JULY 4, 2010

It's been a warm week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The Old Judge Wrangle hired his nephew, Julio, to cut back all the brambles behind the Old Fence and the boy went at it at first with an electric weed-wacker, which turned out, not surprisingly, to be insufficient to decimate a forest there about six feet high. Soon enough the fellow was at it with a plug-in circular saw which did a lot of damage and caused immense piles of woody, weedy, blackberries and cottonwood to pile up all around him. He was at that twenty-foot section most of the day getting sweaty and red-faced in the process. A good idea might have been to torch the entire spread, igniting the fence itself, or lay down weedkiller -- to the detriment of the neighbor's tomatoes and beans -- but he is a good Californian boy and would not think of such things.

This being a weekend upon which the 4th of July squarely falls, has resulted in a delightful bollocks of schedules. Because it falls on Sunday, Friday is circumspect and for the same reason now, Monday is also an holiday. Because so many are out of work and there is no business to be had, few complain about taking both of the days off, while some have simply stated, "let us keep the Sabbath" and let no one off in fond hopes a dollar may be earned on both days.

Marlene and Andre grilled tubesteaks on the makeshift BBQ made of Mr. Howitzer's missing Bentley grill and other carparts so as to preserve the tradition of July 4th BBQ with Rolf, Snuffles, and Bonkers the dog. Suan hung out before heading over to the Crazy Horse for the "Sensual Fireworks" show in which she would end up wearing a couple burning sparklers -- and not much else. The economy is tough and a job's a job.

On the Island, there was much ado about preparation for the annual Mayor's Parade for some businesses. But at the last minute many entities found that there was no money left after paying the entrance fee to actually build anything.

Parlor # 46&1/2 of the Native Sons of the Golden West got into a nasty brough-ha-ha with Parlor # 47 over the issue of including certain Ohlone and Lenni Lenapi elements within their charter, for it was felt by some that these elements did not preserve the Spirit of 49 with adequate enthusiasm. In the end, Parlor #46&1/2 withdrew their entry from the parade in a hissy fit of indignation.

The Old Same Place Bar had quite a time of putting together its Gaelic-themed float, which consisted of a flatbed hauling a scene from Cuchulain's madness against the waves, with Padraic presenting as Finn Cuchulain, and Dawn and Suzie cavorting as sea nymphs amid the "foam". A generator powered pumps which sent streams of water into the air over the girls and Eugene Gallipagus drove the truck.

They were positioned in the parade right after Mr. Howitzer's float, "Ode to Enterprise", really a pop for his real estate firm, which consisted of sturdy "builders" hired off the corner of Fruitvale and East 14th to look like they were laying adobe bricks while the wealthy magnate (himself) threw handfuls of gold foil-wrapped chocolate "coins" to the adoring urchins on the street. Javier was up there wielding a trowel with his friend Xavier as if they knew what they were doing. They kept a bottle of tequila stashed in the corner of the waist-high fake wall and took nips whenever Mr. Howitzer's back was turned.

Mr. Howitzer wanted to make sure everything went smooth, so he arranged for another float to precede him; this one titled "Spirit of '49", and which was staffed by all the indigent folks who lived in the rented house down by the beach. He had them got up in disreputable, dirty, torn trousers, boots, slouch hats and gave them all shovels and pie-tins, so as to mime the efforts of panning for gold on a pile of debris. Bonkers and Wickiwup sat up there wearing kerchiefs and slouch hats as well, acting pretty much as dogs will do while Jose, Mancini, Marsha, Occasional Quentin, and Tipitina tossed dirt and pebbles back and forth, while Pahrump sat there as the emblematic Native American, bare chested and all painted up. Every once in a while one of them would make a "find" and then they all got up and did a merry square dance whooping and hollaring. Their water canteens contained several gallons of box wine from Longs so even though they all detested Mr. Howitzer, they started feeling pretty loose and besides, they all needed the money.

Wootee Kanootee, the famous moose tamer, followed along with his charges, Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Vixen and Hockey Puck. Even though he was Canadian, he presented such an interesting appearance in his beaver pelt cap, bright red shirt, suspenders, halo of fruit flies, and eternally muddy boots, that the parade folks let him in. What the heck; he looked something like a '49er.

Sympatho Mimetoslovic and the Amazing Anatolia Enigma followed performing various magic tricks, including the not always successful effort to make each other disappear. Then followed Father Duran, clad in a Dominican friar's habit, on the float for the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, with Sister Maria Speculum dressed as a neophyte/madonna with child, the child being a Tickle Me Elmo doll on loan. Piles of sandbags lay about, intending to represent mission adobe bricks while a barefoot mariachi band dressed in white neophyte "shirts" performed lively tunes, such as "La Intrepido Narcotrafficante" and "La Cucaracha", which had nothing to do with the missions, but which everyone enjoyed immensely.

Things went swimmingly until the NRA folks, all dressed as vaqueros with broad-brimmed sombreros and riding horses, all let loose with their revolvers as they approached the judge's stand, intending to cause an impressive commotion and lots of black powder smoke. This they did, spooking Kanootee's moose who stampeded up the line, at first toward the NRA and then back again as they shootists let loose another volley. This had the effect of finally making the two magicians fly into the crowd, frockcoattails flying in a blizzard of cards.

Hockey Puck lept over -- or attempted to leap over the Old Same Place Bar float but managed only half-way before turning about in a circle to destroy destroying the sea and the Irish castle and the Blarney stones while Padraic flailed at the animal with his blackthorn stick. Something in the water pump broke and a powerful jet smashed across the way to wreck the adobe "wall" belonging to the "Ode to Enterprise before turning most of the "Spirit of 49" into a gloopy pile of mud. The skyline of the City of Enterprise drooped, sagged and finally collapsed pretty much like the housing market did a while back.

Mr. Howitzer's dog, Eisenhower, got loose to start chasing Prancer and Vixen who began mixing it up among the Lutheran choir and marching band while Donner crashed into and overturned several flatbed trucks, sending bunting and musical instruments flying in all directions. Amid the Day of the Locusts wreckage and confusion, wailing and lamentation, a red Elmo doll kept waving his arms in the middle of the street and saying, "Ha ha ha! Do it again! Do it again!"

The stampede was only halted by the one figure whom everyone respected without exception, and there he stood, dismounted from his bicycle with his arm dramatically poised to halt -- the Elvis impersonator in glittering white suit and shades.

Little Imbecilla Cupcake picked up one of the gold coins tossed by Mr. Howitzer and said, "Yuck! This candy is melted!" before throwing back at the furious magnate.

At the end of the day a fine time was had by all at the 35th Annual Mayor's 4th of July Parade.

The 4th is all about brats, parades, patriotism and, of course, fireworks. That night, a skeleton crew put together the weekly Island-Life issue, as the Editor had let most of the staff go to enjoy the evening with their respective families. So while folks roamed down by the Point and Crab cove, hoping to glimpse a few fire flowers from across the water, the Editor sat at his desk, the few remaining white hairs flying in an aureole about his head. The times are hard, hard indeed, but the weekly issue must go through.

And right on schedule the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the sparkeling waters of the estuary under the smokey fire-blossoms of the sky as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered windows and doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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