SEPTEMBER 06, 2015




So anyway the high fogs are signaling a change upcoming in the seasons. August is barely struggling along to a hot end while the mornings are packed with overcast skies due to high fog that yields to the Indian summer time we all know. Ducks and doves have started forming chevrons that circle about the old box elder and the potato plants that thrived so well under the hot sun have started to yellow. A high wind kicks up around sunset and the light and shadows among the trees look different than they did a month before. The Canadian geese have started flocking on the high school athletic field and the broad yellow flanks of school buses maneuver the turns on these narrow streets laid out in the 1850's. Uneasy winds start blowing in the morning and at sundown, bringing the high fogs to chill the air. People are taking down the window fans and closing up at night. Ants have invaded the house and all of Nature knows that a great change is coming.

Fall is when changes come around.

Fall is when changes come around. Such has always been the case for Denby. He had a conversation with a woman he had desired for over 30 years - it was one of those things in which the two people by circumstance drifted close and then, by chance drifted apart again because of circumstance. Distance played apart - they had always lived in two cities remote from one another -- entanglements played a part (they had always had troublesome connections), and reticence had played a part -- both of them become through experience too shy to be bold enough to seize the day.

One time he had kissed her and she had looked at him and said in surprise, "What the heck are you DOING?"

Maybe she had regretted saying that immediately afterward, but it sorta killed the mood.

And then again, she had been raised in an aristocratic East Coast family where everyone had been compelled to speak French at the dinner table, while he had been raised up in a family with no money and had to work through school in pizza parlors and animal shelters scooping shit off of the walls of kennels. And so there was this sense of never feeling up to her level all the time. He was a poor boy and she had diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

This is a common story.

In their last conversation after a wedding among friends she had said things that called forth memories of his own entanglements and of people who had died. Neither of them were getting any younger and the past was heavy with the freight of loss.

His own past included Julie, her slim form clad in runner's togs, eyes bright with sunshine and sky before her suicide. And Penny, her hair glowing yellow in the field with llamas up in Marin where he had experienced so many changes. Friends found her sitting upright in bed with a cup of coffee, dead of a heartattack. He took a long walk along the Strand, remembering these things, even while she took a long walk up north along her own beach with her dog, remembering her own past disconnected from his.

At one time his life had streaked along like a crazy bullet train, until odds and enemies had thrown enough chocks under the wheels to cause a number of catastrophic derailments and he had turned overly cautious in all things. After motorcycle wrecks and miscarriages and abortions and playing loose with a Brooklyn drug dealer, he finally bumped to a near stop to look around. In retrospect, it was a wonder he had survived all that.

And then you find yourself after thirty or forty years standing amid the smoking wreckage of a career or a marriage or a life and wonder what ever happened to Althea during this time. When it turns out she had suffered her own sequence of disasters, just like everybody else on the planet. Live long enough and everybody winds up in the same pine box.

While between them friends, associates, lovers, formed a galaxy above, binding everyone around this axis, a milky way of Desire, these Lights of Earth, and the two of them continued to orbit around the axis, two planets approaching nearer at times, then drifting apart.

That last meeting had gone perfunctory and without any great resolve and now he saw the future. Him wearing a greatcoat and a fedora, sitting on a park bench in Union Square with a paper bag of bread crumbs and the pigeons all around. Around his feet the scattered brown leaves of autumn rustling over the round toes of his brown shoes. Thinking about the One that Got Away.

I told Althea
I'm a roving son -
that I was born to be a bachelor -
Althea told me: OK that's fine -
So now I'm out trying to catch her

He had been incredibly stupid that time with her, remembering the conversation. And with that he found himself once again in the familiar, dark oubliette, trying to pull out to the sunlight above with the chanting echoing in his dreams, "Deshi deshi basara basara", only to fall down into that pit time and time again.

Years ago he started falling into that deep hole where figures moved around in a circle through the gloomy half-light, mumbling to themselves and dragging heavy tails through garbage. None of them looked up; what was the point of looking up? Sometimes he stayed there for days.

He roused himself and picked up the Tacoma and, lovingly, caressed her smooth, brown neck. He kissed the headstock. Everyone makes mistakes and he had made more than a few while riding the crazy train. Best not to dwell and get stupid maudlin. Time enough to act old later. The way up was through the work.

The chords rang out. He was in open D, so he sang after the harmonics and rundown,

All my life I've been a traveling man
Said, all my life I've been a traveling man
Staying alone and doing the best I can

And after a while he was up and out of the oubliette, this time without drinking or drugs, and so he could toss down a rope for the others remaining below and then walk towards the lighted city under the stars where his friends lived, good people and true, the Lights of Earth.

Wilmer is a self-professed Air Surgeon . . .

Wilmer Titrake, AMD, strolled down Park Street from his new medical offices. Wilmer is a self-professed Air Surgeon and has just set up shop on the tony downtown business district controlled by Mr. Ratto, who dearly loves the idea of a medical office raising the valuation along that three block by one block area.

Regulate your air, harmonize your air, exterminate your barking spiders, Wilmer is your man.

Silly Hall does not want nasty old practical businesses that fix motorcycles or cars anywhere near downtown. As for artists they are only useful to the extent they bring in wealthy dowagers and trust-fund babies. The doyens of Park Street prefer aroma therapy salons and air surgery clinics, which make the place seem far more wholesome to people eager to pay high rent per foot.

A wayward whale wandered into the estuary and managed to be clobbered by a big ship, and so died there within sight and scent of Jack London Square. Scientists rushed down there to examine the leviathan and have pronounced their findings. This whale sure is dead. Dead as a doornail.

Well stuff happens. Even to whales who sing a gracious tune.

Out on the baseball green of East End High the Canadian geese had gathered according to their annual custom, quite without announcement. This flock meant that the annual migration had begun and the Great North American Flyway was now thronging with avian souls travelling south in advance of the certain El Nino consequences.

"I did not kill him," said the Editor.

As night fell and the full moon waned into gibbous, the Editor sat in front of his monitors and followed the stories of the murders in far off Roanoke, where a madman had killed a couple newsroom people doing their jobs.

The Editor unpacked his heavy Mossberg riot gun with its 12 shell capacity and laid it on his lap.

No g-d d----d fool is going to mess with my people, no way and no how, thought the Editor. Someone comes through the door and they are going to get a piece of Marine wisdom.

The barrel looked to be filled with lint -- it had not been fired for some fifteen years -- and so the Editor took out a wooden swab and leaning the weapon upright between his knees, began cleaning the device, looking down the barrel now and then to check his progress.

That was when Jose came in to see the Editor staring down into the open muzzle of a shotgun.

"Jesu Cristo!" shouted Jose. "For the sake of god, do not commit self-murder!" And with that the courageous Jose lept across the small space of the cube and crashed against the Editor, who jumped up and punched Jose in the jaw.

Jose fell back and landed on his ass unable to speak.

"La a la la aaah la ah!" said Jose.

Pahrump and Denby rushed in next after this commotion and found the Editor standing over a bleeding Jose and a shotgun upon the floor.

"Why did you kill our colleague and friend," Denby asked.

"I did not kill him," said the Editor. "He attacked me and he is foolish."

Pahrump stared down at Jose. "What the hell do you think you are DOING attacking a US Marine, you IDIOT! A US Marine and armed with a shotgun!"

"La a la la aaah la ah!" said Jose. His jaw was broken and he could not speak.

They all wound up taking Jose to the hospital and there was much confab during the entire process. Just not much intelligible from Jose.

In the hospital Jose was visited by Javier who brought along two of his cuchi-cuchi girls, who giggled and played with the O2 apparatus and other tuberous things. They were named Samba and Salsa.

"Jose why do you assault US Marines instead of adopting your true nature as a Latin Lover so as to pursue p---? Like with Samba here and Salsa."

Both girls giggled and Jose muttered "Aah a la la aaah la ah...". He fell back exhausted into his bed.

Much later on the Editor confided in Jose on his return. "I understand you were trying to save my life, worthless though it is, even though you are an incompetant boob. Therefore all is forgiven. Get back to work."

Towards the West End, Bosco the pig, safe now from controlling neighbors, sniffed the air and snortled in his yard. Neighbors with control issues wanted to banish Bosco, a miniature porker weighing less than 12 pounds, claiming a city ordinance forbade the enclosure of livestock within so many feet of a dwelling. Sensible neighbors -- this is a category sometimes found in communities sometimes sensible -- raised up a petition and so rescued Bosco from the meat market. And so the controllers were left to stomp about in jackboots in their basements.

In any case, Bosco knows, by a sort of porcine wisdom, that a great change is coming.

As the day faded from skeined-over skies to nightfall and the waning moon and stars hidden by high fogs people stood in their yards looking upward, wondering about the rain, the missing rain, the longed for rain that would extinguish the wildfires and bring the boys home, the rain that would ease this long drought.

They remained a couple in love . . .

During the day, the homes stood quietly, the little ones at school, and for a brief moment of peace, all was silent and still and peaceful in the house. Little Monica rode the school bus. Little Adam pedaled home on his bike. For a brief while the Household stood shadowed and empty save for Marlene and Andre who met after the long day in the corridor and clasped each other and kissed, a couple still in love after all these years and the kids soon to come home. . . .

"How was your day," Marlene said.

"Eff all," Andre said. "How was yours?"

"Eff all," Marlene said.

"Snarffenn dee bubble de boo," Snuffles said coming through the door.

The couple remained there in a deep embrace, unembarrassed.

"Ooooooooo!" said Snuffles, who retreated to his hole in the porch that had been made during Javier's near disastrous 50th birthday celebration.

They remained a couple in love, in early September, as the leaves began to turn, all around them, everything aging, including themselves. Everything fated to change. And the kids were coming home . . .

Soon, time for crab...

Out on the fishing lanes Pedro eagerly tunes in the radio to get his favorite Lutheran televangelist program, which once again has returned live after what seemed like a long vacation: Pastor Rotschue's Variety Hour. While this might seem heretical, the Lutherans always had the better music than the Baptists or the wan Catholics, so Pedro had become addicted to listening to his favorite program.

As the Tishomingo Blues tune wafted through the salt air, Ferryboat perked up and issued an approving "Woof!" He could feel the change in the air and the shift in the currents. Already oysters were appearing on ice in the groceries. Soon, time for crab and cold water fish. Not yet, but soon.

In the Old Same Place Bar Suzie served the customers . . .

In the Old Same Place Bar Suzie served the customers, the summer tourist crowd having evaporated to leave the regulars: Eugene at the rail, the Man from Minot with his beer, Denby up in the snug with his guitar, and the others scattered around the tables with their familiar candles and their familiar drinks before them. Pimenta Strife was trying to hit up on a truck driver from Bear Lake Minnesota as the Man from Minot looked on wryly, knowing how this would end up.

Suzie retreated then behind the bar to take up one of her college text books. This time, she picked up her drama textbook by Stanley Grutowski, "Towards a Bad Theatre". The chapter began, "It is better to end, contrary to belief with comedy instead of tragedy, although the reverse progression is far, far easier to do, for it is true beyond a reasonable doubt that it is the last thing that the audience will remember best. Theatre provides a catharsis, a sort of relief and false hope amid misery. In other words, although life is hideous and tragic in nature, it is better to leave the audience laughing . . .".

Suzie put this book aside to read with some relief herself about the joyful Bonobo in the jungles.

Meanwhile the moon rose with full strength during this time and Senor Don Guadalupe Erizo sat outside his burrow beneath the hedges on the border of the college green to observe the lunar changes and the atmosphere. A great change was coming and he felt sure of it.

Dame Herisson poked her head out and said, "Les crêpes sont prêtes!"

"Ah! Bueno!" He said and hurried inside. Proving once again that men and women of all species speak entirely different languages, but nevertheless manage to communicate crosswise in many instances. Not always but sometimes.

Then came the ululation of the train from far across the water as it trundled from beneath the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their 1000 watt lamps, 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 and its weedy railbed and interstices of its chainlink fence, dropping slowly over the motionless basketball hoops of Littlejohn Park until the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.