JUNE 27, 2010

Its been a warm week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Tuesday, Old Gaia leaned her head back a little more while sitting in that cosmic rocking chair the better to feel the sun most directly upon her face. Which is to say, June 21st marked the astrological start of summer and the day when the earth tilts on her axis to cause the sun to hit the northern hemisphere most directly than at any other time.

As if to mark the ocassion, the fogs burnt off and we saw temps rising into the high 80's along the coast. The roses have all exploded a while ago, along with the golden and scarlet poppies and the bird-of-paradise palms are dripping now with nectar. Wonder of wonders, the calla lilies are in bloom again. The bush beans are showing and even some tomatoes have suddenly woken up. Things appear to be moving nicely according to schedule.

The delegation of Norwegian Bachelor Farmers all headed back to Minnesota after the Native Sons of the Golden West held a little banquet for them. The Farmers all arrived here looking for there former spritual leader, Pastor Inquist, who got redeployed by the Synod of Lutherans, or some such similar organization. It is true that we have a Lutheran Pastor Inkqvist here, but it turned out it was not the same man and the farmers all heard that the new pastor, Pastor Judy, was checking out quite nicely after all, despite all the rumors and the talk. And as it turned out, they all learned to their dismay at the banquet that no one here knew how to make a proper Hot Dish.

When they got into the hall there by the Marina, Juanita proudly brought out a bubbly, cheesy thing in a big cassarole, which looked reasonable enough, but when the fellows dolloped some of that on their plates they each of them noted that it smelled sort of odd even though they clearly could see hamburger meat in there.

What's this spice? One of them asked. And Juanita looking puzzled, mentioned cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, jalapenos, habaneros and a few other things besides the beans and noodles.

One of the farmers put a forkful of the stuff in his mouth and promptly ran from the room.

"Esta muy caliente," said Juanita, wringing her hand towel and realizing that she may have done something a little wrong. "Is real hot, this dish." What she had done was find a hot dish recipe online and, figuring that the mild ingredients could not possibly be right, had added one thing after another until it made her eyes water.

Well, these fellows had never ingested anything spicier in their lives than pickled herring and they didn't like it. Even though they were enjoined to stay longer, they all got on the plane and flew back the next day, causing a small incident at Oakland International when one of them left a tupperware container of the leftovers in the baggage area. In fact, there was so much of Juanita's cassarole left, for quite a while containers of the leftovers would turn up in the darndest places for months afterward as the Norwegians really wanted nothing to do with that spicey food; it was greatly feared that some sort of payback would occur in the form of a big shipment of lutefisk, arriving just as it got toward cooler weather.

As it got on toward the weekend and all sorts of events took place around the Bay under sunny skies, including the Gay Pride parade in Babylon, the temperatures went up and up and folks everywhere looked for ways to beat the heat. Even Father Duran of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint was seen walking barefoot down on the Strand as legions of equally barefoot urchins scampered about the BBQ pits and the driftwood.

While he was down there he stopped to speak with a couple of his parishoners, the Blathers, who were out "slumming with the hoi polloi" on a beach blanket near the bend of the shore to Crab Cove. Mr. Blather had set up a large umbrella topped by a Union Jack, a mini-plastic picnic table, an ice chest, and a miniature TV so as to watch commentary on the World Cup. He and the Missus sat there in low chairs, sipping G&T's while observing the kite surfers and lamenting England's loss to the Germans.

"Is this yours?" Father Duran commented after a round of pleasantries. He indicated a cardboard container that had appeared there at their feet and which Bounders was nosing with interest.

The Blathers denied ownership and the talk turned to things ecumenical as well as athletic. "A shame about our boys getting knocked out that way," said the Missus.

"Damn those Krauts!" said Mr. Blather. "Ought to have another world war to teach them a lesson. Expect I can talk the boys over at the Bank to liven things up and make it possible. Inject a little more vivacity in the markets at the very least."

Fr. Duran said something about God's will as Bounders popped open the container at their feet and began chowing down on what he had found there. After a moment, Bounders sat back with a sort of look of surprise on his furry face. One eyebrow rose way up and the other eye nearly closed and a sort of steam exhaled from his nostrils.

"Something seems to have gotten into your dog," commented the priest as Bounders lept up and ran down to the ocean, of which salt content he drank a goodly portion, then back up to attack the ice chest, upsetting it and spilling the ice out which Bounders gobbled up like kibble. What happened next proved unfortunate for Mr. Blather's tennis whites for stuff started coming out of Bounders "fore and aft" as it is sometimes said, and Bounders ran amok over the beach blanket, both of the Blathers and the Cribbage picnic being held a few feet away. The Cribbages were known to Bounders for he dearly loved to play with their shi tzu, Frou Frou, who looked up from her canine reflections at that moment for signs of doggy affection.

Bounders threw up on Frou Frou, who responded indignantly, before running back to the Blather encampment where his aft end soiled the Missus dreadfully, and where his fore splattered the TV until it exploded in a shower of sparks.

"This looks like someone's hot dish, " mentioned Father Duran peering at the cardboard container and poking it with a stick. "I think I need to be going. "The monstrance needs re-mounting." With that the holy man fled that scene of destruction. To him was given the calling of salvation of souls, not veterinary medicine.

In the Old Same Place Bar, the mood was about as sanguine as things can be for important issues such as FIFA. The Republic had been knocked out of the running by France's handball a year previously, but there has always been a sort of affinity between the Irish and the Germans, so the results cheered Padraic, especially since the snooty English got their comeuppance. He had put up a big TV with satellite feed from the sports channels, but with the sound turned off. Except when he got excited enough to grab the remote and switch it on for a few moments.

"Will ya look at that! Right into the corner and cute as a hoor doin' tricks in the car in the police yard!" exclaimed Padraic on yet another replay.

"Hey, what's this stuff?" said Eugene, sitting at the bar and poking at a white cardboard container sitting innocently on the bar. "Smells pretty good."

"Some Norwegian farmer was in here earlier," said Suzie. "I think he left it by accident."

"Hmm. Probably leftovers from one of the restaurants. Looks like Juanita's chili mac." He raised a forkful to his lips.

Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the summer water of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors and windows of the Jack London waterfront, heading from the port gantries to parts unknown.

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