It's been a quiet week on the Island, with many folks having departed the shopping frenzy and glitz of the Holidays for safer locales, such as Mexico and Ben Lomond. Even to such far flung places as Long Beach did Islanders fling themselves with severe anti-commercial spirit.

After all of the usual Holiday Hoopla: The lighting of the Menorah in Union Square, the annual downtown Revels with the "ice rink" with its fenced in area of artificial ice made of plastic sheeting, the Pageant at the Basilica of St. Joe's, the Midwinter Wiccan Dress Ball in the gymnasium attached to the Chapel of Lilith, Our Lady of the Golden Pentangle, the banquet held at Our Lady of Perpetual Complaint, and the Lutheran banquet held at Holy Emmanuel, with all traditions properly disposed of, most folks on the Island skipped town, turning Park Street into a windswept thoroughfare of blowing newspaper ads and silently blinking orniments. The place emptied out so much that Pastor Nyquist got together with Father Guimon of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Complaint on New Year's Day. On Xmas day seems barely five people showed up at the Basilica, with the same results for the Lutheran ministry. Seems a fair number of Lutherans had taken off for Hawaii this year to attend -- as they stated -- an international synod. The Catholics had all departed for Florida, and Fr. Guimon suspected that the weather was responsible for the absence of his flock as well as that of his friend Pastor Nyquist. Be it noted that unusual temps dropping to the frigid thirties hammered the Bay Area with unwonted freezings, such that some native San Franciscans were forced to shed their sandals and shorts in favor of long unused boots and trousers as the Holiday Season thrust itself upon us all.

Let it be remembered that the two opposing frames of thought had come together this past year due to a failed umbrella and the common habit of taking a walk about the block prior to sermon composition. Sharing a single umbrella, the two had come to syncronize their walks, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise about this block that housed both houses of worship.

So it was that the priest and the pastor found themselves perched on stools in the chilly rectory of the Basilica with glasses of claret on New Year's Eve. Each had a book beside to keep company and with which to bolster various arguments that only priests and pastors may find of significance. Father Guimon, something of a self-styled liberal, had a copy of Aquinas beside. Pastor Nyquist, a copy of St. Augustine.

Barbara came in late to stoke the fire in the hearth there and bid the two of them a good year and so the two of them left their books on the big oak table with its unlit candelabra to sit in the comfy chairs before a cheery roaring fire.

There they were minutes to midnight with a stillness all through the house except for the crackling of the fire and the sputter of the television set in the corner.

"We are quite different, you know, "said Father Guimon. He had already a bit much of the claret and was now on to the port.

"No doubt about that," said Pastor Nyquist who had brought with him a flask of brandy with which to share. "No common ground at all."

"Ah your chapel is so austere," said Father Guimon. "You know you ought to brighten up the place a bit."

Pastor Nyquist agreed with that estimation, to Father Guimon's surprise. Nothing too ostentatious or distracting of course. Perhaps a few flowers.

"It's difficult out there. Hard times are coming, I fear." The Lutheran said.

Father Guimon agreed. "There's far too much attention paid these days to the surfaces of things. But those that stray shall return. They always do."

"Hmmm. Often they do"

The clock ticked over to the midnight hour and outside those who remained on the Island fired explosives and various armaments into the air while the television jubilated with scads of confetti and noise of its own. Father Guimon's arm wavered in its path to clink glasses with Pastor Nyquist. "Happy New Year in any case."

And that is how Barbara found them, asleep in their chairs before the embers of the fire that was 2006 the following morning.

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