OCTOBER 18, 2009


Things are drying out after the recent dockwalloper blew through with such vehemence last week. Old John's landlord, Curtis was seen over the Old Fence marching all around the property he owns with first a broom, then a blower, then a highpowered vacuum strapped to his back as he removed every offending particle of leaf and detritus which had invaded his pristine concrete yards while Old John looked on, drinking scotch and soda.

Hey, relax Curtis! he said.

"Ahhhh!" the landlord replied. A dour man who owns property in Northern California.

Those two qualities should no coexist, i.e., that of being dour and that of owning property in California, but they do. Its a mystery. If one is so priviledged to own property in California, that soul should exult, should jubilate, should jump up and down with glee each day in the morning for having what so few possess and so many desire.

By contrast over at Marlene and Andre's household, a modest one bedroom bungalow that is home to Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier, Jose, Pedro, who sleeps in the closet on a cot, Occasional Quentin who occasionally sleeps under the coffeetable, Rolf, Suan, Alexis, and Crackers, not forgetting Mancini, Sarah, a statuesque R&B singer for the band called "In Memory of Sister Rosetta Tharp", Pahrump, plus the dogs Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash. In addition to any number of cats and hamsters and Snuffles Johnson, the bum who sleeps on the porch in bad weather, and under it in worse weather.

Marlene and Andre enjoy the bedroom to themselves; the others make shift and sleep in shifts, either on the floor, or in the hallway bunks that are stacked three up on the side.

This setup is necessary because of the usurious rents charged by Mr. Howitzer, realtor and landholder.

Nevertheless, it is a jolly crew which seeks to make light of the worst of circumstances, always ready with a quip and a laugh and a helping hand to those in need. Besides, they all have a healthy respect and admiration for each other, which is a good thing in a household of 17 people.

When Jose broke his leg during the Island-Life Flyover (see sidebar) it was Pahrump who got him treated at Native American Health, claiming Jose was his half-brother from the Reservation at Pyramid Lake. Of course neither Jose nor any soul in the house and for blocks around on the Island had a sou of medical insurance, so Jose would have been turned loose from the Highland Trauma Unit with no pain meds for as long as a broken leg lasted if Pahrump hadn't put in the word for him.

That's the medical system in America today: if you have insurance, you pay a couple thousand dollars of deductible and pay a bit more for copay, assuming they don't deny you outright, as nearly happened to Mr. Cribbage during his heart attack a few weeks ago. If you have no insurance, you suffer.

The Household has its own System, and that system involves either Pahrump or Suan who is on CMSP Indigent Care Status. Mancini used to help out with his Union-paid plan, but since he lost the job at the former NUMMI plant and could not afford the exhorbitant COBRA, it was left to Pahrump to take care of the guys and Suan take care of female problems. The way it works is this, faulty though it may be:

Suan listens to the persons ailments, goes into the County Clinic, details them verbatim to the doc there as if it were she herself, obtains the scrip for drugs, fetches the meds, and, with a minimum of bureaucracy, the really sick person gets well. Of course there are sometimes problems. She nearly got herself lined up for a colonoscopy one time when Maria had bowel problems, and, since she works as a stripper and not as a nurse or a doctor or anything like that, there remains the potential for faulty diagnosis as she fudges a few questions.

Oh you didn't have an infection; you're pregnant. Sorry about that. Glad its not a tumor . . .

But, given medicine as business and the insurance scam the way it is, this is the real way people get by. Certainly not the best way. Otherwise, they simply die. Like the Congressman said. The plan is, die quickly. No insult there at all; its the Truth.

Fortunately, the jolly household hangs together during the Great Recession of '09. For it has been said by none other than the Founding Fathers, "We better hang together or surely we will all hang seperately."

These are Californians. This is life in America the way it is. This is the year 2009. None of this is made up. Only the names and faces have been changed.

Over at the Old Same Place, nobody has any health insurance either, except for Eugene Gallipagus -- even now sucking down another gin sour at the bar -- but that is not the reason the place is in a tizzy. Eugene works as an Insurance Adjuster, so he is fully covered by Kaiser, save for the employee portion that everyone seems to be paying for now, plus copay (of course).

You found a guy! Dawn said to Suzie, in a merciful seque from boring insurance matters, as well as a tie-in from last week's entry. Not that nephew of Schmidt from Germany is it?

No, he's from Argentina, said Suzie. His name is Jorge.

Jorge is it. An' you'll be wantin' to run off to Argentina now, is it. I can see how it goes here. About to leave is he?

No. He wants me to come to Italy, Suzie said. He's of a dance troupe and that's where they are going to perform next. He says he'll show me the castles of Tuscany. I've never been to Italy or anywhere.

Castles of Tuscany, now! The mainland of Europe, now thats a fine thing! But this boy . . . this man. Can he provide? Proper like?

Well, he's an artist of course, and doesn't have a lot of money. But he has something. And something is something I never had anyway.

Well, said Dawn. What do you think of that? Our little bird thinking of flyin' the coop here. Leavin' our little Island!

Padraic had been silent through much of this exchange. Well, I must say I shall be sorry to see her go. She's a hard worker for sure and a pleasure to be company on the dull days. But for a chance to leave this shithole full o' flies and dung, well, if I were younger and in her shoes, I would go for it. Leave the Island with its narrow-minded so-and-sos and the talk. Always the talk, the damned talk. And the way things are, the economy and all, its all cute as a drowned whore in the canal. You know of course, you ever come back, you have a home here on this Island.

Ah me dear. You are like a daughter to me now after all this time, Dawn said. Do write us a bit about the big world out there.

Suzie heard the words in her mouth as she said she would, making it all suddenly decided. I have a right to happiness, I do, she said. Its a shot at it.

Right then, right on cue, as Suzie laid out the cards of the Tarot, the long wail of the through-passing train ululated across the water of the estuary from the dark and shuttered lanes of the Jack London Waterfront, headed from the Port to parts unknown, a mystery train full of potential promise and hope and new visions of the future.

She turned over the card of Fate and revealed by the lights of the bar was the most ominous card of all, causing Dawn to gasp,

"Oh darlin'! Don't go!"

This story shall be continued next time. Meanwhile in the Old Same Place Bar sat one bartender pondering Life's Persistent Questions -- Suzie Maldonado.

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 recent dockwallopers here the weather has segued into an unseasonably warm pattern of sunshine and higher than usual temps. The SoCal people visiting here love it to pieces, but those of us long-timers and lifers are wishing for some decently nasty weather to polish off the edges and make it all more like things oughta be.

One really needs a reason to complain so as to stay sane, and if all one has is religion and politics, then things can get down right nasty. One needs the weather to provide complaint and one only need to look to the LA basin as an example where the normalcy of human dissatisfaction has failed due to perpetually pleasant skies.

This is the season that breeds tiny monsters, if you have noticed. Parties have launched everywhere around here as the Bay Area Halloween season has begun along with the Mexican Dias de los Muertos. All the hoopla is geared towards a sort of orgasmic culmination this year on October 31, which happens to be conveniently placed on a Saturday this year, meaning there are far too many places to go and be seen than can be encompassed by any single individual.

Next week, the Island-Life offices will once again hold the traditional drawing of straws to see who shall be designated to cross over to "The Other Side from which bourne no traveller returns."

This is the time when all the folks who can do so decorate their lawns or their porches with such memento mori as suits the venue. Last Halloween Tommy and Toby held a party at their flat down by Otis with Marlene and Andre helping out. Marlene and Andre are the town punk rockers and they had come up from the West End to visit. Their skateboards were leaning against the wall. Susan and Lynnette had driven over from Park Avenue on their bicycles and Suzie came as well along with a number of others.

Lynette, who is Jewish, had managed to bring over a casserole in her saddlebags without spilling a drop. This casserole was stuffed with oysters, shrimp, crab and pork. Surprisingly, it really was quite good.

Besides the usual feral female cats, a couple pirates and assorted space aliens, the apartment overflowed with a Mr. Hanky (that was Chris Lindberg, who held a devotion to the South Park television show), the Almeida family dressed as a bag of marshmellows, the Island-life Editor come as a dead and rotting Ronald Reagan, several members of Congress dripping with blood and looking a bit vampirish, three Bin Ladens, and at least one premature Xmas present. Tommy, dressed as a hamster and Toby, dressed as an elderberry bush got into an argument that started over the spoiled flan on the stove. This sequed into a heated discussion about Toby's relatives, who did not approve of Tommy, nor their "lifestyle."

"That's where you get your finicky finicky finicky sort of attitude about toothpaste! You are just like Uncle Albert!"

"Oh you think you are so . . . so neat! Well you!"

Lynette, dressed as a chimney sweep sat there nursing an unaccustomed Manhattan on the comfy chair while a hamster in the kitchen shouted at a weeping berry bush.

In an evening which had begun acrimoniously, and which showed signs of descending into atavistic savagery, Claude, visiting from New Mexico, managed to intake quite a bit of punch which somehow got him into the mood to breakdance, but all he could do was spin around on his back on the floor. He had gotten into a tiff with Mr. Hanky, the Xmas Poo a little earlier over the nature of women and certain unpleasant memories had stirred up. The two had been married to the same woman, although at different times, and now the woman was with neither man. When an otherwise distinguished professor of physics in his sixties dressed as a cockroach begins spinning around on his back in the livingroom, weeping all the while it makes for an ugly sight and Shanti, wearing an appropriate Arkin Pest Control outfit began shouting at him.

This of course got our pair of punks in a dither, and so two zombies started shouting "eff you!" with ratcheting enthusiasm, but since they always said that to each other, few paid any attention.

The door was open and a girl, about eight or nine walked in. She was barefoot and wearing what looked like an old-fashioned nightgown with a Peter Pan collar. The time had just passed midnight.

The girl walked up to Lynette through the crowd and stood in front of the woman. This is what she said.

"Please tell them to stop. I can't rest. Please. It hurts."

Well, of course. Late hour. Neighbors and all. It was a wonder no one had called the cops.
Seeing this, Susan walked over to stand there and block any more cockroach gyrations and Claude came abruptly to a halt with his eyes staring wildly up at the ceiling. Susan told Shanti to be quiet while Lynette went into the kitchen to intervene between the hamster and the elderberry bush. An odd chill filled the room.

The little girl looked somehow familiar, with her dark hair tumbling down in sleepy curls. She stood there, not smiling, then turned and walked out of the door, down the steps and over the breakwater dune to the beach with the full moon lighting everthing up quite clearly. There, she kept on going out over the mudflats exposed by the low tide and vanished out on the Bay as Lynette and Marlene and Andre stood there in the doorway, watching.

"Effing A!" said Andre. Everyone else was as quiet as the grave.

Meanwhile, over at the Old Same Place, done up with spiderwebs and grinning jack o'lanterns and plastic spiders like all of the bars throughout the Bay Area, Padraic was taking a call from Europe while Dawn and all the regulars around the bar were wondering what the heck was going on.

"Sure miss that Suzie back there," Eugene said.

Suzie had left a few days ago to go to Italy with that Jorge she found, a member of the dance troupe of which Old Schmidt's nephew was a member. Old Schmidt had thought to hook up Suzie with his nephew from Germany, but as it turned out, his nephew had been as gay as blazes and so another member of the troupe had hooked up with Suzie by means of the tango, a notoriously erotic dance of significantly Hispanic origin. The end result can be described as "consequences of Love, or falling into such a similar situation."

Now Padraic was on the horn with Italy and by the look on his gob, things were not well, no not well at all.

Why on earth is the girl calling here at such expense? said Dawn. She should be gallivanting the light fantastic and admiring the frescos of Rome.

Padraic got off of the horn and then took down his hat. This is not something Padraic does often and it did not mean well. Next he opened the till and removed more than one thousand dollars in cash and then headed for the door. This was something that Padraic never did at all under any circumstances.

This also, did not mean well.

Are ye daft man, what the feck are ye doin'? said Dawn.

I am goin' ta bring the girl home, said Padraic.

The general expostulation can be summarized as "WTF!"

They -- meanin' she and that worthless son of a cute hoor -- have both been arrested as terrorists wanted by INTERPOL and so I am going to fetch her out and leave the cute as a drowned rat bastard named Jorge behind for I care not what comes of his damned hide! I fly this night to Rome.

With that, Padraic was gone.

A fair amount of consternation remained in the bar after that and it took a number of Fat Tires and double shots to wade through all of the explanation and expostulations.

Little could be gleaned from the scant information available, so all set down with calendars and notebooks to await what would arrive from the plane from Rome in one week hence.

Ghosts and transformations galloped throughout the land during this time. Strange revenants and disturbing monsters stalked beneath a crescent moon. This is the time of werewolf howls and bloody shrieks, of dismal reminders and disturbed graves. Things we have made in error rise up suddenly from slabs and speak through filthy swaddles in the night while creatures of the imagination fly out of the musty caves of the past to circle around us and hang beneath the dripping eaves. We call on our Wiccan friends to reign in this unleashed panoply, this obscene saraband of hopping, flopping, flailing, crawling, oozing, trumpeting, shrieking, wailing, galloping Lovecraftian terror with the strict lines of holy pentangle.

Across the dark and haunted waves of the estuary comes the ululating wail of the throughpassing train as it wends its way through the dark and shuttered ways of the Jack London Waterfront, bearing dank and dark mysterious cargo from the Port to places unknown.

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


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Because of the local Holiday, all the little messengers have been called in from their persistent attempts to contact the Mayor of Lake Wobegon regarding the pressing matter of Sister City Status. Some say the message has gotten through, some say the message has gotten through and is being evaluated, and some say the message has gotten through and been discarded as utter rubbish.

Still others say the message has been intercepted by officials of the Professional Organization of English Majors and is even now suffering the editorial fine-toothed comb, after which procedure the document shall return bleeding with red emendations and request for resubmittal.

Its all very distressing for the Editor and he is likely to lose his remaining grey hairs over the rumpus.

In other news, the Rulebook for the 2009 Poodleshoot and BBQ is now up. Yes, this is the time when leaves swirl about the ankles of Jane and Brad as they scamper through the woods in matching camo fatigues, their cheeks ruddy with the snapping, crisp Fall air, and exertion, and that powerful Desire that fills young girls at this time of year around here.


The little filly longs to wrap her fingers around the firm, smooth, hard stock and blow Fifi to smithereens with her brand new 32-20 Mossberg loaded with hollow-points. Ah, the pleasures of the autumn hunt!

Padraic will again be master of ceremonies -- as well as the keg -- and Dawn will fire up the barbie.

Speaking of Padraic, Dawn, and Barbies, our own dear Suzie has returned from her brief sojourn in Italy where things did not go well. Turns out Jorge was wanted by Interpol for his involvement with the Red Guard over there and when Suzie, attempting to defend her man, claimed that he was with her, an honest and mostly law-abiding American, they clapped her in jail along with him, albeit in seperate cells.

Seems being an American does no good anymore in other countries right about now, so it took Padraic flying over on the very very "red-eye" express and all manner of appeal to the Embassy and the Pope and Common Cause against terrorism to convince the Carabinieri that the pair were more trouble than they were worth.

Padraic got into a little dustup with the Swiss Guard when he kept trying to get in and talk to the Pope about it all, but that's all a complicated digression not to be bothering us right now. The Pope sure as hell didn't want to be bothered about it at all, thats for sure.

While in jail, Suzi kept teaching her cellmates Woody Guthrie songs, but it was when she taught them a certain Arlo Guthrie lyric (Arlo is a relative of Guthrie, if you didn't know that) which drove the warden and the guards near mad with its repetitions (meaning the lyric, not the relationship), they finally ejected her with irritation.

"You can get anything you want in Alice's Restaurant . . ."

So, they have never heard of anybody being ejected from jail for musical disturbance -- usually its the other way around here in America -- but they were ejected and told never to be seen or heard around Rome ever again and the Police put stamps in their passports saying all kinds of things in Roman and Latin and Italian meaning they was to be turned away at the border if they ever tried anything so foolish again.

They kept Jorge, as it seems the Argentinian consulate wanted to have nothing to do with him.

So with tears in their eyes they headed off to the airport under guard and boarded a plane that eventually took off and flew entirely without stopping all the way across the Atlantic Ocean until it got to America where stopped in New York City, meaning first it landed and then stopped, and there they boarded another plane that took them back home to California, which turns out is not such a bad place and it has better pizza, believe it or not, than Italy.

But we'll talk about all that and what happened in the cell and in the court and all about Jorge's red pants later on. Right now, things are hopping down at the Old Same Place Bar the day after Halloween which is also the last day of El Dias de Los Muertos. Right now, we need to talk up some of that good old Tradition.

Because that is just the way it is on the Island.

(see next day entry)