MARCH 17, 2013



So anyway, the fog hung low in the sky all week despite the best claims of the most solid weatherperson authorities at KCBS (All News All the Time!) or the Dowdy Rock station (Kaaaaaaay Fooooooooooog!) or the sometime alternative competitor (Live! One Oh Five! POINT! Three! Hey, we don't suck anymore!).

Yes, once again the radio is your friend. A little inaccurate, as all the media seems to have been for a couple decades or so, but now friendly. Word has it FOX is going to send old men in trenchcoats to the schoolyards to hand out candy to the kids.

FOX always has new ideas; sure, that will work.

So anyway to start again, the fog announces the change in seasons each year with a longish rollout that depresses everyone to the point that some folks even start to think about returning to live in the Midwest to enjoy the snow and the tornadoes. Family arguments loom large in this time, and many is the child who, lodged with relatives or the library during a violent spat winds up living like a gypsy on people's couches or in the stacks between letters H and G of the nonfiction, subsisting on cold coffee and abandoned pizza crust.

When Spring comes around, the sun shines and many families rebuild themselves. That is what the remaining SUVs are for. Mom and dad drive around, picking up the kids, or maybe trading a bad one for something better until the tank is full and then the hulking vehicle is palmed off on the next family, as those things are really useless for anything reasonable beyond demolition derby. You cannot park them, they use up gas and everybody reasonable hates you for driving something so grotesque and socially reprehensible.

"Look Harold! There goes another cash machine for the Middle Eastern Terriorists! Hey mister! Is your mother as ugly as your car?"

Tuesday night Pimenta Strife attended the monthly meeting of the Anti-SUV Proliferation Brigade. Latterly, since gas prices have taken a sort of gentle upwardly trending ski-slope advance, the mood has been festive. Since the ASP Brigade torched a car lot in Mountain View in a daring raid, some six years ago, the lots have not restocked and people are seeing used Hummers offered as option choice incentives by banks to open new accounts.

And many people are choosing the blender instead.

It was movie night and all the girls whooped it up watching the viral youtube thing about the car salesman getting pranked by a stunt car driver.

Main feature was a Sylvester Stallone pic. It never mattered what the movie was about -- big cars always get blown up in those kinds of movies. After Stallone fired a bazooka into a Hummer full of bad guys, Pimenta cried out, "God that makes me want to have sex!"

Spring is a dangerous time in NorCal. All kinds of stuff starts to happen after a few months of people living through a mild form of the kind of weather that they all imagined they had left behind. At this elevation (three feet for the island) we don't get a lot of snow and ice and forty-two degrees is a long, long way away from forty below in Minot or St. Cloud, but it sure is also a long way away from the ever longed-for Paradise.

Yes, we'll all enjoy Paradise once the fire damage is all cleaned up and the house is paid for and the kids have finished with detox and psychotherapy and the crazy neighbor next door has been shipped off to a comfortable padded cell.

Denby has been driven to distraction by the guy next door, who turned out to be related in some mysterious way to his landlord Mung "Bean" Bang. Bang had always been skittish, not wanting to hang around long even to check things out with his property, and Denby found out why.

One day this fellow, named in all improbability Nevermore Mung, popped up over the fence -- itself an improbability as the fence stood some nine feet high -- and giggled wildly before announcing, "I am back!"

Later, when Denby peered over the fence he saw coi ponds, a garden, bamboo, but nothing on which the man could have stood to appear chest high above a nine foot fence. Where had this fellow been up until now? Where was he back from?

Back from exactly where became clear when Denby caught the fellow doing some amateur repair work one day on the side of the tattered Julia Morgan style house.

"What the hell are you doing buddy?" Denby said.

The man was was using a crowbar to rip shingles loose. Which he replaced with untreated, unstained boards.

"I fix! I fix! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

"You dip those in any kind of flame retardant" Denby asked.

"You dip those in any kind of flame retardant" Denby asked, remembering at least one memorable conflagration in the East Bay.

"No no! I paint! Later I paint!"

Another day Nevermore buttonholed Denby telling him that he had to replace the furnace screen. That it had been put off. That he wanted to do it right now.

Recalling that something on the order of 24 hour notice was required for maintenance, Denby refused. He also changed the locks and gave Mung copies. Pretty soon Nevermore was pounding on the door with surprise. "Hey! You change lock! I cannot get in!"

That's fine, Denby said.

A young man named Stephen lived next door in a separated outbuilding. This man always had the look of someone who carried the entire world on his shoulders. Not a good presentation for a twenty-something guy who worked at CVS as a cashier.

Who is this guy? Denby asked.

"That's my father," Stephen said. "He is back from Vietnam after two years."

I notice my tools have wound up in your back yard. Including the garden hose nozzle. Can I have them back?

"Sure. I don't why he did that."

Denied the opportunity to vent, Nevermore began "cycling"

It became clear that the house, fraught with wacky electrical wiring, bizarre plumbing with fixtures installed backwards, ham-handed door hangs and askew cabinets had been the special project for Bang's troubled relative. Denied the opportunity to vent, Nevermore began "cycling" as the psychologists like to say. One night there was a lot of noise and activity next door and when Denby got a chance to stand on a chair and look over the fence, he saw that the coi ponds and rock gardens were gone, replaced by a fifteen by twenty foot elevated wooden deck with stairs and populated with handmade benches and picnic tables. This had all been done within twelve hours.

One day the ten-foot long garden that Denby had started with nice piles of dark loam just disappeared. Denby found the dirt had been dumped on the front lawns of his place and the house next door.

What's with the dirt on the lawn?

"O that is fertilizer. We do that every year."

That was my garden. Why did your father take my garden?

"I don't know why he did that."

Just another day in Paradise. Where the damaged goods of an eroding Empire with its history of inflicted foreign misery wash up in any sort of condition, useless or not.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic had geared up the place for Lá Fhéile Pádraig, or at least the American version thereof.

Back on the Auld Sod, St. Patrick's had been a religious festival, which generally meant that the pubs were all closed. The Irish realized that the Diaspora retained a mist in their eyes such that St. Patrick's Day in Chicago had turned from a proper observance into one of parades and showing the green and lots and lots of potcheen.

Not wanting to disappoint the tourists, or let the opportunity to make a few punts or two, the Irish opened up the pubs and took to St. Patrick's day with zeal, some one hundred years after the Americans had started the whole thing. Of course the priests objected about all the carousing on what was supposed to be a religious feastday, but the priests were no fun at all and they did not make any money for anybody but themselves, so wiser minds prevailed.

In like mind, Padraic had outfitted the last remaining bastion of the Republic on the Island after McGrath's had closed to become a poofy fern bar with no music because of a cantankerous roomer who imagined that living above a bar ought to be an exercise in temperance and quietude, Fridays and Saturdays included.

Eviction is designed for troublemakers like this, but in this case, the Nazi's took France and the Netherlands.

In any case, Padraic and Dawn did up the place quite nice with improved Guiness signs, lots of green ribbon and Suzie clad in an ultra-short miniskirt with a cute green beret. Pots of green clover stood here and there. The IRA contribution jar stood there prominently well away from the pickles and pigs feet.

In years past, strange visitations had occurred on this night. One year, the Angry Elf gang had attempted a bold takeover robbery. That nefariousness had been quashed by the magic of the Bay Area.

"I would like to speak to you of magic," said Anatolia Enigma. "As you know I make my living performing prestidigitation, sleights of hand, rabbit out of the hat sorts of things. I have practiced these arts for many years and I can tell you that there is very little I do not know about sawing women in half or escaping from chains while suspended in a sealed vault of water. But all of this pales in comparison to genuine real magic."

"Tell me about magic," Suzie said. "I am not sure I believe in it."

Here Anatolia's eyes opened wide and he raised his gloved hands with exaggerated astonishment. "Ahh! I am amazed you, of all people would say such a thing, for in young women as yourself, there resides a great and powerful magic indeed! O I wish I had the power to beguile young men and older men such as you!"

"O c'mon!"

"Let it be known to all who would hear, for all who still have ears to observe, eyes to pay heed, no one comes here for the weather, nor do they come here for health or wealth. All who come here come here for the magic that is here. Such magic as makes all of my tricks, remarkable though they may be, picayune and trivial!"

somebody forgot to write down the passcode of the month

"O yeah!" Someone said from the peanut gallery. "Then show us some of that magic if it is so great." It was Mr. Spline sitting with Simon Snark. Mr. Spline worked as a Fixer for the Company, a government agency which had such a long ridiculous name that was so highly secret none of its employees ever could repeat it or its acronym in mixed company, not even to their own closest family members. In any case, to throw off the terriorists and similar un-American types, the higher-ups changed the agency name every few years along with the main passwords to all the ultrasecret data. This caused a minor contratemps when somebody forgot to write down the passcode of the month and so 30 days worth of top-secret data regarding North Korea, Iran, China and Martha Stewart remained unavailable, lost forever due to the best state of the art encryption routines ever devised. As it turned out, not much happened that month and nobody really noticed.

That is how secret the Company happens to be, with a name nobody even remembers because it changes all the time.
So everybody just shrugged and calls it the Company, which sounds just ominous enough to frighten teenage girls not into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Director can still get funding from Congress.

neither one of them had any friends they could trust

Mr. Snark was the local operative assigned to keep tabs on foreign interests on the Island. While Mr. Spline always dressed like he was applying for the position of funeral home director, Mr. Snark always looked like an operative should look -- rumpled and splattered with paint as if he had been working on houses all week. The two of them were very nearly inseperable. Largely because neither one of them had any friends they could trust.

"Silly man! This magic presents itself every day to you. But I will elucidate! Yet before I eludicate, I diverge and prevaricate in this slight digression as I am now summoned by powers greater than myself," Anatolia went on.

Anatolia's eyes grew large and luminous. His cape grew darker and more voluminous. His white gloves danced in the air.

"And now, called by the great numinous forces of light and dark, I present to you with some trepedation and anticipation fraught with the most extraordinary forboding of those terrible and wondrous astonishments reserved now for your very own eyes, the exemplary exactitude and highest exemplar of dimininuative magical persons everywhere . . . the Wee Man!

A poof of smoke and there he stood, once again, the Wee Man. He stood some three feet high, wore a neat waistcoat with fob and watch, clean trousers, and buckled shoes. Upon his head he wore a newsboy cap. His face was either very old or very young, depending upon the light. Everyone later agreed he was the very same Wee Man who had visited last year.

He walked up to the rail where Eugene made a place for him by vacating his own seat to stand there with his beer in hand.

Dawn asked him what he would have.

Guinness of course, said the Wee Man.

"And while you are waitin'?" Dawn asked.

The Wee Man's eyes crinkled with pleasure. "This is a place that understands," he said. "Power. I'll have an Arthur Power."

"Right you are, "said Dawn, beginning the stacking of the Guinness. She set down a glass of amber liquid which the Wee Man drained in a huff before ordering another and looking around. He noticed Suzied and jumped off his stool with great excitement to peer up at her and hold her hand.

"How are you my dear girl"! said the Wee Man. And he bowed and had Suzie bend a little so that he could kiss her hand. When she stood up, towering a good four feet above the small person, he clapped his hands with delight gazing upwards with shining eyes and said before turning away to re-ascend his stool, "I am so glad you now wear matching lace!"

Suzie hesitated then belatedly smoothed down her skirt and turned rather red.

"Both I and life are short; best to take advantage of both while one can," the Wee Man said to Eugene. "What's that you are drinking?"


"O that's harsh! Give that man something to put hair on his chest, for I know in truth he surely could use it." The Wee Man tossed a gold coin on the counter. I say who here is up for some music and dancing?"

"Nevermind that," Mr. Spline said. "What about all this magic we have been hearing about?"

Everyone, knowing all about the Wee Man and the things of which he was capable stood back in a hush, fearing the worst at this impudence.

"Here's your Guinness," Dawn said, hoping to avoid trouble.

But the Wee man got down from his stool and came over to the table of spooks and stood there looking sadly up at Mr. Spline.

"O! My dear! Dear, dear, dear, dear! You are the saddest person I have ever seen. You have no real friends you can trust and even your own family does not know each other."

"You are a fake," Mr. Spline said. "Smoke and mirrors. In the light of day, poof! and you are gone."

this island is no more than 3 feet in elevation yet the tidal change . . . is more than 7 feet . . .

"Look around you! You see the hummingbirds and the birds of paradise and the astonishing miracle of the waves? Do you know that every authority and scientist knows this island is no more than three feet in elevation yet the tidal change in the bay is more than seven feet every six hours? How is it that you do not drown from day to day? Have you ever thought about that?"

"There is an explanation for that . . .", began Mr. Snark.

"Of course there is," said the Wee Man. "But it does not matter. The magic is that it happens at all. Same reason trains in the fog sound more loud, more full of soul."

"Well that's because the moisture in the air makes the medium denser and sound travelling . . .", began Mr. Snark.

"Idiot! It's because fog makes things mysterious!"

"O for pete's sake!" said Mr. Spline. "This is getting nowhere."

"Finally, we agree on one thing," said the Wee Man, who clapped his hands. The lights went out and by the time Padraic had found the breaker box to get things turned on again in the bar the Wee Man was gone, along with two thirds of his Guinness and several pairs of women's knickers, which had been supposedly safe and warm and doing their respective jobs in place until a few moments ago.

Several sudden commandos emitted surprised gasps, to be sure.

Eugene held a full, brimming glass of a dark hopsy beer and Mr. Spline was struggling with something in his coat. To everyone's surprise, when the man finally undid his buttons, a large live salmon wriggled in a shoulder holster where the man clear had expected something else.

Spline tugged and tore at the fish until he had to remove his coat and take off the leather harness. He and Snark left in a huff while the fish lay on the table gasping, until Dawn took possession of it.

"No reason to let the fellow go to waste," she said.

"Hey!" someone said complaining. "The Wee Man turned my knickers into fishnets!"

"I don't know why he did that," Suzie said. "Here's your tab."

Indeed, thus ended another somewhat eventful St. Patrick's Day at the Old Same Place Bar. And of course that's when the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the dark green waves of the estuary brushing the rip-rap and wavered across magically rustling grasses of the Buena Vista flats where shamrocks nodded, the locomotive glided 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.