Island Life 2006:   Jan. - June  

Welcome to the Year 2006.   This Page covers the first half of 2006 so as to allow easier loading. To return to the present time, click on the image above. To roam in time or find a particular entry, use the Archives below.    

The missing month of April -- with the Earthquake stories -- has been restored and other problems fixed.


JANUARY 1, 2006


Well, its been a quiet week here on the Island. Especially quiet for a quiet Island on account of the weather, the holidays, and the recent faith-based initiative executed by the Island Interfaith Snooker and Boardgame Alliance.

You may well ask yourself, "For the sake of god, what on earth is that?" Reverend Spoonbred, of the Second Baptist Pentacostal Church said exactly that sort of thing, when he heard all about it. But soon found the iniative such to his liking that he has pitched in whole heartedly to the program and cannot say enough about it and all the good it is doing.

Seems Pastor Svenquist of the Stern Lutheran Church of Grand Street fell into talking with Father Morales of the Church of Many Holy Names, which is located on the far side of the block when they chanced to take shelter together at the bus stop during one of those many recent downpours we have been having, for it had been the habit of the Catholic priest to take a walk about the block while cogitating one of his notoriously pious sermons, while the good Lutheran Pastor had been doing the same for the past twenty-five years. And for twenty-five years the two had never exchanged any but the briefest pleasantries, for the Pastor had taken to walking the block counterclockwise, while the Priest had -- perhaps consciously -- talken to walking the block clockwise. So, although engaged in similar business on the same block, the two had not stood in either one's presence for a sum total of thirty-seconds, all in the form of "Good day!" exchanged during that brief passage.

But due to the recent installation of bus shelters all over the island -- and with the primary shelters installed primarily on that particular block of Grand Street, this state of circumstances was about to change.

For who should be waiting at the corner of Santa Clara and Grand at that particular bus stop, but none other than the Rabbi Molochai Mendelnusse. The rain pelted down that day with such fury that the Priest's impermeable became thoroughly destroyed and so there he was. Well, what to talk about? Certainly this was not a place to engage in theological one-upmanship and one can talk about the weather only so much. Especially when things are pressing upon one's mind.

Furthermore a bus did arrive and the Rabbi stood up with his change in his hands. And never were more truthful words ever spoke. For who should descend at that moment but His Holiness Mustapha Omer Kemal, he of the Sacred Crescent Mosque down there on Santa Clara near Sixth Street. This was not Kemal's stop; the bus had broken down.

Pastor Nyquist, seeking to prevent a potentially, um, explosive situation, commented, "Well, I think we can all thank God for this shelter, don't you think."

The priest had to agree. The others also. Several people on the bus, seeing through steam-fogged windows a priest, a rabbi, a Lutheran minister and a Mullah all together stared with abject fear and refused to exit the doors.

"Would that the congregation also felt the same way, " commented the priest, more to himself than to the others.

"Well," said the Mullah, whose eyes had been drawn, perhaps by the Great Adversary, to the headlines of the SF Chronicle blaring from the newspaper kiosk, not everyone is a full believer."

Oh here we go, the age old battles are about to start up again in a moment. Until the Rabbi spoke.

"Oy, and the Jews are the worst."

The minister, the priest and the Mullah looked at him.

"They are terrible. Such trouble they put me through for thirty years, with all of their craziness instead of coming to services. And when they do, such disrespect. They break the sabbath time and again when its yontif they should be making. Then they show up all nice after such sin the night before with drinking and such behavior as shames the names of their families. I am not a tzadik; look at me -- no better than a handyman."

Father Morales caught his breath after this outburst, before stating quite emphatically, "I know what you mean but don't blame yourself. My flock does the same thing. I give them the Word of god on Sunday, but on Saturday, they beat each other up in the bars, refuse to obey the sacrements and otherwise act abominably. . . ."

Pastor Nyquist, who had been looking sadder with every word, simply sat down heavily, saying, "This sounds all so terribly familiar." He then put his head on his hands that were folded on the top of his walking stick and burst into tears.

At this point the Mullah closed his mouth, which had been open for some time. Then it was his turn to speak. "My friends, all of us stand together equally affected by evil."

As it turned out from the ensuing discussion each one of these men of the cloth shared the same main problem about their respective congregations: they all went to services once a week, then went about their business cheerfully sinning all the rest of the days, fornicating, drinking, pride, gluttony, avarice, the whole works. When the rain stopped, the priest kindly invited them to tea in the secular meeting room behind the rectory and word has it they continued a great confab well into the night, in which there was much disputation of the theological kind. Before setting across the street, the Mullah commented, "He who stumbles but one step to god, will enjoy that god then takes two steps towards him."

The Rabbi rather liked that one, and asked permission to use it in his next public address. Permission granted.

All of this would have disappeared from the public consciousness, for the replacement bus eventually arrive, the passengers reembarked and the soggy corner was left behind in the minds of many, but for what happened next Friday night.

Things were in full swing in McGrath's pub, with Alex slinging the Guiness as fast as he could stack them and Peter roaming about rubbing his hands among the rowdy crowds just starting the weekend and the fiddler just warming up. In back, the pleasant crack of the balls clacked over a game of snooker and a pair of lads threw darts at the board placed over the Union Jack. Yes it was a jolly, noisy evening at McGrath's on the Island.

It was then the doors flew back admitting a gust of wind and a chill in the air. The candles all dimmed and the sound of an organ intoning a deep A minor filled the room, although the band was Strictly Bluegrass with all acoustic instruments. The electric lights sputtered, then flickered. Then the candles blew out entirely. A figure appeared in the doorway, wings of a robe or a cape flapping in the wind with the dim light of the streetlight shining behind.

"Oh mah gawd, seasons don't fear the Reaper!" Charlene said, clutching fearfully at her throat.

Other figures appeared behind the first and Patrick picked up his Kerry stick ready to die for his pub and his people. Oh things did not look good indeed for what strange being was this.

But Patrick had seen the Troubles and rough times indeed, playing as a busker in the tube stations in all the great cities of the world. Well he knew the trash cans of the Paris Metro where sometimes a decent crust could be had. Patrick had fire in his belly, he had come a long way and if this be a ghost, this ghost would get such a thwack as to send him right back to the supernatural underworld, and be damned.

Then the voice spoke out of the impenetrable darkness. "Oh gevalt! What means this kugel of a cudgel? Is this any way to assault your guests in coming?"

The lights came back on and in trooped Rabbi Mendelnusse, Father Morales, Pastor Nyquist, and the Mullah, followed by Minister James N'gawa of the Baptist Church, and Ripoche Wei Sic Mao, of the Peoples Temple of Tibet, and a number of others besides, for the others, having heard of this grand plan to save souls, could not abide being left out of it. There were Methodists, Ecumenicals, three sorts of nuns, two different Buddhist sects, Hindus, of the Sikh persuasion, 7th Day Adventists, a couple of nattily dressed Mormons, a brace of Watchtower Witnesses, and one lonely Secular Humanist.

What'll ya have," asked Alex.

A number of mineral waters were ordered as the clergy began breaking out the checkerboards and mumbly-pegs on the scattered tables. It was then Peter laid down the house rules, principally that there was a five dollar cover charge. For the band, of course.

"Any other rules you have mister?", Minister N'gawa asked.

"No fightin' in my bar. You get along or I throw you out. We want no trouble here."

Well, its been that way ever since, with the clergy showing up unannounced at randomly selected establishments all over the Island every Friday and Saturday since. For once they realized that their respective differences were essentially meaningless and egotistical in the face of the common message, all the different brands of this and that put aside their quibbles about popes and virgin births and meccas so as to at the very least, try and save a soul or two. Everywhere they go, they set up their checkerboards and card games of fish and mumbly-peg and for that night in that place there is no swearing, no drunkenness and no cheeting at snooker. No one knows how long this is going to last or if the Hari Krishnas will be allowed to join. But it is all great fun mixing the sacred and the profane.

And that's the news from the Island.


The second major storm in two days washed across Northern California on Sunday, prolonging threatSof flooding as residents tried to clean up thick layers of mud and debris left behind as the first wave of floodwater receded.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were inundated on Saturday as heavy rain sent the Napa and Russian rivers spilling over their banks.

In many areas, the rivers and creeks were back within banks, though some towns remained flooded or flooded again as the rain, heavy at times, came and went throughout the day Sunday. The Sonoma County town of Guerneville was among those still fighting floodwater amid pouring rain as of this morning (January 2)

New Years Day dropped another two to three inches, on top of the 4 to 9 inches that had already swamped the region, according to the National Weather Service.

Wildfire-damaged areas of Southern California were also under a flash flood watch and a threat of mudslides as heavy rain headed in their direction. The Sierra's remain under Winter Storm Watch and all travellers are urged to leave the area and those intending to head on up should change their plans and not do so. The coast is under Heavy Surf Advisory with High Winds warnings.

Massive mudslides kept road crews busy moving rock and debris that shut down Interstate 80 through the Sierra Nevada and other roads across the region.

In Guerneville, where the Russian River crested 10 feet above flood stage early Sunday, the downtown was largely spared but low-lying areas and an unknown number of homes flooded, said Linda Eubanks of Sonoma County's Office of Emergency Services. Late Sunday, Eubanks issued an evacuation order for all residents.

In San Anselmo, about 20 miles north of San Francisco, streets were coated with mud and business owners sorted through mounds of damaged goods Sunday, a day after floodwater pilled over the creek and flooded downtown to a depth of four feet. Two of our roving correspondants heading for Tomales Bay were forced to turn back on Sir Francis Drake due to the flooding which is closing bridges and highways throughout the area.

Town Administrator Debbie Stutsman said initial assessments put the damage in town at about $10 million.

Several minor mudlides have destroyed homes in Marin.

In Oakland, the Mayor's Office of Emergency Services has announced a central location for property owners to obtain sandbags.
Caltrans is busy unstopping drains and clearing flooded roadways and freeway onramps.

Mud and debris also covered the streets of downtown Napa, where officials estimated about 1,000 homes and an unknown number of businesses had flooded, as well as thousands of acres of rural land in the county. The river had crested 5 feet above flood stage in Napa on Saturday and was continuing to drop Sunday. Highway 12 is now impassable. Highway 12 is the left-hand image. Downtown Napa is on the right.

North of Sacto, a couple dikes have already failed with extensive flooding in largely uninhabited areas to this point. No word on extent of damage yet.

Reno is largely underwater right now. This image is of the traffic island in downtown center.

Officials are saying that this is not as bad as the storms of 1987, as the Sierra snowpack developed late and sparsely, resulting in little snow below 7,000 feet. If the slopes had been clad with miles of soft snow ready to melt on contact with rain, the story would have been quite more serious here.

Nevertheless, STAY HOME, PEOPLE!


Happy New Year everybody! Welcome to the first entry of the new year, making this the seventh consecutive year that Island-life has been making weekly reports on the San Francisco Bay Area, presenting images of the High Sierra and otherwise fighting the good fight on the part of truth, justice and freedom in the US.

For those of you new to this space, we'll do a little precis later on focussing on what this space is all about and provide some numbers. In brief, over 61,000 people visited this site in 2005.


Happy New Year everybody! Welcome to the first entry of the new year, making this the seventh consecutive year that Island-life has been making weekly reports on the San Francisco Bay Area, presenting images of the High Sierra and otherwise fighting the good fight on the part of truth, justice and freedom in the US.

For those of you new to this space, we'll do a little precis later on focussing on what this space is all about and provide some numbers. In brief, over 61,000 people visited this site in 2005.

It was a moderately rambunctious year on the Island, which started off in January as the Koi Indian Nation attempted to get a ten story hotel/casino built down there near the High Street bridge in Oaktown. This caused quite a flap, as the scale of the project truely pushed people's buttons with the traffic and crime bad enough over there in that district. Ultimately, the Koi Nation was persuaded to put the casino in a more sensible location away from the Oaktown metro area and away from the sensitive wetlands which would have been entirely destroyed for miles in all directions. The Koi Nation consists of a scattered group of people whose ancestral homelands up north were seized long ago, resulting in a sort of gypsy condition for the people.

March saw the groundbreaking for the new library which has been ten years in the making, as councilmembers have fought for funding. The first phase of the Park Street "Streetscape" project was completed, making the main commercial district here look a lot more spiffy. On a down note, the Fifteen Group sent a mass eviction notice to over 1,500 people living at the troubled Harbor Island complex. The place has been long a hotspot for drugs, theft, murder and prostitution, but this mass eviction hit the City quite hard and a lawsuit was applied against the Texas-based landlord who had sent the evictions with the intention of turning the low income housing into upscale Yuppieville by way of extensive renovation.

The plans for the renovation, however, differed from what had been permitted. So the fight went on.

Into Spring, the retired aircraft carrier, The Hornet, was just about to be sent packing for failure to pay rent to the City at its moorings, but last ditch negotiation on the part of the museum curators and a few well-endowed benefit events managed to rescue the ship from the ignominious fate of a Fisherman's wharf moorage.

August saw the very avaricious and rather obnoxiously arrogant Fifteen Group sell the now empty Harbor Bay complex to a California company. Good bye and good riddance.

The Island turned out in force to send truckloads of supplies to the devastated areas along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Island-Life provided a 25 pound box of medical supplies to be sent to New Orleans as well as a check for $500.00

As November got her nails dug in deep, the City Council was sued by the Citizens for a Megaplex-free City, when people became outraged that the plans for the old Paramount theatre, slated for its own renovation, were to include a massive 10 screen project that would engulf the entire block behind it, as well as the entire block across the street, which would feature a staggering 350 car, six story parking garage monster, which would dwarf every single other building on the island as well as violate height restrictions of three stories that have been in place for over thirty years. Only a single public meeting had been held on the plans, which had been publicized as "Agenda Item number four" during a regular City Council Meeting. Eventually, the project was scaled back when the back lot tenant, Longs, refused to move out and yield its parking lot and building, leaving Video Maniacs, the little guy, to be demolished. VM is now in a good location on Park Street.

The metal cutout artwork bolted to the playground fence at Washington Elementary School caused a little tsunami after hanging there for well over 18 months when someone complained that three of the figures were racist depictions of an African-American child playing jumprope.

The Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ ended in disarray with unfortunate loss of many poodles who got clean away. Padraic was forced to employ seared Ahi on the grill and the visiting White House representative was sent home much abused. You'll have to scroll down to Thanksgiving to find out all about it. We may create a PDF for download later on.

In December the car of the missing Dr. Zehara Attari was found with the missing doctor inside -- in the estuary at the foot of the boat landing at the end of Grand Street. This landing seems to attract trouble for this is the second time this year that a car drove out into the waters, killing its inhabitants.

That's the way it was during the lamentable year of 2005. Have a great New Year.

JANUARY 8, 2006


The Island weathered the recent spate of storms with only minor flooding, That stretch of Webster over by the Tube flooded as usual and falling trees took out power for 1,200 people for a few hours, but we pretty much handled our own better than most.

Some friends just came back from Dorado catching -- and Xmas evasion -- in Baja only to see images of their own downtown San Anselmo under four feet of water broadcast on national CNN while waiting for connector flights in Dallas.

Saturday the clouds glowered all along Grizzly Peak, which would make them dense tule fogs up there, but the place remained basically dry.

Neighbor Karen was out pruning the irresponsible hydrangeas and raking the weeds under the cool sun on Sunday. The bulbs that have lain hidden for months appear to be doing something. Some little inhuman feller has been chomping on the Swiss chard. Stay tuned for reports on the Peru Beans.

Word is that more rain is forecast for Tuesday-Wednesday, confirming the Farmer's Almanac warning that this winter would be a wet one to remember.


We now swing into the post-holiday season which traditionally tends to be a lukewarm period as the brand name acts sharpen their swords for the hot spring into summer season. Nevertheless we have some sizzle here and there. Mark Hummel brings his annual Blues Harmonica Blowout to Yoshis for the 15th year 1/13-1/15. This event typically sells out for very good reason.

On this side of the Bay, here's a hot tip for you aficionados of guitar: Dave Grisman, he of beard and mandolin, will kick off a tour with several bands in celebration of the music of Django Reinhart at Zellerbach Hall on the last day of January. This is likely to be quite an exciting evening, for Grisman has been known to playfully cross genres before with aplomb and sheer genius. And he does have the chops to accompany any man who dares tackle material from the man who has been acclaimed as the greatest guitar player who ever lived by generations of musicians and critics.

Also on the insiders track, we note that Cat Power and the Memphis Rhythm Band hold forth at the venerable Palace of Fine Arts 2/23-24. Not one of those steady gigging musicians, Cat Power tends to pick and choose the place and moment of her periodic eruptions on the scene.

The fledgling Independent continues to flex interesting booking muscle and the high point this month probably will be the North Mississippi Allstars 1/13-1/14 on a weekend that seems to have a lot of sparkle for the time of year. Ask them to play "Old Wind Die Down" and settle in for a 10 minute auditory feast.

Our insider correspondent, Kathy Pomianek -- well all right, she's the publicist for chrissake -- informs us of the schedule of the hottest Americana band to hit the circuit in years and that be Houston Jones of course.

[schedule deleted]

As for Oaktown's Ron Thompson, he will be living the high life for the week 1/9-1/15 with Taj Mahal and similar men of blues stature on the Blues Cruise some of you may have been hearing about. This event brings together some of the real blues powerhouses for a weeklong gig on board a big cruise ship that will dock at several island countries in the Caribbean. When he comes back he is booked for small shows at Porky's in Fresno and the Poor House Bistro in San Jose. We will not see him around her until March 18th.

All this and more in the East Bay, which is rapidly becoming THE place to be for music and the arts in the Bay Area.


It's been a long time since this flabby chest broke the finish line tape -- which to tell the truth is only a length of reddish yarn spooled out from an old spindle at one end and held in the grip of a track official or somebody's kid brother -- but you too may experience such joy as may befall your lot. Or maybe not, depending on who shows up. For the Annual Bay Area Marathon for Leukemia and Lymphoma is gathering names. Think you can't run 26 miles or so? Think again my friend. The Association is putting together a training regimen under the rubric "TEAMinTRAINING.ORG and you can go there and learn all about how to become a lean mean running machine in what is billed as the largest endurance sports training program in the world.

This single event is only one of many on which the resources of this group are focussed, for they are also featuring the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in the north woods, the Mayor's Midnight Marathon in Anchorage Alaska, the infamous Death Ride of the California Alps (cycling) , the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon and the two Ironman Triathalons at Lake Placid NY and Penticton, BC, Canada.

Well, the Ironman may be beyond your reach, but walking a marathon length is not beyond you, no matter how much of couch potato you have become.

Hey, get out and do something for yourself and for somebody.


It's been a quiet week here on the Island. Perhaps, since this is the turn of the year we should recap the spiel about what this is all about. We live on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. There are several islands in the bay, which may surprise you. Alcatraz is the most famous, of course, and the most visible. Angel Island is largely uninhabited for the exception of a herd of deer and the occasional Park Service Ranger. Treasure island is induibitabley an island although nobody thinks of it as such for the Bay Bridge bisects its presence with sturdy aplomb and few claim to be residents, for the simple matter of getting on or off the place is taking your life in your hands. Harbor Bay used to be and Island, but they filled in the strait to make it join to the airport lands. Coast Guard island is our own kept secret and so we will say no more about it.

We have lived on other islands -- the Republic of Ireland for example -- and we can say that all islanders share an insular quality which is difficult to define but which tends to the pragmatic and a certain ineffable spirituality. But this island in particular is one special place, chock filled with curiosities and unique madness. Our police department possesses the most efficient traffic enforcement division in the world bar none, but has failed to catch five take-over bank robbers in succession. The sixth was caught jaywalking.

We have our sets of characters, to be introduced in a later issue. Oh yes, and we are all about reporting on the media and the events talking place which concern the citizens of this Island and of the East Bay in general. For let it be known that this is the district that elected Barbara Lee, the only member of the Congress to speak out against the foolish war in Iraq from Day 1. We love our Barbara and we say to her in defiance of all opposition and jinoistic war mongering, "You go, girl!"

We take letters and all sorts of communiques from people all over the world and we stand fast with Fred Langa who runs the, which devotes a portion of its income to assisting kids less fortunate than us with computers around the world. To date we have helped some 12 kids living in third-world countries to obtain the basic necessities to survive in places that lack electricity, running water, and stable sources of food. Fred is an angel and we like helping angels because that is our job. When not performing media criticism, evaluating new local music, rating local restaurants and otherwise being local busybodies.

In our off hours, we moderate elections in Red States, make artwork to sell and provoke and make bad noise with supposedly musical instruments.

In the news, we note that a man attempting to rob the 7/11 down there on Buena Vista and Park Street managed to get his escapade entirely filmed by the store's surveillance cameras, which showed him punching and kicking the store clerk until police --alerted by irritated customers -- stormed in at gunpoint and arrested the fool. The 7/11 is one block from the police headquarters for the Island.

As for last week's "faith-based initiative" to clean up the bars on the Island and bring folks back into the fold, well, it all fell apart. You had to know that a coalition of Presbyterians, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Islamic Mullahs, and Baptists just would not fly very far. It all fell apart when a dispute arose as to whether it were possible to consecrate a slice of carrot cake and a glass of beer. Body and blood of god, you see.

Well, we are a religious lot on the island. For that's the way it is on the island. Have a great week.

JANUARY 14, 2006


This Monday saw the annual celebration of the life and works of one of the great Statemen of the 20th Century, Martin Luther King, Jr. Predictably, as at every national holiday, there were those who took the opportunity to grandstand and speechify, and even the Bushy made a baldfaced appearance before the people he has largely spurned during the years of his rule.

But these quibbles cannot detract from the immensity of King's generous contribution to our Nation, for when we speak of pride in America we can point to such a man and say, "Now that was a real American who did things and did them well." Yes, this country went through a corrosive period, a shameful period, and unspeakable acts have been committed, but we also have heros who fought injustice and deep-seated hatred with passion and humility and persistence and although much work remains to be done, much has been accomplished and no other nation can claim this sort of man or this kind of process.

It was not necessary to be utterly destroyed by a foreign power to turn the nation around; Americans did it themselves led by women and men such as King and Rosa Parks and this is the real source of pride in America. We did it and we can do better if we try.


The Island may look a bit beat in this weather, but we have been holding our own. Other parts of the County across the water (the Island is part of Alameda County) have not been so lucky, for the County has been included in the list of Disaster Areas for Northern California as a consequence of the unusual sequence of storms recently experienced and even as another dockwallopper plows into the Bay Area today.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday declared a state of emergency for 11 more counties that sustained damage from severe storms that impacted California since last month.

The governor added the counties of Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kings, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Shasta and Tulare to the list of counties eligible for state and federal assistance as a result of the heavy rains and flooding.

The counties join seven other California storm-damaged counties already under states of emergency since last week. Those counties are Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Napa, Sacramento, Sonoma, and Trinity counties.


Recent events in recent weeks have restored the Island's special place among "The 39" (law enforcement agencies) as a place where the criminal element is, well, quite special.

And by that, we mean along the lines of, say, Jerry's Kids.

Last week a man entered the Petco store located at Southshore Shopping Center, forced open a cage and stuffed the contents -- a rare infant Amazonian parrot -- into a shopping bag before running out the door. The bird is a Sun Conure, native to Brazil, and as it has not matured after only 3 months on this planet, needs to be hand fed a specialized formula.

Noooo, sunflower seeds aint gonna work, pal.

At $550 per bird, the thief may have imagined that he had gotten away with quite a deal, but he may have quite an expensive cacciatore on hands if he does not know how to feed the thing.

Anyone with information may call Petco at 510-864-1844 or the Alameda police at 510-337-8340.

Also continuing a fine Island tradition, hackers defaced the City's webpage with the slogan "SPYKIDZ OWNS YOUR SYSTEM" early Thursday morning. Officials assured the public no confidential records were compromised, but really. We can understand taking on IBM or Microsoft or the hapless Federal Government, but the Island? That is like your basic member of the motorcycle gang The Outlaws beating up an eight year old walking home from school. Oh Spykidz you really proved something big now didn't you.

In another demonstration of brilliance, a cashier at Office Max -- also at Southshore Mall -- stole a credit card from, of all organizations, The Fraternal Order of Oddfellows, so as to pay off phone bills in excess of $468. Yeah, guess you figured they never would figure out that one: a payment to Sprint for an account linked directly to your name and your house.

What Island-Life is just dying to know is just what the hell was worth talking about to rack up long distance charges of nearly $500? Well, the cashier gets one free call now. From the slammer.

A man driving a gold 2001 Acura RSX -- hardly a poverty indicator -- got out of his car and ordered a bicyclist on Versailles Avenue to stand and deliver. The bicyclist, obviously poorer than the thug driving the car, mentioned that he owned nothing, had nothing, and would give nothing. And with nothing, the would-be robber drove off.

And in our final note on these sordid events in a dark city that knows how to keep its secrets, we have a report that soccer players on the Island High School team checked into their locker room during halftime to find the place had been ransacked during the game with the Jets, also of the Island.

In addition to the usual electronics, the scamps made off with tons of completed homework assignments, and we feel that this act is really the last straw and worthy of another severe "Now really!"


The latest Northern California winter storm dumped up to 18 inches of new snow across parts of the Sierra Nevada Saturday and caused major traffic tie-ups for drivers.

A winter storm warning was in effect for much of Saturday along the western slopes of the mountains, where a cold storm lowered snow levels to below 3,500 feet.

Meanwhile, chains were mandatory on all three major highways between the Sacramento and Reno areas, including Interstate 80 over Donner Summit, US-50 over Echo Summit and State Route 88 over Carson Pass. Big rigs traveling westbound on I-80 were also being held at the California-Nevada line to avoid adding to the major congestion over Donner Summit.

Drivers along Interstate 80 faced extended delays, including stretches of up to two hours where travelers didn't move at all.

The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to drop from five to eight inches of snow below 7,000 feet and ten to 14 inches of snow above 7,000 feet by Sunday morning.

Saturday the clouds glowered all along Grizzly Peak, which would make them dense tule fogs up there, but the place remained basically dry.

Neighbor Karen was out pruning the irresponsible hydrangeas and raking the weeds under the cool sun on Sunday. The bulbs that have lain hidden for months appear to be doing something. Some little inhuman feller has been chomping on the swiss chard. Stay tuned for reports on the Peru Beans.

Word is that more rain is forcast for Tuesday-Wednesday, confirming the Farmer's Almanac warning that this winter would be a wet one to remember.


Well it's been a busy week on the Island what with weather changes and sudden new work. We've been piloting up the 101 corridor to fight the good fight on behalf of a local charity -- local to Sonoma County, not us. It's been 128 miles a day of driving and one failed vehical still up in a shop in Novato. Hence the delay this week.

Haven't heard the latest on the late "Island Faith-based Initiative" but did hear that the Mullah was getting together a weekend game of Twister Bingo among his congregation. Have to just imagine the scene of playing Twister in djelleba robes. Its either twice as fun or very very complicated.

The Catholic priest has returned to his daily clockwise peramulations about the block and the Lutheran Minister has returned to his counterclockwise rotations almost as if nothing ever happened between them.

Well, we do have churches and churchgoers on the Island, and its a source of constant shame among us decent beer drinkers, but we tend to tolerance here, like it or not.

In any case, we have done about as much damage as we can do this week, and all we can say is, that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JANUARY 22, 2006


Stuart Alexander, who gunned down 3 meat inspectors at San Leandro linguisa factory as reported in these pages, died in San Quentin of coronary embolism. He was convicted of shooting the 3 inspectors on 6/21/2000 in a lurid episode within the sausage factory and spent much of his remaining time on earth in prison in tortured psychosis, refusing court-mandated medication and food.


Found out the naturalist who works at the Crab Cove marine reserve, a really charming lady, who has delighted thousands of kids and other people at the facility located at the foot of McKay Avenue is named Nancy Krebs, which as any germanophile understands as Nancy Crab.


Have no recent updates from the Cole Cloren episode, due to sensitivity to the recent sentencing of his attackers and family concerns. As precis to date: Cole was attacked while sitting on the steps of Washington High School by a man who smashed a "razor scooter" against his temple as Cole rested with his head against the iron railings of the steps. Brought to Island Hospital and then to the Highland Trauma Center in deep coma, doctors did not expect him to live. Cole managed to fight his way out of coma to full consciousness, but has experienced severe consequences of the attack. It took him half a year to learn how to walk again and as of October of last year could barely read at a first grade level. It does appear that he will suffer effects for the rest of his life. His attacker was tried as an adult.


You so dread may smoke da ganga and get totally Rasta at the Bill Graham Civic 2/25 for an Irie tribute to Bob Marley, starting at 3 p.m. Michael Franti headlines with The Wailers and Misty in Roots among many bowing to the memory of a great master who brought us an entire musical artform from the Caribbean and abroad. Since informal tapes done by Bob were found by his son in the attic, not unlike the occasional lost and found Matisse, renewed interest in Reggae has swelled the charts.

Not on an embryonic journey, but traveling almost incognito, Jorma Kaukonen slips into the Great American Music Hall 2/2/06 on a general west coast tour that includes some laid back haunts as Santa Rosa up north.

In the ever hotter new venue called The Independent, we note the Greyboy Allstars on 2/1 and 2/2 followed by Bonnie Hayes with Robben Ford in attendance.

The Fillmore is drawing its breath the rest of this month until New Monsoon and Hot Buttered Rum amble in on Saturday, 2/4, with the exception of the red-blooded Willie Nelson, who takes over 1/24-1/26 with his famously battered Martin acoustic and a twang that is neither affected nor artificial. The Warfield will host G.Love and Special Sauce, which combo is beginning to garner a bit of notice. Then its back to the usual thrash and burn punkish Pennywise and No Use for a Name.

On the warmer side of the bay, Country Joe McDonald held forth at Freight and Salvage -- somewhat a smaller venue than the immense Woodstock Festival where CJM and the Fish held forth before 100,000 people. Maria Muldaur pleased crowds in her new incarnation as jazz-blues vocalist on the 21st. Highly anticipated is the young Eliza Gilkyson, who just keeps getting better and better with each new release. She owns 1/25 or Wednesday at the Freight. Be aware that seats probably will sell out.

The major event during this pre-season is the arrival of Coldplay. If you have to ask where or when, then tickets are gone already.


Some of you know that our day job features immersion in the latest and best of the computer world for office and factory. Its not a world ordinarily given to creativity, let alone a good deal of fun, especially when most of your efforts are on behalf of the Accounting Department.

Nevertheless, every once in a while, the nerds gotta have their fun. Sometimes it takes a stretch to appreciate and sometimes everybody gets a chuckle.

In the recent Langalist newsletter, we got directed to a really fun website which features "silicon artwork". Normally, the chips in your personal computer are designed and etched with pure functionality in mind, for much of the work then gets turned upside down and soldered to the motherboard, remaining entirely invisible for the life and afterlife of the unit.

With great delight, we find that some of the old school programmers who used to generate things like ASCII code images of potted orchids remain alive and well and their images become scribed into chips that just might be inside your own computer. The little catch here is that these images are only a few dozen microns wide and can only be "seen" by powerful electron microscopes such as only the most exclusive universities and corporate labs can afford.

Here, from the world inside your computer are a few examples pulled from where a team of researchers spends their off hours collecting and cataloging such informal artwork submitted by engineers in the field who apparently have too much time on their hands.

Yes you could just go there and see everything unencumbered by our tired wits, but its not exactly a place you would find yourself by accident.

We found this wire-frame image of Daffy deeply embedded within the circuitry of a RISC microprocessor, about 1500 microns away from a similar-style rendition of Waldo. Daffy is about 50 microns in size, making it necessary to use a high-power (40X to 60X) microscope objective to photograph the wireframe character.

This beautiful cheetah was captured racing across the surface of a Hewlett-Packard memory controller integrated circuit. The chip was designed in combination with a very early HP-PA microprocessor that was code named Cheetah and used in the HP-900/750/755 series computers.

We caught this silicon Smurf pulling a wagon containing the copyright symbol around the pad ring on a Siemens integrated circuit of unknown function (the M879-A3). Like other Smurfs, this figurine was originally created by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford (also known as Peyo), and introduced into the United States in the late 1970s. I Smurfs typically are blue, wear white hats, and stand three apples high. This guy goes against the grain with his orange skin and yellow hat. In addition, he is only about 60 micrometers high, more than 1000 times smaller than a single apple.

From the Scott Adams cartoon strip, we present this photomicrograph of cyber-engineer Dilbert, caught hiding from his demonic boss within the circuitry of a computer chip.

The photomicrograph above illustrates a wireframe rendition of Waldo found hiding on the surface of a microprocessor integrated circuit. Discovering this version of Waldo proved to be much more difficult than the one in the comics. We caught this silicon version of Waldo (that is about 30 microns in size) hiding among caches, buses, and registers while searching through many thousands of square microns of complex circuitry with a high-power optical microscope.

We spotted this Sperm whale swimming in a channel just off the Coast of RAM on an Allen-Bradley/Rockwell node adapter integrated circuit. This 85 micron-long polysilicon cetacean symbolizes the larger mammalian specimen that slammed into the planet Magrathea in Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and shares space on the same chip with Don't Panic, the number 42, and the cricket wicket. Michael Philippi did the artwork and layout for this silicon doodle, and designer Bob Weppler, who provided us with this chip, engineered the onboard processor and firmware.

We found this unusual character smoking a cigar on the Weitek P-9000 graphics accelerator chip used to power many video cards in the early 1990s. The card was labeled "Fastest video on planet Earth" by Dell in a 1993 marketing campaign aimed at selling high-end 486 local bus computers and featured a whopping 8mb of RAM. The finders stated that "We don't understand what this image means . . .".

Historical etchings
Silicon artistry is a skill more than three decades old. The earliest known images in the Silicon Zoo are on Texas Instruments chips from the late 1960s or early 1970s, featuring a sailboat, the Apollo mission lunar lander and the U.S.S. Enterprise starship from the "Star Trek" TV series.

The most prolific practitioners of silicon artistry were at HP, in Davidson's opinion. "They had a competition going as to who could create the most complex art," he said.

Intel microchips, by contrast, have hardly any artwork. "The only thing we found was that shepherd on that dual-ported RAM controller," he said. In a visual-technical pun, the shepherd is overseeing a ram with two heads, symbolizing a chip that governs random access memory (RAM) with two communication channels.

Well, if you have to explain the joke . . . .


Well its been a quiet week on the Island. Pastor Morales has retreated to his clerestory-lit study, earnestly perusing the Lost Gospels of St. Joan while the rain pelted down in a provocation of further atmospheric misbehavior precluding long walks and such perambulations. Minister Svenquist also has withdrawn up into his garret, there to mull the austerity of his Lutheran position and that of the even more austere finances of the Island Abernathy Choir. What to do in this time when the Holidays have already passed and long is the time before Easter fund raising. Heavy and severe is the countenance of Minister Svenquist as he lays one sharp finger along the fierce line of his nose.

But as Friday segued with dissolving clouds into a dappled Saturday and a thoroughly blue-sky Sunday, the tides receded from the collapsed pathways along the Strand bringing out the joggers and strollers and all the folks blinking in the suddenly bright air and the Mullah was seen strolling along with nuns in tow with great enjoyment of all god's creation once again.

Mr. Howitzer emerged from his doorway down by Empire Way waving his cane in the air with his bowtie undone by exertion and shouting imprecations at Sally Mae who, sitting there in the office before her typewriter, had experienced an eruption.

Before talking about Sally's eruption, let us talk about her typewriter. The tool in question, was an IBM Selectric with a self-correction feature that had long been allowed to fall into disuse, for Mr. Howitzer refused to expend funds on the frivolity of such things as correction ribbons. The secretaries must type correctly or do it all over and that was that as far as Mr. Howitzer was concerned. Expenditures were devoted to significant and advanced business-related issues. Not for the likes of secretaries and their comfort and the failures due to incompetence. Incompetence was a sin which Mr. Howitzer would never forgive. And many were those who adhered to his philosophy. Including Mr. Tarkieff, who insisted on each visit upon absolutely clean copy. Free of powderpuff and facepaint.

The copy might have no sign of such marks to the objective observer, but Mr. Tarkieff held to the principle of effectiveness and absolutism over shilly shally and Sally suffered for it. As one can imagine. For well on ten years, as Sally had felt compelled to work for the firm of Friend, Howitzer, and Shelly for that long.

As Mr. Howitzer would lovingly extoll, you must work to pay for what you cannot afford so as to afford the credit that you overextend so as to pay the fees for what you must support so that you can work that much more. He really liked that speech and he would deliver it often on a Friday afternoon about five-thirty and would sometimes continue extempore some thirty minutes more past the departure of the Island ferry. He was quite the Republican and well respected among his kind in California.

Mr. Howitzer dearly loved his own words, perhaps even more than he loved his own money. This made him unusual among his kind.

Ah, but to return to Sally's typewriter, it was a simple IBM Selectric, commanded to print contracts, letters, agenda, minutes, missives to sundry mistresses, invitations to grand fetes, memos, budgets of every kind and description and much more for Sally must needs be adjutant, secretary, amanuensis, accountant, clerk, and galley slave to the extreme and all this for some ten years.

On this particular day, Sally happened upon the image in the mail -- she was commanded to sort and deliver mail among her duties -- of a leaping fish in the ad for a Mexican holiday in the Baja. It was one of those travel adverts about the delights of resort package vacations and such. What struck her was not the vivid blue of water, nor the excited and delighted face of the fisherman, nor the spume of the flung spray, but the image of the Dorado captured by artist photographer in mid leap as it fought for life. It seemed the photographer, perhaps some college-age artist making minimum wage, had focussed not on the fun loving sportsman, but upon the desperation and crispness and color of the Dorado, who appeared in gorgeous rainbow colors shot through with gold and incarnadine of the most vigorous shine.

This would have been the end of it, leaving perhaps only a vivid memory and the snapshot of a life from which she was forever excluded, for how on earth could anyone such as her enjoy a single minute of such a life in Mexico chasing the dolphin fish?

She was nothing. Mr. Howitzer often implied that. He never said such a thing, for saying such a thing outright would be considered gauche and perhaps illegal by some. She was not meant for interaction with complex personalities. Each to their station. It had all been laid out by Plato long ago. Everyone had their station. That was the opinion of Mr. Howitzer. And Mr. Tarkieff.

So she agreed so as to keep her job so that she could pay her credit fees that enabled her to continue to pay for the things that let her keep her job. It seemed to make sense.

But then the sun came through that Saturday and made a rainbow across her desk like the leap of the Dorado in the picture. The Dorado, you must know, is often called "the dolphin fish". Dolphins are mammals, like you and me and Sally Mae. They have brains almost like humans and can understand speech between each other, between humans and each other and between themselves and humans.

This itself is remarkable.

The fact that Sally Mae would connect the colors of a chance rainbow across her desk with the colors of a soon-to-die Dorado in a photograph is also remarkable. What is more remarkable than all these is what transpired next.

Mr. Howitzer requested in his usually demanding tones that Sally make another pot of coffee, for the previous one had gone sour.
That is not unusual. Bosses do this kind of thing all the time to their subservients in America, and they would express their intent using exactly the same words.

You and I might have delivered the message somewhat otherwise. You might have said, "Go to hell you big baboon! Take your coffee and shove it up where the sun don't shine."

We prefer to grant the reader the utmost of benefit and observance here.

We, in far cruder terms, would have said, "F--- off you G--d D---- Sh--Head!" But Sally was a daycent gal from Gallway and disinclined to vulgar language.

Sally Mae said, "Make your own damn coffee Mr. Howitzer. You are a big baby and I don't want to work for you any longer."

Now we come to the eruption. Sally Mae jumped up and Mr. Howitzer jumped up and Sally Mae, seeing the colors of the Dorado thrashing for its life down there in waters off Mexico imagined she was fighting for her own life and Mr. Howitzer, enraged at his coffee and things not going according to plan at all seeking to restore order by chunking a fit bigger than Hercules failed to accomplish his aims, as noble as they may appear. Sally Mae rushed out of that office knowing it was all over there, and at least she would get decent employment at a place where they used at least a word processor instead of a dead old IBM Selectric and where she would earn at least a little Respect, well she rushed out and never was seen again in those parts. Not ever again.

Mr. Howitzer rushed out as we first saw him with his cane and shouting and Tom from the Highway Patrol had to come in and calm the poor man down with brandy and an investigation. Tom left shaking his head and Mr. Howitzer has yet to obtain another hire the likes of Sally Mae, although the ad remains out to provoke the most recent hire and the investigation remains officially open, although it seems unlikely that there will be a resolution any time soon as the intent appears vague to the officials, and without criminal intent.

Other than these events, life has been quiet here on the Island. No word on what Harlan, the madman of Lincoln Street has to say about all of this.

That's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And mind your chips.

JANUARY 29, 2006


As all of you Sinophiles are aware, the Chinese New Year 4704 began today with firecrackers, feasting on gai bao, and distribution of hao tchien in little red envelopes. The celebration typically lasts some 15 days and culminates here in the grand parade through Chinatown over in Babylon across the water.

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Those born in dog years tend to be loyal, kind, and generous. They will work to right wrongs and are able to keep secrets. Bill Clinton, Shirley MacLain, Benjamin Franklin, and Jane Goodall -- and yours truly -- were all born in the year of the dog.

From the Chinese Cultural Center of SF we obtain the additional information, which is not usually included in the Dog traits: "But Dog People are somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn, and eccentric. They care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money. They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant at parties. They can find fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues. Dog people make good leaders. They are compatible with those born in the Years of the Horse, Tiger, and Rabbit.

In the astrological charts, we learn that people born in the year of the Pig or the Snake will experience luck and realization in romance leading to marriage. Not for the dog, however, who will see work projects come to fruition with diligent attitude. Bummer, dude. All work and no play, in other words.

For people born in the year of the dog, this is the year of fire and the Fire Dog. A match with the female who displays metal characteristics will be most fortuitous and the implication is of passion and great things accomplished. Time to take that metal casting class at the Crucible, you Dog, you?

The annual parade in Babylon will take place on 2/11/06 and will once again feature the largest handheld dragon in the world manipulated by teams of students from the Wushu Martial Arts Academy.

Understand that Zhonguo, or the Peoples Republic of China for you Loh Fan, has dropped its prohibition against the annual celebration, so we would expect that our distinction will not last long.

And if some angelic soul should hand you a red envelope the proper response is an enthusiastic :Shiyeh Shiyeh Ni!



Up the 101 Corridor there is a factory where they make etching tools for high tech chips, such as Intel, IBM and NASA may employ in their work. Its an aseptic place where every speck of dust is a potential threat to the Class 10 cleanrooms where silicon wafers are etched with powerful acids under rigorous conditions and carefully filtered air. Among the memorabilia on the old walls in the admin section there hangs a portrait of a pretty woman with flowing auburn hair that tumbles over the collar of a pressurized high altitude flight suit. Probably half a hundred of these were made and distributed all around the country to assorted vendors and research teams. The dedication of this obvious promo photo is done with a sharpie and it says simply, "Love to all of you, Christa McAuliffe".

Such is the memento of the brilliant arc of a life that exploded high in the air, along with the lives of six other companions. This Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of the 1986 disaster in which the space shuttle, Challenger, lifted off from a launch pad in Florida and blew apart 73 seconds later in a horrifying display of flames broadcast realtime across the nation on TV.

On Saturday, 250 people joined a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center to honor Scobee, pilot Mike Smith, astronauts Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Ron McNair and Greg Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe, who was supposed to be the first teacher in space.

June Scobee Rodgers, whose husband Dick Scobee was the shuttle's commander, along with NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier, laid the wreath at the base of the Space Mirror Memorial, a tall granite-finished wall engraved with the names of the Challenger astronauts, the seven astronauts killed when space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas in 2003 and the three Apollo 1 astronauts killed in a fire during a 1967 launch pad test.

The investigation into the Challenger accident revealed a space agency more concerned with schedules and public relations than with safety and sound decision-making.

The explosion eventually was blamed on a poorly designed gasket in one of the shuttle's solid fuel boosters which hardened in cold weather. The temperature at Challenger's liftoff was 36 degrees. Engineers for a NASA contractor had protested launching at that temperature, but they were overruled by their managers under perceived pressure from the space agency.

Rodgers said the Challenger accident hadn't changed her opinion about the importance of space exploration.

"Without risk, there's no discovery, there's no new knowledge, there's no bold adventure", Rodgers said. "The greatest risk is to take no risk."


Money magazine and Kiplinger's Report are not exactly titillating sources of rambunctious laughter, but its our business here to keep track of the news and the media as it is. Recently we glommed onto a precious Most whatever of the year in the form of CNN's Money report on "The 101 dumbest things in 2005". Frankly we didn't think that those folks had that much self-awareness, or any punk attitude at all, but it does seem that we live in unusual times.

From CNN Money 101 dumbest things in 2005

Winner, Dumbest Moment, Outsourcing

Blaming a mailing-list vendor for providing bad information, JPMorgan Chase apologizes for sending a form letter about its credit card services to an Arab American man in California addressed to "Palestinian Bomber."

Winner, Dumbest Moment, Marketing

Just suffice it to say that the literal translation of the Spanish word cajeta is "little box."

With the help of Latin pop sensation Thalia Sodi, Hershey introduces Cajeta Elegancita, a new candy bar for the Hispanic market. Though the wrapper features a picture of Sodi, apparently she neglects to fill her Yanqui partners in on a subtlety of Spanish: In Mexico, "cajeta" can be used to mean "nougat." Elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, however, it's slang for female anatomy.

52. And how much to have the record labels not sue them?

In January, members of the Recording Industry Association of America sue Gertrude Walton, a Mount Hope, W.V., resident who had died nearly two months earlier. The lawsuit, Walton's daughter says, comes despite her having sent copies of the death certificate to the label's lawyers.

101. Little Big Man

In September, as the result of a typo in a spreadsheet, Electronic Arts issues an update to Madden NFL 06 that reduces 6-foot-3, 305-pound New York Jets lineman Michael King to a height of 7 inches. The next day, EA fixes the bug -- to a chorus of complaints from customers who enjoyed watching the shin-high blocker get steamrollered by full-size players such as seven-time All-Pro linebacker Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

40. Just google him. We hear it really ticks him off.

"F---ing Eric Schmidt is a f---ing pussy. I'm going to f---ing bury that guy, I have done it before and I will do it again. I'm going to f---ing kill Google."

-- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in response to the departure of Mark Lucovsky, a former Microsoft "distinguished engineer" who left last year to work at Google. The alleged aria, punctuated by the tossing of a chair, was cited in a sworn statement by Lucovsky that became public during court hearings over another Microsoft-to-Google defection in September. Microsoft denies Lucovsky's version of the incident.

41. If that's what you mean by f---ing killing someone, would you mind f---ing killing us next?

In February, Microsoft unveils a new version of MSN search, developed at a cost of $100 million, in an attempt to take market share from Google. MSN's share of Internet search traffic promptly drops by a full percentage point.

Grand Prize Winner, Dumbest Moment of 2005

"If you grew up in Danvers, and you remember it as the spooky place on the hill, it might not be the right place to live."

William McLaughlin, an executive with AvalonBay Communities, which is converting boarded-up Massachusetts mental institution Danvers State Hospital into a 497-unit complex of high-end apartments and condos. That sound you hear? Not the ghosts of mental patients, but loud hissing from the wildly inflated housing bubble.

As an addendum to the last item and as a possible competitor for the Dumbest Real Estate Move In 2005, we note the recent ads that promote the Bay Area's Premier Development in Exclusive Living in the form of the recently opened Mare Island development. Mare Island, as any long term resident here will note, was a notorious shiprepair facility which dumped tons of toxic sludge into the ground with not a report or sign. In conversation with a former navy shipyard worker there, we gleefully report the following statement:

"Oh yeah, we would scour the plates from the LV's by propping them up on a scaffold and blasting them with a pressure hose pumping sulfuric acid and sand. Just let that slurry fall off with all the noxious paint sludge and we would push it into a hole. Go on for the next plate any old place. Must have poisoned the ground for yards in all directions. The whole island is like that. Lead from old batteries, paint from ships, barrels of PCB oil, vats of benzenes -- heck, nobody hassled us about keeping track. We just would dig a hole and dump it all in. Figured the Navy would always own it and nobody would be so stupid as to actually build here".

It's all okay. Just don't let your kid play outside; he might dig up something really, really bad for everybody.


Some excitement happened a block from the Island-Life offices as reported by Peter Hegarty.

Two men are in custody as police investigate what led to a confrontation on St. Charles Street on Tuesday afternoon that resulted in gunfire striking three vehicles.

"It's a miracle no one was hit because it was a running gun battle on the street," Alameda police Lt. David Boersma said.

Investigators recovered .9 millimeter and .22 caliber shell casings at the scene and said that up to 11 shots were fired.

About 10 young men are believed to have been present during the shooting, which investigators think stemmed from an altercation between two men several weeks ago either in north Oakland or at the Esperanza affordable housing complex in Alameda.

Police also think one of the gunmen came to the 1800 block of St. Charles with his friends in a bid to settle the dispute.

Also reported was the failure to find the guns used during the gunbattle. Toddlers beware.


Did the fine dining thing the other day after fighting to install and setup somebody's new Sirius satellite radio. Be known that the workmanship in the speaker "boom" box is fairly shoddy, although the signal is as good as can be and one can enjoy Howard Stern's peculiar form of scatological humor with no fear of commercials. The locking mechanism between the radio and the speakers is a sure design to fail in a year or so, and the power jack needs a bic lighter jammed in there to hold the cord from the brand new power brick (about as heavy and large as a brick in truth) in place.


Went to Pappo on Central Avenue on the Island. Pappo serves up your basic California Cuisine in the usual sparse portions in which presentation is the highlight of the plate. We had the braised lamb, which came with four cubettes of meat set about the periphery of a mound of couscous and sauteed veggies. The lamb was tender, but not distinctive enough to warrant the prices as the brown sauce was essentially no different than any other au jus for prime rib or tri-tip. The delicious goat-cheese and spring greens salad with honeyed walnuts was another order entirely, and really represented the sort of thing "California Cuisine" strives for. Fresh, crisp greens ornamented with sprigs of red pepper, chunks of fragrant goat cheese and drizzled with a modestly tangy vinaigrette made us wish for another plate of the same. My companion had a delicious cream of mushroom soup with her standard Caesar salad, and the soups at Pappo are really what brings them in, for the chef uses only the freshest ingredients in season. The winter squash soup was no longer to be had, but you should mark you calendar for that item next year.


In a literary evening discussed the merits of the latest WIP and the consequences of the recent elections in Palestine over Korean plates in The City. Koh Samui is known as a lunch spot, but the place was packed Thursday evening for the Chef's original take on the dishes of his land. Forgoing the straightforward approach of BBQ and Pad Thai, this venue does a seafood "claypot" and assorted curries with a leaning to the west. West of Thailand, so to speak. The red chicken curry we had was subtly spicy in a way that some places just cannot figure out. The flavors of meat and veggies were allowed to sift through the sauce which did not bludgeon the palate.

Their specialty here is seafood and the "claypot" appeared to be well stocked, with its contents dished into a pewter tray. Their specialty is a crushed scallops dish which has been highly reviewed.

Tea is served in thimble-sized cups grasped by elephant miniatures, which are substantially useless for wetting the throat, but possessed of much charm. Better to order a beer if you want fluids.


A correspondent from far off Louisiana sent in some pix of the approaching edge of the hurricane Katrina as the stormfront curved over the wide savannah flats a year ago. These pictures need no commentary to heighten their power.


It's been a quiet week on the Island. The Governator was here at Southshore to promote his latest attempt to recover politically from his recent electoral debacle. This time he was flogging a medical bill that tries to fix the problems caused by the federal fiasco over pharma benefits. Basically, the bill recognizes the federal system, as promoted by GBW, is essentially broken and requires state assistance to help the monster over the obstacles imposed.

When asked why Gov. Arnold would come to the Island to sign this bill, he responded, "Well, I haf neffer been here, undt eet iss fery curious place. Ja."

The bill is a bipartisan effort to cover prescriptions for the disabled and poor who are caught in the glitches of the disastrous Medicare drug plan that was touted by the Presidential Administration as a final fix only a year ago. Arnold has abandoned his hard-line extremist positions in support of the Neo-Cons and has swung back to Center after his recent elections debacle. Well, well, lets just wait and see what happens next. Even Der Gropenator deserves a second chance.

Report from one of our traveling correspondents is that the recent Eliza Gilkyson show at the Freight and Salvage was a barn burning stomping fest.

There is no word back on the missing parrot from Petco, but we plan a swing by on Monday to hold the pulse. By now, the bird would have died, as the immature fowl native to Brazil required hourly feeding of a special formula.

Well, the dark night has fallen and the trains are echoing across the estuary from Jack London once more. Mike Powers is winding up the Sunday Night Jam ("Medication time! Medication time!") and Jake is about to take over for the midnight House of Blues Radio Hour ("Sponsored by the one and only Louisiana Hot Sauce. Look for the red dot on the bottle."

Just got word that tix are in the pocket for the Jorma Kaukonen visit to the Great American Music Hall. Yo, dudes, I am sooo stoked! We love music 'cause wherever there is music there is life. In fact, that may be the only life there is.

And that's the way it is on the Island, this drizzly evening. Have a great week.

FEBRUARY 4, 2006


Eugene Shrubb and all the bums got together for the eagerly awaited annual State of the Onion speech Monday evening. It was expected that President Shrubb would focus upon the highlights of his Presidency and avoid the pratfalls which have characterized his administration. Unfortunately, there have been few highlights for the Shrubb Presidency, from the disaster of the Invasion, the failed Social Security reform, the fiasco of Medicare RX reform, the dismal economy, the wrecked education initiative called No Child Left Undone, the energy debacle, the lapse in support for Africa, the drop-out of AIDS/HIV research, the increasing belligerence of Hayward who threaten to establish a nuclear program, bird flu pandemic, California flu A & B, an increasingly divided nation, illegal spying on private citizens, authorized policies endorcing reprehensible methods of torture, concentration camps, massive scandals roping in hundreds of members of his political party who lobbyists curried favor with, severe violations of ethical and moral principals among a few other things.

On the plus side, the President mentioned that he is now thinking about energy conservation and really likes killing terriers.

By the light of burning trashcan fires, the Assembly of the Bums, the most impressive legislative body in the Free World, issued stupendous applause at remarks by the President -- significantly by halves. The other half applauded when the President stumbled on ascending the dias and when he briefly choked upon a pretzle.

"I'm a uniter, not a divider," said the President, and half of the assembly applauded, while half stared down dejectedly at their shoes.

"The world is a safer place due to my Administration, " the President said.

"No it isn't," some wag said. "Look at Norway. Just about the most inoffensive place on earth. Their embassy gets torched over a set of cartoons published by their neighbor. What are you doing about this situation?"

"We have identified the problem," said the President. "And we are working steadily towards a solution that involves spreading democracy and free elections throughout the Middle East. Free elections will ensure that discontent dissolves and love of America will ensue."

"Is this another Wolfowitz idea?" someone asked. "That guy is an idiot."

"They freely elected a bunch of murderous radicals who want to kill all of us. That idea does not work. What are you doing about this?" someone else rudely asked.

The President then went on to talk about the state of the State Onion, small and odiferious it remains under care of his Administration. The Onion shall thrive and we shall prevail if we stay the course. Running governments is hard work. Anyone who disagrees will be spied upon and driven mad. They are traitors in any case. If Pat Robertson calls, take a message. Thus ends the State of the Onion Address for 2006.

In keeping with tradition, the President waved a bottle of Tokay of recent vintage before toppling backwards from his porcelein throne into the pile of old tires prepared for that purpose.


Caught Jorma Kaukonen on his latest swing-by in the Golden State. He appeared at the Great America Music Hall with Barry Mitterhoff. There was some confusion in booking these tix from the 3rd party vendors who failed to clearly outline what was different about the seating arrangements. Long time attendees to the GAMH know that first come is first served at the irregularly spaced ground floor tables and the balcony lines. This time the venue had front "row" seats reserved for those who had bought dinner tickets at a special price. Now dinner at the GAMH has always been nachos, cheeseburgers and cheesesteaks of no special distinction, so this issue confused a large number of people.

That said, we managed to squeeze in at balcony level for a show that turned out to be characterized by nuance and delicacy of playing with attention to dynamics more than we have seen previously from Jorma shows. Or it may be that the intimate quality of the small hall, packed as it was, allowed for the sound to come forth where it had been lost before. Jorma's flourishes, rolls, harmonics, and deft changes rang out clear as, well, clear as silver, sound as gold.

He is more evidently than ever before at the top of his game in terms of musicality, even though he might not command stadiums of 40,000 seats or more as he once did under the Jefferson Starship. But Kaukonen, ex-student of Rev. Gary Davis, is a musician more invested in musicality than grandstanding. Here is the setlist he played that night with Barry Mitterhoff.

1. Blue Railroad Train
2. How Long Blues
3. I’ll Let You Know Before I Leave
4. Parchman Farm
5. Keep your Lamps Trimmed And Burning
6. Serpent Of Dreams
7. Heart Temporary
8. Prohibition Blues
9. Preaching On the Old Camp Grounds
10. Hesitation Blues
11. That’ll Never Happen No More

Set Two
1. Big River Blues
2. I Know You Rider
3. I’m Free From The Chain Gang Now
4. Death Don’t Have No Mercy
5. I See The Light
6. More Than My Old Guitar
7. Bread Line Blues
8. Come Back Baby
9. Embryonic Journey
10. Good Shepherd
11. Genesis
12. I’ll Be All Right Some Day
13. A Life Well Lived
14. Just Because
15. Encore: 9 Pound Hammer

Barry Mitterhoff, it should be mentioned, is an unassuming genius. We saw him play two forms of the mandolin, an achingly beautiful Gibson f-hole 4-string tenor guitar with gorgeous sunburst motif, banjo and any one of these instruments he could have played rings around any number of self-indulgent "ax-men" endowed with thousands of dollars of specially-made flying-V Fenders. What the man can do humbly on the traditional mandolin puts most guitarists to shame.

He and Jorma traded solos and licks back and forth with evident and mutual delight, which is really the high point of watching a solid collaboration in music.

Kaukonen's version of Reverend Davis' "How Long Blues" started out pretty much note for note just how the old master used to play it, but segued into his own interpretation with its trimmed-down lyrics. His culls from his Grammy-nominated "Blue Country Heart" were pretty much straight-forward replays, including his own interpretation of "Big River Blues" with its curious Cm inclusion on the windup. On this go-around, as we have felt in recent years, is a strong sense of taking a long goodbye to life, with particular attention to paying due respect to those who have gone before. We have a strong sense of Jorma standing at the edge of some chasm looking back at a long life that has been full of more than its share of troubles, seen more than its share of horror, and now is turning to look at crossing that last river Jordan to the other shore.

Of course there is stronger sense of depth in a man approaching seventy who performs "Death Don't have No Mercy" than in a twenty-year old. Still, its interesting to note that his encore piece is the vibrant "9 Pound Hammer", with its defiant "That 9 pound hammer that killed John Henry aint gonna kill me! No, no."

We have seen him deal with hecklers a bit abruptly, but he humorously tolerated the yahoos who continuously yelled for "Genesis", which is a lovely song of course, but easily learned by any beginner in about an hour. Really, you can pick up a guitar and learn the song yourself and so stop asking the man to repeat himself. Which is something most musicans really really hate.

For a man who has written some of the songs that are the basic building blocks for American Music in the last century, we would hope that this survival sentiment holds forth for a long time to come. If Jorma Kaukonen happens to be in his "golden years" we hope that gold may continue to shine for many more. As a two-part standing unanimous ovation Thursday night at the Great American Music Hall indicated, so many others wish it so.


63 years later, Leo Mustonen finally returned home from his WWII training mission. Long time readers of this space will recall that the remains of an aviator wearing a vintage WWII flight uniform were found not 200 yards laterally from our usual crossover point in the Sierra Nevada backcountry. Of course he was another 3,000 feet straight up from the near point, but that is a minor detail.

In October, climbers of Mount Mendel found the body and reported this discovery to officials. The plane went down November 18, 1942 at some distance from its assigned flight plan, and fragments of the fusilage were found in 1947, but no bodies. The altitude is some 13,800 feet and the area in Kings Canyon Nation Park is not easy to access. Harsh weather conditions prevented further attempts at recovery. From experience we can say there is really a window of only a couple months in which one can enter this area and even then one can encounter storms with such ferocity that animal behavior in the area becomes quite deranged down to even the insects in the pre-storm period.

His injuries, according to the forensics report, included multiple bone fractures, implying that his death was near instantaneous at high altitude. His surviving relatives live in Minneapolis and Florida, but his final resting place will be next to his mother and father in Brainerd, Pennsylvania.

We know that there is another crash site near Lake Martha on the slopes of Mount Goddard, where we have been aiming for some time. Leo, if one of your friends is out there, we will find them.


Was delighted to hear the Tappet brothers regretfully agree for the first time in a long time about a particular subject having to do with cars. For those who cannot or for some inconcievable reason choose not to, pull in NPR on the radio at 88.5 on Sunday, the Tappet brothers hold forth for an hour that is more raucous and entertaining than one can imagine as they field calls from all over the country about every possible trouble with cars of every make and model. To our astonishment, we found that between the two of them, they have absorbed the essential details about every car made anywhere in the world for every year going back to 1925 right up to the present.

This, my friends, is quite a lot of knowledge, especially as the two guys pretend to be nothing more than two regular yoyos drinking beer and spending their free time hunting down junk food. We have heard them give the most detailed explanations for the most obscure phenomena, contradicting a wide variety of dealership and garage reports, only to have the caller call back next week only to say, "You were absolutely right. The dealership fibbed and that "weep, weep" sound was the smokeshifter attachment, just as you said."

All right, lets not praise the fellows too much, for then they could rightfully demand more money, which would inevitably shunt them off to Sirius Satellite radio.

The point here is that the two guys fielded a call from a guy living in Georgia who wanted to know how to convince his wife not to buy the SUV she had her sights set on. The fellow stated that he hates even the idea of SUVs and so was in need of help.

Now, these guys often get these marital disagreement things, when either the wife or the husband calls for their own particular validation, so this kind of thing is not unusual for the brothers, who respond unfailingly on the side of the real-world issues involving the automobile, rather than the relationship.

To our astonishment, both brothers agreed with the man from Georgia, in that SUVs are and always have been bad ideas. Not for their poor gas mileage, as one would have thought. Their opinion is that the high undercarriage obscures line of sight for everyone else. Which has resulted in the phenomenon of people buying SUVs simply to be able to see when they drive, whether an SUV is appropriate or not for their situation. When everyone is driving SUVs, which is becoming a reality now, the advantage of superior weight in a crash is totally negated and in fact becomes a liability, for now the crash numbers become factors of the combined weights of both vehicals.

In addition, the Tappet brothers noted that SUVs promote bad driving, with inattention and courtesy failures becoming more common. A look at mortality figures confirms their assertion. Over half of all fatalities for the past three years involved drivers of the "light truck and SUV" category. Of 48,000 traffic deaths last year, for example, well over 24,000 fell into this category with all the rest divided up among the vast number of other vehicles on the road, including motorcycles, pedestrians, mopeds, mini-vans, sedans, sportscars, half-tracks, ATVs, hybrids, luxury cars, buses, subcompacts, station wagons, and everything besides.

You say you drive an SUV because you think it is safer? NO, ITS NOT! YOU ARE ROLLING THE DICE YOU ASSHOLE! And you are making life more difficult for the rest of us.

As a personal observation, please note that we typically may drive well over 4,000 miles per month just getting to work sites distributed anywhere from San Jose to Santa Rosa. We see serious accidents all the time on the 101 corridor. Guess what the vast majority of these vehicals happen to be: SUVs. You see, the height of the vehical typically results in worse instability than a motorcyle under severe conditions. Added to this is the fact that the body is almost always independent of the suspension so as to create a "comfortable ride". Well, Caddilacs are made this way, but the Caddy is built low to the ground. Under severe braking, the upper cabin of an SUV begins to occillate wildly from side to side causing the undercarriage to adapte by countersteering. The effects can be seen by the fifty-yard skid marks which always have a snake's trail look to them. While rollovers are common among this vehicle type, even more common is the total loss of control due to this shaking in which no change of steering will help.

And of course, because SUV drivers feel they have purchased security in the form of a tank-like vehical, they become inattentive to basic precautions. Let me tell you, nothing is sadder than seeing the starred windshield of an otherwise intact SUV as the EMTs strap up the body of a small child that has flown with projective force against that glass. Its one of the few instances when a battle-scarred EMT can tear up. I have known a few and believe me, this is true.

I say, ban the SUV. Get rid of them. They have outlived their usefulness; heck, they were never useful to begin with. Nobody needs 300 HP to drive 2 miles to the market to pickup milk and eggs. We are already fighting wars over oil supplies. There is no god damned reason that anyone should be driving a vehical that pretends to get anything less than 40 miles per gallon and that is just a start. These 12 miles per gallon monstrosities must be destroyed ASAP and their owners punished.


Another week starting up and the Sunday Night Jam cranking up with the usual suspects and assorted mayhem arranged by Mike Powers. It's been a quiet week on the Island. Karen Jinete laid out a bed of cedar chips a while ago and it does appear some green shoots are firing up there from the bed. The Peru beans are flowering and some eruptions appear to be happening in the weed fest that also houses the freesia bulbs. Yes, something seems to be going on down there.

The final holdouts are recovering from the flu which has knocked all of us flat at various times. Rumor has it Pittsburg Steelers robbed Seattle at the Pooper Soul. Well, if Oaktown didn't go, it was not much important anyhoo.

This weekend saw the sun emerge for the first time in eight days and all the joggers were out enjoying the mild weather. Note that various holes in the yard mark where the ground squirrels have come to retrieve their in-between hibernation snacks. Hear that granddaddy racoon has been rifling the leftovers for the cats way across the island. In other parts of the country, we hear lower than usual snow pack reports. No word as yet from the ski slopes here, but all this wet stuff has to have made some difference up there where they found Leo Mustonen. This night, all is silent across the island. A wind kicked up around dusk but it is all still now.

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

FEBRUARY 12, 2006


Tuesday is the candied day of hearts and flowers, but many took the balmy weather and clear skies this weekend as an opportunity to engage in fol de rol and welcome spring. Where other parts of the country just enjoyed crushing blizzards, with New York taking 24 inches of powder in as many hours, here the sun shone merrily on bathers out by the Strand. Knots of people could be seen fifty yards out standing on the broad shallow "shelf" that edges the beach here. Blades of green are firing up through neighbor Karen's mulch, the Peru beans are flowering and freesias have started to erupt in yellow explosions in competition with the clambering jasmine along the old fence. Something is definitely going on down there.

Forget that East Coaster, Puxatawney Phil, who saw his shadow recently and rushed back into his burrow. Out here, we are sick of precipitation and wet winds.

I have to admit we've wanted to use the above image for years. Get set for a real BIG issue this week with tons of stuff. Lots of news and reviews and all sorts of nervous jumping up and down, because, you must know, we do it all for Love. Yes, dear Reader, we do it all for love of you. It's not like Blogs are cash cows, guy.

Etienne de Rocher is doing Cafe du Nord Tuesday. De Rocher has a nice little ditty called "Bamo Bino Goodbye" which has been on heavy rotation with Mike Powers, and is kind of a stud-muffin. The Great American Music Hall will have Live 105 hosting The Lovemakers, who will move across town to Slims for a gig the following night. Heard Bob Montana played there Saturday, but have not heard anything else about how it went. This year's version of My Sucky Valentine happens at the 540 Club at 540 Clement where the sour and broken hearted will gather for an evening of tattoo art making the loud statement "Love Sucks".

Derek Trucks was in town at the INdependent. News has it he has accepted a gig to work with Eric Clapton and this is a done deal.

And no comments from any of you about Wednesday being "hump day."

In related news we have snippits of a guaranteed blockbuster hit scheduled to be outed this summer titled "Broke Butt Mountain", which concerns the forbidden love between two Texan cowboys. A fragment was broadcast on this week's Prarie Home Companion from Morris, MN.

GEORGE: Ah, come stand a little closer. You don't hafta be on the other side of the desk that way.
DICK: You know, ever since we discovered this about ourselves, I have felt such feelin's. Some days, my heart feels so . . . flighty.
GEORGE: I love it when you hold my hand, Dick. Ever since the first Inauguration its been quite a ride . . .".
DICK: But we cannot show our feelin's for one another. It's so unfair!
GEORGE: I know Dick. But you know as well as I do we must stay the course. . . .

Broke Butt Mountain, a tender love story about two cowboys from Texas, trying to conceal their feelings for one another while still trying to rule the Free World. You know some things will just never turn out happily. In theatres near you.

All right, that's enough love now.


Must be the Flaming Lips coming to play in the Bimbos 365 Club March 27th. Underneath we have a lot of local news snippits. Well, its a small town, so is the news.


Got an item over the wire on Friday morning which is another one of those "there is a lot more to this story" kinds of things. Alameda County Sheriff's office responded to a call at 1:40 a.m. in which a man claimed that his wife had become suicidal and was in possession of a shotgun.

The officers found the distraught husband outside his Hayward home on Meekland Avenue. The man told them that the woman had several firearms at her disposal, including "many high-powered rifles." As the officers arrive, the woman discharged one of the guns, effectively putting everyone at bay for several hours. Officials eventually contacted her via telephone when she refused to come out of the house.

The Special Response Team and Crisis Intervention Unit failed to convince the woman to exit the home, who threatened to shoot anyone who came to the door. "Chemical agents" were employed to disable her and the Tac Squad entered to arrest the woman and confiscate several guns sometime after nine in the morning.

Five neighboring families, evacuated during this episode, were allowed then to return.

We just want to know that this couple never had any kids.


Legacy Partners is in escrow to buy the sprawling Marina Village in Alameda from Vintage Properties for a reported $191 million - considered an "aggressive price" by brokers. Closing date is this month.

Cornish & Carey Commercial/Oncor International is handling the deal for Vintage Properties, which has owned the 205-acre park since 1977. Cornish & Carey brokers would not comment on the deal.

Legacy Partners, based in Foster City, has developed and owned both commercial and residential real estate for nearly 40 years. Its portfolio, currently valued at $4.7 billion, includes the 10-acre Regatta Business Center in Richmond. Legacy has owned property in Alameda in the past, so the company knows the market.

Yet the 1.2 million-square-foot Marina Village is struggling with a vacancy rate of nearly 30 percent - the highest for any market in the East Bay, along with Richmond. Clearly Legacy Partners views the high rate as an opportunity, rather than a problem, according to sources in the brokerage community.

The property consists of the Marina Village mini-shopping center with an Albertsons and a large Lucky's anchoring the prime spots, as well as an industrial park supporting dozens of single-level buildings which have supported a variety of dot-com and standard businesses.

"Given the vacancy, the purchase price suggests that the new owner intends to compete and attract tenants with rental rates that are competitive with downtown Oakland," said Michael Speers, an investment broker with NAI BT Commercial.


The latest big news is that Albertsons, no doubt pressured locally by the recent massive expansion of Safeway, the new Trader Joes, the existence of a second Albertsons at Marina Village, and the planned construction of yet another grocery store in the long disputed mini-mall over by Blanding, has decided to cut and run.

Southshore Mall, now renamed Towne Centre (spelled just like that, kid you not) is going through a number of upscaling changes involving some heavy construction all along the side fronting the main drag there on Otis. The next big change will be the tripling of the size of the existing Walgreens into the area that once was inhabited by the only gas station down at this end of the Island.


After the sequence of fatalities out at the Grand Street boat landing, City Officials finally got around to placing barricades across the street there. CHP is coming in to aid with an investigation as to just why people keep dying out there. In the latest case, a Dr. Zehra Attari went missing for weeks until somebody thought to look for her Camry on the bottom of the estuary. In another case, a couple of construction workers went missing, also for weeks, when their car was found some 100 feet out in the middle, indicated it had left the landing at a very high rate of speed . Previously, there was a blinking red light and a sign saying "End" to warn people that Grand Street was indeed physically ending. Relatives and friends of the much beloved Dr. Attari are pushing the investigation.


Some of you living in other parts of the world might not get Pete Stark's 2006 Congressional Survey Results. Rep. Stark handles our neck of the woods in the House of Representatives, and he is marked by a strong committment to getting out to listen to every constituent who has a desire to speak his or her mind. Part of this process is an annual poll of the electorate in his district and the results can be found at, and below.

Should the US withdraw our troops from Iraq?

44% YES, but gradually, with a firm date of completion
31% YES, start immediately
25% NO, not until we have a stable democracy in Iraq

Do you feel the US is safer as a result of the Patriot Act?

70% NO
30% YES

Do you think guest workers should be able to earn citizenship through programs now being debated in Congress?

50% YES
50% NO

If you are a beneficiary (of Medicare) have you enrolled in a new Medicare drug plan?

19% NO
6% YES
75% Not Applicable (i.e., beneficiary not taking RX)

If you did not sign up, why?

41% Have RX coverage through former or current employer
38% Other
11% Array of choices too confusing
10% Benefit not worth the cost

Do you support the following Constitutional Amendment(s)?

Guarantee right to health care
76% YES
24% NO

Prohibit gay marriage
68% NO
32% YES

Guarantee a woman's right to choose (abortion)
81% YES
19% NO

Abolish the electoral college
69% YES
31% NO

Prohibit flag burning
57% YES
43% NO

Guarantee the right to vote (at present states can conditionally revoke this right)
90% YES
10% NO

What's the best way to handle the alarming energy situation?

49% Invest in alternative sources
27% Reqire higher MPG standards for all cars
13% Invest in more nuclear energy power plants
11% Open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Those are the numbers from a basically moderately liberal to conservative district in California. This area does not include Berkeley or any areas considered to be extreme by conservatives or liberals.

You can email Rep. Stark at or you can call his office at 510-494-1388.


(The above caption is from the late Chris Whitely's "War Crime Blues".)

Things are about to get very interesting here on our little Island, for a unanimous collection of presenters convinced the Council to place for discussion at the next meeting regarding a "resolution calling upon steps to withdraw our Reservists, Coast Guard Units and members of the California National Guard troops from Iraq". Councilmember Matarrese presented the resolution. Island-life and staff attended this meeting which went well past 11:00 pm (beginning at 7:30pm), and we must say we were very impressed with the conduct of the council members during what is for most cities a rather mundane and pro forma procedure that seldom extends into the next day. After all, a previous meeting of the Council had occured at 5:30, virtually ensuring that not a single member of the Council got a meal break, or a break of any king, from noon until adjournment.

We would advise just about any American residing in any incorporated section to attend at least once a meeting like this, for the attendee may be quite enlightened as to how serious the elected officials happen to be. And just what they must go through just to do their jobs.

That is another discussion. We attended as part of a Code Pink effort to generally convince local governments to pull back resources dedicated to this horrendous war. All over the country, groups of people have come into astonished City Council meetings to request initiatives and referendums asking that the locally-based forces of the National Guard and Reserve be returned to do the jobs they were trained to do, with particular attention paid to the way that the absence of Reserve and NG units, as well as their equipment, caused untold suffering in the Gulf Coast disaster areas. This is a never-before-seen effort of historic significance, for these units are supposed to be present here for fighting fires, shoring levees, and otherwise defending the homefront, not squandered on foreign soil as they are now.

Councilmember Matarrese commented that we have the Hayward fault as a general certainty and the ballooning deficit, already causing pain here, as another and succinctly connected the deficit to the exhorbitant costs of the war. We had just spent four hours debating how to fix the streets by delving into savings reserved for disaster at the dire warnings of the City Auditor. And this city is better off than most.

The Island has particular interest in this area, as we reside within Severe Damage Zone of the Anytime Expected Hayward Fault Zone. This means, we expect anytime within our lifetimes a severe earthquake that will result in total disruption of ALL TRANSIT and ALL TELECOMMUNICATIONS. In addition, we have within view the Port of Oakland, the third largest port in the world. Definitely a target for terrorists. And where is the Coast Guard? Sent to Iraq to demine the harbors there.

And over all this, the terrible images of an abandoned New Orleans with bodies left to rot in the streets for lack of efforts.

Come to us next month -- we will report the date when known -- for an historic meeting and an expected vigorous and impassioned debate in what has been called "the most average town in America". You will be able to tell your grandchildren you were there with pride.


Well, its been a quiet week on the Island. Buds are popping up through the mulch and pale joggers have been seen along the Crab Cove indent. Sunday saw a spectacular sunrise over the area, with streaks of gold, green, blue and crimson on the horizon. It does feel that we have passed through a difficult season. No report from the mountains as yet regarding icepack, but would expect that the late start resulted in low levels again. Right now the entire Island sleeps. The lady upstairs, practicing for a dance instructorship level III moves at fits and starts. Must be a tango she is doing now. Have to imagine a person spending most of their life practicing a set of movements intended for two people entirely alone.

Modern life is certainly very strange. Or perhaps its only writers who notice these things. Rachel has been industriously working for her Instructor License -- must be much like becoming a doctor -- some two years now and we expect she started long before. Yet never has anyone ascended the stairs to complement her Ginger Rogers. Night after night we hear the lonely sound of a single path of footsteps passing from side to side, up and down. Well, Rachel, we would expect an Astair worthy of merit is out there, soon to sweep you up and go dancing in one gorgeous movement along the walls and the ceiling. And what a movement that will be!

Downstairs, our neighbor Rex works the bridges by day and by night works the soundboard for his music under the name Rex Suru. He and his band have performed at the Independent in Babylon and he knows and has worked with members of Micheal Franti's Burning Spear. There is a strong feeling of "about to be" from Rex's music, and we suspect that there is something going on here about Rachal's dance. This is quite exciting to be around for this budding is as energetic as the entire power of spring, "the green fuse that drives the flower". Our little Island is a place, in the time being, of bulbs nestling in the dark earth, of young shoots firing upwards. And the patient gardener will be well rewarded for the waiting and the watching.

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

Oh, you might wonder about the various musical references during this issue. They are from a little-known song by a singer by the name of "Meatloaf". Yes, go figure. The name of the song is "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" and you can download it from Youtube. It runs some 6.4 minutes long.

Next week, we display corresponding cartoons from Arabic newspapers which were printed before the current world crisis precipitated by cartoons printed in Denmark. Your eyes will open.

I. Paradise

I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night

And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we're glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
C'mon! Hold on tight!
C'mon! Hold on tight!

Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night
I can see paradise by the dashboard light

Ain't no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed
Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed

Ain't no doubt about it
Baby got to go and shout it
Ain't no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed

Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed

Baby doncha hear my heart
You got it drowning out the radio
I've been waiting so long
For you to come along and have some fun

And I gotta let ya know
No you're never gonna regret it
So open up your eyes I got a big surprise
It'll feel all right
Well I wanna make your motor run

And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we're glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
C'mon! Hold on tight!
C'mon! Hold on tight!

Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night
I can see paradise by the dashboard light
Paradise by the dashboard light

You got to do what you can
And let Mother Nature do the rest
Ain't no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed
Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely--

We're gonna go all the way tonight
We're gonna go allt he way
An tonight's the night...

Radio Broadcast:
Ok, here we go, we got a real pressure cooker
going here, two down, nobody on, no score,
bottom of the ninth, there's the wind-up and
there it is, a line shot up the middle, look
at him go. This boy can really fly!
He's rounding first and really turning it on
now, he's not letting up at all, he's gonna
try for second; the ball is bobbled out in center,
and here comes the throw, and what a throw!
He's gonna slide in head first, here he comes, he's out!
No, wait, safe--safe at second base, this kid really
makes things happen out there.
Batter steps up to the plate, here's the pitch--
he's going, and what a jump he's got, he's trying
for third, here's the throw, it's in the dirt--
safe at third! Holy cow, stolen base!
He's taking a pretty big lead out there, almost
daring him to try and pick him off. The pitcher
glance over, winds up, and it's bunted, bunted
down the third base line, the suicide squeeze in on!
Here he comes, squeeze play, it's gonna be close,
here's the throw, there's the play at the plate,
holy cow, I think he's gonna make it!

II. Let Me Sleep On It

Stop right there!
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further--!

Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?
Do you love me!?
Will you love me forever!?
Do you need me!?
Will you never leave me!?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life!?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife!?
I gotta know right now
Before we go any further
Do you love me!!!?
Will you love me forever!!!?

Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you my answer in the morning

[repeat 2x]

I gotta know right now!
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further
Do you love me?
And will you love me forever?

Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you my answer in the morning
Let me sleep on it!!!

Will you love me forever?

Let me sleep on it!!!

Will you love me forever!!!

III. Praying for the End of Time

I couldn't take it any longer
Lord I was crazed
And when the feeling came upon me
Like a tidal wave
I started swearing to my god and on my mother's grave
That I would love you to the end of time
I swore that I would love you to the end of time!

So now I'm praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive
Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don't think that I can really survive
I'll never break my promise or forget my vow
But God only knows what I can do right now
I'm praying for the end of time
It's all that I can do
Praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you!!!

It was long ago and it was far away
and it was so much better than it is today

It never felt so good
It never felt so right
And we were glowing like
A metal on the edge of a knife

FEBRUARY 19, 2006


As noted previously, the City council voted to include discussion regarding a resolution to formally request the return of the National Guard and the Coast guard to their home duties in the US from their Iraq service after a series of moving and quite articulate speeches by several citizens. We herewith reprint the text of one of the speeches delivered last Tuesday at the City Council meeting.

Mayor Johnson, Council Members:

I want to speak in favor of the motion placed before you by Council Member Matarresse. I will be focusing on the part of the motion supporting California AJR 36 (Hancock) which calls for the immediate withdrawal of the California National Guard.

Some will argue that the City Council is not the appropriate place to be discussing the Iraq War and the redeployment of the National Guard. But is that true?

According to a February 4th article in the UK Guardian the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has reached $440 billion. That outlay is almost equal to the amount spent on the 13 year war in Vietnam. (1)

How do such expenditures and their related Federal deficits impact Alameda?

Let's take a look at one very significant impact for Alameda, the conversion of the Naval Air Station. The transfer of base ownership has been bogged down in discussions with the Department of Defense over the cleanup cost of the contamination in the soil left by jet fuel and other chemical pollutants. The Department of Defense says it has has limited funds to undertake the cleanup. But until that cleanup is done, the City will have great difficulty in using the base for for new businesses and housing.

We live in a region and State which has experienced major earthquake and fire disasters. One need only look to Hurricane Katrina to see the risk we face with the deployment of the National Guard and financial resources to Iraq.

First finances. Despite repeated warnings from the New Orleans Project Manager of the Army Corps of Engineer, Alfred Naomi, the Bush Administration and Republican Congress kept cutting funding needed to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations. (2) We now know the result of those cuts.

Second, the deployment of the Louisiana National Guard. One reason that thousands of people were stranded without food or water was that 35% of the Louisiana National Guard, some 6,000 Guard members, were not available to deal with the aftermath of Katrina. (2)

It wasn't just the lack of personnel, but also the deployment of equipment. Early in August the Louisiana National Guard publicly complained that too much of its equipment, including dozens of high water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators, were abroad. (2)

The National Guard was not intended to be an Army overseas operational force. Its historic role has been as a strategic reserve primarily available to governors for disasters and other duties in their home states.

The Guard has done its job ably in Iraq. They should be brought home to fulfill their historic role in protecting the people of California and the United States.

Carl Halpern Alameda, California

(1) February 4, 2006 by the Guardian/UK , Cost of Wars Soars to $440 Billion for US,

(2) September 2, 2005 Katrina Compounded, Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive,"

The product of all this eloquence is the proposed City Resolution submitted by member Frank Matarrese. You can download and read a copy of the resolution here.


(right click and "save as". File requires Adobe Acrobat)

As Councilman Tony Daysog said, "We are in the middle of the road here. I think what the Island has to say carries more weight than [left leaning] Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, or Berkeley."

Chuck Corica passed away a week ago Saturday. He was the proponent for the Slow-growth initiative Measure A. He served two consecutive terms, then came back for two more after serving as council member, making him the longest serving Mayor in Island history. At the Council meeting he was memorialized with Coretta king in a moment of silence. All week the flags hung extra low to commemorate the passing of both people.


In a reflection of what is happening here, referendums are being submitted all over the country, including the Heartland.

Jill Bussiere helped organize a petition drive that resulted in a referendum on Iraq being put on the ballot during Kewaunee, WI's upcoming spring election. It asks whether the city's leaders should urge the U.S. to begin an immediate withdrawal of its troops, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves.

"Is it ever practical to try and stop a war?" asked Bussiere, 51. "But isn't it the right thing to do? Isn't it our duty?"

Kewaunee, a city of 3,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan, is one of 22 cities, villages and towns in Wisconsin that have an Iraq referendum on their April 4 ballots - elections usually dominated by local races for mayors, city councils and school boards. Fifty troops from Wisconsin have died in Iraq since the invasion nearly three years ago.

The effort in Wisconsin - in tiny villages like Frederic and Ephraim and the larger cities of Madison and La Crosse - is designed to influence later races for Congress, said coordinator Steve Burns at the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice in Madison.

Organizers, mostly associated with Wisconsin's Green Party, gathered enough signatures on petitions to put the issue before voters. Supporters do not expect to get the attention of President Bush, who has rejected calls for a troop withdrawal date.

"The plan is to win these referendums in diverse areas of the state so they are not just coming from liberal Madison," said Burns, a Green Party activist. "We all remember the 2004 presidential election when they spent more time talking about the Vietnam War than they did talking about the Iraq war. We don't want that to happen again."

City councils in other communities around the nation have approved measures opposing the war or calling for troops to come home.

Harlem Township in northern Illinois authorized a Nov. 1 troop withdrawal question for the March 21 ballot. In Burlington, Vt., anti-war activists gathered enough signatures on petitions to ask voters to urge the city to work to prevent overseas deployments of the Vermont Air National Guard. Last March, at dozens of annual town meetings in Vermont, communities voted on the war, mostly backing resolutions critical of it.

Seven of the Wisconsin votes are scheduled in the northeastern part of the state, in Kewaunee and Door counties. Bush won both in his re-election.

In La Crosse, a divided city council forwarded the issue to the ballot, but also voted 13-3 to oppose immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Tom Sweeney, a town alderman, said the referendum was misguided.

In Watertown, troops who served in Iraq told city council they opposed putting the issue on the ballot and spoke passionately about how their work was important. The council ultimately decided the issue wasn't proper, but a judge later ordered it to put the measure on the ballot or adopt it. The referendum will appear on the April 4 ballot.


Do unto others does not apply. We found a fellow who has done an enterprising job of surveying Arabic newspapers published in countries surrounding Israel to see if those people practice what they preach regarding cultural and religious sensitivity. After all, one can well imagine how a feller feels when his beloved Prophet is mocked with something so debased as a cartoon. So, lets see what the other side has been doing. For quite some time, it appears. Please skip this section if you are Jewish and/or easily offended. The following material is definitively offensive.

From Saudi Arabia's premier newspaper we have this little "inoffensive" workup of the Star of David. Nobody burned down a kefir shop for this one.

From Qatar's major daily we have this combo of text and image. The word in Arabic is "Terror".

Jordan manages to slam not one, but two religions with there compact little effort. The text refers to a political party as represented by the human figure.

Also from Qatar, we have the Jew, drawn pretty much in standard form for Arabic papers, pointing to Syria.

Lastly, we have Oman represented with this effort showing the Jew breaking his fast on a drumstick labeled "Palestine"

We don't have any Iranian images, but have been told they easily overtop with pure hatred, insult, and disrespect all of these put together. And of course we have the Iranian head of state stating that Israel should be wiped off the map and that the Holocaust was a myth.

You can find these and more, as well as the originals of the Prophet, from a site located in the conveniently embassy-free country of New Zealand. Which has neither a pastry named after itself, nor a fast food franchise to loot and burn down. This site has a number of very insulting cartoons from Arabic papers, and any one of them easily exceeds the Prophet images in offense.

Well, it was a X-ian fellow who did say something along the lines of "Let you who is without sin cast the first stone." Can you say "hypocrites"? I knew you could.


Comics have been having a field day with all of the material referring to Vice President Dick Cheney's accidental weekend shooting in Texas of a hunting companion. Here are a few of the jokes.

"Late Show with David Letterman," CBS

-- "We can't get Bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney."

-- "But here is the sad part -- before the trip Donald Rumsfeld had denied the guy's request for body armor."

-- "The guy who got gunned down, he is a Republican lawyer and a big Republican donor and fortunately the buck shot was deflected by wads of laundered cash. So he's fine. He took a little in the wallet."

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," NBC

-- "Although it is beautiful here in California, the weather back East has been atrocious. There was so much snow in Washington, D.C., Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fat guy thinking it was a polar bear."

-- "That's the big story over the weekend. ... Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter, a 78-year-old lawyer. In fact, when people found out he shot a lawyer, his popularity is now at 92 percent."

-- "I think Cheney is starting to lose it. After he shot the guy he screamed, 'Anyone else want to call domestic wire tapping illegal?' "

-- "Dick Cheney is capitalizing on this for Valentine's Day. It's the new Dick Cheney cologne. It's called Duck!"

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Comedy Central

-- The show's segment titles included "Cheney's Got a Gun," "No. 2 With a Bullet" and "Dead-Eye Dick."

-- "Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a man during a quail hunt ... making 78-year-old Harry Whittington the first person shot by a sitting veep since Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, of course, (was) shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington? Mistaken for a bird."

-- "Now, this story certainly has its humorous aspects. ... But it also raises a serious issue, one which I feel very strongly about. ... Moms, dads, if you're watching right now, I can't emphasize this enough: Do not let your kids go on hunting trips with the vice president. I don't care what kind of lucrative contracts they're trying to land, or energy regulations they're trying to get lifted -- it's just not worth it."

"Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," CBS

-- "He is a lawyer and he got shot in the face. But he's a lawyer, he can use his other face. He'll be all right."

-- "You can understand why this lawyer fellow let his guard down, because if you're out hunting with a politician, you think, 'If I'm going to get it, it's going to be in the back.' "

-- "The big scandal apparently is that they didn't release the news for 18 hours. I don't think that's a scandal at all. I'm quite pleased about that. Finally there's a secret the vice president's office can keep."

-- "Apparently the reason they didn't release the information right away is they said we had to get the facts right. That's never stopped them in the past."

"Prarie Home Companion", PBS (broadcast from Milwaukee)

-- "It's just that Whittington got so excited when he saw a quail he started jumping up and down. And then he started flapping his arms like wings."

-- "It is quite clear, in retrospect, that with all the concern and fuss over Dick Cheney's heart, everybody forgot to perform an eye exam. . .".

-- "Yes, this past week has provided us with a great source of humor. Dick Cheney finally has made everyone in America feel good. Thank you Mr. Cheney."

-- "The whole thing is inherently quite funny. Just the idea of two grown men shooting birds is funny, and as for quail, the bird is funny too. It's not like little boys shooting sparrows; grown men don't do that . . . . But its made even funnier by the fact of who it happened to; Dick Cheney is such a pill. Really! He is always so righteous and stuffy and . . . ". [audience laughter breaks up the monologue]


Remember Steely Dan, the band that so hated the music hype of music magazines, they would only grant interviews solely to savage the journalist conducting the interview? Donald Fagen, number two of that duo, is starting off his tour with a new band right here in Oaktown at the Paramount on March 28. Fagan, freed of the arch self consciousness and sneering attitude that so ruined the jazzy Steely Dan for many folks tends to write intelligently and well and is one of those rarities who can pen lyrics while originating fairly sophisticated orchestration thankfully devoid of bombast or stupid "Oops! I did it again" artificial engenuity.

No, they are not dead. Perhaps they should be. They are returning to the HP pavilion in April, the one and only Aerosmith. If that is not enough crunch and metal and flaming glam for you, Cheap Trick, also quite loud and raucous -- and old -- will be guest appearing. Was 1980 that long ago?

Over at the Warfield, the main attraction is sure to be Chrissy Hynde, the woman who made it all possible for a legion of tough as nails rocker chicks to take the stage. The Pretenders will dominate the skyline March 30.

The venerable Fillmore has some nice lineups. Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park will have his little side project Fort Minor hold forth this coming Tuesday. The unpredictable and jaunty Keller Williams takes the coveted Saturday slot. March 3, a Friday, we would direct your attention to the sonic surprises of Victor Wooten. He belongs to an assortment of Up and Comings now flying in under the radar of most radio stations with dense orchestrations, jazzy licks and brand new stuff you have never heard before.

Surely you have heard of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They play as rough and tumble as their name, derived from a fictional MC club in a Brando pic. Dragging their amps out of the New Orleans mud, Toots and the Maytals bring a bit of culture to the Fillmore on March 23.

Another chanteuse flying in under the radar is chanteuse Beth Orton on March 25. Yes, she has stunning looks, but this one has talent. She can play and compose. No "Oops! I did it again!" for this gal.

The SF jazz festival begins March 17. Keith Jarrett will perform solo for the first time in over ten years and that is something you do not want to miss. He'll be at the War Memorial Opera House. Seven-time grammy winner saxman David Sanborn will be partnered with Chris Botti. Ellis Marsalis, also a Katrina survivor, is lined up ahead of Irwin Hayfield who will front the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Mayfield is most know for his work with Los Hombres Calientes and their tour through the Caribbean, including Cuba. There is so much for this festival, you must check out WWW.SFJAZZ.ORG for more info.

Next Saturday, February 25th, the Ragga Muffins Festival kicks off at the Bill Graham Civic with Michael Franti headlining a long list of distinguished reggae and world beat acts.

March 11, Alison Krause installs her Union Station at the Nob Hill Masonic, which is as good a venue as any for her distinguished banjo sound. The nervy gal who abandoned pop rock for roots folk has come a long way; certainly more than 500 miles today. Lets just say that on one side there is traditional bluegrass banjo music with its hundred years of history and thousands of musicians. On the other side, of equal weight, there is Alison Kraus. There is no one like her out there and it will be a long time before another one appears.


From the pleasant tingling of anticipated spring, California -- and the rest of the Country along with it -- has taken up a waltz with Old Man Winter. Friday night onwards the temps have dropped to warnings of snow in the Valley and on the winding curves of Grizzley Peak. Reports have it that a light dusting of snow happened up on the hills Saturday night.

Understand that the rest of the country is having quite a time of it as well with cars and trucks sliding off roads, massive power outages, and general cold misery. Was chatting with Senor Caballo, of El Caballo, who commented we were lucky to live in California. He and his Significant Other recently made a visit to Mexico City. Said they couldn't wait to get back.


Have to say that to be a woman who has originated a benchmark and signifier for the truly awful and everything that is bad about pop music, must be a stressful experience. Unless you really are such an addle-brained nincompoop making tons of money with pure schlock you just have not a single clue. Heck, they even have glittery award events in fancy hotels for porn stars, so we suppose there will always be a place for the unconcerned and the unaware.

For those who would say Brittany Spears presents positive images of the strong effective woman, we would kindly direct their attentions to Gwen Stefani, who at least is intelligent, Madonna, who at least has talent, and Chrissie Hynde, who has genuine guts as well as a decent value set.


Well it's been a quiet week on the Island. Lately everybody has been grumpy and in a bad mood with the weather going nuts, the packs of marauding out-of-control Moslems, bad helicopter accidents at sea, with practically the only bright spot occurring in the form of Vice President Dick Cheney shooting a 78 year old attorney. Well, even though he is a Republican, we are sincerely glad Mr. Whittington is on the mend and will not die of his wounds.

Sorry to say this issue is not very cheerful. Sympathy for a Republican even! Lost and bereft we wander the darkness of the media in this atavistic time of brutality and savage indifference, wailing and gnashing of teeth, wearing sackcloth and pouring ashes upon the head. Oh where is Opus when we need a penguin most?!

All day the trains hooted through Square across the estuary, with their distinctive ululating wail. Now night has fallen and mingled with those sounds comes the steady horn of the distant East Brother Lighthouse up at Point Richmond. And the answering fog horns of the tankers feeding the fourth largest port in the United States. In terms of container freight weight. In terms of acreage the Port is third largest in the world with the tallest crane overall recently delivered and now operational. No surprise it makes some noise.

Always wanted to be someone like Garrison Keillor. You know. Avuncular, friendly, Lutheran, full of homespun wisdom, with a sonorous voice that people really listened too. He impresses one as the guy you really want to have living on the other side of the hedge. Loan your tools to and, by George, they come back cleaner and freshly oiled. If your daughter really insists on getting married, its his son you want to be the man, for the issue must be as good as the press and the apple falls not far from the tree.

Instead, we turned out older but not wiser, grumpy and not friendly, an uncle but with no urchins paying due respect, and with a voice that causes bats and small animals to flee in terror and to which nobody really listens for our utterances turn out to be mad ramblings of a disconnected brain. Certainly not the daughters, who have hooked up with the worst of Van Halen fans driving pickup trucks. Furthermore we have no radio show. Only this little E-zine.

As for being Lutheran, the Lutherans hereabouts are a bit funny, with the exception of Pastor Svenquist who does his damnedest to reign in an unruly and wayward flock. We want to ask him just how he got the most beautiful women into his congregation and what does this have to do with acquiring, um, more converts. Perhaps he gets them from Minnesota.

Incidentally, he and Father Morales are still good friends following the recent Faith Based Initiative debacle in which the Lutherans, the Catholics, the Muslims, the Rabbi, and the Baptists (of both types) attempted to missionize the saloons.

The Imam of the mosque here still plays mumblety-peg with the Rabbi on alternate Fridays, for let it be known, left to their own devices, Moslems are the kindest and gentlest people in the world and eager to reach forward in friendship and the Rabbi is quite broadminded. This is the Bay Area after all.

Nevertheless, oh for a Bloom County daisy patch into which to plotz in this time!

Oh dear, just over the wire we have a terrible reminder of age. The news item appears innocuous enough, but its all about a gal named Isabel Zaporah teaching women how to dance with hula hoops. No, its not the hoops. Its the name "Zaporah" Way, way back we had some connections with dance troupes in the Old Babylon and one of those was a contact improv group headed by Ruth Zaporah. Now, some twenty years later her daughter is running these hula-hoop classes as a positive response to the locked-out poi dancer classes directed to Burning Man.

Ruth started this improv thing among dancers and it caught hold in a big way about twenty years ago. She used to hang out wearing this red rust danskin onepiece under a tangle of curls. Lost track of her sometime during the Bush I regime.

The classes are locked out because they are over subscribed. Not everybody can swing the logistics and insurance to teach classes in how to dance with twirling balls of fire in the manner we have described in this space at Crucible events.

She must be twenty-something nowadays. Her daughter, not Ruth. How time passes.

There goes the midnight train through the Jack London waterfront. Echoing long across the water. No more foghorns this time of night on a Sunday. Just the long wail of the midnight train down through the ages and the long loups of time. As those trains have done ever since the western terminus of the trans-America rail wound up here for a time until the formal terminus could be completed in Oaktown.

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

FEBRUARY 26, 2006


Authorities issued renewed warnings to Alameda parents Friday that a middle-aged, balding white man has used promises of candy, narcotics and a ride to San Francisco in an attempt to lure at least six youths into his car in separate incidents this week.

Lt. Mark Landis said the man is driving a distinctive Chevette with tinted windows and a circular sticker in the back window. All four kids have noted the sticker.

Meanwhile, Lt. David Boersma said the man tried to lure two high school-age girls into his car near the Burger King at the intersection of Otis Drive and South Shore Center Way at the Alameda Town Centre shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Lt. Boersma said that's the same area where a man asked a 13-year-old boy in front of an Albertson's supermarket at 2300 South Shore Center Way to get into his car at about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Another incident occurred later Tuesday afternoon in front of a Longs Drugs store at 885 Island Drive when a man tried to get an 11-year-old girl into his car by mouthing something at her and holding out candy.

This is an artist's rendition of the suspect.


The City Council voted last Tuesday by a narrow margin not to endorse the proposal from Councilmember Frank Matarrese to request return of the reservists and Coast Guard from Iraq, largely on the basis that the resolution concerning national policy was inappropriate for a municipal entity to pursue, regardless of intent.

Frank Matarrese said keeping the California National Guard in Iraq puts people here at risk because the troops wouldn't be available for emergency relief if a disaster strikes.

Almost all of the 23 public speakers supported the resolution, including an Iraqi veteran and the mother of a soldier who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Oakland's Grand Lake Theatre owner Allen Michaan said the Bush Administration's decision to extend the National Guard's tours in Iraq was an "abomination" because the troops primary job is to protect the state's residents.

"This is a disgrace," he said. "This is one of the worst things I've ever seen our government do to our people." He further accused the White House administration of leading the country "down a slippery slope into fascism."

Vice Mayor Marie Gilmore said she was uncomfortable that the resolution called for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq, instead of just the National Guard.

Councilman Tony Daysog said its references to congressional and state assembly resolutions smacked of partisan politics.

Councilman Doug deHaan said he did not think as a local elected official he should get involved with national issues.

And Mayor Beverly Johnson said she was not sure most people in the city would want the council weighing in on the war in Iraq.

"Federal money spent on the war means the city will receive less for redeveloping Alameda Point or for local subsidized housing programs . . . I believe that's our justification as a council for looking at this," Matarrese said.

Daysog offered an alternative resolution to Matarrese's. It expressed appreciation for the armed services, called for prayers for the "safe and speedy return" of troops and offered sympathy to the families of those killed.

It failed, too -- Matarrese and the mayor said Daysog's proposal did not have any political muscle because it did not demand the federal government do anything.

Matarrese offered a revised resolution, cutting the reference to withdraw all U.S. troops -- leaving reference to just reservists and the guard -- among other changes, but his resolution still failed.

Johnson and deHaan voted no and Daysog abstained. Gilmore and Matarrese voted yes.


In a development that stunned other top county officials, Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer announced Tuesday that he won't seek re-election and will retire next January.

Supervisor Gail Steele said, "This is a total surprise and a shock. I really thought he would stay here."

Steele said Plummer, 75, who has been in law enforcement for 54 years, announced his decision in a letter left in supervisors' mailboxes today and at an emergency services meeting attended by top county and sheriff's officials.

Plummer's letter said he didn't want the county to have to pay for a special election were he to die in office and he doesn't want the Board of Supervisors to pick his replacement.

Steele said Plummer is supporting Sheriff's Cmdr. Greg Ahern, a former Dublin police officer, in this year's election to succeed him as sheriff.

Steele said Plummer, who was elected sheriff in 1986, has been "a huge stable force for the county" and said his retirement "will be a major loss."

Plummer previously had indicated that he would seek a sixth four-year term in this year's election.

The filing deadline for the post is Thursday, but it will now be extended another 10 days because the incumbent isn't seeking re-election.

We recall Plummer as a square-set, pugnacious man with more than enough grit to handle the difficult task of running one of the largest counties in California, containing mountain ranges, large lakes, at least one federal prison, and close to two million people. At budget time, he was known to be quite combative on behalf of his Department during Board meetings, and would typically threaten to remove Sheriff's protection from all the courthouses if planned cutbacks were to be implemented. He also would fiercely protect even non-uniformed staff members if their capacities were in any way questioned.


Congratulations to Toby and Patrick McIntosh of the Second floor in their nuptials, accomplished this gorgeous cloud-free Saturday at St. Joe's Basilica. Island-Life sent its reporter, who was ushered promptly to the seating section reserved for Non-Xians, where the House also was broadly represented with about 10 members and ex-members.

Seems like only yesterday Toby was sitting in the garden in a cloud of Monarchs and Russian Blues, lamenting the quality of her prospects. Then, one day during a garage sale in front, up pops this muscular, handsome fellow, inquiring "Who's the hottie?"

Well, we had several attractive women hanging about that day, but Patrick had his sights set on just one of them. He lived and worked in The City and nobody seems to remember just why he happened to be passing along St. Charles Street behind the hardware store, but the two young folks (twenty-somethings) hit it off immediately. After a period of trans-bay romance, Pat moved into the building with Toby during the Great Apartment Shift of '05. And after proving they could live together, the cautious couple tied the knot.

Toby wore a splendid all-white traditional strapless gown and veil that positively glowed with brilliance as her modestly long train followed her down the aisle. Patrick wore a formal tux with white bowtie. Bare shoulders and simply-elegant, silverish sheaths were the thing for bridesmaids. Former Housemember Julee flew up from SoCal to execute Bridesmaid duties. Other ex-housemembers showed up as well from as far away as Oregon, as well as from Babylon across the Bay.

The lovely Miss Ariel Estebez contributed a stunningly beautiful and well-trained voice as Cantor, with a style reminiscent of Emiliana Torrini. The Procession featured two "young maidens" and two "bachelors" from the families involved.

The "pearls of wisdom" speech delivered by the officiating minister, Fr. Michael Guimon, was promised to be done with "well within about an hour", and featured the theme "The Lunatic, the Poet, and the Lover". It took only 15 minutes, but N.T., nattily dressed in light brown suit, cream shirt and silk tie, drummed his heels and muttered under his breath in the non-Xian section at some of the more sinister religiousity.

"They still haven't apologized for the Inquisition," sniffed N.T. But Rachel kept the boy in line.

The reception was held at the Officer's Club out on the grounds of the old Navy Base. Rachel, who is a professional dance instructor, had been giving the couple lessons for the lead-off dance, for which the pair had selected The Cure's "I will Always Love You."

Both of them are school teachers, with Pat remaining tied to SFUSD and Toby taking care of Alameda County, following in the footsteps of her first father, who teaches here on the Island.


Well its been a quiet week on the Island. Father Morales has been larking off to Harbor Bay to the discussions between the local Padre and the Rabbi there about the state of things in the Middle East. KQED has gotten wind of these discussions and may be sending a film crew down there. No joke. Oh we can be contentious here, but the general tendency is a sort of puzzled attitude of, "well, gosh, just what was the feller thinkin' about doin' that?" We don't have the long ice-bound seasons of Minnesotta to force meditation on the nature of things. We have to take things as they happen. And happen they do, with or without lutefisk.

Karen, from next door, has returned from her Bar exam, and as we have heard no hoopla and whoopdedoo, we would assume that the usual expectation is expected: failure by a point. Let it be known that the tulips have blossomed, however. Frankly, we feel that a successful crop of tulips is a far, far better thing you do, than a paper chase, dubious in its result and unaesthetic in result. If you can put bread upon the table, better that you have tulips than stark candles with no warmth.

But that is personal preference, having observed various tables at sunset. In Ireland, we observed a cold banquet of fine meats but no heart employed or warmth of soul between participants within a mansion of fabulous proportions. In Germany we observed comradeship among equals in an Instandsbesezt of squatters around bowls of soup made from found ingredients in old Berlin. Sometimes we imagine that the best meal we ever experienced was during the Reagan-Bush Depression of the 80's when we had meats stolen from a banquet our housemate served while the snow lay all about against the windowsills outside of Boston when we could not afford the cost of heating oil. Now, that was a feast by candlelight. Luscious meat and potatoes stuffed in the pockets!

Now some say that we experience a new Ice Age. I say, well, let the earth warm or cool as it will. This is nothing new to my people; we have been here before. This is nothing new. Go ahead and be a dinosaur and die screaming against the change of weather.

You who are unused to want, we pity you, for we have spent our entire lives in such a realm. In times of want there is only matter of degree.

Right now the rain is pelting against the windows and there is nothing anybody can do about it.

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

MARCH 5, 2006


Spent the week in Babylon, crossing each day on the ferry before dawn with awking seagulls divebombing the wake and returning in the late hours past the eerie glowing lights of the fourth largest port in the country, and the second largest civilian facility of the name, the great Starwars cranes lifting boxcars from freighters moored in the estuary. Had to go in for what is called CISCO Boot Camp which involves twelve hours each day of converting perfectly understandable numbers, like into things like 10110110.00010000.001010101.000000010. Over and over again.

Its a living.

Anyway, Peewee's big adventure involved weather. Monday, we amble on down to the marvelously refurbished ferry landing, complete with open air iron benches and not a shred of tent in sight to shield expectant passengers from the elements, as was customary at the old and reasonably constructed landing. With the rain sleeting down and wind kicking up a ruckus we took shelter underneath the awning of a building some remove from the dock. A gust came and suddenly all the lights along the Embarcadero went out. Apartments, businesses, restaurants -- everything. Then the great span of the Bay Bridge, not a quarter mile away, with its necklace of lights went dark as well.

Something had just happened.

Eventually, emergency generators kicked in and the lights went on at the bridge as well as most of the Embarcadero, but the Sinbad restaurant stayed dark. When the ferry arrived, a bit late, the crewman climbed out of the hatch and for the first time in forty-eight years, we saw a sailor turn grey.

"Ladies and gentlemen, that was the worst passage i have experienced in all my years on the Service here. I recommend that tonight BART is the preferable alternative. IF we do have another run -- which might not happen -- the captain will change course to hug Angel Island and if he decides the vessel is in peril, we will turn back to San Francisco."

Several people waiting in line on the dock turned around and marched back to land.

After a few moments the passengers debarked and, with wan faces plodded stolidly up the gangway to land with no response to inquiries or jokes.

After another few minutes, the waiting passengers were allowed to board. No one was allowed to the upper decks and all persons were to remain seated for the voyage. The captain would attempt a crossing by skirting Angel Island in a course that bellied far to the north from the usual path.

Inside the lower cabin, water dripped from the forward windows and from various places where the enclosed second deck was supposed to prevent water from coming in. Apparently, on the last run, the catamaran had taken water on all three decks.

We set out and got shaken by several gusts as well as some plunging as on a roller coaster, but experienced nothing of what the previous run had felt. We came around Angel Island and Goat Island to enter the calm estuary with little event and the crewman with the grey face exhaled a long long sigh of relief. Found appliances reset and clocks gone to 00:00 in the Old Abode at home. Because the Island shunts power to Oaktown, and is therefore part of its grid, we experience power outages when switching equipment compensates for PGE failures.

The following day. squalls on the water provided patchy entertainment and ball lightning lit up the towers of San Bruno through swirling clouds of fog and rain.

All week the rain pelted down and snow in the Sierra dropped levels down to 2,000 feet. Snow dusted Grizzley Peak and Mount Tam by various reports.

Where is that damn groundhog so we can murder him?


Friday evening, Strange de Jim and wife called to drag us out to the monthly art Island hoo-doo. Its become a custom that First Fridays be an occasion for art gallerys to strut their stuff and out-do the doo rag do. The winerys out on the Point turned out to be all dark this time, so we trucked on down to Webster to roam through the Island Art Center where the Island Elite drifted about the place noshing on fudge brownies and sipping Two Buck Chuck from plastic cups.

Notable on this run-through was the used of compartmented space in 3D to present 2D images in discretely and regularly isolated elements. Ok, thats a mouthful, which says that a lot of people have taken textured images and broken them up into regularly-sized blocks with clear partitions between them. We first saw this in work done by Strange de JIm himself, who layered paint and copper mesh onto blocks which could be mounted in any order selected upon the display wall. The best example of this was his "Strata".

Now, it seems, everybody is doing the same.

These artists are reflecting general popular concerns about environment as official decisions and their consequences become manifest years after the fact.
The later topographical representations of Diebenkorn also influence these concerns, indicating a history of development in this style of representation of what appears to be on first look to be entirely abstract art.

The refusal to represent persists, however, for when queried, the artist will typically associate pattern with mood rather than object, as in Jessica Helfand's "Landing", where the "elevated, brighter areas, portray an upbeat melody, while the darker places, depict a deep, base-like tone."

We assume that "base-like" is a typo for "bass-like", evoking by this means an influence by and upon jazz music. In this sense, the current movement of 3D art using textures, alternative media, and 2D presentation is attempting a reunification of visual arts with other forms of expression which we last saw reach momentum in the 1920's, when music, painting and lyrical arts combined with extraordinary energy.

No surprise that we found a jazz duet performing in the humble space of the Frank Bett Center for the Arts. Just a nylon-string guitar and five-string bass.

Also part of this multi-dimensional outburst in the present time of artistic endeavor, we would be remiss in omitting the textile arts as well as the metal-work sculpture now sweeping the area. Susan Laing has created an entire style of her own with wool-originated creations she has made from raw materials direct from sheep's back, self-dyed and then worked laboriously into equisite scarves, boleros, and orniments.

Also evident at the Webster Street gallery were some remarkable glass-work pieces, notable for their careful attention to detail and use of warm color in an otherwise cold medium.

At the end of the day we must say that a swing-through is a "must do" for the Island First Fridays.


Took a long walk down by the Strand after spending the week in Babylon for the Boot Camp. Tired feet slogging through wet sand in the murk. Seems these days everybody has their eyes cast down with all of the bad news. We have war in the Middle East. We have murder in Oaktown on the rise. We have pollution and global warming and heads of State shooting friends in the back -- quite literally. Seems things are getting worse every day.

We got Eugene Shrubb invading the city of Newark with his army of Bums, we have the GOP dissolving in hapless ineffectual love of poodle endeavor and we have the Presidency embarrassing itself with nervous jumping up and down while it strives to justify purely criminal actions.

The ground squirrels have all gone into hibernation and the wash-bears are roaming the alleys looking for scraps from the garbage cans. But the tulips planted by Karen and Kurt have erupted and there appears to be vigorous activity happening over where gladiola bulbs were slathered into the trash bin strip by the wall.

We are so damn trashy here, Iggy Pop is considered Upscale.

Hear from European correspondents that deep snow still blankets the cities and towns of Belle Europa and that a certain suitcase left out in the drifts has found a home somewhere out of the cold. Other parts of the country report a continuing deep freeze while New Orleans reports rain and a Mardi Gras of historic proportions with blue-tarp costumes evoking the temporary disaster shelter media of the time.

We have people in Metarie and plan on checking in with them when things have settled down a bit more. Stay tuned for merleton developments. If you don't know what a merleton happens to be, then be patient and check back later, or go to any Chris Smither concert and ask the man. He is an unpretentious feller and we are sure he will inform you.


Well, it's been a quiet week on the Island. The rain has been pelting down, overwhelming all public discourse here and the recent avoidance of reponsibility by City Council in the denial of Matarrese's proposition has led to a dull drudgery of public utterance. Nobody cares what the Council says now, for its all about the Port and its expansion and budget considerations that are really focused upon sidewalks and pavement and use of reserved funds for capital improvements.

Yes, go ahead and concern youselves with the lighting of parks at night and cracks in the sidewalk. You could have spoken out and concerned youselves with the well-being of millions but you chose to reserve your concern with a library building and with local street paving.

How nice.

In any case, thats the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

MARCH 12, 2006


Ever wondered about the correllation between big hair, cell phone use and absence of mind? Well, we at Islandlife have got a scoop for you on just what is happening to those neurons belonging to that addled executive yapping on the fone instead of paying attention to the world outside of their SUV windows.

Some people have this idea nerds never have any fun. We do, its just that we practice fun a little differently. For example, we like to cook breakfast with telephones.

From Suzzanna Decantworthy with some assist from Sean McCleanaugh, we have the following recipe on how to cook an egg with two cell phones.

This week, we show you how to use two mobile phones to cook an egg which will make a change from phoning out for a pizza. Please note that this will not work with cordless phones.

To do this you will need two mobile phones -they do not have to be on the same network but you will need to know the number of one of them. The only other items you will need are:

1. An egg cup, (make sure that the egg cup is made of an insulating material such as China, wood or glass - plastic will do. DO NOT use stainless steel or other metal).

2. A radio, AM or FM - you can also use your hifi.

3. A table or other flat surface on which to place the phones and egg cup. You can place the radio anywhere in the room but you might as well put it on the table.

How To Do It:

1. Take an egg from the fridge and place it in the egg cup in the centre of the table.

2. Switch on the radio or hifi and turn it up to a comfortable volume.

3. Switch on phone A and place it on the table such that the antenna (the pokey thing at the top) is about half an inch from the egg (you may need to experiment to get the relative heights correct - paperbacks are good if you have any - if not you may be able to get some wood off cuts from your local hardware shop).

4. Switch on phone B and ring phone A then place phone B on the table in a similar but complementary position to Phone A.

5. Answer phone A - you should be able to do this without removing it from the table. If not, don't panic, just return the phone to where you originally placed on the table.

6. Phone A will now be talking to Phone B whilst Phone B will be talking to Phone A.

7. Cooking time: This very much depends on the power output of your mobile phone. For instance, a pair of mobiles each with 2 Watts of transmitter output will take three minutes to boil a large free range egg. Check your user manual and remember that cooking time will be proportional to the inverse square of the output power for a given distance from egg to phone.

8. Cut out these instructions for future reference.

Please note, we have used an earbud cord from the very first day a cell phone was inflicted upon us. Here at Island-life you learn Stuff.


Early Saturday morning, like about 1:00 AM, CHP responded to urgent calls for rescue on Highway 101 just north of the Waldo Grade Tunnel. Officers arrived to find thirty cars in a pile-up scattered along 350 feet of the snow and ice-slick roadway. Two people were killed in collision spinouts and more than a dozen injured.

The unaccustomed cold front dusted the Fremont hills with snow before moving on to relieve the Arizona drought with a couple inches of rain a the lower elevations and three inches of snow in the high country, which basically had cancelled the entire snow sports season of the Arizona Snowbowl this year. Reports are coming in of hailstones the size of softballs pummelling the Western States. Phoenix last saw rain October 18.

Today, the temps dropped again with yet more rain sluicing down mixed with hail that surely means no good news for the snow-bound Midwest and East Coast.

Where is that Pennsylvania groundhog 'til I murder him?


Island city attorney Carol Korade and the Council failed to agree on contract terms in a closed session this past week, resulting in the 17 year veteran of city affairs stepping down from her post.

Later, in a prepared statement, the veteran lawyer said:

"It has been my pleasure to serve the residents of Alameda, the council and municipal employees for almost 17 years. I thank the current council and past councils for providing me this professionally rewarding opportunity."

Mayor Beverly praised Korade's record and mentioned the reason for disagreement had to do with requested increase in salary.

Korade, 52, currently makes slightly more than $169,000 annually.

Her contract was set to expire on the last day of 2005, but the City agreed to an extension ending March 31.


In some dismal news, they finally have gotten around to our little Island's reserve unit, which is shortly to be shipped out to the Anbar Province in Iraq even as the civil war there is heating up.

The Reserve Unit, ordinarily scheduled for a single weekend a month for home defense training, has been going through intensive seven-day a week full combat training in desert country outside of 29 Palms where the Marine Corps has built entire mock villages and a language institute to get the Proud and the Few in shape.

Our unit consists of 1,000 men and women assigned to the First Battalion, 14th Regiment, and although stationed down by Crab Cove, also includes members from other parts of the country for this assignment. Their departure leaves the Island and a significant portion of the Port of Oakland to be defended entirely by existing Coast Guard Units and remnants of the old Oakland and Army and Navy bases. On report, there were no more than twelve personnel on the old Oakland Navy Base in the hills.

In Anbar, the Reserve group will be manning security, policing and short-term detention details.


Well, its been a quiet week on the Island. The row out by the trash bins where Old Festus sowed a number of glads appears to be developing consequences. We all thought, as he raked through a shellmound of glass fragments, old tin, sand, cellophane wrappers, beer cans and unmentionable decay before laying in the bulbs under a lavish coverlet of cedar chips that radioactivity would prevent anything from germinating. And for many weeks not much happened while Karen's tulips have erupted across the way by the Old Decrepit Fence.

But now that shoots are shooting up over there between the Recycles and the Offals, old Festus got as chipper as a jaybird and he went and got a six-pack of Colt 40's and in the rain drank them all down with a vodka shooter or two or three while singing something which very might be poetry -- if only anyone could understand the words erupting from his toothless beard.

Whatever makes you happy. Bukowski would have approved.

Father Morales of the Church of Many Holy Names and Pastor Svenquist of the First Stern Lutheran Church remain on good terms in this weather and are seen walking about the Grand Street block of churches, alternatively clockwise and anti-clockwise. Father Guimon, of the Basilica, seeing so many of his faith appointed to the Supreme Court, feels the time has now come to supplant Pat Robertson, and so he has been sending sermons to the White House religiously, each with little "pearls of wisdom" in which he offers solace, consolation and recommendations to the President, who does appear to be in severe need at this time.

The subject of Father Guimon's sermon today before the multitude was, "God doesn't mind if sometimes you change yours - as long as its purely material." We have no word from the Oval Office regarding these matters.

Reverend Rectumrod, who feels Pat Robertson is too much a Moderate and also would like to supplant him in his position, is on bad terms with Reverend Alonzo Smiley, both of various Baptist denominations, on the matters that combine the Sacred and the Profane. Rev. Smiley, who hails from Metarie, Louisiana, is most concerned these days with channeling his efforts and those of his flock to caring for people in the Gulf Coast and has no time for Rev. Rectumrod's incendiary denunciations of liberals, gays, bunchgrass, tuplips, Volkswagen Beetles, secular humanism, pink chiffon, communists, Venezuela, the lambada, tapas, and any number of other casual pursuits which lead to mingling of the sexes, anarchism, and improper reflections upon improper things. Rev. Rectumrod is of the opinion that the Democrats are all responsible for the current troubles of the GOP; he insists that certain Dems have built an Amorality Projector Device which is stimulating so much scandal -- which is of course quite outside the nature of the Conservative -- and he is terribly put out at Rev. Smiley's refusal to assist with a petition for a commission to look into the matter.

The City had a Commission once. That was way back before they lost the jail, due to improper party-times in the cells. The Commission was formed to study the effect of music upon the growth of hydrangeas. Well, it was the '60's after all, and the plan had been to plant hydrangeas all along the side of City Hall. Well, that had been the plan, but the local chapter of the Native Californian plants objected, desiring a study be done to determine the orgins, paternity and suitableness of such a growth beside the symbol of Our City.

Mayor Corica's memory is to be commended for refusing summarily the request to line the austere brick of City Hall with bunchgrass. His immortal words are remembered to this day. "Bunchgrass! Outside my window? Get the hell out of here!"

In any case, hydrangeas appeared to be better to some than azaleas, however no one knew how they would do along the well trafficked -- according to Island standards -- Central Avenue. So the Commission was formed to see what they could do. Most members of the Commission were decent responsible folks with day jobs, so it fell to the looser end of the spectrum to formulate a plan that would in turn formulate a suitably weighty document that everyone, Mayor included, would refuse to read, and so be filed in a suitable file cabinet reserved for the purpose of suitable documents. This is how Hester Pratt, she of the First Communicable Baptist of Santa Clara Avenue, came to be sitting day after day on an aluminum cafeteria folding chair in a garden plot, sometimes partially shaded by a red and white striped umbrella, while a portable tape recorder performed such works from the likes of King Crimson, the Beatles, Steeleye Span and the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra from a mix tape made by Jose Devonshire, a man of mixed heritage and curious musical taste.

Hester sat with her book by George Eliot, the one about the duties of a proper provinicial wife and which no one ever seems to finish beyond the First Book, gamely struggling to get past the difficult moment when Fred simply must speak to Mr. Balstrode because of a certain rumour day after day with a great floppy broad-brim hat doing the duty the umbrella failed to accomplish.

Fred? Balstrode? What ever had happened to Dorothea? Whatever. She was well supplied with lemongrass tea and writing implements with which she annotated the changes among the hydrangeas, their watering and their accomplishments. Jose brought the tea and the change of tapes, which became a welcome distraction.

The job paid $1.75 per hour. She had incentive for staying on.

Hester was prim, proper, and full of great inculcated rectitude, but she was also very bored.

One day Jose dropped by with an alternative book, seeing as she was making little headway with the library-supplied entertainment.

What's this, inquired Hester. Oh, well, its something new called "Dharma Bums." See if you like it. Also I have new music a friend gave me. It has an interesting use of these percussion instruments called "bongos." It's all something they call "jazz".

There is a particularly erotic aspect to hydrangeas to which some fail to pay sufficient heed. There is also the notorious effect upon the senses when subjected to extended bongo sounds, which produces distinctly animalistic tendencies. Spring arose in full flower and inflammation set in. George Eliot was cast aside, returned to the concrete bosom of the Carnegie Free Library.

Well, no one knows exactly what happened after that, except Jose got to staying later and later in the company of Hester and unruly sounds emitted from that garden plot.

One day, a member of the Commission dropped by the little garden so as to see how things were progressing and was dismayed to find no one there. Only a solitary white garter left upon the chair. Inquiries to Hester's mother revealed the girl had not returned to her room for weeks and had not been showing up at services in church.

Much put out, the Council dissolved the Commission to Investigate Allomorphs, resulting in a refusal to this day in the Council to ever form another Commission again. Local Government is never without resources to generate more ponderous reports without the aid of Commissions appointed for the purpose. And as one can see, decently chaste hedges border the City Hall to this day. Go there and see for yourself.

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

MARCH 19, 2006


After a week of cold sleet, rain -- and even snow on the Berzerkeley Hills -- Friday tapered off into a gorgeous sunny Saturday and Sunday, bringing out the joggers and the wind-surfers down at the Strand. A tell-tale hole in the grass gave sure sign that we are about to see evidence of Papoon, our political ground squirrel poking his alert little head from the earth fairly soon.

Weatherman says we are not fully in the clear yet, with possible thunderheads rolling in later in the week. But for now, Old Festus' wild gladiolas are firing up, and Karen's tulips are doing that thing tulips do.


Hopefully all of you have recovered from Thursday's Bacchanalia and the question no longer applies. In Ireland proper, St. Patrick's Day was commemorated with no more than the country women weaving a sprig or spray of clover into their hair, and with no more drinking than usual. If anybody did anything at all, they stayed at home from work and put their feet up on the fire-grate.

Historically, the pub was the only place in the village that stayed reliably warm and dry, as opposed to the drafty, damp, ice-cold cottages called home by most, hence the misconception of the Irish as being prodigious drinkers. In the cities, for many years, the tenements had coin-operated gas for heat and cooking; if you wanted to get warm, you put in a shilling in a pay-as-you-go system. Pubs became, for this reason, local centers for families and people could spend all day in them, nursing a single pint, or not drinking anything at all for well on six hours at a time.

There is no such thing as a "Shamrock". The four species of the genus trifolium that grow in Ireland are no different than any of the forms of common clover that grow all over Europe in nearly every country that has rain. The name itself is an anglicized bastardization of "seam rog" (little clover). A number of the ancient lithographs, left behind by whatever race that got itself obliterated by successive invasions, have abstract designs based on tripartite motifs, so it was easy for early Xian missionaries to seize upon this three-part symbology and dovetail this into their own trinitarian teachings. Hence, the three-leaf clover.

Modern day Irish are a mixture of English, Viking, Norman and Spanish blood. Spanish? Well, you do remember the Spanish Armada, don't you? Survivors from that immense disaster washed up on Irish soil, and as any enemy of the Brits was a welcome friend, these men were absorbed into the population. To this day you may hear someone speak of this or that person as "light Irish", or "dark Irish".

Here in the US, St. Paddy's day has no religious significance for anyone and the only parades held are held here with our typically American mixture of nostagia and sentiment for that which is purely fictional. With the one observation that no one is more Irish than the Irish who do not live there. It is estimated that some 8 million citizens live on that windy island -- and you must know that we have a special place in our hearts for all Island People -- but some 25 million Irish live in a diaspora scattered all about the globe.

Down at McGrath's, Patrick -- who is not Irish, accoring to his own statement -- held a dollar-a-beer special on Thursday, perpetuating a long American tradition that is likely to continue for many years to come.


And speaking of McGrath's, we popped on down to the local to catch some of Ron Thompson with Mitch Moughan tickling the ivories. We cannot extoll the extent of talent and experience in Ron Thompson, so you must get on over to to see what you have been missing.

Ron Thompson has been around for years and watching him perform solo or in stripped-down setting as on Saturday night is watching a rhythmic hot fusion converting base matter into energy. The man lives and breathes pure music and every performance is electrifying.

Ron has performed with and recorded for legends like Big Mama Thornton, Sonny Rhodes, Luther Tucker, Jimmy McCracklin, Pee Wee Crayton, Carla Thomas, School Boy Cleve, Percy Mayfield, Etta James, B.B. King, and Jimmy Reed. Then there is Fleetwood Mac, Chris Isaak, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop, Bill Medley, Huey Lewis, Dr. John, songwriter Bobby Womak, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Cray Band, Z.Z. Top, John Lee Hooker, and many others.

Ron Thompson is a legendary blues guitarist and master keyboardist whose career began in the rough and tumble world of East Bay nightclubs and bars in the early ‘70s. After touring coast-to-coast for seven years with John Lee Hooker as band leader, Hooker was quoted as saying, "Ron Thompson, he's my main man!"

Saturday, Ron started out with his beat once-beige Fender, deftly filling in finger flourishes while keeping that series of rolls stylists employ when there is no bass or drum kick to fill the backbeat. He wears a metal thumbpick and a clear-plastic fingerpick on the forefinger.

Ron ran through some old school early-Chicago stuff energetically, barely speaking more than two or three words between songs, letting the music build dramatically with each piece. He tuned his guitar "on the fly" fast enough that no one missed the absence of stage patter. When going to an open tuning he pretended to be searching for his glass slide and those few seconds were enough. The vocals were clear and crisp and devoid of the unintelligible slurring that has plagued past performances.

We had an opportunity to chat with Mitch Moughan, who as a long-time jazz/improv musician was just the man to punch in a barrelhouse style on cue for this entirely improvised set-list. Moughan is a musician with day-job feller, but has put in his dues from the early seventies with all kinds of local people in the heyday when the blues first began taking off with white audiences. He said Ron performs constantly, with a band in Southern California and another in Northern California, plus these solo gigs in small venues.

Ron finished up his first set with a cooking version of "Shake Your Moneymaker" that worked energetically all up the entire fretboard, with repeated changes occuring rapidly at times some five to six frets apart.

That's the sort of playing that turns beginners into quivering vegetables and makes the Blues-Hound drool.

His second set began with an all metal resonator mandolin -- something not seen very often. He then moved to lapsteel for some Muddy Waters, including a rollicking "Rolling and Tumblin", and then back to his beige Fender to recap versions of originals on his latest CD. Consummate artistry done with the greatest humility, never forgetting to lean back and invite Moughan to comp for a bit on his dime. Ron playing stripped down is definitely worth the price of any admission, for this setting really highlights what the man can do. The Resistors are fine, but give us Ron uncomplicated any day.


The City finally got around to marking the dangerous landing which has claimed several lives in the past couple of years, including that of a well-respected doctor from Oaktown who drove off the landing one dark night, provoking an area-wide intensive search until they found her car in the estuary.

The sign says, simply, END.

You know, is it too much trouble to put up a fence?

In other news, the crime report indicates additional signs of spring, for gone are the methamphetamine stops. A cursory read of the report reveals illegal dumping (shame on you!), vandalism (2 per day, 3 on Saturday), fallen tree in the 1100 block of Morton, and one arrest on 3/12 which begs further explanation: Resisting arrest, assault on a Police Officer, possession of burglury tools, possession of counterfeit bills, and -- you knew this just had to be true -- numerous traffic infractions.

It is quite clear which offense is considered the most serious here, and which is the primary cause of the nefarious traffic scofflaw to be cooling his heels behind bars. Officer O'Madhauen is on the case!

In othe news, if you are fit, able, industrious, live on the Island, have suitable experience and skin tougher than rawhide, the Island wants you to fill its vacant Police Chief position.

Oh yeah, you have to have filled the position higher than lieutenant for more than three years in any police force. Even New Orleans counts, we guess.

Finally, somebody figured out the groundwater is contaminated out there on the Point at the site of the former Navy aircraft maintenance area. Seems a plume of benzene and napthalene has been found a couple feet below the surface, extending beyond the base borders beneath a currently habited area that includes Miller Elementary and Woodstock Child Development Facility. Yes, well, has this not been known for some time? Was there not "brown seepage" found a couple years ago at the skate park? The Navy is paying to pump remediation agents into the ground, but this feels, well, a bit scary. Benzene flowing under a Child Development facility. Honey, why does Johnny have three arms now?

We note that ads about the questionable Mare Island resort appear to have quietly evaporated recently. Anybody puts a spade beneath the soil over there and something ugly and viscous from a David Cronenberg film is going to reach up out of the toxic soup to suck man and spade beneath the earth, never to be seen again. In fact, it probably already has happened. They all thought the construction workers were malingering, or just not showing up for work. Nope. Fred just walked around the corner of the bulldozer and that's when The Thing got him. Somebody call Mulder of the X-files. Or that woman with tweaky hair from CSI. Its a savage and dirty business, this dealing with Aliens you have made yourself and you need the very best.

If this was an intelligently run place like Bylorussia, we would put a fence around Mare Island with dosimeters and machinegun turrets pointed inside like they did at Chernobyl, to kill the mutated monsters trying to escape, and more turrets pointed outside to keep suicidal morons from trying to get in. Nothing extreme is required; simple 188's would do nicely. Put a nice small hole in a real-estate developer fairly quick. You don't need a big hole for a developer; they are all used to maximizing space usage. The authorities could use all that Vietnam-era ordinance to save money and make Der Arnold pay for it from his steroid-pumped millions as a way of expiating his stupid waste of money during the last pointless election.

As for the Point, from swamp it arose and to swamp it should return. Nobody needs more people and traffic pumping through that tube built in 1888. This is an Island; there are only so many people you can put on it. Even Manhattan has limits. But you just know that they will all laugh about the problems, move their kids to the Oakland Hills, safely away from wierd chemicals with names so long you could strangle yourself just trying to pronounce them and build all kinds of crap right over the den of Gilgamesh's monster. Only when kids start showing up in large numbers with flippers instead of arms will the bottom fall out and by then those developers will be living far away on haciendas in Arizona or Texas where the Ogalla aquifer is largely a myth and such people are welcomed for their aura of success and trashing of California..


This weekend marked the somber anniversary of the third year of occupation in the country that once was Iraq. This date was marked by nonsense as well as sincerity on all sides of the fence around the world. A case can be made for ridding the world of the Saddam regime. A case can be made for the illegallity of the initial invasion, its continued inefficacy, and its problematic outcome in the face of extraordinary loss of life and untold human suffering.

The American Presidency continues to appoint failures to significant posts and promote incompetants to higher positions, while pursuing a clearly unworkable set of policies.

The end result is pain.

Nevermind over 100,000 Iraqi dead. They have their own unique sorrow. We take this time and space to consider the men and women of our Armed Forces who, despite some deviations orchestrated by a corrupt Higher Command, have substantially behaved honorably and well and have paid substantially the ultimate price for Policy. Nobody who signed on for a weekend a month worth of training to protect the locale hometown ever expected to find themselves 8,000 miles away, dying in a desert foreign country for the sake of Policy.

We have the best military forces in the world. We know this for a fact for we grew up with them and we have seen how other forces behave in other countries.

And now, some images from half a world away on this terrible anniversary. One of these images is linked to an audio file.

Only now the leaders admit that the conflict will go long beyond what was initially anticipated. But these people -- the enemy -- are many thousands of years used to this kind of thing and we are barely catching up as they learn from from us day to day. Across the howl of centuries comes the anguished cry of another leader, discovering far too late that "preemptive force" was a terrible mistake. "Varius! Give me back my legions!" But none of them returned from that dark forest.


In this dark night, while all around sorcery is burrowing in every direction from thousands of senders to thousands of unsuspecting recipients we sit within the pool of our reading lamp here in hope that somewhere out there sits a similar mind perceiving these transmissions. No crump of mortar or umbrella-flare disturbs the darkness here, but here a war is being fought in the alleys and between the buildings even as we sleep. In fact, the long howl of the midnight trains has not split the night for some time. Security prevents these departures, now.

A darkness has spread over the entire world in these days, but still within the green fuse drives the flower. Had a long talk with neighbor Rex, who has a broader view of things than most of us among the tulips, the pole beans, and the gladiolas. "So if meteors come raining down tomorrow and all life extinguished, still something would arise out of that. Everything moves in a cycle and now we see that everything is tipping, about to change and that good is about to overcome the bad -- for some time -- while bad has been ruling over good for a while now. Soon it will change. For a little while. Why not now accentuate the Positive!"

Indeed. No woman, no cry. We think we like this Mr. Rex.

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


Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

MARCH 26, 2006


Persistent readers of IslandLife will recall that we noted the discovery not far from our usual crossover point into the Kings Canyon Wilderness of a lost airman's body. That body has now been positively identified by Army forensics experts in Hawaii as belonging to Leo Mustonen and has been laid to rest in his hometown of Brainerd, Minn., more than six decades after the young man disappeared during a training flight. Mustonen was 22 when his AT-7 navigational plane disappeared after takeoff from a Sacramento airfield on Nov. 18, 1942. An engine, scattered remains and clothing were found over the following years, far from the plane's intended course on the slopes of Mount Mendel, a favorite among ice climbers. All four men aboard were killed in the crash.

He was buried alongside his mother, Anna, who grieved for years over the loss of her son.


The recent bid by Target for building a "big box" store nearby was sharply rebuffed by the County Board of Supervisors, which unanimously passed an ordinance requiring intended stores exceeding 100,000 feet to undergo a community impact report before being allowed to build here. The ordinance was drafted in place of an outright ban so as to forestall a litigation challenge, according to Alice Lai-Bitker.

This comes after Wal-Mart has already built a store in Oaktown along the 880 corridor down by Davis Street, indicating that the Board feared Wal-Mart would continue its past practice of getting a foot in locality door business door by getting support for a relatively modest store, followed by a giant 2nd store which is used to destroy all competition in the form of local businesses by selling at a loss. Once all local small businesses are forced out, the bigger store is abandoned, with an immense facility becoming an unsellable White Elephant.

Wal-Mart's official response has been, officially, "We don't do that."

Yes you do, you a**holes.


Somebody got a little playful with their new toy early Wednesday, when they squeezed off over 15 rounds outside the Esperanza Housing complex. This new toy was apparently an AK-47, from the .762 shell casings found.

Please, try to control your enthusiasm.

As no traffic laws were violated, the perpetrators got clean away.


Local Islander Jesus Lopez successfully hacked a new Intel-based Apple computer device to allow the machine to run Mac OS X or Windows, winning by this achievement an international competition worth $13,944. The competition was sparked by Texan Colin Nederkern who was so frustrated by the Mac/PC compatibility divide he fronted $2,000 of his own money to fund the contest. Donors raised the ante.

Jesus, ya do us proud, man.


Everyone is all abuzz about Donald Fagen's first CD/LP promotional tour in 13 years, kicking off in our very own Oaktown Paramount Theater, which is rapidly moving itself into the "Thou Shalt Begin Tour Here" status among the glitterati. "Morph the Cat", Fagen's 3rd since 1981's "Nightfly" remains cool, jazzy, and brown-shoe attentive to sound musical values as this notoriously anti-rock-noise musician has always been. You don't go to any ex-member of Steely Dan for hot licks and pyrotechnics; the music is penny loafer and web-belt casual. The 58-year old remains urbane and impish as ever, calling his latest work "your average masterpiece about love, death and homeland defense." It's also typically filled with double-bladed lyrics, ending with a reprise of the CD title track about a flying cat soaring above the streets of NYC, leaving us with this central image of all these post 9/11 New Yorkers looking upwards, enigmatically, in fear, in awe, in paranoia, or in hope.


We missed Beth Orton at the Fillmore, but you don't have to miss Peppino D'Agostino with Jeff Burns at the Pleasant Hill Community Theater on the 31st. That should be a warm night for acoustic aficionados.

Willie Porter wanders into the very 9-grain Freight and Salvage on the 9th, while Sarah Harmer will charm the Cafe du Nord in the City on the 14th.

The incomparable Taj Mahal just might encounter an ego as large, or larger, than his in the form of Mavis Staples at the Fox on the 22nd. That is likely to be quite a blues evening of excitement.

Irishman Luka Bloom will enchant the Great American Music Hall for a sit down evening on the 21st.

Stephen Stills, no mean fingerpicker, will reinhabit the venerable Fillmore on the 29th beneath the purple chandeliers.

On the 26th we note the Waybacks will accompany Bob Weir at Great American Music Hall and we are just dying to know if Chojo Jacks will come with. Now the results of that particular inquiry should prove very interesting indeed, for Chojo has lately been hanging with Houston Jones.

Slims recovers from a mediocre lineup on the 31st with the sudden explosion of Sonny Landreth and Four Year Bender. That should be worth standing for a couple hours to see and hear.

At the unstoppable Great American Music Hall, Josh Rouse takes the spot on the 18th and the well-remembered Dinosaur, Jr., holds the 19th-20th.

At the relatively new Uptown we call your attention to a meeting between Tommy Castro and Ron Thompson. Tickets are not cheap for that one and for obvious good reason. Tommy is just the hothead to call forth the fire in Ron with long, probing licks that say, " I just said that; now you answer me and do it better." Tommy is all about cuttin' heads at times like these and man, when Tommy gets to cuttin', there is gonna be a lot of stuff on the floor that night.


Checked into McGrath's to hear our local boys, Houston Jones, set Patrick's battered walls afire once again. The boys had a couple of tasty new pieces penned by whiskey-lovin' Chris Kee. Although Travis refrained from doing "Joanie, the Jehovah's Witness Stripper", he was in fine, irreverent form bantering with the crowd and promising he would be sticking to wine for the duration of the evening.

After ripping through "Train Wreck in G Major," "Bedlam Road", "Toccata in Swing" with its subtle evocation of "Garryowen" on methamphetamine, much later in the evening with the house packed SRO, there went Travis, the naughty boy, downing double shots of that demon whiskey. This is "high octane Americana", gospel sung with punk inflection, bluegrass played with heavy metal attitude, country played like furious swarms of hornets, and blues sung and played the way it should be: gut bucket riding a beat '77 Pontiac with one headlight, no air conditioning, and dubious license down a pothole road 30 mph over the limit with rattling empties and broken dreams all smashed up behind you in tangles of shattered glass, battered plaster, fists through the walls at two a.m., and sodden memories while the night goes screaming by in a whiskey-soaked, redeye plunge of bad suspension and worse brakes, howling "Hallelujah!"

When it gets like that, you better have strong stuff to mellow out the crowd before they start smashing barstools over each other's heads. Thankfully, Chris Kee (standup bass) has supplied Travis with a few beautiful ballads, including the moody title track of their latest CD, "Three Crow Town."

Glenn "Houston" Pomianek had what looked like one of the old smallbody Martin concert guitars to compliment his usual Fender and Travis' Gibson 180, but he still unspooled extraordinary musical phrases with that plastic pick and brass slide, woodshedding like a disciplined Jerry Garcia, occasionally evoking Django Reinhart ("Toccata in Swing"), Jorma Kaukonen, John Hiatt and Tom Petty. No mean jump for your average picker. Houston appears to enter a trance-state when he launches into barrages of 32nd notes that magically chunk into solid time with perfectly expressed phrasing, while working the entire fretboard and never letting go of the melodic line.

Which is something guys like Hammett and Axel Rose still need to learn how to do.

Chojo (ex-Waybacks) provided his mojo that night once again, doing things with the fiddle and the mandolin of which no mortal human being should be capable, while Peter Tucker supplied percussion, standing back only to let visiting guest Dave Zerbal (Jim Campolongo Band) sit in for a couple. Peter's unique style has been praised in Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone mention? Visiting national artists? Packed house in a no-name bar in a no name town? We think H&J are going places, as they just keep getting better and better.


The past few nights have been ones of strong whiskey and stronger women. Took in the 1999 "Death and the Maiden" (Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley) and the B-film shoot-em-up name-titled and loosely-based on the bounty-hunter "Domino" Harvey (Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke). The real life Harvey died of a heart attack, probably induced by a drug overdose, only a few months after shooting the film was completed.

Here on the Island, things are normally a bit quieter. About the worst thing that happens with lowlife and cruelty is the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ, and the past couple events have been disappointingly humane. It must be the strict attention paid to traffic ordinance enforcement. At least, that is Officer O'Madhauen's point of view, and it is notoriously difficult to change the point of view of any police officer from any district, that we can assure you.

Papoon has been scouting about, rubbing the sleep from his hibernation eyes, and nearly getting assassinated by Stray Jack who chased the former Presidential Candidate up the fence and onto the roof of the neighboring storage shed. Consequently, we did not have an opportunity for an interview.

The tulips are erupting like mad, the jasmine is blooming and a few politicians seem genuinely destined for jail, so a great change is coming on. Since it will not be long before the majority of the GOP winds up behind bars together with the people that have been funding them, we are sure to see two major developments:

1. A tremendous improvement in prisons, especially in the food.
2. People will be forced to vote for Democrats, whether they want to or not.

Babar, the Island's truest Conservative, laments these events as they unfold, preserves his stock options, and conservatively refuses to speculate on anything other than oil futures. What is to happen to the state of Democracy, no one knows for sure. As Sigourney Weaver indicated, you cannot really count on justice winning in the long run. Best to keep a sense of humor about you, and listen at night, without fear and without paranoia, to the lyrical sound of dripping rain and the long wail of the midnight train, passing through the Jack London Waterfront across the estuary.

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

APRIL 2, 2006


There have been 2,531 coalition deaths, 2,324 Americans, one Australian, 103 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, three Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Fijian, one Hungarian, 26 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, two Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians in the war in Iraq as of March 29, 2006, according to a CNN count. At least 17,269 U.S. troops have been wounded in action, according to the Pentagon.

The three Marines and one sailor died Sunday, raising to eight the number of U.S. troops who died this weekend. At least 2,337 American service members have been killed since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The U.S. military statement did not provide more details about the deaths of the US troops in Anbar. It was the largest number of Americans killed in an attack since Feb. 22, when four soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb near Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad.

The US military also said two American pilots were killed Saturday when their Apache helicopter crashed during combat operations southwest of Baghdad, adding that the aircraft was probably shot down.

Two soldiers also were killed by a roadside bomb late Saturday in central Baghdad, while another died of non-hostile related injuries suffered Thursday near the northern city of Kirkuk, according to the US command, already invalidating this official DOD chart.


This month broke the 1904 record for precip in the month of March here , which normally gets an average of 10 days of rain. We had 28 days of rain, with as many inches over the usual 10 in this traditionally rainy season. The previous record was 23 days set in 1904. This was good news for the previously barren slopes of the ski-able Sierra, which have enjoyed this late precip even as the middle of the country has regretted the dump of snow and ice. Got news for you: You got hailstones the size of grapefruits coming your way with tons of snow following.

Local officials are reminding residents to be on the lookout for mudslides, downed power lines and localized flooding.With the incoming storms, the potential for mudslides and landslides will likely increase as soil becomes saturated and loose.

Right now the rain is pelting down, sending all the overcoat underhoods beneath undoors and into the shallow shelters of basement retirements where fav girlz squeegee the water from deep inked shoulders and help ease the solid lock of locked-in buffalo soldiers waiting for the next deployment.


The headlines said it best recently, proving what we knew all along: "Former Sen. Jesse Helms Has Dementia."

Former US Sen. Jesse Helms, a bastion of Cruel Conservatism and a former employee of Halliburton before entering politics, was in increasingly poor health before and since he left office three years ago, has vascular dementia and has moved into a convalescent center near his home. His wife, reassuring well-wishers, recently commented, "He's still his old self."

Reagan with Alzheimer's and Helms with dementia. This might explain why Neo-Cons continue to pursue strategies that have proven time after time to be unworkable -- they're all mentally ill.


The Cineplex opponents got a rude shock and an introduction to bureaucracy in its cruelest form when the little group that filed an appeal with the Island Planning and Building Department against the cinema multiplex/garage project. Largely to efforts by locals, such as that appeal, the monstrous seven floor garage portion was scaled down so as to meet in-place height restrictions, and the cinema multiplex was also reduced from 12 screens to three. The Council had tried to sneak the massive undertaken past the public with just a single public review, but when locals discovered the boondoggle would dwarf the entire five block "downtown" and funnel well over 400 cars and trucks into and out of the Park Street area, apparently via the narrow two-lane Park Street drawbridge, an uproar ensued.

Now it seems the PBD is getting even by slapping the appeals group with a $5,500 fee for daring to have questioned the sagacity of such a project, claiming costs of 67 staff hours used on the appeal. The PBD claims that the group signed a form agreeing to pay all costs incurred to process the appeal.

Unfortunately, the two principals, Valeria Ruma and Ani Dimusheva, never signed anything and the Department has no signed copy in its possession. In addition, the standard appeal form has no signature line at all, and has no language about any costs whatsoever.

There is a $600 fee for filing such an appeal, but this amount was paid by the appellants on the day they submitted their forms. Director Kathy Woodbury claims the right to "recover costs" -- to the tune of some $100 per hour. The appeals form was revised by the Department after the Cineplex appeal was submitted to include mention of cost recovery; this was done, according to Woodbury, to "clear up confusion."

There has traditionally been a flat fee of $122 per appeal.


Papoon is rather upset these days. With all the hoopla over immigration his housekeeper, Inez Ardillolita has packed her bags to go live with her mama in Poquito Sonora. "But you are an American Citizen!" protested Papoon.

"No mas!" stated Inez, "The Ashcroft wants to put my entire family all in carcel."

In vain did Papoon protest that the big discussions over the immigrants and migrants and borders had nothing to do with her or her family. Esta cabronada! The very idea after all her people had done for these ungrateful Norte Americanos!

"Mon petite cacahuete . . .". began Papoon, mixing French and Spanish in his distress. She had been housekeeper to the Papoon bachelor burrow for some fifteen years. "None of your blandishments!" she replied before he had finished a sentence. "I go to my mama and stay. Perhaps I come back if the weather starts to behave."

And out she went, flicking her bushy tail coquettishly.

At the Old Same Place, Papoon found Babar, his political nemesis drinking his usual -- Old Fashions on the rocks. Babar, down in the dumps at the certain imminent collapse of the GOP, bought Papoon a sympathetic round. "She'll be back, mon ami. Women are women, even squirrelly ones. Les femmes sont les femmes, mais un Galouise est un cigarette. My troubles are likely to last longer." He sighed an a great elephant tear rolled down his jowls. "I always thought Caspar Weinberger would live forever. And nothing seemed to be able to kill Jessie Helms. All the greats are passing on."

Papoon was solicitous and offered this helpful observation, "No one like the Democratic Party is so good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."

Thats how it came to be that a liberal ground squirrel and a conservative pachyderm sat consoling one another in a dimly lit bar on a rainy night on an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay while the midnight trains hooted through the darkness of Jack London Waterfront. There are a lot of stories in the West -- and you can go crazy listening to them all.

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

APRIL 9, 2006


The worst is coming true as levees broke in the central valley earlier this week flooding a trailer park, threatening other homes in Merced and inundating farmland near Sacramento.

The breaks occurred as rain continued to fall across Northern California, with some residents evacuating their homes near San Francisco because of the threat of landslides and forecasters predicting continued wet weather through next week.

Water breached a 30-foot section of levee along a creek in Merced, sending up to 18 inches of water pouring through a mobile home park, said Michael Miller, a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources.

Three trailer parks were evacuated, a total of 200 people, said Elaine Post, spokeswoman for the Merced County Office of Emergency Services.

South of Sacramento, a Consumnes River levee gave way, swamping pastures but not threatening any homes. The same area broke in January during heavy storms. The amount of land under water was not immediately known. . .

Merced, the "Water Capitol" is literally that for downtown is pretty much underwater, as this photo shows.

Devil's Slide is once again closed due to boulder rain and earth shifting. The heavily traveled road was closed when boulders the size of Toyotas began raining down on the crumbling roadway and the hillside showed signs of serious shift, producing large cracks in the roadbed.


Dropped in Saturday night on a CD release party hosted by our local Natasha Miller for the new joint production done with Bobby Sharp, also an Islander. Bobby Sharp might not be "name" to the youngun's, but old timers and jazz aficionados certainly will remember the man who penned the song that Ray Charles made famous, "Unchain My Heart".

Mr. Sharp had only messed around with music until formal training done on the GI bill after his stint defending the homeland during WWII. He attended the Greenwich School of Music (NYC) in 1946 and the Manhattan School of Music in 1948. Shortly thereafter, he cut a single on the Wing label, which was picked up by Ruth Brown as "Sweet Baby of Mine."

From there, he played gigs with Benny Carter and the Kenmie Lunceford band. He also He also worked with songwriters Charles Singleton, and Dan and Marvin Fisher (their father, Fred Fisher, wrote “Peg O’ My Heart”), developing a solid reputation as a very good Tin Pan Alley composer.

"Unchain My Heart" was written in 1960 and picked up by Ray Charles in 1961, but an unscrupulous industry producer named Teddy Powell took half of the rights up front and paid him only $50.00 down before managing to seize the rest of the rights for a small sum later on.

Sharp also penned tunes for Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis Jr. and his friend, author James Baldwin. Sharp wrote “Blues for Mr. Charlie,” in honor of Baldwin’s 1964 play of the same name; Sammy Davis recorded that song later with a Quincy Jones arrangement.

His father was a well-known concert tenor in New York City, while the boy was kept far from "sin city" in Los Angeles until Bobby pleaded to come live with them. Sharp's parents knew all of the Harlem Renaissance people; they lived in an apartment building in Harlem with Duke Ellington, Walter White, Roy Wilkins and artist Aaron Douglas. It was the peak of the Harlem Renaissance, and poet Langston Hughes was a family friend.

The usual bickering, cheating of musicians over royalties, and vampirish industry practices robbed Mr. Short of much of his royalty earnings and conspired with a drug habit to bury his talent for twenty-five years. Cleaned up and living on the Island, he heard vocalist Natasha Miller on KCSM-FM and found out she lived not far from his own house. He called her up and the two eventually hit it off so well that Miller started using his material in her concerts. She then did an entire CD of his music, which has been extremely well received by critics. Well enough to earn her more than one slot at Yoshi's, the premier West Coast venue for jazz and a stage that habitually showcases world-class musicians.

Saturday night was a neighborly affair with all the kids living on Bobby's block invited to come and many old friends and musicians showing up to meet and greet. While Miller sang a bluesy "I'm So Broke", all the little girls came up and danced on the stage. The two of them did a friendly duet on the piano before Mr. Sharp performed solo on the keys. Sharp's voice remains rich and well modulated, quite putting aside the effects of living 79 pretty hard years, and his piano is as deft as ever. His eyes are bright and his senses are sharp as he embarks on this second career. It was a joyous celebration Saturday night and just another local CD release party on the Island -- which happened to include some world-renowned musicians. We wish Mr. B. Sharp all the best.


This is a courtesy notice of the new County car-pool program meant to supplement BART, which is now charging for daily parking at its stations. Under a pilot program commuters can link up with neighbors via a Web site and phone to get rides to the Dublin-Pleasanton station.

Commuters can register at or by calling 925-855-7433. This pilot is currently available only to residents of the 945 AC in Dublin, Pleasanton and San Ramon, but if it takes off, will be implemented elsewhere.


Got the old string-box out the other day and started howling, with usual discordant abandon to the wretched contractions of the guitar, Deep Ellum Blues. "Let it rain. Let it pour. Let it rain just a whole lot more. Got those deep Ellum blues!"

28 days of kept indoors and a gallon of Old Crow will do that to you. Around here, they dispense with all of that foo-foo "liter" and "fifth" nonsense; when they serve up whiskey, they slosh a gallon into a steel bucket like the way they used to serve up beer and that's what you take home or drink up right there on the spot using dot-com yuppie beer mugs instead of shot glasses. Those pint bottles are meant for granny to take with her medicine in one gulp.

Those of you remaining indoors, may enjoy Beck appearing beneath the purple chandeliers at the venerable Fillmore. Dave Schools has cropped up hereabouts with other brand names in company. Upcoming, far too soon for this weather, is the intimate Santa Cruz Blues Festival where you sit three feet from the stage, and headlining none other than BB King. We already have our Gold Circle tix, nyah, nyah nyah!

Umphries McGee is coming around soon and is sure to astound with jazzy syncopation. Worth checking out. Also appearing this side of the bay is Girl Talk, at the Baltic on April 13th. The Baltic is full of atmosphere being 100 years old and the first bar in Richmond. You can hang and eat or hang and drink.... (P.S. There’s a parking lot behind the Baltic, so go around the corner and turn onto Railroad Ave.)

Cannot understand those places where no live music wakes the dead and the sleeping. Those places are not worth visiting or living in.


Well, its been another quiet week on the Island. Quiet and soggy. Old Festus has peered out through the blinds, unable to cavort any further than he has among the sprouting gladiolas in celebration of Spring; the only sign of his continuing live hibernation have been the piles of empty Colt 40's in the bin. Bear has not been seen at all, and his torn, greasy T-shirt is but a rumor. Spring has been put off, with its house airings, its furious vacuuming, and its deployment by the sexes of their respective dangerous weapons.

Father Guimon's sermon was titled, "Let the rain water your little Daisy of Religiosity." Rabbi Noshit preached on Saturday, "We all swim in the ocean of Divine Spit. Swim, but do not inhale."

At the Babtist Church of Questionable Intervention, Reverend machete led the congregation in an inspired "Dripping, We Approach Thee," accompanied by our neighbor, Ken Strings, on Bass.

We asked Ken how it went. "How did it go today?"

"Yeah, everything is growing!", Ken said, adjusting his hearing aid. A lifetime of playing in small clubs with big amplifiers have wrought their damage upon Ken. Typically, we end up shouting at one another, face to face, with the most amicable intentions.



Well, it goes on pretty much the same every time we meet. We have never understood each other in the slightest for the past eight years and are the best of friends.

Somewhere in the Far North, our Inspiration and Guiding Light, Garrison Keillor remains ensconced behind the bulwarks of Minnesota weather, making movies, we hear, with old schoolmate Meryl Streep and others of like reputation. Hope the dear man does not get a swelled head, for glamour suits a red sneaker wearing Lutheran not well at all. Still, its fine and good that the boy has done well and we are personally glad that striking Norwegian women throw their knickers at him now on-stage, the rock-star that he is now. Hear that his sound-effects man now drives a DeLorean. Painted bright red. Jashur Jonit!

Meanwhile the rain is once again pelting down, battering the tulips and forcing all the insect vermin in the garden to climb to the tops of the bean plants there to cry out in distress. One good thing about the weather: Officer O'Madhauen has no graffiti vandals to deal with at all and the incidence of exploding poodles has dropped significantly.

Oh yes, there are a few reactionaries about who regret the Humane Society result of the last Poodleshoot and BBQ wherein no poodles were bagged the entire disastrous day. Let it be known that hunting Out of Season is strictly forbidden here, and violators are subject to Traffic Court penalties.

This is the reason Dick Cheney has never appeared on the Island. For one, he hunts by habit without obtaining permits and for two, he is a notoriously bad shot, and for three, he has notoriously bad eyesight, often confusing benefactors with grouse and quail.

It's been raining so much, people in SoCal stare amazed at the Los Angeles River, which flows once again between its concrete banks with sufficient force to sweep cars away.

So here we sit in sopping puddles of our own, wishing all this weather would please go back to Seattle where it belongs. Get THOSE people wet, and stop raining on all of our parades. As the midnight train comes wailing across the estuary right on time. Same as it always has for the past eight years, or more, every Sunday evening, its long form with a glowing head winding its way through the darkness.

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

APRIL 16, 2006


This is an excerpt of a long labor in progress, which purports to detail the history of California from circa 20,000 BC to the modern age from the perspective of the original progenitors of the Bay Area.

5:10am, April 18, 1906

That chill spring morning before dawn, Tomas, son of Festus and Sarah, got up as usual to go down to the boat and make things ready for the early morning commute between Oaktown and San Francisco. He was busy at work, unreefing the sails of the spinnaker in the grey light while Captain Murphy made the larger paddle-wheel Siobhan ready by firing up the boilers. Down the quay came old Grumpus, ready to lend his single arm to the restarted enterprise.

When Carpenteria had finally left, releasing his stranglehold on the ferry trade and the docks, Grumpus had come back to work for Festus' son two days a week to supplement his meager salary at the fledgling Chronicle where he covered the sports desk, the auctions, and the horse races.

Following his success from the long series covering Emperor Norton, Festus had stayed on as a more-or-less permanent staffer at the paper, and so seldom was seen now down at the docks for his boy had risen in the world and had obtained a decent job.

As the last evenstar faded into the pale glow arising in the east, Tomas could see the day would prove to be calm and clear, always a good thing for any man who made his living on the water, but he did not see Wampum, the old pelican perched upon his usual perch there at the wharf end and so Tilacse took this to be a bad sign.

Otherwise this day on the 18th of April began not unlike any other day.

What happened next was not so ordinary. A strange growling filled the air, as if an entire herd of grizzley's had commenced right then to sing. Then, a large wave appeared out of nowhere, lifted the boat up to the extent of its moorings and just dropped it down again to smack against the dock, which looked to have the odd appearance of a structure encased entirely in oak-colored fur. The entire structure - some four-hundred yards of tar-daubed heavy redwood pilings - was vibrating. Down by the quay, Festus was doing some kind of dance, barely able to keep his feet - was the man drunk?

At that moment the great brick chimney of the Contra Costa Laundry, located on Thirteenth Street, but easily seen soaring 200 feet above the surrounding rooftops, swayed, buckled and came apart before his eyes. He blinked and the entire chimney, all 200 feet, was gone, wiped from the skyline without a trace.

All along the waterfront, fronts of warehouses came loose, toppling into masses of brick in the street. Paved sections near loading docks broke apart and sand came boiling up through the cracks. Grumpus, who had been thrown down by this time, came running unsteadily, for the land, which had seemed so sturdy, had become mercurial and the sea seemed to him a far better place to be.

A small curio shop standing where Grumpus had begun his drunken dance leaned forward, and like a tired dowager, leaned forward and dumped shopfront forward into the street, scattering glass and brick while leaving torn pipes spouting fluids through the dust laden air.
Other crewmen of the Siobhan appeared running and Captain Murphy came down from the forecastle, descended to the dock and was approaching now along the suddenly normal-looking wharf.

The crewmen told of downtown being filled with broken stone on Broadway and falling chimneys everywhere. The Captain mentioned he had watched the Empire Theatre go down from his high vantage point but that City Hall looked all right.

As time passed, no one appeared to take the ferry across, except for an accountant by the name of Miles Standish, which was very strange. At this hour, well over one hundred people normally waited for passage across. Some of the crewmen left to go and check on their own homes.
Tomas told Murphy to wait out the run while he ran over to the City in the spinnaker with their sole passenger. Some of the crewmen came back as the sun began to rise, saying the entire downtown looked a shambles with brick and glass clogging the streets.

Tomas made his way over to San Francisco, there to encounter a remarkable sight. As the sun rose, pillars of smoke arose from the broken skyline and sirens filled the air. The Ferry Building had dumped its south wall into the water and two of the piers had collapsed.
Thousands of people were jammed along the Embarcadero, many in nightclothes. The city was burning they said. Many had soot coating their clothes and faces, as if they had barely escaped. Periodically, cinders and burning pieces of wood dropped out of the sky, hissing as they hit the water.

Mr. Standish elected to debark while Tomas filled up with as many as he could carry and so he hustled on back to the Oaktown wharf. There, he was surprised to see his own boat, the Mariposa, sailing in from its customery mooring at the Carquinez Straits. When queried what his crew was doing there, they answered "Ordered by Governor Pardee." The Governor of California had pressed all ships into service to relieve the burning city of San Francisco. Tilacse's competitors, the Crumpott Brothers had their steamship, The San Benito, being loaded with what looked like wine casks. It turned out these were filled with water as all the mains across the way had broken, leaving the hydrants dry.

That day the Siobhan, the Mariposa and the spinnaker, named Mule, plowed back and forth, delivering casks of water to the distressed city and bringing thousands of people in all kinds of condition to Oaktown. They were joined by everyone who had a moorage along the east side of the bay and by mid-afternoon, a great armada of lighters, tugs, dorys, and vessels of every conceivable description were converging on the stricken city, the East Bay. At noon, as Tomas and Grumpus came around the heel of Goat Island, the once thriving metropolis presented solid walls of flames and dense plumes of black smoke. By three PM the sun was entirely hidden by roiling clouds.

More and more they came, shoeless and bleeding from the glass in the streets, smudged and shocked from hairbreadth escapes, some carrying boxes bound with twine, parakeet cages, a few satchels, all they could salvage in the moments before escape. In the late afternoon Mr. Standish re-appeared, minus his hat, smudged, clothes torn and carrying an occupied bird cage in one hand and a bulging satchel of papers from the remains of his office which had nestled up against the immense Call Building. Both office and Call Building were become tornadoes of smoke and ash.

While the smoke plumes expanded over the once pristine sky, flagging out in long streamers as the winds customarily shifted seaward as evening approached. And as Tomas made his last run in the shadows of that day, he and the crew could see the angry orange bursts. Then, as night fell, the dismal crump of dynamite ordered by Mayor Eugene Schmidtz who had crews blow up entire blocks of houses so as to create wide break lanes in advance of the fire reverberated across the water.

Earlier, as Grumpus had done his little dance along the quay, Sarah sat before the dingy window of the ferry office, watching in wonder as the iron bars, some one inch thick each, had vibrated into a blur, while things fell off the shelves and great clouds of steam billowed from the Chinese laundry across the way.

Sophia, become in her later years something of an insomniac, was examining the early blooms, and felt the earth's curious roll, as if it complained about her treatment of the roses.

Maria, in San Francisco, jolted out of bed as the broad mirror attached to the Mexican cupboard leapt forward and dashed itself to pieces on the floor. Hurriedly, she got dressed, smelling smoke and hearing the cries. "Todo esta quemado! Fuego! Fuego!"

Festus, rolling awake, heard the thunder and the booms and quickly got ready to run to the office, for this was another story worth covering. Perhaps, at his age, his last.

Isabelle awoke, patiently waited out the disruption, then calmly prepared for what the day would bring, treading lightly among broken tiles, shattered glass and the improbable appearance of her neighbor's toilet in her kitchen.

To Be Continued Next Week

This excerpt is from an extended work in progress which is close to completion. The book will be some 400 pages long and probably will be published online at some point subsequent to print release.

A second work, covering the period of Richard Nixon's unraveling, is also in progress.


There have been 2,575 coalition deaths, 2,368 Americans, one Australian, 103 Britons, 13 Bulgarians, three Danes, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Fijian, one Hungarian, 26 Italians, one Kazakh, one Latvian, 17 Poles, two Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and 18 Ukrainians in the war in Iraq as of April 13, 2006, according to a CNN count. At least 17,469 U.S. troops have been wounded in action, according to the Pentagon.

Just over the wire: add four more fatalities to the US total.


The Ready Reserve fleet will remain moored at Alameda Point docks for another 20 years as part of an agreement between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the city of Alameda.

The 12 huge ships are prepared to sail on a few days' notice to supply military actions and humanitarian relief effort during war and major disasters.

The agreement, in the works since 2002, was approved last week by the Alameda City Council, acting as the city's Reuse and Redevelopment Authority. Councilman Doug DeHaan abstained.

The new lease takes effect in May and will generate about $45 million for the city's coffers in the 20-year period."It's a good lease," DeHaan said Wednesday. "I only objected to the length (of the lease.)" He said he favored a shorter lease, perhaps for 10 years, that would give the city more flexibility if another option should come up later.

The massive vessels occupy Piers 1 and 2. The Maritime Administration also has expressed interest in taking over Pier 3, which it currently shares with the USS Hornet Museum.

Since the Naval Air Station closed in 1997, the Maritime Administration has been renting the piers from the city to station its fleet, paying rent on a per-ship, per-day basis.

But when needed, ships can be commissioned to sea for long periods of time, and the city loses revenue from vacant berths.

With the new lease, the city can charge a flat monthly fee, reaping a profit of $15 million in the life of the lease and keeping a reserve of $7 million. The city pays for pier maintenance.


Up the road from friends in San Anselmo, on the same street, two houses were condemned due to foundation slippage caused by the incessant rain. The families living there had two days to remove every last stick of furniture and every last scrap of clothing from the houses before the local PUC bulldozed both dwellings. The hill is steep there, but our friends recently completed rebuilding the entire foundation to their vintage 1880 cottage.

In the Valley, strained levees are all mere shoestrings away from collapse under this unusual wet weather which has already exceeded average annual rainfall in two months. The most recent storm dumped an East Coast-sized load of five inches within twelve hours. Our resident plane-spotter tells us that all the jets have been rerouting their approaches to both of the local airports, SFO and OAK for weeks now.

Here on the island, pools of standing water have become commonplace. The soil here is quite sandy and normally water seeps away in minutes. There are signs things are finally coming to an end to this endless winter, however. The gladiolas are showing more spunk, the freesias are smelling up the place and every bean plant has fruit swelling on the vine.

This week saw Passover begin with everybody doing roast lamb and drinking wine until the mountains skip. Sunday, the Xians had their big Fais Doo Doo with rabbits and eggs and stuff and even Reverend Rectumrod was in, what is for him, a relatively good mood.

Went down to the First Church of Secular Humanism, which shares space with the Evangelical Gospel Church of Unitarianism, and listened to the Reverend Eugene Allgood talk on the subject titled "Household Improvements in Hell." Reverend Allgood is of the mind that Hell, as it is usually described by most of the organized religions hereabouts, is far too extreme in its punishments. The idea of burning forever is just too over the top and cruel, for example. The idea of Hell really takes no account of the sliding scale of evil, or sin, or malfeasance.

Think about it; were you entirely honest on your recently filed income tax? Do you really think Dick Cheney has ever told the truth in his life? Are both of you going to share the same room for all eternity? You go to hell for lying and he goes to hell for shooting his friends in the back and hunting without a valid permit.

Never mind the burning. Sharing a room for all eternity with Dick Cheney or Ashcroft or Barbara Bush is just too horrible to think about. Sort of like a Twilight Zone episode with Dom DeLouise playing the Devil.

Living on an Island makes one reflective. All people who live on Islands share this trait. We have have this calm sense of relaxed wisdom. Mahalo, the Hawaiians say. This is what the online Kahuna has to say about Aloha and Mahalo.

"Deeper meaning and sacredness is hinted at by the root words of these words. Linguists differ in their opinions as to the exact meanings and origins, but this is what was told to me by my kupuna (elder):

On a spiritual level, aloha is an invocation of the Divine and mahalo is a Divine blessing. Both are acknowledgments of the Divinity that dwells within and without. "

On spirituality, we consult the usual oracles. And Bambi. Bambi (her stage name) pursues the time-honored trade, listed in the IRS Occupations Pamphlet, as "Exotic Dancer." She works the Crazy Horse and the only slightly more respectable O'Farrell Theater in Babylon. Bambi is a big, blousy sort of gal with the morals of a Tartar, but her spirituality is considered to be one of her greatest endowments. We did not believe this to be true at first.

"Bambi, how can you take off all your clothes in a room full of hooting men and bad music and still call yourself spiritual?" We asked.

"Listen, sugar." She said, popping a very large bubble gum bubble. "Standing in church makes you no more spiritual than standing in a garage makes you a car."

Wise words from a sage. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a dry week.

APRIL 23, 2006


David Elias at McGrath's Pub

Dropped in to the local to find Peter in a jovial mode and the place jammed. David Elias was in town to make whoopee, assisted by Peter Tucker and Chris Kee from Houston Jones. John Harvard filled out on lead guitar while singer-songwriter Elias did vocals and acoustic rhythm on a dreadnought Gibson.

John Havard was rigorously trained by classical jazz musicians and the work really shows when it comes to picking his solid-body strat. He sticks to single-string runs, remains sharply disciplined, playing only what is necessary without flourishes or embellishments until it comes time to solo, where unlike a lot of hot shots out there who can play rapid triplets and fancy riffs that have little to do with the song structure itself, he hews to the melodic line in a manner reminiscent of Wynton Marsalis on trumpet; that is, he takes the basic melody and packs it with chord inversions, hammer-ons, artificial harmonics and sweetly constructed phrases that compliment the song before returning deftly to the melody.

It's safe to say that Elias and Co. brought the house down. Elias is one of those dripping-with-talent musicians who writes very capable Indie-rock lyrics, pens catchy tunes to go with them, sings his own material, plays any number of other instruments, produces, directs and presses his own CD material and generally answers to nobody and no boss because he simply does not have to.

His material is pure Californian Americana, with personal lyrics reminiscent of John Hiatt in his more meditative moments and the "confessional poets" of the eighties, and infused with contemporary Western/Californian images and themes while his music borrows freely from folk, rock, and world beat rhythms. Several times the distinct beat of reggae came lilting through while one of his songs busted out into a John Lee Hooker boogie.

In other words, Elias is difficult to categorize, other than the fact that in person and in his music he is thoroughly Californian in texture and feel, and its no surprise that the reviews on and even his own website fail to convey the slightest impression as to what the man does.

After the evening had wound up with an extended jam that included a rocking "Knocking on Heaven's Door" with Neil Young's "Helpless" woven into the middle," Elias consented to talk about what he does. There is no press kit on the anti-marketing performer's website, so one would never know that people like Thomas Dolby have performed with him (Dolby on keyboards), he has done the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival, and has fronted for Jane Siberry at the Great American Music Hall.

The fiercely independent Elias refuses to sign with any label, does no marketing at all, and oversees all technical aspects of studio and final production. He employs no manager and has no booking agent, preferring to play when he feels like it. A glance at his calendar shows that the majority of his dates will be in the hamlet of San Gregorio at the General Store. San Gregorio is a tiny place of some fifty persons just north of Half Moon Bay about a mile inland from Route 1.

The production values of his "Crossing" CD, done in "super audio" are simply stunning for a self-produced work -- or even a CD made by the technicians in Sony's multimillion dollar studios. Not surprising that one finds Todd Rundgren's techs have been advising the blessed Elias on howtos, and a former Sony employee carted over much of the technical equipment used in production.

When asked what his next plans, the quixotic Elias responded, "Travel. Purely for pleasure." As for the music, he said, "We'll just see what happens." He clearly has no intention of trying to climb That Big Hill, preferring to perform for the fun of it. And his enjoyment is quite enjoyable to watch and hear. You can get his CD's from or from His website is, but be forewarned that the website is a work in progress and has no promotional material at all, in keeping with the laid-back approach of its contrarian master. If you can at all make it down to San Gregorio on April 30, then do so, for the trip along some of Northern California's most beautiful roads will be well worth the trip. Special guests are promised to appear for this gig.

Commemoration of 1906

Tuesday morning at 5:12 am, locals gathered at Lotta's Fountain in the City to remember the 100th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fire. As part of that commemoration Island-Life includes this second part of an excerpt from a Work in Progress that includes the reactions of various characters to that pivotal event in the history of the Golden State.

When Festus burst out onto the street, he was greeted by milling crowds and shattered brick facades all tumbled into the thoroughfare. As he made his way north through the Mission District, a hodgepodge collection of Irish and German immigrants all living shoulder to shoulder with mestizas and Californios, knots of people came straggling in the opposite direction, many wearing nightclothes, some bleeding, all of them dazed.
The largely wooden structures of the Mission had rode out the shaking well, but as he approached downtown, the scenes became ones of tumbled facades and smashed-up rock. Then, he noticed the fires. Any number of houses were engulfed in flames, but the fire department was nowhere to be seen, although he could hear sirens from every corner of the compass. When he reached Market he was startled to come across a large heap amid an ocean of shattered bricks; it was a team of dray horses. They had died as they stood in a hail of bricks that had flown loose from the wall of the building that had once fronted Market Street. Festus slowly tracked his eyes up four stories to see desks, chairs, adding machines, file cabinets and someone's dressing room all exposed to the air.

Higher up rose great black plumes of smoke.

He spun on his heel and ran back toward the Mission, crossing over trolley tracks which had compressed into solid bars of steel or wrenched entirely up out of their beds into snarls of iron spagetti. By the time he had reached his flat, he had had to negociate his way around several houses burning out of control, immense gouts of flames spurting from windows and making a strange hot wind that swirled about each structure sending chunks of burning mattresses and shingles sailing high into the air to drop, still burning, onto rooftops blocks away.
This was far worse than the one in 1868.

He galloped up the stairs and got his wife to pack up a few belongings. His pistol, the account books, some money and silver. What does one pack in moments like these? One might not be able to come back. There might be nothing left. Paintings? Too big. The plate? Too heavy. Grandfather's lance from the Civil War; that must remain. Eventually, they descended with one bag each and began making their way, with thousands of others to the ferries.

A troop of Cavalry stampeded down market and blocked their way, so they turned south and looped around the former St. Mary's Hospital, abandoned since the earthquake of 1868 until they came to the wide Embarcadero, which they followed up behind a small carretta carrying a woman and two children perched on bundles. The boy and girl could not be more than five years old a piece and a nasty burn slashed across the little girl's face and tears rolled down her cheeks while her little brother screamed and screamed.

Eventually, they reached the Ferry Building among throngs of others. Along the length of Market, in the distance, they could see black smoke and the missing fire department and crowds of people. The Mint was hidden from their view by the great bulk of the Palace Hotel and the neighboring skyscrapers, The James Flood Building and the Emporium. The immense Call Building appeared to be in flames and everything was happening all at once. Soldiers were massing on horseback further down, but they had now reached the Ferry Landing and the owners threw open the great gates to let the people through.

"No fare!" someone wearing a telegraphers uniform called out.

That's fine, but how would the Siobhan take on even a tenth of the people gathered there? Let along all the baggage and things like the family's carretta with its mule?

In wonder Festus looked out on the water and saw an immense armada all gathered about the ruined piers. Several steamships were there, plus a schooner and his son's spinnaker, towards he and Sarah plowed with determination. Reaching the boat he caught Tomas' eye and handed up Sarah and the bags then jumped back to the dock. "Get over to Aunt Isabella!" he called up.

"Where are you going?" Sarah positively shrieked.

"To work! The Chronicle!"

Sarah looked at Tomas and said something Festus could not hear, but he could guess the gist of it. Well, he was old but still a newspaper man and as a newsman he would live and die.

"Grumpus! Get down there and try to keep my father out of trouble!"

"Aye, Aye captain! But if I could have done that thirty years ago, you would still be a glint in yer old man's eye!"

"Get on down Grumpus!" Tomas shouted.

The old one-armed man climbed down and as he did so Festus noted with his customarily detached eye the bald spot fringed with the once flaming red hair now gone grey. It was true none of them were any younger than yesterday and perhaps it was also true what the crazy Evangelical Minister had said, that they were all in the Last Days. The city had been a place of iniquity and vice, in the opinion of many; down the way a tall plume of smoke arose from the site of the infamous Nymphomaniacs Hall and heart of the notorious Barbary Coast. Festus returned to the burning city with his old friend, there to make their way to the Chronicle building, which had been made of modern steel construction and so may be all right yet.

With stoic eyes, Sarah watched the two of them go down Market and disappear behind clouds of black smoke pushed by the rising hot wind. He was a good man and certainly did not deserve to die any more than any of the residents of Martha's Rooming House. And she knew herself to be not any more evil than a basket of yarn. And so she set to pray. To Kuknu, the old god. For it was clear to Sarah the one of the New Testament was lacking at the moment and wanted correction. The spinnaker then cast loose with its cargo of refugees and set sail for Oakland, manned by a crew of volunteers.

That is why they did not feel the aftershock at 8:10 am.

(To be continued)


With the Governator Arnold on the verge of declaring a State of Emergency due to the unwonted rainfall battering the century-old levee system, raising the specter of a Katrina-style disaster all along the four-hundred mile Central Valley, the Bushie Circus swung through the Golden State to tap the coffers of the Well-Heeled.

Bushie right off refused Federal monetary assistance to help the embattled Arnold try to shore up the levees and keep about 35 million people from drowning. Clearly, the Bushie was here to take money -- not give it away, no matter how serious the consequences.

The Arnold then refused to meet with the increasingly unpopular President pro tem, declaring publicly that any association with anything having to do with Bush was at this time more liability than bonus. Visiting Chinese President Wu Jintao spent significant time meeting with Bill Gates in Redmond and with various execs at Boeing before briefly attending the obligatory luncheon at the White House. Jintao then left to meet with more important individuals in the US.

With what appears to be increasingly a vacuity of reality perception, the President then tried to enter the Campus of Berkeley in a motorcade. The Republican President was turned aside by throngs of protestors, which any fool could have predicted would appear. Berkeley! Bush! Any doubt regarding the man's mental capacity should by now be laid to rest.

Meanwhile some wag has been posting a rewrite of the Beatle's "The Eggman" all over the internet, with the refrain "I am the egg head, I'm the Commander, I'm the Decider . . . I'm lying. I'm ly-ing! I'm lying!" (


Arnold must be on his steroid-padded knees this weekend, for the rains held off during the past three days with the exception of a drizzle last night.

While the rest of the country sees the snowpacks slumping back, and even Minnesotta warms up well enough to unhook the car battery from its warmer-jacket, this area continues to see lowered skies and cool temperatures.


It's been another quiet week here on the Island. Earthquake memorials and bad weather and time to sit in the corner with old friends over glasses of tea while the radiator clanks.

Stray Jack brought a gift to the House the other day; what had once been some kind of jaybird or sparrow. Hard to tell as he finally ate most of it when we failed to appreciate the finer aspects of such generosity. Driving around the Island we find that each church - there are many of them -- has posted the Sunday sermon on boards outside the respective houses of the holy.

From the Church Circuit, we find the following gems:

The Island Church of Scientology: Mr. Hanky says, "Poo on you, South Park!"

Father Guimon of St, Joseph's Basilica: "Why choir boys have hair parted in the middle, and the phrase, "Trust me".

Rev. Rectumrod of the First Church of Intolerant Evangelicals: "You are going to hell -- and I like it -- The Rolling Stones and Theological Implications."

Rev. Feelgood of the Church of Significant Others: "Just snuggle!"

It is easing into that late night hour when Mike Powers brings on the Sunday Night Jam and as Phil Lesh and friends comp on "Friend of the Devil" the lights flicker across the water and the entire waterfront begins to segue into the next week. All the work is done and the backup is firing up. This is nothing like the Prairie Home Companion, for this world is more wired, more punk.

And there it comes as the minutes tick over to the next day; the sound of the through-passing train. Stick around and we will explain more of that and what it is all about.

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

APRIL 30, 2006


(This is a continuation of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire sequence, excerpted from a Work in Progress. In the previous two weeks, we followed Festus from his house to the Ferry landing, where he put his wife aboard a boat captained by his son, Tomas. Tomas ordered the First Mate and long-time friend of Festus off the boat so as to accompany his father, who has decided -- in the middle of the worst disaster ever to befall the US -- to report to work at the Chronicle newspaper building.)

They had just passed First Street, and the Palace Hotel, when Festus thought he recognized an Officer Finney just up Battery to the right and they hurried to catch him when they heard a terrible rumbling in the distance.

"Here it comes again!" Grumpus shouted.

The two of them ran into the middle of ruined Market Street as the ground bucked and shook beneath them. The remaining bricks of a now unrecognizeable building on Battery launched themselves into the air and hailed down, causing Finney and another person he had been trying to save to disappear. The shaking brought Festus and Grumpus to their knees and they were like rabbits waiting for the talon, unable to move while it lasted.

When they got up, where Officer Finney had stood, pulling on the arm of a woman to drag her out of the narrow street, a block-long pile of brick lay heaped with neither person visible. The rest of Market in this block looked, with the exception of the downed trolley lines and ruined tracks, to be perfectly normal with its parallel row of wood-frame Victorians appearing intact as if nothing had happened.

The two of them got up and ran up Battery to see if they could find Finney and the lady, but they found only the trouser leg of his uniform and a boot beneath a great pile of stones. Festus and Grumpus furiously began throwing bricks off of the man, but it became clear that nothing human could have survived that storm. There were still bricks on a third of the man when they found his torso smashed, his head crushed in, and the woman dead underneath him as he had tried to shield her body. She, too, was dead.

Shaken, they left that scene and headed to the Chronicle building on Kearney Street and Market, which stood, miraculously unscathed, but with several fires roaring close on the south side of Market towards Union Square where the Shreve Building stood amid whirling smoke. In the editorial room, old Michael de Young was marshalling the forces at hand to go and gather the news while at the same time preparing for possible evactuation to Oakland.

The building was intact, but there was no guarantee that the fires now raging out of control would not also destroy this building as well. All water mains had broken throughout the city.

As Festus and his friend came out onto Market the fires seemed impossibly close. The area down around City Hall appeared to be entirely in flames with thick walls of smoke concealing everything south-west of Ninth Street. As they approached along Market they came across volunteers battling the blazes past Polk and they pitched in with burlap bags and sand for some time, and appeared to be getting the upper hand, when a mounted troop came upon them and ordered them back and away from Market and the entire Commercial District.

Perplexed, Festus asked the commander just why they were to give up at this point when they seemed just about to get a handle on things and was informed the city was now under martial law by order of General Funston and they were to obey immediately or risk being shot on the spot. They were about to disobey for the house there on the corner of Market and Fell might yet be saved when the aide trained his rifle upon a man helping the family living in the house remove some of their belongings. He had in his arms at the time a small box of dolls.

"Looter halt!" shouted the aide.

The man, naturally not seeing himself in such a light, put the box into a wagon there and half turned to re-enter the house. At that moment, the aid shot him in the side of his chest and the little girl who owned the dolls screamed. At the point of bayonet all the volunteers were marched off of Market as the firestorm swept on through, wiping out the block within minutes.

A troop of cavalry patrolled Market now, to the extent they could for now the west end fire raged east to Ninth Street while another fire lept Market near the Chronicle building. The two partners made their way to the backside of The Palace Hotel, which had numerous fires burning all around it. They found the Chronicle building evacuated and in flames. Thundering booms rolled towards them as the great linotype machines crashed through the upper floors.

From there they headed south to the Mission for there was no way to head west through the advancing fire and now fires burned north of Market. A great rage of flames and smoke obscured the Ferry Building from fires all about the Call building. They found numerous groups of volunteers battling the blazes through the Mission, which had been abandoned by most of the Fire Department and the Army and they joined them, using bags, sand, shovels and just their hands for these people fought to save their own homes and their neighbors. It had always been the way, for they were poor and could expect no help when the mansions of Nob Hill were threatened.

For the rest of that day and much of the night Festus and his one-armed friend fought the fires until the sun vanished behind the dense umbrella of smoke. The ragged line of volunteers gave ground grudgingly, with animosity, until the fires crossed Twelfth Street. From the direction of the Mint they heard a furious series of explosions that went on a number of hours. They slept for a few hours at Festus' home before awaking in an overcast day on which the sun failed to shine. They tried to reach the Ferry Building but this time, no soldiers stopped them. The Call Building was ablaze and all the Victorians from Third Street were become either glowing coals or raging infernos. The tower of the Chronicle building still stood, but the great clock had been burned out and lots of ruined walls hemming ashes ringed it all around. As they stood, smoke began billowing from the massive Palace Hotel. The entire block behind it burned viciously to Howard Street. North of Market, sheets of smoke indicated that Nob Hill and Chinatown were ablaze, rich and poor now sharing the misery and so the way to the north of the City was now blocked, either by trigger-happy soldiers or by immense fires.

They made their way back to the Mission, unable to escape and so joined the growing number of volunteers who now had several trained fire fighters organizing them, for these men also had been cut off from their units and so from these men Festus learned that Fire Chief Sullivan had died in the first few minutes of the quake when his roof had fallen in. On through the second day, the men fought fire after fire with no end in sight. All day they fought the fires, but they were pushed back to Fourteenth Street for all they could do. As night fell, the crack of army rifles rang out and the dim thud of explosions came to them, exhausted, filthy and with throats raw from breathing polluted air.

On the third day, which arose sunless as the previous, the fires continued to burn, but they now had well over three thousand people fighting to save what they could of the Mission neighborhoods, while the Army and most of the Fire Department seemed busy to the north. Still, the fires pushed them back to Seventeenth Street that day.

A working hydrant was discovered on Church and Twentieth Streets by the few City employees who remained in the district and hope renewed in the volunteers. The area down by the Ferry looked bleak however, as the Palace Hotel now blazed from all windows although the Call Building appeared still to stand. They still could not get to the Ferry building itself because of the tremendous heat and so did not know of Tomas's attempted rescue from that side. As Tomas sailed up with the armada they encountered the Ferry building staff waving them all off. The telegraph had been out for hours and burning refuse plunged down hissing on all sides. The heat was tremendous as all the waterfront buildings on either side were glowing and it seemed the docks would go up next as well as the Ferry building itself.

They tacked around to the north and found several Navy ships taking on thousands of people all at the marshes at the foot of Van Ness and the Marina cove. There they took on passengers so as to ferry them over to Oakland. Standing briefly off Goat Island, the City appeared to be one great smoking heap of coals and black smoke rising in thick columns to a canopy of ash. It did not seem possible Grumpus and his father could have survived.

The fourth day began sunless and hot and smoky and dogged persistence. All of them waded through scrims of smoke like souless creatures, wielding brooms and knapsacks and buckets now they had a little bit of water. At noon the fire reached Twentieth Street, but the working hydrant there collected them and with the last twitches of already dead men they threw themselves into the fight, Grumpus howling like mad and singing strange songs in the old Irish as Festus swung his shovel like some Viking raider under attack. His own house sat beyond on Twenty-Second Street.

With a great hiss, the burning house on Twentieth and Church Street belched and gave up under the stream of hose water and a hundred men with axes and shovels. For the first time in four days, the army of volunteers advanced. To the north, the explosions had stopped and the smokes rising were from smolders, not infernos. The rain of burning hail and the hot wind had stopped. Into the ruined city the survivors marched. Those who still had homes went to them. Others went to the refugee camps at Lafayette Park. They had won at last. The great San Francisco Fire of 1906 was out.


We now return to the present time with its own present-day disasters and concerns. The Palace Hotel was destroyed -- much to the irritation of Caruso staying as a guest at the time -- but the Call building survived as did the basic structure of the Chronicle Building, and those two still stand, although the Chronicle is now housed at Fifth and Mission and of course the building interior had to be completely redone. The Ferry Building still remains, although the entire Embarcadero has been renovated as well as the building itself. The Shreve Building in Union Square survived amid the ruins and the Shreve family still practices the trade of jewelry and diamonds at the same location.

General Funston, who carried out the illegal order to enforce martial law as stated by Mayor Schmidt, was eventually cashiered from the Army in disgrace -- albeit for different reasons than his role during the Great Fire. Mayor Schmidt was indicted and narrowly escaped a prison sentence for corruption and other issues related to the fire and malfeasance prior to it. With the end of his reign also ended a long period of rampant corruption. No street nor memorial exists to honor the man anywhere in the City.

On the day Tomas sails around to the foot of Van Ness, 20,000 people were evacuated in the largest maneuver of its kind in history.

Michael de Young, co-founder of the Chronicle, put out the paper without missing a single issue, from presses owned by the Oakland Tribune. He remained a dominant figure until his death in 1925.

The fire hydrant at 20th and Church is painted gold by a local neighborhood association every year on the 18th of April. But since this color is not authorized by the City, the hydrant is quickly painted over again by city employees.

Oaktown and the Island hosted several thousand refugees for several months. Among the businesses that chose to re-establish in San Francisco, among the first were Bank of America, which set up an office in a tent, and a motor company run by James Harley and Willie Davidson, which set up a dealership that used their combined last names.


Someone must have heard Der Arnold's prayers, for the spigot has been turned off. Cloudless days ushered in a perfectly sunny weekend and the strain on the levees appears to have abated for now. Word comes from correspondents in Europe that deep snow still blankets Vienna while Germany and most of France still require mittens and woolies. Heard Tennessee is enjoying the mid-seventies, however.

The New Orleans Jazz Fest is underway by now, but have no word on attendance in the suddenly crawfish-devoid metropolis. Katrina wiped the ponds with tons of salt water, so any etoufee you get has to be either frozen or contain mudbugs from China.

The China connection, BTW, has returned a thumbs down from its visit with Mr. Bush, and the general tenor we are getting from the Pacific Rim is a loud, "These people do not know how to conduct business."

This is not a good thing for a Conservative Republican to have said about him.

Hear great things are going on over at McGraths Pub however. Peter has folks flying in from all over the country for gigs through July and some of these are quite respectable indeed.

And we wind up with some good advice for you out there in La-La land. And this comes from experience. If you feel the earth shake, for chrissake don't stand in a doorway; the doors themselves tend to swing back and forth at something like fifty miles per hour.

That's the way it is on the Island. Did the earth move for you, too?

MAY 7, 2006


The trickles of the final rain have descended to wet seeps in the deepest places while the onset of the Most Dangerous Season creeps in to NorCal as is its wont each year in typical fashion. First, a single sunny day smiles down on all, then the heavens broil with heavy cloud and temps ease into evening cool breezes while the dense fog auditions for a Peter Jackson film by swarming over the coastal hills visible from Blackpoint.

But this season, which presents the illusion of continued Winter to the novice, cloaks the eruption of freesias, explosions of jasmine, and geysers of gladiola shoots, promising great things to come. It's Spring in NorCal and true to form, we do things our own way year after year.

The ground squirrels have been scampering, the racoons have been skittering and the stray cats have been leaping.

Soon it all starts: The Most Dangerous Season. The temperature warms, the skirts go higher, the hair flies free, and all nature cuts loose like Charlie launching another Tet offensive. The Birds start coming in low to strafe the meadows in chevrons, while the bees dive-bomb the buttercup-sprinkled fields now erupting with blue-bells, asters, hyacinths, freesias and godknowswhatnot geysering up from the seed-pocked earth. Roses bursting randomly, leaving blood-trails on the retinas. The ground squirrels renew their secretive underground activities with the moles and suddenly Councilperson Wilma can be seen chasing Councilperson Ray down on the beach with one heel broken and all hell to pay back in the Chambers. Mayor Beverly saunters into Chambers whistling a high tune. The SF Bay Curmudgeon Chief editor gives up his "read my paper, dammit" campaign to take cover beneath the flowered quilts with his second lieutenant, who turns out to be a spy for the SF Bleakly.

They are all out there, armed and deadly with full lips and camo-rouge, heady scents and fey looks, with just a skip in their march and loaded with all the weapons a silk scarf can conceal.

Here comes Andres, one day a free man walking down the sunny sidewalk when he passes the place where the decent barfly dive, The Lincoln's Address, used to be. Only now its a fancy schmantzy place called The Forbidden Tiki Palace and Cat is out there hiding her looks beneath dark bangs. A brief exchange, hot flashes and tracers in the night and another IED (Improvised Erotic Design) goes off.

He's down for the count, right through the heart. We shall not see his wan, tortured face for many moons. Yes, Spring is the Most Dangerous Season indeed.


As everyone knows, Monday was a big day of sorts for los Immigrantes.

Across the country, and especially in border states like California, this issue is a hot button for all kinds of talk right now. Typically stirred up by You Know Who in the White House, trying to resolve in his typically hamhanded fashion complex issues via gross oversimplification.

Even the Minutemen, not exactly your most sophisticated crowd, have called for moderation in pursuit of resolution here.

Island Life would be remiss in not pursuing this item vigorously. So we conducted our own interviews with selected immigrants here on the Island.

First we talked to the couple that runs the El Caballo around the corner. The man came from Mexico years ago, worked hard and now runs a little family business. He closed his shop on Monday and joined an estimated 100,000 people packing International Blvd. from the Fruitvale all the way to the Federal Building in downtown Oaktown. According to this man, he feels sympathy for Las Migras and knows the difficulty of travelling a long way from home to try to make a few dollars. Those people in Washington, sitting in air conditioned offices far from the places where people work and live and die know nothing of what really happens until people take to the streets and that is why he went to the protest with his wife.

When they talk of illegals and immigrants these days they talk about the Latino community, but they are not the only immigrants among us. Just a few doors down from El Caballo, is The Market Spot, owned and operated by a Korean family. In the back, an ethnic Chinese man runs the best market in the East Bay. We asked the youngest of the Koreans what he thought about all the recent immigration hoopla. He came to this country at age ten and speaks flawless English. He was of the mind that taking off work does nothing to communicate any sort of message.

Our Filapino contacts remained out of contact as the weekend turned out to be unexpectedly sunny and delightful and nobody in their right mind was going to be hanging around waiting to be interviewed.

Next we talked to this particular individual from The East. We asked him if he had ever experienced prejudice against him here in California and got a resounding affirmative.

"Oh yeah, they make fun a duh way I tawk and stuff. I couldn't get a job for years here. A lotta people here in California really hate foreigners."

What did he think about what immigrants to California should do about things.

"Well, ya can vote but that don't mean much when so many voters are stupid as bricks. Nah, the protest aint gonna work nohow neither cause the mafia got it all sussed if ya know what I mean. They got it all under control, but hey! Don't get me wrong -- if it weren't for the mafia, things would really be outta control with just anybody stealing and killing any time they felt like it. At least right now somebody keeps an eye on things, makin' sure people get permission and stuff."

About organized opposition to the system?

"Well they got somethin' here like the KKK only here they call it the Native Plants Association. You think its all about plants? Really? Gimmee a break! They just the Minutemen in dresses."

Did he take Monday off work in protest?

"Hell no! Look at what they be chargin' for rent around here! It's like Coney Island with these landlords rippin' people off. I gotta pay the bills, man!"

How did he see himself as an immigrant. What kind of citizen with what allegience.

"Hey, I'm a citizen of the good ole U S of A. And a Californian, cause I live here jack. I live here now. You don't need qualifications here for that."

Any chance he might return to the land of his birth?

"Go back to Jersey? Aint nothing in Kinnelon but a broken down jalopy and a battle with the booze. Nah."

There you have it. Three interviews with California immigrants. Only on Island-life.


It is one of life's ironies that national holiday's are not celebrated nearly as much as in the country of origin as in the United States. Maybe we are a Nation of Immigrants.

In any case, Cinco de Mayo is a day which commemorates a military victory over the French in 1862. In Mexico, some mild attention is paid, but here in the US wild orgiastic celebration ensues with much inhalation of tequila of various standards, and of cerveza, which is largely crap.

Personally Negro Modelo is far better a beer than that pale fizzy spoof served up by the bucket with limes to make it palatable.

There was the big parade in Babylon on Sunday in La Mission, and we had our own big party down on International Boulevard with all the low riders bouncing and all the cholos hanging out.

Actually in Mexico they hardly recognize the day at all. Instead they celebrate Guten Tag, and everybody dresses in lederhosen. They stuff pinatas with sausages and knoedel and everybody practices the tuba. A favorite activity on this day is a contest in which chihuahuas are made to do the polka until they fall down. All the restaurants serve sauerkraut and hammered beef patties that resemble sauerbraten with chillies and they sing songs like "O du lieber Augustine". That's what they do in Mexico on Cinco de Mayo.


Just over the wire we have this breaking news regarding an outbreak of Bird Flu on the East Coast. One of our roving correspondents took this startling graphic image of the decimating effects of Bird Flu in Florida.

The carnage appears total and merciless. All Floridians are warned to stay indoors, avoid toxic personalities like Catherine Harris, and practice walking without breathing.

This has been a public service announcement from


Well it's been another quiet week on the Island. Understand that high school sophmore Thai Tu won the NCS Tennis championship for his school here and we are all mighty proud. He must come from good stock, as his brother won the previous year.

The weekend revolved into a gorgeous sunny day on Sunday after a late start sort of Saturday. Noted windsurfers returning to the Strand with their bright windsails tethered to short surfboards garrisoned by wetsuit clad Adonises. With a few well-structured mermaids among them. Oh to be young when the body was a coiled spring rebounding against the all-possible world and the ocean's salt spray flinging up like mad diamonds all around.

Have seen no poodles at all recently, which gives rise to the concern that all have drowned during the recent rains here. What shall we do come November and the annual BBQ? This is a matter of concern.

Time has sequed into the Sunday Night Jam with the truant Mike Powers returned to the power seat after a weekend getting into trouble somewhere.

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

MAY 14, 2006


As many of you know, Sunday is the day on which we commemorate those gals who, for reasons of their own, chose to drag virtually every one of you sorry saps into the world, feed you peanut butter sandwiches for ten years, wipe your snotty noses, learn you acid-eating guilt proper-like, and supply more than enough material for ten thousand years of psychiatric couch-therapy. Yep, Sunday is Muthah's Day. So all you Mutha's out there, Islandlife says, "Yo, Mom, you be the baddest. Keep it Real."

In related news we have a flip side to the Lost Child story for we have found someone's lost Mummy. If any of you be feeling like a motherless child, please check in to the UC Anthro Department and claim your Mummy.

Here is a photo of the lost Mum who was found.

Now, you kids don't be dissin' your Mum. Gotta step up and claim her or we being putting some serious hurt on your behinds.


Everyone's all agog at the letter sent by Iran's President Ahmadinejad to the US President-Appointee George Bush, the first official communication in well over forty years between the heads of state of these nations. It seems prettly clear that Ahmadinejad has no intention of seriously expecting the Bushie to respond at all intelligently -- in fact, it seems prettly clear he expects GB to ignore the letter entirely.

Ahmadinejad is talking not to Bush, who never listens to anyone with whom he disagrees in the slightest anyway, but to the legions of people around the world who observe the current failures of the Bush regime with dismay and increasing scepticism towards US activities.

Right now Iran is not exactly a model image of a democratic society, but the institutions for democracy still exist -- the rule of law, the requirements for periodic national elections, the courts, the constitution and all the structures for enforcing democracy have not been erased in Iran, but they have been co-opted by a religious extreme such that true democracy no longer exists there.

Sounds vaguely familiar.

In a related note, the lunatic Mousassoui was sentenced to life in prison for
he devote wish to be involved with the events of 9/11, although it was clear the man was basically incapable of tying his own shoelaces, let alone capable of helping a bevy of mission-trained operatives seize four jet airliners so as to inflict as much damage as they did.

Families of victims in those attacks stated, " Why are we paying attention to this idiot who was only a tangential player in the events of 9/11 and who clearly could have had nothing serious to do with those attacks when we know we have people in custody who had far more to do with the planning of the attacks? This guy was never more than a wannabee."

The problem here, people is that those known terrorists have been kept in foreign prisons and tortured to such an extent that any evidence they provide against themselves would be inadmissable. Once again, the Administration has shot itself in its legal foot and given rise to these quotes.

"Where is all this pathos about protecting human rights and democracy when it comes to the need to pursue their own interests?”

— Vladimir Putin
At his state of the nation address, responding to Vice President Dick Cheney's accusations that Russia is cutting back on democracy, Tuesday, May. 09, 2006

“How much longer will the blood of the innocent men, women and children be spilled on the streets, and people's houses destroyed over their heads? ”

— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran's president, referring to the war on Iraq in a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush


Our sister in Marin, Beatrice, sends us this sequence indicating the marvels of illusion that makeup can do to transform an average face into something more aesthetically and socially pleasing.



In the Nth hour, with 100-year old levees straining and crumbling, houses shifting on the hillsides and the Nation's breadbasket Central Valley about to be catastrophically inundated, heavy cloud gave way to summer temps and sun, causing Der Governator Arnold to skip for joy. One less problem to be blamed on the embattled Republican.


The suddenly scortching sun slammed into the Island this weekend during a full moon and KFOG's annual listener-appreciation party. KABOOM typically draws a starter crowd of some 250,000 people to the wharves along the Embarcadero with at least that many thronging the Bay in boats and the shores
to hear free concerts by the likes of KT Tunstall, Jackie Greene and Los Lonely Boys before the launching of California's largest and most spectacular fireworks display.

Incidentially, on a personal note, our friend the late Harvey, helped orchestrate the technical aspects of the first KABOOMS.

Down on Park Street the Island held its annual Spring Fest with booths peddling tchotchkes, cotton sun umbrellas, Aussie hats, stained glass, photos of Chinese waterfalls and tons of kitsch while a couple lite jazz bands tried gamely to keep from wilting in the sudden heat. Kids puttered and petted in the animal enclosure among a scattering of quacker ducks, a goat, some rabbits and one mule while the adult set snorked wine from Rosenblum cellars amid the heavy scent of garlic fries. A fine time was had by all.

Congrats to Strange de Jim here on the Island who cerebrally cerebrated his 69th Sunday evening among the gang of rascals and ne'er do wells he calls friends. We understand that a special cake was made from an heirloom mold some seventy years old in the form of what may have been either a lamb or Gromit, of Wallace and Gromit fame ("The Wrong Trousers" and "Chicken Run").

This being Spring, Bear has gone into hibernation with his filthy T-shirts, mismatched socks and birds-nest beard to practice Unspeakable Acts for a time, while we hear in the distance the periodic revving of Percy Worthington-Bougsplatt's pristine 1929 two-toned Mandelbrot coupe as he tunes the beast in time for the Annual Island Car and Kitsch Show. Stay tuned for developments in that area.

Papoon, the electoral ground squirrel has been gamboling as we approach mid-term elections and say fond goodbyes to 18-year veteran Elaine Ginnold, who departs as Acting Registrar for the County to take the permanent top spot for Marin. She has been serving as Acting Registrar since Bradley Clark stepped down to take on the formidable task of California's Assistant Secretary of State for Elections.

Spring is a time of change and all the sweet peas have been wreaking havoc down there by the Old Fence. Rachel, the Metrodome dance teacher, who normally stands sternly beating time with her ferrule, has taken to walking with a sort of skip and there's no telling what kinds of shenanigans are taking place right now under the chandaliers. Well, perhaps one can tell.

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

MAY 21, 2006

GUEST COMMENTARY (Reprinted from Island Journal of 5/19/06)

City should re-think cineplex parking garage
By Irene Dieter

SITTING ON a shelf in City Hall are two studies that could end the controversy over the theater/garage project currently being planned for downtown Alameda. The Park Street Streetscape and Town Center Project study and the Parking Structure Feasibility study were both prepared in 2002 by city-hired experts with countless hours of community input.

Both studies indicate that the proposed parking garage near the corner of Oak Street and Central Avenue is in the wrong place. They point instead to the Elks Lodge parking lot as the best site for a new garage.

The streetscape and town center study covers traffic circulation, land use, and parking. The project team of 27 individuals plus consultants recommended a pedestrian-oriented civic corridor along Oak Street with a plaza between Lincoln and Central Avenues. They never envisioned and never recommended traffic from a parking garage there. In response to the streetscape and town center efforts, the parking structure feasibility study looked at viable sites for a parking garage and identified the Elks Lodge parking lot as ideal.

According to articles in the Alameda Journal in October 2002, the Elks responded favorably, offering their site for parking, with the provision that they get a rebuilt gym. The study also provided for additional city office space above the section of the garage next to City Hall for architectural continuity.

Members of the Downtown Vision Task Force responded favorably as well, saying: "The Elks Lodge site will produce the most parking for the least money and has better ingress and egress than the other possibilities" (Oct. 22, 2002). The cost for this entire package, in 2002 dollars, was a little over $10 million, almost the same as the cost of the current garage proposal. The Elks Lodge garage would provide 513 total spaces with 163 spaces reserved for Elks' events, versus the current proposal for 352 spaces.

What else makes the Elks' site ideal? The feasibility study notes its close proximity to City Hall, the police station, the proposed library and the historic theater. The study also suggests that the parking structure would extend onto the existing parking lot between City Hall and the police station in an L-shaped configuration that would provide easy pedestrian access and visibility to downtown. The main entrance and exit would be on Lincoln Avenue -- an established traffic corridor -- with a suggested secondary entrance and exit on Oak Street, presumably for city employees. The garage would be discreetly nestled among existing buildings.

The added distance from the Elks Lodge site to the theater is only one block, an inconsequential walk for most people. Priority parking for those with mobility impairments could be made available at the existing city lot across from the theater.

Moving the garage to the Elks site will address the two main environmental concerns about the current theater/garage project: Poor traffic circulation and the massiveness of the combined cineplex and garage on the corner of Oak and Central. An Elks site garage would free up valuable space at this corner for the plaza envisioned by the streetscape and town center study. Instead of cars, we could have a fountain, benches, and trees -- a relaxed gathering place for moviegoers, shoppers, diners and those enjoying a stroll through their own downtown.

Moving the parking structure to the Elks Lodge site may cost a little more than the current garage proposal, but we would get so much more for our money. Besides the environmental benefits, we would have more parking spaces, more city office space and open space for a plaza.

It's time to take those 2002 studies down off the City Hall shelf.

Irene Dieter is a 15-year Alameda resident.

Editor's note: The Alameda Journal will, on occasion, accept submissions for longer-form guest commentaries. For additional information, contact Jeff Mitchell, editor, Alameda Journal, at 748-1656. Acceptance for publication of such guest editorials does not imply an endorsement of the commentary by the Alameda Journal, the Contra Costa Times or any of its affiliated companies.


As of Friday, all bids for the Cineplex project have wildly exceeded budgeted amounts. The lowest bid for the parking garage was $800,000 over budget and the sole bid for renovating the old picture house came in at $3.6 million over the allotted amount. Long time readers here will recall that the Cineplex fiasco began when Council tried to sneak by an astounding project that would have built a towering skyscraper of a parking garage right on Park Street (which is all of six blocks long, if you include the fire station) and a twenty-screen cinema multiplex.

Sure sounds in keeping with preserving the ambience of an art-deco, 1950's era smalltown downtown, don't it?

Outrage began shortly after the project was approved and lawsuits ensued as vigorous anti-growth activists stepped in to defend the spirit of previously approved voter propositions here. There is a height restriction on the Island of about three stories, as an additional wrinkle.

It is an Island after all, and many wondered how on earth over a thousand people were going to shuffle onto the Island and then off for the various showtimes. Especially as our only bridge is a two-lane drawbridge that ups to admit just any old twenty-footer past to and from the marina.

Now, after all the lawsuits and flack about a misbegotten project no one in their right mind wants to have happen, should anyone be surprised that no reasonable company wants to take part in what shall surely become a losing proposition?

Oh people develop some sense now and turn the old building into a civic center for kids and museum artifacts. Anything other than this foolish exercise in gigantism. You can still keep one screen to show Andy Pagano's films on and about the Bay Area. It really would be more reasonable in the long run and fit in with the existing neighborhood as well.


We are astonished that Opus has his own organization and quite amazed that anyone would have anything to say against it, for penguins are notably kind, gentle and disposed to loll among the daisies. Perhaps certain elements of the Cat-Lick church would do well to follow the example of dear Opus.

For consider the penguin, especially Opus: he sowth not, nor reapeth profits nor causeth great hassle to anyone. As employee of the Bloom County Herald, Opus keepeth the Low Profile.

Nevertheless now we are hearing about this "da Vinci code" and a certain Opus Day organization, a clandestine society of wierd rituals and sneaky people embedded within the equally as strange Catholic Church. Some would say that books of fiction which cap on the Roman Church are being antireligious and negative. Heck, you don't have to write no fiction to piss people off; the Church has not behaved well historically and even today promotes some pretty wacky ideas. Has anyone forgotten Galileo and Giordano Bruno?

But slamming our dear colleague Opus is going a bit too far. We cannot think of a kinder, gentler soul than the pudgy Sphenisciforme Newsie of Bloom County who could no more be the leader of a malignant secret society than we could imagine Bill the Cat acing the MCAT exam to be a doctor. Opus is a critter who is terrorized by automatic flush toilets and Poofter-hating Evangelicals.

We have no idea who these Opus Day individuals happen to be, but if they happen to be folks who simply want to honor the Deep Penguin in all of us, and who move to install a hill clad with secular daisies in every township, then we are all for them. Up with Opus! Let Opus Day reign! Let every day be Opus Day!

So there. Thppfffthttt!


In scrollng through the upcoming list of concerts we were pleased and astonished to see local boys Houston Jones on the Short List in company with the likes of Melissa Etheridge, Dave Matthews and Mark Knopfler.

My, my, my, these boys have moved Uptown!

If you want a nice warm-up for CSNY on 7/25 at the Sleeptrain Pavilion in Concord, you can catch the boys at Bisquits and Blues in the City on the previous day. Quite a bit upscale venue from the grubby dartboard, graffiti strewn walls and linty pool table of McGrath's, indeed!

Here are personal picks fot the hot upcoming Summer Season:

BB KING - May 26 - 89th birthday bash in Sonoma (SOLD OUT!)
BB KING, ROOMFUL OF BLUES, LOS LOBOS, JOHN HIATT - May 27-28 - Santa Cruz Blues Festival
DITTY BOPS - June 3 - Slim's
GLEN PHILLIPS -- June 6 - Great American Music Hall


HOUSTON JONES - June 8th, Music and Market Concert Series, Concord

BFD (many many bands, including Death Cab for Cutie) - June 10 - Shoreline
JAMIE CULLUM -- June 18 -- Paramount
AIMEE MANN -- June 18 - Stern Grove, SF - !FREE!

MELISSA ETHERIDGE - Paramount - June 21

AMADOU & MARIAM -- June 25 - Stern Grove !FREE! World music from Mali
DAMIEN RICE -- June 26 -- Mtn Winery


INDIGO GIRLS -- July 5 -- Mtn Winery
BONNIE HAYES, ACOUSTIC SON -- July 22 - Little Fox, Redwood City

HOUSTON JONES - July 24 -- Biscuits & Blues
CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG - July 25th - Sleeptrain Pavilion, Concord

BEN HARPER -- Aug 18-19 - Greek
THE WAIFS - Sat. Aug. 26 & Sun. Aug. 27 -- Great American Music Hall (onsale 4/30)
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND with ROBERT RANDOLPH - Sept 8 and 9 - Shoreline

We hear that Wavy Gravy's 70th birthday bash, typically a bundled fundraiser for Seva Foundation, went well with Bob Weir hosting at the Berkeley Community Center. Congratuations and many happy more to Wavy.


The House cancelled its first Summer BBQ this year when the skies lowered and yet another storm front set in for a good week and a half of yet more wet. Getting no succor from his plea to fellow partiman GWB for funds to shore up the aging levee system, Der Governator Arnold has flown to Texas there, to beg borrow and swipe what he can from the only people getting rich right now so that the Golden State does not turn into a big lake during the next rainy season.


Ketchup contains naturally occurring ingredients that help moderate extreme impulses and calm the nerves, so that foolish projects like the Cineplex never happen. Perhaps you need more ketchup in your diet. Ketchup -- for the good times.

As any fool would know, the most significant film to come out this year comes out within a week, for Prarie Home Companion: The Movie, starring Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, as well as some normal people, is about to hit the Big Screens. Let us not be accused of being anti-film! We simply feel, not unlike a revolutionary in a John Waters movie, that we wish to "punish bad cinema."

John Waters, as everyone knows, is Baltimore's most Famous and Most Talented Son. No one else from Baltimore has risen so high and achieved so much. They say Waters owns Judy Garland's famous "ruby slippers."

John, we loved your "Pecker". I bet you always wanted an adoring fan to say just that.

In any case, Garrison has spent this week returning to the roots, by doing a show in Iceland where badboys from Scandanavia landed only to discover America a bit further on and then turn back as the fast food chains had not developed by then. It was impossible at the time to find a White Castle Burger anywhere. No one in America wanted to sample luetefisk, much less set about making it in great numbers. In addition, the Norsk were very inclined to leave well enough alone and not bother over much with India, which is largely the reason that we blame the lost and confused Christoforo Columbus for all of our troubles.

Columbus was a man who did not know where he was going when he set out, did not know where he was when he got there, and didn't know where he had been when he got back. Small wonder he died in a lunatic asylum. And America got named after his mapmaker, who basically said, "Screw you, boss!" There is something pleasing about that detail.

Let us return to Keillor, a man whom we respect and admire. Garrison is the man whom we wanted to be. Successful. Surrounded by rich and beautiful starlets. Wise and avuncular with leisure to discourse on the vagaries of the world from a distance. Jashur Jonit, Keillor!


It's been a quiet week on the Island. We have had the rain come sluicing in with unwonted energy at this time and everybody has run indoors except for idiots who had a yen to watch a bunch of drug-addled millionaires run around in circles in a baseball coluseum this weekend. A couple miles away Barry Bonds broke Babe Ruth's record, but we say, so what? The Babe didn't stick a needle in his ass to do what he did. The guy who caught that ball in the stands has stated publicly he hates Barry Bonds' guts.

Down by the Strand the ground squirrels are all up in arms over the new immigration laws proposed. They are firmly against any sort of amnesty to illegals and Papoon, as the token Liberal Candidate during this midterm elections season, is hard put to maintain order. Mike Powers is on right now with the Sunday Night Jam and we do hope all of you are funkngroovin to the right noise this Sunday evening. Picked up a copy of the latest Dixie Chicks and of Neil Young's "Living with War" along with the "Da Vinci Code" and we wish you the same for this is the manner of our resistance against idiocy.

That's the way it is on the Island. ITMFA and have a great week.

MAY 28, 2006


Drove down to Aptos for the first day of the 14th Annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival. Almost stayed for Day 2, for leaving meant we passed up hearing and seeing up close and personal The Boneshakers, Dave Alvin, North Mississippi Allstars, John Hiatt, and Los Lobos at what is becoming a premier event in Northern California characterized by stomping energetic performances by Five-Star acts in an intimate venue.

Day one featured Mike Schermer, Rod Piazza, Coco Montoya, Roomful of Blues, and His Highness, BB King, who celebrated his 80th birthday this week.

Well, as much as we would have liked to see John Hiatt, its rather harsh to have to follow up somebody like BB King. We were basically toast after that one, so John will have to wait a bit.

Let's get back to the chronology. The Festival, sold out this year, has become such a "must see" item among the Blues afficiondos, up there with the massive Monterey Festival with its four seperate stages and 54 acts, that all of Santa Cruz County hunkers down for the onslaught, with $120 per night hotels doubling and tripling their normal rates and the $350 palaces going well above the roofline. So we picked a cabin in little Ben Lomond in the wooded hills well up Rt. 9. Even so, we only got that at double rate because the reservee had to leave suddenly for Canada.

Between noisy hotels bracketed by surf-side slock and kitsch, hey, give me a mountain cabin any day. Wiser and more soulful heads failed to prevail in the rebuild of Santa Cruz and Capitola after the disaster of the '89 Loma Prieta earthquake, which levelled both towns. Now, Santa Cruz is just another tourist trap with sand and expensive sand dollars, with only the occasional corner busker lighting up the barren commercial district with a flash of life.

Events like the Blues Festival may help to turn things around, for although the face of SC may have changed, the Lifers have remained and you can still notice a grizzled beard and weather-lines strolling through the crowds or driving beat pickup trucks that actually are used to do real work. And above the beach area, low-level garden-houses still squat together in sandy soil strewn with succulents and dessicated palms and bicycles. Nope, the Residents have not gone away.


Friday evening we drove down the road to experience Ciao! Bella! (goodbye, beautiful), a place where the owner, Tad Morgan, unabashedly lives out a dream. In its own words, the promotional material announces, "It's the most amazing restaurant in the redwoods, a feast for the pallette and the senses; it's dinner and a show, the best bartenders ever, and a historically accurate recreation of the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization happening every night of the week!". Rather than steal more immortal words from the work of a delightfully mad genius, stroll on over to The site has quicktime excerpts of the some of the tamer stage shows.

These pictures, taken the day after the dream of an evening there, barely scratch the surface of the outre decor on which Tad spent some fourteen hours per day for the past nine years. Bear in mind that everything is wildly lit up at night, including the rooftop flamingo, which glows.

The food is, surprisingly quite good, and easily measures up to any of the surf 'n turf four-stars down by the ocean. We had the pollo involunti and the Elvis Special. Our delightful waitron, who looked the spitting image of the bassist for The Donnas, went by the name of Elvis, so of course we just had to enjoy the Special, a light and faintly tangy prawns al Fredo. All of the staff bear Big Star monikers.

Although the owner is so out and gay as to define the way to be as an ideal, this is a kid-friendly place and everybody knows to behave with sophistication, friendliness and delicacy, which is also a nice surprise, given the overtly Punk look of all the heavily tattooed folks there and the outrageous kitsch splattering the ceiling and walls everywhere someone has not nailed an old LP of torch songs. One wall bears the bas relief of a woman's torso giving birth in quite graphic detail, for example. But then, we have always felt Punks to be ultimately the best people in any case. If you have uptight intolerances, just dont go. But if you love friendly, peaceful people, good food and amazing atmosphere that is out of the ordinary with great intention, then Ciao! Bella! is for you.

Joe Bob says, "Thumbs up!"

CALL 831-336-9221 FOR RESERVATIONS. A weekday visit off-the-cuff may mean a 90 minute wait. Weekends can mean two hours of sitting at the busy bar where you just might be dragooned into an impromtue "spatula slap game". Better get reservations. And even that process is typically a bit off the charts in wierdness and wonder. Go to Ciao! Bella! You will like it.


Now back to our regular program. We managed to miss Mike Schermer and most of Rod Piazza due to what the Navy formally terms a SNAFU. Our Editor and Guiding Light left the Gold Circle Tickets back at the cabin. On top of his guitar case. Perhaps appropriate, but largely ineffective in the case of a sold out show. After retrieving the entry visas, we parked the Official Press Vehical in the Press Lot in Aptos -- most attendees must park in the lot at San Cabrillo College and take the free shuttle bus down the road -- and sauntered in with an occasional frisk and bag check or two. Rod Piazza was winding up a scortching set by leaping off of the stage to stroll through the crowd during an extended solo. Not for the last time did folks beg for "just one more."

Suppose that if Jimmy Reed handed you a harmonica in person, one would persist. And persist the man has, over forty years.

Food court supplied "southern fried" usuals. Recommend the BBq chicken and avoid the "pulled pork".

Long time favorite Coco Montoya took over the stage with customary humility. Given that none other than Albert Collins taught the man guitar, his humility tends to be a bit of understatement regarding his abilities. But then, as a founding member of the Bluesbreakers, which jumpstarted Mick Taylor, Peter Green and a young buck named Eric Clapton, perhaps he has played with so many superstars he is comparing himself to the best and the brightest. Even there, we think no false modesty is required here. He has a CD coming out soon, engineered by Peter Barrere (LIttle Feat) so his set was particularly sharp. His previous studio recordings have been flat and despite W.C.Handy Awards, failed to catch on for all of their musical proficiency. But live, Montoya turns into quite a monster, providing raw, pure, blistering blues the way it should be played by everybody. Never painting by numbers, and never lapsing into boring dunta-duntas, Montoya continually reinvents himself on stage when performing and the result is quite exciting. His ode to father-figure Collins, on CD sounds vaguely Motown and lacking oomph. In performance, this same 2:30 song of acknowledgment turns into a 13 minute opus of swelling pain and extraordinary emotion that last time destroyed the House. It was everything the Blues is supposed to be, and the best of anything anyone in music ever hopes to attain.

Montoya's humility has one major benefit to concert-goers, for he dearly loves the old-fashioned "cutting heads" session and is not ashamed to invite all comers on board to show what they got. "I need some help here now!" He said. "Rod Piazza just done blown me off the stage! I need some help here!"

Up pops local hotshot Tommy Castro, an incendiary guitarist in his own right and leader of the repeatedly elected Hardest Working Band in the Bay Area. He also happens to be a personal friend of Montoya. He and Coco started right off matching riffs and playing off of one another. This Montoya, felt was not enought, so he called for yet more help. He needed to drag Mighty Mike Schermer back from his starting set to fill out the sound.

But no that was not enough for Coco.

Rod Piazza's guitarist, a rather accomplished Henry Carvajal, stepped up and started ripping into the sound. Then Rod Piazza stepped up to add his blistering harmonica.

The Security could barely hold back the crowd from rushing the stage with all this talent and finally Coco was satisfied.

As was the crowd, it might be said.

After a brief intermission, the famous Roomful of Blues hopped on stage and took over with their unique brass-heavy jump-blues style. ROB began as the Chicago-style brainchild of Duke Robillard but soon pumped up with swing and '40s jazz and started touring with Count Basie. Horn mutes and gutsy sax punch out the ROB sound, together with a real Broadway showmanship as the lead singer swigs a hip flask before launching into a gut-bucket blues "2 for the price of 10" story of a gambler's woe. The strength here is on firm ensemble work where nobody is the star for long during well-crafted musical orchestrations that allow all members to shine. The lead guitarist, for example, seldom faced the audience during some crunching numbers, prefering to guide the others through the paces. They provided quite a nice "Dark Night is Falling" .

But every seat was filled there to celebrate the birthday of one man who ended that memorable day in Aptos.

During the setup, we noticed that the usual roadie entourage was missing this time. Third Ear handled the set changes but the next band handled its own instruments and setup, with one notable exception. As amateur photogs crowded the pit, Nat Bolan, chief bandleader and conductor of the BB King band personally oversaw the setup of every mike and every detail shortly before he was to perform. The drummer set up his own kit piece by piece and the keyboardist took charge over his own area. These are professionals who have been doing what they do for a very long time and there is no need for somebody to get in the way with any sort of "help".

The sole exception was the placement and care of a single black guitar cared for by an earnest young man whose entire responsiblity lay in placing that guitar in its place and making very sure it was tuned and very very very clean.

All performers wore classical black and white tuxedos with polished shoes. No one, except for soundmen wore blue jeans.

All right there is no need to go into theatrics where theatrics were all ready included. After some time, the band took the stage and launched into an extended jam. At the end of which, various members looked anxiously offstage.

Then, the announcer said simply, "Ladies and gentlemen. Please rise for BB King."

All five thousand people rose as one and a great cheer went up. It was the cheer of ancient centuries, of acknowledgment of royalty, of true appreciation, of love and devotion, of all that and more. Who has not felt something in their time of life that BB King did not inform with his music?

From the moment Mr. King sat down he held the entire crowd in his hand, and Lord, did he work that crowd! "Yes I am now 80 years old. Some people say I am old and can't stand up and play my guitar any more. Well, they are right. I have diabetes and my knees are bad so I have to sit here."

After that admission, and brief concession to his age, Mr. King proceeded to rip up the house with vocals, to start, and charm with risque stories, and then to savage any notion of his present ability to play by tearing up the place with well orchestrated versions of "Just Like a Woman", "Key to the Highway," and "Thrill is Gone." His rendition of "Love Comes to Town" was so energetic, it felt like the first time he had ever played the popular song. And his constant effort was the experienced Showman's effort to include the audience."

Yes, he told stories, campy and erotic and sometimes long-winded, but he is a man from another Age and that is partly why we love him still.

"Well you know Bono wrote this song for me. For me! When love comes to town that is me! Now I want you to sing!" There is nothing like hearing five thousand people screaming, not just singing, but screaming, " Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeaaaaha!"

As his two hour set went on, his powerful baritone, still impressive in power at 80, yielded to warmed-up fingers as he and Lucille took over the music, fluidly riffing and trilling in the unique single-string BB King style.

His version of "Keys to the Highway" brought tears to the eyes, for as he seriously intoned, "I won't be back here no more," he and the people knew that was a very true statement for the man is eighty after many long years of trying to get him to come to the Festival there. And he cannot be everywhere at once in the time he has left. No, it is not likely he will return to that little glade in Aptos.

And so we gave him, our only King, all of our love on the event of his 80th birthday, and he gave us all his best, for that is what he has always done for well on sixty years, three hundred days per year. Of a King, one could ask no more and expect no less. Of an adoring audience you could expect no more and no less. That was BB King at the 14th Santa Cruz Blues Festival.

When his handlers draped his coat over his form, we were sad to see him go. We want to keep him forever. He is our King of the Blues.


Hope all of you are having a wonderful Marmorial Hollarday. Hear that out in Virginia, where they keep Arlington Cemetary, a bunch of fellers is running around like made sticking American flags into the sod of graves all over the place so as to make the whole field more photogenic for the President Appointed and a sure photo-op. Speaking of which we fixed up the "makeup" section below. Guys, never underestimate the power of a dab of paint.

Meanwhile, old Jake is bringing on the House of Blues radio hour while that midnight train is steaming on through Jack London Waterfront over there. The Santa Cruz hills are very fine, very fine indeed but it is nice to be back home on the Island again.

Its a three-day weekend and the weather is fine as those clouds pass overhead to rain down on the Sierra for a last snowfall. There will be BBQ's down on the Strand tomorrow and scampering ground squirrels a-plenty.

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

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