JANUARY 5, 2014



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

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

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

Yes friends, once again it is Mourning in America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, we do practice.

There might be some collusion there between Floyd's group and at least one of the religious groups for wherever the Directionally challenged go in an automobile, there is always heard a great deal of calling of calling on the name of the Creator for salvation from immanent peril.

The sun was going down beyond the distant undulations of Babylon and lights in the ticky-tacky boxes on the hillsides began building the ropes of luminescent pearls as the pale horizon flushed with bright grenadine and blue anisette striped with creme du menthe colors, indicating the Sun was hellbent on a sweet bender after work.

Good to think that even Mssr. Soleil can kick back with his feet up and enjoy some time off, perhaps starting with a bit of Galliano.

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

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

"Say it brother!"

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

"O sweet Jaysus! O hallalujia! Hallallujia!"

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

"O hallalujia! Praise Gawd!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A good way to start the year.

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

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