April, 2011

Its been both a moody and a glorious this week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Monday the dawn light slowly exploded in streaks of gold and vermilion through radioactive clouds of blue from the East, which is the direction from which normally all of us expect only ill. Yet the day brightened into legions of hope and sunshine. Other days pressed down with portentous chiaroscuro smudges, as if another Great War was being waged at terrible cost somewhere in the Nation or the World.

Denby went up to the North Counties to put his muscles and sinew to the task of fire abatement on the scree-clad slopes and water-fed scrub there for the weekend, so the usual entertainment got put aside in favor of sweaty work and hacking under hot sun.

Sometimes love must take a backseat in deference to labor.

It is Spring and all the broom and brush was blooming amid wild lilacs and exuberant irises erupting shamefully and without care amid the tangled wildness of the hills. It was a bit shameful to go about chopping down the vigorous efforts of Nature amid the blue blossoms, but such must be or all will fail in terrible fire later on, leaving only the shiny poison oak, which never seems to go away.

After the harsh rough of bay laurel left the sinuses everyone repaired to the bar, after cleansing showers, to talk and make the usual gossip. And all the gossip and talk that there was concerned itself about love, for now was come the Season of Venus and the time of Eros.

In the lucky13 the story was told by the Carpenter of Wendy and Eusebio. Now Eusebio showed up at MacPac one day to work the depths of the basement there of that ancient hardware supplier for building contractors. MacPac was located under the confluence of the freeway interchange south of Market in the City, so even its front door was already underground by way of access to light and air. The contractors would enter and speak to salespeople who finalized the purchase of high end hardware for Victorian buildings. The Contractors then descended to the basement where it was Eusebio's job to fetch from the caverns there of shelves and storehouse the desired hardware. Across the street from that place yawned the exit portals of the City Jail, yea that door known as Seventh Street.

Now Eusebio's hands shook with a spastic motion, and his eyes rolled in his head and he showed many mannerisms that caused others some grief, and moreover his speech was halt and disconcerting, but in the basement of MacPac he had found his place among humanity, far from the judgmental eye of the socialite and the self-approved and self-entitled. There he provided service and earned an honest wage and was paid and so did well for himself where before he had been scorned and cast out and sent among the swine and the filth. He brought his homemade tuna sandwich to work and ate his lunch on the stoop facing the place which released the evening hookers from the jail and then went down to finish his work and in such wise was he content with what he had. Such was Euebio for many long years.

Then, so as it happened, was come to Macpac an helpmeet for business was at that time well. Wendy was she who had earned a degree in mathematics from Yea Olde Standford, once yclept "a good school", but sore was she to find that no one wanted a woman of female design who knew the sine and the cosine and the equation and furthermore the significance of difference less than .05%. Nor was the calculus of space enjoined. That a woman of beauty should possess mind and heart, was much overlooked, if not disdained. And so for a long time Wendy wandered bereft of consolation or respect for her womanhood and her mind, but in the dark shadows of MacPac the mysterious calculus of the heart began to work its statistical inevitable destiny.

And lo! Wendy met Eusebio, who knew much of range and indeterminacy, and the quadratic equations which define the labyrinths of Borges and the two were ultimately conjoined by way of administrative ordinance in civic marriage and there began a great story that swelled under the dim wattage of MacPac's basement. And unto them was granted the great gift of fertility, as three children issued thence from that union as proof that Love doth indeed conquer all. And they ate their lunch together thereafter under the freeway and compared the lingerie and the shoes of the hookers let out from jail together with great wisdom.

So unto you, I say, unto you be not discouraged that thou hast lost all thine teeth or be cursed with a large wen, a great nose, a homely appearance, dull wit, or be in any other way comfortless upon the earth for the spirit moves upon the waters and surely thou shalt find love in some form, either in cabbage or melon or human form and so be comforted.

Thus spake the Carpenter as he ended his tale for the moment, although there was yet more to tell.

Denby remained absent from these discussions, and likely would for some time until this bogus love business was done with, for he had contracted a serious case of poison oak while hacking about the shrubbery of Marin, and as most folks know, a bad contagious rash really puts the kibosh on affection. That and the memory of Diana showering him with flaming peat in the cottage in Kilternan before wacking him with an iron skillet, just to demonstrate that Irish gals can be passionate about things as well as anyone.

So Denby holed up in the snug of the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum where he rented a room in partial exchange for caretaking.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar a gay sort of gal named Danya had shown up full of piss and vinegar, much like Daniel in the lion's den, and looking for a fight. She kept punching people with great zest, while pretending to be dancing to the music -- she was some sort of martial artist or something -- but it was Padraic's idea the gal was all sublimation and showtime. Usually it was Drunken Ned who showed up trying to lock horns with everybody smaller than he was in every bar from McGrath's on down past the Forbidden Tiki Lounge, but this time the troublemaker happened to be Danya, a feisty and pugnacious woman wearing a leather jacket and attitude.

"Howzit going big hunter!" Danya shouted as she slammed Eugene on the arm with a meaty fist.

"Owww!" Eugene said as the Man from Minot ducked a sweeping haymaker.

Dawn was more curt. "She wants a good schtupping, but she's too short to climb the pole. Seems an American East Coast sort of thing."

In any case, Spring brings out the peacocks and all sorts of animals. Some of them want a fight. Can't help it for that is the nature of Spring. The lilacs will erupt and there is nothing to be done about it.

On a jaunty Saturday, Jose went out on the first excursion of the season with Toby and Tommy on board their sloop, the Lavender Surprise.

Toby was concerned that Jose be all right there amid the close confines of the boat. "Are you sure you are okay with us here like this?" He knew that Jose was straight as an arrow and the purple pennant flapped from the mizzen with mad gaiety.

"Actually, considering Xavier being impaled by his last amor, Denby being set on fire with hot coals, Eugene getting beatup by some strange woman in a bar, the Editor hiding out in his office in fear of fierce Joanne, and all the collateral damage that happens this time of year, right now I feel quite safe." And so Jose snoozed on the decks, while Toby and Tommy made folderol below.


Its been a moody week on the Island. Each day opens with Blakean skies scrubbed with chiascuro clouds and etched with mythic gods. The days are cool, sporadically sunny in the afternoons that fade to the shrouds over the Oaktown hills where the lights march up to an obscurity that is occasionally rent to show the brilliant ornament of Jupiter.

Each morning the Witch who has been hired by KQED comes in before sunrise to cue everything up, chant a few spells and make sure all the electronic gremlins have been locked into their cages of hexes and pentagrams. Her official job title is Radio Technician but both she and the Chief engineer knew better. Radio takes a lot of magic to keep working, and the Bay Area is an excellent supplier of witches. So there she sits in the control room with all the machines and lights and wires making things happen while people are still swimming up from their dreams toward the shimmering surface. In her thoughts she is helping each one break the surface and pop out of bed from the waves of frothing bedsheets.

Its an age of screamers and people doing jackass things for the camera. It doesn't take much talent to occupy people's attention; just show them Spectacle. Some people still make things called "movies" that are still good, but there are not many of those. And the best of them know that you need the landscape of language to make things real, otherwise nobody will believe the pictures. Its the radio magic. And if you have a witch on staff, anything is possible.

Long before Toni has arrived at the station, Pedro has arrived at the fishing grounds with his fishing vessel, El Borracho Perdido, and his faithful labrador, Tugboat. After setting the lines and verifying all the instruments, he spins the dial to listen to Morning Edition. Another radio, dedicated for the purpose has already given the tide and weather report.

The sun glimmers on the horizon soon enough and Pahrump fires up the scooter to take Martini to work at the factory before its fully up. Thanks to the marvel of the MP3, Martini is quickly plugged in and cutting away at the immense alloy steel bars.

Tipitina shows up at the office on Friday and uses headphones to listen to Ira Flato talk to a scientist about the persistence of radio waves. She learns that the ghosts of Bob and Ray, the Green Hornet, the Shadow (no one knows, but the Shadow knows!), the Wonder Dog, and others still haunt the radio waves. Scientists tell us that the waves emitted from transmitters fifty years ago and more are still going outwards from our earth, leaving the solar system and bouncing between the planets, maybe to return again one day. Just like magic, even though they have always been there.

Gosh, no kiddin', Ira says.

It's radio, where anything is possible, the scientist says.

At lunch, Tipitina discusses the show with a fellow law clerk where they work at Burble, Grumble and Quip.
"I always thought his name was the same as that Roman philosopher," the colleague says.

When it comes to Sunday, everyone at Marlene and Andre's stays in and gets up late and in methodical order to take advantage of the single bathroom. Snuffles the bum takes off his shirt and pours a bucket of water from the garden hose over his torso. Shower now done, he mumbles a hunk of day-old bread with the remains of his teeth on the porch. Eventually somebody clicks on the radio and shifts the dial from LIVE 105 to Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers.

Suan is in a mood. Its Spring and the Love for Sale business always picks up, no matter how bad the economy. She usually makes the best money of all of them at the House, for she works the brass pole at the Crazy Horse Saloon in the City. Except now after what happened recently with the earthquake all the Japanese businessmen have vanished. To make things worse, her shift had rotated now over to the daytime. Now that the Season of Love had arrived the Object of Love was really pissed for lack of tips.

Andre comes out and starts playing "Dark was the Night" on his guitar. Jose asks for a happy love song.

"Sorry homie. Don't know any happy songs," Andre said.

Javier had not been seen around the place since he had hooked up with that wild gal Valerie and they all were expecting a call from Highland Trauma ER any day now. Things usually ended up with Javier like that because he was just that kind of guy. And he liked to pick just that kind of woman each time, one's with violent tempers coupled with short fuses. Nobody understood exactly why this was so. The last one had run him through with a spear, for crissakes. Jose seemed to think that this was because Javier came from Sinaloa. Nobody understood that idea either.

At the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie tended to the mating rituals of others. She had seen it all, or at least thought she had. Now Aisling was gone back to Ireland, for whatever purpose was anybody's guess, so she was alone again. Now she was watching them come in an hook up or fail to hook up with a distanced attitude. Bartender. Pour drink Collect money. Make change. Take tip. Next!

Denby was at the bar reviewing some music sheets. Guys like Denby do not hook up. They spend their entire lives wearing dustcoats beneath some window somewhere until all the flowers wilt and its no use any more.

"What's that?" a beautiful woman asked. Her hair was scarlet red and so was her dress, which was so tight that if she wore anything underneath it, there wasn't much of that except imagination.

I never talk to strangers, Denby said.

"I'm not that strange," the woman said. "Not when you get to know me."

It starts in a kind of E-flat and its all in 9ths except for this F7 here, he said.

"Are you a musician? I see you have a guitar there."

No. I'm not. I make malderor. What's your name?

"Sarah," said the woman, a bit confused.

Sarah, I have seen you before. You, he said, indicating a man sitting there. What's your name?

"Sam", said the guy.

Sarah, meet Sam. Sam meet Sarah. Scootch over a bit while I get this thing out. That's right, just scrunch up a bit together. Perfect.

Denby opened his guitar case and brought out the Tacoma D-9, which is a sort of parlor guitar made for intimate gatherings. He struggled a little bit with the "Never talk to strangers", which is supposed to be a duet, and then moved into "Tomorrow is a Long Time". After a while he paused to retune. Sam and Sarah were now in deep discussion, looking into one another's eyes.

It was Spring. Anything can happen.

He finished a couple more instrumentals before packing up to go. As he turned to go he tipped his fedora to Suzie and said, it's a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, Schweet-Heart, but deep in the Old Same Place Bar I am not asking any questions, because I am the guy who provides the answers. Then he left with his guitar while Sarah and Sam were already starting to spoon right there on the bar seats.

Journeyman. Play music. Hook 'em up. Take door cut. Go. Next gig.

Right then the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the romantic waves of the estuary and the passionate wildflowers of 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.