Island Life

Vol. 20 - No. 2Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday January 14, 2017

Current Edition - Year 2018

Welcome to the 20th 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 2017, visit the Archives.

The Editor
Denby -
Bea -
Chad -
Tammy -
Hildegard -
Europe News

JANUARY 14, 2018



The time comes for every artist who has constructed an opus that creates its own virtual reality over an extended period of time and effort to find a way to resolve the entire project or find a way to make it self perpetuating.

Different artists have done or not done things to wind up the whole affair. Every Trilogy has a resolving chapter. Every Symphonic sequence has a resolve. Literary opi have presented variegated resolutions. Some, like Berk Breathed, have written simple exits for its characters. One character becomes a eunuch living in Tibet. Another goes to jail. A final frame is presented with a vacant office and scattered papers blowing in the wind.

Done with that, says the creator. Or not, as in the seemingly endless recursion of Star Wars.

In the Odyssey, Homer presents a possible future for our wandering hero who has wandered through so many stories.

William Faulkner kept his unpronounceable Mississippi county alive so that he could milk its content until he died and so that fictional reality remains with us.

No one knows what Garrisson Keillor had in mind for disposition of his Lake Woebegon. He pulled out from major involvement with the radio show, but external events caused him to pull back even further. Ironically, these events resembled stories he himself had created, almost as if he had written his own disgrace. Keillor will remain a solid rock in American letters as a storytelling genius long past the memories of all who now recall him fondly, and Lake Wobegon will persist in the imagination in a sort of stasis, which is, come to think of it, entirely appropriate for the Town that Time forgot.

JRR Tolkein wrote quite an extensive epilogue in footnote form, detailing the fates of all the adventurers and how and when they died and how some passed on to the West to the Undying Lands. His books have been translated into many languages and are as widely read as the Bible.

As for those nasty orcs left running around in bands, the less said the better.

Berk Breathed decided to suddenly empty his Bloom County and send various characters off to bizarre fates. Frankly we feel what happened to Binky was entirely too severe, even as we understand Breathed wanted to make this finish absolute with no possibility of return.

In movie-dom, we have Avatar slyly suggesting a continuation of the story. The Godfather lived on through three murderous films until finally laid to rest as in the original book. And so on.

So now we come to our dear, dear Island. Circumstances have caused us to consider a serious artistic shift, while we are loth to let it all go. There are stories in these folk yet, my friends. They came to life, sometimes against our best wishes, and insist on living on.

Just as it is difficult to imagine the room without us sitting there, we must face the future. One day will come when neither you nor I am here to occupy the chair in the room filled with people. All our inventions will have to stand on their own merit. Yet there remains in any artist, no matter how trivial, the desire that things continue in the world without them. This is the simple desire to have children, but in the form of art, which is normally by nature static.

So it is. We will present two possible endings for the Island. One ending shall be the imagined consequence of a hack who seeks only flamboyant novelty, violence for the sake of entertainment for jaded viewers, cheap tugs on the heartstrings with canned emotions. The sort of easy writing you find in the aisles of the grocery store while waiting for the cashier to bring down the total cost of what you bought without thinking.

And then there will be the other ending, the transcendent one. As in the Life of Pi, where the insurance agents are given an option to pick which sequence of events really did occur, we will provide just such a choice and the choice will determine who you are.

So it is with God. You can believe one thing or another. God is supposedly the ultimate artist. Maybe all that was made is not free of valid criticism, but then, this is all we have. This is the only Reality we have, and I am not so sure there is even a Reality.


So anyway, the boys got work fixing up Mr. Howitzer's yacht that sat in dry dock at the marina. While scraping and painting the hull and fixing hardware issues that had occurred during the crab pot debacle last year, Javier and Jose and Pahrump would take the dingy out for spins on the water. The dingy, which had been a Boston whaler type of craft in its heyday, moved like an SUV through butter, which meant it had the maneuverability of a tank but without so much power from its single Evinrude motor.

The boys managed to beach the heavy thing twice, forcing Jose to sleep in the sodden hull until high tide floated it free again, yet nevertheless the jolly crew continued to cavort with the boat with gallons of dollar wine aboard to fuel their mad energy.

The New Year had come and gone and the air was latterly heavy with sodden quality, missing the sharp, incisiveness of Winter proper. Each day the sun arose through high cloud, which in normal years indicated that the change of seasons was already underway. Perhaps it was. But much had become uncertain after the fires and the mudslides, claimed by Governor Moonbeam to be the new normal.

Climate change had arrived and not a single George Bush had a thing to say about it.

The Angry Elf gang continued to assemble explosive material in that house off of Santa Clara Avenue and most businesses continued about their business so long as they could still afford the usurious rents.

MLK day was a moderate Holiday, with all government buildings closed and most businesses pretending.

Little Adam asked Marlene about Martin Luther King Jr., for MLK looked a lot like him and he wanted to know. A program about Django Reinhart played on the miniature TV while Marlene cleaned up the kitchen.

Marlene, with her black hair swirling about in a nest, said MLK had been a great man even though he had not wanted to be one, which is to say he was even greater because of it. His dream was to set people free from fear of one another, had been murdered for his pains, and his legacy had nevertheless improved the lot of millions in a society, in a nation, that was not much better than Stalinist Russia to a large portion of the population, and Adam had much to thank for all that.

And yet there was a lot more work to do, as evidenced by the disgraceful utterances spewing from the White House, so Adam had some work cut out for him.

Adam mused on this for a while.

"I wish everybody loved each other like we do in the Household," Adam said. "But I know for a fact that aint gonna happen."

At that moment the red Toyota loaded with members of the Angry Elf gang drove past outside, whooping and cackling their evil laughs. They were headed off to burn someone's car in the street.

"We are like the Roma," Marlene said. "We endure and provide example by the way we live."

"Fur shizzle," Adam said.

The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary and died between the Edwardian house-rows as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shadow-shuttered Jack London Waterfront, trundling past the Ohlone burial mounds to an unknown destination.

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


JANUARY 7, 2017


This week's image comes from Tammy in recognition of the rains that have returned.


Hard to imagine 20 years ago when Island-Life began that we would still be at it with weekly updates two decades later. What began as an HTML project morphed into an e-zine reporting news and providing event reviews as well as multimedia entertainment, some of which can be accessed via the sidebar and also from our youtube channel.

At various times we have made some unfortunate design modifications, such as the infamously detested "floating radio", but generally we have not tampered much with the look and feel for about twelve years or so. Still Time does what it does and all things are fated to mutation, like it or not. The parents get grey, enfeebled, and find it difficult to get around anymore. The children that scampered after the yellow school bus get jobs, lives of their own, families of their own.

At the holiday dinner, there are empty seats now where people we used to know laughed and told stories. New faces appear with stories of their own. The new year came and went and all up and down the block the xmas trees, some still clinging to ribbons of tinsel, wait beside the blue and green pickup-bins.

Come to think of it, we did not hear anything about our Island tap-dancing Xmas trees which have been visiting the White House each year for a while. Perhaps the present incumbent does not appreciate such frivolity.

So it goes with Island-Life. Time wounds all heals, and the stool at the bar where Old Schmidt used to sit is now vacant and will not be occupied by the old guy ever again. Changes are coming and Chad has been down in the subterranean lab bustling about with modifications to the masthead.

Have no fear; there will not be another version of the floating radio and most of the characters will soldier on. Ms. Morales will continue to teach the poetry of Emily Dickenson, Percy will continue to pilot his magnificent two-toned brown and beige 1929 Mandeville coupe with Madeline by his side, Marvin's Merkins (put a merkin in your firkin!) will not declare bancruptcy, Wootie Kanootie will tend his moose herd forever more, Suan will continue to work the pole at the Crazy Horse, and Denby will most likely never ever get lucky on Valentine's Day, while Mr. Howitzer will continue to raise the rents on everybody.

The sound of the train horn far across the water keened across the estuary and died between the Edwardian house-rows as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shadow-shuttered Jack London Waterfront, trundling past the Ohlone burial mounds to an unknown destination.

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


DECEMBER 31, 2017



This pic of owls was taken by CB Taylor in the Gold Coast some time ago. It has sat in the hopper a while and now we think it is time to present it to Island-Lifers. It is titled, "Owl be seeing you."

It sorta fits in with the "auld lang syne" theme of the final issue for 2017.


It has come round to the end of quite a dismal year of losses and dismay, with a braggart sexual cad sitting in the Oval Office, a long string of set-backs to intelligent advances in environmental, social, and international arenas, plus a number of natural disasters rendered more severe than otherwise by the supposedly fictional Climate Change.

Around home the Rental Crisis rages through the communities, a savage contagion that has been destroying businesses, family life, everyday life for the average working stiff, wrecking traditions, interpersonal relations and the very idea of basic decency.

This past year we saw 34 of our very own die in a horrible fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse, a symptom of this disease caused by greed running unchecked.

To really put the screws to quite an awful year, the horrific fires that destroyed Santa Rosa, Kenwood and other towns in Sonoma were followed by the history-making fires that wiped out Ojai and much of Ventura County to the south.

Yet Time is a spherical prison. There is no way to go back and as Johnny Winter sang, "Life aint easy." We wish for an end to suffering, but there is none. We wish that petty mafias, like that run by the Angry Elf ceased to exist and all the bad guys go to jail, but they do not go to jail and they all die in their ugly, unrepentant beds of old age and in the meantime police continue to shoot innocent people to death.

The only respite appears to be the grave.

That Life continues is more the problem with which we need to deal. Consider that Donald Trump, even though he cannot be wished away, is remains reigned in by the checks and balances of a yet vigorous Democracy. Rail against the Press all he will, the 1st Amendment still stands. Curse the judiciary, and still the process of law remains independent of his strident impulses. Declaim against what he calls Obamacare and still the process of replacing health care reform is dependent upon the same interpartisan agencies of Congress that first made it law. Call foreign heads of state any number of insults and still the Joint Chiefs of Staff are not going to launch a unilateral attack upon anybody, no matter how chafed and dissed this manbaby happens to feel.

The truth is, even though Donald Trump can cause quite a lot of damage to the fabric and culture and laws of the Country, he cannot do just anything he likes as there remain checks and balances devised by the Founding Fathers long ago with a mind that just such a numbskull as Donald Trump would one day achieve power. They foresaw it and they prepared for it.

So as the New Year overwhelms the old one's sorrows, buckle up after your binge and get ready for the long haul. Nothing is over until the Fat Lady sings.


So anyway. Everybody pulled back this year for quiet celebrations and commemorations for those who could not be here. Around the Almeida table there were empty seats, more than in years past, seats that once were occupied by uncles and aunts and friends.

At the Old Same Place Bar Suzie cried when Dawn lit a candle for Old Schmidt who had suffered a heartattack last year.

In the Howitzer mansion there was no grand fete even though Dodd and fellow servants had managed to re-erect the fallen Xmas tree which had collapsed with Mrs. Cribbage and Mrs. Blather in a cataclysmic smashing of centuries-old Russian glass ornaments and Hummel figurines during the Xmas gala.

The dinner had not gone well, with Javier adding tequila to the flan and Jose adding Kahlua and brandy to the rice pudding,which caused it to become a sort of a soupy, lumpy mousse that was also inflammable -- as they suddenly discovered when it passed near the candles.

The master chef had ordered the two of them to leave immediately, shouting with quite a red face.

After the disaster of the 15 foot Xmas tree falling upon his guests, including a couple foreign dignitaries, Mr. Howitzer resolved to pass the New Year quietly in his den with a bottle of Makers Mark, which he finished entirely by two a.m.

Mr. Howitzer did not drink responsibly that night, but at least he did not drive. Not driving on New Year's Eve may have been the only honorable thing Mr. Howitzer ever has done by way of omission. In all other spheres of endeavor, he was a property magnate and a thoroughgoing scumbucket of the first water.

On his atelier desk there were a couple letters, one of them addressed to Andre and Marlene, that same Andre and Marlene of the Household. Because of his binge with the Maker's Mark, those letters would be delivered late in the year of 2018 and so their evil effects would also be delayed by way of the legal necessity of time intervals and such.

And so as the seconds ticked away to the New Year, Mr. Howitzer railed against the portrait of Mr. Howitzer the First, clad in ermine and robes and wearing a crown.

"If you had to get a King's grant of land, why o why did you not request something in the region of Tahiti, Hawaii or the coast of France, for the sake of god!" Mr. Howitzer shouted, with his fist shaking at the portrait. "Why this infernal, uncivilized, benighted Island!"

Dodd sighed and gently closed the door. It would be a long night and he doubted he would be able to return and see The Missus before dawn.

Over in the rectory of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint Father Danyluk was enjoying the company of his good friend Pastor Nyquist of the Lutheran Immanual Church during their annual nondenominational celebration of the New Year which had become a Tradition ever since the two had encountered one another during their respective meditative walks.

It had been the habit of the Priest to exit the rectory and walk clockwise about the block that included his church and the apposite Lutheran structure during his contemplation for the next sermon. It has also been the habit of the Pastor to take a similar walk around the same block for the same purpose, with the Pastor taking, as was his nature, the anticlockwise direction.

So of course they would encounter one another at least once, if not twice, depending upon the cogitation, and so it was that one day a tremendous downpour -- this was back in the days when California experienced downpours of rain -- the two of them took shelter at the bus stop on Santa Clara and so got to talking about the Flock and the Saved and the Not Saved and all sorts of groovy kinds of religious things and they became the best of friends, for as it is said, the Children of Abraham are all cut from the same cloth.

The two of them worked out any number of arrangements to take care of affairs on an Island crowded to the gunwales with churches, but one tradition they maintained was that visit to the rectory on New Year's Eve, there to discuss over glasses of brandy the matters of import that concern men of the cloth. The reliability, and, more important, the likeability, of the Pope. What about all the geegaw and foofaraw that was cluttering the ceremonies and Xmas? What about Sinead O'Connor? And was U2 truly nondenominational? This was a big topic.

It pretty much ended as it did each year, as it has for the past twenty years of Island Life. Sister Caritas would come in to find the two men snoring in their chairs before the great fireplace, which she would dampen before covering each man with a blanket and dowsing the lights and candles.

And so, best of luck and a better new year to all of you out there.

The sound of the train horn far across the water keened across the estuary and died between the Edwardian house-rows as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shadow-shuttered Jack London Waterfront, trundling past the Ohlone burial mounds to an unknown destination.

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

























Another Week Passed


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