Island Life

Vol. 18 - No. 10Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday April 24, 2016

Current Edition - Year 2016

Welcome to the 18th year of this weekly column that's updated fifty-two times a year, on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, depending on how well the booze holds out. If you've got any news, clues or rumors to share from around the Bay, or the world, feel free to send them to or use the envelope in the masthead. For previous issues, including 2016, visit the Archives.


The Editor

Denby -Reporter

Sharon -Events

Chad -Coding

Tammy -Fotos

Hilde -Europe

APRIL 24, 2016


This week we post a photo of a horse of the type called "Painted Pony". They have other names for the breed but this one sticks for the name on the corral stands boldly to announce the resident as "Cezanne."

Why a horse? Vy not a horse? Viaduct? Why not a duck? Nevermind, it's all silliness in honor of Spring.


This week we note the usual demo of Island madness with a 5150 discovered shouting in the middle of the street on Shoreline. As the police arrived, the man drove off in his car, which just goes to show you that not all the crazies are homeless.

Speaking of homeless, the rent crisis now makes daily front page news here as Big Property battles against the citizens for control of the Island. Silly Council passed their anemic ordinance on rent with thumbs down from both sides -- which was to be expected, which just says how cowardly the folks are given that they had a chance to do something consequential with full knowledge NOTHING they would do would earn approval from anybody.

Another squandered opportunity.

Various citizens groups continue to gather signatures to put a more toothy statute on the ballot for November while the Big Prop folks have lobbied for their own "Property rights" measure looking to ban any sort of rent control that would reduce the massive profit-taking going on. Thursday's action by the Council did not pause the citizen movement, led by the Alameda Renters Coalition, in the slightest.

Not surprisingly, a couple of the worst offenders on the island guilty of price gouging and inflated "cost recovery" schemes, Farhad Matin and Marilyn Schumacher, filed a notice of intent to circulate petition to the City Clerk’s office on Monday, April 18, with the purpose of amending the ordinance to enact the Alameda Homeowners and Private Property Rights Act. The amendment intends to, among other things, “ensure that property owners can invest in the maintenance and upkeep of their properties.”

Another issue Big Prop has, is the relocation fee for “no cause” evictions. Matin and Schumacher wrote in their petition they seek to “prohibit the City of Alameda from requiring property owners to subsidize their tenants.”

Typically, Big Prop's strategy is to conduct "wait and see" tactics to allow them time to remove vulnerable and troublesome activists from the scene. Farhad Matin has been instrumental in purchasing Edwardian homes so as to subdivide them in situ into multiple family dwelling units that are let for over $3,000 per room, artificially jacking the median cost per unit for rentals. [Insider source redacted to protect whistleblower anonymity].


So anyway, the 9:15 Caltrans pulling a load of partially empty boxcars destined for the Port steamed into Emeryville right on time and paused to take a breath, clunking there to a cumbersome stop before exhaling a gout of steam that came from somewhere unknown as the locomotives had been diesel-powered for well over three-quarters of a century. Some say that great beast-like respiration is just the air-brakes letting off, and some say the lines are blowing out condensate, nodding sagely like these people know what they are talking about. Others say its the spirits of old bums jumping off before the brakeman comes around and who can say what is right about the matter?

The door of a President's Line car parts a bit and out drops Snuffles Johnson back from visiting friends up north. The President's Line is a class act shipper that sends the massive freighters named after American Statesmen out the Estuary loaded with vacated cars to be be filled up in the ports of call of China, Indonesia and other exotic places. This car had been used to haul horse manure up the Valley, and so it reeked royally as befitting any sort of artifact remotely associated with politics and political nomenclature. Snuffles had hitched a ride one time with a rig named after Andrew Jackson, and O! That ride had been notoriously odious.

Snuffles grabbed some rocket growing there along the tracks and shambled off to join some bums jungled up under the freeway overpass further along the Maze. As he paused there gathering his greens he stood upright in some shaggy semblance of an homo sapiens and sniffed the tangy night air, feeling the stars burn on down.

The air blew fresh through that wasteland of cinders and tincan desiccated sunflower trashpile for all along the fence there rioted the defiant jasmine, bringing word of Spring.

This weekend a high wind advisory came over the transom and everybody started battening down the hatches.

On the day of the exhibition game between the Terrapins and the East End Stingrays, wind kicked up in gusts across the outfield, sending pop flies soaring and turning bunts into homeruns. Given the extraordinarily dismal record of the Terrapins, and the fact that the Stingray's best pitcher had been taken out of the game by a scorpion wound, one would have thought the adverse weather would have helped.

Indeed it did. By the bottom of the ninth, the score was 0 to 4 in favor of the Stingrays with two outs and the Terrapins up to bat. During the preceding four and one half hours Stingray batters repeatedly sent would-be homers off of Jose's careful lobs into the stands to the far left and far right, and the Stingrays failed to conduct their usual shutout by strikes during their time on the plate as the wind kept taking the ball high and wide every time Gerald Fitzgerald Smythe III tried to grease one inside. Finally Gerald resorted to firing directly at the batter just when the wind took a lull and so he launched a rocket at Eugene's cap, neatly beaning Eugene senseless to the point that Pahrump and Jose had to carry their snoring teammate around the bases as Smythe walked first Pimenta, then Marvin over the next three quarters of an hour.

The Stingray manager, William B. Toklas De Sucre IV went out to have a word with his relief pitcher and so Smythe faced off against the sturdy Bettina, the masseuse from A Touch of Wonder, sending a careful, ambling pitch during a lull with the intention of allowing the strong-armed woman to either bunt or loft it as the third baseman moved from the outside to inside the line ready to tag out the comotose Eugene, held in the arms of his team mates and ready to haul his bulk as fast as they could toward home.

The name of the Third baseman was Ernest Hemingway Paderewsky III and Center was held down by Willa Cather Debois. First was manned, so to speak, by George Eliot Angelou.

James Baldwin served as Umpire.

The pitch came in high but dropped and Bettina swung to smack the ball just as a gust came up to loft the ball in a reverse parabola over the pitcher's head and back again over the batter's box and the arms of the umpire where another gust took the ball higher and back over the infield and the upturned faces of all the players staring in wonder as in resigned desperation Pahrump and Jose hoisted Eugene to start dragging him along the line with his feet raising dust as they pulled through the earth.

The ball went higher and higher and everyone lost sight of the orb as it vanished into the glare of the sun and hot-dogs paused in their journey, beer cups remained in hands, pennants and signs lowered as all wondered throughout the Snoffish Valley ballpark where the ball would land, whether foul or fair. Kids with cotton candy balls and teens sucking on corndogs paused and even the kids making out in the parkinglot took a moment to wonder. The ghosts of ballplayers past all looked up too, as the entire ballpark held its breath. Would this be another shutout for the Terrapins, or would this hit land over the fence to tie the game and put the match into extra innings for the first time in Terrapin history?

As the ball began its descent, Eugene began to awake and started struggling in the arms of his teammates who tried to restore reason to the confused man, who to tell the truth, never had possessed much in the way of faculties even on his better days. By this point, all the other runners had stacked up along the line between second and third to wait for Eugene to clear the way.

Down came the ball, down, down, down screeching down at terminal velocity finally at 56m/s until finally the pitcher could see it headed right for the plate. Unfortunately he had moved in toward home by that point and as he jockey to get under it, the ball smacked into the plate, cracking the plastic and taking a high bounce to the left. The other runners advanced in a parade followed by Paderewsky, but the confused Eugene continued to flail in the arms of Jose and Pahrump until Eugene punched Jose, who fell across the line, and started to move toward the bullpen. Pahrump grabbed Eugene by the waist and sort of did a jiu jitsu throw over his hip to toss the startled Eugene onto the plate as Willa Cather caught the high bounce and threw the ball to Paderewsky who tagged all of the remaining Terrapins waiting in line to reach home over the body of the fallen Jose.

"Y'out!" shouted the thirdbase ref, named Langston Hughes DuBois.

And so that was the end of the Exhibition Game between the Terrapins and the Stingrays, Spring of 2016. Final score 1-4.

That night, all the talk in the Old Same Place bar was about the game and the state of the Warriors and other sports types of things along with the latest outrages uttered by The Man with the Tribble Toupee during the political debates.

McPherson, a local writer removed his pipe as he sat next to Old Schmidt up at the rail and said, "You know when I first came to this small town, the Town that Has Forgotten Time many decades ago, I was at first dismayed at the prospect that I would have difficulty finding things about which to write." He replaced the stem of his unlit pipe in his mouth to contemplate the state of affairs as they were. "It seemed that the town would be so uneventful as to never have any subject matter about which to write at all."

"I don't zink zo," Old Schmidt said.

Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its timeless, American journey to parts unknown.

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


APRIL 17, 2016


Right now all of NorCal is splashed with bouquets of the State flower. So here we go with our own tender offering.


So anyway Spring has arrived with all its traditions. The poppies have erupted everywhere along with the irises and all the trees have fleshed out their bones. After the recent rains the streams all are splashing again everywhere and the birds conduct loud morning caucuses. No sign that any loudmouth birds with blond toupees have invaded the flocks. No dissonance among these save for a murder of crows who restrict their politics to the single utterance: "Nevermore!"

When Spring drags around the aunts all get busy with the nesting instinct. Most aunts having already done the matrimonial thing, look to nieces and nephews so as to gratify their longing for childrearing and control. James, just out of High School, is now a Buddhist which skirts the issue nicely. Aunt Liz found a girl who she thought would do -- it was Dora who went to school at Washington and then graduated from Sir Francis Drake when her parents moved across the Bay. She is a self-professed Sufi, which to Aunt Liz sounds wacky and sort of Eastern and so therefore good enough.

For James, it was not. Nobody would eat anything at the blind date Liz setup at the bowling alley. James would eat no meat and Dora would not eat anything that was not Halal, so everyone when away feeling very unsatisfied.

Spring is full of traditions around here. Among them are the annual tryouts for the Island baseball Pip Warner League team the Terrapins. No one can deny that in America baseball is very much a part of Spring and the Island is no exception.

The current roster is headed by Eugene Gallipagus, Reverend Freethought, Wally "Old Mushmitts" Manrique, Pimenta Strife (who likes any game involving balls), Borg Rubbitsum (owner of A Touch of Wonder), Bettina (a masseuse from ATW), Marvin Mons (owner of Marvin's Merkins - "Put a Merkin in your Firkin!"), Melody Minton (the bridge tender), Larch Larch, and Jose, who alone among all of them is the only one who knows how to bat, catch and throw a ball correctly.

The Terrapins, who have never really done well (record was 0-28 last season, with one forfeit), nevertheless require a full roster and a full roster means keeping another nine players available to pinch hit or cover for injuries and childcare situations.

The tryouts for a team which has never so much as had a hope of getting to the semi-finals can be dispiriting, so Wally had the idea of getting Padraic to supply a goodly amount of ale and Water of Life in kegs so as to inspire hopefuls and judges and maybe any talent scouts who had happened to get lost in the neighborhood looking for a decent team to survey.

The same went for the home games, which tended to be so sparsely attended that Wally found only a good supply of liquor and cheap wieners managed to put more than a dozen fans in the Pop Warner bleachers at Snoffish Valley High.

The new tryouts were to be tried out during next week's exhibition game at Snoffish Valley and there was a great deal of excitement all about it. Their opponents were to be the fearsome West End Stingrays, a normally ferocious team which would be hobbled by the absence of their star pitcher who had discovered a scorpion in his shoe the hard way.

Baseball is the ultimate writer's sport, for in baseball of all sports, there is no Time. All other sports possess a clock, a stopwatch. But out on the field, the diamond is packed with ghosts; each player steps into the shoes of other players who have gone before over the course of more than one hundred years.

Unless that player find one day a scorpion sting his foot. Then the game changes.

Pedro Almeida, piloting his little boat El Borracho Perdido out beyond the Golden Gate, set out his nets, checked the instruments and sat back for a brief fifteen minutes to enjoy his copy of the Keelhauler Reader he had ordered from NPR. His favorite televangelist had written a number of books and was about to retire, so Pedro thought he would prolong this enjoyment of the man's radio program during the early hours at sea.

A school of flying fish leapt up and course a while before dropping down all at once in parallel with the boat.

During the long loop of years many companions had come and gone; some lost at sea, some passing quietly in their beds, some taken by war in battle. For over fourty years this familiar, homey voice had kept him company in a constant threadnody -- a life as a continuing individuating rhythm. He wondered if the preacher would understand or remember this reference.

Pedro's back creaked in the stool -- soon enough he also would be needing to retire. Soon, the old boat would be docked and either sold or handed over to one of his sons who almost certainly would use it for excursions only. The trade would not be passed on and the battlescars left on the deck from that struggle with the Great White would become just quaint conversation pieces and there would be no more contention with gales and ice.

Pedro whistled a little tune and Ferryboat woofed in the corner, then turned around and curled up in his dogbed. Suffering breeds cheerfulness.

At midnight, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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


APRIL 10, 2016


This week the image comes from the Berkeley Flats, where the daily enterprise is wedded to the clank of iron, the rumble of engines and the sput of smokestacks amid acres of corrugated steel and barbed wire. Here and there the stroller will find evidence that even in this industrial wasteland vibrant Nature persists enough to forceably announce the advent of Spring.

See how the stalk has grown this way and that to find the sun. So also shall you, dear Travellers, find the light.


Not much matters amid this Rent Crisis that is destroying the fabric of communities around the Bay Area. The opera does not matter, and concerts do not matter, gallery openings do not matter, industrial arts do not matter and art and school functions do not matter, and no fundraiser matters so long as this demon continues to ravage the way of life here. It is all cant and fluff as people lose their homes, businesses close up, and the common disaster goes unchecked and ignored. Everything that is not about controlling the dreadful rent situation is just so much dancing on the volcano.

The Island is Ground Zero for this struggle between property investment powers and renters. Right now a group is seeking to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would seek for some minor renter protections. At the same time a powerful group is seeking to get a ballot measure approved that would ban rent control of any type. The strident opposition between the groups is so sharp, so acrimonious, there can be no possible compromise, nevertheless, compromise will be enforced as that is just the way American government works and has worked for some 400 years.

What will come out of this struggle here will provide the blueprint and template for the rest of the Bay Area, if not for the entire Country. Straight rent control does not work, nor does letting the savages have their way without restrictions. As for all the small landowners and mom and pop lessors, they are being fed scraps from the table by the big honchos who really do not give a flying fuck about their picayune in-law apartments. They will be devoured by the Big Boys and given small thanks for helping defeat the "communists".

O, the Cambodians has a new year celebration. It is called "Tet" in some places.



So anyway, as everyone knows there are elections coming up and more than the usual slander and gossip slinging about town like so many spitballs flung by errant schoolboys. The crowded field of Neocons has thinned out, due largely to a convention in which the principals were invited to resolve disputes in the traditional manner of Neocons down through the ages -- they all arrived wearing helmets and greaves and laced sandals and carried broadswords, pikes, morningstars and halberds.

Karina Durina looked particularly fetching in a short gladiator's skirt with brass bustier until Ronald Bump chopped her legs off with a broadaxe.

Dan Danny fell on top of Lindy Cracker and George Souvlaki in a sumo move that won points until he was dispatched by Randy Peter and Scott Trotter with machetes, which they then promptly used on each other the way NeoCons tend to do. Marco Polo strode across the field past the hapless Rick Frothystuff who bubbled out his last awash in the bodily fluids of Nick Perrier and Robert Janedoll until the limbless torso of Mike Wallabee tripped him up and Ned "Red" Cross did him in an iron tea service.

Ned was decapitated by Kit Carson who bit the dust when Jed Schrubb tried to reason with him and so he fell by the wayside in intellectual exhaustion. Pieces of Jim Killmore were scattered about the hustings, leaving quite a gory spectacle and only Jon Catchit standing to face Bump, the Man with the Hair. Night fell and the survivors were put to bed by their immigrant nannies.

At home, Babar sedately put on his second pair of pants, being a true Conservative, and went out to campaign upon the unusual platform of moderation while Papoon, the Somewhat Liberal Candidate, once again assembled his own program based upon the singular slogan "Not Insane!"

It rained this past weekend, which was good news for parched California. Word from the mountains has it that we are at 50% of usual, but the locals are hoping that rain will keep the trout season going strong. So is Eugene Gallipagus, who is busy planning his annual summer excursion in search of the elusive Sierra Golden King, a fabulous trout that is storied to be larger than a full grown steelhead as they used to catch them in the old days.

No one but Eugene has actually seen a Sierra Golden King, but hope springs eternal in fishermen who have more faith than Cubs fans do in the World Series.

Eugene claims to have not only seen one of these mythical fish, but to have actually spoken with it. A matter about which Old Schmidt had this to say after removing his pipe from his whiskers.

"I haff seen ze biggest trout in Europa and therefore ze vorld. Zat man haff dee vacky tabacky smoken."

Which just goes to show that you can trust nobody; neither old Germans nor crazy fishermen.

What with this wet weather we have a dank and overcast, albeit luscious, Spring. Which means the heart's ardor remains banked around here, reducing the dangers of mesalliances and explosive eroticism. The Editor has retired to his study, fortified with Michelina's and Weight Watchers frozen dinners so as to avoid going out. Denby has pulled back into the Snug of the Old Same Place Bar with his guitar and sappy Broadway show tunes. Plus a little Teresa Tudury. He figures that by summer it will be safe to play flamenco again.

Jose is evading the pangs of Cupid by working, working, working, working, at his new job at the tech startup Guttersnipe where the only love expressed is for warm motherboards and hot dataports. The women there are all smart as Madam Curie and they have neither interest nor time for folderol between the sheets. The guys all still play the video game Zombie Monster Thrill Race in what little spare time they have and so it may be several decades before any of them figure out the bumping thing that happens between men and women sometimes.

For the most part they work and when they do not work, they hang out at work and eat really unhealthy meals after working out in the workplace gym. Then they go study and practice working so they can work much better some more and return to work again. They do not take days off, not even when sick or injured, because they would not know what to do with themselves. When it comes to pasttimes, one might say, "I used to dance," or "I used to play the tuba, but not any more. There is no time for that."

The employers really like this for obvious reasons.

This is worklife in the Twenty-First century tech world and there are no carpets and no paintings on the walls. Sometimes a helpdesk guy brings a guitar into the lounge, but y'know -- he's Help Desk. . . .

It is a world Robert Heinlein would have loved, but no one reads Heinlein any more, certainly not tech people who read nothing but manuals. And Heinlein was a dick.

Meanwhile between the airy workpods and aquarium-glass conference rooms of Guttersnipe the hour approaches midnight on Saturday and Cohen sits hunched over his keyboard, the multi screen display arranged in an arc before him with the secondary screen displaying the terminal emulator up to the right and the open iPad to his left (to display the scheduling).

A human stands behind him and says, "What are you doing?"

"Working," Cohen says. "On the Mission Electric zero sum issue. Why do you ask?"

"Your problem is of interest," said the human, who was named Iota. "And I need the printer."

Cohen deliberated a moment. "Use it," he said.

"All right," she said and turned and walked away, her high heels making tapping sounds on the floor. Cohen could swear that he saw sparks.

"This could cause static discharge," he said to himself and returned to work.

At midnight, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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

APRIL 3, 2016


This image is of a Spring harbinger, sometimes called a "blue flag" in crossword puzzles.

Put that in your etui and smoke it.


So anyway, the weather has shifted, the sunlight has taken a new direction and Eugene Gallipagus has started restocking his trout lures as part of an annual tradition. The shadows strewn by the trees are softer and every stem glows with a sunburst of energy tipped with quiet, green eruptions. The wood glades are dappled with careless splashes of sunshine. Fauns pause beside the road before bounding off awkwardly on new-found leg spindles just unfolded a few weeks ago and every morning begins with a rousing symphony of hundreds, thousands of birdsong instruments announcing the new dawn. After the long drought, streams plash once again from high above the hill. The country air is noisy with excitement.

Spring has indeed arrived. And around here let it be known, Spring is the Most Dangerous Season.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous season. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and IV. It's safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.

Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayoneting the jasmine that keeps throwing out punches this way and that while sending wafts of chemical weapons of mass disruption. Army ants on the march in great phalanxes and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while raccoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms while the poppies erupt with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows swooping and diving, duck sorties, and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.

Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked, blindfolded, fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs), wreaking chaos in a wide swath more terrifying that Sherman's March to the Sea. Squadrons of women and girls swelling with fatal charms stroll on patrol, their smooth lithe legs flashing beneath their uniforms: thin summer dresses, haltertops, daisy-dukes, and god knows what else underneath that armor. If anything. It's all agitprop left to the imagination.

O dear gohd . . . .

Observe Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, that flippy short skirt, and strappy high heels. Now Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming, victorious daisies. Right in the heart, poor lad. A goner for sure.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.

When the fog rolls back and feminine panzer divisions cruise the Uptown district in search of some likely target holding his pinsel in his hand at the galleries, when the leggy Joanne strides forth into the night on six-inch stilleto heels and Danielle puts on that short black dress and a European accent spoken with a sultry je ne sais quoi wafting pheromones among the randy artisans, that is when Don Giovanni and Lola Lola stalk the Salons for luscious prey.

That is also when The Editor, avoiding the leggy Joanne, stocks up on Redbox flicks (Netflix now passe), and a fridge filled with Michelina's frozen dinners so as to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, especially those arrows sent by that obstreperous hoodlum, Cupid. For the artsbeat he sends his representative, the hapless Jose who safely has no more a clue about eros than Faber's Euphonia, and Javier, who knows a good deal more about eros than someone in his position ought to and nothing at all about Art save for ogling the odalesque.

Spring is also a time when Mother Nature grabs your attention and, be you the most rigid, retentive personality on earth, try you and vie you, you shall not be able, for at least one day, to hold attention as the mind skips the light fantastic to places that, for all we know, are far better, more productive, more useful than that blasted spreadsheet demanded by the CIO by noon.

Which demand shall not be met and shall not be disciplined for that same day the CIO is herself skipping through the sun-dappled buttercups in the bee-loud glade with Sam from Accounting, who has stripped to his undershorts so as to confront the naked Truth.

People who do not apprehend this truth are assholes and so can be disregarded.

Over at Mariner Square Village, Nick and Drake, the mini-mall's live-in mascots, appeared together along the border hedges.

So it goes for the run of humanity. Not so much for Piedro, who has gotten a job after looking for 18 months with an MSP in Berkeley. There, his job is to deliver pizza and caffeine to engineers who stay up all night fixing imaginary problems that never existed in business twenty years ago.

Piedro signed up to make deliveries during regular business hours, but for an MSP, which is a new sort of business, there are no more regular business hours. Piedro had to show up in San Jose at seven am and then pop on over to South City for the afternoon and then end up in Berkeley where someone said, "Lets have a workstation build party! We''l just order pizza and stay up all night through the weekend and bust it out! What do you all say!"

This new high tech manner of working did not sit well with Piedro, who had to take care of his infirm Abuelta, who had the neropathy in the feet, which she claimed had been twisted by the thugs of Pinochet, and then his grandmother, who seemed to suffer neropathy EVERYWHERE it was possible.

There after the ninth delivery of caffeinated sodas, Jose heard one of the workers speaking to the boss. Seems the man's wife had gone into hospital for the delivery of their first baby.

The boss wanted to know what time the baby was expected and the man thought about five or six if all went well.

"You can stay or go," the boss said. "Choice is yours. You can make up the hours after two am or work the next weekend through."

The man decided to stay at work and the team thought he demonstrated excellent dedication.

Around four am Jose passed out on the sofa and the man's wife was still in labor at Alta Bates. So was the man. While the boys slaved over the machines, up on Pill Hill the epidural wore off and the woman started to scream, so they gave her another as her arms writhed against the restraints and the sweat poured down her body, matting her hair into a lank mass. She was going into that Lilith-dark place that was beyond thinking and language and way beyond any kind of organization or Company.

When Jose awoke around eight, another crew had arrived to continue working through Sunday. Jose fetched another load of pizzas and beer -- the project was winding up and the man's wife was still in labor and the man remained at work eating pizza and building machines -- and Jose left in disgust. When he told Denby what had happened Jose took out his iPhone and looked at it a moment before dropping it to the floor and stomping on the device with his boot heel, which astonished Martini passing by.

"WTF?" said Martini.

"Tech aint work the wreck," Jose said and went to bed.

Right then, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown, laden with its freight of new value.

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


MARCH 20, 2016


This week the headline comes from Tammy and is of a luminescent box elder rejuvenating after the recent rains.


Latest report from the Dweeb report has been a mix of optimistic and recent disappointment.

Basically the latest storm brought hella rain and light dusting at Elevation, which means not so much snow. As Howard reported on Friday, "So you get the picture…there may not be much of a plow….Just cinders for some ice, once the pavement melts up to an inch or two. What this storm gives up in precip it will make up in wind - See more at:"

As for the longer range outlook, Howard says "The Climate Models are telling that we have some good storms in April (30 Day) outlook. ..."

Optimistically, "If you have not heard by now, there is a La Nina brewing for next Winter. ENSO is expected to be at least in neutral mode by this Summer, then in negative territory by the Fall. If you believe in the Scripps forecast model, a Major La Nina is in the offering. "

If this turns out to be true by the end of next winter we should seen an end to the California Drought. Maybe. It could just as well happen that next winter is mediocre, which would propell us back into another three years of drought conditions.


So anyway, boiling clouds and thrashing monsoons have driven back the fears of drought in many. The reservoirs of Marin are overflowing the spillways again even as the green shoots drive out from the dark bones of this long winter's reach.

Each morning the birds erupt at dawn with tremendous chattering and the squadrons of Canadian geese honk happily on their return from Rio de Janeiro, pausing to squabble on the greens of the Chuck Corica Golf Course and the expanse that spreads out beside the College.

It is still chill enough at night for flannel, and the rain sifting down now like melodic fragments torn from memory with silver dagger drops sends shiver through the old knocking bones.

It would be a poor man indeed, or a sad excuse for a woman who had never stood there at the window looking out at this scene of plashing pines and tinkles, remembering some long lost day, some long lost lover or friend.

In the crannies of the BART station, in the hooks of bus stops, in the snug of doorways, ragged people collect like detritus tossed up and left behind by the swirling eddies gushing along the gutters, all wrapped in damp sleeping bags and tatters. It is still cold enough outside.

All the residents of Marlene and Andre's Household had gathered together under the roof because of the weather. Occasional Quentin had taken up his sleeping spot under the coffee table and Suan had retaken the couch and Martini occupied the fireplace and Snuffles holed up in the hole left out in the porch where the fire that started on Javier's fiftieth birthday had nearly killed all of them. They were a ragged bunch of fifteen souls taking up residence in that one bedroom cottage where accomodations were necessarily cramped, but the rents having risen to such obscene levels, each had taken the measures necessary to survive. For some, whose lives roll easy, keeping body and soul together under a roof was fair enough a job to accomplish. For folks like these, riff raff toss by the oceanic vississitudes and storms of Life, not gifted with luck or talent or brains, they had to make shift with what came their way. What else was one to do?

For all their mental illness and penury they made the best of it. For the St. Patricks Day feast they had a grand feast of cabbage and white beans and broth and onions and toasted day-old bread with fake parmesan and that was enough. It had to be enough because that was all there was and there was music and laughter in the Household that night.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic and Dawn and Suzie slaved to serve up Gaelic Coffees, which Padraic refused to name by the more popular appellation, him feeling that no daycent Irishman would ever sully the Water of Life, uisce que bah, with whipped cream and frippery. No one ever in the Old Sod had thought to celebrate St. Patrick with a day to His name more than any other day after a saint, but here in America things enjoyed a different turn, for on St. Paddy's day, Paddywackery was put aside and everyone took to the wearing of the color of the Republic and it was good to be Irish indeed.

So there was a pleasant roistering and clatter from within the clean, well-lighted place and many a tankard was raised and many a toast was made and many a song was lilted upon the air for Denby sat up in the snug with his guitar and there played many a rare old mountain tune to the delight of all.

And it was come nigh unto the stroke of midnight before anyone had forgot to remember the annual visitation of that dreadful Spook that was wont to haunt among them about this time. First the branches thrashed outside in a terrific gale as a sudden downpour assaulted the streets. Then came the wailing of the Bann She about the brick chimney, causing the hearts of the stoutest to quiver and the curtains shivered.

At this point the jukebox began spontaneously playing a certain song by that mysterious group known as the Blue Oyster Cult.

Then the lights flickered overhead and all the candles guttered and a bulb in the lamp beside the snug went **pop**. The candles blew then disappeared. The curtains flew then He appeared, saying don't be afraid.

It was He again, returned and all were silent and struck dumb besides as he strode across the floor to the rail where Eugene nervously gave up his seat to stand shaking in his boots and weeping to the side as He clambered up onto the bar stool to order his regular: a pint of Guiness and a double of Arthur Power to bide his time as the foam stacked in the glass.

It was Him -- the Wee Man. What did he look like? For a start he wore a twill newsboy cap on a head of bright red hair. Red, too was his full beard and cobalt blue his eyes. He wore a green checked waistcoat which sported a gold chain that went into the side pocket and green checked pants. And on his feet a set of green suede brogans with tassels and toe tips that curled up and about in a merry way. He could not have amounted to more than three foot two inches in height.

One of the Not-From-Heres, a veritable Dot Commer type, asked the querelous question, "Who are you?"

"Well," Said the Wee Man, reflecting. "I have been myself all day."

He sipped his Power, then asked the Dot Commer, "What, pray tell, are you?"

Padraic cautioned the man to govern his response.

"Well," said the Dot Commer, taking the safe route. "I am employed."

The Wee Man shook his head with sympathy. "If that is all you are, that is a sad thing." He then took out a small derringer pistol which he shot into the air, striking the ceiling and causing a little sparkling rain of dust to descend before he replaced his weapon and took possession of the Guinness supplied by Padraic.

As to what the Wee Man really was, besides himself all day, which most of us can claim at nearly the same rate, the matter was open to speculation and never-ending discussion. Some say he came from the Spanish Armada that sank off the coast and others say he was of the legendary Firbolg that harried the ancient Romans loose from the Emerald Isle thousands of years before. Some say despite his stature he was related to the mythic giant Finn ni Cuchulain, Finn McCool, whose body extended the length of Howth, and that his apparent manifest physical size was merely a kind of trick, and some say that he was of the tribe of the Bann Sé that howl about the chimneys at night and therefore a sort of faery, but with some disreputable attributions, including cigar smoking and farting.

A faery fart is something about which to contemplate at a later time.

Everyone turned to serious drinking and discussions about Donald Trump's hair as the Wee Man flirted with Suzie.

"O please mister, do leave my knickers alone this time," Suzie said.

The Wee Man's eyes twinkled merrily. "O but I must!"

"O please no!"

"O yes!

"O no!"

"O yes!"

"O please no!"

"Do give us a kiss!"

"I will if you leave 'em alone this time."

In answer, the Wee man smiled and nodded sagely. "With respect, dear Lady. Cannot promise anything."

"All right," Suzie said, and she gave the Wee Man a peck which caused the gentleman to sigh contentedly. "Blessed is the man who enjoys thy gifts," he said. Then, he abruptly started and stared at the table of Dot Commers.

"What on earth are you doing on this St. Patrick's day but noodling when you should be kanoodling!" He said in outrage.

The Dot Commers looked up from their iPads and their iPhones and their sundry twittering devices in surprise.

The Wee Man stood up upon the stool and clapped his hands three times. On the third clap, all the lights exploded in a shower of sparks, plunging the room into pitch darkness. Cries and yelps were heard from around the room. Suzie shrieked. Old Schmidt exclaimed, "Na und!?"

When Padraic had got the lights back on, the Dot Commers were sitting in each other's laps and their devices had been turned into golden instruments known in some circles as Jaw Harps.

In addition, a number of people squirmed in an uncomfortable way. Suzie ran behind the bar to lift up her skirt to peer down there and abruptly slap down the hem.

"O for Pete's sake! He's made 'em drafty fore and aft!"

Dawn went over to Padraic who was peering down past his waistband held open with both hands.

"O I rather like the red piping!" Dawn said. "It outlines yer stuff quite nicely me love!"

"Enough of that!" Padraic said.

The Man from Minot found a little fob with buttons on the bar. Each button was in the shape of a red heart and he pressed the left hand button.

A woman with flaming red hair yelped.

He pressed the button again and the same woman yelped.

He pressed the right button and the woman went, "O mah gawd o mah gawd!" and turned red.

The Man from Minot went up to the woman and pressed the left button again and she leaned against him.

"O gawd! Stop!" She clutched his arm. "It's got a thing that buzzes. . . ".

"That Wee Man is a perverted SOB!" Padraic said. "These things are obscene!"

"It is clear that St. Patricks Day is a day of great erotic power," the Man from Minot said. "And there is only one solution."

"What is that?" Dawn said.

"Your friend is to have you take off your knickers right away," said the Man from Minot, who then pressed the right button of the remote control in his hand until the red haired woman nearly melted in his arms. They left the bar together.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, and it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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


MARCH 6, 2016


In honor of the rain returning for a last El Nino blast we present this image of an oil spot on the road. It's Art so don't laugh . . .


We have been looking at what is going on at Silly Hall and the entire Rent Crisis response there as well as elsewhere from citizen groups, deciding to sit back until a pattern emerges from all the brough-haha.

It is easy to get excited about any one development or event, but single points do not make a trend, to paraphrase our old geometry teacher.

At the end of the day three or more occurances make a line and we have had several now spaced over several months, if not several years.

Time to draw conclusions as renter groups tire of foot-dragging and the obduracy of Big Property entities to aim squarely at the Ballot box in the next series of salvos.

Rather than analyze the minutia of what is happening of late, lets look at the big picture(s).

A few months ago several concerned citizen renters went before City Council to speak of the ongoing rent crisis taking place on the Island, which is generally reflective of trends around the Bay Area.

Let's put causes and proposed solutions on the table for a moment to simply state that no one, not the landholders, not the property management people, not the legislators, not the renters for sure says there is no crisis and the current situation is a disaster in motion. It is a disaster for individuals, it is a disaster for small businesses and it is a disaster for the communities in general.

That we have a rental crisis, both for businesses as well as for individuals is primo factotum. Also established fact is the horrible way San Francisco rents have risen to obscene levels resulting in major changes to entire neighborhoods, causing wholsale flight from the City to outlieing districts. One can blame any number of factors for this, but the reality is that nobody forced any landlord or management firm to raise rents and evict people en masse. Many people born and raised here cannot afford to live here any longer and many families have packed up and left from San Francisco and each of the other five counties in the Bay Area Metro area even as the population densities have continued to escalate. Traffic problems have increased as well as homeless encampments along with an host of crime statistics and severe strain on infrastructures of virtually every system, including water, garbage, social services, medical care, etc.

The Island has not been immune to these large scale developments. Within the last five years businesses that have existed here for half a century or more have been ousted by this fever generated by the sheer bulk of dollars that appear to be in play. Paganos Hardware, the Park Street bakery, Brown Shoes, Webster Barbershop, Croll's Bar, the Little Cinema (Central Avenue), McGraths Pub are just a few business that have closed up or moved either directly due to, or influenced by, the rent crisis. As for individuals, no decent person can afford to have a one bedroom anymore, so now we see people doubling up and getting room mates to double street population densities, which then affects garbage collection, sewer and parking.

This is not just change as a consequence of modernity; this is destructive change leading to what may become localized slum deserts and certain destruction of neighborhood community not to mention the widespread production of individual misery and displacement.

That City Council was slow and conservative and trended to cater to monied interests should not be surprising. With the departure of the Navy and the opening up of large and valuable real estate, overwhelming external forces came to bear here. Due to very concentrated efforts by concerned citizens a narrow tract of land was rescued from development to become the Jean Sweeny Open Space Preserve.

It does appear that no other land tract will enjoy such protection as bogus Environmental Impact reports and fake traffic studies get by in smoky back rooms to allow dubious projects to go forward. One report came up with the preposterous claim that adding over 2,000 more housing units would result in no more than one additional vehical passing through rush hour traffic spread out over all bridges and tunnels combined over the next thirty years.

Even if you accept that all these people would use only intra-island pathways, any sane person would have to see that the present traffic load within the Island is already heavily impacted and any more traffic will certainly damage the quality of life here.

People who claim that all the newcomers will just ride bicycles are living in a fantasy la-la land.

So a group of renters has formed a coalition to address the issues politically. Astoundingly, City Hall agreed to listen in a special session. Astoundingly the session was packed with pro landowner shills who attempted to squeeze out any free public comment which disagreed with the monied interests.

Not so astoundingly, the renters reacted with extraordinary anger, leaving broken bones and paramedics and police and blood on the stairs as punctuation marks for that first Council meeting. Council Meetings have proceeded somewhat more pacific after that, but the anger continued to grow and land interests continued to buffalo the meetings and repress dissent as if by this they can delay or mollify the consequences of their actions. Lets not go on with this. Because of the anger and because of the intransigency of the big property interests, real rent control is a foregone conclusion and it is just too bad that refusal to sit down and talk and dour insistence on "property rights" will cause a passel of legislation that satisfies nobody.

Look, this is not a new problem that suddenly just popped up like a toy clown in a box. Lets look at places where some things have worked and where things have not. We see in a gander at the map that not one measure of any kind, pro or anti landlord has resulted in the reduction of rents across the board anywhere from San Jose up to Petaluma and out to Walnut Creek. Rents are low in Vallejo but then Vallejo is broke and unattractive with many social problems. What has worked is the preservation to some extent of quality of life in pockets of Marin where people got together to block development with vigor.

No one in Fairfax or Lagunitas is afraid of being called anti-development. They are more likely to say, "Call us what you want; that is just fine and just might help other yahoos from coming in here with their ticky tacky boxes on the hillside."

This is something that should have been practiced ages ago on the Island. Call the whole Island anti-development -- what is wrong with that? Let it get a bad rep -- that is just fine. What are you afraid of? Why is anyone talking about developing the Point at all? Turn the entire thing into a columbarium for the Navy and a bird sanctuary. The birds will handle their own traffic patterns and so will the people in the columbarium urns.

At this point all the talk about measured growth and considered approaches is just so much baloney. The population is over 75,000 climbing rapidly and soon to top 100,000 souls. In a recent meeting it was Ms. Do of Blogging Bayport who noted that the Mayor stated flatly, "You people don't understand; this is not a little town any more -- it is a full fledged city."

The old island is gone and it has been gone for a while. Or to quote another piece of theatre, "Toto, we are not in Kansas any more."


So anyway, out in the industrial avenues of Berkeley that nobody thinks about save those that pour the steel that make the massive ship's propellers of the ocean liners and those that hammer together the cobbles of tin that framework unknown and disregarded most folks lives allowing them to surf the internet and watch Donton Abbey and shop for fake organic arugula and get their kids to school, in that area where the tin smokestacks batter out steam released from pounding and welding sheet metal inside corrugated steel wall shacks where people in America still actually make things the employees of all the businessess along Fourth Street stepped out of doors to stand there and jubilate with drenching T-shirts and blouses and dress shirts and denim shirts and levis and rough hewn leather aprons, construction boots splashing in suddenly new puddles.

All the receptionists and the call center boys and the Sales desk people stood out there to laugh and wave their hands in the air as the blessed rain came pelting down, the rain falling from the sky which had been so dry so long and all of NorCal sang this song of relief from the terrible drought that had been destroying our lives and the lives of our relations in the Valley.

Alexi, big and black bearded rumbled out to the pavement in the cul-de-sac that made Endsight Corporation's front stoop of broken curbstone and stood there with his massive face tilted upwards to allow the water to stream on down over his cheeks and let the rain fall down upon his immense shoulders and the giant laughed with joy.

Under the humming spans of I880 and the junction with 980 the tents rose up for those lucky few still possessed of a mind. For the rest, they gathered along the walls of the subterranean BART stations in wrinkled brown clots staring out with wondering eyes at this new damp confusion of wet and dripping, dropped sodden down and immovable like swatches of soggy cardboard with human hair or something like it.

Far off in the high Sierra the blessed snow came driving down with energy and wind to drift in the tens of feet the way it did in 1996 and the shouts of skiers echoed across Mammoth.

Beneath the leap of the freeway over Seventh Street Denby stepped out into the falling rain, having just gotten out of jail, where he had been since Valentine's Day. The judge had given him a stern warning not to be seen going around inciting riot and corrupting the morals of outstanding citizen businessmen like Larry Larch and Marvin Mervin of Marvin's Merkins ever again.

Marvin had shuffled his feet sheepishly at the hearing and Larry's Service dog had looked about as contrite as any terrier can do under the circumstances. The others had been let go, but due to a snafu with the CorrectWise software at the jail it had taken them five hours to get Denby properly discharged. So there he was outside the Seventh Street jailhouse and even all the hookers had gone home by then. He looked up and allowed the sweet rain to rinse his eyes and hair.

O Lord, why me, Denby thought.

Because I find you so laughable I really love you, said the Lord.

O thanks, Denby thought.

That night, in the dark offices of the Island-Life newsroom the Editor shifted his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, removed it and took a swig of Glenfiddich before returning his stogie to its proper position as he sat once again at his customary table where he has sat each week for the past eighteen years, the desklamp making a pool of light on his keyboard and papers while the remaining white hairs flew about his head in an aureole.

Outside the rain sussurated on the pavement and the trees. The machines of the office whirred until each went through its scheduled backup and auto shutdown, leaving the Editor there alone in the empty space once again as he had always been. After a little break to handle disasters and depredations caused by the Angry Elf gang, the Editor had walked up to the offices as the trees had started to leaf out again. Jonquils bloomed along the hillside in bunches. Tulips had emerged to herald a change of sorts. Now, sitting down to the one place where he felt at home, here on this Island, a more perfect place one could not imagine.

Old friends had come and gone. Lovers had made their good byes leaving him in that odd state known in chess as solus rex. Now he had only Company. His opponent he had come to know well over the years in a sort of hindsight, having seen the Adversary's depredations like the tracks of a subatomic particle in a vacuum chamber, for no one can see Evil by looking at it; you can only see what it is by the damage left in its wake.

He had tried and tried and beat his fists time and time again only to find that Time is a spherical prison with no escape, no going back.

More important than any endsight was this dealing with the Adversary, making something ex nihilo as the Voice came to him in the dark, some kind of suggestion of Company. Endsight was simply a servant to the main task of handling the Adversary.

Round about him hung the curtains of darkness and the rain outside where somewhere there may be a like mind. In the meantime, the Editor sat at his desk, the little pool of light, his hair flying about his head in an aureole. Doing all for Company.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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

FEBRUARY 29, 2016



So anyway Jose has managed to conceal from Javier the fact that his birthday falls on February 29th. Birthdays are big business for Bay Areans, who look for any excuse to party. But Javier's birthdays trend to the violent with culminations that result so often in Highland's Trauma Center that they have a special gurney named after him.

Javier has gotten to know all the nurses there, especially the pretty ones, who all know the kind of dog he is after his many altercations with the wild women he likes to woo and Jose has often been an unwilling participant in these many escapades. Sometimes escaping with a few third degree burns. Sometimes departing with stitches binding up superficial knife wounds.

Hence, Jose practices a fair degree of disgression when his birthday rolls around, and because it happens only every four years, so much the better as Javier tends to forget these things amid his many adventures dodging bullets from Carmelita or narrowly sidestepping Veronica's racing T-bird as she attempts to run him down once again.

Certainly many people, including the surgeons at Highland, have asked just why Javier opts to pursue these wild women, but Javier feels that a man of his age and stature was honor bound to uphold the image of the virile Latino.

Jose and Piedro, two fine, hardworking boys who make their abuelitas proud, have alternative points of view. Jose tries his best to help his older friend, whom he admires perhaps a little bit. Piedro avoids Javier, calling him a bad example.

The dense tule fog has started to make morning visits over the hills and Bay bridges. The nights have started to yeild to softer temperatures although the chimneys of Woodacre and San Anselmo continue to fill the San Geronimo Valley. All along Snoffish Road the cherry blossoms have suddenly erupted into clouds that rain white petals and the shoots of the trees prod green fingers. Daffodowndillies nod yellow in bunches and beneath the frozen streams high up something is starting to happen.

Out on the chop, Pedro listens to his favorite radio program in the wheelhouse of his commercial boat, El Borracho Perdido while Ferryboat curls up in his corner bed. The Lutheran televangalist Pastor Rotschue is making his final broadcasts before heading off to wherever Lutheran pastors go for retirement.

Pedro imagined the fellow probably would take up fishing at Bear Lake near the Canadian border as a quiet sojourn in sunny Hawaii felt out of character for the crusty old fellow. Which brought Pedro to thinking about his own conditions. He was not getting any younger and the life of a solo commercial fisherman is not an easy one. That time when the Great White came up and wrecked the wheelhouse and killed Tugboat, Ferryboat's predecessor, nearly had done him in as well. He never imagined that pushing sixty plus years he would end up fighting for his life on the desks of his boat, but then, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans and death is even more unscheduled. If Tugboat had not distracted the thing he would not have had time to bring about his Mossberg 350 and fire on its damned reptilian brain that day.

The sea beyond the Golden Gate eased with the smooth chop of a storm that remained a few hunmdred miles off to the west and the boat engines pulsed like the motors of an iHarvester tracktor on the waving fields of wheat. Time and memories ran through Pedro. Thoughts of people lost along the way. Adventures on and off the sea.

From the radio the Tishomingo Blues drifted around the confined space of the wheelhouse. Now another old friend was about to gas up and head on down the highway to leave this man alone with his thoughts and memories and the increasingly less interesting radio.

In the Old Same Place Bar Denby rolled in with his guitar, having just gotten out of jail. Once again Valentine's day had proved a disaster. Perhaps he should not have hooked up with Larry Larch and Marvin of Marvin's Merkins for an evening. The guys decided to make a night out for the unattatched gentlemen as a sort of emotional defense against V-Day. While Ms. Light got all spiffy in chiffon for her date with Brunhilde, one of the masseuses out of Borg's A Touch of Wonder parlor on Webster Street, Larry threw on his jeans and boots and, taking one of his service dogs in training named Bobo, headed out over the Estuary in his Subaru to meet up with his buds at the Fat Lady Lounge. From there the plan was to head over to Eli's Mile High Club under the freeway for some gut bucket blues, which most appealed to Denby.

Things proceeded apace at the Fat Lady as Denby arrived on his blue Gitane and then Marvin appeared. Marvin caused only minor annoyance, as ever the businessman, he kept handing out cards for his shop to prospective customers (Marvin's Merkins: Never too many merkins! Put a merkin in your firkin!" ).

They all piled into Larry's Subaru with Bobo and headed off to Eli's where they were sorely disappointe as Eli's had closed do to the last owner having been shot on the dance floor. Eli's had been upholding a long tradition of juke joints in Oaktown, serving up BBQ, blues and periodic murders for many years. Everytime an owner would get caught fooling around with somebody's wife another one would step up to take his place and get shot in turn and finally it got to the point nobody wanted the job anymore.

So Eli's closed and so, even though they never heard of a bar being closed on Valentine's Day evening, with tears in their eyes they headed off into the sunset looking for another place to put their junk for a while.

Bereft and at a loss for things to do, the group headed back to the artist's enclave along the water near Jack London Square. There they saw Merchants Saloon had been converted into an upscale place, calling itself The Hoity Toity and there was a special Bachelor's Show on for tonight featuring Vaudeville! Fun! Balloons! Comedy! Burly Que! Take someone home tonite!

So they thought it a grand idea that instead of hauling everyone out of the bar into the Subaru they would go into the bar themselves and have themselves a proper good time and when they got inside the bar they found a rangy mangy group of patrons lined up there and it was clear from the scruffy leather vests and bad haircuts and worse dentistry that they were all local boys and not tourist types at all.

Someone asked if they were dot commers and Denby said no, they worked for a living, which passed the muster.

They all looked at Bobo and the meanest nastiest ugliest looking local came up to Larry and asked if that varmint was a poodle. Bobo looked up at them and smiled about as well as any sort of scruffy terrier-type can do, trying to be self-effacing and not cause any trouble.

Larry said no, the dog was a Weimariner in disguise. Which made the locals all happy and they were welcomed into the bar and they were slapped on the back and called good old boys for all that.

So the short guy came out and did his thing with the very tall, thin guy and then the comic came out with a lapel sunflower that spritzed water on the patrons in front and who failed to make anyone laugh and then there were the poi dancers swinging burning balls all around, which looked sort of interesting and then Wanda came out wearing balloons and while a recording of Randy Newman played she popped those balloons and danced and pretty soon she was not wearing much of anything at all besides a merkin this being V-Day and all and the day being all about kinds of Love and stuff.

That is when Larry pointed at Wanda and said, "Hey! Is that one of mine?" He was quite happy about this obvious display of one of his wares being worn and in public at that.

One of the beefier fellows up there snarled at Larry "This is MY meat!" and he shoved Larry a bit -- not too much, just an informative shove to convey the message as bouncers are wont to do betimes.

"No she's not!" Someone else said. "She's MINE!"

That is when Bobo did what he was trained to do when confronted with bad behavior: he bit the man on the leg.

Now some of you will recall that Larry is the proud owner of PPA, aka Pushy People Anonymous, a self-help organization that intends to curb the rampant ill temper and rudeness that has been infecting the Bay Area for some time. Clients enrolled in PPA go through a 12-step program modeled after programs employed by well-known famous substance abuse centers. They undergo group therapy, admitting their problem in public and swearing to become better citizens and each client is issued a service dog trained to recognized pushiness and administer firm correction whenever the client pushed ahead in line, takes too many canapes, talks loudly in the movie theatre and generally over asserts themselves.

Most clients are arranged by family and co-workers as a chief component of this problem is first recognizing there is an issue.

Denby, trying to avoid the melee stepped backward a bit too quickly to tromp on the foot of a man dressed in a ball gown with feather boa. The man took exception to this treatment and punched Denby in the eye.

Anyrate Bobo bit the man and a certain amount of chaos ensued. No need to drag out a long winded description of a bar fight which quickly descended into an atavistic demonstration of brutal savagery with chair smashing and punches and gouging and vile imprecations terminated by the arrival of the gendarmie and everyone being carted off to jail under suspicion of being a biker gang even though everyone had arrived in pickup trucks and a Subaru.

That is how Denby once again spent Valentine's Day in jail.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 17, 2016


.Somebody clearly had an Holiday feast here up in Woodacre. This appears to be the remains of a fine goat repast left behind by the coyotes that run wild in southern Marin. Best not leave your poochie outside overnight these days.


Welcome back. It's been a good six weeks of a layoff - longest in 18 years of continuous publication of Island-Life. Some personal medical issues have been sorted out -- the old ticker remains ticking with the help of the good folks at Native American Health Center,

Other issues with other Staffers remain stabilized for now; after all, everyone must die of something some day after passing through this vale of tears and suffering we are told is all smoke and mirrors, so when the Day arrives, it might be called a good day for all of that. Chief Blackhawk said something like that.

The Offices Music Desk is moving off the Island, which should astonish everyone, while being no great surprise. True musicians have little wherewithal and the financial climate here is turning more to the worse as signs reading, "Fringe folks not Welcome Here," start to multiply.

We are informed 2nd hand from a dear acquaintance that not all bad things need to be told, which is a rather wise way to put things in perspective and one maxim to which certain folks lined up at the brass rail of the Old Same Place Bar and sitting under the dryers of Jacquelines should pay heed.

Indeed in matters of the Heart, affairs appear to be sounder than in years, in most respects, while divorces and seperations have added drama to the mix. We leave you all with that.

So we are off to a new year, which happens to be -- shudder -- the 50th anniversary of 1966, meaning we probably are all going to embark on a painfully wistfull '60's retrospective that is bound to make all the Punks tear out their purple hairs.

O for pete's sake. . . .


Local fav band Houston Jones has said "So long and thanks for all the fish." Chris Kee, the bassist who also wrote most of the best songs had departed for the comforts of the piney woods a while ago, and now it looks like Glenn "Houston" Pomianik has split, taking his unusual upside-down guitar wizardry to some other unknown clime. Travis remains feisty and irascible and retains the percussionist Peter Tucker and keyboardist Henry Salvia in a new incarnation

The website has been allowed to lapse, but you can still follow the survivors on Facebook under the old name.

Have you been following the recent Silly Council motions on the rent crisis? We have been keeping tabs on things via Lauren Do's excellent blog in which she reports on the meetings right up to the early morning hours votes.

She is a great writer, but it must be nice not to have a day job.

So anyway, looks like the supposedly "progressive" council that got voted in largely on the basis of voter dissatisfaction regarding development has been watering down rent control ordinances to the point that a sure initiative showdown is in store. As for those landlords who believe they are getting that for which they ardently wished -- i.e. zero renter protections -- will wind up facing far more draconian responses when people get angry. Again.

It is fine to be angry about not making pots of more money hand over fist and not being allowed to use personal property without restrictions (can anyone say "gun control" in the same breath? Knew you could), but when people's lives are at stake, the matter develops an entirely new depth of feeling.

And by the way: No you cannot do anything you want with your personal property. You may not march down the public street discharging your Mossberg 320 into the air nor may you blast somebody's drone out of the sky with your Colt.45 within city limits. You may revile your tax bill, but you may not shoot the mailman with your personal AK-47, even if you both happen to be standing within your property limits and you own the bullets.

So long as Silly Council continues to backpedal and waffle, the anger will grow. The saying goes here, "Be careful what you wish for."

Cue in Joy Division's "Day of the Lords."


So anyway, a couple dockwallopers pounded into the Bay Area to make everyone glad about a respite from the drought, which led to a few days that had even native peoples from the Great White North shivering in their down comforters here as ice rimed the bushes, glazed car windows and froze water pipes through Xmas night. Most Californians had forgotten what real cold felt like and what it could do.

Sita responded as efficiently as any eco-landscaper would, by wrapping the external pipes in old socks, which had a most gratifying effect for all her efforts, and she clapped her gloved hands together with efficiency and confidence this did the trick quite well, albeit with not much real effect should a serious cold snap ever set in that matched something in Minnesotta, a place she had never visited.

Fortunately for Sita and the amnesiac residents of southern Marin County and the Island, the set of dockwallopers yielded to a Pineapple Express of huge proportions, allowing all the local weathercasters to nod sagely and say, "The El Nino is finally here. This is it."

Howard the Dweeber, up in Mammoth, sat back with his brandy beside his roaring fire to review his own reports that had predicted this system some four months previously.

Satisfaction is being right. Wisdom resides in not saying so too loudly.

Due to the weather, all the denizens of Marlene and Andre's Household have gathered under the common roof once again. Snuffles sleeps in the deck hole made that fateful celebration of Javier's fiftieth birthday when the place nearly burned down.Occasional Quentin has again moved to sleeping under the coffeetable. The bunks in the hallway once again are fully stocked by residents, so all fifteen denizens are packed into the one bedroom rented from Mr. Howitzer's realty firm.

This situation has existed ever since the rental situation became obscene. People have to live somewhere and poor people must make do.

This being the post holiday season, the official House tree was disassembled to join its fellows in the pelting rain for Boy Scouts and Waste Management to collect.

New Year's passed same as last year. Most of the Household members had to work, but over in the Lutheran Parsonage the two old friends sat to discuss Reformation and Pardons.With the schools closed Ms. Morales (now Mrs. Sanchez) has been spending her time the way most schoolteachers do on their days off - writing up new lesson plans, mending torn textbook covers, purchasing supplies the District fails to provide, and catching up with former pupils of hers at Longfellow and Encinal.

She has seen a number of generations come and go, from Edison (Go Otters!) to Longfellow and the Home of the Jets high school ("When you're a Jet, You're a Jet all the way") so there is a fair amount of catching up to do. The troubled Karen has managed to stay in college after finding a group of goth kids just like her, and so one potential human arc remained on her trajectory up and out of the small town corrosion that nearly destroyed her.

Some others -- not so lucky. As a teacher you can never take full credit for the failures or the successes - you do your best to be there for them. Her friend Sharon, the Crisis Nurse Practitioner at the Creek Psychiatric Crisis Center sometimes would burst into tears on the phone, saying, "I lost him! I lost him" about some casualty of the 8.5 million metropolis that embraced, sometimes roughly, the tiny little Island city. But then she worked over in Oaktown, where life is a waiting game for many.

Because the Island has no real mental health services she saw many neighbors on the brink drop in there.

"I hate this place!" Sharon says angrily. "Why did they not case manage him when I asked? I should move away tomorrow!"

"Well, you would like St. Paul," said Ms. Morales, who had visited only one other place in the United States other than the Bay Area since coming to this country from the Phillipines.

"O heck no. Too cold in the winter! I would rather go south. San Luis Obispo maybe."

"We would miss you," Ms. Morales said. She knew that Sharon would never move. The sick little island, as she called it, needed her too much.

On the streets of the island, Officer O'Madhauen prowled in his cruiser, looking for the stray crosswalk scofflaw, the speeder, the stoplight shuffler. There had been a rash of burglaries on the Island, but sooner or latter, they'll run a red light and then! He'll have 'em!

In the Almeida household, Pedro is enjoying a couple days off from hauling crab, puttering about the house, repairing the chicken coop, resealing the toilets, and fixing the wretched wiring by running number 10 ground wire down and out to the rod, trying to undo years of lousy two-wire knob and tube that reversed polarity about as often as regulars to one of those fancy dives where the men dress as women.

In other matters he got underfoot and in the way of Mrs. Almeida who was heartily glad the Hollardays were coming soon to an end before she could get pregnant again.

At Marlene and Andre's household on Shoreline, all sixteen souls who called that place home due to the obscene rental situation had been living cheek by jowel during the cold snap when normally the pressure would have eased by folks sleeping on the beach or at the Shelter. As the night extended itself langorously with a purring stretch, the ragged and battered Xmas tree glimmered in its washtub. Deep into the night, as snores and sleeping rustles filled the cottage, a small marsupial snout emerged from the hole in its trunk, followed by a bulbous form that lumbered quietly across the bodies wrapped in sleeping bags, over the coffee table that housed Occasional Quentin and prowled along the floorboards looking for an escape from the madness without success. The opossum sat and wept quietly when no egress was to be found, before it grabbed a macaroon someone had hung from the tree and there sat on its haunches to eat it as a sliver of moon watched through the window.

The animal then crawled back into the washtub and into its hole and curled up there to sleep with the others of that dysfunctional family household.

In the Old Same Place, Padriac and Dawn and Suzie handled the Hollarday business efficiently and with success while Denby plunked on his guitar in the corner. Suzie observed the rituals, the lines, the dances and the happy unifications that departed the bar entangled arm in arm with equanimity before opening late into the evening her anthropology text. "The Bonobo forgo the tedious courtship rituals found in other tribal groups, preferring to simply state the preference or offer, which is usually accepted with alacrity as they enjoy mating at any time of day and any season for procreation or simply for the sheer joy . . .".

As for Suzie, the jewel yet undiscovered, the Hollardays consisted of visits with friends and a single, small, roasted turkey. Per Island Life tradition.

An expletive broke into her thoughts as the door opened to let out a happy couple. The expletive came from a blonde with crooked lipstick at the bar, who said, "Lost him! Nearly had that guy and then that Valerie! Such a bitch! Gimmee a gimlet."

"Life's tough, girlfriend," Suzie said as she liberally overpoured and delivered the drink.

"Thanks pal."

Down by the Estuary near the Park Street bridge abutment Wootie's tame moose herd snuffled and shifted in the darkness. Eunice the moose, for once remained quiet, but deep within her she dreamed of the perfect escape, running through forests in the far north, far distant from these trammels and imagining the cries of dismay from Wootie Kanootie: "Lost her! I've Lost her!".

Eugene Gallipagus tosses in his own dreams in his bed. Of the time the Great Golden Trout appeared to him at Lake Martha. And his great dispair as the line parted with a snap. The big one that got away. Lost him.

Father Danyluk paced in his chambers before going over for the traditional annual nightcap he enjoyed with Pastor Nyquist who seems genuinely happy as Sister Profundity lets the Lutheran into the rectory annex where the fireplace is already burning bright.

It has been the habit of the two friends to have this forbidden meeting each year. As Pastor Nyquist put it, "You and I we have made our seperate peace."

Indeed the Lutheran pastor enjoyed the high quality of spirits kept by the Catholic priest in the larder and the Catholic priest had long enjoyed the superior singing skills of the Lutheran congregation as loaners during the Xmas pageant and Easter.

"You look troubled," the Lutheran said.

"Ah. The Mendoza family would not hear of any help and now Jorge has gone off to San Quentin on assault with a deadly weapon. On top of the robbery charge."

"I heard about that one," Nyquist said.

"Afraid I've lost him," said the priest.

"Can't save everyone," the Lutheran said, inviting a distracting evening of debate.

And as per usual, the social evening ended the same way each year. Both men asleep in their armchairs before the fire.

The Editor bid everyone a good night and a happy new year as the place closed up for the final issue of the year. The Editor stood before the window watching the granddaddy racoon run back and forth in the yard, cigar firmly in place, hands clasped behind his back like Admiral Horatio.

He never knew exactly how to wrap things up. Everything, including Life, seemed always so tentative, subject to last minute revisions. A lot of issues last year had turned out wretchedly bad. But cannot dwell on that. The past year had been packed with many, many disappointments. Old friends had died and others had gotten married. Many things had not gone well. An old friend had come to him complaining about all the evil in the world, all the assholes. She, an otherwise pacific person, said she wanted to line them all up against a wall when the spirit moved her. See them fall.

And for some reason he thought about the replicant in Bladerunner who tried to prolong his life, such as it was, by driving a nail through his palm so as to prevent the hand from closing into a fist.

What kind of poetry is that, to imagine that death is the hand closing into a fist?

And yet as the replicant died and the fist closed, a dove escaped from his other hand. So that is the way it is -- one hand closes into a fist and becomes death; the other opens and becomes human, allows life to continue. That's always the way it is -- can't take credit for the wins or bemoan the losses. Life is tough, girlfriend. Life is being there at all.

In a little while, bottlerockets, fizzlers, M80's and all sorts of ruckus would terrify all the neighborhood dogs in bringing in the New Year. Might as well get ready for whatever comes next.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, it keened between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.

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

JANUARY 14, 2016


Hello and welcome back to the new Island-Life. We took six weeks off to handle family issues but will be returning for 2016 and the 18th year of continuous publication.












































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