February 21, 2015


After the Party


So anyway, word coming from Boston is that Snowmageddon is in full swing out East. Indeed, these are hard times, hard times indeed and the hard time killing floor is sweaty with the blood that has been spilled just to get by and put meat on the table.

Now is the harsh time of bitter wind against the cheek and the scarf pulled up and the ice reaching past all crevices to steal into the chambers of the heart and there seize with a cold grip the last defences against cruelty until the savage beasts of commerce and rule laugh and shout in echoing halls over the smoldering, gleaming heap of their riches, the coiled worm dozing in the halls of victorious Smaug, the dragon of winter's avarice.

Now is the time when black tree bones scratch against the pearl-grey sky when the wind picks up and the white flags of winter chimneys, pleading truce against the moon. From the mirrors of a modern bank. From the windows of a hotel room.

And some of us sit in cafes, drinking Earl Grey tea, defectors from the petty wars that shell shock Love away.

When Denby got out of the jail on Seventh Street, after last week's St. Valentine's Day massacree debacle, the hookers let out about the same time strode into the street boldly, still dressed in red negligee's and pouffy boas, chilly in the mouth-breathing clouds of air, hailing taxis to take them back to some place for a shower and a meal or someplace warmer. As for Denby, he had to walk down to Webster and go through the Tube and walk along through the fumes and the shopping-cart people, rumbling along with their plasticbag loads and mumbling to themselves, to get home and then out to the Native Sons Parlor to help Pahrump clean up after the Ball.

He had hoped to avoid his usual bad luck with V-day by going to the movies and hiding in the dark, but things had not worked out according to plan. They never do.

And why was the theatre showing 50 Shades of Grey, a raunchy B&D flick with Spongebob Squarepants anyway?

There is a flu going around. And a nasty infection associated with it. Everyone is getting this thing and offices everywhere are full of hacking, wheezing people suffering through chills and coughing and loads upon loads of phlegm upchucked into wastebaskets and sinks.

There is the flavor of Halls menthol and Vicks and Robitussin and metallic clang of antibiotic and loads of chicken soup from a can because everyone's grandmother who knew how to make the stuff right is dead. Dead as rocks. And there is another terrible reminder.

We are all looking forward to an end to this particular winter, not just the Bostons.

Meanwhile an incensed Javier wants to go and toilet-paper Sean Penn's house in Marin over his comments at the Oscar ceremonies, but Jose, the younger man, feels this would not help the image of hardworking, decent Latino emigrants and Pahrump refuses to give him a ride over the bridge on his scooter. So Javier was left to stomp around on the porch, angrily cursing in Spanish.

"Hey Javier, I heard your girlfriends had a run in with a flasher at the theatre," Marsha said. "Some naked guy and he wasn't even you."

"Todos los gabachos son estupidos!" Javier said. Marsha laughed.

"He have anything worth looking at," Suan said, idly.

"Eh," Javier said making a planar guesture with his hand. "Que colgaba."

"Ask him if he needs a job. We are building out the Apollo Center at the Crazy Horse," Suan said.

"I didn't know the Crazy Horse swung that way," Sarah said with some interest. She had spent Valentine's Day performing for the Cupid's Ball fundraiser at the Native Son's of the Golden West.

"Baby, we got something for everybody at the Horse," Suan said.

Pahrump, sweeping up the detritus of the Valentine's Dance at the Native Sons of the Golden West Hall leaned on his broom as two women wearing clubwear sparkledresses and high heels came through from the ladies room. Denby stood there staring, looking haggard after his night in the tank.

"Don't mind them amigo. The likes of them ain't gonna have nothing to do with the likes of us."

"Sure enough, bro," Denby said and he resumed sweeping.

Valentine's Day, like many of these artificial holidays, is a time for some people to make money, like Suan and Sarah, and for others to get into trouble, like Denby and Javier.

President's day is one of those odd ones shoehorned into the annual schedule which seemingly benefits no one save for mattress salesmen. Perhaps it is fitting that this one follows hard after Valentine's Day, for how many people really spend any serious time thinking about their mattress unless someone else makes a comment. Or some event causes wan hope to rise in favor of future opportunity. Most bachelors don't even wash their pillow cases more than twice a year. Admit it.

In any case another week passes and its all back to work, leaving the nights of disappointment or mad passion, whatever has been one's luck this past V-day, to leave ashes, bottles and wrappers as forgotten reminders in the gutters along the curbs.

Over at the Old Same Place the paper hearts and pink bunting remain up on the windows and unused candies with cute sayings remain littering the tables. A disconsolate cupid with flaking gilt dandles at the end of the Snug with his arsenal of projectile weapons chipped and blunt, his bow waving a broken string above Denby who plays his instrument quietly with his fedora pulled down over his eyes.

Listen: a clarinet oodling its way through passageways. Strains of Benny Goodman drifting through smoke and pinewood trees.

Eugene, whose idea of hot pursuit in Romance is dropping a line through a hole cut in the ice out on a frozen Sierra lake to wait their with a warm hip flask for something to happen, mulls his cider with as much thought as the man can muster at any one time. He is actually debating with himself as to whether a spoon lure should have string or feathers. Obviously, he is not one for Relationships; trout are moody enough.

A sailor from Coast Guard Island fished through his pockets, looking for a last cigarette while he unraveled the facts of his wandering life to the unlistening bartender or perhaps to the mirror behind her.

Suzie, sitting behind the bar has her Anthropology text open to the chapter on the Bonobo while the patrons come and go, the serious drinkers raptly intent on one thing and one thing only, while the ever hopeful and flirtatious hunters and temptresses remain intent on one thing and one thing only, albeit with different goals than the drinkers. Each has his and her dance in the forest. Maeve is sitting there close to the Man from Minot with her legs crossed, one shoe dangling half off her arch.

"Courtship rituals among the Bonobo are remarkably free of pretense or showmanship, as is found among other tribes in the Congo. They freely mingle and mate with joyful abandon with undisguised affection and sympathy for one another. When a Bonobo finds someone he or she likes, they simply take the other's hand and off they go . . .".

"Lifting houses sounds like such fascinating construction work," Maeve says. "Tell me more about the joists and the jacks. . .".

Down the street, The Editor emerges from his mancave with a large garbage bag of whiskey bottles and empty Michelina's frozen dinner containers as the City street sweeper hugged the curb down the block, shoving empty bottles ahead of its brushes. He drops his bag into the trashbin near midnight and pauses to regard Orion tumbling over the Veteran's Hall before returning inside as the night unspools and the laughing stars twinkle on a night with no sirens and no screaming. The weekend night remained silent and peaceful and calm and no one got shot and no one got stabbed.

The Editor turned out the light, leaving the town in the keeping of the one who was sweeping up the ghosts of Saturday Night.

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.