JANUARY 31, 2010

Its been a soggy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The series of dockwallopers remains with yet another to drench the place on Monday, which will certainly lead to fairly cool weather.

Jose has been out in his garden, puttering under an umbrella while prodding the ground, looking for some signs of life. Does appear the freesias are starting to bud out and there are green shoots that look suspiciously like randy tulips, which always can cause some explosive energy when the season gets its mind around to change later on. The early favas are starting to erupt, which they will tend to do when planted in November. Yes, things are going on down there. You up there in snowbound Minnesota, just hang in there a bit. There will be mosquitos as big as sparrows bounding against the screens before long, just you wait.

Father Duran continues to make his daily revolution around the block that holds the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, turning smartly to the right as he proceeds clockwise on his regular course with his umbrella held stiff against the elements. Just as regularly, Pastor Nyquist of the Lutheran Church of Emmanuel proceeds as is his natural bent, anti-clockwise, around the same block and the two nod at one another every day in passing the bus stop on Santa Clara.

Its night now, and all the regulars in the Old Same Place Bar are talking about the upcoming Special Election which is to determine the future of the Island, as some see it. Word has it that SunCal has already put up another Initiative for the 2012 mid-term elections, in anticipation this rather silly one will be sure to fail, so it probably will not be such a big determination after all.

Still it makes for a lot of grand talk and the place is hopping with Dawn and Suzie serving up those "Gaelic Coffees", so called because Padraic insists no Irishman would ever devise an insult to the Water of Life that would mix base materials like coffee and cream with "daycent wishkey".

The more simple among us opt for a Fat Tire, which comes with its own assortment of ribs and puns. "You say you have a Fat Tire? Well I've got a pump and a spare in the back . . .". It does work better when the talk is between the coarse and the fair sex.

Jose heard that The Man with the Red Shoes was in town across the water for a full two weeks, but impecunious circumstances prohibited a visit by the Editor, who has long admired the successful Radioman. An effort was made, an honest effort. The Island-Life jalopy was hauled out from the shed and was made ready to go when the gendarmes pulled the thing over for a broken headlight, so back it was to the shed. The crew went over to Frederika's to try to hitch a ride over to the opera house, as we knew she had a date there, but the imperious doorkeeper held us at bay.

"Frau von Stade, hier sind Gammler und alles Unanstaendiges dazu. Was wollen Sie damit? Ah . . . du . . . weg! Einfach hau' doch ab!."

Ah yes, to be compared to trash and dismissed in the same sentence. Few enjoy the privilege. Or perhaps many.

Next, the plan was to obtain BART passage and perhaps entrance as embassadors in a side entrance. BART was amenable, albeit late. So rare for a regime which has made the trains finally run on time.

So the editor arrived at the Opera House in pelting rain and proceeded promptly to the stage entrance. To his great suprise, a burly man, entirely worthy of Dickens in apparel and demeanor, refused entry with many Anglo-Saxon attachments to his language, although his accent betrayed Eritrean ancestry. But if sufficient "drink money" were located, a position somewhere left of the lighting engineer might be found in the third etage . . .

In a steaming welter of rainwater the Editor fumed. Leon Spinks, Mohammed Ali and George Foreman have stood as geniuses of that Sweet Science, yet Anglo Saxon remains the language of refusal! Damn it!, he said. And still, it is Spanish that determines all that happens in California, for it is lack of Dolores that I now fail! Not enough dollars!

Jose stood there with a dripping umbrella, waiting for his boss to calm the fuck down and get real. "Why don't you just call your gabacho friend on the telephone when you get back. He is here two weeks already."

The Editor screamed, which caused several tourista to stop and stare, expecting a street performance, and the boys dragged him away as the SFPD began arriving with paddy wagons.

It was a dismal return on the sodding ferry, the last one of the night to the Island from the City, on which the Editor fretted and fumed on the deck above where on clear and sunny days the passengers admired the jewelry-draped skyline of Babylon, but which now swept rain and wind and all sorts of wind-born wrack and ruin against any who would dare stand up there on the bare metal planks. Back to the sadly middle-class and frumpy Island we all returned, with nothing to show for all our efforts.

The Man in the Red Shoes remained with his roadshow for an unexpectedly pleasurable second week over there in the Opera House across the water. Local faves bluesman Elvin Bishop and our very own Fredericka von Stade gifted the airwaves with the Man in Red Shoes putting in yet another enjoyable and grammatically correct show. Have to concur with Mrs. Sundberg: Listened to this week's show and must say, it was not bad.

To our great surprise the lovely Frederika sang a song about the Island, which moved many of us to tears -- we hadn't thought we were worth that much consideration.

Soon as that one hit, the transom overflowed with a deluge of messages from folks, all saying, "Didja hear that?!"

Oh dear. We are so Midwest that when anyone pays the slightest attention, we get all confused. Surely they meant some other island. Hawaii perhaps.

For those of you who do not know, the name "Alameda" is a Spanish word meaning "woody promenade" or "avenue of trees". Its also the name of the County.

At one time the largest natural grove of oak trees in the world grew here, extending from the Island up to the crestline of the hills.

As a last trivia tidbit, the song Garrison sings about walking in Golden Gate Park was based on "Down by the Salley Gardens", which goes to show you; you can't leave the Bay Area without a touch of the Irish.

In the Island offices, with their beat-up windowshades and broken slats and our humble fax machines, dusty shelves and tawdry cubicles our Editor damped and steamed his frustrations at missing the live performance. A bottle of single-malt scotch was brought out to ease the pain.

Later that night the Editor told a story to Jose about how once as a child he had run to a camp of gypsies to warn them of how a group of men were planning to come and destroy them, for he had heard all about it in the barber shop. He was really deep in his cups.

The gypsies knew of what he spoke, for this kind of thing they knew well, and as they broke their camp the captain there asked the boy if he wanted to come with them, become a gypsy. Of course, such a thing would mean never returning to his former life.

The Editor did not know exactly why he did not go with the gypsies then. It may have been something as trivial as not wanting to be late for dinner that particular night.

The gypsies left and continue to wander the earth to this day.

The Editor became a sort of gypsy to whom no place is counted home.

The Man with Red Shoes returned to Minnesota.

Jose went to the Old Same Place Bar, where the regulars sought Oblivion from the Economy and all things Sour. After after twenty years of Altzheimer Ronnie Raygun and violently idiotic Bushes, the long train wreck that is Current Events shall not shunt aside easily, not by Brakeman Obama and not by any ineffectual Congress of Wack Engineers either. It occured to Suzie, somewhere in midshift, that there is really no final decision in anything. Its all process along the way and what matters is the sum total of everything decided. So the Sister City Status and all of that does not matter. What matters is what you have done and whether you have been kind or not in the process.

In other parts of the country snow lay deep on the hillocks and passion lay buried beneath layers of guilt and oppression. It was deep winter and heaviness rested on the land. A crust of ice and snow layered the land in Minnesota; in Virginia, the rime encrusted all of the emotions of the moment, chilling desire, and in Massachusetts people actually contemplated electing a dastardly Republican to fill Ted Kennedy's seat. In Mississippi, the trout beneath the freeze. In Haiti, utter disaster prevails.

The Deep Recession continues.

Jose palmed Eugene's keys as the man fumbled for the door and drove the weaving and wobbling man home past the dark and watchful front of Officer O'Madhauen's Crown Vic. Small kindness a strange brooch in this all-hating world.

Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the rain-spattered waters of the estuary as it steamed its way from the port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront to parts unknown.

Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still pondering Life's Persistent Questions.