June 5, 2011



A dockwalloper set in here Friday, chasing all the seagulls over the grocery parkinglot in advance of the big storm which pounded the evening on Friday and sizzled all the docks with savage machine-gun spatters. East Bay Open Studios continued bravely through the downpours and intermittent sun, for artists are humble people used to adversity of all kinds. So it rains. We have suffered much worse. Come see these wondrous dolls inside the safe and warm Goose Cottage!

Joe Bonanno has been wringing his hands at the weather and the dreadful failure of his summer hot peppers. Usually Joe manages to yank peppers ranked on the Scoville ranking somewhere high and left of habanero, but this year it looks like a total wash.

Generally its quite dry around this time, except for this thing that happens every twenty years or so. Naturally the young folk are all pent up and irritated by the perceived interruption. This past two weeks the graduations released their neophytes into the world inside cooped-up gymnasiums and auditoriums with all the distanced removal of PA and speakers, so for many it was a bureaucratic maneuver removed from the ceremonial release that they felt was due as rain splattered the old baseball diamond and the bleachers.

People get to expect an immediate continuity of patterns in weather, and tend to forget that these things have a big wheel of repetition in the grand scheme, and that what seems usual for now is really a momentary sequence embedded in something larger that will shift eventually to something else before coming back again. Well, its really saying that if the corn don't grow this year, for whatever reason, next year it will grow taller. That's all that is about.

In the Market Spot Abram swept the wood floor of the store out front, peering out at the cloud-wracked sky through the permanent discount signs.

He looked out the window at the soggy trees and the wet street. When will this Pineapple Express ever end?

When it rained like this, people hardly came into the store, preferring to hop in their cars and scurry into the mall.

The strange boy who lived down the street came to the door. "Hey, what kind of hat is that?"

Abram looked at him. Oh no.

Abram looked at him. Oh no.

"What kinda hat is that?"

It's a baseball cap.

"It's not a Stetson. I got a real Stetson. Cost me three hundred dollars. I'm a cowboy."

Sure thing. O heck, the guy came in. Hope no customers drop by.

I'm a cowboy.

"I'm a cowboy. I got three ranches. Got one in Arizona and one in . . . uh . . . one in Modesto. I got three ranches 'cause I am a cowboy. I got cowboy boots and spurs and chaps and everything. I am a cowboy."

"You got cowboy boots?"


"You got a Stetson?


"What kinda hat is that on the wall over there?"

That's a woman's sunhat from Vietnam. Abram moved out the door to the awning and the kid followed him. His Stetson was bound up securely with rubberbands.

"I guess that's a good hat for the rain. I got a Stetson." He took it off and looked at it. "It's got felt. It'll keep the rain off I guess." He put the hat back on.

I'd keep it from getting wet if I were you.

"I'm a cowboy. I live down the street. But I own houses in . . . twenty states. I got a house in Illinois. And another house in the Philippines. I am Filipino, cause my father is Filipino. I am going to buy a house in every state. My uncle wants to sell the ranch in Arizona, but I told him no, he can't do that. I am a cowboy." He paused to take a breath.

You must work for the government, Abram said, unable to help himself.

"No, why do you say that? I am Filipino cause my father is Filipino. I been to the Philippines."

You speak Tagalog?

"Sure I do. I speak fluent Tagalog. And Spanish. Some Spanish. A little Spanish. Cause that's where we came from. Spain." The boy then began to relate the history of the Philippines. from the Spanish settlements to the wars of independence, except it was a little unclear who he meant by "we" and "them" and who was fighting who. Which, Abram thought, is just as well as most wars are kind of like that. We and Them is largely momentary point of view.

There never was a good war.

Abram looked at the orange hat that glowed in the back of the shop. There never was a good war. Some wars need to be fought -- not nearly most of them -- but there never was a good war.

"Magsaysay was a good man," the boy was saying. "But they killed him even though everybody loved him. You know any Filipinos?"

Yes, Abram said, thinking of Fey and the guy who ran the market down the way. They are good people.

"Okay I gotta go. See some friends. They live this way. Good-bye now."

Bye bye.

"Okay I am going. You want to be my friend?"

Abram thought about it and the consequences. Sure. Better than being enemies, he said. That was true enough.

The rain had stopped and the boy went off down the street, first in the wrong direction, then back. "My friends live down this way!"

Abram looked at the sky. If it were not so overcast, the stars would be bright tonight. In Arizona, they have real cowboys and the stars burn across the heavens like the scarf of a liturgical dancer embedded with diamonds flung high in an arc of joy above the mountains. Abram went back into the store.

Liturgical dance? What on earth?!

Liturgical dance? What on earth?! What strangeness comes to the idle mind on a slow, rainy Sunday! Abram turned on the radio to listen to NPR.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Gaelic coffees, hot toddies and shots of Cupacabra Devil tequila were the orders of the evening as all the Islanders tried to fend off the weather by kindling little fires inside themselves. Suzie wore a red faux turtleneck and sported a slash of incarnadine dye in her hair, as red had become lately the "it thing" for bartenders trying to add color to the pallid atmosphere.

Denby was in there nursing a Fat Tire. Lately the lunatic asylum of St. Charles had started to get on his nerves with all the hebephrenics going off together like they were practicing for a choral concert. If the weather had been any better he would have been in his right mind, but he also had been thinking regretfully of his bachelor status. As romantic as it might seem, renting a single room in a mental institution was turning out to be rather tedious.

A woman came in with a big black labrador on a leash. Everyone leaned away as the dog shook the rainwater loose from its coat. The bar was packed at the rail, so she bent down and asked the Man from Minot if she could sit at the table there. The Man from Minot pulled back to give her and the dog some space and she sat down. She had merry blue eyes and platinum-blonde hair under a plastic raincap.

As Suzie took her order, Denby brought out the Tacoma. Time to go to work. He felt around first, trying to remember everything.

"What's that chord," Eugene asked.

This is a sort of E7. Sort of . And this is a sort of E6+7. Subdominant, I think.

"Say what?"

It's notes.


"I really like crazy people," she said.

The woman and the Man from Minot were now deep in conversation. "I work as a crisis nurse at Sausal Creek," said the woman. "People don't understand mental illness, but I really like crazy people."

Let it rain, let it pour
Let it rain just a whole lot more
Cause I got them deep river bluuuuuues!

"What's your dog's name?"


"As in Iggy Pop?"

"Yes," she said and smiled. "He's got a lust for life."

From far across the way, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the chuckling waves of the estuary and the Spring wildflowers blooming like madness across 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.