This section contains issues published in the year 2000. To return to the present, click the back arrow below.
Welcome to the Year 2000, last arbitrary year of the Entirely Made-Up Millennium.
FOR PREVIOUS MONTHS AND YEARS GOTO THE ARCHIVE BELOW
DECEMBER 24, 2000
The sun is shining bright, the teenage girls are all walking down by the beach in their tube tops trying to rouse the boys and its another xmas eve/post solstice/mid-Channukha day in California. Down on Mozart street you couldn't tell the Gov' had declared a Stage III power emergency for the state as the houses blazed from attic to lawn with all sorts of light fantasy.
Over in the County of Alameda, the Bored Supes chose Islander Alice Lai Bitker to replace Wilma Chan, who departs for the State Assembly. Sorry Mayor Ralph. The 42 year-old Alice has assisted Chan for six years and, besides being highly capable, is as cute as the dickens. Although from overhearing a few contentious sessions of the Board, the impression develops that latter quality probably will not last long. Alameda County, home to well over 8 million people and arbitrator of a tax fund that easily exceeds that of most European nations, is no easy roost to govern.
On the music front, we all know nothing happens until Dec. 31, when all of us bid adieu to Y2K. Charlie Hunter is doing Oaktown's Yoshis for a couple nights and Irina Rivkin hosts her annual Escape from You-Know-What up in Berzerkeley. At the Great American Music hall, we have the Radiators from New Orleans ringing in the new. Box Set plays the Last Day Saloon in North Beach. Accentuating the obvious, the Manhattan Lounge is hosting the first Nymphomaniac's Ball; dress in formal white for that one. At the Fillmore, nothing is listed for the 31st, oddly enough, but Joe Satriani, the God among guitar gods, will play on the 29th. John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room will feature a mixup band, which looks to be popular all over this year, including former members of groups that backed Frank Zappa, Ray Charles,Joe Louis Walker and Toni Toni Toni.
For those who miss the notoriously good Greatful Dead shows at the Civic (possibly the only times the Dead would play reliably well) former members team up in two seperate shows in two seperate venues. Phil Lesh plays with friends (including Warren Haynes from the Allman Brothers) at the Henry Kaiser Auditorium in Oaktown, whileThe Other Ones -- including Phil Kreutzman, Bob Weir and Micky Hart -- play across the water from probably the same song list.
Then, there is an host of shows in all the usual venues about town. This year it seems almost no stage is dark anywhere, so finding something to do shouldn't be a problem.
Rabbi Yoseph Langer lit the flame at the Bill Graham menorah for the 26th consecutive year in Union Square on the 21st and there was much rejoycing and song and hubbeleh bubbeleh among the hoi polloi. So much so that even the cold heart of Babylon's shopping center in the shadow of Macy's got a little spiritual for a while.
Please note that the SF MOMA exhibition of modern art ends January 15th. This exhibit of the Anderson Collection, one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, includes something from virtually every name of consequence in the world of 20th Century art.
Meanwhile, on the Island, as Mayor Ralph returns to his lonely Mayoral post and our hapless car thieves continue to fail with astonishing regularity to successfully hotwire so much as a Toyota, the garish lights of the Season continue to blink and strange messages continue to appear on the side of the Wierd House on Lincoln. The latest bore this testimony:
It appeared on Saturday, but we are not sure if the author is aware of the passage of time. Anyrate, that is how it is on the Island, this balmy day before the big unwrap. Remember to bring a sleeping bag wherever you go on the last evening of December and have a merry week and a jolly New Year besides.
DECEMBER 16, 2000
If you have not purchased that special glass-enclosed fantod or that fur-lined tchotchkes tushie retainer she always wanted, by now its too late. The legions of cabbage-patch doll hunters have already ransacked the stores of all the soap-on-a-rope and cologne/hairgel/bath bubble knickknacks, razor scooters, digital cameras, and fluffy bathrobes, leaving only the stray Billy the Trout flopping to the tune of "Don't Worry Be Happy" amid the scattered styrofoam peanuts and torn advertising. The Shopping Season is officially Over and Out and we can all relax with our eggnog and California energy crisis. For another year.
Sorry about missing last week -- the flu and the Company Party both intervened one after another. The flu knocked out our excercise regimen and the Party knocked out our morals. A serious System Crash didn't help much either. The shindig was held at the notorious Silverado Resort, which is the sort of place where Ex-President Gerald Ford used to go to bean hapless electorate with errant golf balls. All of California's varied Congresspersons like to come there and speed around in those electric carts after sloshing down four or five good martini's with sushi. All the palm trees were lit up for the Holidays and a herd of artificial reindeer glowed on the lawn, but that could have been the numerous Manhattans we swilled down to the tunes of the Fundamentals, who happily played their hearts out for all the ten grand that they were worth. The Company Founder got up on stage, as these types are wont to do in their moment of glory, slockered beyond repair and more loveable than in years while goosing the VP of Marketing. A fine time was had by all, especially the raucous Table 38 in the corner.
How was YOUR company dinner?
Anyrate, the news has it the bad guys won. Again. And so we have yet another four years of an imbecile, as opposed to four years of an idiot, on which to blame the economy. Are we pessimistic? Yes we are. The present Bush holds not a candle to his fathers idiocy, as his father was, at the very least, a competant asshole, which his son cannot claim. After four years of regression to medieval concepts and worse
Now that the (Reagan-appointed) Supreme Court has nixed that little ole thing called Democracy in favor of Strict Federalism, allowing the Bad Guys to win for the moment, the elections fallout continues here as Babylon goes into the runoffs for its districts even as Alameda County seeks to replace departing Wilma Chan on its own Supervisors Board. Continuing the trend of The Few decide who wins, Chan's successor is to come from the 15 selectees and to be chosen by all of 8 people on the surviving Board seats. Eight of these hopefuls come from the Island, no less, including our Mayor Ralph. Sources in the know say that Ralph has not a snowball's chance in Hell of getting it, which is just fine, as the Island would lose one fine barber if he went across the water.
Friday night Alternative music owned the City as Everclear rocked out down on Market while the annual Live105 Not So Silent Night owned the Bill Graham Memorial Auditorium at the Civic Center A.F.I and Deftones slogged through some sets that were more than a little troubled by sound problems. At one point the teens my Significant Other and I were supposedly chaperoning departed for the quiet hallways of the Civic during the excruciatingly loud sets. When Papa Roach took the stage, things like harmony, lyrics, balance and music returned to teach the crowd just how to punk out proper and make your voice distinct from the feedback. Was A.F.I aweful? Yes they were. But to give the guys their due, their professionally mastered recordings sound so much better than what was inflicted on the crowd Friday night that the mixing board can be blamed here.
The BGM Auditorium, sold out within hours of availability for the headliners, Green Day, rocked to its feet shortly before 11 and didn't sit down for the local faves done good until well after 2 am. From the grungy beginnings up in North Berkeley, where the band used to share the stage at Gillman Street with stale beer and garage band wannabees, the homeboys have become a world touring act that does Saturday Night live and plays music across the dial from coast to coast. Pulling selectively from four CDs, including the recent crossover hit "Warning", Billy Joe, Mike and Cool had the crowd in the palms of their sweaty hands and singing along to almost every song. At one point, Billy Joe grabbed three guys at random from the crowd and formed a band on stage, had them play drums, guitar and bass, then had these total strangers leap head-first off of the stage, over the barricade area into the arms of the crowd.
We were impressed, to put it mildly.
The whole affair was a benefit for Bay Area music, for as all of us know, things are pretty rough right now for musicians with the closing of the largest rehearsal space in the City (and probably the country) as well as the wholesale destruction of the artist neighborhoods South of Market and in the Mission.
Let it not be forgot: "The modern day composer refuses to die."
This was the ninth Live105 Not So Silent Night concert attended by my Significant Other, which tends to feature the best of those about to become famous with uncanny accuracy.
Also this weekend, the "History and Mystery of the Universe" captured the stage at George Coates Performance Works. This one-man show presenting the life and ideas of Buckminister Fuller was, funnily enough, the most low-tech performance ever presented in this space, relying on simple backdrop projections and the simple wit and talent of actor Ron Campbell. Some of the same thematic motivs that seem to inhabit all of the productions at Coates PW cropped up in more humanistic ways that previously presented: ticking timepieces, man as organic machine, and zen motion. In one of the more interesting moments, the decidedly Victorian-mannered actor glides from a lecture on metaphysics into a Tai chi sequence without a hitch, then resumes. There were, unfortunately, far too few such moments, as the work descended to unfortunate sentiment while at the same time appealing to "Synergy" in a manner that reminded one uncomfortably about the existence of a Dianetics Institute across the street. Fuller, a sort of Everyman's genius who's ideas were heavily inflected with Presbyterian religiosity was among the first to conceive of a global economy, and his ideas about universal structural forms equalled those of theoretical mathematicians who had many more decades of academic learning than this Harvard dropout. Einstein endorsed his writing and gave the man the benefit of a personal one-on-one meeting at a time when the German physicist was deluged with appeals. That the performance fails to bridge the gap between the hard and inflexible concepts of structural physics and the aery flights of metaphysical fancy cannot be the fault of the playwright or actor, for Fuller, born in 1894, could not have ever incorporated both the establishment of Einsteinian relativity as well as the diametrically opposed quantum theory, which came to supercede Einstein's ideas, coupled with the chaos theory that now preoccupies the minds of physicists today.
Um, but the play gets you thinking, I guess. Which is never a bad thing and certainly a hallmark of what happens in the space at GCPW.
All right, that about wraps up this week as we descend, post-election, into another period of vicious medieval mentality and alzheimer's-inflected versions of American history.
On the Island, which owns its own power grid independent of the State PGE, the lights are burning bright all over as per usual, even as downtown Babylon suffers rolling blackouts during this Stage Three Power Emergency. As of a week ago, power reserves dropped below 1%, putting us all in a bind. At least now there is no advantage here over the East Coast in energy costs, as each home got dealt a 100% price increase on its electric bill. That on top of two bedroom homes going for $300,000 and rents hovering at $1500 for one bedrooms, puts us square in the Unlivable section, next to Newark, NJ.
How come people still wanna come here?
The palms still sway with tinsel, Santa wears Birkenstocks and groundsquirrels scamper madly across the dunes down by the water, long after rodent cousins have gone into hibernation in other places. Congress swelled the numbers of HB1 visas, so Indians and Pakastanis can take your jobs and all is well with the world.
That is how it is on the Island. According to Bucky, you have have the option to save the planet or not. Have a great shopping week and please, don't destroy the planet in the process. A lot of people I love very much happen to live on it.
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DECEMBER 3, 2000
As digestions settle from the Thanksgiving feasts, the nation turns to its ongoing soap opera which has all of the distinguishing characteristics of Verdi at his most portentious. Three weeks down and the fat lady hasn't sung yet. Bushy keeps shouting "I won it far and square (sort of) now give it to me; I deserve it!", while Gorey appears to have finally got his campaign in fighting trim -- unfortunately after all the votes have been cast. Meanwhile, in the back rooms the GOP movers and shakers are kicking one another over their candidate slate when they all thought the Republican Party had not a ghost of a chance in hell in coming anywhere near this close to actually winning. Over on the Donkey side of things, the theme of shooting the foot just stuck in the mouth continues with messy certitude. The Press is aghast at the whole round-robin tango of snatching defeat from the jaws of certain victory.
And if your name is Chad, better not come west of the Mississippi, where we know how to run elections.
Across the street a bunch of Bushy signs appeared all around the house on the corner two days after the election was over. Better late than never?
The Beast Fest, known to all as pig latin for East Bay, held its first celebration over the weekend, with 20 some local bands playing in four East Bay venues. The cultural wave has been washing out of Babylon over to the more affordable side of the Bay for at least twelve to fifteen years, well before the "dot-com revololution." Now, numerous events like this are proving to the world that Oakland has what it takes to be the new star in the heavens.
Moving into the last month of Y2K, the Dave Grisman Quintet plays the Warfield on 12/8. The venerable Fillmore hosts Hot Tuna on 12/7, followed by bluesman Taj Mahal on 12/13, Los Lobos with their latin-inflected rhythms, and the Guitar God himself -- Joe Satriani -- on 12/28.
Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo snuck into Marin's intimate Sweetwater on 12/1 while we weren't looking. Rogers, probably the preeminent slide guitarist west of the Mississippi rocked the house.
In the jazz lineup at Yoshis, Dr. John hauls himself out of the New Orleans bayou on 12/19 and Charlie Hunter takes the venue from 12/26 through 12/31.
More good news: the current production of "Buckminister Fuller" at the George Coates Performance Works has been extended through the new year and me and the Significant Other are going. Coates, who's innovative multimedia works combine operatic voice, live music, mesh screen projections, holograms and loads of hi-tech has never failed to garner rave reviews and accolades. His Zen-philosophy infused "Actual Sho" series blew the socks off of every other performance theatre in town. With topics ranging from the story of a buddhist nun who finds a laptop and "enters" into the internet matrix -- years before the movie of that name came out -- to the simple tale of a basic 9-5er with a troubled childhood, whose job just happens, incidentally, to be that of hired assassin, things that appear on the stage at the GCPW never fail to enthrall. The life of one of America's most interesting geniuses fits well within the territory mapped out by the Company.
Meanwhile, on the Island , the two story athletic facility that bills itself as "The Bladium" just opened on the grounds of the old Navy base, so now we got a gym to compete with those inattentive folks at Mariner Square, where the prices go up and the hours go down all the time.
Down the street, a string of antifeminist statements appeared recently on the Wierd Old House, the latest mysterious communication being:
With that bit of dada nonsense in place, we bid you adieu. That's how it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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NOVEMBER 26, 2000
The big news, besides gross consumption of L-tryptophan proteins with cranberry sauce, has been the Presidential contest, which this year appears to be something more than your usual beauty contest kind of thing. Two weeks after the polls have closed the Nation is still Undecided and the unfolding drama rivals anything General Hospital or Days of Our Lives ever put out. People are so caught up in the National issues that the local runoffs still underway in Babylon have seeped into the cotton fog of unconcern. Which is a shame, given that at least two men were murdered and scores of political lives ruined over 20 years to make district elections possible in The City.
As of the Recount, Bushy Baggot and Greene lead in Florida by 500 votes and fall behind in popular vote by some 60,000, making Bushy the feller most likely to take lead by a minority vote, much as King Richard III took his some few years ago. Hopefully by different means, but it's a smelly business from beginning to end as it is.
So the scenario is as follows, according to the Most Informed around these parts. Bush takes the helm of State, appoints his rightist Justices and Cabinet, and then goes golfing for four years while the "centrist" point of view plays the caddy on the course, well away from the men who are infinitely more capable than this three-time bankrupt loser with a silver spoon in his mouth. The Capable men, led in prayer by Pat Robertson, reinstitute a mock form of "supply side" voodoo economics -- which works about as well as it did for 16 years under that brainless ninny Ronnie Raygun -- the economy tanks and the GOP blames Democratic intransigence for the free market collapse, even while the very Rich continue to rake in the bucks, ever more valuable during a depression.
All of the smartfood people, former dot-commers reduced to dumpster diving and inventing widgets that actually do something, but which nobody buys because nobody real has any money to spend, take revenge on the GOP in four years and Bushy walks off the golf course wondering why everybody is mad, since he kept all of his campaign promises -- he just never put himself in a position to execute them, darn it. Must have been those evil Democrats.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, Steve Jobs founds a new company called Peaches and sells Apple-clones at an affordable price while the Courts finally catch up will Bill Gates and, instead of breaking up Microsoft, tie Bill Gates naked to the gates of MIT's computer science department and a hundred angry CIO's flog him with stuffed penguins.
If you get that last joke, then you really ARE a nerd.
Just about the only benefit to all of this comes out during the next Depression, when housing prices in California actually fall and rents become something close to reasonable again.
Enough of this gloom. 'Tis the holiday Season, begun with a vengeance, as always. This year's Poodleshoot and BBQ was a resounding success under the cloudy skies and fog. Fourteen and a half critters got bagged this time, the last catch being the ace by Willie Cutters, who used a Briggs and Stratton Mobile lawn mower, to snag his prize for the Most Inventive Weapon, easily defeating the brothers from Salinas who, using percussion grenades and 180lb crossbow, brought in a couple of fine 8 pounders.
During the Melee at Crab Cove, where close quarters reduced the participants from Glock nines, Makarovs, Sig 380's and light howitzers to basic machetes and molotov cocktails, the latter providing the unexpected benefit of on-the-spot bar-b-que conditions.
Honorable Mention went to the Seaver-Kent cadre from distant Palo Alto, who braved bitter winds and fog over the straits to participate with a set of explosive golf clubs and a jeep-mounted anti-aircraft gun, used most effectively along the Northwestern Territories of the former Navy Base.
Apologies to the owners of the former good ship USS Prewitt; from long range, your lapdog had looked like a rare Rhode Island Blue. The Society is chartering the Island Ship Scavengers to salvage your vessel.
All-in-all it was a spendid day on the Island, full of Tradition and lots of whiskey and good times, if not always good marksmanship. Here's hoping your Holidays remain joyful and bright. And not too serious.
Here, Lalia Futzbottom takes aim against an highly dangerous Cockatiel Poo.
That's how it is on the Island. Have a grand week.
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NOVEMBER 19, 2000
Nobody knows who is President. At this point, we get either a sophomoric drunk-driving two-time bankrupt nincompoop who has never held any office of responsibility in his life without major screw-up, including governorship of a state where the governor has no real power, or we get a sterile braniac who can't even run a sure-win campaign against a total loser with any conviction. Either way, it looks like the economy is gonna take a dive and who do you want on your side when the jobs get scarce? All of this squabbling over handfuls of votes escapes the real issue of just why the hell should either candidate get ALL of Florida, when it is patently clear Florida itself is undecided. Split the damn votes in half and hand 'em out fifty-fifty is the only way to resolve things.
Meanwhile, life goes on in the Big World. Napster may be gone, but the whole affair of shared music has pointed a finger at the commodification of art in a way that not a hundred performance art pieces could hope to accomplish.
As for music beyond commodity, we have the annual Concerts for Kids, hosted by KFOG coming up on 12/7 at Cupertino and featuring Joan Osborne, followed by Joe Jackson and John Hiatt at the Masonic Aud. on the 13th.
Live 105 trots out its Not So Silent Night Concert on 12/15 at the Civic and tickets are already gone, gone, gone for this show featuring a slim lineup of Green Day and Poppa Roach among others. The Significant Other and I shall make what has become a holiday tradition of attending this for the 9th time. See you there with Big Rick and the rest of the gang.
Which leaves the usual round of corporate parties and dinners, where the apple-cheeked boys and girls from accounting trot out their figures -- at the more successful companies -- and the secretarial pool gets blotto on quasi-free liquor. If your company is doing the Sheraton or the Hyatt, then you know the books look good, but pity the company that needs to vacate the room for the second show, for the signs fortell pink slips in the year to come. It has long been known among the cognocsenti that Ice scuptures of the corp logo and live bands mean tony times shall continue. For the company that swings during the Holidays is the Company that has done well by its shareholders. Which goes to say that there shall be cold cuts and soda for a plethora of dot-coms this year, instead of the beef wellington and salmon champignons with wine sauce enjoyed by Deloitte and Touche.
Are you really sure about that Bush guy? During the next Depression, when the atavistic fangs of hunger drive into the flanks of any careless doe that wanders far from the herd, is this dude really going to be your friend?
Rumor has it that several tekkies have voted for Bush under the premise that, should the idiot get elected, the economy will surely tank and therefore it will become possible to get a decent apartment in Babylon after all. Assuming their position remains relative to the status quo.
In this time of confusion and certain betrayal of all things we hold dear, there remains one bright light of constant Tradition among the dark forces that rule us. We speak, of course, of that delightful Holiday event the Annual Thanksgiving Day Poodleshoot and Barbeque.. Now, this year we have the splendid cooks from El Caballo Taquaria ready to do the honors for any and all kills brought in without too much shot embedded in the meat, and the Official Beverage, Wild Turkey, is being supplied in casks by several characters of questionable disposition. All of which indicates a fine time shall be had by all. We have visitors from Palo Alto competing in the Corporate Challenge who promise to exceed last year's record of 8 and one half certified kills by Lucent of Harbor Bay. Lucent, which employed explosive-laden gill nets with particular effectiveness is sure to return with innovative surprises.
As always, kills must be certified by breed and species by the authorized Trainers and bribes are encouraged.
That's the way it is on this delightful pre-holiday Season. Have a grand week and Happy Hunting!
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NOVEMBER 12, 2000
By now, history is being scribbled at a mad pace as regards the presidential elections, the one no one was supposed to care about. Now its in your face and, to tell the truth, that is probably a good thing, and it is a good thing that a big hullabaloo is being made right now. For no system can be guaranteed to be a success unless it gets stressed to the test every once in a while and the proper fixit tweaks get put in place.
For a long, long time, the electoral process has needed some serious revision, and for a long, long time the American people have felt, "Oh what the hell. What difference does it make?" Now its on the news day by day and no wrap-up, no convenient sound-bite provided by friendly newscasters to sum it all. Democracy is supposed to be a contentious day-by-day affair with constant attention by the people to the process and this attention has flagged worse than the last-pack runner in the Boston marathon. The People had given up caring and now its patently obvious that yes, it does matter a damn, the whole thing from campaign to inauguration.
Whatever the result, people are going to now sit up and take notice when these issues arise, because everybody is going to be saying, "Not again! Not like the last time!"
Meanwhile the prospects of Bush becoming Prez, since he has the most clear advantage at this point, have sent the stock market plummeting. And he was supposed to be "good" for the Market. Go figure.
Meanwhile, the local music scene unfolds with the Big Guns coming to town for The Season. Enjoy it while it lasts. kd lang did the Berkeley Community Theatre with an astonishing voice and showmanship that destroys all opposition. Pity the material was rather weak-watered.
Saturday the Taiko festival took Zellerbach by storm. Taiko, a form of martial arts drumming, is increasing in popularity here. Paul Simon, ever the re-inventor of himself, will take the local Paramount theatre with his top-notch international band. Simon, who early established his career with light pop ditties has continually expanded and renovated his music to include sophisticated world-beat rhythms and in his ripe old age has finally become seriously worth listening to.
Local SoCal faves, the Offspring have released a new CD and it is anticipated that Dexter will haul his band, and his blue language, to the Bay Area very soon. At the other end of sound, Yoshis will host Earl Klugh, the renowned jazz guitarist, followed by Tuck and Patti, who will do a series of gigs beginning 11/21 and ending 11/26. Flipping the dial again to Irish folk, Shane MacGowan hauls his boozy Popes into the Fillmore on 11/17 and hopefully he's got the company to do "Fairytale of New York". Keb Mo follows up after Thanksgiving on 11/24. The remnants of Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady do the Fillmore on 12/7.
Not to be outdone, the venerable Warfield brings on Yossou N'Dour, the Wallflowers and the David Grisman Quartet. Grisman, who is one of the last persons to see Jerry Garcia alive, has provided bluegrass-inflected music to the Bay Area for many years.
Not to be omitted, since one of their songs provided the inspiration for the title of this column, the Flaming Lips perform the Maritime Hall 11/16.
If you caught Channel 4 last Friday evening, you caught the Island featured on "Bay Area Backroads" Then again, if you live in Iowa, you probably did not.
Now begins the season when dark winds blow, chilling the bones and CNN does "retrospectives" of mass murders in wierd places like Bosnia and East LA. Fortunately, there remains the Holiday light that gladdens our hearts this time of year, when friendship and renewal take place among the pines and the swamps. I am speaking, of course, of the Annual Island Thanksgiving Day Poodleshoot and Barbeque. This year, the Official Beverage, Wild Turkey, is provided by our sponsors, Defunct DotCom, the cleanup company. Company go belly-up? DDC will handle those messy bookkeeping chores for you.
All the talk about town is now about the end of the "Dot Com Spring". Just about when Bush shall be ushered into office to do away with Social Security and handle the next big depression, the bottom has dropped out in Silicon Valley, and now it is open news among everybody who Knows. The party is over, folks. Time now to get a real job. In anticipation of a Republican "austerity program", the banks have clapped their coffers shut on lending and the funding angels have all taken vacations to Majorca. Company after company is tossing in the chips and the employees, let loose in the wild rental market of the Bay area, where 750 sq foot studios go for $1500/month are streaming like lemmings out of the area.
Think it does not matter to you? Notice the picket lines at Safeway recently?
You want Bush? You got Bush and a Depression. Remember the 80's when Ronnie and Georgie ran things into the ground? Welcome back hard times.
And hey, you did your part didn't you? After all, you cast your ballot.
That's how it is in the country. Have a perfectly delightful week. Better save your cash this Xmas.
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NOVEMBER 09, 2000
Special Election Issue
It is an odd sensation when you realize you are near the center of history-making events while those events are still going on. Tuesday, the polls closed on the West Coast with the East Coast still in a tizzy of confusion even as long lines of voters were turned away from the polls in the middle of the country because of ridiculous traffic problems. At the end of the day, Gore had the clear majority of the people by about 50,000, but one single state in the East, Florida, remained hung up by lost ballot boxes, accusations of improper conduct by elections officials, and a slim margin of 200 votes that ensured an automatic recount. If Bush takes Florida's electoral college reps, then our next president, the leader of the Free World will have been instated by a minority. And given that virtually everyone who does not have his/her head in the sand knows full well that Gore mismanaged a botched campaign from the beginning, it is clear that justice has a long way to go before the slim chance of realization.
Around 2 am, with the Gore supporters standing in freezing rain in Tennessee for six hours without sign or word from the Man, the Press rep came out to announce continuance of the fight. His prepared speech was instantly drowned out by thousands of cheers.
As the night went on, the press looked on the big conference center screens in disbelief as the tallies for Gore rose above Bush in the national totals, while the totals for Florida fluctuated like the stock market, at times actually subtracting votes from Gore before inexplicably giving them back again.
In the humble press room of Alameda County, which selected Gore by an overwhelming 71%, the remaining press scribbled their notes and fired off reports with laptops and phones even as the NY Times presses remained halted in an unprecedented move subsequent to Gore's retraction of concession. Over in the Registry of Voters, it would be 4 am before Tom York and the assembled team would break away for bed and rest. Ten days and counting before Florida retallies its votes and takes a hard look at the things that went wrong, producing national and international confusion while other states had long since put their tallies to bed. Here in California, everyone in the know is crowing about the news they always knew about the poor processes going on everywhere else. The Registrar here shook his head in disbelief it took so long for Florida to respond at all.
Locally, Senator DiFi had nothing really to worry about to interrupt her hegemony, and County Supervisor Wilma Chan (DEM) celebrated her decisive victory in the state assembly elections with an impromtue Chinese banquet for her supporters. She joins six other Democrats over the single Republican victory (15th District, Lynne Leach) to counterbalance the fading GOP Governor. Her successor has yet to be appointed, but we saw her walking out with a bouquet of flowers. Best of luck.
The incumbent Dems also took all three of the House positions up for grabs.
Local props that have, or will have national interest include the Drug Rehab program which passed with a 69.4% over its more punative choice. This state prop requires Rehab over prison for drug offenders and will almost certainly continue to cause uproar.
On the Island, where change is anathema of the highest order, Dewitt and Kerr remain Council members and the Mayor still gets to keep his leather-clad chair because he was not up for re-election.
That's the way it was on the Island this historic election, November 7, 2000. Continue to have a great week.
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NOVEMBER 5, 2000
The man the GOP nicknamed "Slick Willie" pulled through Oaktown on a stump speech tour supporting Gore. Echoing The Great Pretender, Ronnie of the Forgetful Mind, Billy asked the crowd, "Ask yourselves, are you not better off than you were 8 years ago?" The answer is most definitively YES for virtually everyone in Oaktown, if not the country, which is not something most could say in the depths of the Great 80's Depression.
By now, most everybody, even people on the Island, should know that Tuesday decides which goofball becomes the butt of columnist puns and political cartoonists for four years. And as always a plethora of local and state propositions are causing whole forests to be decimated on behalf of campaign literature.
We've been down to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to check out the scene where hellzapoppin. This election sees the County ushering the East Bay into the Silicon Age as 20 special touchscreen ballot devices are deployed on a test run, which, if successful, will lead to purchase of well over 4000 devices that will end the days of punch cards forever. Yes, Virginia, you will now vote on computer until the world runs out of silicon. As it works, the voter gets a magnetic card in response to proper registration. This card gets inserted into the device in the polling booth, which then wakes up the touchscreen. Candidates are selected by using the old index finger to point at the choices. No keyboard and no mouse. The choices are stored on the device's hard drive.
After the polls close, the devices return to the basement under the County Courthouse on Oak Street and will be connected to the main computer for tallying and final report. Orange County and parts of San Diego have already gone digital. After this election, most of the major Northern California counties will do the same.
Right now, most people will use the old punch-card and little push-pin to make their voice heard. The cards are collected and shipped to the basement where a small army of minions under the Registrar will shuffle the cards into stacks and load these into old-fashioned card readers. The data is gathered in the DIMS system on a UNIX server and reports are generated every 20 minutes or so by Tom York who will then fire off results to the media, the Secretary of State and, of course, the County's official website.
Across the street, on the 4th floor, the assembled media will be gathered all night under two huge projection screens and beside the Lexmark printer that will spit out election tallies. And that, my friends, is where I will be also until the very last precinct has reported in.
Do not call me on Wednesday; phone will be off the hook.
That's how it is on the Island. Get out and vote.
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OCTOBER 29, 2000
It may not have the cachet of
Cinco de Mayo or Hannukha, but the Dias de los Muertes, the Mexican Day of
the Dead, certainly has caught fire here in the Bay Area as a sort of basic
entree during the week-long party that is the Bay Area's interpretation of
Halloween. The Exotic Erotic Ball came and went and its revelers are now on
to other lascivious enjoyments. Me and the Significant Other popped
on down to Oaktown's Fruitvale district where 10 blocks of Hispanic Harlem
were blocked off for the arts booths, food concessions, and rows upon rows
of the wildly decorated altars to ex-loved ones, ancestors, or just the general
concept that every single last person among the crowds of thousands on that
street that day would not see the year 2999. This was one of those street
festivals, but one with a unique flavor. The announcers on the four
stages we saw spoke Spanish and the mobile concession wagons sold churros
with bagged papaya or melon while a local band, called simply Los Tresos sang
"romantica" and a nine-foot high skeleton waltzed down the way with
attenuated arms supported on poles held by attendants.
On the Day of the Dead, what better music to play than the Blues, and Brenda Boykin led off with a deep, soulful moan to start an energetic show of R&B backed by her excellent band, Home Cookin.
The rain doesn't come often to the bay area, but when it does, it certainly reminds everyone not to mess with Mother Nature. After 10 months of dry, the skies opened up last week and it looks like things are heading for wet, wet wet.
After the rage of wind that had fire fighters scrambling along the ridge-line, it's a good thing. The local chapter of the California Ladies Against Foreign Species rejoiced with great abandon at the destruction of a grove of eucalyptus. This organization, which really does exist -- I am not making this up -- exists entirely for the purpose of eradicating any and all plant species in California which did not have a solid foothold within the boundaries of the State prior to 1849. "Today the hated eucalyptus, tomorrow the marigolds!" crowed Ms. Eulalia in triumph at a recent press conference. All vagrant flora beware.
Except for the palm, which appears to be the sole exception.
Tuesday is Halloween. Party hearty and don't let strangers bite you on the throat.
That'st the way it is on the Island. Have a scare-free week.
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OCTOBER 21, 2000
Only a few references to what happened at 5:05pm on October 17, 1989 appeared in the local rags. On that day, at that time, a colleague dived under a desk and shouted up at me, "What the hell ar you doing?!" Basically, I sat in my chair and watched through the vibrating iron bars of Building 80 at SFGH as billows of clouds filled the sky above the building directly across from us. Turned out it was the hospital laundry boilers venting steam from the emergency release valves. We didn't know what it was, but we knew something big had just happened, and it had nothing to do with the first game of the World Series being played a few miles away. We also did not know that in two minutes, about sixty people had just died and over three thousand injured. That night, as we picked our way home through the Mission, through intersections where the traffic lights were out and street lights dark, thousands of people huddled in masses around battery-driven TV sets and transistor radios to get the basic news. To the north we could see plumes of dense smoke coming from the Marina District.
The years have passed, but along the wide strip that used to be the Cypress freeway, they finally have gotten around to setting up a little park as a memorial to that very real and tragic disaster.
Down on the Island, another memorial to loss of life stands on Pier 3 with the USS Hornet forming the backdrop. The traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall has come to the former Navy base here for a week. The Installation service took place Saturday and a wreath laying will take place on the 24th. By then the brisk winds that have been knocking down trees and scattering the flowers left by relatives along the base of the Wall should have slackened off.
In yet another loss, the ITD department at Alameda County mourned the passing of Debra Dickerson at services held Wednesday. She had passed away the preceding week from Lymphoma. Debra was a delightfully intelligent and warm human being who came from a human services background to provide a capable bulwark to the IT department. She was not only technically savvy, but literate and cultured -- our last conversation was about certain popular movies and how they reflected parts of American culture. She was born in 1957 and will be remembered as one whose eyes were always clear and bright beneath her African fez.
By now, Albertsnobs must be chortling over the increased volumne of business as Safeway grinds into its second week of strike activity at the Tracy distribution center. Thirty people have been injured in the increasingly acrimonious and violent dispute over work quotas.
At 3 am the worlds largest container cranes will pass within a few yards of the Island on their way to final berth at Oaktown port across the water. The cranes are so huge that the port engineer physically measured the clearance using an old-fashioned tape measure -- he does not trust electronics -- and found only 22 inches to spare beneath the Bay Bridge. Even so, the cranes will still need to wait until low tide before being brought through, and the transport ship needs to take on ballast until its deck is only two feet above the water. Better hope it does not get choppy out there boys, or the Monday commute is gonna be a hella mess.
Last time a huge container crane came through, it banged up against the Golden Gate, causing over a hundred thousand dollars in damage. Oops.
The seasons are changing; now begins the Season everyone waits for and this Season kicks off with a big guns line-up at the Fillmo', starting with Ratdog, followed on successive weekends by Tower of Power, Hootied and the Whatever, Joan Baez and other luminaries. The SF Jazz fest has begun already, and features Etta James with Lou Rawls, ending on 11/4 with Robert Cray who is no puny cap shooter himself.
Furthermore we have on the menu for your delectation and amusement, the Exotic Erotic Ball, which one of Babylon's last claims to sinful pleasure and abandonment. Besides the charm of watching nekkid ladies gettin it on, one has the double happiness of knowing proceeds go to charity. So there Mr. and Mrs. Bluehair.
Finally, imagine if you were in a position to invite anyone you chose -- anyone at all -- to perform in an exclusive concert benefit, and the performers could not say no. Neil Young is in that position and the annual Bridge School Benefit concert hosted by the man himself is once again almost upon us. These concert programs typically read like a Who's Who of the Best and Brightest in music, so tickets tend not to last more than a few minutes after going on sale.
Meanwhile, back on the Island, some scamp has been running around stealing SUVS, moving them a block, then running off after removing the tires and rims. Clearly the Island chapter of the East Bay Division of the Bay Area Anti-SUV Proliferation Brigade has been at work again. This clearly beats out the Mission's sorta wimpy keying of paint jobs and such and we suspect inter-departmental rivaly is going on here. May the best Leftist Terror Organization win.
In the Really Uncool department some scalawag robbed a Round Table Pizza recently, forcing the clerk to lie on the floor while the till was rifled. While worse could happen, we think this marks yet another decline in the quality of Island criminals. Robbing a pizza clerk -- now that's pretty damn cheap.
That paunchy feller in the Director's chair during the filming at Lee's Auto was not the Director, but the Owner and Proprietor. Cisco has commissioned a film project on internet usage and much of the Island has been used as backdrop. One item we should mention: the "mechanic" was seen smearing grease on his arm to make it look like he has been working hard. Hey, whaddabout my valve job!
We took a direct hit from one of those ads for the Mercury/Contra Costa Times which mentions that "A paper reflects the community it serves." Hey, over at the Chron/Ex they have been backstabbing, backbiting, and backpedaling like crazy since the sale of the Exasperator. The staff considers itself all underemployed, underpaid, threatened by change, no matter how slight, well-deserving simply by virtue of tenure, and each works avidly to oust his or her neighbor while scrabbling desperately with lies and tricks to hold their own respective territory. And this reflects the community those papers serve?
Give me a moment while I consider revising the punctuation of that last grammatical unit.
Speaking of community in Babylon, four more major dance troupes have been given the Notice to Vacate, bringing the total to about eight of the most influential dance groups now searching for a place to perform and/or practice. Since over 5000 musicians have been evicted from the Downtown Rehearsal, there soon may not be any community left.
Upcoming: ghouls, ghosts, vampires and nymphomaniacs.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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OCTOBER 15, 2000
The day after a full moon and only the usual suspects acted crazy. It was a week of in-betweens, except you may have missed the 39th annual Wrist-Wrestling Championship on the 14th in Petaluma. Petaluma, if you must ask, is the capitol of wrist wrestling and of chicken production. There isn't much else up there, but what they do, they do well. The Beatles are known to have paid a visit to the Championships, where sturdy-armed gents and gals come to do battle among the phalanges.
It all happened in Petaluma, and by now, it is all over except for the "Rocky" music.
Meanwhile there is the usual complaints about the bad housing market. To exist only until the next shaker. And we are days away from the anniversary of the last moderately vile shake, which we will discuss in detail next week.
That's how it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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OCTOBER 8, 2000
By now you are all done making yontif and should be winding up things like the good penetentials you are. The High Holy Days come to an end with the Day of Atonement and we can all go back to eating and drinking and ... whatever pleases.
In the world of snorts spews, or sorts screws or shorts spews or, oh, whatever, there is much rejoicing in post-Olympics Mudville tonight. As the time buzzer went off over Pac Bell park across the water a mighty wave of voice roaring over the Island after a heartbreaker victory of the Raiders over the 49ers on the griddle-iron today. You could hear them whooping it up all the way across the water to City Hall where Jerry Brown never sleeps.
Amongst the pugilistic arts, further rejoycing was heard as the East Bay San Shou team, coached by former world champion martial artist Brent Hamby, returned with two weight-class national champions and four additional medals. Standings appear below:
Caldwell GOLD MEDAL
Rodrigo Zagal GOLD MEDAL
Russ Middleton SILVER MEDAL
Brian Madigan SILVER MEDAL
Nima Nouri BRONZE MEDAL
Special congrats to Adam Caldwell who successfully defended the honor of the East Bay in taking the National San Shou Championship in San Diego in the Open Weight Class. The bouts were televised on ESPN. Oss!
San Shou, a full-contact sport combining hand and foot striking as well
as greco-roman style throws, is gaining in popularity since the advent of
the more violent Brazilian vale tudo where fighting continues once
contestants hit the ground. As in boxing and Thai kickboxing, points
are earned for successful attacks. Additional information is obtainable
at http://www.sanshou.com and
More sadly, the Yanks done stomped on the heart of the fledgling A's to ruin any chance of entering the World Serious. In Brooklyn, the Giants met the same fate on the same day. Bummer, dude.
The Wammies, the annual Bay Area music awards took place this weekend in SF. No word yet on who took what. The field was heavy with what used to be called "post-punk alternative" with some jazz and latin thrown in.
Dana Hubbard and Moris Tepper played in different venues in the East Bay last week. Tepper did the Stork Club in its new venue on T'graph. Guitarist Extraordinaire Chris Whitely played the City on an active Thursday.
The display windows for Paganos has been changed to match the festive season. Where the rather spartan concrete bench once stood with two wineglasses and a rose, now perches an evil hunchback dwarf-monk, a scythe-bearing figure of Death, beaucoups spiderwebs, and more rats, spiders, ghouls, bats and skeletons than you could shake your sheet at. The neighboring window displays feature seething buckets, severed limbs, jars of grinning skulls, glowing jack-o-lanterns mouthing huge spiders and more rats of the demonic variety. As you enter the store, Going to pickup some penny nails never was this fun.
Our Roving Investigator glommed onto a rich prize in the form of a Form snatched from the circular files of Bob's Ford and Chevrolet located in the middle of Island Auto Row. The form has the Official letterhead of the American Car Conglomerate, which, as all of us know, rules the Big Three US manufacturers with an iron fist. The sheet purports to be an Application for Permission to Purchase an SUV and it appears to be highly genuine as it was found in a folder marked TOP SECRET FOR EYES ONLY in big red letters. Besides the usual personal identification spaces, the form presents twenty questions, starting with the rousing "Do you beat your wife? If so, how often?" and including such gems among the financial/insurance data as
Do you plan on exceeding the speedlimit by 25 / 35 / 45 / 55 miles-per-hour? If so, how often? (Circle the correct response)
Do you kick your dog?
What is your standard following distance at a presumed 55 MPH? 10 feet / five feet / two feet / six inches / I never follow anybody (circle the correct response)
When solicited by the Impoverished, you give them a) A long lecture on morality b) spit in the eye c) kick in the balls d) raucous laughter of the smugly self-satisfied e) all of the above.
At the bottom of the form are instructions to the interviewer to congratulate the interviewee and welcome them as automatic passing candidates for SUV ownership if two or more questions have been answered correctly.
This explains a lot.
Wednesday things got a little hotter than usual downtown Oaktown as the former State Building, vacant since the Loma Prieta earthquake (whose anniversary we are soon to remember in a week) caught fire and blew out windows going up three floors in the seven story building. Fire was contained with no injuries, but they are gonna really have a time trying to rent out the place now. Long an eyesore encapsulating the worst of the 70's modernist archetectural style with ugly agglutinations of no style in particular and surrounded entirely by a chain-link fence, the building certainly had its share of aesthetic enemies. At the moment, no one is raising their hand to admit responsibility.
Fleet Week in the City -- which gave up its port facilities to Oaktown something like half a century ago -- capped with displays by the Blue Angels over the sparkling Bay. Trees are a-twitter with migrating flocks, the Oaks are turning golden and the nights are turning cooler. Must be that time of year.
The other day we foolishly decided to try to keep pace with traffic on 580 going east, but round about 85 mph, the old beater just could not keep up and so we moved on over to the 65 lane on the middle right to watch taillights disappearing over the horizon. Soon as we could finish our business we hustled on back to the relatively sane limits of the Island and Officer O'Madhaun's bailiwick. Lately there are signs we are heading for another meeting of the Non Compos Mentis sub-chapter of the Organization for Directionally Challenged and Traffic Befuddled. This space will post warnings as the date for the convention approaches.
That's how it is on the Island this Fall. Have a great week.
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OCTOBER 1, 2000
By now the stragglers have all straggled across the finish line in the Annual Bridge to Bridge Run and the revelers down in Park Presidio have gathered up their picnic baskets and lotions and booze in the fog after the post-race party. In a major elections year with the Olympics under way Down Under, such things have settled to the back burner of the papers. The SF Bleakly has reappeared in the kiosks and the Bay Curmudgeon has issued its recommendations and endorsements for those too weak of mind to make up their own minds and too irritated with the Comical/Exasperator's flagrant toadyism . With the merger of the big dailies, which never were all that different from each other anyway, we now have a single source of daily non-news which can be disregarded, leaving open the specter (to the City dwellers) of the lowly and highly provincial SJ Mercury covering the local beat in direct competition with the equally as provincial Comical.
We took a trip to Silly-cone Valley to check out the 'burbs and see how the other half lives. There, the organ of choice is the Palo Alto Daily Blues. Before you respond with a knee-jerk, "oh no, not another provincial daily!" let me say how refreshing it was to read decent movie and performance reviews that were uncolored by (provincial) biases and axes to grind. Still, looking at the real estate pages, one begins to wonder what planet these people are from. "Charming 3 bedroom ranch-style house on 'spacious' 1/4 acre lot with subdivision potential" going for $899,000.
And that was the cheapest lot on the page. Got about 13 mil to drop on a modest 4 bedroom house? Well, Atherton is your town. Walking distance to schools, too. You have to wonder about the minds of some people considering 1/4 acre a space with "subdivision potential". Used to be that the rich insulated themselves with acres by the hundreds, which kept the population density down.
Meanwhile, we got things beginning to warm up during this Indian Summer. Morris Tepper, patron of the wierd and co-musician with such notables as Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits, returns to life on October 5th at the Stork Club. One of the few who can rock out with tuba and washboard, his show is a definite Do Not Miss.
The time of ghoulish screams, splashing blood, terrifying violence and frightening smells is at hand and no, we are not talking about driving through Chinatown, although the double-parking is always an exercise in scary absurdity. The storefront windows at Paganos feature talking skulls, witches, spider-infested jack-o-lanterns and dancing ghosts. It's the Bay area's best loved holiday.
And speaking of holidays,
If I eat another candy-apple I will die of caramel poisoning.
In a sort of contrapuntal harmony, the Mysterious House on Chestnut, which maintained a serious silence for two weeks, now displays the sign
This, we take to be a mark of optimism.
That's the way it is on the Island. May your good deeds be recorded in the Book and have a great week.
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SEPTEMBER 23, 2000
The last vibrato chords have wafted over the crowd at Fort Mason and the annual Babylon Blues Festival came to a close under suddenly clear, blue skies and mildly chilly breeze. The Blues, however, never end, as Birdlegg continues the jams over here on the warmer side of the Bay at Everett and Jones and Daniel Castro rocks the house at Eli's.
Rumor has it the Grandmothers, a band of players who formerly worked with the incomparable Frank Zappa, will confuse and delight the masses at the Paradise Lounge in late October. Are you ready for the statistical densities of the "Black Page"?
Our hot weather spike appears to have mercifully ended and we are back to the delightful cool and clammy weather which brought everyone here.
It's been three weeks in a row now, and enough is enough. First, we went down to the corner to get our usual dose of Savage Love, and found the kiosk bare as the bottom on a Lusty Lady dancer. Another week went by and the kiosk remained empty, so to fulfill our jones for "Dog Bites" we hopped on down to City Center to find all the kiosks empty there as well. Finally, in the third week, pining for the wit of Laurel Wellman and Dan Savage, we hunted through the main venues of three East Bay cities, finding not a single issue in sight up in Berzerkeley, in Oaktown or on the Island. Now for a paper with an estimated circulation of a quarter million copies, we find this odd. To say the least.
So we did what dot commers do in this day and age and we went online to find our dear Laurel and Dan writing trenchant prose as usual. So the paper is still being published, just not distributed? What gives? Is Bruce Brughmann, head of the rival SF Bay Curmudgeon sneaking about with thugs in white panel trucks, swiping the print as soon as it gets delivered? Now we know that when Bruce shouts "Read my paper, dammit!" he also means, don't read anyone elses paper either.
Are we going to witness the forced merger of the two leading independent weeklies along the lines of the recent merger of the SF Exasperator and the SF Comical? If so, then we have questions to address to Dan Savage concerning the role he sees for himself in the new organization. Who does he want to sit next to? Who does he not want to sit next to? Will Isadore Altman refuse to sit next to his lovers? Does he feel he covers "his beat" adequately? Does he expect to win the Pulitzer for covering the Sex Advice beat so brilliantly? Inquiring minds want to know.
Are you good people? If so, then Beyt Tikkun has a seat for you. Next week commences the High Holy Days, starting with Rosh Hashanah and barrelling through to Yom Kippur. No wonder the challah has disappeared off all of the shelves..
Meanwhile work on the Island Tunnel continues most evenings. Coming back from Oaktown from work the other night after nine we had to skirt the bayfront warehouses to get to the launching point near 23rd. This we did on our rusty bicycle, nicknamed "Hapless". While puffing and pedaling along what should we see but one of those evicted musicians, strolling along the chainlink of the concrete refinery with a positively huge acoustic guitar of the "dreadnought" variety. And there he was, lit only by the passing car headlights, pounding away at his rhythms. Which just goes to show you.
In the Heart of Darkness, there is wondrous music to be found.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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SEPTEMBER 17, 2000
It was a week of conversing with the Old Guys. No, not the latest punkers rocking out gilman street, but real old guys. Chatted with a distinguished gent, complete with white whiskers and fisherman's cap who had been born on the Island in the house his father built, essentially, out of an old shack purchased for $1,500. As the family grew, adding some nine more members, the father added another room to the house, working with his own hands. The Old Guy went over to the house in which he had been born and raised -- it's on Santa Clara Avenue -- and noticed a For Sale sign out front. Knocked on the door and asked what it was going for. Answer: house that had initially cost $1,500 in memory now going for $350,000 with a waiting list of buyers.
The Old Guy now lives in Oaktown and "hates every minute of it." But it is cheaper. For now.
On the same subject, drove by the newly upholstered house on the corner of Santa Clara and Walnut to see a for rent sign with prices clearly marked. We watched the workers come in and lift the entire house on jacks some six months ago to begin raising the ceiling of the ground floor and redo the foundations. We were all quite impressed by the enterprise and imagined the family moving back in with a great deal of fanfare on completion. Instead, what had been a two bedroom cottage had been subdivided inside, with seperate electrical meters for two apartments. The two bedroom is going for $1500 a month and the 3 bedroom -- which has to be miniscule -- is going for $2100 a month.
And here is the secret and clue to why the Bay area rental market has gone absolutely nuts. In the past, renting a house or a portion of a house was simply a means of helping to defray the cost of a mortgage while the value of the land increased over time, or bolster the social security check each month, or cover costs on a base investment that had been acquired only to provide equity for the real money-maker business. It has come to pass that people can make so much money off of small unit rentals that the rent becomes the Big Kahuna, the main raison d'etre for leasing out a space.in the Bay Area. It is NOT true that increasing emigrant population has driven up demand, as any casual look at the census figures will reveal. What has happened is that people are being evicted right and left for any slim excuse and units are being taken off the market in large numbers for "retrofitting" so as to charge even higher, more exhorbitant rents, putting major pressure on those units left remaining at "reasonable" prices. At any given time you have large numbers of people -- I mean in the thousands -- who have lived here, who already live here, and who continue to live here, but are forced to add themselves to the lessee search pool.
Proof in the numbers lies in capitalism's own logic. If demand increases, then supply will increase to meet the demand. This has not happened and is not happening. All major new construction is for business-district structures. Statewide home-building is in a major slump and it does not appear than anyone is building apartments. Even E'ville, that bastion of hell-for-leather construction worker's wet dream has not started any new apartment complexes of any size for at least two years.
But hey, if you got it, you can always furnish it with Ikea.
Meanwhile, the good citizens of Sunnyvale and Milpitas and San Jose voted to block the BART extension and add, instead, traffic inhibitors in private neighborhoods. Didn't this kind of traffic situation with winding, narrow, twisted streets and low-level access lead to, um, an incendiary problem a few years ago?
Oh well. Long shall the Blinkered triumph.
More on a positive note was our chat with Mike Ramsey, who manages a building on St. Charles Street. Mike, member of the Coast Guard and Babylon's PD, handles his spare time by building ships. That's right, ships. Sunday we checked out his replica of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, some five feet in length and six months in the making. Beautifully detailed down to the planes and life rafts, the entire ship is made of cardboard, although you would not know to see it. Similar modals of this quality have commanded high prices, and an experienced appraiser present valued this one held within its case at between $1800 and $2000. Mike has been making scale replicas of merchant and fighting ships for some 15 years and some of his ships are proudly put on display, notably on board US Coast Guard vessels.
The IPD foiled a would-be robbery recently, when alerted by an informant, they put surveillance on a trio that had already backed off the planned heist three times. Each time the three had parked the car to watch a store clerk bring in the day's take for deposit downtown, and each time the three called if off only to return with plan modifications. At first, they planned to just grab the money and run. Then, they brought a can of mace with which to disable the clerk. Finding this one too fraught with potential back outcomes, one of the three stole a handgun and it was with this they planned to rob the unsuspecting man. Perhaps the third time they planned to use a bazooka -- who knows -- but the police finally tired of watching these losers and hauled them in.
In the meantime, the felonious watermelon thrower continues his dastardly work of smashing windshields. Hope somebody gives him a tomato-nose.
The Babylon blues festival is coming up next weekend. If today's 100+ degree heat is any indication, better bring sunscreen.
And Oct 1, The Third Annual Berkeley Poetry Festival takes place, bigger and better than before. Readings will be broadcast live on Channel 25. Wonder if the Cafe Barbarians will hold their tongues in check sufficient for prime time. To acquire Fame or to twit the Boo-boo-geoisie -- oh, the anguish!
In honor of Poetry and those Roadhouse entertainment circuses called Poetry Slams, we quote these poetry slam jewels gathered from a recent World Heavy-weight Full Contact Poetry Slam in Babylon.
i detest salmon eyes and
Egrets of Disdain
spiders crawl on their visages
piss and other (predictable) bodily fluids
choking on heroin needle-tracks so i wear
combat boots over pantyhose whadderyou lookin at?
swirling condoms cigarette butts
beer swirling flat
assaulting the sensibilities
concrete wires brown goo and yucky stuff
nonsensical poodles of dispair
i almost committed suicide last week --
boy aint life really neat
You might say the Bay Area is home to loads of talent and great Genius.
Then, again, maybe not.
Once again, the victor over this year's Island Poetry Slam was the ground squirrel who lives in the Oak at the end of Eighth Street. His winning piece has been translated into nine languages and here is the English version, which lacks the melodious quality of the original, but nevertheless:
in spite of cats, warm sun and you
i dig nuts
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a poetic week.
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SEPTEMBER 10, 2000
We had an adventurous chili-roasting party on the Island last weekend. There was beer and music and joyful jumping up and down from three in the afternoon until late. No poodle-tossing. Now a chili-roast is a special southwestern thing when the famous New Mexican chilis become available for about two weeks in August. We got about 12 pounds of the little devils and set 'em on the barbie. Now when you got 12 pounds of chilis you don't want to eat them all right away -- not if you value your life and your digestive tract. People need to char the outside so the skin pulls away and the fresh meat can be frozen for use in tamales, rellenos, sauces and all kinds of good stuff. My Significant Other popped a few and immediately got high as a kite, for a hot chili rush is the best natural high in the world.
Just make sure you got lots of beer to cool em off.
Latest craze on the Island are those mini-self propelled scooters, which the kids have been darting around on. Into traffic, each other and the ground. The Island Emergency Room has seen some volumne intake due to these speedy low-riders, so y'all get some good helmets and elbow pads, ya hear!
Are we experiencing a new wave of low-rent behavior or what? Officer O'Madhaun is scratching his head over a stabbing on Santa Clara Ave. A feller was out having a smoke in front of his apartment when an "emotionally distraught" gent ran up to him and stabbed him several times. The two did not know one another and never had any interaction previously, as far as we know. The victim is doing fine at the Island Hospital and the perp is doin time in Oaktown jail.
Pagano's Hardware has a new storefront scene, this one a bit tamer and, well, a lot more boring than the previous, which featured an old man asleep in his easy chair before a TV set while hoards of mice scampered all around him, stealing the vittles. The new scene is of a people-less park bench with roman statuary. Whoever comes up with these scenes deserves an award.
Latest from the Wierd House on the Corner, a succession of signs, beginning with
and proceeding to
in bright yellow. It went through a variety of permutations during the week on the side of the old house until he ended with
In Fall, a young man's thoughts turn to poster-making.
Gentrification strikes the Island: the Council recently approved plans to renew the Northside neighborhood, long a strip of decrepit warehouses and crack pads. Soon we, too, will endure the sight of overbearing yuppies crusing in their bloated SUV's. Come to think of it, we already do, so what's the diff'? Oh well, the next Big Shaker or serious drought will knock a few of them loose and they'll all scurry back to Locust Valley or wherever they come from. Then we'll have only ourselves to blame again.
On the lighter side, Olympics fever has taken hold in this time of seasonal change. The Island is rife with Olympic hopefuls aiming for one last shot at the tryouts. Notable, we have Blubbers McFarley, who, weighing in at 320 pounds (and gaining) will give his best shot at the pole vault competition as well as the honorific as the World's Largest Athlete. The sight of this gentleman sailing over the vault at world record height shall be thrilling to say the least. Gina Sangfroid, another Olympian not to be missed in tights, has been training for the triathalon by dining exclusively on red herring on zwieback and Red Tail Ale. Gina works on the Island as a repo girl for Good Chevrolet, so we know this lady is fast. As well as quite thin. In the new sport of Extreme Bungie Jump on Motorized Skateboard with Luge, Willy Spatz aims to make his mark; if he survives basic training. Not many do. Lastly, but not, it must be emphasized, least, is Shorty McDowell, pugilist extraordinaire, who plans to waltz away with the heavyweight title, notwithstanding his given stats of 4-2 and 89 pounds. Shorty is the Great grandson of Fred Schultz, who made a name for himself as the official leader of the munchkins in the classic Wizard of Oz. There remains a block of houses on the Island still, which were built to specs by actors who portrayed Dorothy's friends in that famous movie and who later settled here. They all came from Germany and spoke not a word of English, learning the now famous songs through phonetics teachers.
Shorty's record is 30-0-1, which makes you wonder. Maybe the guy has a chance.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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SEPTEMBER 2, 2000
Anywhere they play good Blues, there you'll find the best people. And the best people were rocking out the blues this weekend down in old town Oaktown. The annual Oaktown Blues festival took place, as usual, with not an ad on radio, TV or newspaper and still they came in droves. People who love the blues just know.
This year, the fest is complemented by various artisans who have fled the high rent prices in Babylon, giving blues 2000 the name "Blues and Art on the Bay". Saturday kicked off with the Oakland Jaz Choir and JJ Malone, but Sunday brought out the big guns in the Elmer Lee Thomas Revue, Roy Tyler and Sonny Rhodes. Yes, THE Sonny Rhodes. On the Broadway stage Ms. Dee followed by Freddie Hughes blasted what remained of the rainy weather clean out of the sky, turning the day into delightfully warm and sunny.
We got there in the middle of Ms. Dee's set on the Broadway stage. Ms. Dee and her backup band of young musicians blew the covers off of "Mustang Sally", sequeing midway through into "Low Rider", before returning to the original for a whalloping finish. She did a soft ballad, resplendent in fuschia dustcoat and leopard skin hat, before taking ownership over a version of the old blues "Take me to the River". Starting with a crunching rock beat, moving through a Jimi Hendrix styled instrumental with overdrive set on nine before rocking the crowd with a gospel-blues shouting, stomping, eaves-rattling vocal, Ms. Dee made you forget the Talking Heads ever existed.
Fred Hughes and his band took over at two PM, when the sublime Chris Burns returns on keyboards to infuse the sound with his Dr. John riffs and boogies. On lead guitar, Steve Gannon provided his accomplished and distinctive Eric Clapton meets Steve Vai and Trent Reznor virtuosity. Steve has played with John Lee Hooker and other Greats, so it was no surprise to see him backing Fred Hughes, who first established his rep in 1962 with the Soul Machine. Mr. Hughes, riding high on a CD due out on a major label in November began with a solid bluesy "Last 2 dollars" before reprising his 1968 hit "Send My Baby Back". Chris Burns returned to provide solid piano lead and backing. Also joining on stage was Vinnie Jones on sax. After a nice rock'n soul "Long Time Coming", the crowd enjoyed another rocking version of "Take me to the River". When Hughes did "Stand By Me", the pit, the side aisles and the whole back area was filled with people drawn to the sound.
The fun continues on Labor Day tomorrow.
Meanwhile, on the Island, the sign that has appeared on the Sign at the Mysterious House on the Corner is:
Now this might mean something.
The Significant Other and I checked out Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog" on video over the weekend. Jarmusch has always excelled in portraying the grittier side of life with its mixture of natural non sequiturs, tragi-comic absurdities and blood-stained harshness. In this movie, as in "Down by Law", phrases from certain books, snatches of music, and specific images stud the strands of the lives of different characters as they weave together, intersect briefly and part only to meet again. Forest Whittaker plays a mafia hitman who communicates with his employer only by carrier pigeon and who lives out passages from the ancient book of the Hagakure: Way of the Samurai. We revisit Jarmusch's favorite haunts in and around Jersey City as the camera paints tone poems composed of neon-lit streets, homeboys composing rap on park benches, half-lit back alleyways and flights of birds across industrial landscapes. Like any of the other Jarmusch movies, the point is less about telling a story with a linear narrative about characters into which we can project ourselves somehow than it is about presenting images arranged in patterns that suggest still other patterns that persist off camera, much as a jazz musician presents his own phrases in a good performance. It is not surprising that jazz musicians have appeared as actors in Jarmusch's previous four films. "Ghost Dog", if it is about anything, is about the passage of generations and the coming to term of outmoded traditions and habits in the presence of upcoming generations. Joe Bob says, "check it out."
So another labor day comes to a close after all the festivals and hoopla have closed up shop. SF A La Carte took place in Babylon, where there was music and poodle-tossing and all sorts of joyful jumping up and down. Here on the Island, the local youth extend themselves to such intellectual pursuits as melon felony. They still have not caught the feller, or fellers, who have been tossing watermelons at automobiles, but if it involves motor vehical infractions, you can rest assured that Officer O'Madhaun is on the case and no hole is deep enough to hide.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great short week.
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AUGUST 27, 2000
We hopped on over to Babylon to check out the latest hormone-driven craze among today's youth: Thai kickboxing. The "smoker" took place at Fairtex gym, which nestles south of Market street in the warren of alleys that criss-cross the endangered warehouses, hole-in-the-wall businesses and rehab shelters soon to be steamrolled by the juggernaut of construction that is overwhelming the city. Most city downtowns are windswept empty on Saturday, but the traffic snaked in stop-and-go past the construction cranes and superhighrise steel lattice work.
At Fairtex, however, the primeval and atavistic reigned supreme. There were 12 bouts that day, each lasting three rounds of three minutes each, during which the contestants wailed on one another with knees, legs, fists and whatever else came to mind. All this to the sound of raucous Thai music, sounding like a combination of Indian snake-charmer pipes and kletzmer with drums, piped over the PA system. There was a lot of bowing with the palms pressed together and general good sportsmanship, notwithstanding a few bloody noses and such. The contestants would typically hug one another after smacking the hell out of each other and there was lots of bon hommie. A good time was had by all, except the feller who got his nose broken -- he probably did not enjoy that too much.
On other fronts in Babylon, the evicted dance troupes are holding last gasp performances before the City ends its long period of dominance as a premier site for experimental and developmental dance in the West. A group of musicians is fighting the mass eviction of the Downtown Rehearsal space by enlisting investors interested in keeping live music in Babylon. With median rents popping over 1000/month for one-bedrooms, and 2000/month becoming quite common, the end may be in sight, however.
With Labor Day coming up, the Kfoggers are touting the annual eatndance thing in Golden Gate Park where Los Lobos will be headlining next weekend. End of September the SF Blues festival returns to Fort Mason with a notably thinner line-up -- in terms of Big Guns -- than in previous years, but especially worth going to see and hear will be Keb Mo and Alvin Youngblood Hart, both masters of Old School acoustic blues.
Here in the East Bay, rumor has it Tracy Chapman tore the house down at the Greek Theatre on Friday night. The Other Ones, basically Grateful Dead without Jerry, did the Shoreline in company of Bruce Hornsby.
Me and the Significant Other had a chili-roasting party out on the Deck of Pam, a marvelous outcropping among the apartments above the Grand Lake Theatre there among Pam's eight cats (the eldest died two weeks ago). Chili roasting, we discovered, is not something you do by the book, but by feel. As true chili-heads will know, New Mexico's Hatch chilies become available for only a few weeks each year; the chilies must have their skins charred a bit so that they can be pulled from the fresh chili meat and then stored for use in chili stews, salsas and the Significant Other's special EggandChili cheese soufflé. Don't laugh; its to die for. And what better excuse to drink more beer? There among the aroma of roasting chilies we discussed driving to Los Angeles and the deplorable decline of the City of Fremont, where people regularly get scalped in the alleyways and poodles run wild endangering the kids and the ars publicum.
It appears that a gentleman wandered into a Fremont drug deal gone awry and some disgruntled speed freak tried to give the man a mohawk in the old fashioned way -- unfortunately the man was nearly bald even before the incident. If the next passerby had not been a certified EMT, the man would have died there in that alley.
Here on the Island we have our share of troubles, but there is something to be said for having dull, unimaginative criminals. Friday night the air was filled with the sirens of Officer O'Madhaun chasing some fool around trying to escape. Imagine that: stealing a car on an island, of all places, and then trying to outrun the police by driving in circles. Its enough to make you want to send the kid back to Fagan for additional crime training.
Its deplorable how the quality of crime has declined. Nobody robs filthy rich heiresses of their diamond necklaces or palms the famous Star Sapphire of India anymore. Nowadays its all lowbrow smash the window and swipe the cash kind of stuff, or easy car theft. No crime cred is required anymore and now any idiot can swipe a handful of electronic parts and call himself successful. As for certification, forget it. Standards have lapsed with the quality of the California Middle school. We have become a nation of small-time Napoleons.
On the Island, where our jailers were too misbehaved to run a jail properly, resulting in the dismantling of the facility, there is scant hope for improvement. When the city ran a jail, the wardens routinely took advantage -- to put it delicately -- of the inmates and there was non-stop partying from dawn to dusk in the cells. This led to a decline in the moral fiber of the correctional officers at large. Many took to drink and some even took to poodles, which provoked a scandal when it came out. The drinking, the populace could handle, but the poodle abuse led directly to shutting down the jail for good and the correctional officers found other work, such as day care and Boy Scouts where certain perversions are accepted as part of the package.
Anyrate, it is with sadness that we bid adieu to one of our favorite whipping girls, Gloria -- editor of the Island Journal -- who meets her last deadline September 1st before moving with the family to Lake County. It is a custom in the Bay Area -- known only to VERY long term residents and born-here's to excoriate traitors and such as a measure of affection and as a way of venting over seeing one good one go while so many a------s come to stay. Hence it is that if you really care, drive by the old residence and shout " G--d d----d m-------g B----h!"
Just make sure the kids are not also listening.
More on this "quaint" custom some other time. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NEXT WEEK (September 2000)
AUGUST 20, 2000
The latest sign at the House on Lafayette stares blankly, cryptically and starkly in Cyrillic block letters, but says how we all feel these days:
It is now Sunday evening, seven days after the Russian submarine "The Kursk" foundered in 320 feet of Arctic water. An international assembly of divers and rescue ships, including Norway and Great Britain have been trying to rescue the 118 men who were aboard when US seismologists registered two blasts at 4.3 on the Richter scale. The flotilla of some 20 Russian ships was able to communicate with men still alive on board shortly after the disaster, but there has been no sign of life for a couple days.
On the Island, Officer O'Madhaun and the Thin Blue Line are a bit red-faced after someone found that about half of the free gun locks issued earlier in the year are defective and will not secure a firearm. If you got one, best check with the IPD about that at 748-4508.
We may have our troubles, but over in Babylon, where the vacancy rate is somewhere about .001%, over 2000 musicians have been issued eviction notices as the largest rehearsal space in the Bay Area has sold out to greed by a planned conversion to downtown condos. Once a funky old warehouse on the edge of things, the space has found itself engulfed by high-price development, and the lure of an 8 million dollar profit was too much for the original owners who sold to JMA in Cupertino. Yosemite studios has also begun issuing evictions to its tenants, which, together with the evictions of the four largest dance troupe studios now shelves Babylon firmly in artistic backwater territory. People have been looking out to the Valley and even Detroit for friendlier environments to hone their crafts.
Among the musicians evicted from Downtown Studios was Chris Isaak.
As we watch Babylon slip into the status of a second-rate cultural backwater, the City of Oakland proudly celebrated the opening of the new 74 million dollar science center up on Mountain Blvd. The site itself is spectacular, with vistas that extend out to Babylon's towers across the Bay, down to Fremont and up to Albany. Just as soon as the kids are back in school, me and the Significant Other are gonna boogie on up there.
We are pleased to see that the Vagabond Lovers have survived the band's name change after Mattel Corp. sued them over the moniker "Naked Barbies". Toymakers are not known for having any sense of humor.
Continuing a level of investigatory excellence worthy of the world famous Inspector Clouseau, the IPD have ruled a man's death "suspicious". The man was found shot in the neck by a .380 caliber bullet. His room-mate had died a month previously of a massive methampetamine overdose.
On a cheerier note, the Island's thugs have wised up -- a bit -- and are now actually stealing stuff of substantial value, the latest heists nabbing about 20k in two separate robberies as South Shore continues its bad luck with thieves.
Here, too, we have our election fever, or election indisposition to put it more accurately. One candidate has already been disqualified from running by reason of forged support signatures. Some say, the Island Council offers too low a position for a man with impressive credentials like that. Is the Governor's spot coming up any time soon?
As the sun sinks slowly in the west . . . oh forget it. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 13, 2000
The mysterious house on Lafayette has no words for us this week; instead, the Mad Genius has hung what appears to be a Jewish wedding tent from a tree next to the sign space and further draped the tree with garlands of tinsel.
The semi-annual meeting of the East Bay chapter of the International Association of the Directionally Challenged and Traffic Enfeebled begins with month-long preparations of the roadways and general populace at large. This is so that the citizenry can be ready for those sudden left turns from the right-hand turn lane, backups on the off-ramp, lane straddle and weave, driving 20 miles under and over the posted speed limits -- sometimes within ten minutes on the same roadway -- heedless turn signals that blink for miles and turns that provide no warning at top speed. Our most recent fave maneuver was a six-inch tailgating session at seventy miles per hour -- on the freeway decel lane to terminate in a right turn on a fourway without stopping or signalling or slowing down. The guy in front had to perform, shall we say, basic evasive actions. Well, sometimes you just have to get to a rest room REAL quick.
This year the Best Western on the edge of Oaktown's Chinatown is hosting the conference. Ample parking everywhere; just double-park anyplace.
Over at the mudflats, engineers and such capped the last reconstruction project associated with replacing the Cypress structure that was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The I80 connector to i580east / 880south finally got fixed up properly after 10 years of snafus and hiatus, transporting now 5,000 vehicles per hour instead of bottlenecking them from i80's five lanes to one narrow passage. This was reported in depth in the recent issue of the East Bay Excess. The same article also reported that the main sewage treatment vats for the east bay reside only 500 feet from the brand spanking new, tres chic Ikea furniture outlet. Don't forget the Lysol when you tote that danish couch back home, dude.
Meanwhile, on the Island, it's warming to election time and the Groundsquirrel Committee is busy digging up dirt on the opposing party. Madam Loup-Garou has re-established the Diddling Party and the Reform Party has been nosing about for support among the inhabitants of Villa Fairmont Psychiatric Hospital. Although anything can happen, except successful fundraisers at the Playboy Mansions, informed pollsters are betting on the success of the revived Papoon for President movement. His motto is "Not Insane."
On other subcommittees and such, the Committee to Rebuild the City Hall Bell Tower has been collecting money to reinstall the City Hall bell to its rightful abode. Some say the bell was removed after the 1906 earthquake wrecked the tower, but the insightful journalist will note that the tower was not fully demolished until 1924, about the time dancing was outlawed -- for the first time -- on the Island. More than a coincidence?
Here is the Hall as it was, circa 1888.
Continuing the chapter entitled "Our Criminals are Not Normal", someone assaulted a man on Melrose Avenue with a watermelon, effectively destroying both the front windshield and the rear window of his 1965 El Camino with a single toss. There are dangerous fruits out there.
The summer temps are back to normal 58-62, fog in the morning and sun by noon. There is jubilation in the air over the return of the abducted Vallejo girl to her family followed by the arrest of the a--hole who kidnapped her. Joy in Mudville at last.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 6, 2000
As you can see, it was hard to leave.
Me and the Significant Other [SO] dined at Asana off of Park Street on the Island among a packed house. Due to the ongoing Wine and Art festival, the establishement's resources strained to carry the load, but the staff performed admirably. Not a dish in sight came cold or too late. True, they ran out of the daily soup and failed to deliver on a dessert requiring some laborious and time-consuming preparation, but the service was excellent and the Mediterranean-style cuisine superb. I had the filet mignon with champignons in a burgundy sauce and the SO enjoyed the grilled Alaskan halibut draped with tomato-lentil. Our one complaint regarded the intermittent lighting, which, given that PGE offices stood next door, seemed a curious anomaly as we experienced the occasional brownout. The home-made rosemary bread was scrumptious and the house salad -- replete with Kalamata olive, feta cheese and a balsamic vinagrette to die for -- practically filled my SO. Asana on the Island is well worth checking out if your boat spring a leak and you blunder by accident into this area of the world.
This weekend, the 16th Wine and Art festival held forth with music at both ends and lots of joyful jumping about and booths selling tchotchkes and kitch. Fortified with a couple glasses of mellow Rosenblum Zin and St. Charles Cab the SO donned a posey round halo with yellow streamers and pogoed to the blues of the "Neptones". There was dancing and jollification and poodle-tossing and free bubble-blowers handed out to the crowd. The local bike shop ran a bicycle valet service and a rubber-tire trolley ran the length of the Island for those too inebriated to drive the mile or so home. Whoops and hollars were heard all down Lincoln throughout the day. Even Mayor Ralph was seen to perform a record 168 foot poodle toss in the late afternoon, after which he was seen trying to ring the still non-existant bell in the missing City Hall bell tower; perhaps a bit much of that rusty Zin.
The notice still stands: Anyone who knows of the missing City Hall Tower bell, Please contact Councilwoman Wilma with the relevant information as we really would like to have our bell tower back again before another earthquake happens. Thank you.
Meanwhile, two crime tendencies have been noticed recently on the Island: The perps smash a store window and rifle the cash register or the perps smash a car window and swipe the stereo.
Our criminals are not known for originality.
Meanwhile, traditional summer weather has returned: high fog with chilly days and chillier nights. Aint tradition grand? Meanwhile at the Mysterious House on Chestnut, messages have appeared, each so baffling and non sequiturish that we forgot the messages and have unfortunately lost the scraps on which we scribbled those words of portent. The latest was by memory:
Perhaps there is a yappy dog power-struggle afoot, or underfoot as the case may be, of which we have only the faintest inklings. Stay tuned for further developments.
That's the way it is on out intrigue-ridden and dog-paddled Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 1, 2000
No sooner do we blow back into town than who should we find we missed in our absence but our dear old chum Sonny Barger, who swung by his old Oakland haunts on a book-signing tour for his latest opus Hells Angel. More known for having founded the first chapter of the famous biker organization, and having done a good stretch in San Quentin for drug-related offenses, Sonny now has a book riding a respectable 15th on the NYT bestseller list. Reportedly, the original American Badass sets the record straight about the Angels. He also admits that he never liked Harleys because of their poor engine design, preferring Hondas and BMW's, but there is the matter of tradition to consider.
Meanwhile we bring some serious NEWS this time regarding the snowfall in the upper Sierra, which produces the water for all of Central and Southern California (some 40 million people): the snowpack is way way way down and unless we get some real humdinger weather this winter, we are all staring another drought in the face come next summer. No strangers to the vagaries of the seasons, LA water moguls have already begun pressuring several uphill reservoirs to double capacity regardless of what any environmentalist has to say.
Now for those folks who have never sat through a drought with cantankerous and frustrated newbie Californians, well, they are in for a real lesson in bad behaviour. There is nothing like the mood of a rich person who's paid top dollar for their house with a swimming pool and jacuzzi when water rationing goes into place. Talk about ruining the party; these people will become even more miserable human beings and they will be damn sure to make everyone else around them feel double worse. The last drought lasted 6 years and drove 150,000 families out of the state just because everyone's mood soured so bad.
For those who stay, just remember, "If its yellow, its mellow. If its brown, flush it down."
The North Beach jazz festival winds up August 6th, but there's to be some residuals of its passing as Charlie Hunter does Bimbos 365 on the 5th and Joshua Redman plays Yoshi's the 16th. The Shoreline and the Concord Pavilion trade top-notch shows 4th-5th as BB King kicks off at the Shoreline with a can't miss line-up of Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi and Tommy Castro. Sting will be at Concord before trading places with The King the following night. Mickey Hart hosts the Marin Music Festival on the 5th in a benefit for Seva. M'Shell Ndegeocello rocks out the Fillmore on the 3rd.
Berzerkely's Greek first hosts the wildly talented Tracy Chapman on the 25th, followed by Ben Harper on September 8th. Chapman has played "sideman" with a number of the greatest, including Peter Gabriel, and BB King, and has periodically popped into the Top 40 with intelligently written and well-crafted songs on her own merits.
Me and the Significant Other took the teen to see No Doubt do the Greek threatre. Warmups were the rappers Blackeye Peas and the very metal Lit. Sound troubles plagued the Peas -- who lost most of their vocals in audio mud -- as well as Lit -- who lost their lead guitar for three songs or so. The Blackeye Peas deserved a little better, as their version of rap encompasses a live horn section and strings as well as a real drummer. Their blend of vocals with music approached acappella at times and it was a shame to lose the most essential element of rap -- the message -- for most of their energetic set, which featured capoeira-styled breaking and popping. Lit is a darling of LIVE105 and brought its own alt-rock energy with the lead-singers acrobatic aerial spins and jump kicks.
No Doubt pleased the crowd of 9,000 teen girls and some 1000 boyfriends with their special brand of fluff-pop. To give them credit, Gwen Stefani's voice appears to have matured beyond the irritatingly cutsy nasal singing she used to inflict the airwaves with and their harmonies fronted by David Chapman on lead guitar were played tight and precise. The use of the very capable horn section could have been extended somewhat, as the appearance of trombone and horn came as a delightful treat amidst all of the usual guitar/bass/drum thing. The lyrics were mostly forgettable, dealing uniformly with teenish variations on "I used luv 'im, now I hate his guts", with a few fairly decent "riot grrl" rants tossed in. The memorable songs that had hit top-40 were sung almost exclusively by the crowd as Stefani, dressed in opaque hot-pink "harem trowsers" and gold bangles, pointed the mic out over the mosh pit. She is, no doubt, entirely a favorite with the seventeen-something set for good reason, as the band conducts a very energetic show devoid of the cock-rock pretensions and basic meaness that puts off so many would-be concert goers. As Stefani spun dervish-like with her arms out while proclaiming, "I'm a GIRL; Look at me!", thousands of screamers voiced their approval. While one sometimes longed for a llittle more edginess as exemplified by, say, PJ Harvey, No Doubt's ultimate message is joyous unification, as symbolized by the ethnically diverse crowd that showed up and by the encore which fielded all members of the previous warmup bands on stage. The SRO crowd cheered and sang enthusiastically in a warm spirit of harmony at the end, which exemplified the communal nature of Pop at its best. And that is not a bad thing at all.
That's the way it is coming down from the Mountains to the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 17, 2000
We are Getting ready for the Vacation, first in 2.5 years, so we are skipping work on the column this week except to include a gratuitious baby shot.
The guy's a real mensch already.
That's the way it is everywhere. Have a great month and see you wnen I get back.
JULY 9, 2000
If anyone didn't notice, the most awaited epic tome of the decade came out with a flourish of card-tricks and disappearing rabbits last week. Over at the Jack London Barnes and Ignoble Bookstore, buncha clerks ran around wearing pointy caps and sparkling robes. All in a days work. And if you want to know where the rabbit went, "go ask Alice; I think she'll know."
The Hayward-Russell City group is getting on the Blues bandwagon with a festival this weekend. Russell City, which no longer exists, produced a vibrant blues community at one time. In the blues vein, Little Milton plays Jimmies on the 9th. Milton, who hails from Mississippi, has refused to jump on the rock n' roll train for decades, remaining a die-hard purist for those who know. They don't come more genuine than Little Milton.
Don Henly, Ex-Eagle, continues the recent trend of remarkable come-backs with a post-Bastille Day celebration at Berkeley Community Theatre on the 18th.
A new weekly has been making the East Bay rounds to some significant success. The Urban View has bloomed from a committee-supervised project to a true independent paper of some substance and we welcome the quality it brings. In addition to the usual Calendar and interesting and lively articles, the paper now has Rob Brezsny doing his Real Astrology, so you no longer have any reason to grab one of the incumbants. Recent issues focussed on honest, non-partisan appraisals of Jerry Brown's mayorship and a very interesting piece on the history of graffitti in the Bay Area will special attention paid to specific personalities, including the now-famous artist Dream, who was tragically murdered recently downtown.
The 4th came and went with the annual Mayor's parade and fireworks finale. As the Island is somewhat cash-strapped, all of us went down to the shore or climbed trees to look at the neighboring cities do their pyro-antics. Best show was Oakland's by a mile, although Babylon's went on longer. Fremont fizzled as usual. Highlight was watching Mayor Ralph scurry along behind the horses with a shovel and a bag.
Is this a third occupation for Hizzoner?
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
July 4, 2000
Congrats to Adam and Russ who successfully defended the honor of the East Bay at Babylon's Fairtex Mau Tai smoker a week ago. Adam Caldwell won his fight with a TKO in the 2nd round against a formidable opponent weighing in with 10 pounds more of muscle. The handlers had to mop the floor after the ref stopped the fight a minute into the second round. That's what goes down when you poke your nose into places ya shouldna.
Russ won the ninth fight of his career on decision after overwhelming his opponent with continuous kicks and a solid takedown that destroyed the man's desire to continue.
In more pacific areas, we note in the calendar that the day after the 4th, the Starry Plough begins a riot grrl trend with Charming Hostess followed by the poppy Kirby Grips. That night, Jorma Kaukonen plays the Maritime Music Hall over in Babylon for those guitar enthusiasts out there. Mr. E's opens up with daughter Sheila E on the 7th in Mariner Square on the Island. Another treat for serious musicians appears when David Benoit comes over from France to play in Walnut Creek's Dean Lesher Center. Finally, we will have the pleasure of again hearing those indestructable Harley Davidsons of the the acoustic world, the Indigo Girls, rock out the Greek Theatre. The intimate Greek holds only 10,000 persons, so you better already have your tickets, cause the last time that pair came they pulled the SRO house to its feet by its ears for three solid standing ovations. If ya think the acoustic guitar is for sissy folkies, ya gotta nother thing coming, pal.
Meanwhile, the morning fog has been burning off by eleven, leaving crisp clear days -- just the thing for the various sparkle-bang shows going on around the bay. Over at the Mysterious House on Chestnut, our roving reporter described the following message had appeared on the Message Wall:
This says it all apparently.
It does seem the fellow has moved beyond straight Text to Multimedia. When he starts using kinetic sculpture, we will have to resort to arial photography.
To continue our Introduction to Island characters, we feature this week a rather hasty rendition of the authoress of Dog Bites, whom we note does not feature a byline photo as do so many of her targets -- er, we mean colleagues -- in journalism. Perhaps competing against the notable man-about-town Ken Garcia or the delightfully irrelevant Jon Carroll (for the moribund SF Exasperator), for these gentlemen exhude a certain K-9 appeal. Bassett hounds come to mind. We rather like Cintra Wilson's airbrushed hair-on-fire image, but Cintra writes for the SF Comical and Cintra can write, two notable differences.
Without ever actually having seen the lady, we had to employ a certain amount of imagination here. For the glasses, think rhinestone fifties-retro. Bag from Lacome. Shirt from Irene's Bowling Alley. We are still working on a proper image of her Current Intended, the world famous Revolutionist Nestor Makhno, President of the Mission Anti-Yuppie Proliferation Project, AKA Kevin Keating. Keating, you may recall was arrested under the Federal Anti-Terrorist Conspiracy Act, then released when the FBI started laughing at the SFPD for picking up a guy whose only crime had been plastering posters on freeway underpasses. And doing it entirely alone.
With unmitigated delight we discovered that the Island Chief of Police goes by the name of Buny Mathews. So, with an even more hasty effort we present the obvious image:
Keep in mind that this is Officer O'Madhaun's boss, and therefore is deserving of utmost respect. Anybody that can keep a lid on the idiots driving on this area's roadways deserves hella something.
At least the Island PD, for all its faults, doesn't go around arresting solitary individuals for conspiracy.
That's the way it is on the Island this festive Fourth. Have a great week.
June 25, 2000
The Mysterious House on the Corner has had two banners featured this week. From Monday to Wednesday passersby noted the following simple commemoration:
Later in the week we were treated to the less war-like and more inspirational:
Makes ya stop and think, now dont it?
The big news in the Bay Area is, if you really had to ask, Pride Weekend, complete with parades and poodle-tossing and all sorts of fol-de-rol, and if anyone was a drag, they were applauded. Once again the Dykes on Bikes were a big hit and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence handed out Official Pardons for a fee as in the days of yore. Over in Berzerkeley, the Infants and Toddlers Convention drew strollers and chunky people speaking long speeches in Social Science Speak, a language derived from Bureaucratese. The delightful sunny weather drew crowds out to Crab Cove on the Island to sport among the sand dunes with the ground squirrels and the ducks in view of Babylon's towers across the sparkling Bay.
We've been taken to task for not providing a sufficiently cheerful image of our Current Significant Other with all sorts of hints and allegations and gentle reminders, such as, "Do another picture you d---m a----s, or I'll break your f----g arms off."
Our gentle SO, who has hosted at various times the Butthole Surfers band and fans of the Ramones on her livingroom floor, deserves mo' better, so here we present Sharon Jubilating
Next week, we will present Sharon jumping up and down at a Bush concert.
The Solstice passed with little fanfare in the East Bay this year, perhaps more for reasons of nervous exhaustion than lack of observance. The moon was full, the time was right, but everybody was just too damn tired to party. There remains the joyous festivities this weekend in Babylon centered around Pride Week and the oddly chirpy sounds now made by the formerly depressed Eels, who did their thing at Maritime Hall on Saturday. We missed the show, but hear the chief songwriter still has some residue about his sister's suicide and his mom's cancer death, albeit he now vents with a sunny sound. Worth checking out.
We understand from Dog Bites that the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project is back in the thick of things with persons who may or may not be Nestor Makhno, allegedly Kevin Keating, going giddy with postering up and down the region in protest of condo-ization. Amid all this change, we wonder about the guy who used to inhabit the doorway on the corner of now fashionable 24th and Guerrero. He would take a turkey sandwich with dumb thanks and stare at the wrapper a long time, trying to figure out this windfall for 20 minutes or so. Did it every time. Always had the same layer of dirt on his hands and in his beard and wild hair. There was another fellow we called the "Red Man" for that is what he literally was: He had painted himself -- skin, hair, hat, clothes, and even his little suitcase -- shiny barn red. Cheerful fellow.
In those days Food Not Bombs would feed the homeless lunch over at the edge of the Panhandle, then shift over to the Mission for early dinner and wind up dropping stuff (quickly) at the Civic Center before His Nameless Excellency booted the homeless out from the gnarled grove in front of City Hall. There was a guy with a metal plate in his skull from a Vietnam war wound who supplemented his diet with the FNB vitamin-rich soups and bread. There was another guy who had come from Delaware fifteen years ago and had been living on the streets ever since, although he made a living as a house painter, because the public Patel-run squats were too dirty and too dangerous. Then there was the guy who marched up and down Market Street dressed entirely, and exclusively in folded cardboard boxes, singing at the top of his lungs. Wonder where they all are now.
Best of luck, Kevin. Allegedly.
Over at the Fruitvale BART, some goon went around smashing car windows and stealing stuff. But since this particular car lot was across from the BART property line, the BART dicks did nothing. Commuters told us that it was obvious something had been getting ready to happen there for several weeks. And the idiot pundits wonder why it is so hard to push mass transit on the people. Now at which station was it that some guy got murdered after work -- with a baseball bat.
Well, the Flower Children are all long gone now, and because of the rent, the artists are leaving too, and so this is what you have left in Northern California.
Meanwhile, the post-Solstice sun is bright at 8 pm this evening and we still got a guy who posts dada-esque signs outside his house on the main drag and there is that landscape-painted VW micro-bus with a TV embedded in the rear over the license plate and Pete Escovedo is still opening his nightclub up in July on the Island. In other words, things could be worse, because they certainly have been.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
June 18, 2000
Congratulations are in order to Tim and Mona, who brought another IT consultant into the world Saturday morning at 10:15am at Boston Hospital. The newbie goes by the name of Joshua Mould and already at two hours of age has a pair of lungs on him ready to beat Beverly Sills.
Everyone will be talking about the freak heat-streak we had last week, when Babylon City soared to 103 degrees. The Island felt every degree in its 106 fever and, as is typical, inland temps rose another 12 degrees above that. Over in Stovepipe Wells, the old timers are wondering what the fuss is all about as they ready for another four months of 140 plus in the Mohave. We are meanwhile back to our usual placid 70 degrees each day with a breeze but the weather wonks are promising more global warming effects to come.
The Island has been feeling a bit under pressure with a crime wave of car theft and storefront robberies. They might have nailed the perps who heisted Cigarettes Cheaper with AK-47's when the goons wrecked a jacked car in Vacaville.
Speaking of criminal, my Significant Other and I had the misfortune to dine at Hahn's Hibachi over in Jack London Square. From the uncomprehending waitress, to the truly awful food, the experience was one we wish all to miss. The calamari, served with an undistinguished sauce of sugar water, arrived as slabs of mantle skewered on sticks and tough as any wallboard available. The barbeque beef ribs, hard items to wreck, came as three fatty bones covered with some sort of gelatinous muck that would have passed for bearing grease in flavor. There was no finger bowl or hand wipes provided. It took three tries to return the overcooked calamari to the kitchen, as the waitress never seemed to get that the stuff was inedible, offering to pack in a take-home box instead! We also tried the stuffed jalapenos, which came as deep-fried full-sized peppers coated with a sort of Colonel Sanders batter that overwhelmed whatever the peppers had been stuffed with. In the end, we forked over forty dollars for this offense to the senses, which included a charge for the rubber calamari.
When you are down the street from Everett and Jones and you claim your specialty is B-B-Q, you had better be ready to compete with the best, but it seems Hahn's is ready to compete with no one but the local pet store. Given the corner location at the entrance to Jack London, I can only hope that this business fails quickly and so gives over this prime location to a restaurant worthy of the name. As it is, the place is an insult to the memory of the man after whom the square was named. Stay away from Hahn's Hibachi.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
June 11, 2000
The sun shone on the past weekend with glorious fog-free weather. Minor festivities took place up in Berzerkely and over in Babylon and nobody got hurt. The chosen few who filed in to see Lou Reed at the Berkeley Community Theatre got the benefit of the best performance from the old legend in years. Pulling almost exclusively from new material for 2.5 hours, Lou gave a lesson to all the musicians in the audience on how to Do It Right. Some of his shows have been lacking in Oomph in recent years with presentations that made him appear as if the man would rather stay at home in bed than rock, but Thursday night Lou kicked off with a rumbling in the gut performance of "Paranoia in E". He tossed in a few numbers from 1984 and 1990, before filling out the rest of the set entirely with extended jams from the recent Ecstasy CD, ignoring the drunken frat-boy calls in the audience for older material.
His backup sounded professional and tight at every moment, with the bassist turning out stellar performances on his custom 6-string jazz bass and electric cello. The drummer, Tommy Smith, also presented rhythms of astonishing complexity, putting aside the traditional "bang, bang, tish, bang" of conventional rock bands.
Not until the entire crowd rose to a standing five-minute ovation did Lou consent to put out a few gems that made him famous, such as "Sweet Jane" and "Dirty Boulevard". You have to admire an artist who works hard at presenting fresh material in lieu of sticking with the old -- and frequently tiresome -- tried and true material. For those who wanted an evening of hearing "Lou's Greatest Hits", I say, go out and buy the records. Sounds the same every time you play it.
Just over the wire: heard a rumor that Jorma Kaukonen will be playing the Maritime hall on July 5th. Formerly of Jefferson Airplane, and Hot Tuna, Kaukonen possesses a guitar virtuosity that finds few equals. Highly recommended.
Meanwhile, on the Island, the saga of Elsie the cow continues. You may have heard of Elsie's tragic attempt to float to freedom which resulted in her mother's drowning and her rescue by relatives in Berzerkeley. Well we all know now about how Jerry Brown's Admin Assistant, Janet Tahoe, orchestrated a raid in which Elsie was taken from her extremist Vegan relatives and we all thought at that point, well, now at least the cow gets to go home.
Hell no, this is America and when the Government is involved, nothing is simple.
For some inexplicable reason, Elsie has not gone home, but has gone to Maryland. We guess this is where the government always sends people when it's too confused to figure out the matter. Does Elsie belong with her dear old Da and Farmer Jones back on the Farm, or should Elsie caper nimbly about in Berzerkeley, despite not knowing a word of English and not having passed through the usual Bay Area Emigrant Channels or the INS? Meanwhile they are rioting in Havana, of all places, over the matter. The real reason they are rioting in Havana is that there are only two TV channels allowed there: the State sponsored program on Agricultural and Industrial Output and Oprah/Geraldo. As long as this hiatus goes on, the Oprah/Geraldo channel is given over to the Elsie affair. Until it is resolved, No Oprah. Hence, the rioting.
Meanwhile, the cry up in Berzerkely is the same as ever: "Cows in Berkeley? Moooooooo . . . . !"
On the Island, they are still puzzling over the headless goats issue.
That's the way it is on this wacky Island. Have a great week.
June 3, 2000
Today this space provides a treat for the senses as we explore the vast multimedia capabilities of the WEB. You get not only brilliant text, but a genuine graphical user interface -- meanin' pictures too. In addition, its about time to inner-douce the cast of characters you all have come to enjoy, complete with mug-shots.
But first, the news.
Long-time Island resident Pete Escovedo (West-end dweller for those of you snobs) has moved his nightclub "Mr. E's" from Berkeley to the Island Mariner Square, provoking hella raised eyebrows everywhere. The Island, more known for its ground squirrels and Church Ladies now hosts a five-hundred seat venue hosted by an international celebrity who has worked with Barry White, Bobby Mcferrin, Tito Puente and Carlos Santana, among others. The Mariner Square site has suffered its ups and downs, passing from nightclub to restaurant to nightclub to sports gym annex and back to nightclub with regular visits by the Island's Finest. At one time a major meeting place for Oakland's more successful gang mafias, the floor has required replacing from time to time to remove the blood stains. Hopefully sheer star-power -- and the music of mambo -- will turn around this little hut tucked between the golf course, the Island College and the Mariner Square gym. Pete will kick off the opening in July with his ten piece band.
Last seen at the Mysterious House on Chestnut,
In which the usual black heavy marker was replaced by a delightful yellow highlighted by black shadow effect. This was followed by the mysterious
LAMB AND THE BEAUTY
In the absence of critical comment we add here our own graphical interpretation of what must be an ode to the man's favorite waitress:
Uh, I'll have a side of mashed potatoes with that rack of lamb, ma'am.
June blasts in with a musical lineup that proves Northern California is The Place to Live. The Healdsburg Jazz Festival is running June 1-4, highlighted by Pharoah Sanders and the George Coleman Quartet at Rodney Strong Vineyards.
You already missed Chuck Prophet June 2nd at the Starry Plough in Berkeley. You also missed Subincision, Berkeley's latest punkers at 924 Gilmore. Since Friday was their CD release party, you will definitely hear more of them soon. LIVE 105, are you listening?
June 6th has Lou Reed and Victoria Williams appearing at the Berkeley Community Rep.
Again highlighting the month of June, Steely Dan will play June 6th at the Concord Pavilion and June 17th at the Shoreline. Steely Dan, the archetypal "musician's band", has recently released their first recording in over 20 years, "Two Against Nature", and it is a winner.
June 7 - 24th America Mavericks festival at Davies Symphony Hall, kicking off with an assortment of works by Cage, Charles Ives and others, followed by Meredeth Monk June 9th, Duke Ellington stuff June 10th, George Antheil on June 11th and more to come. Watch for Steve Reich and in mid-June and John Adams conducting two of his own works plus Frank Zappa. The Modern Day composer refuses to die.
June 8th the Warfield yields the stage to the enormously popular Cowboy Junkies, who could easily pack a stadium with five times the capacity of this intimate hall. Presented to the mainstream though the cover of "Sweet Jane" which soundtracked the movie "Natural Born Killers", this Canadian band has presented twisted versions of blues, country, folk, traditionals, and even Bruce Springsteen as well as their own very literate creations for many years.
June 9th, Michelle Shocked rocks the Maritime Hall in Babylon City.
La Pena celebrates its 25th anniversary with a blowout on June 10th featuring Dr. Loco's Rockin Jalapeno Band. Same night has Alvin Youngblood Hart playing the old school blues at the Warfield.
June 11th, the elegant Dunsmuir House in Oakland hosts A Celebration of Jewish Life, You want Klezmer, they got Klezmer. And food as well.
June 17th offers a quandary for blues lovers, with the Russian River Blues Festival hosting Tommy Castro, AWB, Etta James, and Los Lobos, while Everett and Jones crank out the 3rd Blues Beer and BBQ down home here in Oakland. Then, there is Carnival over in Babylon City.
Blink 182 comes around June 21st to play somewhere where they surely will offend.
Proving the vitality of the Grateful Dead lives on, Phil Lesh is going to be doing a serious of concerts with the Old Man himself, Bob Dylan, June 23rd and 24th at the Pavilion and the Shoreline after headlining the Mountain Aire festival May 27th. Lesh's band will feature a cast of all-stars, including Warren Haynes (Allman Bros & Government Mule), Jorma Kaukaunen (ex-Hot Tuna & Jefferson Airplane), Derek Trucks (Allman Bros) and guitar-wizard Robben Ford. Any one of these guys could pack a stadium.
In an unusual and very rare public appearance, Roger Waters (chief song-writer for Pink Floyd) will play the Shoreline June 25th. He has not played live since 1993. Rumor has it the show for the huge outdoor ampitheatre is already SRO.
And now for something completely different. Widespread demand impels me to introduce the cast of characters that inhabits these pages. Well, all right, not widespread demand, but my parents asked me to. So here they are, the inhabitants of Life on the Island. Unlike Zippy, we do not boldface the famous, as everyone here is already a Star.
First, let me introduce our genial host, the Island Mayor Ralph, part-time Barber, or visa-versa.
Let me indicate the obvious here, in that this representation is not a photograph. Mayor Ralph was too busy to sit for a photo op, so we had to resort to the next best thing. Just try to imagine him with a bit more hair and a little less paunch and there you have him to a T.
Bolstering the Island Security with firm enforcement of the traffic laws, amongst the most strict in the Land, we have Officer O'Madhaun, a beefy, brawny sorta feller, fond of his stewed cabbage and beef and nemesis of jaywalkers everywhere.
Then, there is Opus. Presenting Opus:
As you can see, Opus is a penguin. Actually, Opus does not really live on the Island. He lives in Bloom County, which is another state of mind several hundred miles away from here,
but we like opus and will make him welcome for visits. If he so wishes.
Next we have Madame Loupe-Garou, shown here in her capacity as Acting Chair pro tem of the Island Blue Haired Ladies Association for the Preservation of Historic Modes of Behavior. It is largely due to the efforts of this group that the Island remains the remarkable cultural backwater that it is. Their most notable achievement was, albeit temporary, in their successful bid to outlaw dancing on the Island.
Here we see a subcommittee enforcing some of the Island's regulations.
Presenting some other characters characteristic of Life on the Island:
We have here your Basic ground squirrel.
and a typical Island Hausfrau named Edna. Say hello, Edna.
It would be remiss to exclude the most important people here, so herewith I present my Significant Other, who holds the distinction of being the Island's sole surviving punk rocker.
Lastly, we have two delightful sisters providing insightful commentary on Island Youth and similar stuff. There is Melinda, who is a teenager.
And there is little Shelly. Shelly manages to keep rather active and possesses an extraordinary social calendar for one so young. Rumors that she was called "The Demon Child" remain unsubstantiated.
Well, we have just about run out of time here, so it remains for next week to introduce the rest of the cast, including such possibly fictional characters as Bruce Brughman, the chief editor of the SF Curmudgeon, Laurel Wellman, authoress of the prize-winning "Dog Bites column, the soon to be unemployed journalists for the SF Exasperator, the Artist on Central, who has converted an old VW van into a TV set, and Sir Reginald Bafflement-Quirk, President of the local chapter of the Traffic Enfeebled and Directionally Challenged Persons Association. But I cannot leave today without introducing my lifelong steady companion and master of the healing arts as well as loyal pet, the noble Herr Professor Doktor Graf Friederich von Oakland an der Meer, sometimes called "Friedie" for short. Say "Hello", Friederich:
Any resemblance to any other cats, cartoons, physicians or research clinicians is purely coincidental.
So that's how it is on the Island. Have a great week.
May 28, 2000 - MEMORIAL DAY
I can remember Johnny, a slight, dark boy who lived across the stream from us. Never very athletic or robust, he seemed always to be on the verge of breaking something; fortunately, he was a bit of a "straight-arrow" and fully the product of his father's West Point upbringing. Although his mother and father shone like pale suns with their Waspish complexions, Johnny possessed an olive hue and curiously shaped eyes not seen often down in the South. We knew only that he had been born in Japan, and so we all assumed it must have been the food that made him look the way he was and possess such idealism in the form of Arthurian Romances and tales of valorous knights. His brother, however, was one of those hell-raising types who played guitar in a rock 'n roll band, and drove his suped-up Camaro too fast until one day they arrested him for robbing a local 7-11 at gunpoint. This arrest caused no end of anguish in the mind and soul of the former Colonel, primarily in that it meant his first born would be rendered ineligible for the draft and so would never go off to fight for his Country. So it was that the straight-arrow boy lied about his age, and enlisted in the late 70's and so shipped himself off to Vietnam.
Meanwhile, across the street from us lived a woman whose family possessed a long military history going back generations. Her great grandfather had lost a leg at the Battle of Vicksburg and her grandfather survived a gas attack at Valmy. An uncle fought at Chosin Reservoir. Her husband earned a purple heart at Iwo Jima, or someplace similar, from taking a rain of grenade shrapnel. He eventually died on the operating table while surgeons tried to remove some of the pieces years after the war, but not before fathering three sons, all of whom joined the Marines. One after the other.
The fireplace mantel testified to this history with scores of photographs -- grainy black and whites of men posed beside wives, colleagues, hanging out at the barber shop, sunning at the beach type kodachromes fading as the withered bouquets draped over the heavy frames. It seemed that little could speak against such Southern Pride and distinguished achievement, but, howsoever the men may have been, the woman persisted with tiresome racism of the old school, complete with epithets and all the misconceptions that go with this particular disease.
None of us knew the first two sons -- indeed there was hardly a chance to ever get to know them, for the first shipped off to Vietnam and died there in 1964. The second also returned a year later with the full military honors his mother had come to know quite well. This story takes place in what used to be a middle-class neighborhood outside of Washington, D.C. In the early days of the Vietnam war, the casualties would come back in formal pine boxes, draped with the Flag. As the coffins descended from the wide-bellied transports, the Marine Brass Band would play, and in the case of Officers, the Honor Guard would discharge their weapons.
As time passed, the war spiraled downwards and there were too many casualties for this to continue in front of the American Press. Instead of stopping in Japan and Hawaii for burial preparation, casualties were placed in refrigerated airtankers and flown directly to the US. The bodies would be unloaded in sacks, laid out in lines beside the plane, and then immediately trucked to Arlington Memorial for formal services or to the distribution points to be claimed or shipped to the survivors. Because of the tropical climate, the bags were never opened again once sealed.
So it was that the last this mother saw of her two sons, Matthew and Mark, was of them getting on the plane to go. They came back in sealed coffins and were put into the ground and all that remained were the photographs and a bare handful of letters.
Being the product of religious parents, the third son allowed himself to be named Luke, after the obvious reference, and being the product of such parents, Luke waived the 4-F status due him as survivor and on a cold winter's day he enlisted. Since this is a true story, the tale proceeds with dreary predictability: Luke went off to war. He wrote about the lousy food and the boot camp pushups and the usual stuff. He wrote about the startling green on green shades of this foreign country, the humidity and the slap of water against the boat sides in the harbor estuaries lined close with the docks and cranes and wild outbursts of vegetation.
Then came the last days of May.
The predictable happened, and suddenly the woman lived alone in this huge East Coast brick house with three empty bedrooms, two baths, and all of her generations of photographs and hatreds for succor. The Marines delivered the coffin on a sweltering day in June and left her overnight with the sealed box.
Who knows what thing can rage before the dawn in such a person's soul? Her husband and all three sons dead and no honor guard or salute and not allowed to so much as look one last time upon that face born of her own body and blood. It was a solid oak coffin sealed with brass studs three-quarters of an inch thick all around and reinforced by steel plate hermetically trapping all the mess left by an explosive death in a tropical climate thousands of miles away and this woman opened the lid sometime before the dawn.
Not only that, but in some inhuman fury borrowed strength from some place beyond reason to drag the thing out to the station wagon and put it in the back. You hear stories of frail 90 pound women lifting Volkswagens off of their children, but nothing compares to seeing the effects of this force frustrated and turned aside to do something so terrifying and strange.
Later, they found power tools, crowbars, two-by-fours, and hammers of every description scattered all over the place, all from the workbench that had belonged to the father. There was blood from her torn fingernails smeared all along the sides as she scrabbled in the last moments to lift the lid weighing more than one-hundred pounds.
This story takes place, as mentioned previously, in a quiet middle-class suburb. One of those suburbs that had been built with the intention of allowing nothing strange or excitable to happen. Where the Blacks lived Over There, and the Whites all lived Here, and the church was a place where people snoozed away an hour on Sunday while calmly contemplating their god.
Well, that Sunday there was a commotion at the church when the woman drove her station wagon up over the curb and into the foyer. Then she popped open the back.
"There! There is what your war is doing to our sons!" she screamed and had to be taken away.
Of course what she was pointing at, shocked even those who had already seen what high velocity explosives could do to a human body, for jumbled in the coffin among the mess there rested three arms. One of those arms belonged to a Black man.
The uproar after this episode threatened to incinerate two towns, for when wind of this passed across the tracks the pastor of the Baptist church came storming across demanding the remains of their boy be turned over post haste. This was not just a matter of some little confusion amongst y'all. This is our people being treated like throwaway cannon fodder.
Its been many years since 1969, and many things have happened to those little communities since then. The upshot of all this involved the meeting of two pastors who never would have met otherwise, the gradual development of mutual respect between two townships which had formerly hated one another with passion, and a complete turnabout in people's point of view about a terrible war -- at least in that community. After that, there was no more urging at the dinner table to go over and defend Honor and the Flag.
There would still be several years, however, of "secret bombing" and those wide-bellied transports would continue to land at midnight to lay out rows of the fallen. And there were still those who, like Wilson Pickett, dreamed of charging over the hill with fixed bayonets among the clouds of artillery fire that bounce off harmlessly like so many rubber bands shot from boyhood slings.
One of these was Johnny, slight and dear, who lied about his age, who lay in a firefight not fifteen minutes before he stood up. For he was an Officer and who was to tell an Officer to lie down under fire when he was destined to lead his men over the top to valor and victory. But he came back like the others after midnight in the wide-bellied plane, long after the parades and the honor guards had stopped.
His brother got out of jail, turned his life around and lives today outside of Washington, D.C. with a lissome brown-haired wife within earshot of Arlington Cemetery and the sound of taps playing at sundown.
This weekend starts the Summer Season in the Bay Area, heading into a firecracker series of concerts in June. The Oakland City Center continues the downtown revival with Summer Sounds on Thursday evenings. June kicks off with the Cure at the Shoreline. The Old Man of the Streets, Lou Reed, performs in Berkeley 6/6, followed by Sleater-Kinney at the Fillmore. The re-named Matchbox Twenty takes the Fillmore on 6/7. English major favorites, the literate Cowboy Junkies take over the Warfield on 6/8. The Violent Femmes do the Fillmore 6/18 in a re-scheduled show. Bob Dylan, hot with a new CD out, performs with Phil Lesh at the Shoreline 6/24.
June 17th offers a quandary for blues lovers, with the Russian River Blues Festival hosting Tommy Castro, AWB, Etta James, and Los Lobos, while Everett and Jones crank out the 3rd Blues Beer and BBQ down home here in Oakland. Then, there is Carnival over in Babylon City.
The weather has returned to normal: cloudy and cool and fog at night.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a memorable week.
May 22, 2000
Whether its a new way to meet singles or its a proud statement of bachelorhood, no one knows, but the Mysterious House on the Corner has run through a bevy of signs, culminating with
NO GIRLFRIEND HERE.
A number of nonsensical biblical quotations have followed in quick succession from that terse message. The only other change is that someone has removed the low picket fence and trimmed back the yard, perhaps so as to view the daily Word from the street a little better.
Well, the Webbies have come and gone -- those self-congratulatory imitations of the Oscars wherein awards are given for geek triumphs like Best Web Site, and Most Original Subroutine. Which is just fine -- good riddance. The Webbies are all about Entertainment and Fashion and Beautiful People making connections, all of which turns the stomach of any real geek. Geeks, having suffered through High School once in general prefer to leave the schmoozing and socializing to the Happy Hour Crowd, preferring instead to chase that evasive hack routine down the hole into the wee hours. Elegant Code over Formal Wear.
For those of you in weird parts east of Chicago, like Cinncinnati and Ithaca, body heat slammed into the Bay area on Saturday, driving the temps from calm 70's well past 100 in less than 24 hours. So it was that on Commencement Day and following Move-out day up at UC Berkeley, dripping students trudged from car to dorm and back over mushy road tar. Another reason to Remember This Day Forever.
Over on the Island, even the ground squirrels were laid out flat, trying to dissipate the heat. And given the Heat, this column is gonna end early, with a congrats to "Dog Bites" author Laurel Wellman for winning the Best Column.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a cool week.
May 14, 2000
George Carlin used to have a routine about growing up in Brooklyn when the kids would hold little insult contests in which there were no rules and no area of life --except one -- exempt from ridicule. The standing rule against which you just did not go, concerned mothers. Insult a boy's intelligence, his sex, his dad's occupation, his name, his nose, his religion, his clothes, his money or lack thereof, or anything, except "No mothers man, no mothers."
Even in lawless Brooklyn, home of the Improved Bronx Cheer, the mom held sacred. So it is on this Mother's Day, from Brooklyn's steaming manholes to Babylon's foggy bay, the Mom holds sway with eternal power. Today at least. For tomorrow, there is always Therapy.
If you were among the 250,000 plus who crammed onto wharf 32 for KFOG's KABOOM festival you got a treat for the senses. Hunger while waiting in long lines for food and bladder pressure while waiting for a spot at the Green Machine. Nice touch: piped music in the Porta-Potties. Thanks guys -- it made it worth the wait. No question that the half-mile long wharf was standing room only with thousands more lined up all down to pier 28 a mile away and more thousands across the impassible Embarcadero. If last year was 250,000, this year's crowd exceeded that easily. Motorcycle parking alone stretched three deep for half a mile between piers 31 and 28..
Shannon Curfman, 13 year old Wunderkind, kicked off festivities at five with her remarkable voice and top-notch professional backup band. Word is she is friends with almost as young Johnny Lang. New CDs out for both of these kids not yet old enough to drink but with voices like they've been downing Jack Daniels straight for 45 years already.
Kenny Wayne Shepard followed up with his well-honed band, coming back for a 20 minute encore that, following some technical difficulties during and following the extraordinary slide-guitar of "Was", easily roped back a very critical crowd with "Shotgun" from his new CD and scorching versions of the Allman Brothers "Midnight Rider" and an over the top "Voodoo Child", in which Kenny played his guitar behind his back, lying down, and at times one handed (fret hand).
As for the fireworks, the crowd has seen nothing like it since the lighting of the Golden Gate Bridge several years ago. The thirty-minute show pulled out the stops with shaped fireworks, fire-falls that lasted for minutes, parachute "worms" and brilliant green lasars shooting through clouds of smoke and scintillating cascades of stars and creeping herds of wriggling glow-worms. KFOG, which tends to reward its listeners with little gifts like all-expense paid trips to Madrid, Tokyo and London really pulled out the stops on this one.
Now if we can only get Live 105 to ante up for, say, a really nice Block Party on 3rd Street with Bush and the Offspring, we would be happy. That's the problem with Alternative Music: their sense of fun is always with the discovery nobody died last night.
Any rate, we hear the Mysterious House on the Corner has been really busy with its communications lately, but the weather has been crappy and we have been working overtime, so we have missed these gems. Perhaps because of the weather, the Island Artist has not put out anything interesting to accompany his front lawn multimedia project, which still partially exists in the form of ironmongery scattered around a T.V. set. Its a wonder that the rain does not get in and make the whole thing explode. Or maybe that is the ultimate point.
Mayor Ralph has stayed in, cutting hair instead of legislating, or maybe doing both at his shop on Park street. Councilperson Judy had held the reins of State ably since the weather, while searching for City Hall's lost Bell Tower.
If anyone has the Bell, please return it.
Bruce Brughmann, of the SF Bay Curmudgeon, recently reported proudly that he made himself a pain in the ass in Washington, D.C. by asking questions it was obvious nobody would take with the slightest bit of seriousness. Dude, they all got together to pay each other on the back and hand out awards and such crap. Nobody really is interested in the News at the New York Times. Really. Bruce, who happens to own the Curmudgeon, would have it that journalism become an honorable profession, dedicated to the Truth and sincere reportage -- instead of selling mass product.. Nice concept. Problem is in expecting everyone else to have the same ideals.
The S.F. Bleakly refused to attend or report on the event, except for a brief mention in the Dog Bites column. Urban Blues, an East Bay based periodical with some integrity, has been busy reporting the local angle where the previous two plus four fail. The Comical and the Exasperator continue to spiril about their respective dissolution among sordid court cases and accusations of profit-taking. C'mon people, this whole beast is the Hearst Machine in motion. It wants money and Power and Prestige even more than Knight-Ridder. Nothing involved in this whole scummy case of sale of a carbon copy paper in this One Media Town has any integrity at all. I say sell off the damn elephant and make real what has been Truth all along: SF has never had but one voice anyway and that one was bought and sold for profit years ago. It's Dashielle Hammett's "Poisonville" all over. Poisonville, if you remember, was a town so vile and corrupt that Hammett had to relocate its activities 40 miles north of the usual scene for his novels to avoid trouble at home. There never has ever been any real difference between the two dailies in Babylon and so why not just dump the old maid? Because with only the one morning paper for the City maybe competition might have a chance?
Hey, Hearst, there is always Knight-Ridder.
Of course if there were not abundant material for the Curmudgeon's annual list of Suppressed Stories I might feel different. But there is material -- an awful lot of it -- each year, and its ein Schande, a scandal it is. As for Ken Garcia and the rest of those so-called columnists writing about absolutely stupid stupid things like May Day parades and dogs and pet rabbits I wish them honestly all to go to hell while we stew here among highway construction fiascos, earthquake retrofit porkbarrels, the most extraordinary rent and housing situation in the world, let alone the Country, and a mass transit system that actually murders people each year with its wholesale incompetence that is entirely unworthy of a redneck backwater, let alone a major metropolitan area..
Don't get me started -- this is supposed to be about Life on the Island, a quaint little backwater located amid the bustle of a 8 million person metropolitan area. It shouldn't affect us. We have our own little corner here, nice and tidy. With the Oakland Herald subscription. And those kiosks loaded with Examiners and Chronicles. Kiosks Babylon wants to regulate. It's like that old Spoken Word Piece by somebody whose name I cant remember. It ends,
"Well, that's the way it's been in our little town for as long as I can remember. [pause] By the way, how are things in your town?"
Have a great week.
May 7, 2000
It's the lusty month and all the lusts are running about causing mischief. And last week there was mischief aplenty with the famous loveletter-a virus causing a ruckus from Manila to Timbuktoo. Over at the County of Alameda, there was much rending of garments, wearing of sackcloth and scatterings of ashes for the 10,000 user domain went without email services all of Thursday to Friday morning. With all six servers stacking message queues well into the thousands, even shutting down the machines took some time as the famous "Please Wait" message stood there stolidly for two hours until we began deleting every message from the MTA queues willy-nilly. It was not until 2 pm that Trend was able to come up with a set of signature files that had a chance against the original virus plus mutations.
For those of you who follow these things late, the mutations included a putative "mothers day" bill that requested the recipient to click on an attachment to "clear up" an alleged bill for $346.46 worth of merchandise. The other virus that won the Most Devious Award was one that sent itself via the local administrator's message address, claiming to be a "virus warning".
We fought the good fight and cleaned up the servers good and proper and fully restored service to all users by the end of Friday morning with the additional benefit of discovering some service pack upgrades that had been neglected. At the end of the day, the County has improved emergency response procedures, improved server code, and now is developing better disaster recovery procedures. So there, Mr. Manilaknowitall. The County even held an Ice Cream Social in the Cold Room with IT Chief McDonald ladling out ice cream by the bucketful -- complaining about the cost, as usual. Hey, McDonald: ya gotta chill, Dude.
On a side note, up on the Fifth Floor, where the Board of Supervisors maintains offices for one of the largest and most populous counties in California, virus infection was restricted to a single workstation, even though -- due to an administrative oversight -- not a single workstation was protected against any viruses of any kind. How was that possible? Replied one jaded Supe, "We know NOBODY loves us, so we all just deleted the messages unread."
Another headless goat was found along the Alameda shoreline during the week. Reliable sources on local witchcraft have informed us that such displays are considered in poor taste among the devotees of the Dark One. For all his faults, Satan is a demon of impeccable manners and he does not approve of depositing animal carcasses about like so much Styrofoam. Which leads us to speculate that some wannabe witch is now in really deep doo-doo.
Overshadowing this event is the momentous opening of the Crown Beach Dog Park, which took place with fireworks, marching bands, caber-tossing and spirited penny-whistles. There was no comment from the Cat Lovers Association.
Those of you who missed Cinco De Mayo, the United State's favorite Mexican holiday which is not celebrated in Mexico, too bad. Leftover salsa and chips in the fridge.
Blink 182 comes around June 21st to play somewhere where they surely will offend. Phil Lesh is going to be doing a serious of concerts with the Old Man himself, Bob Dylan, June 23rd and 24th at the Pavilion and the Shoreline after headlining the Mountain Aire festival May 27th. Leshe's band will feature a cast of all-stars, including Warren Haynes, Jorma Kaukaunen, Derek Trucks (Allman Bros) and Robben Ford. In an unusual and very rare public appearance, Roger Waters will play the Shoreline June 25th. Tickets go on sale Sunday, but you probably cant get them -- his Madison Square Garden show sold out in 40 minutes. He has not played live since 1993. Don Henley, whose career is experiencing something of a rebirth, will play the Berkeley Community Theatre July 18. Again highlighting the month of June, Steely Dan will play June 6th at the Concord Pavilion and June 17th at the Shoreline. Steely Dan, the archetypal "musician's band", has recently released their first recording in over 20 years and it is a winner.
Good things are coming, people, so you don't have to put up with Pro wrestling, Ultimate Fighting, Poetry Slams, and Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. Or at least there is an alternative.
The traffic snafu that happened at the Webster Tunnel was caused by a wayward truck that took out the lighting and a few pieces of heavy equipment early in the week. No, it was not the Anti-graffiti squad working overtime to remove offensive references to Mayor Ralph.
That's how it is on the Island this post-viral, post-Cinco de Mayo. Have a great week.
April 30, 2000
I got a frantic call from Evenus, my Significant Other to check out the house on the corner.
SERBS SHABBOS READING GALATIANS 1:1
While its nice to see some good old Yiddish appearing here in the midst of Goytown, the message remains, as always, the medium. In this case, the medium is butcher paper taped to the side of a house.
Celebrations going on half a world away have provoked some retrospectives here about America's Dirty War. Twenty-five years ago the black-clad advance units of Ho Chi Minh's army took Saigon, ending the conflict that never was officially proclaimed a war by this country but which took the lives of 50,000 American soldiers and well over a million lives of North Vietnamese. During an interview of one of the NVA defenders of what came to be called "Hamburger Hill" (near the village of Ap Bia) the man commented " We could not understand why the Americans chose to fight here." After losing over 1000 Americans and South Vietnamese to take the hill, the Americans withdrew after three weeks.
This weekend the Children of Resistance, emceed by Ed Asner, took place up in Berkeley. Sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were in attendance as well as a number of other red diaper baby luminaries. Pete Droge played the Fillmore, to be followed by the Violent Femmes on the 9th. On the 13th, KFOG promises fireworks and Kenny Wayne Shepard with Janet Curfman at the KABOOM fest along the waterfront.
Cynical Old Man New Yorker poet and musician Lou Reed appears at the Berkeley Community Theatre on June sixth. I for one, will be there to hear the original version of "Sweet Jane" or whatever he desires to play that night. Not exactly your mellow California type, Lou does not come around here too often, so it should be good.
Here on the Island, the ground squirrels are skittering around like nuts in a bowl among the picnic families along the shore. We lost our main connection to the mainland (earthquake retrofitting), but nobody seems to have noticed except for some impatient commuters. We got another month before all the schools let out. Best not park your car on Grand Ave when that happens -- we don't have post mailboxes, but windshields do fine for teens in a pinch.
That's how it is on the Island. Have a great May Day.
April 23, 2000
Big news on the Island: Shooting averted at Encinal High. For those of you sleeping through the Millenium, April 20th was the first anniversary of the Columbine shootings in Colorado and it seems a few idiots aimed at commemorating the event with threats of a similar one here in our lowly backwater. But here on the Island, where privacy is a dirty word, and the general intelligence quotient of our wannabe criminals ranges somewhere between Pleistocene Man and your average baboon, news of the project outed itself through graffiti and mysterious lists of names that appeared on campus. In short, the authorities acted and the three girls have been tossed in the slammer while their computers have been confiscated. April 20th was a city-wide holiday for everybody but the TAC squad. Rumors that the "tree people" instigated the threats are unfounded. Seems we had our equivalent of the "trenchcoat gang" in the "tree people", who used to hang out by one of the elms on campus until the jocks chopped down the bush overnight. It was just three very stupid and, now very sorry, girls who got in too deep.
Up in Berzerkeley, the local High school also shut down with the fire department and investigative team out in full force on the same day. No word on what really happened but "copycat" seems to fall into place here.
We are beginning to wonder just why being a dumbass is considered "cool" now, but then, after looking at the parade of wildly incompetent, stupid, foolish, basically f----d up examples provided by the adults recently, we move from wondering to deploring, and this must be what turns a person into an Old Fogey. Still, the girls were only kidding this time around, which is an improvement, of sorts, over certain doomsday cult figures in Uganda.
So it was this Pesach around the Seder table. Dipping fingers into wine and reciting lists of calamities passed over and eating the bitter herb with the sweet. There's a lot to complain about, but this year the economy is good, people have enough to eat and misery is not quite as widespread as it was, notwithstanding mayors Brown and Brown in Company.
The embattled Stork Club, which provides the East Bay with its only serious alternative music venue, held a benefit Saturday at one to help fight for its survival against City Hall which has demanded that the club provide "proof of benefit to the Community of Oakland", as if the strip clubs and porno bookstores on 12th had no need of such defense. The truth is plain: real music disturbs some people and the blue-hairs are all up in arms about the possibility of life and change coming to Oakland. These people completely ignore the fact that Oakland resides within a metropolitan area of well over 8 million people and that "change" has already happened all around them. Witness the freeway stopping lines at the IKEA opening last weekend in Emeryville.
The Oakland Arts festival is winding up its month-long series of events at the Alice Arts Center. You have until the 30th to go there and be liberated by music, dance, poetry and painting. Sunday the remains of Quicksilver Messenger Service gathered at Freight and Salvage. Wednesday, Rambling Jack Elliot, our State Treasure, will fill the same hall.
Tube closure occurs on the 24th, so get your dingys in shape, me mateys. Getting in and out of here is gonna be that much more difficult.
Earlier this week, our favorite source for burritos after ten, the Mexicali Rose, burned to the ground during a renovation. This leaves only the place across from the Hall of Justice in Oakland open to serve decent enchiladas past midnite. But then, the tube is gonna be closed, so it does not matter.
That's the way it is here on the Island. Next year in Jerusalem. Have a great week.
April 17, 2000
Spring came and went here in the Bay Area. Sorry you missed it. We are now having post-Spring Rainy Season before Summer. Summer usually lasts about a week and a half here, during which we have no fog. Enjoy.
Arthur Adams, bluesman of 30 years, plays Bluesville on 4/15, while the famous Sonny Rhodes stirs up Elis on 4/14. The former Naked Barbies, now the Vagabond Lovers, go national next week, so last chance to check out this excellent band fronted by Patty S. is at the Club Muse in Albany.
Tracy Chapman is warmed up by Cory Harris at the Berkeley Community Theatre on 4/19. Tracy, who has favored integrity, artistry, and intelligence over pop's idiocies at times is worth checking out in such an informal and relatively small venue.
In the news: Elsie the Cow, formerly of the Island Garland Estate, has been taken in up in Berzerkeley by a pair of aging hippies who claim to be relatives after Elsie was found wandering the seashore, Io-like, subsequent to the swamping of the HMS Dingus. How Elsie came aboard the Dingus is an unexplored mystery, but one thing is known: the hippies refuse to give her up to Farmer Whackit. Moonbeam McHaggis reported in a recent interview that Elsie was happy in Berkeley and life was surely better there than in the cruel, totalitarian State of the Island, where people, gasp, actually devoured cow-meat in public. Her mate, Squozen-Juice Fergus has been quoted in saying that the cows on the Island are kept in dingy barns with poor air circulation and bad light and milked night and day.
Farmer Whackit is known to be distraught over the loss of his cow and insists upon her return. Up in Berzerkeley, where the life of any person, animal or thing is hardly a matter that falls within the Normal Bell Curve, Elsie has been living the life of the Toast of the Town, with free candy, carnival rides, visits to Sachs Fifth Avenue and Bloomies. She has not been interviewed, but it seems clear that she prefers to remain in the Land of the Free.
In a similar case, a lost goat, named FooFaw has been taken in by a couple living in Babylon City's Hunter's Point after swimming out from the shipwreck of the Hapless in the San Francisco Bay. The elderly couple are devoted to FooFaw and feel that life in the City is better for man and beast than anywhere else. The owner, a Mr. Carrickfergus, has publicly stated, "Just return the damn kid where he belongs, dammit."
So it goes on the Island. Any relationship in this material to any persons out there in America or Cuba is purely coincidental. Have a great week.
April 8, 2000
When April, with her sweet showers has drenched the parched root of March and bathed every vein in that liqueur . . . or something like that. After to days of blasting sun we are finished with the Season and on into our usual foggy and intermittently chill NoCal weather.
Four months and no one has said a single thing about Monica Lewinsky, her trailer park dreams or her equally tasteless mother.
The Northern Irish problem continues to vex and bother the English as well as the Irish, despite the recent experiment at Home Rule, while mad persons of the Arabic persuasion continue to blow up people indiscriminately. There is a momentary lull in shootings in white suburban high schools, however. For a while it was getting so bad, the homeboys dealing crack on the corner began to get nervous and put up their MAC-10's. Here on the Island, the Boys in Blue busted another crack operation when one of the chief perpetrators got cited for a traffic violation. When the Narcs busted down the door, they hauled in 15 or more rifles and handguns with the dope; those cons shoulda known nobody breaks a traffic law on the Island and gets away with it.
More trouble at the Albertsons -- which never seems to stop there, it seems. Someone phoned in a bomb threat so the place got cleared out last Sunday. The place is haunted and certain to be the next boarded up box for lease anytime soon.
Vandals are smacking out the windows at the abandoned Navy base with terrific glee, causing all sorts of commotion at the Station.
The Census has pretty much come and gone with flyers posted on telephone poles all around here. Down in Palo Alto, where they are much concerned about population control and money and where it gets spent, there are 20-foot long banners strung up on all major street corners reminding people to stand up and be counted. More than a few are taking issue with the 60 question interrogation that goes out to one in six persons, however. Shoeless Joe, who has moved from under the x-mas tree that stood in downtown to live with the ground squirrels out by 8th Avenue is doing his level best to cover all the field with his dutiful answers. Certain questions, such as Age and Family Name, however, prove to be beyond his abilities to comprehend or answer.
And now for the Dot-Coms. People complain about them -- they seem to be everywhere -- unexpectedly and suddenly rich beyond wildest dreams. They are gifted with extraordinary powers and we hate them because we have to work each day for bosses who are jerks or lummoxes or both for wages that barely get us by. So we invest these creatures with all of the venal attributes and bad behavior we salts of the earth thoroughly detest. Yeah, those Dot-commers, who came in here and took over everything with their SUV's and their palm pilots and their abrasive attitudes. It's all the computer revolution and stuff; these good for nothings getting to be overnight millionaires selling worthless, intangible commodities.
Have you ever met a Dot-com millionaire?
Didn't think so. I began thinking along the same lines about these vile creatures too disgusting to be called members of the human race until I realized one day, HEY! I have working in computers for YEARS and have NEVER seen a wealthy geek! But we've heard about them haven't we? Bill Gates and that founder of Amazon.com and and Bill Gates and .. . can you think honestly of a single name besides Bill Gates? Now people, well over 5 million people commute to Silicon Valley each day and I'll betcha not a single dude making payments on a Ford Explorer -- and there are not that many -- really wants to sit two hours in traffic on the Nimitz Freeway just for kicks. Hell no, they gotta make the house payment same as you. And the Bay Area Housing Problem predates the dot-com revolution, I might add. All right, we got maybe twenty or so founders who may have made a killing making widgets for computers and maybe another hundred or so -- lets be generous -- who have become fabulously wealthy by selling intangibles with say, another four or five hundred stock option winners and employees who just happened to be there at the right time. That makes, oh, five hundred lucky souls out of five to six million people in Silicon Valley who have hit paydirt. All the rest work nine to five. Same as you. Same as me. And five hundred people does not constitute a class or account for nearly the number of loud, obnoxious, rude, stupid assholes who live in the Bay Area. Come to think of it, those kind of people have ALWAYS been here and, you know, when the computer revolution fizzles out, they'll be all the more noticeable when they are still here.
What brings all this on? Recent issues of Techweek, a local magazine focussing on Silicon Valley, have been following the lives of five specific Dot-com entrepreneurs for several months and several myths have exploded in the process. All of these guys are living hand-to-mouth on TV dinners and six-day twenty-hour work weeks. All of them have failed in their initial efforts. All of them are fighting for funding support from an old-boys network that, true to Bay Area business, supports the known, the well-established and the already successful. All of them are over 30. The most experienced entrepreneur drives a 1975 vintage Datsun -- definitely not an SUV. Only one of them has less than three kids and virtually every one of them is idealistic to a fault, sometimes surrendering ideas to others in hopes that the idea will become reality and thereby help to make the world a better place. They all use language like "community", and "making a better life".
The myths start really exploding when Techweek begins presenting the numbers on the legions still out there: Out of seven start-ups, just one will succeed. The others are destined for quiet oblivion. The businesses that do succeed rarely get bought out for 400 million by the likes of Microsoft; it is far more likely that the business will become a modest income earner not much different than a local car dealership or clothing outlet, for as one would-be entrepreneur pointed out, "At the end of the day you are a retailer competing against a bunch of other retailers, trying to sell the product to the customer at the right price internet or no internet."
Like the Gold Rush of the 1800's, and the Westward Ho movement of the 20's, the legends of fabulous wealth remain myths with very little substance for the gulls who bite down; the vast majority of them come here to get fleeced by the 21st Century equivalent to pick and shovel salesmen and that is the honest truth.
On the Island, business continues as usual. In the Pagano's storefront window (a site for the most artistic expressions of fantasy every seen in or near a hardware store) the effigy of the Old Man sits dozing in his rocker, holding his time-piece, while underneath the floorboards all the mouse families are industriously making a living and having a general good time as best as can be.
Which is about the usual size of it.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
March 26, 2000
Last week there was no Island Life, due to Urban Ennui. Not to say there was not a hella load of wierdness going on around the world. Last we heard, the Fight Club garnered nary a nomination for that garish and pointless road-show called the Oscars and Run, Lola, run was not even eligible. With the field of vastly more intelligent, interesting and provocative films excluded from recognition, it remains to wish that those stolen statuettes remained in the trash bin where some highly evolved person first placed them. And Citizen Kane still has not gotten what it deserved either.
Further along the scale of pointless endeavor stacked on strangeness, the J.Benet Ramsey case continues to dominate the hearts and minds of those with scarce supply in either category. Children get kidnapped and murdered every day, but that this particular event remains in the public eye can only be attributed to its freakshow quality, bearing much in common with such classy notables as Monica and the Elephant Man; it's all so ugly, we just have to watch. The Cult of the Innocent Child is really taking a thrashing these days, what with six year-olds settling scores with stolen handguns and those sordid "beauty pageants" made public by the Ramsey affair. Here on the Island, we treat em the way our various gods intended: beat them until they are tractable and then put them to work mowing the lawn.
Over at the House on Chestnut, the Swedish flag made a typically inexplicable appearance on the sign wall, but otherwise little happens in this place of great potential. Everyone is talking about the imminent closure of the mainland tunnel, which looks to be a two-year project. That oughta slow down things some. The Island's main industry and source of export revenue, crystal methamphetamine manufacture, looks to take a hit from the inhibited distribution channels, so everyone is trying to cash in on the hi-tech boom. It's getting so bad, even the ground squirrels are taking to day trading in spurious dot-com stocks.
We are approaching the most dangerous Season of the Year on the Island. The temperature warms, the skirts go higher and all nature cuts loose like Charlie launching a Tet offensive. The Birds start coming in low to strafe the meadows in chevrons, while the bees dive-bomb the buttercups erupting with blue-bells, asters, hyacinths, freesias and whatnot geysering up from the seed-pocked earth. The ground squirrels renew their underground activities with the moles and suddenly Councilperson Wilma can be seen chasing Councilperson Ray down on the beach with one heel broken and all hell to pay back in the Chambers. The SF Bay Curmudgeon Chief editor gives up his "read my paper, dammit" campaign to take cover beneath the flowered quilts with his second lieutenant, who turns out to be a spy for the SF Bleakly. Formerly happy, maladjusted and pleasantly discontented males are seen ambling about in pathetic distress, wounded, leaning on the arms of comrades or worse, done right through the heart. Yes, it is coming up to Spring.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
March 12, 2000
The Mysterious House on the Corner has gone through such a flurry of new signs that it was not possible to absorb all of the wisdom. The latest read:
THUNDER: US CENSUS
Which is about as meaningful as any of the others. Meanwhile the March madness continues on the Island to such an extent that we dont even have to look up to Berzerkeley or over to Babylon for the newest wierdness. A local on the Island, Bob Dingus, is looking to buy a used Russian Attack submarine and dock it as a sort of floating conference center here in the marina.
This creates some issues, not the least of which a decommissioned Russian vessel of this type -- which used to carry nuclear warheads -- displaces some 80,000 tons of water and there aint a slip in miles that will handle such a monster. Bob figures he'll just go fetch a shovel and dig the channel a bit deeper, but there is still the matter of getting the diesel-powered boat from its berth on the Black Sea through the Panama Canal and up the coast. Of course the Russians are ecstatic that anyone would be fool enough to want to buy some military surplus in that size. They even brought the asking price down to about a million dollars.
Discussions at the Marina are underway.
In further developments, the Park Officials are scratching their noggins over a series of seven goats that have been found over the last three weeks. All the goats were found decapitated in plastic bags. Nobody has reported a rash of goat theft, and all the zoo's critters were accounted for during a recent and very anxious head count, so Officer O'Madhaun is at a loss, since it seems no crime has been committed, exactly, beyond littering, perhaps. And absolutely no traffic ordinances have been crossed this time. Still, it's puzzling, for even our local witchcraft expert, Benicia Krone, mentions the usual method of goat disposal by Satanists features a little more sophistication. So what we may have here is a bunch of Satan-worshipping wannabes who are still a little unclear on the concept. If you are missing a goat, please contact the East Bay Coastal Park Authority and pickup your recovered Billy.
The music scene is slowing down now, but we got great stuff coming up when Patti Smith shows the grrrls how its done April 15. The Cure are doing the Shoreline on June 2nd. The unapologetic Blink 182 rolls into the Arena on June 21st . Rabbi Langer of Chabad is presenting Purimpallooza at the Great American on the 20th as part of the Jewish equivalent of Mardi Gras. Warning: do not try to appear before the King naked or you will be surely arrested.
IKEA IS COMING!
We all thought it was a joke foisted on us like the stupid Gen X label, a whole categorization created by advertising wonks in sweaty penthouse ad grindshops. But no, its real! The loving home-furnishings detail supplied in the beginning of "The Fight Club" is coming with sure inevitability to E'ville. I had the misfortune to have to go to the Powell Street Throng-Mall and it took 20 minutes to find parking for a motorcycle on an off Sunday. But down the road the huge purple and orange monstrosity squats awaiting eager Yupps in their SUVs and their Saabs like an architectural Moloch. As if they really could pack any more humanity into that congestion without a colossal blenderizer. Emeryville is one of those towns which has embraced progress to such an extent that virtually everyone who has lived here any time at all waxes nostalgic for the days when the place stank of chemical plants, ramshackle warehouses, junk yards, metal working shops and good old fashioned sway-backed whores marching across the street from the illegal Pai Gow place that was Kings casino. Well Progress has seized the twelve-block long village with a vengeance. Now the town is full of Trader Joes, Good Guys electronics, Hilton hotel, and everything else that caters to the two high-tech companies that own virtually two-thirds of the land.
Back on the Island, where nothing so trivial as Progress has ever impeded the Council or the Local Blue-Haired Ladies Association from halting construction of a high-rise dog-walk, we learn that JC Penny's is abandoning ship, vacating some 80,000 square feet in our only Mall, leaving Mayor Ralph to canvas about for new tenants. Which may be difficult, as Caltrans is planning to shut down the only consistently open connection to the mainland for about two years. Which means if you want to shop on the Island, you better know how to swim or be pretty damn handy with a paddle. Still, 80,000 square feet would make a hella lemonade stand. Any takers out there?
Thats the way it is this blustery post-El Nino March on the Island. Have a great week.
March 6, 2000
Everyone is out promoting their new CD in this time. 3rd Eye Blind rolls into the Warfield Wednesday. This weekend the Noisepop festival winds up at ATA on Sunday. Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers venture out of their Café Du Nord basement for a record release thing at the Great American Music Hall on 3/16. Mark Hummel returns to the East Bay to do the Ivy Room after roaming the northern continent. Flaming Lips bring their special brand of Brecht and rock and roll to Maritime Hall on the 28th. The Lips have been known to rock out with such classic-influenced ditties such as "Furious Agammemnon". As a special treat we welcome back the highly successful Beck for a show on May 2nd at Bill Graham Civic. Beck, one of the best inheritors of the Zappa/Satie/Beefheart legacy, puts on a high energy performance.
Its the eve of the elections and all through the House, not a creature was stirring, except for Richard Nixon's ghost. . . . Or that's how the old bedtime story goes. The Press will gather again for in-depth coverage above the Law Library in the Alameda County Conference Center rooms in the late afternoon. Or at least those members of the press unlucky enough not to have secured passes to the big parties at the Embarcadero in Babylon. Every thirty minutes or so Thomas York presiding over the big Machine at the Registry of Voters will send over the ballot results via County wire to the printers in the Conference Center. The press there will grab the printouts and rush off reports with their phones and laptops to their respective offices. The techs came by today to drop the satellite feed down into the rooms.
About six PCs with 21" monitors will be setup with internet connections to all the big Northern California counties for the Public.
On the Island, the usual speculation runs amok, with that GOP candidate adding fuel to the heat with his, quite truthful, comments about the Religious Right having corrupted the GOP enterprise. Of course it does not do to be the first to speak the truth in an election year, so the only GOP candidate with integrity we have seen in years probably will not get the vote, if only for the novelty. Pulling a "Bullworth" Jack?
Notably absent, although still very much alive, is former President Ronnie Raygun, whose usual daffy state of mind might be misinterpreted as mental confusion. For gosh sakes it didnt matter for the 8 years the guy misruled the Country -- why should it matter now?
Any rate, the Non Compos Mentis Drivers Club has been trying to meet on the Island, but its President Eugenia Wheelwell, keeps missing the Ferry Parking Lot. By about 14 feet.
Those of you who recall the holiday hiatus with the local chapter of the Traffic Enfeebled and Directionally Challenged can take heart that this time the Emergency Housing for those who get too lost or who collect too many moving violations will be located at Jack London Square. Jack Drumm, Assistant Treasurer, says it best for the group: "Well I meant to turn left when I shoulda turned right, but I went straight head instead and cut acrost all four lanes to get there. Then it turned out to be the wrong exit."
Well put, Jack.
Speaking tonight in the East Bay at Cody's is Pulitzer Prize winning Robert Olin Butler. Maya Angelou spoke at the Oaktree Restaurant in Oakland Saturday.
It's been pelting rain here, preventing regular surveys of the signage at the Mysterious House on the Corner, and the huge oil paintings that get set up on the lawn among performance art bric-a-brac have been taken inside as we head into the fifth straight week of sodden skies, but Saturday saw a chevron of ducks heading north at last. Suspicions abound that the weather is about to change.
That's the way it is on the Island. Don't forget to vote and have a great week.
February 26, 2000
Last seen on the Mysterious House on Chestnut, the sign
And to the side was a blue and white prayer shawl. Getting a little bit political, boys?
The past two weeks have seen a plethora of good music happening here, due largely to the Grammy's whoopla. Congrats to local fave Beck for winning best Alternative Music. Last Sunday we heard Roy Rogers with his scathing slide performing with Van Morrison's daughter, Shana, at the Freight and Salvage. Gomez rolled into the Fillmore, but haven't heard how this promising band did. Ron Thompson is doing a series of things at Eli's under the overpass there on the Berzerkeley/Oakland divide. Bruce Cockburn played Wednesday and Everclear crammed the Bottom of the Hill in Babylon.
Upcoming highlights include Los Lobos 2/26-27 for two nights, and 3rd Eye Blind at the Warfield on March 8th. Everyone is waiting for the prog rock monsters The Cure to blow into town, while over in Babylon the Noisepop festival begins Tuesday and goes to March 5th at the usual suspected venues in SOMA. Bob Mould is expected to show for several appearances. Details can be found at www.noisepop.com.
A lot of spoken word stuff is happening all over, but the scene has new players, so we see with pleasure that Kim Addonizio is doing something with Bob Hicock at Cody's today. Ask her to read the one that picks up on "A Streetcar Named Desire" if you go. The Red Café used to host jazz nights in its red brick venue, but haven't heard much from them lately and word has it Louis Cuneo has put aside Mother's Hen press to go to LA. Unsubstantiated.
Meanwhile the political machines are thrashing the laundry about with the usual noise. We checked in on Tom York who is setting up the tabulation machines and the big UNIX box for the County Registry of Voters end of things and found him frazzled but fighting with stacks of computers waiting to be deployed. The tabulation machines will be shipped to all the County counting centers just before the election and will send back the data over dedicated high speed lines to The Big One. Keeping track of this locally, the press corps will use a data center set up for them in the County's Conference Center. "Aint stressin'", says Mark Petrovski, a consultant hired on to assist the heart of democracy pump its thing or whatever.
We note that the support for the various issues falls out according to plan: The EssEff Bleakly is holding off its endorsements issue, preferring to cover a libidinous performance piece at the Art Institute, while the Bay Curmudgeon votes "none of the above" for Prez, selecting Ralph Nader as the alternative. The SF Comical is hewing solidly to the middle-right while the Exasperator thrashes about in its death throes, giving rise to a newspaper columnist "Deathwatch" when the big ship finally is cast off to the sharks. We were kinda hoping Martine and Hoppe would jump ship in advance, but Art managed to avoid the boot by dying in reality, so he is off the hook. Whatever happened to the fat guy with the eye-patch? He was surly and obnoxious and we kinda miss him, because the stupid things he did at least had chutzpah. The Island Journal continues to be delivered gratis to the door, despite threats to the contrary.
Speaking of life's little pleasures, like imagining Lord Martine looking for a job, on a recent Babylon visit we took in what had to be one of the world's least fun jobs. There in bitter cold rain, on hands and knees -- no raincoat -- two guys fitted bricks together for the new promenade down by the Ferry Building. The promenade extends -- or will extend -- for some two and a half miles along the waterfront. And that's a hella lotta bricks, my friend. But there they were as the gusts blew across the bay, with a mountain of material heaped up as friends. A thin layer of cement is laid down on the steam-rolled surface, then leveled, then raked, then the bricks are fitted down one by one, a quarter-inch apart. Man, you think your job is tough.
Speaking of jobs, we note that the Bleakly is hiring a basic gofer "with a sense of humor" for the office in one of those positions that resembles bookstore work: does not pay much, lots of abuse, but fun as all hell.
What were we doing in Babylon? Computer stuff at an old familiar place with new faces: 39th floor of 101 California. Yes, that's the former site of Pettit and Martin, which occupied floors 36-39 and which was bathed in blood the day a discontented client came in with semi-automatic weapons under his raincoat, killing John Erlich, among others.
The big gold icons that used to sit in the offices of the partners are gone, and the whole place has been redone with new carpets and a warren of subdivided space. Mr. Pettit no longer strolls along in his suspenders as other law offices now occupy the spaces. The conference room still has the most extraordinary view, however.
Coming back to the Island, the Encinal ferryboat still charges across with a determined plume thrown up by its twin hulls. News is that a local woman-owned firm has captured the contract to expand the ferry docking areas to accommodate more boats and more passengers, which is a long overdue project. They are fixing up the old Pier 1 building, which has been boarded up for the most part since the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The Island bids goodbye to Chaconas, who heads over to try and rescue the beleaguered Oakland School District. We think the man is crazy, but hey, can't stand in the way of a challenge. They say that by 2003 all the students are supposed to be reading and writing at the level of the grade they are in, at least. Yeah, by then, they'll all be gradiated.
That's the way it is on this soggy Island. Have a great week.
February 13, 2000
Man it has been a hella week. An International pollution disaster threatens the storied Danube river in Europe, planes dropping out of the air and Charles Schultz dies the day before his last cartoon runs in the dailies. Meanwhile the quattro-annual madness known as the Presidential Beauty Pageant has the old guys down at Malones bickering over bets on who is gonna be the next Big Honcho in the White House. The Black Republican seems to have faded into the background while the field appears to be seriously unthreatened by contenders who keep falling asleep or something in the middle of local stump speeches. Anyone planning on pulling a Bulworth this time around?
Locally, we have had Senator DiFi trumpeting the Party line and Gore, becoming ever more combative, challenging all the major contenders to nude mud wrestling debates at Madison Square Gardens. Our miserable Governor is meanwhile doing everything he can to hinder the States most prosperous times in memory and shore up the lost cause of Dole in California. In the basement of the County, the big ballot-counting machines are being calibrated for Democracy's Big Thing.
On the local front, somebody just realized that Oakland has more artists per capita than Manhattan, overshadowing Babylon in Culture for the first time in one hundred years. Mayor Jerry, no longer seen as "the other Brown" was last seen, giddy as a hamster breaking ground for yet another multi-billion dollar companys new downtown headquarters. Oakland, which took the port business away from Babylon, which houses Maxine Kingston Hong, Ishmael Reed, and Chitra Divrakaruni, which produced Jack London, Gertrude Stein and a slew of jazz musicians, with its Yoshis, Ashkenaz, Freight and Salvage, Everett and Jones, Kimball's, Elis, Jimmys and dozens of others now can look across the water at its poorer sister city with pity. The airport is better, the people are more congenial and the rents are better and now even the artists live here too.
Speaking of rents and such, It was noticed by Dog Bites in the EssEff Bleakly that the Archdiocese of SF has taken to invoking the Ellis Act to oust elderly tenants from desireable properties. In what has been called a "roiling boil" real estate market, Greed has long since become King in Babylon, and it appears that not even the Catholic Church has turned aside from the predatory profit-taking. We also learn, and add to Dog Bites fund of knowledge that the Archdiocese has been for many years the largest renter of properties in the City, and the biggest property owner by far, outstripping even the Texans and the Japanese for acreage of holdings. Which may not last if the Church continues to sell off its local church property at the rate of 9 buildings a year. The beneficiaries of this largesse? Multi-miliion dollar luxury condo developments on the sites of former Houses of the Spirit.
Its said that when Dashiel Hammett described a town called "Poisonville" in one of his books, a town so vile, venal, and amoral that the main characters couldnt wait to leave, he really was referring to his hometown and that he had to locate this burg 20 miles north of Babylon to avoid being lynched by his neighbors.
With avaricious landlords gouging four figure rents on the average, and Ellis Act evictions turning out thousands of native San Franciscans, producing an atmosphere of corrosive antipathy throughout the once-great City, maybe its time to relocate Poisonville back home.
Monday brings that annual holiday known to all of us though images of bleeding hearts, arrows, and fat little angels parading around naked. Yes, I am talking about the commemoration of the mass murder of 13 mobsters in a barn just outside of Chicago. Hence the bleeding hearts.
With chagrin we note the loss of another Babylon tradition, for this year there will be no "Return of My Sucky Valentine" event in any of the bars. Of course, those of you who got no Sees candies or flirtatious invites to steamy hot-tubs by candlelight, and who just cannot stand this kissy-kissy wuv yew kind of crap, just come on down to Malones for a commiserating pint and maybe well all troupe on over to the Club to pound the heavy bags in memory of that certain special asshole who done stomped upon yer heart.
Rumor has it the CSNY concert rocked out here before heading up to Sacro. Old Neil and Stephen Stills really put it together on the instrumentals. Coming up we have Gomez followed by the Pretenders at the Fillmore, something to look forward to. "Fillmo, Fillmo! Doe-Deedoh-Dee-Oh!" But that was a different Fillmore then. When we kissed beside the Pink Palace. And rode out to Funland By the Beach.
We note from our Island Journal, which is still gratis and delivered, that the Skate Park is showing cracks and chips. No duh for something built of concrete.
As the post El Nino rains pelt down, swamping our little Island and snarling 880 in the worst traffic since the invention of the wheel we all huddle indoors to wait for dryer times. Thats the way it is on the Island.
FEBRUARY 5, 2000
Word is that Chuck Prophet blew out the Ivy Room, a venue he has long since outgrown in both numbers of fans who come to hear him and in quality of venue. It was SRO for the rocking show last week.
Baby Snufkin has returned to the Bay area with a series of concerts promoting CD efforts with the usual assortment of dementia. Alvin Youngblood Hart plays Freight and Salvage with John Hammond. And the reunited CSNY starts Monday at the Coliseum.
The East Bay Excess reports lead guitarist Kevin Cadogan has been fired from 3rd Eye Blind, which we find a shame if true. We have liked the Blind, unlike the Excess reviewers, and wish the local boys would make good on the promise of their first CD. Best of luck, dudes.
On the brighter side, our secret flame and darling of the revolutionary presses, Laurel Wellman put us all in stitches with her latest reportage on the "cat scan" artist who is winning awards and accolades for his, well, feline computer scans. It seems some guy got the idea of dropping his pets on his scanner and posting the results on the web, earning the epistolary and vitriolic hatred of many persons, who have nothing better to do, in central Europe. In any case the man's work is now on display in a downtown gallery with five other artists as part of a "sick and twisted" exhibit. The cats? They seem to love it. High Art or Animal Cruelty? Check out www.cat-scan.com and decide for yourself.
Closer to home, the free press nation took a hit when the Island Journal chose to drop its free distribution and move to a subscriber only format. Which caused nary a ripple when the letters pleading for subs went out headed with the message "You really dont want it to stop. Do you?" Since most Island residents already get the ChronEx or the Oakland Cuckold, and use the Journal primarily for, well, avian sub-flooring material, it is feared that on deadline morning the old pressroom was mightly quiet. Not to worry, as the paper has tried the same thing about four times previous to this with the same result -- nobody gave a damn about a rag with unreliable crime stats and headlines that featured the dogwalk controversy. It's expected that Gloria and Lynnette, the Editors in Chief, will do the same thing they did the last time: go on a whisky holiday at Croll's or Murphy's for a week and come back after hitching rides with the Coast Guard sailors and getting tossed in the brig for profanity and intemperate remarks. Then they'll distribute the paper themselves until Knight Ridder, which really owns the damn thing, gets shamed into putting out ducats to keep the old bucket afloat.
Meanwhile its been raining like a poodle with bad kidneys all over the Bay Area, causing desert rats to go skidding right and left all over the freeways every day at rush hours. There is no end to the SUV proliferation, or any improvement in their driving habits either.
Any rate that's how it is on the Island. Have yourself a dry week.
JANUARY 31, 2000
The weekend saw an explosion of music stuff happening all over the Bay. On Friday night, the Mcoy-Tyner quintet kicked out the jams at Yoshis with some hot jazz. Same night, blues crooner Frankie Lee opened at the Bluesville in the east bay. Saturday Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers forsook their usual basement digs in the Castro to swing Ashkenaz by the ears. Lavay's rich contralto matched the period pieces they do. You take one look at the trumpet player wearing loose pants suspenders, spats and that mellow horn mute and you are suddenly back in time by fifty years. Spearhead rocked the Alice Arts Center with a bevy of brothers in Oakland while the gravel-voiced Chuck Prophet did the Ivy Room up in Albany. When Prophet got up on stage and leaned over to the mike to snarl, "I HATE talk!", biting the "T" like a junkyard dog, I had to love the guy.
Peppino D'Agustino is winding up his long stay in the USA with a set of concerts locally -- this time at Mt. Diablo Unitarian. Sweet Honey in the Rock took over Zellerbach hall in Berzerkely and if you didn't have religion when you went in, you sure as hell got it coming out. Continuing the Blues theme, Birdlegg and company came off of San Pablo to blister Everett and Jones Bar-B-Que in Oakland's Jack London with blues hotter than the sauce on the Extra Special. Birdlegg once said, "When you play the blues, you gotta play with your whole body." If you never saw a guy use his whole body to play the mouth harp, you gotta check this guy out.
Word from down south in Mexico is that Charlie Musselwhite and wife are recuperating from their auto accident dating from New Years. Monday is Charlie's birthday and we all wish him well.
Upcoming concerts by the reunited CSNY are dominating everybody's thoughts. Stay tuned.
On the island, we had our Midnight Waffleboard and Washbin Jug band down at the shore, startling the seabirds and causing all the dogs in town to howl for three blocks in all directions. The mix was a little rough, but a couple bottles of Old Crow set everything right.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 23, 2000
A flap continues still over the Council doing something reasonable for once in rejecting the bigot Knight Initiative. The local chapter of the Gentlemen Against Fuschia Underwear has been pestering the Island Journal with diatribes against the Unnatural, which is not to mean the famous novel by Sam Beckett. A group of GAFU members gathered before City Hall to burn crinoline ruffs in protest. Some things never change.
Continuing the political motif, the Island hosted Senator DiFi for breakfast on the USS Hornet as she popped in during her stump-speech circuit for the Party last week. Her keynote proclaimed the focus of government to be service and not extraction, summarily speaking. She also had some pointed comments to make about the Bay Bridge Version 2.0, which has run into trouble in some circles for violating the State Statutes Against Stupid Design. More recently perceptive persons who have actually examine the blueprints have commented the bicycle lane goes only half-way to San Francisco and the HOV lane appears to be dominated by light rail. Others have noted that if the first bridge is irreparably damaged by the last earthquake, how comes it that 200,000 people still use it every day.
Somewhat badly photographed by the Island Journal, our Favorite Daughter stirred the congregation of Dems with Global Village sentiments before rousing them all with a grand rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Not to be outdone, Mayor Ralph led the Council and East End Bendover Club in a hearty "For She's A Jolly Good Fellow". After that, things got a little chaotic around the punch bowl.
It's noted many Meetings of Note have been talking place lately aboard the USS Hornet which still sits parked in the only big parking lot left in the Bay Area on the West End of the Island.
By now, everybody knows about the spectacular Lunar Eclipse that took place Thursday night. A nasty rumor went about that somebody had defaulted on the Lunar Rent, leading to a Patel Hotel buyout, and from there an Ellis Act eviction of the Old Man followed by condo conversion, but the blackout ended after 60 minutes. Followed by torrential downpours that continue still, as well as three-foot deep powder up in the Sierras. Drought averted for another year.
Closer to home, we note that the high rents and landlord avariciousness are driving out our dear Peppino D'Agustino, international guitar prodigy. Peppino returns to his native Italy after many years of gracing the Bay Area with his considerable talents. Remaining here at home, however, is Beth Custer and the Dona Luz 30 Minutos project band. Beth, a woodwind jazz virtuoso, is doing the Paradise this week over in Babylon City.
On the Island weird goings-on have been noted about the Luckys-Albertsons stores after eight. Strange dark men have been assaulting women, children and helpless pets in the parking lots of both groceries, leading Officer O'Madhaun and Chief Bunny to walk about scratching their heads. The after- sundown help inside the stores has taken to huddling around the Under 10 Items Register sign in great fear as baggy-pants ruffians roam up and down the desolate and wind-swept aisles. During the day, the atmosphere is one of ill-humor and vile disposition. Unearthly howling and low moans emanate from the dairy products sections and ineradicable damp stains keep appearing in the dry goods. The checkers are now subjected to random body cavity searches, lie detector tests and comprehensive drug screening panels, and must, in addition, contribute portions of their paychecks to a "Save the Poodles Foundation" run by the General Manager's wife.
Strange things are happening on the Island and Maybelle, our resident gypsy and weird old lady, has taken to muttering under her breath as she putters down Park Street, staring into the eyes of passersby.
That's the way it is on the Island. Dont let the beasties get you and have a great week.
JANUARY 9, 2000
The perceptive will note that the Roman procurator known as Herod enjoyed retirement from duties some 2005 years ago. Now if you can believe that silly old bible thing, this guy call jesus was born during Herod's administration of the Middle East. Which puts our calendars off by at least five years. Not to put too fine a point on it.
Speaking of splitting hairs and such, all California is in a tizzy over this lunatic proposition to amend the State Constitution to define "marriage." Hell, we all already know what marriage is: that's when you get kids in exchange for your sex life and your bank account. Any rate, the Island Council finally got around to discussing and rejecting the Knight Initiative, which is formally termed here the "Limitation upon Marriages Initiative". Kudos to the Council for having the common sense to agree with virtually every other incorporated district in Northern California. It is suggested that Tony Daysog was the sole dissenter, agreeing with Lowell Hatescomb of the Traditional Values Coalition of Extremists and Firebrands.
Its now time to issue the Years Most Awards, or, conceivable, the Millennium Accolades. The Stout Heart Award goes to Mayor Ralph for locking the door to the restroom until everybody in the room stated their position one way or another.
Understatement of the Decade to Councilperson Tony who said, "It's only 14 words." Of course those 14 words amend the Constitution.
The Haven't We Seen This Before Award of Merit goes to Councilperson Dewitt, who recalled that, due to anti-miscegenation laws of the time he had to appeal to the State Attorney for permission to marry in 1952.
The Award of the Year for Promulgating Hatred, Intolerance and Bigotry goes to Lowell of the TVCEF, for stating flatly, "You don't need a bible to tell you that homosexuality is wrong."
Finally, the Award for Intelligence goes to Councilperson Kerr for stating, "The city has absolutely no jurisdiction over marriage. We should stick to what we're supposed to be doing."
Other Good Things that happened: the Island PD busted a meth lab on Stanford Street, roping in 11 dealers and a fair arsenal of guns and methamphetamine. Big news about this: nobody was caught due to traffic infractions. It is true officers were alerted when one of the dealers climbed out of the second floor of the apartment, naked, and brandishing a loaded rifle. Two others took part in a drive-by shooting up in Richmond in which one target died. Finally, two more dealers drove up to the house in a stolen car after the house had been put under surveillance.
A two-year old child was removed from the house and placed in protective custody.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 2, 2000
Although we had no roving bandits, wild rioting, power outage induced mania, or Y2K conniption fits, the kids over on the East end got a little wild with firecrackers and blew a hole in little Shelly's pajamas.
So much for Seasonal Disorder.
Me and the Missus checked out the Berkeley Rep's production of Mary Zimmerman's "Metamorphoses" on New Year's day. Suffice it to say the packed house roared with approval after the 90 minute pastiche of stories came to a hushed close. Owing to the difficulty of entering and exiting the performance area - consisting of a huge pool of water surrounded by a square of 30-inch pine board walkways -- there were only three "curtain" calls. The adaptation of Ovid's 8th century masterpiece spun out an enchanting array of music, visuals, drama and pure magic. The Chicago-based Looking Glass company pulled out the stops in drawing from the multidisciplinary, multitalented ensemble, including original music score, song, Grutowsky-style acrobatics, dance, mime, and impressive method acting ability. Zimmerman has devised a triumphant success in pulling from the ancient myths and imbuing them with contemporary significance, including bits of Carl Jung (recited during the comic Phaeton/Apollo vignette) and quotations from Rilke. The use of an indoor body of water was an extraordinary coupe of dramaturgy. Volatile and mutating, at times a calm reflective surface, at others a raging ocean, the 4 to 10 inch deep pool becomes a character in itself, expressive and powerful in relation to the lighting and the actors in and around its surface. It does not matter that we have all known the stories for centuries; from the leather-jacket on Hermes to the spoiled-brat Phaeton reclining on an air mattress in his private swimming pool as he complains to his therapist, the stories enthrall. Midas, wearing a business suit, has the follower of Bacchus put up in the backyard "cabana" before rushing off to another stockholder's meeting. Aphrodite, wearing a red dahlia above her Rita Hayworth dress, takes a drag on her cigarette before spitting out her venomous curses to the messenger goddess. There is more. If you go to any theatre at all in the Bay Area this year, check this one out.
Legions of police, every Tac Squadder in the State, and every hostage-situation negotiator turned out in force to make sure it was a merry New Year, dammit. Not much Y2K went wrong, except for the Naval Observatory clock on the Web, and, of course the big clock on the Eiffel Tower. But those places are far east of here -- further than Chicago, in fact. Here, we all sat at home. We had to: Officer O'Madhaun was stopping and searching every car, bike, boat and tricycle that went a mile over the speed limit, starting at five PM. Nobody Could go anywhere; all the vehicles had been impounded.
Which makes you wish somebody had been standing by George Harrison's bedside when that lunatic busted in. Now that takes a lot of gumption: attack a sleeping pacifist with a seven-inch butcher knife. Well, George's wife brained the fool with a brass lamp and that put him away. Jolly good. Wish you many more years, George.
Homeless Calvin, presently living under the Xmas pine in the center of town, has the opinion the attacker should be thrown to the sharks. "Ah, gives all us crazy people a bad name. "
Sam Hill, who dug a Y2K Armageddon Bunker under Buena Vista Avenue, hasn't come out yet to survey the broken stones of former civilization. But when he does we got a steaming cup of hot chocolate waiting for him. If he doesnt shoot us first. I know somebody who is gonna be having a sale on 5-year MRE's. Me, I am turning over my very special Y2K copy of "Cannibalism: How to Avoid Being on the Menu" to the library. I figure that when the end of the world does come, I'll be too stringy to eat anyway.
And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great Year.
NEXT WEEK(JANUARY 9, 2000)
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