September 9, 2018



So anyway, Norm, who lived up on Madrone, had gotten sick of the deer and other animals raiding the yard and making a mess of the roses and the vegetables planted by Alice so he set to work building a firm wall that would have a base of cemented cinder block. He first tried hauling a load of cinder block from Stone's Quarry in the East Bay, but he owned a pickup truck a lot like many of the men in Marin; these pickups were polished up and seldom did a day's labor, for they never were intended for that purpose. The toy pickup truck he owned never was built to handle real work and the thing sagged so bad under load, he had to unload half of the bricks, leaving them there in the lot to be picked up later. Once he got underway over the Bridge, the rear fenders rubbed the tires until they smoked and besides by the time he got back he realized he would have to go fetch another two more loads and he was tired.

after 15 years of business nobody knew what they did

Norm worked in the City as a software developer for a company called Santur Technology, a company that started out making window screens in India, but which moved into textile machinery that employed CAD programs to make textile patterns. The owners had so much success with this, they shifted to selling CAD programs and then Apps for iPhones and further diversified into laser ablation and splutter film manufacturing and then facilities management for the University of California and now, after 15 years of business nobody knew what they did anymore, but they seemed to be making money hand over fist. One thing they did not do was wall-building or heavy construction -- of that, Norm was pretty sure, but he figured it couldn't be all that complicated.

Norm set to work with what he had all by himself for he was going to save money by doing it all himself, but he ordered a drayer to haul the rest of the cinder block over the bridge and up to his place on the hill. He got some string and a plumber's level and laid out the line perfectly straight and graded the location just a flat as could be.

Denby strolled past on his daily walk and waved and Norm waved back.

Norm then drove in some stakes to line up the wall perfect and hold the first layer in position, and built up a section on top of that about four feet high, overlapping each line just right making the wall about ten feet long with qwik cement and then went in to have a lemonade and then go to bed and sleep and not wake up until the next morning when the drayer was supposed to arrive and when the drayer arrived.

There was a sort of a loud thump and the drayer knocked on Norm's door and told him his load had arrived but that his carport sure looked a mess.

This confused Norm, as he did not possess a carport, but parked up on the public road easement, but when he came out he found he now indeed did possess a carport where the roses and the hedge once had stood. The hedge now lay smashed flat under the wall which had fallen over all of a piece, mostly, and there was little left of the roses for Norm had failed to create a rebar foundation for his wall or pour a cement foundation for metal retaining rods.

They stood there, Norm and the drayer, whose name was Jim, and they stared down at the new carport that had been a wall. Norm did not tell Jim that the carport had been a wall, but Jim said doubtfully, "I do not think cinderblock is good material for a carport. It is going to break up. So where do you want to stick this load?"

As Denby continued his daily stroll he passed by a sort of house that looked to predate the gentrification of the County with its primitive log rail fence, unswept property and unpainted clapboard house with none of the foo-foo improvements that have so obsessed people bound to move to the countryside so as to make it better than it was. Moss clad the brick chimney of a property that never experienced direct sunlight and which abutted in the rear the creek with its deep cut of banks overhung with drooping pines and cypress. A man always was busy outside, muttering to himself as he swept the gravel area and cursed pooping canines and their walkers. Although the man always appeared busy, the place never looked well kept.

My name's Tink. I got this belfry. It's got a bat in it.

Each time Denby passed, the man addressed him a bit more directly. This time the man stood beside a waste bin and started his delivery as follows: "Hey! My name's Tink. I got this belfry. It's got a bat in it. I swatted that feller and he came down at me! You know what I mean! Look what he did to me!"

And the man pulled on the neckline of his maroon sweater to reveal a reddened torso and a gnarly expanse of skin that could have born any sort of mark, but it was hard to tell for the man's skin was not smooth or evenly toned.

"I tell ya, don't go swatting at bats! Just like hornet's nests, don't go swatting at them things! You don't swat at hornets nest and so it is the same! Understand what I am telling you?"

"I can see where you have bats," Denby said, and so he continued his stroll at a brisk pace, thinking, this place is almost like home with its burnouts and characters.

As night fell on the Island Jacqueline was closing up shop as Maeve swept up the last scatterings of hair clippings around the chairs. The yellow rent increase from Caine Property Management sat on the banquette under a curling iron. That rent increase of over 200% meant that the place would, like so many on Park Street, pick up and move somewhere else.

Jackie sat in one of the chairs to rest her tired legs. 20 years running the business and nobody getting any younger. Maeve pulled up a stool as Lionel dropped in, as he sometimes did, for he was smitten by Jackie and had long carried his torch with honor and dignity. Even the Pampered Pup, a hot dog stand which had been their almost as long as the newspaper kiosk built before W.W.II, was threatened by this rental crisis.

Across the street, Juanita's remained open despite there being just two parties in there enjoying burritos, enchiladas and margaritas.

"Let's go to the Old Same Place," Lionel said and Maeve agreed.

There in the snug room where Padraic and Dawn still held forth with Gaelic Coffees served up by the fetching Suzie, who had once again been poured into a miniskirt, the Man from Minot sat at a table with Susan, Lynette, Tommy and Toby, who had all finished a fine day of Holiday sailing on this Labor Day.

Betty and Gardenia had finished their shifts at the hospital -- nurses do not get holidays the same way the rest of us do -- and they shared a table with Betty and Brunhilde from the Touch of Wonder Massage Parlor.

(Put a Merkin in your Firkin!)

Larry Larch was there with one of his service animals from the PPA, along with Wootee Kanootee, wearing a great big raccoon skin cap. Latreena Brown and Malice Green gossiped maliciously about everybody while Anatolia Enigma performed magic bar tricks. Marvin from Marvin's Merkins (Put a Merkin in your Firkin!) came in and was immediately seized upon by Pimenta Strife, who much was attracted to the intense focus of the merkin. She wanted to know what could be done for men who had generous assets, and Larry replied, "Well, we do supply a variety of socks . . .".

Bear pulled up on his vintage panhead Harley with Susan on the pillion and Officer O'Mahauen drove by to make sure nobody was speeding or jaywalking in that district.

Pretty soon the place was abuzz as in times past, save for a jukebox supplying music instead of Denby up in the Snug. And a cheerful clatter was heard from within despite the rental crisis, for each of them remained alive and each with the breath in them after a long working day or week and what does a workingman want but a pint of plain, for a pint of plain is yer only man.

She normally wore nothing but a fetching hat

Members of the Angry Elf gang stood outside and gnawed their own livers with angry disdain, for the gang did not love joy. They dispersed as Percy Worthington-Boughsplatt pulled up, honking, in his immaculate two-toned 1939 Mandeville-Brot coupe. Percy came around and gave Madeline a hand stepping down from the runningboard where she caused a sensation in wearing a delightful bracelet of turquoise and stones. Maddie was not a clotheshorse, for she normally wore nothing but a fetching hat, a choker on chill days, a boa, and a pair of strappy six-inch stiletto heels. As a longtime member of the Berkeley Explicit Players, Madeline did not take on garnishment lightly.

it came to the Man from Minot to speak

And they were all in there with much joviality and it came to the Man from Minot to speak about the working man and this is what he said. "I tell you I have been all around the world, seen many lands and danced with the fierce cannibals among the baobab trees in the forest. I have searched the planet far and wide, crossed deserts and fields, seen the cities of man as well as fabulous creatures of the deserts and the Savannah, but nothing amazes a man like a pint of plain."

" I have studied the philosophers and all the great thinkers. Roved the university halls of lore and consulted wise men sitting amid ashes and clinkers, pestered seers and prophets, gurus and sages, to distribute at least a drop of the wisdom of the ages, yet still for all that all of those wise men said there was little to gain, beyond just knowin' all the universe stands in a pint of plain."

Padraic set the Guinness down before the Man from Minot, who paused to take a deep draught and so wet his tonsils to proceed. He licked his lips and gazed up at the ceiling at some particular corner there where inspiration nestled like a spider in its homey web. Then he began again.

a pint of plain is yer only man

"I have wooed and wed, romanced many a lass, been married seven times and more and gone off besides. Over these twenty years laid many a beauty to rest with a mighty tear and a world of pain, but nothing consoles a man through all of his troubles quite like a pint of plain. I have builded edifices like Ozymandias and watched them each fall, started businesses and gained princely treasures only to lose it all, but I tell you my lads and my lassies here, nothing stands up like a good glass of beer. So I am come from afar and from near, offer succor and pleasure to the profitless man, only to tell you this great and noble truth as best I can, a pint of plain is yer only man."

There were cries of "Hurrah!" and "Here! Here!" and yet more calls for beer, which Padraic thought most sweet and to his heart, quite dear.

And although it was raucous and lively within the Old Same Place Bar, all across the Island a gentle peace descended. It was a quiet night on the Island. No sirens rent the night, and nobody got shot and nobody got stabbed.

The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary and wended its way through the fog-shrouded Northbay's well-matriculated hills and slid over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais following the old, forgotten railbeds that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong that carried forth on the winds over White's Hill and Fairfax, ululating through Silvan Acres and the cubbied niches of Lagunitas, coursing with faint gray shapes along the ridgetops through the mist to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay. Have a great week.