SEPTEMBER 13, 2009

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A dockwalloper set in to drench the place during the Friday night repose, disturbed by thunder and lightning all through Saturday.

Heard the Mayor is back in Lake Wobegon after his vacation to Florida or Hawaii or wherever the fellow went, so we are gearing up our Messenger hamsters, our passenger pigeons, and our usual lines of miscommunication in our ongoing effort to secure Sister City status with that august burg.

We are really hoping to get this done before NPR goes broke, for as you all know the public radio station is hurting in these recessionary times for cash. So you readers out there could do well to secure your tax break by making a donation online at and keep the Man in red tennis shoes.

We always wanted to be just like Mr. Keillor. To grow old with a wildly successful long-running radio show, have a string of published books on the shelf, be surrounded and entertained by the great and talented, have fabulously gorgeous Scandanavian women hanging of one's arm, dispense avuncular knowledge with the wisdom of the ages to adoring fans, and go to work wearing red tennis shoes.

Instead, we just got old. That part we managed all right.

The ambulance pulled up to Mr. Blather's rental house the other day. Seems Mr. Blather fell down while pruning the hedges outside. His lips looked a little blue and his eyes rolled back in his head, which his tenants Muffy and Brad thought unusual. Somebody ran to call 911 and when the paramedics got out one of them asked if this was a matter of a heart attack.

That's when Brad said, "He's a realtor and a landlord. I didn't think he had a heart."

The paramedic didn't think that was funny.

The other fellow bent down over Mr. Blather and asked him the first question any primary care provider asks in the Northern California before anything else.

"Are you Kaiser?" he asked. His nameplate said "Alex".

"Ralph Blather", answered the man from the ground.

"I can't help you if you aren't Kaiser." said Alex who started to walk away.

"Hey! I've just had a heart attack!" shouted Mr. Blather. "I have insurance!"

"Well, if you aren't Kaiser, can you pay for transport? It's three hundred dollars." said the other paramedic helpfully. His name was Willy.

"Three hundred . . ."! It looked like Mr. Blather was about to have another heart attack. Sweat was busting off his forehead like a cartoon.

"Its that cheap because the hospital is only three blocks away. If I were you, I'd take the transport, else you also gotta pay for admission. And that can take a while with all the paperwork." said Alex. "Whaddya wanna do?"

"I'll pay! I'll pay! I'm fully covered! Just get me to the hospital!"

"He got a source of income?" Willy asked Brad and Muffy.

"Well, he owns this building."

"That don't mean nothing in California," Willy responded. "Plenty of good-for-nothings own property in this state now."

"You can say that again." Muffy said.

Mr. Blather waved a fistfull of C-notes in the air before falling back unconscious.

"All right. Cash it is", said Willy.

The two professionals then bundled Mr. Blather onto a gurney and rolled him into the back of the ambulance.

"This guy got any family or contacts around here?" Alex asked.

"Well I think he's been divorced about three times." Muffy said. "But I don't know if anybody cares about him. You can contact his office at Howitzer, Hanford, Blather and Cribbage in the City for more info."

Alex wrote all that down, asking Muffy to spell out the name of 'Cribbage' before getting in beside his partner. The ambulance sped off with its lights flashing.

That night Brad told this story over at the Old Same Place Bar.

Suzie wanted to know when the buisness was going to start offering health insurance benefits.

Padraic was incredulous. "You want benefits working as a bartender in a local? I can't afford that!"

As it turned out nobody in the bar had any health insurance at all except for Padraic and Dawn.

Brad asked how much the deductable was.

"About five thousand dollars. After that, they pay 80 percent. Which seems about average."

"Ever use it?"

"At $5,000 are you kidding?"

They all meditated on this for a while.

"Thank god we are not like the Canadians, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish, the Swiss or any of them Scandanavians", someone said.

"No", said Padraic. "We are like Malawi, Uganda, Somalia, Uzbekistan and Bangladesh. But at least we ain't one bit Socialist and haven't been at all since 1939."

They all had a drink then in the name of Free Market Enterprise, the fruits of which are liberally distributed in this time of bounding economy and thriving real estate.

Right then the long wail of the train passing through Jack London Waterfront came ululating across the water as it left the Port for destinations unknown.

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