Island Life

Vol. 20 - No. 6Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday February 18, 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

FEBRUARY 18, 2018



This week we have an image done by Carol Balding Taylor who is an artist living in the Gold Coast area of the Island. Carol has been rendering images for quite a while and we are always pleased to present her work.


From time to time we come across information important to us in NorCal which we share in the form of PSA's. From reader Thomas Hodge we have some important information which is going into the Sidebar.

As all of us know the past year has seen catastrophic fires succeeded by horrific slides as rains loosened fire denuded soil. Up along Sir Francis Drake we observed White's Hill come down with tons of earth onto the roadway and Highway 1 was blocked for months by the same sort of events north and south.

We are grateful to Mr. Hodge for supplying links to sites that describe what to do and how to do it regarding mudslide danger.

Mudslide Safety for the Home: How to Assess Your Risk and Take Preventative Action

Red Cross: Landslide Safety Checklist

Landslide & Mudslide Safety

Weather Wiz Kids: Landslides


On a similar vein, a casual foray in the hardware store brought to our attention a commonly observed safety device called Emergency Hammer. The Emergency Hammer concept is obtained in two forms: a sort of dual spike hammer with a small razor built into the handle, which is meant to be mounted somewhere in the cab of the car\truck within easy reach, and a keychain device with a spring-loaded spike combined with a large razor edge that is protected by a plastic guard until ready for use.

Living on an Island, we get stories every year about cars driving off of bridges or docks only to be found weeks later with the occupants still inside, so this is not a minor matter for us. Just about everybody here pays attention to the problem of what to do if the car becomes submerged. Then again, you do not have to live on an Island. Marin County has been subject to flooding which has cost lives of people driving in automobiles through flooded zones.

To skip past about 100 Youtube videos we can say that if you own a late model car newer than 2016 you can toss both devices away in the garbage -- they will not work.

In fact, as of 2013, the NHSTA has mandated a change in auto manufacturer windshield glass from tempered glass to laminated glass. Tempered glass is designed to shatter into tiny pieces that do not injure the car occupants or First Responders with dangerous shards.

Laminated glass is designed to resist all shattering to prevent a body from exiting the vehicle upon impact.

Furthermore, extensive testing has shown that most versions of the Emergency Hammer require extensive practice with yards of seat-belt material before the user can find the precise angle at which the razor will slice the belt and often no one can ever find this angle no matter how much they try.

So you are submerged in the Estuary with the water rising above your neck and now must PRACTICE how to escape?!

The other thing is that there is a common myth that if you wait until the water level in the car is the same as outside the car, you can then open the door.

Sorry to say, this also does not work; do not ask how we know this -- we just know and accept it. The reason you cannot open the door when the water outside appears to be the same level as in the car is that water continues to enter the car through the trunk while the care nose dives long after the driver's compartment is filled, causing an imbalance of pressure. The only way out is via the window.

If you have not opened the window before the computer beneath your feet under the floorboards is shorted out, you will certainly die.

There are several devices on the market that primarily appeal to the Survivalist types as those things consist of large fixed-blade knives with hooks that are most certainly never going to be found in your average family sedan, and which may cause problems with the Law if discovered in your vehicle during a traffic stop even though they do work on the older glass type.

So, if you own an older model car, then the Rescue-Me device is your best bet, as the spring-loaded carbide-tip will shatter tempered glass easily and the larger surface area of the razor provides better chances for slicing through seat-belt material which must meet DOT standards for toughness unlike paracord or any other binding material.

Hopefully this information is useful to you. You can see what type of glass was used in your vehicle if made between 2013 and 2017 by looking into the corner where the DOT specs are listed. It will say Laminated if the glass is of that type.


So anyway. The Old Same Place was bustling and there was a clatter and a chatter from within. The fires had been put out and the First Responders had found no bodies and yet Certain Individuals were unaccounted for. The body-sniffing dogs were brought in from the Sheriff's Office and a company started sifting thorough the ashes of Marlene & Andre's Place for bone fragments as Marlene and Suan and Rolf stood there holding hands. This is the kind of reality to which we in NorCal have become accustomed. Late in the news was the information that Mr. Howitzer's yacht was no longer in dry dock and was also missing.

The Coast Guard was called. Nobody knows who called the Coast Guard as land-sea rescues have always been a problem on the Island due to jurisdictional language confusions, according to the report on the last disaster in which human lives were lost.

Seems folks in the PD do not know how to talk to the folks in the FD and neither one knows how to talk to the CG and all three have a confusion on how to talk to anybody with their wits about them in just about any agency you can name.

So people die. It's a problem and nobody seems to have an answer but the PD did get more money to play with for their Rescue Boat. Which has yet to be employed. And they seem to be happy with the situation as it stands.

The FD is much put out about this favoritism, as they see it, in which the PD got something out of someone's death and they did not. The CG is much put out on being called to rescue someone standing in three feet of water, which certainly obviated use of their impressive Cutter with a draft of some 20 feet at the keel.

"Please do not call us again for such stupid things," said the CG commander and both the island PD and FD shifted their feet with embarrassment before going back to business as usual.

Perhaps someone should convene a Commission, but nobody is accepting responsibility for doing so even years after the event.

In any case, certain individuals are missing and there is much discussion about this in the Old Same Place Bar.

As the Angry Elf gang drove past the entrance, Suzie bolted out the door to throw a bottle at their red truck, screaming, " You ASSHOLES! YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF ALL OF THIS EVIL! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!" Which she continued to yell until Padraic and Dawn brought her back inside, the lovely woman in tears for the loss of her dear friends.

Meanwhile, far to the North, Denby cooled his heels through another V-Day, glad for his circumstances for there was no way that he could now get in worse trouble than any time before. He sat with Rachel in the Galley after both of them had scoured for scraps of anything edible without finding much more than a tin of water crackers, which they shared.

"Well," said Rachel. "You could stand to lose some weight anyway."

"Happy V-day," Denby said. "I love you."

"You do not," Rachel said indignantly. "You love someone else and I know it."

Denby sighed. "That is true. But I love everybody more or less in some way if not shunted aside."

The entire ship groaned with agonized sounds of tortured metal and breaking timbers above.

"Are you Jewish?" Rachel said after a while.

"That is the first time anyone has asked me that question while I was still wearing my pants, Denby said.

"O! Really!"

Upstairs, or above ships, or whatever you call it, Festus was talking to the Editor.

"Frankly I find this situation to be extreme," Festus said as the ship shuddered after striking something beneath.

"You are always free to quit at any time," said The Editor, his employer.

"That right there is the epitome of California's labor market and perhaps that of the Nation. The ship is about to founder and the only thing you have is the obscenely named Right to Work Law. This is just a perfect example."

"You are free to leave at any time." The Editor said, while all around the angry sea tossed and churned with whitecap waves among the jagged rocks.

The entire ship shuddered again, followed by the sound of splintering and tortured metal.

"I suspect it is already too late," Festus said.

"You know I have always loved all of you," said the Editor.

"Still," said Festus on the pitching deck, hanging on to a halyard. "That is all too late if it ever meant anything at all."

Right then the cabin window burst and in rushed the cold, salt sea.

The sound of foghorns and the train clarion rippled in waves across the Bay and died over the smoldering embers of the humble Edwardian cottage that had been the Household of Marlene and Andre as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shadow-shuttered Jack London Waterfront, trundling past the Ohlone burial mounds through the gloom to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay Area. Have a great week.


FEBRUARY 11, 2018


This week, to mark the start of Island-Life's transition we present a shot of a bird sanctuary located on an island set in an archipelago of ponds near the Bay up in one of the North Counties not far from the areas affected by the recent Sonoma fires. We will always carry an affection for the Island, our former Hometown, from which we were driven like refugees by the actions of gangsters. There will always be an Island in the heart.


So anyway. The morning arrived with a semi-bright luminescence as the boot drifted on swells. The sky appeared gray but light and on all horizons around the bright lit boat not a smidgen of land could be seen. Apparently they had drifted beneath the Golden Gate and were now far a-sea. with only the Farralones rocks to be expected next. The iPhones and other devices they had with them had all failed due to lack of charge and the ship remained without lights, electricity, or power of any kind. There was a radio, but it did not work.

What I would give for a decent, working telephone, said Rachel. I miss my ivory handset rotary with gold appointments. She wailed.

In the distance those on board discerned a voluble complaint and familiar voices. The voices belonged to Javier and the others on the powerless skiff that had swept out at the same time as the Indomitable.

The Editor shouted out to them and Javier responded they had no idea where they were and what to do about it.

The Editor responded that had been the case for Javier all his life and so nothing had changed.

A number of calls across the water were made and contact was established with the lost party, which employed its oars none to soon as the little dingy had started to take on water several hours previously. The dingy survivors threw a rope and were soon attached to the hapless Indomitable and all fatigued, hungry, and sodden residents of the dingy soon climbed aboard the Indomitable only to encounter yet more fatigued, hungry and chilled individuals. As for the dingy, they attached cables from the powerless winch but were unable to lift it so that it could drain.

Meanwhile on the Island, the fires had been put out and Mr.Howizter was wroth for the loss of an income source and the lack of tenants upon whom to blame his misfortune. As far as he knew, all had perished and this was bad because that meant there was no one to sue for damages.

Officer O'Madhauen had a great deal to do with routing traffic around the various fire zones so as to prevent looting, snooping, and improper lane changes and speed infractions around the destruction.

Nothing was worse and more damaging to the social fabric than moving violations during a time of disaster, so Officer O'Madauen applied himself with a will.

The Almeida family, awakening to a morning of smoke and ashes in the air, seeing the chickens all distressed and even the noxious raccoons in retreat, noting the increasing rents that offered nothing as reward, made plans to relocate to a berth that might genuinely call itself a small town, instead of a fake metropolis with walls lined with Mafioso and greedy property management firms. They had old family connections up north in the old Portuguese fishing village that abutted the Land of the Shark.

Chiton Souvlaki, Wilmer Titrake, MD (air surgeon), Borg Busby Rubbitsum - the proprietor of A Touch of Wonder, and Marvin of Marvin's Merkins, all had gotten exorbitant rent increases from Mr. Howitzer's firm and were looking to relocate to more inviting environments.

Wootie Kanootie's herd continued to thrash across the Bay until they reached the temporary harbor of Angel Island, and there took momentary refuge, startling the deer that already lived there.

It seemed everyone was on the move and all the chatter in the Old Same Place Bar was about where to go and what to do next. Denby had not played in the snug for days, and seemed to have disappeared somewhere god only knows and so Padraic reconnected the old jukebox, hoping some locally retired jazz player would drop in and offer services on the cheap without expecting much other than a single free beer and a plate of food as pay. The right to practice his art should be enough, said the always frugal Padraic.

Meanwhile the Indomitable continued to drift out beyond the Golden Gate. Currents had fortunately brought her back towards the coast away from the sharp, jaggy Farralones and the lost crew began to hear the crash of breakers again after six days at sea. They did not know it, but they were approaching the mouth of Drake's Estuary with its imposing cliffs that some said resembled the slate colored escarpments of Dover.

And which were just as dangerous, for the bottom of the estuary was littered with the fragments of lost Spanish colonial ships.

The sun arose in a red ball and as the day progressed, the wind began to thrum the guywires of Mr. Howitzer's wayward yacht. As the day proceeded to an early night, winds whipped the decks and sent a salt spray everywhere on board, sending everyone into the cabins. The seas became unruly and began to pound the craft around like a kitten batting a ball of twine. Things flew off of the shelves and tables. What was not bolted down skidded across the floor, including Festus, who cried out with indignation until Rachel took him up and wrapped him in a towel.

The crashing of the surf became louder although they could not see through the pitch dark of the cloud-shrouded heavens.

Steadily, the Indomitable marched like a true Conservative towards the uncertain doom that awaited all aboard.

The sound of foghorns and the train clarion rippled in waves across the Bay and died over the smoldering embers of the humble Edwardian cottage that had been the Household of Marlene and Andre as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shadow-shuttered Jack London Waterfront, trundling past the Ohlone burial mounds through the gloom to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay Area. Have a great week.


February 4, 2018


The new year was ushered in by a gorgeous full moon, which has evolved into a super blue moon for the month of February. Here is a shot taken by Island-Lifer Tammy over the PBC in the East End.


So anyway. All around the grey pall sealed them into their private world aboard the powerless dingy, riding upon the swells and drifting through a dense fog. The morning came and they scarcely knew it for they could not see the sun piercing the heavy cover overhead and all around them. Pahrump, Jose, Javier, and Martini sat with Denby in the dingy that had belonged to Mr. Howitzer. They had a pair of oars, but knew not what to do with them as there was no inkling of where and in what direction lay the safe harbor of land. For all they knew they had been pulled out by the tide under the Golden Gate and were miles now at sea with only the Farallones present to dash their craft into pieces on its sharp crags.

The day's somber glow continued as the minutes passed into hours. They heard the sound of fog horns, but could not tell from which direction was the source and what the nature, if lighthouse or moving ship equipped with radar. If one of them could know in which direction to swim, he could set out in the chill waters, hoping to reach land and call for support before hypothermia sank all their hopes.

Meanwhile the massive yacht named The Indomitable, also an erstwhile Howitzer possession, twirled in this same murk with the Editor, Rachel and Festus aboard for crew. Mr. Howitzer, always the classic cheapskate landlord he was, had refused to pay for a full hauling of the vessel to dry dock as was customary -- he had paid to have the ship beached and lifted on shoreline trestles down the way from the main repair facility so as to avoid paying storage fees. Because of this, the ship had broken loose during high tide when the extra weight had clambered aboard, along with substantial repair material Mr. Howitzer had obtained cheap from China in container loads, intending to sell off much of it to recoup his expenses.

So now this massive ship was twirling in the middle of the San Francisco Bay with some of our beloved Island-Life personalities aboard. They had climbed onto the ship as the most likely refuge as the Offices of the Island LIfe newsroom burned due to malicious activities and some basic stupidities performed by the Angry Elf Gang. The Angry Elf gang had amassed a fair quantity of incendiary devices in the cellar, in the former living room and in the former bedrooms of a Painted Lady Edwardian that stood a couple housefronts down from the Offices. When the Household of Marlene and Andre exploded due to the faulty wiring of the furnace that had been the domain of, again Mr. Howitzer, the embers had fallen upon the Angry Elf firetrap, packed cheek by jowl with arsonist delights. Molotov cocktails, pipebombs, car incendiaries, plastique, IEDs, C4 military explosive, and all sorts of things the gang utilized during their day to day and nightly operations along with countless racks of pills and powders derived substantially from the poppy flower as well as crystal methamphetamine cooking in brass kettles.

It was a Devil's warehouse and when it went up it went up in quite a spectacular fashion.

So it was The Indomitable drifted from shore with our friends aboard, watching as the fog closed in and turned the distant infernos, of which there were several, into dim glowing blobs in the mist.

At first, there was a well stocked bar with scotch of decent quality, and a freezer with some remnants of a party. A cheese plate and sandwiches gone a bit stale and Evian water. A package of crackers was a glorious find. Finding a way to activate lights and electricity turned out to be more of a problem and so the group sat there largely in the dark, and the Editor retired to a sort of stateroom, while Rachel found another cabin with a bed and coverlets and there she slept until the sun rose with the same effect it had upon the other castaways. Piedro found a cot somewhere in the galley. They had no idea where they were and no idea where they were going and no idea what to do when they got there, if ever they did safely.

They had no electricity and so nothing in the captain's wheelhouse worked. There was no radio, only the dense fog and the maddening fog horns that did none of them any good.

Thus passed the first day for all those adrift on the Bay. Little did they know others had taken to the water on rafts and rowboats so as to escape the firey devestation and the final triumph of the Angry Elf gang that went from house to house to plunder the belongings of the escapees. This has always been the way. The Vichy government, collaborators, and looters: all the same, extracting gold from the teeth of the dead.

The Editor stood on the deck of the helpless Indomitable and listened to the water until the sun obviously had vanished. Everyone had retired to those places aboard ship seemed to be most safe. The Island was finished, as far as he was concerned. There was no going back now. The Editor had seen the cities of man and encountered the savage nature of War. He had tried to save his companions, but he could not, for they must have eaten the carrion of the Sun and so inflamed an old enemy. In any case he had wandered far after the Vietnam War and the sack of Saigon and had learned the ways of Humanity and all the cities of kings. He had thought he would bring this lesson to the Island, now riven by the land curse, but the Island would not have it for they were a stiff-necked people, infected with greed. Now the birds were passing overhead -- he could hear them through the dense fog cover. It was the time now for going, and he must now follow the birds.

Yet still, Neptune hated him for his insouciance and bore an infantile grudge, causing the helpless ship to spin in an eddy there in the Bay, to cause grief and longing among its survivors who slept as best they could by the dim, guttering light of failing AA batteries and Apple appliances.

The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the Bay and died over the smoldering embers of the once stately Edwardian cottage that had been the Household of Marlene and Andre as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shadow-shuttered Jack London Waterfront, trundling past the Ohlone burial mounds through the gloom to an unknown destination.

That's the way it is around the Bay Area. Have a great week.


JANUARY 28, 2018



So anyway. The entire Strand famed up in ruins. The beachhouse that housed the sailboarder's club was a pile of embers. The meeting hall for the Parlor 33 1/3 of the Native Sons of the Golden West was laid into ashes and the Angry Elf's gang ran hither and thither stealing and looting from the burning buildings, entirely at liberty to do so since the call had gone out to collect all able-bodied citizens to assist with the common disaster. And of course, the Angry Elf gang took this golden opportunity to torch businesses that were wonting in payments, aided with flagons of kerosene. They laughed as they destroyed lives.

The Native Sons parlor collapsed in flames. Next was the Old Same Place Bar with its leather snug as Dawn and Padraic ran out with such things as they could save. The beloved bar with its stained glass windows and its plush stools and the long redwood bartop that had withstood centuries of drams and pints burned before the eyes of the helpless Padraic.

The old man box elder erupted into a tornado of flames, igniting the Island-Life offices and creating a firestorm whirlwind. Rats fled hither and yon. All was being destroyed by fire.

Don Erizo and Dame Herrisson fled from the flaming shrubbery near the College and were smashed flat by automobiles on the road, as was to be expected.

But that is not what happened.

Such destruction is characteristic of an hack, a ne'er do well. An aesthetic simpleton who does not care about his readership.

What happened was far more elegant.

The Angry Elf gang did in fact ignite a fire, but this was not the cause of the mass migration that took place

Remember that some citizens of the Household of Marlene and Andre had been mucking about the Howitzer yacht with its dingy that normally was kept hung in the ship's hoist crane, but during dry dock was set down into the marina, which allowed the boys all sorts of hijinks and capers, using up gas as they piloted the small craft all around the Bay when done with chipping and sanding and painting the larger vessel's hull.

One day Pahrump, Jose, Javier, and Martini and Denby were down in the dingy, making plans for a foray out to Angel Island.

Down below the floorboards of the Household the rats scurried around the old, decrepit furnace that had been let to decay during the Howitzer's possession of the property. On this evening, one brother rat ran across the wires near the igniter and caused an arc that killed him instantly and also started a small fire among the bodies of all his bretheran who had died a similar way for years, and who had dessicated over time into flammable tinder.

Meanwhile the boys set out on their skiff towards Angel Island and were dismayed when the engine cut out, leaving them to drift in the middle of the Bay. No one had thought to fill the gas tanks during their various shenanigans over the the past month. The day faded into night as they drifted, nibbling on crackers and swilling cheap jug wine until the sun sank behind the Golden Gate in flaming rooster tails. The night filled with stars and the moon was swelling to the first full moon of the year, a moon that was destined to be both a Blue Moon and a Blood Moon, which is a rare occurance indeed.

Up in the bedroom Marlene and Andre together examined the letter from Howitzer and Marley LLC, which stated the rent was to rise another impossible fifteen hundred dollars starting next month. This was disaster for the small community packed into the one bedroom cottage. There was no way they could pay that.
"Where the heck is everybody, " Andre said even as both he and Marlene smelled smoke and burning. He and Marlene ran out with little Adam and Snuffles and watched as the house seemed to come alive, begin to breath, expanding with an inhale, then contracting with the sound of cracking boards. The house swelled out again, then, abruptly exploded. The three ran to the Marina along with Sarah and Tipitina and Piedro. There they climbed into Mr. Howitzer's yacht which abruptly detached itself and slid backwards into the water. Festus came scampering along and lept with a super-hamster leap onto the decks, crying out, "Don't leave me guys!"

Even as the Editor looked at his own rent increase, which was as obscene as all those experienced all around the island, the Angry Elf, who was named Neal, set fire to an Audi outside a recalcitrant business on Park Street. The Audi burned with calculated intensity meant to intimidate and cause fear, but suddenly popped with an explosion that sent embers into the row houses there near the narrow alleys named after tree varieties. Houses along Willow caught fire, followed by Elm and then Walnut, where the old majestic box elder ignited.

The Editor sat at his desk, the Offices strangely empty. Where had everyone gone? He felt the old war wounds, relived the firefight. He closed his eyes and leaned back as if to sleep a while, despite this pain in his chest. He was a new recruit standing on a train station about to go somewhere. This could also be a possible ending. The eyes close and the heart simply stops and then one is done with this life. They would find him slumped over his desk the followihng morning, his lips blue and eyes wide open. But then a loud pop awoke him from this reverie. Outside the windows, an orange glow and embers flying. His people were in trouble and he had to save them.

The Editor grabbed a bag and stuffed it with backup hard drives and paraphernalia and slung that over the ship's oar that had been given him by the staff as a birthday present. He ran outside and down to the water with Rachel and Festus. There they found a rowboat and set out from the Marina as the flames rose higher behind them.

Wootie Kanootie's moose herd, frightened by the commotion and the sirens broke loose from their pen and ran about as the sirens wailed and the sparks flew up into the heavens. The herd found themselves hemmed in by the fire engines and the fire itself so they plunged into the Bay en masse and set out to cross it to some sort of unknown safety.

All of this took place as the moon swelled. The various small boats floated without direction and the moose herd, led by the always wayward Eunice, swam for dear life as the fog rolled in over the Bay, heading for some imaginary refuge in the mist as the powerful tides carried them toward the Golden Gate and the shipping lanes.

Pedro awoke in the early hours to see the horizon to the West aglow and the sound of sirens. He roused the entire Almeida family and told them to get ready to evacuate the place. Racoons, who had been circling the chicken pens scampered away in terror.

Mr. Sanchez went to the window to see flashing lights and ambulances and firetrucks rushing past down below on Santa Clara and went to away Ms. Morales.

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

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

JANUARY 21, 2018



So anyway. We do not have Garrison Keillor to kick around anymore and all branches of government are marshalled, supposedly, lockstep into common agreement. Nevertheless we have a government shutdown because of ... what? Republicans, who are in clear majority, blaming Democrats, who never could accomplish anything unless a Black man or woman initiated the enterprise.

"The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things. Of ships and sealing wax and whether pigs have wings."

That is the way the master of the absurd, Lewis Carroll, introduced the idea of a beginning or the end in medias res. Here we stand with such a similar situation. How can we just turn little Adam, he of the Household of Marlene and Andre, who already has suffered so much, out onto the street? Anyone who would suggest such a thing would have to be quite cold hearted. And then there is the newborn baby to Ms. Morales and Mr. Sanchez. Observe the little tyke there in his cradlebed on the second floor of that apartment in a subdivided Victorian on Central Avenue. He is helpless. How could you abandon this innocent child, you cads you!

Yet, such callous sentiment seems to be the rule for our times. We used to care about the children, their nourishment and their education, but we guess this is just all relics of times gone by and the triumph of hard, cold, money-oriented Trumpism.

Well. We are shocked. Simply shocked.

Here is this Island child, born of course at Summit because due to mishandling of public funds, gross mismanagment of resources and foolishness beyond belief no children are allowed to be born in the Island hospital anymore, unless it is in the taxi going across the water.

Some of you may recall how only a short time ago the neonatal unit and the geropsych units were close because old people and babies don't make money for the hospital.

Well. We cannot allow this to settle.

It is rude. It is ungainly. It is terrifically bad for our reputation as an Island with human and humane concerns. So we would have to wonder how a hack writer would bring an end to 19 years of work. Well, an untalented hack, and savage golem straight out of Brooklyn's ugly tin pan alley would end the opus of Island Life as follows:

On a bleak and windy night striated with dry winds, the Cackler and the Gump went to the secret store of fireworks and flammables that was used to torch the "suggestion cars" in front of troublesome businesses. It was the business of the Angry Elf gang to pursuade individuals and businesses to contribute to the Common Kitty, a percentage of which wound up by devious means in the pockets of the Angry Elf gang.

While this contingent visited the incendiary storage, another group of thugs paid a visit to Denby at his lodgings at the top of the lunatic asylum of St Charles.

They brought with them knives, baseball bats, and a fruitcake left over from last year.

Denby opened the door to encounter this ugly crew and said, "Here you are at last. I have been expecting you."

Other members of the gang gathered outside the Old Same Place Bar where the Angry Elf had experienced much rebuttal to his violent and intolerant ways.

Those gang members began with an hail of stones against the windows of the bar, which were followed by bottles of gasoline stuffed with flaming rags.

This was the night, decreed by the Angry Elf, to be the Night of Flaming Shattered Glass.

Patrons in the bar scattered here and there as the stones blew open the windows in a storm of destruction. Then followed the molotov cocktails, devised with sardonic glee by the Angry Elf, who said "I' serve the bartender a cocktail he will not forget!"

In vain Padraic and Dawn and Suzie ran here and there with spritzers and extinguishers as the demonic hail flew into the bar, driving them out to watch helplessly as their life's work was consumed by the flames. The old oaken snug went up in a fury and the broad redwood bartop glowed as a cinder and bottles exploded with the fury of the evil fire. The stools toppled as their steel supports melted, and the propane tanks supplying the kitchen erupted into geysers of fire.

Over at the place where the gang warehoused its materials, the gang stood around and laughed about how they were disconcerting certain individuals with their break-ins and rifling of personal documents. The thug named Squeaker tossed his partially expended cigarette carelessly out at the door opening, but the butt rebounded and returned inside to vanish in the pile of trash and cast off parts from wagons and machinery. No one paid any mind to this event as they talked about revenge and punishing certain people until a smell of burn and smoke began to swell in the area and the crew began to look for its source. By the time they found it, the fire had ignited the walls of the house itself and was rapidly consuming fuel towards the boxes of incendiaries.

Meanwhile the tiki torches for Mr. Howitzer's Hawaiian theme party had started to burn low after all the patrons had passed out from the double strength zombies served up by Dodd, who left the premises to care for his child sick with influenza even as the somnolent guests snored and the tiki torches guttered and sparked until one of them ignited the poolside palm.

After that, it was all drama at the Howitzer residence.

The entire neighborhood awoke to smoke and flames. The Howitzer mansion was burning. Skyrockets and explosions erupted down by the Strand where the former warehouse for the Angry Elf gang exploded and the gang members scattered like rats rather than fight the furious fire even as it took hold on the entire row of houses along Otis, including the Household of Marlene and Andre. Meanwhile the Old Same Place Bar collapsed into glowing embers as the houses all around also took on fire in a savage eruption of demonic fury.

The Island was ablaze with the disaster that Californio's know only too well and all that was good and holy was being destroyed.

The Editor came out from his den to see the world aflame and all being destroyed. He grabbed what he could of the Island-Life records and went down to the Strand with the Island-Life Offices aflame and the old box elder sending up glowing embers into the sky with the Angry Elf gang whooping and hollaring, down to the Bayshore as the ancient Greeks did to the sea, for it is written, "After the defeat at Thermopylea the Greeks descended to the sea in ships."

The roof of the Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor 33 and 1/3 began to alight from the rain of hot embers from other places on the Island. All along the Strand the row houses exploded and the Disputed Bicycle Bridge groaned, bent, swayed and collapsed into the Estuary.

Fire in California is a terrifying force. When a Firestorm swells in all its monstrous fury, nothing can stop it and its destruction is both capricious and total as well as horrifying. There are few natural events in this country which can compare with its totality and its enormity. We have seen what happens and it is true and real and terrifying in its absolute and implacable ferocity.

The firestorm swept over the Household of Marlene and Andre and the old stove beneath the house exploded with violence, killing Snuffles and the opossum family and the racoons and Piedro as he slept an exhausted sleep from working all day and causing falling timbers to trap Martini after his long day at the valve factory in Richmond and breaking the legs of Wickiwup the sheepdog who cried in agony. The scanty possessions of the Household were destroyed, including Suan's favorite chemise and Tipitina's sand dollar collection, assembled from the days when they really had serious sand dollars to be found along the Strand and many more personal photographs and things besides.

For days the firey contagion swept the little town, charring Lincoln Park with its once elegant gazebo, Washington Park with its baseball diamond and clapper stork palms, each going up like Roman candles, the newly created Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve and all its carefully preserved vegetation, sending the humble hedgehog families scurrying amid the black ashes. The facade of the old brick cannery collapsed into ruins. The home of the ducks at Mariner Square Village became nothing but cinders and who knows what became of the ducks themselves. Wootie Kanootie's herd of moose scattered in terror and plunged into the estuary to escape as their stockade burned to the ground. Mastic Senior Center's big entrance sculpture toppled in firey sparks to the ground and all the churches along church row submitted to fire, the devil's only friend.

The rectory of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint dropped its roof upon Father Danyluk, trapping him beneath the Sacristy as Pastor Nyquist attempted to save his friend with a garden hose even as the buildings of Immanuel Lutheran slumped in embers behind him.

In a second floor apartment, charged for rent far too dear, the baby belonging to Ms. Morales wailed as the smoke swelled denser and closer to their humble abode and Ms. Morales stood there determined to fight to the end as Mr. Sanchez valiantly swung his pulaski with the firemen outside, doomed, yet indomitable, their shadows huge against the huge fire that was destroying all they loved.

The bridge from Park Street dropped into the water, followed by the Fruitvale bridge tumbling in flaming gouts that spurted here and there. The monument to "All my Dumb friends" split apart in the heat. Houses all along the lagoon tumbled into the water. The Cribbages and the Blathers piled into helicopters and fast speed boats to escape the destruction, leaving everyone else to their respective fates.

All of this is what would have happened were a hack in charge and a pseudo-artiste like the Angry Elf in charge. The Angry Elf is a fake artist, pretending with glass what others committ with flesh and blood. The Angry Elf is an artist only of pain and discordance. So this is not what happened.

For what really happened, you will have to come back next week and read all about it.

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

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

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.

























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