OCTOBER 11, 2009


As usual a savage heat spell has set in during the first days of Autumn, while other places enjoy a respite from the temperatures, we have been handling scortchers into the hundreds around here. The sunflowers are all wilting now, and the cosmos, once going great guns, are beginning to pull back. The polebeans and the tomatoes have all expired due to Seasonal Confusion Disorder although Beth has managed to encourage the old Hydrangea to flower anew.

Beth talks to the hydrangea you know, but we all pretend she is talking to the stray cat, which seems somehow more normal.
Now you just keep pushing out leaves and such and blooming. I know Javier is looking for the first opportunity to wack you back down to size but don't you have none of it.

And so on.

Javier thinks Beth is a wack job of a different order, and so he steadfastly waters the herbs and the beans, the carrots and the onions, but stays away from Beth's hydrangea and this drives Beth into a frenzy.

Will you PLEASE remember to water the Russian mint and the hydrangea!? she says.


In other parts of the country the leaves are turning and all sorts of changes are going on, but right here we are living in a kind of waiting room of the seasons. Sure we see the fog banks developing along the shores, and sure we notice the changes at night, but we hold off that inevitable change a little longer, hoping for a continuation of the Endless Summer, even though such a thing would be disastrous.

Relatives have been sending notes down to Jaqueline at the Salon about the changing leaves. Really you should come up and see it right now.

Yeah sure. Fly on up for meatloaf supper. And leaves. Think we shall stay here where its warm without the heater turned on, thanks.

It comes later and with more subtle renditions, but we do have our turning of the leaves here. The oaks all along Santa Clara Avenue turn golden and suddenly start letting loose blizzards for the streetsweepers and guys with those irritating leaf blowers to handle. Here and there the vine maples, quietly behaving themselves all year with demure dress suddenly put on brilliant scarlet arrays, taunting the bluehaired pines with saucy abandon. Devils in red dresses.

But all that is yet to come while we wilt under what some call "Indian Summer".

Night falls and brings cool temps and the fog. Heard Garrison is back in top form in his red tennies and his avuncular mein after a minor stroke. Don't go yet, Garrison; we'll want to keep you around on NPR for another thirty years or so.

Down at the Old Same Place bar Island-Life's in-house photographer, Schmidt is well into his cups. Seems the recent elections in Germany have put him in a bad mood and every once in a while he lets out an expostulation that, apparently, means things are not well.

"GottverdammteidiotischeundbescheuerteSayDayUUUUUpolitischeParteiderGangsters!" says Schmidt suddenly while Eugene Gallipagus looks at him with amazement.

"Mind repeating that?" says Eugene.

"Please do not," says Suzie from behind the bar.

Schmidt grumbles and stares into his mug of Fat Tire. "Noch een Kurze!" he says, and Suzie pulls down the bottle of schnapps. She does not understand German any more than Chinese, but she understands Schmidt, who clearly has the Blues big time. Germany has, like the US, been going through some rough economic times ever since the US President sexually assaulted the German Bundespresident, Merkel, in front of the TV cameras.

Merkel went to therapy and, being made of sturdy stock, eventually got over it. She was just glad Bush didn't show up unannounced at some graveyard to accidentally praise the Wappen SS or the Gestapo like some beaming idiot.

Suzie has the blues herself, but her problems come and go to Ireland. Dawn catches Suzie staring out the window, and says, "Will ye quit moonin' about that boy now. There's plenty a fish in the sea and better lookin' if you ask me."

"I haff mein Neffe, Konrad commingk next veek." said Schmidt. "You got together mit de group and visit ze Frisco, ja? Show zem ze Coit Turm, undt ze Fisherman's Wharf undt ze Mission burritos. Maybe see show in playhouse, rock concert, dancingk -- vateffer de Jungs do zeese days, Ja?"

Both Dawn and Padraic thought this was a capital idea.

"Does this Konrad look like you?" Suzie said unenthusiastically. Schmidt sat there with his balding pate, his rim of fly-away grey hair, equally gray hair sprouting from his ears, heavy spectacles sitting above a big nose and florid paunchy jowls perched above his squat frame that evoked the image of a barrel with arms and legs attached.

"Der Konrad ist mein Neffe! He is Family!" said Schmidt.

O I do not think this will go well, Suzie thinks.

"But, most important. No Tango!" Schmidt said suddenly. "Der Tango ist hochst gefaerliche Zeug."

Suzie just looked at him uncomprehending.

"I mean der Tango reminds him off a bad affair mit ein Spanische girl. Heart quite broken. So. No more Tango. Causes all kinds of trouble. Streng verboten der Tango. Zoh ist das."

"I don't think you need to worry." Suzie said, imagining a short, fat kid dressed in lederhosen showing up with a group of guys all chubby as spaeztle dumplings.

Right then, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the mysterious choppy water of the estuary as it wound its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the Port of Oaktown, heading for parts unknown.

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


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the last gasp of Summer's heat, we have begun suddenly the change of the seasons with the nights hosting chills and high fogs dominating the skies during the day. All the tomatos have fallen from the withered vines and the exhuberant dahlias have collapsed after a riotous summer party into molding heaps with the occasional flameburst of color still shining through the murky tangle.

Now that the peas are long gone and the polebeans past all hope with yellowed, falling leaves hanging on brown and dessicated strands, the old fence now shows its battered boards to the dim sun and all along Santa Clara the oaks are figuring out they had better do something with all that foliage now turning golden.

This is the time of changes. Its the time when goodbyes and memories mingle in the foyer going in and out.

We hear that the first snow storm has blanketed the northern territories of Minnesotta, but here the changes are subtle, yet still requiring attention.

Tommy and Toby have reefed the sails of their sloop, The Lavendar Surprise, for the Season, while Pedro Almeida is gearing up the El Borracho Perdido for crabbing and other cold season fish, for the industrial fisherman knows not the pleasure of vacation during foul weather.

Over on Chestnut Street the usual suspects argue amongst themselves as to the real origins of the Irish Coffee.

Here on the Island, various families get into a gentle rivalry over the seasonal decor, with cobwebs, spiders, ghosts and ghouls featuring promenantly on otherwise staid porches and lawn fencing.

Gourds begin to appear and soon the familiar pungent scents of the season drift on the air: cardemom, clove, cinnemon, and nutmeg.

Mr. Howitzer emerges from his doorway, looks up at the oak tree there and raps his stick sharply upon the pavement. Upon which two leaves detatch and drift lazily downwards as per orders.

"Right!" Mr. Howitzer snaps and walks on with his dog, Eisenhower, trotting on his leash.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household the sleeping berths are once again crowding up as folks come in from the chill after spending the warm summer nights down on the beach or under trees at Crab Cove. Snuffles Johnson has moved from he normal summer spot at Jackson Park near the Dumb Friends memorial back to the porch. The guys found a sheet of plywood which now covers the hole made by Javier's fiftieth birthday celebration fiasco and have placed over that another sofa someone was throwing out after a foreclosure here.

The spate of foreclosures and evictions has resulted in a little boom for the house, which has re-equipped itself with a number of cast-off pots, chairs, mirrors, toilets, shelves, coffee pots. kitchenware and iron fantods of every description. One day Quentin showed up towing on a decrepit flexible flyer wagon a full-sized spinet, which lacked only about twenty keys to be fully serviceable.

It wound up serving well as a planter for squashes out back among the ironmongery of the yard.

Over at the Old Same Place, where Padraic steadfastly refuses to call an Irish Coffee by any such name, insisting that a true Irishman would never adulterate the honest flavor of the Water of Life with anything as base as java, things are in a tizzy. In lieu of the name found commonly throughout the Americas, Padraic pushes Gaelic Brew or Scotch Java.

Things are not in a tizzy due to beverages of any kind. No. Things are in an upset because of what happened when Suzie got enmeshed in a blind date with Schmidt's nephew, Konrad, who arrived from the Old Country for a visit with a travel group.

Konrad, contrary to expectations, was neither dull, nor as homely as Schmidt. He was not a dwarf, nor did he have a big red nose and he did not wear lederhosen, but stood blond and angular and muscular as any dream in Playgirl.

The travel group turned out to be a dance troupe, and Konrad turned out to be as flamboyantly gay as blazes, as he unfurled a purple feather boa on arrival.

"Now I am in foreign country America and I can finally be myself!" he shouted. "Lets go right now to AsiaSF!"

A couple tourists in the airport glanced curiously at him before hurrying on. This is going to be a very long weekend, Suzie thought to herself.

At AsiaSF, which is a sort of outrageous drag queen venue with neon-hued specialty drinks and a bartop runway for the lipsynching actors, Konrad really seemed to enjoy himself, at one point jumping up on the bartop himself and taking off his shirt with a guy impersonating Tina Turner.

After they got out of there following what felt like an eternity of time, Konrad turned to her in the car and said, "You are not exactly what was told me you are."

Um, likewise.

"Ja. I think so. Here you are in lumberjack shirt und jeans and sneakers. Und not even gay. Ja? Not even a little bit. Ja?"

Suzie had to admit that was the case.

"I sink we make some small changes. I haff goot time and you haff goot time. So iss besser."

The changes involved a small shopping spree at reasonably priced place South of Market, at the end of which, Suzie was dressed in a floor length red dress slit up to some place she did not want to imagine right then, and high heels.

He stood there stroking his chin looking at her in the shop. "Ja, die Unterhosen -- you don't need zem. If its good, you don't need zem und, if iss not, vell, you don't need zem. Zo! Lets go."

They met up with other members of the troupe at the Avalon Ballroom where a Latin group was playing and people were dancing on the floor with the usual flailing of limbs and ardency of NorCal.

"Here is Jorge of our group, ja? He is not German, but machs nix. You two, you and you, dance now." With that Konrad was gone, a butterfly off in search of other flowers.

Jorge took her right hand in his left and smoothly put his solid right arm around her, placing his hand in the small of her back. "This is tango," he said. "You know tango?"

Suzie inhaled a warm musky scent from the man. This most assuredly was a man. She shook her head.

"No matter. I am from Argentina. I will take control now."

Take control he did. Deftly, smoothly, as only a professional dancer can, he moved the two of them around the floor, teaching her little moves and things to do along the way. She felt herself moving into some place above the stars, a place outside of the limits of earth and the heavens.

By the end of the evening, Konrad was proved right -- she didn't need the underwear.

It was still the time of the full moon, the full harvest moon, just starting then to wane and its light spilled over the softly breathing forms and the chiascuro of blankets and dresser with knicknacks and tchotchkes. The long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the choppy waters of the estuary and the waving fields of weeds at Buena Vista flats just as it does each week under the full and the cresent and the eclipsed moon regardless.

And this ululation jarred Suzie awake from her dream at the bar, bringing her into the present time, as Dawn looked at her with a curious look, such as Dawn was wont to do.

"Girl what on earth has got into you?" Dawn said.

"Uh, I met a guy," said Suzie.

Thats when the tizzy in the bar began.

And that is just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.