February 1, 2014





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.

The slender Officer Popinjay dangled zip-ties as he stood over the big man from Oakland who had wound up on the floor with Eugene in a chokehold.

"Gaaaaah!" said Eugene as the man released him.

"These, sir, are called 'come-alongs.'," said Popinjay. I will now demonstrate their purpose."

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.