DECEMBER 28, 2009

(This is available as audio MP3 and on the annual Island-Life CD)


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

Javier noted seagulls flying over the supermarket parking lot at Mariner Square, and sure enough a dockwalloper swept in on the heels of a train of others to drench the Bay Area with rain and high winds.

In addition we note that we have a new President, this one elected without any quarrel about the process. In conjunction with the Solstice, which took place Sunday, we observe that the days will gradually become brighter and the nights shorter as we move forward to a time in which the darkness that has infected our Commonweal for some time shall yield to a period of luminescence, in which the bleak darkness of the past shall fade to bad memories.

All of us here welcome back the Island-Life messengers from their missions. The Editor has generously given the week off to recuperation from their injuries.

The mission to find the mayor of Lake Wobegon failed -- again. so our offer of Sister City Status remains up in the air for the time being.

We always wanted to be like Mr. Keillor, growing older and wiser with each broadcast over the years, talented and known by talent, dispensing avuncular wisdom, fabulous Scandinavian women hanging on his arm, adored by millions and going to work wearing red tennis shoes.

We didn't get talent or any of that; we just got older. . . . [sigh]

In any case, the messengers up north got misdirected to a place called Bear Lake and got entangled with a scheme to smuggle Canadians across the border from the numerous maquiladora towns up there. It all ended in terrible mess involving Homeland Security, the Coast Guard - which keeps a cutter stationed there at Bear Lake - and the INS.

So, we'll renew our KQED membership and try again next year to find the Mayor.

As for the mission to save private Opus, well, sad to say that one didn't fare so well either.

The messengers made their way through the dense lines of circumlocution and graphical challenges to encounter the formidable Ms. Grimoire at the Bloom county animal shelter after finding the Herald offices desolate, the daisy patch paved over, and cutter john's wheelchair in the weeds.

Turned out that Bill the Cat had been taken in by an adult bookstore of questionable repute on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco to be a canvasser.

The boys snuck by Ms. Grimoire to find only two surviving penguins in the coop. The first proved to be an eyeshade-wearing sardonic fellow by the name of Sparky.

The second was one of Scandinavian origin named LINUX, who seemed to be happy enough there, looking for all the world like he had just polished off a mess of herring.

They could have at least brought back the wheelchair.

Last Sunday was the first day of winter. We know its winter around here because the fog has a slightly different shade.

People are celebrating the Season on the Island, each in their own way. The lighting of the tree happened during the first week of December and there was the annual parade of yachts with Tommy and Toby aboard their sloop, the Lavender Surprise.

They failed to take a prize for their disco theme lighting, but did garner honorable mention for Mr. and Mrs. Claus, both dressed in leather bustiers, fishnet stockings, and high heels.

The workmen have finished patching up the bullet holes and burn marks in Reverend Freethought's Unitarian Church, left behind after this years Poodleshoot sort of went door to door to all the churches on central Avenue after spilling out of the First Church of the Sanctified Elvis in a violent melee with

Eugene blasting away his 50 cal Rhino gun with impressively bad aim amid the tear gas and the pew cushions set on fire.

The Baptist Church remained closed through the Holidays, as Reverend Rectumrod had to return to Texas to calm his nerves for a spell after Thanksgiving.

Over at Mr. Howitzer's he held the annual Friends and Family dinnerparty at the place with the two stone lions in front on Grand Street. Mr. Cribbage attended as did Mr. Blather, Mr. Pescatore and Mr. Dudgeon with their wives. And the talk circled, as would be expected, about the recent elections and what the future holds for the Golden State, which they saw as less than optimistic.

The increase in rents might be forstalled, due to the Recession, for example. That rents would fail to rise on a regular basis was a matter of deep concern.

Mr. Howitzer had his replacement dog there. Mr. Howitzer managed to finagle service dog status for Snookums even though there is nothing physically wrong with Mr. Howitzer beyond a game leg and his defective heart.

At his other property, the household managed by Andre and Marlene, they also had their own dinner party of sorts after André finished up practice with his band the hapless few.

This year the band will depart from its usual setlist to include some golden oldies for the ancient codgers at the Native Sons of the Golden West New Years celebration, Including golden oldies from the Rolling Stones hits. and a few sedate classics, such as "Don't Bogart that Joint".

So Marlene whipped up a fine feast with fixings from the Island Charity for Hapless Families and from the garden out back and some items borrowed, more or less, from the greengrocer by Mancini and Pedro. Mr. Howitzer had parked his RV on top of what used to be the garden but they found so much soil under the lumber pile they all managed to get some greens and beans going there and the ironmongery made a real fine trellis.

Andre's band had done a concert at the Elks BPOE house and knowing there was to be a banquet then, they all wore trenchcoats with deep pockets, coming away from that gig with bread loaves, butter, potatoes, broccoli, two porterhouse steaks, salad dressing, and loads of croutons.

So there they were, all the residents of the one bedroom cottage: Occasional Quentin, Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Javier, Rolf, Mancini, Suan, Alexis, Sarah, Pahrump and Bonkers the dog with his pals Wickiwup and Johnny Cash, both labradors of uncertain mixture.

Its a jolly group, a bit crowded ever since the rents rocketed through the roof, necessitating yet more roommate additions, but jolly nonetheless and Mr. Howitzer still believed he was renting out the place to just three people, which was fine by them, for he would have just raised the rent even higher -- and they didn't want that.

Marlene had done up the Holiday tree -- which Jesus and Javier swore they had found on the beach, a nearly perfect fir six feet high -- with her grandmother's Old Country orniments again, fully expecting every year the 150 year-old glass would be pounded to dust amid the typical household mayhem, but was in a bad mood still on account of the wedding fiasco during the Poodleshoot.

In retrospect, choosing the grotto of the First Church of the Sanctified Elvis with its twelve-foot high portrait of the The King done on velvet and collection plates that bore slots for cigarettes as well as the names of Las Vegas casinos does not appear to have been prudent and she was really in a wax with Andre about it and the destroyed wedding dress. It had been her mothers, one of the few things that got saved before she was institutionalized and her father disappeared with the truck, the family jewels, and just about all of the bank account.

In fact, thinking about the dress at all just brought up worse memories. When her mother died at Napa, she had been left with nothing but a small trunk of things. And the dress. Now here she was in this . . . this house and this . . . this man, no, this child! What had he been thinking?!

When Andre came into the kitchen after practice she had just burnt the buns in the oven and it looked bad to the company at large. There was likely to be an argument and an argument meant no dinner for hours, if not days.

That's when Andre said, "Well y'know we still have each other."

There was a pause as timid faces peered from around the door jamb. Breath stopped and the sound of the ticking clock became awfully loud as Marlene stared back with a blank expression for a very long time.

After a time that dug seriously into Eternity, Marlene blurted out, "EFF YOU!"

Barely an heartbeat later, Andre responded, "Eff you!"

The ticking of the wall clock seemed to increase in volume for what seemed an eternity until the two threw their arms around one another in a passionate kiss.

"Awwwwwwwwwww . . . !"

The little gale that came when everyone let out sighs of relief caused the stove burners to flicker. Things had gone back to normal. Everything would be all right.

Down the street Officer O'Madhauen's cruiser prowled around the corner and up 8th street past the park, looking for speeders, DUI and jaywalkers on this night of nights that featured double pay.

At the Lutheran Church, in what was becoming a regular tradition, Pastor Nyquist had a guest for post missal brandy. Father Duran from the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint.

It had been the habit of each minister to take a long walk around the block that held both their churches, reflecting upon the Mysteries and composing sermons in their respective heads, with Father Duran walking clockwise, and Pastor Nyquist walking, naturally for a man of his cloth, anti-clockwise. for years they did this, never meeting except for that one nodding moment half way around, until the day of the Big Rain and the Umbrella Contretemps and the abortive Combined Faith Based Initiative in which the two joined forces for a time with Rebbe Mendelnusse and Mustapha Kemal of the Islamic Mosque to bring the Spirit and Things Sanctified to the Bars and taverns of the Island.

Well, that one didn't end very well but the two remained friends, inviting each other to attend to New Year's on alternating years in the one or the other chambers.

And each year always ended the same, with Maria or with Sister Josephine coming in to switch off the buzzing TV set in the corner, bank the fire in the grate, tuck in first the one then the other with a quilt in their respective chairs and turn out the light as the new year rolls into the next.

And then, naturally as it has each night nigh to the stroke of twelve for the past ten years of Island-life, then comes from far across the estuary past the clinking ship masts of the marina, the eerie wail of the through-passing train as it winds its way through the Jack London Waterfront from the industrial port of Oaktown to places far away and unknown, leaving behind the faintly slapping waves and the distant hoot of the foghorns.

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