May 14, 2008

Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather for this Mother's Day turned out to be bright and cool, almost as if we have skipped Spring and moved right into our usual foggy summer. But the roses are all busting out, ready for May Day and Mothers everywhere here.

Islanders practiced the usual routines and rituals practiced on this day. Among the smaller folk, there was the breakfast in bed thing which Mrs. Almeida enjoyed as the tykes came tromping in with trays of orange juice, pancake plates, Denver omlette, coffee, sliced fruit, strawberries, Cheerios, and prunes in a dish. That last one was little Albert's idea and he was particularly proud of it and his eyes beamed so merrily upon the surprised comment from his mother it really was worth it.

After all, that look is what mothers live for, we are told.

Not so enjoyable was the mess in the kitchen, although Mr. Almeida certainly did his best to limit the damage and sweep up the broken glass -- quietly, quietly so as not to disturb Mom -- and figure out what to do with the brown agglutination found at the base of the kitchen table, the responsiblity for which not a bright eyed soul could admit.

"Vamanos! Vamanos! Go to Paganos y comprar "cleanser". Remember that? Cleanser!"

It turned out to be quite a day for the Almeida household.

Some whose moms have passed on also paid dutiful obesiance to the day. Mr. Cribbage folded himself into his truck with a bouquet of flowers so as to ride across the Bridge and down the 101 to Colma, City of the Dead, and there lay his annual contribution on the headstone there.


1901 - 1989

Flights of Angels sing thee to thy Eternal Rest

Mr. Cribbage stood there in the bright California sunshine on the hillside that looked over the sprawl of what had become Daly City to the Pacific Ocean, trying to remember if he had paid the water bill for the troublesome unit on Otis Street.

A rough caw interrupted his thoughts. A few markers away a crow stood on a memorial to a fallen child and looked at him as if to say, "What are you doing, man? Shouldnt you be strolling under the magnolias with a wife at least ten years younger than yourself?"

Well, he may have imagined that last part, the meaning of that look but he bent down to hunt for a stone to throw. This bird only served to remind him of the terrible bridge club meeting that ended so badly with the madeira and the cheeselog all ruined.

Ah! A piece of gravel! This he hurled with ferocity at the black bird, which only rose up, fluttered a few feet away and settled with a sense of proprietorship that Mr. Cribbage felt was entirely undeserved.

We shall not dwell in this place any longer than necessary. For the good part of the morning Mr. Cribbage chased the bird about the grounds of Colma with increasingly murderous intent, and a good part of the afternoon was spent with Colma officials and groundskeepers in an attempt to secure a more organized approach against his personal enemy.

For the record, Bertha Cribbage's last words were, "Well, I meant to tell you all . . . oh nevermind."

Percy Worthington Boughsplatt took his mother for a ride in his immaculate two-toned 1939 Mandeville-Brot coupe, along with his consort, the lovely Miss Hinckle, who wore a fetching riding cap, her usual feather boa and, in deference to the temperature, thigh-high suede boots and a waiscoat.

And, to the scandal of Mrs. Boughsplatt, not a stitch else.

They had a lovely picnic down the 101 where the orchards used to roll out endlessly back in the day when Mrs. Boughsplatt would go for a ride in the Rambler into the country.

Which is now something other than country.

"How horrid is Foster City and all that it pertains," said Mrs. Boughsplatt. "Lets go to Monterey."

And so they did and had Orange Blossom Specials looking out over the twisted beach pines. Mrs. Boughsplatt got quite giddy and almost took off all her clothes before the lovely Miss Hinckle, who sometimes did maintain a surprising level of common sense and decency, enjoined her to visit the Monterey Aquarium.

"Percy," said Mrs. Boughsplatt. "Whenever are you two going to get married?"

Over at the Squat on Otis, folks celebrated moms and motherhood each to each in their respective manners and customs.

Marlene and Andre took Marlene's mom over to Momma's cafe in Berkeley and Marlene's mom only punched one guy in the face during the entire affair and that was after they all had eaten and stepped outside, quite unlike the year before when they had all been bounced from Kincaids after a riot over the piano player, who had ignored the elder Marlene's repeated request to play "Saturday's Alright for Fighting."

Marlene's mom had been a steelworker at the Port and many were the Teamsters who had learned to reckon with the woman's formidible right cross.

The altercation in front of Mommas happened because some yuppie walking by with a cell phone tumor glowing on his ear happened to mutter something about the "damn unions." Probably to incite the crowd gathered at Mommas as he headed toward a more chic eatery.

Wherever the boy had been headed, he never got there. At least not that day.

"Hell, boy, I remember the cable car strike of 1916 like it was yesterday when we fought with blood for our rights! You pansy-assed stool-warmers are all a bunch of milk-sap pussies! I'll teach you!"

Then came the punch. Shortly after that, then came the cops. That Mom of Marlene's sure had a short fuse.

Bear rode out with his mom on the back of his 1958 Ironhead Harley to Martinez for the Momday BBQ. Sophia followed along behind in the Geo in case either one of them got into trouble and they had to leave the bike in storage.

Even though the beer flowed freely and the band really cooked with all the usual biker favorites from Lynrd Skynrd and Van Halen, the two remained fairly sedate and so Sophia sat their watching them.

Mrs. Bear got a little teary and started working on some of that "reverse guilt trip" thing.

She really regretted the lack of stability during Bear's growing up. And the night his favorite plushtoy, Tinky-Winky-Ralph got thrown into a bonfire down at the beach.

Yeah, Bear had never forgot that one.

Mrs. Bear sat back and started to cry. There was so much she wanted to give him, but somehow things didn't work out. Husbands. Guys. Jobs. All the drugs and jail . . . Always a screwup somewhere. The time the kids beat him up at the high school because of his friend Elroy. "Wiggers, they called us. 'Wiggers!"

She never wanted . . . she never wanted THIS.


Oh this kind of life. She wanted him to be really something and show them all. But the ugliness of everything around threatened to overwhelm like an immense tidal wave. Hatred. Racism. Contempt. Superiority. All that drags down.

Sophia saw the moment to step in.

"Bear is just fine by me. I love him. And you oughta be proud at what you accomplished, because Bear is honest and true and there is no better man. He might have some rough edges, but I can live with that and more for all the good that is in him. He aint hooked on smack. He aint a thief. And he aint a wussy. And he aint doing the round trip to the slammer. There is so many who grew up the same way who cant claim that. So something you did worked out all right. Mom you did your best and you did good and that is that."

This brought out another burst of tears from Mrs. Bear. And the speech stunned the little crowd there in the park in Martinez, the hardest of the one percenters, the toughest of the tough, for nothing is more sentimental than an honest Biker in his cups.

The others out paying for their ride with credit cards are just buying imaginary "freedom". These guys were the real deal.

Pretty soon the band resumed with REM covers and the three of them returned to the Island, with Mrs. Bear feeling a little better about herself.

Which is really all the best one can ask of Mother's Day, isn't it? After all, she gave so much. Or at least all that she could, given the circumstances.

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