February 20, 2011


A big dockwalloper set in Monday with enough virulence to knock the feathers off of the seagulls, and then kept up the pounding nearly every day until Sunday. Folks heading to work at the factories in Richmond had to get out ice scrapers to clear their windshields, while a fair number just stayed home in bed.

Monday, of course, was the big V-Day. And the weather made a perfect excuse for many to stay not only indoors but under the covers. It did help if someone were there already to provide some body heat. All over girls appeared in the late morning wearing thick robes and holding coffee mugs behind steam-clouded windows before disappearing back into the shadows of their houses for the rest of the day, while bouquets appeared on doorsteps everywhere.

Despite the weather, Lionel opened up the Pampered Pup with a whistle and a jaunty step.

Seems his date with Jacqueline went well Monday night. The two of them had dinner at Cera Una Volta on Park Street and then caught a movie at the newly renovated Paramount Cineplex. We don't have many romantic restaurants on the Island, for here the taste runs to places like the wholesome Juanita's, the sturdy Island Grill, the very democratic Casa Azul, the even more democratic Chinese buffett on Webster, the family-run Everett and Jones BBQ and the heartland corndogs of Der Wienerschnitzel, all places where the mechanics, the print-shop workers, the fishermen, the day laborers, the leaf blowers, the low level clerks, the teachers, and the house restorers feel comfortable enough to put their elbows on the table.

Don't be surprised we have only one wine and cheese shop on the Island.

In any case, things went well for Lionel, for once and his friend Arthur was dying to hear all about it at the close of the business day.

"Yo brother, you finally bringing out your deep warrior self, man . . ."

"O please," said Lionel. "Sounds like you been hanging too much with them Robert Bly types."

"I'm talking about roots, man, roots. So how'd it go? I heard our main man Thomas got to homeplate last night. And that foxy Yvonne came to work with her hair all out like a wild animal pulled on it!"

"Arthur, don't you think you need to get on with your own life instead of messing with other people's? You remember old Will said 'The best part of myself is my reputation'. He said that, old William. Y'know what I am sayin'?"

"Yeah I remember that. But he also said, 'The very flies do lust in my sight . . .'."

"I think you are badly misappropriating there, Arthur."

"Well all right about that. I'll admit that old king was nuts. But there's also this:

'As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put beside his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharged with burthen of mine own love's might.
O! let my looks be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love, and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.'

"Well," responded Lionel. You remember the lines well, but 'Speak the speech trippingly upon the tongue . . . Do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently . . . O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings.' So when are you going to get a girl for yourself Arthur? There is also,

'THEN let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distill’d:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-kill’d.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigur’d thee;
Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir'.

So there!"

It may seem odd to hear such fellows as these, the owner of a hotdog shop on Park Street and a garage mechanic talk in such a way, but let it be known that Lionel and Arthur came from a generation who's parents were not allowed the luxuries of things like decent public schools, and in some places were not allowed schooling or books or learning in any formal manner whatsoever. Whole generations steeped themselves in the great books of the philosophers and the poets by flickering candlelight and the soft voices of their mothers in broken wood tin-roof shacks, becoming far more learned than their alleged masters, for to seek Truth and meaning under the lash and the chain becomes far more critical to the man in that position than he who finds both The Republic and Nicomachean Ethics only to be onerous chores interfering with pleasure and business both.

Those who would decry the worth of public schooling today apparently have never learnt their history proper. The greatest enemy to tyranny is education -- and They know it.

"O I get some now and then. Don't you worry about me," Arthur said. "In fact I been keeping my eye on one particular foxy lady right now."

"O really now." Lionel said. "And who might that be? And does she even know anything about you?"

"Wellllll . . . there is this Jeralyn . . .".

"Jeralyn, the Gospel singer!" Lionel was shocked. "That woman is steeped in the Lord! You rascal, you talk about 'gettin' some now and then' and you haven't been inside a church of any denomination for well over the twenty years I have known you! What's got into you?"

"Uh, I heard her singing on the radio and I, . . .uh . . . it reminded me of . . .".

"Talk about aiming high! I think this is the Stairway to Heaven up the Tower of Babel. It reminded you of what? Being a child I guess, 'cause you sure acting like one."

"I am going to get spiritual and pure," said Arthur. "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment . . .".

"O for Pete's sake. You tear down that poster in your crib of Miss February yet?"

"O I will get to that . . .".

"Hah! And throw away your little black book of names and numbers?"

"O that's on computer now . . .", Arthur said.

"Marriage of true minds. There can't be one 'cause you got nothing between your ears! Damn fool waterhead . . . ".

"I think I am going to be going now," Arthur said as he eased out the door.

"Stop by the Old Same Place and have a double on me, Mr. Spiritual! 'Cause that is exactly where I know you are heading instead of Pastor Bauer's".

"Bye Lionel!"

The Island does have a collection of people who do reflect the vast improbable mixture of the People that is America, with all their strengths and their foiables, their loves and dislikes, their smartness and their foolishness. If you are going to love America, and California in particular, you have to love the People, who surely can be contrary sometimes.

So the day drifted into night a little later than yesterday, and a little more later than the day before. The solstice had passed and old Gaia was ever so slowly turning her head towards her warm Son, Mssr. Soleil.

In the Old Same Place Bar Suzie placed a glass in front of a woozy Arthur and asked if she needed to call a cab.

"Y'know, that Lionel gets real tetchy when he gets into that love business." Arthur said.

"I've heard some people do," Suzie said before turning to the evening close-up.

"About zeese luff sings, I know nossink, nossink, nossink!" Old Schmidt said from his barstool.

Right then the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the romantic moonlit waves of the estuary and the star-lit wildflowers of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.

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