So anyway once again the year had revolved upon its rusting gears
to re-arrive ponderously to that dreadful day -- to Jose -- of Javier's birthday.
Javier celebrates his birthday each year with nearly fatal consequences, and
given his taste for younger, passionate, and frequently violent women, each
year seems likely to be the last, yet, despite the laws of averages and all
common sense, much like South Park's Kenny, Javier returns once again to celebrate
anew, while Jose quivers in fear. The bastard.
It is not that Javier actively seeks misfortune. Things just . . . happen. Like his fiftieth celebration, which was meant to be just a passing of the jug among friends on the porch of Andre and Marlene's Household. They nearly burnt the house down, killing everyone due to a simple omission of care regarding the butt end of a spleef.
This year, much to Jose's great dismay, Javier discovered that his birthday and Jose's nearly coincided by a matter of a few days. This he discovered, purely by accident, while going through Jose's wallet looking for a few dollars for pot wine.
No, no, no, pleaded Jose. Pleeeeeeeeze do not tell anyone.
I don't tell anyone, Javier said. I just have a small party.
Jose groaned. Oh no!
I think I tell Marlene and Erica . . .
No! Is not Marlene the one who stabbed you with a spear? Jose said.
You disremember. That was Elvia. It was Marlene who shot you with the pistol, thinking it was me.
Maybe I invite Matilda.
She tried to electrocute use both!
No, that was Pilar. You must be thinking of . . . , let me think . . . of Manuela. Except she set us both on fire. She was a hot one that girl!
No, no, no, I do not want no birthday anything. Please leave me out of that.
Which one was member of the biker gang? Ah! So many flowers in such a garden!
O stop whining, Javier said. Love is pain. Un hombre expects that. Which makes me think. When was the last time you unloaded your cojones, amigo? I mean, not with mule or mano a mano.
Uhhhhh . . . !
I thought so. We genuine men of Latin nature must unload or we explode. That is our machismo heritage. I know! I invite Simona! Ahhhh! Simona of a thousand ways! She will be good for you!
Not the one with the pitchfork!
O you must be thinking of Francisca. Simona was the one with the acid. But she has a good side to her. She can be sensual and she knows all the arts of love. Every woman should be like Simona, but not everyone can be. And not every man deserves to enjoy what she has to offer. But you, mi amigo, you shall have such a night to remember.
Indeed it was a memorable night. But to know all about that you will have to come back next week.
This weekend was Father's Day and all over the island fathers took possession of new plaid shirts and tie-clips and shaving accessories. The luckier ones got power tools. Even Javier, who every year on Father's day gets a little something and a card. The card always says something like, "Happy Father's daddy!" and Javier never knows from whom it came. Was that Esmerelda? Or Diane? Or Consuela? Ah, so many women, it was hard to keep track.
Per tradition the girls living in Andre and Marlene's Household all took their father's out to brunch at Mama's Royal Cafe. Mr. Howitzer drove out to Colma to pay his respects there to the paterfamilias and shoot crows squawking on the granite tomb with his Mossberg shotgun until the groundskeepers drove him off with shovels and curses.
Eugene Gallipagus drove out to where his father lived in a double-wide trailer on the outskirts of Grass Valley, which always was a great opportunity to fish for brookies in the streams now slowing from the meager snow melt in the Sierra. It was there that his father had given him the two precious jewels of wisdom Eugene would carry for the rest of his life.
The first went as follows: See that the girl is happy, and you will be too.
The second pursued the following dictum: Do not stick beans up your nose.
Perhaps it was no surprise that Eugene remained a committed bachelor after thirty-seven years and it seemed that he never would marry for his bean-pole frame grew more gangly and out of synch with itself as the years passed.
The Walrus Club, a collection of cold water swimmers held a little champagne brunch on Father's Day which also served as a planning meeting for their next midnight activity in the Bay.
Tommy and Toby both used the laptop to skype with their fathers living in Boston. Tommy's father told him when would he ever find a nice girl to settle down with and regarded Toby with disdain as the ruination of his son although Tommy had been outed long ago before Toby and the entire thing ended in tears and recriminations with Tommy shouting "You never . . . you never . . . "! and Toby trying to defend Tommy's father despite being insulted and Tommy's father saying incredibly to Toby, "You try and talk some sense into that boy. I am sick of him and his lolly gagging."
"Well," said Toby after the hang-up."It's always good to have strong opinions. At least he is firm."
He said that because his own father had developed a raging case of psychotic bipolar mania and would run around the neighborhood in his truck liberally festooned with vaguely Biblical phrases plastered on the sides promising the close proximation of the Apocalypse and certain damnation for most everybody. This had not helped the man's landscaping business in the way of advertising. Nor did his habit of pruning people's hedges with an electric trimmer -- whether they had engaged his services or not. Perhaps it was his way of trying to rustle up new business using good old fashioned chutzpah. Mrs. Dudgeon had to chase him off one time swinging that big black purse she always carries. Eventually while off his meds he tried to paint a house a curious shade of lavendar one day while the astonished owner, Mr. Cribbage, looked on from his flowerbed. "
"Hey! You! What are you doing to my house!" Mr. Cribbage shouted.
"I paint. I paint I paint I paint I paint . . .".
"Stop that! Police! Help!"
This episode did not end well and the men with curious white jackets came to take Toby's father away.
All happy families are more or less dissimilar. All unhappy families are more or less alike. Some famous Russian extemporizing from his distant hermitage located in Nuovo Zembla, a region that exists coterminous with a few other well-known subterranean and subaqueous mythic islands -- such as Bloom County, Yoknapatawpha, and Wobegon -- said that in preface to one of his many meisterworks. But no matter. It only serves to disprove the essential tenet of certain radical groups which imagine that all social ills shall be cured by "fixing" the American Family. Probably in the same way you would fix an unruly Scotch Terrier or a cat. These people have never visited a home for Transitional Age Youth.
In any case the weather got suddenly schizoid around here. Heavy fog and winds chilling the evenings and mornings has been relieved by bright sunny days. Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez took a stroll with the proud couple taking turns at pushing the pram along with its precious contents gurgling and cooing while hummingbirds made abrupt and fleeting visits. It is a great wide world out there, bucko. Full of all kinds of surprises and all of life and many different kinds of families containing many different kinds of people. Be thankful your family is unlike any other, because the pit of misery is very deep and wide and cruel and largely unfair.
As the night fell, the fog eased in to chill the air before working its magic under the heavens hidden with their stars way up away from here. For light the beach houses and condos along Shoreline provided some fuzzy glow and tiki torches flapped in the breeze hard by the Cove where the Walrus Club arrived to strip off all their clothes, men and women together and shine whitely in that fitful gleem. They hesitated only until the last stood there and in they dove suddenly into that chill dark to swim as so many wrigglers multiplied by the waves and the dark and the tricks of light from a few into millions, all headed toward the milky disk of the horizon and the raft with its nimbus of lantern light, all headed toward some procreative astonishment, each sent forth with slight hope and abandoned. The way fathers do.
So Javier got it into his head that on his birthday he would make sure that Jose, his very good friend had a splendid time. To Jose a good time meant sitting quietly in his chair by the light with a good book by Gabo Marquez or Neruda, but to Javier a good time meant a rollicking evening with a woman or two, a fair amount of booze and plenty of mayhem with fireworks, for Javier was like that. The one time Jose tried to keep things quiet and sedate was on his birthday, for it never failed that day to be a wretched disappointment. It is truely amazing how these things always happened, for the higher his expectations, the surer he was likely to get smacked in the face with a wet fish.
Of course since neither one of them had any money, the extent of mayhem would have to arrive on the cheep side along with any women they might find. The cheeper the women the better.
So Javier could not obtain Francesca, who had gone off to wreak havoc in the Sierra foothills with her biker gang, which was fine by Jose, who understood that he dwelled not within her league by any means. Nor could Javier obtain Martina, she of the leather boots with the silver spurs and the whips.
So the two of them rode the BART train into the city as it started to rain to check out the Crazy Horse where Suan worked as an exotic dancer, with Javier hoping that Suan could pull some strings and maybe get them a free lapdance or something. As it turned out, Suan was off that night and could not be found so they sat in the back watching the stage and nursing single beers -- all they could afford -- until the man with the big shoulders told them to buy a round or leave. So outside a man with a big hat told them to give him all their money but all the money they had was for the BART return trip so they tried to run away down Harrison.
Things did not work very well with this running away such that the man with the big hat and very big friends caught them and beat them both badly and took away their ten dollars which is all they had between them. Now there they were in SOMA with no money and no way to get home and it raining now fairly hard, which at least helped wash the blood off their faces. Jose's left knee started swelling from where one of the thugs had hit him with a baton.
Jose went into the all night diner on Van Ness to see if he could call the House and maybe get Pahrump over on his scooter and when the waitress there learned of what had happened she offered to drive one of them back over the bridge to Oakland, but she could not take two of them as her car was filled with magazines and papers on account of her going to Beauty College and her car was one of those new Smartcars not much bigger than a bug with just two seats. Jose promised to alert Pahrump once he made it back to the House, so Javier was left there standing near the onramp at Fifth as his birthday began to fade and the moon rose in the misting rain over the Bay.
He stopped trying to hitch for a while and got down under the cutout near Second Street where some homies had a Bushville encampment there and they had some wine together and talked about things like the houses all of them had lost during the Housing Bust and the Great Recession until he though he better get back up there in case Pahrump came along with his scooter before it got too late. So he said goodbye to his pals there and climbed back up the side. He had to climb over a few things to get there and somehow found himself on the new bridge looking over at the old bridge where he was supposed to be. That is when he started walking, figuring that since no one was driving the new bridge the cops would not notice someone walking along there on what would become a bicycle path beside the road when the thing opened for sure.
Well that span is a good two, three miles long over open water, not counting the Treasure Island tunnel, so he was pretty soaked to the skin after a few hours of walking along, doing his birthday hike and all and his bones aching from the beating he got from the muggers and after an hour or two Javier was a sorry birthday boy mess.
He had gotten about as far as where the bridge swept over the mud flats close to shore when a construction crew working on replacing some of the 30,000 brittle bolts that had failed inspection noticed him. They were mad already about having to swap out all those bolts and in the rain and they did not like someone walking on their bridge before it was ready and without authorization or any papers and so they knocked Javier around a good bit before security hauled him back in a car in the direction he had come to lodge him in the Seventh Street jail for breaking and entering and being an all round nuisance and when he told them all about his celebration they just laughed.
His cellmate was named Guido and he did not smell so good. Another fellow brought in on a DUI upchucked in the middle of the floor, which irritated the guard to no end as then he could not enjoy his midnight popcorn done in the microwave. The final admittance to that bad hotel was a man named Claude who turned out to be an Amway salesman whose demeanor and aftershave persuaded the cop that he was somehow high on something in public. He was not drunk, but full of energy and the goodness of the Savior who had redeemed him from a life of sin and he could not stop talking all night. That is where Javier spent the rest of his birthday and he could not clean up his face in the sink because the DUI man threw up in that basin too.
As for Jose, the woman would not drive him onto the Island, which is understandable given that getting onto the Island involves driving through the Kaiser concrete processing plant to get to the one bridge, as the tunnel was closed for cleaning. Instead she dropped him off around 85th Street near where she lived, and Jose had a time of it getting through the firezone with cholos sporting tattooed tears blazing away at one another with just about every form of ordinance and caliber available from the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Native Sons of the Golden West. Around 83rd two guys walked around with their arms extended pulling the triggers and because they had canted the pistols in cool gangsta style and kept hopping around like rappers they missed each other time after time as cement chips and glass shards flew off of the buildings and cars.
Once he got past that scene he came across five guys dropping bottle-shaped things into an olive drab tube which puffed with a loud swoosh each time they did it. They were firing a mortar at a rival gang's house a few blocks away. They all stood there and watched as a cop car came tearing down the street with all its lights and sirens going. Then the homeboys turned back to their methodical feeding of the mortar which went "schwoomp!" and then "Crump!" as the round exploded near its target. One of the fellows, talking on his cell phone to somebody who apparently was the spotter started cursing. "What you mean a little to the lef'? You said a little right last time! Fool!"
Some guy wearing a bright red jumpsuit grabbed Jose, who thought this was it for sure, but it turned out he was to deliver a message on a piece of paper down the street to somebody. Jose did not know what was on the paper and he did not bother to look as he sprinted as best he could on his swollen knee down International Boulevard holding the message in his right with his white handkerchief waving in his left above his head. All the firing stopped as he did so, save for distant pops a few blocks away.
When he got to a sort of barricade he found a lean-looking fellow, who looked to be all of fifteen, wearing a bright blue jumpsuit and bandoliers of machinegun bullets.
"For Pete's sake," Jose said. "You have to be kidding me."
The Blue fellow demanded the message and Jose handed over the slip of paper.
Blue looked at it, scowled, then threw it down and then began striding back and forth in a most truculent manner, waving his Mac-10 and sporting a pistol tucked into his waistband besides.
"What do you think about that?" He kept saying. "What do you think of that?"
Jose picked up the paper.
DA BOYZ GONNA MESS UP YOUR HAIR REEEEEEEEL BAD, GENERAL!
It occured to the Blue General that he should respond smartly and so he got together with some of his soldiers and they drafted a pithy response. Here, inspiration alit on Jose in a most uncommon form. He mentioned that just up ahead, not back there, but up ahead was a snarky colonel of the red jumpsuit clan and it would be a real good idea to get a message to those guys and just forget about that daf punk back there.
Jose dutifully took the message at a dead running hobble up four blocks to the HQ of the Red team.
WE FLY YOU MOTHER'S PANTEEZ FROM OUR POLZ!
O the red rage. This demanded verbiage.
So that is how Jose made it back home through Shooter's Alley, the worst crime-fightin'est, most dangerous stretch of any city road in the world -- by taking insulting messages from one bivouac to the next, from one house of strange chemical odors to the next.
By the time he got to the bridge he saw with incredulity at just past four am that the span had been raised, for what kind of traffic at that hour on the estuary he did not know but there stood the lighted tower and the two arms of the drawbridge pointing upwards through the falling rain like twin arms raised in plea or despair. It did not matter that he was a tired, soaked to the skin, beat up and robbed Island-Homeboy trying to get home before dawn. The Bridge was up and there was no way he could fall into his warmish cot safe among the lunatics at the Household. Slowly he shuffled along the rip rap and skirted the warehouses and overpasses with his home so close and yet so far away. Eventually he got to the Bushville encampment near the entrance to the tunnel at Webster where at least the concrete overpass kept everything dry.
There he found a couple named Paul and MaryBeth who had set up a tent with plastic sheeting. "Dude you sure look messed up," Paul said. He had a full beard and a bandana and strummed a guitar with five strings.
"We got some canned stew from the dumpster. It says its expired but its still good." MaryBeth said. "We got plenty."
And so Jose was welcomed and was fed for among the poor, there is sometimes real understanding of the way things are and that rare kindness is possible where people do not expect anything in return.
A man came up to them there and spoke unto them and this is what he said. "Have you been touched by His noodly appendage? Are you aware this is the shortest night of the year?"
For it was true that this man was an ordained Minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and he did speak then of fate and hope and charity and love, and of course of these things, the greatest of them is . . . , well, you all know.
And so Jose was comforted and no longer dispaired. For he was with a Community of spirit and his bruised bones eased themselves on the tired cushions of a discarded sofa, the substance of which had gone into the little heating fire there under the overpass.
The Editor stepped out onto the deck as the rain sifted down to look at the solstice moon even as the Island Coven did the same during a pause in the middle of their Wiccan ceremonies down by the Cove.
Wisps of cloud trailed across the face of the moon as if some god had recently passed by after administering a blessing.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, and all the scattered Bushvilles as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island and that was Javier's birthday this time. Have a great week.
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