June 26, 2011



Its been sunny, but cooler than normal here on the Island set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. All the schools are done with graduations, the kibosh has been put on the rains for a while, and this week Old Gaia, sitting on her bright-light porch of the world, turned her face finally to allow the full strength of her Sun to caress the deep crevices of her cheeks, the furrows of her brow of mountains and the limpid lakes that are her eyes. The Solstice had revolved to the time that is now.

Everyone celebrated the absolutely gorgeous weather in their own way. Tommy and Toby took their boat, The Lavendar Surprise over to the City Marina for the Pride Parade. Javier located the jammed, burned pistol with which Valerie had shot him on his birthday and buried it in the backyard. Denby went to visit Jose in Highland's ICU.

. . . people got shot with appalling frequency

Jose had gotten severely burned when Javier's birthday cannon had exploded during the melee. Things never seemed to go well during Javier's birthday parties; houses burned down and people got shot with appalling frequency. It was well that his birthday came only once a year. Occasional Quentin had secreted himself into hiding, sleeping out on the "Dumb Friends" bench at Franklin Park.

Denby asked Jose how he was feeling and Jose groaned a long groan of misery.

You should avoid Virgos, Denby advised him.

"No, Javier should avoid Virgos and I should avoid that pinche Javier." He groaned again.

So when do they finish with the skin grafts? Denby asked, to change the subject.

The latest burn therapy involved layering blankets of pigskin on the victim until the underlying layers healed. Jose was essentially wrapped in fatback.

"I am going to avoid all birthdays," Jose said.

"I am going to avoid all birthdays," Jose said.

Come to think of it, when's yours? Denby asked well meaningly.

Denby fled from that place in a hail of metal pans, plastic trays, and partially eaten jello cups flung at his head.

He hitched a ride on the back of Pahrump's scooter over to Marin to help a friend celebrate a birthday, albeit in more sedate fashion than practiced on the Island where even the calmest party featured little girls beating papermache donkeys hanging from trees with a stick until the victim's insides rupture all over the place. Something about America just encourages violence in the best of us.

They put him and Pahrump to work shucking about 148 bar-b-que oysters, grilling salmon and a large bird that looked suspiciously like an oversized pigeon. One entire wall of the house featured a ceiling-high wall-to-wall birdcage just chock full of fluttering, twittering canaries. Denby did not want to think about from where the bird had come, but he had to ask what it was since it was his job to cook it.

The guy, a music industry mogul, told him it was a Brazilian Paraclete Squab.

"A parakeet?" Pahrump said, incredulous.

No, a Paraclete. It aint extinct or anything like that, so don't worry.

"O!" Pahrump said, as if this explained everything.

Since it was a potluck, each guest had brought something special to contribute. In most normal potlucks, people bring lumpy jello, fried chicken, potato salad, homemade chili and hot dish, but this was a Marin Potluck. The grill featured all kinds of animals and fish of which Denby had only heard about in National Geographic Specials, including the infamous red-eyed garam which had been masala-ed overnight in special pans until the antenna had nearly fallen off. Even the deviled eggs had strange orange flowers stuck in them.

A famous author with a Southern accent strolled around, dripping bon bots and being Famous.

The Country was named Jennifer and the Province was way, way down south. . .

A lovely girl came up to Denby and offered him a bit of puffer fish from a bowl. The white bowl of pale fish glowed in front of her black dress which clung to her torso so tightly that the imagination began to conduct a sort of National Geographic expedition of its own around the hills and valleys of that landscape. The country was named Jennifer and the Province was way, way down south. It had been a long time since Denby had stood this close to a hot grill and he felt the hot sun of the pristine sky make him sweat like he was on a safari.

What's this fish?

"It's puffer. It contains one of the most virulent toxins known to science. The Amazonian aborigines tip their poison arrows with it. You nibble a little piece and it makes your lips go numb."

No thanks. I'm allergic to . . . fish. All fish. The Expedition began to withdraw.

She put down the bowl and took up one of the molluscs to schluck it down. "These remind me of prairie oysters," she said.

The Safari had now scattered leaving their tents behind and the Expedition had piled into jeeps racing back to Civilization.

"I'm from Sault St. Marie," Jennifer said. "You live in Marin?"

Where shrieks split through the shattered windows . . .

"We live across the water," Pahrump said. "Where shrieks split through the shattered windows and broken slats of houses so askew you don't want to investigate and gunshots hopscotch between the police sirens and chain link fences. In addition, you should know he has no job."

Jennifer backed away with her fingers crossed in front of her. "East Bay! East Bay!" Abruptly she turned and ran away.

"You bastard." Denby muttered.

"Was it something I said?" Pahrump asked. "I'm just thinkin' of protectin' yer health, good buddy."

The splendid summer's day glided over the stones and trees of Marin into the shadows of evening. Denby brought out the guitar and Pahrump his bongos and the two of them performed for the invited guests.

While Pahrump sat there resting during a break a guy with a craggy face that looked like it had been through a thousand fistfights came up to him. "Name's Doyle. You guys know much about the prostate?"

Us guys?

"You do have a prostate don't ya?" Doyle asked.

"You do have a prostate don't ya?" Doyle asked. "I thought everybody had one. I mean all the different peoples."

So Doyle wanted to know all about Native American remedies for prostate troubles and the two of them connected on the matter of having something in common and they had a fine discussion sitting there on the couch talking all about the prostate, how wonderful it was to have one, the fun stuff you could do with it, what it was there for and all kinds of really groovy prostate-related things, as well as its unruly nature, while the Famous Author sat across from them discussing Proust with Jennifer.

"I'll bet she doesn't have a prostate," said Pahrump.

"I sincerely doubt it," Doyle said. "But I'll bet she has put her hands on one or two in her time. Don't you just hate it when the doc puts on that latex glove and looks at you?"

He's a nice guy, Pahrump thought to himself. However, this is the last time I do a gig for Seniors.

The birthday girl was a lean and lanky woman with iron-gray hair named Marybeth who looked to be about 36.

When Pahrump found out her age, he rudely blurted out, "Girl, you do a lot of botox or something?"

Marybeth laughed. "No, just yoga."

She had merry, dancing eyes, but her husband had framed replicas of antique guns hanging on the walls, and Pahrump suspected that a few contemporary pieces lay about someplace so he paid attention to the music.

"I'd still schtupp her in a minute," somebody said.

Music. Focus on the music! Pahrump went back to the bongos.

They did some Townes Van Zandt and some Chris Smither and some Shindell. Denby finished up with a Mike Doughty song called "27 Jennifers." Pahrump rolled his eyes. Oh well.

As they motored across the Richmond bridge the amber lights of the bridge flashed by like comets or memories. The squat tanks of the Chevron refinery and the Two Brothers Lighthouse greeted them before they slung past the immense north-western quadrant of the Port with its tall spot-lit gantries and the massive ocean freighters resting at the ends of the long mule-piers.

"Home! Home!" Pahrump and Denby shouted.

And they fired down the long defile into Albany, bordered by the salt marshes on the right and the wierd apartments on the left until they slingshotted into the Maze on the little scooter striving mightily to carry two men, a big guitar case and a set of bongos through this exquisite summer night for which they had both been paid the princely sum of fifty bucks each. Then they were up and over the elevated freeway and then down past the construction of the retrofit just before the tube made famous in the Matrix movies. Then home, really home, at last.

What? Back so soon and you didn't get laid?" Tipitina said when they stomped into the cottage.

"No money, no Honey. And nevermind the prostate neither."

"Old Indian saying," Pahrump said. "No money, no Honey. And nevermind the prostate neither."

"Nevermind the what . . . ?!"

Meanwhile, down in a glade at Crab Cove, the Wiccans were holding their Solstice Ceremony. The actual Solstice had passed midweek and a bunch of Lutherans had come down with lawn chairs and picnic baskets to see if anyone would cavort on that evening. As most Wiccans hold day jobs, the weekend seemed far more logical to hold a ceremony and so Tony drove over from KPFA where she worked as a technician and helped set up a little place there.

Most church goers would not enjoy having a group of tourists wearing dirndls and lederhosen coming into their place with cameras and concession stands and Wiccans are pretty much no different, really from other folks in their concerns about the Sacred and the Profane.

There is a place for making jokes about roasted Paraclete and Papal Poop and the Lutheran Pastor getting into bed with a dying man and then there is the real matter of brass tacks, of facing something pretty Big, of facing mortality and that even scarier concept, possible immortality.

You just might not be immortal after all. It might all depend . . .

Nothing is a given, Tony reminds herself. You just might not be immortal after all. It might all depend on what you do in this life. Even though some people act like it does not matter. All you can do is live your life as you should and hope for the best, really.

So Tony helped set up the circle there with low seats and one special one for Pat, who had problems with her limbs and after evening had fallen and all of them were gathered there, they sang the old songs with the strands of luminescent jewels draped on the hills across the water and Hunters Point looking beautiful for the only time of day or night that wracked place ever does.

As they sang the old songs, older far than any of those employed by the relatively modern Christian liturgies a wonder happened unto them. A massive hairy creature wandered into the center of the circle as they chanted.

Naturally, they all stopped.

It was Eunice, Wootie Kanootie's female moose. Once again, she had escaped the herd from where they had been corraled at the base of the Park Street Bridge because she had wearied of the constant amorous attentions of all the male elk there. So she had broken free to earn herself a little holiday. The herd had been awaiting the arrival of two cowboys named Dusty and Lefty who were supposed to herd them back up to Winnipeg, but the boys had been busy on other gigs in the Midwest and had taken their own sweet time getting there.

Nevertheless, such a magnificent creature seemed a blessing to them there and so they fed her apples and things from the cornicopia they had there as a symbol of Mother Earth's generosity and they draped the neck of the moose with orchids and so that is how Wootie found his lost moose who was not lost at all but found.

For she who was lost is now found.

Which is pretty much the story of all liturgy really. For she who was lost is now found. Eunice didn't mind. She was tuckered out so she just went to sleep there, surrounded by luminaria and witches.

Right then from far across the Port of Oaktown, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the sacred waves of the estuary and the summer wildflowers blooming over 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.