DECEMBER 27, 2009

It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Moderately cool weather with moody skies gave way for a seasonal dockwalloper on Saturday, departing to make folks to the East of here a bit more miserable and let Sunday roil with clouds and sporadic sunshine.

Samhain has come and gone, along with that fat jolly fellow in the red suit. Hope you all got what was coming to you. Thanks to Ira Flatow on NPR's Science Friday for helping us all learn just how Santa gets to about 200 million households within about six hours of our realtime without being observed. Hint: some time travel is involved along with state-of-the-art Hi-tech. Santa does employ green renewable technology for his workshop.

Many of us around the Bay got away for various remote escapes, and those who did not, worked at their jobs, if they had them. Others just hunkered down during this Recession Season.

Its the last week before the decade turns over, hopefully to a better one and also a better year. Times have been dismal all over, even at Mr. Howitzer's accustomed to boomtimes real estate office. Things have not been selling, rentals have not been spurned and the general sense is of exodus from around here in those cases people have a place towards which to flee.

The rest of us gather ourselves around and hold tight as best we may. Its the time of visitation and renewed acquaintance and folks who have no other options other than to live right where they always have make those sudden visits door to door, where the heavy knocker knocks and the hinges swing and its all "So glad to see you! time with the tree there in the corner or the fire going in the grate, and the inflatable Santa riding his infallible motorcycle all lit with internal lights out in front on the grass.

They say the customs of this time go way back, far back into the dim and musty reaches of history to when people believed the tree of life sent its roots far down into the caverns of the center of the earth and that's why we decorate the tree each year with lights. Its the tree of light and of life you know.

In other places they throw the Yule log on the fire and so burn up all the bad luck and sorrow of the past year.

Not a bad idea right now.

At the Almeida house, they are all bedded down for the night, with the kids in their comforter beds and shreds of wrappings still littering the foyer and stacks of cardboard boxes ready to be carted down to the recycling, but Pedro and his wife are all worn out and ready to relax there while the fire in the place clinkers down to its last embers and each of them on the sofa with their arms around one another, glad not to be out on the waves this night or the morning for its a Fisherman's Holiday, and none of the restaurants taking catch anyway right now. Until Monday. And let the Big Rigs handle that day for once.

Its really a sort of in-between time when the soul catches breath and waits for the Next Thing: The New Year. What will the New Year bring? An end to the "Housing Crisis"? An end to the Great Recession? Nobody knows, not even Geithner. Not really. It may be all bad or it may be all good. Nobody knows for sure and here we are.

This is the last entry of the 00 decade and the last issue for 2009, which started out so grand with a wonderful Inauguration, and then to be dragged through endless debates that should have been resolved with simple common sense in a few minutes while the Nation churned. Its worth it to note that OO is generally regarded in polyglot Europe as the universal symbol for toilet.

All of that is concern for Big People. We, on the Island, are not Big People. We would rather toast our toes before the banked fireplace than go out on Adventures and all kinds of foolishness. We are more Hobbitlike than Hero-like. And none of of use like or admire anything about Orcs and their like, although we may have disagreements among ourselves from time to time, for that is the way things are.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household is all gathered there for the evening dinner as the last hours of the dolorous year of 2009 tick away on the clock above the door. In the corner, the decorated tree sits in its washbasin, lit with rewired circuit-board LEDs and Marlene's inherited ornaments that are well over one hundred years old.

Everyone is there: Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier, Pedro, Occasional Quentin, Rolf, Suan, Alexis, Crackers, Mancini, Sarah, Pahrump, and Februs, along with the dogs, Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash. There is no place for a table big enough to host all of them all together so each one fetches a plate and goes to sit wherever there might be space.

Because of the generosity of the Food Bank, there is plenty for all and at the end of the feed they all go to their respective places to talk and to digest. Because of the rain, Snuffles Johnson has been sleeping on the porch so somebody brings out a plate of beans and chilies for the old man, for which he is very grateful. Out there, through the cloud wrack, the first full quarter moon shines upon the chopped Bay. The First full moon shall magically appear on December 31st, according to Beth's Farmer's Almanac. That will surely be a sight to behold.

Simple pleasures. Full moons and plates of beans and rice. And all the lights of distant Babylon glittering like a jeweler's display case clad with velvet.

After a while the dishes return to the sink and Marlene flops down to let somebody else clean up while she looks up at the ruins of her erstwhile wedding dress nailed there to the wall ever since the disastrous Poodleshoot of '08. "Later on," she said, "People will talk about things that happened like 'that was the Great Recession of Oh Seven', or 'that was the election of Oh Eight.' We never will hear talk like that ever again." She paused. "We really should call Reverend Freethought." She said. "Make sure she is all right."

"I'm sure she is okay." Andre responded. But then added, "Will give a call tomorrow." Pause "Do Unitarians have days of rest?" He asked.

In the Island-Life Offices, it had come round to the end of the week time and all the material had been sent to proof. As usual, the Editor remained in his cubicle while far down below, in the dungeons, Chad remained behind tidying up a few things for the new widgets before they were installed.

Except for those two, the offices were silent and dark. All the copyboys had left long ago. Over at the European Desk the linotype spat a few lines about events on St. Stephen's Day and then was still. The Office Menorah, having burned out a few bulbs, had been unplugged a couple days ago. Channukah was over anyway.

This was the time of expectation, of waiting for the next tick of the clock, the ball to drop, the confetti and fireworks, the world to begin again.

As the Editor sat in his pool of light, his head surrounded by the remaining white hairs in an aureole, bent over his task at his desk, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the expectant waves of the estuary as the train wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the patiently lit gantries of the Port to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great New Year.