Welcome to the Year 2002, second year of the Invented Millennium and first year "Post 911".
This page contains all issues written for the year 2002.
This site has been in continuous operation, with weekly updates, 52 times, each year, since 1998. Consequently, the page loads get progressively longer as the months tick off. January, we start over with a new page.
To return to the present time, click on the picture of the bug. To roam about in time, visit the new archives. Click it, baby.
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DECEMBER 22, 2002
WITH A SHIVER IN MY BONES JUST THINKING ABOUT THE WEATHER
The color of the sky is grey as far as I can see
I lift my head from the pillow and then
Let it fall
Natalie Merchant sure got it right when she sang that song; But then, she usually does. The Bay Area is splish-sploshing into a short period of sunshine before the next big whammy hits, which should happen on Thursday, according to our insider at the Coast Guard. Howling winds knocked over an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer on the Richmond bridge Monday and the rest of the week just went downhill from there, with entire roads shut down under water and snow in the north counties and even exits off of I80 to Berkeley being closed due to "submerged conditions". Trees and power lines toppled everywhere, sending our well-experienced emergency teams scampering all night long for five long nights.
Here on the Island, an aggressive vegetation cut-back program resulted in minimal casualties, and our own municipalized power company kept the lights on for just about everybody. PiGgiE customers were, by and large, not so lucky, and there's more than a few voters in Babylon ruing the day they voted to keep the colossus in control.
We Islanders are of independent-minded and sturdy stock and we'll have none of PG&E's shenanigans around here, thank you very much.
Sunday dawned bright and clear as the temps dropped over Saturday night, and now each Holiday night burns sharp and crisp in the clear, cold air.
AND A JOYFUL SOLSTICE TO YOU
Last night we celebrated the real reason for all the Holiday Hoopla, as the Earth, our Mother, turned in her great revolve through the longest night of the year. Wiccans pranced, Celtics held feis an coil for Samhain, various witches in Marin cast spells, pagans jumped up and down, and a good time was had by all when the rain magically stopped for this sacred time.
Now just what d'ya call the worshippers of Pan? Panamanians?
We had better conduct ourselves, for the last feller who scoffed got pulled down from where he was treed in ancient Greece only to be torn to pieces. There now: It's not nice to fool Mother Nature. . . .
'TIS THE SEASON TO BE SHOPPING
One roving reporter indicates that, although the five Embarcadero towers are once again lit up in celebration, a rather picayune lack of imagination has visited the once legendary Union Square storefront displays of Macy's and Nieman Marcus. Feeling the pinch of meager creative thought after evicting all those artists are we? Now Babylon, we know you can do better.
Time was we used to ride the ferry out from the Port of Babylon after dark had wrapped most of the world in sable. During the Holiday season every able body on board would gather at the mist-soaked fantail of the catamaran to watch the golden/silver brocade of Babylon's skyline sparkle against the wave-chop smacking into the estuary. That was a time, my friends, when the breath of life on the water stung sharp and woke you up with a whoop for all that lives, for War had been defeated and Peace reigned as the Queen she should be.
On the Island, we are all a bit more subdued than in years past. Yes, many houses drape with flashing lights of red and silver and blue and green, but these seem fewer and more circumspect than before. We hold our friends a bit closer and longer in parting after the party than before, as if we all are walking from one Age into another, with no turning back and all things will become different. And those moments with those we have known for so long become moments to be held more consciously in front as necessary memories which may be required to carry us through some terrible future involving War. Once again.
NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS: THE SOUND OF SWEET GUITARS ON THIS NIGHT, THE LONGEST NIGHT
Still, there are these lights shining in the darkness giving us hope. We still have the power of choice at the last and we have some major victories, as Nancy Pelosi now leads the House. the NRDL, combined with several environmental groups, has halted the sheer lunacy of the Navy's attempted experiment with global sonar -- which would, in practice, have killed every living thing in the ocean around the transponders for a three-mile circumference. Across the country, the backlash against GOP extremism and obnoxious triumphalism is causing seat after local seat to fall to more reasonable and liberal opponents who promise to oppose the most objectionable and heinous of the Regime's proposals and will give dubious battle to those criminals and convicts who have been appointed over us.
POETRY IS EVERYWHERE
With gladness and joy, we recognize the Island's first Poet Laureate, Mary Rudge. Vates, we deem her and wish her long reign over the belles lettres of the Island. Long recognized locally as a the informal laureate, Mary was recognized formally last week in a ceremony at the Island Point, once a Naval base reserved for war machinery and now given over to peaceful uses. Members of the city council and Acting Mayor Al showed up to honor Mary and we find this a marvelous advancement. For wherever Poetry thrives, there thrives also the reasons for humanity as well as its highest demonstration.
Oh, all right. We'll stop being so Victorian. It's just something about the times seems to be driving us to Disraeli. It all just goes to show you that we know how to get things done here on the Island.
WELCOME MAYOR BEVERLY
Tuesday, the Council Meeting was given over to the formal transfer of power to Beverly Johnson as Island Mayor Elect. A passel of Girl Scouts marched in the flag and from there things continued positively positive with standing ovations and all sorts of jumping up and down and raucous celebration. Mayor Beverly is the first Mayor who presides over a post-Navy-base regime with no foothold on the past, and therefore ushers in a new era for the Island. One we regard with hope and attention.
I HEAR THAT TRAIN A COMIN'. IT'S COMING 'ROUND THE BEND
Melissa Etheridge has a song where she mentions in passing, actually screaming at the top of her lungs, "I am trying to reach you inside this cage . . . ". Melissa, my dear, I know just how you feel.
Here it is, approaching the midnight hour with the House of Blues blasting on the old stereo that probably saw duty around Eisenhower's time, with components borrowed and filched from various households over twenty-five years, and there it comes: the midnight howl of the midnight train traveling from the Port past the munitions/cannery by the estuary on its mysterious route to parts unknown. I can never do anything but pause everything and sit by the window in the dark kitchen by the window and listen to that sound. If ever I should go deaf, by the grace of the Whatever that runs things, I will always to the end of my days hear that howl echoing across the Buena Vista flats inside my head at this hour.
Down goes the stereo. Jorma Kaukonen singing the Christmas Blues, Baby. Fading out a jazzy Etta James doing Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland with horn and piano to die for. Echoing across the flatlands, the long whistle continues. And now I am thinking of the First Californian Christmas. With, of course, Oog and Aag in attendance. Who else? Yet now we see our time is up for this week. But we promise to return to that redoubtable pair next week, for the last installment for this year of Life on the Island.
Which will put us in Year Five of this website: Five years of weekly writing, 52 times a year, each year, with special Issues on dates following vacation. All issues still available online. Now that's something to celebrate.
And we like to celebrate on the Island. Because that's the way we are on the Island. Have a week filled with peace and joy and may Santa bring you much, much more than chain-store returnables.
Oh yeah, stereo is back on and Johnny Lang is singing. . . .
DECEMBER 15, 2002
SO YOU WANNA PLAY
The last days of a truly miserable year spiral down to their glad conclusion in a smash-bang musical season in the Bay Area. The local Beastfest went on in the East Bay from the 12th-14th. Now, as before, the Beastfest consisted of talented artists and promoters grown tired of the ingrown and snobbish scene over in Babylon, that other city across the Bay. And, as before, Babylon tried desperately to ignore the fact that talent is fleeing the exorbitant rents and obnoxious attitudes grown more prevalent in recent years Over There. Time, my dear City, is not Babylon's friend in this matter.
Still, there remains the Fillmore to host class A acts, including the raspy Susan Tedeschi on the 17th. Les Claypool will sail in on seas of cheese to usher in the New Years.
New Year's at the Bill Graham Memorial Civic Auditorium will be served by the String Cheese Incident, who lately have been trying to fill the void of wandering music noodling left by Jerry's passing.
On the warmer side of the Bay, the Other Ones revive a tradition going back to 1969 of holding a Dead show on New Years at the Oakland Arena. Expect Warren Haynes to make an appearance, as he is not listed at all anywhere for the end of the year.
Yoshi's, in Oakland's Jack London Square, is proud to have international artist Taj Mahal blues in the New Year with a show that will be telecast by KPFA, upping the East Bay's street cred by several notches. Taj, who has filled halls of 20,000 will perform in an intimate setting that holds about 75 persons at the max. We got our tix early, dude.
And leading into the final days, we have Peter Gabriel performing in the Oakland Arena last night and again in San Jose's Shark Tank tomorrow. Gabriel last ran a tour about eight years ago and is most certainly worth the wait, for this consummate showman puts on a total experience that never fails to blow out the mind. It has been over fifteen years since we saw him last at the Amnesty International benefit in Oakland -- and the experience has remained. Talk about a stage dive from a forty-foot platform -- backwards. And that was only one small part of it all. We also have it on good authority, on the inside, that Peter has remained a very warm and human person amidst all the superstar hoopla. And that is something to be celebrated indeed. We might suggest that a very good gift this season would be any one of Peter's excellent albums.
TAKING THE LONG WAY HOME
Two teens jumped a feller and stole his wallet and Walkman this week down by Park Street. A number of cars were stolen and numerous burglaries were reported. Chipman High School was vandalized when someone broke in and marked up desks and walls and stole some electronic equipment. In another case, some squinty-eyed feller cut the chain for the fence around the x-mas tree lot at South Shore and swiped half a dozen firs. As reported by the Island Sun, the nasty Grinch is a likely suspect.
Let it not be said that the Island considers itself exempt from topical paranoia or over reaction to the trivial. The Island's Finest were called out to investigate a reported bomb-making factory only to discover a pair of artists making images out of clay and wire in a backyard studio. Made the papers, it did. No arrests were made and Officer O'Madhauen is back to "calming the traffic", which is that thing he does best.
The Island's librarians are rejoicing over the sudden boon of $15.5 million from the State for a new library to replace the very quaint but very tiny library first built by Andrew Carnegie so long ago nobody remembers. And which has remained entirely empty for about three years due to earthquake retrofitting.
I AM SERIOUS, REALLY I AM
Proving that the Island sees no harm in preserving traditions from a previous age, no matter how ridiculous, the Marvelous Dancing X-Mas trees have performed once again at City Hall. Invited to perform before the current President, these trees have apparently not been invited back for a reprise. Well, we guess that Texan just don't 'preciate culture. Scouts checking out period locations typically remark that we on the Island have an ambiance that captures perfectly another age.
We can only hope that age is not the Terrible Twos.
WISH YOU WERE HERE
Any rate, here we got Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo on the stereo blasting away at 9 on the dial while the neighbor upstairs is poundin' on the floor with a broomstick. Heck, your fault you got a job wants you there at four in the morning. Rain is pouring down buckets but inside its warm and dry and the whiskey is flowing free. Outside the evening train winds its long, lonely whistle up from the tracks through the holiday lights and the soppy trees to my window. Travelin' tracks. Somewhere a sleeping cargo is trundling over the expansion joints from the Port along the steel rails to some far-off warehouse while dreamers dream in these last days of the year. In the halls of a well-guarded palace, a former street-thug, now dictator over a nation, tosses and turns on the rough bed he has made for himself. In his beleaguered HQ, a man named Arafat also tosses and turns in dreams of a Nation deferred, while only a short distance away, Sharon dreams fitfully of a time when his people can walk the earth in a place free from terror.
Closer to home, a man sleeps the sleep of a baby who has only simplified cares in the White Room while thieves and criminals snore contentedly all around.
Across the World, everyone is sleeping, except for the artists and musicians. They never sleep for the world is never content or peaceful, and they are the world's conscience. In the far distance, the channel fog horn sounds repeatedly.
That's the way it is on the Island, this rainy night. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 8, 2002
You can tell the seasons have shifted, for the main display in Pagano's Hardware has changed once again, this time to a scene presenting a holiday dinner that goes terribly wrong.
What has happened here? The table is canting, the boy about to cut the ham is flying through the air, the turkey has wound up on the floor in a pile of debris with the salad and the reindeer look at a cascade of candlesticks tumbling from above!
Well, a closer look under the table reveals just what has happened.
The look of glee on the little scamp's face tells it all. That and the saw.
This is what we on the Island term, Poodle Behavior.
MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER
Harlan has also joined the festive atmosphere with contributions of his own mounted on the house at Lincoln and Lafayette. The scheme appears to be growing amoeboid-like, with what seems to be Arabic along the white picket fence, two signs this time in front with a sort of weird drapery of tinsel and ornaments dangling from the tree. Here is an image of the centerpiece.
Have no more idea what the Hebrew means any more than the Arabic on the fence around the corner from "PEARLS." Something tells me Harlan has read Poe's "Mystification" and really takes it to heart.
EIGHTH NIGHT OF CHANNUKHA
About the time we all started celebrating them good old Macabees kicking butt some years ago, lights started going on all over the Island. Makes the place look real pretty.
Across the street we have a Julia Morgan-style house where just about 10,000 parakeets live -- but that's another story. Here is a pic of the place lit up at night, with an assist from a crescent moon and a few stars.
It's only the post-Poodleshoot calm, after all the turkey and the relatives. Only the lights shining at night and the distant sound of the midnight train winding its way through the darkness like the horn of smoky bluesman. Its peaceful here, the way it should be all over. That's the way it is and that's the way we like it on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 1, 2002
BRIEF REPORT ON THE ANNUAL ISLAND POODLESHOOT AND BBQ
Thursday dawned clear and beautiful, ushering in a delightful day for a peaceful day of poodle-hunting. And just to make damn sure the day stayed peaceful, Sean "Knickers" Malone sent around an invitation to every member of the Island Dogwalkers Association to a special "Pink Frilly Fashion Show" with promised free champagne and a raffle for two majestic works of art featuring one sad-eyed clown and one kitty with oversized loveable eyes. How tweet. As an added bonus, the demonic genius Knickers added that a life-sized portrait of Elvis would be present.
Them dog walkers hopped into their pink RV's and just about scampered en mass to the location: Paso Robles, some hunnert 'n fifty miles south of here.
Meanwhile, we was free to roam about the preserve, shootin' up poodles wherever they may be found, and there was all sorts of shootin' and drinkin' and good old times just like the good old times.
Now there's some peoples who take exception to this all American sport a poodle-huntin', especially that French couple who had the misfortune of bringing two fine ones on this All American Hollarday, Fifi and Foufou. Well, not even a year's supply of good quality diesel from the soon-to-be-demolished Chevron on Otis plus an all-u-kin-eat ticket for the Boston Market's Fried chicken buffet could assuage the damaged feelin's of these here furriners who just stomped off in a real hissy-fit.
Hell, they didn't even wanna taste a bit of Fifi with Marybeth Whittamore's Special Jack Daniels Sauce.
Seems them furriners are gettin' their panties in a twist all over the world cause of Bushy, Ashcroft and such. They be claimin' that those Americans are just to darned violent, what with always taking the heavyweight champeenships, and the little things with machetes and stuff in Central America, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Hell, they never even mention Australia! Which I swear neither George Bush nor his daddy nor any Texan at all, has ever sullied with any violets. You can check the facts on that, m'am. So there. Thank you very much.
Now I know we might a misbehaved a bit with that there Noriega feller, and as for the Middle East, well, oil is oil and let it pour where it may. Gotta fill that there SUV somehow: else she gets so top-heavy she wants ta tip over all the time. So you can see I just hafta keep 'bout forty gallons in her all the time, just to make the ballast and keep her safe. But I swear we never, never, never had any hand in doing stuff in Beijing. In spite of Nixon. No sirree. Chinese rice is safe from our meddling, I tell you.
Any who don't wanna discourse from the subject overmuch. Just to say, that poodle-huntin' is my god-given aesthetic right and they' stop my huntin' when they pull that poodle BBQ dripping with special sauce from my cold, dead hand.
So, accolades to Lynn for her ingenious arrangement in which a host of poodle pups were caught by her pseudo Martha-Stewart demo out by the Cove. Fine job Lynn. Very stylish. Then Chris earned himself the Devious Award for constructing a computer game that had Fifi working the controls to capture an unwinnable bowl of kibbles -- by design -- until Fifi jumped up and down in frustration and stepped on a circuit board that delivered about 80,000 volts at high resistance. Clever use of HTML, Chris.
Frances McDermid, noted movie star and celebrity, put in a brief appearance, by making nice use of a wood chipper set at the bottom of a tiger trap near the wharf. What a lady.
In short, it was a marvelous day and a splendid time was held by all. Except by the French. And that couple down by the Gold Coast. Sorry about your Honda.
More apologies to Paul on his old Gibson 12-string. Heck a bit of Elmers glue and she'll play almost like new. If'n we hadn't forgot the damn song is in G instead of C we wouldn't a forgot our Piece out by the outhouse. Any who, it still makes a fine club, although it tends to splinter a bit more than the old National Steel when smackin' poodles about.
It was not until the end that Padraic brought out his Special Home Brew and, as the sun set in flaming colors behind the golden gate, the lot of them sang misty-eyed songs of old Tara.
THE LACKAWANNA BLUES
Me and the Significant Other took in one of the closing shows of ACT's "Lackawanna Blues" after the BBQ and I can say we have not enjoyed such a fine performance in many years. The show is a one-man tour-de-force glowing tribute to Miss Rachel "Nanny" Crosby, a boarding house owner in Lackawanna, New York who acted as surrogate mother and savior to hundreds, perhaps thousands of souls, including the author and actor, from about 1950 to 1981. In the course of 90 minutes or so, Ruben Santiago-Hudson achieved the impossible, in presenting over 20 characters, performing solo to the accompaniment of Bill Sims on guitar, sometimes flickering between two characters engaged in conversation for minutes at a time, encompassing a 230 pound auto mechanic, a one-legged mental institution patient, a battered white woman, her abuser, several prostitutes, a handful of ex-convicts, and himself as he was as a boy growing up at 32 Wasson Avenue in the middle of what was frequently total chaos.
While creating the "atmosphere" of the time, Ruben described the midnight shindigs that featured "Doin' the Dog", and involved the entire audience to the delight of all.
"Nanny" was apparently a remarkable woman who provided a safehouse for hundreds and regularly provided assistance to hundreds more who lacked food, clothing or shelter or all of these together. In a typical incident she stood in the doorway facing an angry 250 pound wifebeater saying simply, "If you want to get at her now, you are going to have to go through me first. So you just try to give to me what you done give to her . . .". And in those cases, invariably, she would win.
Man, when that final curtain went down you never seen such a thunderous ovation at ACT with every audience member standing up to cheer this astonishing performance, making quite clear that Ruben Santiago-Hudson has demonstrated more talent in his little finger than lesser stars possess in their entire body. For 90 minutes he enthralled an audience used to the very best with talk, song, dance and even fairly sharp mouth-harp.
Joe Bob says, "Check it out!" Definitely.
THE LEAVES THEY ARE A TURNIN'
All the oaks and maples on the Island have done their thing and now the streets all have piles of stuff sitting along the curbs waiting for the green machines to come scoop them up. Nights are a tad chillier, but, as this is California, we still got a few natives scampering about in shorts and sandals. All along the strand you can see the distant hills of Babylon sparkling in celebration of the Festival of Lights. After the busy business up in Berzerkeley when a feller took seven people hostage at one of the Kaiser buildings while at the same time two other fellers held up a Brinks truck, all is peaceful and an old Dead song come to me now:
Counting stars by candlelight
all are dim but one is bright:
the spiral light of Venus
rising first and shining best,
From the northwest corner
of a brand-new crescent moon
(lyrics by Robert Hunter)
It is now official: surviving members of the former Greatful Dead are going to reinstitute the 25 year-old tradition of holding an East Bay concert. Since Jerry died in 1995 and Brent Mydland died in 1991, the survivors will be performing as The Other Ones. Well, you may not appreciate their music much, but a tradition is a tradition and its always a very fine thing and we wish the boys well.
That's about it for this week. So long and thanks for all the fish and have a great week.
"Why dolphins are the cleverest . . . ".
NOVEMBER 24, 2002
THE MAD ARTIST OF LINCOLN STREET.
The latest message on the wall from the Mad Sign Painter of Lincoln Street is short 'n sweet.
NorCal felt a shaker this last Sunday at 3.2. It was one of those short 'n sharp rockers. Monday morning we enjoyed ourselves another and there's a long string of short-timers heading for the airport already. Thanks Mother Nature.
SPORTS SHORTS: BEARS OVER STANFOO
The Cal Bears made history and broke the 7 year losing streak against the Stanford Cardinals this weekend. In games from 1987 to last year, the Bears managed to win only two games against their well-to-do rivals from Palo Alto. Ah, revenge is sweet.
West of the
Mississippi, nobody ever heard of the Pilgrims, and if they did people would
rightly consider the bunch to have been a pack of tight-ass ingrates who
cheerfully murdered those who had offered life-saving substance only a few years
previously, and who had gotten kicked out of Europe in the first place because
of their intolerant and pinched view of life.
Nevertheless we do celebrate the Thanksgiving as a way of giving a nod to the Cosmic Whatever for allowing us to get this far and to count the blessings with which we are gifted. The story of the First California Thanksgiving is a fine one, and all the better for its freedom from religious zealotry. And who should have begun this august institution here west of the Sierra but, you guessed it, the descendents of Oog and Aag.
The first "official" thanksgiving took place on November 30, 1850 at the decree of then governor Burnett, and it is assumed by many that the celebration occured largely because of the enormous contingent of New Englanders who had swarmed over the Sierra as part of the '49 Gold Rush. It seems the platillo enjoyed in the mining camps consisted largely of jackrabbit, as few turkeys are to be found up in those hills. Truthfully, deer having been hunted out of the hills long ago, and bear having become largely mythological even as early as 1850, any sort of meat at all was hailed as a god-damn god-send.
In fact, Thanksgiving in California had occurred much earlier and records go back quite a ways. Even before the Pilgrims had landed, in fact. There is record of one Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oņate, who, according to documented Spanish historical records, celebrated the first Thanksgiving day in El Paso del Norte, right by the river banks in 1598, roughly fifty years before the first Anglo Saxon Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth Rock.
Of course, that was in modern-day Texas, which everybody knows does not count unless you are Lyle Lovett.
What really happened what this: In the town of Hapless Camp, the memory of which has now dissolved from the history books, there lived 148 would-be 49'ers, two female, mostly-Chinese, cooks named Nellie and Isabelle, who pleasured the miners with food and other fine things, and their poodle, named Cheesin-Lo. About August, end of summer, a particular flea bit a particular miner, named Festus, and he subsequently expired of a terrible fever that featured these obnoxious swellings all over his body. These swellings are called "buboes" and this thing he died of is called commonly "Bubonic Plague". Unfortunately, Festus was not overly fastidious in his household arrangements and a whole host of fleas enjoyed his syrup before he went.
Well, to make a long, really sad story short, the entire population of Hapless Camp died of the Plague, leaving one, flea-ridden Cheesin-Lo left in search of poodle kibble or whatever he/it could scrounge.
Only god, or Satan, knows what it is that makes poodles free from the plague. In any case, Cheesin ambled down the road toward China Camp, dead set on getting more feed and unconsciously dead-set on infecting the entire population of the Sierra with the dreaded Plague, for China Camp was at that time the nexus of activity through which all of the Gold Country traffic traveled. Had Cheesin reached China Camp, he/she/it would have sent the contagion on across the valley to SF and beyond.
Here it was that Festus Jacinto Mariposa deOog, passing along with his blunderbuss, happened to discover the animal, a clear shot, right in the middle of the road. Keep in mind that in this time, with no deer, no bear, no cows in the hills to speak of, any sort of meat was heartily welcome. So it was that Oog shot Cheesin square between the eyes. Then, he hauled up the flea-bitten carcass on his shoulder and trudged off to find a place to skin the thing and eat it.
Now here our tale becomes somewhat questionable, we understand. Why Oog would have turned aside from the main path back to his cabin so as to find a better place to roast a dead dog, history does not record. Perhaps he noticed some secret sign on a tree now long since cut for BBQ briquets or perhaps he simply wanted to gut and clean the animal away from his dwelling. Who knows? In any case, Oog wandered from the main path and soon fell, poodle and self, into a long shaft at the end of which he landed with a thump that broke his leg.
As he lay unconscious, several fleas took this opportunity to bite him. This was not a good thing.
After he was finished being unconscious, he woke up. Then, his next step was to regret being awake for the pain in his leg was most excruciating. With his handy flintlock tinder he lit a small fire so as to see where he had ended up. In fact, he lay upon a chest, quite smashed by his fall, of thousands of gold coins. And to the side lay a skeleton. In the boney hand of the skeleton was a piece of paper. On this piece of paper were written the following words, "This be the long lost Mariposa Treasure. If'n you find this 'n me, remember me. Mah name is . . . ". Unfortunately, the rest of the note was illegible.
Many hours, perhaps days, passed before Oog heard a voice at the top of the shaft. "Halloo! Enybody down thar?"
It was Aag. Out for his constitutional after his ritual mudbath and Indian sauna. Aag, not particularly industrious by nature, had taken to earning his living by selling shovels to would-be miners. Relaxed and alert, he found this shaft at close of day, from which a strange light emitted. Oog had taken to burning pieces of the treasure chest for light and company and cooking poodle. It was the light and smoke from the burning chest that attracted Aag.
In short order, Oog communicated the essentials: That he was a miner with a broken leg at the bottom of a shaft with an half-eaten poodle on top of a veritable mountain of gold and would offer two-thirds or more to anyone who would get him out.
Sounds fair enough, but, as a Golden State native, Aag was always alert to "the Catch".
Unwisely, Oog added that he had a terrible fever going on and it seemed there were these "swellings going on" all over his body.
Now, Aag was no dummy. He knew about the Plague. He knew what it meant for the relative capacity of science in his day. And all he knew about catching it was from hearsay, which said, "You so much as breath near such an infected person and you gonna DIE fur sure!" And he thought about the thousands of men who had swarmed over the Sierra crest now all living close to one another.
"Okay," he said. "I'll be back." In truth, he was. With the first mechanical "bulldozer" ever seen. He got two bulls from a paddock and built himself a flatboard with a backwards hitch on it so that the bulls could push this thing forwards. He then mounted the contraption on the tailings from the old mine and then drove the bulls forward, shoving about a half-ton of earth over the old mine shaft hole. Then he did it again and then went away.
The best we can say about the poor feller under about a ton of gravel and dirt is that Oog died of suffocation before the buboes really got him. And that the entire population of the Sierra survived.
The following day, Aag held a great feast to give thanks to the gods and to whatever for having saved the entire population of California from a terrible fate. And there you have it, the real and absolutely true story of how thanksgiving came west of the Mississippi River. All the other mining camps up there took up the practice as well, for the life of a wannabee gold miner was difficult and fraught with mountain lions, poor diet, bad mud, nervous jumping up and down and, generally, very little gold. So these fellas working up in the hills thousands of miles from home dearly loved a party with drinking and carousing and good eats and raucous music. Which brings us to the beginnings of rock n roll, but that is another story.
THANKSGIVING ON THE ISLAND
Here on the Island we have our own little rituals. The 4th Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ gets underway at dawn on Thursday. Aspiring hunters and lovers of good BBQ need to check out The Official Poodleshoot Rules Page for further info. You can find an account of last year's event here, which can be downloaded by right clicking and then doing a "save as" sorta thing. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.
We all love a good feed and a jolly good time as well as that good old tradition and we are full of it here on the Island. Everybody says so.
Now here's some holiday advice for y'all. Don't drive anywhere: assume every third automobile contains an incompetant boob who learned how to drive on a Hong Kong Carnival ride. Realize there aint nothing that is gonna change Uncle Ted and Aunt Whizbang in a day; they've been going at it for years. As for Uncle Bob who gets drunk every year and shoves his hands into the taters, we suggest purchasing two items beforehand: 80,000 volt stun gun and a pair of handcuffs. Things will go much better after ya invite him down to the basement to "fetch a nip or two." Believe me.
Well, that's the way it is on the Island. Have a grand week and try not to eat too much.
NOVEMBER 17, 2002
LIKE THE WEATHER
We all survived the amazing first storm of the season. And what a storm it was, knocking power lines and trees all over the place. Practically the entire tree fell on a neighbor's car across the street and it took City Hall three days to clear the debris. Water stood in ponds twenty-four inches deep by the PO, causing the curious spectacle of SUV drivers pulling backwards the wrong way to avoid getting their vaunted 4-wheelers damp. Hell, we just plowed through in our old trusty "Veronica", a 1977 Volvo sedan, and stuck our tongue out at the sissies. Hell man, what you buy that fool thing for anyhoot? Our people in Marin lost power for an entire night and the winds knocked over 75-pound weights holding down sheet plastic.
LIKE A ROLLING STONE
Another Rolling Stones concert has been scheduled for Feb. for those that missed the first three, making it an estimated 152,000, plus a few thousand "comp" tickets, who have seen the Stones just for this one tour in this area.
The band, named after a Muddy Waters song, first performed some thirty years ago and were told by a record company exec, who will go nameless here, "You guys are gonna be really BIG. But I gotta tell ya, you aint gonna go nowhere unless you get rid of the guy with the tire-tread lips. Your lead singer is gonna hold all of you back."
Well, thirty years later, they still have their lead singer, who still tends to understandable effusiveness. Here's a picture of Mick in LA. People think he's singing "Brown Sugar," but really he was complaining about the 50% tax bracket.
On Thursday evening, November 14, 2002, our good friend and neighbor, Joe Bailey, collapsed during a phone call. The person on the far end called 911 and the paramedics responded within minutes, but could not revive our friend and so Joe passed away. He was a talented photographer who had posted the results of his work on his walls. He was, as well, a capable carpenter in high demand in the area, and he spent his days restoring many a rich person's kitchen or whatever. He freely loaned his equipment to neighbors and was a well-loved figure on the island for his generosity and greatness of spirit. This loss will be well-mourned.
Lately I have been listening to old Social Distortion tapes. Couldn't afford CD's or LP's in those days, so tapes is what I got. Couldn't get much further than "Could of Been Me."
Then, of course, being a Gemini, we go pull the Phish and the Greatful Dead. Solace for bad news. Shameful, I know. The one tie-dye shirt remains at the bottom of the drawer, never worn, we might add. Don't know how we managed to be the only guy who has never "tripped" at five GD shows. Must be the sense of responsibility that comes with always being chosen as "designated driver."
A fellow neighbor once called Joe "one of those old, aging hippies." Don't really know if he ever did LSD, but suspect that his basic nuts and bolts common sense would have carried him through. Going thin on top with no apologies or pretense, Joe seemed the essence of practical resolutions. His photo darkroom was his kitchen with a plywood board stuck over the window. In his photographs, the subjects stared out with simple, unadorned humanity. He was not one for fancy dodging and burning, preferring the major work to be done at the moment of composition. Because he was not famous, not a Mapplethorpe or a Dorothy Lange, his images are destined for someone's attic, eventually to be discarded some ten years hence, lifelong work forgotten. Such is the fate of many of us among the Community, remaining unmarried and childless -- or ending up that way -- with no access to Fame. Our Work is the continuation of the Community, unheralded and unremarked except in footnotes to someone else's life. "Joan was heavily influenced by XYZ . . .".
Well Joe, wherever you are, I will do what I can to make sure that footnote gets printed in boldface or enters the text body, for you were a good man as well as a good artist and that combination is dear and hard to find in any time.
THE RETURN OF THE WATER WARS
In the late 1880's, a fairly visionary naturalist by the name of John Muir got various members of Congress to agree to preserve a sizeable chunk of real estate that is part of the Sierra mountain crest, The result was the creation of Yosemite National Park and the surrounding Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks. Now, Muir was a man motivated by aesthetics, but it turned out that this preservation included the main watershed for just about all of California, and had he not pursued his quest on behalf of beautiful waterfalls, the vast majority of California would now be an arid desert akin to Nevada's Great Basin. At the time, lumberjacks were slicing down all the big stuff and sheep were conspiring with cows to denude large expanses of the small stuff, all essential to preserving the snow runoff that becomes the drinking water for 35 million people.
Recently a pipeline break revealed the slender link that exists between the teeming millions and the snow-stored water at Muir's hated Hetch Hetchy reservoir.
Recently, voters approved a multi-billion bond bill to revamp the existing water system, but the Hetch Hetchy line was not included. Why? Because the line itself is illegal, as is the dam that supplies it. Over 45% of the Bay Area water supply comes from the Hetch Hetchy system, which centers in the middle of Yosemite Nation Park and against which Muir fought bitterly for years, forming the notable Sierra Club in the process.
In a ferocious political battle that involved the shifting of millions of dollars, the result really could never have been doubted. Muir, a non-powerful eccentric was shunted aside. The City of San Francisco was granted rights by Congress to build a dam in Hetch Hetchy valley, square in the middle of a national park. The dam was built, an entire valley destroyed, and a 155 mile aqueduct was built up to the Mount Diablo Mountains, where the world's longest tunnel was bored through. So far, so evil. Then, through backroom deals, the dam and rights to supply power were yielded to private interests, and the notorious PGE arose like a shadowy Melmoth from the mists of the once pristine valley to capture the majority of electrical supply contracts throughout California. This is the reason Bruce Brughmann of the SF Guardian gets his nose so out of joint about municipalizing the city power: By law and act of Congress it already belongs to the City and should never have been released, for such release was contrary to the wishes of the entire Nation, not just California.
Well all that's fine and good, but at least we had water. Well, the pipe done broke and there is no money for fixing it. It's a pipe that supplies several millions, keep in mind. And any attention in this direction causes a heap of embarrassment. It's getting close to a return of that redoubtable pair, Oog and Aag.
UNDER THE BOARDWALK
Down on the strand the scudding clouds splash a Thiebaud sky with colors. The storm-torn beach shines clean under the swelling moon while across the water, the spangle of Babylon's jewels shine against velvet. The Raiders battle the NE Patriots tonight and the 9'ers went down earlier in the day. All clear after the storm. Except the twin contrails of a navy fighter dissipate slowly across the sky. Over at the Ace Hardware, a new seasonal storefront has replaced the gory Halloween scene. Pics on that later. Later this week we get to enjoy the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ. The results of which we shall relate in good time.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 10, 2002
POST ELECTION BLUES REPORT
Not blue at all is new Island Mayor-elect Beverly Johnson, who won with a convincing 47% of the vote while the remainder got divvied up among the 3 runners-up. Johnson has served long and well on the Council and we welcome her as the newly crowned Mayor Beverly. We also welcome Tony Daysog on his return as incumbent to the Council seat and to Frank Matarrese, the urban planner who has been active in the community.
Spiraling outwards, Alice Lai-Bitker took 70% to take the coveted Board of Supervisor's seat at Alameda County, home to 1.5 million people in the largest county in the United States. Wilma Chan regained her title as representative for this district to the State in Sacramento, and Barbara Lee, sole dissenter in Congress to George Bush on his first Iraqi campaign, won handily with over 80%.
Most California elections ran similarly, with the winner taking between 65-80% of the vote in their respective districts, with the Democrats coming out pretty much solidly on top. Turnout was well above expectations in all areas, surprising the troubled SF registry once again, and causing foul-ups and snafus in Babylon they'll be arguing about for years. With a 52% turnout, there were not enough paper ballots printed, so many voters roamed from precinct to precinct trying to hunt down extras.
Babylon, narrowly this time, defeated the measure to sink the gluttonous PG&E and establish a municipal public power utility once again. The difference was a matter of hundreds of votes.
Nationally, the results were somewhat of a disaster for the Democrats, with the GOP taking control of the House and the Senate, giving Bushy, Baggot and Green an imagined mandate to proceed with War. And a number of other very questionable issues. We can feel Alaska cringing from here.
ALL IS NOT LOST
Post-election day we went down to the chaotic scene at Papoon's headquarters by the strand. Papoon, if you recall, was the of the ground squirrel contingent that dared aim for the highest office of Mayor of the Land. Among the bonfires, the faithful were laid low as if in a lake of burning fire, wretched and most abused. Then He rose up. And there, the noble Leader was seen to be rallying his troops among the ashes of defeat for yet another assault. Here we are privileged to report to you part of the text of his speech, from this most illustrious squirrel:
What though the field be lost?
All is not lost--the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power
Who from the terror of this arm so late
Doubted his empire, that were low indeed;
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall: since by fate the strength of God
And this empyreal substance cannot fail,
Since through experience of this great event
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war,
Irreconcilable to our grand foe,
Who now triumphs and, in the excess of joy
Sole reigning, holds the tyranny of State."
Wise words indeed from a most Miltonic squirrel. For in disputation persists Democracy, and in acquiescence persists Tyranny.
THE MINISTRY OF SILLY WALKS REPORTS
It's been reported to our desk that England, that odd little country over there, has lately suffered from a "squirrel terror" in Knutsford, Cheshire. So sorry such a concern should pass in any place, let alone Knutsford. It was reported that an "American grey squirrel" had taken to biting people on the ankle and finally resorted to leaping upon a child to embed its "fangs" in the poor baba's forehead, only to be wrestled loose by two muscular gentlemen. And then subsequently shot by the child's grandpapa the day after.
There are a few problems with this furry tail, and we feel it is required of us as responsible journalists to set matters aright.
It could not have been an "American grey squirrel" at all. American grey squirrels do not inhabit any part of Europe and certainly not England and furthermore are frisky, playful fellows who mean no harm to anyone and who would never muster resources to go leaping upon a creature that outweighs it by 60 pounds or more.
American squirrels are far more
sensible than any other kind, you see.
No, we believe that we know precisely who was at fault here. What sort of animal that would stoop to biting defenseless babies we well know. Non other than that nefarious Yemeni Silverhaired Poodle, Osama Bin Lassie! Observe how vicious is the demeanor of this noted terrorist.
Now gaze upon the look of the common American grey squirrel and note the differences. How calm is the brow, how serene the gaze, how confused the outlook, how placid the disposition!
Quite clearly, this is a case of mistaken identity and some poor innocent squirrel has already paid the ultimate price. Yet another argument against Capital Punishment proven without a doubt.
ITS ONLY ROCK N ROLL
Friday night the world's Greatest Rock N Roll Band, and the longest lived, held court at Pac Bell Park and managed to hold the faithful despite torrential downpours. The open-air concert was sold out to 38,000 souls and every soul rocked while Mick and crew did their stuff.
The 59 year-old Jagger galloped and strutted like man a third his age while the ever-steady Richards rocked solidly on his 5-string. This is the first tour during which all members come to perform entirely "clean" with no drugs or booze to cloud the inspiration. Sorry to say the mostly 50-ish audience didn't quite measure up to the same standards as a number of ladies achieved falling-down drunk status before opener Sheryl Crow even left the stage and the pleasant aroma of green stuff wafted here and there over the soggy but joyous crowd. Oh well, it's only Rock n Roll. But I like it, yeah.
The boys are in town for two more sold-out gigs -- one more at Pac Bell park and another on the warmer side of the Bay at the Oakland Coliseum. Mick is doing the high-life party circuit while Richards, typically, is spending his free time doing a couple benefits for local charities and giving away free stuff, like a signature guitar, to benefit the local schools. A life-long devotee of Muddy Waters and the blues in general, Richards also will be found hanging out at some of the places where good blues can be found. Since the John Lee Boom Boom Room enjoys its fifth anniversary this week, you might expect to find him there.
Speaking of opener Sheryl Crow and good acts, the busy lady is spending her free days firing down to perform with survivors of the Jefferson Airplane in LA as part of the "Love Ride" motorcycle gathering that benefits SoCal schools on Sunday. She's a beautiful lady, inside and out.
BULLET THE BLUE SKY
During my salad days, I used to work in a valve factory up in the industrial town here called Richmond. I knew a fellow named Tom who worked as a machinist operating one of the huge ball-end mills made by Okuna. It was an amazing thing about as big as a tank and standing ten feet high. His job was to lower the tungsten bits, each weighing some one hundred pounds, to then drill hunks of metal to within a micron tolerance. You couldn't hold a conversation too well with this and the sound of the saw slicing off chunks from a twenty-foot ingot in the same room.
During our breaks we would go out and talk and he would tell stories of his two tours in Vietnam, where he worked as a post-drop ordinance sapper. Basically, his job was to go in with a team, or by himself sometimes, and defuse all the stuff the air force had dropped but which had not exploded. Yet. So that the army could then come in with people and take the positions or do whatever body counting needed to be done. Assuming the ground was clear of enemy by then.
You have to imagine what it was like, day in and day out, for years. Going up to something damn near big as a Caddilac and loaded with stuff that would pretty much vaporize you and everything else in the vicinity for about a quarter mile in all directions. Then doing that little wire-arrangement thing suspense film makers were so fond of dramatizing a few years ago. The seconds ticking by. And, of course, with the added detail of somebody shooting at you from time to time.
"Yeah, one never went off on me, so I guess I was lucky. Some of my buddies weren't so."
I asked him how he dealt with it afterwards, and, predictably, coming back to civilization as we know it turned out to be somewhat difficult. So he signed up for another tour.
"Yeah the marriage didn't last when I came back," he said. "Wife couldn't take me wakin' up an' screamin' in the middle of the night. Took a while, but I am better now. Don't drink so much and got a new old lady."
There he was, just a rolly polly sorta guy with a beard sitting in the sunlight before going back to the howl of the machines for another four hours or so and quitting time. You would never think of it from the man, but then, that's the way with most vets to finally get it all together. When people start thinking about having wars and beating up some bully in a far off place, it might be good to keep in mind that wars are sort of like this. After all the bombs have dropped and the fighting is done, somebody always has to come back in and defuse the situation in the worst way imaginable. And there always are casualties. In one form or another.
Tom, wherever you are today, I salute you and wish you well. Tomorrow is Veterans Day and many of us will be remembering those who wore a uniform.
On the Island, a little group gathers each year over by the model airplane field. Taps are tooted and some words spoke and people remember stuff that should not be forgotten.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a peaceful week.
NOVEMBER 3, 2002
THE SEASON OF THE WITCH
As the brave musicians ventured into the Palace of the Voodoo Queen in Blues Brothers 2000, the eerie drone from Dr. John's tune came wafting through the Spanish moss-draped cypresses. Through dread and danger passed the intrepid crew -- only to find Queen Latifah, who commenced to put on a party to end all parties.
Of course poor Elwood had to suffer through a hex or two, but that's the way of voodoo blues.
The Bay area concluded its most intense holiday period with what is variously called Samhain, All Soul's Eve, El Dia de los Muertos, and Halloween this week with its usual bevy of parties and shindigs up the wazzoo.
Of course, there was the kids dressing in costumes, importuning friends and relatives for "trick or treat", but that was a small part of this two-week long festival.
On the Island, we had our usual "Designated Safe Homes", usually indicated by the decorations laid about the place. Here is one located at 333 Central Ave. Each "leg" is approximately 10 feet long, to give you some idea of the scale of this relatively small-scale setup.
DON'T YOU EVER GET ELECTED
Or you surely will go to hell. Or so the song goes. Well, it appears there is no shortage of those longing to share space in the hot place with Old Nick this time around. As a public service to aid those going to The Other Place we include here the official county instructions for voters this Election Eve for the new Touchscreen system, soon to be coming to your town, if you don't have it already.
You can download this image and print it on your own trustworthy inkjet by right-clicking on the image and doing a "save as". Please remember, Deutschland, 1936 had the lowest voter turnout the nation had seen. And we all saw the results.
On election night, the results will be spit back to the Registry by modem lines -- in most cases -- and will be trucked back after polls close in the form of the hard drives contained in each polling device. Tom York, the IT man in charge, and Elaine Ginnold, Asst. Registrar, have both assured us that "This County is not Florida. We will conduct a scrupulously honest election above reproach".
Okay y'all over there; you hear that?
The most exciting baseball series in history went down with dismal view ratings across the nation as the entire country shrugged off the California show between the Angels and the SF Whatevers.
Hey, you win the series and we give you a name.
In what was only the sixth series in history to go to seven games the Angels finally wrestled the title from the Giants in spite of Barry Bonds.
In Sunday foosball, The Oakland Raiders and 9'ers met today in the Battle of the Bay. Most NFL fans are not aware of the intense rivalry between the teams, and the intense hatred between the fans. The 49's came out on top in OT 23-20 in a close fight on Oakland's home turf, nailing a 0-4 losing streak to the Silver and Black. You could hear the "Arrrgh!" across the island. Shortly before the game, the Raider's official Rally van was seen cruising over the Fruitvale bridge with all flags flying. Raiders fans are definitely a breed apart and inclined to perform some of the bad boy antics for which the pre-Gruden team was famous. Notably, every 49'er had their family members stay home for this battle on enemy turf. The van was impressive, but the decidedly partisan crowd had an effect on only one kick, causing a 9'ers attempted field goal to sail wide of the mark amid thunderous cheers for Oakland, but failing to weaken the red and gold defense a single yard.
They are probably celebrating their civic pride over there the way they usually do: by overturning the Muni buses. How charmante.
THEY'LL NEVER MAKE A SAINT OUT OF ME
The Rolling Stones blow into town next weekend and our Teen has gotten tickets, both of which events causes some concern. "But Mom! I wanna see 'em before they die!" Now really. Mick Jagger is only, what, 55 or so. But still, by all reasonable calculations he should have been dead long ago from something. We still are not sure if Keith Richards is dead or not, except he keeps on moving and seems to be more gifted in the intellect than his bandmates. This is a man who refused to sleep for three days because "life was too interesting". Having committed most of the sins found in all the major religions on this planet, its a wonder an angry mob has not lynched the entire pack. When the Devil comes to claim both of their souls, we wish them all the best, for to be both evil and entertaining for over thirty years takes some talent and there is no doubt that Mick and crew have significant talent.
As for being 55 and near unto death, here we must heave our girth above our levis 501's "with just a scosh more room" and make our position clear. Now then, now then, now then . . . !
In other music venues, Roy Rogers teams again with cellmate Norton Buffalo at the intimate American Music Hall later this month. The venerable Fillmore hosts Yonder Mountain String Band for the bluegrass fans, followed by Blondie on the 16th, and acoustic wunderkind Leo Kottke on the 17th. 3 Doors Down follow with a "superman"show midweek on the 19th. Tower of Power ends the month on the 23rd followed by the cult legend band known simply as X on the 26th, to include all original members as well as DJ Bonebrake.
Also happening this month, but SO are the annual KFOG Concerts for Kids, featuring Johnny Lang, Jackson Brown, Indigo Girls and the soulful Nora Jones. One moment: word is in that tix for Indigo Girls with Johnny Lang still available. Bring an unwrapped toy for donation should you go, for these concerts are true benefits and well worth the price of admission. The Indigo Girls, that pair best known as the Harley Davidson's of the acoustic world, always put on a fantastic show. Last we saw them, about 10,000 women sang on cue and in tune backup to one of their best known tunes. Not bad for a single miked Larrivee and a Martin 00.
PAPOON FOR MAYOR: NOT INSANE
Tuesday is Election Tuesday, and a big one for California, the Island and the Nation as well. In the Golden State, we choose our next punching bag for Governor who will have the pleasure of handling the energy crisis, a renewed set of water wars and the dismal economy. Nationally, we have the balance of power at stake as the President attempts to draft up a majority in his favor in the House and Senate. Our own Barbara Lee, sole dissenter against the Gulf War is up for reelection -- it does appear she is heavily favored to win.
California never does well under the GOP leadership, for a variety of reasons, hence it appears that nobody is bothering to stump here with any seriousness.
As for the Island, we have, of course our Mayor's seat left vacant prematurely by the death of former Mayor Ralph. Bill Withrow, a former mayor, is running against a solid field of contestants with no clear favorite in view. Personally we favor, with some prejudice, the Rodent Party candidate Sam "Whiskers" Papoon, whose election slogan is quite simple: "I am not insane". Quite clearly, this is a ground squirrel with a difference. When asked about the obvious physical limitations in a candidate who stands no more than nine inches in his socks, giving rise to some question as to whether he will be able to sit in the Mayor's chair at Council, Papoon has remarked that, if elected, these situations will be a sure test of the extent to which City Hall has complied fully with ADA requirements. As for the chair, Papoon lets it be known that ground squirrels can climb with the best of them and he promises nuts for everyone. Also part of his platform are stricter leash laws, a Zero Poodle Ordinance, and various energy concerns. Whiskers points out his long service to the Island Power and Telecomm as mascot as proof of his qualifications.
PAPOON: NOT INSANE
Well, that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And don't forget to vote for Whiskers Papoon on Tuesday.
OCTOBER 27, 2002
BLACK CAT BONE
Indian Summer ended abruptly this week, ushering in scads of foggy chill winds at night. The days went from sunny, to overcast high fog in hours and now the Change of the Seasons is upon us. Also heralding great changes, are the holiday installations cropping up everywhere around the Bay. "Decorations" does not a whit of justice to this sometimes extensive arrangements that may cost thousands of dollars. But, hey, a party is a party.
Heard that Paul McCartney's show went over rather well at the Coluseum. Sir Paul performed over 37 songs in a four-hour concert that never flagged. Ani Di Franco performed at the Paramount, or so we heard, and was very well received. Tom Petty, our favorite bad-boy, executes a one-two punch with Jackson Browne at the Shoreline on the 30th. Browne, who is the only rocker ever to have won an award for literature has proved a surprising complement on his comeback trail with the raucous Petty who basically has written the book on garage-style rock 'n roll.
The mysterious Residents will haunt the Warfield Halloween night, in all likelihood performing again with those eyeball masks. Another Bay Area secret treasure, the Residents have remained anonymous for about thirty years of stage performing. That is no small feat. They have never been photographed and are commonly billed as the World's Best Known Unknown Band. Here is a promo shot for their 30th anniversary:
At the venerable Fillmore, neo-goth punks The Cramps will hold fort on Halloween. Gov't Mule already performed on the 24th as Warren Haynes continues his steamroller streak of high-viz performances.
The Bank of America branch on Otis was held up during a daring bank takeover robbery. Three men took over the bank for about twenty minutes, forcing customers to lie down on the floor at gunpoint while they made a teller hand over a bag of cash. The cads hopped into a stolen auto and, because no traffic violations occurred, they got clean away. The car was found later splattered with the red dye used by banks to mark stolen cash.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Its perfect weather for the beach. Walking along it at night, of course. The winds blowing in across that chill bay have cleared out all the detritus, making the strand a great place to stroll and view the distant string of pearls that is the Golden Gate, hooking up to the undulating gold and silver glitter of Babylon stretching south to the San Bruno hills. Think about Life during these times. And all the Big Issues. Like, what kind of mechanic works on the Popemobile. And what keeps Sheryl Crow looking so good at her age and in her business. Existential stuff like that. Solve the world's problems there on the beach. Then come back for a bracing hot toddy. Commune with Friederich the cat on these things and the Big Answers. Got plans for a 40mpg SUV all figured out. Cut our oil imports by 75%. Take the world by storm it would. But not tonight. It's enough to ruffle F's ears and gaze out at the chilly moon scudding among the cloud bracken. It's warm inside here, yes. Then to the typewriter while Friederich curls up at our feet.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great and spooky Halloween.
OCTOBER 20, 2002
At the end of the day, it all turned out to be relatively uneventful. Oh, the Blue Angels flew overhead and there were concerts and bands and all sorts of hoopla, but no terriers crept up on deck to blow themselves up in front of the Mayor. Last year, the big event was cancelled, you may recall, due to "unforeseen circumstances and necessary contingencies". Meaning everybody steamed, flew, swam and ran to the Middle East to show some muscle. Neighbor next door did a 20 hour shift protecting the populace as part of the Coast Guard and then fell exhausted into bed. Pretty much sums it all.
A VISIT TO THE OES
You may not know what the OES is, but you have one in your town. That's the bunker where the government will go should Saddam go wacky with his smallpox grenades or when the Big One hits California. For east of reference, the OES is the Office of Emergency Services, and in our County, it resides near the charming upscale town of Dublin. It features several miles of barbed wire, a rather imposing edifice called Santa Rita Jail, and numbers of weird official buildings with antennae and official warnings to keep out or your ass will be shot off. But in more official-sounding language.
You must keep in mind that Alameda County is one of the largest counties in the United States in surface area and hosts some 1.5 million people. So, these people have a budget somewhere above that of a few European countries and a strong sense of having something to protect. For should anything happen, by god, they are going to make damn sure the budget is well protected.
Well, they may phrase it differently, but that's really what its all about. And when the other shoe drops, this is the place where the laces will all get tied together again.
On entering the complex, we passed by the joint Sheriff-Army shooting range, so the first thing that greeted us was a volley of gunshots. Then, of course, the signs saying, "YOU ARE IN RESTRICTED TERRITORY. AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY! TURN BACK NOW!"
We were truly gratified to know that our Harley was, for once, fully "authorized".
Then we passed along the lines of barbed wire, a charming monument to a long-dead sheriff whose name we forget and the entrance to the county jail, easily 400 acres in size beneath a hill upon which the federal penitentiary sat with august aplomb. Every blade of grass had been cut to exact size.
Then, entering the halls of the County Sheriff we passed by the Boys in Blue practicing takedowns and jiu jitsu holds.
Witnessing this spectacle for five minutes we can only say we earnestly entreat you, should you be of such a mind, not to resist arrest for your own good. Resisting arrest against these guys would be a really, really, really bad idea.
We went there to resolve some relatively minor computer issues in the conference room, but we must say, when the Big One comes, in whatever form, "We Are Ready Now". As spoken by Dewey Back Then.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
Guns and bunkers and stuff are not our usual cup of tea, so we return to the relatively sane world of music, where unsane things happen all the time. Word is Kinos, the bastion of alternative sound in Babylon, has been slated for closure. The owners and promoters continue to fight the good fight against the relentless smothering of local music that has been choking the life out of the Babylonian Way for some years now. One particular group, termed by a local newspaper as "that group of bastards" has been particularly onerous in its virulent, non-stop series of attacks upon local clubs.
ON THE UPSIDE
Famed torch singer Patti Griffith did the Fillmore on the 17th and we heard very good things about the show. But then, we have never heard any bad things about a Patti Griffith concert anyway.
10/24 sees Government Mule, headed by the indefatigable Warren Haynes, assume control of the venerable Fillmore. Warren has been playing non-stop with GM and several other bands for the past six months, including elements of the reforming Greatful Dead, and we are seriously thinking about getting a "Save Warren's Health" group together. Don't work so hard, Warren. On the other hand, go for it.
M'Shell N'Gegeocello hauls her bass into the Fillmore on the 26th for some serious funk, followed by the teaches of Peaches the next day. Peaches has been shocking the Booboogeosie with her blue flavor of pro-sex rock for a short while now. Goth punks, the Cramps do honors on the 31st.
At the Warfield, the Bay Area's own special Residents will usher in Samhain, Day of the Dead or whatever on the 31st. Keep your eyeballs peeled for this one.
Alonzo King winds up the 20th Anniversary of the Lines Ballet tonight with jazz giant Pharaoh Sanders. Sorry you missed that one. But Alonzo is not going away any time too soon.
AND ALL THAT JAZZ
Although not as prestigious as Newport or Monterey or New Orleans, the SF Jazz Festival has started to earn some renown in later years for comprehensive covering of all the bases while maintaining a tight focus on the heady aspects of intellectual jazz. The 20th anniversary kicks off this week on Wednesday. This year the lineup features some decidedly hot swing, kicking off with some Big Easy boogie, leading to Charlie Hunter, followed by the latin jazz of Ruben Blades at the Regency. Quartets headed by Wayne Shorter and Branford Marsalis elevate the level to Grammy status. Then follows a week of excellent local groups and newbies capped on the 3rd by the billed "Meeting of the Masters", featuring Ellis Marsalis, Bobby Hutcherson and Bruce Forman. Ornette Coleman ushers in the new millenium at Davies Hall on the 7th, followed most improbably by Merle Haggard at the Masonic on Friday. Bobby McFerrin stands in for the absent Los Van Van and our very own Lavay Smith with her Red Hot Skillet Lickers polish up what's left for brunch on board the San Francisco Spirit, docked off of Pier 9. Kurt Elling will cool your school with Mark Murphy on the final day, Sunday, at the Herbst Theatre.
SF MUSIC AWARDS
Remarkably low-key and
underplayed this year by the media in general and symptomatic of the continuing
interest malaise in Babylon, this year's Awards went largely unheralded at
large. A sign of a scene that has grown ingrown, allowing for no fresh air
from outside and reflected by mass fan abandonment for the sterile honks of
techno and "house". Any musicians who have survived up to this point are
quite talented and scrappy. Notables up for awards are the Rova Saxophone
Quartet and Scott Amendola in the jazz category.
Then there is the new category of "Lifestyle music", created largely to encompass, well, the rather strange. Chief contender here is "Extreme Elvis", a 300 pound ball of pure cheese whose act is built on the premise, "What would Elvis be like now if he lived and continued to push the envelope?" This includes the envelope of pills, booze, public urination, overeating and sex with whomever, whatever whenever. Elvis has been known to command his band to strip naked, play Anthrax tunes on a whim, to pee on his audience and to strip naked himself, then leap, all three-hundred pounds, into the mosh pit. The concept is frightening, but apparently the man really can sing.
Also bridging this category to some extent, but really pure punk at heart, is the band Angry Amputees, headed by John Dalton who came out of a severe meningitis infection in 1989 with no legs and no fingers. Surviving entirely on sheer willpower, the bassist put together a snarling punk rock band that has been getting accolades. You gotta admit, this is one feller who has more than paid his dues. Man, you think you have it tough.
AS THE WORLD TURNS
Latest in the soap opera that is the Island Hospital, which goes fully public November 4, is the report that the budget will not hack the coming year unless more Islanders get sick. Or Moderately Injured. And then pay for services. So, boys, it is now your civic duty to haul your behind down to the Hospital and fork over some dough for treatment.
Heaven help us if the poor and indigent start using the public hospital. For they were always turned away before.
This is the hospital that threatened to close unless it got 6 million in public monies, then went through a long public process of becoming a LafCo.
I told you six million was not enough.
THE POLICE REPORT
October is always an interesting month to look at. To begin with, we had our coach at Island High subject to arrest for a scuffle with a student who flicked the bird at the coach, cursed loudly in language that shall not be repeated here, made rude and inappropriate comments about Sept. 11 and physically fought being brought to the principal's office.
Hell, in my day, they made the boy do 100 pushups, then suspended the jerk and put a shoulder around the fellow who had to deal with it. How times have changed.
In other news, a man was arrested for knifing his wife. Surely an excess of matrimonial abuse. In another case, gunshots were fired from a balcony in the West End. Police confiscated firearms and took in a parolee who should have known better. Such an image of the Island this gives. Really.
CAR SHOW ON PARK
We heard of a car show on Park, the 9th in an annual series. There was lots of chrome and bumpers and fins and wretched excess from the Filthies decade. You know, that time of Eisenhower, button-down sexual repression, overt racism, Red scares, McCarthy witch hunts, duck 'n cover responses to atom bombs, and so on. Well maybe it was not such a great time after all, on thinking about it some more.
But, everybody had fun.
THERE'S MORE TO THIS STORY
In other news, a car struck a
pedestrian in a crosswalk and broke his leg. The victim managed to hobble
off to the hospital for treatment. Although found at fault, the driver walked
without arrest or citation. Officer O'Madhauen reportedly said, "Once in a
while, if there's a blatant violation, a driver may be cited."
Now, breaking a man's leg may not be the worst thing that can happen, but you have to wonder just how bad it needs to be for some kinds of people to be cited in this town. Especially given that citations are issued right and left to people who just happen to not belong to the right social club. Lets talk about getting tickets for crossing through yellow lights and for turning left on the wrong street at the wrong time of day on the wrong day of the week.
And then some people nail somebody in the crosswalk, breaking bones and get scott free way.
The moral of the story: be very careful when you come to the Island unless you come from "good family".
MEET YOU ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
We just had to end with this shot of the latest offering from the Mad Artist of Lincoln Street.
I'll have you know I drove my bicycle down the road for two miles in the dark to get this picture.
And I still don't know what it means.
In front and
somewhat difficult to photograph, is a four-foot diameter clock-face mounted on
a seven-foot high stake. The numbers, instead of being oriented to the horizon,
creep along the outside diameter.
Vikings? Birds? Clocks? Perhaps the mysterious ironies of an unstated history; who knows? All I know is that a blessed lunacy prevails upon this sanctified Island set in the emerald sea between the unruly shores of Babylon and the parched lands of San Antonio. All I know is that we are a blessedly demented folk. Demented but kind.
This is the best time of the year, with the fog beginning to swell over the hills. Leaves don't exactly turn here -- they go sort of grey and some drop off, but the sunsets are spectacular. It's long been a secret pleasure, this changing of the tides and seasons. I have always felt a secret guilty pleasure in the cooling breezes, for hot weather does not agree with me. Never had a use for it. And unlike the East, cool weather means only a little more cool weather, as opposed to icy freezes, dangerous roads and wildly unpleasant biting cold.
Down by the strand, the strollers and the joggers taper off in the season, until there is only the soft susurration of the sea against the sand against the jeweled backdrop of Babylon's chain of lights. For this we came and for this we stayed. In the soft wrap of night, pleasant anonymity cloaks us.
The other day, we pulled ears of corn from the plants so carefully tended by The Significant Other.
Meanwhile, in the East, the skeletal ice fractals across the ponds and River, beneath which the trout move slowly with slowing fins. Soon, the world will lock up in a freeze of white beneath which all life beats with a slow, hidden rhythm. Above, the dead world breaks twigs in the harsh snap of frost.
Here, the Canadian geese will lift off for their final jaunt to Chile and Argentina, leaving this place calm under the glittering stars. The ground squirrels will huddle together underneath the modest cover. And we will have our own rituals, borrowed from places we have come and places we have been. From the great white salt flats of Palo Alto, along the backbone of the Peninsula which breaks the wall of fog, up past the flats of Berkeley and on upwards to the occasionally snow-dusted top of Tamalpais, this land we love and which gives us life revolves with its own beat of drum to another season, another harvest.
This is what no outraged terrier-ist can take away. This is what defeats the most vicious of adversaries.
And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 13, 2002
THE BEST REVENGE IS LIVING WELL
This past week many of us were well revenged. The Significant Other took on a powerful yearning for something European -- and as one who preserves her enviable girlish figure by eating only once a day, the Hofbrau Haus and Der Wienerschnitzel down on Fast Food Alley did not cut the cheese. So to speak.
We found ourselves
down in the West End shopping center where a new tenant has finally filled the
spot left by a sushi bar some six months previously. Angela's features
Italian cuisine with a difference. Perhaps you might find a tomato sauce
or two, but the homey staples of spaghetti Bolognese and lasagna will not be
obtained here and don't dare ask for them. Even the house salad
(does not come with meal, costing $2.00) turned out to be a marvelous collection
of assorted exotic greens mixed with three kinds of grapes and drizzled with an
homemade dill sauce and a zesty European vinaigrette. The Significant
Other had a spinach/feta wrapped in strudel pastry that was dabbed with a light
tomato sauce. I had tender lamb kabobs served over a bed of rice with
slice of onion and a stewed tomato flowerette. We each had glasses of pinot grigio and California zinfandel from the capable wine list.
The place was neatly arranged and well-lit for parties of four or more and clearly is aiming directly at the well-heeled and well-traveled inhabitants of the new developments across from the shopping center.
The place is so new that no listings are available for it anywhere on the web and recent customer attendance has been quite low, but the attention to detail and focus upon the more delicate aspects of fine Italian cuisine should turn the place into a long-term good bet for success.
ON THIS HARVEST MOON
It's not a full moon, but we like the song anyway. And the weather has been gorgeous.
There is no joy in Mudville, for the A's are out of the running, after the Angels broke a 20 game winning streak, but the SF Giants are in play for the pennant as of this moment.
In Babylon, the Giants, on the fussball end, begin the season and Earthdance fills the Park with music.
THE MAD ARTIST OF LINCOLN STREET
Harlan has been on a roll lately, with all the antics going on in the Middle East, practically anything that doesn't involved shooting or bombing somebody smacks of welcome rationality. Our man of the signs has posted the following 20-foot note on his backyard fence.
Anyone who can assist us with translating this will get a special pass to this year's Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ.
Turn the corner and the viewer will read something relatively more comprehensible, if not a bit more understandable. Or vice versa.
Um, okay Harlan. Whatever.
On the other side of the house, abutting a gorgeously painted Victorian two-story the view observes the following painted on a twenty-foot high wall.
This one has been up a while, but we are still not sure if it is a reminder or an exhortation in the manner of, say, "Free Mumia!"
There have been quite a number of Yiddish, Hebrew and Arabic signs up, especially while Arafat's digs were being torn down about his ears. There have been also a number of pointed references to the US Constitution.
Always nice to be reminded that the old scrap of writing still exists.
NAUGHTY AND NICE HALLOWEEN
Everybody's favorite party, hosted by Perry Mann at the Cow Palace comes to Babylon next weekend. Its the sort of party that has given Babylon is rep for sinful shenanigans of the worst kind, but it does raise over $120,000 each year for worthy causes.
With the remarkable powers that come from the Digital Age, we bring you the family magazine advertising-version for the 23rd Annual Exotic Erotic Masquerade Ball.
Our in-house censors added some strategic airbrush so as to present a relatively wholesome image for the kids. Still, any party that invites Dennis Rodman must be hard put to keep a damper on things and this is clearly one party for adults-only. Costumes are optional and cameras are welcome. One year a bevy of ladies showed up wearing nothing much other than hats and well-placed body-paintings. Every year several thousand-thousand swingers, players, strippers, voyeurs and basically good-times randy souls show up for this fifteen-hour extravaganza of flesh and sin. If you want to play, be prepared to pay: tix typically run in the $80-$100 range.
Another "only in Babylon" kind of event. And they don't do nothing like this in Baghdad or Riyadh.
Here in the milder climate of the East Bay, we celebrate the Days of the Dead with fabulous lawn installations and altars, some of which we hope our roving camera crew will document for you. And over here, kids are welcome.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 6, 2002
THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER
Sunday dawned bright and clear, pushing to a brighter and sunnier -- and hotter -- day all over the Bay Area, even in foggy Babylon, where the annual Bridge to Bridge run brought out all the runners to loop through the northern hills of the City from the Ferry Building to the Great Highway, where Joe Bonamassa performed for the weary thousands. The run featured fewer "loonies" than in previous years, but was all the same for the packed thousands needing to turn the "race" into a long walk under sunny skies that scorched other parts of the bay.
Mbarak Hussein of Kenya won the 12K in 36:39, leading a well-spaced front pack. Morro Bay's Christian Hesch followed in 36:58 with Kenya's Fred Getange coming in at 37:21.
Our own John Collin, of the UC Berkeley track team, took first in the 7k with a time of 22:17. Babylon's famous hills undoubtedly are to account for the slow 5 minute pace times in the leaders.
Sara Day and Chris Lundy, both of Palo Alto took first and second in the woman's division with times of 43:46 and 44:14. Babylon's own Katie Evans and Leslie Kothe took the top slots for the Woman's 7k on a pace of 6:39 and 6:40, ordinarily not seen except at the high school level on the East Coast.
NIGHTTIME IN THE SWITCHING YARD
The most serious labor conflict to flare up in over twenty years continues into its third week as the lockout continues at ports all up and down the west coast, halting commerce dead just as the retail economy attempts to gear up in the face of a critical recession for the Holiday Season.
Now, Oaktown has a port and not just any port. It is the defacto third largest port in the world behind Hong Kong and Singapore, hosting the world's largest container cranes, of such immense size they inspired George Lucas during his filming of the Star Wars epics. If you got anything, anything at all from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Mainland China, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, India, Pakistan, Hawaii, Alaska or any of the small countries in-between, the chances are that thing passed through the port of Oakland.
Any traffic from those places that does not go through Oakland, passes through Long Beach and that port is locked out as well.
Down at 3rd and Embarcadero, there are some serious all-night sessions going on with many billions of dollars at stake while Bushy considers sending in the troops, for every day of stoppage costs the country about a half-billion dollars.
Those figures, my friends, are antihistamine numbers; i.e., they are nothing to sneeze at.
THE TIMES ARE A CHANGIN'
All along the waterfront, on the Island and in Oaktown's sanctuary, the flocks are a gatherin' for that annual pilgrimage down to Rio. The air turns cool in the evening, despite the day's blasting heat, dew forms on the car windows and the city lamplights overnight. Must mean a cold wind is about to blow down from the North. A sphinx moth takes shelter in the warm kitchen, trying to eek out a few more days or hours of life before the inevitable while the catfish fries on the stove. He's way up there and bothering nobody, so let him be.
In the midst of all the hurly-burly, strange tales of crowds beating solitary strangers to death on someone's porch, the weirdly-painted pale choppers flying over head and distant wars consuming our youth with terrible inevitability, the economy heading for a sure time of sorrow similar to the last time we had a Raygun-Bushy situation, but worser by degrees, the laws of time persist and the changes scheduled many millions of years ago carry out their appointments as usual.
Perhaps, as we spiral down with sure certainly to another Great Depression, that its time to let go, sit back, and restock with what's important and really continues from one year to the next long before we were here and long after we are gone. Or perhaps it is simply to consider these things that are healthy, continuous, and true in themselves as signs on how to be. Soon, the Deltas in the East will freeze.
Personally, I'm gonna take my rockin' chair down to the river. And I am gonna rock my blues away.
Until it gets too cold. Then I am gonna get myself inside and have a nice hot toddy.
UPCOMING BAY AREA HOLIDAY
We are heading into that most prized and cherished of all holidays in the Bay Area, and I do not mean that Pagan celebration called X-mas. Halloween is the time for the big, major blow-out when everybody lets it all hang out and the place becomes wilder than New Orleans at Mardi Gras. Well, maybe close.
If you have never lived through a Bay Area Halloween, you are really missing something. Here on the Island, Pagano's Hardware starts it off with a storefront display that has been ruled by the polls as The Most Fantastic Bay Area Display Window.
As you enter this perfectly functional hardware store, for example, you see Smiling Sam to your right, surrounded by loose limbs, snarling black cats and the occasional skull.
Turning from this sight, perhaps an aberration caused by those spectacles, you encounter the butler, shadowed by an eight-foot spiderweb.
In terror, you flee past the seven-foot tall witch casting spells over the paint department and step outside. But the usual store display appears to have changed.
Instead of the usual period knick-knacks and vacuum cleaners, the window is filled with skeletons, panthers, rats, bats, witches and hanged men. As Poe would say, "Oh horrible, horrible, most horrible!"
Well, he might not have said exactly that, but you get the point.
Each one of the figures, by the way, is for sale. And you better be ready for a four-figure bill, because we take Halloween quite seriously here. There are some famous Bay Area installations that take weeks to setup, and feature hundreds of these figures.
In a world of all-too-real horrors, these kinds of things render with imagination those shadows we dare not otherwise express, and by doing so, make them what they are: harmless shadows of what could be, but is not. The grotesque and feared becomes comical, and so easily dealt with. And perhaps that is not such a bad thing after all.
Down the street, the seasonal shop has changed its banner, and now features themes in orange and black with yet more bats, cats, rats and skulls than you can shake a stick at.
For in a time of the horrible, we must laugh at the horrible. Because we are Americans.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2002
MAYOR RALPH MEMORIALS
Flags flew at half-mast all week for the former Mayor Ralph Appezzato. . .
We had kinda hoped to imagine this scene wherein Mayor Ralph sets up with ex-Mayor Corica in a joint barbershop venture and they would be found there any day, cutting hair, dispensing wisdom and talking about the good old days of running the town. It was not to be. A special commemoration service with 21 gun salute from the marines took place on deck of the USS Hornet. By all accounts 'twas quite moving.
WHERE TO GET ORANGE-FLOWER AOLI FROM FINLAND
The big buzz is the opening under pressure of the new Trader Joe's at the struggling South Shore Center. South Shore, the Island's only read shopping center, has seen the closure and demolition of the big movie theatre four-plex and the loss, as well as demolition of the Lyons Restaurant. The Lyons was a symptomatic and typical case in many respects. Given a prime location fronting the water with views over the Bay toward Babylon and the Golden Gate Bridge, the place built its windows to face the parking lot so diners could keep eyes on their automobiles. It never worked and so the place folded up. And the cars got broken into anyway.
But the new Trader's had lines out the door past the brand-new rows of palm trees and with the only other Traders in the excruciatingly crowded Emeryville, this place stands a good chance for hauling in the out-of-towners from across the water. For it is quite true that it is now easier to cross a body of water than it is to get into and out of the Little City that Grew. E'ville has developed itself into quite a monster and people now are known to drive half a century now to get around the mess.
Shopping at Trader's, if you have never experienced the pleasure, is quite an international experience for gourmet cooking. Hey, pick me up one of those Chilean seabass stuffed with Alaskan crabmeat while yer picking up your smoked walrus.
Under gorgeous skies and moderate, sunny weather, Babylon hosted the 30th Annual Blues Festival out at Fort Mason. Me and the Significant Other took a cruise out there to catch some of the illuminaries of the Blues on Sunday, arriving in time to hear Robert Lockwood Jr., sole remaining survivor of the Old School perform songs written and recorded by his stepfather and guitar teacher, Robert Johnson.
Yes, that Robert Johnson.
Born in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas in 1915, Lockwood began performing with his stepfather at juke joints and parties until Johnson's murder in 1937 by a jealous woman. From then on he pursued an increasingly illustrious career that continues to feature extensive public performances at the age of 89 and for which some of the best musicians in the world vie for stage participation. Winner of the first 1980 and 2001 WC Handy award for Best Traditional Blues Album, 1995 awarded the National Heritage Fellowship Award by Hillary Clinton, Honorary Doctorate of Music by Cleveland State University are among of the few of his many accolades.
Another blues legend taking the stage after this admittedly hard act to follow, was James Cotton, who has turned the humble mouth harp into an extraordinary instrument and is credited with rescuing the career of Muddy Waters with his scorching solo at the 1960 Newport News Jazz festival.
Band-mate of Muddy Waters for 12 years, he has performed with virtually every major blues performer, past and present, since his birth on a plantation in Tunica, Miss. 1935. He got his first fifteen cent harp for Christmas and worked fetching water for the field hands. During his breaks, he would play his harmonica in the shadow of the foreman's horse. Both of his parents died when he was just nine years old, and so Sonny Boy Williamson raised him from there as part of his traveling band, abandoning the entire band under Cotton at one point to go live with his estranged wife.
Without experience, the fourteen-year old could not hold the band together. Once again cast adrift, James found a man by the name of Howling Wolf, scammed his way into the nightclub and impressed the man so much he was taken on for another four good years, recording several singles and even managing a daily fifteen-minute radio spot at the age of 17.
Staying out of trouble and keeping off drugs paid off well for the bluesman, who went on to play with Muddy Waters, Janice Joplin, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, Steve Miller, Freddie King, B. B. King and many others, always putting on a very energetic, high-voltage show.. After operations for throat-cancer in 1994, he was forced to remove vocals from his set and slow down a tad, no longer performing full back-flips in mid song. Sunday, everyone on stage clearly was in awe of the man, and his vibrant take on the blues still punched through with remarkable power.
Continuing the trend of super-powerhouses, Otis Rush took the stage. Here is an excerpt from the official bio:
"One of the greatest guitarists in the history of the blues! Dozens of albums. Architect of the famed Westside Chicago guitar sound. Hypnotic guitar and hypnotic vocal vibrato. Truly a legend in every sense! Probably the greatest blues guitarist to come out of Chicago. Gut-wrenching vocals. Ranks with B.B. King, Buddy Guy."
Not too shabby. Otis picked up the guitar at age 8 and began performing in church choirs in his birthplace of Philadelphia, Mississippi. He moved to Chicago in 1949 in search of work and, after watching Muddy Waters perform, decided to become a professional musician. Rush is best known for being the first to include the electric bass as part of the standard lineup, which fueled a far more aggressive sound than the old upright had allowed.
It may be odd to say that a man with over 22 albums to his credit, who sells one-million copies each year, and who has a star pressed into the Hollywood Walk of Fame came on wearing a dowdy green sportscoat and thick eyeglasses, acting with all humility as if he were just a kid stepping up on stage among adults, but Steve Miller did exactly that and still won the hearts of the crowd with a very capable closing set that roped in all preceding members plus an additional handful of lights. Yes, he did do a version of "Fly Like an Eagle", which he handed during the jam to the astonishing guitar work of Harvey Mandel, but for the most part "the Joker" was content to sit back and let the stars shine. Cotton returned for a nice instrumental call-and-response thing between his harp and Steve's guitar.
Quite a nice surprise were the vocals provided by the very soulful Marcy Levy, who offered some tasty estrogen to balance the definitely testosterone-fueled final day. Levy has performed as integral band-member of Bob Segar, Leon Russell and Eric Clapton, with whom she co-wrote "Lay Down Sally". Unlike a lot of the blues "shouters" out there, Levy possesses a strong command and control over three octaves with some very sophisticated modulation. Her "Just Cry" had the crowd right in the palm of her hand.
Among others, any one of which is worth the price of admission in their own right, were Charlie Musselwhite, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel and pianist Bob Goldberg.
By the end of the extended jam, even the eucalyptus trees were bopping and swaying to the driving beats. In short, it was a good day for the blues.
We whiled the traffic-wait away over in Japantown in a sushi bar, then headed back under cover of darkness.
On the Island, the dogs slept and all the children dreamed of stealing cars while Officer O'Madhauen patrolled the four block radius about the Station, making sure no one violated the rights of pedestrians, even in the late hour.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 22, 2002
MAYOR RALPH - SUICIDE
Appezzato died Monday, of apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The
Island mourns its native-son, three-time Mayor-elect. Ralph had recently been
diagnosed with prostate cancer and had withdrawn from active campaigning for the
runoff seat on the county Board of Supervisors. A three-tour military man, Ralph
pulled out of the Marines as a Colonel to enter Island life as local everyman
about town with memberships in Boys Clubs and similar organizations. In a way,
he was the prototypical Island Man, a thorough-going throwback to another time
persisting well beyond his generation's dominance with a unique and well-liked
Ralph belonged to a time infused with neon tubes, Tastee-Freez, Art Deco architecture, solid Pillars of Community and Boy Scout kinds of civic concepts. He is survived by three sons and his wife of over 20 years, Marilyn (nee) Moore.
PICTURE A BRIGHT BLUE BALL IN SPACE
Lately I have been thinking about many things while stomping up and down the beach in great agitation scattering the uncaring sand with angry strides while astonishing the dog-walkers and the ground-squirrels, but without any great success in cogitation, for I find at the finish I am no smarter after a walk than before and have found no great solutions.
There can be no greater ease to the soul than listening to music -- unless it may be playing that music yourself. And what better music to ease the soul than good, old, down-home blues. Babylon's 30th Anniversary of the Blues Festival takes over once again during Indian Summer at Fort Mason. Seeing as Mark Hummel will join James Harman, Paul Delay and Johnny Dyer for a free kickoff starring them Mississippi saxophones on the 27th at Justin Herman Plaza. Same group will also blow the doors off of Biscuits and Blues same night.
Saturday Robert Cray will end a day of star-packed excitement, only to risk Sunday being overshadowed by Steve Freund, Robert Lockwood, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Steve Miller (yes, that Steve Miller), and Charlie Musselwhite in a band that includes Elvin Bishop, Harvey Mandel and Nick Gravenites.
SPINNING, SPINNING FREE - DIZZY WITH ETERNITY
In yet another instance proving that the criminals on this Island are really special -- as in Jerry's Kids -- a would-be forger named Booker T. Carloss II got nabbed after attempting to cash stolen checks. The smarter crooks do not leave their primary ID on the counter when they bolt out the door. As did Booker.
In another case, two kids got themselves arrested for stabbing a third with a sword. In an additional twist, the youth claim to be members of the East Oakland Crips. Both the Crips (who are based in LA) and the Oakland Police Department do not recognize these fellers as members of any gang. For punishment, we suggest sending the two down for a pleasant week in Compton.
In yet another road rage case, a woman was threatened by another woman brandishing a 12-inch butcher knife. When Officer O'Madhauen pulled over the suspect, he found the knife. The woman claimed she was upset because the other woman laughed at her. She also said she did not know why she brandished the knife.
RETURN OF THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR
It's about time to return to the adventures of Oog and Aag, the Pleistocene progenitors of the Bay Area. For those of you new to this column, Oog dwelled upon the hills of Babylon about 30,000 years ago, way back when the Golden Gate was a fairly deep ditch and Marin was just another blue-collar neighborhood of grizzlys, mountain lion and Miwok. That was long ago, before telephones and email, even. Then Aag came strolling in across the flatlands from the Shoshone-land and the two have been at each other's throats ever since for Oog could not abide having any more company than necessary and the foot-traffic on the Nimitz Footpath already impossible.
When Aag found that pine nuts made an excellent dish, Oog started the practice of burning down the hills where they grew, which developed into a sound ecological practice that appears to continue to this day even though nobody eats pine nuts anymore unless they come from Italy. When Oog joined the Missions, founded by Fr. Junipero Bippy-Huragh, Aag fled to the hills and became a rebel. When Aag drove the stagecoaches for Wells Fargo, Oog became a bandit. When Aag plied the Bay water with his ferry from Babylon to San Antonio (some years after the Pleistocene ended) Oog joined with Horace Carpentier to seize public land along the waterfront and create an exclusive monopoly on ship traffic. Well, you get the idea. Something about the water just made them crazy to hate one another.
We last left the two argumenting about the time of the Victorians, who were a cranky bunch altogether anyway. The Victorians liked to liked to build ornate houses with great industry and with much overbuilding and ornamentation and loved just as much to burn them down with apparently just as much zeal. San Francisco burned down about nine times in eight years during the late 1800's and they quite successfully stripped the Oakland hills that once belonged to Senor Peralta of all the redwoods to reconstruct the place. They also liked newfangled inventions and kicking the asses of just about anybody who did not speak English, German or French for they also had some curiously unhealthy opinions about sex which served to really put the military folks in a terrible wax all the time.
Queen Victoria was herself a virgin, and no wonder for she lost all of her hair and all of her teeth and who wants to sleep with something like that? Nevertheless, the Brits and the Republican Party still regard her with some affection for she was a mighty woman known to arm-wrestle bare-chested Zulus and Indians from India and for many years the Zulus and the Indians got the worst of it.
In any case, this should give you some taste of what the history of the Golden State has been like, as seen from the perspective of the descendents of Oog and Aag. And now we are out of time for this section, but that redoubtable pair shall return.
Meanwhile, back in the present, flags fly at half-mast all over the Island, and the Mayor's chair is empty at the Council meetings, save for a wreath of flowers. His name will remain on the ballot for this November's runoff election for the contested Supervisor seat, but if he wins, a stand-in will be chosen by the Board.
And here is a picture of formal dining-wear on the Island.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
Picture a bright blue ball, just
spinning, spinnin free,
Dizzy with eternity.
Paint it with a skin of sky,
Brush in some clouds and sea,
Call it home for you and me.
A peaceful place or so it looks from space,
A closer look reveals the human race.
Full of hope, full of grace
Is the human face,
But afraid we may lay our home to waste.
There's a fear down here we can't forget.
Hasn't got a name just yet.
Always awake, always around,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Now watch as the ball revolves
And the nighttime falls.
Again the hunt begins,
Again the bloodwind calls.
By and by, the morning sun will rise,
But the darkness never goes
From some men's eyes.
It strolls the sidewalks and it rolls the streets,
Staking turf, dividing up meat.
Nightmare spook, piece of heat,
It's you and me.
You and me.
Commissars and pin-stripe bosses
Roll the dice.
Any way they fall,
Guess who gets to pay the price.
Money green or proletarian gray,
Selling guns 'stead of food today.
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Heartless powers try to tell us
What to think.
If the spirit's sleeping,
Then the flesh is ink
History's page will thus be carved in stone.
And we are here, and we are on our own
On our own.
On our own.
On our own.
If the game is lost,
Then we're all the same.
No one left to place or take the blame.
We can leave this place and empty stone
Or that shinin' ball we used to call our home.
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Shipping powders back and forth
Singing black goes south and white comes north.
In a whole world full of petty wars
Singing I got mine and you got yours.
And the current fashion sets the pace,
Lose your step, fall out of grace.
And the radical, he rant and rage,
Singing, "Someone's got to turn the page!"
And the rich man in his summer home,
Singing, "Just leave well enough alone!"
But his pants are down, his cover's blown...
And the politicians throwin' stones,
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And it's all too clear we're on our own.
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Picture a bright blue ball,
Just spinnin', spinnin, free.
Dizzy with the possibilities.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
lyrics by john perry barlow
SEPTEMBER 15, 2002
SEPTEMBER 11, 2002 MEDIA POSTMORTEM
It comes first here, but we have put off the retrospective until the last. For a retrospective is always something less than what preceded by definition and necessity.
Yes, things have changed. In what way and in what form, we really think should not be left to vague definition, for too many objectionable, ugly and really awful people have an interest in redefining in their own favor the New World Order.
In looking at the Nation and the Bay Area over the past week, amid a tremendous lot of soul-searching and whatnot, we come to the conclusion that most people feel touched by tragedy but that the essence of what is America has not changed at all. In fact, we are more clearly delineated by the events and the issues are more clearly defined.
Now, this is a small segment of a local column devoted to local events in a relatively small portion of the universe, so we shall not go on at length about Great Powers and Constitution and Good and Evil and all that stuff, which is more properly the stuff of movies like Fellowship of the Ring and the like. Nope, we're all about a little place in a small town on the edge of things and we have no truck with giants and kings and sheiks and stuff.
In our town, we had the largest flag in the world unfurled by a reported 2,000 volunteers and we had Elvis Presley and we had all kinds of silent moments. We had eyewitness reports and people flying out to cover a city for three hundred dead firemen. And I am still not entirely sure that people really grasped a-hold of what really happened.
Now with nearly 3,000 people killed outright, plus some two to three thousand more injured or permanently maimed in some way, plus six high-rise buildings destroyed in downtown New York City, quite possibly the most fabulous city in the world, you have close to six thousand victims of this stupid series of terrorist acts that, given the stated intentions of removing the American influence from the Middle East, have served to provide quite the opposite, with one country entirely occupied with troops, and another six surrounded countries now serving as launching pads for further American incursions, leading to a thoroughly entrenched American presence not to be evicted for another two hundred years or more for certain.
In retrospect, Osima Bin Laden must be seen as the most incompetent Bozo ever to assume the mantle of Mullah the world has ever seen.
On the other side, we have a nincompoop who has problems spelling "tomato" and seeing "our children is educated". And this is the guy who is supposed to protect us from these lunatic suicide bombers. Oh, let us not speak ill of our President. At least, you cannot fault the man's devoted loyalty, for at no time has George Bush, Jr., ever in the slightest, wavered from support of his dear, devoted, very rich friends. Not even to support the US Constitution has he pulled aside from standing by his wealthy benefactors.
Nevertheless, if a single bomb were sufficient, no matter how big, to entirely destroy the true nature of ourselves, would we really be so confident in ourselves? Wouldn't the very essence of ourselves be called into question? In fact, it was not. In every category we remained true to ourselves. And over the past week, in spite of the media's obnoxious wallow in events that caused a lot of people genuine pain, we persisted in our unruly, hodge-podge amalgam of uniquely American optimism and boundless energy for all kinds of kitschy silliness, including Elvis, Rock 'n Roll itself, pickup trucks, BBQ, weird little financial schemes, hoochie mamas, baggy pants, nervous jumping up and down, skater punk gymnastics, torrid sex in the offices, rabid TV televangelists, all of Las Vegas, most of Los Angeles, the Boston Big Dig, the California Pro-Native Species Society, The UFO Abductee's Association, Boyz in the Hood, about a million Brittany Spears lookalikes flaunting bare midriffs, flag-wavers, protesters waving placards of every description demanding more green traffic lights and less hormone-injected beef, bluegrass-playing analytical chemists, scads of honeydrippers blasting bible-belt gospel unto the Lord, scads of longhair freaks blasting heavy metal exhortations to Beelzebub, interminable Greatful Dead, Ice Cube in another movie, arguments over the best bagels and where to find them, New York pizza, live at the Met, women wearing burqas, jellabas, obis, saris, miniskirts with gogo boots, nun's habits, wet t-shirts and nothing at all except for slender filagreed chains, dancing on rooftops and the Oakland A's. To mention a few things unlikely to go away anytime too soon.
FAST TIMES IN BABYLON
By now you have got the 411 on the toughest Grande Prix in the world. Sunday morning, while most of us were stirring slowly in the sunshine beneath the covers, 150 of the fastest cyclists on earth sprinted out on the 109 mile course that looped through the northern streets of Babylon, starting and finishing at sea level next to the Ferry Building, but angling up some of the steepest inclines in the entire racing circuit. Here are the men's results as of 11:58pm today:
1 CANADA DIONNE Charles
2 AUSTRALIA VOGELS Henk MCT m.t.
3 TALY GIUNTI Massimo ACQ m.t.
4 RUSSIA EKIMOV Vjatceslav USP m.t.
5 AUSTRALIA LEAPER Tom NVR m.t.
6 USA ARMSTRONG Lance USP m.t.
7 USA FRISCHKORN William SAT m.t.
8 NED JANSEN Harm SAT @ 03"
9 USA HORNER Chris PRI @ 05"
10 MEXICO ZARATE ESTRADA Jesus MCT @ 1'17"
These results were pulled from the official Grand Prix website. Quite obviously, even from this, we can see the race was quite rough, with Hincapie not appearing at all in the top ten and Armstrong, six-time winner of the prestigious French GP appearing only sixth. Charles Dionne, a 23 year-old from Quebec is no stranger to the international circuit, placing in the top ten in six of the last ten major races around the world. After four brutal hours, it all came down to the final end-sprint. Victory goes to the hungry.
JOLLY TIMES AT MCGRATH'S PUB
We've been hanging close to home lately, so Saturday night saw us dropping in to the "local" for a pint and a few tunes. Man were we astonished by the talent. We lucked onto a real jewel in the backyard in the form of McGrath's Irish Pub, which you may recall us mentioning during a makeover about 18 months ago. Seems new owner Peter Barnato, out of good old "Southie" has converted the old workingman's waterhole into a musical Mecca of prime entertainment. Saturday brought in the highly acclaimed Cabin Fever, featuring Megan Lynch, six-time National Fiddle Champion, on fiddle, and including Dr. Yvonne Walbroehl on vocals and lead guitar. This group includes quite an enjoyable approach to traditional American music, keeping a lighthearted approach where others fail with affected or stilted performance. Walbroehl's Virginia-bred voice contributed a genuine warm contralto while John Relph's mandolin virtuosity preserved the needed complexity in this kind of music which is often overwhelmed by too many "guitar gods".
You have to wonder where lead maestro Larry Chung derived his soul, for his clear mastery of vocal harmony, guitar lead and guitar rhythm, banjo, mandolin and god knows what else indicate a depth of feeling and soul not seen since I spent my salad days wandering the Wyse County Appalachian mountains.
At the end of four sets, one audience member called out for "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and the little band obliged with a rousing short-form version. At the end of the piece, the man exclaimed loudly, "Oh man that tune rocks!" Sure enough, in the right hands it does. And it did.
Peter promises that the next time Cabin Fever plays, there will be fish and chips on the House. Now ain't that something?! McGrath's also hosts a popular open mike and an acoustic jam session that features some of the Bay Area's most talented musicians during the week. And on Sunday afternoons, there is a famous BBQ held that draws the locals with good eats. Peter, also a sometime performer when he isn't minding the bar and the books, has a long-time love of music and "such love is a rare brooch in this all-hating world." We suggest you stop on in anytime to check out the scene. We suggest you will be pleasantly surprised, as we were, by this delightful discovery by the Bay.
We like our music live and exciting, for that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 8, 2002
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
This year the community went all out to get people "davening with a difference" as Rosh Hoshana kicked off the High Holy Days on Friday. Down at Beth Hillel they were blowing the rams-horn for all its worth and trying to make sense of the usual senseless misheposh. Heard Rabbi Lerner really put the fear of g-d into them this time, with the aid of Starhawk and others. About time, I'd say. The general theme has been, pro-Jewish, pro-Israel, anti-Occupation politics and would you please pass the lavosh before I die of hunger here at the end of the table.
A STAR GOES OUT IN HARLEM
He played with Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong and dragged the vibraphone into contemporary music in a serious way. Lionel Hampton, jazz artist of great renown, passed away last week at the age of 92 and was escorted to his final rest yesterday by a New Orleans jazz band -- including the likes of Wynton Marsalis -- along the streets of Harlem in New York City -- a splendid send-off for a splendid musician and superlative human being.
THE OBVIOUS TOPIC
There is no avoiding this week the National experience that is practically a media construct now, termed "9/11". It was the event that solidified a dubiously liquid Presidency obtained on questionable grounds and smacked most of what was happening socially and culturally clear out of the ballpark in favor of strident jingoism and severe reaction to severe circumstances.
Better men would have handled the situation in better ways, but all we have is Bushy and he did just about as well as any average human being under the circumstances and in any case, nobody better is stepping in to take control right now, so we are stuck for the duration. There are many finer personalities that reside in the Great State of Texas, but this is what they chose to send, so this is what we get.
On the Island, a group of 2000 volunteers will unfurl the world's largest flag at Alameda Point on the grounds of the old decommissioned Naval Base. In Babylon, they will hold memorials for the firefighters and police at the Columbarium, while a Buddhist peace service will be held at 5:30 am at Justin Herman Plaza. Ram Dass and Holly Near will be there.
Various artists will perform at St. Mary's Cathedral from 2pm onward. Mozart's "Requiem" will be performed at Grace Cathedral by members of the Midsummer Mozart Festival.
Various "Ground Zero" exhibitions, lectures and open discussions will take place throughout the Bay Area all day, including speeches from witnesses, photographers and survivors.
We got a nice response from a lady named "Ruth" who hires out as an investigator locating missing kids on the basis of "psychic connections" and parapsychology. While the methods appear somewhat dubious, she did point us in the direction of the Department of Justice site for official statistics, which appear to be current as of 1997.
It appears that child abductions were regarded as such low priority, occurring as only 2% of all crimes against juveniles, that the DOJ did not even include the category as one worthy of separate documentation. But it does appear that recent public outcry is causing a shift in direction at the legal behemoth. Time will tell what becomes of the results here.
And now, as the sun sets slowly over the Golden . . . oh forget it. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 31, 2002 - LABOR DAY WEEKEND
FOR THE CHILDREN
Well, we promised you a few data tidbits with regard to the latest on child disappearances and -- lo! -- it turns out we seem to be ahead of the stats this time, much to our surprise.
Briefly, here's the background: the news has been hot on the subject of child abductions recently, following some well-publicized recent incidents, including the abduction-rape of two teenagers in southern California that culminated in a gun battle between Kern County deputies and the abductor only minutes before the two victims were about to be murdered and dumped.
The business of disappearing kids has been going on for a while, though, and for a while we have been getting those "ad-vert" flyers that carry pictures of the Disappeared on the verso of these slips promoting carpet cleaning and muffler services. Well, we stopped tossing these things unconsidered in the recycle bin and started collecting our own little database that has grown over a year and this lead us into making inquiries into what appears to be a badly researched area that is highly subject to spin doctoring and the worst of unsubstantiated claims bolstered by little more than emotional input at the service of crass political uses.
This, we feel, is f***g pathetic.
THE FACTS, MA'AM, JUST THE FACTS
The last reliable, sober, and concise presentation of the stats was done in 1997 by the State of Texas and drew from a case management report compiled originally by the State of Washington Attorney General. Other than this report, we have only the FBI's occasional summaries, which tend to difficult to come by, and limited in focus to those cases actually adopted by the Men in Black.
Various other agencies present some data, but with no references, no analysis, and some numbers that appear wildly out of synch with each other and reality itself.
The Marin Sheriff's department is one example of a website that quotes "114,000 attempted abductions each year", with some 4,600 successful kidnappings. Now, since the FBI claims it handled about 113 abductions last year, one wonders just who pursued the other 4,480 missing kids. Certainly if close to five-thousand kids go missing each year, there is major cause for alarm and we should be installing electronic tracking devices on every kid right from birth.
Jonathan Alter of MSNBC, however, states that the figures are all baloney and that the rate of kid abductions has been on the decline for years and that you are more likely to be hit twice by lightening than lose your kid to a "snatch and run".
Well, if you happen to be the parent, just losing one is far too many, so just what is going on in America today?
To begin with, the cold figures -- avoided by all the recovery sites for understandable reasons -- tell two stories. Or, depending on your demographics, three.
First, lets look at our own collected data from the Ad-Vert service. Total is 53 missing kids. 31 girls got nabbed and 23 boys. The Ad-Vert described 38 of these as "White" and only 4 as "Black". The others were primarily Hispanic. The average age of these kids between 2 and 14 years was 7.2. Twenty of these also listed an adult between the age of 31 and 77 (median of 42) with the same family name as also missing, and we can assume the adult is the abductor. Thirty of the abductors were female.
Right away we have some flags on the field here. Well now, before we start making generalizations here on this rather small collection, lets go to the one good report we do have, from the Washington State Attorney's office.
The Attorney General of Washington published a case management on May 13, 1997 for Missing Children and Homicide Investigations based on 600 child abduction-murder cases in 44 states.
The last bit of info is especially disturbing and if you have lost a child or are close to someone who has lost a child, please skip reading this and go directly to the Labor Day celebration reports. Here is a convenient bookmark.
In 53 % of the cases the victim and abductor were strangers.
This relationship, where the murderer is a stranger to the victim, "defines"
this particular type of murder. The data also suggest there may be a grater predisposition
to serial offending among child abduction killers.
The typical victims were white females, about 11 years old, often described as "normal kids" from middle class neighborhoods with stable family relationships. 9% of the victims were 5 years of age or younger.
In 58% of the cases, the initial contact site between victim and abductor was within a quarter mile of the victim's home. In 33% of the cases, first contact was less than 200 feet from the victim's home.
The typical abductors were white males, about 27 years old, unmarried, with prior arrests for violence in 60% of the cases, and, in 53% of the cases, with prior crimes against children.
Contrary to popular belief, child abduction killers are not truly "loners." Only 17% lived alone, while 83% lived with someone else and 34% lived with parents.
The primary motivation for these murders was sexual assault. 60% of the killers had prior arrests for violent crimes. The majority, 53%, had committed prior crimes against children, the most common being sexual assault.
57% were simply "victims of opportunity." The most common basic elements in these crimes are: a motivated offender, the opportunity to commit the crime, and ineffective guardians.
In almost 2/3 of the cases the abductions were "snatch and grab"confrontations where the predators saw an available victim then quickly assaulted and subdued them.
In 60% of the cases there were delays of over 2 hours between the time the victim was known to be missing and a report was made to law enforcement authorities. In 74% of the cases the victims were dead within 3 hours after abduction.
Okay, that chilling enough? But wait, the other side to the story is the report from the FBI which states that abductions have been on the decline since 1997 when this report was done, so it appears that things are getting better.
Well, how does this match our own little survey? Well, unfortunately, our recent survey appears to confirm these more detailed stats. No other agency appears to be collecting demographics, although a reporter named Kevin Fagan wrote a report for the Chronicle in 1998 attempting to cover the issue of non-white abductions and how these get buried on back pages in favor or high-profile blonde-blue eyed kids. Our stats, and other reports, seem to indicate that white girls do get snatched more often, and that white girls are more likely to be recovered after intensive effort. Black girls are almost never recovered and, given the stated "3 hour life" of the Attorney General Report, the implications are quite horrifying.
But wait -- does this mean we all just toss in the towel after four hours and arrange for services? Remember the two girls abducted in Kern County were African-Americans held for over 12 hours and deputies recovered both of them. This seems to say that intensive effort does pay off no matter what the demographics.
ABDUCTED BUT NOT MISSING
We are all most concerned about the stranger snatching the kid, but lets not forget that this type of grab and run is by far in the minority. Remember Marin County's 113,000 stat? Well, other agencies report anywhere between 120,000 - 200,000 family abductions, usually as a consequence of acrimonious divorce/seperation proceedings. Many of these are almost certainly nothing more than violations of court orders against removing a child from the state without prior informing of a parent with partial custody. Such as sending a kid to summer camp, going to Europe or similar kinds of activities meant pretty much as a "flipping the bird" guesture. It's illeagal certainly, but hardly on the order of busting in with a gun, pistol-whipping dad and then absconding with the kid through the window.
Another issue remains the some 100,000 kids who simply swipe some change and hop the blinds for San Francisco or wherever its felt parental authority cannot be found.
According to the California Department of
Justice, only 81 of 1997's 130,605 children reported
missing were confirmed as snatched by strangers. Some 120,180 were runaways and
abducted by relatives. Kevin Fagan determined in 1998 that the national figure was
The stranger-kidnapping figures are vigorously disputed by groups like the Vanished Children's Alliance, which contends that the national figure is closer to 3,500. But even they agree that the stranger cases are always just a sliver of the total -- and very few get publicized widely.
Then, of course, as some close friends have discovered, the kid might not be abducted at all for some seriously sick damage to be done right in the home, the nursery, and even in the parsonage.
While doing a project for the County DA investigator's office, we got a gander at the posterboard rap-sheets for some of the vilest contenders for dubious rank of human being in existence and some of these beings -- it is difficult to call them "men" or "people" -- maintained criminal careers extending over forty years with numerous sexual violations each year. There is a reason we have Megan's Law.
Whew! No wonder so few studies have been done. The subject is as big as all outdoors and gets bigger and ickier the more you find out.
WHAT TO DO
Well 81 kids out of 130,000 may be relatively small, but 81 kids is still 81 Californian families blown apart. Very few kidnappings end positively with recovery of even a body. So, here is a summary of resources. You take it from there.
Most local enforcement agencies run property and child identification programs, including fingerprinting and photos. Virtually every child-search agency stresses having up-to-date photographs of your child that can be used for publication.
Also, most enforcement agencies encourage cooperation with "Neighborhood Watch" programs whereby citizens keep tabs on what is going on in their 'hood.
The SF Bay area has a pan-agency group called CrimeStoppers and parents should inquire about programs.
Because of local restrictions that vary widely from district to district, the local implementation of Megan's Law may or may not be useful. In our area, registries of known sex offenders are sometimes kept in a mobile unit available at faires and public events. You'll need to ask about this at the local PD.
I could not find clear stats on seasonal risks, but it does appear that family abductions occur frequently around the holidays from the end of October to the beginning of January.
Finally, in the worst case scenario, get on the horn RIGHT AWAY! Time is critical. Get the numbers of whatever local program similar to Calfornia's "Amber Alert" and keep them on the fridge.
Oh yeah, hug the little monsters once in a while. At the end of the day, Grandfather Time takes everything.
Well, let's do indulge in something more cheery now. Oakland is celebrating its 150th birthday this Labor Day Weekend with a massive bash sprawling all through the City Center complex and over onto Frank Ogawa Plaza. Five stages presenting continuous live music from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm host the very best of Oaktown's multiethnic heritage, with blues, gospel, cajun, rock, soul, funk, rap and everything between all getting things stirred up among the diverse crafts and food concessions.
As if to grand a special blessing from the Big Guy up there, the nasty old fog that had been hanging around cut loose for a cloudless perfect two days.
We showed up for most of Chuck Prophet's gig at the main stage where he served up quite a tasty platter of stuff from his new CD No Other Love.
Chuck appears to be finally getting some attention after spending years in the pipeline performing his own special brand of idiosyncratic jazzy, blues-inflected rock. His latest CD is the most pop-accessible in terms of subject matter and traditional rhythms and with Big Rick Stewart bringing some focus on newer talents at KFOG, it appears that this Prophet might be just about ready to come in from the desert. His "Summertime Thing", now hitting heavy rotation on several stations nationally pleased the crowd in the midst of a very energetic performance.
Took a stroll around the City Center among the lovely crowds of people and caught a piece of Sugar Pie DeSanto's band. Sugar Pie is a local, born over across the water in Babylon, who has performed with Ray Charles, the Pointer Sisters, Patty LaBelle and other Greats and her band was, of course, top notch. Then it was back for the headliner of the day.
WHAT IF GOD WAS ONE OF US
When Joan Osborne came out with her quirky album, Relish, in 1996, she busted open a congealed industry of false homilies and insincerity with some authenticity and genuine heart, quickly earning accolades as well as two million in record sales, eventually going triple-platinum and earning her a well-deserved Grammy Award. Not much seemed to follow that effort although the lady showed definite promise in several live performances as well as a prickly alt-rock attitude that cost her some fans when she made several public endorsements of Planned Parenthood. Those fans could not have been worth a great deal, coming from the ultra-religious right, to institute a boycott of her works, and many would grant that such attention is a special badge of honor.
2000's Righteous Love got critical acclaim after a postponed release, but sales were anemic after her record label, Polygram, abruptly dropped her.
In various one-off projects, including a duet with Bob Dylan, Osborne has indicated that her voice shows a great deal of promise. Well, now Joan is coming out with a new CD of Soul covers in mid-September and if today's performance was any bellwether, the lady just might be staring at another Grammy before long, for the marriage of old school soul to this lady's husky but powerful pipes is a match made in music heaven. At last Joan gets to really work that voice over an emotional range worthy of the instrument.
She opened the set with a smoky, sultry version of her "St. Therese" then did several soul standards, including a Stevie Wonder piece -- which she performed at his induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. The crowd did not want to let her go, but, like most open public events, the stop time of 6:00 pm remained inflexible. Nevertheless, she held the packed plaza in her palm for a full one and a half hours without seeming to break a sweat while the blue and green tube "men" danced up on the roof of City Hall.
She also performed a very nice bluesy and slowed-down version of the Barrett Strong classic "War" and you could see all the old Nammies in the crowd nodding their approval then did her wonderfully subversive and extremely testing "One of Us".
At the end of the day, the crowds all streamed out well sated with good music and that good BBQ from Everett and Jones. Other than some minor traffic contratemps it was a peaceful day on Oaktown's 150th. The way it should be.
SNARF A LA PARK
Over in Babylon, the big hoodoo was the annual "a La Carte A La Park wherein dozens of local eateries proffer lots of high cholesterol goodies at under six bucks a pop. Just so the hoi polloi can get a flavor of Starz and such linen napkin tent places without the triple digit plus tip end of meal socker. For music, Pete Escovedo kicked off on Saturday, followed by those denizens of Cafe du Nord, Lavay Smith with her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Monday should be the big draw, as Box Set precedes Nanci Griffith. Tommy Castro concludes with some crunching, hard-working blues.
For them that tucks in their table-lace for a bib at places like Brennans, the Freestyle Moto-X and Music Fest rocks out Piers 30 and 32. Headliners there are Ashanti.
This summer we enjoy the Motor Company's one hundredth, being celebrated in Milwaukee by tons of rolling thunder and with smaller versions cropping up all over. In California we already had the annual Hollister bash, commemorating that infamous night that was presented (with a fair amount of exaggeration) in Brando's The Wild Bunch. Upcoming -- and coinciding with Rosh Hashana -- is One Big Party at the Fontana Speedway September 6-8. Harley will host exhibits, stunt shows and a mobile version of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame as well as a Kids Pavilion. Those in the know are aware that your kid is never safer than with the men in orange and black for any old pervert that tries a kidnapping among that bunch is sure to be handled most ungently.
Music kicks off at the speedway with survivors from The Doors, Los Lobos and Earl Scruggs -- to keep things down home. Next day, America's aging bad boy, Billy Idol precedes Nickelback and Stone Temple Pilots. Last day, those Xtian rockers, the Doobie Brothers, precede George Clinton with Parliament. Journey and Kid Rock complete with some hard rocking stuff.
Also celebrating 100 is the Island itself, so to speak. It was in August of 1902 that the Army Corps of Engineers completed the cut between the narrow band of swamp and the Island proper, turning the place, well , into an Island. Celebrations include a hedge clipping competition, BMW waxing exhibitions and a ground squirrel beauty contest. Also, the IPD will hold an internal event in which all members compete for beers at Malones by seeing who can issue 100 moving violations in the shortest time on a given day. All bets are on Officer O'Madhauen. And some people say nothing ever happens on the Island.
That's the way it is on this side of the Bay and that's the way we like it. Have a great short week.
AUGUST 26, 2002
BACK IN THE SADDLE
Back from vacation and well refreshed after hiking the high Sierra. Went over Lamarck Col into Kings Canyon NP and came out via Piute Pass. Watched a golden eagle soaring lazily above the pass there. Pictures available by the end of the week in the camping section.
BACK TO SCHOOL MUSIC SPECIAL
Welcomers for the new Freshies to schools around the Bay include the Warfield lineup, starting with Wilco 9/6-7 followed at month's end by Elvis Costello the 27th and the superlative banjo twang of Bela Fleck the day after.
The Fillmore helped host the City-wide event called "Nadine's Wild Weekend" with new upncomers Luce on Friday. The John Lee Hooker Foundation held a meeting of blues powerhouses on the 24th with Big Head Todd, Canned Heat, Hooker's own daughter Zakiya, acoustic phenom Alvin Youngblood Hart, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and that elusively rare Peter Green.
End of September sees Sleater-Kinney stirring up all the riot grrls 23rd - 25th.
We got Garbage tag-teaming with Ms. Betty Boop-voice herself, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt in October down in San Jose's Shark tank. Continuing the trend of heavy metal dangerous estrogen, Ani Di Franco does the Paramount in Oaktown. We are planning on being there for Ani as that show should be pretty dynamic and full of surprises.
As if that were not enuf goddess-power, you got Bonnie Raitt teaming with Lyle Lovett at the Shoreline and Melissa Etheridge getting nasty somewhere else but I lost my notes among the wrappers.
"IS LOVE A GENERATION OF VIPERS?"
Before scampering off to the mountains, the Significant Other and I took in the Shotgun Players' version of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. The company has never turned aside from difficult tasks in the some twelve to fifteen years we have been following their progress, from the humble stage origins in the basement of La Val's pizza to their present home in Berkeley and this luxurious outdoor setting at the John Hinkel Park amphitheatre. Hinkel Park nestles in North Berkeley in that area where the streets get all twisty and devious, but taking I80 North and then the Albany-Buchanan exit will get you there. Remember to wait at the traffic signal before swinging around to go uphill.
The amphitheater sits at the base of a natural cleft between two hills and fronting a little stream that plashes down from waterfalls -- tofu-dogs and ships are available, but picnic baskets are encouraged as well as good pillows and sleeves for the action decays just as the light fails and the breezes become chill.
Chances are, you have not seen this most unwieldy of Shakespeare's plays, which not only was not performed at all for 300 years, but which had even the academics scratching their heads over just what this cynical, savage play presenting over 60 characters really was. Far too bleak to be a comedy, and taking every liberty with known facts and fables to prevent a history label, yet without a single redeeming character to grant it tragedy status, the play, like the vitriolic character of Thersites, remains a prickly condemnation of all of war and the nonsense of war as well as supposed heroism. Written shortly after a failed rebellion by the Earl of Essex against the ailing Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare and his company had just come out from under a very serious investigation on account of having performed before Essex the day before the attempted putsch. The official response was as draconian as the rebellion foolish -- all principals were beheaded and hangers-on banished. Shakespeare, clearly came out of it with no conciliatory mood and the result is a play that has none of the comfortable restoration of harmony found in most of his other "dark" plays. Pandarus, the man whose name gave us the lovely word "pander" with all of its associations, concludes the play with ". . . in two months hence I'll make my will . . . but until that time I'll sweat and seek about for eases / and at that time bequeath you my diseases." Ta dum, the end.
It's hardly the high-flying poetry for which Mr. S. is well known, and he seems to be saying that here the time remains "out of joint" and that the myths and legends of yore are all based on the basest of behaviors for the basest of reasons. Even Hector, who appears the sole center of principle value by embodying honor, loyalty and truth votes to continue a ruinous war largely out of self-interest and who dies while gloating over a piece of captured armor obtained by killing a man engaged only in running away. As for the other characters, the great Homeric "heroes", Ajax is presented as a muscle-bound lunkhead, Achilles as an indolent fool, Ulysses a political diplomat mouthing platitudes in which he does not believe. Agammemnon is presented as a moderately capable bureaucrat and Menelaus appears as a bulb in need of a few more watts to shine. As for the Trojans, portrayed essentially as peaceful folk -- given the opportunity -- Priam, the king of Troy, vaccillates as a splendid nonentity between fighting and simply giving up this costly Helen, orders Hector and Troilus not to take the field -- and is ignored. Calchas, and possibly Antenor, both defect to the Greeks and Paris shows up as a dandified prettyboy unwilling to give up his tarnished bauble in form of Helen.
And for the title characters, Troilus has little other than his professed "love" for his Cressida, who yields all too readily to the demands of Diomedes when given the chance. And so Troilus damns her -- also rather quickly -- with, "From now on and forever may all inconstants be termed after her -- Cressid!"
In fact the only honest man in the play may be the character of Thersites, and oh, what a tongue of honesty the man possesses! He snarls, capers, hisses, spits and gnashes the truth as a kind of diabolical chorus of one, a fool whose truth is proof against -- and far sharper than -- swords and arrows. When Patrocles attempts to match wits against him, the Greek winds up backing away with his hands in front as if to shield himself against the vitriol. It may be said that Thersites is Mr. S's most corrosive fool, a kind of monkey-cum-viper creeping along the doomed walls of Troy with condemnation falling equally on both sides. He is also one of Shakespeare's most direct of fools, for there is no mad equivocation when he calls Ajax "... thou beef-witted Lord!. . . thou hast no more brains than I in my elbows!" Then again we see him gallopping across the stage, spanking his rear while howling, "Lechery! Lechery! Lechery! It's all lechery!" This is his comment on the seduction scene between Diomede and Cressida.
Clearly, the highest aims ascribed to wars are no more than dull-witted bestial urges and all our heroes stem from misconception and clever rewrites of bad behavior. Perhaps this play describing a hopelessly sick society enthralled with obnoxious action and stupid deeds may just be a timely thing. Certainly it is a good choice for this burgeoning company, for the scope of this production forces every member of the company to stretch quite a bit in performing several roles.
Performances begin at five pm and will continue into the end of November at the same outdoor location. Price is based on ability to pay -- there is no gate.
THAT SCEPTERED ISLE SET WITHIN AN EMERALD SEA
On the Island, all talk is of the upcoming elections in November, wherein it will be decided the composition of the House that will need to deal with -- or balance out -- Bushy and his program. Our own Barbara Lee, sole dissenter against the Afgan invasion is up for reelection, as is House Ways and Means Committee member Pete Stark.
Even more local than local, the office of Hizzoner the Mayor becomes open and ex-mayor Mr. Bill Withers has tossed in his gauntlet.
As for crime, its all personal stuff lately, with the car thieves taking a break to let the rowdies threaten with beer bottles and such. Some screwball appears to be siphoning gas on St. Charles Street and thats about it.
Otherwise, thats about it on the Island. Haven't heard the gossip since I got back, on account of having to get up to the Marin highlands to help a friend work on his house and help Ms. Lynn Lindberg celebrate her 61st in a merry to-do. Happy happy and many more, Lynn.
Well that about wraps it up this time on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 4, 2002
10 MILES TO GO ON A 9 MILE ROAD
This column comes out 51 times a year, and being that next week is the 52nd week, made by somebody or t'other to make things even, we'll be taking a vacation. There will be no updates for the next two weeks. Trip reports will appear in the Camping section.
ART N WHINE FESTI-FOOL
This weekend the town Council and Hizzoner Mayor Ralph held a big Do down on Park Street, advertising in the SF Comical, the SF Bay Bleakly and the SF Curmudgeon to great fanfare. There was all kinds of paintin's, knick-knacks, tchotchkes, brass-plated iron-stone fired glassed-up fantods and a welter of luftballons. Not to mention two stages with music and aisles of food and all kinds of screaming and jumpin up and down, all kinds of real groovy things and even Office O'Madhauen failed once to hand out a ticket. In short, it was all a great success and Mayor Ralph was seen getting all likkered up at the Rosenblum wine booth and everybody had a great time.
We happened to catch the Ben Luis Big Band, cranking out some very tasty Latin jazz, with a big of "Black Orpheus" and some Charlie Parker tossed in.
We also caught the end of the Carla Kaufman Quartet, showcasing the saxy talents of Jules Broussard. This hardworking group can be found performing weekly in Pinole.
The local buzz has it that a little gang of vandals tagged the cars and a boat outside of Pagano's Hardware Store early Sunday morning. Included among the now ho-hum swastikas and usual hate-mongering language, were the initials of the gang: Bomb Squad. Rather unfortunate choice of names for a gang, fellas. You can just imagine the southside Crips holding their sides while laughing. Somewhat indicative of lack of experience, the little punks used water-based paint, which washed right off, but still, its the thought that counts.
Hey, hear about that terrifying new gang, The Eastside Losers? Howzabout the Lincoln Street Dingdongs. They could use Zippy for a mascot. Oh my.
A bit more seriously. We applaud the recovery of the two ladies abducted last week down in Kern County, where it seems the local police actually work for a living. But this does put us in mind of a project in the works here where we are about to turn the might power of the Internet to good use.
Over the past 18 months we have been collecting those ad-mailers which show a face, or faces, and a description of a missing child. Ordinarily, these things tend to wander quickly into the back recycle bin without a thought and we think it would be really nice to have a closer look at these things for we have here a marvelous supply of what statisticians call "data". Yet each is -- or was -- a person and a family or families that went somehow astray, each a unique story to itself. This will take some pondering -- and we invite you to ponder also during our sabbatical.
And maybe take another, closer look at one of these images of the Disappeared.
TIT FOR TAT
Just over the wire: We discovered that an East Bay group of lactating ladies has bested -- or say, breasted -- the champion lactaters (?) of Australia to gain entry into the Guiness Book of World Records. Once again, California proves it contains the first and the best in something. This item got reported on the evening news. And it is also one reason why we gave up writing fiction. Reality is just too incredible.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great two weeks.
They tell me miracles abound now more than
I don't care. They say it's better to be blessed
than it is to be clever, but I don't care.
'Cause I got 10 miles to go on a 9 mile road,
and it's a rocky rough road, but I don't care.
For life's nothing if not a blind rambling prayer,
you keep your head held high, a'walking
and a'talking til the power of Love deliver you
The power of Love deliver you there.
The power of Love deliver you there.
The power of Love deliver you...you....
You don't get nothing for free, 'less of course
you steal it,
at least that's what the people say. The sad
irony of Love is how so seldom you feel it, yet
it's all you dream about, night and day.
From the splinter in the hand, to the thorn in
the heart, tothe shotgun to the head,
you got no choice but to learn to glean solace from pain or
you'll end up cynical or dead.
Me, I got 10 miles to go on a 9 mile road and
it's a rocky rough road, but I don't care.
For life's nothing if not a blind rambling
prayer, you keep your head held high, a'walking
and a'talking and a'talking and a'walking, 'til
the power of Love deliver you there.
The power of Love deliver you there.
Š1998 Jim White
JULY 28, 2002
It is gratifying to know that amidst all of this hoopla about the West Bank, Afgan wedding parties involving anti-aircraft guns, child disappearances, corporate malfeasance and general nervous jumping up and down that a pleasant lunacy prevails upon the Island. Latest in the sequence of signs at the Mad Artist of Lincoln Street, we have the following topical sign posted boldly on the street
For those of you who are just coming into this, there is a man named Harlan who has been posting mysterious signs on the white picket fence outside his house for several years. Typically, the signs are composed of nine-inch block letters imposed on a sheet of butcher-block paper and are possessed of meaning known only to Harlan, although sometimes a topical reference can be discerned. For an account of our interview with Harlan, go to April 19th of this year (2002).
FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS
As of this writing, the 9 miners who were trapped for three horrific days under 250 feet of solid rock in Pennsylvania have all been successfully rescued. The men found a small cave of air and had begun making out last letters to loved ones by the light of their dying headlamps when the rescue team broke through after several setbacks.
The incident occured when the miners broke open an old abandoned shaft that was filled with water. The resulting tidal wave sealed them off and threatened to drown all of them until frantic rescue efforts managed to slow the inundation with pumps. At various times the men had to walk neck-high through the icy sludge to escape the flood and eventually the group tied all the survivors together so that recovery teams could locate all the bodies should the rescue fail.
All of Pennsylvania is giddy with joy tonight.
LIVIN' LIFE BY THE DROP
Had the pleasure of hosting an old friend from the Jersey side of things, way out on the edge of the pine barrens where New York shines like the Emerald City on the horizon. Ten years plus a few had passed and like two old tomcats we both were shy of a few of the 9 lives originally issued. Took a drive up over to the famous Cliff House up on Landsend in Babylon, but the rock seals all remained down deep. There we were, a few pounds heavier, a few hairs fewer -- and those that remained gone grey -- but still impassioned about getting it right, whether on the stage or on the page.
Before the windows of the storied Cliff House, first built in 1863 and rebuilt three times after fires, the ghosts of daughters and granddaughters yet unborn flitted like ghosts through the scene of magical movie. Daughters of the Dust. "Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away". Well, maybe for some.
Mark Twain wrote a marvelously cranky review of visiting the first structure on a cold and foggy morning in July of 1864, in which he complained about the cheery demeanor of the barkeep:
"I could not bear his unnatural happiness in the midst of such a ghastly picture of fog, and damp, and frosty surf, and dreary solitude. I could not bear the sacrilegious presence of a pleasant face at such a time; it was too much like sprightliness at a funeral, and we fled from it down the smooth and vacant beach."
Well, Twain always was one for souring the punch, so to speak. The fog stayed high for our visit, but the bracing winds did make some of us regret wearing shorts. And the waitron was delightfully pleasant.
Twenty years and more long ago I stood as Best Man at Richard's wedding, and he went on to put his writing on the stage while Alice fought the good fight in criminal forensics and then as county coordinator of the Rape Crisis Response Team. They have two daughters, named Grace and Dierdre -- both of them shining gems beyond price. You might say, after all the car crashes and surguries and traumas, he didn't do so bad after all.
From the observation decks there on the cliff edge you can see the ruins of the once fabulous Sutro Baths, an immense indoor facility that used to shelter thousands of swimmers, a 2,000 seat ampitheatre and numerous mud baths during King Edward's reign. Fire, the great Adversary of Babylon, destroyed this structure in 1966, leaving only the stone mini-pools, a few of the old feeder tunnels that fed seawater into the main area, and a portion of the Great Pool now filled with greenish slime.
Maybe the ghost of Sutro walks there still. He would have looked in to see the heads of two old friends nodding beneath the celebrity photographs like two ferns.
BIG CITY COMES TO THE ISLAND
The big news is of an armed take-over robbery at the Papa Murphy's Pizza on Broadway. Three men armed with handguns took over the place near closing, pistol-whipped an employee, punched a patron and dragged another by the throat during the take-over, but were unable to locate the keys to the main safe. They emptied the register for the evening's take and also stole some personal items from patrons before fleeing.
Unfortunately, because no traffic ordinances were violated during the robbery, the men got clean away. Officer O'Madhauen expressed confidence in nabbing the felons. "Sooner or later, these types are sure to run a stop sign or speed through a crosswalk for sure!" commented the good officer.
Well, that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
Hello there, my old friend
Not so long ago it was 'til the end
We played outside in the pouring rain
On our way up the road we started over again
You're livin' a dream....as though you on top
My mind is achin'....Lord it won't stop
Thats how it happens....Livin' life by the drop
Up and down that road in our worn out shoes
Talkin' 'bout good things and singin' the blues
You went your way....I stayed behind
We both knew it was just a matter of time
You're livin a dream....as though you on top
My mind is achin'....Lord it won't stop
That's how it happens....Livin' life by the drop
No wasted time....We're alive today
Churnin' up the past....There's no easier way
Time's been between us....A means to an end
God it's good to be here walkin' together my friend
You're livin a dream....as though you on top
My mind is achin'....Lord it won't stop
That's how it happens....Livin' life by the drop
That's how it happens....Livin' life by the drop
That's how it happens....Livin' life by the drop
Stevie Ray Vaughn
JULY 21, 2002
JIM WHITE AT GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL
Me and the Significant Other met up with an old pal to take in Jim White off the cuff when the pal won tix through KPFA. We almost didn't go, not knowing about the feller beyond a quick gander at his promo photo, which, quite honestly did not inspire us with any great desires to spend a few hours on cowboy yodels and annoying twang.
Man were we surprised.
Loretta Lynch, a female a cappella trio opened up with some fairly traditional Appalachian melodies sung in razor-precise harmonies. Interesting enough, but hardly the thing to fill the venerable GAMH. Then the middle gal, all 4"10' and 98 pounds (with 8 pounds of that a lustrous fall of blonde hair) sang a song about cutting somebody's throat. Which livened up things a bit. Then the gals put away the instruments and with great verve launched into a splendidly harmonized "I Get Wet Between the Legs When I See You," which song caused Father O'Finnikey to faint out of his chair, several sailors to blanche and a bus-load of nuns passing outside to disperse in all directions shrieking like a passel of crows. Even the carnies outside the strip joints turned red with embarrassment such was the language containing every Anglo-Saxon word you got whupped for plus a few new ones put together and sung in the most absolute sweetest voices imaginable.
Frankly, they brought the house down.
After a few accompanied riot grrl songs they left the stage to loud applause.
Richard Buckner, a local favorite with the alternative crowd came on and had a mighty job to follow with his gravelly voice singing about basic hopelessness. His 1997 CD "Devotion+Doubt", was released on a minor Texas label and garnered significant critical praise. He played simple chordal rhythm on a basic steel string dreadnought, but his voice --evocative of hometown Lubbock TX -- was the real attraction. As our pal mentioned, "He has a flavor of uncompromising authenticity, and I like that." He also has a significant local following, who called him back for a couple songs, finishing up with a Townes van Zandt, "I am still looking for you."
Jim White also hails from Texas, but this man has traveled musically quite far from his origins with eye-popping lyrics and amazing guitar work in which tape loops and his left hand do virtually everything. His right hand was maimed in an industrial accident, leaving us in only two fingers, but the limitation was not noticeable at all.
He came on stage, picked up an empty water jug and laid down a beat captured by foot-pedal actuated Casio recorder. He then did a short bass riff, captured that also, then launched forth into what became a foot-stomping, howling set that held the audience in its collective palm until well past 1:00am. His music, a brand new mixture of rockabilly, country, and -- improbably successful -- hip-hop evoked with changing moods the broad dusty plains of West Texas, Mississippi delta and the tattered motel rooms in congested cities. His lyrics are the best in the business, concerned with corvairs that have turning into bird sanctuaries, female serial killers, weird relationships that went wrong and a constant commentary on bad religion and his messed-up relationship with god best summarized by the song title, "God was Drunk When He Made Me."
The crowd could not get enough of the man and would not let him leave the stage, so he "negotiated" a pseudo-encore before darting off to finish his tour which has him hitting twelve cities in a two-week period; all venues at least 200 miles apart.
Jim White -- remember the name.
MORE ADVENTURES IN BERKELEY
Me and the Significant Other managed to take in the end of the Berkeley Fire Garden party held at the Pyramid brewery. What is a fire garden, you may ask? Well, words cannot do it justice. Imagine, if you will, a glowing five-foot-long spindle circling a globe suspended twelve feet in the air above a dark patio "planted" with iron cactus sculptures that burn with shimmering blue flames. Then there were the iron corn plants that held pulsating ears of corn and a pear tree that hung "fruit" made of balloons filled with luminescent liquid. The entire scene was lit only by the sculptures and by people wearing every conceivable glow-rod, concert-glow-necklace and optical fiber made on the planet.
As we paused by the pulsating led desklamp garden a flock of human "bees" came prancing out and started jumping up and down around some iron sculptures. The bees had "wings" made of some kind of vibrantly glowing optical fiber and were well garnished with other luminescent things. The queen bee strode proudly about with no glow sticks however. It was very noticeable, however, that the lanky gal wore -- of course -- hot pants.
We chatted briefly with a luddite who had come to the party with a Sony walkman and who longed to return to his cave in Paraguay, where he had lived, so he said, for three years. I wanted to ask him, "What went wrong? Why did you leave?" but the Significant Other got me out of there before any trouble started.
As the stocks plummet, an old phrase from Hunter Thompson came to mind, "When the going gets tough, the weird turn pro."
On the Island, where strangeness does not happened and is actively discouraged, the big news is about Barb Kerr running for the Mayor post that is to be vacated by Mayor Ralph. The Hospital board met for the first time and noticed, golly gee, the budget sure is tight. Cutbacks are sure to follow. The proposal that patients supply their own bandages from home was tabled for the moment, however.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
I'm handcuffed to a fence in Mississippi.
My girlfriend blows a boozy good-bye kiss.
I see flying squirrels and nightmares of
Then awakening to find my Trans-Am gone.
Still, I'm feeling pretty good about the future.
Yeah, everything is peaches but the cream.
I'm handcuffed to a fence in Mississippi,
where things is always better than they seem.
Things is always better than they seem.
Š1998 Jim White
JULY 14, 2002
ALLONS ENFANTS DU LA PATRIA
Sunday Babylon celebrated Bastille Day (not to be confused with French Independence Day) with some light jazz, a little food and small gatherings at Cafes Claude and Bastille. There was lots of wine and music and bonhommie but no nervous jumping up and down for that would not be French at all. Quite the contrary.
Still, you have to love a nation that has an anthem that begins, "Let's go Kids!"
WEATHER OR NOT
The Bay Area is collectively sighing with the relief of cool breezes coming through. The Island Gerbil, however, felt the need to print a stern injunction against popping the caps off of the hydrants for quick relief. Not having noted any of this behavior on this side of the estuary, we have to wonder at the timeliness of the Gerbil's reportage which is absent its hardboiled and incisive coverage of questionable City Hall practices, its critical analyses of police abuses and its thorough dissection of disappearing public monies at the public hospital.
Just kidding. Surely you knew that.
For the Gerbil remains our best source of info on dog bites, annoying phone calls and drunken boating reports. Have no fear, for nothing has changed.
FORGET GUNS -- JUST OUTLAW BULLETS
Frontpage news has depicted the good citizens of Oaktown marching en masse to City Hall over the 55 murders to date this year, bringing back unpleasant memories of the vicious gang wars of the '80's. The sturdy OPD has indicated the upswing is probably due to the recession, resurgence of gang killings, as well as the large number of firearms out there. Mayor Jerry Brown came out to speak with representatives from seven of the largest churches in Oaktown.
We shall see what comes of it.
BAD NEWS FOR MAYOR RALPH
Mayor Ralph, who comes to the end of his two-term limit this year, has indicated that he will step aside from the County Supervisor campaign due to a diagnosis of prostatic cancer. His name will remain on the ballot opposing Alice Lai Bitker. Best of luck man.
THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR AND THE FIRST CORPORATE SCANDAL
Recent national events have put us in mind of the first corporate contratemps in history -- or pre-history, to be precise.
For, long about the Pleistocene Era, Oog and Aag were members of the Wooly Mammoth Hunt Group, a subsidiary of the Ohlone-Miwok Conglomerate. It was the purpose of the WMHG to go out and secure consumable assets on behalf of the Conglomerate. In recompense, a portion of the assets were reserved for employees of the WMHG plus some durable goods and tools -- skins, baskets, stone axes and the like. This arrangement worked pretty well for some time.
Until the Pleistocene came to an end with the recession of the last Ice Age and wooly mammoths became harder to come by.
Well, one thing led to another and the hunting board started messing with the numbers a bit by gilding the lily, so to speak, when it came time to making the annual reports to the Chief. So whats a few more oxen and bulls thrown in there among a few less mammoths anyrate? But then it came to pass that one season no mammoths were taken at all and instead the tribe had to make do entirely with bear meat.
Now, the wooly mammoth was a large beast and potentially dangerous by reason of size and two large tusks but, given a few stout lads and a few stouter spears, an enterprising group could do quite well and the profits from a single hunter were, well, mammoth. Mammoths, however, are and have been, disinclined to eat people.
Bears, on the other hand, possess four paws armed with a galaxy of eight-inch razor-claws plus a mouth of very sharp teeth which do not mind chomping on people at all. It can take days to kill a bear all the while the bear will object most strenuously by killing you and everybody on the team.
Bear meat, incidentally, is not nearly as tasty as mammoth meat. Perhaps due to their penchant of dining during the odd moon on skunk.
So it was not suprising that much of what passed for mammoth got sent on to the tribe as vole and gopher, while the rare gazelle and mammoth went to the caves of the Chief Enough Officer of the Hunting Group even as the Hunting Group collected ever more material for themselves -- ostensibly to be employed in the service of the hunt.
Well, when the story broke, finally, when no more mammoth earnings were to be had, the head huntsman, Aag-Keeting Ander-Senron, was seen galloping like mad for the great landbridge to Asia with a passel of cronies making off with the mammoth earnings gathered in side-trades to the northern tribes of Inuit.
Unfortunately, the landbridge had significantly receded with the ice sheets and Ander-Senron seeking to emulate a Moses who was not yet to appear for another 5,000 years did not manage to be so lucky. Let us say only that this Ander-Senron disappeared beneath the roiling waves of history.
From up on the bluff above the newly formed Bay of Babylon, Oog was heard to remark, "Sic Semper Avaritia."
On the Island children still pause to reflect upon these matters and to consider the virtues of prudence, parsimony and honest labor.
And when they don't, they get a good, honest whallop on the backside.
For that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week, and don't mind the bull.
JULY 7, 2002
OH SANDY, THE FIREWORKS ARE HAILIN' LITTLE EDEN TONIGHT
The first July 4th post-9/11 took place without a hitch, at least here on the Island. The day started off with a cloud-free dawn that fulfilled its promise as a glorious sunny day unfolded everywhere, dripping the hills with butterscotch dreams. The annual "Island Fourth of July Chuck Corica Official Parade", a parade about as long as its name, wound its way about from one end to the other between the throngs and enterprising youngsters who had set up lemonade stands in the wee hours before the first horse clomped down Grand. It was a proto-typical small-town parade preceded by a squad of white Harleys and led by Officer Bunny Matthews and his horse-troopers and there was all sorts of singing and music and struttin' and RWB balloons and yellin' and jumping up and down. Needless to say, it was a fine day and a fine parade.
Stars amongst the locals were four of the County Board of Supes, Alice Lai Bitker notable for her stylish car, and the famous local rep Barbara Lee, sole dissenter to the present Middle-east situation. When she paused at the Otis Street Bridge, I told her that her Model A was the best car among 'em. Mayor Ralph rode in a big limo and nobody booed him or threw tomaters and that was nice.
Then came the legion of Boy Scouts on bicycles. This year the Scouts appeared younger and smaller than ever before, but they do seem to get younger and smaller as each year passes in some strange way.
Then the fleet from the Ford Model A Association drove by, merrily squonking and zig-zagging across the street, followed by the regrettably small collection of propane, electric and hybrid cars from the Island Telecom/Power.
The real winner of the parade Best in Parade turned the corner and promptly belched two four-foot plumes of flames. As the Out On the Island cablecar paused behind the bellowing and spartan "God Save America" float from the Christeen Shouter Church, we watched a 35-foot dragon made of scrap iron pieces and tree-trunks swing its massive head and clash its jaws on approach.
Later on, me and the Significant Other went on down to the Garlic Bistro for some genuine blues, courtesy of Jane Jeffries, and a heaping plate of BBQ. The winner was parked in front and we could get a gander at the marvelous construction. A diesel generator ran a smoke machine and supplied electricity to the head apparatus that towered some 16 feet above the pavement, supported by a fat neck sheathed in shovel-heads. The main body, large enough to hold a man and two propane canisters, was made primarily of horseshoes, but with a fair amount of WWWI defused ordinance, pistols, knives, handcuffs, lanterns and whatnot welded in for good measure, right up to the tip of a looping tail that dangled pieces of plumbing. The whole thing rode on the back of a farm-implement flatbed and was supported by four tree-trunks armed with claws made from the blades of an old furrow-making machine.
The thing was bracketed by a 1945 Rolls-Bentley, a Lamborghini and a 1954 single-seat three-wheel Messerschmidt, one of only 600 left in the world. The owner told me he had found it on Ocean Beach in Babylon being used as a planter. Well.
OH SANDY THE AURORA IS RISIN' BEHIND US
No 4th is complete without the flash-bang of sparkles, so we hied ourselves to the roof after dark to get a gander of the show from Babylon and Oaktown. The exceptionally clear night provided a view all the way along the Oaktown Hills down to Newark and we had a nice display of each community doing its thing up in the hills, with all the illegals going off for some twenty miles or so with bottle rockets and sparkle-fountains.
We had some friends up in Marin, who reported excellent, if windy and cold, viewing from Wolf Ridge, where they could see the dual launch pads going off from Babylon.
After the show was over and salve applied to the sunburn, then it was as old Mr. Pepys used to say in his famous diaries, "And now to bed."
THE PIER LIGHTS OUR CARNIVAL LIFE ON THE WATER
One group of fellers who got no sleep at all, working a shift from 9:00am to 2am the next morning, was the Coast Guard. For as you know, there were rumors and then some, which, for the exception of a regrettable incident at LAX, failed to come to fruition, as the heathen celebrated mightily and undisturbed from coast to coast. Mike, our neighbor reported a class A view from directly beneath the fireworks on the deck of a cutter. Which got put to good use when one of the old abandoned piers caught on fire. Mike manned the water cannon with great zest and had more fun than a kid with a water pistol in a nunnery.
It's great bein' a Christeen or Jewish heathen -- we have more fun.
BUT AIN'T THAT AMERICA: LITTLE PINK HOUSES FOR YOU AND ME
Next day we drove on out to Livermore in the Valley to help warm the house for a coupla old friends emigrating from New Mexico. There was BBQ chicken and shrimps and burgers and talk of old times and what it was like living with Ken Kesey up at La Honda in the days when tie-dye first started and people tried living in geodesic domes in harmony with Nature, but without much real understanding of it. Apparently, the sixties were kinda cold and wet up there on Skyline Blvd and the realities of pneumonia sent most scurrying back to sensible dwellings after a while. Kesey, himself, lived in a nice warm house surrounded by about 500 adoring Hells Angels and painted the trees Day-Glo orange. Go figure.
Still and all, Susan got that dreamy look in her eyes, remembering that more innocent time when people actually tried to put into execution their visions and dreams. Like the tame dove that lived in the domes with them, for a little while beauty became the ideal and was lived. Well, the dove got taken by a hawk, apparently, and that end became the end of many other things as well. Kesey took his Magic Bus to Oregon, where it now rusts away beside the barn and the Angels are all gone now from up there and we all know what happened at Altamont.
Nevertheless, to say any period of time in history was "bad" is like saying, "This lump of coal is Evil." After all, did all these people alive now just spring magically out of the Fifties into the Seventies with no pause or in a state of stasis?
Here's one victory for you: the surviving two members of the Who picked up after a raft of cancellations following the death of John Entwistle to play the Shoreline Amphitheater in a rousing, energetic performance. All the fans and critics are exclaiming that Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend played like they were teenagers again in an exorcism of grief over John's death. A thunderous ovation brought them back for an encore of tunes from "Tommy". From the concert tour that had no reasons for happening and questioned by many as to the necessity of, the group has arisen after a near total cancellation to become this summer's hottest ticket. Daltrey summed it up best in his brief opening statements:
"Rock and Roll is f--ked, but Life is f--ked too. It's better just to get on with it.
BUT THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR SHALL RETURN
Taking a close look at history always produces a little discomfort with the nostalgia. Especially for the Golden State, where, after so many have striven for grand gestures, it is in the minutia that the real glorious shine comes through. That is why Oog and Aag will return in the company of that totally lunatic and completely obsessive-compulsive John Fremont, fomenter of the Bear Flag Revolution and first Senator to Congress. We will learn how California tried again and again to establish home-rule and how Pio Pico delt most effectively with brigands. But for now, deadlines are approaching.
On the Island, all the tired little firemen and police are snug in their beds, with the exception of the late-watch patrolling down by the strand, while my candle gutters in the wee-wee hours. No sirens rend this night and the Significant Other snoozes in front of the flickering DVD playing "Men in Black" for the second or third time.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
Sandy the aurora's rising behind us,
The pier lights our carnival life forever
Oh love me tonight and I promise I'll love you forever
(words and music by B.Springsteen)
JUNE 30, 2002
TALKIN 'BOUT MY GENERATION
Once billed as "the loudest rock 'n roll band in the world", openers for the first historic Woodstock Festival, pioneers of the "British Invasion" of music, and virtual kings of the Rock arena for 20 years until their first disbanding in 1984, also scheduled for a come-back tour to include a date at the Shoreline and 20 more cities thereafter, The Who is no more. They will not play June 3rd. They will not play any California dates this year or the next -- or ever. For lead bassist John Alec Entwistle is dead of a heart attack. He was 57.
John Alec Entwistle
October 9, 1944
June 27, 2002
Born in Chiswick, England of musician parents who divorced soon after his birth, John was raised by his grandparents who had him perform Al Jolson songs at the age of three in workingman's clubs. He started piano lessons at age 7 and, when finished at age 11, picked up the trumpet to perform in jazz bands. His grandparents could not afford musical instruments, so in 1960 he made his own bass out of a block of mahogany. His first professionally-made instrument was made by his friend Pete Townsend, who worked with other friends at the Fenton-Weill Instrument factory. In later interviews he stated that his choice of instruments came from his desire to play something that would possess sufficient volume so as not to be drowned out by the rest of the band. His decision to use the powerful Marshal amplifiers influenced Townsend to emulate him.
John joined a band fronted by Roger Daltrey and with Pete Townsend they performed covers of Beatles tunes for a few years. After several name-changes, they became The Who in 1964 because of potential name-conflict issues with a band in Ireland. When Keith Moon joined as drummer in the spring of that year, the line-up was complete. After management changes, the band was signed and ordered to stop playing covers. This resulted in the My Generation Album in 1965. In this time, John worked for the British equivalent of the IRS, and would typically end up sleeping in the office on the floor so as to be present and accounted for at work in the morning after late-night gigs.
It was not until 1967 that the group played the US, which, by all accounts was only relatively successful without the group's trademark Marshall amps. John had to borrow money for the return plane flight home.
In 1969 the Who released the double album Tommy and then played the famous Woodstock festival. Their fame increased even as internal frictions caused the members to smash their instruments to pieces on stage and destroy hotel rooms to the cost of thousands of dollars. John, alone, remained impassive and calm during the group's notably high-energy performances, during which Townsend would windmill his arms, jump several feet into the air and do complete aerial splits, spins and kicks while Keith Moon launched barrage drum attacks that are still used as guiding lessons for aspiring drummers everywhere. John's sole contribution to this concluding chaos -- which pretty definitively precluded any possible encores -- was to calmly finish the last notes of the song and simply toss his bass into the air, walking off stage before the instrument hit the ground.
With only three instrumentalists performing on stage, John was forced to devise an entirely new bassist system in which the traditional timekeeper bass became also a major producer and holder of the melody. His basslines, like Moon's drum riffs, are now studied by musicians in garages and schools on both sides of the Atlantic.
In spring of 1973, the Who released the astonishingly lush dual album, Quadrophenia, which, in being a quasi-coherent whole that proposed to tell a story, helped with Tommy to launch the "concept album". That year The Who played Madison Square Garden and Tommy went to film with Elton John, Ann Margaret and Tina Turner producing memorable cameo appearances. For this opus, John Entwistle wrote and orchestrated sections to include over 40 horns.
The group's popularity continued to grow even as the famous "walls of sound" began to have their injurious effect on Townsend's hearing. In the middle of one show, singer Daltrey turned around and screamed "Turn it down! I can't hear myself!".
In 1978, Keith Moon, close friend of John Entwistle, died of an overdose of sleeping pills. Without the signature barrage attack from one third of the band, the sound changed. In essence, the band was finished, although they produced a couple more albums and continued to tour to sold out shows for a few more years. Each member had started independent projects long ago and so they went their separate ways in 1983, occasionally teaming up for benefit concerts, such as Live Aid in 1984. In 1996 the Who reformulated to perform Quadrophenia as a theatre piece, quite obviously without the mayhem of previous years.
Entwistle continued to perform and write lyrics for his own band, producing several creditable albums independently, while amassing a couple English castles, an entire medieval armory of weapons and armored suits as well as a fleet of classic automobiles, although he refused to the end to obtain a license, claiming in an interview, "I'd rather drink than drive." He also became something of a notable sketch artist and could often be seen in galleries with prime exhibits.
He was a quiet, unobtrusive man loaded with talents the like we seldom see anymore in such a modest package.
PRIDE IN THE NAME OF LOVE
This weekend, Babylon gave the lie to Laramie as gays, lesbians, transgenders and bis gathered from all over the world for the annual Pride celebration. Starting at 11:00, Market Street virtually shut down as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence led the way followed by the always crowd-pleasing roar of the Dykes on Bikes thundering past the grandstand in battalions of several hundred motorcycles. Ian McKellen, last seen as Gandalf knocking a Balrog into the abyss in Lord of the Rings, served as celebrity Grand Marshal with Sharon Gless in front of an estimated 1 million visitors and natives there to assert their American rights and freedoms. This year six performance stages hosted music and all kinds of fun stuff with the six o'clock shutdown hardly possible.
This year, the July 4th celebration has more than a touch of strong feelings about it; perhaps more so than has been felt for some twenty years and more. All over this Bay Area flags are fluttering -- from office buildings, from freeway overpasses, from automobiles, from jackets and from homes well in advance of the celebration. KFOG has been calling this past weekend the July 4th Weekend, but the day is not officially until Thursday, which puts the party frame of mind in brackets from June 29 to July 7th. And say what you will about the Bay Area; it does know how to party, from the Pride festival to the Gathering of the Bikers down in Hollister.
Already the firecrackers are going off all over the Island as we slide from the sweltering upper 90's through the still scorching hours of evening. Saturday night the BBQ's were still smoking well past ten PM outside the bookcase flats joining Park Street. A bunch of homeboys gathered with some Mestiza people to swap beer and stories and even us pale Ghosts got high fives. For this is America in its mix of things spicy and savory and mixing it up all the time. It's not a perfect country, but its what we got and its hella better than the folks trying to blow it up.
Down by the strand, all the groundsquirrels were having a party for themselves as well, gathered around what looked like miniature TV sets. Every once in a while you would hear a snatch of excited Spanish come wafting on the breeze laden with beer fumes, then the long drawn-out "Goaoooool!" followed by thunderous -- for squirrels -- cheers. There's no joy in Munich tonight for Brazil is once again World Champion in football.
So that's how it is on this sweltering Island prior to July 4, 2002. Have a great week.
JUNE 23, 2002
JORMA KAUKONEN AT THE FILLMORE
The Significant Other and I took in Jorma at the Fillmore Sunday night and came away with a definite mixture of feelings about the experience. To our astonishment, the ancient ballroom had been outfitted with wooden chairs and linen-draped tables which were served by a bevy of waitrons.
After ordering the Fillmore cheesesteak with Pale Sierra ale, a youngish feller took the stage with an f-hole archtop and mouth-harp frame. He launched into a fairly interesting set and was about 12 minutes into it before introducing himself as Scott Neil Diamond Miller. His dry, self-deprecating humor took some getting used to, but his flawless technique and unpretentious lyrics soon won the crowd over. He started with an engaging riff on every stage performer's major concern called "Are you with me?" and did a number of "new country"style originals, including a lively and wry "God damn the Sun". It's clear that the man is just starting out in the business and needs to learn a few things about stage presence, but his songs about users, losers and alcoholics are sincere and well crafted. Scott Miller is a name to watch for.
After a break, Jorma Kaukonen took the stage, accompanied by Sally on lapsteel and Jim on 8 string amplified mandolin.
This concert tour is in promotion of a concept CD released by Jorma through Sony Music on June 11th. The material is almost exclusively old-time bluegrass and pre-Atkins country blues and as such is fairly different from what JK usually does. Those pieces where Jorma absorbs the spirit of the original and completely revamps the melodic line according to his own distinctive style work the best. Those pieces where Jorma bows to the form of bluegrass, strangely enough, do not work as well, but come across as pristine museum pieces. Nice enough but devoid of passion or "spark".
Kaukonen is a master of his instrument, and of course anything he does will come across well enough, but he is not by any means a bluegrass player, for those guitarists tend to really work the left, fretting hand, while JK's style depends heavily on right hand picking magic. It's worth noting by comparison, that Jerry Garcia, who had lost two right hand fingers in an industrial accident became known as quite an accomplished bluegrass picker before his death.
Sunday night the performance hit the highs where Jorma fell back on staples from his own songlist. Pieces like "Death Don't Have No Mercy," "Uncle Sam Blues", "Hesitation Blues" and "Good Shepherd" meld the best features of Jorma's playing style while still being strong enough in their own right to take some adaptation. Some of the best moments came during the four or five instrumental pieces, including the lyrical "Living in the Moment" and "A Life Well Lived". The lapsteel player did a mesermizing solo about the area around Chico where she grew up, called "Into the Canyon."
It may be that the current taste for American "roots" music which the movie "Oh Brother Wherefore Art Thou" tapped into so successfully is part of the reason last night at the Fillmore got a little country-fied. Or it may be that Jorma is simply exploring a little tributary that has always been at the base of things he has done. In any case, the man is certainly accomplished enough to roll with it and adapt.
THE RETURN OF THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR
Listen, River, while I sing this song. Listen, River, for I sing not loud nor long. And may the drops that fall from this old face be gathered into the flow that dissolves all sorrow into that great ocean from which we came and to which we all will return.
For this chapter we must hearken back yet again before the days when Oog and the Geologic Survey of 1880 smoked the spleef with Chief Tenaya in the Yosemite. We must go way back to 1850 and one aptly named James Savage. Now Savage was an irritable man, a typical obsessive-compulsive personality, and a thoroughgoing contemptible species of human being whose main business up to 1850 was that of trading bags of raisins to Indians for equivalent weights of gold dust. He came from a long line of turncoats and unsavory characters, for his great grandfather came to the Americas on behalf of King George III to fight against the Americans and this he did until surrendering at Saratoga, where he promptly switched sides to fight his former employers. It was, in fact, this same James Savage who started the gold rush in '49 by hauling a barrel of gold dust through the lobby of a San Francisco hotel while howling like the maniac he was. The history books often portray Savage as a hero with god-like powers. He was, however, a very shrewd businessman who kept no less than four wives at any one time and hardly the great protector of Indians as often he is portrayed.
In any case we do know that Savage got into a terrible wax against the Indians and formed the 200 man Mariposa Battalion, funded by the State to the tune of half a million dollars and trusted with the task of eradicating the native peoples in the Sierra. The Battalion had to cool its heels for a while as the Federal Government, in a rare humanitarian guesture, sent three fellers to try to come up with a peaceful resolution to the issues -- meaning, these three had to convince about 30,000 people to leave their homes, split up and agree to reservation life by treaty.
It took those three, Redick McKee, George Barbour and Dr. Oliver Wozencraft about a year to fail miserably. The 18 reservations for 139 bands covered about 7% of California's landmass. The Indians refused to move and the settlers claimed 7% or any percent was too much. Just move em out or kill em, they said.
The Mariposa Battalion swung into action in the winter of 1851 and, also quite spectacularly met with extraordinary lack of success. These were not Plains Indians, easily surprised by quick moving cavalry, but very adaptable people who knew full well that this war was the last war as far as they were concerned. A series of tough pitched battles took place over the next 12 years, during which old Chief Tenaya was captured twice and sent to reservations, each time getting away and back to his homelands in the Yosemite with ever smaller bands. Attrition took its toll and eventually all the bands had been captured or driven out of the middle Sierra, leaving dwindling bands of Yana and Modoc to hold out in last ditch fights up north. And last ditch battles they were. Of such ferocity in defense on the part of the Indians, and such brutality on the part of the settlers that in many cases battle-scarred soldiers of the US Army had to take in Indian bands so as to protect them against bloodthirsty settlers. The behavior of the settlers was so inexplicably savage it horrified seasoned veterans of the Civil War. One Major Raines of Fort Humbolt wrote of one such extermination episode:
"I beheld a spectacle of horror, of unexampled description -- babes with brains oozing out of their skulls, cut and hacked with axes, and squaws exhibiting the most frightful wounds in death which imagination can paint."
Of course some people complained, such as a young Francis Bret Harte, but like him, they were simply driven out of the State, for the pervasive atmosphere of gold-lust was too powerful.
In August of 1852 during what was for Savage a typical dispute, Savage attacked Walter Harvey and hit him. Harvey then shot and killed Savage in self defense.
By 1864 there remained only a few thousand of the Yana and Maidu tribes left inhabiting the rimrock canyons and brushy ridges of the upper Sacramento Valley. Since the environment had been virtually destroyed by this point: all the salmon had left the polluted mining streams and other game had been hunted out, the Yana lived a sort of hand to mouth existence, occasionally supplementing diet with a horse or cow. Things would have continued fair enough, once the mining boom ended, but the whites made a practice of supplementing their menial servants with a stolen Yana child or two from time to time.
The Yana would react, quite obviously, with outrage and swipe a few white children and kill a couple settlers in retaliation. Well this was really too much. Daring to fight back would they! The usual committees were got together and over the next five years, the Maidu and the Yana were hunted into extinction, leaving only one single band of the Yahi hiding out at the base of Mount Shasta. From the conservatively estimated 250,000 people living in California when Portola first came out of Mexico, there were less than 16,000 left on reservations. By 1865 some 3,000 of the Yana tribe had been murdered outright.
And there is where our story of Ishi picks up.
No one knows what happened between 1870 and 1908. It is estimated that the band which escaped destruction from the pogroms of the 1860's numbered about 40 persons, however that is a guess, for the historical record goes dark. All local references indicate that even old timers who hiked the Lassen area remained convinced that the "Mill Creek Indians" were all gone. Apparently, this tiny band managed to avoid all contact, more or less, with whites for nearly half a century.
In all likelihood, those who did encounter whites, such as Ishi's father, were massacred and the killers left no remark about what was done.
We do know that about 1908 a survey team guided by Mike Apperson of the Oro Light and Power Company stumbled upon the last encampment of the last Yahi. There were only four left. We also know that the White response was as typical as it was brutal, even as late as 1908. All of the village people had fled, with the exception of an old woman -- Ishi's mother -- who was too sick to move. The Yahi had tried to hide her by covering her with blankets, but they did not reckon on the natural cruelty of white people. The surveyors stole the blankets, the food, the food containers, the bows, the arrows, all fire-making implements, all skins, all stone utensils -- everything. As his white biographer was to describe years later,
What these men had done with such chillingly casual ease was strip four terrified, starving people of their meager possessions, including items they needed to find food. They had handed down a death sentence, with no mercy or cause, to the last four surviving members of a people who had inhabited, thrived, and survived the northern California region for thousands of years. In a fateful moment, brought on by the actions of callous men, the Yahi people apparently had come to an end.
Then they left the old woman to die, inspite of Mike Apperson's vehement protest. They ignored his request to transport the old woman to camp and medical care and simply walked off. Without food or tools to make and find food, the old woman, who was Ishi's mother, died. As did the others, leaving only Ishi the last man -- for Ishi means "man" in Yana -- to wander the earth for another three long years. In truth, the last man on earth.
In August of 1911 he showed up, emaciated, starving and sick, outside a slaughterhouse near Oroville to the astonishment of everyone. "I am the last man, " he said. "Do with me what you will." But no one was left alive who could understand his tongue.
After spending a couple days under the care of the local constable in the city jail -- they had no idea what to do with him -- a Theodore Kroeber and a Dr. Waterson came up from the University of California to take responsibility for him. They brought Ishi back to UC and housed him there as part of the Archeology Department.
So it was that the last man wound up living in a museum, where he laboriously taught Kroeber the rudiments of his language. He lived there as a living artifact for about four years before contracting tuberculosis and so the time of the Yahi came to an end on March 16, 1916. None is left alive who knows the old songs and the old names. There was no one left who could chant over his grave in the old way. The Yana do not tell their true names to strangers so all we have to call the last Man is the word "Ishi".
There is a continuing exhibit at UCB in the Natural History building where you can see photos of Ishi and Kroeber and Waterman and see some of the arrowheads and baskets he made for the archeology department. And in Kroeber and Waterman's written comments the careful reader can detect the beginning of those conflicted feelings about all that took place. Finally, after all the blood and disaster and harm, some self examination as to one's part in all this.
Here is a picture of a member of Ishi on the far right with Dr. Kroeber and an unknown representative of the Maidu tribe.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Typical summer for NorCal: chilly fog and bracing winds. The embattled Island Hospital with its brand new LafCo is chortling in its joy, for the chief board member has gone and died -- leaving a two million dollar endowment to ease the pains of debt. If you drive by late at night, you can hear howling laughter and cackling glee coming from the fourth floor west tower.
The Island is all agog over the move-in of Trader Joes to the South Shore Shopping Center at the same time the developer has firmed up plans to lay out the West End with landscaped greens, gardens and lots of luscious profit-earning office space plus housing. Pardon my salivary glands, messieurs.
The Tunnel project is back on track, if not on schedule, and so the mainland connection breaks every night again around 9:00pm.
Down by the estuary the water flows deep and dark, reflecting the lights of the great container cranes across the way. I cannot seem to get the story of Ishi out of my mind this evening. I cannot help but think, 'but what if the story came out different! What a grand story it could have been!' But it didn't. And it isn't. And here we have a whole new millenium to face with all its problems. And so forward we go.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And live like this is the only chance you got.
JUNE 16, 2002
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
We missed out on our really favorite, all-time must-see Oaktown event of the summer, the Annual Beer, Blues and BBQ Festival. Little Milton and Bobby Womack headlined. Now how could we have spent the day in the dark garage fixing mechanicals when our favorite fest went on across the water? Well, because we had started to pickup that useless rag called the East Bay Excess and depend on its concert calendar. Sort of. Not only did this rag miss out on virtually every significant East Bay event for the past two weeks, it insisted on dissing local artist Chuck Prophet with a mealy lukewarm damn with faint-praises kind of review that was clearly a product of what locals call "Talk", meaning, "I don't like this artist because of what he did/ said/ thought about my cousin/dog/neighbor's wife, so I am going to kill his career by klatsching to all my friends and spreading nasty rumors about his sexual habits and polar bears."
The effect of Talk cannot be underestimated in small-town Babylon where a single word can make or break you. Last time I saw Chuck at the Starry Plough, a sort of dirt-under-your-fingernails kind of bar he had just returned from Europe where he fills 10,000 seat concert halls to rave reviews. He strode up to the mike in his hometown area and flatly snarled, "I HATE TALK." Then blasted into one of the most energetic sets I have ever heard.
Mr. Prophet is now back in town to promote his new CD No Other Love. We suggest you buy it. If not, go see him on tour with Lucinda Williams when he comes around. Then buy it. You will not be sorry.
As for that toady rag produced by a buncha Texans who live a million miles from the East Bay, let us only day,
EAST BAY EXPRESS, YOU REALLY SUCK!
For a better read, with capable and concise journalism that does not pleasure itself for decades of pages, we suggest the vastly superior Urban View. Incidentally, we noted in J. Douglas Allen-Taylor's a delightful neologism appropriate for the time. In referring to the concealment of crucial evidence in the death of U'Kendra Jackson and subsequent use of unsubstantiated claims to impose restrictive ordinances on the people by State Senator Perata and Vice Mayor Reid, JDAT described the entire situation as "Ashcroffian".
Ashcroffian! A new word for the millenium describing a fetid political environment where facts are concealed and motives wildly distorted for the sake of tightening political controls. Somewhere in the wings, David Mamet is furiously scribbling . . . .
AND NOW PRESENTING HIS MOST PUISSANT MAJESTY, EMPEROR OF NORTH AMERICA AND PROTECTOR OF MEXICO
We have promised you and promised you and, since you have been very good, here you are. The story of Emperor Norton, the only potentate ever to rule over the entire Western Hemisphere.
Now, we will need to backup a bit in time from the Twentieth Century, way back to the 1800's, when a local businessman named Joshua A. Norton lost a considerable fortune while attempting to corner the market on rice. This unfortunate attempt occurred just as several massive boatloads of the stuff arrived from China. Norton is said to have disappeared for several days, reappearing with the following startling proclamation that was published gratis -- as were to be all of his many proclamations over the next twenty years:
At the pre-emptory request of
a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I Joshua Norton,
formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last nine years and ten months past of San
Fransisco, California, declare and proclaim myself the Emperor of These United States. - September 17, 1859
It was a small step, but a big one. An overzealous progenitor of that present-day hapless misfit, Officer O'Madhauen, arrested Norton some time later and tossed him into the local asylum provoking a general uproar among the public. No less a personage than the city Mayor had Norton released with profuse apologies, giving Norton the keys to the city while the newspapers wrote scathing articles against the ineptitude of the SFPD. Police Chief Patrick Crowley also apologized and for years afterward officers were required to salute the Emperor on the street.
To pay his bills, Norton issued Imperial scrip which was accepted as legal tender throughout the City in virtually every establishment. The denominations varied anywhere from fifty cents to twenty-dollars, but now are worth -- obviously -- considerably more by a factor of hundreds. He demanded a new suit of clothes from the tailor and got it -- complete with military saber. When Congress failed to assemble in the SF Opera House on a specified day, Norton fired the entire assembly. The newspapers went wild. No potentate was ever better loved or respected in history or since and the stories about his proclamations and deeds fill tomes the size of the OED. Here is one story that indicates just why the people of San Francisco absolutely loved their monarch:
"One night a gang
of vigilantes gathered for a pogrom against San Francisco's Chinatown. All that stood in
their way was the solitary figure of Norton. A sane man would not have been there in the
first place. A rational man would have tried to reason with them. A moralist would have
scolded them. A man as daft as Norton usually seemed would have loudly ordered them to
cease and desist in the name of His Royal Imperial authority.
All such tacks would probably have been futile, and Norton resorted to none of them.
He simply bowed His head in silent prayer.
The vigilantes dispersed."
Here is a Photostat of his most famous proclamation published in the SF Herald.
If you always felt the two parties consisted of a bunch of lawless rascals, now you know the truth -- they are.
His Majesty wrote regularly to President Lincoln, and in spite of firing the President during a spat, rehired him to continue the Civil War and lamented his death. He also corresponded with Queen Victoria, who responded with all sincerity and seriousness.
Not all of his proclamations went unheeded, for in 1877 he ordered that funds be raised to build a suspension bridge from Oakland to SF via Goat Island, which he graciously gave as a present to Oakland in a grand ceremony. He issued several decrees ordering the building of a bridge between the Marin Headlands and Presidio Point, but it was not until the next century was well underway that the lax officials finally got around to completing the Golden Gate Bridge.
One wonders just what was going through people's minds at the time, but if you recall the adventures with Oog and Aag, you will also recall that the 1860's were a nasty, violent time in the Californias, leading up to the national nastiness of Civil War, followed by the crushing Depression of the 1870's. It was quite clear that Norton not only expressed things that all people felt should be, but also offered a bit of a steam valve in the form of levity. Who, even today, has not wanted to issue warrants of arrest to the Board of Supervisors for failing to heed common sense?
Many of his best loved decrees involved attempts to unify the various warring religions and he never tired of trying in all seriousness to hold a world-wide bible convention in which everyone would sit down and finally come to consensus on the text -- and simply expunge whatever causes violent controversy.
It got so that the SF Chronicle editors were not above publishing "Proclamations" on behalf of Norton in pursuit of political ends. Norton's response to these spurious announcements was as unpredictable as it was sometimes violent. On one occasion, he smashed a plate-glass window with his cane and destroyed a lithograph claiming to present him and his two hounds Bummer and Lazarus. Norton hated dogs and a few of his decrees featured fines for violation of leash restrictions.
Alas all good things come to an end and on January 8, 1880, Emperor Norton dropped dead of what seems to have been a stroke on California Street at Grant Avenue. The following day, The Morning Call headlined on the front page: "Norton the First, by the grace of God Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life."
As befits any Monarch there was a funeral procession. And what a funeral procession it was. The funeral cortege was two miles long and well over 10,000 people showed up to pay respects. Here is an excerpt of his obit from the Chronicle:
Le Roi Est Mort
San Francisco Chronicle
January 9, 1880
On the reeking pavement, in the darkness of a moonless night under the dripping rain, and surrounded by a hastily gathered crowd of wondering strangers, Norton I, by the grace of God, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life. Other sovereigns have died with no more of kindly care--other sovereigns have died as they have lived with all the pomp of earthly majesty, but death having touched them, Norton I rises up the exact peer of the haughtiest King or Kaiser that ever wore a crown. Perhaps he will rise more than the peer of most of them. He had a better claim to kindly consideration than that his lot "forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne and shut the gates of mercy on mankind." Through his harmless proclamations can always be traced an innate gentleness of heat, a desire to effect uses and a courtesy, the possession of which would materially improve the bitterful living princes whose names will naturally suggest themselves.
He was interred in Masonic Cemetery, then reinterred by the People in 1934 at Colma, fittingly between the Children's Glade and the Veteran's Memorial.
Many organizations have arisen to commemorate his life and works, including one calling itself the Discordians whose ethos may be stated thus in their own words: "Discordians believe everybody should live like Norton. So write your legislative representatives demanding harsh laws with teeth in them requiring all people of all faiths -- especially Christians and especially on Sunday -- to live as Joshua A. Norton did."
Finally, as a bit of side note on the reputed antipathy of Babylonians towards foreshortening the name of their city to "frisco" let it be known that it was Joshua A. Norton who started it all.
"Whoever after due and
proper warning shall be heard to utter the abdominal
word 'Frisco,' which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a
Apparently, he couldn't "stomach" disrespect to the City.
HOT TIMES ON THE ISLAND
You would think the Island is leaping forward into all the pleasures of urban renewal and concrete jungle like a spring bride sprinting down the aisle. After a knife murder earlier this year we now have another one -- again some guy with his panties in a twist offing his wife, but with the plot change of trying to kill himself. Its all very tragic and illustrates how the IPD is rather unequipped to face the new millenium. A neighbor hears the woman screaming for help -- while inside his house, calls 911 and the IPD shows up one and a half hours later. The IPD excuse was 1) they claim that the 3:00am call was received at 3:18am. 2) they had too much to do that night. 3) A one hour response ain't so bad.
Apparently in this Norman Rockwell burg, we had police responding to 1) an assault victim sent to the Island Hospital, 2) a man dragging a woman out of the house by her hair, 3) gunshots at the West End.
Now I do not know about you, but if this sort of thing goes on pretty regularly, then we are a long ways from Norman Rockwell and this ludicrous emphasis upon traffic enforcement is wildly, stupidly, inanely out of place. To put it mildly.
The fire department, which has a somewhat better batting average, held in check a fire that spread to neighboring houses on Central. Thank you.
Last week the IPD did recover four stolen vehicles. Hopefully still in operative order.
We note that now school is out vandalism appears to be up. Again. As it was last year at this time.
Meanwhile, the weather is sunny and cloudless and the ground squirrels are all about on the strand dodging the huge kites and parasails. Went down there to peruse and watch the wetsuits go scudding after guylines running out to these 18-foot parasails. Looks awful fun. As well as wet and dangerous. We'll just stay in here with our long island ice tea thank you.
For the ocean
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a grand week.
FIGHT BILL OF THE CENTURY:
OSAMA BIN LASSIE
Up close they look so similar. Gaze upon the face of Conservatism, which has usurped the Holy Book. Scary.
Next up in the bullpen, Ariel "Bulldozer" Sharon vs. Yasser "MadBomber" Arafat.
JUNE 9, 2002
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
We are positively giddy, giddy, over this season's music slate in the Bay Area. In June the Jazz.org hosts Wynton Marsalis with his septet at the Masonic on the 14th, followed the night after by a trio consisting of Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove.
If that doesn't ring your chimes, the famous Allman Brothers rock the Warfield with scorching Southern rock for three nights, starting Monday, during which we expect Warren Haynes to tie the crowd up in a "Whipping Post" frenzy. Bonnie Raitt, Queen of the Slide, ties up the month there on the 19th in support of her new CD, which includes a stand-in by Roy Rogers.
At the Fillmore, those hispanic pachucos, Los Lobos, do the 13th, followed by the cerebral faves of the English Department, the Cowboy Junkies on the 18th. Winner of the WC Handy acoustic album award, Keb'Mo' takes over on the 19th and our personal favorite, Jorma Kaukonen will take the venerable stage solo on the 23rd.
For those in need of more "O Brother Where Art Thou" rootsy stuff, artistic director for that movie, Gillian Welch fills in 28th-29th.
The Chronicle Pavilion presents the annual KFOG Summer Picnic on the sunny Saturday of the 22nd with local hearthrob Chris Isaac sharing the stage with Natalie Merchant. The Shoreline does New Orleans By the Bay with Delbert McClinton and Taj Mahal at the same time. Mudbugs anyone?
Scarcely skipping a beat the band once billed as the loudest in the world (how could three guys and a singer make that much noise?) The Who reforms and the measure of their stature is seen by the fact that The Counting Crows appear in small print as co-stars, also at the Shoreline on the day before Independence Day. A day of "Smokin' Grooves" includes the name of Lauryn Hill buried among the lights of earth on the 18th. On the 20th, the very heady Yes will stoke the fires.
Did we forget to mention those Harley Davidsons of the acoustic world, the Indigo Girls doing the Greek on the 13th followed by Widespread Panic? Nevermind, for there remains Shawn Colvin with her sexy and independent style doing the Fillmore on the 2nd day of July, succeeded by the 25th anniversary of the B52's on the 8-9th. Local faves Imperial Teen accompany the Breeders for a femme-solid evening on the 11th, while the Neville Brothers show how its done with style on the 18th. Then the Warfield ties things up with those Icelandic moppets the Cranberries on the 13th and Billy Idol kisses the skull and rocks your White Wedding on the 23rd.
Are we finished yet? Spent your last savings on the Rolling Stones coming to the East Bay yet? Well, local City boy Joe Satriani, who has invented an entire style of instrumental music that only he had play, will bring in August 11th at the Pavilion. In a more rootsy vein, John Hiatt shows up with SRV brother Jimmy Vaughn at the Fillmore for two nights August 9-10. We almost forgot Sheryl Crow, Train and others at the Shoreline on the first of the month.
Should you still require some intense and non-guitar/drum oriented music Cake, Flaming Lips and de la Soul swell the Greek on the 10th. Cake, which dares to reintroduce horns to popular music is a particular favorite while Flaming Lips, of course, provided the inspiration for this weekly among their strange pieces. You want lyrics calling upon the Iliad and sundry works by Brecht and this is the band for you.
All summer long you still have the opera and symphony at Stern Grove, Cal Shakes among the eucalyptus doing Midsummer's Night Dream, ACT reprising Les Miserables, and the continuing run of Teatre Zinzani at Pier 29 featuring a heavily made-up and very blond Joan Baez. Girl, those feathers are so you!
Now don't let me hear this "Oh I have just nowhere to go tonight!" at all, for you have no excuse.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The week started with temps soaring into the triple digits here, causing the old-timers to mumble under their beards and all the swamp-coolers to start doing overtime. As we eased into the weekend, the winds picked up with unearthly warm breezes rattling the trees -- sure sign of an approaching El Nino winter. Still, the ducks spun and pirouetted in the blue-clear clouds while all the sparrows and finches chattered at one another like mad and at late night, the Island masked bandits could be seen scampering down streets in the Gold coast area.
Me and the Significant Other celebrated somebody's Jour de Naissance at Jack London with Rangoons stuffed with endangered Alaskan salmon and scratch margaritas while watching terns dive-bombing the sailing slips at the marina. The benefit of sloshing through middle-age is acting cranky and loose as if always schnockered all the time.
While wandering down at the Square, we paused to admire a brand new addition outside of the B.Dalton Bookstore there, an eighteen-foot high bronze statue of an Indian Princess riding an eagle and part of an international effort towards peace.
The statue is a pet project of one Osprey Orielle Lake. Eight installations around the world are planned as a part of an effort to unify the world towards peace as a form of bridge across cultures. Three have been installed at the Hamburg airport in Germany, one at Majorca, Spain, and this third in Oakland, California. The effect of this dramatic sculpture is striking, to say the least.
Over the Island the scent of BBQ grills wafted with abandon and those birds just kept up all that infernal racket, the way birds do.
As for the ducks, well, they were no longer to be seen after their duck-dancing, but perhaps were meant to be emulated. For what sort of behavior would be better to copy than duck-dancing? Far better than any saber-rattling stomp for sure.
We meant to get around to Emperor Norton and the Last Yahi, two separate stories entirely, but the day is short and the tequila is strong and these stories must wait for another day.
As the sun sets upon the Island, reddening the pseudo-adobe. . . oh forget it. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 2, 2002
"Cold was the night, hard was the ground
they found her in a small grove of trees"
Out in the Valley, where the spirits of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger still ride on the running boards of old Dodge pickups among the dusty trails of hot, burnt straw-dust land, you like your daddy did before and people don't get fancy. In the middle of the baking flatlands that would be desert except for the most sophisticated irrigation system in the world, Modesto sits with immense iron arches bridging over Main Street, proclaiming this little town the "Water Capital". It's a town where the big Event is still the rodeo, and where you can still trot on down to the grange to pick out the best of herd to start your own livestock breed, even though the highways and increasing population have made their changes.
Coming from this place, where the men look right into your eyes to take your measure, a girl had to know how to kick a willys in 4-wheel drive, ride a horse and still look good in pearls and blue jeans on Saturday night. Chandra Levy was all of these, by account, and a dreamer who wanted more than anything to escape from the constant smells of natural fertilizer and homegrown recipes to something bigger. She imagined her ticket boarded the FBI express, straight out of the Heartland to the glitzy East and Washington D.C. where kings and kingmakers intrigue among the marble pillars.
Why wasn't God watching?
Why wasn't God watching?
Why wasn't God watching for her?
Well it was not meant to be for Chandra. She reached a little too far for herself, maybe. Got a little too fancy, getting involved with a Congressman like that. But there is still a conservation of innocence in the dreams -- all that remains behind. Long turned aside from the original concept of "Incorruptibles", the FBI has become a bureau of suddenly discovered traitors who embezzle funds and a collection of unsavory types that, much like most police forces worldwide, becomes of necessity something like what is pursued in level of venality. There is only so much you can take, perhaps, after dealing with the worst scum of the earth for decades, without some of it rubbing off on you. Perhaps it is not a world for a pure girl from the heartland.
Modesto mourns its native daughter, Chandra Levy, this week.
"There's a toad in the witch grass
there's a crow in the corn
and somewhere a baby is crying for her mom
as the hills turn from green back to gold"
AINT NO CURE FOR THE SUMMERTIME BLUES
Except music, maybe. June has arrived with all of its glorious musical promises. Neither the Warfield, nor the Fillmore stand to hold even a half-empty house all month as The Pet Shop Boys, the venerable Allman Brothers Band, Pete Yorn, Bonnie Raitt riding high on the release of an excellent CD pack the house at the Warfield. Phil Lesh and Friends blasted open the month at the Greek with what appears to be a steady rolling snowball of exciting stuff. Rumor has it Chuck Prophet will return from Europe to fill Slims this month with his raspy blues and the Fillmore will be doing some serious funk all month plus Cowboy Junkies for the literate types, Keb'Mo' and Gillian Welch, not to forget Jorma Kaukonen on the 23rd, so there is no damn excuse not to get out and blow some of that precious paycheck on some of the best music ever heard.
SPEAKING OF MULE VARIATIONS
This is the story of how Snickers the mule saved the hide of Jacinto Fernando Aag in the Imperial Valley and thereby redeemed the breed and name of mules from the terrible stigma of Tally, the Ornery Statue Destroyer.
It was a cloudy and muggy day that day in 1906 when the earth shook underneath the feet of Jacinto Fernando Aag in the Imperial Valley. Jacinto paid no heed, for the ground often shook out in the Valley and since, there were no tall buildings to be concerned with, and little to catch fire, there was no reason to abandon good bottomland that had once been the bed of a prehistoric ocean. Not for the sake of a few tremors.
So it was that Jacinto, astride his trusty, if sometimes lethargic, mule named Snickers, gazed to the west with equanimity, surveying the wheat and the roads, and the trees and all that lay between, for much of it belonged to him. Minus a mortgage payment or two.
Now Snickers had gotten his name on account of a curious, high pitched bray he had uttered when young. But now the years had settled Snickers; yes they had. Now Snickers took to plodding and snurfing his oats and not paying anyone the least mind, inspite of curses and lash, continuing to pursue his own personal gait and pace withal.
This suited Fernando fine enough, for he was a man not given to hasty action, preferring the more deliberate course in all things, with a great emphasis upon prudence and sound judgement and for this reason he had never married. For, as Fernando held it, marriage itself is an irrational decision leading to a whole avalanche of confusions, deceptions, circumventions, poor financial outcomes, palsy, palpitations, chilblaines, furniture, draperies, crockery, and other foolishness not to be detailed but sufficing to keep the man happy, healthy, sane and single well into his forties.
In any case, Snickers it was who first turned leisurely to gaze upon the east, that direction from which the sun does rise and from which certain death and destruction were now approaching Fernando at an estimated speed of fifty miles per hour. Unbeknowenst to Fernando.
To his immense surprise, Snickers reared up on two hind legs, wheeled about and bolted faster than any normal mule can bolt dead west.
Fernando promptly lost his hat and it was in vain that he gouged with spurs, yanked on the bridle and cursed in the very best Castilian dialect for Snickers to kindly HOLD ON NOW!
He soon lost the primitive rope bridle entirely and was forced to hold on for dear life as the seemingly maddened Snickers galloped down the path toward the Imperial Grange more like a jackalope than a mule. Figuring that the mule would slow a bit in the vicinity of a possible feedbag, Fernando made ready to dismount, as best he could on the jouncing hindquarters, but was soon disabused of that notion as Snickers tore past the feed lots and then past the trough and seemed headed for wild blue yonder.
In passing the Grange Hall itself, Fernando had presence of mind, as well as desperation, to suddenly stand up and seize the swinging sign that hung out above the grange door just as Snickers gave a tremendous jackrabbit-like bound and so got himself loose from this suddenly demented beast. As Fernando's forearms slapped against the old buckboard sign, his outstretched legs extending in a V to points south and northwest, the mule continued his mad gallop down Main Street, past the hardware store, past the judas palms in front of city hall, past the ironmongery shop, past even the house of Eugenia, who stood on the porch brazenly ironing her knickers in spite of, or perhaps in support of, a badly tarnished reputation, continuing well out beyond the city limits.
Well, let it be known that Snickers continued past the begonia borders of the town of El Centro, scooted north for some forty miles and thence passed from this story and was lost to history several days later somewhere south of the town of Blythe. Not bad travel for a mule on the go.
Let us now return to Fernando, who hangs by his tiring digits from the Grange Hall sign even as his friend, Pedro Don Fiasco gazes up in wonder even as Fernando requests his help, states that his mule has gone crazy and that someone needs to fetch a stepladder, pronto -- not necessarily in that order.
It was not until Fernando hit the dirt in front of the Grange most unceremoniously, even as Pedro returned with a suitable stepladder that the reason for Snickers' abrupt flight became apparent.
We now travel several hundred miles south to observe Miguela deSanto perusing the suddenly puzzling riverbed of the Colorado River. The riverbed was puzzling for the exact reason that the river had disappeared.
Now this seemed to be an extraordinary occurance, for the riverbed, ordinarily occupied by several million gallons of river, now stood quite empty and this seemed to be something demanding the attention of the mayor, at the very least.
The Mayor, however, turned out to be very busy and would hear nothing of these stories of disappearing rivers from flightly and no doubt highly imaginative females. Miguela was left to fetching such fish as might be found floundering along the former riverbanks and cursing the obtuseness of the male gender in general.
Meanwhile, up at the Grange, things had come to pass with Fernando and Pedro, who even then were arguing as to the plausibility of a mule galopping like a jackrabbit.
"Now, don Fernando," Pedro was saying. "Surely you are imagining things...".
At that moment a solid wall of muddy water eight-feet high slammed into the wall of the Grange. It was, in fact, the precursor of the entire Colorado River. Which proceeded to fill all of the Imperial Valley until somebody put a stop to it some months later by pluggin the riverbank gap with box cars filled with cement. In the meantime, Pedro and Fernando managed to float out on a boat made of Grange Hall cooper barrels after clambering to the structure's roof. It was the unfortunate situation that most of the Imperial Valley resided some 200 feet below sea level, while the Colorado River flowed some twelve feet above it. Nature does abhor imbalances, and so when the levee broke right at the irrigation gates, nature took its course, filling up the body of water now known as the Salton Sea.
As for Fernando, destitute in an age which had yet to discover the pleasures of insurance, he managed to make his way north to Los Angeles where he married Kitty O'Shea Mc'Oog out of desperation for a place to stay and something to eat. Kitty owned a three-story boarding house and the two lived in the topmost room, where they produced a legion of raven-haired daughters that all became famous actresses in the "talkies" upon the silver screen. But that is another story.
LIKE THE WEATHER
JUNE 11, 2002 (Special Edition)
Hacker defacement of May 26th (Memorial Day) and the 19th repaired with emendations and spelling corrections plus general improvements.
COME ROUND ALL YE ROUSTABOUTS AND PEOPLES OF THE EARTH
All right now this nonsense gone on long enuf. We good ole boys got together a powerful kitty and we got a proposal for the two most famous yahoos of the earth: And this is that all the shenanigans with dirty bombs and atrocities and middle-east philandering be resolved once and for all by a great Middle East Mud Wrassle Match between, in one corner weighing in somewhere about a hunnert fifty pounds George Dubya Bushy, the Genius IQ of Texas, and in the other corner, weighing in anywhere between 90 and a hunnert thirty pounds, Osama Bin Lassie Doodafoo, the Turbaned Terror of the East and Grand Obfustacator of Islam.
MUD WRASSLE BETWEEN GWB AND OBL: MATCH OF THE MILLENNIUM
Now just to keep this fair we got a nice little list of judges to keep track of this match to be held in notably lawless and neutral Brazil in the most famous Octagon. We got Mohammed Ali, a notable Islamic feller and general experienced brawler and no stranger to fightin', then we got a buncha mussilhim shouters plus Rev. Al Sharpton, Edward Said and our especial pleasure to invite Farouk El Dingus, in lieu of having that feller who runs the Palistinian guvment since he been under house arrest and appears slated for the next fight bill. On the other side we got Rev. Billy Graham and Rush Limbaugh plus a whole passel of christeen shouters and our especial pleasure to invite his esteemed self whatshisname that sounds so smart inthe mediatypeofguy conservative: William F. Buckley.
Ties will be resolved by general fisticuffs among the judges under Marquis of Queensbury rules and may the better man win.
Just to keep some of this a bit civilized -- in despite of the knowledge that no participating party wants any part of reason, sympathy, humanity or logic involved out of pure self interest, Horst Gracie of Gracie's School of Ju-Jitsu will break any ties by breaking somebody's arm by fiat.
Basic rules are the same as always in the Brazilian Octagon: There is no timeout. No fish-hooks or eye-gouging -- within reason -- and slapping the mud means surrender. Going unconscious is deemed sign of a submission. Go for it.
Will the spoilt little Ivy League WhiteBoy whip the pants offa the Terrible Turk? Or will the spoilt little Poodle of the East, Osama, kick the Whiteboy in the nuts? Only a true wrassle in the Octagon will show for sure. Gentlemen -- we use that term loosely -- we await your responses. Should any one of you have the courage to show his/her face at the Ultimate Fight of the Century.
It's better, you must agree, than mothers and chillen getting blowed up and shot in the street.
Now here we gotta speak for our personal favorite, the tenacious Texan. For what could be tougher in America but a true Texan born n bred? Hell, ya gotta know that Bushy does a hunnert pushups ever mornin' and eats raw beef offa barb wire for breakfast. Only thing, we might advise Bushy to start getting some joggin lessons from former prez, Mr. Bill. It could only help.
Bin Lassie, the Royal Marines are coming for yooooooo . . . .
Northern California summer has happened already, with two days of record-breaking temperatures last week, followed by the inevitable and quite usual heavy fog cover. Situation normal.
The rodentia division of the FBI is doing a hard investigation into alleged arabic influences upon the ground squirrels. Members of the local PD, drafted as agents have been making the rounds down at the beach making inquiries. "Are you now or have you ever been a rodent or a rodent interested in Islam Terriers. . . "?
This came about as the little fellers had gathered together the last winter stores to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee and watch the World Cup. Since soccer is not highly regarded in this part of the world, and the only local queens worth mentioning live over in Babylon's Castro district, the squirrel gatherings have been regarded somewhat suspiciously by the local authorities.
As for Officer O'Madhauen, he just wants to know if it is legal, or even possible, for a rodent to drive a car. If this turns out to be true, that will be the end of them.
That's how it is on the Island, on Her Majesty's lucky Fiftieth. We wish Her and Her Subjects and all American ground squirrels a jolly week. Ta Ta.
MAY 26, 2002
THE BIG WILLINGDONE MORMORIAL TALLOWSCOOP
With reference to the photo at the top of the column: that is the Wellington Monument located in Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland. It is the second-tallest obelisk in the world. The Monument, built in 1871, commemorates the liberation of Europe by a coalition of armies against Napoleon at Waterloo. Wellington, it may not be remembered -- certainly not by the English -- was born in Dublin and maintained Irish sympathies for much of his unpopular political career.
When the memorial Monument to his victory at Waterloo was finished, admission to the museum portion for English citizens and war veterans was free, but the Irish and Welsh were to be charged a shilling per head. Not exactly freedom at any price, but a questionable freedom for privileged few at a surcharge
Monday, of course, is American Memorial Day, when we commemorate all those who have fallen in the name of Something -- usually Freedom.
Lately in America, however, such concerns, couched in the usually phraseology, sound more than ever quite tenuous in these perilous times. On the one hand we have terriers running loose on airplanes and on the other we have J.Ashcroft running loose on the Constitution. Fortunately we have Irish rock stars willing to take our wayward politicians in hand to show them the Real World so either its not so bad or we are really in hopeless shape. Or say rather, Tom Petty said it best,
"My sister got lucky: married a Yuppie
Took him for all that he was worth
Now she's a swinger dating a singer
I can't decide which is worse."
In times like these its good to keep a sense of perspective. Basically, without all those fellers who ran up the beach at Normandy and the guys who sloshed ashore strange little atolls planted out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean amid hailstorms of machinegun bullets we'd all be snarfing down raw fish for breakfast and sauerkraut for dinner and the smoking ovens of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, Buchenwald, Majdanek, Natzwiller, and Dachau would still be consuming bodies.
As bad as things are, they were never so horrible and never, not even in the Cambodian "killing fields" did they ever become so again. Here is a quote of a text describing General Patton's first experience of a Nazi Concentration Camp. This excerpt is from a book called The Vicious Heart, by Abzug.
April 5, 1945
In search of secret Nazi communications along the Autobahn, units of the American Fourth Armored Division of the Third Army moved on Gotha and Ohrdruf, discovering the first of the camps containing prisoners and corpses to be uncovered by American armies. 10,000 men had lived and slaved at Ohrdruf. Near the end, the SS had marched the prisoners to other camps, known as death marches, or killed them.
Ohrdruf was a minor sub-camp of Buchenwald, and on the edge of the camp was a gigantic pit, where the Nazi's had stacked bodies and wood and burned them.
Ohrdruf had actually been discovered by accident. After the Americans had taken the town where part of the communications center was located, reconnoitering troops found the main gate to the camp just over the crest of a small hill. Corpses in striped uniforms were found right inside the gate. Some found were alive, others long since dead . . . .
Ohrdruf is significant as the first camp that contained both the starved, frail bodies of hundreds and the prisoners who had managed to survive. The revelation of the horror, the mutually exclusive desires to remember and to forget, would serve to mark the loss of innocence of the entire world.
April 12, 1945
Generals George Patton, Omar Bradley,and Dwight Eisenhower arrived in Ohrdruf. They saw more than 3,200 naked, emaciated bodies that had been flung into shallow graves. Eisenhower insisted on seeing the entire camp: a shed piled to the ceiling with bodies, various torture devices, and a butcher's block used for smashing gold fillings from the mouths of the dead. Patton became physically ill behind the barracks. Eisenhower felt that it was necessary for his troops to see for themselves, and the world to know about the conditions at Ohrdruf.
Now, freeing the Freeworld of these Nazis and the fellers with the meatball-flag was not a pleasant jaunt about the world and a number of fellers wound up floating to shore, so you gotta give em some thanks and respect. And giving them some respect involves consideration of what they did without yoking violently their heroism to any sort of present day activity which pales in comparison.
We do not respect the man who tries to hook up his own political ends to the soldiers who planted a flag on Iwo Jima where hundreds of them died fighting a tenacious and well-armed enemy.
On the island, the skies shone blue over the slopping waters of the Bay down by the Beach where BBQ's smoked like watchfires all over the place. Children ran between the canebrake plots and the ground squirrels scampered about their business and nobody even stole a car for a day.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 19, 2002
PICKY PICKY PICKY
Okay we promise not to finish the weekly issue after the third round of Margaritas and a brandy chaser. And we really promise to really proofread before going to FTP. Honest. The errors in the previous week have been fixed and the persons responsible have been punished.
THE MOST INFAMOUS TERRIER IN THE WORLD STILL AT LARGE
We understand that now they have taken to bringing in the Canadian RCMP, the British fusiliers spearheaded by James Bond, and those notorious harsh weather fighters, the Australian mountain troops, to bring that shaggy dog to justice in Afghanistan.. If anyone cares to notice, any one of these groups chews on nine-penny nails for breakfast, has a distinguished history of scrapping in the worst terrain in the world and generally kicking bullies in the cojones, and has a history of notable achievements under impossible conditions. In other words, you do not f--k with these guys.
Seein' as our boys, tough as they are, could still benefit from an assist we hereby provide a pic, reprinted from the Nov. 11, 2001 column, of the most notorious terrierist, Osama Bin Lassie.
Gaze upon the face of evil incarnate. If any of you lads run across this character in the mountains, be not merciful, for this is a most vicious dog and a great insult to all of Islam in whose name he has usurped the holy Koran.
THE ARTHOUSE ON LINCOLN
Two things of note happened this week -- well, more than two things, but these two things concern the Island -- our intrepid staff secured the loan of a digital camera (what joy!) and we interviewed the owner of the Arthouse on Lincoln. For those of you just tapping in, here is the precis: For the past several years signs have been appearing on the side of a house that sits on the corner of Lincoln. Here is the house in question:
The signs have typically appeared in the form of large block letters drawn on a sheet of butcher-block paper in black ink. Sometimes the lettering is Chinese, Arabic, Cyrillic, and in any number of languages from French to Hebrew. Sometimes the signs relate pretty clearly to topical events or the seasons, but more often than not, they cannot be construed to mean anything definitive at all. On some occasions, a little display appears in conjunction. Here is a blowup of the sign on the left:
In this case, i talked with the artist, who calls himself Harlan, likes to wear his paint-dabbled sweaters inside-out and who lives in this house with his infirm mother. Who apparently disapproves of what he calls his "projects". The Arabic word "ISTIDLAL" refers to a kind of religious summit among Islamic holy men. The figure below is a biblical verse refering to Matthew 2:20. The verse goes:
2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 2:20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
Well, I'm still not sure it makes any more sense than my previous conviction that the symbol referred to an hallucinogenic tablet, but it still does something to your day to see these things.
Here is the second sign enlarged for your pleasure:
The words "BEE BEE" refer to intimate nicknames for the Jewish politician Netayanu. Go figure.
Few people know that Oedipus was presented with a second riddle before being allowed to enter the kingdom of Thebes. The way it goes is this: What has 20,000 legs, runs sometimes naked and sometimes dressed in full wedding finery, lasts for seven miles and gets uproariously drunk on the beach at the end?
Well the answer is the Annual Bay to Breakers footrace which took place this morning in Babylon. Just as the heavens cracked open to soak participants and judges most joyfully. Word is, Padriac went out there with his special Thanksgiving Day brew to liven things up. The soul shudders to think.
EMPEROR NORTON, THE GRIZZLY BEARS, AND THE YAHI
It is damnably difficult to get out of the 1800's whenever speaking of California's History. Before we just plunge into the 20th Century willy-nilly we still have to cover a number of issues, including His Most Puissant Majesty and Emperor of California as well as the last California Grizzly Bear, named Monarch DeOog, usually referred to briefly as Monarch in the old chronicles.
Now you must know a bit of history here, as well as a few facts, but we shall keep it mercifully brief. The average full grown grizzly bear stood about seven feet tall, when he chose to stand on such occasions as when he was particularly displeased, and weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 pounds. Needless to say, he had no natural enemies as everything sensible in nature was scared to death of him and for good reason.
By comparison, keep in mind that your basic 500 pound black bear has no trouble tearing the door off of a standard American automobile so as to enjoy the meaty morsels contained inside.
Now then, your basic grizzly, maintaining such a poundage as he was wont to do, needs to roam pretty damn far and wide eating pretty much everything in his path just to keep in trim, and he was not particularly inclined to diet or to restrict his movements on behalf of a passel of screaming ladies and minstrels on Main Street. He found human garbage to be marvelously tasty and had no scruples wandering through town at any hour at his leisure looking for lunch.
Well, the Spanish, and the Mexicans after them, took exception to this impudence, for they considered the streets to be the province of the gens du raison, or reasonable people as it is loosely translated. As humans are wont to do, when something disagrees with them, they simply kill it. And this they did with appalling efficiency and sickness.
From 1775 to the present they roped the grizzly with lariats, knifed the grizzly, shot him from all angles and poisoned him with gusto. A particular game involved tieing a bear to a post in a corral and then charging admission to watch him deal with enraged bulls one after another until the creature eventually failed due to exhaustion and was killed.
So effective was this campaign, that by 1908, the last wild bear was shot to death about a mile from Summersville in the Sierra mountains. It was a Sunday and the killer's name was George Hart.
Monarch, however, was a wiley bear and gifted with a most uncanny intelligence. For years he wandered the mountains of Modoc and Shasta counties, encountering fewer and fewer of his kind. A certain Fernando Crumpott Snickerdoodle-Aag knew him, or of him, but Aag was a fur trapper who dealt with Russians for the most part and bears had little to do with him as he for them. Perhaps bear-fur would sell to the Russians, but Aag never asked and so never told of his visions of this great bear swooshing big salmon from the rivers in immense paws. Besides, there was a certain affinity between them, these two remnants of long lost races that had inhabited all of the Californias once long ago.
Aag had often had Monarch in his Kentucky rifle sights, when the bear moved slowest in the time when skitter-ice begins frosting the ponds and streams before the big snow-time. In this time, the bear would find some last morsels before creeping off to his den to dream the winter-white dreamtime. In these dreams, the hills thronged with thousands of his brothers and there were berries and fish plenty enough for all and mates to find without fighting and no smelly man-things walking about to wreck the peace of what was. This is the stuff of beardreams and the dreams of the Sierra mountains themselves, for the mountains dream always of the pure water and unscarred land that was and should be and of the Sequoia's long meditation in the winds. And bears dream the mountain dreams among their own dreams of playful tumble and wack among siblings between the sugar pines as the shadows of forgotten pine martens dance among deeper shadows beyond a bee-loud glade and the leaves of the quaking aspen flip this way and that. In the dreams of bears where there are many many raspberrys and blackberries to be had and sweet sugar pines for sharpening claws.
In the Spring, the bear came out from his den, shaggy and all hungry from a long sleep as the ice dams break in the Sierra plunging down to bogs where sweet-tasting frogs like to sit. This particular spring, the spring of 1909, the old Monarch noticed a strange absence upon the air and the strange air upon an absence of his mate, now two years dead after being killed by a man sitting in a hole covered with leaves and branches. His mate, Lucinda, had seen this cache of meat sitting out so juicy and had walked right up to it and the hunter underneath had fired up through the branches and killed her then with two shots to the heart.
Now Monarch was alone in the world and he knew his time was coming to an end for he was the last grizzly bear in California, the California that bore his image on its flag. In this way he came upon Aag, who had, finally, by this time, gotten the story that a bear pelt was worth real money to these Russians, but only after they had sold up their camp -- lock, stock and barrel -- to this Swiss lunatic out in the Mariposas somewhere. But there also came around a bunch of these fellers from the University down there where the cities started and they made him a particular offer.
Now on this day Fernando, carrying his antiquated "Kentucky" rifle, broke through the icy edge of a riverbank and found all his powder drenched beyond use. Coming out, who should he face but a 7-foot tall, three-quarter ton grizzly bear. Named Monarch.
The two of them faced one another for a full minute. It takes that long for bears to think, you know.
Monarch was the first to speak. "I tell you what manthing," he said. "I will not eat you if you wont kill me."
The hapless Fernando was only too happy to agree. He was a long way from his cabin and his gun was useless.
Monarch squatted down on his haunches. "Okay then. We have an agreement. Let's form a partnership."
Now, some of you may wonder at this ability of the bear to speak human language, but there is clear precedent for this occurance as anyone who has learned the legends of the crow and the coyote will know. But all that is another story and reserved for another time.
In this way, Fernando convinced Monarch that the best path to survival in the modern world was to form a corporation in which he and Monarch would be chief officers and shareholders and in which the chief assets would be the entire Modoc basin, the Modoc Indians having already been disenfranchised by law and fact of life.
Of course, Fernando had no intention of following through on this plan, for it was clear that nobody wanted any part of the Modoc region anyway since there was not a spot of gold anywhere to be had and a recent volcanic eruption (1492) had made the place look as farmable as the Gobi desert. Instead he betrayed his partner to the San Francisco Zoo, who introduced him to a pit behind the Steinhart Aquarium as a "conference room" before clapping the gate shut.
And so there it was that with a few rocks, a little water and a very little sky, Monarch, the last California grizzly spent his last days filing form after form with the Franchise Tax Board in an effort to get free of the $800 state incorporation tax. In 1922 he died and now his stuffed skin can be seen at the California Academy of Arts and Sciences, but there are no more grizzlys in the Golden State any more and the mountains dream their dreamtime without them as the years pass winter into summer into autumn and back to winter snow.
A few years later a man dressed in stone-age rags stumbled out of the Trinity Alps, starving and speaking in his forgotten tongue that no one alive but himself understood these words. "I surrender to you, who have killed my family and all my relatives. I am the last Yahi. Kill me now, you conquerors of all the earth."
His name was Ishi and his tale is the most extraordinary of all, but that story waits for another time.
BACK IN THE PRESENT DAY
We note that the Urban View continues to get better and better as a local newsrag and actually seems to represent the views and opinions of the people who live here. J.D.Allen-Taylor continues to pump out single-page columns that say onone page what seems to take 20 pages for the verbose and purple writers of the East Bay Excess. We also note that former Dog Bites columnist Laurel Wellman seems to have descended to the level of hack since moving uptown to the Comical. Now, Wellman was a writer whose sentences were pure jewels to be savored once upon a time. Any one of her paragraphs written for the SF Bleakly made the reader want to send roses FTP. But nowadays, her style feels as choppy as the Bay on a prelude day to a winter storm and the content has become as meaningless and uninteresting as a slice of dried-out flan. C'mon girl, get yer groove back!
On the Island, now experiencing the dubious pleasures of a crime wave instituted by Vietnamese gangs who hot prowl houses, tape up the owners and rob whatever they please, life is getting spicier. Two guys recently busted in on a woman and tied her up with electrical cords before running off with the valuables. But as in this week's armed robbery of the Park Street jewelry store, no traffic laws were infringed in the process, so the culprits got clean away.
Over at the Tube, the Caltrans has kindly cut up the road surface to endear your tires and suspensions prior to resurfacing -- probably in a couple months. Same goes for the 880 approachs to Oaktown. So we all have this rubber replacement and front-end realignment to look forward to as the Powers That Be dawdle and NorCal's greatest Mystery once again unfolds: Just how is it that it takes six months to pave a stretch of road up here when SoCal can rebuild an entire freeway section in a week?
But that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 12, 2002
In the suddenly Kinder and Gentler America, they were hawking flowers along the roadside and gearing up the Ihop for big waffles as NorCal slung itself into celebrating all the female primogenitures of the earth. Down on Hollis, Little Rapper Joe served his ma breakfast in bed with typical baggy pants aplomb and song, while Kitty Kate did the scratchin' on backup and Sistah Boom did the percussion. As for me old dear mum, she's the greatest, of course. Yo! You da MOM!
Keep it real.
ART N WHINE
The annual Island Art N Wine festival took up Park Street this weekend under balmy skies that had the Island Families all out along the strand in force armed with hibachis and frankfurters among the ground squirrels. On Park Street, not the strand, you could wander down the way and get plastered on the best Island Rosenblum while buying those special tchotchkes and photo-pressed coasters. Some stuff was even useful and original. We liked best the iron mongery garden sculpture of a mother crane dropping a rusty fish into the maw of its youngster.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
The old Southern rocker, Warren Haynes is all over the map these days, with a date at the Warfield fronting his own gov't mule, followed by the glorious open Greek Ampitheatre with Phil Lesh, then refilling the Warfield in June with the Allman Brothers Band. Hey, Warren, you gonna tape the set list to your guitar or just play "Dark Star" every time? You da man.
The Summer Season begins this month, as the lineup at the Fillmore and the Warfield shows. Starting with the Fillmore, we got of note, Billy Bob Thornton, Beth Orton, Mother Hips, Los Lobos and the acoustic old school powerhouse Keb'Mo'. Its nice to see Beth Orton finally doing a Big Venue, as we remember her startup 10 years ago playing a wierd hookah-clarinet thing in the humble digs of Cafe Beano in Babylon. Attendees are sure to experience some provocational jazz this time around.
AN INSPIRATION TO POTBELLIED BOOMERS EVERYWHERE
By now you should know that those rambuntious daddies, the Rolling Stones, go on tour with a kickoff this November at PacBell Park. The feller an A&R man once said needed to be gotten rid of or the band would never get anywhere turns 59 this summer; that guy with the tire-tread lips, they said. Nobody seems to know how hold Keith Richards happens to be, as he always looked like he was 95 and just come from the mummy's tomb, but he also will dance on the stage with his five-string guitar. Richards was quoted once in Guitar World as saying, "I remember life was so interesting, I didn't go to sleep for four days. I finally passed out from exhaustion and woke up with my head against the leg of the kitchen table." The Park, which holds somewhere near 80,000 people is probably SRO by now. So much for tire-tread lips.
GRIZZLEY CONSEQUENCES AND THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR
Next time we promise to present how the last California G-bear tried to save himself with the help of Oog and Aag by forming an S-Corporation, and how Oog saved the town -- or part of it -- during the Great San Francisco Earthquake. Well, you kinda knew that last one was coming. As a sort of consolation for once again leaving your heart in Babylon, we will describe how Willits the mule saved Aag from certain death during the flooding of the Imperial Valley. Stay tuned for more wild and wacky adventures of that redoubtable pair.
Meanwhile, as the sun sets slowly over the Island in a golden . . . oh forget it. Just have a great week.
MAY 5, 2002
EL AGUA AND THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR
At the turn of the century, Owen's Valley was a sleepy, hard-scrabble sort of place hosting about 5000 farms along the present day path of Interstate 395. In the winter, moisture laden winds dropped their content among the peaks of the high Sierra, largely on the western side, but some making over to the east. In spring, these snows melted into streams that flowed down arid rock through wildflower-chocked alpine meadows, eventually splashing into a single intermittant water course that ran some 100 miles to eventually drop into the remains of a prehistoric lake that by 1920 had become an alkaline sea with only occasional appearance of any size. Elk, deer, jackrabbits, ducks, and your basic woodchucks nuzzled among the grasses and succulents along the sporadic streams and, when these streams went dry in deep summer, simply moved on up higher. As did the people who originally inhabited the area and who continued to inhabit there in decreasing numbers.
The area was a sportsman's paradise, for the high lakes and continuous streams were not all fished out of rainbow and golden trout. A short march up any one of the canyons and anyone could find streams that ran all year long.
The newer residents set up their homesteads with the aid of deep wells and irrigated tenuous farms by partitioning water from the slender Owen's River. When anyone had cause to complain about insufficient water, good neighborliness allowed that the man upstream would close or open the right gate to let the good stuff pass.
This last bit of info is critical to understanding the real tragedy of Owen's Valley. This was a place where 6-foot snows in winter followed by searing 120 degree heat in summer meant that social cooperation was imperative for survival. It was a hard scrabble life but it was a life.
Now let us attend to Angus Pedro McOog. In this land of abruptly sheer 14,000 foot mountains and brushy oases edging the vast Nevada desert Angust maintained a loose foothold farming wheat and caring for a group of orange trees. He had a wife and a couple kids and although he was not rich, he was not poor. He heard about a Fred Eaton from LA coming around and buying up all the land in the name of the City Los Angeles and he heard a lot of plans and he disregarded them all for he was content with his lot.
Others were not so.
When the newly municipalized LA Water District began buying land in and around Owen's Valley the City under the hat of Fred Eaton, Fred began paying out of City funds not yet approved -- consequently, it must have seemed to Fred that any old price would do. To a lot of the landowners, the City appeared as a rich moneybags tossing fabulous wealth down like spendthrifts. Angus didn't much like that and his friend, Sam Watterson, began to rile his spirit by getting the local boys to barter for what they considered very high prices. And, to be honest, the land prices were indeed many times the cost of the assessed values.
If all you wanted to do was farm a few taters. No one has ever questioned whether the City ever paid the people for its intrinsic price. That is, if LA had really paid the people what the land was worth to LA and to the people soon to lose their livelihood, the story would have turned out much different.
Instead Sam went around getting the boys hot and bothered about jacking the prices and making deals, which included building a dam up north so that the water could be parcelled out for everybody and in dry years there would be something set by.
But our man Eaton had been, well embezzeling the public trust by purchasing land with unapproved monies. He managed to get something sqeezed by the voters to cover what had been spent, but couldn't get them to approve the dam; so the land purchases went on, but without any set-by for the future. With all the diversions in the valley, no one had ever created a means for storage. It would prove to be LA's disaster that they would pursue this option once and once only in its long terrible history.
With Watterson starting factions bidding for high prices against Eaton, the amounts of money that began to be bandied about started many locals into a crazy spin. Eaton managed, with the help of Watterson and his brother, to create a Valley Water District funded by bonds held by the banks that these Wattersons owned.
Not until later did it come out that these banks were heavily in debt due to embezzling by the brothers and that is the real reason they started everyone agitating over higher land prices instead of angling for preservation of the Valley.
Eaton, in the true manner of a California Obsessive-Compulsive, was ram-rodding through various projects intended to create what is now the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the longest water diversion in the world at over 200 miles and in 1910, certainly a fairytale to anyone who would ever have stopped to consider what the man was doing.
The first part of the project went well for Eaton, who had purchased nearly a half-million dollars worth of acres himself in hopeful speculation that the City would buy back this land directly from him.
The only signs of trouble began to occur when various diversion ditch owners began posting armed guards at the watergates belonging to them.
As obvious focus became public on the Valley and on the projects, the Southern Pacific developed interest and pushed a line north from Mohave to the Valley -- and also began speculating on land values. then there happened a drought and that fueled the desires of the City to buy the entire Valley which they set about doing. And each seller deposited his and her take in the soon to be doomed Inyo County Bank even as bonds went on sale to buy the water rights of the Valley by the Valley's own Water District in a marvelous euroboric scenario.
As more people sold out, the holdouts became anxious that all the water would be taken away. One group, the Owens Valley Canal seized control of a spillway north of Lone Pine and set armed guards. About this time, bands began dragging concerned parties into the street and theatening them with lynching. Some of Wattersons' boys started dynamiting wells to get people to cave in to the City's offers.
Thus it was that formalized Terrorism came to America. Over water.
Well, things really developed a head of steam when a couple fellers were found shot - supposedly of suicide, although the one feller had a pistol in his right hand, but it was found he had been a southpaw all his life. In addition, roving bands of armed men started burning down houses up and down the Valley which by this time could be considered engaged in an all-out war. So it was that Angus sent the kids and the wife off to Tonopah and started packing a side-arm.
About then the banks failed. All five of them throughout the valley in 1927.
The Wattersons got sent to San Quentin, but that left the few survivors no choice but to sell. The City finished the aqueduct and started in on yet more water diversion, pumping out water from one field and switching to another as soon as that water table went dry, even as the City sold water taken from Owens Valley to interested parties to either side of the entire length of the 200 mile aqueduct. Draining yet more water fields.
For these were, in layman's terms, static accumulation tables that had collected over thousands, or millions of years. The water was not being replenished. But no one knew about ecology back then.
Now the one attempt at water storage was done up San Francisquito Canyon far back from the Valley, or so it seemed. Unfortunately, while Angus was out walking at the head of this canyon one day in March of 1928, the dam gave way and a solid wall of water swept Angus, three towns, and 400 people into the hereafter and we will hear no more about them for many of their bodies were found and then buried. This was the worst disaster to befall the Golden State since the Earthquake of 1906 and the excessive carnage shocked the City into a rare mood of personal accountability and conciliation. The land purchases went forward and whatever was asked was paid out. To anybody that had chanced to stay alive.
Foreclosures on the bank's held assets -- land -- took care of the rest.
And in 1929, well, the same went for California as for every other place. Development in the Owens Valley came to a dead stop as the alkali lake reverted to a huge bowl of gritty, windblown dust. The Owen's river disappeared entirely, the orchards and crop fields withered and all of the surrounding countryside became like the Nevada desert. Eaton, who had put his money in one of Watterson's banks, went utterly bancrupt, and there is some pleasure in the thought. His lands were taken into public domain and now reside under the artificial Crowley Lake, the most popular fishing hole in California.
As for Los Angeles, they just went further north and began draining Mono Lake even as the famous "dust devils" began swirling across the Mohave. The legend has it these little six-foot high tornadoes are the restless spirits of would-be pioneers that never made it across the baking desert. In the former verdant lands of the Valley, these columns of dust had to have come from some other place.
Now there are some who say that by causing all this ruckus and taking out all the water, Los Angeles actually did the Valley a favor by halting all local development -- such as it was -- before it could ever get started, thus preserving the area as a wild western preserve with open skies (albeit a bit dusty) and vast mountain ranges. Still, it does seem like an extreme way to get rid of 3 towns and 400 people all of a sudden.
Angus, and 120 others were never found. "Fergeddit Jake. It's Chinatown."
ROY ROGERS AT THE GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL
Who do you know has won 7 grammy awards, the Australian Blues Hall of Fame, WC Handy Award, worked with John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richard, Alan Toussaint, Sammy Hagar, Shana Morrison, plus a long list of musical luminaries, but whose name evokes that of a fake cowbody crooner remembered for schmaltzy movies in the fifties?
Well it must be Roy Rogers, probably the best slide guitar player in the world today. The first Roy Rogers was really named Leonard Skye, incidentally.
I had a chance to check out how Roy has done since I last saw him shake up the stage at Slims in 1984. Saturday night he celebrated the release of his all-instrumental "Slideways" with a footstomping. incendiary two sets that brought the house down. His 10 albums, deservedly Grammie winners, astound the listener with virtuosity, but performing live, the man just explodes with ferocious energy, turning that old open-G slack-key style first invented by Hawaiian sailors into a howling firestorm of dazzling fingerboard pyrotechnics.
The years have sharpened his formidible talents, if anything, and with his new album release, he moves in new directions with all new material. Much of what he is doing evokes Joe Satriani while still remaining true to the roots of the blues. During his first set, he mentioned that "Y'know performing a Robert Johnson tune is a little like picking up a conversation with an old friend." But what he does with those Johnson tunes, like "Terraplane Blues", "Stones in My Passway", "I Got Rambling on My Mind" and his absolutely phenomenal "32-20 Blues" version sets him well apart from the traditional old school purists.
Rogers does not "interprete" this old songs so much as deconstruct them into essential phrases that he expands in a nuclear reactor of energy.
One of his favorite techniques from his arsenal of pyrotechnics, is to launch a melody with his fretting hand at the top of the neck and then flip down to the soundhole so far that his hand has to turn palm up as his arm extends rubberlike around the bottom of the guitarbody. Above is a picture of him doing just that. Now just imagine keeping up with, and staying ahead of, Sammy Hagar, while doing this.
The looks of his mainstay, a 1970 Martin 0-16, show how the man is all over the instrument as the top has all the varnish worn above and in front of the pickguard.
Unlike a lot of the fast n'furious players out there, Rogers seldom reverts to barrages of meaningless eighth-note "triplets" which convey a whole lotta noise instead of music. Rogers seldom varies from the melody itself except when dropping back to play rhythm while singing or letting other band members do their thing. In live performance, the sound balance actually improves the whole effect as when Tom Gridley stepped in, wearing amazingly red cowbody boots that provoked Roy to say, "Now Tom, just you don't click the heels of those things together or we'll all be in trouble!". Gridley's amplified fiddle nicely rounded out the sound during swampy songs like "Down at Josephines" and the new cuts from the CD "Razor's Edge" and "Smoke and Mirrors."
Freddy Roulette stepped in with his lap steel on the mysterious instrumental "Razor's Edge", helping to give, with Gridley's fiddle, an eerie middle-eastern quality. The sound returned to delta blues when Rogers exchanged his Martin for a 12-string tri-cone Dobro and glissandoed into "I got Rambling on My Mind."
Long time friend and superb harmonica player, Norton Buffalo, stepped in for Stones in My Passway, playing so energetically that his spare harps began flying out from his waistband to bounce across the stage.
While tuning up his 1937 Gibson sunburst for "Smoke and Mirrors," Rogers mentioned that he and Norton are currently recording for a summer release, their first together in some fifteen years.
He closed the first set on his Martin with "Terraplane Blues", leaving the crowd wrung up in high pitch. If Rogers can be faulted at all, it is that his performances tend to exhaust the listener with dense, pressured playing that seldom allows a breathing space, much like Frank Zappa's instrumentals. There is always something happening, and it is always happening quite fast and energetically. His right hand never stops picking a fast, steady melody while his left, armed with a 3/4 length glass slide constantly flickers up and down in a blizzard of hammer-ons, taps, harmonics, slides,damps, and momentary string frets.
The second set opened with a slightly wry "Built for Comfort (not for speed)" which had been a favorite of the 300 pound Howling Wolf back in the day. Roulette rejoined for "Baby Please Dont Go" and after another Robert Johnson tune, "Kindhearted Woman", the entire ensemble blistered the stage with a cooking jam on "Shake Your Moneymaker."
During this last piece a hooded homeboy stalked up between the startled aisles of middle-class San Franciscans to point his finger at Roy and shout "You da man, Roy! You da MAN!" before stalking back into the darkness.
In one of the evening's rare quiet moments, Rogers and Norton Buffalo reprised a song from their first album in 1981 called "In Your Arms". The song was written by an elderly Connecticut school teacher who handed Rogers the lyric sheets one day. Rogers changed not a word and set the lyrics to music to make a lovely and poignant ballade.
As a closer, the entire ensemble came out for an incendiary "32-20 Blues" with Tom Gridley doing some fine fiddle-work turning this Johnson tune into a rocking jump-swing that had the packed house dancing on their feet down in the main hall and up in the balconies.
After a standing ovation and some foot and table pounding that threatened to bring down the old rocco embellishments of the 1907 hall, the company returned for a modified version of "Hand Me Down (My Walking Cane)"
the way i treated you - martin O-16
down at josaphines - tom rigney -fiddle
razors edge - freddy roulette on lap steel
i got rambling on my mind - 12-string tri-cone dobro
stones in my passway - norton buffalo
smoke and mirrors - gibson sunburst
I'm with you - gibson f-hole archtop
terraplane blues - martin O-16
built for comfort - martin 0-16
baby please dont go - roulette -lapsteel
shake yr moneymaker - ensemble
gumbo funk - jerry sanchez drum intro - gibson sunburst
in your arms - norton buffalo
32-30 blues - gibson f-hole, ensemble
hand me down my (walking cane)
CINCO DE MAYO
The tequila flowed and the mariachi's played as America celebrated its favorite foreign power independence day. but hey, any excuse for a party, right? On the Island, even the ground squirrels were out on the gorgeous sunny day wearing sombreros and doing La Cucaracha. In Babylon there were parades in La Mission and pinatas got the stuffing beat out of them and there was much jubilation as there was in Oaktown around the Fruitvale Station.
Since, as we know from previous tales of Oog and Aag the Golden State began its political life as a sorta colony of Spain and then Mexico, its not too out of reach to celebrate. And celebrate we did. Except I cant remember a damn thing about it. Now where's my lost shaker of salt . . .
35 MILLION DOLLARS IS ANTIHISTIMINE MONEY
That much cash is nothing to sneeze at, in other words. On the Island, Atinder Sahni and his wife had cause to celebrate, for their mom n' pop shop sold the winning lotto ticket to a neighbor. Shopkeepers lucky enough to sell a winning ticket get a percentage of the pot and that is why Atinder is beside himself. What will he do with the windfall? Pay off debts.
NOW THAT IS RUDE
A fellow is suddenly in hot water for failing to be a gentleman in pulling a pistol on a woman who took his parking space while she was visiting an invalid. Officer O'Madhauen is investigating the issue, probably to determine if any traffic laws were violated. By the man or the woman.
Someone should investigate, instead, the serious lapse of civility around here.
There were some 9 grand thefts, three or four strong-arm robberies, 12 cases of vandalism, 16 petty thefts, five cases of battery and one dog bite. They did nab two DUIs and a sex offender who failed to register -- for 12 years.
There's no rest for the wicked as long as Officer O'Madhauen is guarding the paint stripes making sure nobody gets away with anything -- unless it happens to be among the preceding list.
In other cases, a woman reported trespassers scoping her property and peering into windows, but they ran off. As no traffic ordinances were violated, the perps got clean away. Also, a kid fell off of his motorized mini-scooter, provoking public outrage from the Island Gerbil. To think those annoying scooters are perfectly legal. My my.
Say, did anyone catch the last installment of the "Osbornes at Home" on MTV?
That's the way it is on the Island, where the video arcade machines never tilt. Have a great week. And please keep things in perspective.
APRIL 28, 2002
THE RETURN OF THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR
For your edification and enjoyment we now present the manner in which descendents of Oog and Aag assisted in the formation of the Pacific Coast railway system and directly led thereby to the notorious "water wars" which continue to plague the Golden State even today. Sit back me laddies for this is a long tale, much abbreviated in parts and somewhat stretched in others but nonetheless as true as my name is Ulysses P. Jones. Or truer. And I never tell a lie.
This tale must simple skip over much gorgeous stuff of legend, involving such lunatics, er, visionaries, as Theodore Judah, who forced passage over, under and through stone to make the transcontinental railway.
Sit up now and pay attention; this is important.
Men invested in the enterprise, and who proved to be absolutely no use in accomplishing its completion but who nevertheless proved to be the greatest beneficiaries of its fruits also became the chief determiners of the railway system. And these featured, in no especial order, Colis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins. These fellers were all grocers and dry goods salesmen who much rather preferred the big stakes over penny-haggling with apple buyers.
Let us not forget Angus Pedro McAag. Basically the way it went was this:
Judah, in the grand Western tradition of demented quest and obsession, persuaded the Big Four mentioned above to form a railway company called the "Central Pacific", much in advance of any rail line existing anywhere in the stagecoach-dominated State. The old coot was absolutely convinced that he had found the perfect path over and through the ramparts of the Sierra, ramparts that were littered with the remains of broken and abandoned wagons. In those days, the great "prarie schooners" featured with such pseudo-nostalgia in paintings never made it over the crest. Every last one of them had to be abandoned in the foothills. The few wagons that did make it over were typically disassembled, hauled by ropes up steep inclines, then reassembled on the other side. Eventually, over years, sufficient trail got dug, dynamited and smashed through a handful of the gentler passes, but traversing these "roads" never became easy.
The drivers of these coaches were a rough and tumble bunch, every bit as wild as cowboys and salty as sailors. With the one exception of a "Cock-eyed Charley", all were men. Now, Cock-eyed Charley had the real name of Charlotte Parkhurst, nee Charlotte Jacinto-deOog. Born out of the same family that tried to make a living running the ferry from Yerba Buena to Rancho San Antonio (now Oaktown) until stymied by the nefarious Carpentier (see March 11, 2001), Charlotte had in mind to make a good living in the male-only profession of coach driver. So, the lady cut her hair, put on pleated shirts and trousers, slapped on an eye-patch and hence, in short while developed a reputation as the most hard-drinking, hard swearing, hard driving tobacco chewing rider Wells ever employed.
In any case, it was Pedro McAag that, armed with his family's friendship with Chief Tenaiya and thorough knowledge of the Sierra, who showed Judah the way over the Sierra. For a few dollars.
Judah scampered off to Washington DC to secure some of those good public monies President Lincoln signed over to build the trans-american railway and came away successful. There was hoopla and hurrahs in California when the man got back and Stanford and Huntington both began building fabulous mansions on hilltops in expectation of sure profits while Crocker oversaw an army of 20,000 men hacking, blasting and building their way through the mountains.
Well it took a year and a lot of trouble to build and a lot of Chinese fellers died up on Gum Lung, the Gold Mountain. Typically they would send an Asian feller along the trail to tamp down dynamite into predrilled holes -- called "salting the rock". This hapless feller then had to run for his life once the fuse was lit and sometimes he didn't make it out fast enough. Then there was the matter of post-explosion rock slides as well as the pleasant avalanche weather known to the Sierra. There also was the matter of the people who happened to be living nearabouts at the time. Thomas Sanchez described the practice of bringing along a "westernized" Indian to make sure there was no trouble along the track laying in Rabbit Boss.
Even before the thing was finished, Huntington, Crocker, Hopkins and Stanford scrambled to stifle any good competition and building three fabulous palaces on "Nabob Hill", latter shortened to "Nob Hill". Hopkins had his digs where the present five-star Mark Hopkins Hotel now stands. Crocker had his down the street where the Grace Cathedral sanctifies the land and featured a 70-foot tower. On California Street Leland Stanford built a palace where the Stanford Court Hotel now resides.
Judah never saw the completion of his dream, dying of malaria while sailing en route to Washington D.C. on one of his many fund-raisers. Bummer.
The Western Terminus of this long monstrosity straddling the mountains turned out to be unready as the main rail station still needed a roof. So it was that the mail station on this very Island became the site where the first transpacific railcar came to berth. There was lots of hollaring and bands and whoopee and yippee ai oh streamers and booze, and when the Main Station got completed they did it all again for Californios dearly love any excuse to party.
Then there was a terrible economic depression and waves of unemployed sailed over the mountains in the brand new locomotives to swell the ranks of yet more unemployed in the Golden State even as the Big Four got richer and richer.
The 1880's brought the great boom time that started California Land on its relentless value-spiril upwards and the Big Four continued laying out spur and trunk lines all over the State in a virtual monopoly, producing a literal and figurative "Octopus" memorialized by Frank Norris in the novel of that name. By owning the whole shebang the Big Four managed to weedle and extort money from virtually every interest with pockets of any size. For example the CP threatened to simply bypass Los Angeles -- passing directly to archrival San Diego -- if the City did not cough up 5% of its land valuation as a "gift".
Now, this old stuff may be important to history and such, as dry as it appears, but little, other than the explaination for the money pot that produced Stanford University seems to pertain to what goes on now. Other than basic methodology. But there is one niggling detail often overlooked in these histories that led to some major conflicts that continue today. The spurs that the Big Four built included land to either side, in some cases -- disastrously so in some cases -- forty miles wide. And land ownership in California entailed water rights. And the issue of water rights came about, not by farmers as you would expect, but from the hydraulic mines that were devastating the Sierra ecology.
Consider, if you will, the small-time miner with a claim beside a river. Typically, this miner would build a chute and baffles to wash soil. The water would carry off the slurry while the heavier gold dropped into the baffles and so the successful miner bagged up the day's take and was happy as a clam. Unless some darn fool upstream dammed up the creek for his own operations. More than a few arguements were settled by fist, club and gun before local laws governing amounts of allowable water diversion came to pass. But as miners formed huge combine operations with massive machery operating on many tons of earth at once, the once pristine streambeds of the Sierra became murky masses of mud flow -- sorry for the alliteration. The beautiful sugar pines, lodgepole, aspen and Sequoia disappeared into mining chutes and overhead aquaducts. This helped produce several major disasters. First, a tremendous drought in the late seventies knocked the State to its knees in the midst of a depression. Then came the Marysville flood. Then came a real Flood of epic proportions, filling the Central Valley with a lake 200 miles long.
Leland Stanford, having successfully purchased a Senator's seat, stepped into the second floor of his digs in Sacramento from a rowboat, just to give you an idea.
It was the Federal Government that imposed in 1884 laws prohibiting stream pollution. Had they not done so, the destruction of the Sierra watershed would have continued unchecked and the vast majority of California from the Sacramento Delta to Mexico would now be an uninhabitable baking desert. It must be remembered that south of San Francisco, for a distance of some 500 miles, there is only one river -- with no tributaries. And that river is the now seldom seen Los Angeles River banked and bedded by concrete and scene of several movie picture car chases -- but we are now getting ahed of ourselves.
A few more dry facts and we'll get on with Angus McOog. The State Constitution of 1849, in a wierd twist of history, stated that English Common Law governed all court decisions. English common law sanctioned riparian rights, that is, an owner of land bordering a stream had the right to use the water but not divert it from the streambed.
Now obviously, the previously mentioned mining operations had done exactly that. The California Court, in a typically "well thats just the way it is" kind of decision, ruled that water diversion "in the interest of the common good" was a-okay and the Supreme Court confirmed the ruling.
This paradox of conflicting law set the stage for several very long and very bloody wars.
About this time citrus orchards began springing up all over California, including the marvelously named "Owen's Valley", where our deal Angus McOog set up his little farm with several thousand others. People flocking to California to escape the economic doldrums turned to homesteading as a way to get by, as the major mining combines had ended the days of the individual prospector for good. For a time, Owen's Valley, which nestles between the harsh Nevada deserts and the granite walls of the Sierra remained the land that time forgot. But water would make this eden and water wars would destroy it.
Or, in the view of some, save it.
The earliest water battles, uncharacteristically for the Golden State, took place in courts as one party fought to dig an irrigation ditch and another fought to preserve what they had. Riparian water rights would have won out but for the Wright Act of 1887 which permitted the formation of incorporated irrigation districts funded by bonds approved by local voters. This tumult over water rights fueled land speculation even as the railroad lines were eating up all the open space.
It was Lucinda Malfeesance-Oog, who, by developing the mimeograph machine, helped establish the State of Bureaucracy and then, by extension, the Paper Company. Since a company could be formed that owned land -- for the purposes of owning water -- a bare handful of people could then own thousands of acres. Thus it was that an Oog directly contributed to the bureaucratization of California.
About this time, a man by the name of Chaffey formed a couple water companies to get around difficulties building water ditches for a couple of his land projects. He then turned his gaze to what he named "the Imperial Valley." Here he devised a most ingenious scheme. Rather than buy the land, then form a water company, he formed a water company first. Then allowed speculators and farmers to go and bear the brunt of the land cost. He then "offered" participation in the sole water owner in the huge trough by way of purchase of shares in the California Development Company. Of course no one could really afford to buy 160 acres of land and then turn around and buy $22 per share worth of water, so the CDC gladly, happily, joyously accepted credit. Taking the farm itself as security.
The scam proved successful beyond the man's wildest dreams. Land prices skyrocketed. The Southern Pacific railroad built a spur out into what had previously been open desert now populated by homesteaders seeking to escape the Depression of the 1870's. With the money from water shares, Chaffey then obligingly built a canal from the Colorado River. At its apex of profit, Chaffey abruptly sold his portion of the companies involved to his short-sighted cronies even as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began stepping in. But maintaining the complex system of irrigation canals proved a bit much for these businessmen. They were not engineers and thereby ignored some essential facts about California weather as well as basic principals in relieving hydraulic pressure. When silt plugged part of the main canal, the new owners cut a new path in the Colorado riverbank and setup a temporary bypass. Leaving out a controlling headgate.
The cost of this new expense persuaded the remaining holders to sell to one E.H. Harriman of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Here the Octopus merely wanted to dip a few tentacles into yet another money-making scheme in which water rights could be bartered for right of way. Not long after this purchase a series of floods punched holes in the river bank in 1905 -- in Mexico -- and the water kindly flowed across the border to begin filling the Salton trough. The CP railroad made a cool million dollars in "flood control" work from the federal government but refused -- since the federals saw no use or jurisdiction in plugging a hole in Mexico -- to actually stop the influx, then sold its holdings to a Wright Act-inspired water company owned by the, by now, very dissatisfied residents of the valley. Box cars from the SP loaded with rock dropped into the breach eventually stopped the fill in 1907. When it was all over, the Salton Sea rippled from the Anza-Borrego desert to the remains of the Imperial Valley covering 400 square miles of former rich bottom land.
The last rather tedious bit of facts relates to how Phinease T. Tecate-Oog made his money in the Southlands while drilling for water, discovering to his dismay that a crude black substance oozed out instead. He eventually got his water elsewhere, but the stuff proved mighty useful for firing the boiler. A ne'er do well from the Sierra gold diggin's named Doheny got wind of Oog's find and scraped together some cash for pickaxes and shovels and began digging for ernest near Second Street Park. Sure enough, oil was discovered in California and before long 3000 oil wells had sprouted up all over the city in people's backyards until the City council put a stop to the unsightly derricks within city limits in a rare aesthetically-motivated decision. Not to be outdone, Doheny and pals explored successfully elsewhere and started thereby another boomtime. The net effect of this was to shovel people into the LA basin by the bucketload.
And increase the demand for necessities, including water. Now the railroads really come into play. Fueled now by oil instead of the inefficient coal furnaces, the locomotives carried goods over the mountains and around them and through them and all that was not enough for Colis Huntington. He also wanted the sea.
Huntington had already been frustrated up north when savvy locals, burned already by Horace Carpentier's waterfront boondoggles refused the most powerful man in the west out flat.
All right, so Huntington then built spurs to San Pedro Bay, purchased waterfront acreage there, built protective seawalls, and thereby secured sole access to all seaborne traffic into what would become one of the largest seaports in the world, hosting the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet as well. The Southern Pacific threaded its lines all through this rapidly growing metropolis that had once been the sleepy cattle ranch of Pio Pico. Brought by ship, by rail, and now, by that newfangled contraption, the flivver, the Los Angeles basin grew and grew.
In 1902 a man named Eaton was elected mayor of Los Angeles on the swell of popular reformist sentiment. One reform was to purchase the Los Angeles Water District from private hands, including in the deal one William Mulholland as Chief Engineer.
Eaton was an avid outdoor sportsman and Mulholland was a talented self-educated engineer. Eaton's favorite haunt for fishing and shooting wildlife happened to be a little bit of eden called the Owen's Valley, named after a member of Fremont's expedition who never laid eyes on the place. And also home to 5,000 ranchers and 40,000 acres of irrigated land and among them, quite happy if not rich, sat one Angus McOog, wheat and citrus farmer and personal friend of one financier named Samuel Watterson.
And a terrible, terrible war was about to begin.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Earthday got celebrated on a day of chill alternating with sun down at the Washington Park, site of the historic Battle of the Bog. Mayor Ralph came out and there was lots of fun and games and ecological stuff and pointers on how to dump your used motor oil.
Elsewhere around the Bay, folks went strolling with their hotties and generally the mood of the Bay was mellow. In fact Opening Day took place on choppy seas, but the sails were out in great number for the first day of boating season.
Also signaling the winds of seasonal change, the spring jogger was seen gallopping about the ground squirrel towns, pale as a white rabbit from a winter of flourescent lighting.
Well, this week's column has been a long one and we apologise for repeating all the stuff you probably forgot in high school, but its nevertheless important to understand these things so as to understand just why Courtney Love dedicated her CD "Celebrity Skin" to "all the water stolen by Los Angeles."
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week thinking about water.
APRIL 21, 2002
POSEY TUBE RETROFIT IN TROUBLE
The pride of the Island, the Posey Tube, was the world's first underwater tunnel and its age has been showing. A massive earthquake retrofit program has been halted due to sudden embarrassment of funds to pay the contractors, leaving the critical external work unfinished. After just pushing down a $300 per parcel tax to rescue the Hospital -- also seriously in need of earthquake retrofitting -- some people are seriously drawing breath before thrusting this new expense on the public. It does appear that the necessary $31 million will come from the State.
The good thing about this situation is that the tube closure in the evenings is no longer in effect. The bad thing is that being inside the tube during the next big shaker is a serious hazard to your health. Of course we are promised that if an earthquake knocks out the tunnel and bridges, we will have the Hospital -- in its unreinforced, crumbling brick and concrete buildings -- to help us.
Unfortunately, all the critical care personnel live in Oaktown, and so, in the event of a big shaker, they would not be able to get onto the Island and pull people from the rubble of what once was the Hospital. And there is no heliport.
But hey. The Hospital -- with its 6 million dollar debt we pay for now -- makes us all warm and gushy inside. Gee willikers.
WHETHER THE WEATHER
Snow is down to 8,000 feet with thunderstorms and such moving through the high Sierra. Some traveler reports have snow down to 3,000 feet in some areas and all official reports have Yosemite and Tahoe still at sub-freezing temps at night. Reports from individuals claim reservoirs at Bridgeport and other places at 95% capacity. Temporary sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, the early reports of an El Nino forming are now solidifying into solid fact. We are due for freaky weather, probably to hit the West Coast about September of this year. Batten down the hatches mates!
THE IRON HORSE AND ROLLING THUNDER
All the Bad Boys and the Hoochie Mamas showed up in force down by the Coliseum this weekend for the Oakland Motorcycle show. A large number riding more chrome than ever graced the fenders of a '57 Chevy showed up outside Bob Dron's on Hegenberger to test their metal on the dragstrip dyno. The boys set up a dual test setup with xmas tree lights and the whole rig so that Steve McQueen wannabes could pop through the gears in 10 seconds against their buddy.
Okay, so the way it looks is this: the boys drive their bikes up a platform mounted on a flatbed trailer. The tender fastens the bikes to what amounts to a huge treadmill. Then, while the awed crowd gapes from below (about six feet) the xmas tree lights go through the classic dragstrip pattern and at green, the boys let fly on the throttle.
Then the announcer gives the results in Mph and time. These being Harleys, exclusively, the top speeds seldom exceeded 109 miles per hour in 11 seconds. But, being Harleys, they sure looked good doing it. Hey, ain't that America.
Contrary to stereotypes, little runts of the litter ran about the place inside Bob's while Moms held watch making the whole thing a family affair. Had the pleasure of meeting members of the Black Oakland Harley's Group. Finest group of guys you ever met. The Oakland HOG held a little Rock n Roll concert in the back lot and few red n white colors were to be seen and no Outlaws. In short, a fine time was had by all. Come on back, y'hear.
He was a genial feller for a Norwegian, and did not come across as the heroic type. He survived any number of "almost died" episodes until the recounting expires in the volume of occurrences. Furthermore, the boy had a phobia against water until overcome by a river dunking. Then he goes and crosses the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft. Thor Heyerdahl finally walked with the Great Adversary at 89 years of age.
THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR, OOG AND AAG
It should be no suprise that one Festus McOog was instrumental in the formation of the rail districts in the present Golden State. It is far less obvious how one Jacinto Fergus deAag played a seminal role during the famous "Water Wars" of California a little later. Their stories are the stories of the essential corruption of innocence and the brutal realization of what we know today. Stay tuned for another history lesson through Oog and Aag, the original Pleistocene inhabitants of the Bay Area.
When we last left that redoubtable pair, they had managed to purge that most execrable of institutions from the State Constitution by means of an extraordinary speech at the Constitutional Assembly in Monterey. To read that exciting account -- or rather, read that account of excitement -- go to the January 20th issue.
It must be remembered that long about 1850 or so the Golden State found itself gripped by the most intensive and frenzied mass hysteria of avarice the world has ever seen. This was, of course, much of the Gold Rush -- which has been sufficiently described elsewhere such that this little history plans to skip it entirely with the exception of how Tallulah Bankhead, the lunatic mule, came to play a small part with Alphonse, the charlatan alchemist (September 9, 2001).
Well the logical, and human, consequence of all this gold fever was the so-called Barbary Coast atmosphere. Understandably, with riotous drinking, shooting guns in the streets and pervasive lynch law in effect, the fairer sex tended to avoid moving west, at least to Babylon City, hence exacerbating the lack of civilization with rampant testosterone running unchecked. It was reported by one Collis Huntington in March of 1950 that the population of the former Spanish mission at San Francisco stood at 10,000 souls, including 600 women "and some foure-fifths of those are Harlots."
Furthermore this situation made for bad business. With nothing to check envy, racism, hatred and pure greed, no honest man could put up a shingle and make a dollar -- or a million -- without some personal disaster for very long. This became forceably demonstrated in the Sierra when the anglo miners, headed by one notable idiot named Besancon, succeeded in driving out virtually every person of Mexican or Indian descent only to realize to their dismay that they had driven out cash-paying customers by the thousands.
Anyway, into this melee stepped one David C. Broderick, a former New York saloonkeeper and member of Tammany Hall. Now, the West produces, and has produced, many characters of distinct character and Broderick was a classic example. Although a saloonkeeper and fond of frequenting saloons to smooze with the locals, he was a total teetotaler. Also, fitting to the mold of the type, he possessed a single-minded obsessional quest in the form of his desire to become a US Senator. Arriving virtually penniless in March of 1849, the man managed by January of 1850 to amass a sizeable fortune by first setting up the first coin mint, then investing in real estate and finally by building a Tammany Hall-style political machine that he successfully used to get himself elected to the State Senate representing San Francisco.
He came in the nick of time, for the only effective control over widespread mayhem was a formally organize Committee of Vigilance headed by one Sam Brannan and consisting of 103 "investigators". There was also a Court of Justice, but nobody paid that much mind. In 1853 the production of gold dropped by $14 million. In 1854 it dropped still further. In 1855 it dropped still further to 50% of what it had been in spite of vastly improved hydraulic mining techniques and the formation of organized companies.
There also, prior to Broderick's arrival, was no organized fire engine company. As a consequence of which absence the entire town burned to the ground nine times in the eight years before 1851.
Now there are many stories about Broderick and his attempts to control the town via a corrupt political apparatus while trying, time after time, to get himself elected to the US Senate. At one point the Committee of Vigilance even arrested Broderick, exiled a handful of his cronys and threatened him with all sorts of nasty things if he would not shape up.
They did not know their man. The story goes that Broderick became vigorously abolitionist and managed to get into a barroom brawl with a Southerner. One thing led to another and soon the pair were fighting a duel in the street. The pair fired at one another, and, as was usual for the quality of weapons in those days, missed each other by a mile. Broderick's resolution was to advance steadily on the Southerner, firing his weapon until it jammed even as the opponent fired back, hitting Broderick in the middle of his waistcoat timepiece. Eventually the two ran out of bullets.
In another classic altercation of the time, one David Terry, possibly suffering under some frustration as Superior Court Judge, drew a bowie knife during an argument and severely cut another man, supposedly in self-defence. The Vigilance Committee soon "arrested" Terry and held trial, thereby putting itself in direct opposition to the Federal Government. The governor called for military support while Broderick took on the dicey task of defending Terry by slipping money to three newspapers in an effort to swing public opinion. Eventually the knife victim survived and Terry was "convicted" of assault. In a move of true political savvy, the Committee voted to let him go, however, and so the Superior Court Judge was slipped secretly out of his cell and put aboard a U.S. warship that had steamed into the harbor. The Committee then quickly convicted two other men of unrelated crimes and hung them both before officially dissolving even as the governor began assembling a militia to put down an officially declared insurrection.
The story does not end there. Eventually, through political machinations, Broderick did manage to achieve his prize objective. Unfortunately his opponent, William Gwinn, was a personal friend of President Buchanan and he found himself a prospective virtual lame duck for what he expected to be the full seven years in office. Broderick's response was to abandon his party's set of compromises with the South on the issue of slavery and begin launching vitriolic attacks and obstructionist ruses against any prospective "slave state." The consequence of this was that David Terry, a staunch Southerner, forgot the way in which Broderick had saved his life and delivered a speech in which he singed the hairs of his listeners with personal attacks on Broderick.
Again, one thing led to another and the duel was fought just outside San Francisco on September 13, 1859. Of course shooting a Superior Court Justice was unthinkable, and so Broderick fired into the ground. Terry had no such principals and so he shot his former savior in the chest.
Fergeddit Jake; it's Chinatown.
Monday is Earthday, the day on which we all remember that each one of us resides on a roughly ovoid spaceship wrapped in water and mountains and protected by a thin mantel of life-sustaining gases. The Island, doing as Islanders do, celebrated with a banner over the street and a parade.
HEY, I'M TRYIN' TA SLEEP HERE!
Proving once again that Island criminals are a special breed unto themselves, an Islander suprised the man who broke into his truck in the back seat. About the same time another Islander discovered electronics missing from his SUV and a smashed window. Clearly exhausted from a busy nights work, the sleepy thief had crawled into the back seat after breaking the window and went fast asleep until awoken by the owner. The fellow seems to have gotten out of the truck and ambled away while the owner went to fetch the police.
But since no traffic laws were broken in the process, the thief got clean away with the truck CD player.
MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER
The intrepid artist of Lincoln Street has cycled through a plethora of Hebrew and Arabic signs with obvious connotations to the Mideast chaos and has lately been painting a fair number of Church-oriented comments mixed with some Chinese. You have to admit, not many command such a breadth of languages with such associational prowess. The latest:
Our limited equipment fails us in trying to copy the Chinese ideograms, but it does appear that some characters have been altered to include this definitely un-chinese symbol: +
It is said that even the ground squirrels stop to gaze in wonder.
And that's the way it is on the island. Have a great week.
APRIL 14, 2002
Much embarassed by last week's incorrect dating. The responsible parties have been caught and punished accordingly.
THE WITCHING HOUR
In a few more minutes we might as well revised the above date again, for we approach that time that Faustus dreaded most. "Oh run slowly ye horses of the night . . . !" In the distance, the midnight train howls across the broken landscape beside the old cannery at Buena Vista flats, a dark worm with fiery head winding its laborious way through the darkness. A world away, Minister Sharon stirs fitfully in dreams of longing for a long lost and peaceful place beside a river and a grove of willows there. Even as Yassur Arafat tosses uneasily upon the bed he has made for himself and his people, dreaming of olive groves and children who lift stones only to help mend walls. Colin Powell also sleeps badly, wondering in his deepest dreams why on earth they send a military man on an errand of peace when another would do much better, but, being a military man, he must execute orders without question -- and this contradiction gives him bad dreams indeed.
In Washington D.C, George W. Bush sleeps the perfect sleep of a baby, entirely untroubled by bad dreams of any kind. George is that most fortunate of souls to have been granted Salvation in the form of Disaster that touches him personally not a whit. He may not have caught the particular bad dogs he set out to catch, but he sure got a hella gift in the form of a distraction from our economic ills. See: there's a silver lining in every cloud.
In Hollywood, or in New York, somewhere in a secured enclave, the old film producer/director Woody Allen does not sleep at all, but stares at the ceiling, wondering if they will ever see the images for what they are: as detatched objects removed from the maker, without any connection to the very flawed and imperfect Creator. In other words, Woody thinks, in my mind, a pained and sorrowful God watches his imperfect figures stumble and fail upon the perfect cinema of his palm.
THE HOSPITAL BOONDOGGLE WINS OUT
Although not every vote was counted, exactly, the Island Hospital managed to squeak by successfully with a margin of 2%. There were some unofficial reports of "lost ballots", but in the end, 68% of the 20,000 voters who showed up chose to keep the hospital with all its faults and institute a $298 tax per parcel on the Island. Time will show whether preserving this institution was worth the pain. There remains the troublesome issue of earthquake retrofitting the buildings, which were damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Voters were inundated by pro-hospital articles printed by the Island Gerbil and by a sophisticated ad campaign that warned of dire consequences should a big earthquake knock out bridges and tunnels to the mainland, leaving no emergency services. The present emergency room possesses no trauma center, however. Severely injured patients need to be transported to the current County Trauma Center at Highland.
One good thing does come out of this, however. The hospital financial records must now be released in full to the public. In spite of requesting $6 million in public funds, this is something which the present Administration has refused to do up to this point.
SPRING HAS SCHPRUNG
Saturday bloomed glorious with not a cloud and sashayed into sprinkler-weather in the 80's. While the High Sierra endured its final lashings of snow down to the 5,300 foot level, giving skiers one last shot at the moguls, the Bay Area rolled out the picnic baskets and suntan oil. This lasted about a day until the true Bay Area summer kicked in on Sunday with dense fog and chill winds. Down at the House on Lincoln, where the sign painter issues his delightful messages, all others had been erased, leaving only this on the 30-foot wall:
That just about sums it all up.
In the deepest night as, way across the water, high up in the hills. all the lights along Grizzly Peak Boulevard twinkle through a quiet fog and the sounds of the train fade away, I can hear the lonesome sound of a clarinet heard across the miles, and a phrase from Joni Mitchell comes to me while standing at the window. "We're gonna thaw out or freeze. Listen! Strains of Benny Goodman coming through the smoke and pinewood trees."
Well, wherever there is music, there is a strain of hope.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a grand week.
APRIL 7, 2002
Sir Paul McCartney sang to 15,000 fans at the sold-out Oakland Coliseum on the first stop of his Driving USA tour - his first US tour in 10 years and the first time he has played in the Bay Area since the final Beatles concert of 1966 in San Francisco.
Sir Paul paid an emotional tribute to his late wife Linda and his Beatles bandmates, John Lennon and George Harrison, as he kicked off his US tour. The star fought back tears as he performed Harrison's classic song Something on a ukulele. For the first time he performed Here Today, a song composed in memory of John Lennon, which swept the entire arena to a tear-strained standing ovation. Paul continued to yank the heartstrings right up until the last songs, which included Let it Be, Hey Jude, Long and Winding Road, Yesterday, Sgt. Pepper, and concluding, fittingly, with The End.
100 YEAR OLD MEDICO LOOKIN FOR WORK. WILL CURE FOR FOOD.
On Tuesday the fate of the embattle Island Hospital shall be decided by special election. The Measure requires 2/3rds of agreement to pass, socking $300 bucks worth of additional taxes to landowners here. And after months of acrimonious debate between the two sides, one thing is clear: neither side has been honest, forthcoming or aboveboard with facts, figures and reasons.
On the one hand, the pro-hospital forces have surreptitiously modified the measure after acceptance as an electoral measure, they have buried accountability and concealed/distorted post measure consequences regarding a wide variety of scenarios and ultimately demand that we simply trust in the good will of the people involved. Who just happen to have lied to everyone from the beginning, especially about the nature of the emergency "services" supposedly provided by the hospital.
On the other hand, the anti-hospital forces have levied a meaningless lawsuit against even voting on the issue, have shouted in misdirecting terms about additional taxation and continue to refer to numerous non-issues as bones of contention.
In such inflammatory atmosphere it is no wonder that people gravitate to whatever seems conservative. In this case, the conservative case maintains that an isolated Island needs its own hospital in the even of earthquake separation from the mainland. In reality, the present hospital does not possess a true trauma center and any real separation is a sure sentence of death with or without the present institution.
So once again we go to the polls and without any real choices provided by people who are supposed to provide. It's all stuff and nonsense.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG
On the upside: that most Dangerous of Seasons has arrived. You know what I am talking about. The ice of winter has cracked, giving loose floods of explosive emotional flotsam and jetsam. Rose petals and steamy missives. Soon poppies explode underfoot and bees dive bomb the buttercups while sparrows circle in recon over the eves. All the girls on College Ave and T-graph start hiking up the uniforms and the boys start charging up and down the 'ave with all guns loaded, ready to discharge into any ready and willing bundle of silk stockings. It's warfare out there man, bloody hell. Hear comes Johnny, once a carefree soul happy to spin donuts at any Oaktown "sideshow" on Friday night, now mooning in June under the moon for a gal named Linda-Lou and he's become another Season Casualty, shot through the heart in his prime.
Ah the injustice.
CONCERT AT THE ALDELPHIAN
I took a wander on Saturday night around the corner while the Significant Other was feeling under the weather to take in what the Island might offer in the way of entertainment on a weekend night. I was not disappointed.
The Adelphian Hall was built around 1880 -- no one seems to know exactly when -- for a venue for orators to, well, orate. It is a rather spartan hall with vaguely Romanesque decoration but excellent acoustics. The owners are a pair of artists who live in the structure, somewhere, and who generously loan out the hall portion for community-oriented events. Every first Saturday in the month, Natasha Miller hosts performances from all over the world in this little hall as an adjunct to a vigorous schedule of personal performances and promotions in the area. In the process, the Adelphian Hall has become one of those little regional gems that begin to shine with increasing intensity over time.
This Saturday I enjoyed an opener by Linzie Taylor, who performed all original material on a black Takamine cutaway. This was Taylor's debut at the ripe age of 16 and we think that this little gal with the big voice will definitely go far. Remember the name: you saw it here first.
Edie Carey followed up with an energetic set that ranged from Ani diFranco style lyrics to Melissa Etheridge "scratching", including a Joni Mitchell-like "Be a Poet About it". Her high point in working the crowd involved Sean Colvin's "Diamond in the Rough", which romped and stomped as if this lanky gal from Boston performed before thousands at the Arena instead of our little group.
Holly Figueroa followed up on a plugged-in Larrivee as the most accomplished musician of the evening, delighting the crowd with stories about her six-year old daughter while tuning her guitar between songs. Her high point came during the "Peace Worth Dying For" that referenced the story of the man who went into the Alaskan wilderness to find peace only to die there.
People interested in East Bay music should check out http://www.natasha.to/firstsat.html . Anyone interested in women's folk in the style of the Lilith Faire will be pleased to note that these performers often have a connection with the "Rose Garden Sessions" that happen at Irina Rivkin's apartment and that there is a definite close association with the First Saturdays in Alameda. And this is a good thing.
And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 31, 2002
MR. ISLAND, ANDY PAGANO
1916 - 2002
Born on the island in 1916 to Italian parents who returned to Italy briefly before coming back to stay, Andy Pagano exemplified the essence of Bay Area life and culture for decades. Besides stemming from Italian roots -- a sure hallmark of modern Bay Areans -- Andy pushed up from humble beginnings to establish at least one Island landmark, in the form of Paganos Hardware Store, and galvanize locals to preserve a couple of others, including the historic buildings belonging to Alameda High School. Working through various film-oriented jobs, never having enough money for college, he managed to amass a significant amount of period news footage from the early 1920's to the present as well as thousands of friends. Its been said that if you did not like Andy Pagano, then there had to be something wrong with you.
In the old days, cinemas simply threw away the news reels of the time when played out. Andy was the first to recognize the value of keeping these historic strips, not unlike the child of Cinema Paradisio who squirrelled away excerpts of film in a box under his bed. As a result, we have documentary footage of how the Island became divorced from the mainland when the present estuary was fully excavated and a collection of films showing the construction of the first underwater tunnel.
In 1950 he setup an auto supplies shop on the corner of Lincoln and St. Charles. The auto parts store became the best hardware store in the West and continues to this day in the hands of the Giovannoli family, but still carrying the name of Pagano on the storefront.
Over the years Andy became every Elks Lodge, Kiwanis, Rotary Club, charity, museum, and Italian-American Society member/President that was available, and thereby represented the best of all those things can be by preserving the best of the Island and exhorting change when it made sense. Certainly we are not likely to see his like in a very long time.
PESACH AND THAT EASTER THING
By now you all have tucked away all that good easter ham or passover brisket. It would have been really nice if Elijah had strolled in to pick up that cup of wine waiting for him, maybe knocking his hat against the table to shake the dust off before dropping the entire contents in a single swig (Here in the West we have a lone range-rider concept of the Prophet). Or it would have been really grand if this Jesus guy had come down, or arisen from whatever, in robes of shining white to take charge over the mess that is, but neither happened.
Instead some assholes killed a bunch of innocent people just trying to live out the spirit as was given to them years ago on a mountain top. More bombs and guns and pools of blood and the weekend became the same as any other on any other day of the week in the year. Afikomen went unfound and the wine spilled down the table legs to mingle with the blood of the lambs and nobody but nobody was passed over this time.
Why was this night different from all other nights? Of what use is any Resurrection when the bodies of babes are blown apart?
Instead of Haggadah we recite a Kaddish this Passover. Instead of painting eggs we toss back grenades. Two towers smoking in the distance in the strange and curious land that is called America. This year in fear and shame. Next year in Jerusalem in shining honor.
Tuck and Patti play a benefit on the Island at the Old Great Hall.
Over at the Warfield, all breaths are held for the appearance of Bush. However the SF Jazz festival opens 4/7 - 4/14 in Babylon. Details available at http://sfjazz.org.
Joshua Redman directs this
year's lineup honoring Sonny Rollins. Artists include, not exclusively, Joshua
Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Micheal Brecker and Roy Hargrove. We hope
the roof is certified earthquake retrofitted for this kind of lineup is sure to knock the
sucker right off.
Paul McCartney, surviving Beatle, will kick off the first tour in nine years (after the death of his wife Linda) from the humble piers of Oakland on Sunday. Not, let it be known, the arenas of Babylon across the bay. This choice, by the largest composer and song-seller bar none of music, indicates the defacto demotion of Babylon below humble Oaktown as the premier locus of What Is Today in Music. McCartney has sold more records and songs than any other single composer, including Beethoven, Frank Sinatra, or anyone else one can think of. Of the planned 19 cities on the tour, all are expected to sell out completely within 15 minutes of initial offering. You may hate him for his populism, but you cannot deny that the man has managed to succeed when several in his position have not done nearly so well. In spite of phenomenal success, the songwriter-performer remains the cuddly boy from Liverpool with a modest, self-effacing sense of humor. In recalling his last meeting with George Harrison, McCartney mentioned that it was only two weeks before the "quiet Beatle's" death that Paul first held his friend's hand. Paul McCartney turns 60 in June and tix are $50 - $262.50 -- not bad for a boy from the gutters of Liverpool.
Damn, wish John were alive.
Phil Lesh and friends do a shindig at the Greek end of May. Sure to be sold out in seconds. Rumors are that the Indigo Girls will do the same venue in late summer. Its sure to be a hot one.
THE EAST BAY EXCESS: FROM MERELY BAD TO USELESS
It may be excusable for the EBE to miss out on a few events, but to completely omit every one of the above line items indicates that the rag has gone from decayed awefulness to instant parrot-cage liner. The billboard is verbose and uniformative. The articles are prolix, dense and unhelpful. The ads are better than the movie reviews and there is no music at all. We suggest that the mag be combined with the disappearing SF Exasperator to at least get some lively column writing in between the sheets.
DON'T REST ON YOUR LAURELS, OFFICER
Last week we note there were 18 Grand Thefts, 15 reported burgluries, a dozen cases of vandalism, brandishing firearms and an astonishing rise in "annoying phone calls." The good IPD did manage to return two stolen bicycles, however.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And here, for your reading pleasure, is a poem by Primo Levi.
Tell me: how is this night different
From all other nights?
How, tell me, is this Passover
Different from other Passovers?
Light the larnp, open the door wide
So the pilgrim can come in,
Gentfle or Jew;
Under the rags perhaps the prophet is concealed.
Let him enter and sit down with us;
Let him listen, drink, sing and celebrate Passover;
Let him consume the bread of affliction,
The Paschal Larnb, sweet mortar and bitter herbs.
This is the night of differences
In which you lean your elbow on the table,
Since the forbidden becomes prescribed,
Evil is translated into good.
We will spend the night recounting
Far-off events full of wonder,
And because of all the wine
The mountains will skip like rams.
Tonight they exchange questions:
The wise, the godless, the simple-minded and the child.
And time reverses its course,
Today flowing back into yesterday,
Like a river enclosed at its mouth.
Each of us has been a slave in Egypt,
Soaked straw and clay with sweat,
And crossed the sea dry-footed.
You too, stranger.
This year in fear and shame,
Next year in virtue and justice.
MARCH 24, 2002
The Significant Other and I visited the historic Croll's Hotel Restaurant, built in 1883 and newly restored and refurbished as a Class AAA restaurant intent on competing with the brightest stars along the Bay. Triumphant over local NIMBY's who seem to have ignored the fact that this location has purveyed good food and music for well over 100 years, Croll's now hosts live acoustic music every Friday evening. The night we showed up for drinks the Bass/accordian/fiddle trio performed all of those raucous rock 'n roll classics from turn-of-the century Tuscany, such as the "Godfather Wedding Waltz" and "Speak Softly Love." before shutting up shop at the sedate hour of ten o'clock. I do hope these odd neighbors sleep well, for a guilty conscience combined with animosity to music of any kind is a terrible combination.
The following night we walked into the Oscar Night party, something of a local phenom as so many here make their money in "The Business". I had the lobster special, done up very tastefully with an upstanding head shell guarding two roast red potato quarters facing a golden lake of buerre sauce islanding a heap of lobstertail meat topped by a fan of thin slices of apple. A clutter of steamed veggies nested in the shell of what turned out to be a semi-cooked beet. Garnish was a baked Oscar imitation done in flaky puff pastry. The rather inedible beet was the only strange note on the plate and I found myself ineligantly scooping up the delicious sauce with my spoon.
The style at Croll's is distinctly French-inflected California Cuisine, which means hearty eaters had best stick to the pastas and plan on desert plus White Castle later in the evening. But the portions were more than adequate for the Significant Other, who took the Salmon wrapped in exquisitely light fluff-pastry and beurre blanc sauce, also accompanied by the steamed veggies nestled in the odd beet shell. Kumar Puttaswamy, who is the owner as well as Executive Chef, clearly has experience in this area, and we feel that once the beet thing is resolved, he's got a sure winner on his hands at the corner of Webster and Central in the West End.
The eatery has been open less than a month, so the reservations numbers, 510-748-6075/76, are not listed anywhere. Understandably, with no local advertising and no phone book entry, Kumar is planning on word-of-mouth rather heavily.
Service is excellent and a bevy of staff have been hired on to supply water and whatever the diner requires.
Our meal with three glasses of wine and coffee came to slightly over $65, indicating, together with its French-saucy fish, lobster pate and select tenderloins that the venerable stained glass of Croll's intends to accomodate the well-supplied palate. The Significant Other, who remembers that the old owner slung pizza under the twenty-foot stained-glass skylight for years was hesitant at first to try the new arrangements, but wound up very satisfied.
WINNER FOR BEST SHORT WIERD THING
I remember one of the distinct pleasures of living in La Mission, oh, way back, was descending the long 16th street staircase from congested urban tumult to the delightful and soothing sound of a very capable violinist playing Brahms. The real capper, however, was in turning the corner to see the artist, a six-foot three dark-skinned man dressed in plaid miniskirt, fishnet stockings, combat boots and a leather bustier. Some do not have the physique to carry off such an outfit, but let me say that this man could have gotten a job making thousands modeling his musculature for Playgirl and Esquire. Thoth, as he was known (or Stephen Kaufman, as he was originally named in this lifetime) moved to New York and I lost sight of him even as my own life went through its changes.
I often wondered what had happened to him, but it turns out, he is now the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, still possesses calf and thigh muscles that could kick over a taxicab and still plays exquisite music, although these days he wears loincloths instead of kilts.
Interested parties wishing to investigate a thoroughly delightful person should check out the man's website HTTP://WWW.SKTHOTH.COM .
Meanwhile I am still stuck trying to figure out "Embryonic Journey" on the guitar. Life is so unfair.
THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT THE CHINESE
The Island just might be forced to join Society at Large if things continue. The latest flap, besides the Hospital Boondoggle, involves yet another collection of NIMBY's over on the related Bay Farm Island, part of the Island City Limits. There a religious group wants to setup a Chinese school on 17 acres of open land and the local homeowners are chucking fits over the project. The project will cover 17 acres with a campus for 1100 Asian-American students and supposedly was approved by all the necessary committees long ago. Mayor Ralph, in one of his last actions as leader of the people here, spoke up with an impassioned voice in favor of the school, stating that the project meets the requirements of the Land Use Committee, that everyone had been fully informed long ago and that the latest group of objectors were obstructionist, irrational and motivated by concerns that appeared to be highly objectionable.
We have to give this one to Mayor Ralph and find that, in the end, he is not such a bad sort after all.
"FERGEDDIT JAKE: ITS CHINATOWN"
The local bruhaha over the plans to develop the land once occupied by the old Naval Base just might send Roman Polanski back to the Director's Chair. The Usual Suspects have been dividing up the spoils to make in the process 1,600 dwelling units and 4.5 million square feet of commercial space.
Now, in a place where commercial space goes from 9 - 50 dollars a square foot, we are talking about antihistimine money floating around. That is, this is nothing to be sneezed at.
Just over the water, somebody looked at these plans and realized something of the obvious: The Island is an Island and there aint but two ways of getting off or on it. And the major path plows right through the land of crispy duck and double parking. Which also happens to be a residential community that mightily fears an estimated increase of 53,000 additional vehicals snarling the already impossible traffic situation.
Anyone who has needed to navigate the morass at 5:30pm to the gateway to the Webster Tube knows the situation cannot get much worse. And that it probably will.
As an example of the passions and rhetoric flying over this issue, the Executive Director of Chinatown's Chamber of Commerce stated in reference to the proposed tramway flyover from the Island to BART, "We think that's just a fly on an elephant's ass." Jennie Ong was referring to proposed traffic alleviation measures coming from the Island Traffic and Transport Planning Committee.
Stay tuned for more controversy.
WILL THOTH PLAY THE FILLMORE?
This week the third Glen Spearman jazz festival ran the 20th to the 23rd. Word is exciting things happened over there in Babylon, but Babylon is becoming tone-deaf to good stuff. Pat Metheny brought his particular brand of synthesizer and mood guitar to Babylon on Friday, but nobody wrote a review. The SF Bleakly dismissed Metheny's instrumental jazz as "elevator music." As Falls Witchita, so Falls Witchita Falls.
The Warfield has a lineup of alternative stuff in the harder vein blasting through the month, beginning with Alien Ant Farm, followed by Bush helmed by Gavin Rossdale on the Day of Jokes, April 1. Rossdale, who has written probably one of the best songs about the expatriate experience in the form of "Headful of Ghosts" just might blow the doors off that night.After completing your taxes ahead of time, you can scream with Puddle of Mudd on the 15th, while the grand old godmother of punk, Souxsie brings her Banshees in on the 25th, fronted by eX-girl and Tribe 8. Hm, sounds like a night of misanthropy fraught with "grrls" wearing combat boots..
Over at the venerable Fillmore, Ben Folds stands behind a piano the 25th. Not until the 16th, do we have guitar-god Robben Ford to held alleviate the blues, followed by the quirky Lucinda Williams two days later. And if you are not yet tired of hearing about Superman's personal troubles, Five for Fighting is sure to reprise their latest hit on the 25th. More mellow, sort of, Sammy Hagar brings his Waboritas to the Bay Area, for some Mai Tai rock 'n roll May 5-7
The Rrrreally Big Shew, however, is the CSNY reunion tour which does the Oakland Arena before conquering the Shoreline. Better bring field glasses to see the folks from where you ever wind up. Even Creed doing the shoreline early May cannot compete with that juggernaut of sixties revivalism.
In an oddly subsumed back-page item we noticed this ad:
DAVID BYRNE WITH DAVE EGGARS, APRIL 8 HERBST THEATRE. $18.00.
Now, I don't know about you, but pairing the foremost proponent of post-punk musical modernism with a New York Times bestseller and uber-hip author and publisher seems like a sure-fire hit to me. Still, there is something about Dave Eggers returning to Babylon in this way, for in his immensely popular book the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he describes, in terms we can all identify with, the rejection of a rental application due to "unable to provide adequate means of income". Well, Babylon is a wierd place with increasingly wierd demands and Dave drove at that time back over the bridge to the Better Side venting all the while his furious frustration.
Now he arrives in Babylon City in true style on the arm of the fabulously famous and rich and stylish David Byrne. Revenge, it was once said, is living well.
On the Island we have hospitals and Chinese to think about while the furious winter expends its last breath on the hinterland in lashings of rain. We could use the water.
Thats the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 17, 2002
Hopefully the luck of the Irish goes not with thee, for the Irish were invaded by the Romans before the birth of Christ, pillaged by the Vikings, overwhelmed by remnants of the Spanish Armada and utterly subjugated by the British for five centuries to the present, during which time they packed entire families into churches at Drogheda before burning the buildings to the ground, destroyed the native language of Gaelic and drafted the majority into foreign servitude and let us not forget the Great Potato Famine.
Not exactly a lucky sort of heritage to begin with.
This weekend the Neighbors hustled over to McGee's for green beer and corned beef. Sloshing rains, however, deluged the Island Parade. Up in Berzerkeley they were raising the wrist at Beckett's Pub on the Ave' while the venerable Starry Plough held a huge shindig at its oaken tables beneath its eight-foot broadside of Michael Collins' famous speech and the old contribution jar for Sinn Fein sat as usual at the end of the bar. Rumors of carousing at Ireland's 39 and McRath's wafted on the breeze, so it appears that the Irish weather didn't put a damper on the indoor festivities. Slainte!
OFFICER O'MADHAUEN GETS HIS MAN
Speaking of the luck, the Island enjoyed a home burglary a day plus a couple grand thefts and a passel of stolen cars, but Our Main Man in Blue did manage to apprehend and make good an arrest of an erstwhile solid citizen for riding a bicycle under the influence. Take that you outrageous scofflaws!
Unfortunately, a Buena Vista woman is somewhat the worse for wear after surprising two men ransacking her home. They threw her down, tied her up with computer cables, then bound and gagged her before continuing to search the house.
Since no traffic ordinances were violated during the incident, the men got clean away.
AS THE WORLD CHURNS
The continuing opera of "Pays for Our Lives" takes a new turn as the writ of mandamus against the surreptitiously altered city measure to establish a new Hospital District governed -- somewhat loosely -- by a LAFCo comes up for court challenge on the 22nd. There you go: let us give six millions dollars and a virtually unstoppable tax fund to a pack of gangsters running a private hospital that turns away Medical and Medicare patients from its specialized programs, violates OSHA rules right and left, closes its geriatric and Ob-Gyn units, sends all its most critical care patients to Highland and manages to conceal the vast majority of its doings by simply not sending any representatives to town meetings on the subject of rescuing this monstrosity. Then the fellows decide to have a measure approved to save their keisters and then finagle substantive changes after the measure has already been submitted to the electorate. So we have now just one question:
Would you trust your liver with these people?
THE BATTLE OF THE TITANS
On the other channel, we have the prizefight of the century shaping up between the SF Bay Curmudgeon and the SF Bleakly, the Bay Area's two largest free weeklies. The SFBC has tossed a lawsuit at the SFB over the alleged piracy of advertising records by an ex-employee who jumped ship. This has prompted a series of articles in the Bleakly with all the tone of a major hissy fit. Recently the SFB called the SFBC "a left lurching rag" that is failing due to its own incompetence. The editor of the SFBC, a sort of cranky bearflagger whose latest promotion campaign featured his craggy face shouting "Read my paper, Dammit!" seems to have really irked the featureless and distant editors of the Bleakly by his insistence on local involvement -- and sharp criticism of the New TImes-owned paper, claiming that this is all a result of out-of-towners meddling in local affairs.
We have a simple solution: put out better calendars and billboards, while cutting back on those full page color ads for such charming entities as "Larry Flynt's New Hustler Club" and "Boys Toys".
Do that and we'll support you.
BLOW WIND CRACK YOUR CHEEKS
As March continues to batter the coastline, and temps remain chilled to almost summer temperatures, we note that the ski lodge ads are proliferating and that reports of snow down to 1,000 feet have been coming in every day now, pulling the State once again from the brink of drought as the snow pack builds and builds up there where the water comes from.
On the Island, however, the Island Power Co. has been scampering around like ground squirrels fixing downed lines and shorted transformers. Its no small irony that the last day of this month, guess who plays the Warfield: Puddle of Mudd.
That's how it is on this blustery Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 10, 2002
HOT TUNA AT THE FILLMORE
When any musician has reached sufficient stature to headline at the famous Fillmore Ballroom in San Francisco, you can be sure that any subsequent performance -- even if it be the last -- will be the most energetic, electrifying and superlative of that musician's career. At least until the next time the band is invited back again.
Built in 1912 to host grand balls and dances, the venerable Fillmore has seen its ups and downs, as has the neighborhood in which it resides. Now a part of "Japantown", for a while in the middle of the century the area became known for down-and-outers, footloose mariners, junkies and Section 8 housing. As America stirred sluggishly during the intolerant 50's the old ballroom began to provide a venue for the Beat generation to host performances of bongos and poetry. But it was not until the impresario Bill Graham glommed onto the venue in 1965 that something of the room's former glory returned. Beginning with benefit concerts for the SF Mime Troupe (which still continues to offer gratis open air performances of politically charged theatre) the hall under Graham's continuous patronage presented the most superlative of American music, from Count Basie to Jefferson Airplane up until the late 1980's, when the demand for larger floor-space caused Bill Graham to move the concerts to a more modern venue on Divisidaro.
But this period, 1962 to 1987 also included momentous events in our Nation's history, and the Fillmore took part in that tumult. The official History, which can be found on www.thefillmore.com mentions one police raid that ended in a melee. Twelve kids and the always feisty Graham himself were hauled off to jail for daring to criticize the government.
The hall was closed in 1989 after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, as were many other businesses. But in 1994, the grand old ballroom was reopened with restored crystal chandeliers and velvet drapery. The "opera boxes" were also reconditioned as they were when the hall was first opened for masquerades and dance socials. Now, in place of the dive once known as "Jacks", where I can recall fifteen years ago transvestite hookers trolling the crowd any day of the week, the exclusive "Boom Boom Room" owned by the estate of John Lee Hooker edges the trendy and opulent margins of Japantown. The Boom Boom Room is across the street from the Fillmore and the internationally known Tab Benoit headlined the night we passed by.
A glance at the line-up at the Fillmore through its history past and present shows just why a certain energy infects the performances there, for there is not one serious performer or group in American music who has not performed there. And the chaff is astonishingly few. When a performer steps up on that stage, he or she stands among a field of ghosts and must compete or cut heads with those who have been designated the very best in what they do. And the performers appear very conscious of the history that oozes from the walls. And this affects performers no matter what their age. When me and the Significant Other saw Beck perform there almost 10 years ago, the waifish boy sang and pounded his instruments as if demented or possessed, infected with some ferocious energy as if every word, every note meant a demonic struggle with Life Itself.
On Friday's prime spot this week, we had the distinct pleasure of hearing one of the pioneers of American music, Jorma Kaukonen, perform with his lifelong friend, Jack Casady. Jorma was born in Washington, D.C. in 1940 of Finnish/Russian parents. His father worked in the foreign service and so he spent a fair amount of his young life moving about. He went to a private catholic college in Ohio, dropped out and spent time in New York City where he took music lessons from a fellow named Reverend Gary Davis. During this time he took part in various short-lived bands, one of which featured an unknown singer named Janis Joplin.
Not a shabby musical beginning that.
Deciding, or persuaded, to resume his education, he wound up at the University of Santa Clara in California, the only college that would accept his former credits. While in California he met another fellow named Paul Kantner. Together they formed this group based on a joke name for a mythical forgotten blues artist named Jefferson Airplane.
After creating and solidifying the electric sound that would establish the "California sound" for the next twenty years, Jorma determined the Airplane was too small and that Marty Balin's songs were too "trite". Nevermind that the band was pulling in millions of dollars a month. Jorma, with his friend Jack Casady,
formed a largely acoustic group called "Hot Tuna", reportedly because the record company execs refused to have anything to do with the scatalogical name originally conceived. This group performed intermissions and openers for Jefferson Airplane for a time, but then developed its own life, focussing on doing covers of old school blues artists like Rev. Gary Davis. At some point, the original compositions by Jorma became hits on their own merit, to such an extent that his "Embryonic Journey" instrumental has become the most frequently requested track for "period sound" of any song bar none.
In the process several generations of acoustic guitarists have now been body slammed with the "must learn" requirements of Kaukonen's blues interpretations. The man has become a defacto point of departure for anyone now seeking to understand and interprete the old school blues.
Friday night, the boys walked onto this famous stage of the Fillmore like walking into a livingroom and setting down to do an intimate little thing among friends. Highlights were the jazzy done-up version of the old spiritual "Good Shepard" and a very impassioned "Death Has No Mercy In this Land". He performed, as a virtual requirement, "Embryonic Journey" and his de regeur love ballad "Genesis", plus his signature version of Rev. Gary Davis' "Hesitation Blues".
The second set lagged a bit during a sequence of religious spirituals, but picked up quickly during "Uncle Sam Blues" and then hit the stratosphere during a very energetic "Another Man Down", which segued beautifully into the prison blues "Parchman Farm", during which his famous right hand picking technique blazed vapor trails across the hall, culling amazing impromtue 16 bar riffs on the signature Gibson acoustic while Jack blew the doors off of rhythm guitarists possessing two extra strings on his four string semi-hollow body f-hole archtop bass.
The two seemed to casually dip into ragtime with the "San Francisco Bay Blues" which had the packed hall stomping and hollaring. Then there was an amusing lesson during the old timey "Big River Blues". For the encore, the pair did "9 Pound Hammer" while the crowd hollared out "More! More!" But with the performance starting at 9:00 and ending past 12:30 am, it must be remembered that acoustic music is far more physically demanding than its electrified counterpart, and the jams on pieces such as "Good Shepard" lasted easily 10 minutes or more.
Jorma now lives in Ohio, where he says, "I love to come to California, but, I sure don't miss the taxes here."
Me and the Significant Other finally found ourselves trundling back across the Bay after 2 am. The following day, she got a tan, but I felt inspired to go out and get that Tacoma Dm-9 that had been calling me for some time. All solid wood and American-made with a satin finish and pure tone that sends chills down the spine -- what more could a boy want?
There may be hella flags flying from cars and SUVs laround here, but when it came to taking time to vote, we showed a low turnout that was the poorest since the 1940's. Some urban districts reported less than 9% of registered voters turning out. Nevertheless measures were passed involving 2 billion dollars worth of bonds so there may be more than a few who regretted not getting more patriotic.
Jerry Brown took the Oaktown Mayor's office with 82%. Mayor Ralph failed to gather the 51% necessary to avoid a runoff against incumbant Alice Lai Bitker for the county soup position. Personally we think Alice is not only more cute than Ralph, but more inclined to affect needed change than the old line politician that is Appezzato.
Incumbant Gray Davis is to run against GOP contender Bill Simon in November. This is notable, not only in that Davis ran unopposed in the Demo primary, but Simon was not the anointed one by Bush on this run through. It appears that even among the GOP, feelings are not especially warm towards the Texan here in the Golden State. November will select who gets to take hold of this state housing 36 million souls.
Also notable is the decisive victory of Barbara Lee as Congresswoman for the 9th District. Barbara is noted for having been the sole nay say to Bush on the invasion of Afganistan. She took nearly 85% of the vote against challenger Kevin Greene.
The challenge to term limits failed but voting upgrades was approved in a climate of "My g-d let us not be like Florida by any means!". Also in a reactive antipathy to Florida, the "right to have every vote counted" passed by a huge margin. More significant than these may be the gas tax measure which shunts monies earned directly to transportation projects, roads and highway improvements. And away from such incidentals as schools, health care and such. For the next ten years all funds from the gas tax must now be used exclusively for transportation improvements. With over 120 million cars, trucks, busses and cabs gulping fuel, that is not inconsiderable my friends. Look to see similar measures coming your way soon.
ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS
We apologise for not giving enough space to the lunatic, excuse me, I meant Artist, of Lincoln Street. Hell, man, its been raining cats and dogs. Anyway, the latest is that there is a fifteen foot high blackboard on which various messages now appear, in addition to the fence banners. This all provides a highly interesting collage of graffitti upon which to ponder. There appears to be no relation between the two, er . . . media. But then, perhaps we should all listen to David Byrne and "stop making sense" to begin with.
CLOAKED IN CONSTITUTION
(something in arabic)
There has been a lot of Arabic lately, but we still have not figured out how to find things in our Arabic-English dictionary, so proper interpretation will have to wait.
And so, as the March wind blows chilly and wet, we say, that's how it is on the Island. Have a great week.
The time has come for us to pause
and think of living as it was
And I'd like to go with you
yes I'd like to go with you.
You say I'm harder than a wall
a marble shaft about to fall
I love you dearer than them all
going along with you
Although I'm feeling you inside
My life is rolling with the tide
I'd like to see it be an open ride
going along with you
going along with you
MARCH 03, 2002
Although we know you really loved all those 02:02:02:02:02 kinds of dates and times last month, perhaps you will be gratified to know that three minutes after 3am this morning would be written 03.03.02 03:03. Gee, I can hardly wait for eleven minutes after eleven o'clock November 11 this year.
Well old proverbs die hard and the first of this month certainly proved the rule with gale force winds blasting across the Bay Bridge and the Island like a pride of lions, leaving wonderful sunny weather to bathe the weekenders. And as everyone knows, when the sun comes out in Northern California after a long winter, the News stops and everybody goes outside to play frisbee.
Reports from Tower Peak have it that the snow pack is once again down from normal this year, making this three low years in a row. Reports however also indicate rain coming this week. Maybe the last in a while, my friends.
THE BASTION OF DEMOCRACY
If all goes well, this election will be the last "paper" election for Alameda County and some 1.5 million voters here, as the program to implement computer "touchscreen" voting comes before the Board of Soups for approval. The embattled Governor Gray Davis is running unopposed for the Demo ticket in this Primary, while an whole battalion of conservatives are scrapping for the GOP slot. Long time readers on the East Coast should know that Davis inherited the present Energy crisis in California from a GOP administration, but has taken a fair amount of flack for his handling of the crisis when it did arrive.
I have absolutely no idea how Audie Bock is leaning lately, but she is not running for anything. Thank G-d.
The Hospital's fate is being discussed during this election, but the actual decision on this one will be postponed to April for a special city election. In the meantime, from a simple straw vote shoo-in based on smoky backroom deals by the Old Boys Club, this Hospital issue has become a raging fire of discontent and acrimony. Oh sure, bail out a private corporate with public funds via a new tax -- no problem. Well, after unleashing all this new development stuff in the West End, turns out there are hella lotta people who are hopping mad about handing six million dollars to a bunch of known incompetants when alternatives exist. There are at least 30,000 newcomers to the Island who don't have sentimental attachments to this institute that has lost money and failed to account for it, cut back programs including the Ob/Gyn Birth unit (!), regularly turns away medicare patients, has no real trauma center, and remains 66% empty every day of the week.
The main concern expressed, although probably not the main concern held to heart, is that the Hospital resides on an Island and that in the event of major disaster, such as earthquake, the Hospital provides the only Emergency services. Of course, having worked on JCHAO accreditation committees I can say something about this concern. The Hospital possesses no real Trauma Center and does not have life support equipment or telemetry staff to perform any of the duties required during the expected disaster anyway. All patients would have to be airlifted out to SFGH or the helipad at Highland. Also, all paramedic response units are capable and trained to provide emergency services that the Hospital lacks. In fact, the Island Hospital depends on these paramedics daily to do just that, for it sends its most critical cases to Highland Trauma Center anyway. You may recall that is just what happened to the accident victim near the Tube entrance a month ago.
I can recall many times during JCHAO accreditation visit preparation meetings that Alameda Island Hospital would come up as a sort of joke: "Oh yes, they treat everyone equitably -- except if you are poor or seriously ill." It has long been known to administrators that Island Hospital would evade problematic reports to the CDC Monthly Mortality Index by shipping deathly ill patients elsewhere to die. They are then able to claim very low campus death rates and then claim a high "success rate" of discharges.
To say that Alameda Hospital is presently capable of responding to a medical emergency that also closes all bridges and tunnels is ridiculous. If anyone doubts this I personally challenge them to spend any three shifts for a period spanning 24 hours over at Highland and they will surely see things there in that emergency room suite that no human being should ever see in a lifetime. None of which is the Island Hospital qualified to deal with.
QUEEN OF THE SLAMMED
Turns out that that the doomed Aaliyah's last performance and first on film unfortunately turned out to be, what industry moguls term, "a dog". Aaliyah, a popular soul R&B singer will more oomph in her fingernails than Brittany has in her entire body, died tragically in a plane accident about six months ago. Leaving us with this lousy adaptation of one of Ann Rice's best vampire works. Rice described her "queen" as being immense and virtually motionless, except when she crushes an intruder and stomped him to smithereens, but apparently the movie shows the lithe and svelt queen finding her groove again and then doing a sort of dance of the 7 veils whenever a certain lousy band begins to play. Oh well, no one said fame was easy.
THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR WILL RETURN
When we last left the descendents of Oog and Aag, the Pleistocene gentlemen who first settled the Bay Area, those people had just determined the course of California by helping to cleanse the State Constitution of the taint of slavery. This puts us into the 1870's, during which both Oog and Aag helped build the railroad and divert the water, which two main concerns made this the State it is today. But that recounting and how Aag affected the construction of the State and continent-wide rail network and Oog single-handedly built the canal from Owen's Valley to Los Angeles must wait until the next time. We also must needs recount events that took place some 3,000 miles distant at a place called Haymarket, MA, for these events cast much light on what happened here in the Golden State.
MORE SHORT FICTION
Two more stories got added to the list. You don't have to be short to read. Also added is the ability to download the originals for local printing, should reading by monitor light be not so congenial.
AN EMBRYONIC JOURNEY
We got the original Hot Tuna coming up in Babylon. Put us in mind of boosting the acoustic output with a certain nice looking Taylor with all solid wood sides and back. Other than that, hope you all enjoy Bruce Cockburn and Herbie Hancock. Thats it for this month.
It's nice weather and you should be outside right now, instead of reading this. Unless you have a wireless laptop. In that case, you would be down at the strand enticing the rabid ground squirrels with lewd suggestions. And peanuts. They love peanuts.
That's how it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 24, 2002
GUNG HAY FAT CHOI
Felicitous greetings, long life and much prosperity in the Year of the Horse. Although Gum Lung, the 201 foot dragon led the parade on Saturday night, chasing that infernal ball of fire and being chased by firecrackers, cymbals, drums and hoards of little tots, the actual Chinese New Year took place Tuesday, when it was celebrated on the Island at various middle schools with lots of singing and dancing and little dragons and wu jia pei. Oh no, strike that last item. Wu Jia pei is 100 proof stuff only the elders can down at celebrations and it tastes like pure grain mixed with Sher Pei hinder parts.
In any case the comment was heard at the parade by one in their middle years, "When I was about five the dragon seemed so much larger than it is now! Each year it seemed to get smaller and smaller until it got to the size it is now."
And when did that happen? "Oh about age 13 or so . . .". Um, uh huh. Sure.
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD
It's a little ironic that this next week the next recipient to be honored with the prestigious Steinbeck Award is popular musician Jackson Browne. Steinbeck has always been the bastard lovechild of Eastern Establishment academia. Not only suspected of being a communist -- he wasn't -- Steinbeck labored under that most heinous of academic crimes, sentimentality, as well as the second-most academic crime -- that of being a left-coast Californian and therefore definitely most not welcome to the Harvard Club or its tennis courts. He remains, however indelible in the American mainstream of Belles Lettres, much like Theodore Dreiser -- and Steinbeck is eminently more readable. He also remains the most popular, as well as populist of the Americans, even above Faulkner, of whom it can be said he is more admired than willingly read. Over eleven Hollywood movie adapations have been made of Steinbeck's works and not even winning the Nobel Prize seems to have gotten the man respect outside of the Golden State in the Ivory Tower.
Still, it is true the man's work unabashedly sentimentalized being poor, a truth which used to outrage my friends Jack Hirschman and Carole Tarlen, old lefties from way back and not too shabby in the writing department themselves. Jack, however, admired Josef Stalin, so some perceptions may be, shall we say, somewhat skewed. Jackson Browne, who in spite of his years, still comes across like the brash, fresh faced boy he was in the late sixties, also has had the charge of excess sentiment levied against him, and in the cynical, hyper-ironic world of pop music, such a charge means Death on the Charts. His main #1 hit, "Doctor My Eyes" came out during the watershed year of 1972 and through 1978 he continued to enjoy moderate popularity. During the '80's, commonly associated with avarice, anti-sixties cynicism, and the harsh realities of the Reagan-Bush depression he seemed to drop out of sight in a miasma of post-punk antipathy. In 1993, however, economic good times and a persistant attachment to ideals resurrected the careers of his and other weathered rockers when people realized not everybody had "sold out". He returned to the top of the charts with a defiant "I'm Alive" and there was no question that sticking to his unpopular guns paid off well for the man. A review of his album covers shows why he got stuck in the "remaindered" section. From the stubborn "Hold Out" to the photo of a lattice-work bound and caged Miss Liberty in the 80's while solders were pounding Central America, Somalia and finally Iraq, and the well-to-do held parties of extra-ordinary extravagance, Browne refused to toe the line.
His lyrics, like Steinbeck's, celebrate the common working man and take a sympathetic view of humanity in the face of life's political and economic hardness and it is this humanistic viewpoint, as well as the daring to write intelligent and literate lyrics without self-consciousness that has earned him the prize.
If you are Northern Californian and have any education whatsoever you are surely aware of John Steinbeck's Centennial. Although Cannery Row has long since been made into a disney/carnival version of what it was, There is still a bit of country down in Salinas/Gilroy way. The huge combine farms that Steinbeck described as taking over the land in The Grapes of Wrath eventually did win and there are no more than a bare handful of individual family farms working the 300 mile long Valley while the migrant workers now have worked themselves into a system that formalized itself, unionized into the UFW and was described vividly in Gardener's Fat City.
For more information on events, check out www.steinbeck100.org.
LOCAL BOYS DO GOOD
With unmixed pride we announce here that Northern California company Techframeworks, which now maintains a sales office on the Island, has garnered the prestigious IBM Beacon award. Competition for this award is worldwide and only 12 awards were given this year. Kudos to mestiza owners Mike Ochoa and Glenn Casias and basic Bear-flagger, John Finely. Yours truely runs the sales office.
We won the award for implementing an e-commerce solution on Domino Server which boosted annual revenue for local wine growers some 150 - 200%. And this during a recession!
NEWS BREAK: WE SAW HIM! WE SAW HIM!
On our regular 8 pm jog past the strange house on Lincoln and Lafayette, we saw a figure, dressed in black, scampering along the fence, almost un-noticed except for the white flag of butcher-block paper. Finally, we had seen him! The Mysterious Artist of Lincoln Street! For your information he appears in his thirties, somewhat lanky and lean and extremely bald and very pale.
To play some catch-up here, the House on Lincoln has a local notoriety for posting large signs on the 10-foot board fence that encloses the yard. The signs change at unpredictable intervals and consist of pretty inscrutable messages. An example of a series follows, comments my own in parens.
HE-SHE HEYANU (Surrounded by Hebrew glyphs of Nin and Heyanu)
NO GIRLFRIEND HERE (Valentines Day)
(and the latest)
VATICAN(on a field of yellow)
Nobody has any idea what it means. Sometimes there are what appear to be citation references to christian and jewish scriptures, but then there have also been citations to what seem to be Shakespearean plays. The word juxtapositions are sometimes so bizarre that, if not written down immediately, they cannot be remembered. This was demonstrated by at least four other people.
I called out to him and waved, but he simply stood in the dark and did not say anything before disappearing into the shadows.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
The venerable Fillmore hosts the original members of the incendiary acoustic Hot Tuna on March 8th. We will be there and so should you. Herbie Hancock jazzes the place on the 13th and Canadian Bruce Cockburn alights on the 19th with his interestingly textured guitar and lyrics. Ben Folds and Piano appears -- without the Five we guess -- on the 22nd completing a very satisfying month for the Fillmo'.
Phil Lesh and Friends return to the Warfield for the end of March, followed by the fantastically talented alternative band Bush on the first of April.
Proving that the Modern Day Composer refuses to die, Music Festival 8 occupies the Greco-roman architechture of the Palace of Fine Arts from the 7th to the 9th. It appears that Babylon has not lost its musical touch. Yet.
Standing outside the music instrument emporium called The Thin Man one day I was greeted by an urchin, who asked, "Are you the Thin Man?" I had to deny the fact.
FAT MEN ON HORSEBACK
March 5th Californians choose the next figurehead to deal with the energy thing and overpopulation and much besides. This time there will be no hanging chads. Techframeworks once again has the charge of building the pressroom and we've been down in the bowels of the Registry, where the spanking new Win2k server is gradually edging out the aging UNIX box. This is one election where everyone is working 7 days a week and it WILL be a squeaky-clean operation. Also on the ballot is Measure A, which is an Island prop concerning the future of the presently incompetant and largely unregulated Hospital. Should the Measure pass, this will turn into a well-funded and largely incompetant and unregulated as well as unaccountable Hospital that will continue to turn away medicare cases and serious traumas while losing money even as it cuts yet more services. But hey, it's sentiment.
Also jousting for the brass ring of membership on the County Supervisor Board will be Mayor Ralph against the vastly more competant Alice Lai-Bitker. Not to slant our own view overmuch. Since this has to be by law Mayor Ralph's last year of incumbancy in present position, we were kinda hoping that he would setup with former Mayor Chuck in the barbershop and there talk about the good old days. You can imagine the conversations. Hey Chuck d'ya think they'll name a golf course after me or something? Maybe the new Hospital, huh? Mebee so. How was it when you was mayor? Any trouble with Terrierists? Ah, a few poodles, mebee.
Anyway that's the way it is on the Island. Where all traffic laws are strictly enforced, no matter how silly, and all the children are above average. Have a great week before March roars in.
Doctor My Eyes
Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand
I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can
Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long
Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
Ive been waiting to awaken from these dreams
People go just where there will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That its later than it seems
Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if its too late for me
Doctor, my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize for having learned how not to
FEBRUARY 19, 2002
This entire past week has been devoted to a frenzy about the V-day thing to such an extent that we cannot help but think about the scene in Group Portrait with Lady when the bombing of Cologne starts with a group of citizens huddled in a basement shelter. As the bombs drop at a rate of about two a minute and continue to do so for three nights and three days, each member of the shelter silently goes stark raving insane.
This is no idle conceit. They are performing the Rhinoceros again at ACT. A dadaist festival recently went over great guns at the Legion of Honor and a full page review in the Comical devoted itself to a adaptation of Kafka's "Metamorphosis". And we have a bunch of North and South Koreans who are hella mad -- or confused -- at being allied with middle-eastern countries that have nothing to do with them. It appears that the Wierd is making a major comeback.
So it is that Northern California embraced the smarmy normalities of V-day through the week and into a three-day President's Day weekend. Candlelight dinners, champagne, and bushels of roses everywhere made the world seem a bit more normal for Mary and Paul, Carole and Marlin, Bob and Mike, Susan and Lisa, and Ackbar and Jeff.
THE AXIS OF TERRIERS
As we all know, moderation in the pursuit of Poodles is no virtue. Officer O'Madhauen has been seen down at the strand with Officer Susan Feadlstix of the County ABC. Seems that in the wake of last week's squirrel attack, war has been declared upon the Axis of Terriers: Osama Bin Lassie and El Qibbles, the Ground Squirrel Nation, and Wayward Motorists. In addition, this curious endemic to the Island known as Pedestrian Error is undergoing a long look from O'Madhauen.
It seems that something on this Island induces walkers to pitch themselves head-first in front of automobiles and trucks. The resulting legal term is "Pedestrian Error". Let it be known throughout the land that there shall be no Ministry of Funny Walks on this Island.
In the meantime, having failed to capture the infamous Bin Lassie, O'Madhauen has extended his search to include places and groups that may possibly have sheltered him in the past or may possibly be likely to make a potential nest for alleged and suspected conspirators. The legal term for the grounds of proceeding against these groups is called amicus hostem. So it is that Officer Feadlstix has been setting out traps for notorious racoons so as to bring them to Camp Pere Ubu for interrogation and O'Madhauen is threatening to roust the Ground Squirrels with his truncheon. These actions have been endorsed and encouraged by William Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz -- sworn enemies of anything that scampers with abandon. More News at Seven.
THE MODERN DAY COMPOSER REFUSES TO DIE
Babylon, not known these days for promotion of delicacy, hosted the "Sleazefest" -- a weekend of raucous punk and rock music at the Bottom of the Hill bar. All bands were relative unknowns with the possible exception of The Angry Amputees. The annual Noisepop festival follows up the mayhem this week with more brand names.
On the lower decibel side, the SF Bluegrass festival finishes up midweek with performances at the Freight and Salvage up in Busby-Berkeley. If that aint amerikun fer ya, red-blooded Willie Nelson does the Fillmore from the 19th to the 20th.
Fred Frith, an internationally known avaunt garde guitarist performed a free concert on Sunday at Mills College.
Our own special favorites, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady -- original members of the acoustic Hot Tuna -- take over the Fillmore on the coveted Friday spot, March 8th. Kaukonen, born somewhere about 1938 or so, has performed with just about everybody, including the Greatful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and has composed songs that have become absolute requirements for every budding musician to learn, including the lovely "Genesis" and "Embryonic Journey". His versions of old school blues, including "The Hesitation Blues" have re-injected vitality into a distinctively American style of music that originated with the likes of Rev. Gary Davis, Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, and Charlie Patton. A long-time resident of Marin, Kaukonen has often played at the intimate Sweetwater Cafe, recording a couple performances that are "must have" tapes for anyone with guitar pretensions. Somehow we're gonna find a way to drag the punkish Significant Other over to Babylon for this one. After sitting through four hours of bands like AFI, Sum41, Filter, Incubus and Garbage, we deserve this much. See you all there.
NO ON MEASURE A
The better free Island paper broke some major news Friday when the headline introduced a story that a group of citizens has obtained a writ of mandamus against the ballot measure adding a $300 tax assessment to bail out the financially troubled Island hospital. It appears that the new hospital district agency, LafCo, has met secretly and illegally, changed the ballot Measure after it was approved for submission to the April 9th election and committed an host of other improprieties.
Well, whaddya expect. Do people actually expect that the administrators of this badly mismanaged hospital will simply stop the tax the following year? And this from an administration that not only has failed to provide any accounting of just what it plans to do with the funds once they arrive, but also just what happened to millions of dollars from 1991 to the present.
Now letters are going to the editors of both Island journals with increasingly ascerbic criticism of the way things have been proceeding even as the monolithic Kaiser Permanente cuts the ribbon on its new Island facility -- which has siphoned off 20,000 patients together with the largest physician group on the island. Stay tuned for more action.
SOME THINGS DO IMPROVE
Its been weeks since we bothered to pickup an East Bay Excess weekly, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that the billboard calendar is back in readable print and extended back to close what it was before meddlers started mucking up the paper. The format also appears less tabloid-like, so it seems that wiser heads have prevailed over there.
In addition, Crolls Bar and Grill has reopened its doors in the face of mugworts and sour apples after an hiatus enforced by its anti-musical neighbors. The place has been hosting unplugged music since 1883 and thats a good thing.
So it goes on the Island, where all the men are strong and all the children above average. The Hospital opera is likely to continue for some time as is the affair with the Terriers, while the traffic enforcement story has become an epic comedy. Same time, same channel, next week.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 10, 2002
You who just came out of the Batcave surely must know that this week we celebrate and commemorate not only the birthday of Charles Darwin, but also a particularly memorable event in American History. On this day we splash the storefront windows and walls with blood-red dripping hearts pierced with arrows in remembrance, of course, of the murder of 14 mobsters in a barn outside of Chicago. A bunch of gangsters showed up for what they thought was going to be a conference but the capo di tutti capi lined 'em up against the wall and machinegunned the lot of them.
Kinda puts a spin on things, don't it.
This year, there is no "Return of My Sucky Valentine", at least not that we have heard, but there is a "Love Bites" at the Dolores Park Cafe and for those never at a loss for a date -- always having at least two options -- the Fencesitters Winter Ball steams the windows at Studio Z. It seems everyone is hosting a "do" this year, coinciding with Mardi Gras, so the emphasis appears to be on whooping it up, if not making whoopee. People are getting sick of brutal realities, so the market is open for any sort of fantasy escape these days. Now when is the release of the next Lord of the Rings installment?
Here on the Island the concern remains for our wayward pedestrians who just cannot figure out that no manner of good taste, breeding or education is going to halt a 2-ton juggernaut of steel and glass and the final consequences cannot be revoked by position and bank accounts. Nevertheless signs have been posted and hung across Park Street and people are being arrested right and left for traffic vagaries.
Officer O'Madhauen is preening in his plumage at the capture of four guys who apparently are responsible for knocking off at least 45 burgleries over the past few months. Well, these are just the robberies that the Officer has paid attention to. All four are real social prizes in every way: each one is out on parole or wanted for other felonies and each one had to be chased and tackled to the asphalt when approached. The sum total of their IQ's is probably not more than 100, so at least they go somewhere now to get 3 squares a day.
Also news is the re-opening of the city jail and the search for new staff to man the place -- hopefully individuals of higher morality than the predecessors. The jail, built in 1991, has been empty since 1994 when the place had to be closed when too many of the staff got caught satisfying lower chakras with the prisoners. In the cells. All right now, we'll let you have your jail if you just promise to behave.
In other news -- its been a slow week -- the Island Gerbil reports an incident of a squirrel bite down by the shore. Oh those rambunctious and scoflaw ground squirrels! Perhaps we should have Officer O'Madhauen go down there and issue traffic tickets.
We were fortunate to witness the appearance of a 25 pound Waschbaer, as the Deutscher say, come rambling up the drive, then go lumbering down the avenue. This form of masked bandit is not all unwelcome -- as long as the trash bins stay fastened. Still, his appearance fortells the end of the Season better than the groundhog.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week and don't Fall in Love -- it will stick to your face.
FEBRUARY 3, 2002
THE STATE OF THE ONION
It was during the Midwinter's Convocation of the Island Congress of Bereft and Indigent that Eugene Shrubb stood up upon a discarded settee and delivered the annual State of the Onion Address. This Convocation is a hallowed institution here upon the Island, to which the footloose and hapless are wont to wend their ways from all over the Bay Area so as to hear words from the sages while gathered with such poor company and tattered rags that may give some semblance of warmth and humanity, fueled with Maddog 20/20 by the light of the oilcan fires beneath the brand new crescent moon.
"Friends, fellow hoboes and tramps, Congressmen and Judges, consider the Onion as it is today!" Shrubb began after taking a hearty swig of likker. "Our Island is our Onion, well wrapped and kept moist and odiferous for all that, but still our home. This past year we have suffered much in battles against the demonic Poodle, a beast of pure evil!"
Cries of "Hear! Hear!" from the assembly.
"Here upon this very beach our dear friend Artie was near burned to death in dubious combat. Over yonder reside the charred remains of the beach outhouse that went up in flames that memorable Thanksgiving day. Yet for all the efforts of infamous terriers, our Onion remains indomitable and sweet!"
Many cheers. Standing ovation. Opportunity to imbibe some more.
"We know now and they know too, that these running dogs of evil who sought to overthrow our Island and chew upon our onions now scamper for their very lives and we shall bring them to justice!"
Another standing ovation. More drinking.
"As for our economy, well, truth be told -- we are all Bums here. Everyone of us. What is this minor state of impecunious finances but something others would call a recession or some other name to dignify themselves. Hell, we are the true Public servants and all of us here have done more for the body politic than any of those importunate worthless scumbags further East and up north and at the very least, none of us has ever done nearly as much ill to so many -- with the possible exception of Scurvy Bill here -- and so I say drink up me lads, for these hard times will surely pass with or without our influence!"
The speech ended when Eugene fell over backwards into a pile of old tires and could not for the life of him extricate himself. Thus ended the State of the Onion Address, Anno Domini 2002.
BABY ITS COLD OUTSIDE
More than a few have commented on the extraordinary weather we have been having. Monday dawned cold as Smith College coed and then the flurries started coming down with a vengeance, shattering records going back to 1888. They cancelled school up from Petaluma to Santa Cruz as the white stuff kept coming down. By the end of it, they were snowboarding up on Mt. Tam and Mt. Davidson, where the temps dropped to an unbelievable 24 degrees. For a large number of residents, this wierd wet stuff had never been seen before and people who had not rolled around in snow for 28 years got to teach the younguns how to make snow-angels.
All week its been black ice and frost each morning.
On the Island, they're still hopping up and down about traffic and the IPD has been setting Pedestrian "traps" with decoys to snare those terrible scoflaws that dare violate women in the crosswalks.
Perhaps that could be said otherwise, but its an outrage nonetheless. Officer O'Madhauen's moustaches are twitching furiously and his truncheon is unleashed. He's even gone so far as to enlist the dubious talents of fresh-faced Officer Popinjay, new from the academy and already addressing the crossing-guards, the light stanchions and the firehydrants as "Sir!". Officer Popinjay is a brilliant lad, and he'll be far more brilliant yet once he gets his eyeglasses. Would-be felons had best beware, for the young Officer has already attempted to arrest a shrubbery, which he gave a sound beating for putting up a resistance.
That's the way it is on the Island. Step lively and have a great week.
JANUARY 27, 2002
THE APOSTROPHE SOCIETY STRIKES BACK
Just when you thought it was safe to hang your shingle just anywhere and sell vegetables, up pops another busybody with a mind to correct your grammar. The grocery giant Albertsons has been taken to task by the Apostrophe Protection Society, a group based in England dedicated to the "specific aim of preserving the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark in all forms of text written in the English language." Responding to a virulent letter criticizing the tradmarked name, the firm's lawyers have responded with a robust rebuttal, quoting Tradition, History and all sorts of groovy things, but finally concluding with the statement that Albertsons stems from Swedish and therefore English rules have no bearing on the matter.
HOSPITALS ON THE ISLAND
The normally quiescent Island is rapidly becoming a political hotbed with the Mayor Ralph and a council member seeking election to the County Supervisors. Alice Lai Bitker, the incumbent, has established her headquarters on the Island and all signs point to a very interesting battle hingling on the people's attachment to the financially-troubled Island Hospital. Everyone felt an emotional attachment to the place -- until a $650 parcel tax got proposed as a temporary fix to bail out the mismanaged institution. Now people are asking just what is going to happen after this money is spent. And the need for the place, which has no proper trauma center anyway, is an issue under fire. The result may be determined to what extent the Old Guard can retain political control of the Island as Kaiser moves in with its massive medical resources behind it.
OFFICER O'MADHAUEN AND DAVINYA
Down Constitution Way heading for the Tube, there is a bank of candles setup at a roadside altar to commemorate where Davinya was hit by pickup truck on a rainswept night about a month ago. Davinya was taken to the Island Hospital, then, because the hospital has no trauma center, sent to Highland where she died of internal injuries. The pickup driver was not arrested at the time, but now has been cited with vehicular manslaughter due to public pressure. The official story is that Davinya was crossing Eagle (perpendicular to Constitution) and the pickup driver was heading east on Constitution when the front end knocked the pedestrian across the street. The driver claimed that he could not see her because of the rain and her dark clothing. There is no crosswalk at that intersection.
Now the town is in an uproar about enforcing traffic laws even more than they are and the pressure is on Officer O'Madhauen, who already has been devoting every spare minute to chasing speeders and setting "pedestrian traps" with paid shills.
Meanwhile, we note from the police blotter that last week the Island enjoyed 9 Grand Thefts, 18 petty thefts, 6 stolen autos, 7 burgluries, 9 cases of vandalism, 2 of battery, and one each of forgery, fraud and stolen ID. These are just the cases in which no arrest has yet been made, for there were a fair number of DUI, evading police, parole violation, and drug toting items as well. The numbers must be down because of the weather.
SPEAKING OF HEALTH
There's a nasty flue-like bug going around that is knocking people for a loop and this correspondant has got it. So we will close early for this week.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 20, 2002
They're still gabbling over there in Babylon about finding ballot boxes from the last election floating in the bay, which puts us in mind of similar occurrences that have occurred over the years.
When we last left the descendents of Oog and Aag, the Pleistocene gentlemen who first settled the Bay Area and then fell into a feud with one another over overcrowding issues, they were smoking locoweed with Chief Tenaya at Yosemite. But this came much later after a series of events that shaped the Golden State, including the actual process of induction into the Union and how the place came to be without stain of legislated slavery by dint of a speech made by one Pedro Jorge Gustav Mariposa deOog before the Constitutional Assembly in Monterey in October of 1849.
Now, those of you will some recollection of things past may recall that the Nation, long before '49, had divided itself into two virulently opposing political camps over the issue of that unnatural institution, Slavery. As large tracts of territory became admitted into the Union piecemeal, abolitionist and pro-slavery forces scrabbled and fought in the smoky backrooms over preserving their respective political balance of power. California was no exception, and a tidal wave of special interest groups from both sides splashed over the Sierras and around the Isthmus to try to sway the outcome. The territorial governor called an assembly in October to decide the issue and close it forever, provoking a field day of speechifying and grandstanding by all sorts of people, some of whom were actually Californios.
DeOog managed to swing a delegates' vote, although legally he had none since he was a Native born citizen (funny how those things work) by convincing the Assembly that his name, instead of an anglified version of Mandan, was in really of Dutch extraction. The man was in like flint.
Now, hearken me lads to this tale, in which the particular nature of the Northern Californian saved the Golden State from a most vile and pernicious future.
Southern representatives packed the assembly with golden tongues, speaking of "good old American values," and the "Solid South" and the value of tradition and whatnot. It seemed that the mood of the Assembly began to swing to the deciding vote in favor, until DeOog stepped up to the podium in Monterey. Much of what he said remained unrecorded, for he kept no notes, wrote no prepared speech and this took place in the days before Marshall McLuan tape recorders. Yes, as far back as that. What we do know is that said two things that changed the course of history forever. These things were reported in the local journals the California Star and the Californian almost verbatim.
"Friends and amigos," said Pedro DeOog. "Far be it for me to criticize the fruitful gains we have made thus far by the honest labor of our own hands, that labor which ennobles the soul and gives a man self worth for we believe it is every individuals duty, to self and to society, to be occupied in useful employment sufficient to gain self-support. I have visited our fair South and vastly enjoyed the hospitality of its good people and seen for myself the benefits that come from such honest work." Here DeOog seemed to stare up at the ceiling as if remembering such pleasant memories as he toyed with a pencil. As the Assembly packed with Southerners also drifted in reverie of mint juleps and jacarandas on the verandas, DeOog broke the pencil in half, abruptly snapping back the assembly like a whip crack. "Ah yes, to think that we soon shall be working beside dozens of our dusky brethren in the fields. Hundreds perhaps. All of us together. Perhaps thousands. All eating and drinking with us, together, in this cozy State of ours."
Some of the Assembly began to shift uneasily in their seats.
"For of course we would have to start letting them in to work, as that's the whole point is it not, my friends? Oh joy that a steady stream of thousands and hundreds of thousands of Negroes should come and dwell in California! My ladies," and here DeOog turned his beaming face to the gallery. "I am sure you also look forward to seeing these practically naked fine specimens thronging the streets. Multitudes and multitudes of them. Oh yes!" At this several ladies fainted in the gallery. "Together with the Indians! and the Mexicans! And the Chinese! All mixing together!" At this, several of the Southern gentlemen fainted.
"Of course in the year of our Lord 1849," DeOog went on. By this time he was unstoppable in spite of much altercation in the Assembly. "Negroes in this time are not considered people. Not any more than Indians. They are considered property. And we all here know what that means!" Somewhat grandiosely he swept his arm over the Assembly, for DeOog really was enjoying himself immensely. In a suddenly deathly silent hall his next words dropped like little bells.
"More property taxes!"
The Assembly burst into an uproar. Taxes! By god no! In righteous outrage the Constitution for the State of California was drafted, approved, and signed in record time, specifically outlawing Slavery. But also including the usual, for the time, limitations on ownership, voting rights and legal redress for any non-white person. Which later had much curious effects as the Southern contingent continued to press for Constitutional revision right up to 1865.
In one case that occurred in Babylon, a man from Alabama was brought before the magistrate with his slave, who he had been beating with a cudgel in the street for insubordination. Now even in those lawless days, such behavior took notice -- and by the late 1850's people began to get heartily sick of the wild and wooly "barbary coast" (with what result and how Aag came to be involved, to be described later). The Southerner testified that as the man was property in Alabama, he must remain so and return so. But the only proof of ownership came from the slave himself, who admitted that, yes, he was a slave in Alabama.
After short deliberation, the judge returned a marvelous judgement: as the man was in California now, he was not observably a slave. And as the man was a Negro, his testimony was null and void as people of color were not allowed to testify in a court of law. The judge further remarked that Emmett, for that was the man's name, should get himself up into the Sierras as soon as possible. As for the Southerner, he informed him to get out of town most expeditiously "for there be Committees of Vigilance and they do not like you."
It must be noted that, if it were not for the heavy influx of Creoles during the period of 1942 - 1948, the shipyards would have been vastly undermanned. Hundreds of thousands of African-Americans thronged to the docks during the war years to build the victory ships and handle millions of tons of ammunition. Which occasionally blew up. But that is another story. It was not until the Civil Rights movement that the legal system began to change, although the Golden State continued to provide a better haven than most for the African-American.
Which reminds us that Monday is a holiday in commemoration of Martin Luther King, who would have been 73 last week.
As for Aag, a descendent of his named Hugo Xantippecastile Jacinto MacFergus Aag-Cabrone, worked earnestly to preserve -- or say rather -- institute, law and order and halt somehow, someway the extraordinary butchery that characterized the early days of the State. In 1852 there were 57 hangings, plus 9 official ones. Firing squads went unrecorded.
NOW ABOUT THOSE BALLOT BOXES
Somehow we have managed to run out of time without ever getting to how David Colbert Broderick ran for Senator -- again with the aid of Oog and Aag -- and how the City government set new standards for corruption that even Richard M. Nixon had trouble measuring up to.
Which brings us to the present and the inexplicable persistence of PGE in the City in spite of common sense and the Constitution. Ah well, it must be sentiment that keeps them on. You have to give them credit where credit is due. Not just any organization has the ability to declare half of itself bankrupt while the other half declares profits of 239%. The ingenuity of the American genius at its finest.
On the Island, we have non-profit hospital that turns away the uninsured, closes its natal unit for lack of income and then dissolves a geriatric center when it becomes clear that the multi-million dollar profitable unit will cease to earn money -- in a year or so. So now they have managed to finagle a property tax to clear sudden debts -- which they have refused to divulge or explain. It's clear that these hospital administrators are wildly unemployed. Send 'em to Washington!
Its cold as blue blazes and its winter here on the Island, but everyone is as jolly as can be. Just don't get sick or injured for the Hospital may not take you. And might send you off in any case to avoid those nasty reports to the Monthly Mortality Index. The good thing is that if a cop gets an owie, they'll provide him or her tea and cookies. Isn't that nice?
ALBERTSONS OR ALBERTSON'S?
The roving correspondent has alerted us to a flap between the grocery giant and a surprisingly loud and very insistent mouse: The American Apostrophe Society. More on this next time.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 13, 2002
The week was noted by two major events: signs of El Nino returning and signs of Enron expiring. Its too soon to tell if that warming needle of water out there will bring the Red Tide and then the unruly weather that will make this winter's lashings look like a toddler doing winky in the sandbox, but we suggest you invest heavily in wellies and 'brellas. Last El Nino, we recall, we had to ride the bicycle to the ferry in hip-deep water, pulling ourselves along by a chain-link fence while houses merrily slid off the hillsides right and left.
As for Enron, the little machine that goes "PINNGGG!" went "Fut!" and gave up the ghost. And all around the White House all the patient Hyenas that gave Bushy, Baggot and Ashcroft the leeway to sic their own jackals on the Constitution for 3 months now are pacing and circling with that look in their eyes that says, "Now or later I am going to eat you." Its gotten so bad that the Veep, who is good for little else, has been sent out late at night with his poor relations and scrub brushes to clean the slaver from dripping fangs off of the DC sidewalks. The hookers and the pushers have all gotten to know him and his family and they all feel sorry for him. Its a rough passage when you are that old with a bad heart and you have to get on your knees to scrub jackal spit from the front of the building where your boss works. Politics is a savage arena where only the most vicious with the sharpest dentures get to stand on the quivering mound of bleeding enemies and howl victory and right now some cur is galloping around with a patch of Bushy's hide in his teeth, spreading the message, "Enron drew blood!" It won't be long before the faithful begin drifting away, or turning on their old Master with some atavistic pack instinct sensing injury. Then the ripping slaughter begins and it won't be pretty; not all the bombs on Afghanistan will save this luckless goof who bombed a stone-age country into submission, sent several thousand marines into the mountains and failed to get his man. They will rush him en masse with torches over the wall and through the Press Corps along a hundred video and radio channels. They'll bring up every little thing his now dissolved Election Committee managed to cover up, like the fact that he inhaled. And furthermore he snorted. And toked, and popped, and mainlined. Then some tart with D-cups in Georgetown will "confess" a long-term liaison. Then they'll find him in bed with an underage boy from Thailand and he'll deny everything on the basis of International Goodwill; just a way to legalize all the immigrants doing menial jobs. They will begin tearing chunks out of his flesh, laughing all the time on CNN. On that day, Bushy will have to field a "condolence" call from Mr. Bill. And you know just what he's going to say, "Ah know juss how y'all feel, Bubbuh. Have a see-gah on me. Haw haw!"
Enron is the company tied to the President, which pleaded for any kind of help at all from their former friend, then declared bankruptcy in the nation's largest ever proceeding after destroying the life savings and retirement funds of its employees to pay off 100 million dollars worth of thank yous to a pack of the most scurvy-ridden, flea-infested, syphilitic, scrofulous pirates ever seen bribe, rob and rape on the high seas since Jean Lafite. And Jean Lafite had the benefit of at least being French. And he didn't know George Bush, Jr. Two saving graces.
I'D RATHER HAVE A BOTTLE IN FRONT OF ME
Contrary to popular belief, they still perform that barbarous surgury called "lobotomy" on human beings, and me and the Significant Other had the opportunity to shift a bunch of these fellers about on Thursday to make way for the new insurance system -- excuse me, I meant, for systematic therapeutic followups of smart case management. Somewhere the ghost of RP MacMurphy spins in his grave.
There is nothing to give you a dose of reality like moving a bunch of surgically nd pharmaceutically incapacitated from one place to another and somehow afterwards it was really really hard to care that the Raiders just might make the playoffs. Or that the Giants face the same issue. More on these stories next week.
GOT THE KEY TO THE HIGHWAY
Me and the Significant Other managed to score two tix for the 11th Annual Blues Harmonica Summit, hosted by Mark Hummel with the Blues Survivors and Hohner at Yoshis. All shows sold out a week in advance for this blowout that has acquired international notoriety. Featured this time were:
89 year old Snooky Pryor, veteran of the Chicago blues and the most probable inventor of the amplified harmonica technique whereby the musician cradles an acorn mike behind the instrument.
Former Elmore James sideman Sam Myers
Anson Funderburgh, guitar wizard
W.C. Handy Acoustic Blues Award winners Annie Raines and Paul Rishell
Canadian jazz artist Carlos del Junco.
And of course, Mark Hummel himself with the Blues Survivors
To say that Carlos opened up and tore the roof off the place, followed by the Raines and Rishell duo who never let it come down would be an understatement. Some people have claimed that the blues harp is a dying artform, but you couldn't tell that on Friday night, for the musicians and crowd were romping and stomping from del Junco's extended version of "Rocket 88" to the diminuative Raines screaming a full 12-bar flutter at full volume before belting out the lyrics. Rishell, a long-time veteran of the blues-circuit who has accompanied Son House and Howlin Wolf offered a very tasty vocal of his own on "Nothing but the Devil", surprising the audience with a rich, powerful voice that shook the rafters while he accompanied himself on his National steel, switching to an electric Gibson later in the set.
Raines is a little wisp of a thing with surprising lung power, a required attribute for her previous bandmate was none other than teen powerhouse, Susan Tedeschi. When she stood up to blow her call was so intense it could make a good man get up drop his job, leave his good home abandon his wife and kids run off to ride the blinds begin following Raines and Rishell everywhere get arrested for stalking a celebrity turn to drink out of frustration get his self thrown in jain and then be forced to live on the street making a sort of living singing the blues. Did I say they were good?
And with the evening not half over, Mark Hummel took over and calmly ripped away what was left of the rafters so that they are still mending and patching and hoping for good weather over at Yoshi's. Man, I saw old ladies who musta seen Hubert Sumlin as a young unknown get up and do the cakewalk. Then he handed the mike over to Meyer who in turn handed the mike over to the randy old Snooky Pryor, who said, "We're gonna Shake That Thing now. That's the name of the tune, you people so don't you put your mind in the gutter." The local favorite, Rusty Zinn took over as guitar lead, Anson graciously giving up the floor during Meyer's set.
At the end of it, the crowd kept calling out, "One more! One more!", but the SRO 10:30 show already was into overtime, meaning the union boys would have to give it up for this one, incendiary night at Yoshi's, cause there was no way those guys were going to finish up so early as midnight running as hot as they were.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Exhausted and full of that good Yoshis food we trundled back to the Island, where Officer O'Madhauen never sleeps and the dogs never bark unless asked.
That's the day it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 6, 2002
NOTHING CHANGES ON NEW YEARS DAY
A week into the new year and we've got quite a load of baggage from the old one. Last year the Island slogged through the state power crisis, choosing to purchase two mobile power stations so as to further isolate the Island from political vagaries. This municipality is one of few that runs its own power company separate from PiGgiE. The Island may be secure for now, sort of, but the state still has a lot of nonsense to wade through.
The second big news item involves the Tube retrofit. Since the transbay tubes were the first ever built they also become, by default, the first underwater structures to be earthquake retrofitted. And serving as part of the scenery for the filming of Matrix II in the process.
The third big ticket item last year, if you ignore the Matrix, was the progressive collapse of the Island Hospital, an established non-profit that began bleeding money, causing the Directors to close the only natal unit and only geropsych unit on the Island. The ensuing beg for cash became quickly hamstrung when it became clear that the main problem here was not higher costs, but rabid mismanagement and possible misappropriation of public funds. This resulted in a beg for cash but with all plans and intentions concealed under the rubrik of "privacy". Yeah, right. We think that someone from the Directors blew the retirement kitty in a drug-induced orgy up in Vegas.
Unless you are a Borneo bat, you have heard that the grand three-film adaptation of JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings is completed and that the first film, Fellowship of the Ring, is now pulling them in all over the country. Me and the Significant Other took the Younger Teen over to Jack London Square to sit through the 3.5 hour opener. Now this is without benefit of The Hobbit, keep in mind.
It must be said that the expectations for this from a director whose main credentials featured a couple of slasher horror pics that were forgotten about as quickly as they opened started rather low. At least three other directors have tried, and utterly failed, to adapt this sprawling tetrology to the film and the results have been regrettable. One director even tried to make the opus into a musical. While the prospect of a team of orcs singing "Whistle while you work" has some attraction, no one has yet come close to duplicating Tolkein's phenomenal breadth of knowledge, detail and pure emotion.
Until now, it seems, for this time it appears the magic diamond has finally been merged with the pearl. The sets are flawless and the characterization spot -on, with special accolades for Ian Holm -- who deserves an Oscar right now this minute for playing the reluctant adventurer Bilbo Baggins handing off the burden of the ring to Elijah Wood's doubtful Frodo.
Ian McKelland managed to absorb the difficult character of Gandalf, who appears simultaneously frail and extremely powerful in both the books and the movie.
All this to the side, it must also be admitted that for the first time in over 25 years, the American public is finally ready to participate in a "fantasy" of this type en masse. The events of 9-11 appear to have propelled the Nation into a rare state of introspection and longing. The old World has disappeared in a terrible catyclysm of fire and now people everywhere are seriously thinking about what its all for. Also, for the first time since the Second World War, the nation has a definitive sense of external evil that also has an ineradicable quality of interiority as well. In other words, Evil has now a face and this face is intimately involved with who we are inside. Which is, come to think of it, also the main thrust of the movie.
Its all very fine and good to consider oneself pure as the driven snow when faced with the Nazgul/Nazis/Talliban, but when the Ring begins to pull you in with seduction of power, the whole story changes direction. In the movie a measure of a character's worth is determined by their reaction to opportunity, or percieved opportunity, to "seize the Ring of Power." Each character then realizes that the evil resides on the inside, in a perversion of the desire to control all others.
Well, its a movie for all that, and if you want epic battles involving thousands of extras, extraordinary special effects and stunning cinemetography this one delivers to the nines. It doesn't take a philosophy degree to appreciate the extended battle against the mutated giant Orc in the Great Hall of Moria.
Still, we note that this crop of movie up and comers involves a live-action adapation of the famous Spiderman comics and that we have now at least three pop songs focusing on the character of Superman. And now we have, of course, the Lord of the Rings.
Could it be that the Nation is looking only for mindless escapism after the 9-11 massacre? Well, we already had enought of that stuff available for some time. Mere escapism does nothing for the blues the second you walk out of the theatre. The LOTR opus succeeds because it offers a taste of reality mixed in. The Good Guy here is a 3 foot tall Everyman with furry feet and a taste for good beer and an intense dislike of being involved in any of this nonsense with big events and Evil is extraordinarily Big here, not a puppet to knocked easily aside by the superhero. And besides, viewers get to come away something that affirms a sense of values that is not rooted in wierd extremism or unreliable external sources of authority.
"It's not how much time you have, but what you choose to do with the time you are given," said by Gandalf.
In that Tolkein is saying through the character of the wizard, even if it is true that the evil resides in each one of us, the hope of good resides there as well in the choices we make. Finally an optimistic view that does not cloy or preach.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 31, 2001
Well, its the last day of a really bad year. Lets see, we had one stolen election, Babylon ballots found in trash cans and floating in the Bay, the collapse of the country's largest energy utility, the collapse of the national economy into recession, the loss of George Harrison, Mimi Farina, Ken Kesey, John Lee Hooker and a few others. And did we forget to mention the start of WWWIII? Also, somewhere out there one frail little girl by the name of Chandra Levy is either shivering in shackles in a dark little cave or, more likely, resting in her hidden grave. I was rather proud of having gone an entire year without mentioning the scurrilous name of Gary Condit.
Darn, now I've gone and ruined everything.
It gets harder and harder for anyone in the press to laugh at any jokes these days. And that makes it damn difficult to get back to "normal", such as in jabbing at the numerous malapropisms uttered by our wayward idiotic President. Hell, there are some who claim that when you call our President an "incompetent low-mind red-neck rube plunging aimlessly without a clue in rivers far too deep for such an orangutan intelligence to plumb", well, they just might get teed off enough to have you arrested. Just like in the days of McCarthy and Richard M. Nixon, who even now bellows in a lake of sulfurous fire far below the pit of American Consciousness. As for McCarthy, they used to quake at the passage of his accusing eye, but now a demonic hedgehog chews on his testicles for eternity below the Ninth Circle of Fire.
HE COULD ALWAYS INVOKE THE ALL-MERCIFUL BHUDDHA
Now those liberals among you who claim that no half-wit people would ever choose such a dimwit en masse if he were really such a dimwit, but then, I need only point at the example of Osama Bin Lassie, the clear example of outrageous foolishness embraced by thousands, if not millions of deluded supporters. We are talking here about a man,claiming a religious basis for his actions, who had to be shut off during a fete by his gracious Saudi hosts for fear of embarrassment at his clear lack of understanding of the Koran and Islamic law. Now this same leader of millions skulks in a cave, sqeaking and gibbering like a bat while a thousand Marines scuttle over the mountainsides with sharp knives. These are corn-fed fellers from Iowa and the deep jungles of Oakland, California who take handfuls of meth like cornflakes and when the red button KILL is pressed, have no greater joy than to execute their limited orders in some blind atavistic fury, evoking the bloody Rovers of yore.
Hey, you blow up images of His Holiness the Generous Bhuddha, and this is what you get: A bunch of cluster bombs plus a few "daisy cutters" to sweeten your nights. Then you have a decade of landmines to contend with. Didn't we first write about Tally, the jackass months ago? People seem to think that Bhuddha is all about sweetness and light and then forget about Vishnu and Kali like all that stuff about knives and cutting is all "prehistoric" and doesn't apply. People in America are sometimes so damn ahistorical that its no wonder that all the furies seem to descend at once, reducing Dan Rather to tears and causing Giraldo to do really stupido things, like risk his life to announce that he is on sacred ground when, in fact, he is not.
PARTY LIKE ITS 1999
We're all gonna look back on the "gay ninties" with some affection, for that time of prosperity headed by a rakish President with a penchant for cigars and White House interns seems like a something long ago on a world in a galaxy far, far away. From Fleetwook Mac we went to Abba theatricals and Brittany Spears -- prove that Darwinian evolution doesn't happen, not in American Kulture.
There's only a few more hours left of this execrable year and all the boys down at Clancy's pub are drinking hard and serious with one hand clasped around the glass with a few more swallows left in it while the other is motioning the 'keep to rustle up another before the drought starts in ernest. Serious drinking is thirsty work and only a bat-crazy schizophrenic steps between such men and their beer.
Meanwhile Yours Truely is balancing his laptop between two biker-types while keeping one eye out for the weather which is doing everything it can to make up for the previous two years' lake of precipitation. When the arctic sends down its wet weather the gale force winds lash the Island worse than a stilletto-heeled Madame dressed in leather at Bondage a Go-Go. Its no time to be out for a casual outing and you could swear that voices carry on the wind like Regan's in the Exorcist, snarling "My Name is Legion!"
Over in Babylon, they are having a ten-block party with fireworks along the Embarcadero, but after 12 days of continuous, pelting rain, everyone is getting twitchy about the eyes and progressively more irritable. Special SWAT teams are traveling all over the City, lathering all the light stanchions with lithium grease to prevent people from scampering up to the top. This gives a new meaning to greasing the palms of Public Employees. Packing a crowd into a small space under a downpour with explosives present is a sure scenario for disaster. Some fool is sure to set off a cherry bomb in the middle of all the mayhem and then stampedes are sure to degenerate into an orgy of pillage, fire, rapine and destruction. The whole place could blow any minute and then there will be accusations and fingerpointing and further craziness. Beneath the overtly civilized facade of the Babylon citizen crouches an atavistic beast of an Id possessed of all the major vices, and slavering to spring from the cage and wreak all kinds of subhuman depravities: just witness any 49er's post game celebration and you will get an inkling of this terrible truth. And these are just Babylon's good qualities.
Up in Busby Berzerkely, well, nobody knows what is happening, because, as well all know:
THE EAST BAY EXPRESS FORMAT STILL SUCKS !
On to Oaktown, where the big event is the return of Warren Haynes with the survivors from the Greatful Dead at the Kaiser Kiester Auditorium. This year, Bobby Weir joins his Ratdog to the fun. The only missing number is Mickey Hart. These guys are so well known that the show was not even advertised and still managed to sell out all tix.
If the same old thing doesn't appeal then "Captured! by robots!" plays -- if that may be the loose term for it -- at the Paradise Lounge. The band was put together -- literally, by a musician who grew tired of irritating "artistic" temperaments and surly bass players. So, he constructed his own band out of parts gathered from the junk yard. Unfortunately, the band then took over his life, chained him to an instrument and now the poor feller is really stuck. At least until the batteries run out.
We notice that Persephone's Bees has taken Cafe du Nord, so where is Lavay Smith this evening? Playing right here on the Island -- more or less. Actually, she and the 40's style jump swing band is doing the Hornet -- about 10 yards off shore, technically -- and the jump is sure to be out of joint on that sodden flight deck, for a downpour is forcast at midnight.
For the rest of us, we sit here in the half-light of our LCD screens, clutching our medicinals and hoping the last few hours pass without some crazed and stateless ex-Arab flying overhead in an Ebola-laden cropduster. While the Comical continues to toady the big power interests in the State and the Chief Editor, Phil Bronstein, demonstrates such acumen, intelligence and perspicacity as to enter the cage of a wild Kimodo dragon barefoot.
Now the Kimodo Dragon is a voracious and cruel reptile fully capable of tearing an entire cow in half and then eating the pieces. What could have moved the chief editor of a daily newspaper to take his shoes off and then enter the cage of such an animal which has not one iota of furry cuteness running through its cold-blooded veins can only be imagined. Hubris does come to mind.
As for the long lost Exasperator, which moved from ludicrous to tabloid format and finally can no longer be found outside of the Babylon city limits, well, let the dead rest in peace. At least we still have the SJ Mercury. Which they all used to laugh at for its pretensions. And which is now ernestly devouring the former Exasperator's territory in Contra Costa. Sort of, hate to say it, like a komodo dragon savaging a dead cow.
Even the Oaktown Tribune is getting spiffier. Their coverage of the Afganistan conflict always seems to be a day ahead of the Comical.
Media criticism is a tough and dirty business, but somebody has to do it.
Just in over the wire: a story about a book burning episode in Alamagordo, New Mexico. Seems one pastor by the name of Jan Brock took issue with the famous Harry Potter series of childrens books and put out an ad in the local paper inviting townspeople to come to a festive book burning. Instead of supporters, hoards of enraged protesters showed up to condemn the action. What does the man have against Harry Potter, the intelligent mind may ask. Seems the overly literal man of the cloth doesn't like the promotion of witches, magic and such evil things. "These are a masterpiece of satanic deception," Brock has said.
We all have our faults in California, but at least here a witch is free to practice without fear of too much reprisal. And children's books are exactly what they appear.
Its past sundown now and the biker on the left is becoming really agitated on his cell phone. Something about a delivery gone astray. So, to protect this laptop and bring this year's worth of columns to a close, we wish y'all a hippy new beer.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great New Year.
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