DECEMBER 12, 2010

It's been a moody week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The "deck is high" the weatherman said earlier today as they say around here regarding the pogonip, but the foghorns start tolling as the density starts rolling and by morning everyone is awake to the tugs tooting as the gulls are looting somewhere in the opaque gray slab of nada and another day begins in Northern California. You stumble in the half-darkness over to get the coffee, happy enough the autodrip worked this time and through the dew-transluscent window you can see the lace hydrangea insisting with a few last purple heads that its and you're glad we're both not in Minnesota or the East Coast right now.

Nebraska would never have you and Oklahoma is too radical as is much of the savagely Conservative Texas. The Republicans destroyed Louisiana and Mississippi -- because it was entirely too easy and they knew the people there would never figure it out -- and Alabama along with Georgia is atavistically wild with subhuman inbreeding experiments and strange Deliverance creatures skulking through swamps and mossy salons where fine ladies dandle teacups between fetid hairy-palmed monsters, pretending not to notice the carrion smell and the hanging genitalia of the Old South, which the New South has been strenuously trying to beat to death on each Saturday night with sword canes and rock and roll. It will take time and everything the Indigo Girls can give but Now is Now.

So you wind up in California. Either because you were born here (or Nevada, which is almost the same thing) or you arrived like a plunging son of a Minotian sculptor, smashing down in flames, molten wax and really badly messed up plumage.

Well the superstructure framework made really good material for shelves, which everyone thinks you bought from Ikea and with your meaningless dayjob captained by Mr. or Ms. Turdbrain, you fit right in.

Right about now, it occurs to you that you have read entirely too much Gore Vidal lately. And this is a thought that no one in Minnesota, in Nebraska, or in any of the other places from which you may conceivably have originated will ever say to themselves.

Its either the Vidal or the Hunter Thompson. Or maybe the absinthe. It looked so green there on the shelf and now that its legal and made here right on the Island you wondered what it would be like to drink pure Neon -- not the halogen, which is a gas, but neon light. So you bought a bottle and brought it right home and poured yourself a glass and downed it right then and . . . oh my . . . it was not like drinking light at all.

You begin to feel rather odd and things start moving and you figure, well, now is about time to read the usage instructions there and the little booklet that came with it and . . . shock, you are simply shocked. It says, "Place three drops of absinthe upon a sugar cube held over a cup of water and so strained, the resulting intoxicating beverage should be more than enough to satisfy. ABOVE ALL ELSE, DO NOT OVER INDULGE AS THE PRIMARY INGREDIENT OF THUJONE IS HIGHLY TOXIC! THAT'S WHY ITS CALLED WORMWOOD, DUMMY -- BECAUSE IT KILLS WORMS!"

Oh dear. You did make a mistake, now didn't you. How much was that you swallowed? About 10 ounces? What is a juice glass anyway? More than three drops . . . Nevermind! Poisoned! And this time you really did not want to commit seppuku or whatever they call it; to the hospital! Right away!

So off you go to the Island hospital where they make you wait and wait and fill out forms and you tell them you are poisoned and they tell you, just wait a bit the doctor will see you in a moment.

This is too much. You are about to die and the failure to pass single payer health care is now affecting you directly in a way you did not anticipate, since you had Kaiser.

But just having Kaiser is not having health care, its just insurance, which is by definition a roll of dice. Its definitely not saving your life right now. You think you are getting heart palpations. Which must be something terrible and perhaps irreversible. You will end up on a bench like Forrest Gump eating shrimp out of a bag. A vegetable eating shrimp.

Somewhere in the back of your mind you retain this legend that absinthe was a powerful aphrodisiac which produced intense and prolonged priapism, sometimes so extreme that they had to bind everything up tight as Russian babies, or sometimes even . . . use a knife!


You reach down there and start hunting around to see if anything like this might be happening until the woman sitting next to you with bad elephantiasis or something equally as gangrenous, calls for the guard.

The fluorescent lights are buzzing, the guards are coming, you are about to stroke out to become Forrest Gump or maybe Sean Penn in that movie about the slow guy anyway , the fat lady next to you is shouting "Pervert! Pervert!" And your heart is about to blow out from palpitations or something fibrillating like that.

Sometime in the blue hours of the early morning in terror you burst through the doors past a woman giving birth and a fellow who fell through a plate glass window to confront someone who looks like someone in charge, perhaps the Doc on Duty. Armed guards take hold of your elbows.

The doctor, who turns out to be an intern, listens to your panic story and calmly tells you to go home, drink a lot of water and sleep it off. In order to legalize absinthe they allow so little thujone that it would never hurt you unless you tried to down the entire bottle, however the extremely high alcohol content (180 proof and more) would make you so sick you would never finish. Just go home.

But the guards will not let you go home. Not this time, buddy. And they haul you off to the slammer with your feet dragging where they put you in there with thin, pale nervous junkies picking their scabs and one enormous guy named "AL" who has tattoos bigger than your thighs on his massive biceps. Trespasser. Pervert. Drunk in public too. O the ignominy.

"Come over here, boy," says Al as the guard walks away snickering.

Right now this would be a good time for a slice of rhubarb pie.

Yes, nothing gets the sting of shame and humiliation out of your mouth like a slice of Baba Rebob's Rhubarb Pie.

Mama's Little baby loves rhubarb rhubarb
Mama's Little baby loves rhubarb pie!

Meanwhile over at the Old Same Place Bar Suzie is cleaning up after a busy night. The telly broadcast the Army-Navy game in which Wyatt Middleton returned a fumbled ball for 98 yards, breaking record books all down the line. San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie holds the record for pro ball returns at 109 yards on a missed field goal by the Vikings in 2007. This remains a Navy town and the entire bar burst into cheers at the ninth win of Navy over Army.

Old Schmidt was in there with his gardening implements after landscaping all day for the Cribbages. Mr. Cribbage couldn't decide if he wanted the hydrangea over on the top terrace where it might dominate too much, or down on the bottom with the darned low things Rosalyn put in there because they like shade, so he had Schmidt haul the six-foot high bush up the slope for a view and then down again and then back up while he made up his mind. Finally he had Schmidt build an entire new terrace which was bolstered by full-length railroad ties he had pilfered from the former Beltline property. At the end of the day, Old Schmidt needed to lean on his shovel as a walking stick to get from the car to the bar where he had his usual bump and a Fat Tire with his implement leaning up against the brass rail.

Eugene, looking to make a witticism at the old guy's expense pointed out the tool and exclaimed, "Somebody dead drunk here?"

Old Schmidt replied. "Iss fur shoveling dee snow."

This set back Eugene a yard or so, not difficult to do with a man like him. "Old Schmidt, there is no snow here."

"Des Schnee Winters kommt noch. Aber nieman weiss nit' irgen'wann. Zo vee shovel because by steps of snow we climb to Herr Gott. It is that way lifelong - only by hard labors come we to final reward." And here a twinkle appeared in the old man's eye. "Besides, wer schaufelt nit', schaefft nix. Der Mann in Red Shoes agrees. So ist das."

And all who were there sat back amazed at this wisdom. And a merry round was had by all and in the Old Same Place Bar was had fellowship and spirits well into the night and each resolved to take up their labors with greater zest than before.

And the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the patient, tireless waves of the estuary and the sanctified Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.