JUNE 20, 2010

Its been a gusty week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. High winds set in to push away the momentary heatwave we had and so on to bring on the fogs for this year's Father's Day. There was tons of BBQ that took place during the heat wave though.

The last of the graduations has taken place and all the kids are turned loose to wreak mayhem, practicing their skateboard antics and graffiti tagging skills at will. Islander Jeff returned from a successful fishing expedtion in the Bay, nabbing one decent-sized flounder and one four-foot leopard shark. They kept the flounder but let the shark go back to get bigger and bite tourists on the ankles. Jeff says that its okay to eat fish out of the Bay so long as you are "past childrearing age."

We are not sure about the exact terminology here, for perhaps it may mean really "past child procreation age", either as livebearer or inseminator.

In either case, the prognosis does not sound good. Too many years of tarballs and such out there.

With the recent heat wave, folks have been pursuing old patterns to handle the temps. From seaside BBQ to tailgate parties in the many old courtyards out behind the building fronts, where young folks could park a pickup, drop the tailgate and distribute beers from the keg or ice chest. For a while, time warped back another forty years as slicked back studs leaned against rusty fenders while the beatbox pushed out rhythms and barefoot gals popped cool ones against the heat without any conscious attempt at Tradition. This is the way it is; this is the way it has always been. School's out, there is no work to be had for a while, might as well kick back. Dude, fetch me another tallboy from the chest there . . . .

The sacred rituals unfold at the beginning of the heart of summer, just as a dewy rose unfolds before everything changes. People start making plans for the Delta, for Bear Lake. For the Trinity Alps. And the well manicured Harleys of the poseurs and the Elite and the True Brotherhood, and those of the Red and White colors, begin to emerge like incredible insects of Life from impossibly perfect cocoons of garages and storages all over, extending their tenebrous limbs and shuttling their still-drying wings in the bright sun to cluster with the ratbikes and one percent bretheren until suddenly the streets are thronged with the beauty of metal in motion and the art of what is possible in all its miraculous flamboyance.

This is the still beating heart of America, the original America that disdained uniforms and authoritarian leadership, all the go here and do this and do that and following the numbers. This is the America at its absolute best, right before the loaded gun of summer explodes.

Because it had come to being summer quite all of a sudden, Islanders typical response tended naturally to BBQ. After a bracing early morning walk with his dog, Eisenhower, Mr. Howitzer invited the Cribbages and the Pescatores over to enjoy smoked shanks prepared by his man, Dodd, out back. Sitting under the broad umbrella, sipping iced glasses of G&T and fortified lemonade (also prepared by Dodd), the gang reminisced about the good old Reagan years and the flowering of the Conservative Party. As well as the GOP. Them, too.

Meanwhile over at Marlene and Andre's, nobody could afford a smoker, propane for a grill, and certainly not shanks to place thereon, for the Great Recession continued to ravage the land and the people. Instead, Andre and Pahrump dug a hole out among the ironmongery pile and fashioned a sort of grate out of old automobile parts, including the shiny grill from a 1954 Bentley that Mr. Howitzer must have forgotten had ever been there.

They all pooled their spare change together and so got enough to enable Javier and Martini to bicycle out to the 99 Cents store for packages of hot dogs and buns, while Marlene was able to harvest fava bean pods, red onions, and early potatoes from the Recession Garden.

There were even tomatoes from plants which had flourished under the grow lights from the abortive attempt to create an indoor pot garden.

Javier and Martini returned and so for fire they used the remains of an old wooden PacBell wire spindle which had lost structural integrity. A sort of cottage industry that converted those things to tables when the telco moved to composite materials existed for a while, and in many a backyard those wheels still sit in tall grass, bright purple paint flaking away into the weeds.

So at the end of the day, the household there managed to gather sufficient resources for a BBQ of its own as the sun lowered itself into the western ocean behind the hummock of the Marin Headlands and the bristle-skyline of distant Babylon across the Bay. A use was finally found for a long unopened bottle of Hot E&J sauce, got from the old place in the Fruitvale over in Oaktown, so the feast turned out to be pretty decent.

Andred and Denby, who dropped by, brought out their acoustic guitars and together played outlaw love songs and old blues numbers together and Pahrump hung up a hook light when it got too dark to see.

Nobody there had any good memories of any previous time, as it had always been pretty much starting out wretched and getting worse for each of them during the respective courses of their lives, with perhaps a little less trouble from time to time, just to imply that somehow, someway, the sun is gonna shine in that backdoor some day.

Trouble in mind
I'm blue
But I won't be blue always . . .

Meanwhile Dodd had set out the bug zappers and the halogens for the differently appointed gathering on Grand Street, when Mr. Cribbage mentioned Mr. Howitzer's old Bentley as the men talked about golf and cars in one group, while the women talked about ikebana and feng shui over by the coi pond.

"Whatever happened to that old thing? You used to drive around to all the properties in it -- quite the Rotarian." Mr. Cribbage said.

"Oh began making problems, falling apart. To much trouble to keep going. The Mercedes turned out to be far more reliable. Solid German engineering. Kept the chome grill for the longest time as a memento of Mother. . . I say, Dodd!"

"Yes sir?"

"Take one of those links for yourself. Go ahead and put it on the grill. And just pack up the rest in the freezer."

"Yes, sir. Thank you sir."

Dodd had not eaten or drunk anything during the entire afternoon and evening. And there were far too many links left over anyway. Such was the magnaminity of Mr. Howitzer.

"Where did I leave that grill . . . ?" Mr. Howitzer pondered aloud.

At that moment Mrs. Pescatore tripped while gesticulating wildly during her description of the famous Hanging Valley she and her husband had seen during their trip to China, and so fell into the pond. Pretty much everyone's thoughts shifted to this new situation and Dodd had to abandon the grilled link that was to have been his supper.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic had set up a big barrel grill to make tri-tip for sandwiches, and every once in a while he brought in a heaping steel tray which Dawn liberally doused with, you guessed it, bottles of Everett and Jones BBQ sauce. Medium hot.

Padraic looked askance at the bottle of Hot and mentioned to Dawn, "Ya can't be killin' the customers so they never come back, me lass. The regulars are all we got to keep going now. Hot as a cute hoor on flaming rocks in hell is that stuff. Burns worse than Murphy's poteen."

"Now tighten up yer talk-tapes," admonished Dawn. "Some of us are ladies here not usta such language from the gutter."

"Amaideach bean!" Padriac said, before going out. Dawn threw a pot at the back of his head, which fortunately missed.

"Those two are always going at each other. It's amazing they have stayed married so long," Eugene said to the laughing Suzie at the bar.

Old Schmidt had this to say, "Wer sich neckt, der liebt sich. So ist das." He puffed on his pipe for emphasis.

"Come again," said Eugene.

"Old saying." Schmidt said. "You see two people arguing and throwing things -- means they really care for one anodder." Puff, puff. "Not alvays, but sometimes. So ist das."

"And so where did you get all this wisdom about people, Schmidt?" Suzie asked.

Old Schmidt took out his pipe and looked at Suzie with bottomless eyes filled with all the sadness of the world. "My dear girl," he said softly. "Because I haff already made every mistake possible. All the schtoopid schtoopid mistakes. Including the most dangerous mistake of all -- ze Tango. Ja! I sink you know about the Tango now, ja? Me too. Long ago. Kostet 8 years of my life." The old man paused, remembering. Then smiled. "But what years those were!" And the deep wells of sadness there in his eyes fled from now an impish twinkle.

"But about dose luff sings, I know nothink! Nothink! Nothink!"

Well, that had been the previous week before the winds came in to cool things off.

Pastor Inkqvist noted the influx of new parishoners at the Lutheran church this past Sunday, which turned out to be the result of Lake Wobegon's new minister. Several tall, gaunt-looking men trooped in all at once with big workboots and overalls -- it was a contingent of the famous Norwegian bachelor farms who had a mind to travel south when they heard about the waitress at the Sidetrack Tap filling in this last Sunday. The Editor heard about them and hustled on down there to the Emmanuel Church but by the time he got there the farmers had all returned to their fields in Minnesotta as the new crops were coming up right about now. So the Editor, who had longed for basic networking connections, ever in mind to establish Sister City status lucked out. So he sat in the pews, complaining about his miserable childhood in a Catholic boy's home while the Pastor swept the floor.

"I never knew my father," said the Editor. "When I found where he lived, he was dead already of a bad heart."

"Ja, sure," said Inkqvist.

The Editor commented that he regretted not going to look for his father sooner. He had done many things, travelled the world and seen amazing sights and committed more than a few crimes, but that was the one regret he kept inside him.

Pastor Inkqvist walked over to the man and rested his hand on the Editor's shoulder. "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace."

On Father's Day, the girls in Marlene and Andre's Household all took out their fathers to various locations as per tradition, however they did not go to Momma's Cafe this year for brunch as the Great Recession continues to rage across the land and everybody was out of work. Most of the guys had already lost their fathers, and as for Andre, he had crossed the country on the rails to get away from his abusive father, with Marlene having a similar story. Martini's father had died of heartbreak shortly after the 580 interstate claimed the family house and land, held since 1868.

Marsha and her dad took a long walk up in the park there off Grizzley Peak Boulevard and sat and looked out over the Bay while going through a bag of pistachios while Sarah and her dad got a bottle of Jim Beam and sat on a bench beside the Strand near Crab Cove and drank it together until Claude got all weepy and tired until he lay down on the bench with his head in her lap while she watched the seagulls and the windsurfers.

"Just because I regret your mother, doesn't mean I regret you," her father said.

Suan and her father strolled through the recently refurbished Oakland Museum and had lunch in the Black Oak Cafe where the new owner, Robert Dorsey, has done up things quite nicely after selling the Blackberry Bistro up the Hill. "I have seen hard times," said the elder Mr. Washington to Suan. "These times shall pass. And then we will have hard times again. It all goes 'round. Make sure you keep something under the floorboards, my girl." And more fatherly advice.

"Haven't you found a boy, yet?" he asked.

Suan sighed. "O there's boys plenty." He did not know she worked nights as a stripper in the Crazy Horse.

"Well playing the field is fine," he said. "Just don't be giddy. Don't want to be known as a giddy girl. Otherwise only rakes and gad-abouts will want you."

"Sure dad."

Tommy and Toby took their dads out for a cruise aboard their ketch, the Lavendar Surprise where things got a little prickly. They made sure not to kiss or hug one another the entire time. The men all fished for whatever off Angel Island and Tommy's dad caught a four foot leopard shark -- a keeper. Removing the hook took some doing, however, while Toby's dad beat the prehistoric fish about the head with a bat, more or less ineffectively. Toby had to pith the beast in the brains with an awl, which managed to calm the fish down some and make his dad quite proud.

"Way to go Toby! Killin' makes a man out of ya!"

Toby sighed. He never would measure up. No matter what he did. He knew that.

The Almeida family resolved their Father's Day in the usual Island fashion -- they headed out to the Cove for a BBQ and the Sand Castle contest. Pedro slaughtered some of the chickens from the coop and Mrs. Almeida plucked them before they all claimed a spot in the trees with a park grill and a picnic table. Pedro watched his brood scamper around a three-foot high castle with a moat. He had never planned on being a father, but the years pass and things happen. Gilberto, Filiberto, Alicia, Ana, Yolanda, Yvonne, and little Santiago worked industriously on their public works project with a real working drawbridge made of sawgrass, driftwood, kelp and shells while Tugboat, the black lab barked merrily back and forth between the reeds and the water, trying to catch a seabird with which to play. Filibert found a sandcrab and placed it into the moat while Tugboat communicated vociferously. Yolanda pushed Yvonne who fell and nearly destroyed the drawbridge which drew cries of acrimony. Things happen.

As night fell on this sunny Father's Day, Mrs. Sanchez, nee Morales, enjoyed a long phone conversation via Skype with her family in the Phillipines.

Over at the Native Sons of the Golden West clubhouse, Jose, Javier, Martini, and Pahrump finished up cleaning after the annual Father's Day banquet, and sat out front watching the fog roll in while sharing a joint from their failed hydroponics project. They had tried to create an indoor hothouse so as to make some extra cash, but nobody knew anything about fertilizer or growing things that way under grow lights, and so the little pot plants grew no more than a few inches before whithering away to sticks. Martini was too paranoid to leave the lights on long enough for one thing.

With everyone out and about, Marlene and Andre found the house entirely to themselves, a rare occurance for an household of about twelve to fifteen people. So they made the best of it and made love in the creaky old bed for several hours until it was useless anymore. After the fireworks were over, Marlene watched through the window; the sky was a tattered blanket with holes punched in it. The ocean, a carpet of diamonds unfolding to the horizon as far as one could see.

The two of them were quiet for a long time until he mentioned that he thought he could get a gig in Marin at the Renaissance Faire and she said, "I think I'd like to be a pirate."

"Pirate-ness is next to Godly-ness," Andre said. "And if that's the case, prepare to be boarded, ye saucy wench!"

As the curtains demurely close on that delicate scene, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the bounding main of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered windows and doorways of the Jack London Waterfront, heading from the mizzenmasts and gantries of the Port to parts unknown.

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