JUNE 8, 2016




So anyway once again it came round for Javier's birthday, a celebration dreaded by some, feared by many, and enjoyed by few. Goddess knows just why birthdays get such grease in the Bay Area, especially when so many would rather roll in a mudbath with mambo snakes than go through the arduous procedures, but that is another topic for a TED talk genius to resolve some day.

There are people out there who have so little stuffing that they take upon themselves to do the Birthday thing to everybody else, in offices and in clubs -- you know who those people are -- and they do people to the nines regardless of wishes.

Javier's birthday has traditionally been a disorganized disaster over which no one has desired control, other than Jose, his friend, who has tried year after year to prevent anything from happening at all and only gotten to know the people and facilities of Highland's Trauma Unit all too well for all his pains. The wreckage left after friends of his had tried to gift him with a working Vietnam-era 188 howitzer still rusted in the ironmongery garden out back.

Last year Jose simply bailed

Last year Jose simply bailed and took the ruse of hiding under the front porch boards at Marlene and Andre's Household, but this year he became resigned to his fate for his older friend was approaching sixty now, and, with all the shenanigans and bad luck, would be fortunate to pass that milestone alive. So it was that Jose helped Javier secure a couple gallon jugs of 99 cent burgundy along with Pahrump and Martini so as to celebrate down there on the Strand around a driftwood bonfire.

June, besides the occasion for Javier's birthday, also provides the month for graduations around here, and with the fine weather encouraging haltertops and hotpants and dirty dancing, a good many other culminations as well. The school year comes to an end, the conveyor belt of living pauses before the next phase and people relax on a spiritual verandah before the hook of Life yanks them forward into the next room of employment, marriage, parenting and subsidiary trials.

Well a dong is a dong and I have lived with mine for all my life

Marlys, at the top of her class at Island High, was appointed to be Valedictorian at the Commencement this past weekend. There was a great deal of bubbling ferment over whether she would pick the occasion to announce that she had decided to transition her gender from biological female to male in solidarity with the LGBT community. This topic had been the center of a great deal of heated discussion at home and Uncle Chad had been brought in from Sacto by her parents as he had been long a favorite of hers as he had been a hippie rebel during the sixties, but when he got there he had said most irritatingly, "Well a dong is a dong and I have lived with mine for all my life -- its no big deal, and this society already has plenty of pricks, so she will learn that soon enough. Whatever."

Since this did not resolve the issue, in the minds of her parents, everyone was on tenterhooks for the Commencement which historically had included a final Senior prank to upset the proceedings. Everyone was sure that the center of it would be the speech. Superintendent Matterhorn stood to the side with Sister Agnes from Our Lady of Incessant Complaint from the Religion Department, instead of taking their seats to keep a watchful eye and so prevent any shenanigans. As usual, the graduates had all been strictly enjoined to retain their head gear and refrain from tossing into the air as all the graduation gowns needed to be returned intact.

Good-bye to fellow classmates whom I have known many years

In fact, Marlys began her speech along classical lines, beginning as follows, " Fellow classmates, parents and teachers, I have been selected to give the final speech, the speech of farewell in the capacity of Valedictorian, which comes from the Latin vale dicere, which is to say that I am giving here to all of you a farewell speech, a speech of good-bye. Good-bye to fellow classmates whom I have known many years even before high school, people I grew up with in this small town, people who are going to leave this town in which we grew up, some to go to college, some to travel the world, some to find jobs in other states, and some never to return again. We have experienced so many things together, shared our lives, our loves, our hates and now we say good-bye to all that which becomes part of memory, and it is what is remembered that is important to consider here . . . ."

It was then that Superintendent Matterhorn looked up

In the middle of Marlys' speech there developed a low rumbling which became louder and louder. As Marlys began to speak of saying good-bye to the teachers and Principal Nattering, the first objects rolled into the assembly to knock against chairlegs. Then, more of them came in to roughly bang against the tables and the stage, causing it to shake. It was then that Superintendent Matterhorn looked up to see that the Senior class had spent all night building chutes from the watertower at the edge of the field. The entire watertower had been filled with thousands upon thousands of bowling balls and someone had tripped open the hatches to release them all to go sailing down the chutes into the assembly field.

As the wave of bowling balls crashed into the stands, knocking over chairs and parents and tables and bunting, the Senior class all let out a great HUZZAH! and they all threw their caps high into the air. And so that was the graduation of the class of 2016.

How time had passed!

Ms. Morales got a letter from her former student, Karen, who had remained at the university and was now entering her final year. Final year! How time had passed! Only a short while ago Ms. Morales had been concerned for this child who had suffered so much with her broken home and the drug problems and her rebelliousness. Cutting herself with razor blades. Only yesterday Ms. Morales had tried to cross Santa Clara with her arms full of student essays on Emily Dickenson, only to have the impish wind carry it all away, feeling such despair.

It had seemed for a while that this one would become just another statistic of failure washing up and being left at low tide with all the other sand fleas and detritus. But, hope against hope, she had gone to college, with a little help on the scholarship application from Ms. Morales, and had survived the long gauntlet of approval and disapproval as a waif among the better heeled hoi polloi. Her letters told of the viciousness of those who had always their life sinecure assured against those who never had nothing assured at all. And the small victories and discoveries of like minds in that place. Fellow malcontents and rebels. The students who would go on to do more than just fill a niche supplied for them.

She had found someone in college and they had this idea, this boy and her, to set up a company to sell something that had something to do with computers -- Ms. Morales was an English teacher and she knew nothing about all that iPad and iPhone stuff.

She sat beside the desklamp with the letter in her hands and breathed a sigh of relief and joy. And one of whistfulness over the passage of time. She took off her wire-rims. Long years had passed and she was no longer chasing essays across the street. And from the darkness behind her the form of Mr. Ramirez appeared to place his comfortable hand on her shoulder.

until it came time for the birthday cake

Down on the Strand the moon arose over Javier's little birthday party. Everything was going just great until it came time for the birthday cake. Marlene managed to get some cake fixings together from gleanings at the food bank, but the candles were wanting. A proper birthday cake features candles, and with Javier approaching sixty, he was deserving of at least a few. So Martini got up some wire "candles" with wicks he got from some poi dancer friends he had at The Crucible where boys and girls were fond of dancing around with flaming balls and stuff. He hooked this up to a propane tank and set this apparatus on the House Flexible Flyer wagon and Jesus got some bottlerockets to add to this so as to make a really fine birthday cake which Marlene did not know about because they did not tell her.

So the gang thought it really a good idea to tow not only the cake but Javier as well in the little red wagon down to the beach, and Denby and Pahrump made ready to tow the wagon down to the water, but who should show up but Roxanne, one of Javier's latest affairs. Roxanne had flaming red hair, fingernails to match, a leopardskin tube top, a short leather skirt and six inch stiletto heels and a personality to match.

She also wielded a fireman's ax and she was upset on not having been invited to the birthday party.

It might be said that Roxanne could get upset about just about anything or nothing at all for she had quite a temper on her, but the less said about that the better.

Javier dodged the first strike of the ax

Rolling away, Javier dodged the first strike of the ax which glanced off the propane tank to slice Jose in the thigh. Jose, igniting the candles of the birthday cake with a lit propane lighter from the Dollar Tree, fell across the wagon and so ignited the bottlerockets as well. Roxanne, swinging wildly, struck the propane tank again and Jose and wagon and cake and Denby exploded into a fireball as Pahrump dived into the bushes.

Denby ran, a man of flames, down to the surf where he fell in and was saved from drowning by Martini while Jose and wagon rolled down Eighth Street until Officer O'Madhauen pulled Jose over for running a stop sign.

"Young man, do you know why I pulled you over," Officer O'Madhauen said.

"Aaaaahhhhhhh!" Jose screamed in pain.

"I am sorry, but you are driving without helmet or seatbelt. And I am afraid I do not see a license plate either."

"My friends," said Jose.

"Today is a Spare the Air day," Officer O'Madhauen said. "I am going to arrest them as well as you. In addition to any number of other infractions, all of you are drunk in public."

"Aaaaahhhhhhh!" Jose screamed."

"Do not worry. You will get a list in the mail from the Court."

As the clock ticked over to the new day of Javier's birthday, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.