MARCH 28, 2012


So anyway, the seagulls shrieking over the Safeway parkinglot should have clued people in, but when the dockwalloper hit, armageddon sluiced through the gates and folks holed up with their Redbox and their Netflix and their new IpadIV's, because nobody wants to soil Air Jordans costing two hundred bucks in that grimy downpour.

Midweek San Francisco BART was void of traffic during normal rush hour and you could have played handball across the tracks at the Civic Center Station from one platform to the other.

The Conservative Debate between Babar, Nick Vilespew, Greg Grigfish, Ron Forgotten Raul, and Milt Rumbletumbly. A brace of Mormans showed up at the bandstand on Jefferson Park with umbrellas in support of Milt, but water had shorted the PA system so the whole affair had been called off.

Vilespew continued his campaign of savage ad hominem attacks

At this point, Rumbletumbly enjoyed a significant lead over the others for the Primary on his platform of Cause Least Damage Unless it Pays. Vilespew continued his campaign of savage ad hominem attacks, promulgation of hatred as a core American value, and brilliant foot-in-mouth expostulations. Grigfish continued his damage-control efforts as yet another ex-wife popped out of the closet to demand patrimony and apologies, while it seemed all but certain that Raul would abandon the GOP to run as an Indie candidate, which caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth in the halls of the Hoover Institute. In short, it was another delightful political season for the Primaries.

Over at Marlene and Andre's, the depredations of the Angry Elf Gang had wreaked havoc for a time, until the common decency of those people who had suffered their entire lives under the boot of the evil and the powerful repelled the efforts of the gang to destabilize their community. The gang tore down the bean trellis, broke the hamster run, flooded the basement, got into the House accounting files, and generally made nuisances of themselves the way proto-facsists and petty Napoleons tend to do.

But these people are people used to far harder times than anything the Angry Elf could dish out. He, himself, had been born of a comfortable middle-class existence in a warm Brooklyn brownstone, and so the true savagery of the world had always passed him by, leaving a sort of fuzzy romanticized concept of toughness, and a sense that the real way to get things done was to be hard as nails and tough on everybody else because, as he saw it, tough square-jawed men ruled the world and always got what they wanted.

The Elf loathed and despised his father

In high school the Elf watched as the president of the Aquarium Club, Frank Frangiponi, used his relatively innocuous position to get keys to rooms in the school, which he used liberally after hours for the ostensible purpose of getting equipment and supplies for the fancy saltwater tanks -- which were actually maintained by kids he lorded over. In reality, Frank held furtive blackjack games in the classrooms where he as the House always took a 30% cut, sold pot and powders out of the janitor's closet, and even used the couch in the faculty lounge so that his small stable of schoolgirls could make money for him turning tricks with members of the football team.

Nobody could tell Frank what to do; he always ran the game. In exchange for cleaning the algae of a particularly stubborn glasswall tank, Frank told the boy doing this labor that Frank would get him a really good date to the Homecoming. Somebody really hot. Like that Jennifer. You know - the one with the sweater. Frank seemed to know how things got done. He always researched the facts ahead of time and he did a lot of people a lot of favors. He did a lot of favors for people, and a lot of people seemed to wind up owing Frank a lot of favors in return. Frank was the man.

When the Elf went out on the streets of Brooklyn, he saw how the sleek black-jacketed thugs always got their way, pushing down the meek, stepping to the head of the line, taking what they wanted. Back at home his milqtoast father, Milton, sighed about troubles at the hat factory and the lousy plumbing in the building, which rattled and banged each winter. The Elf loathed and despised his father and had emotionally written off his mother long ago; she was just an adjunct shadow, an irrelevancy to pointlessness.

The Elf started off doing favors for Frank. I hear you need this pump thing for the Club. Let me get it for you. You want a sandwich, hey, I know the guy who runs the shop on the corner; let me get it for you.

High school came to an end, but in Brooklyn, up near the Bronx Divide, there were plenty of guys just like Frank. They were not hard to find and they were easy to please.

As the Elf began to shark loans, run card and dice games, operate minor fencing relationships and moderate "insurance" deals, he came to despise the shills and marks he took advantage of, and with this loathing came a certain self-loathing in that all of his deals on the Brooklyn streets mattered not a jot in the eye of an indifferent God, barely covered expenses in the face of the fabulous scams run by the truely powerful. Really, all the time every day he was just being a lower form of employee, doing "favors" for somebody else for the sake of the scraps left over.

He began skimming some of the powder, mixing it with bathroom chemicals and making his own deals. He scored business contracts to handle drugs from Columbia out of Medellin and coming in through the Port Authority station. Then he got connections to handle weed from Mexico and things started to look pretty good. He developed friends, like Jim Sharkey who handled the Port with Elias and he got Dicky from high school to help out so he didn't have to go down there himself. He did the same with deliveries coming out of the airport, using Vinnie and Carl to handle all of that. Pretty soon he was as big as Frank, which eventually turned into a bad problem.

He didn't know who fingered him, but there came a time when even the once all-powerful Medellin cartel got broken up and when the cops came for him they didn't rush in with the TAC squad and bulletproof vests. Two bored-looking beat cops came to his door with a plainclothes dick and they took him to the Big House and a room where a couple more plainclothes cops sat right up next to him with their knees touching him on either side. Officer Tortorelli and Officer Sandusky.

The Elf demanded to know what this was all about. Nobody had read him any rights so he hadn't been arrested so all of this was highly illegal and he wanted an attorney. Mister.

"Things don't have to be so formal," Sandusky said. "Call me Sam."

"You can call me Officer," Tortorelli barked.

Well, to cut the story short, the Elf did not need to be arrested.

"Listen," said Sam. "I don't hate you for the things you did. As represensible and vile drug dealing happens to be. I think you really are a nice guy that got led astray by bad companions. You be my friend and I will be your friend. Unlike a couple of your so-called friends who, well, lets say, had bad things to say about you."

"There's guys in Ossining that would really love to be your friend. Your intimate friend," said Tortorelli. "They'll get your back. Ha!"

Of course he did not have to go to jail and have unsanitary objects shoved up his butt. A little cooperation and he, Mr. Elf would be free to walk away. And cooperate he did. He narced on every single one of his former friends, including Frank and Dicky. He gave names, dates, places and every bit of information the cops wanted. The DA swept up the entire crew in a week.

The Elf did not think he would have to actually face any of his former associates in court, but a sniveling Defense Attorney for Frank got him subpoena'd and so there he stood in his brown suit, awkwardly shifting from one foot to the other while Frank glared at him from across the courtroom.

After the Elf found a dead rat in his mailbox he went down to the station to talk to his friend Officer Sam. He was led into a conference room and in a few minutes Officer Sam entered with another guy wearing a black suit.

"This is Marshal Raymond," said Sam. "He is going to handle you from now on."

"Are you familiar with the Witness Protection Program?" began Raymond.

In four days, all the deals had been done, a cool two thousand in his pocket from a nice extortion scheme and the Elf sat with a plane ticket headed due west, straight to the land of opportunity, the Golden State, where distant family had come during the Gold Rush to rob a few Indians, steal from the Mexicans, and carve out a place in the wilderness of Mountain View.

the end result was she got the rent-controlled apartment

That is how the Angry Elf came to California. Once ensconced there, he ejected from his relations and set sail like a Barbary corsair through the streets of San Francisco, soon finding there were older and more experienced hands at these games who could easily take in any such as himself, chew slowly and spit out the rest as they pleased. He got himself married and just as soon as that happened found himself divorced. That bimbo was incompetant in the kitchen anyway. Nevertheless, the end result was she got the rent-controlled apartment and he needed to find another place to live.

The Island makes no distinction between good and bad; it takes in all kinds like the bilges of any seaworthy vessel, so on the Island the Elf found himself among the ex-Navy veterans and old guard conservatives and crusty Californios. There he learned a few trades and actually began earning some money performing honest work from time to time, which really is far easier at the end of the day than pushing a full-blown Ponzi scheme or doing a limited second-story job. As for the drugs he was done with all that risky business, or any business that left a trail of paper and witnesses. Arson, well, the act removed the evidence. The one good thing was that because of the Program, so long as he didn't do anything obvious like kill someone in public, the police kept their hands off of him as they knew the DA would drop any charges.

And he remained very, very careful to never be the one actually committing any crimes. He took as his model Meyer Lanksy, the figure who traded favors for favors, not handling even money directly so nothing could ever be traced back to him. And so life went on.

Then, as happens with the passage of time, the hair begins to turn grey in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. Now it was every once in a while the Angry Elf would gather the new gang together to do a job, as this one for Mr. Howitzer. Denby, living downstairs, had rudely refused to join the gang, so the Angry Elf had his gang harass Denby day and night, providing keys to his apartment which they trashed and trashed again and again. Full retirement did not sit well with the Angry Elf.

Few recall now Al Capone's last sad days

Just imagine: what would it have been like had Bonnie and Clyde retired to a Rest Home in Golden Acres? What does happen to old cons? The ones who do not die in spectacular hail of lead bullets while still young? Few recall now Al Capone's last sad days, aging into useless senility, a shadow of himself as his brain rotted from the syphilis.

From the rain-dripping eaves, the glum and irritable Russian there beside him, the Angry Elf glared at the warm glow of the windows at Marlene and Andre's household where all the community had gathered to hash things out and plan common defences around their humble bowls of bread soup. They started singing. Singing! After all he, the Angry Elf had done to them! They should have been weeping! But instead they were singing! It may have only been bread soup, and it may have only been Andre plunking away on his battered guitar, but the Angry Elf felt a pang as he felt deeply that he had been cast out from life's feast.

Through the week Denby continued to move things out from his rented room in the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum, trying his best to schedule things when the trusty, Sgt. Rumsbum, was off shift working his real job as department store dick in the basement of iMagnin. Sgt. Rumsbum pretended to be a real San Francisco cop, but everyone knew otherwise and that he was on the Angry Elf's payroll.

Richard, the fellow who had been lobotomized to cure his virulent cursing

Trundling his things in a shopping cart down the hall Denby ran into Richard, the fellow who had been lobotomized to cure his virulent Tourettes cursing. Denby had always liked Richard, who still possessed a sort of regal demeanor, as if in some other life he had ruled a kingdom, if not wisely, then augustly and with broad magnaminity. The lobotomy had taken something from the man, but it had not cured him of his cursing. Indeed, language was all the man had left in this world.

"Well, old friend." Denby said. "I am going now."

"You go. Eff you!"

"Here is a scarf you can have. It gets cold here."

Kindness a strange brooch in this all hating world. Eff you!

"O! Eff you! Thank you so much! Kindness a strange brooch in this all hating world. Eff you! This is nice, you bastard. Eff you. So nice. Eff you very much! I miss you."

"Yeah well, I will miss you too, Richard. Take care of yourself."

"I cry. I cry. Eff you! Don't go! Go if you must. Eff you!"

"Bye Bye Richard! Maybe I will come to visit."

And as Denby walked down the hall there Richard stood in his long raincoat, leaning on a cane, a broken Shakespearean king, yet still noble, still defiant with his arm raised.

"Eff you! Eff you everybody! Eff youuuuuuuuuuuu . . . !"

Right then, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the tragic waters of the estuary before stirring grasses of the Buena Vista flats weeping with the dew of countless memories as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off on its journey to parts unknown with its long boxcar entourage of story after story after story, tale after tale to rival Scheherazade, to some unknown and potentially miserable, potentially wondrous future rife with possiblities.

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