APRIL 8, 2007


It's been a damp week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The skies have been heavy with high fog all week, leading to spatterings of drizzle on Saturday. Got Mike Powers on the Sunday Night Jam chunking away those deep grooves. Stay Human.

Down at the Old Same Place Susie serves up another round. When the weather is grumpy, business is good. Miguel comes in grumbling about the wet and blisters on his hands. Bear sits down at the end of the bar in an unaccustomed mood of taciturn silence, deep in his beer. In the corner table a party is talking about the trout season, which has yet to open for month or so. All the high lakes are still locked in by deep snow drifts and everybody knows the trout don't rise under cloudy skies. Not around here.

The Pesach shabbos is just about all over and somewhere under some bush a solitary blue or lavender Easter egg still resides, doleful under the dripping branches. Or up in the crotch of the old chestnut tree where some overzealous teenager stuck it well out of reach of six year-old fingers.

No, you are not going up in that tree!

But there's an Easter egg up there! I can see it!

I absolutely forbid you to climb that tree! Get Uncle Johann to fetch it down for you, if you must.

Oh, Uncle is drunk again. . . .

Slap! Shame on you! Talking about Uncle that way!

And so that plastic blue Easter egg containing a whole quarter remains up there through spring, which conceals its disappointments in burgeoning foliage, while little Toby Tucker bears this frustration long after until it eats at him and he becomes a mass murderer, starting with small animals, working up to small children, women and other human beings until he is hunted down one dark night in a cave by a posse bearing torches and shotguns.

O the infamy. And all because of that little blue Easter egg, which remains in the crotch of that tree until swallowed by a bolus of swelling wood, crushed and surrounded and enveloped until the tree dies many years later and is cut up for firewood. The woodsman cutting the tree lets his chainsaw slip on this suddenly hard bolus and cuts off his own leg by accident, and so is born away legless and in agony. A small child raking through the ashes finds that quarter and bears it proudly to its mother, exclaiming, "Look ma! I earned this quarter by working!"

This child grows up to become a President of the United States. A Decider and not a Divider. A Mission Accomplished sort of guy. Long before the end of his terrifically awful Presidency, fraught with disaster, everyone in the country has come to thoroughly detest him.

His brother comes to Washington DC after losing the Governorship race in his own borrowed State and he finds this quarter in the White Room. He walks out to the 14th Street Bridge and angrily throws the coin into the Potomac River. But his brother's presidency is now over and everything is slowly getting better.

The coin is ingested by a catfish which dies soon after of apoplexy. The body of the fish washes slowly out to sea. Until the fish carcass sinks to the bottom of Chesapeake Bay while the once lucky President boy walks along the docks muttering to himself, "Precious, my precious . . .".

Meanwhile Susie serves up another round, lit by the subterranean lights of the Old Same Place Bar. Eugene is trying to explain to Miguel how you can turn an egg into rubber by soaking it in vinegar for several weeks and Miguel will have none of that.

That' aint no damn rubber. It may be something else, but not no damn rubber.

Hell, you can squeeze it right into a bottle. You can squeeze it and tease it so that makes it rubber!

It don't smell like rubber. I seen them eggs.

Sure it smells like rubber. You just remember wrong.

It stinks. Is no rubber.

Its rubber, man. Nothing else acts like that.

You got a rubber on you man? You take it out and smell it.

I aint gonna do that! That's a perfect waste of a decent rubber!

Here, I got one. You smell that. Here.

You cant smell nothing here on account of the prophylactic powder!

What's that you saying?

Look -- it says right there: Prophylactic. That's the magic powder they put in there to help them rubbers along and do their work.

I don't know nothing about no powder. You a crazy gringo. . . .

Susie sighs and returns to her textbook on the manners and customs of the bonobo of Madagascar. One of these days, she would earn her degree. To shunt the bar chatter into the background she puts on one of her own compilation CDs and soon the sounds of Mavis Staples ease through the bar: down home blues.

"The Bonobo possess curious and intricate social customs upon attaining puberty . . . ."

Beatrice chose that moment to drop by. Beatrice had extricated herself from an odious husband and a difficult child and, like some sprung butterfly had been looping about the social scene to alight here and there with veins pulsing through brand new wings. Almost as if she were awaiting yet another transformation, some new chrysalis period followed by explosions.

Seems that Ruth finally has got herself something worth hanging on to. A difficult assignment after getting Steve hitched to Sandy. Now Steve had been quite a challenge, but Sandy was a gal who could make the noise of passing wind with her armpit -- with uncommon zest -- and so somehow the match had been sealed, allowing everyone to breath a great sigh of relief, for they all had been concerned about Steve and his guns firing off at odd hours of the day and night. Then there was Bear, who had managed to find a mate of his own species much to the astonishment of everyone, and Doyle seemed to have finally found his way out of the Dark Wood of Error after many years. He had taken up gardening, using old whiskey bottles as miniature glass starters for plants.

It seemed that this Spring. a number of couples had arisen out of the muck and many were setting out on brand new journeys as individuals as well. After a long dark time, glimmers could be seen among their kind indicating some kind of resurrection of spirit. Strange de Jim was planning on kayaking expeditions in the sloughs with Chris. Kayaking! At his age! And why not? Give up smoking and a man can do anything. Some kind of resurgence was going on here, and perhaps this was worth paying some attention to.

In other places people keep to bed and wait for the end to come in the last rattling breath, even if it takes years. In California, people climb mountains, go kayaking, fly to Hawaii, jump out of airplanes. Get back in and jump out some more.

On a beach far away on the island hosting the Dominican Republic, a lucky child bends down and picks up a shiny he finds there among the seaweed and cowries and runs to his mother with his bright shining prize. Look ma! I found an American quarter! Which becomes the first installment on a payment for a ticket to come to the USA.

"Zafa!" says the boy's abuelta. The only known remedy to say that is proof against a curse.

Beatrice left the bar for her samba lessons and Susie returned to her book as the long howl of the throughpassing train ululates across the estuary from the Port as the train makes its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront, headed to parts unknown. Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar, sits one Bartender still pondering life's persistent questions . . . .

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