NOVEMBER 15, 2008


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

The hot days of Indian Summer are giving way to our normative season of fogs and nighttime chills. All of us are checking the Snow Report with high expectations, for the radio is still reporting Severe Drought Conditions persist.

Meanwhile folks on the Island are pulling out those old recipes for Grandma's Special Stuffing while lining up the calendar for visits and how many to feed this time. After long seasons of troubles and difficulties people are all looking forward to a Thanksgiving with only the usual family arguments to disturb the peace and the smell of roasting turkey and cranberries filling the air much as it always has.

We are looking at Troubled Times ahead for all of us, and this following a season of Interesting Times, which means we appreciate anything that continues unabated all the more.

As mentioned earlier, the men and women of 4th Force Reconnaissance Company returned earlier this month from Anbar Province to a very emotional welcome, so although there will be fewer at table than in years past, we all are very thankful for those who can be here this time.

The Island is not a very important place, relative to Bright Lights Babylon across the water, nor to even humble Oaktown, which hosts the Raiders and has much to be proud of in its storied streets. We are a fairly small place with not much to say for ourselves in terms of quality of life or housing desireability. In fact, the Island has always been the last place one would choose to live in the Bay Area, with many preferring to buy out in Tracy and Modesto and even Newark before thinking about living here in our crowded, dowdy streets that have curb arrangements dating from 1882.

But there are those who chose to live here because they like it enough. This is a place that really is in the nature of a small town somewhere in the Midwest in its mind, where courtesy is still a priority over getting first in line.

And in this time the sense of smell is the primary evocation of Things Past, far better than any tea-dipped French cookie. Rasins baked into something. Oranges employed in manners unknown to nature and to theologians. Brown sauces bubbling on stoves all over the Island in unnamed pots.

Briefly we drop in on Quentin, Thanksgiving Day at Saint Anthony's, 1972.

"Yo, brother, hang up that fork a moment. I know you are hungry. Here, in this place, first we pray, then we eat."

Over at Andre and Marlene's place they are all gearing up for the grand feast in their own way. Because the place is a place of no money, every inhabitant is called upon to provide a portion. Onions arrived via Jesus who picked veggies in the valley for a while to make a few dollars. Same with Tipitina who brought in several heads of seedy celery. Marsha scored day-past-date 'shrooms from Whole Foods. Xavier brought in past-date apples. Markus, the dog, brought in a dead seagull, which was discarded.

Rolf scored cans of boullion from the Dent and Damaged sale at the Canned Goods Warehouse.

Piedro brought in enormous bags of bruised cranberries he had got from god knows where.

Everybody pooled foodstamps.

Sarah and Pahrump and Marlene put in dollars from stripping and temp work to get the turkey.

At the end of the day, it did look like something like a feast would happen in spite of all odds and Wickiwup and Bonkers and Johnny Cash barked most joyously at the house of Marlene and Andre.

Andre began laying down cables for the Thanksgiving concert by his band, The Hapless Few.

For the first time in a long time it seemed that something similar to hope was about to happen. Or if not hope, then at least something good enough to pass for now.

They all had each other and they all had a place to sleep and they all felt thankful for that.

There was the small problem of Marlene needing to work Thanksgiving Day until three at the Bay Area Landlords Association, because that was the nature of the work there and the nature of her employer, but she got Pahrump to fill in for her duties until she could get free. That was why so much had to be prepared well ahead of time for she and Andre, employed at the South City warehouse as a Stuffer, the most capable persons in that dyslexic household, would be engaged to the last minute.

'Twas ever thus.

So there they were, gathered around the linoleum kitchen table with its tannic stains while Andre noodled on his guitar in the corner and things bubbled on the stove with scents of cinnemon and clove.

That's when Marlene said it. That question which took everyone aback.

"Andre, when are we ever going to get married?"

This caused an hiatus of some sorts right there and then. Things stopped happening all over. The clocks paused breath and even the pots stopped bubbling for a second.

"I dunno. Why not next week?" said Andre.

That's when the long ululation of the throughpassing train in Jack London Square came wavering across the water of the estuary. And Time resumed its inevitable and inexorable progress to the hours of all our final reckonings. The conversation resumed and the pots bubbled and the clocks all returned to their accustomed tick-tock.

That is just the way it is on the Island. Have a thankful week.