June 7, 2015


The Infamous Fart


So anyway, everyone on the Island is gearing up for the spate of Graduations to take place this week. Some places hold them earlier, but we on the Island tend to move at an historically relaxed pace. Besides, it takes a week or two for the cash-strapped Unified District to process all the paperwork and the final grades so we have gotten used to being a little behind everybody else.

It's not like as if the results were not foregone conclusions. Those seniors of a mind to go to college, hopefully far distant from the land of birth and rearing, got their notices of acceptance months ago and they have been coasting along ever since. Those others destined to step into the shop to help out Dad in the family business are resigned to their fates.

The East End of the Island tends toward those destined to inhabit the well-matriculated slopes of Marin and places further off. The West End remains the abode of those more resigned.

Another event which has some local notoriety is Javier's birthday, which is slated for some kind of fireworks this week. In anticipation of this event, which trends toward the explosively sanguine in scenes best imagined by a young Sam Peckinpah, Jose has purchased Life Insurance from the shop over the bridge on Fruitvale that offers things like this for terms of less than a month. Last time one of Javier's ex-girlfriends showed up and ran him through with a spear. Jose figured that if he were like to die horribly in celebration of someone's birthday, his dear Abuelita might as well enjoy her old age in some comfort from the insurance checks. Several neighbors typically stock up on ammunition and Old John has gotten the Depuglia brothers to unload a ton of sandbags with which he plans to build a sort of fortress around the place he rents until all the screaming has stopped.

Celebrating birthdays is a weird tradition in the Bay Area, with an urgency not experienced in other parts of the country. No one seems to know exactly why this thing is felt to be important for adults over the age of 25 and up in the Bay Area, but in Javier's case, the urgency usually results in property destruction and/or visits to the hospital by any number of people and pets.

This year Javier would turn 57, which meant truly significant milestone actions would not be foisted upon people. Save that Piedro went out to the storage facility he had at the Point to look at the thing he had purchased during the big auctions of Navy materiel when the Base had closed. Inside Hangar #8 there his prize sat, draped in oilcloth and grease. A fully functional Vietnam-era 188 howitzer mounted on a four-wheel frailer. The thing had cost him a bid of $200, mostly so cheap because nobody could imagine at the time a purpose for such a curiosity. The gun had not been functional when sold -- not even the Navy is that stupid to sell such a thing -- but Piedro had friends with narco connections south of the border who could put their hands on just about anything, including howitzer parts and ammunition. So the hours ticked off to Javier's 57th birthday and Piedro stood there wondering if maybe this was the time to bring out his baby. Before all the old land at the Base got developed and keeping something like this impossible.

So now with the seasonal fog having brought its message of changes, the temperature rise signals the onset of the Summer of 2015.

Ms. Morales, who has kept this title despite being properly Mrs. Sanchez, because of her many years of service in the Unified District, has been working with the Graduation Committees of both Longfellow Middle School and Island High to get everything arranged. This being a drought year, there is no thought of rain preparations at all, but there remains the accounting for the reduced parking due to construction and getting the seats and making the arrangements for the Invited Speaker.

This was a curious week on Church Row for sermons. At the Zen monastery, the Rinpoche held up his left hand and said, "Clap now with one hand!"

Anyone who did not get it, was soundly beaten with sticks, which is an example of one reason why only true believers practice Zen This sort of thing tends to weed out the dilettantes.

In the Immanuel church the Lutheran Pastor Nyquist quoted from the Default Gospel of St. John as part of the Holy Trinity liturgy, mostly because he could not think of much to say, having to deal with more pressing issues during the week, such as the death of beloved Alma and her grieving relatives. This was one of his sermons he called unpretentiously "autopilot sermons", because it covered most general issues and got past the time effectively with little destruction until he could come up with something better.

"Be thou like the lilies of the field."

The Catholics always had the red shoes and the gilt-edged embroidery fabric, and iconography on which to fall, and so they were seldom at a loss. Everything was symbolic and a metaphor and so you could travel miles on that. The face of the imaginary Jesus just appeared on a tortilla. Hey! You could employ that image for miles of sermons. This week the sermon from Father Danyluk was, admittedly, a pass on serious effort. The improving weather had gotten to him and his attention had flagged. So he had called on the old chestnut "Be thou like the lilies of the field." While he was speaking someone in the first or second row let out a tremendous blast of gas, which passed with only a little sound. He heard this sort of long wheeze and thought nothing of it until this odor of rotten eggs came drifting up to the pulpit and Father Danyluk sort of gagged in mid-sentence and he lost his train of thought and the place on the page that held his notes.

A few people got out of their seats and moved towards the back of the church and a few more just used the side door to leave entirely.

Father Danyluk began talking about game 2 of the Warriors and how important it was to play the game with integrity, and the Holy Trinity was the Coach -- no HE was the coach, the priesthood were the coaches and the Trinity was the Referee, and he struggled with getting back to the lilies of the field, but by this time he had gotten pretty far afield himself with the smell getting stronger. And so he said the uniforms do not matter -- they change all the time. The game was not about the uniform it was about the ball and the player and Communion of Team and even his own robes did not matter as a priest for he would still be a priest were he to stand up there in front of everyone naked. . . .

And at that point, the unfortunate soul with the intestinal problem let loose a tremendously loud series that went Blat! Buh, buh, buh, fffffffft! BLAAAAAAAAT! and the last one was so loud that it caused the nave to reverberate.

A very red-faced Old Joe got up out of his seat and walked stiffly to the exit to find the restroom he should have used some time ago.

Father Danyluk continued, "And that is the word. Let us all rise and go in peace -- I think today we shall skip the recessional and everything else besides. Just go in peace. . .". Which was just as well as most of the front half of the church was making its own exit at this time

A Zen monk threatened Zen terrorism, which caused a great deal of stir downtown. Bill Fong went and sat in the rotunda of City Hall threatening to meditate on world destruction and nothingness as he sat cross-legged in his purple robes and the Mayor was very put out about it. He was joined by several other radicalized Zen practitioners and they all sat in a circle, chanting while a couple monks destroyed a small statue of Elvis Presley and a big painting of the King done on velvet with sticks and pinking shears. Then they sat down among the ruins of the priceless artifacts after stomping around in a circle chanting Daess! Daess! Daess! There is no god but the one god of Nothingness!

Some people claimed this religious extremism had gone entirely too far and what was the world coming to.

The Rinpoche for the Tibetan monastery on Santa Clara had to come down and berate the radicals for being a bunch of idiots and only then did the monks get up shamefaced to go.

"I have a right to No Mind!"

Murphy, of the Island Sun, did a story about radicalized Zen elements lurking in the heartland and revealed that social media had been exploited by Zen practitioners who desired to create a Zen State that would be governed by the Principles of the Fivefold Way. Everyone would have to shave their heads and practice yoga twice a day. The idea of practicing Mindfulness and Compassion under duress really ticked off members of the motorcycle club the Beanplant Giants, and they drove out to the Monastery to protest the Zen religion, which is not really a religion per se, but Bernie Klotz of the BG Club was not a man to nail down distinctions. So they all stood around with guns and signs saying, "Violence is American!" and "I have a right to No Mind!" (Mindfulness did not fit on the sign) and Bernie beat his head with two bricks in front of the TV news cameras until he fell down and was arrested for blocking the sidewalk. He afterward blamed the Media for his headache.

Inside the monastery the Rinpoche shook his head. Some people. He sat before the congregation there after ringing the little bell and, returning to the subject which he had begun before the City Hall affair, held up his left arm. "Today I want you to make the sound of clapping with one hand."

Suzi, watching the coming and going of lives in front of her

In the Old Same Place Bar, which is a sort of temple of the spirits so to speak, the discussion was all about how crazy the world had become. Suzi, watching the coming and going of lives in front of her from behind the bar. She poured highballs, shots and beers and listened to the stories about relationships and marriages or the lack of them and when it got quiet she sat down on her stool and took out her Anthropology textbook to read about the Bonobo, those gentle souls of the jungle who soweth not, nor reapeth, who practice compassion and mutual concern for each other and all living things, who bow neither to the East nor to the West, who have no laws compelling anyone to do or not do anything, and who never, never, never ever go to church, temple, mosque or synagogue where practicing yontif is never more than caring about one another.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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