Island Life

Vol. 17 - No. 12Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday March 22, 2015

Current Edition - Year 2015

Welcome to the 17th 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 or use the envelope in the masthead. For previous issues, including 2014, visit the Archives.


The Editor

Denby -Reporter

Sharon -Events

Chad -Coding

Tammy -Fotos

Hilde -Europe

MARCH 22, 2015


Seems a good time to quote Richard Shindell again. Spring began Officially on Friday, although some of you may be still having some troubles with ice and snow because of that irksome Easterner Pennsylvania rodent named Phil who predicted 6 more weeks of Winter.

Ok, here is our Californian rodent begging to say otherwise with a pissed-off expression.

Spring is at hand. The trees may still be bare, but the freesias have come and there are rumors of tulips. Stuff is budding out, even beneath the snow, and if you look down there you will see that something is going on. A bit of pneumocystitis, a bit of damp and cold, another lover gone off leaving you with nothing more than a matchbox to hold your clothes. You had to roust a group of guys in your driveway throwing dice for the robe of Jesus. What of that? Good time to start anew.


Front page news in the Sun gave the good word that the current City Council quashed the exception to Measure A, which was passed in 1973 in an effort to save the Island Victorians from being replaced with lavish condos and big apartment buildings.

Recently developers have been asking for numerous waivers to the provisions of the Measure to push forward plans that got the voters riled enough to oust the power bloc of the former Silly Council, which was all too cozy with development against the wishes of the people who live here.

Finally, somebody is living up to their campaign promises -- in this case, the promise to slow down the juggernaut of development here.


Caltrans will begin the reconstruction of the 23rd Avenue and 29th Avenue overcrossings in Oaktown Friday, April 3. This work is slated to end October 2016.

The projects contain many stages and feature underground tunnels for pedestrians in the area. Preparation work has been going on for many months at the Oakland side already, including brush clearing, materials drop and general rehab at the bases of the overpasses.

The representative from CalTrans, when queried directly by Islandlife at a planning session many months ago, looked us directly in the eye and said during this work "no serious impact on existing services will happen."

OK Joe. We do have numbers to call, should it prove otherwise.

High Street Bridge will remain closed during the middle part of the day until April 27 as the deck is repaired and the center lock is replaced.


So anyway, some signs that changes are in the offing have started to appear. Trees are bare and the oranges are gone from the trees and each morning starts with a ritual of throwing on a parka to get the coffee going, but in the delta, the trout stir beneath the freeze. The Official date of Spring's beginning was March 20th, and on the porch of the Universe, Old Gaia slowly revolves her ravined and forested face back towards the light shed by her son, Phoebus Apollo, the coverlet of stars and comets and planets and galaxies draped across her ancient knees as she rocks back and forth in that chair.

This week the Old Same Place Bar was again the center of attention during St. Patrick's Day, a day that is celebrated all around the world, save for in the Emerald Isle itself, for the Wearing of the Green is meant to hearten the Irish Diaspora, who number, as some estimate, at some 32 millions, while a bare 8 million actually dwell on the Island itself.

Various things account for these numbers. The Great Potato Famine sent many abroad of course, while hardship, better opportunities, lousy weather, the incessant screaming of the Bann Sé, and a savage, unregulated priesthood sent many more to seek such fortunes as young people may find better than at home. So said Hamlet's friend and it is as true now as it ever was.

But such Irish as may live in America stand to profit much from this truth that there really are only two kinds of people in the world: the Irish and those who wish to be.

So it is at Island-Life we celebrate the Irish the day or week after, just as we commemorate Martin Luther King the week after his birthday, because you really should be thinking about the benefits all year long MLK brought you instead of just on one day with a BBQ and you should be wishing you were Irish and thanking the fact you are so far from Troubles and roofslates every day of the week instead of just once a year with a Gaelic coffee along with a shot of Arthur Power.

So there y'are.

Tuesday night everything was roaring along at a fine clip at the Old Same Place Bar, an unusually lucrative evening for a midweek night when things normally went slow. But on St. Patrick's Day, all the amateurs came out in force, wearing the green and downing pints of Guiness like it was good for you.

It was late in the evening and somewhere down the street warbled a sultry saxophone playing Harlem Nocturne. The Depuglia brothers sat at a table with a pitcher of Guiness for each of them. Bjorn Rubbitson schmoozed with a table of Not-from-Heres who had come over from the mainland to check out the Island and see The Longest Ride at the Paramount. Officer O'Madhauen, off duty and dressed in civilian clothes sipped an O'Douls by himself after watching Mall Cop 2. Nurse Betty and her friend Gardenia from the Hospital flirted with a couple off-duty Coast Guard guys.

All was going quite fine and Dawn was slinging out the Gaelic coffees by the gallon, so called because Padraic refused to label them as Irish, for no daycent Irishman would so malign the Water of Life by adulterating it with unnecessary ingredients. It was fine as it was in the cruiskeen luin with nothing perhaps, perhaps, but a wee block of ice to cool it down some. And all was a chatter and a clatter in that home snug of so many for so many years with Denby laying down a quiet bluesy backbeat on his guitar in the snug and the boys at the bar talking about the Villanova game that just ended and the upcoming fishing season.

The Man from Minot was talking to Maeve, Jackie's helper at Jaqueline's Salon about bromeliads while Eugene was discussing with Latrena Brown sea slug eversion and other topics that almost certainly would ensure that he go to bed alone again this evening with placid countenance.

Only that Suzie sat there in her loneliness with her Anthropology book behind the bar during the quiet times, wishing she, too, could join the conviviality and common rapport after her disastrous affair with Jorge, who turned out to be a Basque Separatists during a trip to Italy. This caused a great deal of grief and required Padraic to fly out there and straighten things out for the American. No, she is not a Terrorist, and no she has no Islamic sympathies either and what the devil has that do do with the Basque people anyway?

O why do smart women get involved with such devious men? Especially when they are so beautiful. It is all quite frustrating. And on this particular night, Suzie was mooning about that episode when so many people seemed to be so artificially happy.

That was when then the door was opened and the wind appeared. The candles blew then disappeared.
The curtains flew then he appeared, saying don't be afraid.

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.

Jason Arrabiata, CFSM, turned from the bar and looking at the Wee Man, exclaimed with joy that one of God's Chosen had arrived.

The Wee Man seemed to take this in stride as he climbed up onto a stool and ordered a pint and a shot. While waiting for the pint to "stack" he made inquiry to Jason as to what he meant.

"All midgets are preferred by God for he has touched them so repeatedly on the noggin from above that their stature has remained diminutive. It is a sign.

"I am not a midget," said the Wee Man.

This so startled Jason that his body jerked and his eyebrows went up and down to such an extent the Wee Man smiled despite himself.

"Then what are you," Jason said.

"What am I?" said the Wee Man, reflecting. "Well I have been myself all day."

"Well I most humbly apologize sir," Jason said.

"Apology accepted," said the Wee Man. "What then are you, pray tell?"

"Me? I am Jason Arrabiata, a pastor of the faith of the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

"A man of the cloth. Well then, I shall not kill you," said the Wee Man who downed his shot of Jamison's with satisfaction.

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.

In any case the mood of the bar settled back into an easy rhythm of drinking and conversation and all would have been fine had not the Depuglia brothers got it into their heads to harass the visitor by tossing peanuts at the back of his head. Suzie saw this and came around the bar, followed by Dawn ready to give both of them the weight of her tongue, but Tom Depuglia slapped Suzie on the ass, calling her a fine piece of meat on a stick and Dawn made to punch the hoodlum as Padraic came around the end of the bar with his blackthorn stick.

The Wee Man stood up on the stool and clapped his hands once and everyone froze in motion, unable to move forward or back save roll their eyes. All save Suzie who stammered apologies for this dreadful behavior and they were good folk here. He then drained his Guinness in a single draft and said, "I know Suzie, I know. But alas I truly deplore violence, for it is said that from the days of John the Baptist the kind and the good have suffered violence, but the violent themselves shall bear it away. And as for you two," here the Wee Man indicated the Depuglias. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the hell, whither thou hasten."

And he waved his hand with an almost indifferent attititude and the bodies of the Depuglias became free to move, but instead of running out of the bar they came at the Wee Man as if to attack him. Tom Depuglia threw a great roundhouse punch that continued in a circle until he punched himself in the nose with astonishment. To everyone's wonder, the fists they made launched at their own heads and they beat themselves up ever more vigorously the more energetic they tried to come at the Wee Man until they staggered around in circles with breaking knuckles and bleeding noses.

The Wee Man sighed. "O dear, dear, dear. Such a sad display of pugilistics I have not seen in many a day. I would like to see both of you improve, but I simply must be on my way now." And so the Wee Man clapped his hands twice. There was a blinding flash of light, followed by darkness as all the lights went out for a moment before coming on all by themselves. When they did so everyone was free to move at will again.

"O drat, the scamp has done something to my knickers again!" Dawn said. While everyone look surreptitious looks beneath their waistbands the Depuglias hopped up and down in what appeared to be great pain. "Ow! Oww wow oww! He's turned them into cactus!" They finally ran out the door Suzie held open for them.

"Look at that wilya," Padraic said. "Cute as a pansy in a lunatic asylum florist shop." His blackthorn stick had been transformed into a bouquet of long-stem gladiolas.

Suzie returned to behind the bar while the flirting between couples resumed with a little more heat.

"I'd like to see what he did to yours," Maeve said to the Man from Minot.

"That was Ecclesiastes," said Jason aloud.

"Verse 9:10," said Reverend Freethought, who came over to his table. She was Pastor to the Island Unitarian Church on Santa Clara Avenue.

Suzie served up the next rounds while Dawn and Padraic went to the back restrooms to change whatever it was the Wee Man had done to their knickers. Padraic returned very red-faced with something clenched in his big fist and Dawn had to pry his fingers open to see what it was -- a g-string. She hung it up behind the bar next to the golden knickers of a couple years ago. "At least they are green," she said.

"The man is a sodding pervert," Padraic said with energy. "What about you?"

"Show you later," she said coyly.

Suzie meanwhile returned to her anthropology book. It's a dark night on the Island that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still puzzling Life's persistent questions.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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

MARCH 15, 2015


J.J. Cale probably had a different magnolia in mind when he wrote the song magnolia, but we do have a few tulip magnolias blooming right now in the yards of the older houses in town. Because the climate here is nothing like in the South, tulip magnolias grow very slowly. This tree is probably about 110 years old looking at the age of the house in front of which it is growing.



People who work the weekends in the East Bay or who need to get about better be aware that next weekend Oaktown hosts its 6th Annual Marathon within the City limits March 22, 2015, which is a Sunday.

Besides the main event, there will be other races, including a half-marathon and a Lucky Kids Fun Run for those of, um, lesser stride. So expect traffic effects from the massive event to last all day.

ACtransit has kindly sent out alerts to the community. Here's the info for those not participating.

From: AC Transit Marketing & Community Relations []
Sent: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 10:39 AM
To: AC Transit Marketing & Community Relations
Subject: Service Disruptions and Detours in Oakland on Sunday, March 22

On Sunday, March 22, 2015, from 6am to 3pm, the Oakland Running Festival will temporarily close streets in many parts of Oakland, including downtown and the West Oakland, Fruitvale, Rockridge, and Montclair districts. There will be significant service delays and route detours in and between these areas, and we encourage you to visit AC Transit's website for more details.

Note that lines 14, 54, and 62 will be canceled. There will be a shuttle operating in a one-way loop via MacArthur Blvd., Chatham Rd., Park Blvd., 4th Ave., E. 15th St., 14th Ave., Foothill Blvd., 23rd Ave., Ardley Ave., and MacArthur Blvd. Please refer to the online map for more details (

Line 26 will only operate in a one-way loop serving downtown Oakland, West Oakland BART, and Emeryville. Please refer to the online map for more details (

For people wanting to participate or at least observe, go to the site website here.


Got a hankering to go to sea? Tuesday about 50 vessels, ranging in size from dingy putters to 70' motor yachts will be auctioned off, all sales as-is and where-is. The City padlocked Nelson's Marine in 2013 for failure to address building code violations and failure to pay utility fees. In May of that year the City seized the property, where hundreds of boat owners had been storing their vessels. Owners scampered with little time to remove their property, leaving about 150 frustrated owners complaining about the lack of notice. Many others had seen the troubles coming and had eloped before the seizure.


The City is going ahead with a new mid-island fire station on Grand Street along with an Emergency Operations Center close by on Buena Vista. The idea is to replace Station #3 which was closed in 2001 due to concerns about structural earthquake resistance in the 91 year old building. The Department rents the building next door to house firefighters.

In the 4-1 vote, Mayor Trish was the sole dissenter, arguing that the City had no way to cover the cost of the projects or pay off the conceivable loan save by using the General Fund, which is projected to run out of money before the loans could be fully serviced.

Jeff Delbono protested in a subsequent press release that the Mayor "demonstrates a lack of regard for the safety of our community."


People sure do get upset about the darnedest things when they have the rest of their lives pretty comfortable. Latest community flap is over the newly dedicated bike trail along Shoreline, which added two directional bike lanes, bike parking, intermodals for southeast bound busses, plus a couple strips for auto parking, and took away an automobile lane for each direction.

This has produced shouts of joy and howls of dismay.

If you bicycle, well you like the idea. If you want to drive on that road and get somewhere without hassle, well, you are in what we call euphemistically a "traffic calming zone." People initially against the project said that bicycle traffic on the existing path always had been sparse. People supporting the project said that the bike traffic was sparse because on the one hand, pedestrians sharing the path caused problems and that using the road where people have been killed by speeding cars produced the sparse usage. Heck, people have been killed on the path above the curb by errant drivers, no less.

Now people complain the scenic strip looks ugly with lines of cars, that the road is more dangerous now because of congestion and tighter maneuverability room and that pedestrians are more at risk crossing the road because of obstructed and cluttered views.

So okay, everybody has their crotchets. Some people just do not like change at all and some people want change no matter how bad an idea it might turn out to be.

We went down there and rode a bicycle up and down the bike path, parked a bicycle at one of the intermodals, and crossed the street to take a look at what had happened to the views.

Here are some pictures. Keep in mind right now all the paint is brand new. This is of the southside at the Post Office where a street joins the road. No parking is allowed at such intersections, hence the green paint.

Here is a shot of a bus intermodal plus intersection area.

Here we see the parking. Pretty much all parking areas were fully occupied on Sunday.

What about the view from the other side of the street?

As for the views, well, if you live in an oceanfront property, you might object, however all those people also gained nearly 100 parking spaces for themselves. Cross to the bike and pedestrian paths, those users have no cluttered views of the Bay, the Peninsula across the water, or the beach, which we found packed with far more people than we had seen in years.

As for traffic, we sat and watched and observed as we rode along. We saw everyone driving far more slowly than we have noticed in the past. We also saw a lot more continuous traffic. Also, we noticed that the landside parking has become more of a hazard when someone has to parallel park. Basically it is no longer the case that when you see someone opening a door, you could simply shift to the far lane to avoid hitting someone. Also the landside has no intermodals for busses, so a stopped bus means everyone following must also stop.

There is also the situational inattention factor that ramps up risk for pedestrians, who typically lock eyes on the beautiful ocean rather than moving objects that could injure or kill them. Heck people got out of cars and invariably stepped into a bike lane and invariably turned their backs against the traffic direction. Is Darwinian Evolution going out of practice? I saw athlete bicyclists out there and I know from talking to them they can easily do a neat clip at 35mph on the flat while barely coasting on the pedals.

Have to say that for people driving cars it is worse without question. Have also to say that might not be a bad thing, for everybody who lives here will soon learn to avoid going down that road. Saw people trying to turn left from the south side and boy, giving up was the best option for all of them. They just drove blocks down the way until a stop sign or streetlight could make a left anything possible against the unrelenting northbound traffic.

As for stopping the people who used the road as a bypass to 880, some of them might stop doing that. Some of them will not. Others will simply wend their way through the neighborhoods as was done in Berkeley for so many years. Some of you may remember what Berkeley did about that.

In any case, the slower, more cautious traffic on Shoreline can be cited as a plus, one not immediately observable by drivers, but people will get used to it. It will be harder to clobber someone on the paths when a line of parked cars is providing a steel wall between people and maniacs as well.

As for sparse bicycle traffic? Observed a count of upwards of 30 or more bicycles going both directions inside an hour. Never saw that much before. They all looked pretty happy, but there were not a whole lot of graybeards among them. A couple, but not many.

Which brings us to the Traffic Impact Summary presented last week in the Sun, but which had been hotly challenged prior to that on its assumption that adding 9,000 inhabitants will result in net increase of one single car over several years, including all gateways.

Which, of course, is preposterous. Just this weekend, with one change to lanes on Shoreline, driving around the Island ranged from just okay to sheer misery for all of the congestion. Which should cause more inner thoughts in more people wonder if the car is really necessary to get done what needs to be done. The bike way is not for everybody -- can't see our 67 year old neighbor with mobility problems hopping on a red Specialized 10 speed, but there sure are a lot of unneeded, unnecessary, antisocial, hulking vehicles out there on the road funneling gas money into the pockets of Middle-Eastern terrorists.

Some people claim that they drive SUVs because they are safer than small cars. They are not. Look at the statistics. One half of all auto fatalities per year occurs in the SUV class. The rest of the fatalities get divvied up among four-door sedans, two-doors, sport cars, hatchbacks, stationwagons, light trucks, heavy construction vehicles, limousines, busses, motorcycles, scooters, etc. It is not what you drive, it is how you drive, and people who drive SUVs learn to drive badly. So said even the Tappet Brothers.

OK, that is probably more than enough news to chew on for a week. And as Scoop Nisker used to say, "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own."


So anyway it looks like the Valentine's Night Dance fundraiser at the Sons of the Golden West parlor hall went well. A stiff Lionel showed up with the subject of his torch-bearing of many years, Jackie of Jacqueline's Salon.

By stiff, we mean a bit awkward. During one slow dance, Eugene Gallipagus leaned over and whispered to Lionel to dance "a little closer. That's the way it is supposed to be."

Things went better after that and Jackie smiled and actually seemed to enjoy herself. She figured that going out with Lionel for once would get her at least a good supper at some place good, but it turned out by the end of the evening she was starting to like the guy.

He had been exposed to Shakespeare . . . by his grandfather, born in slavery

Lionel, born and raised in Carbondale, came West for some of those, what some people called at the time, "social unrest" benefits. But he still remembered the night rides of the local KKK in that part of the country, and the terror of some of his friends and so he slept with a loaded .45 under his bed even after all these years. Still, there were many sides to him, for he was by no means a simple man to understand. He had been exposed to Shakespeare and to Plato and Aristotle before college by his grandfather, born in slavery in Louisiana and who never finished a year of high school

Such were the times and such were the men in those days, for if you thirsted for knowledge, you went and got it yourself, for sure as certain, no schoolhouse in the Nation would provide it for you.

and nobody lynched them

So Lionel arrived in the land where the Free Speech movement was born and where Bobby and few other brothers hung out with AK-47's and the Zebra killers were caught and tried and convicted and sent to prison and nobody lynched them, despite them being even more despicable than most of the oh fay out there. And although some things were different, and some things changed, some things stayed the same for the man overlayed with the Classics and Romanticism and .45 caliber guns and ownership of the Pampered Pup hot-dog shop, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Amendment.

a Man with a Past in the arms of a beautiful woman

So there was this man with this checkered consistency of soul -- with quite a lot more personal history above and beyond anything related here -- a Man with a Past in the arms of a beautiful woman and the desire of his dreams and as it turns out -- quelle surprise -- a woman with significant history and character development of her own and she feeling things on which she had not counted at the start of this, this thing.

If all of us were so sure and definitive of what we truly desired . . .

If all of us were so sure and definitive of what we truly wanted and what we truly desired and knew precisely how to get it without fuss, the theatre could close up shop everywhere and there would be no Blues, no Gospel, no Albert King, Freddie King, nor BB King. The courts would all close down and all the attorneys would turn to more useful occupations like short order cooks and conga musicians. We would all be living in a land of candy hearts and the temperature in St. Paul would remain a constant 75 degrees all year around.

Not that such a set of circumstances would be desired by everybody. Plenty of people enjoy the healthy vigor of minus 40 degree temperatures, but someone up there would desire it and they would figure out a way to get it while people who like ice fishing would be operating on some other principle.

So as the dance winds down and the Monkey Spankers conclude their live presentation with a Tom Waits song, we draw the curtain gracefully across the set that hosts the Lionel/Jackie opera and let whatever comes out, come out as best it may.

This is what far more authors should do with their romantic descriptions. For even the best of the most randy "bodice rippers" leave the best to the imagination. For in that perfect world of the imagination, everything, including hot-dogs and sex, tastes better. Taste, of course, is that about which we are speaking.

March has come on here in California with unfortunate dry weather. This past week the coastal morning fogs yielded to stunning sunshine which populated the beaches, such as they are in NorCal, where people born in Santa Barbara claim there is no serious beach of any kind here.

"This is not a beach."

Emma, a short and sweet girl working here as a clinical therapist, walks around stating emphatically that there are no beaches here in NorCal and Baker Beach is a cold anomaly that is not really a beach if you look at all its characteristics. There is no squid shop, for example. When brought to the Strand on the Island, she looks at the signs warning about skin parasites and looks at the area zoned off for mating of the snowy plover, and says, "This is not a beach."

But there are people in the water and children frolicking in the sand and sunbathers and of course quite a lot of sand.

"That is not a beach and those are not people"

"No, the sand was imported and the water is cold and there are no waves, no ocean out there -- only a view of the industrial skyline of Babylon and the parasites hurt and there are rules. A beach is broad and warm and sunny and the people frolic in the waves that are the very nature of the ocean, our mother and the source from which life crawled millenia ago. This place is cold and the images do not frolic. That is not a beach and those things are not people, they are automatons or projections."

People from SoCal are odd, but they probably say the same about us in NorCal.

It is getting on to the only fake holiday that both annoys and thrills the Irish diaspora in America -- St. Paddy's day.

Suzie has been posting up cardboard shamrocks

They are all getting geared up for this profitable and irksome day at the Old Same Place Bar. Once again, Padraic has designed an embarrassing miniskirt outfit for Suzie to show off her long legs, along with himself and the missus, Dawn O'Reilly, to show off their respective sturdy assessments. Suzie has been posting up cardboard shamrocks and bearded leprechauns on the windows, while Dawn has been preparing for what seems to have become a regular annual visit by the mysterious Wee Man, who always appears near midnight and always has something amazing to say and always causes mischief of some kind to vex both the clientele and the management.

some say he comes from the legendary Fir Bolg

Some say he is a leprechaun, if that is any sort of explanation at all, and some say he is, because of his magical powers, of the Bann Sé, who are known to howl about the chimneys during storms, make the roof slates fly off into the yard, and cause other mischief. Some say he is an elf of the old nasty type, and others say he is an Elv of the newer, nicer,Tolkein type, and some say he comes from the legendary Fir Bolg that were the original inhabitants of the Emerald Isle.

That he is of an Island and therefore a kind of Islander there is no doubt, for he is impish, unpredictable, full of strong opinions, dedicated to action regardless of consequences, nostalgic to a fault, an antiquarian of renown, a randy gossip, perverted to a devious degree, a bit magical, and endowed with anachronistic inventions and sentiments that are sure to cause charm as well as irritation in providing obstacles to the momentum some people call progress and others communal degredation.

And so the nights before his appearance everyone has taken to taking precautions. All on account of the Wee Man and his powerful effect upon the universe and people's knickers. Both Dawn and Suzi are packing extra pairs. Just on the off chance he returns. For he certainly has a curious fixation and he is impish.

There is not much to occupy people's minds and senses since Mardi Gras ended and Lent has started for the Xians. Even the Wiccans lack a significant sky sign during the Ides of March, so everyone is left renting Netflix and Redbox movies and catching up on who won the Oscars. Seems for about 5,000 years nobody celebrated anything during these weeks, even though it is entirely probable that the Xian Jesus was born in this month, and not in December, when you look at all the data. It would be just like that rabble-rousing Socialist named Jesus to get born in March and then lead the world on a merry chase about December and Xmas for about 2,000 or more years. People do not imagine that Jesus had a sense of humor, but please remember: his mother was Jewish and so was his earthly father. How could he not have a sense of humor?

Well the details don't matter much; it is all in how it comes out in the end.

Pastor Nyquist was quite at a loss for a sermon this Sunday and in desperation he took the entire congregation out of doors, which sort of thing stood as unusual and entirely unprecedented for the normally regularized Lutherans. Ms. Martinez had to be wheeled out in an electronic motorchair to the daisy field outside.

"I don't know what to say today," the Pastor said. "Here we are and this might be all it is. Don't look for someone to provide the reason you are here. You are here because this is where you are and that is all you need to know. So do your best to do your best and be the best you are. Think of who invented you and go from there. Look at these lilies -- they sow and reap not and nevertheless are beautiful . . .". And so the Pastor went into the classic "lilies of the field" sermon, but everyone who listened heard it as if they had never heard it before. This is only possible at the incipience of Spring where there springs a bit of false hope.

In the darkened offices of the Island-Life Agency the Editor wrapped up the week's edition and prepared for changes to come. Some of the Directors were thinking of expanding, becoming a bit more formal. Some were thinking of diversifying. The Editor was not so sure about all of that. The Online World is like the Radio world, is temporal, evanescent. Each show lasts so long as an audience attends, then vaporizes save for memories. The doing is the thing. Why complicate matters?

not unlike our entire lives

Eventually the last office light is turned off and all is darkness and there is nothing but the memory of things that once were glorious, performances that astounded those present, moments that made all the drudgery worthwhile during the brief term of its presence -- not unlike our entire lives.

The Editor put his hand on his left side and felt the silent, still beating of the aging heart, still capable of some minor deeds, still possible.

Been left for dead before, but still fight on. Don't wait up leave the light on. I'll be home soon.

Round about the pool of light provided by the last desklamp burning upon the Editor's desk hung the muttering curtains of night while the Editor labored over the manuscripts, darned slippery galleys. Somewhere out there, enshrouded by the curtains of darkness, hovered a like mind, while he remained islanded in this oasis provided by the lamp, laved and tossed by waves of ignorance and foolishness and all the powers of darkness, all the World's crazy blathering that blocks the soul's link to creation, like the caveman of old beside his fire with the all the creatures of the night moving around out there beyond the reach of the luminosity, watching him doing all for Company while beyond the firelight, reflecting back, the gleaming eyes of sentient and insentient beings.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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

MARCH 8, 2015



Some of you may have noticed that we wound up Black History month with a visit to the Berkeley Black Repertory Theatre. Others noted that we are winding up significant half-century anniversaries, such as the famous march across the bridge in Selma, Alabama.

The year 1965 seems like only yesterday for some of us, but that was an era that ended the ban on voting rights for Black Americans, starting with nonviolent demonstrations that seemed to arouse furious anger simply in happening at all. Those marchers suffered a great deal at the hands of the State Troopers and private citizens, but they knew they were in the right and would eventually prevail -- by incremental degrees -- and eventually they did.

Many good and dear friends and acquaintances suffered also from that day forward. But what good is a comfortable easychair when a single location exists as part of the United States that does not enjoy freedom and equality for all people?

Encinal High held a symbolic march around Lake Merritt in Oaktown on February 27 to commemorate the 1965 Selma march and Senior Malcolm Jackson, President of the Black Student Union, thanked all participants. This commemoration march was interesting in that it aimed to educate -- always a good goal for high schools -- and inform and recognize that we indeed have come a long way, but know that the Dream of which MLK spoke has morphed into strategies on how to accomplish the "next step", and the people are by no means unified as to what that next step might be.

Certainly a lot less than what happened in Ferguson, but that is not a clear objected as obtaining Voter rights was in 1965.

One thing now unites high schools and middle schools across the country during these Modern Times, a common anxiety that our parents and grandparents never suffered. These past few weeks someone broke into a Bay Farm Island kindergarten classroom and trashed the place. Someone else assaulted a USD employee in the offices of Edison and fought with responding police. A couple schools in Oaktown and here have gone under lockdown because of reported shooters.

It used to be -- a phrase that is often repeated nowadays -- that the kids were way off limits, and now we hear of demented maniacs slaughtering entire schoolrooms abroad and barely a month goes by without hearing of another attempt at a Columbine-style massacre.

That the Columbine-style mass murders were thwarted points to increased vigilance in the world where the authorities treat this sort of things as part of daily reality risk.

The nutcase armed with an AK-47 and thousands of rounds walking into a shopping mall, a church, a school has become the modern equivalent of fear of the A-bomb all of us oldsters went through.

It would be good for us as Islanders to put aside our quibbling about inconsequentials and address the common disaster.

In other news, Development seems to have captured an entirely new news category all by itself, along with Weather, Politics, street repair, School funding, and Taxes.

Truth is the Island is about to change and by way of people who do not live here and who do not care about the people who do.

Latest development proposed is the proposed 58 units for 2100 Clement Avenue. The proposal features 46 single-family houses and 12 triplexes. Problem with these is that since the avarice here has risen to boiling point, single-family "homes" become subdivided into multiple units. Sometimes single houses get split into 9 - 12 units that cost over $2,200 each to rent.

We had an "on the QT" talk with a local realty employee who admitted she did not like what was happening here on the Island and was making plans to move quite a long distance away.

We are hearing from yet another realty employee that buying property here and jacking the rent to "market value" is the best way to make money right now.

Which adds up to people who remember how things used to be here being forced out as these temporarily wealthy invade the vacated spaces, with no manners or morals or memory of how it was.

In an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet describes how big money turned San Francisco into a carbon copy drone of every other big city, devoid of any nuance of uniqueness that once made it interesting. There is nothing different about San Francisco any more, according to Ferlinghettii. This is interesting coming from a man who once was identified with pride as an example of what made Frisco different. We wonder what as happened to Jack Hirschman, a former poet laureate of the City, who lived in a room 6 x 8, space enough only for a bed and one table.

If you enjoy fiction all of you will enjoy the 2014 EIR Point impact report. This one is full of comical howlers -- comical if it not affect the quality of all our lives.

This report insists, in all seriousness, that developing the Point will result in a total, aggregated increase of exactly one (1) car during morning commute.

Um, this does not include the other 13 development projects adding several thousand more inhabitants to the island. It also is blatantly ridiculous, delusional, and a colossal, preposterous lie.

There really is no more to be said about this stupid, foolish, insulting piece of fiction than that. Unfortunately it is key to getting any number of other projects approved.

The ADP will host "A Tale of Two Cities" with a panel discussion about the last election and impact on the Island and Richmond, where a similar groundswell against rampant development greed occurred, resulting in Big Money candidates being dumped.

A quick gander at the East Bay Express confirms our suppositions that the Best and the Brightest are now performing the East Bay. Seems the booking agent that once serviced the Fillmore has now shifted skills to the Fox. Umphjrey's Mcgee performed with Joshua Redman this Saturday.

Railroad Earth will fill the bill with the Infamous Stringdusters March 14, while Widespread Panic will testify from 3/19 through 3/21.

You will have to wait until June 6 for Susan Tedeschi to blow the doors off the Greek Theatre with the Tedeschi-Trucks band, with an enviable warm-up of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. The lineup promises to blow the doors of the town.

Can you say, "Night of the Blues?" I knew you could.

The Warfield looks a little pallid this month save for OKGO coming in 3/21. Wonder if they will bring any of those treadmill things for their act?


So anyway, the young opossum that has been seen along the Old Fence made a reappearance stumbling over Mrs. Almeida's garden boxes. Calla lilies have sprung up and this weekend Daylight Savings Time starts up, costing everybody an hour of sleep and providing many an excuse for arriving late to school. The fog presses down the entire town as slowly night peels back and the coffee percolates or drips or does whatever it does in whatever newfangled thing made in China that you got as a Holiday gift.

March is a time of transitions. It has been a long, dark, cold and mostly dry Winter. It would have been an ideal time to send another messenger up to find the Mayor of that mythical town up somewhere near Bear Lake in Minnesota where all the women are strong, all the men good looking, and all the children above average so as to apply for Sister City status, but our own Silly Council had already picked some kind of nondescript village in China, the name of which nobody can recall -- let alone pronounce in decent Spanish -- and the fools over there had the outlandish idea of accepting before they knew the true nature of the town with which they really were hooking up . . .

Cheesin Soh Loh is a town of about 300,000 Chinese, all of whom are employed by the single factory there which makes animated Barbie Dolls, and they apparently had the misinformation that they were hooking up with a major American metropolis of significant size.

We do have an excellent PR department at Silly Hall, and they have been known to over-gild the lily at times.

In any case when the Chinese delegation arrived here to commemorate National Day and check out this new Sister City right in front of City Hall, our Tibetan population came out to meet them and stand there on the edges of the crowd, silently weeping while the more ambitious immigrants from there and Mongolia carried signs that apparently said really bad things about the PRC. They also threw currants and loquats and overripe fruit at the stiffly dressed representation.

The Islander Motel is full of hookers and crazy people

More demonstrations occurred at the hotel in Oaktown where they stayed -- there is no hotel on the Island suitable for housing visiting diplomats. The Islander Motel is full of hookers and crazy people dropped there after three-day holds from the John George Pavilion and people with unhealthy habits, and the Sunset Inn on Webster still smells of pot and all the beer spilled by Navy personnel when they went on R&R from the Base that closed over fifteen years ago. So the delegation had to be driven through a crowd pelting the car with eggs and shoes over the bridge to Oaktown where men and women with shaven heads and wearing maroon robes marched up and down the street, carrying signs saying things like, "The Llama's Mama Speaks the Truth!" and other things calculated to offend.

Larry's Island Tattoo, last of quite a variety of shops that used to cater to sailors on Webster, offered free ink to the dignitaries but nobody took him up on it and he is not such a great artist anyway.

In short, the visit was a mess, and the dignitaries got on the plane and returned to their village and probably gave a bad report as we have not heard from them since.

at least they serve decent meatballs

It probably would make more sense to partner with someone with whom we share a common cultural heritage, and more along our own stature. China has become a superpower and has become rather grand, launching satellites into space and constructing huge projects that dwarf the Great Gate of Kiev. We should have courted something like a town in Spain, or Portugal, or Mexico, or Paraguay, but all those towns said, no way Jose, we are hooking up with the Danes and the Swedes of Helmsoe -- at least they serve decent meatballs at their gatherings.

Festus the messenger hamster is still quite put out about his failure to contact the Mayor of our chosen city and the Editor has not let him off the hook either, acting like the outraged William Hurt in the movie "History of Violence".

"How could you not be able to find Clint Bunsen in a town that is only half a mile wide! He was the Mayor!"

"It's not so easy. The grid-pattern streets are confusing. All these towns look the same . . .".

"He has a business called 'Bunsen Motors.' Did you ever think to go there?"

"Hey. I tried my best. How far you ever get putting your mitts on the County Council of Yoknapatawpha? It's not so easy my friend. Those Norwegian bachelor farmers are not exactly chatterboxes you know. I bet you can't even pronounce Yoknapatawpha."

The Editor dropped his head into his hands with despair. "I sent a rodent to do a man's job . . .".

"Don't go there, my friend. Don't go there."

The Editor went to drink himself with Scotch into a more pleasant frame of mind while Festus returned to his enormous Habitot habitat, which consisted of tube tunnels estimated at 1.35 miles long and located out at the Household of Andre and Marlene.

They blither to you on the bus, they hop over fences . . .

March is known for its Mad Hares, and madness of every stripe is one thing that characterizes the Bay Area. Lunacy impacts all of our daily lives, and not a day goes by in which your average Joe must not contend with The Woman who Peers from behind the curtains, the babbling basket lady, the man shouting on the street to invisible giants, and the wacked-neighbor who has in mind that your house belongs to him by right as a handyman and jack of all the unskilled trades one can imagine. They blither to you on the bus, they hop over fences, they get into your garage, they prowl through your trash and your file cabinets in your office, they wreck the plumbing and they have not a lick of sense of boundaries that condition most of the rest of the civilized world and there is simply nothing you can do about it.

They are bat-sugar crazy and you could wack them with a stick or shoot them dead when they come into your house, but there are always more, like in that movie series about zombies and you would feel bad about killing somebody so annoying and so useless anyway.

Well, maybe not, but you know. There are consequences to killing someone in this country. Unless you are a policeman. Then you can do what you like.

There are many reasons people continue to live in unendurable places and do not move to Florida or California. Florida has hurricanes of course, but more importantly it has scads of people who still do not realize that George Bush was bad not only for the Country, but also for his own Republican Party. You could in all honesty call those people crazy as well.

the Bay Area is chock full of crazy people

California has earthquakes and fires, to which you can become adjusted. After a fire you have lost everything and you realize that things are not that important anyway. Besides, that ghastly quilt made by your mother in law got totally ruined and you just had to throw it away. And that part of losing things felt really, really good. No, the reason people do not flock to the Bay Area as much as Bay Areans believe, is that the Bay Area is chock full of crazy people with not a boundary to share among themselves or anyone else. Su casa es su casa. Comes right out in Spanish: the word for "yours" is the same as the word for "theirs".

The Constitution may say a few things about this condition, but crazy people do not read. That much is obvious.

Eugene went out to tend to a noise in the early hours to find an elderly Asian woman rummaging through his trash bins. He protested, as he felt he ought to, not only because of the noise and not only because of the stealing of the recyclables, but also because the woman had come down the drive, opened an iron gate and proceeded another twenty yards past the parking and the house with her stolen shopping cart to conduct her pilferage.

The woman would only say,"My husband died and I have no source of income." to every question and it soon became clear she had no command of English, but had learned this phrase from somewhere as a way to pull at the heart strings so as to get out of trouble. Her ring finger was bare.

Nevertheless, she had opened the main gate and also the minor gate and let out Mrs. Abodanza's dogs who galloped now merrily in the street and this caused a series of problems for the next few hours.

what kind of place is this that produces such desperate measures

Eventually the woman was sent on her way, docilely pushing her stolen shopping cart loaded with pilfered recycled booty and Eugene was left wondering what kind of place is this that produces such desperate measures to survive. Why does this person not go back to the place that once had supposedly nurtured them? What has gone wrong with the situation here that we take it as normal and matter of fact that people illegally raid trashbins to survive? Now that the "economy" is on the upswing and so many people seem to be making money hand over fist, why is it that "trickle down" has dried out to nothing?

Why is it left to accepting the situation as "just the way it is."

The Bonobo always help one another with joyful abandon

In the still of the night, the fog flows over the hills of Oaktown and the San Bruno Hills, much as it has for the past 10,000 years, flowing over Grizzley Peak, winding through the trees to come down to the flatlands and come curling around the house like a cat before falling asleep. In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie sits behind the counter with her anthropology book, still focussed upon the Bonobo tribe. "The Bonobo always help one another with joyful abandon. With sex or food or shelter, the Bonobo are a magical tribe that practices survival skills which we in the West would be well to emulate. . . ."

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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

MARCH 1, 2015


This headline photo comes from John Curley who claims to take random photos using is Apple iPhone 4s. If so, the man has some award-winning talent regardless.


The new year is underway and gloves are off for all the politicos out there. People are on high alert now regarding the various developments going on and it is going to be very difficult for things to slide by via the smoky backroom as they once did.

WETA is aiming for an upgrade to its facility at the Point, and is remaining mum about any protection for the harbor seals which have used the area to generally carouse and hang out for many years. The Sierra Club is recommending that a new haul-out be setup to compensate for the loss of habitat after the facility expands with new fueling stations and tanks. The Silly Council will be looking at the issue this Tuesday in the regular Council meeting.

Once again we lose another major City Administrator, using the lilypad of the Island to hope to better and bigger diggings. This time the City Manager is jumping ship to scoot down to SoCal to handle Riverside, a decidedly larger municipality than this one. Riverside's population is some 304,000 souls according to the 2010 Census.

While everyone is being very professional and cordial about this, we wonder what it is about the Island that leads to City Managers, City Attorneys, Councilpersons, Healthcare District people to leap out of their positions as soon as opportunity presents itself.

Could it be the property values are overinflated and the rents too high and it is just too damn expensive to live here now?

O no. These people all make six figure salaries. They can afford to pay four bucks for a cup of coffee.

More on Development. Seems parking has become an issue at the Harbor Bay ferry terminal. You know, that area where Ron Cowan wants to pack more development in via the construction of a massive hotel complex across the street from the elementary school. Yeah, that place. Now Weta and the DPW want to restructure parking in the area and remove 2 hour parking limits and generally muck things up for people who live in the neighborhood. Why? So as to bring in more people.

Have we heard this mantra before?

The Angry Elf gang has been at it again, starting a big fire in the 2400 Block of Shoreline because somebody was late with the extortion payments. Since no traffic ordinances were violated, the perpetrators got clean away. Again. Fire was brought under control with no serious injuries.

A reminder: The DPW has begun work on the High Street Bridge, which shall remain closed from 9:30 to 6:30 Monday through Friday until around April 27th. This will definitely impact traffic over the Fruitvale Bridge as well as boating traffic.


Langston Hughes remains one of the giants of American letters to this day long after his death in 1967 at age 65. He is generally known as the father of the 1920's Harlem Renaissance which featured Zora Neal Thurston, Wallace Thurman, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas. Also contemporary but on prickly terms with Hughes were W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Alain LeRoy Locke.

He wrote novels, short stories, plays, poetry, operas, essays, and works for children and was generally considered successful and popular in his lifetime. With the encouragement of his best friend and writer, Arna Bontemps, and patron and friend, Carl Van Vechten, he wrote two volumes of autobiography, The Big Sea and I Wonder as I Wander, as well as translating several works of literature into English.

Although successful from the 1920's through the Great Depression, Hughes national literary reputation seesawed as times changed into the 1950's, even as the Beat Poets picked up on the "jazz poetics" he had created. Some American critics felt that his writings about Black pride were out of date and he felt that much of the Black Power movement was too strident. This occurred even as his reputation continued to soar abroad -- much of his work heavily influenced writers in the French-speaking Africa who were forging a new post-colonial pan-African identity similar to what Hughes espoused.

Now we come around full circle and the younger writers, such as Alice Walker, look to Hughes with favor.

Ah, the fickleness of fame. Regardless of fame, the position of Langston Hughes will remain cemented for all time now as a major intellect of American letters.

The Berkeley Black Rep is celebrating its 50th year in continuous production, as well as Black History month, with several plays that promise to be exciting, difficult and inspiring. We toddled on up to Berkeley on a long, long, long delayed visit to the BBR which saw its humble origins flower on Adeline near the Berkeley/Oakland Divide from its inception in a storefront in 1964 in an area that still has some urban troubles. In 1964, that area was hooker, homeless, and heroin haven. But the founders had just fled Vicksburg after three visits from the KKK, complete with crossburning, gunfire, and threats to come back and "finish the job". So that is how the little college town of Berkeley became home to the longest running Black repertory theater in the country.

Saturday we took in a matinee run of Langston Hughes' "Mulatto: A Play of the Deep South". Mulatto was the writer's first full-length play. Although it was not published until 1963, when it was published in Five Plays by Langston Hughes, it was written in the early 1930s and first performed on Broadway in 1935. This stage production set a record for the number of performances of a play by an African American but, nevertheless, only hurt Hughes's image. The play was produced by Martin Jones who dramatically changed the written play by adding a rape scene and other sensational elements to make it sell better on Broadway. The play was so controversial that it was banned in Philadelphia. Black intellectuals and activists decried its depiction of less than desirable stereotypical qualities of African Americans of the time, such as uneducated speech. And the presentation of Southern Plantation Whites as ugly, stupid, cruel, violent, and everything else decried later by an angry Franz Fanon also caused an uproar.

Briefly, the play concerns the tumult that ensues when one of the children fathered by the Plantation owner, Colonel Norwood, is called back to the plantation from college where the Colonel has sent him to study "how to work hard." Not surprisingly the now educated half-White man refuses to do field work and begins to outrage the town and his father by assuming all the rights and prerogatives of a man equal to any White by using the mansion front door, driving the Colonel's car and claiming Norwood to be his father in public.

His mother, portrayed extraordinarily well by Carla Hardiman, knows that this sort of behavior in deep Depression-era Georgia will led to no good.

Hughes portrays well the rigid social and economic hierarchies of Jim Crow South where Blacks had to "know their place and stay in it," and it was common for affluent Whites to take Black female mistresses and thereby procreate any number of children -- who all had to remain unacknowledged.

The Colonel, an admitted racist, nevertheless grants his illegitimate children special favors as well as the mother, who after being taken into the Big House from her shack, enjoys a life of privilege without have to work the fields or even do housework. Will, her oldest child, gets his house paid for by the Colonel, and at the start of the play a daughter is being sent off to school, ostensibly to learn "practical skills", like cooking and sewing. In reality, the two daughters sent to school learn business skills applicable to women in the 1930's, but without informing the Colonel.

In spite of some favoritism, the unspoken rule is that this system means that the children are never acknowledged by the father, and as suggested when a more strident racist neighbor of the Colonel comes to visit, this system is indeed a system where it is common knowledge to keep mistresses and produce any number of offspring. The system of "kept women" is well described in one of Ann Rice's better non-vampire books, Feast of All Saints. The fact that it happened at all is terrible, but the fact that it was universally accepted and perpetuated in the White communities on people of color is horrific.

As the young Robert Norwood clashes with his own father who refuses to accept him, and the Georgia townspeople become irate at his insistence on equality, the play moves through a stately three classical acts to its tragic conclusion, with at one point Colonel Norwood pointing a pistol at his son, but unable to fire the fatal shot. The character of Norwood has some interesting streaks of regret and humanity, but he is far too much a self-limited man to arise much beyond a limited regret and a limited compassion to rise above the social structures that made living in the deep South such a hell for so many Black Americans.

Our sympathy resides with Robert who has the terrible job of confronting who he really is and what that means in terms of social reality. Clearly the social reality is that it varies from place to place, and the place where he was born is the most limiting place of all. Had he been able to remain in more cosmo Atlanta, he would have lived a longer life.

To say that Mulatto remains a "difficult" play would be an understatement. Hughes, a former student of Columbia University and as many intelligent Black Americans an autodidact in Classicism, packed the structure of the play with a pretty heady mix of Aristotelian and Shakespearean poetics. The fact the play succeeds after so many years is entirely due to Hughes' extraordinary poetic gifts. Indeed it is very likely he will be remembered as America's Shakespeare long after the shallow Neal Simon and Andrew Lloyd Webbers have crumbled to dust.

Still, the play's three act classical tragedy structure is very blocky, with characters given tremendously long speeches to recite at one another and with the concluding extended monologue delivered by a mother driven insane by the impossibilities of her life, and the death of her son, as well as her benefactor, at an empty chair. It is very difficult for a director to block out actor's movements during these speeches. In this case, the director has the actors sort of shifting aimlessly back and forth on their feet and pacing a few short steps, as if the characters are trapped in some sort of prison. It may be to suggest that the prison is the society in which all of them are forced to live.

The play is, indeed a tragedy, following all the rules, with the principal figures being highborn and endowed with the fatal character flaw of pride, the essential feature of both Black and White Norwood. That the young Robert Lewis Norwood, the titular "mulatto", like all the great tragic heroes, goes through a tragic realization at the end, seems clear. He wanted to put aside being Black and adopt being White with all prerogatives, but realizes that this path, set in the framework of Depression era rural Georgia, leads to disaster and that adoption of Whiteness also means adoption of his White father, who has clearly rejected him. In the end, he has to reject his White father, and so is left with nothing but the last bullet in his stolen pistol.

Unlike Shakespeare, who always has some figure enter the scene to restore the order of the State, as does Fortinbras at the end of Hamlet, in Mulatto, we have only the savage overseer, Talbot, enter to discover the dead body of Robert before striking down the weeping mother in savage anger.

"We came too late," Talbot's final words are the caustic last works to the play.

As for the production, it is sad there is no playbill or website breakdown of the cast or any press release information, as this means we have no attribution for any of the actors save for Carla Hardiman, who pretty much carried the play with an extraordinary performance of a woman living in a house as a "kept woman" and trying to make deals as best she can to care for herself and her five children, all born as mulatto sons and daughters of the White landowner who never acknowledges his parentage.

Langston Hughes, also a product of mixed racial ancestry, was abandoned by his father, who left the United States to live in Cuba and Mexico so as to escape the racism. Hughes went to live his with father in Mexico and was pretty much rejected by the man who disliked the writer's ambitions and his "effeminate" nature. His father only agreed to pay for Hughes to go to Columbia under the stipulation that Hughes would study to become an engineer. Langston lasted a few years there before racism drove him out.

Certain one could stop at the depiction of harsh mistreatment of Blacks by Whites in Jim Crow South, as the Whites all enter as despicable ogres, with only a few strains of humanity suggested in the figure of Colonel Norwood, the Plantation owner, who runs the place pretty much the same as if the Emancipation Proclamation never happened. However, the more interesting meat of the play resides in the ways in which the sons and daughters handle their identity of being half-white. There is also an interesting and topical suggestion in Robert's aggressive self-assertion for equal social prerogatives in what has been happening in the news regarding the horrific death rate of unarmed Black men at the hands of Authorities.

As Cora tells her more unambitious son William, who stands with his head bowed and shifting from one foot to the other, "You never stood up for yourself. You will be all right."

In truth, an educated and aware Robert would have been a threat to the racist White community no matter what he did, for he would always have suggested that the system is wrongly built. The various sub-characters keep saying, that the Blacks need to know their "place" and stay in it. The same response can be seen in the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin, Garner in New York, Oscar Grant here in Oakland, Ezell Ford, and others. These young men all, regardless of any sort of supposed criminality, were killed when they wriggled a bit too much while someone was kneeling on their neck, for confronting a bully following them without reason, for speaking up out of turn, for not responding quickly enough to orders.

Robert Norwood died, essentially, for being "uppity", for not knowing his "place." The more things change, the more things stay the same.

The next production by the Berkeley Black Rep will be "Amen Corner", which promises to be a romping presentation of Pentecostal old time religion. We hear that Ossie Davis and Alan Alda will be showing up on the boards at this venerable institution in Berkeley. Just don't go for no starchy "entertainment" with predictable lines. We have ACT for presenting yet another Shaw, another Ibsen. The Berkeley Black Repertory Theater presents living theater that matters.


So anyway, we had a brief wharf sizzler here. Sporadic storms spat out a few drenchers and soon the sky returned to its usual moody. Trees all down Santa Clara remain bare and Winter riven and as the nights get into cool with the days remaining just a tad into sweater weather.

We hear that Boston is digging out of its Snowmageddon and now the cold is approaching normal for what it is in Bear Lake Minnesota and all the ice houses have been pulled from the lake and everyone has finished taking wagers on when the Ford sitting out on the ice will break through.

Here in California, where we are all hoping for rain at any moment and the temperatures remain stubbornly above freezing, at least here along the coast, we have other concerns. Some powder has dusted some parts of the Sierra, with Tahoe enjoying a healthy few feet of cold stuff, but the outlook is that the snowpack remains only at 25% of what it needs to be to shunt aside drought.

The Depuglias got into a bit of trouble recently when someone found that a sort of tunnel and cave had been dug out near the Disputed Bicycle Bridge. The Bicycle Bridge, a sort of lifted passageway that goes over to Harbor Bay Island beside the main bridge there, has long been a source of contention. It was built because dogwalkers complained about bicyclists riding on the main bridge walkway, but nobody really set hard and fast rules as to its use. The dogwalkers insisted that the more elegant bridge was clearly designed for them to walk their poodles and the bicyclists insisted that the bridge, built to resolve the original dispute, was intended for them and walkers continued to use both spans.

This, of course, meant bicyclists continued to use both spans and so the controversy seesawed back and forth for years with both sides claiming damages.

In any case someone found that a great pit had been dug with a tunnel near the base of the bicycle bridge and the suspicion arose that someone meant to do something really nefarious, like blow it up or launch a terrorist attack of some kind. The tunnel featured an electric fridge stuffed with Fat Tire ale and a microwave which had been used to heat up Michelina's Frozen dinners and chicken wings. There were lights and a heater and everything was powered by a diesel generator.

The entrance was covered by boards and dirt.

Everyone wondered what the intention for such a thing happened to be and nobody wondered about who owned this land, but eventually it turned out the Depuglia brothers had built it for personal reasons, which is what they told Officer O'Madhauen, who would only say that no traffic laws had been impacted by the tunnel.

Then, of course, this being a small town everyone wanted to know what kind of personal reasons involve digging a tunnel several yards long like that and everyone started keeping tabs on their daughters to an extraordinary degree to the point that Paul Depuglia had to come out and admit he had built it as a survivalist bunker and also a good place to watch the Superbowl with his buds. The terrorists were coming any day to convert the island into a stomping Islamic Caliphate called The Dish of the Prophet Dude. Or the Prophet's Dish. Or the the Isle Pizzle of Prophet Poo (IPoPP). Or something like that. Whatever. Wall Street was gonna crash any day and ivy will cling to the library steps.

The Depuglias, not the brainiest of the survivalist bunch, built their tunnel too close to the Estuary, so at the next Supertide, the whole place turned into an underground swimming pool, shorting out the generator and ruining the chicken wings. They were really put out about that and the City made them fill in the hole, which -- since everyone knew about it and where it was -- didn't provide so good a hideout. Certainly not from their wives.

When the bottom does drop out, you might not want to hang out with the Depuglias.

This is generally a time of expectation and of slow, silent mutations. In places where there is snow, things start to slump, to steam a bit. It stays pretty cold for sure, and you still have to get out the scraper to clear the car windows each morning, but something about the light in the afternoon becoming more yellow, as if to suggest that warmth might come sneaking around the corner any day now. Beneath the snow, things are starting to happen. No sign of it yet, but you just way for that slow surprise. In the deltas, the ice rimes over the sleeping trout where it seems no life could ever survive. All across the hills, the golden European grasses are waiting, dormant, for something to happen, some word that everything can cut loose.

And the calla lilies. The Calla lilies are in bloom again on the Island.

Some people think there is no continuity with the past. There is always continuity to the past -- we simply need the poets to remind us of our humanity from time to time. That is their purpose in life.

The Editor sits at his desk, the lamp making its pool of light while all around hovers the dense, impenetrable darkness. All of the machines have been shut down and all of the staff have left to go to their homes and their real lives separate from this artificial world of work, which always in America's cities shall be a place that is apart from real life, almost like every corporation is a work of fiction that has little to do with how people really feel about one another.

But now all of that corporate speak is shut down and there remains the Editor. His desk is a legacy. This desk was once a schoolroom desk for children in the 1800's and was brought from Omaha in a covered wagon by pioneers quite a long time ago when the old schoolhouse was broken up. The desk served as the main writing desk for some decades before circumstances improved and it wound up stored in a garage for a few more decades. It got used as a lemonade stand and a work bench and returned to the garage from which it was fetched to be sold at a garage sale for $20 with its chair to the Editor who needed a serviceable piece of furniture.

In cutting a piece of wood with an electric saw, the Editor discovered by accident that the chair, and probably the desk as well, was made of cherrywood. Probably a cheap source of timber in the place where someone's grandmother had once learnt her sums well over 150 years ago in that Iowa schoolhouse.

After the Editor discovered this fact, he treated the desk with its warped top and its battered legs with some significant respect and he glued down the veneer top, which looked to be a single plank of wood and he oiled the rest and he taped up the mistake with the saw to cover up his ignorance. Then he sits down to work with the muse of History.

And so Island-Life gets typed out each week on a newfangled computer sitting square on top of a desk that came across the Prairie over 150 years ago. In the hovering darkness, someone's grandmother stands, observing these things, sometimes approving, and sometimes disapproving.

The Editor stood up from that desk and walked out to the deck where the swelling moon hung over the yard with Jupiter hovering nearby. Somewhere from the packed apartments across the way, someone was playing Bob Dylan's new album, which consisted of old crooner covers. Frank Sinatra...

And the Editor was called to remember a memory of a woman he had known named Aoife, which is an Irish name. She had been a mighty handful, and largely the reason he had remained single all these years. He had a photograph of her with her hair all flying from the wind and her lips cherry red like Sheela na Gig, all filled with passion and anger. A woman to avoid, but like Javier his taste in women had never been wise. Funny how you always pick the person who is worst for your soul and body.

Things continue, despite our best efforts to wreck the past. They really do.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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

FEBRUARY 22, 2015


This week's photo is of the former Thomsen Garden Center on Lincoln. John and Iris ran this combo garden center /cafe with art gallery for 33 years until retiring at the end of last year. The place was a quiet, magical oasis and had been providing the city’s most exquisite collections of plants since 1943 when Bob Thomsen set up shop there. Iris bought the company in 1981.

At the time Iris knew nothing about plants, but that quickly changed. Iris read every book she could and went to many seminars to grow her knowledge of gardening. "I didn’t know how to run a business," said Iris. "I remember having to deal with invoices for the first time and other things and I would say to myself, ‘what have I done?’"

She and her husband John turned the upstairs unit into the Vines Cafe and Gallery in 1986. Poets and people seeking calm amid the chaos found there a quiet place for many decades.

The property will be turned into a residential unit with a garden court.

The neighborhood is likely to change substantially, as the neighbor across the street, Pagano's Hardware, will be leaving in May the spot it has occupied for over 60 years.


We got sunny but cool days with cool nights continuing through the week, leading up to some cloudy stuff but no sign of rain in the short term.

As for the Sierra, report from Mammoth ski country is as follows: "We have light snow falling at this time with 1-3 inches of new fresh light powder snow.

Up top it’s a cold 9 with a 19 at Main Lodge. Winds are out of the NE to 60 up top with gusts to 21 at Main.

Mammoth Mountain Weather: Today into Monday cloudy skies with snow showers at times. We could see 3-5 inches of more snow by the time all is said and done.

Winds are NW 15-30 at 9000 feet and should be double that later in the day. Up top wind gusts of 50 – 60 by late in the day are possible.

Expect highs in the 20s thru Monday, then 40s Tuesday through Friday. Lows will be in the teens and then 20s mid week for some great snowmaking.

As for the word from Howard, we have this as of Thursday last: "A Transition in the Weather Pattern from Warm to Cold this Week is Certain….Light snowfall looks likely….Cool Breezy Weather is Expected Next Week….Then March Roars in Like a Lion…".

"Amounts in general still look good in the 4 to 8 inch range over all by morning. The highest amounts would be over the higher terrain and boosted a bit due to the Snow to Water Ratio. The storm track for the up coming week looks like it will be down over the interior of the west coast. Although there may be some over water trajectory to boost amounts next weekend, no long fetch or subtropical entrainment is expected."

Howard did indicate that he has found a reason for the unusal dry weather, but unless you can parse an highly technical jargon-packed discussion that features " I challenge anyone to find a +PDO indice for the months of December of 2014 and January 2015 for the past 115 years as off the chart as it has been! Not since 1941 has the +PDO been so wacked out!"

Well, ok Howard. We are glad you are excited about the +PDO.

Furthermore, "According to the Jamstic, the AMO will crash this year and so the Atlantic will cool, especially over the western Atlantic north to the NW Atlantic. Odds are the +PDO will weaken at some point before the end of this year. The new ENSO outlook from Scripps shows El Nino taking another run for the tropics. "

What this eye-glazing stuff means, together with the usual patterns of wet weather up high through March and April, is that some drought relief will come after some gale force winds across the summits followed by radical temperature drops severe enough to endanger the citrus groves at lower elevations as global systems gradually work their way literally around the world. In short, March will be good for skiers and the snow resorts, but serious drought relief in toto is not likely to occur until 2016 when El Nino #2 picks up steam.

Given the history (in our recollection) of 10 year weather cycles in California we ought to be due for some gully-washers in 2016 or 2017.


In following several feature articles in the Island Sun, we notice that there has been a pattern here of minor victories of modest citizens against seemingly unstoppable Development forces. Recently we know about the Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve. Latterly we learn that Roemer Bird Sanctuary is the result of another successful battle against Big Development. We will not recap the already well written article by Klaus Mitterhauser which describes how Elsie Roemer fought the Utah Construction and Mining Company and won to preserve salt marshes at Bay Farm and at the end of Broadway. Suffice it to say that nothing is written in stone and nothing is predestined here, for others have battled seemingly unstoppable juggernauts of development in the past and this energy and aptitude can continue here.

Visitors are always amazed when we tell them that the island population is hovering around 79,000 souls and slated for increase of some 20%.

79,000 people packed into a space barely three miles long and one mile wide is a lot of people already. And we do not need a "gateway" over thirty feet in height.

The sign at Fruitvale does not hold its message for long as you drive past, but you should know that the High Street Bridge will undergo repairs starting next Monday from 9:30 am to 6:30pm, which might dent your commute somewhat. This will also affect maritime traffic. Work is slated for completion around April 27. Note that this is Phase I of a multiphase project. This bridge will also face closures at the end of 2015 for additional work.

The Jewish Music festival is in full swing and Kitka is in attendance. Check out

Florence and the Machine has a new CD out, so expect that powerful voice to come rocking to your hood some time soon.

The Fox is ramping up for quite an unstoppable series that makes it totally unnecessary to go over to the City that Use to Know How for anything.

Ledisi kicks off a decidedly jazz-heavy March on the 1st. Umphrey's McGee bings its quirky jazzy rock with special guest Joshua Redman and the The Revivalists on the 7th, the following weekend

Railroad Earth brings it down to real on March 14th, with surprise Bill Maher showing up 3/15 for what promises to be an engaging and challenging evening of controversy.

Widespread Panic holds forth from the 19th through the 21st, after which Bill Maher promises to return on the 28th to press any buttons he has not already pushed.

Yonder Mountain String Band starts up your Friday on April 3rd.

As for the Paramount, Bill Clinton came and left already, but Gloria Steinem is winding up March 31st her on the warmer side of the Bay.

Can you say Oaktown Rocks? I knew you could.


So anyway, word coming from Boston is that Snowmageddon is in full swing out East. Indeed, these are hard times, hard times indeed and the hard time killing floor is sweaty with the blood that has been spilled just to get by and put meat on the table.

Now is the harsh time of bitter wind against the cheek and the scarf pulled up and the ice reaching past all crevices to steal into the chambers of the heart and there seize with a cold grip the last defences against cruelty until the savage beasts of commerce and rule laugh and shout in echoing halls over the smoldering, gleaming heap of their riches, the coiled worm dozing in the halls of victorious Smaug, the dragon of winter's avarice.

Now is the time when black tree bones scratch against the pearl-grey sky when the wind picks up and the white flags of winter chimneys, pleading truce against the moon. From the mirrors of a modern bank. From the windows of a hotel room.

And some of us sit in cafes, drinking Earl Grey tea, defectors from the petty wars that shell shock Love away.

When Denby got out of the jail on Seventh Street, after last week's St. Valentine's Day massacree debacle, the hookers let out about the same time strode into the street boldly, still dressed in red negligee's and pouffy boas, chilly in the mouth-breathing clouds of air, hailing taxis to take them back to some place for a shower and a meal or someplace warmer. As for Denby, he had to walk down to Webster and go through the Tube and walk along through the fumes and the shopping-cart people, rumbling along with their plasticbag loads and mumbling to themselves, to get home.

He had hoped to avoid his usual bad luck with V-day by going to the movies and hiding in the dark, but things had not worked out according to plan. They never do.

And why was the theatre showing 50 Shades of Grey, a raunchy B&D flick with Spongebob Squarepants anyway?

There is a flu going around. And a nasty infection associated with it. Everyone is getting this thing and offices everywhere are full of hacking, wheezing people suffering through chills and coughing and loads upon loads of phlegm upchucked into wastebaskets and sinks.

There is the flavor of Halls menthol and Vicks and Robitussin and metallic clang of antibiotic and loads of chicken soup from a can because everyone's grandmother who knew how to make the stuff right is dead. Dead as rocks. And there is another terrible reminder.

We are all looking forward to an end to this particular winter, not just the Bostons.

Meanwhile an incensed Javier wants to go and toilet-paper Sean Penn's house in Marin over his comments at the Oscar ceremonies, but Jose, the younger man, feels this would not help the image of hardworking, decent Latino emigrants and Pahrump refuses to give him a ride over the bridge on his scooter. So Javier was left to stomp around on the porch, angrily cursing in Spanish.

"Hey Javier, I heard your girlfriends had a run in with a flasher at the theatre," Marsha said. "Some naked guy and he wasn't even you."

"Todos los gabachos son estupidos!" Javier said. Marsha laughed.

"He have anything worth looking at," Suan said, idly.

"Eh," Javier said making a planar guesture with his hand. "Que colgaba."

"Ask him if he needs a job. We are building out the Apollo Center at the Crazy Horse," Suan said.

"I didn't know the Crazy Horse swung that way," Sarah said with some interest. She had spent Valentine's Day performing for the Cupid's Ball fundraiser at the Native Son's of the Golden West.

"Baby, we got something for everybody at the Horse," Suan said.

Valentine's Day, like many of these artificial holidays, is a time for some people to make money, like Suan and Sarah, and for others to get into trouble, like Denby and Javier.

President's day is one of those odd ones shoehorned into the annual schedule which seemingly benefits no one save for mattress salesmen. Perhaps it is fitting that this one follows hard after Valentine's Day, for how many people really spend any serious time thinking about their mattress unless someone else makes a comment. Or some event causes wan hope to rise in favor of future opportunity. Most bachelors don't even wash their pillow cases more than twice a year. Admit it.

In any case another week passes and its all back to work, leaving the nights of disappointment or mad passion, whatever has been one's luck this past V-day, to leave ashes, bottles and wrappers as forgotten reminders in the gutters along the curbs.

Over at the Old Same Place the paper hearts and pink bunting remain up on the windows and unused candies with cute sayings remain littering the tables. A disconsolate cupid with flaking gilt dandles at the end of the Snug with his arsenal of projectile weapons chipped and blunt, his bow waving a broken string above Denby who plays his instrument quietly with his fedora pulled down over his eyes.

Listen: a clarinet oodling its way through passageways. Strains of Benny Goodman drifting through smoke and pinewood trees.

Eugene, whose idea of hot pursuit in Romance is dropping a line through a hole cut in the ice out on a frozen Sierra lake to wait their with a warm hip flask for something to happen, mulls his cider with as much thought as the man can muster at any one time. He is actually debating with himself as to whether a spoon lure should have string or feathers. Obviously, he is not one for Relationships; trout are moody enough.

Suzie, sitting behind the bar has her Anthropology text open to the chapter on the Bonobo while the patrons come and go, the serious drinkers raptly intent on one thing and one thing only, while the ever hopeful and flirtatious hunters and temptresses remain intent on one thing and one thing only, albeit with different goals than the drinkers. Each has his and her dance in the forest. Maeve is sitting there close to the Man from Minot with her legs crossed, one shoe dangling half off her arch.

"Courtship rituals among the Bonobo are remarkably free of pretense or showmanship, as is found among other tribes in the Congo. They freely mingle and mate with joyful abandon with undisguised affection and sympathy for one another. When a Bonobo finds someone he or she likes, they simply take the other's hand and off they go . . .".

"Lifting houses sounds like such fascinating construction work," Maeve says. "Tell me more about the joists and the jacks. . .".

Down the street, The Editor emerges from his mancave with a large garbge bag of whiskey bottles and empty Michelina's frozen dinner containers as the City street sweeper hugged the curb down the block. He drops this into the trashbin near midnight and pauses to regard Orion tumbling over the Veteran's Hall before returning inside as the night unspools and the laughing stars twinkle on a night with no sirens and no screaming. The weekend night remained silent and peaceful and calm and no one got shot and no one got stabbed.

The Editor turned out the light, leaving the town in the keeping of the one who was sweeping up the ghosts of Saturday Night.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


FEBRUARY 15, 2015


They added some lamps to Jackson Park, only trouble is that the line of lamps borders not path nor seat nor gazebo, but marches military formation up the middle of the place, completely wrecking any idea of soccer or touch football or Frisbee. What on earth got in the minds of those people at Silly Hall?


The Prairie Home Companion tail-in that goes "I was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon" pretty much applied to events this week. Seemed like as temperatures rose so did certain indoor demands and all the City employees and developers found reasons to make this long Presidents Day Weekend especially long via amorous embraces. Even strong-arm robberies declined on Park Street, indicating that even thugs got smitten with the arrows of Eros.


So anyway, this week has been a time of what they call "false spring" when the temperatures rise and the sap as well. Islanders took advantage of fine weather and a three day weekend to observe Valentine's Day, each in their own way. The Editor holed up in the Offices with a stack of Michelina's frozen and a couple liters of scotch, seeking to avoid the leggy Joanna. Jose hid out under the porch with Snuffles the bum and a gallon of cheap wine when Javier came looking for him with two of his girls.

"Where did that compadre get off to?" Javier said aloud, standing right over Jose and Snuffles.

"C'mon Javier, lets go do the chi chi boom boom again," one the women said. She was wearing a hotpink tube-top and fuschia shorty shorts so tight you could read the care label on her underwear. She had six inch stiletto heels on her feet and her companion was dressed in a skintight nurse's costume with red pumps. Her dress was short enough to be banned from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

"Where's my valentine, you promised me, Javier," the nurse pouted and stamped her foot.

"I have no idea where the boy has gone," Javier said.

"Hey, somebody's down there!" said Fuschia.

Snuffles stuck his head out from the hole in the porch where Javier had nearly burned down the house on his birthday seven years ago.

Javier bent down but then recoiled. "Phew! Snuffles, when was the last time you had a bath!"

Snuffles paused a moment in serious reflection, then brightly said, "December!"

"You're disgusting!"

"Wan' some wine!" Snuffles offered.

"I think not. Ladies, lets go have fun," Javier said.

Lionel stands nervously outside Jacqueline's salon, a bouquet in his sweating hands. The place is about to close and he has been waiting for an hour until the business quieted down. Jackie sees him, but pretends not to as she fusses about the shop. Eventually Maeve takes pity on him and opens the door.

"Hello Lionel, come on in."

"O no, I, ah . . . I".

"O don't be such a fish. Come on in, we are about to close up." Maeve hooks the stuttering Lionel by the elbow and drags him in. "Well Jackie, you have a visitor. I think I'll just neaten up the scrubs in the back. Ta ta!"

"Hello, Lionel," Jackie said, sweeping up loose hair around the barber chair.

"Ah, hello."

Sweep, sweep.

"You have some flowers, I see."

"Ah. Yes. Flowers. They're for you."

"Why that is delightful! How nice of you!" Jackie took the flowers from Lionel who removed his hat and turned about by the brim in his nervous hands.

"Iyyy, ah . . .".

"Were you about to say something?" Jackie said as she trimmed the stems and set the flowers in a vase.

"I, ah . . . got a restroom?"

Jackie laughed. "Yes its back there." And she motioned with her hand.

Lionel scampered to the back only to run into Maeve who was peering from behind the curtain.

"Saints and pebbles!" Maeve said. "Lionel what is it?"

"I just want to ask Jackie to dinner," Lionel whispered. "Don't tell!"

"O for pete's sake, just ask her out would you, man!"

"Shhh! Sshhh!" Lionel said. "What if she just laughs at me?"

"God's whiskers, she won't laugh at you; she likes you! Go out there . . .".

"What the devil are you two up to back here?" Jacqueline said as she threw open the curtain. "Lionel! Maeve! Are you two trying to make love in my closet?"

"O! Pleasenoit'snotwhatyouthinkatallwewerejusttalkingandnothinghappenedIpromise . . .", Lionel said.

"Well Lionel, I never took you to be ladies man . . .". Jackie said.

"I . . .I . . .I . . .".

"Lionel, just ask her." Maeve folded her arms.

Maeve raised her wrist dramatically to her forehead. "O to think with my colleague, Maeve! I suppose I will survive. And to think I thought you . . .".

"NonononononoIdon'tlikeheratall . . .".

"Hey!" Maeve said.


Jackie looked a little cross-eyed."Lionel you are going to have to slow down and stop trying to tear your hat in half".


"It's Valentines Day. Everything is booked, I am afraid."

"I have reservations for Skates," Lionel said.

"I'll close up," Maeve said. "You two go on."

And with that, Jacqueline and Lionel left together. After closing up, Maeve went down the way to the Old Same Place Bar where the 3 day roistering was already in progress.

Denby, seeking to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous Eros, spent the day listening to Cowboy Junkies CD's and that new Grammy winner, Beck. He then put on an overcoat and took himself to the movies where he watched Fifty Shades of Grey and the Spongebob Squarepants Movie as well as a space opera flick.

He fell asleep during the space opera flick and awoke to find that the kids in the Spongebob movie had glued the seat of his pants with bubblegum and shoved taffy in his shirt and somehow worked cotton candy past his waistband and there were wet jujubes in his shoes. He felt his way in the dark to a side door and let himself into a passageway that was cool and dark. He saw a light shining and pushed open a door to find himself in a restroom where he yanked off his shoes to shake them over the wastebasket. He then took off his pants and his shirt to try to clean them in the sink.

Damn kids.

It was while rinsing his underwear that he heard a woman's voice saying, "I am dying to take a leak." The door opened and a stunning raven-haired woman wearing a skintight nurses uniform stalked in on red stiletto heels followed by a another woman dressed in shorty shorts.

The nurse shrieked and threw up her hands, while the woman in shorts looked up and said, "Nice hat." Then she looked down and said with curiosity, "Are you Jewish?"

That's how Denby wound up spending another February 14th in jail again asking the Creator why this sort of thing always happened to him.

Because you make me laugh, responded the Creator. That's why I really love mankind.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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

FEBRUARY 8, 2015


This week's photo comes from Tammy who captured these blooms popping out because of the rain in February. Some hint of things to come.


The recent storms brought some relief to local reservoirs, but the big picture for this area and California as a whole is painted further east where the 400 mile long snowpack reservoir got some badly needed reinforcement from 8,000 feet elevation on up. Although snowpack doubled its entire winter storage at the Pass near Mammoth, according to Dr. Howard Schecter, unofficial meteorologist for Mammoth County, meaning the ski resorts will enjoy an extended season, some numbers came out disappointing.

Projections of 12" of snow came out to about 3 inches, with some snow below 9,000 getting wiped out by subsequent rains advancing to 10,000 feet, meaning the freeze level stopped that high up.

On a side note the Round Mountain Fire destroyed 40 homes in the Swall Meadows and Paradise areas near Bishop. Fortunately no one was killed and the fire is now 65% contained. This fire was propelled by winds measured at 60-100 MPH from Mono County and Reno on up north. Sierra crest stations clocked in winds at 135 MPH. The subsequent snow and rain quenched the firesystem.

Now how would you like to spend a night up in one of those Sierra Crest towers under conditions like that? If you want to have a look at nature's fury, go to Jerry Dodrill's posts of what he saw at Wilderness Exposures.

People who have some connection with the area can help out fire victims by contributing at Round Fire Relief.

Our local rain-maven, Mike Rettie, has recorded a total of 1.81" at 6PM since Friday, which also the total for 2015 today. Other areas saw greater or less than this amount, but for much of the East Bay, this looks pretty accurate extending out to Pleasanton and down to San Jose, according to the NOAA readings. So forecasts of a 3" monsoon failed to, um, hold water.

It's not enough to turn the drought around, but if this keeps up after a 6-10 day break, it just might.


Remember Lena Tam, former Councilmember and unsuccessful bidder for County office? Well just to prove you can't count an Island homegirl out until she is ready, she has been elected to the Friends of the Parks Foundation Board of Directors. In addition, Tam manages the water-resource planning for the EBMUD. Before all of this she was a founding board member of the city Health Care District.

We are reminded in the face of all the development threats happening here on the island that nothing is etched in the book of eternity for sure, as the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park is proof that diligence and persistence can succeed against the Moloch. Sun County LLC had wanted to build over 200 homes on the site of the old railway passage, but Jean Sweeny found a clause in the 1924 contract between the City and Union Pacific Railroad that gave preferential buying rights for the City to re-aquire its own land at 1924 prices.

Development issues occupied the Letters to the Editor pages of both the Sun while the Journal had a letter rebutting some Silly Hall sniping, which seems to becoming a sort of party theme around here lately after the elections. Some people are unhappy with the way the elections turned out for their pet candidates. Well, it is a democracy -- or democratic republic (take your pick -- and not everybody gets everything they want all the time.

Regarding what to do with open space at the peninsular tip jutting into the Bay and facing the Babylon skyline anyone ever driven out to the end of 7th Street in Oaktown and seen what they did out there? The drive out is scary in how the last mile resembles passing through the border barricades that used to divide East and West Berlin but the end is heart-stopping beautiful. Do it on a nice weekend and you will not be sorry.


So anyway, a real dockwalloper swept over the Island at the end of this past week, making us remember that what we in NorCal miss in cold temperatures, we earn in double payback via precipitation. Because the weather waits so long between storms, the earth sort of relaxes into that carefree California let-it-ride attitude. Then, the earth gets suddenly pounded by the drums of Wagner's Valkries and powerlines go down, trees uproot and entire hillsides slide away taking with them fences, houses, freeways and entire bowling alleys.

We hear that Norwegian Hafthor Bjornsson broke a world record last week that, had stood for 1,000 years. What did he do? He took five steps while carrying a log over 30 feet long that weighed 1,433 pounds. The legend of the Icelander Orm Storulffson says that he walked three steps with this monster wooden log which weighed over 650kg and was 10m long. Hafthor carried the 650kg and 10m log for 5 steps.

So supposedly the record was meant for years to be an exhortation for Norwegian kids to clean up their dinner plate so as grow up to be big and strong.

"But mom! It tastes like soap!"

"Clean that plate if you want to be strong as mighty Orm Storulffson!"

"O ma! It stinks!"

"Shut up yer whinin' or there will be no more roving for you."

People may not know that the world's most impressive strongman feat took place right here in California. Alonso Seville de Espadrille was a merchant mariner and strongman back in the final days of the Spanish colonial conquest of Alta California. He often was called upon to reset the ship's mainmast His Royal Majesty. He would do this by grabbing the mast in a bear hug and lifting the entire mast, together with topgallant and crowsnest, long enough for shipwrights to fix the mounting chocks below decks. Then he would ease the entire thing down and when it had settled, he would go have a beer.

People wondered from where this 400 pound giant of a man had come, and some said Seville, and some said, no, the Pyrenees rock mountains, and others said Pamplona. In truth, he was a mixture of Spanish and Azteca and Yoruba of Africa, so he was a man made entirely of the New World.

This may explain why he stood a full six feet seven inches in height among a people that generally attained no more than five four at the most. He claimed he drew his strength from the Blessed Virgin, and to emulate her practiced the most steadfast chastity himself. When he would see a group of lovely senoritas strolling down the boulevard, and they would flirt with him, he would quite often grab an ox cart and hurl it into a garden over the fence -- together with the surprised oxen -- out of what one supposes was sheer boyish exuberance.

In any case it may be because of his vow of abstinence he decided to journey up to Alta California with the explorers looking for a good seaport, as Alta California was a place to which decent womenfolk seldom journeyed for all the hardship and lack of culture. This was understandable as the Mexican senoritas in those days were dangerously hot blooded and of fiery temper. This may no longer be true, but who can say?

So Alonso set out with an expedition, beginning first by sea around the tip of Baja and then up to San Diego and then to El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, which now bears a shorter name, and thence to the splendid place that later would be called the Bay of Monterrey, which turned out to be less of a Bay than a sort of wishful arc that would be a Bay had it only tried harder before giving up.

he . . . threw his arms around the bear

From there the expedition, let by Padre Junipero mi Siempre and the soldier Juan Sebastian Pato, the expedition marched north overland to find the perfect Bay and having many adventures along the way as they mapped the landscape while the schooner tacked along off the coast, charting the seafront. At one camp a group of brown bears came down to nose among the packs and perhaps nosh on a few oxen, while the intrepid explorers all fled shrieking into the night bushes. Save for Alonso who greeted the largest of the grizzlies like an old friend. And like an old friend the grizzly, who stood easily seven feet tall and weighed well over 1500 pounds greeted Alonso with a fierce bearhug, which Alonso took to be a mark of affection, so he too threw his arms around the bear and hugged him back just as fiercely. The grizzly howled and racked the back of Alonso's armor-plated back and Alonso obliged by raking his own fingernails through the tangled mat of the grizzly as a comrade. The grizzly tossed down his great head and chomped on Alonso's shoulder and Alonso did the same until the big leviathan of the mountains staggered back and sat down in great distress and defeat with a sigh.

"Don't be sad brother!," Alonso said. "Enjoy life!" And so he grabbed an ox and tore it in half and gave its haunch to the grizzly and he roasted some for himself and they all sat down there and had a great time for an hour or two until Alonso led the grizzly pack off into the wilderness where they roistered for several days before Alonso came back and rejoined the expedition, a bit bashful at all the fuss.

Coming up from the place known as Pacifica, the expedition encountered steep bluffs and cliffs coming down to the sea. Seeing that clearly there could be no decent bay up front, the party met up with the schooner and sailed out to reconnoiter the coast. Encountering the Farralones they felt grateful at sailing so far distant from such dangerous shoals and so about the meridian of Drake's estuary, cut back in again when they noticed a gathering of birds there with the ominous signs of an impending thunderstorm chasing them into that shallow place.

There the sailors and the expedition made a joint camp with the schooner bobbing a distance away while the nervous local tribe of coastal Miwok observed them from a distance.

Always a friendly guy, Alonso went over to them to make peace. This he did well enough and pretty soon they had found ways to talk to one another, "using hand and foot" as they say. They asked him about the "big canoe with the trees growing in it", by this meaning the schooner and mentioned the on coming storm.

Alonso asked, well, what did they do with their canoes and the headman indicated how they had drawn up the tulerush canoes high up the bank to safety.

Alonso looked at the Schooner, and he looked at the cliffs and then he looked at the schooner again.

Then he asked the Miwok for help and they agreed.

They all went out to the schooner where Alonso weighed anchor while ropes were fastened to the ship. Then they all got into the canoes and started paddling, some 100 or more canoes, pulling the ship toward the beach where a sort of cut made by a stream allowed the ship to ride up close.

Rain began to pelt down at the start of the storm and the ship still was not entirely out of danger with its keel slurping in the deep mud now. So Alonso jumped out of his canoe and motioned for everyone to grab the ropes and pull the ship up higher until its hull would fit snug into the cut. He grabbed the forward rope and began hauling while all the Miwok pulled their boats to safety before running off into the night and, presumably shelter.

He fell down exhausted . . .

So Alonso entirely alone put his great shoulders to tugging the schooner, with each step gaining a foot, but also digging down with his feet into the soft bank until he had made himself a groove into the slope. After hours of this labor he heard the grinding of the hull as it wedged itself into its natural berth at the stream outlet, whose waters flowed merrily past the hull to either side. He fell down exhausted into the swampy groove he had dug for himself and fell asleep.

That night there was a tremendous storm that brought out the sky titans who rolled thunderballs at one another as gales of rain beat down the land and stirred the once placid estuary waters into a rage. Had the ship remained where it had been left, with on mariners on board, it surely would have been destroyed much as what happened to Cermeno, who came to this same cove a bit later in history.

In the morning the expedition awoke, fearing the worst, but to their surprise, they found their ship bobbing safely during high tide at the mouth of a new river that had previously been only a rivulet.

Alonso was nowhere to be found but they made haste to pull the ship back from shore and climb aboard. Numerous extra ropes were found lashed to the ship and trailing idly -- these the men cut loose. One thick hawser ran deep into the sand where a shallow depression marked a place that had been recently filled in by the force of the storm.

The men had no idea what had become of Alonso, but they felt that as expeditions go, they had come out well ahead of some of them and so they all headed back to Mexico City with their maps and their stories.

The legend of Mighty Alonso grew, and the tale of how he had grabbed the hawser in his teeth and dragged the ship doing the backstroke across the estuary got more and more fanciful and how he died fighting off the terrible Kraken, which they could elaborate because of course they had left him behind. And some said he did not die on that beach but climbed up out of his rut there and looked around to find all of his companions gone and so he had settled among the Coastal Miwok whose ladies taught him to put aside all of this foolish chastity business -- wussup with that? -- and so he lived a long life eating oysters and giving the ladies a good time, which is a much better ending, as all can agree.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


FEBRUARY 1, 2015


This week's headline comes courtesy of artist Catherine Harris, who spends most of her time in Atascadero, but who occasionally wanders East for visits. The native Californian is married to a gentleman from Virginia.

We keep getting notes from acquaintances and family that say things like, "You make a good choice to live in California! The weather here is dreadful!"

One earthquake with a fire and all those Bostons crowd down the 101 to catch the first plan back East, suddenly remembering that weather teaches humility and forbearance better than any preacher or deacon ever did from the pulpit.

In any case, the kids decided to get raised here, so we had to stay . . .


Most of the music scene is geared toward the Spring Season however there are a few gems here and there among the plethora of local bands filling the clubs. Devil Makes Three played the Fox on Saturday. Sergio Mendez brought Brazilian sounds to Yoshi's mid-week. Rufus Wainright will be doing Yoshis February 10-11.

Oakland's Uptown District is still going strong with The Parish, Brick and Mortar, and Leos all presenting local talent.

In a sign of our times and the way the real estate thing is really wrecking the neighborhoods, iconic island institution Pagano's Hardware will be moving from the location it has occupied for 65 years. Dave Giovannoli, current owner of Pagano's, said "We just could not come to terms on a lease."

The new location will be at the corner of Webster and Central on the West End. The site was the former home of Blockbuster Video.

Andy Pagano, original founder of the hallmark store, and partner Giovannoli had an opportunity to purchase the building in 1994, but that plan never came to fruition, due in part to the death of the senior partner, who had opened the store in 1950.

On the upside, you no longer have to pay the dump to discard your old mattresses, nor need you plotz the old cushions into the Bay. DR3 will actually pay people for old mattresses at its facility at 9921 Medford Avenue in Oaktown due to a new County waste program seeking to reduce ugly litter and landfill material.

In other news we have the new City Council getting thoroughly dissed even though they have not done anything yet. It may be related to the various developments in progress, many of which appear to be unstoppable and fait accompli right from the drawing board with the assumption, "well somebody is going to develop this parcel anyway."

Let it be said each and every project in motion and on the boards has something really obnoxious about it, whether it be nomenclature, parking, density, and/or height variances. No matter what they come with there will something troubling about it, so that itself is a fait accompli. Why on earth, as we all wring our hands about affordable housing, are they planning to demolish the affordable housing we do have at the Point where perfectly decent bungalow apartments have been serving low income people safely and effectively for years? Because, as the EIR said, "it is difficut to monetize the existing structures . . .". Yeah, that is the real reason. Echos of "greed is good" roll across the decades.

It's not like we do not have historical precedents for bad development in the Bay Area. Someone recently posted an image of the Bay Area BART plan, which looked so reasonable and logical when it was devised in 1965. Had that plan been pursued before the dreadful property booms that began in the mid 1970's, we would have a sane metropolitan transit system the equal or superior of other metro areas around the world.

But had sanity ever governed development, the sweet San Bruno hills would still be sweet refuges for deer and rabbits, San Mateo would not have ticky-tacky boxes on the hillside, the Geneva Towers would never have blighted the area for decades until neighbors all cheered as they were demolished, the Fillmore Pink Palace would never have been painted hideous pink and San Francisco's downtown would still be San Francisco instead of a poor imitation of Manhattan.

And more than likely San Franciscans born and raised in San Francisco would still be living there instead of herds of blithering, condo-dwelling mouth-breathers bashing into each other with their Google-Glasses.

Why does the height-limit for the "gateway to the island" need to be raised thirty feet? Because the savages cannot "monitize" the thing to their satisfaction. To hell with what the people who live here want.

Don't get us started.


This past weekend we bid farewell to Ilona E. Riley, Iola E. Riley was born in Lake Charles, LA on August 13, 1915 to parents Laura and Harold Ricks. Iola was baptized at an early age, attended Baptist church and schools in Lake Charles, LA and Houston, TX, where she graduated high school. Iola moved to Oakland in the late 1930's and worked various jobs including Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company where she was employed for 40 years.
It was at Golden State Mutual where she met and married Harold Jack Riley who preceded Iola in death. Iola was a lifetime member of the NAACP - Oakland chapter and was a member at Beth Eden Baptist church in Oakland. Iola was the last surviving founder of The Church for the Fellowship of all Peoples founded in 1944, where Iola was on the board, as well as church treasurer.

It is here we would like to interject just a few comments about why Ms. Riley, called by many with affection "Aunt Ricky", was a remarkable Californian. The story is told that she came to California with her mother, who was such an accomplished seamstress that her dress creations stirred up murderous envy in the hearts of some people in Lake Charles who did not like the fact that a Black woman walked around town dressed so well.

Despite this beginning in life, Ms. Riley remained open to all people of every color, every stripe, and after meeting Bayard Rustin, was inspired to co-found the first integrated church in the Nation with the eye that the really important thing is to convey The Word to all men and all women and that what really mattered was the personal relationship a person had with the Creator. This in 1944, a time when all the churches, even in San Francisco, were completely segregated.

Although without child her entire life (she would claim, with some tongue-in-cheek, that the key to living such a long time was that she never smoked, never drank, and never had children) she provided a main pillar of support for the numerous nieces and nephews, some of whom became quite famous in their own right. Curt Flood, the man credited with completely altering the professional baseball draft system, was a nephew. Also related by marriage was NFL Hall of Famer John Henry Johnson, who was part of the Miracle Backfield for the San Francisco 49'ers after starting with them in 1954.

Dr. Dorsey Blake orchestrated memorial proceedings at Oakland's Chapel of the Chimes this past Friday, and also delivered a moving eulogy remembering her extraordinary spirit. Dr. Blake was joined by Dr. Kathryn Benton who delivered the Sacred Reading and Prayer, both individuals from the church Ms. Riley had co-founded.

Kevin Marshall delivered a powerful and flawless rendition of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" with a segue into "A Closer Walk with Thee."

Iola E. Riley was preceded in death by her parents: Laura and Harold Ricks, Stepfather, Herman Flood Sr.,brothers: Alvin Ricks, Herman, Carl, Curtis Flood and sister Barbara Flood Johnson. Iola touched many hearts and will truly be missed by family and friends. Iola leaves to mourn a host of nieces, nephews and friends.


So anyway, we are hearing about Severe Weather in the East, with people getting stuck out there due to the tremendous snowstorms causing thousands of flights to be cancelled, while the reports are that Minnesota is suffering an unaccustomed period of balmy temperatures.

Something about this report caused us to question this -- not the Eastern storms, those are real -- but it being Minnesota we did a little check up and found the current temperature in Minneapolis is 18 degrees, which certainly is not balmy. And the forecast calls for the unusual climb from 19 to about 36 by the weekend, so this leads us to wonder about the trust we put in some people. True its not minus 20 or minus 30, which is probably what people would prefer so as to preserve some sort of self esteem. So we checked the seasonal average and found the city gets about 13 degrees.

Frankly we are shocked, simply shocked.

Could it be that people in Minneapolis are suffering classic weather envy syndrome because of those snooty people in Manhattan enjoying blizzards and howling gales enough to justify their normally bitter dispositions?

We have a resource here in California that could help -- its not like we are inexperienced with handling disaster, which criteria this seems to meet. We have thousands of MFT's -- lord a-mercy we are packed up to the gills with MFTs well versed with treating all sorts of anxiety and self-image issues and we would be all too happy to ship several hundred of them up to the Great White North. Hopefully to stay for a good long, long, long while.

New Yorkers and Bostons don't need any more therapists. They have figured out a way back East to incorporate therapy into daily lifestyle and conversation to the point the entire system of affluent mental health acts like an immense hamster wheel that does nothing really, but does seem to calm some people down simply by virtue of the routine.

It's getting a little like that here to the point some MFTs give up on the crowded people field entirely and go become specialists in psychiatric veterinary medicine.

"The problem with your dog, Mr. Smith, is that Gerald has unresolved issues surrounding mother. He is going to need quite a long series of therapy sessions to work out this emotional baggage he has been carrying...".

In any case the way it would play out, our Marriage and Family Therapists would begin gently with selected Bachelor Farmers sent on referral.

"So Mr. Nordstrom, when exactly did you start to have anxiety about snow?"

"Aboot a month ago."

"And how do you feel about snow?"

"It's cold. Ya sure, it is cold."

"Does the snow bring back memories for you?"

"O ya sure. Mostly shovelin'".

"Shoveling. And in the past you always did this alone? When did you first start to shovel snow."

"As a kid. With my dad."

"With your dad! AH HA . . ."!

It may be just about time to talk about Rafael, said Wally. Rafael comes from on the one side were brothers who worked the Comstock lode after the gold fields played out, and on the other from the Casias family who descended from the original Californios who herded cattle in the area just east of Rancho San Antonio with an original desueno from Eschandia that they keep still in a glass frame, despite turning out to be as worthless as a brass nickel after the tidal wave of Americans arrived.

Wally was holding forth in the Old Same Place Bar, getting pretty lubricated after completing a fuel oil deal with Chiton Manioc and Bowtie Souvlaki earlier in the Bearflagger Cafe. Wally, himself, had grown up in Antioch and going to school with the likes of the Mitchell brothers who even back then had been spitball throwing, back of the class clown jerks before establishing the O'Farrell adult theatre in Babylon, a place where the daughters of otherwise decent families went to flip their fingers at family values and take their clothes off for fun and profit.

Rafael's ancestors, like some, and some say like many, Californians saw their dreams dash up against the hard granite realities of the way things just happen to be, calling it bad luck when the gold played out and the only successful miners at the Comstock turned out to be the big mining concerns endowed with deep-pocket investors and huge earth-moving equipment and the men who worked for them.

One branch of the Stockwell family built a small resort near the town of Brawley, looking to take advantage of a brand new man-made lake down there, only to watch with wooden eyes as the lake became ever more saline, more acidic, more poisonous as each year passed, until no one dared bathe in its toxic waters and any birds who made the mistake of eating its few fish died quickly by the stinking shoreline.

Now the shutters of the abandoned place swing back and forth in the hot desert wind and a kind of grit coats the empty dining room tables that remain and chemical salts encrust the wooden pier pilings of the wharf that cannot decay for all the stuff dissolved in the water preserves things past all use.

Rafael grew up in Moraga, which back then was a sleepy rural town where it was the habit of some to step out the back door so as to bag a deer to supply the freezer with venison for a few months, Wally said. Some visitor from the East might be passing by on very rare occasion, and since Californians have always been raised to be hospitable and share what we have in abundance, just like the Ohlone and the Miwok used to do, Rafael would offer up some steaks or lights to take home and the Bostons would get all bug-eyed at the dripping meat and exclaim, "I can't take that on the plane!"

Well, to each his own. Deer meat is good meat.

When people from elsewhere think of California, they usually picture San Francisco, LA, Hollywood, San Diego and all the cosmo coastal towns where a hare krishna is likely to skateboard past a kid with fluorescent green hair.

They seldom think about Sunol, Gustine, Calpatria, Ione, or Weed or any of the dirt farm towns strung out along the 400 mile Valley between Lodi and Maricopa; God's country where the American Baptist was forged out of hellfires and damnation spewed from orangecrate pulpits and a homeboy aint worth nothing until he learns to hop up a Mustang and work sheet metal. Nobody dreams of being a movie star or a guitar god there -- if they do, they move away to the coastal metropolis and wind up becoming aromatherapists in Beverly Hills. And the only gold is in the invasive European stalks that replaced the evergreen bunchgrass over the past several hundred years.

In these towns the ghosts of the old patriarchs still rule things with toughened, weathered pioneer fists, or at least with the intransigent, flinty attitude their sons carried forward in anger at the civilization brought here by their fathers, which exfoliated like a cancer all along the coast and across the interior, bringing people who had never known want, never fought for what they have, and have yet to know disaster sure to come. Only a matter of time.

Anybody need some good fuel oil -- I got hella barrels of it coming cheep, Walley interjected. Got plenty for the regulars and more besides.

What about what you was saying about Rafael? Eugene asked.

I'll get to that, Wally said. I gotta piss. And with that the man wandered with his beer over to the head which had been signed by Padraic for years in Gaelic as "Fir". Distaff side was labeled as "Mna" and generally there were few errors in orientation. Once people got used to the way things were.

Conversation passed to the weather, which in California meant lack of rain down below and serious lack of snow up above. Farmers were already cut back to 38% of allowance, which in other places would have meant death to the farms. But we had gotten insured to privation and the periodic drought. Nobody liked it, but there it was. Drought was a fact.

When Wally came out with his beer in hand, someone from Oaktown had come in during his absence to take the place where he had been sitting and Suzie had already served up a bump and a glass.

"That's my seat," Wally said.

"I am sitting here," said the man who stood about six two and weighed from the look of him about 220 pounds.

"That's my seat," Wally said. "Scoot."

The man looked at Wally calmly and calmly said, "Eff off."

"O just give Wally what he wants," someone else said.

"No!" Said someone else. "Wally is being a prize a-hole!"

Denby took his prized Tacoma D-9 that he had been playing in the snug and put it away safely in its hardshell case.

"You're a pantywaist, sleek otter aren't you?" Wally said. "Mind if I piss in your arty craft beer to give it some strength, you female cat you."

"You talk too much," said the man. "Eff off."

"Mind if I ask if your mother was a hooker on San Pablo or a plumber in Frisco?" Wally said.

"You are valueless. Eff off," said the man.

In answer Wally swung at the man, who anticipating this, knocked Wally's punch aside with his left and landed a good one with his right on Wally's forehead.

Things decayed substantially in the bar from that moment. Suzie and Dawn grabbed all the loose bottles and glasses and hid them away so they could not be used as weapons as the encounter turned into a savage atavistic orgy of violence amid breaking chairs and splintered tables.

Pretty soon the sirens and lights of Officers O'Madhauen and Popinjay came down the street.

O'Madhauen came in with his nightstick drawn and Padraic put away his shotgun behind the bar.

"You sir, better not be planning to drive a motor vehicle anywhere within the confines of this municipality!" Office O'Madhauen said to Wally, who stood there weaving on his feet with one eye half closed from swelling and blood streaming down his face."Not in that condition!"

"I have not had a drop to drink all night," Wally said and someone guffawed in the back.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 25, 2015


Because this structure represents so much of what is about to change on the island, we thought we would toss in a pic of how the old lady looks today with her leaf-strewn loading dock and grassy railbed and chainlink fences all at once. This is the Old Cannery that has seen many uses in its nearly 100 year history. It began life as a warehouse for the Del Monte brand and saw life during various world wars as a small arms munitions factory and transit point. It has been used as a staging point for truck shipping since the old Beltline railway stopped running past here for the last 20 years.

Tim Lewis Communities has a plan to convert the place into condos and offices with some height additions, although they have claimed an intent to preserve both the brick facade and the loading dock area. In this earthquake-prone part of the world, brick structures of any type tend to be as rare as snakes in Ireland, so we have high hopes what results from development shall be least offensive.


A few items that surfaced in previous years have returned to occupy the minds of our citizens. Everyone is wondering about the "mystery gunk" that is killing shorebirds from Oyster Point to the East Bay and now off Crown Beach. People should recall there was a massive fuel oil spill off Oyster Point about a year ago, and it is highly likely that residual chemicals from that event sank to resurface. Also please remember the Costco Busan which tore open on the Bay Bridge a while ago. This petroleum stuff just does not wash away, people.

Now we are hearing about this "gunk" appearing along the Hayward and San Leandro shorelines. With all the construction and debris happening along the Bay, together with all the dreck we are dumping into our Bay, do we have a Silent Spring in operation here?

In a truly sad case reflective of how badly our society handles both medical care and senior issues, people are talking about the Jerry Canfield case in which the 72 year old man allegedly placed a vase of roses next to his wife in bed before shooting her in the head. The man subsequently went to the police station to turn himself in.

They were married for 37 years. Their neighbors say they were very much in love.

The stated reason he had killed his wife was that they had made an agreement previously to end each of their lives should pain become an overwhelming issue and that she was suffering constant pain. Canfield apparently withdrew his wife from the nursing home where she had been living to their home on Clinton Avenue prior to the killing.

Sympathetic neighbors have called this action a "mercy killing", however there is no provision in California law to address such an act with such a term. Canfield remains detained at Santa Rita with an offered $100,000 bond, itself an unusual provision for someone accused of murder.

For the record, there are resources available for caregivers who may feel overwhelmed. The Family Caregiver Alliance works with people all over the country, and their representatives will visit your home to see how to help you best. You can call them at 415-434-3388. Or to visit their website, click here

In other areas of contention we see a firm, resolved and persistent continuation of organized renter response to the present rental crisis in which rents have rising to obscene rates along with nauseating assumptions among some greedy landlords.

On the upside, some local landowners have perceived the problem and are working to ameliorate the conditions that threaten to destroy the town in which they live and own property.

This last part cannot be understated in its importance. If we are going to preserve anything of the quality of life we have here, renters will need to work with local landholders to block the effects of landrush greed. Rent control by itself will not stop this thing, nor will individual good intentions from the handful of landholders who understand what is going on.


The Island-Life Holiday CD is now in production and copies soon will be going out to unsuspecting and innocent recipients. This is the first CD we are producing which consists entirely of originally orchestrated work. (cheers and applause). This does not mean it is any good. (Sighs of dismay). In any case you can expect an unwanted delivery in your mailbox in March and another obnoxious posting to the youtube channel.

People in foreign countries use this thing to teach people how to speak English, so you better be careful.

You know if any of you ever bothered to DONATE we maybe could afford singing lessons.


So anyway, now is the time when the gelid light congeals on the morning floor and everything takes a while to warm up: the the coffee in the pot, the Ford in the driveway, the house after work, the girl who lives across the way, your wife, your overcoat. Outside the world looks like a chiaroscuro drawing of the way things should be, everything harsh stone white and black and perfectly defined. In places where they have snow, shallow dimples hold pools of bluish shadow and the robin peck pecks with little to show for all the trouble.

Near the Island-Life offices the sentinel owl persistently queries anyone who passes by. In the morning hollowed shells of orange indicate the opossum has been busy in the citrus tree overnight with his marsupial investigations.

Round about this small island with its trees and fields and small wildlife the ramparts of the industrial metropolis stand across the Water, with its glowing backdrop and forefront of smoking chimneys and skyscrapers that march impudently right up to the edge of the hills where the forested green stands up through the dense fogs that roll down the slopes with some quiet persuasion, whispering, "all is not what it seems, you city man."

Across the Bay, the gleaming jewels of Babylon twinkle in ropes strung for miles along the peninsula rollercoaster slopes, while even there the inexorable fog streams and dreams over the humpback hills.

All down Santa Clara and Lincoln the sad castaway Xmas trees have started to vanish, squirreled away by the local Scout Troop.

In the shadows of Oaktown the Angry Elf gang torches another business that failed to pay its protection money and runs away gleefully as the shadows redden with flames.

On the corner of San Pablo and 40th new flesh Amy Holliday who has just crash landed from Virginia Beach into NorCal stands offering love for sale in a short skirt and boots. A way to pay for the cost of CSU tuition. Which just went up.

Officer O'Madhauen sits in his cruiser at the pullout down by the Old Cannery with the lights off and eyes on the radar, watching for speeders and red light runners.

The opossum who had briefly lived in the Xmas tree at the Household snarfles quietly along the Old Fence to the orange tree.

There is a clatter of glasses and chatter in the Old Same Place Bar. People are talking about the usual news. How the recent rainstorms failed to dent the water shortage. The current price of gas and oil. The "anchor out" problem in the Estuary. Will the Fighting Otters finally get a shot at contending for the championship this year? How can deflating a football possibly be of advantage to anyone on the field? Are not the Refs supposed to check the regulation PSI for those things every time the ball changes hands?

Football is a weird sport to begin with. The Island has hosted any number of famous pro wrestlers, Jiu jitsu masters of world renown, baseball players like Willie Stargell, soccer stars, and even a squad of munchkins who performed with Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. Well okay, acting is not exactly a sport, but we sure loved those little guys, most of whom came from Germany as it should be pretty obvious to everyone that a munchkin is no way a member of the Master Race and they were all likely fodder for the terrible cattle cars scheduled for Bergen Belsen.

Beside being cute as the dickens, they were all full of great humor and extremely foul mouthed, for cursing in a language not your own is always great fun, and they would march around in circles during filming set breaks, stamping their feet and singing off color made-up songs, like "Ding Dong, the Wicked Witch is a nasty B-----!" and "We're Off to Pee Our Gizzards" and "If I Only Could'a Fart."

So anyway, our only claim to football fame was Jorge "Pincers" Garcia, a wide receiver who weighed some three hundred and fifty pounds in high school. He developed significantly more weight during his career with the Oaktown Raiders to the extent that in those occasions where he caught the ball he proved to be virtually impossible to tackle without risk of serious injury to the members of the opposing team.

His shoes had to be specially made in Hong Kong by master shoemakers who invented a new size, size 25, just to accommodate his own dimensions. His workout towels were made from Sunfish sails which had their grommets removed and his protective equipment featured futons sewn into canvas duvet covers. His helmets were made from the hoods of discarded VW Beetles, so he was one of the first of that era of leatherhats to get a hard-shelled piece of headgear.

The inevitable happened and Jorge fell upon the hapless body of an opponent, crushing him so badly that his mother could barely recognize him.

He was exonerated by the Commission, but felt personally so bad about what had happened that he gave up football entirely and retired to a mobile home in Grass Valley, where he lived out his days earning money on odd jobs, like lifting stray cows out of ravines and pulling tractors free from bad situations.

There are many extraordinary stories about unusual people in the West, and you can go crazy listening to all of them, to paraphrase an old acquaintance. But California is part of the West, as much as we on the Coast sometimes pretend to believe we are not. We like to think that we are reasonable, but we are not reasonable at all. No reasonable person would put up with so much nonsense. Nobody reasonable deals with so much outrage from day to day.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 17, 2015


This week's photo comes from Tammy and is of a leaf during the recent downpours.

We have not seen much more weather since then, so we will need some might storms in the next few months to pull us out of a drought.


Development projects occupied people's attention during the second full week of the new year. The hurried last minute approval of the Cannery project passed by the lame duck administration in City Hall could not be easily overturned without risk of litigation although new council members did comment that the density bonus failed to incorporate affordable housing elements and that the City cannot afford to rubber-stamp these bonuses for every project.

Tim Lewis Communities will build 380 multifamily units on the five acre site as well as retail space, while preserving the historic brick facade. They also will pitch in $2 million for improving the Jean Sweeney Park on land that used to be part of the old Beltline.

In another project, Alameda Point Partners has submitted plans to build 800 condos on the 68 acre parcel between Main and Seaplane lagoon out at the Point. They also will be building a new ferry terminal at Seaplane Lagoon, which may possibly alleviate some of the traffic congestion as locals take the ferry to SF for the daily commute instead of driving. In answer to who will pay for habitation infrastructure improvements to land that had been used for military/industrial use, APP promised to run a sewer line in from the north side. APP will save on some construction costs by repurposing seven existing buildings for commercial space.

With the Coliseum gentrification `project about to launch across the estuary, this part of the world is set to change dramatically, and not necessarily for the better.

In broader area news, Barbara Boxer's announcement of retirement means that a prime Senatorial slot goes up for grabs. The GOP has glitter in its collective eyes in the possibility of seizing a senate slot in a key state of 35 million souls, but the chances of them placing a starchy conservative in place of Boxer are slim. It is far easier to shoehorn a movie celebrity into the governor's office than the Senate.

On the GOP side the best options appear to be Neel Kashkari, Kevin Faulconer and Kevin McCarthy, none of who are especially gifted with pizazz.

On the Democrats short list we have former Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a few curiosities who would be good picks, but don't have the media exposure, as in Jackie Spier.

There is another reason why the GOP is unlikely to capture the seat vacated by Boxer. KPCC, 89.3, said it best in a recent online article, "Jostling to replace Barbara Boxer in the Senate shows minority influence." (, January 17, 2015)

"When the California Democrat won her first term in 1992, 8 of 10 voters in that election were white. Far more Hispanics and Asian-Americans call the state home today compared to a generation ago, and her recently announced exit has revealed a diverse field of potential candidates.

The maneuvering showcases the growing influence of minority voters and a challenge for the Republican Party, which has struggled for years to make inroads with many of them.

Attorney General Kamala Harris, the first Democrat to enter the 2016 contest, is the daughter of a black father and an Indian mother. Her possible rivals include prominent Hispanics, such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra, and state Treasurer John Chiang, whose parents came to the U.S. from Taiwan.

"It's a huge sea change in the electorate," says Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who notes that only 25 percent of California voters today were registered in 1992."

In other state matters, assemblyperson Kevin McCarty has introduced legislation that would establish and independent oversight review of all fatal shootings by police, which panel is likely to be housed in the state DOJ, pulling investigative decisions away from local DA offices. It is noted that the DA's and local police tend to be in bed together on many issues, making pressing charges difficult.

Governor Jerry Brown released the State $164.7 billion budget this past week, and presented therein few surprises, albeit many unpleasant features. Brown's focus is to build the rainy day fund and pay down the existing debts to the detriment of practically all other services save for the funding of prisons, which will enjoy a $160 million increase. From health care to human services to the universities, K-12 schools, and even the state parks, everyone will feel the pain.

Not included in these figures are the bond measures assigned to accomplish tasks, such as establish a water reservation system that is supposed to ease times of drought.

A bit late to take that one one, as it seems the horse has left the barn long ago, while we rank dead last nationally in school spending per pupil.

In the Live World, we see Rufus Wainwright is coming to Yoshi's for two nights February 10-11. The Wainwright family is so fabulously talented, their ova and semen should be banked and distributed around the world, just to raise the general IQ level of the population.


So anyway. The nights have been chill, with the fog wrapping itself around everything, seeping deep into the bones of things and people to make the overtly moderate temperature feel much more frigid than it is. By morning, everything is damp and the sky is pearl grey until before noon, when the sun cuts loose and all the birds go off like mad in a tremendous racket, as if preparing something to come next.

Some say California has no seasons and the people are as mellow as sloths indolently munching lotus leaves, and that may be true down there in SoCal, the LaLa Land of the West, but up here in NorCal we track the seasons by the pogonip, old Ohlone word for that dense bank of moisture that creeps over the hills like some kind of Tolkein dream. Oaktown hosts the nation's first bird sanctuary -- bet you did not know that -- and it is out there on a spit jutting into Lake Merritt. Each year thousands upon thousands of birds pause there on there journey to and from Canada, Sault St. Marie, Frontelac, and Bear Lake, Minnesota.

As for the people, NorCal has its snobbery and its intense Bear Flaggers driving ancient pickup trucks with angry gleams in their eyes, upset about how they rammed that I580 through the neighborhoods and Manhattanized Babylon and built the Pink Palace Filmore (Do Dee Do Dee Oh) and pampered the schoolkids until they can't do their sums or recite the list of Golden State counties anymore, turning them into lazy day trippers who can't work without a foo-foo latte in hand and never strung wire or used a posthole spade, ripped up the railway tracks on the Bay Bridge, and as for that Golden Gate, they never should have built that bridge. Turned Marin from a decent blue collar place into some well matriculated yuppified section of pallid gentry who couldn't tell the difference between a sawsall and a Peterbilt truck.

No, those people are certainly not mellow. They've watched their world change from when a family trip to Brennans for cioppino hard by the waterfront was a big Night Out, a rare treat, to singles bopping into sushi joints any night of the week.

Martini remembered everyone getting into the Rambler, the car that had handstraps above the windows because seatbelts had not been mandated yet. And his father would drive down the winding Route 1 along the steep escarpments to the working fishing village named Princeton-by-the-Sea. And his mom and dad would get down to the wharves and they would bargain for a fish caught that morning. One time his dad bought an entire baby tuna, which was so large it had to be cut and folded in half to fit in the freezer.

Those fishermen were sturdy men working boats that were barely thirty to forty feet long, if that, and coming back from beyond the Golden Gate where a six foot well was considered calm. By the time Martini's family met up with them at ten am, they were ending up a long ten hour day that had begun before the dawn.

Martini drove down there on the back of Pahrump's scooter, which took them hours to do as the little engine could barely labor up to 55 miles per hour with two people on board. Princeton had turned from a working village into a place with a Visitor Center and a little mall that hosted seawrack and t-shirt shops and Taco Bell style restaurants. A friend of his named Gillespie ran a sort of arty greasy spoon kind of place that served up battered fish and chips come from the freezer, popcorn shrimp and the usual breaded calimari, all delivered in cardboard boxes by the Safeway truck. It had the look and feel of the way it used to be, but not the soul. There were framed paintings of fishermen on the walls that looked like they were made to grace the walls of a motel room or a bank.

"Gillespie, what happened here," Martini asked.

"Had to go with the flow, man. Move with the times. And they done changed." Gillespie said. "Gotta pay the rent that keeps goin' up and up."

There was still a single wharf where boats that catered to the fine restaurants in Babylon moored up after a day of fishing that pretty much had not changed for the fishermen involved, but gone were the fleets of schooners and dorys that had once congregated in this place. And the younger ones looked at Martini sort of odd when he asked about buying a fish for the Household.

The older guys understood and so the pair came away at last with a couple rockfish and flounder. And so the two made their way back up the peninsula and over to Oaktown and then again to the Island as night dropped its curtains of mercy and promise for overnight renewal. But Martini resolved never to return to Princeton-by-the-Sea. The fish in Chinatown were cheaper anyway.

Winter here in NorCal has something of a sluggish quality that makes some transplants briefly long for the sharp bite of cold and snow and the nostalgia of central heating. They only have to hear about the latest freeze and the latest blizzard in Newton or Buffalo to put aside all those crafted feelings. In the Old Same Place Bar, the Man from Minot is talking about walking through minus forty degree temperatures and the terrible anxiety of those who consider placing their tongues upon the iron pump handle. God knows why someone would ever want to lick an iron pump handle at any time of the year, let alone dead winter, but apparently someone did in the distant past, which story sends shivers down the spines of many a young child to this day.

One can imagine the terrible helplessness of that curious boy, stuck on that pump handle until he either expired or, god forbid the thought, someone found him and the fire department all came and the entire school grade to watch as they cut him loose . . .


We have iron pump handles in the Sierra and no one has any recollection of anyone having a pump handle fetish, so we have to wonder if different localities possess different bugbears of a unique type. There may be something about Midwesterners that causes a fascination with licking dirty old pump handles. Heavens to Betsy, Californians pay big bucks to dine on raw fish and call it a delicacy, and nobody else features things in great numbers like Aromatherapy, so go figure. Everyone enjoys their peculiar madness.

"Now I want to tell you about the time the horses broke loose from the stable and ran into the river, which was so cold that every single horse froze in place before getting over to the other side," the Man from Minot said. "This took place only a few miles north of Minot, and the horses remained frozen there in place all winter long and people took winter picnics out there among the herd just to see them. It is all true, I swear."

And all who sat there in that bar were amazed at the extraordinary tale of a cold so cold it froze an entire herd of horses.

"I know one thing," Eugene Gallipagus said. "I aint puttin' my tongue on no iron pump handle. Not now and not ever. Earthquakes are a better bet by far."

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 11, 2015


This week we welcome the New Year with a shot by Tammy of the Island Marina looking toward Oaktown.

The sea is calm, the way is clear to depart and so lets go on a voyage!


We won't go into detail but here's a handful of beloved -- and detested -- and simply odd people who passed away in 2014.

Phil Everly - singer, musician
Ariel Sharon - Israeli soldier, politician
Hiroo Hinoda - soldier, die-hard
Pete Seeger - musician, activist, humanitarian
Maxmillian Schell - actor
Philip Seymour Hoffman - actor
Amiri baraka - poet
Fred Phelps - religious demigogue, hatemonger
Gabo Marquez - seminal author
Rubin Carter - heavyweight boxer contender, wrongfully convicted of murder
Bobby Womack - R&B singer, songwriter, R&R Hall of Fame
Eli Wallach - Actor
Paul Mazursky - scriptwriter
Johnny Winter - blues musician
Baby Doc Duvalier - hated dictator
Ian Paisley - peace worker for ireland
Joan Rivers - comedian
Ben Bradley - Editor, Washington Post
Galway Kinnell - poet
Jimmy Ruffin - soul singer
Mike Nichols - film director
Mario Cuomo - NY governor
Shirley Temple - Beloved child star and diplomat
Joe Cocker - 1960's folk singer, song writer
Robin Williams - great-hearted and beloved comedian and actor
Ruby Dee - actress, screenwriter, poet, playwright, civil rights activist
Louis Zamperini - Writer, Track and Field Athlete, WWII POW survivor

Most people know of Ariel Sharon as "the bulldozer" for his tough, inflexible political and military service to the state of Israel over a span of fifty years.

The Israeli statesman was a national war hero to many Israelis for his leadership, both in uniform or as a civilian, during every Israeli war.

Many in the Arab world called Sharon "the Butcher of Beirut" after he oversaw Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon while serving as defense minister.

He was a major figure in many defining events in the Middle East for decades, including his decision to turn over Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control.

During the Lebanon war in 1982, Sharon, a former army general then serving as Israeli defense minister, was held indirectly responsible by an Israeli inquiry in 1983 for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. He was forced to resign.

Sharon, who lived on a ranch in the Negev Desert, became Israel's 11th prime minister on March 7, 2001.

He was the man who encouraged Israelis to establish settlements on occupied Palestinian land, but he also was the leader who pushed for Israel's historic 2005 withdrawal from 25 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which was turned over to Palestinian rule for the first time in 38 years.

Sharon formed the centrist Kadima in an effort to build political support for his controversial plan to turn over Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control.

As waves of suicide bombings by militants rocked Israel, Sharon sent tanks and troops into Palestinian towns, ordering assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders.

Sharon ordered construction of the barrier through the West Bank and confined then-Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, whom he called "a terrorist," to his compound in Ramallah, accusing him of encouraging attacks on Israel.

This veteran of all of Israel's wars was a national hero to many.

In 1953, after a wave of terrorist attacks from Jordan, Sharon the military leader led the infamous Unit 101 on a raid into the border town of Kibya, blowing up 45 houses and killing 69 Arab villagers. Sharon said he thought the houses were empty.

In June 1967, as a general, Sharon led his tank battalion to a crushing victory over the Egyptians in the Sinai during the Six Day War.

But what he considered his greatest military success came in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. He surrounded Egypt's Third Army and, defying orders, led 200 tanks and 5,000 men over the Suez Canal, a turning point in the war.

As defense minister, Sharon was the architect of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, an occupation meant to stop the Palestine Liberation Organization from using Lebanon as a base for attacks on Israel. The attack was disastrous.

After the Sabra and Shatila massacre, he allowed Israeli families to settle in occupied Palestinian land, the same land Palestinians claimed as a future state.

As a result of the inquiry, however, Sharon was forced to stand down and was banned from ever being defense minister again.

His political comeback in the 1990s when he became party leader, came to an abrupt end when he visited the holiest site for Jews, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem -- known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif, "The Noble Sanctuary." The stop sparked violent protests. The incident prompted the second Intifada -- the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule -- that began in September of that year.

The name Hiroo Onoda is likely to pass into the obscurity of history books. Few know the name of this fascinating individual even today, but his official surrender effectively ended the last hostile activities of WWII.

In 1974.

In 1944, Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on U.S. forces in the area. Allied forces defeated the Japanese imperial army in the Philippines in the latter stages of the war, but Onoda, a lieutenant, evaded capture. While most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces, Onoda and a few fellow holdouts hid in the jungles, dismissing messages saying the war was over.

For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers.

After losing his comrades to various circumstances, Onoda was eventually persuaded to come out of hiding in 1974.

His former commanding officer traveled to Lubang to see him and tell him he was released from his military duties.

In his battered old army uniform, Onoda handed over his sword, nearly 30 years after Japan surrendered..

"Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death, but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die," Onoda told CNN affiliate, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "I had to follow my orders as I was a soldier."

He returned to Japan, where he received a hero's welcome, a figure from a different era emerging into postwar modernity.

But anger remained in the Philippines, where he was blamed for multiple killings.

The Philippines government pardoned him. But when he returned to Lubang in 1996, relatives of people he was accused of killing gathered to demand compensation.

After his return to Japan, he moved to Brazil in 1975 and set up a cattle ranch.

"Japan's philosophy and ideas changed dramatically after World War II," Onoda told ABC. "That philosophy clashed with mine so I went to live in Brazil."

In 1984, he set up an organization, Onoda Shizenjyuku, to train young Japanese in the survival and camping skills he had acquired during his decades in Lubang's jungles.

His adventures are detailed in his book "No Surrender: My Thirty-year War." The Japan Times excerpted some of the book's highlights in 2007.

Here is a sample:

-- "Men should never compete with women. If they do, the guys will always lose. That is because women have a lot more endurance. My mother said that, and she was so right."

-- "Life is not fair and people are not equal. Some people eat better than others."

-- "Once you have burned your tongue on hot miso soup, you even blow on the cold sushi. This is how the Japanese government now behaves toward the U.S. and other nations."

Pete Seeger belongs to the category of man they just do not make any more, and it is highly unlikely we will ever see his like again. With his lanky frame, use-worn banjo and full white beard, Seeger was an iconic figure in folk music who outlived his peers. He performed with the great minstrel Woody Guthrie in his younger days and wrote or co-wrote "If I Had a Hammer," ''Turn, Turn, Turn," ''Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." He lent his voice against Hitler and nuclear power. A cheerful warrior, he typically delivered his broadsides with an affable air and his fingers poised over the strings of his banjo.

In 2011, he walked nearly 2 miles with hundreds of protesters swirling around him holding signs and guitars, later admitting the attention embarrassed him. But with a simple gesture — extending his friendship — Seeger gave the protesters and even their opponents a moment of brotherhood the short-lived Occupy movement sorely needed.

When a policeman approached, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger said at the time he feared his grandfather would be hassled.

"He reached out and shook my hand and said, 'Thank you, thank you, this is beautiful,'" Rodriguez-Seeger said. "That really did it for me. The cops recognized what we were about. They wanted to help our march. They actually wanted to protect our march because they saw something beautiful. It's very hard to be anti-something beautiful."

That was a message Seeger spread his entire life.

With The Weavers, a quartet organized in 1948, Seeger helped set the stage for a national folk revival. The group — Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman — churned out hit recordings of "Goodnight Irene," ''Tzena, Tzena" and "On Top of Old Smokey."

Seeger also was credited with popularizing "We Shall Overcome," which he printed in his publication "People's Song" in 1948. He later said his only contribution to the anthem of the civil rights movement was changing the second word from "will" to "shall," which he said "opens up the mouth better."

"Every kid who ever sat around a campfire singing an old song is indebted in some way to Pete Seeger," Arlo Guthrie once said.

His musical career was always braided tightly with his political activism, in which he advocated for causes ranging from civil rights to the cleanup of his beloved Hudson River. Seeger said he left the Communist Party around 1950 and later renounced it. But the association dogged him for years.

He was kept off commercial television for more than a decade after tangling with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. Repeatedly pressed by the committee to reveal whether he had sung for Communists, Seeger responded sharply: "I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American."

He was charged with contempt of Congress, but the sentence was overturned on appeal.

Seeger called the 1950s, years when he was denied broadcast exposure, the high point of his career. He was on the road touring college campuses, spreading the music he, Guthrie, Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter and others had created or preserved.

"The most important job I did was go from college to college to college to college, one after the other, usually small ones," he told The Associated Press in 2006. " ... And I showed the kids there's a lot of great music in this country they never played on the radio."

His scheduled return to commercial network television on the highly rated Smothers Brothers variety show in 1967 was hailed as a nail in the coffin of the blacklist. But CBS cut out his Vietnam protest song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," and Seeger accused the network of censorship.

He finally got to sing it five months later in a stirring return appearance, although one station, in Detroit, cut the song's last stanza: "Now every time I read the papers/That old feelin' comes on/We're waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool says to push on."

Seeger's output included dozens of albums and single records for adults and children.

He appeared in the movies "To Hear My Banjo Play" in 1946 and "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" in 1970. A reunion concert of the original Weavers in 1980 was filmed as a documentary titled "Wasn't That a Time."

By the 1990s, no longer a party member but still styling himself a communist with a small C, Seeger was heaped with national honors.

Official Washington sang along — the audience must sing was the rule at a Seeger concert — when it lionized him at the Kennedy Center in 1994. President Bill Clinton hailed him as "an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them."

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said Seeger used his voice to strike blows for worker's and civil rights, world peace, and environmental conservation.

Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as an early influence. Ten years later, Bruce Springsteen honored him with "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions," a rollicking reinterpretation of songs sung by Seeger. While pleased with the album, Seeger said he wished it was "more serious." A 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden to mark Seeger's 90th birthday featured Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and Emmylou Harris among the performers.

Seeger was a 2014 Grammy Awards nominee in the Best Spoken Word category, which Stephen Colbert won.

Seeger's sometimes ambivalent relationship with rock was most famously on display when Dylan "went electric" at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Witnesses say Seeger became furious backstage as the amped-up band played, though just how furious is debated. Seeger dismissed the legendary tale that he looked for an ax to cut Dylan's sound cable, and said his objection was not to the type of music but only that the guitar mix was so loud you couldn't hear Dylan's words.

Seeger maintained his reedy 6-foot-2 frame into old age, though he wore a hearing aid and conceded that his voice was pretty much shot. He relied on his audiences to make up for his diminished voice, feeding his listeners the lines and letting them sing out.

"I can't sing much," he said. "I used to sing high and low. Now I have a growl somewhere in between."

Nonetheless, in 1997 he won a Grammy for best traditional folk album, "Pete."

Seeger was born in New York City on May 3, 1919, into an artistic family whose roots traced to religious dissenters of colonial America. His mother, Constance, played violin and taught; his father, Charles, a musicologist, was a consultant to the Resettlement Administration, which gave artists work during the Depression. His uncle Alan Seeger, the poet, wrote "I Have a Rendezvous With Death."

Pete Seeger said he fell in love with folk music when he was 16, at a music festival in North Carolina in 1935. His half brother, Mike Seeger, and half sister, Peggy Seeger, also became noted performers.

He learned the five-string banjo, an instrument he rescued from obscurity and played the rest of his life in a long-necked version of his own design. On the skin of Seeger's banjo was the phrase, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender" — a nod to his old pal Guthrie, who emblazoned his guitar with "This machine kills fascists."

Dropping out of Harvard in 1938 after two years as a disillusioned sociology major, he hit the road, picking up folk tunes as he hitchhiked or hopped freights.

"The sociology professor said, 'Don't think that you can change the world. The only thing you can do is study it,'" Seeger said in October 2011.

In 1940, with Guthrie and others, he was part of the Almanac Singers and performed benefits for disaster relief and other causes.

He and Guthrie also toured migrant camps and union halls. He sang on overseas radio broadcasts for the Office of War Information early in World War II. In the Army, he spent 3½ years in Special Services, entertaining soldiers in the South Pacific, and made corporal.

He married Toshi Seeger on July 20, 1943. The couple built their cabin in Beacon after World War II and stayed on the high spot of land by the Hudson River for the rest of their lives together. The couple raised three children. Toshi Seeger died in July at age 91.

The Hudson River was a particular concern of Seeger's. He took the sloop Clearwater, built by volunteers in 1969, up and down the Hudson, singing to raise money to clean the water and fight polluters.

He also offered his voice in opposition to racism and the death penalty. He got himself jailed for five days for blocking traffic in Albany in 1988 in support of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager whose claim of having been raped by white men was later discredited. He continued to take part in peace protests during the war in Iraq, and he continued to lend his name to causes.

"Can't prove a damn thing, but I look upon myself as old grandpa," Seeger told the AP in 2008 when asked to reflect on his legacy. "There's not dozens of people now doing what I try to do, not hundreds, but literally thousands. ... The idea of using music to try to get the world together is now all over the place."

At the height of his career, boxer Rubin Carter was twice wrongly convicted of a triple murder and was imprisoned for nearly two decades. He was exonerated in 1985 and became an activist for the wrongly convicted.

In 1957, Carter was arrested, this time for purse snatching; he spent four years in Trenton State, a maximum-security prison, for that crime. After his release, he channeled his considerable anger, towards his situation and that of Paterson's African-American community, into his boxing -- he turned pro in 1961 and began a startling four-fight winning streak, including two knockouts.

For his lightning-fast fists, Carter soon earned the nickname "Hurricane" and became one of the top contenders for the world middleweight crown. In December 1963, in a non-title bout, he beat then-welterweight world champion Emile Griffith in a first round KO. Although he lost his one shot at the title, in a 15-round split decision to reigning champion Joey Giardello in December 1964, he was widely regarded as a good bet to win his next title bout.

Carter was training for his next shot at the world middleweight title (against champion Dick Tiger) in October 1966 when he was arrested for the June 17 triple murder of three patrons at the Lafayette Bar & Grill in Paterson. Carter and John Artis had been arrested on the night of the crime because they fit an eyewitness description of the killers ("two Negroes in a white car"), but they had been cleared by a grand jury when the one surviving victim failed to identify them as the gunmen.

Now, the state had produced two eyewitnesses, Alfred Bello and Arthur D. Bradley, who had made positive identifications. During the trial that followed, the prosecution produced little to no evidence linking Carter and Artis to the crime, a shaky motive (racially-motivated retaliation for the murder of a black tavern owner by a white man in Paterson hours before), and the only two eyewitnesses were petty criminals involved in a burglary (who were later revealed to have received money and reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony). Nevertheless, on June 29, 1967, Carter and Artis were convicted of triple murder and sentenced to three life prison terms.

While incarcerated at Trenton State and Rahway State prisons, Carter continued to maintain his innocence by defying the authority of the prison guards, refusing to wear an inmate's uniform, and becoming a recluse in his cell. He read and studied extensively, and in 1974 published his autobiography, The 16th Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472, to widespread acclaim.

The story of his plight attracted the attention and support of many luminaries, including Bob Dylan, who visited Carter in prison, wrote the song "Hurricane" (included on his 1976 album, Desire), and played it at every stop of his Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Prizefighter Muhammad Ali also joined the fight to free Carter, along with leading figures in liberal politics, civil rights and entertainment.

In late 1974, Bello and Bradley both separately recanted their testimony, revealing that they had lied in order to receive sympathetic treatment from the police. Two years later, after an incriminating tape of a police interview with Bello and Bradley surfaced and The New York Times ran an exposé about the case, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled 7-0 to overturn Carter's and Artis's convictions. The two men were released on bail, but remained free for only six months -- they were convicted once more at a second trial in the fall of 1976, during which Bello again reversed his testimony.

Artis (who had refused a 1974 offer by police to release him if he fingered Carter as the gunman) was a model prisoner who was released on parole in 1981. Although lawyers for Carter continued the struggle, the New Jersey State Supreme Court rejected their appeal for a third trial in the fall of 1982, affirming the convictions by a 4-3 decision.

Inside the prison walls, Carter had long since recognized his need to resign himself to the reality of his situation. He spent his time reading and studying, and had little contact with others. During his first 10 years in prison, his wife, Mae Thelma, stopped coming to see him at his own insistence; the couple, who had a son and a daughter, divorced in 1984.

Beginning in 1980, Carter developed a relationship with Lesra Martin, a teenager from a Brooklyn ghetto who had read his autobiography and initiated a correspondence. Martin was living with a group of Canadians who had formed an entrepreneurial commune and had taken on the responsibilities for his education. Before long, Martin's benefactors, most notably Sam Chaiton, Terry Swinton, and Lisa Peters, developed a strong bond with Carter and began to work for his release.

Their efforts intensified after the summer of 1983, when they began to work in New York with Carter's legal defense team, including lawyers Myron Beldock and Lewis Steel and constitutional scholar Leon Friedman, to seek a writ of habeas corpus from U.S. District Court Judge H. Lee Sarokin.
Life After Prison

On November 7, 1985, Sarokin handed down his decision to free Carter, stating that "The extensive record clearly demonstrates that [the] petitioners' convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure." The state continued to appeal Sarokin's decision -- all the way to the United States Supreme Court -- until February 1988, when a Passaic County (NJ) state judge formally dismissed the 1966 indictments of Carter and Artis and finally ended the 22-year long saga.

The former prizefighter, who was given an honorary championship title belt in 1993 by the World Boxing Council, served as director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted, headquartered in his house in Toronto. He also served as a member of the board of directors of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and the Alliance for Prison Justice in Boston.

In 2004, Carter founded the advocacy group Innocence International, and often lectured about seeking justice for the wrongly convicted. In February 2014, while battling prostate cancer, Carter called for the exoneration of David McCallum, a Brooklyn man who was convicted of kidnapping and murder and had been imprisoned since 1985. In an op-ed article in the The Daily News, published on February 21, 2014 and entitled Hurricane Carter's Dying Wish, Carter wrote about McCallum's case and his own life : “If I find a heaven after this life, I’ll be quite surprised. In my own years on this planet, though, I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years. . .To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.”

Ruby Dee was an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, activist, poet and journalist, perhaps best known for starring in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun. She's also known for her civic work with husband Ossie Davis.

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within: strength, courage, dignity.”
—Ruby Dee

Born in Ohio in 1922, actress Ruby Dee grew up in Harlem and joined the American Negro Theatre in 1941. She is well known for collaborations with her husband, actor Ossie Davis. Dee's film career spans a generation and includes 1950's The Jackie Robinson Story, 1961's A Raisin in the Sun and 1988's Do the Right Thing. In 2008, Dee received her first Oscar nomination for playing Mama Lucas in the hit film American Gangster.

Dee and Davis were well-known civil rights activists.[19] Dee was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1963, Dee emceed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dee and Davis were both personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral in 1965. In 1970, she won the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League.

In 1999, Dee and Davis were arrested at 1 Police Plaza, the headquarters of the New York Police Department, protesting the police shooting of Amadou Diallo.

In early 2003, The Nation published "Not In My Name", an open proclamation vowing opposition to the impending US invasion of Iraq. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were among the signatories, along with Robert Altman, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon and Howard Zinn, among others.

In November 2005 Dee was awarded – along with her late husband – the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award, presented by the National Civil Rights Museum located in Memphis. Dee, a long-time resident of New Rochelle, New York, was inducted into the New Rochelle Walk of Fame which honors the most notable residents from throughout the community's 325 year history. She was also inducted into the Westchester County Women's Hall of Fame on March 30, 2007, joining such other honorees as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nita Lowey. In 2009 she received an Honorary Degree from Princeton University.

You will not find the name of Fred Phelps on any media lists of people who died, and for good reason. Mr. Phelps was arguably one of the most detested Americans to have afflicted our country since Benedict Arnold, for he was a self-styled preacher and he preached only one thing: hatred.

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014) was an American pastor who headed the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an independent Baptist church based in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps attained notoriety primarily from his vehemently anti-gay activism and his picketing of funerals of homosexuals and soldiers.

Phelps' claim to ministry stems from a 1954 appointment as Assistant Pastor to Eastside Baptist Church. Phelps promptly established the Westboro Church and broke all ties with any formalized Baptist organization in 1955.

Phelps was a disbarred lawyer, founder of the Phelps Chartered law firm, and a former civil rights activist. He sought public office four times as a member of the Democratic Party. In the election for United States Senator for Kansas in 1992, he received 49,416 votes (30.8%), coming in second after Gloria O'Dell (who subsequently lost to later presidential candidate Bob Dole).

Phelps and his followers frequently picketed various events, such as military funerals, gay pride gatherings, high-profile political gatherings, university commencement ceremonies, performances of The Laramie Project, and mainstream Christian gatherings and concerts with which he had no affiliation, arguing it was their sacred duty to warn others of God's anger. This led a group of motorcycle riders to form the Patriot Guard Riders to provide a nonviolent, volunteer buffer between the protesters and mourners.

An examination of his behavior, starting with the actions that led to his disbarrment prior to this obnoxious picketing presents a portrait of horrid man who truly remained unredeemable in all facets of life.

A formal complaint was filed against Phelps on November 8, 1977, by the Kansas State Board of Law Examiners for his conduct during a lawsuit against a court reporter named Carolene Brady. Brady had failed to have a court transcript ready for Phelps on the day he asked for it; though it did not affect the outcome of the case for which Phelps had requested the transcript, Phelps still requested $22,000 in damages from her. In the ensuing trial, Phelps called Brady to the stand, declared her a hostile witness, and then cross-examined her for nearly a week, during which he accused her of being a "slut", tried to introduce testimony from former boyfriends whom Phelps wanted to subpoena, and accused her of a variety of perverse sexual acts, ultimately reducing her to tears on the stand. Phelps lost the case.

According to the Kansas Supreme Court:

"The trial became an exhibition of a personal vendetta by Phelps against Carolene Brady. His examination was replete with repetition, badgering, innuendo, belligerence, irrelevant and immaterial matter, evidencing only a desire to hurt and destroy the defendant. The jury verdict didn't stop the onslaught of Phelps. He was not satisfied with the hurt, pain, and damage he had visited on Carolene Brady."

In an appeal, Phelps prepared affidavits swearing to the court that he had eight witnesses whose testimony would convince the court to rule in his favor. Brady, in turn, obtained sworn, signed affidavits from the eight people in question, all of whom said that Phelps had never contacted them and that they had no reason to testify against Brady. Phelps was found to have made "false statements in violation of DR 7–102(A)(5)".

On July 20, 1979, Phelps was permanently disbarred from practicing law in the state of Kansas, though he continued to practice in Federal courts.

In 1985, nine Federal judges filed a disciplinary complaint against Phelps and five of his children, alleging false accusations against the judges. In 1989, the complaint was settled; Phelps agreed to stop practicing law in Federal court permanently, and two of his children were suspended for periods of six months, and one year, respectively.

Nathan Phelps, Fred Phelps' estranged son, claims he never had a relationship with his abusive father when he was growing up, and that the Westboro Baptist Church is an organization for his father to "vent his rage and anger." He alleges that, in addition to hurting others, his father used to physically abuse his wife and children by beating them with his fists and with the handle of a mattock to the point of bleeding. Phelps' brother Mark has supported and repeated Nathan's claims of physical abuse by their father. Since 2004, over 20 members of the church, mostly family members, have left the church and his family.

Although claiming to be religious and once an associate of Billy Graham, Phelps considered Billy Graham the greatest false prophet since Balaam, and also condemned large church leaders such as Robert Schuller and Jerry Falwell, in addition to all current Catholics.

In 1997 Phelps wrote a letter to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, praising his regime for being "the only Muslim state that allows the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to be freely and openly preached on the streets."[80] Furthermore, he stated that he would like to send a delegation to Baghdad to "preach the Gospel" for one week. Saddam granted permission, and a group of WBC congregants traveled to Iraq to protest against the U.S. The WBC members stood on the streets of Baghdad holding signs condemning both Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as anal sex.

The habit of upsetting mourners at military funerals with signs like "Your son deserved to die!" has resulted in the federal government and several states enacting legislation to protect funeral services. On May 24, 2006, the United States House and Senate passed the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, which President George W. Bush signed five days later. The act bans protests within 300 feet (91 m) of national cemeteries – which numbered 122 when the bill was signed – from an hour before a funeral to an hour after it. Violators face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

On August 6, 2012, President Obama signed Pub.L. 112–154, the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 which, among other things, requires a 300-foot (91 m) and 2-hour buffer zone around military funerals.

As of April 2006, nine states had passed laws regarding protests near funeral sites immediately before and after ceremonies

Ironically, as Phelps lay dying, his own church reportedly excommunicated him because he spoke with the members of Equality House across the road from the church, which was regarded as "rank blasphemy" by the WBC.

Because the Calvinist WBC does not engage in any sort of celebration of any kind, there was no funeral.

Maya Angelou - born Marguerite Ann Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American author and poet. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, nightclub dancer and performer, cast-member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. Since 1982, she taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.

Her early life includes a Bay Area connection, but hardly proved auspicious for someone who would later charm Presidents and the World.

At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou's uncles. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing, as she stated, "I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone ..." According to Marcia Ann Gillespie and her colleagues, who wrote a biography about Angelou, it was during this period of silence when Angelou developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her.

Shortly after Freeman's murder, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother. Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors that would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset. When Angelou was 14, she and her brother moved in with their mother once again; she had since moved to Oakland, California. During World War II, she attended George Washington High School while studying dance and drama on a scholarship at the California Labor School. Before graduating, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde (who later changed his name to Guy Johnson).

She experienced a great number of personal adventures in the Bay Area, but it was not until novelist James O. Killens recommended in 1959 she move to New York to focus on her writing career that her life began to take shape on an upwards momentum. After hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak, and meeting him personally in 1960, she and Killens organized "the legendary" Cabaret for Freedom to benefit the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and she was named SCLC's Northern Coordinator.

After meeting South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make, she moved to Cairo, and then to Accra in Ghana, where she lived until 1965, returning to the US to help Malcolm X build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward. She returned to New York in 1967 and there renewed her friendship with James Baldwin.

Martin Luther King asked Angelou to organize a march, but circumstances intervened and the great man was assassinated on her 40th birthday (April 4).

In 1968, inspired at a dinner party she attended with Baldwin, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and his wife Judy, and challenged by Random House editor Robert Loomis, she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969, which brought her international recognition and acclaim. This lead to an extraordinary 10 year prolific output of original composed music, articles, short stories, TV scripts, autobiographies, poetry, plays, acting jobs that garnered at least one Tony Award (1973, Look Away), and a supporting role in the television mini-series Roots.

She was given a multitude of awards during this period, including over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world.

I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.
Maya Angelou, 1999

I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.
Maya Angelou, 1984

Nothing so frightens me as writing, but nothing so satisfies me. It's like a swimmer in the [English] Channel: you face the stingrays and waves and cold and grease, and finally you reach the other shore, and you put your foot on the ground—Aaaahhhh!
Maya Angelou, 1989

All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.
Maya Angelou


Crews are still cleaning up after the big windstorm that knocked down dozens of trees all over the Island. The golf course alone lost some 31 stand of timber and some yards are filled with ten foot high stacks of cut logs that once had been proud shadetrees.

The new Council is in office and already there is bickering about the new development projects, with attention on the proposed Boatworks area and the old brick Cannery, which some want to repeal. There is also a curious event going on at 1207 Union where the owner wants to build out the duplex into a fourplex, which has the neighbors hopping mad.

As for what's going on in the living world, check out the year's updated Calendar in the sidebar. KPFA has some sweet stuff lined up. So does KQED.


So anyway, its been chilly but not cold, not cold in the way some of you may have experienced.

We had a storm, a really big one that knocked the oranges from the tree, but we don't have schooldays when all the schools are closed. Relatives up in Winnipeg say the school never closes, not even when temps drop to 40 below and stay there. When it snows the kids just use the tunnels. We don't have Bad Weather School Days. Save we did have one about two weeks ago due to the rain. People couldn't drive around in their cars for all the flooding, especially here on the Island. All these people in SUV's nosed around carefully through the puddles, a little like newborn hippos or something just trying to figure out the world and not knowing this sort of weather is made for them.

What on earth is the reason people buy these monstrous things? SUV's we mean, not hippos. The things are designed to plow up steep hills carrying loads of concrete and railroad ties, but you see people creeping around in them afraid to get a scratch or dent in their truck.

Speaking of driving it appears a meeting of Floyd's Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the National Association of the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled is once again taking place. This one day seminar is typically scheduled for eight or nine days -- sometimes a month -- both for its great popularity, but because the members are so hapless that it takes about a month for all of them to have arrived at the same place at the same time for anything.

Again, the main topic is the Stealth Turn, the secretive maneauver practiced by those seeking to attain the height of style in Deceptive Driving. This maneuver involves abruptly changing direction without providing the slightest clue as to the driver's intentions. There is the four lane power shift on the freeway from the fast lane to the right hand exit. Then there is the mid-intersection revision of decision, which is followed by the highly sophisticated left turn at a stoplight from the right turn arrow lane and signal going like mad first one way then, after completion, on the other side.

Some say the drivers of Milan, Italy first originated this technique. Others say this esprit is particularly French or Spanish. All can agree Northern California has perfected the Stealth Turn to such an high degree, Washington is known to send CIA and Secret Service operatives to study the methods honed by Floyd Bender and his group of radical Rotarians.

In an interview by the Examiner, Floyd was asked why and how he came to perfect this technique.

"I realized that if I don't use my turn signal, they'll NEVER know where I am going. Ha ha!"

Floyd comes from stock that traces its lineage to the earliest days of Alta California. It was a Bender, actually Ignacio Behar, who rode with the problematic explorer Vizcaino as the man sailed up the coast, attempting to find a perfect bay for the galleons crossing the Pacific to moor and retro fit before heading south to lower California.

Vizcaino, not an especially talented or capable man, was also charged with finding gold in California for the Archduke of Monterrey. He had failed on behalf of the Duke in a number of other enterprises, and he really wanted a royal merchant ship so as to conduct trading, so he was hell bent on setting things right this time, taking on Behar, who presented himself as an expert navigator. He was not, but he needed a job, and so the ship sailed up the coast for weeks without finding any decent port north of Long Beach.

In desperation, Vizcaino sent back packets on a ship, claiming he had found a perfect, well sheltered bay ideally suited for the massive galleons to make port. This deep water port he named Monterrey Bay with some fictional license before heading north, sure he could find something better than that shallow crescent of water. Along the way, he renamed all the previously christened spots on such maps as he did have with the eye of covering himself once he did find this perfect port with the claim that the Monterrey Bay lay actually far north of where it really is and what map are you looking at anyway?

So it was the Behar, expert navigator that he was, spied the rocks of the Farralones, assumed they were shoals off a dangerous area and so directed the ship to pass far to the west of them, in so doing completely missing the mouth of the Golden Gate as well as what would come to be known as Drake's estero.

Naturally Vizcaino never did find that perfect port for he ran out of provisions before attaining the longitude of Oregon, and so he turned back with his spurious maps and not the slightest indication that gold resided anywhere in California.

When the Duke of Monterrey heard there was no gold in Alta California to be had, his eyes fell.

"O but there's buckets of priceless pearls to be had. Would have brought some back but they fell overboard in a storm", Vizcaino said. "Near that perfect bay I named after your highness. Might I not have a merchant ship as a reward to go shopping in Japan now?"

Vizcaino was sent on his way to thoroughly irk the Japanese to such a degree they closed the entire East until Admiral Perry arrived three hundred years later.

Meanwhile the Behar clan continued to affect the history of California by acting as guides to territory of which they had no knowledge, leading the early explorers with those maps Vizcaino had concocted out of wishes and angel dust.

When the United States pretty much seized Alta California after the Mexican-American War, the Behars anglicized their name, seeing how things were playing out for the old Hispanic Californios, who were getting robbed left and right.

But not before a Behar attempted to guide an emigrant expedition one year over what became known as the Donner Pass with unfortunate consequences. That Behar wound up in a soup pot at the pass during the winter, but other Behars survived elsewhere, continuing to guide would-be explorers and setting up guide agencies that were the prime agents for getting the Oakies out of the Dustbowl and into California.

From the Lusitania to the Titanic to the Andrea Dorea, there was not a famous ship in which the Benders did not have a hand in guiding them to their fates.

Benders served on both sides during WWII. A Polish Benderinski misdirected the Wehrmacht as to the shortest path to Moscow being through Stalingrad when the Field Marshall stopped to get directions, with of course the results we have seen. It was a Von Bender that guided the Germans around in circles during the Battle of the Bulge, which is the main reason the Nazi's lost that one.

So it was that Floyd hung on as one of the last of the Benders -- and barely arrived at that distinction -- for the obstetrician who had delivered him was also a Bender, a man with a serious kinesthesia problem in which he sometimes confused his left hand with his right, and so little Floyd got dropped on his head right at birth when the doctor tried to spank him with the same hand that held him up.

Floyd ran a small travel agency of Kearny Street in San Francisco called Barefoot and Begone Travel. From there he sent people off on vacations to Kazakhstan and Albania and guided tours of the decommissioned Pripyat nuclear reactor in Byelorussia.

Some people have noted that we just experienced a full moon. Hemmed in by the light pollution of the Metropolis, and further limited by the uneven construction that closes in everything here to a claustrophobic binder view, it is difficult to experience the moon and other celestial events the way more open places, like the prairie people do. For wide open vistas one has to go out to the edge of the continent and look out over the lampless vast Pacific. It is there you can actually see the broad band of cloudy stuff that is the Milky Way. Only then do the old sky-myths make sense.

Otherwise we make do with Orion doing his cartwheels past the pale lunar light while the urban skyline glows like Troy on fire.

The moderate weather along the coast sometimes creates the illusion that our resignation in the face of Life's disappoints means that we as a people are mellow, laid back,

One who does have a modest open view and who takes advantage is Senior Don Luis de Guadeloupe Erizo, who has the habit of observing the moon outside his burrow under the hedges of the Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve, nee Beltline Railroad tracks. Out towards the West End, beyond the assembly of densely packed clapboard and stucco houses where the savage arm of the Developer has yet to reach, the Island opens out to the Buena vista flats through which ghosts of the old donkey trains still chug the Beltline when the moon swells above the nostalgic mists out to the old airfield that is now the nesting ground for the least tern.

Proof enough that open space is worth preserving.

Which is just like the Island to get instead of an imposing Great Auk, or eagles or condors, we got instead the modest Tern, and of the terns, the Least of all of them. It is said that it is as hard as to pass a camel through the eye of a needle, and for all of that, up there if it turns out there is a Heaven, at the gates you certainly will find the Least Tern -- should that be your final destination -- for it is also said that the Least shall be first.

Reverend Freethought of the Unity Church put down her pen after composing these lines for next Sunday's sermon. She then went out to the deck, which was a bit wobbly after the recent violent storm, and removed her clothes before getting into the hot tub so as to look up through the branches of the box elder at the stars and the full moon and consider how to work in the parable of the lilies of the field, they that sow not nor reap.

She was so silent and engrossed that she did not notice the raccoon that came along the fence from the back, nor the self-absorbed opossum that came along the fence from the front. The opossum apprehended the raccoon about the same time as the other noticed it and the two of them shrieked, each in their respective languages, causing Toby and Stella, two terriers that lived on the other side of the far fence, to launch a tremendous confab of barking. Rev. Freethought leapt up out of the water in alarm as the raccoon bounded up onto the outstretched arm of the box elder so as to get the advantage while the opossum leapt upon the fence.

The box elder branch, made heavy by the heavy rains and weakened by the powerful winds, abruptly cracked and came down with the raccoon onto the fence, which tottered, swayed, and all of which gave way with a crash into the street. The raccoon ran off to such refuge as raccoons find at such times and the opossum vanished amid a hullabaloo of terrier barking that was answered by dogs for several blocks in all directions.

Lionel, who had just closed up the Pampered Pup Hotdog Shoppe came around the corner at this moment to see Reverend Freethought standing there naked and knee deep in the hot tub, a new Venus silvered by the light of the bright moon.

"Are you all right," he asked.

"I wonder if you could hand me my robe," said Reverend Freethought, somewhat hoarsely.

Lionel obliged, then stepping back, reached into his shirt pocket, thinking of something to say that would be most appropriate for the situation. He half pulled out his reading glasses to display them, glinting in the moonlight, then said, "Good evening, Sir." And with that he left.

A little distance from that place, Dame Herrisson poked her head out of the burrow and said to the Don, "Les gens disent que les gens agissent fou pendant une pleine lune."

Which, of course, is quite true as it ever was. People say that people act crazy during a full moon.

"Es cierto, pero siempre estoy loco". Responded the Don, confirming both that he was always crazy and that males and females often seem to speak different languages at one another.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 4, 2014


This first image of the new year comes from Tammy and displays the bright full moon this past weekend.

It's not like "Full Moon over Alamagordo", but hey! We are good enough for a moody shot just as much.


Hope everyone got what was coming to you this past Xmas and that your New Year was raunchy and safe. Don't go firing your pistol in all directions -- not without adequate protection. You never know what is going to come down nine months later.

All the discussion in re Silly Hall is about Development and possible repeal of the hastily voted Del Monte Cannery project. It probably is okay, given that some kind of real estate vulture is needed to turn the place from a warehouse into something else, still, the idea it needs to be something else is up for debate.

Still again there are other massive development schemes underway and any visitor out to the new Target will get an eyeful of what to expect. We are glad Tim Lewis wisely refrained from continuing with the entanglement out on McKay Avenue, which likely would have spelled many delaying lawsuits and bad feelings.

The new Mayor, Trish Spencer, along with the slate of development moderate Councilmembers are now sworn in on a slim mandate to curb the reckless building and zoning variances that threaten to destroy this little place possessed of firm and inflexible borders.

It has been the pleasure for a couple decades to watch the relatives of Andy Pagano gather on St. Charles Street under the massive oak tree for a children's birthday celebration, featuring the traditional pinata bashing. Those kids rode their bikes and skated their boards up and down the street as they got older. They walked to the bustop on Lincoln and waited patiently for the 51 to take them to school and they graduated and they got jobs in town or in the City and in many cases moved out to the Valley as things got expensive here.

This is our town. We fussed and fought and got into trouble and fixed things up again. This is our home. We all grew up here; let's take care of it.

If you thought the house was a rockin' during the Holidays, you must know it was not due to hard partying. Two earthquakes have struck north of Los Angeles, shaking parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, but fire officials say no significant damage took place.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude-4.3 quake hit at about 7:18 PST on Saturday and was centered close to 50 miles north of Los Angeles near the town of Castaic.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a magnitude-3.0 quake occurred near the same place about 20 minutes earlier.

The Times says there have been three earthquakes of magnitude-3.0 or greater centered in the area over the last 10 days.

On the drought. Reports from the High Country say that all streams and waterfalls are flowing with vigor after the recent rains, but that disturbingly, there is no snow at all in Yosemite Valley and the daytime temperatures are warm enough to go around without a jacket. Photographs indicated sparse snowpack at elevation, which means despite the recent storms we are by no means clear of drought conditions as of this date.


The annual Island-Life CD is in Studio, still, and the last track needs to be recorded while everything else wants mastering and multi-track overlays. The Monologue is 22 minutes of insufferable tedium -- we do hope you enjoy that with stoicism when it finally comes out.

We are proud to say that this is the first year in which all material is original stuff created in-house by our hapless staff.


So anyway, a brand new full moon arose over the Island as we all sailed into another year. Now is the time to put aside the past year's disappointments and make a few resolutions. Denby resolved to drink a little less. The Editor resolved to drink a little more. Larry resolved to eat more cheese. Rev. Howler of Adelphian Iglesia del Luz de los Cajóns de Estacionamiento del Mundo resolved to make more money out of this cash cow he had going with the entertainment club he passed off as a "church".

Sabine, the Buddhist nun, resolved to be more mindful. And forgive and try to understand hapless people like Eugene who had fallen in love with her. Fe Corpuz resolved to be a little more devout. Her friend Mona resolved to help her be a bit more earthly.

Mr. Howitzer resolved to get more money and pay less in taxes -- same resolution for him as last year.

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their annual New Year's Eve Ball at the Parlor hall again. David rigged up a glowing discoball and set it to fall from the top of the main mast to Wally's schooner. Actually Wally's 20 footer had no masts to speak of, so he rented the restored 18th century brigantine that people could charter for excursions and for use as a privateer during pirate festivals. One would think pirate festivals were a thin way to make a living, but ever since Jack Sparrow appeared pirates of a certain type have developed cachet. Not real pirates like they have in the Malaysian islands or off the coast of Somalia. Those pirates have no pizzazz. They don't carry parrots around and go, "Arrgh, me maties!" or say colorful expressions like, "Heave ahoy and blow yer lubbards to windward! Avast abeam and starboard ya luffin' gunwale davit!"

Indeed now that pirates of the Spanish Main have got game, everybody is looking into the family tree in hopes there was a Bluebeard snatching the petticoats off of proper French ladies, when in the past, this sort of thing was kept under wraps and never told to the children.

Kids, of course, love the idea of pirates, because pirates get to swear a lot and go late to bed without brushing their teeth. Furthermore nobody ever demands that a pirate each all of the brussel sprouts on the plate. In fact, pirates don't eat vegetables at all. Pirates eat massive turkey legs and poltroons, which is probably a kind of candy, and hamburgers.

Try as he would, Mr. Howitzer could find no evidence of any English pirates in his family tree. There were a few robber barons who formed part of the railroad octopus, but nobody had ever gone to sea that he could find.

As it turned out both Mr. Larch and Ms. Light had pirate ancestors. So to did Luther, however his family was presently decent and law-abiding and they did not respect this distant relative who had plagued the Mediterranean Barbary Coast. That man, known as "Lashing Leroy", wielded a bullwhip ten feet long in battle and was known to be a rake and a scoundrel to the all the ladies between the south of France and North Africa. He was something of a black sheep, but Luther felt secretly a little pleased that one of his family had terrorized the same people who had enslaved so many others.

Unlike many pirates, Lashing Leroy got out of the piracy game in good time with his neck still attached to his shoulders, for he captured a woman from Ethiopia who proved to be such an excellent cook that the ship's crew persuaded the captain to retain her services instead of tossing her overboard for fishbait. It wasn't long before she was sleeping in the captain's cabin and not long after that she became the First Mate to succeed Old Firepants who got blown right off the ship during a nasty run-in with a British man of war. Once she became First Mate, she made the men start taking baths, dressing in something other than rags -- which meant that many of them started wearing uniforms taken from officers of captured ships. Then she had them pay heed to keeping the ship so tidy and well swept that when a French man of war on the lookout for pirates examined them via spyglass, they were taken for an English military vessel, and so were left entirely in peace.

It was while moored near Tunis that she rechristened the ship's name from Tsunami to Poesy Bucket.

So it was the ship sailed around the West African point to stop at Lagos, where Betty forced Leroy to marry here in an English missionary chapel. Shamed by these outrageous acts of propriety, as well as the crinoline-draped gunwales and all the lace doilies, and especially the toy poodle named Wow Wow picked up in Tunis, the crew mutinied and departed the harbor without the First Mate or the Captain who stood with his bullwhip drooping on the wharf as his ship left the harbor to return to its old ways. There was a little splash and sure enough a white head could be seen dogpaddling to the wharf, where the rather sodden Wow Wow pulled her self up by her front paws. The crew had simply tossed her overboard.

Leroy wanted to get another ship, but Betty would have nothing to do with this kind of nautical life. The last voyage Lashing Leroy made was aboard an emigrant ship that brought them to free state Boston Harbor, and from there the three traveled via many adventures until they came to the new Zion of Utah Territory where they had many, many children on the frontier, who dispersed themselves like flower seeds across the country. Leroy eventually died an old man in his bed, which is unusual for a pirate.

As for the crew of the Bloody Outhouse, formerly Poesy Bucket, nee' Tsunami, that ship was set upon off the coast of Libya by Portuguese warships and overwhelmed. The new officers were hanged, while the remainder were transported to serve hard labor on the then rocky Azores and the ship was sunk.

In the Old Same Place Bar, someone asked Padraic why there were no famous Irish pirates. The rest of the crew there were intent on the horse races starting up out at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley.

Padraic and Dawn both had to exclaim that quite to the contrary, there had been several notorious Irish pirates, starting with Edward Seagar, who changed his name to Edward England, because nothing to an Irishman was so vicious and bloodthirsty sounding as the sound of that hated name.

Then it was Dawn who referenced the Bonny Anne Cormac, who like many wild Irish girls simply could not stay quiet and demur on the plantation. Her mother had been a servant to Bill Cormac and when their affair came out, they fled County Cork for the American city of Charleston, where Anne got bored. So she married James Bonny, a basic ne'er do well and occasional pirate. Once again Anne fled, this time to the Bahamas after burning down her father's plantation. Here, again, Anne got bored of her husband who had turned to rather humdrum business of con jobs and narcing.

She then fell for a guy because of his pants, a certain Calico Jack. They ran off together after a bit of trouble with the husband, and the romantic duo turned to privateering. During one foray Anne desired to "have her way" with a fair-looking sailor but discovered in her room that the sailor was a woman named Mary Reade.

The two became great friends and they robbed and plundered with zest until, as with all pirate ships, they were captured by an English warship when the male crew hid below decks to avoid the withering cannonfire, leaving the two women to fight alone.

The survivors were all hanged, save for the two women. Mary Reade died in prison and Anne was released to sign a contract with Walt Disney Studios in 1721. Not many people know this.

Then of course, there was the most fabulous Irish pirate of all time, The Sea Queen of Connacht, Gráinne O'Malley. She inherited the large sea trading business started by her father, but soon turned her resources to other means. It seemed logical to here that since Galway collected taxes on ships that traded there, she as chieftain of the O'Malley clan had perfect right to do so as well. Naturally some captains refused this taxation, to which O'Malley responded with what may be termed "excessive force."

She lived quite a long time, exacted terrible punitive revenge on land and sea for offenses against her and her lovers, and in a moment rare for a pirate, after some relatives of her were captured, she sailed to England and was brought in audience to meet Queen Elizabeth, before whom she refused to bow as she felt the Queen had no lawful jurisdiction over Ireland. She did, however, surrender the dagger found under her bodice during the meeting with the Queen. There O'Malley negotiated with the Queen for the release of her relatives, the removal of a particularly odious English governor of Connacht, and the return of property she considered to have been stolen from her lands in exchange for ceasing all rebellious activities.

Her relatives were released, but the property retained and so was the English Governor, and so she returned to supporting the rebellious Irish Lords. She passed away of natural causes about the same time as Elizabeth, having caused about as much trouble as she could during her time. For which the Irish are very proud to have had her as one of their own.

"So you see," Dawn said. "The best of Ireland has always been the women in it. Ain't it right, Padraic?"

Padraic paused a bit, thinking hard, before saying, "It would be fatal to disagree."

"Righ'," Dawn said.

Just then the horn blew and the horses launched from the gate for the last of the trifecta at Golden Gate Fields. They were off on the first set of races for the New Year and the full moon hung overhead to gleam on it all, the dew and the sweat and the challenge.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their towers bedecked with holiday lights, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to the unknown future.

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















































Another Week Passed


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