(It Takes an Archepelego)

March 13, 2011

The seagulls came swinging in on what they must feel by now is a regular commute a day ago and sure enough, we had a sizzler come in Sunday evening as a prelude to things to come. Not much wind around here but we note some big stuff marching up to the Northwest with winds up to 60mph. Not sorry that missed here.

In a few days that front will sort of turn around and march back down again after some warming and cloudy days for a very wet weekend starting on the 18th. We are likely to have some showers leading up to a dockwalloper as the weekend winds up and that immense pinwheel of a system out there in the Pacific keeps slinging its arms like Pete Townsend.

For folks East of here, they probably will get a slight break, with the Midwest seeing some Spring-like weather and the swollen Passaic dropping some unless Canada has something more to say.

We are all getting heartily sick of this eternal Pineapple Express. With most of the houses having only iffy and afterthought heating systems, everybody's woodshed is drawing down to kindling and chips now. The houses are built in such a way that even folks from Montana are saying, "Damn, its cold around here!"

Nevertheless, the daffydowndillies have popped out under the leaden skies, with the freesias beginning to bust out and the jasmine blooming by the Old Fence, indicating something good is happening.

Wouldn't walk out on the frozen lake anymore up There. That Chevy parked on the ice is likely to bust through any day now.

Over at the Old Same Place, the folks who still have jobs, including the house contractors, the fitters, the Port longshoremen, the plumbers, some teachers and nurses and hospital techs among them, and all the rest have been clustering like bees seeking heat from Padraic's Celtic Coffee.

He calls that concoction made of whiskey, coffee, brown sugar, whipped creme and at least one Mysterious Ingredient smelling suspiciously like Bailey's a "Celtic Coffee" because he insists no Irishman ever would have invented such a monstrosity that abused the Water of Life so.

When someone knowledgeable comes in to order an Arthur Power or a Jamison's, Padraic will say, "Right! I'll make it a double!"

Naturally he and the bar had to listen to the recent PHC broadcast with its Irish Green Theme twice if not more.

"What are we coming on now?" said Dawn. "With the poor Genius man beggin' please do not kill our town! What is all that about, pray tell me?"

It was, of course all about the Reactionaries who were seizing power right and left, from the battled halls of Wisconsin to the Capitol itself. Now they are all talking about killing the National Public Radio, the last voice of Reason and Democracy in the country. So was the Man from Minot of opinion as he spoke his mind there. And many were there who had helped teach Der Governator a rude lesson not three years ago to mind his betters and heed the voice of Labor. Angry mutterings collected in the dark shadows of that room.

And what were we to have with no NPR but only Some Things Considered, This American Life - With some Exclusions, and Junk Science Friday, said Dawn. Its a shame. Will we then have only the ostentatious Peacock, the sneaky FOX, the cowardly Rat have voice while our little bird that sings have none? Why is this?

And at this, the Editor came into the bar for a quick one before putting the latest issue to bed. Padraic asked him how the grand Sister City plan was going. That is to say, the well-known plan to establish this status with a famous town up in Minnesota.

The Editor hemmed a bit at this and placed his order. O that harebrained scheme, well that's been put to bed.

There was an acre of frozen silence in that room then, across which a crow could have called an ensemble to sing "The Halls of the Mountain King."

That did not happen, of course. Dirt ruts in the crusty furrows of winter corn fields have more motion than that room at that moment. Tough men with hands hardened by working daily for years with winches and concrete drills looked at him with cold eyes.

Suzie quietly placed a glass of Fat Tire ale before the Editor before scampering back.

"D'ya mean ta tell me you are putting aside a life's work because of . . . what?" Padraic said.

In vain did the Editor expostulate about lawyers and difficulties and temperaments of the famous and their own insignificance in the face of all of it.

In answer, Padraic slammed down his mighty blacktorn stick upon the bartop, interrupting the Editor's excuses. "I tell ye we who defeated the Vikings at Baile Ath Cleath, at the Ford of the Hurdles, and sent them back running with their tails between their legs will not hear of this absolute ninny-nancy poodle equivocation not seen since Shem first shot the Russian General for his great insult to the Old Sod!" Intense was the fire in the man's eyes which called forth the terrible Finn Mc'Cool, and terrible is the wrath of Cuchulain in wintertime.

The Editor remained calm. "Render unto Luther what is Lutheran and unto the Great Goddess what is Californian," he wisely said. And all who sat there were amazed and confused.

"Should we not stand shoulder to shoulder with our Northern Brothers?" said Dawn. "And with NPR?"

"I do," said the Editor. "In our own way. Our towns are similar but not the same. Perhaps more alike than Shendong and the town called "Alameda", but that is not our concern. All small towns are more or less the same, for America is very large and it may be true that from coast to coast we all long with the same dreams, the same desires, have the same dashed disappointments in life, fall in love, marry, have children, grow old and eventually pass away to a little churchyard not far from the elementary school where each of us first learned ABC's from teachers just like Ms. Morales, whom I think some of you know.

This much we have in common and because of that if there is anything I can do to contribute with my little rattling alms-box of skills I will do so. Stand at the barracades of Homestead and hurl the stones of 1916 in another Railway Strike, which it seems we are fated to re-enact once again, I will do so. The ghosts of Samuel Gompers and Joe Hill visit me every night, for you do know that it was here that the national struggle took shape. A struggle that for too long, perhaps, got shoved aside as an inconvenient deduction from a too comfortable paycheck earned not by you but by people who died for the rights we all enjoy."

At this, those tough men of the docks and the warehouses sat back and meditated on this history, a slice of all they knew. It was here, right here, that the fury was born which transformed the Country from a nation of industrial serfs into a land of freemen. That had been a land where the worker was so made a cog he slept beside the machine he served. Now the times had led to the time of the Reactionaries whose one path led inevitably to either totalitarianism or a repeat of all the violence that had come before.

The Editor paid his bill and left.

Dawn spoke to a young girl with raven dark hair sitting by herself, pale and thin at the end of the bar. "If it isn't Moira O'Callahan herself. Sing us a song, love, and cheer us all up a bit, would ya now."

In answer the girl stood up and folding her hands below her waist sang in a high sweet voice so beautiful several tough guys fell in love with her all at once and began to weep.

Ag uirchill a' chreagain sea chodail mise
'Reir faoi bhron
Is le heiri na maid'ne thainig sinnir fa mo
Dhein le poig
Bhi grisoghrus garth' aici 'gus loinhir ina
Ciabh mar or
'S ba e iochshlainte 'n domhain a bheith
'G amharc ar a' rioghan oig
A fhiafhir charthanaigh, na caitear thusa 'nealta
Ach eirigh go tapaidh agus aistrigh liom siar sa rod
Go tir dheas na meala nach bhfuair galla inti reim go foill
'S gheobhair aoibhneas ar hallaf 'mo
Mhealladhsa le siamsa ceoil
A rioghan is deise 'n tu helen fa'r
Treagh sloigh
No do na naoi mna deasa, pharnassus thu
Bhi deanta gclo?
Ce'n tir ins a' chruinne 'n ar hoileadh
Tu, a realt gan cheo
Le'r mian leat mo shamhrhailsa bheith
'Cogarnaigh leat siar sa rod?

"That's lovely," said Eugene Gallipagus, the poodle hunter. "What's it mean?"

"I think its about a dead man goin' for a walk," Suzie said.


"You could say that," said Moira. "And he meets a woman who can cure all the ills of the world, and so she offers the young man hope."

"Speaking of dead men, look who's here, cute as a drowned rat stuck in a sewer pipe," Padraic said as the door let in a dripping boy. It was Aisling, who hesitated there. Last time he met, Padraic had tried to strangle him to death for being absent so long. Padraic had never really forgiven Aisling for getting himself arrested and put in the notorious Maze prison on account of being mistaken for an IRA terrorist. It had all been a terrible accident.

"Come in, love," Dawn said. "Don't be standing there letting out the warm air and letting in all the ghosts of the. You can take your break now," she added to Suzie, who knew the girl was great with the boy.

Suzie and Aisling went out and shared a cigarette under the eaves.

"Ah, young love," mooned Dawn.

"Aggggh!" said Padraic.

Things were silent and still at Marlene and Andre's Household. The entire household was gathered around a blue flickering tube from the battery-powered TV that Martini had rescued from the trash. Toshi, a friend of Martini's had family in Japan and she had been watching the tube and monitoring her phone constantly for hours now.

A great earthquake had struck Japan, registering 8.9 on the Richter scale and the subsequent tsunami had wiped out Japanese villages as well as towns in Hawaii. That morning a panic had swept along the California coastline.

Toshi, a neighbor girl was with them, for she was of need for company on this dark night of wind and weather. Her cousin, Kobyashi, was with them as well.

"Any word yet?" Marlene asked Toshi. She had relatives in Japan who lived in a small mountain village. All the lines were still down. An uncle lived not far from the atomic power plant. She kept her cellphone beside her every minute.

"No," she said and kept her eyes on the TV, which sometimes showed images of places she knew. Once she thought she saw a former schoolteacher run across the broken street in front of a fire.

Marlene made bread soup for everybody as the evening wore on, and handed the guests bowls of the simple, hearty stew.

There they were, the little community, sharing what they had. We who know disaster well.

As they ate their faces glowed in the blue light of the tube, and they all waited for news.

From far across the other side of the Island, the long wail of the the throughpassing train ululated across the patient, rain-dappled waves of the estuary and the society of wildflowers thronging 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.