NOVEMBER 15, 2009

Its been an unquiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. With the temps dropping at night and a brief rain shower things are looking more like they ought to. The hydrangea finally has decided its time to curl up to sleep and the evening air is tangy with woodsmoke from all the chimneys that have returned to service.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, things were just about to return to normal after Suzie's fateful trip to Italy where she abruptly discovered her newfound amour, Jorge, was wanted by Interpol. Padraic had had to fly to Rome to fetch her from the manacles of the carabinieri, and it was only after first Suzie had taught all of her cellmates to sing the chorus to "Alice's Restaurant", and second, Padraic had gotten into an altercation with the Swiss Guard on trying to get the Pope to intercede that the two were both unceremoniously escorted to the airport and there deported to the USA in a blaze of paparazzi flashbulbs after the Pontiff had declared both of them to be silly nuisances providing far too much fodder to the daily tabloids.

Indeed, the local excuse for the National Enquirer in Italy showed both of them in unflattering photos placed on the same page as "Batboy found Living in Malta Cave!" and "Princess Di is Alive and Well Living on Planet Venus." Padraic was much put out by the newpaper accounts describing him as Suzie's father.

"I am not your father!" shouted Padraic. "I am not nearly that old!"

Suzie wisely kept silent the whole way for fear that they would never make it past the Straits of Gibralter for all of his carrying on.

So there they were in the Old Same Place Bar when Dawn looked up to see who had just come in the door, her knowing the regulars and what they liked so well that the client would have his drink set before him even before settling in at the barstool.

Dawn appeared to recognize whoever it was, while Padraic was in the back and Suzie down below re-attaching the Fat Tire beer keg.

As usual, Dawn's reaction was modest and subdued -- for Dawn.

"Jaysus. Mariah and Joseph!" She screamed. "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD . . ."!

Up popped Suzie from behind the bar and when she saw who it was she screamed and fell back against the vermouth and gin.

Various others in the bar responded with gasps and shouts as each befitting their kind of animal they were by nature.

At this ruction, Padraic came barreling around the corner, exclaiming, "Christ you would think all of you are coming in the final drop of a naked orgy in here with this brough-haha . . .".

Then he, too, stopped and shouted, "Well lookee here! Cute as a rabid skunk caught in the windmill!"

At that, Padraic flew across the room, well flew as best as a dumpy middleaged tavern-keeper can fly, and thence began to destroy the object of attention as he stood there by means of strangulation, saying only, "Where's my damned Kerry Stick until I murther the bastard proper!"

Far from calming the situation, this served to provoke yet more ruction in the room, as Dawn and Suzie scurried around the bar to try and pry Padriac fingers from around the man's throat.

"Aisling!" said Dawn, for indeed it was he, "Where the divil have you been?"

"Arrghaahhghrrrrahh!" said Aisling, which did not help elucidate things in the slightest.

"You damned rat! I'll teach you a lesson in how to treat an honest girl. They'll have to bury you five times or more before I am through with you!" said the enraged Padraic. "They'll have to dig a seperate hole for every piece of you!"

So with Suzie shouting "Stop, stop!" while pounding on Padraic's knobby fingers and Dawn shrieking in a fit, "For the sake of God man, do ye want to hang for murder here!" and Padriac grimly throttling Aisling, Suzie's pre-Jorge beau, Eugene Gallipagus came up behind Padraic and neatly smacked him across the pate with its thin array and poor protection of vanishing hair, employing a wine bottle he had carefully selected in the process. A spray of wine and bottle shards went everywhere.

Padraic's eyes sort of rolled back and down he went to the floor, releasing Aisling who desperated gulping in lungfuls of fresh air as he sat heavily in a chair.

Old Schmidt collected the end of the bottle so that there would be no more violence.

Both Suzie and Dawn began interrogating the boy who responded as best he could.

"Where have you been? Why have you not written? What has happened? Why are you back now?"

"Aaauuuuhhhh!" gasped Aisling.

A glass of Fat Tire was put in his hand and a few sips of that invigorating ale seemed to do the trick.

Meanwhile Old Schmidt examined the bottle label that had brought down Padraic. "Châteauneuf-du-Pape! And a good year too! Next time, better use the Fusel."

Eugene simply shrugged, but at the mention of that expensive beverage, Padraic stirred from the floor.

"Why have you not written," asked Dawn again. "Where have you been?"

"Long Kesh," said Aisling, finally. "The H Blocks."

At the mention of that dreaded place everyone stood back.

"Long Kesh," said Padraic. "Your not an IRA terrorist -- you're an idiot. There oughta be a difference. Ohhhhh this hurts", he said as he got up.

Someone offered him a tylenol, but he waved it away as he sat heavily in a chair across from Aisling. "Oh Châteauneuf-du-Pape! Oh that hurts indeed!" He faced Suzie who stood in shocked silence. "The Maze is it now! What is it with you and terrorists? Can't ya find a daycent Christian boy around here?"

"I'm not IRA," said Aisling. "It was a case of mistaken identity."

And so the story all spilled out of him. He had managed to tick off a member of paramilitaries, one of those splinter groups that split off from the UDF, a group calling itself the Ulster Devout Defence Exemplary Rabble (UDDER) which had concieved of the novel use of cows as walking IED's against the British, the IRA, overcharging local keepers, cell phone users in cars, spitting in public, and anybody who they did not like. So the UDDERS had informed on Aisling, telling the Guarda that Aisling was really Dirty Harry Hanrahan, the worst sort of IRA bomber and behind the bush bugger that had ever lived. Hanrahan was so hated that when they grabbed Aisling they reopened the long closed Her Majesty's Prison Maze, otherwise known as Long Kesh, just for his honor.

They figured out quickly enough that Aisling, far from being Hanrahan, was no sort of radical in any sense of the word, possessing as he did and still does all the violent tendencies and yen for adventure of a small Hobbit, however the very act of reopening the notorious Maze had caused a tremendous ruction between what passes for conservatives and liberals in this country.

Here, as in Northern Ireland, those sorts of battles need not be over anything sane, need have nothing really to do with the central issue, and need not have any sort of practical resolution, such as letting the poor man go or getting something done about health care.

So there he languished in the prison all by himself with only a few guards to keep him company -- not even enough manpower to field a decent football team, which resulted in them locking up the place on Sunday as all the guards went off to their towns to get in a scrum or two before returning bright and early Monday morning.

So Aisling had spent a fairly miserable year eating the worst of food -- boiled to death English cooking -- and being very lonely all by himself for most of the time. He didn't write for he did not want anyone to know where he was for all the shame of it.

Once they had let him out -- largely because the idea was to convert the building in which he was kept into a sports stadium perfect for playing rugby and football even as others dickered over turning the place into a museum or a "leisure village".

Whatever. They kicked him out and ordered him to stay well away from any form of cow. So he headed on down to Dublin where they have no more cows running about, nor any UDDERS of any description, there to scrape the pennies together to come to America even as Ireland's Economic Wonder began to tank along with the rest of the world. Soon enough it was back to living on the dole and credit tabs several miles long.

The story of how he managed to gather the money together is a long one best reserved for another time, and does involve some activity which may be percieved as somewhat on the far side of the Law. No bombings or terrorism or anything similar for he was done with all that. The important thing was that he had come back for Suzie.

And there he sat, right there in that chair.

Dear sweet Suzie stood there taking it all in with her toes pointed slightly inward and one hand holding the other, biting her lip. She looked at Dawn.

"Aisling, I should tell you that a few things have happened while you were gone," Dawn said, and the room became very quiet. "You can't expect a girl to wait forever for something without so much as a promise."

At that Aisling hung his head. He was a young man who had gotten into and out of trouble, had many adventures and had come a long way and it began to look like it was all for nothing, that he would have to return penniless and brokenhearted to Ireland. Life is hard my friend, but sometimes it just plays out that way, try as you might.

"Well, seein' that is the case, I guess I should be on my way now. Sorry to have been any trouble. About the wine, I'll try and make it up to ya." And with that he stood up and began moving for the door. The little crowd which had gathered around parted like the seas before Moses as the faces stared at him with pity.

"That boy is about to go and you'll not see him ever again . . ." began Padraic.

He never finished for Suzie flew across the room, as young girls have a talent for so doing, or perhaps one can say they have a sort of magic about them which enables that, meaning fly across the room,for its exceedingly difficult to phrase it all proper and get it down so people understand, however, in any run-on case, she flew across the room in a manner which caused all the English majors to gasp or groan, each to their like, and having reached her objective there, she threw her arms about him, nicely punctuating both paragraph and sentence.

Everyone there, save perhaps for the odd English major, applauded with enthusiasm, while not a few wept with joy.

Even Padraic did so, although he also commented, "I forsee problems here. Mainly of the Visa persuasion, but others besides."

"Ah," said Old Schmidt. "Zee Hollander haff dis sayingk vich goes 'Wer den leef het, hat keen sorg fur den Weg.' But zeese luff sings, personally, I know nossingk, nossingk, nossingk! Personally."

"Schmidt, none of us has the slightest idea what you are talking about," commented Eugene.

"Ah, 'Wer den leef het . . .' means Dey who luff have, have no concern for the way. So ist das."

Right then, as the two lovers held each other in the doorway of the Old Same Place Bar, from far across the way, the eerie call of the throughpassing train ululated from across the estuary from where it wound its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the Port to places yet unknown.

And that is just the way it is on the Island. Have "keen sorg fur den Weg" and a great week.