DECEMBER 20, 1009


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The rather frigid temps of late have yielded to relatively balmy and overcast skies in the forties.

All the messengers sent off in search of the Wobegon Mayor have returned and not a minute too soon as the snow has really socked in that part of the world for now. Hamsters tend to prefer warmer climates and they don't do so well with snowshoes and skies, so they are all pretty happy to be back here in California. There are more than a few of us who feel that Clint Bunsen would not regard an hamster wearing a parka and snowshoes with any degree of seriousness, no matter how earnest the message.

Most Californians regard snow as something rather fanciful and perhaps something of a CGI effect created to embellish Stephen King adaptations and colorful Victorian melodramas made by Merchant Ivory, but not a real thing that happens to people and halts school sessions in any place but Canada and Nebraska, which are pretty much the same thing to us. There, they actually play hockey on real ice.

Then there are stories about New York, but then New York has its own idea about itself, which has never matched any sort of reality we can hold in our heads. If it fits not within the boundaries of Rogers and Hammerstein, then it simply cannot be true or must be about some other place.

We know all about musicals and their special versions of reality here. We have a patent on that kind of stuff.

Of course we know all about New York. What you do is stand in Times Square, which has been entirely vacated by pickpockets out of Universal Goodness or magic, and you catch snowflakes on your tongue until the ball drops on New Years Eve. Then Gene Kelly waltzes with Ginger Rogers down Broadway to the sound of swelling strings. Sure, thats the way it is over there.

Okay, maybe not.

To get back to the Golden State, which is where we all live.

Monday night the Old Earth turns her face in her rocking chair furthest away from her Sun, who would be happy to warm his mother's face at this time, but that lucky old Sun is busy rolling around Heaven all day.

Its the darkest and coldest night of the year that happens this Monday night and all the Wiccans here are gathering for their annual celebrations and incantations.

We are going to need a powerful number of spells and such to pull all of us out of this darkness this time, and we are sending special messages to all of the witches and warlocks we know to help do something about it. This is a mighty dark time on the Island, this season, with folks losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their loved ones, and all kinds of mean nasty kinds of goings on to get in the way.

Over at Marlene and Andre's Household they are all gathered there during this time because of the job situation and the relative warmth and sanctuary of that place. The boys all managed to scavange an Xmas tree again this year and bring it home on the Flexible Flyer Wagon that serves as occasional ambulance and Provisions transport for the House. So down Grand Street the merry parade came with Occasional Quentin proceeding with a tambourine and Andre following behind with a guitar and Javier playing either a flute or a coronet and there was all sorts of jumping up and down and eggnog and merriment about this tree they found cast aside as too badly off to sell on account of it being half burned due to some kind of electrical connivance of some kind and so they brought this tree, which some unkind folks compared to the Xmas tree in a Charlie Brown Xmas similar to the one the City of Fremont set up, and they set it there in the washtub with little ceremony. Then they all sat down and had a Xmas dinner of bread soup that couldn't be beat and went to bed and did not get up until the next morning when they all began to decorate the tree there and they turned the really burned off side to the wall leaving a few branches which still had some green on them sticking out a bit sore but honest to the room.

Suan hung a passel of condoms there of all different kinds, some sparkly and some shiny, and Marlene brought out her grandmother's Russian ornaments and Occasional Quentin found stuff along the shore he hung up there as well -- conches, and abalone and sand dollars and wilkins -- and pretty soon there she stood, all lit up and looking pretty much like an Xmas tree should look, a beacon for the lost souls that had gussied her up like a, well, like a lighthouse beacon.

It did not matter that a few branches had been singed. She was an honest to god Golden State fir and well loved for all of that by the folk that gathered around her while Andre played Richard Shindell's "You Stay Here " on his guitar that night.

For a brief time, as all of them there, refugees and Native Californians and the hopelessly lost sat there looking at the tree in its humble washtub weighted with a cinderblock, all was calm, all was peace.

Tomorrow would change nothing of this situation, but for now, there was the tree and for now, there was peace in that little household of gathered souls. And some leftover bread soup in the pot.

And from far across the water, lit furtively by the garish lights of the container gantry cranes, came the long ululation of the throughpassing train as it wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London waterfront from the Port of Oaktown to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a reasonably painless and worry-free Solstice time.