apart the Washington Post's stats on the over 500 people killed by police this year (27% Black, 52% White, 17% Hispanic). Nobody has really done a comparative analysis of the nature of the killings, which would of course now include the homicidal maniac holed up in the Dallas garage. Of those 500 plus there certainly are a percentage of folks who, if not stopped, would have certainly hurt and or killed other people.

Looking at Black Lives Matter lists for 2015 we find among the plus 100 Black Americans killed by police quite a high number of people who were innocent bystanders or just plain innocent while detained on suspicion while a large number of persons struggled physically with a police officer only to lose their life, innocent or not, independent of any trial. It seems of the mind of some Whites that if you struggle and run away for fear of your life, as it turns out justifiably, then you are a low life thug and deserve execution Dirty Harry style.

Well, we have only to cite Eastwood himself who has said that Dirty Harry was an unrealistic fantasy and such a person could never really exist in a modern, civilized society. For good reason.

There is certainly a separation of experience and understanding between Blacks and Whites in how things really work in America today, and even Newt Gingrich has stated that "Whites have no idea what it is to be Black." Trump's nonsensical claim that he would prefer to be a Black businessman (1989) because of all the "advantages" is not so shocking, given the nature of the person who said it, but it is disturbing that so many clueless Whites take such a statement on face value.

Of course it is not up to any one White crusader to wreck the relative peace and equilibrium that any particular Black family may have hacked out of the substrate of this disorganized Society. That sort of thing leads to nothing but discontent with failed promises. What needs to happen is for Whites to listen and to engage, not with their own lily-white sense of guilt so as to feel better, but to the other side that seems so foreign to them because of distance. Foreign as it seems now, even though this Darker side is substantially what built America into what it is today.

As for the Island, sure it is fine to reassure the Thin Blue Line for the moment -- for they have their uses -- while also keeping in mind it was this same department that watched a man die for two hours in the water one memorable Memorial Day, all so as to prove a point in the budget. And also recall that although one side did get rambunctious, it was the police that reacted by violently spilling blood on the stairs of City Hall during the special session on the rental crisis a few months ago.

We do feature a number of people who roam about here on the Island, showing up at functions and flaming people online they are certain will never accost them in person, who have a fine opinion of themselves and a certain idea of moral rectitude and certainty that all the police do is good and for the benefit of all, and just all so altruistic and anybody they hurt just probably deserved what they got. Both the Police Union and the Fireman's Union are thinking only of you and your little dog too. Barney Fife, this Island aint no small town no more, as stated by the Mayor herself in a meeting a few months ago. The Island is a City and its population is soon to top 100,000 souls and acting all smug and superior at the pancake breakfast will not play the band any more.

Again, remember this, this is a department that watched a man die for two hours so as to make a point in the budget. Not quite Mayberry RFD, is it?

I WALK ALONE

So anyway, the new moon Monday has evolved into a gradually waxing crescent that hangs in the sky from midday through the afternoon into night. The skies have been astonishingly ice-blue clear and the days breezy. A wind kicked up midweek causing the trees to stir as the long hair of the Bann Sé tousled the leaves and made old women take out their rosaries to mutter spells under breath.

Mr. Cribbage hired a couple day laborers named Oso and Orlin to perform landscaping work on his tenant property. As was usual for Mr. Cribbage he went and fetched the guys from the pickup-point in his pickup truck and brought them onto the property with rakes and shovels and shears and other implements of mass destruction and gave the simple instruction "Reducir!" while waving his arms around.

"¿Y esto?" Oso pointed at the bamboo planted by Elizabeth, the tenant.

"Ummm . . . excavar . . . uhh poco ... pequeño, oh heck remove it."

"Todos ello?"

"Uhhh . . . si. Todos un pequeño something. When done . . . uh finis trabajo come see me."

Then, Mr. Cribbage went away, leaving the workers to do what they do.

Elizabeth, wearing her bathrobe, peered out the window behind the curtains as the men went to work with a will. They had been brought to work and they intended to work the short stretch there for a full eight hours and then collect their pay. No sense working half a day and then standing out at the day worker plaza again.

While Oso removed the eight-foot high bamboo curtain that shielded the house from the street, Orlin went to work with a will upon the rose bushes, the flowering succulents, the gladiolas, the hedge, and the blooming gardenia as well as the jasmine clinging to the fence. As fragrant masses of branches thick with blooms began to pile up Elizabeth rushed out.

"¡Heno! No corte todo! Deja las flores! Dejar un poco de bambú!"

It was then that Oso noticed the scarlet and purple remains of the glads on the ground. "O! Las flores!"

Everyone stood around looking at the piles of bright petals, breathing in the scent of the decimated gardenia. Oso had lopped the tops of the trillium and the reddish stalks also lay in the pile. O well.

"El jefe va a plantar aquí otra cosa," offered Orlin. "The boss will plant something here." He wiped his brow of sweat.

"¿Que hora es?" Oso asked.

Orlin told him and so, since it was not yet five o'clock they went back to work decimating the shrubbery and whacking back the rose bush even further as Elizabeth fled wailing into the house. The chief of the fire department lived across the street and he came out to look at what had happened. He took his hat off and scratched his head. He hailed from Louisiana.

"All be damned!" he said.

Around five, the two day workers put down their implements and

Around six, Denby came to visit and disturbed a deer which had come to feed on the six foot pile of vegetation piled out in front of the fence.

There now was a lot of space to plant as the two workers had razed to the dirt most of the growth Elizabeth had planted over five years. The mighty rose bush had been thinned until it was a scraggle of branches about two feet wide. The gardenia looked like the Gengis Khan had run over it with his horsemen . The setting sun beat mercilessly on the now unprotected housefront.

Elizabeth was in tears. "Why did Walter have to do that to my garden? He could have at least told me!"

Denby shrugged. "Landlords got all the power, no soul."

"Renting sucks." Elizabeth said.

Meanwhile Oso and Orlin had headed off to the Old Same Place Bar to have a beer and kick back after an honest days work. It was of Orlin's point of view that it had been a good day.

"Too bad about las flores," said Oso.

"Should we go over and see if Mr. Burbage has any work tomorrow. Last time we dug and dug for all day."

"I don't know about that," said Orlin, thinking. "Last time there were problems."

"Ah!" said Oso, remembering.

"Too bad about that wall," said Orlin.

That day they had broken up the patio and dug trenches very deep for a long time. It had been Mr. Burbage's intention to lay down new flags. They had stopped for a drink of lemonade Mary Beth Burbage had brought out on a tray. Then, there had been this big crash behind them and Mr. Burbage had come out to see the entire hillside retaining wall had fallen down. Some thirty feet of it made of stone. It lay in the pit they had dug along its foundation all broken up and Mr. Burbage had looked upset.

"No worry," Oso had assured Mr. Burbage. "The rock is all broken to small pieces. We can take out quick with wheelbarrow and then you have your hole empty again."

"We are good workers," said Orlin. "We work harder and longer than anybody else out there. Nobody needs to watch us."

"I don't know why Jose does not want to come stand with us on the corner," Oso said. "He never has any good work and so he never has any money."

Orlin shrugged. "We are good workers. We always work very hard."

Jose, sweeping the floor of the Native Son's of the Golden West Hall after a banquet heard about what happened to Elizabeth's garden from Denby, who helped taking out the garbage.

"Esos chicos son idiotas," said Jose. "It is better to work smarter, not harder."

From the porch of the NSGW Salon they both could see long lines of taillights up on the Nimitz. A column of smoke ascended from further down where a big rig had overturned and caught on fire, blocking the freeway.

"All the dot commers are stuck in line up there," Denby said.

"Jornada de trabajo se realiza," said Jose, "And everyone still going home at midnight. I think it is better to work smarter, not harder."

"Tambien. I agree with that, amigo," Denby said.

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 moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

JULY 4, 2016

WAVE THAT FLAG, WAVE IT WIDE AND HIGH

We put off the weekly issue a day so as to capture real-time the Nation's 240'th birthday.

This image is from the Island Mayor's July 4th Parade.

LET IT BE ME

The Summer Season is in swing and the Oaktown art scene is humming as more and more talent flees the City that Used to Know How.

At the reinvigorated Fox, Widespread Panic holds forth for few days this coming week.

Chris Thile takes a breather before assuming the weighty mantle of the Prairie Home Companion as he joins banjo meister Bela Fleck July 19th. Flogging Molly brings things down home August 3rd.

Things look sorta "meh" until the new Tedeschi Trucks collaboration blows into town for two nights in September.

The Paramount will be hosting the Oaktown jazz festival, which oughta do you fine.

Yoshi's West is appearing a bit schizo with Jon Cleary filling out the slot for the Summertime Blues Series on 7/6, followed by the Ohio Players for a couple nights and then Shawn Wayans, which is fine enough, but then Lydia Pense shows up 7/11 for a jolting contrast. Some old school R&B Soul fills out the schedule.

Look for Tommy Castro on 7/31 for some hot, funky blues and 8/8 for Maria Muldaur.

The studios at Studio 25 are hopping with arts activity, with openings, talks, walks and all sorts of exciting stuff for visual arts connoisseurs.

Vessel Gallery presents DISRUPTUS Essay and Photography by Dr. Ian Alan Paul, monotype glass by Cheryl Derricotte, poetry by Nina Lindsay, painting by David Burke, painting by Martin Webb, installation by Todd Laby, sculpture and paintings by Christa Assad + Kevin Wickham, sculpture by Aaron Schuyler, and poetry by Lynn Gentry.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Went over the bridge to check out another small town parade. This time we attended the parade for the tiny hamlet of Woodacre. Woodacre contains one country store, a baseball field, a small post office, and a fire department, but the latter is only because nobody in Marin could figure out where to house the regional service. There are no streetlights, no sewer lines, no school, no mayor and no home postal service. Since there are no public buildings, people meet at the San Geronimo Community Center down Sir Francis Drake. The total population is about 1,300 souls, including dogs.

The parade begins promptly at noon, with the firechief walking along greeting people, followed by a fire truck. As entries line up everybody talks to everybody. This shot reminds us that this area remains substantially rural.

Seems a musician lives on every block around here.

The area is 91% Democratic. So sometimes it is okay to check out a woman's rear end . . .

Olympians.

Lots of old cars around here. We looked at one and saw a Caddilac Vee Six engine had been shoehorned into a 1929 truck. Unfortunately the photo did not turn out.

Teddybear picnic?

Marin is the heartland for environmental causes.

It's a Volkswagen Bee-tle.

When is a horse not an horse? When it is a mule and a burro . . .

 

At this point the hulagirl is seeing that the tree branches over the road will scrape the roof of this truck . . .

No, we could not observe how the driver could see to drive either.

This firetruck is from Stinson Beach, which is about 15 miles or so down the road and along the coast.

We have no idea what a thirty-foot tall zebra has to do with Independence Day, but who cares.

Tossing candy to the kids.

 

There you have it. There was music and candy and motorscooters and silliness and at the end of the day a fine time was had by all.

 

IF YOU WERE MINE

So anyway, July came bringing summer weather, with summer weather being chilly evenings sheltered by high fog that burns off in the late morning to yield to hot sun for a few hours. Butterflies dodge around the golden poppies and hummingbirds dive bomb the blackberry bushes. School is out and the teens are finding ways to amuse themselves without getting caught, which generally involves cars, skateboards, spray cans, and, occasionally, healthy athletic equipment.

Some of the young men and women who found they had been accepted to college earlier began making preparations for this new beginning to their lives. A few, accepted by either of the public systems, imagined that their lives would not be changing much. They would keep their high school friends and sweethearts and simply go off for a few months at a time to Chico or Santa Cruz, LA or, for the smarter ones, San Diego. They would come home to do laundry and drink beer with the bro's and hang with their best buds, just like it always had been.

Then there were those heading East for the Ivie's or even further afield to England. Luke Edger, who had spent much of his time at Encinal, Home of the Jets (When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way. . .") getting in trouble with Officer O'Madhauen and Officer Krumsky for tagging every flat vertical bland surface he could find, had gotten accepted at Trinity College to study art calligraphy, of all things,

One could say it was ironic for the boy to study letter writing at the home of the famous Book of Kells, but it was certain he would not be returning home to do laundry.

Gary Olafsson, who had been quite the reclusive, nerdy, writer-type for his first few years at Washington on the East End before developing a theatrical bent, bloomed and flowered as a stand-up comic with a routine that featured a Lutheran pastor from Minnesota telling droll stories about an imaginary small town. He was heading off to New York to study a year at the prestigious Juilliard Academy with an additional scholarship from the Rhode Island School of Design in his back pocket.

Over in Dan's Grocery there was a hubbub around the rhubarb for they found Mrs. Olafsson flat on her back with the RISD acceptance letter in her hand. When she had seen the news with her own eyes, she had just keeled o'er.

Sara, Sarah-James, Aoife, Heather, and Christine, who had been inseparable best buds ever since middle school, were now each to go their respective ways. Aoife was heading off to Galway and the Gaeltacht to study storytelling in Erse, Heather was heading for Berlin to study Art. Christine was going to study Italian folk music in Verona, while Sara would be working with the Southern Poverty Center in Appalachia. Sarah-James was going to study hydrology at Sugar Hill Engineering.

The night before Aoife left, the group of them met at Crab Cove to pledge undying loyalty by the light of the crescent moon and the sparkling eye of the constellation Taurus overhead. They recalled old times and people they had known and they drank chardonnay and remembered how, when they were no more than eleven or twelve, they had gathered late at night in the gymnasium to chant secret spells and levitate each other by using just their fingertips. Something that should be impossible became true when they were together. They each swore to meet again in a year.

So now Gary and Luke, the West Ender and the East Ender, are walking around the lsland looking at the old haunts like the Javarama Coffeehouse (aka, the Slut Hut") and Juanita's, wondering as they note the changes in progress what will remain once they return from the far flung corners of the globe. The florist's shop still had the green tile facade and the neon sign, but it was not a florist shop inside anymore -- the shop had closed a couple years ago and was now a boutique for handmade furniture and high-end tchotchkes.

The Silversmith had closed, and Pagano's had moved while across the street Ivy had retired with Ray, closing up the Vine's Garden Nursery and coffeeshop. Gary stood on Webster and looked at the storefront that used to house Joe's Barbershop where he had gotten his first haircut and seen his first nudie magazine.

He was afraid that after returning from the East that the Island would not be quite the same any more. Luke, coming out of the new Chinese restaurant there noticed Gary standing there and walked on over to greet him.

"We never really hung together much," Gary said.

"We never hung together at all," Luke said. "But I saw you around sometimes. You're East End."

"I don't think that matters any more," Gary said. "Now we are both leaving."

"You went with that Masse girl a while," Luke said.

"O, Heather? We just sorta worked together. Performance stuff."

"Well, she's a fox," Luke said.

"Wouldn't mind chaining her up, if you know what I mean, but I am sorta committed," Gary said.

"Yeah. Way it goes. I had a thing for her for a while, but you know . . .".

"Think you will hook up with that O'Donovan girl while you're in Ireland?"

"O . . . nah. She's too smart for me. And she'll be in the West while I'm gonna be busy in Dublin. Besides I am sorta committed as well."

"She's pretty too, in her own way. That whole gang of them. Smart as hell too."

"They each of them are gonna do well wherever they end up, that's for sure. And still bein' foxy."

The two young men watched the desultory traffic and pondered the foxiness of young women, their desirability and their attributes and their unattainability, much as young men will do while standing on the street corner. Much as young men have done since time immemorial.

"Well, I gotta be moving. Best of luck to you man."

"Same to you. Take care."

The two of them separated, each to pursue his personal destiny as the light began to fade and the red star Aldebaran began to shine.

Which star was observed by the Editor from the deck behind the Island-Life offices who consulted his electronic device. "Aldebaran is classified as a type K5 III star, which indicates it is an orange-hued giant star that has evolved . . . after exhausting the hydrogen at its core. The collapse of the centre of the star into a degenerate helium core has ignited a shell of hydrogen outside the core and Aldebaran is now a red giant. This has caused it to expand to 44.2 times the diameter of the Sun . . .".

"It is believed that in about 5.4 billion years, the sun will become just like Aldebaran. It is calculated that the expanding Sun will grow large enough to encompass the orbits of Mercury, Venus, and maybe even Earth. Even if the Earth were to survive being consumed, its new proximity to the intense heat of this red sun would scorch our planet and make it completely impossible for life to survive. . . ".

The Editor closed the cover of his device thoughtfully and a moth fluttered by to bang into the bushes.

Denby paused on his way out the door after working late on assignment.

"Wussup Boss?"

"Everything is fated to mutation," said the Editor. "Even the sun itself. So! In that case I am going to have my scotch on the rocks now instead of later, for it is hot at the moment."

"Whatever you say, boss," said Denby.

Out beyond the Golden Gate, Pedro reached over and switched off the radio and sighed. His favorite variety program hosted by Pastor Rotschue had just ended its final broadcast. The televangelist was retiring from radio and there would be no more sermons to keep him company during the dark hours returning from the fishing grounds.

"It's just you and me, Ferryboat," said Pedro to his cabinmate.

"Wuff!" said Ferryboat.

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 moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

JUNE 26, 2016

BRIDGE OF SIGHS

Due to atmospheric and celestial/astrological occurrences we enjoyed a plethora of submitted photos to consider for the Headline this time around. This week's photo comes via FB friend, talented cellist Laura Boytz, a musician possessed of a great deal of talent and indomitable disposition. This is from a night cruise on the Bay near the new Bay Bridge.

BEEN ALL AROUND THIS GREAT BIG WORLD

So anyway, the summer weather has arrived and all the high schools finished up their graduations this past weekend and after the post-graduation parties barefoot girls sat on the hoods of Subarus, Toyotas, Nissans, and the few remaining Fords worth talking about while Eddie and Jason spun donuts on the blacktop of Snoffish Valley Road.

Spring had passed by with all its fecund promise, but Eugene had been pursuing one potential hookup with someone known only as Pastor Liz on Match.com. Lately he had gotten the brush-off as it turned out she had no real interest in hooking up and was happy enough going on camping trips with children. So Eugene did what inveterate bachelors always do; he made ready to go fishing for trout in the High Sierra.

The Great Hall of Mr. Howitzer's mansion has been a-bubble with activity ever since the announcement of that the ACT group managed to get the rent control initiative on the ballot. Desultory meetings of Big Property and management firm reps had been going on, largely led by Marie Crain, as the landlords attempted to squelch the initiative from gathering the necessary 7,000 signatures. Feeling confident of their power, Crain's group relied on the usual techniques of disinformation, pressure on City councilmembers, packing the meetings with shills and old-fashioned threats, expecting to pursue the matter by challenging signature validity, but were discomfited when the initiative garnered 16,000 signatures.

The group has reformed under Mr. Howitzer's roof as AgitProp, a consortium of landlords, management firms, and Texan Realtors as well as the new norm invitees to all groups of consequence nowadays -- the Chinese -- who sent a single ambassador in the form of Mr. Wong, a man who always appeared wearing the same immaculate black suit with shiny patent leather shoes.

"I represent interests which have so much money they make all of you look silly -- including Donald Trump" Mr. Wong said.

"We appreciate you have modest investment here on the Island," said Mr. Howitzer. "And we appreciate you offering your expertise in dealing with these problem tenants."

"Actually we own only the Snickers Peanut Butter Mansion and adjoining property to Crab Cove," said Mr. Wong. "But we do own some of Babylon and Oaktown."

"I think you do own a significant portion -- if not all of it," said Mr. Cribbage.

"Not yet," said Mr. Wong modestly. "Perhaps some day."

"I wish we could just get rid of them," said Marie Craine. "I mean those troublemakers."

"We tried that in China," said Mr. Wong. "But the methodology did not work so well."

"O, how did you do that?" Mr. Blather asked. "And what was wrong about the methodology?"

"We ran over them with tanks," said Mr. Wong. "But we found when we did that, no one was left to pay the rents."

Up on Grizzley Peak Boulevard, Mr. Spline stared at his McTwiggers sandwich, certain that he had requested absolutely no pickles. Yet there he was in his black Ford SUV Expectorant with tinted windows staring at a wad of green stuffed into his Big Twig. He had demanded a server that spoke English to be absolutely sure that his demands would be clear because he seemed to always have problems at places like that.

In his opinion, the problem was the bilingual thing in California which had been carried entirely too far. The state had been wrested from Mexico entirely fair and square and the language should be English everywhere and if you did not speak English, well you had better learn it and pass a test to live here and that was that. He sighed and put the sandwich down next to the Super Fried Twigs. The waitron's nameplate had read Rosalita -- an obvious problem. Problem was, Col. Kurtz had been dead wrong; you can't kill all the bastards -- there are too many.

He picked up his field glasses and checked to make sure his Ruger with extended barrel and laser sight were ready. Across the way, the door of the Greek orthodox church remained stolidly shut as it had been for hours since services had ended. Behind that door lurked Josh Sleetman, the whistleblower who had outed City Hall's formerly secret wiretapping of regional bathrooms located outside various municipal chambers. This wiretapping of supposed allies within the Five County Bay Area had caused an uproar and Josh to flee for his life although the City had promised a "fair trial" should he submit to arrest.

"Fair trial?" Said Sleetman in a video response from his sanctuary. "As in Freddie Gray and Oscar Grant and Gynnya McMillen?" He concluded the video with a shot of the American flag and the sound of a Bronx cheer.

Problem is, thought Spline, looking through the field glasses at the ornate wooden door, people have no respect for the Flag.

The door moved a little and he reached for his modified sidearm. He knew he could drill a quarter at fifty yards, but his boss at Homeland Security had threatened dire consequences if he were to cause damage to the church.

"See these eggs," said Simon Jambonverde. "You so much as knick the lintel of that holy place and . . ." Here he crushed the objects in his hand over the trash can. "That's gonna be sus huevos, capeche?"

"I don't speak Latin, boss," said Mr. Spline.

In response Mr. Jambonverde put his head in his yolk-stained hands. "How can any idiot be an Homeland Security Officer? Answer me that!"

"It is very simple. All you have to do is apply," said Mr. Spline.

"GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE I AM GUILTY OF MURDER!"

"It's OK, Boss. Doris can get the papers to get you off . . .".

"OUT OF MY SIGHT IMMEDIATELY!"

Sitting in his Special Forces SUV Mr. Spline patiently awaited Simon Snark, an agent so secret that nobody knew who his boss was or his job title. In fact, people did not know for sure if he did in fact work for Homeland Security and not for some other agency about which only the President and select members of Congress knew. Snark never said where he had been, never where he was going, and nothing about his state of mind. Conversation with him tended to be limited to the chances of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, but even those facts appeared to be memorized by him without enthusiasm.

Simon Snark was a true patriot with dedication.

Meanwhile, Josh finished up his excellent meal down in the Fruitvale before descending into the intricate series of underground passages built long ago by LDS members so as to avoid the basic genocides so characteristic of the early days of The Republic. A tunnel ran from the grand Mormon temple to under the Greek chapel. The Greeks, who had been around for awhile and handled the Nazis effectively during WWII knew a few things about subterfuge and they valued a tunnel. So it was that Josh enjoyed fine dining, occasional travel, visits with his girlfriend and all the pleasures of a somewhat free society, popping into the chapel now and then to appear in the window and moon either Mr. Spline or Simon Snark so as to maintain the belief that he remained holed up in there.

As night fell a periscope emerged careful from the placid waters of the Estuary. Earlier a couple of crewmembers from the Iranian spy sub El Chadoor had set out on a rubber dingy from outside the Golden Gate, beached on the Point and changed into shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. So as to pass through the populace they had printed t-shirts for the occasion. Rashid wore one that said "Re-enter Puberty Joyfully!" and Omer had worn one that said, "I'm with Stupid!" They had gone to collect provisions and scout out the Island as news regarding a loudmouth demagogue seizing power had caused Teheran some concern.

They seemed to know in Teheran that loudmouth demagogues could be a problem, but these Americans appeared to be oblivious. Out on the West End the two of them paused on their return in front of a wooden stand behind which two little girls, named Doris and Bea, sat sweltering in the new heat wave upon which they had desired to capitalize without realizing that Capital does involve some risk of loss. They had figured that an hot, treeless street would be perfect to capture thirsty passersby. Only no one passed by. Because the street was hot and treeless.

"Wan' some lemonade?" called Doris plaintively. "It's hot!"

Raschid looked at Omer and Omer looked at Raschid. "You have had here much success?" Raschid asked.

"Nooooooooo!" Bea wailed.

"Ah! I think my friends would like some lemonade." Raschid said, hefting his knapsack. Omer held onto the handle of the Flexible Flyer wagon that carried fresh vegetables.

"Okay, how much you want?" Doris asked.

"All of it." Omer said.

As they made ready to go, Bea commented "You are not from around here."

"I am from Qom," Raschid said.

"Calm. That is a peaceful name," Bea said.

"We think so." Omer said.

Later, under cover of darkness the First Mate looked through the periscope at the peaceful Island.

"Anything to report?" asked the Captain.

"They are home safe," answered the First Mate.

"Both of them?"

"I saw their mothers ring the dinner bell and open the door to take them in."

"In that case, I would like a glass of that excellent lemonade before we dive," said the Captain.

And the El Chadoor glided out of the Estuary into the Bay and from there underneath the Golden Gate toward the vast Pacific Ocean, running silent, running deep.

As night drifted under the Strawberry Moon, the Editor emerged onto the back deck after the newsroom had closed up for the day. A big floor fan shoved the air around, but already the night brought surcease of the day's heat, allowing cool breezes to waft in over the parched land. Stars emerged to overwhelm the heavens where the moon had not yet conquered the celestial realms.

In leaving, Jose had comment about this summer night that it would be well for this moment of peace to be preserved forever. And it was sad that peace does not last. Then he left.

"It is not," The Editor thought, "Our part to beat drums and blare trumpets calling for war. Our task as artists, no matter how humble or inferior or lacking in talent as seen by others, to make whole, and heal when possible, and help people really see the beauty that is there all the time, in the mud, the dust, the concrete, the iron, and the misery most of all. It is to slay every impediment between what made us and ourselves."

At the same time, out beside the shrubbery of the College Don Guadalupe Maria Llosa Vargoza Erizo sat looking up at the heavens. Dame Herrisson came out and asked, "Qu'est ce que tu regardes?"

"La luna, por supuesto."

She toddled over to his side and gently laid her head on his shoulder. "Ah, mon amour, vous êtes vachement romantique!"

So it is that although men and women speak entirely different languages, they nevertheless sometimes can some to some common understanding beyond words.

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 moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

JUNE 19, 2016

SUMMERTIME

This week the headline is of the heavy traffic on Snoffish Valley Road which passes between the new Hills of Memory Retirement Home and the Great Outback on the Island. It says simply, "summertime is here."

BEEN ALL AROUND THIS GREAT BIG WORLD

A fellow had the effrontery and lack of imagination to rob the Wells Fargo at South Shore Mall at gunpoint and then hit the Walgreens fifteen minutes later last Sunday. Imagining he was in a Wild West movie he fired his revolver at the ceiling before taking cash from shoppers there. Then he went to Encinal Avenue and robbed another victim at the liquor store and fired off his pistol again. Since the perp broke no traffic laws during his feeble attempts, he got clean away although the Walgreens security video returned a positive ID for Richard Lachaux who returned to Babylon across the water, where it seems thugs like to hang out. He was arrested by SFPD in a familiar story wherein IPD fail to catch anyone and rely on criminals being really stupid enough to be arrested in neighboring municipalities where the police there know what they are doing.

This happened the last time someone hit up banks on Otis near Southshore, when the perp was arrested in San Leandro. And yet again when a robber hitting the same area was arrested in Walnut Creek. And yet again when a bank robber was arrested in Newark.

We do, however, have very vigilant traffic enforcement. People take an hour to drown unaided on Memorial Day, and this is allowed to happen in front of 200 First Responders so that a point about the budget can be made, but we do have very sharp traffic enforcement.

In other news, the citizen's groups who got the first ever rent control ordinance put on the ballot for November have been meeting to discuss strategy. Celebration for half steps is over; now comes the real work.

Which brings to mind topics for discussion on how to proceed going forward. Yes, the Island is in fact a real island with physical boundaries. But then so was Harlem, which at one time was bounded by the Harlem River north of Manhattan.

The entire Bay Area is suffering from this rental crisis, not just the Island, and to some extent our problems are shared by other municipalities. San Franciscans have ruined their City, rendering it unlivable, so the less said about it the better. Marin County possesses powerful grassroots organizations that are not ashamed to be labeled anti-development or any other name in defense of their hamlets, so they are good to go for a while. There is a single multifamily unit up for discussion around Fairfax which is causing a furor, but we have well over 18 such developments in the works with very little opposition, which is probably a bad sign for us. A central Marin railway, if it comes to pass, may unsettle all that resistance against rampant developer's greed up there, but that is something that remains in contention. Marin has already been ruined for the most part, with edge people, real artists, struggling musicians, and working folk moving out in favor of affluent people who have never known the area as a primarily rural, blue collar region. A central railway will only cement the region into what it has become: a gentrified "country" where horses and pickups are kept as pets and for entertainment and not for doing real work.

The truth is the different counties may have superficial differences, but they all face this development pressure and all of them have suffered the consequences of bad development based more upon dollars than sense. And the dollars are certainly not flowing into the pockets of people like you and me. Since SF has become unlivable, but retains financial and economic authority in the region, people have fled to more relatively affordable outlying areas to use SF as a centerpoint for employment. Since the hike from and to Contra Costa and Solano becomes so onerous along increasingly choked traffic arteries, SF becomes reserved for single-purpose activities resulting in people shopping and living non-work hours away from the City. Theatre and music and arts have gravitated to Oaktown for the time being, as for the time being living expenses have been lower.

It might be a good idea for Islander activists to look north to see what has happened there in Marin and Sonoma to make common cause. There is, after all, quite a lot of money seen to be at play, and if the money is simply swept from the table, a lot of things will resolve themselves. The following needs to be said loud and clear: yes, we are anti-development, and you know what ... we do not care what you think.

It is time that people who own things like machine guns and property that just because you own something does not mean you have the right to do anything you want with it. There are laws about this kind of stuff and we cannot afford people who own things doing jack all they want when their decisions destroy communities and lives.

That is the answer to rampant development and to gun massacres in two sentences. Just because you own something does not give you the right to destroy people. Okay; so since you have not governed yourselves, then we need to restrict your ownership because you have proven to be irresponsible people.

RIPPLE COOL STILL WATER

So anyway, the blustery winds of late gave up to spottled skies of erratic cloud and hot sun. Sunday dawned clear and bright with high skeins of high wind clouds heading east. Deer cluttered past in the early morning on the road below the Island Life offices. The potted gardenia next to Elizabeth's house finally opened up to spread a sweet aroma around the yard and ruby throated hummingbirds darted around the jacaranda. Roses, on a meager water allotment due to the five-year drought, nodded their large heads in the swelling heat. It's Father's Day.

Juanita swept the floor of the taqueria and stood in the doorway on Park Street as families walked past, most going to Ole's Waffle Shop for breakfast, or Joe's Diner which already sported a long line out the door and down the sidewalk, but a few came in to have coffee and huevos rancheros from the kitchen and mimosas from the bar. The Almeida family was there in the center with two tables shoved together to accommodate the crowd. Juanita stood in the doorway waiting for the group to order, an hummingbird zipped down to pause and examine her a moment before darting around the corner of the Lucky 13, where Samantha was just then taking the stools off of the table tops to open the place for the bloody mary crowd.

The Fencers came walking down the street with their kid, Brian. Mr. Fencer, who ran a print shop in Oaktown as a front for his real business -- processing stolen credit card numbers -- was teaching little Brian how to steal wallets from open purses. Mrs. Narita Fencer wore her best broad brimmed hat and carried a large Hello Kitty bag for shoplifting. Today was a family day.


The Blather's were out with their kids and Tubby Blather held the leash of their toy poodle, Oso, with pride. Mrs. Blather went into Christine's with Lavinia and Moppet while Mr. Blather waited outside with Tubby and Oso.

A loud Ah-Oogah! announced Percy Worthington Boughsplatt driving down the street in his immaculate two-toned beige and brown 1929 Mandevill-Brot coupe with his consort Madeline beside him, dressed as usual in a fetching pillbox hat, feather boa, and black heels. As a longtime member of the Berkeley Explicit Players, Madeline wore, as usual, nothing else, and all the mothers covered the eyes of their sons as Percy drove past and Madeline cheerily waved from the open top convertible.

It was a jolly day and the sun shone merrily upon all.

Nick Traveller was in town with his daughter. Nick had returned for a visit to the town where he had grown up, but this place which for a while had been forgotten by Time had changed. He drove down Santa Clara after nearly getting lost in the West End because there was all that new development with the new Target out there on former Navy land.

He drove past the house where his best friend Jim had lived until his death by gunshot in the park a few years ago and did not pause there although he knew his widow still inhabited the old house wreathed in wisteria.

As he passed the place where he had once played baseball beside the school, he saw the field was now a parking lot for the Mastic Senior Center. He paused for a moment trying to get his bearings and found out from a guy who lived on the corner that the old Victorian had burned down in the seventies, leaving only the shed outbuilding still standing behind yet another parkinglot.

He drove past the chain link fence that guarded the lot for the Senior Center and the new tall cell towers there and parked in front of where Pagano's used to be. A big "For Rent" sign hung in the window and the old green awning was gone. Across the street, weeds grew on the empty lot which had once hosted Vines cafe and the plant nursery. He cut over to Encinal where the newer high school buildings hid the older structure that had been abandoned because of earthquake damage. The bookstore was closed and the mural paintings on the outside walls that had been done by the artist owner had been whitewashed, leaving a big blank space which graffiti artists had taken advantage off. The cat which had sat in the window for years was gone as well, of course. The first cat, named Buckingham, had died after fifteen years while he had still lived a few blocks away, but the owner had replaced the animal with the spitting image of the first one, so it always gave the impression that Buckingham had never left, had been immortal.

Down close to Park, the old flower shop with the art deco neon signs and tile storefront had closed. The signs were still there and the front was still tiled, but the place had been turned into a chic art boutique, a place that sold new furniture carefully distressed to look aged and more valuable than it was. The Silversmith was gone, a tchotchkes shop had replaced the Boudin bakery that had stood there for fifty years, and gone also was the Pillow Park furniture store where his parents had bought his first bed.

Kids on skateboards zoomed up to the edge of the two block downtown and dutifully obeying the signs painted on the corners, got off and carried them into the Java Hut coffeeshop. It was still a coffeeshop, but it had another name, a name he could not recall.

He had wanted to show his daughter this place which had been such a marvelous place, or so it seemed in memory, although as he sat down in Juanita's back patio area he did recall the powerful urge that had lodged in him to escape this small place to seek excitement in the City and even further off, as far as possible to get away. He had to remember that it was here that he had suffered the consequences of that run in with the Angry Elf drug dealer, which had been largely the main reason for moving away. As far as he knew the Angry Elf still lived on St. Charles Street across from that man the kids called Angry Andre.

When he bought his first car, a 1977 Volvo with an immense cavity on the passenger side where the sellers had told him a Monte Carlo had ploughed into it, the sellers -- themselves a charming pair of women living in the East End -- asked him if "that angry man who shouts a lot" still lived there.

The little town that had forgotten Time had not been forgotten by Time itself. Signs of change were everywhere with new storefronts and changed names everywhere. He wondered if that house owned by the Howitzers on Otis still sheltered a large number of ne'er do wells and he supposed it still did as the rental situation had only gotten worse.

"Dad," his daughter asked. "What's a merkin?"

"What? Where did you see that?"

"On coming in, I saw a shop on Webster called "Marvin's Merkins - Put a Merkin in Your Firkin."

Just then Juanita came by to take their order.

"It's a kind of toupee, isn't it?"

"Sort of. I'll tell you later."

A ruby-throated hummingbird came down into the open patio and paused to stare at them before darting off.

Out on the street, Mrs. Blather was complaining to Mr. Blather outside of Christine's. "I cannot recall where I last laid my wallet. I thought I had it with me in my purse . . ."!

A small woman bearing an Hello Kitty bag turned the corner to enter the arched brick arcade and disappeared.

Down at Crab Cove Father Danyluk flicked his line out over the water and said hello to the members of Tony Savage's Wiccan group as they made there way down to the glade so as to prepare for the upcoming Solstice, as the morrow would be the longest day of the year. Ruby throated hummingbirds danced among the tall tules of the inlet and shadows grew long and Nick Traveller left the island with his daughter in the rented car he had from the airport, taking with him only a t-shirt from the Walgreens and a bag full of memories.

All the celebrants from Javier's 58th birthday party had been let out of jail and they were celebrating with another jug of 99 cent wine down on the strand as the sun slid behind the distant hills of Babylon across the Bay. Inside the house, Marlene moved about the kitchen, cleaning up while little Andre studied his algebra on the linoleum topped table. Beneath the floorboards, the rats stirred quietly around the rusty mechanism of the furnace. The opossum nosed an old corncob and moved on with its children sneezing after in search of an open garbage can somewhere in the Gold Coast area of the Island.

Night fell and Juanita pushed the mop across the floor of the empty restaurant on Park Street a few miles away. It was a peaceful night and no one got stabbed and no one got shot.

As the clock ticked over to the new day of Summer, 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 moonlit 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

JUNE 12, 2016

CAUGHT A LOVELY BUTTERFLY

This week's headline comes from the front window at Bungalow Court where Island-Lifer Tammy caught this fellow going by, provoking a sweet memory of one of our gang who is no longer with us. We found lots of songs with the name butterfly in the title done by any number of pop song writers, including Miley Cyrus, but the most affecting we found is Weezer's only acoustic number, a simple song fraught with wistful regret.

WHATS THE BUZZ

By now most folks know that the Presidential race shall be between Clinton and that guy with the Mouth.

The elections this time featured few ballot measures in the Golden State and in this district, with only Measure AA passing for preserving the Bay tidal lands and State Measure 50 concerning passage of a measure that enables the state legislature to yank salary and privileges for members considered too unsavory even for politics, which generally means legislators under grand jury indictments. It is odd such a rule did not exist before and passage is largely symbolic rather than effective in that a 2/3rds majority is required to censure a colleague -- no something that happens easily in the best of years -- but at least it is a step in the right direction. Lawmakers do not have to be found guilty by the courts -- their proceedings can be in progress -- however the idea that somebody might have to pay for being caught with their hand in the cookie jar is novel.

All the energy for significant ballot measures and office selection is being directed by all local communities to the more significant election in November. It is then we shall see the measure proposing rent control appear for us on the Island along with selection of councilmembers. Statewide we will see state assembly choices and of course the woman (as it turns out) who will replace Barbara Boxer as Senator. This is certainly to be a contest among the Dems between Kamala Harris, former Attny General, and the relatively new Loretta Sanchez.

California does not segregate its Primary elections into two parties, according to new primary election rules, so the top two contenders will face off in November. The large field of 34 candidates with virtually no well known Republican appearing resulted in the washout.

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris won the largest share of the vote and the title of winner in the primary. By the end of the night, Harris led Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez by more than 800,000 votes, a margin of 23 percentage points.

Under California’s relatively new top-two primary rules, the two Democratic women will square off on Nov. 8 – a contest that pits Harris’ strength as the party favorite against Sanchez’s potential appeal to Republicans, unaffiliated voters and Latinos.

In Alameda County, precinct results indicated a concern about "The Bern" ability to defeat the far right reactionary Trump, who is generally perceived here to be a national disgrace in the making. People may not have much taste for another Clinton in the Oval Office, but the greater fear is over the heavily Brown Shirt flavor of Trump and what his election would mean for the Country. Hence, "Anything but Trump" is a slogan powering a number of new organizations. As a result Clinton took more than 70% of the votes in the County last Tuesday in just about all precincts generally considered to be Democratic. The general fear is that a Trump administration would feature a government similar to that constructed during Bush and Reagan's time, a government characterized by a nominal figurehead spouting popular aphorisms while an army of unelected bureaucrats once again robs the Federal Treasury, executes morally indefensible executive orders, trashes the environment with lethal consequences, and savages personal freedoms.

Because of the relatively low estimation of Primaries here, and the fact that another election is slated for November which is guaranteed to pull voters to the polls in droves, we saw few ballot measures, so look to November for a bevy of rent control measures, another go at Capital Punishment, yet another justice system reform measure and another water bond among other things.

Not registered? Better get it done now if you have not done so by now.

IF NOT FOR BAD LUCK

So anyway once again it came round for Javier's birthday, a celebration dreaded by some, feared by many, and enjoyed by few. Goddess knows just why birthdays get such grease in the Bay Area, especially when so many would rather roll in a mudbath with mambo snakes than go through the arduous procedures, but that is another topic for a TED talk genius to resolve some day.

There are people out there who have so little stuffing that they take upon themselves to do the Birthday thing to everybody else, in offices and in clubs -- you know who those people are -- and they do people to the nines regardless of wishes.

Javier's birthday has traditionally been a disorganized disaster over which no one has desired control, other than Jose, his friend, who has tried year after year to prevent anything from happening at all and only gotten to know the people and facilities of Highland's Trauma Unit all too well for all his pains. The wreckage left after friends of his had tried to gift him with a working Vietnam-era 188 howitzer still rusted in the ironmongery garden out back.

Last year Jose simply bailed and took the ruse of hiding under the front porch boards at Marlene and Andre's Household, but this year he became resigned to his fate for his older friend was approaching sixty now, and, with all the shenanigans and bad luck, would be fortunate to pass that milestone alive. So it was that Jose helped Javier secure a couple gallon jugs of 99 cent burgundy along with Pahrump and Martini so as to celebrate down there on the Strand around a driftwood bonfire.

June, besides the occasion for Javier's birthday, also provides the month for graduations around here, and with the fine weather encouraging haltertops and hotpants and dirty dancing, a good many other culminations as well. The school year comes to an end, the conveyor belt of living pauses before the next phase and people relax on a spiritual verandah before the hook of Life yanks them forward into the next room of employment, marriage, parenting and subsidiary trials.

Marlys, at the top of her class at Island High, was appointed to be Valedictorian at the Commencement this past weekend. There was a great deal of bubbling ferment over whether she would pick the occasion to announce that she had decided to transition her gender from biological female to male in solidarity with the LGBT community. This topic had been the center of a great deal of heated discussion at home and Uncle Chad had been brought in from Sacto by her parents as he had been long a favorite of hers as he had been a hippie rebel during the sixties, but when he got there he had said most irritatingly, "Well a dong is a dong and I have lived with mine for all my life -- its no big deal, and this society already has plenty of pricks, so she will learn that soon enough. Whatever."

Since this did not resolve the issue, in the minds of her parents, everyone was on tenterhooks for the Commencement which historically had included a final Senior prank to upset the proceedings. Everyone was sure that the center of it would be the speech. Superintendent Matterhorn stood to the side with Sister Agnes from Our Lady of Incessant Complaint from the Religion Department, instead of taking their seats to keep a watchful eye and so prevent any shenanigans. As usual, the graduates had all been strictly enjoined to retain their head gear and refrain from tossing into the air as all the graduation gowns needed to be returned intact.

In fact, Marlys began her speech along classical lines, beginning as follows, " Fellow classmates, parents and teachers, I have been selected to give the final speech, the speech of farewell in the capacity of Valedictorian, which comes from the Latin vale dicere, which is to say that I am giving here to all of you a farewell speech, a speech of good-bye. Good-bye to fellow classmates whom I have known many years even before high school, people I grew up with in this small town, people who are going to leave this town in which we grew up, some to go to college, some to travel the world, some to find jobs in other states, and some never to return again. We have experienced so many things together, shared our lives, our loves, our hates and now we say good-bye to all that which becomes part of memory, and it is what is remembered that is important to consider here . . . ."

In the middle of Marlys' speech there developed a low rumbling which became louder and louder. As Marlys began to speak of saying good-bye to the teachers and Principal Nattering, the first objects rolled into the assembly to knock against chairlegs. Then, more of them came in to roughly bang against the tables and the stage, causing it to shake. It was then that Superintendent Matterhorn looked up to see that the Senior class had spent all night building chutes from the watertower at the edge of the field. The entire watertower had been filled with thousands upon thousands of bowling balls and someone had tripped open the hatches to release them all to go sailing down the chutes into the assembly field.

As the wave of bowling balls crashed into the stands, knocking over chairs and parents and tables and bunting, the Senior class all let out a great HUZZAH! and they all threw their caps high into the air. And so that was the graduation of the class of 2016.

Ms. Morales got a letter from her former student, Karen, who had remained at the university and was now entering her final year. Final year! How time had passed! Only a short while ago Ms. Morales had been concerned for this child who had suffered so much with her broken home and the drug problems and her rebelliousness. Cutting herself with razor blades. Only yesterday Ms. Morales had tried to cross Santa Clara with her arms full of student essays on Emily Dickenson, only to have the impish wind carry it all away, feeling such despair.

It had seemed for a while that this one would become just another statistic of failure washing up and being left at low tide with all the other sand fleas and detritus. But, hope against hope, she had gone to college, with a little help on the scholarship application from Ms. Morales, and had survived the long gauntlet of approval and disapproval as a waif among the better heeled hoi polloi. Her letters told of the viciousness of those who had always their life sinecure assured against those who never had nothing assured at all. And the small victories and discoveries of like minds in that place. Fellow malcontents and rebels. The students who would go on to do more than just fill a niche supplied for them.

She had found someone in college and they had this idea, this boy and her, to set up a company to sell something that had something to do with computers -- Ms. Morales was an English teacher and she knew nothing about all that iPad and iPhone stuff.

She sat beside the desklamp with the letter in her hands and breathed a sigh of relief and joy. And one of whistfulness over the passage of time. She took off her wire-rims. Long years had passed and she was no longer chasing essays across the street. And from the darkness behind her the form of Mr. Ramirez appeared to place his comfortable hand on her shoulder.

Down on the Strand the moon arose over Javier's little birthday party. Everything was going just great until it came time for the birthday cake. Marlene managed to get some cake fixings together from gleanings at the food bank, but the candles were wanting. A proper birthday cake features candles, and with Javier approaching sixty, he was deserving of at least a few. So Martini got up some wire "candles" with wicks he got from some poi dancer friends he had at The Crucible where boys and girls were fond of dancing around with flaming balls and stuff. He hooked this up to a propane tank and set this apparatus on the House Flexible Flyer wagon and Jesus got some bottlerockets to add to this so as to make a really fine birthday cake which Marlene did not know about because they did not tell her.

So the gang thought it really a good idea to tow not only the cake but Javier as well in the little red wagon down to the beach, and Denby and Pahrump made ready to tow the wagon down to the water, but who should show up but Roxanne, one of Javier's latest affairs. Roxanne had flaming red hair, fingernails to match, a leopardskin tube top, a short leather skirt and six inch stiletto heels and a personality to match.

She also wielded a fireman's ax and she was upset on not having been invited to the birthday party.

It might be said that Roxanne could get upset about just about anything or nothing at all for she had quite a temper on her, but the less said about that the better.

Rolling away, Javier dodged the first strike of the ax which glanced off the propane tank to slice Jose in the thigh. Jose, igniting the candles of the birthday cake with a lit propane lighter from the Dollar Tree, fell across the wagon and so ignited the bottlerockets as well. Roxanne, swinging wildly, struck the propane tank again and Jose and wagon and cake and Denby exploded into a fireball as Pahrump dived into the bushes.

Denby ran, a man of flames, down to the surf where he fell in and was saved from drowning by Martini while Jose and wagon rolled down Eighth Street until Officer O'Madhauen pulled Jose over for running a stop sign.

"Young man, do you know why I pulled you over," Officer O'Madhauen said.

"Aaaaahhhhhhh!" Jose screamed in pain.

"I am sorry, but you are driving without helmet or seatbelt. And I am afraid I do not see a license plate either."

"My friends," said Jose.

"Today is a Spare the Air day," Officer O'Madhauen said. "I am going to arrest them as well as you. In addition to any number of other infractions, all of you are drunk in public."

"Aaaaahhhhhhh!" Jose screamed."

"Do not worry. You will get a list in the mail from the Court."

As the clock ticked over to the new day of Javier's birthday, 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

JUNE 5, 2016

THROWN TO A PASSING BREEZE

The recent heat wave has stimulated all the imported tropical flowers to erupt suddenly, giving us bushes of gardenias just as summer seems to have really begun.

It is not surprising the powerfully scented gardenia features in a couple songs, most notably by polar opposites Dinah Washington and Iggy Pop, whose David Bowie-inspired groove came out this year. Both songs are about something beautiful cast aside. Nat King Cole sang the Washington song as theme for the movie Blue Gardenia in 1953.

Some of you may have been no more than knee high to a grasshopper back then.

CRISTO REDENTOR

Heard Charlie Musselwhite was playing at the intimate Rancho Nicasio venue and so toddled on up there to check out the grand master who is still going strong as a bull after fifty years in the business of making music.

It's been nearly forty years since we first heard him play at the Rathskeller in Berlin and he has not lost any of his flavor. He is just like a good southern bourbon, getting smoother and richer with age while losing none of his bite. His harmonica case is covered now with road stickers proudly displaying landmark names like Clarksdale, Highway 81 and Route 44.

Instead of slacking in his age, the old master tore it up to promote his new CD "I aint Lyin'." The CD contains mostly original work, save for a spirited rendition of Elmore James' “Done Somebody Wrong”. He also included the wonderfully haunting instrumental "Cristo Redentor" by Duke Pearson, a piece Charlie first recorded in 1966, but which has been an audience favorite for 50 years.

Musselwhite was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. He has said that he is of Choctaw descent, born in a region originally inhabited by the Choctaw. In a 2005 interview, he said his mother had told him he was actually Cherokee. His family considered it natural to play music. His father played guitar and harmonica, his mother played piano, and a relative was a one-man band.

At the age of three, Musselwhite moved to Memphis, Tennessee. When he was of age, Musselwhite supported himself by digging ditches, laying concrete and running moonshine in a 1950 Lincoln automobile, a life to which he alluded Sunday.

In true bluesman fashion, Musselwhite took off in search of the rumored "big-paying factory jobs" up the "Hillbilly Highway", Highway 51 to Chicago, where he continued his education on the South Side, making the acquaintance of even more legends, including Lew Soloff, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Big Walter Horton.

He is fond of saying that he started as a guitar player in Chicago, but that since there were already so many good guitarists, he put that instrument aside.

In Chicago, Musselwhite immersed himself completely in the musical life, living in the basement of and occasionally working at Jazz Record Mart (the record store operated by Delmark Records founder Bob Koester) with Big Joe Williams and working as a driver for an exterminator. He gradually became known around town and befriended John Lee Hooker.

He released the album Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite's Southside Band in 1966 on Vanguard Records, to immediate and great success. He took advantage of the clout this album gave him to move to San Francisco, where he was revered by the exploding countercultural music scene. Musselwhite even convinced Hooker to move to California.

Contrary to the image of the hard drinking bluesman that JL Hooker liked to cultivate, Musselwhite has been clean and sober since 1987, when he quit drinking entirely influenced by the story of a Texas girl named Jessica McClure who spent 58 hours trapped in a well.

Since 1966, Musselwhite has released over 20 albums and has been a guest performer on albums by many other musicians, such as Bonnie Raitt's Longing in Their Hearts and the Blind Boys of Alabama's Spirit of the Century, both winners of Grammy awards. He also performed on Tom Waits's Mule Variations and INXS's Suicide Blonde. He has won 14 W. C. Handy Awards, has been nominated for six Grammy awards. received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Monterey Blues Festival and the San Javier Jazz Festival, in San Javier, Spain, and received the Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Not too shabby a history for a skinny boy who used to run moonshine over the backroads of rural Mississippi.

Charlie was backed by Matt Stubbs (guitar), June Core (drums), and Steve Froberg (bass). Each of the musicians is extraordinary in their own right and each has released CD's of their own. It was a pleasure to see and hear Stubbs switch easily from Bo Diddly beats to Allman Brothers styles and then go back to John Lee Hooker boogie, all with a two pickup, no frills, solid-body Fender sans whammy or effects pedals.

Backdropped by the golden hills with an outdoor dance platform and stage and good barbeque, Rancho Nicasio always remains a local favorite for feel-good blues.

WE'LL MEET AGAIN, DON'T KNOW WHERE, DON'T KNOW WHEN

So anyway, now that crab season got off to such a late start, the boats have been hauling in what they could with some despair for the time is short and soon there will be a halt to catching any more as the water becomes too warm. People think this global warming thing is a joke but it is not, especially when your livelihood depends on Mother Nature playing along with customary rules. The oceans are warmer and that means that the already abbreviated crab season must be cut short as warm waters mean all sorts of bacteria start to taint the flesh of the crabs making them unsafe to eat. So there you go -- what you thought was a political football affects the food you put on the table in front of your family and this causes fishermen like Pedro Almeida some grief.

In addition, functions that are used to serve trays of crab-infused delectables have to scramble. Nobody wants to resort here in California to the same old canapes their aunts served up in places from which all of them had come. Heaven forbid that deviled eggs, ambrosia, and strange gelatin molds appear on the table.

Mindful of crab's dear price, Mr. Howitzer organized a crabbing expedition on his yacht The Indomitable. The yacht had a small crane for getting heavy stuff on and off the boat and this he used to drop a couple large crab pots after anchoring off Angel Island with the Cribbages and the Blathers on board drinking gin and tonics made by versatile Dodd. Mrs. Blather, who sometimes appeared in walk-on parts at the Lamplighters sang numbers from The Pirates of Penzance with Mr. Cribbage while Dodd provided accompaniment on an electric keyboard.

It was Mr. Howitzer's idea to drop about a half dozen crabs directly into the pot and perhaps dole out a few more in magnaminity to his friends in a demonstration of Baronial largesse.

Things went swimmingly out there on the sparkling sea under the bright sun and in the sheltered lee of the island from whose steep slopes deer and goats observed the party, with the party knocking back gin and tonics and gin rickeys and gin sours and gin martinis and they were all good and schlockered out there on the bounding main in a short while and Mrs. Blather had be extricated from the bouy ropes into which she had somehow entangled herself while singing"What ought we to do?".

Things went swimmingly for about half a day until Jose operated the winch to haul up a big basket of dripping sealife and Mr. Howitzer realized that the stew pot provided by Dodd was far too small to hold the catch.

The Indomitable was a pleasure yacht and so not equipped with a freezer hold to drop and store commercial catch. The light duty crane, designed more for lifting luggage and the occasional propane tank, strained under the weight of the loaded crab pot and so as Jose brought the boom about, the corner of the pot knicked the gunwale, tipped and opened up its loose door to dump about 30-40 crab along with several manta rays and a small tiger shark onto the deck, the miniscule cookpot, and the yacht-party.

A good deal of trouble then ensued.

Mr. Blather, crab-bitten and howling leapt off of the boat into the water as the others flailed away in a savage, atavistic battle for survival ruled by the ancient Lex Talionis, the Law of the Claw. Dodd and Mrs. Blather got up onto the wheelhouse roof while Mr. Howitzer beat the creatures with the steel crank used for winding the mainsheet. A large dungeness took hold of Mr. Cribbage's ear and Mr. Howitzer took a mighty swing to obliterate the body of the crustacean which failed to let go even in death, causing Mr. Cribbage to weep and moan.

Jose got the idea of using the pushbroom to shove most of the creatures down the steps into the sleeping quarters where they scampered about and fought one another.

There remained the second crab pot, which Mr. Howitzer was loath to lose on account of the cost, so with Jose armed with the pushbroom, Dodd with a mallet plus a set of tongs and Mr. Howitzer with the maritime riot gun, Jose carefully brought up the second pot while the rest of the party cowered on the roof of the wheelhouse.

Jose maneuvered the pot so that it dumped most of its load near the entrance to belowdecks. He and Dodd then got busy shoving the angry snapping creatures down to join their bretheren on the bunks while keeping clear of Mr. Howitzer who blasted stingrays and small sharks with the shotgun, managing to somehow inactivate the ship's engines when one blast went through the decks to cut the powerlines.

When all was momentarily still, Dodd plopped down with the empty crab pot swinging overhead and gunsmoke drifting, Mrs. Cribbage's sundress in tatters, blood smearing the gunwales, crab and fishparts and shotgun shells littering the deck amid shattered martini glasses, and the yachting party weeping on the roof of the wheelhouse and the sound of furious activity going on below decks and he said, "I say, we 'ave made quite a hames of things 'aven't we?"

It was up to Dodd to radio for assistance, which he did in his usual unflappable manner. "I say Coast Guard! Although we have the month of June, it appears we have a Mayday here."

When the Coast Guard arrived, sending out a dingy to check on things, the officer noted the crab pots and the living contents of the berth and then he asked Mr. Howitzer if he had a license for taking crab.

"Afraid not," Dodd said.

"Then this is going to cost ya," said the officer.

When they got back that evening by way of a tow to the marina, Mr. Howitzer spoke to Dodd. "Dodd, be a good man and clean all of this up. I am taking the car as I am thoroughly, as you say, knackered."

The yachting party then left leaving Dodd and Jose to sit contemplating what next to do about a hold full of crab as well as the mess. Dodd arose wearily and removed a bottle of Beefeaters from the ice chest. He found also two glasses which had not been broken and he gave one to Jose.

"Slainte", he said.

As the clock ticked over to the new day 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

MAY 29, 2016

MAGNOLIA YOU SWEET THING

This week's headline image comes courtesy of Island-lifer Tammy who took this shot last week. Would have made JJ Cale proud.


DECORATION DAY

The Island has long been identified with the Navy base that existed here for decades, as well as other military outposts, and the patriotic spirit here has led to consistent contribution to the Nation's military, so it is not a surprise that we hold a regular service on Memorial Day out at Veterans Park near the Bay Farm Island Bridge on Veterans Court. Some of you may know this area as the site of the model airplane field. The annual ceremony is set for Monday, May 30, at 11 a.m.

The Angry Elf gang has been at it again, sowing the seeds of terror by way of arson on the Island. A firefighter was injured battling a blaze on Fountain Street. In a May 27th report from fire Capt. James Colburn we have firefighters responding at 12:25 a.m. to a two-story home in the 1500 block of Fountain Street near Lincoln Park and San Leandro Bay where a fire was consuming the home and its contents.

The captain could not say how much damage in dollars the fire did, but the home sustained severe damage throughout.


THEN CAME THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

So anyway, recent days have brought intense sun and cloud-free skies to the area. All the backyard gardens are in bloom, although the high fog has resulted in stunted tomato plants and pole beans have yet to get up there to a respectable eight -- they remain admonished by the nodding sweet peas that fill the local air with sweet memories. The roses have enjoyed the rains and overcast skies and are now exploding all over the place along with spikes of buckeye. On the landing of the Morgan family a squat Cereus is showing some unexpected promise with a bud that will demonstrate overnight glories.

Across the infinite blue heavens dandled a fluttering pat of color, which dodged across the lawn to settle on a rock right in front of Pastor Freethought of the First Unitarian Church of Considered Redemption. The Pastor observed the monarch with equanimity and so began a reverie upon the brevity of life. The butterfly took off and flew past the Tibetan monastery where Sabine, a monk dressed in red robes, considered that the insect may be a dream of Lao Tzu or she a reincarnated hedgehog, and that there were so many possibilities it did not matter or it mattered all at once.

It's Memorial Day weekend, which trends around here to be the first weekend of the Summer season. Down on the Strand all the families come out with their coolers and their volleyball nets. The pants-wearers haul out the Colman grills and the sacks of briquettes for the fixed units in the Park and with the sharp sun cutting down on the shirtless and the bathingsuit, soon the air is redolent with sizzling flesh. The young deer have left their mothers and are seen at dusk standing on the road trying to figure out what this traffic means to them. The smarter ones will figure it out and survive another year. Turkeys are on the roam through the hills which causes some Oaktown residents and businesses consternation for an herd of turkeys is not nearly so complacent as the one sitting in the baking dish at Thanksgiving.

And on the well-matriculated hillsides of Marin you can see all the cows doing lunch amid profusions of golden poppies as they are wont to do at any time of the year.

Speaking of poppies, Memorial Day started as a commemoration of the fallen during Civil War, morphing into Armistice Day, to remember the end of WWI, but as history lumbered forward and this country continued to bleed out in various succeeding conflicts, it became a day to recall those who served and died in all this Nation's wars. Those more distant from the Services chose to include the day as Decoration Day, a day to place flowers on the graves of parents and other loved ones who have walked through the door.

The grey-sided veterans met at the Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor out at the Marina after the ceremonies finished up on Harbor Bay. The Nammies gathered outside around the picnic table and stood at the bar while the handful of Korean War vets took over the card table in the corner. There were a couple Choisin Few among them still alive and so Wally stood them drinks.

There were only a few WWII vets still hale enough to attend both the ceremonies and then come to the Parlor while most of them went over to the Nimitz carrier museum. Among them was Mike who possessed a special aura for he had been Admiral Nimitz's chauffeur for a while. He had also been there at the Bikini atoll A-bomb test on board the Saratoga and been whipped by the needle wind like the rest of the average crewmen. He had been there but couldn't exactly tell you what the initial blast looked like. "If you were an officer you got sunglasses, but that's it. We were told not to look at the island until after the explosion anyway, since it was top secret."

Now, 60 years later his bones were melting from the radiation. The Saratoga had been moored only 10 miles from ground zero. But because of the circumstances of the top secret test, nobody who had stood that initial radioactive blast was entitled to VA medical. "It's me, me, me all the live long day," he said, "Then it's we, we, we when the guns begin to play."

After the booze ran out and the survivors had mostly left Pahrump wheeled Johnny Garcia down the ramp to the parking-lot where the van was just then coming around the corner. Johnny had been wounded in an IED explosion in Iraq. After the van took him away Jose came out with his mop and bucket. The two of them had been cleaning up after parlor events for some time to earn some extra dollars.

"The arms of the nation are covered with glory," Jose said, quoting General Zaragoza. "Pero alguien se olvidó de los brazos y las piernas."

"General Lee said that it's good war is so terrible, or otherwise we would grow fond of it," Pahrump said. "I think the truth is that we are getting far too used to it."

In the Island-Life Pressroom offices all the windows and doors had been flung open due to the recent heat wave and the Editor went around closing up the place as the cool breezes reversed direction to come in from over the sea, allowing the hot wires of the land to untense gradually with relief.

He paused at the door to the short deckway that looked out to the back and considered the sliver of moon, waning now in Aries after a glorious run. Appropriately, the red blaze of Mars hung off to the southeast, closest it has been in eleven years. An important election coming up and Mars approaches. Not a good omen.

The Editor, an ex-Marine, did not attend any of the ceremonies. He needed and wanted no reminders and retained no special affection for the Corps. This he told himself as he did his morning 25 pushups beside the bed after getting up and before coffee. He put his hand on the rail and stared through the trees at the lights of people's houses, patches of dark and light which shielded no snipers. Nobody was going to pot him there on the deck. His hand tightened on the rail as he felt the breeze, smelled the scents of vegetation, listened with sharp ears to each and every stirring in the grasses, the chirp and whine of insects, the small animals, the casual drop of a leaf -- over there in that direction, that patch of shadow.

No, no one was going to shoot him right there and then in California in the United States of America. Something for which to be just a little bit grateful.

But taking no chances he turned and went back inside, closing and locking the door. A loud tang startled him, made him crouch down, and he turned to see a sphinx moth had banged into the screen of a window left open. He closed the window and went to the editorial desk and its pool of light. Tonight was a good night for mothing.

As the clock ticked over to the new day 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MAY 22, 2016

IT'S THE THISTLE IN THE KISS

Other than the nation of Scotland, nobody other than Tom Waits has memorialized in song the humble thistle which is right now blooming all over the place in profusion. Yet few flowers are so evocative of untouchability and consequences.

WHAT'S THE BUZZ

Delayed going to press for this news from the citizen's action group that has been seeking to pressure City Hall on the rent crisis with subsequent calls to place a ballot measure for rent control for this June's election.

"Please join us at 2PM tomorrow at City Hall to celebrate the delivery of more than 8,000 pre-screened petition signatures for the ballot measure we have been promoting. We needed only 6,240 verified signatures; so we are confident we will qualify for the November ballot! Please come and join the celebration. We can all be enormously proud of our role in making this historic moment possible. Celebrate loudly. Then let’s get busy getting voters to the polls in November!

Catherine Pauling and the Steering Committee thank the 100 or more volunteer who spent countless hours gathering signatures. With no experience and little training, you courageously braved the elements (and more than a few rude comments from the opposition) and sacrificed time away from friends and family. You are Alameda Renters Coalition.

We could not have done this without the help of: Filipino Advocates for Justice, Tenants Together, East Bay Young Democrats, Wellstone Democrats, St. Joseph Basilica, St. Barnabas Church and Firefighter’s Local 689 for the generous use of their space. We are grateful also to those who contributed funding.

We can be proud of how far we have come. But our real goal is next November 8, 2016. We need to get the word out to all Alamedans that our community’s future is at stake and we need to vote for Rent Control Now!!

See you at City Hall Tomorrow, 2:00!"

This upcoming election is likely to be an historic one for the island city.

YOU'RE GONNA MAKE ME LONESOME WHEN YOU GO

So anyway, "Time", said the famous Russian novelist, "is a spherical prison. I have tried and tried, scrabbling back long passages in the dark only to find there are no exits." This should be, of course, of little concern to us for that Russian novelist famous mostly for a sort of prurient book about an adolescent captive by some kind of monster, qu'il t'y, of some terrible remaking, has passed away and we should not talk about him after he is gone; but still, time is something that much occupies us these days. And of course his far superior novel, loosely translated as the feminine name of "Hell", is granoblastically conflated with its Nuovo Zembla into distant Estoty, present Island, past Yoknapatawpha County, and that curious town located north of Bear Lake, Minnesota featured on a weekly NPR radio program which is also destined to pass to either a curious immortality or fade entirely away. All of which says, do not forget. Some things go unshriven, but all things should be remembered. Speak, then, Memory.

Moody overcast skies swept in on some gusty evenings to remain chilling the Spring and yet providing not a drop of rain. Word has it that snow is still dropping in the mountains although Tioga Pass is now clear. There were bursts of sunshine this week but it looks like we are heading for a period of wild, untamed cloud cover and cool temps.

The deer have become numerous this year and coming onto the Island somehow. Nobody knows exactly how they make their way down from the Oakland hills through the densely populated strip along the estuary and then across the water, whether it be over the drawbridges or by swimming the salt water. No one knows exactly why they do this either, but some do and sometimes they give birth here in someone's backyard, which always causes some consternation in the residents as a mother deer is aggressively defensive about her children and those sharp hooves can kill a man. You would think that the things would be sweet and gentle like in the movies, but nothing is further from the truth. They have survived for millions of years and there are more of them than us. Whenever one winds up behind the fences nobody can go back there, not even the dog, until the mother decides it is time to move on.

One wound up behind Eugene's apartment and when he opens the door to the patio, the mother stands there glaring as if to say, "Don't you dare come near my baby. You just try and I will fix you."

Some mothers are like that.

Kathy saw Eugene come back down the hall and she asked him what he was going to do about the deer, as if it were his responsibility to deal with the thing instead of the landlord.

"I am going fishing", Eugene said and left, leaving Kathy to peer out the window every now and then with the washing still out on the line and the deer still there.

Mother Nature is savage. Savage and cruel and not at all like the Disney movies or the Lion King. That is why you always hear about Conservatives going hunting for turkeys or shooting wolves from safe airplanes. If people really did do away with all government interference you would wind up with something like Somalia, which has no government at all.

Still, now that elections are coming up, talk about reducing government to nothing and getting rid of subsidized efforts like the National Weather Service and navigational satellites is all the rage. The push among somewhat liberal types is to get everybody sentient registered to vote. And once again Reverend Rectumrod's First Strict and Erect Baptist Church has imported ministers from Texas who are supposed to preach to the Fallen among us. They did have a problem though at the first outdoor tent revival when the minister from Charleston, Blaine Trumpet, stood before the port-a-potties in a quandary for not a one of them was designated for either of the genders that Trumpet knew about. The Port-a-potties were being shared with the Park District at Washington Park where the Sons of the Golden West was hosting a Spring Fling fundraiser.

Trumpet stood their pondering to whom he should protest when out flounced Gail Golden Showers, one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who when she saw the look of disgust on the minister's face, put her arm on his sleeve in consolation and said, "I know honey, it is simply awful! Not a drop of eau de cologne to freshen up the old Tranny. It's wild, just wild!"

Over at Marlene and Andre's all fifteen of the souls inhabiting that one bedroom cottage puzzled over their mail-in ballots, each helping the other with such difficulties as spelling their names and such. Snuffles began to eat his ballot in some confusion until Little Adam came over to help him make the right choices in Little Adam's usual irrepressible style.

"Now don't go sticking that pencil in your nose. Fool! Now this be the Primary."

"Pwimary?"

"Yeah you gots ta choose the Candidate and stuff. You gots ta choose the Primary."

"Gween."

"Green what?!"

"Be Gween. Red. Boo. Yellow. . . .".

"Fool! I mean peoples like Sistah Barb Lee...".

"I wike Baw-bwa. She schweet. She my candy date."

"Because she gave you a lollypop that time at the League?"

"Ok I pick Gween Pardy. I like gween!"

"O for pete's sake . . .".

Sometimes it seems that one man one vote is a bit much for many people to handle but that is just the way the system was constructed long ago. Fortunately the League of Women Voters helps sort things out. Perhaps not enough for Snuffles who could easily be the poster child for the Just Say No ads with the legend "This is your brain on drugs."

"Adam!" Marlene shouted. "Did you do your homework?"

"O mom . . .".

Nevertheless, despite their limitations, being an household of castoffs, derelicts, ne'er do wells, and rail riders who generally missed the bus in life, this humble community of lost souls does what it can for each other, living on the floor, the hallway in bunks, in the closet and in the fireplace because the rent situation around here got cruely obscene long ago making the only way to deal by living 15 to a room and a hallway.

Little Adam did his Algebra and Andre checked it and let him go to wander out back where Pahrump tended the ironmongery garden, a sort of trellis made of discarded carparts, rebar, chickenwire, ewaste and 1940's vintage farming equipment left by previous tenants and the Howitzer family over the years. Martini had found a torch with some propane still in the tanks and had welded together some ancient pitchforks to old rail ties to make a good hang for the pole beans. During the winter the yard looked frightful, but when everything vined and bloomed around it, the effect was rather . . . startling and verdant.

"Pahrump," complained Adam, "Snuffles wants to vote for the Green Party on account of the color instead of facts and figures!"

Pahrump stood up, easing his back. "Kid, voting on account of Color been done in America for about 400 years; it's most hard getting people to choose with their soul. Voting on Color makes as much sense as voting for the louder loudmouth. End result is the same."

"Ahhhh . . . you old . . . "!

Pahrump's shoulder-length hair had gone all salt and pepper now. He was not getting any younger these days. "Yes the First People are old. Never did us much good anyway. Save learning value in patience. Snuffles will come 'round."

Both of them watched as a canary, obviously escaped from someone's house, flew down to peck at the pile of seeds Pahrump had laid out for the bird since he had seen him fluttering about in a multicolor flash of yellows and blues and reds. Kindness is what made Pahrump lay out this seed for kindness is what we have left at the end of the day when everything else has been stripped entirely away.

Down in the cellar, deep below where nobody goes, among the tangle of HVAC ducts and wires going cattywhumpus here and there the rat came across his fellow lieing there dead near the jury-rigged rheostat, which, although the heater unit had not worked in years, still possessed its illegal direct tie-in to the house main. It was chewing through the cloth insulation of this old knob-and-wire setup (heck, it was always good enough) that had killed the rat's cousin, fried as he crouched there this past winter. The rat sniffed, looked, and commenced like his cousin had done, to work on the lovely nesting material he had found. Despite all his wiles and survival skills, the rat engaged mindlessly in moribund repetition.

In the Old Same Place Bar the clock ticked inexorably towards the end of the weekend and the serious drinkers sat there hunched over with determination. It is true Time has no exits and so Monday would come with its week of aggravations, office and field. In this anticipation the farmer and the stock clerk sat united. One collar may be white, but as the clock advanced, the hour became universally blue.

Finally, inevitable Last Call was announced, everyone drank up and those who had someone to accompany left together and those that did not left for colder beds that would toss them awake amid a shrill chatter in the blue horror of dawn, same as last week.

In the distant trees, someone's escaped canary trilled his heart out for a last song before tucking in for the night.

Down the street came a clip clopping and the patrons leaving the bar paused in the doorway to observe a female deer trotting down the street, followed by a fawn. The deer paused to stare at the patrons in the doorway as the fawn continued on, then the mother turned and followed on behind.

As the clock ticked over to the new day 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

MAY 15, 2016

MOTHER AND CHILD REUNION

This week we extend the Mother's Day acknowledgment a little longer with this shot of a mother standing guard over her newborn.

You can see the spots of the newborn to the right against the fence. A day later a dog tried to investigate this scenario and got a solid kicking for all his pains.

DARLIN' DUBH DEILIS

So anyway the hills have all gone green since the rains and the scarlet rockets of tritoma are launching everywhere. The mornings begin heavy with high fog and clouds, yielding to gorgeous sunshine by afternoon. Little Leaguers, each no taller than knee high to a grasshopper, continuously occupied the verdant diamond at Warner field all weekend. Fishing season has started and with all the streams are flowing in the Sierra, the anglers are splashing about in schools of pickups and Subarus, bringing the kids they have spawned who leap in the golden sunshine while dads snap up overpriced meat jerky and fancy lures and rigs from the smiling sporting goods clerks.

Eugene headed out to Lake Crowley for opening day, turning down a hot date with Juanita in the way avid fishermen do, preferring the uncertain rewards of the spincast and the dry fly over the only slightly more certain benefits of female companionship in Springtime.

Besides, Eugene has a dog. And it is named Buffles, a sort of mongrel mix of terrier, schnauzer and Labrador. Terriers are known to be passionately attached to their human companions so that relationship and fish suffice for Eugene, a man who no more understands what to do with a serious woman any more than most people can puzzle out the God Particle.

This Sunday's sermon at Our Lady of Incessant Complaint was on the subject of the parable concerning the loaves and the fishes. If you thought this came about because Father Danyluk is an avid fisherman, you would be correct. Right after the mass he grabbed his gear and went out to Crab Cove only to face a low tide situation -- he had gotten the tide tables reversed in his mind. The reason he got befuddled was due largely to seeing Lola Montez sitting there in the front pew, and Lola's last Confession had completely turned his head around.

She had come in there about a week ago and after the usual perfunctory rituals had answered to the question "have you sinned?" with the response, "Father I am not sure."

This of course required some explication and so Lola said that she enjoyed making men happy, which itself is not a bad thing, save for the manner she did so with her Spider Dance at Rem and Stumpy's Burl-E-Que across the water. She liked to make men happy because it was so easy for her. She knew what they liked.

Father Danyluk had to ponder that one a bit before asking if she took enjoyment from the means or the result and were there any other things she . . . nevermind, just stick to the first question.

She said both of course. Could dance be a crime in the eyes of God?

The priest pondered that one a bit and said, "Not necessarily. Ballet for example."

O I do a kind of ballet, said Lola. It's like a Charleston ballet with spangles.

The Charlest . . . O for Pete's sake say three Hail Marys and go forth and sin no more.

I can't stop, said Lola. I need the money.

Lola was really quite a sweet child. And there had been Mary Magdalene so it probably was all good in the end, the priest thought to himself while sitting on the edge of the riprap looking out over the tidal mudflats.

That night the Old Same Place Bar was packed with people engaged in serious drinking. Papoon, the Somewhat Liberal, sat at the left end of the bar and Babar, the Conservative, sat of course at the far right end and they glared at each other like UFC contestants for it was come to election time.

Everybody was in there watering up after the memorial service for Martin Garcia, who had been Mayor during the brief period when dancing had been outlawed on the island. The ban had been meant to close down the sordid dance halls where ladies would line up to offer the gentlemen something more lively than the fox-trot upstairs in the rooms that were to let on an hourly basis.

The poorly worded legislation had the unfortunate effect of shutting down tea dances and balls as well as the high school prom. It ended when Mattie and Flo got up on the roof of Crolls Pizzaria to dance in public to waltzes played from Flo's gramophone. They were arrested and thrown in jail which caused public outrage. When they got released they nearly got arrested right away again for drinking celebratory beer while standing on the sidewalk -- ladies were not supposed to do that.

Mayor Garcia had nothing to do with the dance ban, but the stigma remained with him for the rest of his life, which made him withdrawn and bitter, living in that old elm-shaded house on Grand Street.

In memory of that time and other bad legislation, such as Prohibition, the patrons pulled the tables to the side and while Denby played tunes like O'Carolan's Welcome, the folks there danced and danced the night away with Padraic clapping his big meaty hands. Even Suzie took a whirl on the dance floor at the urging of Dawn, who hoped this might bring the girl out of the funk she had been in ever since that affair with Jorge had ended with him being taken in for being a Basque Separatist.

And so there was music and laughter and dancing on this peaceful night and no one got shot and no one got stabbed until it was nigh unto midnight.

As the clock ticked over to the new day 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

 

MAY 8, 2016

MAY, MAY, THE LUSTY MONTH OF MAY

The California buckeye is a notable tree in early Spring. There are not too many of these on the main island, but there is a whole row of them out on Harbor Bay Isle, and the trees grow extensively in Marin.

In Fall they produce fruit called horse chestnuts which bear a resemblance to the edible European chestnut. Do not try to eat them as your grandfather did and as they do in Europe for the American buckeye is poisonous. All the American chestnuts were wiped out by the Great Chestnut Blight at the start of the 20th century. Botanists are trying to create a blight-resistant genus so as to re-introduce the majestic trees in North America. Still, the buckeye has an attractive appeal in its own right.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

On May 5, Mexican Americans, plus more than a few Gabachos among them, celebrate the miraculous Mexican victory against the previously undefeated, much-better-equipped French army pursuing Napoleonic ambitions at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Historians say the outcome of that battle may have influenced the American Civil War, which had begun the year before.

Why on earth did France bother to invade Mexico in 1862 at all? Well, then President Benito Juárez's suspended interest payments to foreign countries on 17 July 1861, resulting in a tri-partite alliance between Spain, England and France. The allies launched a combined invasion of Mexico with the intent of establishing a puppet government that would ease trade with Latin America and liberally hand over the products of its silver mines. France's Napoleon III had the aim of also re-establishing an imperial world empire, using the American Confederacy as part of its North-American power-base.

When England and Spain saw Napoleon III's real ambitions they withdrew after some initial military successes. The Battle of Puebla, effectively halted the French advance and the next few years resulted in a series of sieges and battles as the French continually tried to assert total control over Mexico without complete success, taking the town of Puebla, but losing Veracruz. A French victory at Puebla could have emboldened the French to continue pressing north. The invaders were already motivated to intervene on behalf of the Confederacy in order to keep southern ports open to trade. Indeed, the Union Blockade was an important factor in the north’s victory.

President Juarez withdrew the goverment and treasury to Chihuahua when first Puebla and then Mexico City fell. In Chihuahua he and the Cabinet remained until 1987 and the French imported an Austrian archduke named Maxmillian I to be the Emperor of the New World in a vainglorious effort to repair relations with Austria, which does not seem to have involved itself in any serious manner during the entire Mexican adventure. Maxmillian instituted moderate liberal reforms that were heavily nuanced to supported a monarchy and an aristocracy which alienated the previously broad support for the invasion in the Catholic Church. The succeeding imperial victories were all achieved at terrible cost; for example, the French Foreign Legion, although fighting ably, lost nearly 2,000 men from its total committed force of 4,000 in three years.

The delay in consolidated French power in Mexico caused by the defeat at Puebla led to the American Union expressing public interest down south.

On April 4, 1864, Congress passed a joint resolution:

"Resolved, &c., That the Congress of the United States are unwilling, by silence, to leave the nations of the world under the impression that they are indifferent spectators of the deplorable events now transpiring in the Republic of Mexico; and they therefore think fit to declare that it does not accord with the policy of the United States to acknowledge a monarchical government, erected on the ruins of any republican government in America, under the auspices of any European power."

American representatives at the 1865 Hampton Roads Conference briefly discussed a proposal for a North-South reconciliation by a joint action against the French in Mexico. In 1865, through the selling of Mexican bonds by Mexican agents in the United States, the Juarez Administration raised between $16-million and $18-million dollars for the purchase of American war materiel. In 1866 General Philip Sheridan was put in charge of transferring additional supplies and weapons to the Liberal army, including some 30,000 rifles directly from the Baton Rouge Arsenal in Louisiana.

By 1867, Seward shifted American policy from thinly veiled sympathy to the republican government of Juárez to open threat of war to induce a French withdrawal. Seward had invoked the Monroe Doctrine and later stated in 1868, "The Monroe Doctrine, which eight years ago was merely a theory, is now an irreversible fact."

This was enough for the wannabe Napoleon III to pull all support for any more adventures in Mexico. Members of the Maxmillian puppet government were urged to flee as the divisions were pulled out, resulting in a long string of victories through the latter half of 1966, resulting in Maxmillian's capture and public execution along with all of his chief generals.

The American Confederacy, without the ability to hold open its seaports to conduct trade with France and so restock its coffers, found itself strangulating economically within the Union blockade. The Union won the war.

As for Napoleon III, other than his quirky idea of re-establishing a new Napoleonic Empire, he is generally remembered fondly for instituting liberal reforms, ruling moderatly at home and sitting as the longest-serving French head of state, a position he held until trying in yet another futile stab at empire at conquering Prussia, which by 1870 had united the disparate Teutonic baronies into a single formidible Prussian Etat under Otto von Bismarck. And so after this more critical failure, he died in exile -- just like his namesake.

One supposes a rousing rendition of Cielito Lindo is not going to console his memory.

One hundred fifty-four years later, Cinco de Mayo is still such a big deal here in Alta California that many gringos assume it’s Mexican Independence Day. The day the Mexicans celebrate their Independence from Spain (1821) is September 16, which is not precisely the day it was actually accomplished either for actual indepence was declared September 27th.

Now if you must know this September 16th, known as the Grito de Dolores, occured in 1810. It was not until September 27, 1821 that full independence was realized after much bloodshed when Iturbide's army entered Mexico City.

It is because of this extended conflict, which tied up European forces and drained Mexican resources that California became a defacto self-governing state, ostensibly as a department under Spain, and then under Mexico, but clearly everyone had far too much to do to bother with this islanded, remote and barely civilized outpost which did not -- prior to 1849 -- appear to possess any significant resources worth exploiting.

PSA

You may have heard about the listeria recall of pre-packaged, pre-washed salads and vegetables. You need to know that this recent recall is fairly enormous in scope, covering several states and that none other than Trader Joes is involved among other resellers. TJ does not really package its own produce -- its name is rebranded on products made by large distributors, so do not rely on the name of Trader Joes or any other reseller on its own merit without checking, now that this sort of thing is becoming common.

A perfectly innocent grocery chain was victimized when a lunatic entered to spray a mouse poison mixture on open trays and bins of fresh produce and Trader Joes is no exception to the wackiness now endemic across the country. They do what they can and fortunately spot checking -- by our Government showing what it can do when it does work -- prevented a more nasty outbreak of disease.

It is good to trust vendors like Trader Joes for a start, but that does not supplant common sense and keeping one's head out of the sand regarding the news.

THE INTERNATIONALE

It has been a while since we did a survey of news across the board around the world, looking at the real original sources instead of the modified-for-US consumption headlines. Even Der Spiegel is guilty of providing the Official Word. Well what can you expect of the Springer Press, which is not much better than our own march-in-lock-step Clear Channel and Time-Warner, to say nothing of the hideously programmatic Fox Faux News.

Which is only to say, just because it has an accent does not make it better, albeit a different POV.

Speaking of Der Spiegel we are seeing hints from page 3 of a Chernobyl retrospective. Chernobyl is the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history and it all happened in 1983. So expect lots of handwringing come 2017 and even more 2023.

Anyway it was interesting to see how the big headlines for the "international version" of Der Spiegel -- read American version for that -- is all about the Islamic "threat."

In German, headline is about Dilma Rousseff ("Dilma Rousseff hat gut lachen: Überraschend wurde das Amtsenthebungsverfahren gegen Brasiliens Präsidentin ausgesetzt"), whose election to the Presidency of Brasil was entirely unexpected. Nice that becoming presiden effectively terminated a lawsuit against here as well.

Second item is not about ISIL or ISIS or DAESH but about the hustings in the Phillipines and Rodrigo Duterte, who has been called "The Trump of the Phillipines." Which we take is NOT a compliment.

Okay by item #3 we get to Islam and ISIS and stuff that our Media wants us to fear. It is a puff piece from info supplied by our own agitprop orgs here crowing about killing Abu Wahib who "ist als "Emir von Anba" designated. Okay, cue to more shots of the all-powerful submarine/tank/secret uber bunkerbuster bomb and let the spool unwind....

Mixed in with local news about elections there and a scandal about yet another corporate executive found to have ties with fascist groups (Andreas H. and the "Old School Society" -- and since when do we have fascist groups possessing American English names instead of properly sturdy German names?!) we have an entirely local, German story on the Turkish President Erdogan. Turkey and Germany continue their mad walz together socially and economically and until Euro do they part.

Turks comprise a heavy percentage of the Guestworker population that now dominates some German towns in excess of 90%. An eatery in Cologne was forced to yank its menu offering of the "Erdogan Burger" after threats of violence. The hamburger was served as a minaret on asparagus.

US news is featured in an article about North Carolina's lawsuit about restrooms ("US-Justizministerium und North Carolina verklagen sich gegenseitig"), which is interesting in that it seems Trump-exhaustion has already taken place abroad, and the Man with the Hair is now taken as a Mouth with no substance and so dismissed, which ought to make for interesting foreign policy should he ever be elected in error by the foolish.

Finally, just to prove that the Germans can be just as foolish as any American, there is a story about how a small village built the tallest observation tower in the country at 246 meters in height, even though no tourist ever goes to Rotweil and other than the tower, never will ever have any reason to do so.

A local booster, Detlef Berndt, 72, promotes the project on his blog. "Rottweil ist ein verschlafenes Nest", sagt Berndt. "Da ist sonst nichts los." Tausende Fotos habe er bisher gemacht." In English, this says, "Rottweil is a sleeping Nest," says Berndt. "That does not matter." He has taken over 1000 photos of the project to date. Another citizen says,"Until now the tourists have never visited, but now they will come entirely because of this gigantic view."

Well, so you always thought the Germans were reasonable.

Far below at the bottom of the page is an Op-Ed on European racism taking off on the recent election of a Muslim to office in England. (Europäischer Rassismus: Gerüchte über Muslime, Eine Kolumne von Jakob Augstein ). Seems the supposedly stupid and backward Muslims are smarter than the supposedly smarter racists who never saw it coming. Sure sounds familiar...

Okay lets go to France.

Headline there is also local. Seems an official there is resigning his post because of claimed "sexual harassment." ("Le député écologiste Denis Baupin a démissionné lundi de son poste de vice-président de l’Assemblée nationale après avoir été mis en cause pour « harcèlement » ou « agression sexuelle »")

O those French. They are so passionate.

Le Monde also is primarily concerned with its own national operas. A tragic rail accident involving the SNCF is going before the courts and being hashed over in typically bureacratic fashion. To give background, on 12 July 2013, a train crash occurred in the commune of Brétigny-sur-Orge in the southern suburbs of Paris, France, when a passenger train carrying 385 people derailed and hit the station platform. Seven people were killed and nearly 200 were injured.

It is only now in 2016 that the judges are issuing instructions to the jury about the "double-talk" issued by the SNCF.

The other headline sharing with this one is also about court procedures, this one concerning prosecution of people accused of "abuse de faiblesse", literally "abuse of weakness", but amounting to elder abuse as is defined here. The case is about Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L'Oreal fortune.

down below we have the French acknowledging something important like a Presidential election occured in Brasil. Not without contest, but the photo of winner de Rousseff has her grinning like a Chesire cat.

Down below we have a report on the Minister of the Interior reporting on racist anti-islamic violence in France. "Les actes antisémites et antimusulmans en baisse de 80 % au premier trimestre". The numbers concern the first quarter of 2016 and do not include data about anti-semitism.

Perhaps because of historical association, Le Monde reports on the consequences of the horrific fire raging in Canada, which has ravaged the Alberta town of Fort McMurray. Over 100,000 people have been evacuated because of the immense forest fire. You did not know about this immense disaster? Well, start your Google . . .

El Mundo is also occupied with local news. People are tired of hearing about the American Loudmouth and are looking at local elections there. the sobering international item concerns the child victims of El Nino "6.000.000 de niños sedientos y en peligro de muerte por 'El Niño'
Six million children rendered homeless and threatened with death by starvation . . .

That's it. A short version of what we usually do, but we expect to be back in the saddle before long. We read the news in four or more languages so you don't have to.

SUCH A LONG TIME TO BE GONE / SUCH A SHORT TIME TO BE HERE

So anyway, "Time," to paraphrase an old Russian master, whose life was itself a conflation of chronic struggle and the timeless efforts of many other Russian masters before him packed into a globe of intersecting tesseracts that can only be fully understood by riding in an open carriage drawn by horses with a bearskin rug across the limbs in the icy heart of winter, and then again passing the same spot in Spring to observe the changes in a particular tree by the seasons, "Time, is a spherical prison without exits," so went that master. "I have prowled the edges and pounded upon its glassy walls to no avail. But Time is not limited by place."

We had some rain bouts in the mid-morning this past week which yielded to delightfully cloud-scudded skies here splashed with golden sunshine. The turkeys have been crossing the driveway to get uphill in the late afternoon and at dusk the fawns have been drifting indolently across the road lower down. Because they are fawns and not experienced, they pause there in the middle of the road and stare at you with mild concern as you drive up; not exactly a positive evolutionary development in that species.

Possibly because of the exhuberant good weather the sermons this Sunday were unfailingly optimistic. Pastor Gwynn Fuqua preached on Luke 24:44-53, "Clothed With Power". St. Peter's was all about "Worship the Triune God who is Love", largely because the Anglicans don't get to celebrate much during the year and they are all still hyped about the Ascension, which occured last week, but nevermind.

Pastor Cornelia Ruff took a verse from Ephesians, a book not many know about because it is one of those wacky Bible booklets people argue about. Speak the Truth in Love (Ephesians 4:15) was the topic which sounds pretty good and passable to muster for NorCal.

At the mosque on Santa Clara Mustapha Kemal dwelt upon the saying which goes, "The man who takes but a single step towards God shall enjoy the fact that God will then take two steps towards him." This saying is not often remembered by those who criticize.

Father Danyluk was as annoyed as Pastor Nyquist of the Lutheran Emmanuel Church that so few sat there Sunday morning until each of them realized that it was all because of Mother's day and seeing the kids in the pews getting antsy each of the men of cloth decided quite independently to take their respective flocks to Ole's Waffle House. "O heck, the lilies of the field are going to do what they do. Life is short and we all are going to become dust; lets go have pancakes," said the Catholic priest and so the troup of them went around the corner and down the block and filed in to have pigs in a blanket and so did the Lutherans and it was all good for it nourished the soul as well.

Jack Kornfield came down to Spirit Rock to speak again. Jack was always a popular item among the Buddhists in town as he spoke very well and so they always charged an extra sawbuck for people to park in the overflow . Buddhism does well among people who understand suffering and loss a good deal and still can afford the sentiments. Californians have gotten a lot of reponse to suffering from this group or the other, saying "Just offer it up. Just offer up your suffering." Well, among people who have dealt with massive wildfires and earthquakes and lost everything, just offer it up sounds a lot like just give it up and give it up does not sit well with Northern Californian natives who have fought pretty darned hard for generations to hold onto what they have.

The Buddhist idea that suffering comes hand in hand with life and there is not a whole lot you can do about it and it really has no special meaning other than you ought not get attached to anything at any time has some appeal. Sounds almost like the philosophy of Norwegian bachelor farmers, who any day might turn out to be zen gurus if you only were to have a camera there to watch any of them from the top of a ladder in the kitchen.

It came around to Mother's Day and them in Marlene and Andre's Household that had mothers still alive and still receptive to the idea of being acknowledged took their mothers out to Mama's Royal Cafe in Oaktown for brunch. Mrs. Gallipagus got tipsy on mimosas and then took the older gals over to The Alley Cat where they scandalized their daughters by singing a number of songs off-key to the accompaniment of Ron Dibble on the piano as they knocked back sloe gins and Manhattans one after another until Tipitina had to fetch them all in her Dodge Dart and haul them back to where they needed to crash.

Mr. Howitzer obtained his bicycle gun that was used for hunting wolves in the 1860's and his bouquet so as to drive out to Colma and pay respects at the tomb of his mother where a bust of the old madam Agnes scowled with a sour visage upon the landscape there. She had sent the boys off to boarding school and then to sanitoriums when the kids turned recalcitrant. She had been as a mother about as comforting and warm as a gritty limestone block. Nevertheless, she was family.

Mr. Howitzer brought the gun to deal with the crows that seemed to love flocking about the family mausoleaum. Deer also came across the fields to graze, but the groundskeepers refused to shoo them off and they would stand there at dusk under the oaks rooted in the bones of his ancestors and look with equanimity at him and everything else without regard for history. Some other people possessed of a soul would have been enchanted but Mr. Howitzer loaded his smoothbore bicycle gun and discharged in their direction so that they ambled off to find quieter areas of the vast cemetary.

A groundskeeper came wandering up the Path to the Stars and told Mr. Howitzer he could not be discharging firearms within city limits for fear of disturbing the peace, and Mr. Howitzer looked around in amazement at miles and miles of placid open space cemetary and graves and commented, do you mean Colma, the City of the Dead? There are no funerals going on right now and night is falling. Are you afraid that someone will wake? and the groundskeeper, who was named Anselm, said, nevermind there are rules and the cemetary lay within corporate limits and rules were rules.

Mr. Howitzer left in a huff and took his gun and a bottle of Johnny Walker to Fort Funston where he shot at beercans as the sun set in memory of his dear, dead, damned mother Agnes.

Denby drove on the back of Pahrump's scooter to the depot and got the bus there to take him to Napa where his mother still resided. Pahrump made a day of it by circling back to take Martini to the Chapel of the Chimes and its curious dogbone structure of hallways there.

Denby brought his flowers dutifully past the nurses' station at Napa to where his mother lived these days and she took the chocolate he brought and ate it greedily all at once save for a couple bars she put under her pillow so the staff would not discover it there. "They say I am pre-diabetic, whatever that means," she said. "I have cut back on sweets like a good girl. Even though I am a mother to three children and was a stone mason and built houses in my time and I could do it again, believe me! And now look at me. Taking orders. Ha! I still have all my faculties and I can drive wherever I want to anytime."

"Yes mom," said Denby, remembering how she had lost her driving license.

Since Pahrump was occupied with Martini, it turned out to be a long, arduous journey home from Napa for Denby and when he fell into bed that night he dreamed of a lady named Beatrice dressed in a white robe who glowed like sunlight lit within and who promised to guide him so long as his resolve remained through this dark wood of error.

And he said, "That is someone else's story!"

And she said, "What is his-story? History is a pile of broken stuff and an angel is trying to go back and fix things. But a storm is blowing out of Paradise and keeps blowing the angel backwards."

"This is madness," he said. "It is time that all of this come to a stop."

"Time," said Beatrice, "Is not something you or I have. Nobody owns Time. Things continue without you being there; you toss a few seeds in the wind and let chance determine what grows. That is just the way it is."

The Editor stood out on the back of the Island-Life offices deck and allowed the cool breezes to sooth his hot brow. His mother had been a mixture of warmth and efficiency, born in France, married to a Russian expatriate, and raised in a welter of world events. His birth had been an add-on to revolutionary events. Nevertheless she had managed amid divorces and domiciles to handle things as best she could, given the circumstances of the times and the limits imposed upon her.

A pair of fawns came into the light cast from the offices onto the lawn and he regarded the animals with equanimity. We are all the children of rebels and discontents, he thought. Perhaps we should start acknowledging our birthrights. Perhaps we should acknowledge our common motherhood.

Right then 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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

MAY 1, 2016

PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHTS

This week we have an image from a little league ballfield, which could honestly be any ball field anywhere in the Bay Area or the entire Country for that matter. There is something timeless about baseball, for of all sports, in baseball there is no Time. . . .

WHAT'S GOING ON

Mayday kicked off with a number of events around the Bay. The reformulated Jones Gang, formerly Houston Jones played out at Rancho Nicasio to jumpstart that venue's traditional music and BBQ Sundays. The ArtMarket invaded Fort Mason for what turned out to be a substantial East Bay incursion into the City that Used to Know How.

Some people have hidden there heads in the sand, but the upcoming Elections are causing fervent partisan activity as the growing Island Renters Coalition took over the Firefighters Hall for some good old fashioned organizing.

Earthday was celebrated at Washington Park where an impersonator identified as "RJ" appeared on stage to perform Prince's “Let’s Go Crazy.”

You probably know this already but Sunday, April 17, through Saturday, May 21, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Caltrans contractors will close the Posey Tube to repair the pedestrian guardrail within the tube.

Detours will be in place. Motorists are advised to expect delays and are encouraged to take alternate routes if necessary and also that traffic fines are doubled in construction zones.

Also regarding traffic and special events, be informed that the 21st annual Encinal High School (EHS) Extravaganza of Bands will have 20 bands performing in parades on the West End Saturday, May 21. The parades will close streets to parking and traffic from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Parked cars will be towed from these streets:

• Central Avenue from Pacific Avenue to Third Street
• Pacific from Central to Fourth Street
• Fourth from Pacific to Haight Avenue
• The 300 block of Haight
• Third from Haight to the EHS baseball field.
• Central in front of EHS will be closed until 5:30 p.m.

WALK AWAY

So anyway, brisk winds pushed the storm clouds over the Sierra to unload and further relieve Arizona over the week, leaving some bright blue skies and hot sun for the kids to gambol under out on the Strand. The last of the Irises, the blue flags of Spring have dropped their evanescent petals and the rough winds of March have shaken the darling buds of May. Roses have erupted all over the Bay Area in response to the heavy rains and each morning songbirds erupt in a symphony to greet the day.

Elizabeth was taking her canary, Antonio, out in his cage the other day when she slipped, barely catching herself -- a fall for a woman of her age could have serious consequences. But the bird cage went end over end down the steps to shatter in pieces leaving Antonio free to bolt out of there like a shot into the trees across the road. Elizabeth tried to patch together the cage with duct tape and she set the assembly on the porch with the night cover in hopes that Antonio would return but the hours passed into days and nights and still that vigorous yellow voice did not fly back and Elizabeth remained disconsolate.

Some mornings Elizabeth awakes and thinks that among the symphony that starts the day, Antonio is out there adding to the melody. Amid the chorus, there can be just barely made out a faint, familiar trill. She went to the window and leaned out, searching the far treeline but could see nothing, only hear a familiar voice saying with all its heart, "I am here!"

Life is fraught with poisons and predators and the struggle to find some way to feed oneself, but sometimes beauty survives despite everything.

May Day brought its usual mixed bag of pleasures and disappointments. Pimenta Strife joined the Black Bandana Brigade for a protest against something in front of City Hall. The BBB always shows up at parades, marches, celebrations to protest something and a number of members strive ernestly to get arrested.

This can be difficult as Islanders tend to be more reticent about things than their more strident cousins in other cities. So they stood around, dressed in black in anarchistic solidarity while Robbie Rage, a name Robert Finklestein had adopted for the purposes of Revolution. Everybody got to pick a Revolutionary name, so there was Sally Smite, Linda Loudsmash, Jerry Red and Andy Angerman. Pimenta did not bother with adopting a nom de guerre; she just hoped to get arrested and spend a night in jail with the boys in a holding tank. Last time she had a lot of fun.

But the group stood around a lot and yelled things in front of City Hall, which was closed on Sunday of course, and instead of a decent riot squad with tear gas, a bored Officer O'Madhauen kept watch on them from his cruiser to make sure nobody did anything really nasty, like jaywalking or illegal parking in the red zone.

Andy saw somebody he knew across the street in front of the Carnegie Library building which had been closed for ages due to earthquake retrofitting, and he excitedly ran to the corner to wait for the light to change before dashing across. It was Monica who used to be known as Monica Mayhem when she had been with the group until she got pregnant and had a baby with some cowboy who drank too much. She left the cowboy and Andy still had the hots for her. Monica did not have time for the protest as she had some shopping to do at CVS and so the two of them went off, leaving the dispirited group to fist pump for a bit and then disperse without anyone getting thrown down and tossed in the slammer much to Pimenta's chagrin.

Out at Washington Park, Andre played catch with Little Adam, teaching the boy a few civilized moves to distract him from making home-made shivs and tagging the mailboxes while Marlene sat sunning herself under the canopy of the blue heavens dotted with kites and parasails.Andre took off his shirt and the scars left on his back by his father years ago glowed faintly under the beneficent sun. As she dozed, the girl with the ruined womb listened in her rest from the hardness of this life to the twittering of birds. Life is a vale of tears packed with suffering without end. But there are songbirds. And once in a while evidence of mercy.

Father Danyluk observed at the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint where the nuns had set up a Maypole for the kids who had a grand time swinging around the thing without any regard for its largely pagan origins. Still, it was all sweetly innocent and the girls flew with their Spring dresses fluttering like the feathers of wild birds.

Over at the Cove, the Island Wiccans held their own Mayfest with bread and cheese and cheap wine and any number of incantations in the fond hopes that this time the Nation's populace would observe if not reason, then some pacific moderation as the elections approached. The ribbons of their own maypole fluttered in the breeze as the sun began to set.

"O Great Goddess," intoned Toni Savage. "Please let us not be so stupid as usual this time."

"Women!" said the group, avoiding the more masculine version that punctuates patriarchial-oriented prayers.

That night Andy helped Monica put the kid to bed and they snuggled on the couch to watch the Discovery Channel present a special on the plight of the African elephant. He had to work in the morning downtown and so did she, so it made sense they would carpool.

In the still of the evening, the Editor opened up the back of the Offices to help cool off the place and he stood there as the clock ticked over to the next day, listening to the quiet sounds of the night which rested without alarms on this warm May evening, all the kids tucked in and the parents turning off nightstand lights all over the Island.

He was remembering how nearly 41 years ago to the day the mad scramble into the helicopter on the roof of the Embassy and the lift off with all the arms reaching up with futile desperation as the tanks entered the city limits.

Occasionally the rush of a passing car travelled on the still air. It was a peaceful night and no one got stabbed and no one got shot. Editor turned to return to his desk with its pool of light, where he would sit, his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureola, while all around the humming darkness hung in folds and where out there, somewhere, there was a like mind, an ideal Reader, while he sat engaged in his failed meditations, doing all for Company.

A little trill drifted from the trees through the open back door and he looked up and listened to a vaguely familiar voice, sounding like someone's escaped canary, singing with all its tiny heart on this Northern California evening in May.

Right then 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its timeless, American journey to parts unknown.

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

 

APRIL 24, 2016

HORSES, HORSES, HORSES

This week we post a photo of a horse of the type called "Painted Pony". They have other names for the breed but this one sticks for the name on the corral stands boldly to announce the resident as "Cezanne."

Why a horse? Vy not a horse? Viaduct? Why not a duck? Nevermind, it's all silliness in honor of Spring.


WHAT'S THE BUZZ

This week we note the usual demo of Island madness with a 5150 discovered shouting in the middle of the street on Shoreline. As the police arrived, the man drove off in his car, which just goes to show you that not all the crazies are homeless.

Speaking of homeless, the rent crisis now makes daily front page news here as Big Property battles against the citizens for control of the Island. Silly Council passed their anemic ordinance on rent with thumbs down from both sides -- which was to be expected, which just says how cowardly the folks are given that they had a chance to do something consequential with full knowledge NOTHING they would do would earn approval from anybody.

Another squandered opportunity.

Various citizens groups continue to gather signatures to put a more toothy statute on the ballot for November while the Big Prop folks have lobbied for their own "Property rights" measure looking to ban any sort of rent control that would reduce the massive profit-taking going on. Thursday's action by the Council did not pause the citizen movement, led by the Alameda Renters Coalition, in the slightest.

Not surprisingly, a couple of the worst offenders on the island guilty of price gouging and inflated "cost recovery" schemes, Farhad Matin and Marilyn Schumacher, filed a notice of intent to circulate petition to the City Clerk’s office on Monday, April 18, with the purpose of amending the ordinance to enact the Alameda Homeowners and Private Property Rights Act. The amendment intends to, among other things, “ensure that property owners can invest in the maintenance and upkeep of their properties.”

Another issue Big Prop has, is the relocation fee for “no cause” evictions. Matin and Schumacher wrote in their petition they seek to “prohibit the City of Alameda from requiring property owners to subsidize their tenants.”

Typically, Big Prop's strategy is to conduct "wait and see" tactics to allow them time to remove vulnerable and troublesome activists from the scene. Farhad Matin has been instrumental in purchasing Edwardian homes so as to subdivide them in situ into multiple family dwelling units that are let for over $3,000 per room, artificially jacking the median cost per unit for rentals. [Insider source redacted to protect whistleblower anonymity].

WALK ON

So anyway, the 9:15 Caltrans pulling a load of partially empty boxcars destined for the Port steamed into Emeryville right on time and paused to take a breath, clunking there to a cumbersome stop before exhaling a gout of steam that came from somewhere unknown as the locomotives had been diesel-powered for well over three-quarters of a century. Some say that great beast-like respiration is just the air-brakes letting off, and some say the lines are blowing out condensate, nodding sagely like these people know what they are talking about. Others say its the spirits of old bums jumping off before the brakeman comes around and who can say what is right about the matter?

The door of a President's Line car parts a bit and out drops Snuffles Johnson back from visiting friends up north. The President's Line is a class act shipper that sends the massive freighters named after American Statesmen out the Estuary loaded with vacated cars to be be filled up in the ports of call of China, Indonesia and other exotic places. This car had been used to haul horse manure up the Valley, and so it reeked royally as befitting any sort of artifact remotely associated with politics and political nomenclature. Snuffles had hitched a ride one time with a rig named after Andrew Jackson, and O! That ride had been notoriously odious.

Snuffles grabbed some rocket growing there along the tracks and shambled off to join some bums jungled up under the freeway overpass further along the Maze. As he paused there gathering his greens he stood upright in some shaggy semblance of an homo sapiens and sniffed the tangy night air, feeling the stars burn on down.

The air blew fresh through that wasteland of cinders and tincan desiccated sunflower trashpile for all along the fence there rioted the defiant jasmine, bringing word of Spring.

This weekend a high wind advisory came over the transom and everybody started battening down the hatches.

On the day of the exhibition game between the Terrapins and the East End Stingrays, wind kicked up in gusts across the outfield, sending pop flies soaring and turning bunts into homeruns. Given the extraordinarily dismal record of the Terrapins, and the fact that the Stingray's best pitcher had been taken out of the game by a scorpion wound, one would have thought the adverse weather would have helped.

Indeed it did. By the bottom of the ninth, the score was 0 to 4 in favor of the Stingrays with two outs and the Terrapins up to bat; usually the score looked far worse than this. During the preceding four and one half hours Stingray batters repeatedly sent would-be homers off of Jose's careful lobs into the stands to the far left and far right, and the Stingrays failed to conduct their usual shutout by strikes during their time on the plate as the wind puckishly kept taking the ball high and wide every time Gerald Fitzgerald Smythe III tried to grease one inside. Finally Gerald resorted to firing directly at the batter just when the wind took a lull and so he launched a rocket at Eugene's cap, neatly beaning Eugene senseless to the point that Pahrump and Jose had to carry their snoring teammate around the bases as Smythe walked first Pimenta, then Marvin over the next three quarters of an hour.

The Stingray manager, William B. Toklas De Sucre IV went out to have a word with his relief pitcher and so Smythe faced off against the sturdy Bettina, the masseuse from A Touch of Wonder, sending a careful, ambling pitch during a lull with the intention of allowing the strong-armed woman to either bunt or loft it as the third baseman moved from the outside to inside the line ready to tag out the comotose Eugene, held in the arms of his team mates and ready to haul his bulk as fast as they could toward home.

The name of the Third baseman was Ernest Hemingway Paderewsky III and Center was held down by Willa Cather Pound. First was manned, so to speak, by George Eliot Angelou.

James Baldwin served as Umpire.

The pitch came in high but dropped and Bettina swung to smack the ball just as a gust came up to loft the ball in a reverse parabola over the pitcher's head and back again over the batter's box and the arms of the umpire where another gust took the ball higher and back over the infield and the upturned faces of all the players staring in wonder as in resigned desperation Pahrump and Jose hoisted Eugene to start dragging him along the line with his feet raising dust as they pulled through the earth.

The ball went higher and higher and everyone lost sight of the orb as it vanished into the glare of the sun and hot-dogs paused in their journey, beer cups remained in hands, pennants and signs lowered as all wondered throughout the Snoffish Valley ballpark where the ball would land, whether foul or fair. Kids with cotton candy balls and teens sucking on corndogs paused and even the kids making out in the parkinglot took a moment to wonder. The ghosts of ballplayers past all looked up too, as the entire ballpark held its breath. Curt Flood, the Babe, Jackie Robinson, Wille Mays all chewed ghostly tobacco and held off the great Spit in expectation. Would this be another shutout for the Terrapins, or would this hit land over the fence to tie the game and put the match into extra innings for the first time in Terrapin history?

As the ball began its descent, Eugene began to awake and started struggling in the arms of his teammates who tried to restore reason to the confused man, who to tell the truth, never had possessed much in the way of faculties even on his better days. By this point, all the other runners had stacked up along the line between second and third to wait for Eugene to clear the way.

Down came the ball, down, down, down screeching down at terminal velocity finally at 156m/ps, hurtling towards earth, beginning to heat up from the atmospheric friction **POW! ** until finally the pitcher could see it headed right for the plate, glowing like some doomsday comet. Unfortunately he had moved in toward home by that point and as he jockeyed to get under it while Eugene flailed his arms, the ball smacked into the plate, cracking the plastic and taking a high bounce to the left.

The other runners advanced in a parade followed by Paderewsky, but the confused Eugene continued to flail in the arms of Jose and Pahrump until Eugene punched Jose, who fell across the line, and started to move toward the bullpen. Pahrump grabbed Eugene by the waist and sort of did a jiu jitsu throw over his hip to toss the startled Eugene onto the plate as Willa Cather caught the high bounce and threw the ball to Paderewsky who tagged all of the remaining Terrapins waiting in line to reach home over the body of the fallen Jose.

"Y'out!" shouted the thirdbase ref, named Langston Hughes DuBois.

And so that was the end of the Exhibition Game between the Terrapins and the Stingrays, Spring of 2016. Final score 1-4.

That night, all the talk in the Old Same Place bar was about the game and the state of the Warriors and other sports types of things along with the latest outrages uttered by The Man with the Tribble Toupee during the political debates.

McPherson, a local writer removed his pipe as he sat next to Old Schmidt up at the rail and said, "You know when I first came to this small town, the Town that Has Forgotten Time many decades ago, I was at first dismayed at the prospect that I would have difficulty finding things about which to write." He replaced the stem of his unlit pipe in his mouth to contemplate the state of affairs as they were. "It seemed that the town would be so uneventful as to never have any subject matter about which to write at all."

Old Schmidt removed his own pipe to comment, "I don't zink zo,"

Right then 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, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its timeless, American journey to parts unknown.

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

 

APRIL 17, 2016

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE

Right now all of NorCal is splashed with bouquets of the State flower. So here we go with our own tender offering.

GOTTA KEEP MOVIN'

So anyway Spring has arrived with all its traditions. The poppies have erupted everywhere along with the irises and all the trees have fleshed out their bones. After the recent rains the streams all are splashing again everywhere and the birds conduct loud morning caucuses. No sign that any loudmouth birds with blond toupees have invaded the flocks. No dissonance among these save for a murder of crows who restrict their politics to the single utterance: "Nevermore!"

When Spring drags around the aunts all get busy with the nesting instinct. Most aunts having already done the matrimonial thing, look to nieces and nephews so as to gratify their longing for childrearing and control. James, just out of High School, is now a Buddhist which skirts the issue nicely. Aunt Liz found a girl who she thought would do -- it was Dora who went to school at Washington and then graduated from Sir Francis Drake when her parents moved across the Bay. She is a self-professed Sufi, which to Aunt Liz sounds wacky and sort of Eastern and so therefore good enough.

For James, it was not. Nobody would eat anything at the blind date Liz setup at the bowling alley. James would eat no meat and Dora would not eat anything that was not Halal, so everyone when away feeling very unsatisfied.

Spring is full of traditions around here. Among them are the annual tryouts for the Island baseball Pip Warner League team the Terrapins. No one can deny that in America baseball is very much a part of Spring and the Island is no exception.

The current roster is headed by Eugene Gallipagus, Reverend Freethought, Wally "Old Mushmitts" Manrique, Pimenta Strife (who likes any game involving balls), Borg Rubbitsum (owner of A Touch of Wonder), Bettina (a masseuse from ATW), Marvin Mons (owner of Marvin's Merkins - "Put a Merkin in your Firkin!"), Melody Minton (the bridge tender), Larch Larch, and Jose, who alone among all of them is the only one who knows how to bat, catch and throw a ball correctly.

The Terrapins, who have never really done well (record was 0-28 last season, with one forfeit), nevertheless require a full roster and a full roster means keeping another nine players available to pinch hit or cover for injuries and childcare situations.

The tryouts for a team which has never so much as had a hope of getting to the semi-finals can be dispiriting, so Wally had the idea of getting Padraic to supply a goodly amount of ale and Water of Life in kegs so as to inspire hopefuls and judges and maybe any talent scouts who had happened to get lost in the neighborhood looking for a decent team to survey.

The same went for the home games, which tended to be so sparsely attended that Wally found only a good supply of liquor and cheap wieners managed to put more than a dozen fans in the Pop Warner bleachers at Snoffish Valley High.

The new tryouts were to be tried out during next week's exhibition game at Snoffish Valley and there was a great deal of excitement all about it. Their opponents were to be the fearsome West End Stingrays, a normally ferocious team which would be hobbled by the absence of their star pitcher who had discovered a scorpion in his shoe the hard way.

Baseball is the ultimate writer's sport, for in baseball of all sports, there is no Time. All other sports possess a clock, a stopwatch. But out on the field, the diamond is packed with ghosts; each player steps into the shoes of other players who have gone before over the course of more than one hundred years.

Unless that player find one day a scorpion sting his foot. Then the game changes.

Pedro Almeida, piloting his little boat El Borracho Perdido out beyond the Golden Gate, set out his nets, checked the instruments and sat back for a brief fifteen minutes to enjoy his copy of the Keelhauler Reader he had ordered from NPR. His favorite televangelist had written a number of books and was about to retire, so Pedro thought he would prolong this enjoyment of the man's radio program during the early hours at sea.

A school of flying fish leapt up and course a while before dropping down all at once in parallel with the boat.

During the long loop of years many companions had come and gone; some lost at sea, some passing quietly in their beds, some taken by war in battle. For over fourty years this familiar, homey voice had kept him company in a constant threadnody -- a life as a continuing individuating rhythm. He wondered if the preacher would understand or remember this reference.

Pedro's back creaked in the stool -- soon enough he also would be needing to retire. Soon, the old boat would be docked and either sold or handed over to one of his sons who almost certainly would use it for excursions only. The trade would not be passed on and the battlescars left on the deck from that struggle with the Great White would become just quaint conversation pieces and there would be no more contention with gales and ice.

Pedro whistled a little tune and Ferryboat woofed in the corner, then turned around and curled up in his dogbed. Suffering breeds cheerfulness.

At midnight, 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, and 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.

 

APRIL 10, 2016

SMALL SWIFT BIRDS

This week the image comes from the Berkeley Flats, where the daily enterprise is wedded to the clank of iron, the rumble of engines and the sput of smokestacks amid acres of corrugated steel and barbed wire. Here and there the stroller will find evidence that even in this industrial wasteland vibrant Nature persists enough to forceably announce the advent of Spring.

See how the stalk has grown this way and that to find the sun. So also shall you, dear Travellers, find the light.

THE EYES OF THE WORLD

Not much matters amid this Rent Crisis that is destroying the fabric of communities around the Bay Area. The opera does not matter, and concerts do not matter, gallery openings do not matter, industrial arts do not matter and art and school functions do not matter, and no fundraiser matters so long as this demon continues to ravage the way of life here. It is all cant and fluff as people lose their homes, businesses close up, and the common disaster goes unchecked and ignored. Everything that is not about controlling the dreadful rent situation is just so much dancing on the volcano.

The Island is Ground Zero for this struggle between property investment powers and renters. Right now a group is seeking to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would seek for some minor renter protections. At the same time a powerful group is seeking to get a ballot measure approved that would ban rent control of any type. The strident opposition between the groups is so sharp, so acrimonious, there can be no possible compromise, nevertheless, compromise will be enforced as that is just the way American government works and has worked for some 400 years.

What will come out of this struggle here will provide the blueprint and template for the rest of the Bay Area, if not for the entire Country. Straight rent control does not work, nor does letting the savages have their way without restrictions. As for all the small landowners and mom and pop lessors, they are being fed scraps from the table by the big honchos who really do not give a flying fuck about their picayune in-law apartments. They will be devoured by the Big Boys and given small thanks for helping defeat the "communists".

O, the Cambodians has a new year celebration. It is called "Tet" in some places.

 

LOVE IN VAIN

So anyway, as everyone knows there are elections coming up and more than the usual slander and gossip slinging about town like so many spitballs flung by errant schoolboys. The crowded field of Neocons has thinned out, due largely to a convention in which the principals were invited to resolve disputes in the traditional manner of Neocons down through the ages -- they all arrived wearing helmets and greaves and laced sandals and carried broadswords, pikes, morningstars and halberds.

Karina Durina looked particularly fetching in a short gladiator's skirt with brass bustier until Ronald Bump chopped her legs off with a broadaxe.

Dan Danny fell on top of Lindy Cracker and George Souvlaki in a sumo move that won points until he was dispatched by Randy Peter and Scott Trotter with machetes, which they then promptly used on each other the way NeoCons tend to do. Marco Polo strode across the field past the hapless Rick Frothystuff who bubbled out his last awash in the bodily fluids of Nick Perrier and Robert Janedoll until the limbless torso of Mike Wallabee tripped him up and Ned "Red" Cross did him in an iron tea service.

Ned was decapitated by Kit Carson who bit the dust when Jed Schrubb tried to reason with him and so he fell by the wayside in intellectual exhaustion. Pieces of Jim Killmore were scattered about the hustings, leaving quite a gory spectacle and only Jon Catchit standing to face Bump, the Man with the Hair. Night fell and the survivors were put to bed by their immigrant nannies.

At home, Babar sedately put on his second pair of pants, being a true Conservative, and went out to campaign upon the unusual platform of moderation while Papoon, the Somewhat Liberal Candidate, once again assembled his own program based upon the singular slogan "Not Insane!"

It rained this past weekend, which was good news for parched California. Word from the mountains has it that we are at 50% of usual, but the locals are hoping that rain will keep the trout season going strong. So is Eugene Gallipagus, who is busy planning his annual summer excursion in search of the elusive Sierra Golden King, a fabulous trout that is storied to be larger than a full grown steelhead as they used to catch them in the old days.

No one but Eugene has actually seen a Sierra Golden King, but hope springs eternal in fishermen who have more faith than Cubs fans do in the World Series.

Eugene claims to have not only seen one of these mythical fish, but to have actually spoken with it. A matter about which Old Schmidt had this to say after removing his pipe from his whiskers.

"I haff seen ze biggest trout in Europa and therefore ze vorld. Zat man haff dee vacky tabacky smoken."

Which just goes to show that you can trust nobody; neither old Germans nor crazy fishermen.

What with this wet weather we have a dank and overcast, albeit luscious, Spring. Which means the heart's ardor remains banked around here, reducing the dangers of mesalliances and explosive eroticism. The Editor has retired to his study, fortified with Michelina's and Weight Watchers frozen dinners so as to avoid going out. Denby has pulled back into the Snug of the Old Same Place Bar with his guitar and sappy Broadway show tunes. Plus a little Teresa Tudury. He figures that by summer it will be safe to play flamenco again.

Jose is evading the pangs of Cupid by working, working, working, working, at his new job at the tech startup Guttersnipe where the only love expressed is for warm motherboards and hot dataports. The women there are all smart as Madam Curie and they have neither interest nor time for folderol between the sheets. The guys all still play the video game Zombie Monster Thrill Race in what little spare time they have and so it may be several decades before any of them figure out the bumping thing that happens between men and women sometimes.

For the most part they work and when they do not work, they hang out at work and eat really unhealthy meals after working out in the workplace gym. Then they go study and practice working so they can work much better some more and return to work again. They do not take days off, not even when sick or injured, because they would not know what to do with themselves. When it comes to pasttimes, one might say, "I used to dance," or "I used to play the tuba, but not any more. There is no time for that."

The employers really like this for obvious reasons.

This is worklife in the Twenty-First century tech world and there are no carpets and no paintings on the walls. Sometimes a helpdesk guy brings a guitar into the lounge, but y'know -- he's Help Desk. . . .

It is a world Robert Heinlein would have loved, but no one reads Heinlein any more, certainly not tech people who read nothing but manuals. And Heinlein was a dick.

Meanwhile between the airy workpods and aquarium-glass conference rooms of Guttersnipe the hour approaches midnight on Saturday and Cohen sits hunched over his keyboard, the multi screen display arranged in an arc before him with the secondary screen displaying the terminal emulator up to the right and the open iPad to his left (to display the scheduling).

A human stands behind him and says, "What are you doing?"

"Working," Cohen says. "On the Mission Electric zero sum issue. Why do you ask?"

"Your problem is of interest," said the human, who was named Iota. "And I need the printer."

Cohen deliberated a moment. "Use it," he said.

"All right," she said and turned and walked away, her high heels making tapping sounds on the floor. Cohen could swear that he saw sparks.

"This could cause static discharge," he said to himself and returned to work.

At midnight, 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, and 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.

APRIL 3, 2016

NOTHING BUT FLOWERS

This image is of a Spring harbinger, sometimes called a "blue flag" in crossword puzzles.

Put that in your etui and smoke it.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

So anyway, the weather has shifted, the sunlight has taken a new direction and Eugene Gallipagus has started restocking his trout lures as part of an annual tradition. The shadows strewn by the trees are softer and every stem glows with a sunburst of energy tipped with quiet, green eruptions. The wood glades are dappled with careless splashes of sunshine. Fauns pause beside the road before bounding off awkwardly on new-found leg spindles just unfolded a few weeks ago and every morning begins with a rousing symphony of hundreds, thousands of birdsong instruments announcing the new dawn. After the long drought, streams plash once again from high above the hill. The country air is noisy with excitement.

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.

O dear gohd . . . .

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 with Sam from Accounting, who has stripped to his undershorts so as to confront the naked Truth.

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.

So it goes for the run of humanity. Not so much for Piedro, who has gotten a job after looking for 18 months with an MSP in Berkeley. There, his job is to deliver pizza and caffeine to engineers who stay up all night fixing imaginary problems that never existed in business twenty years ago.

Piedro signed up to make deliveries during regular business hours, but for an MSP, which is a new sort of business, there are no more regular business hours. Piedro had to show up in San Jose at seven am and then pop on over to South City for the afternoon and then end up in Berkeley where someone said, "Lets have a workstation build party! We''l just order pizza and stay up all night through the weekend and bust it out! What do you all say!"

This new high tech manner of working did not sit well with Piedro, who had to take care of his infirm Abuelta, who had the neropathy in the feet, which she claimed had been twisted by the thugs of Pinochet, and then his grandmother, who seemed to suffer neropathy EVERYWHERE it was possible.

There after the ninth delivery of caffeinated sodas, Jose heard one of the workers speaking to the boss. Seems the man's wife had gone into hospital for the delivery of their first baby.

The boss wanted to know what time the baby was expected and the man thought about five or six if all went well.

"You can stay or go," the boss said. "Choice is yours. You can make up the hours after two am or work the next weekend through."

The man decided to stay at work and the team thought he demonstrated excellent dedication.

Around four am Jose passed out on the sofa and the man's wife was still in labor at Alta Bates. So was the man. While the boys slaved over the machines, up on Pill Hill the epidural wore off and the woman started to scream, so they gave her another as her arms writhed against the restraints and the sweat poured down her body, matting her hair into a lank mass. She was going into that Lilith-dark place that was beyond thinking and language and way beyond any kind of organization or Company.

When Jose awoke around eight, another crew had arrived to continue working through Sunday. Jose fetched another load of pizzas and beer -- the project was winding up and the man's wife was still in labor and the man remained at work eating pizza and building machines -- and Jose left in disgust. When he told Denby what had happened Jose took out his iPhone and looked at it a moment before dropping it to the floor and stomping on the device with his boot heel, which astonished Martini passing by.

"WTF?" said Martini.

"Tech aint work the wreck," Jose said and went to bed.

Right then, 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, and 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, laden with its freight of new value.

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

 

MARCH 20, 2016

SPRING TAKES THE BOW

This week the headline comes from Tammy and is of a luminescent box elder rejuvenating after the recent rains.

LIKE THE WEATHER

Latest report from the Dweeb report has been a mix of optimistic and recent disappointment.

Basically the latest storm brought hella rain and light dusting at Elevation, which means not so much snow. As Howard reported on Friday, "So you get the picture…there may not be much of a plow….Just cinders for some ice, once the pavement melts up to an inch or two. What this storm gives up in precip it will make up in wind - See more at: http://mammothweather.com/#sthash.gqfznrQK.dpuf"

As for the longer range outlook, Howard says "The Climate Models are telling that we have some good storms in April (30 Day) outlook. ..."

Optimistically, "If you have not heard by now, there is a La Nina brewing for next Winter. ENSO is expected to be at least in neutral mode by this Summer, then in negative territory by the Fall. If you believe in the Scripps forecast model, a Major La Nina is in the offering. "

If this turns out to be true by the end of next winter we should seen an end to the California Drought. Maybe. It could just as well happen that next winter is mediocre, which would propell us back into another three years of drought conditions.

NOTES DROPPING SLOW

So anyway, boiling clouds and thrashing monsoons have driven back the fears of drought in many. The reservoirs of Marin are overflowing the spillways again even as the green shoots drive out from the dark bones of this long winter's reach.

Each morning the birds erupt at dawn with tremendous chattering and the squadrons of Canadian geese honk happily on their return from Rio de Janeiro, pausing to squabble on the greens of the Chuck Corica Golf Course and the expanse that spreads out beside the College.

It is still chill enough at night for flannel, and the rain sifting down now like melodic fragments torn from memory with silver dagger drops sends shiver through the old knocking bones.

It would be a poor man indeed, or a sad excuse for a woman who had never stood there at the window looking out at this scene of plashing pines and tinkles, remembering some long lost day, some long lost lover or friend.

In the crannies of the BART station, in the hooks of bus stops, in the snug of doorways, ragged people collect like detritus tossed up and left behind by the swirling eddies gushing along the gutters, all wrapped in damp sleeping bags and tatters. It is still cold enough outside.

All the residents of Marlene and Andre's Household had gathered together under the roof because of the weather. Occasional Quentin had taken up his sleeping spot under the coffee table and Suan had retaken the couch and Martini occupied the fireplace and Snuffles holed up in the hole left out in the porch where the fire that started on Javier's fiftieth birthday had nearly killed all of them. They were a ragged bunch of fifteen souls taking up residence in that one bedroom cottage where accomodations were necessarily cramped, but the rents having risen to such obscene levels, each had taken the measures necessary to survive. For some, whose lives roll easy, keeping body and soul together under a roof was fair enough a job to accomplish. For folks like these, riff raff toss by the oceanic vississitudes and storms of Life, not gifted with luck or talent or brains, they had to make shift with what came their way. What else was one to do?

For all their mental illness and penury they made the best of it. For the St. Patricks Day feast they had a grand feast of cabbage and white beans and broth and onions and toasted day-old bread with fake parmesan and that was enough. It had to be enough because that was all there was and there was music and laughter in the Household that night.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic and Dawn and Suzie slaved to serve up Gaelic Coffees, which Padraic refused to name by the more popular appellation, him feeling that no daycent Irishman would ever sully the Water of Life, uisce que bah, with whipped cream and frippery. No one ever in the Old Sod had thought to celebrate St. Patrick with a day to His name more than any other day after a saint, but here in America things enjoyed a different turn, for on St. Paddy's day, Paddywackery was put aside and everyone took to the wearing of the color of the Republic and it was good to be Irish indeed.

So there was a pleasant roistering and clatter from within the clean, well-lighted place and many a tankard was raised and many a toast was made and many a song was lilted upon the air for Denby sat up in the snug with his guitar and there played many a rare old mountain tune to the delight of all.

And it was come nigh unto the stroke of midnight before anyone had forgot to remember the annual visitation of that dreadful Spook that was wont to haunt among them about this time. First the branches thrashed outside in a terrific gale as a sudden downpour assaulted the streets. Then came the wailing of the Bann She about the brick chimney, causing the hearts of the stoutest to quiver and the curtains shivered.

At this point the jukebox began spontaneously playing a certain song by that mysterious group known as the Blue Oyster Cult.

Then the lights flickered overhead and all the candles guttered and a bulb in the lamp beside the snug went **pop**. The candles blew then disappeared. The curtains flew then He appeared, saying don't be afraid.

It was He again, returned and all were silent and struck dumb besides as he strode across the floor to the rail where Eugene nervously gave up his seat to stand shaking in his boots and weeping to the side as He clambered up onto the bar stool to order his regular: a pint of Guiness and a double of Arthur Power to bide his time as the foam stacked in the glass.

It was Him -- the Wee Man. 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. And on his feet a set of green suede brogans with tassels and toe tips that curled up and about in a merry way. He could not have amounted to more than three foot two inches in height.

One of the Not-From-Heres, a veritable Dot Commer type, asked the querelous question, "Who are you?"

"Well," Said the Wee Man, reflecting. "I have been myself all day."

He sipped his Power, then asked the Dot Commer, "What, pray tell, are you?"

Padraic cautioned the man to govern his response.

"Well," said the Dot Commer, taking the safe route. "I am employed."

The Wee Man shook his head with sympathy. "If that is all you are, that is a sad thing." He then took out a small derringer pistol which he shot into the air, striking the ceiling and causing a little sparkling rain of dust to descend before he replaced his weapon and took possession of the Guinness supplied by Padraic.

As to what the Wee Man really was, besides himself all day, which most of us can claim at nearly the same rate, the matter was open to speculation and never-ending discussion. 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, and some say that he was of the tribe of the Bann Sé that howl about the chimneys at night and therefore a sort of faery, but with some disreputable attributions, including cigar smoking and farting.

A faery fart is something about which to contemplate at a later time.

Everyone turned to serious drinking and discussions about Donald Trump's hair as the Wee Man flirted with Suzie.

"O please mister, do leave my knickers alone this time," Suzie said.

The Wee Man's eyes twinkled merrily. "O but I must!"

"O please no!"

"O yes!

"O no!"

"O yes!"

"O please no!"

"Do give us a kiss!"

"I will if you leave 'em alone this time."

In answer, the Wee man smiled and nodded sagely. "With respect, dear Lady. Cannot promise anything."

"All right," Suzie said, and she gave the Wee Man a peck which caused the gentleman to sigh contentedly. "Blessed is the man who enjoys thy gifts," he said. Then, he abruptly started and stared at the table of Dot Commers.

"What on earth are you doing on this St. Patrick's day but noodling when you should be kanoodling!" He said in outrage.

The Dot Commers looked up from their iPads and their iPhones and their sundry twittering devices in surprise.

The Wee Man stood up upon the stool and clapped his hands three times. On the third clap, all the lights exploded in a shower of sparks, plunging the room into pitch darkness. Cries and yelps were heard from around the room. Suzie shrieked. Old Schmidt exclaimed, "Na und!?"

When Padraic had got the lights back on, the Dot Commers were sitting in each other's laps and their devices had been turned into golden instruments known in some circles as Jaw Harps.

In addition, a number of people squirmed in an uncomfortable way. Suzie ran behind the bar to lift up her skirt to peer down there and abruptly slap down the hem.

"O for Pete's sake! He's made 'em drafty fore and aft!"

Dawn went over to Padraic who was peering down past his waistband held open with both hands.

"O I rather like the red piping!" Dawn said. "It outlines yer stuff quite nicely me love!"

"Enough of that!" Padraic said.

The Man from Minot found a little fob with buttons on the bar. Each button was in the shape of a red heart and he pressed the left hand button.

A woman with flaming red hair yelped.

He pressed the button again and the same woman yelped.

He pressed the right button and the woman went, "O mah gawd o mah gawd!" and turned red.

The Man from Minot went up to the woman and pressed the left button again and she leaned against him.

"O gawd! Stop!" She clutched his arm. "It's got a thing that buzzes. . . ".

"That Wee Man is a perverted SOB!" Padraic said. "These things are obscene!"

"It is clear that St. Patricks Day is a day of great erotic power," the Man from Minot said. "And there is only one solution."

"What is that?" Dawn said.

"Your friend is to have you take off your knickers right away," said the Man from Minot, who then pressed the right button of the remote control in his hand until the red haired woman nearly melted in his arms. They left the bar together.

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, and 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.

 

MARCH 6, 2016

HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN

In honor of the rain returning for a last El Nino blast we present this image of an oil spot on the road. It's Art so don't laugh . . .


THIS ISLAND LIFE

We have been looking at what is going on at Silly Hall and the entire Rent Crisis response there as well as elsewhere from citizen groups, deciding to sit back until a pattern emerges from all the brough-haha.

It is easy to get excited about any one development or event, but single points do not make a trend, to paraphrase our old geometry teacher.

At the end of the day three or more occurances make a line and we have had several now spaced over several months, if not several years.

Time to draw conclusions as renter groups tire of foot-dragging and the obduracy of Big Property entities to aim squarely at the Ballot box in the next series of salvos.

Rather than analyze the minutia of what is happening of late, lets look at the big picture(s).

A few months ago several concerned citizen renters went before City Council to speak of the ongoing rent crisis taking place on the Island, which is generally reflective of trends around the Bay Area.

Let's put causes and proposed solutions on the table for a moment to simply state that no one, not the landholders, not the property management people, not the legislators, not the renters for sure says there is no crisis and the current situation is a disaster in motion. It is a disaster for individuals, it is a disaster for small businesses and it is a disaster for the communities in general.

That we have a rental crisis, both for businesses as well as for individuals is primo factotum. Also established fact is the horrible way San Francisco rents have risen to obscene levels resulting in major changes to entire neighborhoods, causing wholsale flight from the City to outlieing districts. One can blame any number of factors for this, but the reality is that nobody forced any landlord or management firm to raise rents and evict people en masse. Many people born and raised here cannot afford to live here any longer and many families have packed up and left from San Francisco and each of the other five counties in the Bay Area Metro area even as the population densities have continued to escalate. Traffic problems have increased as well as homeless encampments along with an host of crime statistics and severe strain on infrastructures of virtually every system, including water, garbage, social services, medical care, etc.

The Island has not been immune to these large scale developments. Within the last five years businesses that have existed here for half a century or more have been ousted by this fever generated by the sheer bulk of dollars that appear to be in play. Paganos Hardware, the Park Street bakery, Brown Shoes, Webster Barbershop, Croll's Bar, the Little Cinema (Central Avenue), McGraths Pub are just a few business that have closed up or moved either directly due to, or influenced by, the rent crisis. As for individuals, no decent person can afford to have a one bedroom anymore, so now we see people doubling up and getting room mates to double street population densities, which then affects garbage collection, sewer and parking.

This is not just change as a consequence of modernity; this is destructive change leading to what may become localized slum deserts and certain destruction of neighborhood community not to mention the widespread production of individual misery and displacement.

That City Council was slow and conservative and trended to cater to monied interests should not be surprising. With the departure of the Navy and the opening up of large and valuable real estate, overwhelming external forces came to bear here. Due to very concentrated efforts by concerned citizens a narrow tract of land was rescued from development to become the Jean Sweeny Open Space Preserve.

It does appear that no other land tract will enjoy such protection as bogus Environmental Impact reports and fake traffic studies get by in smoky back rooms to allow dubious projects to go forward. One report came up with the preposterous claim that adding over 2,000 more housing units would result in no more than one additional vehical passing through rush hour traffic spread out over all bridges and tunnels combined over the next thirty years.

Even if you accept that all these people would use only intra-island pathways, any sane person would have to see that the present traffic load within the Island is already heavily impacted and any more traffic will certainly damage the quality of life here.

People who claim that all the newcomers will just ride bicycles are living in a fantasy la-la land.

So a group of renters has formed a coalition to address the issues politically. Astoundingly, City Hall agreed to listen in a special session. Astoundingly the session was packed with pro landowner shills who attempted to squeeze out any free public comment which disagreed with the monied interests.

Not so astoundingly, the renters reacted with extraordinary anger, leaving broken bones and paramedics and police and blood on the stairs as punctuation marks for that first Council meeting. Council Meetings have proceeded somewhat more pacific after that, but the anger continued to grow and land interests continued to buffalo the meetings and repress dissent as if by this they can delay or mollify the consequences of their actions. Lets not go on with this. Because of the anger and because of the intransigency of the big property interests, real rent control is a foregone conclusion and it is just too bad that refusal to sit down and talk and dour insistence on "property rights" will cause a passel of legislation that satisfies nobody.

Look, this is not a new problem that suddenly just popped up like a toy clown in a box. Lets look at places where some things have worked and where things have not. We see in a gander at the map that not one measure of any kind, pro or anti landlord has resulted in the reduction of rents across the board anywhere from San Jose up to Petaluma and out to Walnut Creek. Rents are low in Vallejo but then Vallejo is broke and unattractive with many social problems. What has worked is the preservation to some extent of quality of life in pockets of Marin where people got together to block development with vigor.

No one in Fairfax or Lagunitas is afraid of being called anti-development. They are more likely to say, "Call us what you want; that is just fine and just might help other yahoos from coming in here with their ticky tacky boxes on the hillside."

This is something that should have been practiced ages ago on the Island. Call the whole Island anti-development -- what is wrong with that? Let it get a bad rep -- that is just fine. What are you afraid of? Why is anyone talking about developing the Point at all? Turn the entire thing into a columbarium for the Navy and a bird sanctuary. The birds will handle their own traffic patterns and so will the people in the columbarium urns.

At this point all the talk about measured growth and considered approaches is just so much baloney. The population is over 75,000 climbing rapidly and soon to top 100,000 souls. In a recent meeting it was Ms. Do of Blogging Bayport who noted that the Mayor stated flatly, "You people don't understand; this is not a little town any more -- it is a full fledged city."

The old island is gone and it has been gone for a while. Or to quote another piece of theatre, "Toto, we are not in Kansas any more."

THIS TRAIN

So anyway, out in the industrial avenues of Berkeley that nobody thinks about save those that pour the steel that make the massive ship's propellers of the ocean liners and those that hammer together the cobbles of tin that framework unknown and disregarded most folks lives allowing them to surf the internet and watch Donton Abbey and shop for fake organic arugula and get their kids to school, in that area where the tin smokestacks batter out steam released from pounding and welding sheet metal inside corrugated steel wall shacks where people in America still actually make things the employees of all the businessess along Fourth Street stepped out of doors to stand there and jubilate with drenching T-shirts and blouses and dress shirts and denim shirts and levis and rough hewn leather aprons, construction boots splashing in suddenly new puddles.

All the receptionists and the call center boys and the Sales desk people stood out there to laugh and wave their hands in the air as the blessed rain came pelting down, the rain falling from the sky which had been so dry so long and all of NorCal sang this song of relief from the terrible drought that had been destroying our lives and the lives of our relations in the Valley.

Alexi, big and black bearded rumbled out to the pavement in the cul-de-sac that made Endsight Corporation's front stoop of broken curbstone and stood there with his massive face tilted upwards to allow the water to stream on down over his cheeks and let the rain fall down upon his immense shoulders and the giant laughed with joy.

Under the humming spans of I880 and the junction with 980 the tents rose up for those lucky few still possessed of a mind. For the rest, they gathered along the walls of the subterranean BART stations in wrinkled brown clots staring out with wondering eyes at this new damp confusion of wet and dripping, dropped sodden down and immovable like swatches of soggy cardboard with human hair or something like it.

Far off in the high Sierra the blessed snow came driving down with energy and wind to drift in the tens of feet the way it did in 1996 and the shouts of skiers echoed across Mammoth.

Beneath the leap of the freeway over Seventh Street Denby stepped out into the falling rain, having just gotten out of jail, where he had been since Valentine's Day. The judge had given him a stern warning not to be seen going around inciting riot and corrupting the morals of outstanding citizen businessmen like Larry Larch and Marvin Mervin of Marvin's Merkins ever again.

Marvin had shuffled his feet sheepishly at the hearing and Larry's Service dog had looked about as contrite as any terrier can do under the circumstances. The others had been let go, but due to a snafu with the CorrectWise software at the jail it had taken them five hours to get Denby properly discharged. So there he was outside the Seventh Street jailhouse and even all the hookers had gone home by then. He looked up and allowed the sweet rain to rinse his eyes and hair.

O Lord, why me, Denby thought.

Because I find you so laughable I really love you, said the Lord.

O thanks, Denby thought.

That night, in the dark offices of the Island-Life newsroom the Editor shifted his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, removed it and took a swig of Glenfiddich before returning his stogie to its proper position as he sat once again at his customary table where he has sat each week for the past eighteen years, the desklamp making a pool of light on his keyboard and papers while the remaining white hairs flew about his head in an aureole.

Outside the rain sussurated on the pavement and the trees. The machines of the office whirred until each went through its scheduled backup and auto shutdown, leaving the Editor there alone in the empty space once again as he had always been. After a little break to handle disasters and depredations caused by the Angry Elf gang, the Editor had walked up to the offices as the trees had started to leaf out again. Jonquils bloomed along the hillside in bunches. Tulips had emerged to herald a change of sorts. Now, sitting down to the one place where he felt at home, here on this Island, a more perfect place one could not imagine.

Old friends had come and gone. Lovers had made their good byes leaving him in that odd state known in chess as solus rex. Now he had only Company. His opponent he had come to know well over the years in a sort of hindsight, having seen the Adversary's depredations like the tracks of a subatomic particle in a vacuum chamber, for no one can see Evil by looking at it; you can only see what it is by the damage left in its wake.

He had tried and tried and beat his fists time and time again only to find that Time is a spherical prison with no escape, no going back.

More important than any endsight was this dealing with the Adversary, making something ex nihilo as the Voice came to him in the dark, some kind of suggestion of Company. Endsight was simply a servant to the main task of handling the Adversary.

Round about him hung the curtains of darkness and the rain outside where somewhere there may be a like mind. In the meantime, the Editor sat at his desk, the little pool of light, his hair flying about his head in an aureole. Doing all for Company.

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.


FEBRUARY 29, 2016

SPRING TAKES THE BOW


LOVE FOR SALE

So anyway Jose has managed to conceal from Javier the fact that his birthday falls on February 29th. Birthdays are big business for Bay Areans, who look for any excuse to party. But Javier's birthdays trend to the violent with culminations that result so often in Highland's Trauma Center that they have a special gurney named after him.

Javier has gotten to know all the nurses there, especially the pretty ones, who all know the kind of dog he is after his many altercations with the wild women he likes to woo and Jose has often been an unwilling participant in these many escapades. Sometimes escaping with a few third degree burns. Sometimes departing with stitches binding up superficial knife wounds.

Hence, Jose practices a fair degree of disgression when his birthday rolls around, and because it happens only every four years, so much the better as Javier tends to forget these things amid his many adventures dodging bullets from Carmelita or narrowly sidestepping Veronica's racing T-bird as she attempts to run him down once again.

Certainly many people, including the surgeons at Highland, have asked just why Javier opts to pursue these wild women, but Javier feels that a man of his age and stature was honor bound to uphold the image of the virile Latino.

Jose and Piedro, two fine, hardworking boys who make their abuelitas proud, have alternative points of view. Jose tries his best to help his older friend, whom he admires perhaps a little bit. Piedro avoids Javier, calling him a bad example.

The dense tule fog has started to make morning visits over the hills and Bay bridges. The nights have started to yeild to softer temperatures although the chimneys of Woodacre and San Anselmo continue to fill the San Geronimo Valley. All along Snoffish Road the cherry blossoms have suddenly erupted into clouds that rain white petals and the shoots of the trees prod green fingers. Daffodowndillies nod yellow in bunches and beneath the frozen streams high up something is starting to happen.

Out on the chop, Pedro listens to his favorite radio program in the wheelhouse of his commercial boat, El Borracho Perdido while Ferryboat curls up in his corner bed. The Lutheran televangalist Pastor Rotschue is making his final broadcasts before heading off to wherever Lutheran pastors go for retirement.

Pedro imagined the fellow probably would take up fishing at Bear Lake near the Canadian border as a quiet sojourn in sunny Hawaii felt out of character for the crusty old fellow. Which brought Pedro to thinking about his own conditions. He was not getting any younger and the life of a solo commercial fisherman is not an easy one. That time when the Great White came up and wrecked the wheelhouse and killed Tugboat, Ferryboat's predecessor, nearly had done him in as well. He never imagined that pushing sixty plus years he would end up fighting for his life on the desks of his boat, but then, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans and death is even more unscheduled. If Tugboat had not distracted the thing he would not have had time to bring about his Mossberg 350 and fire on its damned reptilian brain that day.

The sea beyond the Golden Gate eased with the smooth chop of a storm that remained a few hunmdred miles off to the west and the boat engines pulsed like the motors of an iHarvester tracktor on the waving fields of wheat. Time and memories ran through Pedro. Thoughts of people lost along the way. Adventures on and off the sea.

From the radio the Tishomingo Blues drifted around the confined space of the wheelhouse. Now another old friend was about to gas up and head on down the highway to leave this man alone with his thoughts and memories and the increasingly less interesting radio.

In the Old Same Place Bar Denby rolled in with his guitar, having just gotten out of jail. Once again Valentine's day had proved a disaster. Perhaps he should not have hooked up with Larry Larch and Marvin of Marvin's Merkins for an evening. The guys decided to make a night out for the unattatched gentlemen as a sort of emotional defense against V-Day. While Ms. Light got all spiffy in chiffon for her date with Brunhilde, one of the masseuses out of Borg's A Touch of Wonder parlor on Webster Street, Larry threw on his jeans and boots and, taking one of his service dogs in training named Bobo, headed out over the Estuary in his Subaru to meet up with his buds at the Fat Lady Lounge. From there the plan was to head over to Eli's Mile High Club under the freeway for some gut bucket blues, which most appealed to Denby.

Things proceeded apace at the Fat Lady as Denby arrived on his blue Gitane and then Marvin appeared. Marvin caused only minor annoyance, as ever the businessman, he kept handing out cards for his shop to prospective customers (Marvin's Merkins: Never too many merkins! Put a merkin in your firkin!" ).

They all piled into Larry's Subaru with Bobo and headed off to Eli's where they were sorely disappointe as Eli's had closed do to the last owner having been shot on the dance floor. Eli's had been upholding a long tradition of juke joints in Oaktown, serving up BBQ, blues and periodic murders for many years. Everytime an owner would get caught fooling around with somebody's wife another one would step up to take his place and get shot in turn and finally it got to the point nobody wanted the job anymore.

So Eli's closed and so, even though they never heard of a bar being closed on Valentine's Day evening, with tears in their eyes they headed off into the sunset looking for another place to put their junk for a while.

Bereft and at a loss for things to do, the group headed back to the artist's enclave along the water near Jack London Square. There they saw Merchants Saloon had been converted into an upscale place, calling itself The Hoity Toity and there was a special Bachelor's Show on for tonight featuring Vaudeville! Fun! Balloons! Comedy! Burly Que! Take someone home tonite!

So they thought it a grand idea that instead of hauling everyone out of the bar into the Subaru they would go into the bar themselves and have themselves a proper good time and when they got inside the bar they found a rangy mangy group of patrons lined up there and it was clear from the scruffy leather vests and bad haircuts and worse dentistry that they were all local boys and not tourist types at all.

Someone asked if they were dot commers and Denby said no, they worked for a living, which passed the muster.

They all looked at Bobo and the meanest nastiest ugliest looking local came up to Larry and asked if that varmint was a poodle. Bobo looked up at them and smiled about as well as any sort of scruffy terrier-type can do, trying to be self-effacing and not cause any trouble.

Larry said no, the dog was a Weimariner in disguise. Which made the locals all happy and they were welcomed into the bar and they were slapped on the back and called good old boys for all that.

So the short guy came out and did his thing with the very tall, thin guy and then the comic came out with a lapel sunflower that spritzed water on the patrons in front and who failed to make anyone laugh and then there were the poi dancers swinging burning balls all around, which looked sort of interesting and then Wanda came out wearing balloons and while a recording of Randy Newman played she popped those balloons and danced and pretty soon she was not wearing much of anything at all besides a merkin this being V-Day and all and the day being all about kinds of Love and stuff.

That is when Larry pointed at Wanda and said, "Hey! Is that one of mine?" He was quite happy about this obvious display of one of his wares being worn and in public at that.

One of the beefier fellows up there snarled at Larry "This is MY meat!" and he shoved Larry a bit -- not too much, just an informative shove to convey the message as bouncers are wont to do betimes.

"No she's not!" Someone else said. "She's MINE!"

That is when Bobo did what he was trained to do when confronted with bad behavior: he bit the man on the leg.

Now some of you will recall that Larry is the proud owner of PPA, aka Pushy People Anonymous, a self-help organization that intends to curb the rampant ill temper and rudeness that has been infecting the Bay Area for some time. Clients enrolled in PPA go through a 12-step program modeled after programs employed by well-known famous substance abuse centers. They undergo group therapy, admitting their problem in public and swearing to become better citizens and each client is issued a service dog trained to recognized pushiness and administer firm correction whenever the client pushed ahead in line, takes too many canapes, talks loudly in the movie theatre and generally over asserts themselves.

Most clients are arranged by family and co-workers as a chief component of this problem is first recognizing there is an issue.

Denby, trying to avoid the melee stepped backward a bit too quickly to tromp on the foot of a man dressed in a ball gown with feather boa. The man took exception to this treatment and punched Denby in the eye.

Anyrate Bobo bit the man and a certain amount of chaos ensued. No need to drag out a long winded description of a bar fight which quickly descended into an atavistic demonstration of brutal savagery with chair smashing and punches and gouging and vile imprecations terminated by the arrival of the gendarmie and everyone being carted off to jail under suspicion of being a biker gang even though everyone had arrived in pickup trucks and a Subaru.

That is how Denby once again spent Valentine's Day in jail.

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.

 

JANUARY 17, 2016

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

.Somebody clearly had an Holiday feast here up in Woodacre. This appears to be the remains of a fine goat repast left behind by the coyotes that run wild in southern Marin. Best not leave your poochie outside overnight these days.

WHAT'S GOING ON

Welcome back. It's been a good six weeks of a layoff - longest in 18 years of continuous publication of Island-Life. Some personal medical issues have been sorted out -- the old ticker remains ticking with the help of the good folks at Native American Health Center,

Other issues with other Staffers remain stabilized for now; after all, everyone must die of something some day after passing through this vale of tears and suffering we are told is all smoke and mirrors, so when the Day arrives, it might be called a good day for all of that. Chief Blackhawk said something like that.

The Offices Music Desk is moving off the Island, which should astonish everyone, while being no great surprise. True musicians have little wherewithal and the financial climate here is turning more to the worse as signs reading, "Fringe folks not Welcome Here," start to multiply.

We are informed 2nd hand from a dear acquaintance that not all bad things need to be told, which is a rather wise way to put things in perspective and one maxim to which certain folks lined up at the brass rail of the Old Same Place Bar and sitting under the dryers of Jacquelines should pay heed.

Indeed in matters of the Heart, affairs appear to be sounder than in years, in most respects, while divorces and seperations have added drama to the mix. We leave you all with that.

So we are off to a new year, which happens to be -- shudder -- the 50th anniversary of 1966, meaning we probably are all going to embark on a painfully wistfull '60's retrospective that is bound to make all the Punks tear out their purple hairs.

O for pete's sake. . . .

SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH (news)

Local fav band Houston Jones has said "So long and thanks for all the fish." Chris Kee, the bassist who also wrote most of the best songs had departed for the comforts of the piney woods a while ago, and now it looks like Glenn "Houston" Pomianik has split, taking his unusual upside-down guitar wizardry to some other unknown clime. Travis remains feisty and irascible and retains the percussionist Peter Tucker and keyboardist Henry Salvia in a new incarnation

The website has been allowed to lapse, but you can still follow the survivors on Facebook under the old name.

Have you been following the recent Silly Council motions on the rent crisis? We have been keeping tabs on things via Lauren Do's excellent blog in which she reports on the meetings right up to the early morning hours votes.

She is a great writer, but it must be nice not to have a day job.

So anyway, looks like the supposedly "progressive" council that got voted in largely on the basis of voter dissatisfaction regarding development has been watering down rent control ordinances to the point that a sure initiative showdown is in store. As for those landlords who believe they are getting that for which they ardently wished -- i.e. zero renter protections -- will wind up facing far more draconian responses when people get angry. Again.

It is fine to be angry about not making pots of more money hand over fist and not being allowed to use personal property without restrictions (can anyone say "gun control" in the same breath? Knew you could), but when people's lives are at stake, the matter develops an entirely new depth of feeling.

And by the way: No you cannot do anything you want with your personal property. You may not march down the public street discharging your Mossberg 320 into the air nor may you blast somebody's drone out of the sky with your Colt.45 within city limits. You may revile your tax bill, but you may not shoot the mailman with your personal AK-47, even if you both happen to be standing within your property limits and you own the bullets.

So long as Silly Council continues to backpedal and waffle, the anger will grow. The saying goes here, "Be careful what you wish for."

Cue in Joy Division's "Day of the Lords."


STANDING ON THE MOON (monol)

So anyway, a couple dockwallopers pounded into the Bay Area to make everyone glad about a respite from the drought, which led to a few days that had even native peoples from the Great White North shivering in their down comforters here as ice rimed the bushes, glazed car windows and froze water pipes through Xmas night. Most Californians had forgotten what real cold felt like and what it could do.

Sita responded as efficiently as any eco-landscaper would, by wrapping the external pipes in old socks, which had a most gratifying effect for all her efforts, and she clapped her gloved hands together with efficiency and confidence this did the trick quite well, albeit with not much real effect should a serious cold snap ever set in that matched something in Minnesotta, a place she had never visited.

Fortunately for Sita and the amnesiac residents of southern Marin County and the Island, the set of dockwallopers yielded to a Pineapple Express of huge proportions, allowing all the local weathercasters to nod sagely and say, "The El Nino is finally here. This is it."

Howard the Dweeber, up in Mammoth, sat back with his brandy beside his roaring fire to review his own reports that had predicted this system some four months previously.

Satisfaction is being right. Wisdom resides in not saying so too loudly.

Due to the weather, all the denizens of Marlene and Andre's Household have gathered under the common roof once again. Snuffles sleeps in the deck hole made that fateful celebration of Javier's fiftieth birthday when the place nearly burned down.Occasional Quentin has again moved to sleeping under the coffeetable. The bunks in the hallway once again are fully stocked by residents, so all fifteen denizens are packed into the one bedroom rented from Mr. Howitzer's realty firm.

This situation has existed ever since the rental situation became obscene. People have to live somewhere and poor people must make do.

This being the post holiday season, the official House tree was disassembled to join its fellows in the pelting rain for Boy Scouts and Waste Management to collect.

New Year's passed same as last year. Most of the Household members had to work, but over in the Lutheran Parsonage the two old friends sat to discuss Reformation and Pardons.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.

JANUARY 14, 2016

WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS

Hello and welcome back to the new Island-Life. We took six weeks off to handle family issues but will be returning for 2016 and the 18th year of continuous publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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