MARCH 3, 2014



So anyway the Island got hit with a series of serious dockwallopers last week, snarling traffic, clogging the drains and soaking just about everybody's panties.

The eaves got clogged up with leaves in a suspicious manner which had Mr. Cribbage out on a ladder trying to fish out soggy plant matter and god knows what else had died up there even though Mrs. Cribbage had ordered him to clean the gutters last summer. How on earth did those gutters get so bad so quickly? I don't know, must be the wind blew stuff in, according to Mr. Cribbage.

In fact on that day, Mrs. Cribbage had gone off to her regular tinting at Jaqueline's Salon, leaving Mr. Cribbage to his devices, and his devices turned out to be less gutter cleaning than practicing putting skills on the backyard green with Mr. Blather and a quart pitcher of sours that featured most of a fifth of Bombay gin. After two or three of those no way either man wanted to get up on the ladder which stood there, somehow necessary and important to signify the job already done. To keep the missus away a bit longer, he had Mr. Blather call his wife, also at the salon to have her hair done. Mr. Blather had Mrs. Blather drop by Pagano's for some work gloves and on the way drop in on Mrs. Dudgeon to find out what kind of tea that was served at her brunch.

That was Earl Grey said Mrs. Blather.

No, that was currant. Or maybe white grape with pomegranate. I am not sure. Might have been Assam . . . .

Ninny, it was Earl Grey.

Well she's on the way to Paganos. Don't forget the gloves. I am helping out the Cribbages with their gutter.

When he got off the cell phone he settled back in the lawn chair. He knew she would deliberately forget the gloves for she hated doing anything for him. But he knew for certain that she would complain to Mrs. Cribbage all about it and the two of them would drop in on Mrs. Dudgeon and have themselves a hen party complaining about each one of the husbands for hours.

"Pour me another one of those, old bean", said Mr. Blather. "Let's raise our glasses for the Grand Old Party."

Mr. Cribbage fetched two litter-filled garbage bags from his neighbor's yard, where someone had been raking up leaves and hedge trimmings, and placed them next to his own cans.

where you have ships, you will have rats

Now here was Cribbage up there in wind and rain digging out what turned out to be a family of drowned rats with a weed rake. The Island is a typical island with marinas neighboring one of the largest container ports in the world and where you have ships, you will have rats, hence the Island had an abundance of them doing the ratty things rats do -- having kareoke parties featuring sea chanties, scamper-dancing, and living the high life in the fruit trees.

Cribbage could, of course, driven to the day laborer spot in front of Los Marronitas Panaderia and collected one or two guys at the cost of $12/hour as Mrs. Cribbage suggested, but he was damned if he would support illegal immigration in any form or fashion.

Mrs. Cribbage opined that she did not think they were illegals, or they would not be standing in the same place out in the open every day like that, but Mr. Cribbage stood firm on his principles, which stated that proper work featured use of starched shirt and tie.

"Ugh!", said Mr. Cribbage as he tossed down another clump of decay. Wilbur Mills, his dog, sniffed with moderate inquistiveness. joined by Forbes from across the way.

"Get away from that!" Cribbage shouted. Then he thought about how his wife let the mongrel lick her face. "Nice doggie! Scrumptious!"

Down went another fetid clump. Then another. This released something and a great wash of water mixed with the offal of the entire world rushed over his arms as the dogs were joined by Polk, Jackson, Monroe, and Gingrich all getting up a fine canine party of sniffing and nosing each other's butts and the offal on the ground and back again, alternating with bouts of soggy humping between the ladder legs, pretty much as dogs with names like these are known to do.

right before the nose of Pete Wilson, the cat

The ladder tipped of course, (You knew that was going to happen) and Cribbage flailed about at the top of the second story. As the ladder seat smacked into the window of the girl's bedroom right before the nose of Pete Wilson, the cat, Cribbage grabbed the gutter for dear life. The gutter sort of sagged, groaned and peeled away from the roof, sending shingles sailing into the air, detaching at first slowly, giving time to think about matters, then accelerating with a brisk pace as bolts popped out from the frame, sending the bulk of Mr. Cribbage, buccaneer-style on a swing and still clasping his weed rake like a four-pronged Captain Hook with some momentum to the ground where he cartwheeled into the back drive area and sort of lay there groaning with a pain in his ankle and his back and the sluice of the now waterfalling gutter laving his sodden body liberally with mucky detritus.

The Lowell kid from across the street came over with his cell phone and wearing a bright yellow slicker and yellow rainboots. He was talking to somebody on the phone as he arrived.

"Well, I didn't see him fall exactly, just when his body slung around the end of the house . . . what's that ? . . . insurance . . . ?"

The kid looked down at Cribbage through rain speckled, thick eyeglasses. "It's a good thing Mr. Obama made sure we are all covered by medical now, isn't it Mr. Cribbage. Yeah, I am sure he's covered . . . what's that? O think he can afford that. Mr. Cribbage, the man says the ambulance is gonna cost you three thousand dollars. He wants to know if you are okay with that."

"Three thousand dollars! It's only two blocks to the hospital here!"

The kid shrugged. "That's the way it is. The Fire Department bought the city countract."

That is when Mr. Cribbage began moaning in pain.

"I think you better send the truck. He don't look so good." The kid clapped up his cellphone. "Thank heaven for social services, aint that right Mr. Cribbage?"

Mr. Cribbage groaned in response.

"I am so glad we live in a Democracy," said the Lowell kid.

"It's a Republic!" Mr. Cribbage shouted.

Mrs. Sanchez stopped in to Mi Pueblo to pickup some groceries for dinner. She chatted with Lupe there about the weather and what this meant for their gardens and their backyard livestock projects. Like Mrs. Sanchez, Lupe maintained a raised and well-defended chickencoop, clean and snug and dry with straw for the hens.
Lupe asked about Mr. Sanchez and Mrs. Sanchez, who used to be Ms. Morales, said his boss, Ms. Percy always wanted more work out of him even though he was doing everything he could right now. Lupe nodded. That is the way with some bosses, they want everything and always more. And more is never enough.

If only we had enough to live on and move to the Valley, maybe have a farm or something, Mrs. Sanchez said.

Well what makes you say that? said Lupe. Of course all of us would like to be gentlefolk farmers.

Ah! Things could have been different. He has a desueno.

You are kidding, your husband has a desueno.


A desueno is both everything and nothing in Alta California. A desueno was a land grant issued by the King of Spain long ago, even before Mexico was Mexico. Then Mexico also issued these grants, which consisted as documents as no more than drawings upon cowhide. Each desueno granted the owner many thousands of acres of land. But of course, this system was all cast aside after the gringos took over. Landowners spent an average of 17 years per lawsuit defending their titles after 1836. Many died before the resolution of the case.

Nowadays, these documents are mere curiosities, indicating that one's family had lived in California for many generations. They say only that one is a true Californio. We all know how little this accounts for anything today. Nevertheless, some people, like Lupe, understand what it means. Mr. Sanchez's family was here long before the American Revolution.

In the Old Same Place Bar there is some discussion about who won the Oscars and who won the Olympics in the benighted place that used to be best known at Stalin's birthplace. A few people talked about how the Iranian Naval fleet is approaching the edge of International Waters and now the Russians are within 200 miles of Miami, with only a few people recalling an incident that took place during the time of JFK.

Ultimately the talk revolved to more important subjects such as the newly revived salmon run and the prospects for steelhead fishing on the delta. Soon it will be time for trout. Governments rise and fall, but trout shall abide, not unlike the walleye in other parts of the world.

Crisis and disaster, but in the swift stream, after all of the horrific killing is done in the name of whatever national moloch is now popular, the fins of the still bodies of trout move beneath the surface. Trout shall abide.

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.