AUGUST 24, 2014




So anyway, the weather has been moody, with high fog remaining until late morning and fog rolling in early in the afternoon with breezes that knock the crabapples from the tree branches, leaving the mid part of the day to sear with temperatures that sizzle under bright cloudless skies. The tomatoes are all coming out from Mrs. Almeida's garden now, a little late due to the cooler than usual summer. People used to say about this weather when it gets sort of calm and eerie: "Looks like earthquake weather".

Sure enough we had a big shaker stir things up to remind all the people who came here to escape tornadoes and snow that there are worse things that can happen.

Dawn and Padraic were lying in bed at three AM when the rocking and rolling started rattling the crystal in the cabinet and the two of them lay there with their eyes wide open for a while, listening for sirens and falling plaster. None of that happened as the real trouble lay further north but Dawn said after a moment, "Did we just have sex?"

Padraic paused for a long while before replying, "Yes. But I am not sure I want to do that new position again." Then he rolled over and went to sleep.

Dawn lay there a while longer thinking about things before getting up to make herself some chamomile tea to calm down.

Officer O'Madhauen got himself into a bit of hot water Tuesday when he pulled over Mrs. Bridgeport on the corner of Buena Vista and Sherman. The Officer got out of the cruiser with his gun drawn and ordered everyone to come out with her hands raised. Officer Popinjay came at the car from the street side, crouched down with his gun drawn as well. Out stepped Mrs. Bridgeport with her hands raised. Officer Popinjay holstered his weapon and put her hands behind her and cuffed her at the car. When she saw Officer O'Madhauen, exclaimed, "Tommy, what the hell you doin'? You put those guns down right now -- you are scaring the kids. And you tell this punk to let go of me. I know his mother!"

Paul Bridgeport, a skinny nine year old came out of the car with his hands raised also. "Please don't shoot mommy! I promise I'll be better at algebra in school!"

Officer O'Madhauen made Popinjay release Mrs. Bridgeport. Alicia, all of seven years of age, wailed in the car. "Please don't kill us! We didn't do nothing wrong!"

Officer O'Madhauen tried to smooth things over in what clearly had been a misunderstanding. A call had come in about a car being driven at high speed running stop signs and stop lights and four men waving pistols.

"What kinda car?" Mrs. Bridgeport said. "Lemmee see that report . . .".

"Ma'am, it was verbal." Officer Popinjay said. "Green 2012 Infinity with licenseplate "EAT-ME! All four Black males about 24 years of age."

"Green Infinity!" Mrs. Bridgeport shouted incredulously. "This be a 1992 White Volvo Stationwagon and no kid in the back older than nine! What the hell wrong with your head, boy? Fool!"

"Well the call said they goin' down this way to the Tube." Popinjay said, somewhat shamefully.

The two officers tried to calm things down. Popinjay went to one side of the car and O'Madhauen went to the other side. "Now, now," Popinjay said. "Everything is going to be all right. You are not going to be arrested."

"Okay now," O'Madhauen began calmly, but then lost his patience. "Stop crying!" he barked at Alicia. Which of course sounded like an order, so it did not work.

A Nissan Sentra pulled up in the cutout to the Wind River factory. A man and a woman got out and they started taking pictures. The man took out a notebook. "Hi, I am from the Oakland Tribune. Mind if I ask a few questions . . . ?"

Later on, down at the Station, Officers Popinjay and O'Madhauen got called into the office of Chief Battalia.

"What the hell is wrong with you Officer?" Battalia asked O'Madhauen.

"We got a call about a car running stop signs with guns. Running stop signs of all things . . . "!

"I know all that. Why did you stop this particular car in the way you did?"

"Well," said Officer Popinjay, "They also allegedly ran a red light. . . ".

"The second call said the car went down Buena Vista and turned on Sherman," O'Madhauen said.

"A green Infinity carrying four Black American males all aged 24. Car bearing a distinctive license plate." Chief Battalia said and then paused. "Let me ask both of you something. What if the car had been carrying people closer to the description of the alleged perpetrators. Someone like Lionel from the Pampered Pup or Arthur, whom whom both of you have known for years, just like Mrs. Bridgeport. What if their kids had been in the backseat? Lionel has a teenage son who goes to school with my son Alvin at West End. He is about fifteen but big as a bull -- looks could be twenty-four. What would you have done?"

"Well of course we would have followed proper procedure for allegedly dangerous suspects," O'Madhauen said.

"And if they or their kids had given you any lip?" asked the Chief. "Would you employ pain compliance techniques from training or lethal force?"

"So long as they do as I say, they would not be hurt," Officer O'Madhauen said.

"Let me get this straight," said the Chief. "So long as the people in your custody do exactly as you say, and do not complain about their detention, you will not hurt or kill them."

"Yes sir."

The Chief sat for a long minute, mulling this information over.

"Officers, I consider both of you to be colossal idiots and I have no idea how you passed the academy to become police officers. Let me correct that -- you became police officers because the requirements are set quite low. Please leave my office and do not talk to the press about any of this. Go now and please, please, please try to do as little damage as possible to the citizens you are sworn to protect."

A while later the Chief came before the microphones and the cameras and said what he had to say according to a script written long before he ever entered the Academy himself.

"Ladies and gentlemen, after thorough review of the events that transpired I can find no fault in the actions of the Officers who appear to have followed proper procedure. Fortunately no one was injured in this incident. That is all I have to say. Good day to you."

The day collapsed with exhaustion into the night after three shifts of minimum wage trying to pay the bills and keep afloat. Everything sighed towards sleep and before the start of another impossible day.

In the Old Same Place Bar all the talk was about the recent shaker up in Napa and memories of the '94 quake in LA as well as where you were during the 5:05 Loma Prieta one that knocked out a piece of the Bay Bridge and brought down the Cypress at what normally would have been the height of the rush hour. Arthur had been in his van coming back from making a delivery in the City when the world started rocking under his wheels on the lower deck. There was a transport van from UC Med Center right behind him. He thought to himself, self, better get offa the freeway right away, and so he took the first exit, which dropped him in West Oakland. He heard a noise and looked back over his shoulder to see the freeway he had just been on was gone. A mile of upper deck had pancaked down onto the lower, bringing down sections of that in about two seconds.

He got out of the van he was shaking so bad although the earth had stopped moving. The van from UC was still up there.

Everybody was silent for a while before each started in with his and her stories. Pieh Pah, so called because he sat on the corner on a crate and played the Asian Pieh Pah, told about quakes in China which caused massive mudslides that engulfed entire towns. "I walk back from field. Ground started shaking real bad and then I hid for a while. Then I go along road and come to roadblock. Behind roadblock no more village. My village all gone."

So there they were, Black, White, Asian, First Peoples, all kinds all together in that bar, all connected, all feeling the pain of shock, of loss.

The TV news shifted finally to the other disaster in the making, the violence going on in and around Gaza.

The Man from Minot shook his head. "Why must we be killing each other? Why cannot we learn to get along?"

"Say it again, brother," Lionel said.

There came from far off across the water the ululation of the throughpassing train as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their sentry lights along First Street, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its ghost-haunted, weedy railbed, between the interstices of the chainlink fences until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.