OCTOBER 3, 2010

Its been a cooling week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the abrupt heat wave that spelled the last gasp of summer, the weather took a good look around and seeing the First Day of Fall had come and gone, decided to bring on the cooler temps of the evening.

The Editor and staff have been busy about the Offices with repairs necessitated by the unfortunate plumbing failure in the floor above, which caused no end of distress to the aquaria. There is also the Calendar to update and various site repairs caused, apparently, by spaghetti getting into the Java maker. The old coffeemaker got tossed out, so we are back to making brew the old fashioned way -- kettle and manual drip filters.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar all the regulars are in a wax about the landlord greed which killed the 137 year-old Bonier Bakery on Park Street. Park Street itself is beginning to look a little ghostly with vacancies now on all the major corners. Dozens of businesses now boarded up due to the Great Recession and Realtor intransigence in the face of economic realities.

Nevertheless, October has arrived and with it the Season of the Witch, for nothing exemplifies NorCal quite so much as the nearly monthlong costume party and celebration of freedom decorated with naughty pumpkins and the colors of orange and black. Suzie has been pinning up the cardboard spiders while Dawn has begun layering on the cotton cobwebs. Beside the jar of pickles another jar of bloody eyeballs has appeared and no one can saw which is more horrible. Those pickles have been there since at least the Irish civil war and no one has ever been seen to reach in their to find out if they are still any good.

Wan Wei of the Golden Dragon tried to interest Padraic in a jar of Chinese Thousand Year Old Eggs, which is a sort of grade-school science project cased in mud that people from Hong Kong seem to actually enjoy eating. Most of us have gone through this exercise of soaking eggs in vinegar until they can be squeezed through the narrow neck of a bottle, where the rubbery thing sits until Mom throws it out in the trash, but the Chinese possess similar culinary habits to the Norwegians, as do many of us in other forms. On the African savannas people will eat live scorpions, so go figure.

One evening a small cardboard box appeared on the bartop with a Mexican sugar skull sitting on top; it was one of Juanita's cheesy hot dish leftovers from the Norwegian banquet a few months ago, not apparently any the worse for having sat out, unrefridgerated for many weeks. Everyone speculated about what had happened to Pastor Inquist and just how Pastor Judy was doing up there where they actually put small houses out on the lake ice in winter. Then, Thursday afternoon a UPS truck pulled up to the Old Same Place Bar and Rudy got out the handcart to deliver ten wooden cases to the door.

Padraic scratched his head but signed for the prepaid delivery. Rudy sprayed some kind of aerosol deodorant into the back of the truck before scampering back up to his throne in the brown van before driving off.

When Padraic opened the top case he found long dried fillets in there smelling vaguely of soap and seawrack. It was nearly one hundred pounds of lutefisk. Sent as a gift from the Bear Lake facility in northern Minnesota. A single bottle of aquavit had come with.

What the devil are we to do with all of this? Padraic asked.

Bury it, said Dawn. That's how it is made in the first place.

So that's what they did. They gave a couple cases to Mrs. Almeida, who planned to make her special Portuguese dish for the Holidays, and some went to Marlene and Andre's household where they did in fact bury it after Bonkers and Wickiwup both tried to do just that after sniffing the contents and then upchucking on the beach from the odor, which got to be rather strong.

The rest went out back and into a ground vault for safekeeping.

Suzie returned to her anthropology book and a dish of rhubarb pie made that day by Dawn. "The Bonobo, from whom we in Western Civilization can learn much, enjoy delighting one another spontaneously and without reservation by providing small services and gifts in the middle of the forest . . .".

After the last gasp of summer heat fall finally has set in with promise of rain that came on Sunday and the chevrons of Canadian geese took wing and away for Buenos Aires.

Neighbors Mike and Agnes report successful rescue of an injured Coopers hawk which got transported in swaddles to the rescue center in Marin close to midnight midweek. In the morning all the cars were beaded with moisture.

The local Radio Minister put a fright into a few people here last week. We have a local radio station that broadcasts the news, Guido's Garden Report and, naturally, the NPR feed, along with a Sunday sermon called "The Voice" from Pastor Rotschue a Lutheran minister who claims to come from St. Paul where he keeps a sort of chapel on Summit Avenue on a hill that looks down over the roof of the Fitzgerald Theatre below.

This past week, the Pastor abruptly said, "Amen" in the middle of a sermon about healing the lepers -- perhaps you know the passage in scripture wherein nine lepers are cured, but one is healed and that one returns to thank The Lord -- he closed up the show and things pretty much went on as usual from there.

As it so happened on this day right after the show, Pedro Almeida met the Pastor walking along Park Street in front of the place where the Bonier Bakery used to be, and he mentioned that he noted the sermon had ended rather abruptly.

The Pastor nodded. Yes and?

Pedro said, "You know I am on the boat a long time -- I am a fisherman by trade. You might not know entirely the trade of fisherman. Perhaps you do. For many long hours I have only the sound of the radio as a friend. For many long hours, through wind and all kinds of weather and times of boredom and times I thought I surely will die, the voice on the radio has been a friend to me as if . . . as if I were sitting on a tractor in an immense field of wheat on the prarie extending for miles to the furthest limits of the horizon. Only your voice there; a friend of Truth. One voice I could trust to always be there in that tremendous ocean. Why did you end so early this day?"

At this confession, the Pastor was taken aback. He did not know what to say. So he spoke the truth. " I wanted to see what would happen."

"You know we know you have been ill recently. The stroke. We all have been terribly concerned. Although I am most unworthy and most undeserving of any, please. Do not do that again. We need to hear the Voice."

With that the two men went their seperate ways. It is not known if the Pastor Rotschue hearkened unto the message from one of his listeners, one of the most unworthy. One of those of the lepers, one of the thieves, one of the whores, one of the fishermen to whom a certain man of Galilee preached long ago.

The Bay Area now passes into that strange time of changes, of flickering lights in jack-o-lanterns, of shimmering luminaria lining the walks and the time when spirits walk again among us, strange apparitions and crossovers to the Other World. We do not take such jokes lightly. For it is such a long long time to be gone. And such a short time to be here.

From far across the way, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the spectral waves of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered storefronts and warehouses of the Jack London Waterfront as the ghost-train headed off to parts unknown.