Island Life - Year 2006
JUNE - DECEMBER
Welcome to the 8th year of this weekly column. This site has been in continuous operation since late 1998 and all past issues remain online for reference.
Each year's worth of entries amounts to over 365 pages per year, hence each year-page is split into two parts for ease of loading. You are looking at the June to December half. For Jan-June 2006, click on the clock graphic.
To return to the present time, click on the old boats and sail home.
To visit other years or find a particular date entry, use the navigation bar below.
DECEMBER 24, 2006
NUN HAY GIMEL SHIN
No, we are not going to have the staff work late on Xmas Eve. This edition was compiled earlier in the week over steaming plates of latkes dripping with applesauce. Even as the cold snap yielded to drenching downpours on Thursday. Which surely will not come as good news to those of you trying to fly anywhere this Holiday Season, given that Denver shut down its airport for two days because of snow already and this front will march inexorably over the Sierra to various points East.
LETS A SING OUT PRAISES TO / THAT LONG-HAIRED RADICAL SOCIALIST JEW
Well we promised you a Xmas story to warm your tiny little cockles and so we return to the early days of Alta California for the last in the three-part series on Olga, the Russian waif.
In previous episodes we followed Olga from her childhood inside Catherine The Great's Moscow Orphanage under the rigorous care of the clergy. Next we followed her as she came of age and joined the Russian Fur Company, traveling across the great expanses of the steppes and the Siberian tundra, shipping out to Nootka Alaska, where the little community fails to thrive. On the point of starvation, a group of trappers sets sail for Mexican California so as to obtain provisions for the struggling settlement. Unfortunately, as happened all too often in those days, the ship is disastrously wrecked in Drake's Estero, leaving Olga the sole survivor. She is taken in and sheltered by a seafood-gathering party from the tribe of Sumuc, the most recent descendent of Oog and Aag, whom we have described elsewhere. Mistaking her Russian Orthodox guestures as shamanistic spells, the people then take her in permanently as a sort of witchdoctor on retainer.
Years pass, during which Olga brokers various trade arrangements between Sumuc's people and the Spanish haciendas and with the Missions. Olga marries Sumuc and stays with him, departing from the main village on San Anselmo Creek only briefly for her lieing in and childbirth of Tilacse. The village takes in other footloose wanderers, especially escapees from the harsh Missions. One of these is Runakason. During this time the Missions reach their zenith of influence even as the frictions between the Native Americans and the Europeans become more and more violent.
In 1826, Jeddiah Smith opened the way through the Sierra ramparts, allowing trappers and pioneers to put more strain on the native population. From far-distant, and by this time quite diffident, Mexico City, comes the initially ignored order to secularlize the Mission System which has failed to become self-sustaining. By 1828, the forced drafting of Native Americans begins to stop, but those who still live within the walls must still abide by restrictive laws and inhibitions of the Franciscan Friars, forbidden to leave. Runakason, who has taken part in the Estanislao Rebellion, dare not return to Mission San Jose for fear of his life. As for those who live without the walls, they must abide by military rule. Deviations from either set of rules brings down savage punishment.
now, let us go to December, 1828, not long after the Estanislao rebellion
has been crushed by the soldiers.
CHAPT. 27 - Olga Prevents A Massacre
(A XMAS STORY)
It was the time of ice and sharp short light -- that time of year when the earth has turned its face furthest from the sun and the darkest of nights locks up the running streams into crystal lachrimae, when a runner plunged breathlessly into the village, panting out of breath and near deranged out of his mind with fear and warning. Everyone crowded around him. Two white war parties were marching. They were upset about something and as usual, when this happened, they killed every human being they could find.
Runakason lived among them at that time and he was mortally terrified of being dragged back to the missions.
He did not know that this would not happen, for the time of the missions was coming to an end. But Olga knew, for Olga had seen this happening: Some people, finding game scarce now that that the great herds had been killed or driven off, the immense flocks of birds shot out of the sky, had taken to stealing horses from the white men for food. Sometimes they stole other things, too, but what could one do? They had taken the land. They had taken the game. They had cut down the oaks so now there were few acorns. They put people on a farm then took the farm away. It was all impossible and everyone was starving.
The Mexicans, infuriated by the thefts, would band together and teach those people a lesson. It did not matter that they killed just anyone, whether guilty or innocent. To the Mexicans, the Indians were all in it together, all the same. And so they would kill people and kill more people on a rampage until they felt there was enough blood of people on the ground to pay for stolen horses.
Sumuc gathered his people, sending two men down to meet with the war party and perhaps slow them down. Perhaps they would realize that this village had nothing to do with the thefts. His people were good people and did not steal anything. Those others had to have been Yakuts from across the Valley. But nevertheless, the women snatched up blankets, baskets, whatever they could carry besides children, for if the Mexicans came, they would burn everything they found and all would be spoiled. Since the enemy would be on horses, they could not hope to outrun them, so it was Sumuc's plan to scattergun his people in all directions in the hope that a majority would survive.
Runakason, despite his fear, went down with Kuknu-ti. In a few minutes they came upon the men riding horses with the brand of Rancho El Sobrante. They should not have been riding this way; they should have been riding east across the Valley to chase horse thieves, but they knew that a village lay here and so this way they had come across the water to ride up along the creek.
Before the two men could say anything, they were seized and ropes bound their arms to their sides. The party would hang them on the spot.
At this point the other war party came riding up. These were soldiers from the Presidio up north across the river, riding down in the opposite direction to the Peralta Hacienda for Navidad fesitivities. It was General Mariano Vallejo. This was a very different Vallejo from the young hothead of earlier in the year, and his was not really a party set out for war. A few months of witnessing insurrection, bloodshed, meaningless death, and needless cruelty had tempered the man's choler, as well as improved his wisdom. Somewhat. Father Narciso Duran's severe scolding against all the killing also had some effect. For although Vallejo could see the situation for what it was, he felt disinclined to interfere in this local affair. The most he could do, was inquire as regarding the facts of the matter and render assistance if needed.
No assistance was needed presently. Two ropes were already slung over sturdy tree branches and Runakason closed his eyes as the hemp settled about his shoulders. Things did not look very good.
That is why he did not see a most astonishing sight.
Up on the bank above the men appeared row after row of children, all neatly arranged in order of height with the youngest down front and all wearing clean white linen shirts.
The caballeros wheeled about and uncouched their glittering lances and poised for the attack. The soldiers all shouldered their guns. One of them was heard to say, "Today we make a great slaughter! "No es pecado matar esos indios gentiles." Yet the sight was so unearthly that, as the little brook burbled nearby, none of them moved. That is when Runakason opened his eyes.
"Ustedes puedre no!" A woman stood to the left of the people on the bank, dressed in European clothes. It was Olga. "Commenz'.", she said.
And first the littlest one began to sing.
"Noche de paz, noche de amor, Todo duerme en derredor. . . .".
Then another joined in. Then another. Soon all of them were singing this modern hymn with the most angelic voices ever heard on earth. They sang powerfully, filling the wood with sound, for they sang for their lives. And for the lives of others.
Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor.
Entre sus astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesús
Brilla la estrella de paz
Brilla la estrella de paz
Noche de paz, noche
Todo duerme en derredor
Sólo velan en la oscuridad
Los pastores que en el campo están;
Y la estrella de Belén
Y la estrella de Belén
Noche de paz, noche
Todo duerme en derredor;
sobre el santo niño Jesús
Una estrella esparce su luz,
Brilla sobre el Rey
Brilla sobre el Rey.
Remember Runakason had lived in the San Jose Mission where Father Duran had
taught them music, those who would learn, and so created an orchestra on the
edge of the world. When Runakason had escaped, he brought this knowledge with
him and he, together with Olga had taught all kinds of things to the people
there, for the people of the woods had taught her very much indeed as well.
And it worked.
Noche de paz, noche
Todo duerme en derredor
Fieles velando allí en Belén
Los pastores, la madre también.
Y la estrella de paz
Y la estrella de paz
The glittering lances raised up to heaven and the guns lowered to earth. When the children had finished their exquisite harmony, they stood waiting for what would happen next.
"What are you going to do now, General?" Olga said.
"Well, 'em, it does appear the situation is changed."
Clearly the situation had changed, and from the looks on the men's faces, not only were they more disinclined to bloodshed, they were filled with sentiments long suppressed in this difficult land so far from anything like home. This new song had been sweeping across Europe to finally make its way to this backwater of the world and some of the men knew its melody, which evoked in them the warmer breezes of December in Seville and Mexico City.
The General had the two captive men released. He then invited the men from El Sobrante down to the Hacienda, there to give thanks for all gifts given and all good peace on earth on this night of nights. While the people filed back to their village along San Anselmo Creek, there to give thanks in a very different way, the caballeros and the solidiers rode all together down to the Bay, and there across in boats to Rancho San Antonio. There, Don Luis Peralta flung open the doors to his most famous and gracious hospitality, saying, perhaps with some small, conscious irony "Is it not better, after all, to be gens de razon and not savages?"
That night, for a brief time in Alta California, there was feasting, and song, and dance, and merriment, and wonderful wonderful peace under the glittering stars above in all the houses, great and small.
This story will be available later as a downloadable Adobe PDF.
RING OUT SOLSTICE BELLS !
Its been a quiet week here on the Island. After a few frosty mornings the rains set in, leaving moderate temps under cloudy skies. Drove out to Livermore to see old friends, because that is what you do this time of year, unless you are smart enough to snag a plane to Mazitlan on the 20th and stay there past January 2nd, avoiding all the glitz, the advertising and the false sentiments.
One begins to wonder what its all about, really. The Main Man was born in March -- no way Jesus was a Capricorn, says a friend -- according to that big old Book. And shepards do not herd sheep in wintertime, so they could not have seen that following Star.
Sol Invictus, Solstice, Yule, Samhain, Kawaanzaa, Xmas, Channukah, pine trees pulled from Teutonic celebrations of the goddess Freya, electric and natural illuminaria, it all has something in common. it all is about joy in the middle of the longest nights of the year, recognizing the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth, of passing and return. And in the time when food stores would be low, the expansion of social responsiblity, largesse, magnaminity and the simple acknowledgement that in the face of the Other, you find your own.
Sometime in the distant past, our ancestors huddled around a fire in deep winter, grumbling about the cold and the scarcity of hunting game looked at one another across the flickering logs and saw each in each, and rather than clobbering one another to get at the last scrap of meat, they held a party. Of sorts.
Now, as of Friday, the Longest Night has passed. Our Nation as a whole seems to be stirring awake from some terrible nightmare that has lasted years and although the darkness of the Age pools all around like blood after an explosion, there is hope.
Tonight, all will gather in their tribelets, around tables, around tinsel trees, around simple beds in the knockabout slums. Ms. Morales is having dinner with Mr. Ramirez at his place by candlelight. Bear is with Susan in the garage he calls his livingroom and in the corner instead of a tree, his 1948 Knucklehead twinkles with Xmas lights draped over the chrome.
Percy Worthington-Boughsplatt is done polishing his 1929 fully-restored Mandelville-Brot coupe and is attending to his consort, dressed as usual in his immaculate beige topcoat, trousers, waistcoat and plus-fours, while Sophia, a member of the Berkeley Explicit players is wearing a feather boa and heels.
Eugene Gallipagus is gathered with his family about the table where Old Man Gallipagus is once again trying to dig out most of the #8 buckshot Eugene insists on using from the various pheasants, quail and duck Eugene supplies each year.
Padraic, he of the Poodleshoot, is roistering with Dawn and the Whole Sick Crew down at the Old Same Place off of Lincoln and they are all throwing darts at a lithograph of Oliver Cromwell.
Father Guimon of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint is running to and fro, making preparations for the Basilica Feast being held in the basketball court of St. Dolores de Pulgas. So much so, he nearly runs into Sister Bingo as she is bearing the Official Spongecake on a regal silver platter.
Father Nyquist of the Lutheran Church on Grand Street has finished his rounds visiting the sick and the hapless and is returning to the feast being held by his flock in the Addition. He pauses to adjust an angel orniment on the Church Tree, trying to work out in his head just how to introduce the factoid that it was Martin Luther who first proposed tree decoration as part of the holiday for his next sermon.
Officer O'Madhauen wears a little sprig of evergreen in his cap and he forgives several bicyclists travelling on Buena Vista without full helmet and lights regalia -- it is still daytime after all -- and so gives them each a 25 minute lecture that is sure to be good for them and their souls.
So, gentle readers, wherever you are out there in etherspace, if you be alone
or together, have yourselves a very merry and peaceful holiday. We like merry
and we like peace; that's just the way it is on the island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 17 2006
A storm front crashed into the Bay Area on Monday evening, bringing with it heavy rains, flooded roadways, lightning strikes and snarling the morning commute with dozens of fender benders.
The California Highway Patrol reported that it was responding to 42 separate incidents -- many of them accidents -- on Bay Area roadways at 6:55 a.m. Flooding and fallen debris was a major problem on highways 880, 92, 17 and 101. Officers responded to at least two accidents with injuries -- including a rollover accident on eastbound Interstate Highway 80 just west of the toll plaza at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and a crash on southbound Interstate Highway 680 just north of Geary Road in Walnut Creek.
The CHP has also reported flooding on westbound Highway 80 at the Ashby Avenue off-ramp in Berkeley. In Oakland, an AMR ambulance responding to a call was stranded in 4-feet of water at the 7th Ave. onramp along with two other cars.
San Francisco's Great Highway running along Ocean Beach was also shut down due to flooding and several nearby streets were also under water. A sewer line burst at Stanyan and Belgrade combining with rain water to create a waterfall on the city street and flooded the neighborhood.
The National Weather Service has issued an urban and small stream flood warning for western Alameda County, Marin County, San Mateo County and San Francisco. The weather service advised drivers to use extreme caution and to allow extra time to reach their destinations.
In Occidental, a lightning strike knocked out power lines and triggered a small fire. Repair crews told residents in the neighborhood to remain indoors until the power could be cut off.
The weather service reported that nearly 2 inches of rain had fallen on Babylon from midnight to 7 a.m.
But gloomy skies yielded to cold dry air on Saturday and Sunday, resulting in bright sunshine throughout all parts of the Bay Area for the weekend.
PART II OF THREE PART SERIES: OLGA COMES TO CALIFORNIA
In the previous issue, Olga the Orphan, was dropped as a baby in a basket on the steps of the famous Moscovy Orphanage. Raised inside the monestary, after much hardship, she chose on maturity to set out with the Russian Fur Company to far off Alta California. After many adventures, during a provisions foray the ship she has taken is wrecked and she finds she is the sole survivor. The morning following the shipwreck she finds herself upon the shores of Drakes Estuary some 3,000 miles from Moscow. We now continue with the story of Olga.
She followed them – the eyes -- to the village. There a woman offered her a bowl of acorn mush, which, of course, was quite foreign to Olga. The woman motioned to eat and Olga tried it, finding its flavor, well pretty much like mushy acorns.
“Don’t suppose you’ve got any salt?” which none of the villagers
understood of course, so she ate as much of it as she could with her fingers
in the way the woman had indicated for her to do. When she finished the woman
noted her looking around for something to wipe her hands and motioned to her
to follow and so she did. They went down to a creek and the woman indicated
that here she was to clean herself. Thoroughly.
Somewhat reluctantly, Olga removed such clothing as had survived the shipwreck and bathed to a greater or lesser degree when she noticed a whole row of men, pretty much naked with minor exceptions all watching her from the banks of the creek. Thoroughly humiliated and furious, she hurriedly dressed. Back to the estuary shore she went to scout along there for any signs of life. She found none. Only scattered boards, a few shattered casks and some cloth. Then, because there was no other place to go, she went back to the village.
She walked about looking at the village and the things in it with a mixture of listlessness and curiousity and the people there looked at her with pretty much the same level of curiosity as well although these people seemed not at all shiftless, for somebody was always engaged in some kind of activity, whether it be grinding acorns, chipping stones, carving wood, fetching wood, cutting wood, making dyes, or weaving. These were not indolent “savages” – there was work going on all around her and everyone was engaged in the business of living at all times. Nevertheless it was all very strange.
All of the women wore spiderweb tattoos on their faces and the effect was rather disconcerting.
In one of the huts a man lay groaning on the ground, clutching
his belly. Olga entered and all the village gathered around to watch from
the doorway. The man’s face was deathly pale and beads of sweat stood out
from his face. Olga was no nurse and knew nothing of medicine, so she imagined
that this man was engaged in the process of dying. She felt sympathetic but
there was nothing she could do.
She squatted down beside the man there in that hut far, far away from everything she knew and knew then she would never ever return. She was lost in some far away place and would surely die just like this man before her. A tremendous dispair swept over her and she wept bitterly, turning her face from the open door with its faces there so that all they could see were the heaving shoulders and curious sounds and strange hand guestures. She had not even a decent hankerchief with which to wipe her face now! She noticed a bowl of water there and dipped her hands in it so as to splash some on her face, but as she did so she heard someone behind her go, “Tsk!” and then she realized that the water was meant for the dying man to drink.
Spontaneously, she poured the water over the man’s forehead
and uttered those words meant to secure the passage of one soul from this
world to the next, just as Gregoriy had done for the captain, for the both
of them were born Orthodox Christians.
When she came out, face drawn and pale, everyone stepped back and looked at her in a different way. For the rest of the day, people seemed to regard her with some sort of awe and bated breath, as if they were waiting for something from her. Waiting, but for what? She did not know. That night she slept with a group of older women who did not appear to have husbands.
In the morning, all the woman awoke before her and filed out to do their chores – or whatever it was that each of them did, but she lay there in listless dispair not knowing what to do. What was she to do here among these people? She did not know anything about acorns or hunting squirrels with a bow and arrow. She was Olga, the Russian girl! And so lost and far away from any home or hope of home. Raised in an orphanage and sent on this journey, she had never had a home or a past. What was the point in living at all?
She heard a noise and noted that faces were staring at her from
the doorway. She went outside and all of the people backed away from her with
wide eyes. Then, inexplicably, they all fell to their knees pressing their
foreheads to the ground. The woman who had fed her the previous day approached
her with a steaming bowl of food, but this time the woman crept up to her,
handed her the bowl and made as if to dart away when Olga touched her, nearly
regretting that action for the old woman jumped as if electrified and stared
back at her, eyes rolling back in her head with what clearly was the utmost
fear, while several people stood there in a semi-circle staring. Something
clearly had happened overnight.
Olga, to reassure her, smiled and said gently, “Thank you.” The people might not have understood the words, which they repeated among themselves, but the smile did the trick and the old woman became almost girlish with obvious relief as she shuffled her feet and adjusted the animal pelt she wore about her shoulders.
At that moment Sumuc appeared. Behind him stood the man who had been dying the day before. Olga had thought he had died and the people had made some connection between her appearance and his death, but there he was, quite happy and he was grinning. He was happy because he thought he had been about to die as well as everybody else. Then this strange woman had appeared, uttered magical words, and then he had gotten better. Cause and effect clearly proven: surely she had shamanistic powers.
The truth is that he had not been about to die at all; he had eaten a bad buckeye and that had made him sick for a while. But he did not know that and the people did not know that and Sumuc was not sure but he sure could see the way things were headed.
Sumuc, chief by default of this tribe, was descended – so it
happened – directly in line from the family of the same Yashur Yonit who had
greeted Drake’s crewman John Hogge many years previously, and he from Humbaba,
who saw the fire-in-the-sky omen of 1492, and he of King Nyernt before him
and, our dear irrepressible Oog who started the whole lineage sometime about
the close of the Pleistocene on what is now Coit Hill.
This was the same Sumuc who had witnessed the madness of Miguel Manrique and the foolishness of the since long-forgotten “Conchoritzo Expedition” which was frustrated in its search for gold by an unfortunate meal of atole, chillies and bad water. Consequently, Sumuc did not have any sense of awe about these people in the slightest, but he did recognize that it would be politic for certain alliances to be formed. Like many inheritors of Dynasty before and after him, he had moved his folk from Yerba Buena to Marin when the place got too crowded. The padres there kept taking members of his tribe and locking them up until they died and there seemed there would be no end to it, so he packed his bags and rowed on over the water and that is how the people of Oog came to Marin.
Although he possessed a fine address now, he had felt the need
for companionship ever since his wife, Queen Caliafa, had departed in a terrible
wax to found that women’s commune up north. Now this shaman woman had shown
up with indications of a good deal more common sense than any of the other
Whites he had encountered previously, and so you see, it all fits together
Sumuc took Olga’s hand and let her to his hut. She was no longer Olga, the Russian girl of the Orphanage, she would be Saweeka, although that naming would come later after she taught them all the gavrotte and the tarantella and several decent Christian hymns besides. When the time came for the people to move from this temporary seafood-gathering camp back to its main village further inland, Olga went with them. For now, after many many adventures, Olga had found a home.
(Olga spends several decades among her Chosen People, departing briefly to give birth to Tiburcio inside the Mission System, only to return when she discovers that the Missions are a horrible center of disease and death for her People. We pick up her story again, after some digression with the progeny of the Aag side, as represented by Xatophec and his issue, living along Sausal Creek in what is now Oakland and in the Mission San Jose. Next week we describe an encounter between Olga and Gen. Vallejo which forestalls a terrible massacre on Xmas eve. )
TIS THE SEASON
"In a perfect world, everyone would have enough to eat and a warm place to live. At least that should be true in the richest country in the world. But sadly, that is not the case . . .".
So begins the letter from Rev. Cecil Williams who is once again begging for help this year to feed some 2,000 folks A DAY at Glide Memorial Church. Babylon has grown to over 3/4 of a million people crammed into that narrow peninsula and a large percentage have not taken part in the bonanza of wealth that has ensued. So if you are a Bay Arean resident, please consider a contribution to one of the few clergy for whom we possess the deepest respect and fork on over your tax deductable contribution. Give until it feels GOOD. Check out www.glide.org or visit in person at 330 Ellis Street in SF.
First we pray, THEN we eat.
So you want to give some gifts this year and don't want to put
cash in the hands of terrierists and corporate hedgehogs. Herewith we give
the Island-Life Holiday Kosher gift-giving recommendations. Check out the
National Green Pages for recommendations for shopping. Hop on over to Costco,
the National Distributor of goods who does not supply the Odious Party with
funds. Get an REI account and start chipping in with each purchase. How about
dumping that old ATT cell phone and signing on to Working Assets to make your
talk time really work for you.
Lasermonks.com is supplying the devout with inkjet supplies that fund worthy causes supported by the Cisterian Monesterey, while Pyramid.com and Bits n Pieces have been doing worthy work for a while. And you can always count on your local artisan for any number of pottery and textile works that do not contribute to the military industrial complex. Need music? Check out Blindpig.com. Live in the Bay Area? If you do not visit Amoeba or Rasputin or Shakespeare on Shattuck, we shall not forgive. There remain the countless street vendors on T-graph for any number of unspecified needs and wants.
RING OUT SOLSTICE BELLS!
All the homes have their installations out to startle the night and even neighbor Strange de Jim has a doorway outlined with tastefully lit evergreen. From the slogging rain of the past days, we have segued into a stiff cold that halts the blood. Seems everyone is terribly busy right about now. There is no time to sit back and take it all in for anybody, and even the grand blowout for Telecare Corporation out in E'ville at the Hilton on Saturday evening was sparsely attended due to the necessary requirements in other areas. Despite quite an elegant buffett at the Hilton.
Speaking of dinner, here we have a family of bears enjoying
a holiday picnic in Pagano's storefront.
Keeping warm remains a theme a few storefronts down the block. Here inquisitive reindeer kids check out the stove.
A stroll down the street on a nippy evening shows the neighbors in spirit with a magic circle of glowing trees and a charming trailer-park Frosty.
Call it Xmas, call it Solstice, call it the Holiday Season, or call it whatever. Its the Island Way with lights and fun. Because that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 10, 2006
LET IT RAIN, LET IT POUR, LET IT RAIN JUST A WHOLE LOT MORE
A soggy front sloshed into the Bay Area to drench the post Poodleshoot cleanup here. Hope you all enjoyed the multimedia report last week. That one will be available in the Archives Section -- which we have yet to build -- and on selected Compilation CD's distributed to Certain Individuals on the 25th, but only if they have been especially naughty or nice.
As a part of the Family Tradition, we all trundled over in several cars to the Bill Graham Civic in Babylon for the annual Not So Silent Night hosted by That Other Radio Station. You know, the one that Big Rick left because he wanted to be among mature adults.
We know, we know. We should have chosen KFOG's Concerts for Kids or Neil's Bridge School Benefit, but we were young then -- quite a long time ago -- and as time passed, we found that NSSN became the well-placed seasonal thing on which the immature adults and the kids could all agree. And so the years passed with memories of Courtney Love pouring a bag of heroin out upon the stage and tossing a guitar out into the audience. Of the lead singer for Garbage striding across the strobe-lit stage with her ponytail flying out behind. Of Gavin Rossdale (Bush) bathed in a spot during "Glycerine." Of Iggy Pop waving his arms, shirtless as usual, during "Lust for Life". Of Incubus chanting, "Wish You Were Here". Of the lead singer for Papa Roach spinning around on his back like a dying version of his namesake. Of David Byrne playing alone up there with an acoustic guitar way back before acoustic became even a rumor of popular. And many more memories besides.
This year the angry thrash metal post-punk noise gave way to a little more style, a little more musicality , and a little more joy, perhaps in expectation that the times they are a'changin' from the sour expletive ridden indigestion of the past twelve years or so. Common sense is on the wind, for once and people are desperate for good tidings after hard times, nevermind the nonsense of the meaningless "economic reports".
We coasted into Babylon hours after the 5:30 doors opening to scramble for seating in the General Admission hall, which sold out every last ticket 72 hours after announcement. Our Island-Life Social Coodinator managed to secure tix only because she belongs to a pre-sale exposure group.
We slid inside in time to catch the Shins for their entire set.
The Shins are a musical group on Sub Pop records comprising singer and guitarist James Russell Mercer, keyboardist/guitarist/bassist Martin Crandall, bassist/guitarist Dave Hernandez, and drummer Jesse Sandoval. The Wickipedia describes their indie sound as deriving from "Beach Boys, country, and folk", which is certainly not doing much justice to this far edgier group. Friday night, the feeling was pure no-nonsense rock with not a trace of pretense. They have also been compared to Pink Floyd, Love and Moby Grape, with perhaps the latter the most accurate comparo. It was refreshing to encounter this bit of innovative pop replacing the thrashing noise of previous NSSN's.
Jack White is one of those gifted fellows you really want to do well, even as he falls down into his own vomit in the gutter after yet another night of hopeless carousal with bimbo models in Paris. For about ten years, he had presented an uneaven, choppy, frequently tedious bombastic presence relieved by flashes of sheer genius, for which flashes throngs stood in line to sell out each and every performance. Fortunately, it seems he may have just found his best combo, after ducking his hopelessly inadequate drummer Meg White, who is universally acknowledged as having been the main drag on Jack with her total inability to learn or employ her instrument with any degree of ability.
This, in a duo band, is not very good.
White's new band, formed with friend and fellow Detroit musician Brendan Benson is backed up by a rhythm section of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes, who Jack previously enlisted to play on Loretta Lynn’s 2004 album Van Lear Rose produced an album titled "Broken Boy Soldiers", which Amazon.com calls "this is a grit-under-the-fingernails rock offering, but with an ear for eclecticism that brings to mind classic rock touchstones from the Beatles’ Revolver to Led Zep’s Physical Graffiti." At last, Jack has the stuff behind him to back up his best and on Friday night he had the SRO crowd screaming from the pit right up to the farthest corners of the stands. And with capable musicians to lock him into place, his operatic motions were limited to a bombastic opening and unnecessary screaming into an oddly placed vocal mike placed to the rear left of the drum kit, forcing the guy to actually play music in some fashion. His seat was the only set of the entire evening which successfully overcame the hollow acoustics of the BGC Auditorium.
Their tightest and best crafted song is the poppy "Steady as She Goes". Any number of critics out there say that Jack White is unpredictable but here to stay for quite a long time. We think that is a good thing and his latest project indicates a willingness to let the Rock Star thing exhale a bit in favor of real performance.
The Wikipedia states that this band "was formed in 1993 in Issaquah, Washington by guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green and bassist Eric Judy. Since being signed to Sony's Epic Records in 2000, the band has attained significant popular success. Elements of Modest Mouse's sound have been likened to or have inspired those of Elliot Smith, Spoon, Pixies, Radiohead, and numerous other [alternative rock] bands."
The band's name derives from a phrase in a Virginia Woolf story, "The Mark on the Wall."
The band surfaced in 2004 with the hit "Float On", but has had recent membership changes and instability due to mental illness afflicting various members. In performance, the drummer's solidly persistent 8th note kick locks the rhythm more than usually into a very tight ensemble. All members are multi-instrumentalists and it was a real pleasure to hear and see the repetitive drum, bass, guitar yield to keyboards, accordion, and banjo. The vocals from Brock remain curt and snap as that 8th note drum -- no polysyllabic lyrics here.
The Mouse had quite a challenge to follow the raucous Raconteurs,
but built their set with logical precision into a wonderfully anarchic closer
which had Brock dashing back and forth from monitor to amp to supply feedback
that tied into the melodic line. Neat trick, that one. No opera and no drama,
just straight-ahead rock, and thats the sort of thing we like.
This is what Ricky Wright said on Amazon.com about The Killers. "The Killers match postpunk guitars with a synthesizer overlay that recalls '80s New Wave without burying their sound in nostalgia. On their debut, Hot Fuss, frontman Brandon Flowers plumbs his imagination for tales of murdered lovers ("Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," "Midnight Show"), voyeurism ("Mr. Brightside"), and sexual confusion (the single "Somebody Told Me"), Flowers and his mates are obviously canny students; the total effect is of a playacted obsession, but one made irresistible by their skillful, catchy songs. If there's an occasional misstep (the painfully earnest line "I got soul but I'm not a soldier" from "All These Things That I've Done"), it seems of a piece with the Killers' influences. As it is, Hot Fuss is one of several recent releases that bring a diverting faux glamour to the mainstream rock scene."
Friday night, Brandon strode on stage in a tight pinstripe suit, the epitome of "The sharp-dressed man" and proceeded to fling every theatrical guesture from stage and talkie screen up there until the sweat poured off of the man. Can you say, "Brandon, you are soooo gaaaay!" We knew you could. Notwithstanding stage mugging flamboyance, the Killers cranked out a full length set that had people scrambling for the last BART trains past midnight even as the band played on.
If your band had enjoyed pre-band careers like these guys, you too would play every moment to the hilt. Flowers, who had dropped out of college, was a bellhop for a while at the Gold Coast Hotel in Las Vegas. David Keuning, who was originally from Pella, Iowa, dropped out of Kirkwood Community College, then the University of Iowa, and finally moved to Las Vegas in January of 2000. He worked there at a Banana Republic store, stating that it was a terrible job and he finally quit when a new manager was appointed and he wouldn't allow Dave to listen to music in the backroom. Mark Stoermer worked as a medical courier, delivering various medical supplies while studying philosophy at UNLV. Ronnie Vannucci was a student of classical percussion at UNLV to become a teacher and worked as a photographer at the Little Chapel of the Flowers and as a pedicab driver at the Desert Passage mall inside the Aladdin Hotel.
Due to that BART limitation, we had to perforce buck out even before they approached the song before the encore. Too bad, as it is long since that the NSSN stage has featured a sense of style rather than senseless noise.
RETURN OF THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR, OOG AND AAG.
You know we promised you a treat and here is the first of a three part excerpt from the Novel In Progess which is rapidly approaching completion. In this series we present the distaff portion of Oog and Aag in the form of Olga, future wife to Sumuc, directly descended of the line from Oog and Chief of a village nestled along the banks of the San Anselmo Creek. In this series we will see how Olga arrives from distant Moscova in far off Russian Estoty to Alta California, joins a Native American tribe and, on the 24th of December, performs a most remarkable miracle that saves the lives of her people and will surely astonish one and all.
And now, we present, in all humility, Olga.
1791 - Olga Arrives (Sumuc's Wife)
The story is told that as Vizcaino made his way north around
the place that later would be called Santa Barbara an old woman of the islands
there approached the expedition with two fragments of silk and spoke words
of English to the Spanish explorers. It is unquestionably true that many ships
were sunk along the California coast in those days for the weather was unpredictable
and the pirates were many. Clearly some European survivors had managed to
survive thereabouts, but Vizcaino was made of such stuff as described earlier
in this document and so rather than trying to locate the castaways, he ordered
his men to proceed directly north, for if someone had been there before him,
that someone might tell tales of prior claim and Vizcaino did not want that
at all. Later, when pressed on the issue, he claimed to be unable to understand
the location fully from that ignorant savage and nearly got lost in the fog
which would have hidden everything anyway.
Here it must be described how Sumuc took Olga as his 3rd wife. Who was Olga and how did she come to Alta California, you may ask. And no matter if you ask or not, well, I shall tell you now.
She was born Olga, simply Olga, with none of the extraordinary
flags of diminuatives, nicknames, surnames, and whatnot names so characteristic
of the voluable Russian race, for she had been born and placed into a basket
and that basket placed upon the doorstep of the Hermitage of Saint Anthony
one snowy day in November. Because she had bright eyes evocative of certain
mountain meadows which unfolded billowing scarves of deepest blue each spring
in Russian Estoty - that palimpsest land of renown south of Nuovo Zembla and
the concurrent plains of Siberia, her first nursemaid nicknamed her Diminiyi-Iris,
and so she got her typically Russian list of appellations after all.
In the strict world of the Monestary and the Convent she learned her Russian and her English and her French and a few more languages besides, in addition to music, which she clasped to her heart with all the fervor of a sailor cast away holding on for dear life to a floating barrel of oakum.
Let it be said that in the waning years of the 1700's, in Russian Estoty, life partook still of medieval harshness.
Let others tell the stories of those waifs bouncing about between rectories and nunneries, monstrous monstrums and the fierce skirts of bearded clergy, for who is to say that this life is worse than what could have been? She could have been sold directly into prostitution before the age of eight or eked out a stone existence in the squalid hovel of a serf. Pandybats and ferrules exercized their fierce dominance over the urchins for a time. The time came for Olga to make her way in the world, either within the walls of the Convent or without. And, seeking some warmer place to rest her uneasy heart she chose without.
Peter the Great had had ambitions at the time of expanding the economic base of Mother Russia, jumping on the bandwagon of European Colonialism, yanking her by the ears out of the middle ages into the modern era of newborn calculus and science and otherwise building a pyramid of renown for himself to last down through the ages in reputed accomplishments, accomplishing many of these with significant success by the time of his death in 1725. Katherina Alexeevna, nee Sophia Augusta Frederica, continued these advances by deposing her husband in a demonstration of the true power of the feminine, and wallopping the already crumbling Ottomans, acquiring the Crimean peninsula in the process, and further expanding the boundaries of Zembla into that region sometimes demotically referred to as Nuovo Zembla, occasionally confused intentionally as a granoblastic expansion of Arcadia.
Putting all this far history detail to side, this is all to say it was Catherine the Great who urged the scientific and economic and heroic exploration of this New World, which led to expedtions and settlements in what is now Alaska and Northern California. So it was that modern-style companies, owned by whiskered men in drawing rooms, assembled and went out over the long distances so as to accomplish great deeds and it was to one of those companies Olga attached herself for the published paper distributed that day in the chilly library promised much and women and young girls were much desired for these projects.
She made her long way as a servant girl - and potentially something else besides -- across the Russian steppes with fortune hunters and members of the Royal Russian Furs Company, in the company of Igor, her master, and Gregoriy, a cheerful man from Lvov, who liked to sing lusty songs at night beside the hearth fire, to Nootka in what is now Alaska. Nootka was a tenuous assembly of rude buildings surrounded by a stockade that did little to prevent the lean figure of hunger from slinking over its walls. Supply ships were infrequent as much of the year found the harbor bound tight in fetters of ice.
There at Nootka Gregoriy found that fueling his nightly songfests
with vodka became a problematic enteriprise and so he had much incentive for
locating alternative pathways. He built himself a kind of distillery out of
casks and a tub in a shed which blew up one night with a great alarming conflagration
and after that he was not allowed access to materials any longer for the Governor
was concerned he might kill all of them.
Finding the weather a bit much up there without vodka, Igor and a number of other trappers headed down in a ship named with disturbing premonitions, the Ada, to join the others at Fort Ross. There servant girls and perhaps that Other Thing could be put to good use, and proximity of Yerba Buena meant better access to food stores.
On a gloomy day they all trundled down there to the docks and Olga was taken aback when she saw that some wag had taken a tarbrush to the pinnace area to change the name of the ship to Moego Ada. This caused her some distress, although Gregoriy bounded up the gangplank energetically with his duffel thrown over his shoulder.
After some hours, the ship was made ready and set out with high wind and high hopes for that strange island inhabited by Amazons, called Alta California by its owners. Down in Alta California they would find thousands of beavers roaming among orange groves and they would return loaded with provisions and all sorts of wealth and Gregoriy brought out his foreign harmonica to play a hornpipe song as they cast away. Even then, Olga felt that this enterprise would be lucky to succeed for not a soul among them had any experience at all in sailing ships for the possible exception of the captain, who appeared to cross himself religiously each time the ship came about, with luffing sails and flailing lines snapping about until someone ran down the decks to tackle the rope in a most unseamanlike fashion. The Captain claimed he was not in the slightest religious, but only enjoyed the occasional joke now and then.
Things proceeded this way for some days with nothing but the usual tedium of seatravel and they appeared on course for proper arrival at that place that would later be called Fort Ross some twenty years later.
Storms, however, drove the ship far off course and further south than they had planned and so the Ada found itself berthed, more or less according to the abilities and fashion of its crew, in Drakes Bay during a storm.
There is a song that goes, "oh where does the love of god go when the waves turn the minutes into hours?" The swells smashed against the ship and canted her over nearly 90 degrees until her long hidden keel came into view, before swinging wildly to the other extreme as foaming water torrented over the railings, sweeping anything not tied down, from barrels to men, right off the deck into the ocean. Ropes thick as a man's forearm snapped like threads, whipping this way and that.
Sometime after midnight there was cracking and then a blizzard of splinters as the mainmast gave way to crash down athwart the ship in a tangle of ropes, pinning the body of Igor beneath. No one could do anything for anyone for everybody aboveships had to be lashed securely to some fixed object or be instantly gone. One of the longboats broke loose from its moorings and perversely sailed for a few brief moments on the river that coursed across the decks of the ship from one end to the other, its keel tearing off most of the roof of the wheelhouse and crushing the skull of the captain standing beside the pilot, before the thing flipped off and vanished from view.
The pilot, who was Gregoriy, looking at the body of the captain, felt an odd jerk in his hands as the rudder snapped, letting the wheel spin idly in his hands. He bent down and using a bit of water there he administered a perfunctory last rites to the man he had known as Captain Spassibo, for the captain had been very fond in his lifetime of practical jokes, but not very religious. Gregoriy then stood up and ran to a secondary hatch, cut it loose and partly descended to shout down to a pale upturned face, "Abandon ship!" He then started running along the main deck and that's where he was when a wave plunged over the side and swept him away and that was the end of Gregoriy.
And perhaps it was well for him he never saw what happened next.
The ship turned parallel to the waves as the steering wheel spun crazily, disconnected from the rudder, which probably had dropped to the sea bottom by then, and so the doomed Moego Ada began her inexorable walk towards those cliffs Drake had compared to the white cliffs of Dover many years ago.
It was near dawn that the Ada, pounded by heavy seas, rudderless, captainless, and not manned by seamen nearly so capable or experienced as those of Vizcaino's weatherbeaten crew, who had enjoyed a full two years of dealing with the kind of Pacific storm in Drake's Bay that now drove the ship up against the rocks edging those cliffs in a great shattering of spars and decking, tossing hatches, windlasses, sailcloth and rigging into the welter of tossing seas and drowning men crying out with any air left for the mother of god to carry them home.
In the morning, on the beach of Drake's estero, the sole survivor, our very own Olga, opened her eyes much as John Hogg had done near that same spot long ago, and the troubled Miguel Manrique some years after that, to see a pair of quizzical brown eyes staring back. Well, we have quite a tradition now.
[To be Continued nest week]
THERE IS A PHONEBOOTH IN HEAVEN
The rain pours steadily down after a miserly misting of a beginning and all but four browning dahlias remaing on the lines. Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. Survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack that launched the US into WWII on December 7, 1941 gathered on Coast Guard Island, which sits in the estuary between Oaktown and The Island itself. Others gathered to commemorate the death of John Lennon which took place on December 8th, 1991. Outside Pagano's Hardware folks talked about the signpost events of their lifetimes. For some it was John Lennon's murder. For others, it was the death of JFK in Dallas. For others, the day M.L.King was shot. Each age has its particular infamy.
All the storefronts and even many yards are unrolling the string lights to gladden the holiday skies for a while. Next week we will toss our two cents in on where to buy tchotchkes and stoff for your loved ones without putting dollars in the pockets of Evil Ones. Start with the National Green Pages for a start and a few art things from locals and you are on your way.
A gathering of The Island-Life Illuminati took place this Saturday in Babylon, a collection of gray-beards and false-teeth bridges and brilliant minds that is what is left of life in geodesic domes, tie-dye attempts to change the world, youthful indisgressions passing from one hot tub to another, and vigorous challenges to What Is. The flickering candlelight of One of Us was the occasion and it does appear that next year, there will be another place empty at the table come time for the Holiday Feast.
Old Man Winter blows down from the north a great wind and rain and the People of the Adobe say that the world will soon change. Already the days end sooner and darkness hides the dawn until late. The oak leaves have become embers, in colors of red and gold, burning like moonbeams in our eyes. Someone said they saw us, swinging the world by the tail, dancing over the white clouds; but we were just killing the blues, bein' killin' the blues.
And yet ringsome about the tablelight, eleven faces gathered with yet another present and hovering above, all were exhuberant and full of all the life that is, full gusted laughter blowing gales across the seas of time and love, yes, love, earned and paid and the mark of a live well lived for that is the only measure of a man or woman, the love that is left behind.
Meanwhile that phonebooth in heaven, pinged by the rainfall and surrounded by puddles among uneven brick, is ringing and ringing. Perhaps waiting for one of you to pick up. But you will have to be there to do so.
And on that day, what will you have to say, and to whom?
That is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 3, 2006
Recognizing that this everchanging world requires constant adaptation to circumstances IslandLife has responded by starting up its Multimedia News Outlet, supported by Dan Rather, whom we found standing in line at the EDD about to apply for benefits after his unceremonious dismissal from That Other Station.
Herewith, we include a Special Report, hosted by Dan Rather and featuring Hollywood Celebrities behaving as usual at the Annual Island Poodleshoot.
This report is downloadable as an MP3, playable on your I-Pod of choice.
Click on the graphic to download the Special Report.
Nobody played the old Steven Stills classic, but they did whoop it up all along the Estuary as the annual Lighting of the Yachts Parade took place Saturday night and there was magic and spirit enough all down by Wind River Park. Had a lively chat with a pair of bilingual urchins attached to visitors from the Old Country. "Guck mal, Mutti! Es gibt Sankta Nicholaus auf'm Schiffdach!"
Actually, die Kinder were for the most part more interested in Pizza than the long Island tradition of parading the boats from the marina back and forth along the estuary for several hours.
Still, the ships came down the passage fully bedeckt as hundreds clapped and cheered all along the estuary and there was much whooping and singing from all aboard and we suspect that much libation was ingested prior to departure, for the tacking appeared somewhat erratic on the come-about.
Well near one hundred ships took place this year in a long parade of lights on a weekend of extensive celebration, newly let loose come the news latterly that the times they are a changing. And that can only be a good thing.
WAY TO GO, OHIO
Only the developer is puzzled at the turn of events that put the kibosh on his plans to erect an elaborate waterfront modeled upon the City of Venice, a city not having much in common with this Island, last we determined.
Developer Peter Wang had hoped to secure exclusive development rights for a 22-acre site along the city's northern waterfront. But at a meeting in late November, the City Council thwarted the request.
Council members left the window open for striking such a deal in the future, but said they first wanted more details, greater public input and assurance that developer Wang's project fit into the city's broader goals for its northern waterfront.
Exclusive development rights would have been key for Wang, because it would have been easier for him to secure financing for a future project, he said. One of his challenges is that he does not own all of the property on the 22-acre site.
One 6.7-acre chunk is owned by the state Tidelands Trust.
The Alameda Unified School District, Pennzoil and Wind River Systems also own property in the area, said Leslie Little, city development services director.
Yes, well, we have seen the effects of when developers rely on land gifts to finish projects in California, and none of it has ended pleasantly.
BUT MARLEY, YOU WERE ALWAYS GOOD WITH BUSINESS
Bob Marley finally realized, a little too late, that Mankind was his business. Appears a Homeowners Association in Colorado has learned that lesson belatedly only after national protest.
A subdivision has withdrawn its threat of $25 daily fines against a homeowner who put a Christmas wreath shaped like a peace sign on the front of her home.
Homeowner Lisa Jensen told The Associated Press on Monday that the board of directors of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association had apologized, called the incident a misunderstanding and had withdrawn its request for the wreath's removal.
Jensen was ordered to take the wreath down when some residents in her 200-home subdivision saw it as a protest of the Iraq war. Bob Kearns, president of the board, also said some saw it as a symbol of Satan.
The homeowners' association demanded Jensen remove the wreath from her house, saying it doesn't allow flags or signs that are considered divisive. But a peace symbol?!
Jensen, a past association president, said she was overwhelmed with hundreds of calls of support and offers to help her pay the $1,000 fine that would be due if she kept the wreath up until after Christmas.
"We would like to thank everyone who has contacted us with moral support and offers of financial support. We are grateful to hundreds of complete strangers who felt so moved by this story they contacted us," she said.
"It seems whenever someone tries to say 'Peace on Earth' it is met with so much resistance," she said. "The incredible amount of support we have received over the last couple of days really is proof to us of how many people believe in peace and in our right to say it."
What kind of idiots consider the peace sign a symbol of Satan?
ONE NIGHT IN AMERICA
It's been a quiet week on the Island. Paganos has changed its famous storefront to match the season. Pix coming up. Ms. Morales has not been seen since the infamous event of the Student Essays. Bear remains deep in his garage, tinkering on yet another modification to his beloved Harley. The wall at St. Charles was silently and abruptly repaired in the dead of night during a manic episode of one of the managers released from Villa Fairmont and so no rats have gone scampering down St. Charles for a while. Mr. Peepers appears well on the mend.
His treehouse went through quite a renovation, as the Old Man
endured another trimming and we have the photos to prove it.
Here we see an enterprising fellow out on a limb.
Its night now on the Island. The racoon family is chirring in their den under the Julia Morgan house. Stray Jack is curled up under the old utility shed, dreaming of nice tasty mice. Mayor Beverly sleeps and dreams of flung confetti and parades and RW&B bunting on a grandstand in a city where everybody loves her -- without any exceptions at all. President Shrubb tosses and turns in his bed, dreaming of The Inquisition. Donald Rumancoke sleeps peacefully for the first time in years, the weight of executing ludicrous policies under nonsense conditions gone at last after his resignation from Secretary of the Bum's Cabinet.
In far-off Newark, soldiers sleep the dead sleep of exhausted men and women suffering through their fourth tour of duty in a combat zone while buddies patrol the perimeter with itching eyes and roving searchlights.
The Angry Elf does not sleep, for he never does, but lays on a wooden bench at The Crucible with his fists clenching and unclenching, for he is the Angry Elf.
Eugene Gallipagus dreams of the perfect poodlehunt. Der Governator Arnold dreams of firing anti-aircraft missles from the back of his modified Hummer at Air Force One in a California where a huge oil deposit has just been discovered right under Orange County.
About 51 newly elected Bums sleep and dream of an America where we can do better than we have been doing. Down at the cutout on Atlantic near Buena Vista, Officer O'Madhauen sips a cup of coffee in his cruiser, watching for speeders at midnight. The fellow who carelessly left his pistol out for the child to find with such tragic results here on the Island now sleeps in jail, caught during a routine traffic stop.
Along the garden fence, the opossum scampers for one last bit to eat before retiring for the winter while out on the sward at Crab Cove the Canadian geese all tuck their heads under their wings in a huddle.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 26, 2006
THE 9TH ANNUAL ISLAND POODLESHOOT AND BBQ - DAY ONE
The Annual Poodleshoot opened under sunny, clear blue skies and everyone commented they had not seen such delightful poodle-shooting weather for many a year. It all began as usual when Padraic got up at the crack of Dawn. That is to say, failing in rousing the man with shouts and imprecations, Dawn O'Reilly gave Padraic a mighty whack upon the pate and set him off down the boreen with a keg of the official Shoot beverage, Wild Turkey shortly before sunup.
The day began quietly while a selection of musicians calling themselves the "St. Charles Atonals" performed at the main stage bandstand located in the middle of the baseball diamond. A spirited rendition of "Sha-boopie" done with Jew's Harp and oboe turned out to be a real crowd pleaser . Musical accompaniment was provided by Rex Suru on tuba, Josh Bennett on harp, Professor Schickele on Hardart with Inflatable, Robert Fripp on broomstick-washtub bass, and Ken Collins of St. Charles on the Banjo-Bandsaw Anomaly. Mr. Collins' 20 minute solo on the Bandsaw Anomaly can only be described as "unique".
Padraic took a few moments to read the Rules and introduce the Special Guests for this year's event: The Fremont L7 Choir and Shooting Club, consisting of the best LGBT crack shots in the East Bay bar none. Event organizers had long realized that belching, farting, cursing and firearms display should not be limited to the male gender and so Padriac was sent to the L7 Clubhouse as emissary bearing formal invitations and the tender offering of a cheeselog as token gift.
So it was that Vicki, Veronica, Velma, Violet, Vanessa, Vivian, Valentina, Vashti, and Susan showed up strapped to the nines with bandoliers and full of that honest American red-blooded poodle-shooting spirit.
Expected later in the day was the annual White House Representative, this time to be none other than the Vice President himself. "Buckshot Dick" is known to have such a love of hunting that he sometimes rushes out into the field before the license formalities have completed. It was thought that last year's contretemps involving the President's Chief Advisor would be avoided by sending someone who has demonstrated greater awareness and care with firearms.
With a jolly crescendo from the horn section of the Hoophole High School Marching Band and Classical Orchestra, the line of hunters then moved out into the field under a blue sky -- annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ had begun. Soon, the merry sounds of the hunt drifted across the Island: shouts of "Poodle there!", the sharp crack of freshly oiled Winchester rifles, the occasional sputter of automatic weapons and the frequent Whump of percussion grenades adding to the Holiday Cheer.
The L7 group made their mark by bursting into a rousing chorus of Der Rosenkavalier after a particularly good hit by Veronica on a male Russian Silverhair. Veronica terrified the normally macho Eugene Gallipigus no end by her excited cries of "Prairie oysters on the barbie!" Eugene took this time to set up a poodle blind on the far side of the Island and he was not seen at all by anyone for the rest of the hunt even though Vashti tried to assure him with, "Don't mind Von -- she's a Separatist, but she has a good heart."
One would think that these new circumstances would have led to a terrible disaster in which the much ballyhooed "War Between the Sexes" would have caused a general degeneration of the whole affair into chaotic sniping at one another among the hunters, but it was only Eugene who seemed to have a problem and he went off to be by himself. In fact the L7 group proved to be extremely capable during a skirmish between the Hunters and the Island Dogwalkers Association who once again picked Crab Cove as the area in which to launch a sortie against one of our platoons.
The platoon was advancing cautiously past the baseball field when the DWA swooped down on them with impermeables and flintlocks, tossing smoke grenades and firing RPG's from across the Memorial Sward that lay before the Cove HQ building. You know the building -- its the one with the cute tidepool display. Things would have gotten serious if Vicki had not stood her ground like one of Queen Caliafa's Amazons of yore, firing an explosive tipped crossbow dart right into the middle of the RPG unit, messing up their hairstyles real bad and sending the DWA yapping back into the trees.
In general the first day ended well, with most parties bringing
in either hearty catches or very colorful stories meant to enliven the fireside
for at least three generations. Lynn Depaul, an L7 Associate, experienced
significant success with her Therapy Darts fashioned from syringes and IV
tubing. Nancy and Sean of St. Charles Street, a heartwarming mother-son couple,
used an electrified net strung between two trees and a 9-Iron for final dispatch.
Marin's Paul and Marybeth employed blackpowder rifles and cavalry swords in the Old Tyme Weaponry Division, bagging a pair of Blues, while Suan of the Marin L7 contingent employed a morningstar flail with halberd to great effect during a melee by the boathouse.
Visiting guests, Dee Plakas, Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner of the "slash-metal" group "Camel Lips" performed on stage at sundown to an approving, if somewhat bemused crowd. "It aint exactly Nashville, but they're okay," commented Jim Kitson of Santa Clara Avenue. "It reminds me of a cross between a gang of chainsaws combined with the sound of a squadron of P16's divebombing into the Pacific Ocean."
POODLESHOOT - DAYS 2, 3 . . . AND 4
No one knows exactly what went wrong for the rest of the Shoot, what happened there at the evening concert, or how it all happened at all despite the best of preparations. Some think that one of the nefarious DWA's, or perhaps even a member of Osama Bin Lassie's outlaws snuck something into the Official Keg, for an empty bottle labeled"Warning: Contains Genuine Spanish Fly Extract. DO NOT MIX WITH ALCOHOL!" was found nearby. Several witnesses mentioned later they noticed a suspicious person wearing a trenchcoat loitering by the keg, who was only deemed "suspicious in retrospect, for everyone loitered near the keg, as it dispensed whiskey bought and paid for already by the entrance fees. Some others said they saw this person run off on four legs.
In any case, the following day began desultorily. Every once in a while a mortar would go off and an Uzi would tear loose, but the Island seemed suspiciously quiet. In the evening everyone came back, laughing and rosy-cheeked from the cold, to the pit at the Ferry Landing, but the catch seemed rather small in comparison with previous years so that Padriac was forced to break out the frozen Ahi to add to the BBQ that night and no one seemed to mind.
The following day, almost no explosions were heard and only a couple blasts from a Mossberg echoed over the Island. But still, the hunters returned, laughing and chatting and joking amongst themselves as usual.
Entirely empty handed.
For the gloomy and overcast Sunday, the final day of the shoot, the hunters were offered premiums for the biggest or most inventive catch and the morning passed with silence across the land. Padraic quizzed the spotters and rulesmen, who reported that all the hunters had disappeared. Padraic left the Command Post to see for himself. In disbelief, while standing on the corner of Otis and Grand, an Island Dogwalker passed him by merrily leading a prancing pom-pommed Motley French, who waved at him cheerily. The unarmed Padraic fled in terror across the field, falling into a poodleblind set up improbably and quite obviously to all upon the uncamoflaged pitcher's mound. Wherein he found Victoria and Verne in an advanced state of dishabille upon a cot. And they were not hunting for poodle by any stretch of the imagination.
Around the corner he went to step over Marybeth -- who was on top of Paul more or less in a bivvy sack -- to bump into Veronica and Velma, who were going at each other like crazed weasels with their lips locked together in the corner of the schoolhouse where a few bushes blocked the wind. They were not hunting for poodle either, at least not in any canine sense. In the distance he noticed a Cabela's Blind planted out in the open and rocking back and forth as if set on the pitching deck of a ship.
Out by the Strand he found one of the Officials. And Vice President Richard Cheney. And a phalanx of men in dark suits who kept speaking into their lapels while looking about them constantly through dark sunglasses. Despite the overcast heavens. With them, carrying a Mossberg 12 gauge, was the Archbishop of Boston.
It was inquired of Padraic about where the rest of the hunters might be. "Other men with guns." One of the men in dark suits said flatly.
"Ahhh!" Padraic said, smacking his forehead. "We thought all about security. This section of the hunt is Reserved for the Vice President. The others have been . . . retired for the day. Out of respect and deference you know."
"Good!" said the Veep. "That's the way it should be."
With many excuses Padraic dashed back to the Command Center, leaving the Official, Mike Ramsey, in charge of guiding the VP and his escort. All along the 8th Street area he noted blinds of every description setup without any care to disguise or camouflage as if the people had been in terrible haste to erect their, um, constructions. In the normal year, one might find one or two of these things set up by newbies, but this time it appeared as if every last hunter had secured one for him and herself. Back at CP, Padraic called over to Big Five Sports to inquire about blinds . . . .
"What's going on out there? We sold every last one from this store and the store in San Leandro over the past 48 hours. Nobody would take a special order though." Said the salesperson.
That's when Padraic noticed the bottle beside the keg. And that is when, tears pouring from his eyes, he took up Suan's morningstar flail -- god knows where she was and what she was doing at this point without her weapon -- and with a mighty swing, stove in the side of the keg with a shattering of oak and an eruption of whiskey. Dawn came tearing around the side of the BBQ trough then shouting, "What in god's name are you doing you omadhaun! Have you taken leave of your senses?"
And before he could stop her, she took up a flagon, filled it with the draining whiskey and downed half of it as Padraic cried out, "No!"
"I'm not going to let it all go to waste. And that is no way to treat daycent water o' life. What did you do that for?"
"It's pizzened," said Padraic who dropped dejectedly onto a bench.
This statement caused some concern in poor Dawn. "That's why we hear no shots anymore. The lot of them, poisoned!" She looked at the flagon from which she had just gulped a pint of poisoned whiskey. "What's going to happen to me?! Will it be quick?"
"Noooo." Padraic said, shaking his head. "The Poodleshoot is all destroyed."
Dawn shrieked something in Gaelic. "God save my soul, I'm
murthered!" And she sank down beside him on the bench.
"Tell me how the others looked. Sufferin' and agonized like? Was there pain?"
"Noooo." Padraic said. "They all looked pretty happy."
"And you tried to save me by staving in the keg. Me dearest chum-chum Padraic." She snuggled up against him. "Give us a kiss before we die, a long hot one."
"O, we've been married twenty years and more and I do not think you are ready for what's coming." With that he stood up and drank down the rest of the flagon on the table there, dipped it into what remained of the whiskey in the shattered barrel and drank that down too as Dawn protested and clung to him.
"Do ye want to be like the rose and the briar, now?!" She said.
For answer, Padraic said, "Make love, not war." And he kissed her just as the heavens opened up with torrents of rain, sending all the Ruleskeepers under cover, including the Vice President, and putting an end to the day's official activities. As the Officials ran this way and that a peace descended upon the Island such as it has not seen for many a year and there was an end to all the war making and shooting, and although the rain put out the coals in the Pit, a number of embers continued to glow well into the night elsewhere.
In truth, every participant, save perhaps for Eugene, who spent the entire four days all by himself in his blind, reported perfect satisfaction with this year's Shoot. Or it may be nobody would cop to what went on. Even old Buckshot Dick came away with a nice kill of a surprised Motley French down on Shoreline. And he only managed to slightly wound the Archbishop in the buttocks in the process.
And that is the way the 9th Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ came to an end, so help me god in truth.
TIS THE SEASON -- TO BE SAILING ON THE SEAS OF CHEESE
We note local Les Claypool will be hovering about here this season at the Berkeley Community Theatre (this Saturday). Then he is up to Sacto to do a gig at the Memorial Theatre there before returning to San Jose as a warm-up for NYE at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The Taj Mahal Trio is back to Yoshis for a run this week to December 1, and rumor has it they will be back at the NYE . The Great American Music Hall shows its jazz style with Al di Meola on Tuesday, followed by the New Riders of the Purple Sage on Thursday (how can that be the old New Riders?) and then KPIG hosts James McMurtry -- he of the free online "We Can't Make it Here Anymore" on December 4. And there is much more, which you can check out at www.musichallsf.com.
The amusing Barenaked Ladies pair with ex-Soul Coffin Mike Doughty at the Bill Graham Civic on Tuesday. And if you were not at the Fillmore tonight, you missed a suddenly out front Cat Power. But there is still Ozomatli Wednesday through Saturday under the purple chandeliers. Monday, the pride of Baltimore, John Waters will tow his annual John Waters XXXmas into the same venue. Mr. Waters happens to be the proud possessor of the "ruby slippers" that so famously ferried Judy Garland back home from Oz.
As gigs become known for the NYE bash, certainly to be more than usually celebratory around here, we will let you know.
TIS THE SEASON -- TO LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH
The Army Corps of Engineers has decided it no longer has any interest in the estuary between Oaktown and the Island, and so presented its plan of giving the water passage to the Island, entirely gratis, with the Fruitvale Bridge. As well as all the lovely costs of retrofitting the bridge for earthquake and for dredging the channel to allow deep draft tankers to pass.
This proposal went over as well as the proverbial lead balloon, as the Island needs not the cost of dredging nearly 2 miles of waterway for the sake of tankers that grant Oaktown significant revenue, especially as the budget gorilla in the room gets more and more restive.
If the City refuses the offer, the Army will then drop it into the lap of the County, essentially saying, "Take this Bridge and Demolish It". Which would effectively halve the Island's access to the mainland while Oaktown completes its 9th Street Project on its own time and leisure.
In other Island news, a Blogger named Lauren Do has run afoul of an unscrupulous and extremely rude person who has crossed the lines of decency. The working mother has a site called www.laurendo.com that covers various local activities, and which apparently aroused the ire of one David Howard, who runs a site called www.keepmeasureA.com. Howard found Do's position on revising the antigrowth initiative somewhat objectionable and claims that the blog resorted to personal attacks. The original intentions of the blogs have vaporized amid mutual recriminations and accusations of getting personal over politics.
Politics is a nasty, mean, dirty business and no place for wide-eyed folk to wander in without sufficient epidermis to take a few slings and arrows, and claiming to be a mother of a child or a sincere person with honest intentions is no defense here. A lot of money is involved and people do get killed over it, from time to time. So don't claim to be a wide-eyed deer in the forest surrounded by evil dark things. You take a position out there, you get a little rough, and you know what, nobody will treat you well. They can burn down your house, take your baby and take your husband and take your job. That is politics today, so don't pretend, lady, you are innocent. And that photo spread of your kids toys placed next to your computer screen is a laughable joke and an obvious photo op subject to anyone's hardball technique. You are trying to work the system and your opponents know it and that means they will hit you really hard with no excuse.
LET IT RAIN LET IT POUR
It's been a quiet week here on the Island, our hometown. With the possible exception of the Poodleshoot, which turned out to be quieter than in years past. It was almost as if the spirit of Jerry Garcia descended here to walk among us and encourage us to practice love in the face of war. And after so many troubles it does seem that such a spirit does walk among us once again. And once again hope for peace rises among all of us. While the nation gradually pulls back from its terrible flirtation with the Dark, we all wait to see what the new year will bring.
Meanwhile the rain pours down in buckets, heralding a new season of weather. And as Strange de Jim says, you can hear the trains more often when it rains.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 19, 2006
LIKE THE WEATHER
Been waking up these mornings to chill fog shrouding the Island rooftops in a delayed dawn that slowly reveals dripping bushes and spiderwebs cupping the spare light. The bright dahlias are slowly yielding to the winter fungus, but not without a battle of exploding orange and yellow flaming blooms. We've had some rain already. A few days of desultory drizzle that left the crumbling levees in peace.
In addition to the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ, long-time readers have some particular delights in store as we report from the Work In Progress with an excerpt that describes the first Thanksgiving in California. After the Poodleshoot, we will continue with music reports during this Holiday Season, including a first-hand report on the annual Live 105 Not So Silent Night. We will include some helpful tips on Green Shopping for gifts direct from the National Green Pages and finally we have another set of excerpts from the nearly completed WIP describing the adventures and arrival of Olga to California, culminating in a very special Xmas story for the entire family.
Stay tuned to this space for further developments.
SO DAMN HAPPY
Tried to make it out to one of the many election celebration parties that took place around here, but found all of the significant ones booked up. Glorious parties sprang up spontaneously all over NorCal, and we counted some 384 affairs taking place within 20 miles of this location -- referring only to those published online with open attendence. Which means last weekend thousands upon thousands of people waved their arms, danced, sang and got really drunk with joy. It does appear that our national flirtation with fascism may be coming to an end. Finally.
On a troubling note, our Florida Remote Correspondent showed up here at the Offices in person to report on the Sarasota chicanery that took place there this time around in which some 18,000 votes were inexplicably "lost" within paperless voting machines, resulting in the claimed victory by the GOP candidate by a margin of 384.
Closer to home, Alameda County performed excellently well under the pro-tem leadership of David McDonald of the County's Information Technology Department, with Thomas York providing capable computer backbone, while our Elaine Ginnold guided Marin through her first year there with no substantial complaint.
And per the famous "SF values" sneer, we see our own lovable -- and very capable -- Nancy Pelosi placed solidly in charge as Speaker in a history-making appointment, with DiFi set in place as powerful chairperson on the best and most significant Senate committees.
T FOR TROUBLE
Latest flap down at Silly Hall is all about how the cable subsidiary of the Island Power Company (AP&T) has accumulated a $45 million deficit from internal fund transfers in addition to $40 million in bond indebtedness with no clear plan towards retiring this massive debt.
The City's CFOs are furious and calling for sale of the cable outfit to stop the debt from increasing beyond its already impossible level. As one official stated, "If we managed to sell service to every household on the island we still would not be able to retire this debt within fifty years."
Heads are going to roll on this one.
THAT TRAIN DONT STOP HERE NO MORE
The Island won an important dispute over 22 acre parcel once owned and operated by a railroad, and which is now an abandoned strip hosting only a few decrepit buildings, weeds and a family of racoons.
The land had originally been sold in the 1920's by the city to a railway under an agreement by which the city could buy back its land at 1924 values. The buyer, Alameda Belt Line, disputed the contract terms which were revealed by a local who delved into the paperwork and history when the city began negociations to repurchase the land. No trains have run on that line for many years and rails have long since been torn up.
Current valuation approaches $90 million, so the 1924 price of $9 million has sent a bright ray of sunshine into Mayor Beverly's offices. Plans are to make the land into a park.
YOU ARE A MEAN ONE MR. GRINCH
The folks in Silly Hall must be in quite a state, what with the Navy balking at paying for some toxic cleanup at the old Base and digging their heels in over sale price of the land, rising public resistence to insertion of a Target big box store at Southshore Mall, stiff resistence to the Cineplex Imbecility, the AP&T debt revelation, and the looming financial blowout that seems to concern mostly Frank Mattarese and the Auditors. Oy, those accountants just refuse to let the numbers be forgot.
Now the City's largest sales tax revenue source is pulling out, just to add to gray hairs on Mayor Beverly. After 42 years of supllying new and used cars, Ron Goode Toyota is moving house to Oaktown. Employees have been informed their services will no longer be needed after December 17th. Wow, what a holiday gift for 85 people!
Reasons for this event feature yet another botched negotiation between business owner and Silly Hall reps. And this comes on the heels of several of these lapses. In this case, demands from Toyota Corporate HQ had put Ron G. between a rock and a hard place. Mr. Goode sought to expand his business by asking the City to help by seizing the property of three neighboring businesses through Eminent Domain -- to benefit himself, of course. The City refused such a blatantly Old School procedure and so Ron upped and left in a tiff.
There is much here that could have been done otherwise to preserve the business here, but none of it was pursued by any of the parties involved, and the end result is the loss of some $1 million in tax revenue just when things are getting really bad. Which no Target ever will replace. The loss of Goode Toyota will produce a massive physical hole right near the Bridge at the entrance to the main commercial center of the Island, which is only one block wide, mind you.
THIS INSTRUMENT KILLS FASCISTS
Old Woody Guthrie would probably appreciate Neal Young's patriotism in allocating a significant amount of space on his personal web page to "800 Songs Against War". The space features fully free and downloadable music rivalling Napster in scope, except all artists have freely offered their work with no strings attached. Within minutes of arriving, we had a CD worth of music, including stuff by Eric Idle (Monty Python), Bob Dylan, Crosby & Nash, Dar Wiliams, James McMurtry, Luka Bloom, Robert Cray and many others. The hyperlink is http://www.neilyoung.com/lwwtoday/lwwsongspage.html, so go and get yourself some music, man. Music elevates the soul, promotes moral hygiene, benefits starving artists everywhere, enhances the community and social life generally, and besides, its good for you.
More on music: KFOG has released its annual benefit for Bay Area foodbanks. This year's Live Archives #13 contains tasty life tracks from concerts by T Bone Burnett, Goo Goo Dolls, Jack Johnson, Leo Kottke w/ Mike Gordon, Robert Plant and Bonnie Raitt among others. That session with Leo Kottke really tore up the place, and Bonnie Raitt seems to be getting better and better, hotter and hotter with every day she continues to step on stage.
Live from the Archives consists of the best live concert material from the world's most talented artists who come to the Bay Area, and each year the CD is eagerly awaited by collectors and average people looking for gifts to give during the holiday season. The CD typically sells out in a couple weeks. Looking at this year's list, we expect this year will sell out in a matter of days.
In the past, when the CD was offered through a now defunct national music chain store, lines would form outside before store opening, and radio reports would distribute notices of which stores in which locations still had the precious CD still on sale. You can now order the CD online at http://www.KFOG.com or go to the single brick and mortar store Virgin Megastore in SF.
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING IN CALIFORNIA - RETURN OF OOG AND AAG
Long-time readers know that we have followed the adventures
of Oog and Aag, the original progenitures of the Bay Area. With the ancient
holiday of Thanksgiving we return to those jolly gentlemen and their progeny
in the Golden State, featuring
one descendent of Oog, several generations advanced of course from 20,000 BC. Herewith we present our humble offering which indicates that the origin of Thanksgiving was, contrary to popular expectation, Hispanic in origin.
West of the Mississippi, nobody ever heard of the Pilgrims,
and if they did people would rightly consider the bunch to have been a pack
of tight-ass ingrates who cheerfully murdered those who had offered life-saving
substance only a few years previously, and who had gotten kicked out of Europe
in the first place because of their intolerant and pinched view of life.
Nevertheless we do celebrate the Thanksgiving as a way of giving a nod to the Cosmic Whatever for allowing us to get this far and to count the blessings with which we are gifted. The story of the First California Thanksgiving is a fine one, and all the better for its freedom from religious zealotry. And who should have begun this august institution here west of the Sierra but, you guessed it, the descendents of Oog and Aag, for it was Tiburcio who occasioned the event that propelled the holiday to its honored place in the Golden State.
The first "official" thanksgiving took place on November 30, 1850 at the decree of then Governor Burnett, and it is assumed by many that the celebration occurred largely because of the enormous contingent of New Englanders who had swarmed over the Sierra as part of the '49 Gold Rush. It seems the platillo enjoyed in the mining camps consisted largely of jackrabbit, as few turkeys are to be found up in those hills. Truthfully, deer having been hunted out of the hills long ago, and bear having become largely mythological even as early as 1850, any sort of meat at all was hailed as a good god-damn god-send.
In fact, Thanksgiving in California had occurred much earlier and records go back quite a ways. Even before the Pilgrims had landed, in fact. There is record of one Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate, who, according to documented Spanish historical records, celebrated the first Thanksgiving day in El Paso del Norte, right by the river banks in 1598, roughly fifty years before the first Anglo Saxon Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth Rock.
Of course, that was in a locality defined by the boundaries of modern-day Texas, which everybody knows does not count unless you are Lyle Lovett.
Before we get ahead of ourselves here, lets talk about how Tiburcio came to be trudging about the Sierra foothills panning for gold and such. After the owner of the California Star newspaper finally cracked open the fact that gold could be had in the hills in typically melodramatic fashion by parading up and down the streets swinging a sack of gold dust, roaring drunk, and shouting all about the riches to be found just lieing around, nobody wanted to hang around The City anymore doing day labor. The place emptied out and for a while nobody could get clothes dry cleaned, or wet cleaned or even buy a pair of pants for all the tradespeople had packed up their shingles. Everybody – even the squatters – all headed up there to become fabulously rich and this seemed like a good idea to copy, so Tiburcio did the same.
On the day he left, sitting astride Trumpet, the mule, he reached down and gave the precious locket from his mother to his wife for safekeeping, intending that she give it at the appropriate time to the girl that would become Jacinto’s wife, Maria, for by the swelling of the moon he could see that he would be a grandfather before long. Originally from the village at the head of Sausal Creek, Maria was a half-Spanish, half-Mandan, half something else entirely, but she had straight black hair and a good strong back. She did not know the old songs but had a few of her own and she had learned a number of things in the Mission. In time there would be time to teach her those things. Once he had remembered them himself.
The unfortunate fact of the matter was that his own father had not the time nor the inclination to learn the boy proper and had entered late into the boy’s life. And so Tiburcio had never ever absorbed the old ways, but had been thrust helter-skelter into the new without preparation -- except that from Father Duran, a different sort of Father entirely. In fact, the more he thought about it, that Maria had more of a Native American in her than he himself, and she – unlike that Runakason – did well by it with dignity and grace. Age 14 was an excellent age to marry, for it would become clear quickly if survival lay in the cards, there would be time to find another mate if it did not, and by the time rolled around to have children the couple would know each other pretty well. Oh, as for childhood, he never could recall ever having had one himself and people did not pay much attention to the modern habit of prolonging an artificial existence. If you could pick up an ax, you chopped wood. If you could carry a load, you carried adobe brick. That was the way and the only way he had ever known. And it did seem the girl would survive. He did not think he would see those dark eyes glaze over in deathly sickness. Something about those eyes, the eyes of a fourteen year old girl evoked in him . . . a half-remembered feeling of another, older woman, a ghost woman who had given birth and disappeared.
So he gave his wife the locket, looked into her eyes and held her clasped hands for a long while beside the buckeye tree. Then off he went.
On Trumpet he rode up along the river that now bore the name of his old friend Estanislao – dead now from the sweating sickness that turned so many villages into vacant places for ghosts. From the places where that river tumbled out of the hills into a spreading sine wave he followed creeks up into ravines where his companions, Pedro Amoldovar and Burpee Cortez, told him that sporadic floods would have cut away the banks to the load-bearing quartz.
All the gringos believed that gold just grew in the water and one needed to simply find sufficient water to conduct mining, which resulted in the whites collecting shoulder to shoulder along the banks of the river itself. But Pedro and Burpee, whose real name was Juan, had come from a line of miners from Sonora who, after the Aztecs had been thoroughly robbed, had gone into the earth to pull the stuff out in a way that didn’t involve directly killing someone. One obtains better gold that way. They knew that gold was just another rock and would be naturally found with other rocks.
A lot of guys from down south had come up on word of the new discovery, and these men began to set up proper mining outfits, resulting in an international hodgepodge of folks from all over, clustering and swarming and jabbering in every language under the sun all over the sweet redwood draped Sierras.
Along the way they noticed a disturbing pattern. Here and there
a group of Mexicans or Argentinians or Chileans would set themselves up and
quickly get in business with their deeper knowledge of just how to go about
mining, often taking over claims which had been thought barren by the gringos.
The group would start pulling out gold hand over fist, but it would not be
long before everybody would be run out and the claim taken over by bands of
The three of them decided to stay away from the congested river and the permanent flows to follow incidental streams off of the beaten track.
Up one of these creeks the little group found some diggings which had been recently abandoned, a roofless cabin, and a note that stated flatly “No gold here! You kin have it.” When they got down to look, they found a bluish silty clay which made Pedro quite excited.
Gold? No. Even better. The ground was saturated there with quicksilver.
The same stuff used heavily by miners who had a little more knowledge than
the average joe to extract gold from crushed ore. Leave the gold to the gringos
to find and claim; those whites would just run them off any claim anyway.
The trio would get rich selling needed stuff to the already rich.
And so they and their mules settled in near the town of Hapless Camp, and as it happened, a camp of “Celestials” lay not far off. The Chinese, having sailed several thousand miles of ocean to hack away at Gum Lung with everybody else found themselves quite unwelcome and experiencing severe disadvantage. Many of them turned from mining to providing services, such as laundry, realizing that any gold profit taken would almost surely get them all killed.
So the trio were doubly grateful for the blessings granted them in the form of a profitable claim no one wanted and in clean trousers.
But this is not what occasioned Thanksgiving in California.
What really happened what this: In the town of Hapless Camp, the memory of which has now dissolved from the history books, there lived 46 would-be 49'ers, plus two female, mostly-Chinese, cooks named Nellie and YoYo, who pleasured the miners with food and other fine things, and their poodle, named Cheesin-Lo, of undetermined gender despite its name. Cheesin-Lo’s chief talent lay in that it could devour an old boot in about 45 seconds and could yap in time to most of the works of Toscanini. And perhaps Schopenhauer, although nobody was precisely sure about that and opportunity to test the assertion never arose.
About August, end of summer, a particular flea bit a particular miner, named Dumpster McCoy, and he subsequently expired of a terrible fever that featured these obnoxious swellings all over his body. These swellings are called "buboes" and this thing he died of is called commonly "Bubonic Plague". This disease has been described in a previous chapter. Unfortunately, McCoy was not overly fastidious in his household arrangements and a whole host of fleas enjoyed his syrup before he went.
Well, to make a long, really sad story short, the entire population of Hapless Camp died of the Plague, leaving one, flea-ridden Cheesin-Lo left in search of poodle kibble or whatever he/it could scrounge.
Only god, or Satan, knows what it is that makes poodles free from the plague’s effects. It may be their single virtue for I cannot conceive of any other. In any case, Cheesin ambled down the road toward China Camp, dead set on getting more feed and unconsciously dead-set on infecting the entire population of the Sierra with the dreaded Plague, for China Camp was at that time the nexus of activity through which all of the Gold Country traffic traveled. Had Cheesin reached China Camp, he/she/it would have sent the contagion on across the valley to San Francisco and beyond.
Here it was that Fergus McOog, passing along with his blunderbuss, happened to discover the animal, a clear shot, right in the middle of the road. Keep in mind that in this time, with no deer, no bear, no jackalopes, no cows in the hills to speak of, any sort of meat was heartily welcome. So it was that Oog shot Cheesin square between the eyes, ordinarily a very good thing for a poodle. Then, he hauled up the flea-bitten carcass on his shoulder and trudged off to find a place to skin the thing and eat it.
Now here our tale becomes somewhat questionable, we understand. Why Fergus would have turned aside from the main path back to his cabin so as to find a better place to roast a dead dog, history does not record. Perhaps he noticed some secret sign on a tree now long since cut down for BBQ briquets or perhaps he simply wanted to gut and clean the animal away from his dwelling. Perhaps he did not want to share a morsel with his cabinmate, Tinky Winky Miner. Tinky Winky wore a suit that had turned purple with age and fungus and bad washing and would wake up every morning singing an inane song that made you want to commit murder. He was not exactly a man you wanted to be close to and Fergus often wondered about him. Who knows? In any case, Fergus wandered from the main path and soon fell, poodle and self, into a long shaft at the end of which he landed with a thump that broke his leg.
As he lay unconscious, several fleas took this opportunity to bite him. This was not a good thing.
After he was finished being unconscious, he woke up. Then, his next step was to regret being awake for the pain in his leg was most excruciating. With his handy flintlock tinder he lit a small fire so as to see where he had ended up in agony. In fact, he lay upon a chest, quite smashed by his fall, of thousands of gold coins. And to the side lay a skeleton. In the boney hand of the skeleton was a piece of paper. On this piece of paper were written the following words, "This be the long lost Mariposa Treasure. If'n you find this 'n me, remember me. Mah name is . . . ". Unfortunately, the rest of the note was illegible.
Fergus made a kazoo out of the paper and the comb he never used for its intended purpose. Out of Cheesin-Lo, he made a BBQ and a hat.
Many hours, perhaps days, passed before Fergus heard a voice at the top of the shaft. "Halloo! Enybody down thar?"
It was Tiburcio. Out for his constitutional after his ritual mudbath and Native American sauna. Relaxed and alert, he found this shaft at close of day, from which a strange light emitted along with a kazoo rendition of “Sha-Boopie”. Fergus had taken to burning pieces of the treasure chest for light and company and cooking poodle and his knowledge of music was not large.
In short order, Fergus communicated the essentials: That he was a miner with a broken leg at the bottom of a shaft with an half-eaten poodle on top of a veritable mountain of gold and would offer two-thirds or more to anyone who would get him out. Two-thirds of the gold, that is.
Sounds fair enough, but, as a Golden State native, Tiburcio was always alert to "the Catch".
Unwisely, Fergus added that he had a terrible fever going on and it seemed there were these "swellings going on" all over his body.
Now, Tiburcio was no dummy. He knew about the Plague. He knew what it meant for the relative capacity of science in his day. He remembered the periodic plagues which had swept the Mission where he had grown up. And all he knew about catching it was from hearsay, which said, "You so much as breath near such an infected person and you gonna DIE in pain fur sure!" And he thought about the thousands of men who had swarmed over the Sierra crest now all living close to one another.
"Okay," he said. "I'll be back." In truth, he was. With the first mechanical "bulldozer" ever seen. He got two bulls from a paddock and built himself a flatboard with a backwards hitch on it so that the bulls could push this thing forwards. He then mounted the contraption on the tailings from the old mine and then drove the bulls forward, shoving about a half-ton of earth over the old mine shaft hole. Then he did it again and then went away and had a very nice lunch.
The best we can say about the poor feller under about a ton of gravel and dirt is that Fergus probably died of suffocation before the buboes really got him. And that the entire population of the Sierra survived.
The following day, Tiburcio held a great feast to give thanks to the Great Kuknu and the gods and to whatever for having saved the entire population of California from a terrible fate, for such was the habit among his folk whenever some miraculous event managed to secure the well-being of the populace. And there you have it, the real and absolutely true story of how Thanksgiving came west of the Mississippi River. All the other mining camps up there took up the practice as well, for the life of a wannabee gold miner was difficult and fraught with mountain lions, poor diet, bad mud, nervous jumping up and down and, generally, very little gold. So these fellas working up in the hills thousands of miles from home dearly loved a party with drinking and carousing and good eats and raucous music. Which brings us to the beginnings of rock n roll, but that is another story. Shortly after this, Tiburcio returned home, a much wiser man.
As it turned out, the gringos really got more and more irritated with life as they laboriously came to realize that simply fetching gold from water was far more difficult than previously imagined. Then it was that so much gold did get found that wholesale inflation gripped the region such that things like bread loaves and coffee began to cost a king’s ransom.
When white boys get irritated, bad things happen. First, a head tax was imposed upon all the Chinese and the Mexicans in the hills. Then, all of them in the area were simply evicted. That’s right, vigilance committees went around ordering all the non-whites in the vicinity of Hapless Camp to get out. Go somewhere else. We don’t care. Just get out of here.
This had the unfortunate effect of eradicating decent meals and clean clothes, as well as other conveniences, which did not improve the mood of the whites. Seizing Argentinians and Mexicans at random for viscious flogging after the whites reversed the eviction orders failed to repair the situation. It is generally thought that Joaquin Murietta arose from just such a procedure.
One day Burpee was down in Hapless Camp with his mule Basura when a white guy named Neal Duprey took Basura away from him. That is to say, while Burpee was inside the Ye Olde Quaint Store, he saw Duprey unhitch Basura from the post and walk away with Basura loudly complaining. When Burpee went outside to protest this action, Duprey shot him. Burpee did not die right away, so this caused a problem. Furthermore, he remained lucid for some time afterwards and issued complaint against Duprey for attempted murder and successful theft. Which led to the regrettable formality of an arrest and a trial.
Burpee would testify against Duprey, but because he was of Mexican extraction, his testamony was null and void. Then, with his two friends beside him, Burpee died. Well, this caused a charge of murder to be laid against Duprey, who found all of this rigamarole to be most irksome.
Tiburcio, who spoke excellent Spanish as well as English, stepped forward to testify, for he saw the known mule in the company of the obviously known Duprey. But Tiburcio was tagged an “Indian”, which meant that his testimony would not even be recorded, as an Indian was not even regarded as a human being in the courts at that time, and so never could testify against a white man.
Had any valid persons witnessed the shooting and/or the theft? Duprey made his temper and the quality of his firearms known to any potential witnesses and so none stepped forward. The case was dismissed and Duprey was released. No one publically knows what happened to Basura after that, although we have insider information.
They buried Burpee on a grey day of high fog up on the banks of the little creek at their diggings, planting there a cross made of redwood, which probably would not last more than a couple of years in the weather, and sadly collected all of their belongings as black and white corbids set up a clamor in the trees. In single file they and the remaining mules descended from the tall pines through the quaking aspens and so through fields of purple lupine and green bunchgrasses down to the valley below.
Throughout the Sierra men of South American and Mexican extraction packed their bags and streamed out, never to return. Among these were Pedro and Tiburcio, riding Trumpet and a surreptitiously filched Basura, most thankful among all of them to be alive.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
We note that Taj Mahal is invited back to welcome the New Year at Yoshis. Apparently spending time with Ghosts instead of his family did not bother the man so much he could not reprise his performance of several years ago there. The Stringcheese Incident will again hold forth with an impossible list of bands downtown. No word on where the remnants of the Dead are playing -- we would assume the Henry J. Kaiser Aud. Cat Power takes over the venerable Fillmore next weekend for some strong estrogen under the purple chandeliers. The Slits are playing the Uptown, and we have a roving correspondent checking in on the latest action from this hot latest group.
DARK NIGHT IS FALLING
Its been a quiet week on the Island. No word yet on the results of that coffeeshop conversation between Ms. Morales and Mr. Ramirez. But some reporters indicate that the two sat together this Sunday in the same pew at the basilica of Her Lady of Perpetual Complaint. They arrived in one car and departed together. So tongues are wagging, of course.
The morning fog hugs close, makes getting up in the chill air that much more obnoxious. The Social Director has reported extreme cold and severe conditions necessitating blankets and such, but she hails from SoCal, where they do not experience Seasons as most of the world experiences them. Pity the gal, for she has never known the ecstacies of skidding over snowpack in her car.
In California we have two types of people: Socal types and the rest of the universe. SoCal people, born and raised among the sunny orange groves never have experienced the trials of weather the vast majority of humankind have experienced. They never learned to drive through snow, never observed leaves falling -- except in Pasadena, where they have a museum -- and never have observed a change in seasons for any reason except by government directive.
In NorCal, the oak leaves fall, some regions experience snow, and we learn the lessons of sending summer clothes to storage while fetching woolen sweaters and boots.
It may not be Minnesotta, but it does possess its charms. For during the change, the fog creeps over the coastal range with glorious density that not even Peter Jackson could duplicate with all of his special effects. When the tule fog shrouds I5, you had better postpone your drive or risk death and destruction.
And then there is the drive to the Annual Gathering. Why we gather about for this mythical holiday is just about as valid as the story related above. Family members fly thousands of miles from perfectly comfortable locations to pass through the ridiculous Homeland Security annoyances in airports, spend countless unprofitable hours in transit on busses, planes, trains and cabs and all just to wind up having a family argument with Uncle Harry over governmental stupidities in Iraq.
From the White Space that remains of the map of our mind, remains this half-forgotten memfactoid. In a low building recalled only during Zippy's worst moments, most of the countries of the mind prior to 1991 were whited out, leaving only vast swatches of Unexplored Territory going back to 1957. Islanded, shines this bright moment of having the picked-over heap of Thanksgiving offal served up at a card-table add-on in the diggins owned by Olga and Company. Can't even remember to whom she was married at the time; she seemed to use up husbands like oranges. But everyone at the card table seemed to be of the Left persuasion. The card table seemed to be, from someone who spent easily $2,000 dollars upon a piece of furniture or four times that amount upon chairs, to be her response to various protests against the Vietnam war. Of course, at that time this terrible conflict divided families in a far worse manner.
In any case, this enforced hierarchy resulted here in an unbridgeable chasm not easily forgot or purged by any sort of torture, chemical or physical. It was a symbol of the age and a symbol of how America was to go terribly wrong years later. We have power and you do not. That means we get the best of things and you get the pickings. That is just the way it is.
Too bad there is little memory other than that. Other factoids we possess have been handed to us after the fact and Olga is dead now of lung cancer, for she smoked furiously, so there is little forthcoming from that direction.
Another Thanksgiving was held in the desert inside Joshua Tree National Forest, where the meal consisted of turkey sausages and stuffing made over a propane stove and lovers mingled with ex-lovers in a mild abandon. In the morning the sun rose with red and gold streaks over the rimrock and it was the best Thanksgiving ever.
This Thanksgiving, remember that you have what you have by deference, and so appreciate all that you have that much more. Our neighbor Rex once had a machete laid against his throught, but he lives today, and because he is talented and really a nice guy we give thanks for the fact he lives on. This is a man who produces beautiful music.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great Thanksgiving.
NOVEMBER 12, 2006
JOY THOU SPARK OF FLAME IMMORTAL!
Everyone knows by now what happened 11/7 on Election Day with subsequent belated gifts such as Rumsfeld's retirement.
In California the big pleasant surprise was the turnover caused by the defeat of the quite odious Richard Pombo up in the Gold Coast area. Here are the figures for this district thought long to be unobtainable by everyone.
DEM - Jerry Mcnerney 15385 62.04
REP - Richard W. Pombo 9348 37.70
Pombo was a classic example of GOP hubris gone wrong. He linked himself with imprisioned lobbyists, uttered foolish statements and generally acted like people should give him stuff when he stole twice as much
In our Island district and the neighboring district, Pete Stark and Barbara Lee won easily with over 75% a-piece. Barbara Lee is most famous for being the sole objector to the ridiculous war in Iraq.
In the governorship, the people dissappointingly chose the starpower, and significantly chastened, presence of Arnold over the tainted leadership of Phil Angelides who never could free himself publically from the disastrous reign of his former boss the recalled Gray Davis.
In the rest of state offices, Democrats swept the board excepting the office of Insurance Commissioner, where Cruz Bustumante faced a GOP-style corruption probe, leaving Arnold with very little to back him up should he attempt any sort of GOP initiative.
In the final tallys we are pleased to report that friend and associate Sandra Bean takes on the position of Superior Court Judge over Dennis Hayashi.
Statewide, propositions posed a mixed set of problems in their refusal and denial. Well over $83 billion worth of bonds were approved to fix things like the roads and the crumbling levees that GWB refused to assist with on his last visit here. The levees are all over 100 years old and badly in need of repair as one seems to fail each year. A foolish measure to require GPS tracking monitors to be installed on freed sex offenders and an additional requirement that all such offenders remaine 2,000 feet from any school or house for children was passed for nonsensical reasons, as such a measure will quickly prove unworkable.
There are over 90,000 sex offenders living in California and monitoring such a population is clearly impossible. In addition, the living restrictions set by the proposition mean that virtually every city and town is excluded from being a valid residence for these people.
In other significant county measures, Marin approved with a clear 2/3rds majority to allow a light rail system to be installed and operated through the county to Sonoma. This means that the congestion along 101 may be relieved to some extent by diverting traffic along this rail corridor. It does appear that the only alternative would have been widening the freeway passage through these counties.
Babylon passed a proposition calling for the impeachment of the President by a significant margin, but this resolution, as justified as it may be, probably will not result in much action.
Saturday all through Calfornia victory parties were held to
celebrate this turn-around. We counted some 385 parties, most of which were
oversubscribed beyond legal attendence within 25 miles of this zip code. A
jolly fete held behind the venerable Claremont had a limited list of some
125 people and was quickly blocked up.
NOVEMBER'S GOT HER NAILS DUG IN DEEP
This past week saw a couple commemorations of two seperate horrors spaced more than forty years apart. November 18 will the 28th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre in which more than 900 people were murdered, including Congressman Leo Ryan (D-San Mateo), in Guyana, but a movie has come out recently about the cult and its end in the jungles of northeast South America. The documentary includes audio recordings of tapes from machines that were turned on by Jim Jones during the cult's final hours and is not for the faint of heart. One factor which is frequently overlooked by people from outside the area is highlighted in the movie and that is the initial beneficial aspects of the community and its more positive aspects before its leader went totally haywire well before moving to Guyana. For a time, the community was instrumental in assisting public improvement projects in San Francisco and many credit its influence in the rectification of racial inequities.
But its leader became increasingly paranoid and authoritarian, which only became worse at the isolated encampment in South America up until Leo Ryan arrived with several newsmen to investigate goings on. After encountering significant resistence to his visit, Ryan left with several defectors for the airport with the intention of returned to fetch more people who wanted to leave. Dale Parks, a newsman, fought inside one of the planes with Larry Layton, a Jones loyalist who tried to kill them all with a pistol, and managed to disarm Layton after several people had been shot. He and several others managed to escape, but a tractor with several gunmen disabled the other plane before killing most of the people left behind. When the tractor returned to the encampment, the mass suicides and murders began. People who refused to drink the cyanide-laced Kool-aid were either shot or had the stuff injected via syringes between the shoulder-blades.
Although founded initially in Indianapolis, most of the victims came from the Bay Area and there is a cemetary for 400 former residents of Oakland alone. Its principal residence here was on Geary Street, before Mr. Jones moved the entire group to the increasingly totalitarian location. Rep. Ryan's personal aid, Jackie Speir, survived the ambush of the congressional delegation, lying out on the airport tarmack almost all night with five bullet wounds, and eventually became a capable representative for her district in California.
In Munich, the anniversary of Kristalnacht, during which all of the synogogues in major German cities were defaced or destroyed in one night of horrific violence, was commemorated through the dedication of the first public synogogue in over forty years. The $78 million building was substantially paid for by the local German government with the assistance of donations and features a glass roof so that worshippers can look up to see the heavens.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Summer is now officially done as cold air finally swept in the first of several storms sure to enliven the skies for a while. Checked into San Anselmo a while back and not much remains of those houses that slid down the hill last year. And they still have to complete the retaining wall before rebuilding the road up there.
THE ANNUAL ISLAND THANKSGIVING BBQ
On to cheerier things. It is fall, November, and the wind blows briskly, scattering the leaves. Its the time when a young man's fancy turns to sturdy woolen sweaters, long hikes in the woods followed by bowls of steaming grog, vigorous exercise, moral strictures, and the delightful pleasure of blowing away Fifi with a brand new Mossberg 12-guage loaded with number 8 buckshot.
Yes, dear friends, the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ will soon be upon us and the rules have been reposted just this weekend.
For Official Make Glorious Island Poodleshoot Benefit Rules, go HERE.
Now, we know that we have been accused of being insensitive, unaware, boorish, crude, tactless, tasteless racialists in the past, but times have come to rectify our sincere apologies which we toss out in every direction imaginable. Especially to our Bi acquaintances, in whose lifeways we now discern distinct advantages. Twice the options for dates on Friday night, for example. Friend Susan has vigorously corrected our misbehaviors with her old Sorority Paddle and no longer shall we cast aspersions upon the female from the hunting blind. As soon as we can sit down again, we're gonna invite all our Lavender friends to the next Poodleshoot.
The Committee is planning some special entertainments and contests for this year's event, which will feature a Title IX funded contest that will include representatives from the Bay Area's "L7 Shooting Club and Choir", for it has long been seen as remiss that belching, farting, ultra-violence and firearm displays have been denied the distaff gender. Or at least public recognition thereof has been sadly lacking. Hence, a special Women's Section has been created with plenty of room for LGB and transgender folks. The more the merrier and the more diverse the mayhem the better the shoot.
As usual, anyone handy with a bucknife is welcome, as all kills need to be brought to Padraic at the grill Ready To Eat.
It's no fun when poodle-hairs get between your teeth while your are munching down some savory poodlemeat so finely grilled and juicy it makes you want to scream, "Hoo Yah!. Them curly hairs can be a real distraction and entirely spoil appreciating the dog. And you always want to show your hunting partner your appreciation for a fine hunt without distraction.
Man, that paddle hurts.
The Official Island-Life Transport Vehical #2 finally terminated its employment and with tears in our eyes we watched as a charity truck towed the Mazda off into the sunset. Along with its bad transmission, its failed thermostat and its questionable brakes. Just the day before, an angry NeoCon vandalized the Official Island-Life Transport Vehicle #1, wrecking the ignition in a fit of pique over a sticker announcing the last day of Bushy's employment as President Appointed.
So now the entire staff of Island-Life is reduced to peripatetic cogitations and fetching supplies via velociped.
Well, there is a reason we voted them nasty old NeoCons out of office, and criminal, rude, obnoxious behaviour has a lot to do with it.
Meanwhile, that cold wind has kicked up again, causing all sorts of ruckus among the dahlias who appear fated for certain winter destruction. Ms. Morales was crossing Santa Clara Avenue near the mini-cinema they put into the Old Mortuary with an armload of student papers, rewritten carefully by those students of Emily Dickenson who had lost their works previously at the corner of Webster and Pacific near the Taco Bell in a sudden contretemps only two blocks from Longfellow School.
Ms. Morales, a naturalized citizen from Manila and an instructor
of English for some twenty-four years, possesses a fierce dedication to the
language only someone who has learned it from pandybat nuns and Shakespeare
can possess. In truth, it is a commonplace that the best speakers of English
are those to whom it has come secondhand from far better schools than will
ever occur within our lifetimes in the US.
To our miserly system, Ms. Morales adds her mite of dedication, and a bit of genuine erudition, year in and year out, often paying for supplies out of her own pockebook of moths and old coins when the District lapses in its responsiblities.
She had a brother, but he died during the final days of the last Stupid War, as she calls it, but she keeps his photograph on the mantel. With others who have passed on. Otherwise, she has no family here.
Never married, except to the Bard and attending poets, she wears sturdy black shoes with heels that could stamp out a fire and a plain dress over simple hosiery from Mervins. Mrs. Morales attends the services at Our Lady of Incessant Complaint with, well, religious seriousness and a hat devoid of ostentation, listening with careful devotion to the sermons from Father Guimon and meeting friend Fay Corpuz at the Filipino Community Center in Oaktown for tea and gossip and Bible Studies. Once there was the possiblity of an affair between Ms. Morales and a certain Jose Villaflores and the Community Center and during that time rumors flocked throughout the Center like pigeons, but this Villaflor moved to Modesto and nothing came of it and the rumors died all like pigeons who had eaten poisoned nuggets.
Mindful, this time, of potential loss at every streetcorner, Ms. Morales is crossing Santa Clara to the bus stop, intending to employ the extravagance of taking the bus to the school -- for the second time, having safely transported the essays to home from school one time already -- for usually she walks the nine blocks or so from her rooms to Longfellow. And she has those precious essays clasped tightly to her chest in a grip that would defeat Satan himself should he dare assail this bastion. For she knows how hard they have worked each time, only to have their work go sailing away into the winds.
Poor Ruben Silgado labored long for his handwritten copy -- his family cannot afford a computer. And Sarah Ni'Eniskerry, who has the classic complexion of a red-headed lass who cried and cried in Ms. Morales' office the first time because her father, an ironworker on the Bay Bridge project, was so strict. And the second time she said nothing, but the bruises on her face told much about that life. All of their stories she knew well, for she made sure to know them and their parents, although she kept her own professional distance and never attendened any of those holiday invitations, as such a thing would not be proper. It would indicate favoritism, you see.
And there, in the intersection of St. Charles Street and Santa Clara, a dirty white car with a pro-Bush bumpersticker almost ran her down, bumped her thigh in fact, but she kept her hold on those precious papers even while the driver screamed like a baboon at her for being there after his entry into the intersection, accompanied by language not appropriate for this space and not for most of civilized society as well with references to heritage and family origins that were not very nice, no not very nice at all.
But still she kept hold of those papers.
Mr. Peepers, mindful now of electrical wires, scampered in his squirrel-manner up the telephone pole. But, still, she kept hold of those papers.
Bear, coming up on his Harley Davidson, noticing a pedestrian in the intersection, brought his coughing Harley to a halt, when it abruptly backfired.
But still she kept hold of those papers.
Unfortunately, someone had rammed the side of the St. Charles Apartments far down the block with their Caddilac. The driver, an elderly man, mistook his accelerator for the brake while backing up in that tiny illegal parkinglot owned by Ace Hardware and so knocked down the fence and punched a hole into the wall of the apartment garage, maintained -- in a manner of speaking -- by the once respectable firm of Hanford-Fraud of Babylon who had let the building fall into significant disrepair on the Island. We are, after all, not high priority, it must be admitted. HF had hired a couple fellows who had been recently released from Villa Fairmont Mental Hospital to keep up the building, and so things there were not so great. A number of Norwegian woodrats fled the broken wall in dismay, taking their belongings with them.
The rats would have fled under any number of buildings on St. Charles except a family of raccoons had managed to secure all the available accomodations there. This was not exactly the best quarter of the city.
In any case, the Caddy punched a hole in a wall infested by rats and several of these went down St. Charles. And it was the family of rats from St. Charles crossing through the intersection which startled Ms. Morales into throwing up her arms and jumping onto the hood of the dirty white car owned by the screaming baboon. Which caused his language to become even more intemperate as the rats ran by.
At this moment the pernicious wind took hold of those papers and scattered them -- for the third time -- high above the treetops and Ms. Morales wailed in despair.
Now we have Ms. Morales, a kindly schoolteacher, standing on the hood of an automobile. We have a screaming imbecile in a car beneath. We have traffic stopped in both directions on Santa Clara. We have rats streaming down St. Charles. We have student papers flying into the air. We have Mr. Peepers gazing at all of this from the relative safety of the telephone pole.
All was not well that day on the Island on this particular corner and things failed to get better.
Bear leaned over, put down his kickstand and trundled in his own particular way across the intersection to the dirty white car where the inhabitant was calling Ms. Morales something comparitive to a female dog.
Bear, wearing his tattered leather vest and greasy t-shirt offered his arm to help the weeping Ms.Morales down from the hood of the car. He then stepped to the driver's side of the car and what happened next could not have been anticipated by anyone. Bear reached through the window and grabbing the man by the collar hauled his head and torso through the window. Bear then reared back his right arm and solidly brought his fist down into the face of the driver, breaking his nose, as noted by subsequent police reports.
"Be respectful to ladies" said Bear, and he walked away.
The driver of the dirty white car bled upon his steering wheel. His companion howled in the seat next to him. Bear calmly watched Ms. Morales reach the curb where another driver -- an obvious friendly -- approached her, before driving off on his motorbike.
The other driver was Mr. Benito Ramirez, a distinguished man with white sideburns and one concerned about her welfare.
She was concerned, even at this point, about the essays, even after being nearly run over by a maniac, screamed at and nearly devoured by a legion of rats.
Mr. Ramirez offered to drive her to a nearby coffeeshop where the two of them discussed the proceedings and what to do.
The driver of the dirty white car was arrested in the meantime for obstructing traffic. A serious offence on the island.
Mr. Ramirez presented the problems as follows: The students had diligently written on the subject three times, and they have been well taught, therefore they all deserve the highest grade for effort, for diligence and for attention.
In this, Ms. Morales was well pleased. She could not bear a fourth series of essays on the same subject and there remained the Symbolists for this Quarter.
"Ah, predecessors to Rimbaud and Baudelaire." Said Mr. Ramirez.
Not quite, but the conversation went long beyond the subject. Accuracy is not important under such circumstances, only a brief familiarity. We know this disturbs some of you, but that is just the way it is. And perhaps it were best we left this couple and returned to them some nine months hence. It does seem nine months is average for things to ...digest.
As for the essays, they floated high above the trees on the wind and were dispersed to all directions. Some wound up in the estuary where the robotic arm extending from an Iranian submarine seized some of these before gliding out undetected through the Golden Gate. The Iranian Secret Authority remains puzzled by Emily Dickenson, and many translators have been set to work on the project within the Hall of Exemplary and August Revolution. Many translators in Iran have found this particular work to be of engrossing interest and several government analyses are expected. It seems this particular project will take some time.
That's just the way it is on the Island. And in Iran. Read more poetry and have a great week.
NOVEMBER 5, 2006
YOU GOTTA FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PARTY
One of the Bay Area's best-loved and most anarchic traditions may just come to an end. Each year, ever since the Police Department refused a parade permit on Halloween purely for its own homophobic reasons, revelers have collected by the thousands in the Castro District to parade in costume and generally party while the resigned SFPD typically puts up barricades to close the blocks around Castro and Church Streets to let the inevitable take place with little recognition or fanfare. When 500,000 folks show up, how many can you possibly arrest for "illegal assembly" in a legal situation guaranteed to explode in your badged and uniformed faces? Eventually the City was forced to organize the affair under its control after a chainsaw was confiscated one memorable year.
Once the safe haven district for all types, and the safest district anywhere for a woman to walk in peace, the Castro has recently learned the hard lessons being taught these days by an increasingly intolerant and violently strict America. Teams of toughs from Fremont and Hayward have been driving into the Castro to beat up innocent people in an area known for its vibrant gay culture.
Gunfire broke out between two groups at the massive Halloween street party in the city's Castro district, wounding at least 10 people, including bystanders, police said Wednesday. Witnesses describe crowds of people running into businesses and any place of percieved safety as the guns went off.
Island-life reps visited the party during the early 80's and found the atmosphere casual and carefree, but others have remarked that far too many people were collected in one place with no rules or order or organization of any kind.
This year may be the last time the spontaneous party takes place as the more conservative gay element avoids the crowds to deal with troubles of their own.
With great sadness we repeat the report made by the New York Times that William Styron, Novelist and fellow countryman, is dead at 81 due to complications of pneumonia. A lifelong sufferer and battler of chronic Depression, Styron's readings could be long lugubrious affairs with his Faulknerian sentences winding like dark anancondas through the heavy air. Famous -- or infamous -- for his Holocaust novel that focussed upon a non-Jew Auschwitz survivor, which was made into the movie Sophie's Choice, the contentious author managed to ignite controversy with every publication even as he maintained a placid and calm exterior, for it was his penchant to fully adopt the writer's claim to write from any point of view and about any subject on the map, with no regard to attachment. His "Confessions of Nat Turner" earned critical accolades and the Pulitzer Prize, but also vilification from people who felt that a white man could never understand -- or write about -- the feelings and motives of a Black man. Born in Newport News, Virginia, he lived a life that differed greatly on the surface from that of the "starving artist", with none of the monetary concerns experienced by the majority of authors existing in the popular imagination, but his chronic depression was so severe that it resulted in hospitalization and heavy medication, while the theme of suicide never departs any of his works.
He is survived by his long-time wife and personal-companion
Rose, nee Burgunder, and three daughters, Alexandra Styron of Brooklyn, Susanna
Styron of Nyack, N.Y., and Paola Styron of Sherman, Conn.; a son, Thomas,
of New Haven; and eight grandchildren.
YOU MUST NOT HEED THE CALL-UP
We have from David Elias, musician and man-about-town, info regarding this remarkable resource from Neal Young who has put together "700 Songs Against War", which is an online list with download links to 700 artists protesting the American Wars and other follys of the Bush regime. Click around and you will find some gems, including contributions from Monty Python's Michael Palin and other notaries.
DIAS DE LOS MUERTES
The Bay Area is notable for its richness of Hispanic culture. One benefit is the annual Dia de Los Muertos Festival, the biggest of which takes place right across the water in Oaktown. The Dia de Los Muertos Fruitvale Festival has been inducted by Congresswoman Barbara Lee into the United States Library of Congress as a “Local Legacy” for the State of California. It is the largest one-day Dia de Los Muertos festival in the United States.
The Island-Life Social Coordinator snagged the Editor for a visit at end of day where some 250,000 people thronged the avenues between Fruitvale and 41st all along International to enjoy music from five stages, loads of art products, food booths and -- of course -- many of the famous "death altars" built to commemorate those who have passed. As in Mexico, one could buy little skeleton figurines, sugar skulls and intricate paper cut-outs. Need one be native Mexican or Spanish-speaking to attend? At one striking booth with full skeleton laid out, we inquired "Esta senora su familia?" and got the cumbersome response, "Uhh, no. She was a friend."
This holiday is a perfect example of the complex heritage of the Mexican people and is an ironic consequence of far distant Irish beliefs. The beliefs of today's Mexican are based on the complicated blended cultures of his ancestors, the Aztec and Maya and Spanish invaders, layered with Catholicism. The origins of the Days of the Dead reach into the ancient history of Europe and Mexico. In the eighth century, the church decreed November 1 as All Saints Day. Setting aside the day to honor the martyrs and saints was an attempt to replace the 2000-year tradition of the Celts and their Druid priests who combined harvest festivals and celebrated the new year on November 1.
The Celtic dead were believed to have access to earth on Samhain, October 31st, when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead relaxed. The Celts danced around huge bonfires, wearing animal heads and hides to confuse the spirits and burned crops and animals as offerings to the returning dead.
Around the end of the first millennium, the church reinforced its attempt to cover the Celtic celebration by designating November 2 as All Souls' Day to honor the dead. All Souls' Day was celebrated with parades, big bonfires and the people dressed as saints, angels and devils.
The act of preparing an altar by placing photographs, flowers, candles, favorite foods and drink of the loved one provides a special time to remember, and to transform grief into acceptance. The living invite the spirits of the family to return home for a few hours of laughter, tears and memories. These altars are prepared in all seriousness and often requiring many hours of personal labor, as seen in this Mayan ziggurat, made of pressed-board and sand.
We talked with the maker of this altar, festooned liberally with candles and photographs. It was the maker's conviction that all this was done on behalf of a friend and that when his own time came, he would want something just as grand.
We lit a candle and laid an offering in memory of the following indivduals: Micheal Hursey, Michael Rubin, Penny Voorhees, Johnny Pettin, Eric Mosby, Julie Buckner, Fred of Florida, David Lerner, and a couple of others.
An important aspect of the holiday is the closure that it provides for families who have lost a loved one during the previous year. Without embalming, burial must take place within 24 hours of death. During this short period, the body is laid out in the coffin at home, surrounded by candles, flowers, family and friends. While the family and friends gather, and sit in vigil during the night, then return for another week to recite the rosary, there is often little time for acceptance or reality. Preparing for the return of the spirit each fall lets the family remember and honor their dead, and gives them a chance to heal.
Some families prepare the altar of offerings at the family grave site, lighting a candle for each dead one, remembering the names, and placing flowers or coronas (wreaths) at the cemetery. Many stay to visit, eat, drink and pray while they keep a vigil during the night. All night, throughout the cemetery there is a grand family reunion of huge extended families, alive and dead, as one by one, through stories, memories and dreams, the dead return. On this night, those who wait realize the importance of living to be well remembered, working to be well respected and loving to be well missed. The T-shirt says, roughly, "My angel of love will be always with us. . .".
Once the night has passed, and the spirits have returned to their world, the ones remaining know that for another year they have triumphed in the struggle of life and that the only way to celebrate death is to live with courage. They have faced death and have won, saying, "Look here, you old bald skull - you fleshless one - you didn't get me - I have survived to live again today."
The overall thrust is that by embracing death, dancing with
it, kissing it on the lips, knowing death intimately, one loses ones fear
of the darkness and can celebrate life.
Down along the Fruitvale we had the pleasure of experiencing the wealth of Hispanic culture from Peruvian flutists, to Aztec dancers to Mexican cantadoras.
Just another Sunday on a pre-Superbowl weekend in the East Bay.
I HAD A DREAM
Our editor had a dream recently which has particular poignance during this time of the Days of the Dead. On the face of it, the dream does not appear all that significant, but look closer friend, for you too will one day walk that ancient beach.
We walked along the path that borders the strand and came to a stone wall. We could not remember a stone wall being there, about two and a half feet high and extending for infinity in both directions, but this one seemed to have been there for eons, with scraggly weeds crowding up against lichened stones. There was no gate or path through but something called us from the dim otherside and so, hesitating a moment to leave the relatively well-lit path, we slogged through the sand before the wall and stepped over into a dark mist and a voice seemed to echo in the darkness, "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!" and the words flamed inside the skull as if scribed in everlasting molten steel. On the other side the ground sloped down as usual to the water for about thirty yards, but we could not see the far lights of Babylon's port facilities or the Coluseum. In fact, the water had the appearance of extending out beyond to Infinity. But all up and down the strand bonfires had been lit, as is customary among our people in this part of the world, and towards one of these we stumbled among drift and seawrack.
At the bonfire's edge a bright voice greeted us, "Denby! What are you doing here now? Is it your time at last?"
A spritely gal with a blonde poll appeared and reached out. But her hand went right through our arm, leaving a clammy, cold sensation.
"Oh!" She said. "You are not one of us. Well, come on and visit for a while."
The girl flit back to the firelight around which a number of forms sat or stood.
"Penny, its you," we said. "We miss you. . . ".
"Oh Denby, you were always so . . . lugubrious. Lighten up and don't be so dead!" came the response. And her laughter was a sparkle of diamonds in that dark night.
Sitting around that fire, we recognized many faces. And many more all up and down that beach. Strange words in another language reverberated inside the skull: "si lunga tratta / di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta" echoing and echoing down long hallways of mirrors into eternity. None of this seemed to make any sense at all.
A familiar voice called out from the ring of fire. It was Carol, a younger and slimmer woman than we remembered, with a head of golden curls we had only seen in a photograph. "Hello Denby. Still writing I see."
We told her she was looking well, and a girlish fit of laughter erupted. "At the very least we get to look our best here. Just because Mayakovsky does not mention eyelashes and lipstick doesn't mean an old girl can't fix her self up for the Revolution."
"You haven't changed a bit. You know that was quite a service with Jack holding forth like in the old days of the Beats. Must have packed every lefty poet in town in there . . .".
"Oh really. I didn't go. It didn't seem it would add much and I never was one to fish for compliments."
We asked here if she had any prescience for "The Revolution," and she responded that no one in this place had any more foresight than before. "You just need to pick your battles carefully and be smart about it," she said, simply. "I really don't think there will be a Revolution in America; the big Middle Class is all too comfortable with yielding up important things for the sake of an easy-chair, as you have seen the past few years. There still will always be The Struggle in various forms, and I see you taking part from time to time. Now I am out of all that and have enough to do meeting new and old friends. Say hello to David when you see him -- but don't tell him you saw me. The boy is sensitive."
A bulky form rose up from next to her and we were astonished to face once again someone we thought we would never meet again. This time, we greeted this ghost first. "David, you are here." This David, not Carole's David, had been the foremost among that rowdy group of uncontrolled bohemian artists.
David was, as usual, sardonic and terse in his response. Did you expect me somewhere else? Here he had found alternative companions and a few more besides. Tonight, he visited among the lesser known. As it turned out, he was gratified and surprised there were as few differences between us than first imagined.
"I always had thought in the beginning we were extraordinary, we Cafe Babarians, but when I met you doing the same scut work as I did to get by, I learned the differences are not so great and that was a painful lesson. As for you," he turned to look far out across the water. "You must suffer a great deal more to become as hard as we were. Unfortunately, there is yet hope for you." The form of David stepped back into the darkness and that of Michael appeared, floating at least six inches above the earth as he sat zazen.
"Michael, I am still trying to find the center of my ethnic identity . . .".
"No!" he responded more emphatically from his devout position, his fingers jabbing with insistent energy like spears, "I wanted you to find the center of yourself independent of history -- whether you are Jew or Sufi it does not matter! You are a soul spinning ecstatically through the universe and without a center you just become dizzy and fall down." Then he added, somewhat sardonically, "And I notice you tend to fall down frequently. Know yourself, then you can wear the beautiful Mask and write about it. Excuse me as I must now return to my conversation with Ghandi."
Another voice called to us. "Well, Denby, you were right when you told me to stop following everybody and to make my own stand. But I made my stand in a place not my own and stood up in the firefight, and so wound up here. And these people are not my people tonight. Most nights I sit with Patton and Eisenhower and Sherman. And many from The Other Side."
That voice belonged to Johnny, wearing the torn uniform of an Army officer. In the closing days of 1972 he shipped off to 'Nam, lying about his age, along with about thirty others, a futile Children's Crusade.
"Johnny, why did you do it? Why did you fudge the records and go in unofficial? When they found out, they struck your name from The Black Wall. You got declared noncombatant because you were underage. . .".
"That's not what it ever was about, Denby. About a million guys from the NVA never wound up on that Wall and never will and its my sentence to meet each one of them and spend unnumbered hours with them here. I have my own concerns now and my own resolutions. This here is my last stand and there is no other."
A couple jogging by paused in the moonlight beside the bonfire, a Black man and a white woman. "Well," said the man, "How surprised I am to find a Ghost down here." Eric stood there in a lean track-suit -- black, of course, with white stripes -- his beard neatly clipped, his 'Fro a reminder of some other decade. Beside him stood blonde-haired Julie, wearing a suite of dazzling white.
"Julie, Eric, you found each other. Eric, I though you were shot down in DC, and Julie, there was that window . . .".
"Oh, all that is old history," said Eric. "You should live for the now and pay more attention to what's around you. White men is the Devil, as Fanon said. No surprise when planes smack into buildings because of it. You give my Brother Tom a call when you get back; he could use some help right about now. As for me, this fine lady keeps me company these days."
"Let the memories push you forward, not hold you back. One headlight," said Julie. "Gotta run. Take care of yourself, Denby." And the two were gone, running down the strand.
A figure appeared with sticks rapping out a rhythm on drift logs. He had curly hair and a slim figure.
"I don't know you, " we said. And the figure paused his drumming. "My name is Michael. We never met. I ... crossed over ... in Thailand. You know my sister. And we have been living together, you and me, for some ten years now."
We faced one another, the ghost and the drummer. Ever since we first learned of Michael his habits and resume have filled our days for he was the brother of the Adored and so closest to everything that we hold dear. Not a day goes by when she does not say, "Michael did that." or "Michael said this about that." If ever there were one who remained in effect after the crossing, Michael was the man.
She had raised her brother in a solitary home after mother had died before her thirteenth birthday and father had gone nuts among the nuns in some distant House for the Mentally Indigent. The long loop of the years had roped in their consecutive lives into a kind of family existence with Xmas'es and Fourths and Thanksgivings spent among the rag tag of punk society that is for such that manage to survive under severe conditions while she fought her way through nursing school and he through rock bands and finally aviation in the doomed world of Reaganomics. We had a lot of questions to ask this Michael.
"You cannot stay her now. You must go back now for your term." Michael said. "In the meantime, take care of my sister -- and anyone's sister for that matter. Study clouds and wind patterns. Look at the sky as often as you can. Go now."
Penny took us back to the wall, which we would not have found
otherwise, as sight seemed to have become blurred by some saltwater.
"Oh, you'll be back before long," Penny said. "Try to enjoy your stay where you are at for now. Fling yourself into Life while you still have it; at this point I don't regret a thing except waiting far too long to take up skydiving." She paused at the wall and looked with big eyes, a half-smile on her face. "And practice your singing. You really need lots of practice." A wet something touched our cheek and she was gone.
And after we climbed over that low wall, everything back there receded into a mist and there was only the stretch of water out to Babylon and the lights of Bayview and Hunters Point and the ring of the Coluseum.
And the feel of a salt kiss of a long lost love.
BLACK-EYED DOG HOWLING AT THE DOOR
It's been a quiet week on the Island, ironic sister city to Lake Woebegon, ironic in that a place loaded with Catholic Hispanics and dour Caucasian Baptists should have any affiliation with the Nordic Lutherans of Minnesota, but a thorough examination shows that the two places are far closer in spirit than would appear on cursory examination.
There is no time to go into all of that right now. Election time has lept upon us with onwonted ferocity, this being a time of "midterm" elections. This past week the Island wound up on the editorial pages for all of the nasty mudslinging now going on here. Somebody dragged a PAC that supported the Challenger Slate for Council and Mayorship into Court for failure to report expenses by deadline, only to find that the PAC had simply been lied to about the actual deadlines to begin with. A number of people are no longer speaking with a number of people and some people are no longer returning phone calls. It's all going to get very nasty before its over and chances are that the nastiness will continue in other forms no matter who wins.
On the lighter side, Mick and Co. return to the East Bay for a show at the Coluseum tomorrow. Since, according to our calculations, the last run managed to rope in some 1.5 million viewers, not including those who bought tix at the obscene prices for more than one show, over the course of some five or six shows and two tours here. You might say that "the fellow with the tire-tread lips" came out ahead of his decision to remain with the band when executives encouraged him to depart some thirty years ago.
On the mellower side the Island PTA recently got together with that of a neighboring city so as to plan out how next year's girls' sporting events are to execute without parental interference of the dangerously physical kind that results in injuries to the referees. Tasers have been proposed so as to temper unruly on-field displays of protective fatherhood. Well, we shall see what comes of all that.
The Svenquist family has left town, and typically this serves as warning to all that the Annual Lutefisk Dinner will be held at the Lutheran Hall across from the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint. The Svenquist family, unlike the vast majority of Lutherans here, really do hail from Norway and so have an intimate acquaintance with Lutefisk, its history, its preparation, and its questionable consumption. The rest of the Lutherans here stem from lapsed Baptists, and so comprise a physically striking group of people of uncommon beauty. Don't question that; its simply a fact and one of which the Lutherans are quite proud.
In any case, lutefisk for those who do not know, was something invented during the Viking raids of the early Middle Ages, for the villagers needed to come up with something what with to repel these invaders, force of arms having long since failed against rovers who barely would acknowledge a limb being hacked off, let alone a few pin pricks of the broadsword. As a result, the people of coastal England devised a food substance of such distaste they thought the invaders would surely depart in search of better far. The enterprising folk took week-old cod from the bottom of the barrel, dried it, buried it in wormy loam and covered it over with drano, ie the caustic stuff people use to clear stopped up toilets. After a month of this sort of treatment, the people hung the result out on washing lines to really get the smell to mix about and harden the stuff to brick-like consistency. It would then be packed away in layers of salt, earth, and roadkill. When set to table, the folk soaked the brick in water and doused themselves liberally with aquavit, resulting in a kind of odiferous mush on the plate and between the ears. To their horror, the Vikings, long inured to the detestable, really liked the stuff and so imported the recipe with some modifications to their home countries. It is not now made anywhere in Norway, Sweden or Denmark, but there exist a few manufacturers in the United States, to the bafflement of the Scandanavians, who just shake their heads whenever an American tries to say "Yashur Jonit" in connection with the stuff.
Here in California, we don't have much lutefisk, but we do have the "1000 year" Chinese eggs, which are gelatinous, deeply brown in color and smelling faintly of vinegar. And atole, which the Native Americans made and lived off of for some 10,000 years. It is gelatinous, off-white in color and tastes something like library paste and it is required of every schoolchild to sample this concoction of pounded acorns so as to truely appreciate things like hamburgers and Snickers bars.
After a fit of warm weather, the skies pale gradually each morning with that late-remaining fog overhead and the ground is all beaded with dew. Mr. Peepers, singed but alive after his encounter a few weeks ago with a tasty powerline, still is scampering about collecting his hoard. The 24 hour period when the Dead walk again among us has passed, and Monday arrives with inevitablity and its coffee in the morning and its commute and its familiar drudgery.
Wonder if its not too late to take up skydiving.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 29, 2006
SAVE THE DAYLIGHT!
But now its all gone. Set your clock back 1 hour people, or be early for work again.
STRANGE PASSING AT THE REP
The Island-Life Social Coordinator snagged 2fer1 Season Tix at the Berkeley Rep, unfortunately after the last Mother Courage show for which roving reporter and Java ombudsman Josh Bennett gave a thumbs up for topicality from the Brecht/Weill play about a woman struggling to get by in the middle of the Thirty-Years War.
We did wander up to the Berzerkeley, where the Mayor got caught tossing opponent's flybills in the trash during the last election. Just a fit of "I just don't know what came over me", he claimed. He is up for reelection this year.
Political shenanigans aside. Berkeley is no stranger to fine performance art and we certain got that in spades for the International Premier of Passing Strange, a monumental musical opus penned -- also in collaboration -- by the single-named Stew and Heidi Rodewald team, plus assist from Annie Dorsen, director. For a original work, season starter, no plans for Broadway kind of piece, the project certainly collected an eyebrow-raising, impressive ensemble of very accomplished actors, musicians and talented off-stage artisans. Most of the performers possess A-list stage, TV and screen credits. Several of the musicians have won international jazz competitions co-worked with the likes of Billy Preston, Dr. John, Taj Mahal, Felix Pastorious, David Byrne, John Cale, Roy Ayers, and some of the most incisive jazz musicians working today. Cannes awards, Williamstown and Sir John Gielgud fellowships, accolades, and tons of Ivy League certs clog their mantels.
You could say this ensemble aint too shabby -- and is not short of stellar.
Choreographer Karole Armitage danced with the Georges Balanchine Geneva Ballet and with the Merce Cunningham Company before serving as director of the Ballet of Florence, resident choreographer for Ballet de Lorraine (France), and has contributed works to Alvin Ailey, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev's Paris Opera, as well as ballet groups in Berlin, Lyon, Monte Carlo, Munich, and St. Petersburg, while finding time to move Madonna, Michael Jackson and other artists outside of dance.
Scenic Designer David Korins presents solid credentials from Broadway and HBO as well as E! Entertainment that have earned him nominations for scads of design awards and deserves special mention here for his amazingly effective luminescent 3D backdrop and the on-stage orchestra which drops into four separated pits which are also used to dispense and retrieve various props.
The list goes on quite a ways, but the plays the thing.
Although "Musical" is as close to a genre as one can tag this project, such a diminishing label really fails to convey the experience of watching a 2.5 hour work loosely modeled in structure upon medieval morality plays, if one can imagine such a play rewritten and directed by Berthold Brecht. And no American "musical" ends like this one, at a funeral with everyone singing a sarcastic and cynical upbeat number laid on as a conscious patina over the rather bleak moral that "death sucks: it will happen to everyone you love before it finally happens to you."
The reviewer for the Oakland Trib actually lamented that the authors didn't provide more of the slaphappy ending "we are all longing for." But more on why Stew and Co. probably did it this way later.
The "book" for this little opera is fairly brief, and almost formulaic in origin and its assumed values reminded us uncomfortably of a mixture between John Cheever and Bill Cosby: The protag is named iconically "Youth" (David Breaker), and after getting a little juiced by his introduction to sex by a co-member of the Baptist Church Choir, and to reefer (and music) by the choirmaster Franklin (Colman Domingo, in the first of several scenery-chewing roles), departs his mother's less-than-honest Baptist Church to embark on a coming-of-age journey, starting with the formation of an hilariously poser all-Black punk rock band and continuing with an international odyssey in Amsterdam and Berlin, where various stylized characters play the part of Folly to our increasingly foolish Everyman Artiste.
Our Youth returns to the house where he was raised on news of his mother's illness only to arrive too late. He then delivers an eulogy in the exact place where the medieval Everyman, the Prodigal Son, and the classical Tin Pan Alley Broadway Jimmy Stewart is supposed to utter the remorseful lines of penitence so as to come back home and fix up that darned picket fence. All the members of the Church are there, listening with hope, expecting that little frisson of confirmation in something in which they would like to believe. But don't really.
Instead, our man begins by saying, "Yesterday I parked up on Arlington Hill and got high . . .". He then goes on to describe looking at the bright lights of LA spread out below and then the sun coming up with no epiphany forthcoming. "Instead, Los Angles remained infuriatingly as usual refusing to make sense."
In response, the churchgoers walk away in disgust, for the sinner remains unrepentant, refusing to put on a mask, and refusing to vindicate their own personal choices in life.
The continuation of this Morality Play is not for Everyman. Our Youth is The Artist as a Young Man, and while he has certainly engaged in Folly -- smoking his brains out with hashish, having sex with multiple partners at a time, snorting crank with a wild cross-dressing German performance artist and generally pretending to be something he is not -- he has also spent time practicing Craft, and that is something which is not a part of your "Piers Ploughman" Everyman.
While Stew lectures the Youth as a sort of Greek Chorus of common sense -- think Bill Cosby's conservative humane values coupled with Stanley Crouch's tartness -- the Youth seems to realize eventually at least that at least he has something of value inside of himself -- and it was put there by his long suffering single Mother (played tenderly and well by Eisa Davis). After those leaden moments -- for Stew never lets the language wallow in that mudslick of sentiment so often and so traditionally indulged by traditional musicals -- Stew says, "well you and everyone you know is going to die. So lets take our talents, such as we have about us, collect them and sing and dance and make music and sculpture and painting for as long as we may."
Thus ends the work with a traditional ensemble sing-along in an upbeat number.
There are loads of great moments in the work, and some really deadly satire, such as the whole Berlin sequence where Youth meets up with an anarcho-leftist artist collective inhabiting an Einstandsbesitz (an apartment squat) of the type that was fairly common from the seventies well into the eighties because of the high number of permanently vacant apartment blocks in that massive city of some five million people all crammed into a walled compound. The collective, calling itself GoHaus!, is a pretty deliberate hit on the pretentious Andy Warhol-styled communes and "postmodern" aesthetics adopted by folks who were less concerned with (or even cognizant of) the origins of those movements than with the adolescent joy of breaking things and getting away with it.
And besides, its never bad form or not politically correct to hit on the Germans -- who talk funny with those accents and uberseriousness.
And when Youth gets off the airplane, stepping from black-and-white stage set of the Baptist Church and Arlington Heights to Wow! Amsterdam! the backdrop rises to reveal the multi-textured flash of David Korins' neon and LED bright backstage, the effect is pretty amazing. You could see jaws drop all down the line while our hero wanders, stunned, into a hash bar.
Some of the critics complain, besides of Stew's uncompromising ending, that the characters never really flesh out, that we don't know any more about the character Breaker plays at the end than we do at the beginning. Well, we would have to say, you are missing the point if you are looking for details like what's his favorite color and does he ever ask about his absent dad. These are cabaret icons, not real people and Stew never had any intention of writing a play or a musical in any real sense and he says so quite clearly in the program notes. "I had no interest in writing a play . . . I wanted to make something that took the electricity of a rock show and merge(d) that with the rock and roll potential that exists in theatre."
In fact, the piece is more interesting in what it evokes than what it actually says. The title and what Stew says about it refer to issues of identity and pretense performed at first by necessity and then by habit. Here are the lines in Othello referenced by Stew's title.
Othello: She'd come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse. . . .
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffer'd. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs;
She swore, in faith 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful." (I.iii.149-161)
The scene concerns Othello regaling Desdemona -- and others -- with somewhat elaborated tales of his adventures and by so doing currying favor with her father while frankly impressing the ladies.
The act of "passing" for White, alluded to in the play when several characters refer to Youth's grandmother managing to survive by passing with her light complexion is a touchstone of identity issues that run through the play. "What are we doing but Black men passing as Black." Livingston says in the light blue car parked up on Arlington Hill, referring to his own closet gayness, the group's reefer smoking, and all of their sexual escapades while pretending to be devout Black Baptists in Church.
The issues of identity are certainly real, and not only in the Black Community, but the play prefers to use certain touchstones along the way rather than come to grips with what individual identity means to the personage inhabited by Youth. Perhaps the play is clearest in stating the message over and over again much as poet John High once said to us, if you pawn yourself as something other than what you are, "you will wind up chasing your own sweet self down long hallways of mirrors, only to run up against something broken at the end."
Identity is a tricky thing that changes from time to time, for
at one point Youth always hearing the siren call over the telephone to "come
home" from his mother cannot go home, at least in any real sense of returning
to the way things once were. Even as the Go Haus artists make pilgrimages
home each year, those visits are clearly painful and distressing for all parties
In fact, when Youth does go "home", he finds there is no real return and is rejected, first by inanimate Los Angeles, and then by the people of his community who cannot accept that someone really can change, for such possibility suggests a certain cowardice that only Franklin will cop to, and that knowledge only comes with a certain amount of self-dislike.
Although steeped and dripping with African-American experience, there is quite a lot of material here to knock on just about anybody's door, and in making his gestures large, Stew and Company sweep in every blend of color and ethnicity. There is nothing exclusive to Black experience in the story of "Young man rebels against his upbringing and instead of going to college, travels around in bad company, makes a fool of himself, breaks his mother's heart and learns a little along a way."
As for the more specific story of how an artist needs to learn to know his own "geography of pain" before presenting his work with authenticity -- and authenticity over artifice is an assumed value here -- that, too, is more global than culturally specific. Unless Mr. Stanley Crouch does come up with another answer, James Joyce wrote pretty much the same story in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.
Here is where Mr. Cosby and John Cheever come in. Please bear with us; you may not have thought of the two in the same minute before this.
Bill Cosby, a fairly successful and urbane comedian entertainer has had unfair brickbats thrown at him for making some critical statements that summatively are simple calls for common sense and absence of Folly, with specific reference to Black Culture. John Cheever, a darling of the middle class, is a successful fictionalist whose work often appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, which are not exactly known for punk aesthetic, or wild experimentalism. For some people, Cosby is an example of someone who has yielded up something of himself to become successful and push his family forward in White Society. "If you have to change, it aint love." To impose thoughts on someone else, Cosby would probably reply that he does what makes sense for himself and for his family and all this gangsta rap and complaining about oppression in this day and age is avoiding responsibility; "it aint love if you don't change."
Well, skipping away from the issue of a paleface dictating what is authentically Black and what isn't, we come to Cheever, who presents the ideal as being calm normalcy, overriding all other ideals and this calmness is a sign of perfection.
Of course, from that point of view, if your views remain limited to your origins, its easy to cap on funny-talking Germans, employ the uptight stereotype, satirize alternative lifestyles, lampoon Andy Warhol, poo-poo Jackson Pollock, and eventually trash most of modern jazz music, punk rock, Iggy Pop. Twyla Tharp, and David Bowie. In fact anything that is not bound by limits of specified "taste", questionable ideas about "natural talent", or conservative ideas of the known and familiar becomes dangerous. Which is exactly the sort of thinking that produces people in reaction against it like Iggy Pop, David Bowie, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and Jackson Pollock. And Gnarls Barkley or BB King, for that matter.
Every play has to possess certain implicit values, even ones written by David Mamet. None of the artists encountered by Youth is practicing anything of value, with the possible exception of the German girlfriend (Rebecca Naomi Jones) who wants to wants to found a Revolution on Love. The Amsterdam collective is just a spiraling collection of hop heads and Berlin is filled with unengaged politics with more evasion of real artistic discipline in the name of "postmodernism." Well, since Postmodernism had exhausted itself by 1958, anyone claiming that title in 1972, or 1984 for that matter, was just using a title to mask the excuse for being an asshole.
Still, limiting the "geography of pain" to the already known is not only frustrating, its counterproductive and self-defeating, and that is probably the only serious criticism we might have of the latent values here. That and the troubling concept of "Home" as a fiction.
The concept of Home is a little tweaky plug-in for expected responses when it comes to performers, so don't trust what is said when it comes to received sentiment.
Take BB King, come to think of it. "I left home at fifteen with this guitar strapped around my waist. I am going to play this thing until the day I die." In the man's own words. And at 325 touring days a year, year after year for twenty, thirty, forty years, if you think this man has a conventional house with white picket fence, longtime loyal wife, and two dogs in the back you are crazy. There is no question the man is hugely successful, quite happy (at last), and finally slowing down at eighty-five.
In fact there is nothing about even an average performer's life which suggests stability as represented by a "home" concept other than a generic longing for something not possible under the circumstances. As Chris Smither summarizes it "Been sleeping in a no-name town / Thanksgiving dinner in the Top Hat Lounge / Xmas eve in the Black and Tan / Lord have mercy on the Crocodile Man."
You know, like it or not, somebody who wants to get up on a platform so as to captivate hundreds, maybe thousands of strangers, by using their breath, their body and their fingers in a certain way has got to be a little, well, outside the norm. There might be a couple, but there really are not many John Cheevers in the performing arts. "We're all freaks here. Right."
Or maybe its everyone else except those on the stage who are playing with masks. Time to go rent Blue Velvet again.
Judging from the SRO crowd on opening night, the buzz is on for Passing Strange, and like it or not, this ensemble is not likely to be flying to their respective homes for the holidays any time soon while the word gets out. It's amazing how fast 2.5 hours can go by.
Strange creatures flapping through livingrooms, shrieks and howls echoing long down dark alleyways, naughty nurses cavorting with pirates, randy Bishops dancing with mini-skirted sorceresses, a plate of six-foot bananas crosses the street in company with several five-foot round grapes, and at least one half dozen Hunter Thompsons replete with bush hats and extended cigarette holders. Its just the onset of that week-long holiday called by some "Halloween", culminating next week with the actual day and evening when actual children will scamper from selected door to selected door.
On the Island, the Safehouses can be known by their elaborate decorations. Carve a pumpkin? Not just one! Let's put out three dozen of them suckers. Yes, when going overboard is guilt-free and absent of trans-fats. Over at the Fat Lady, the comely bartenders got replaced by a fetching Norma Jean all in bouncy curls and Lana Turner, still wearing her Schwab's Drugstore uniform, each running like made under canopies of spiderwebs and fluttering bats.
Every other yard becomes a boneyard for a while.
Even the local businesses will do up their aisles and the employees take this opportunity to appear extra special, just like this fellow in a hardware store.
Be careful if you fly during this season as the skies are filled with unauthorized flightplans. As this gal found out the hard way.
Over in Babylon they held an inexplicable "80's party" at the Bill Graham Civic and headlined by Devo; illness kept the IslandLife staff from attending that one. The Exotic Erotic Expo and Ball, which started on Friday, finally petered out -- so to speak -- sometime this morning. Thomas Dolby and George Clinton held forth there among the naked and the dread.
Along the same vein -- so to speak -- the 8th Annual Nymphomaniacs Ball took place appropriately at the Pleasure Zone and parties all over ramped up to continue through the middle of next week. It's the Bay Area's most loved Holiday.
From the Island's Unofficial and Unannounced Sister City, Lake Woebegone, the Larsens have gatherered renown with the most terrifying Halloween display ever seen, including zombies and chattering heads babbling nonsense, and the centerpiece of which features a walking, talking image of Dick "Buckshot" Cheney, promising to halt the enemies of US by sticking a few heads under water, no not torture, but firm action.
Here on the Island, we do have some Lutherans, but we try to keep the extreme ones under observation. Father Guimon, of the Our Lady of Continuous Astonishment Basilica, is working with Pastor Svenquist on that right now.
THE HORROR THE HORROR
Mistah Kurz, he dead, but Politics goes on. As everyone knows from the many signs posted up and down Grand Street, election time has come upon us. Its not as if we did not have warning, but now here it is and the Padres of Grand and Encinal have posted a sign advocating Mayor Beverley for reelection at the end of their little row of Halloween gravestones, sort of an artful guiding of the eye, we think, and not a comment upon Mayor Beverly's vitality at all. Just meant to guide the eye.
But then the Livermores next door posted a sign promoting Doug DeHaan on their lawn and instead of turning toward the street for everyone to note in passing they inexplicably turned the sign to face the Padres' yard. And that is when the Padres' moved their own sign to the edge of the driveway that separated their two properties to face that of the Livermores.
Things just seemed to decay after that. Somehow someone's grasscuttings wound up on someone else's driveway. Somehow someone's rosebushes lost a couple blooms, nice big healthy ones with some buds as well, and their they lay, rosebuds on the ground. It's election time, and the Island is all taut with arguments over growth, whether too much or too little, whether too soon or too fast.
After November 2nd has past, the Livermores will still live next to the Padres, Father Guimon will still walk around the block arm-in-arm with Pastor Svenquist in the same way as described last year when the terrible rains forced this alliance that has continued past the need for that old umbrella, the Oaks lining Central Avenue will still hold up golden hoards that dribble down to the earth below to be kicked about in drifts by the kids from Washington MiddleSchool, and the Island will still be a green place set within the arms of the bay.
AN ISLAND HOME COMPANION
And they will still be building that foolish monstrosity of a Cinema Multiplex in the shell of the old Paramount Theater. Why on earth did that Theater ever stop showing movies if movies were what people wanted to see and pay for? It was used as a gym and a dance studio and for a long time it has been empty, right there on prime real estate.
Could it be the sound of footfalls overhead from the long empty atelier? Could it be that ... things just kept moving around on their own. Put a paint bucket over there and find it by the bottle-tree a few hours later. An umbrella vanishes from the stand to be eventually located in the reel closet. Fingerprints kept showing up on the banisters just after polishing. Where was that pounding coming from? A puddle of some brown liquid appeared on the floor inside the projection room. Is that where the Old Man killed himself twenty years ago? Sudden screams in the middle of "Its a Wonderful Life". Then there was the case of the Vice Principal of Washington High who stepped behind the curtain during an awards ceremony, never to be seen again. His name was Mr. Amado, and although he left behind a wife and two children, not a trace of him has been found for over thirty years. Although there are these strange postcards addressed to the Theater and postmarked Rio de Janeiro. Its all very strange and we are not suggesting any sort of paranormal nonsense about spooks, but it is curious that no business ever seemed to prosper there. Lately, lights have been seen from people standing outside the building, bobbing about the old dance floor studio when no workmen were supposed to be in there. Very strange indeed.
This past week people saw an SUV drive off of the Fruitvale Bridge into the Estuary, but when the Coast Guard fished it out, and sent down divers, no driver was found. Strange things happen during this time of year. What's that knocking? Wind at the window, tree branches maybe. And there is the long wail of the through-passing night train coming wavering across the water like some lost soul searching for a body. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a spooky week.
OCTOBER 22, 2006
John Mellencamp should be attending our Council meetings lately for he would be gathering scads of material. This Tuesday, the Council performed an amazing act of brinkmanship by approving one-half of a wannabe developer's request to rezone extensive tracts bordering the estuary from industrial use to residential. Of the original 9.8 acres planned for 242 housing units, the Council approved 4.8 with the stipulation that each unit occupy a minimum of 600 square feet.
In reality, the numbers come to an allowance of some 83 free-standing housing units, instead of what would have been a Bronx-style brownstone apartment complex area with all attendant problems attached. The remaining 4.2 acres are planned for purchase by the City for use as a park.
Hey, sometimes those guys on the Council do act with some intelligence.
And of course, the developer -- one Frances Collins -- is responding with outrage and threats to sue. But hey man, the place was zoned for industrial. You got a favor and you should live with it, dude.
The confrontation is a classic Island scenario, in which the interests of a potential land developer are pitted against those of residents who say a large-scale project would ruin the feel of their neighborhood.
On Tuesday, residents lined up to speak against the proposed housing development. Many of them are part of a group called the Estuary Park Action Committee, which would like to see acreage along Alameda's side of the Estuary reserved for public use.
Among their complaints: The project would be too dense, it would block views of the waterand Oakland hills, and increase traffic congestion.
"I just don't think the density is good for the Island way of life," said Sue Field, who lives near the site. "The density is so high you could hear your neighbor's toilet flush and you could probably flush it for them."
The developer has experienced repeated resistance to his proposals and should long have realized by now that local opposition is powerfully arrayed against any such increase in density, including the pro-expansion Mayor Beverly.
A local woman is demanding an apology from her son's middle school after the boy's teacher offered lessons on cussing.
KGO-TV said the Lincoln Middle School teacher "put up a big piece of paper and had the kids call out every cuss word and racial epithet they could dream up."
The school said the lesson is intended to "demystify" bad language.
Caren Vance was upset when her son Shane came home from school and told her what he did at school that day.
Vance said maybe parents didn't complain because they didn't know. She complained to the school, asking for a parental notification letter and an apology.
The school district told KGO-TV that next year they will send home letters warning parents of the swearing class.
We just want to say from our position here on the Island, "Word, man. Word."
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Our roving correspondent submits this item shot in Bejing, PRC. Seems to say a lot about our current situation in many ways.
THERE'S ALWAYS SOMEONE TRYING TO DRAG A GOOD MAN DOWN
Few know the man who is responsible for one of the best music festivals around. That man is Warren Hellman, and although he is not presenting his angel wings, nor starry crown in this image, you should know that this man pays for and organizes the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival we reviewed a couple of issues ago.
YOU SHOULD NOT HEED THE CALL-UP
In our wanderings, T-shirt making and general contribution to anarchy, we come across this resource for GIs doing time for Uncle Sam in uniform. Just because you signed up does not mean you signed all human rights away and here is one organization setup to help you -- among many -- to get you guys through. Feel there is something tweaked about this Iraq thing? Feel that you are asked but not required to submit but dont know how to respond? AWOL or UA? Enlisted men and GI's heed this message for this paragraph is for you. You don't have to go to Iraq and you can have some people fight for your release. GI, know your rights.
The GI Rights Hotline
(510) 465-1472 (also for international calls)
Fax (510) 465-2459
405 14th Street Suite 205
Oakland, CA 94612
Our Editor grew up with Seal Team and LRP Rangers. We know your struggle. Give these people a call.
Was hanging out with the neighbor Kathleen, trying to fix a computer problem, when the long lonesome wail of the through-passing train came wavering across the water. She mentioned that every time she hears that sound it sounds like the most lonesome sound in the world.
She should know, this woman from Texas, chasing after a dream of renewal and fleeing a nightmare of murder and gunshots splattering the corner store.
She says the man who killed her father came out of prison looking to kill the rest of the family. All that was some time ago, but some memories don't fade so easy. Well, guess she had a good reason to move to California.
Toddled on down the hall and plotzed into our own space to finish off this week's issue. The night moves and neighborhood racoons scamper over the Pagano's parkinglot under the dry moon. The Angry Elf remains indomitable in his secure space and Eugene Shrubb still holds the course on his multi-year invasion of Newark, California.
The leaves are all turned yellow along Santa Clara Avenue and the PO box is stuffed will all sorts of endorsements for this or that cause. It's Election Time, of course, and it seems that this year politics just might trump the sacred holiday of Halloween. Well, maybe just a little bit. Halloween is one of those rare and delightful holidays around here unsullied by religious claptrap and guilt and gift-giving and political cant and as such remains a welcome relief from year to year for all Bay Area residents who step out to the masquerades in throngs, hang remarkably inventive decorations and generally indulge in the whimsical. Around this time the Abolafia cabal puts on the Exotic Erotic Ball, a three-day affair that is considered to be the largest, most extravagant, most sensual bucket of sin any place at any time. Perhaps we love to celebrate the imaginary fearful just to escape the all too real horrible that goes on from day to day.
There's a great big purple spider -- about fifteen feet long -- hanging from the eaves of a house on Grand Street among the multimillion dollar properties.
There goes that midnight train whistle coming in a long waver across the water. Think of Kathleen and her family and remember there are monsters and there are the truly monstrous. Murderers and Bush and all his gang, for example. The darkness never goes from some men's eyes.
We like our little monsters here on the Island. And who does not enjoy dressing up to have a bit of fun after all? And for a little while put aside the terrors of the day. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 10, 2006
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
A woman mugged just yards from the Island police station never saw her attacker because the man hit her from behind and knocked her to the ground face down, investigators said.
The 46-year-old woman was walking on Times Way -- the narrow alley adjacent to the new main branch of the Alameda Free Library -- when she was robbed around 9:30 p.m. last Tuesday.
'He hit her from behind and she fell face-down onto the pavement,' Alameda police detective Sgt. Don Owyang said. 'He then said something along the lines of 'Give me your money.''
Without looking up, the woman handed over $46 and the man ran off. She contacted police the next day after talking with her co-workers about what happened. The alley where the robbery took place connects Park Street with Oak Street and leads to the parking lot that serves City Hall. The lot also borders the police station. Owyang said the woman did not report the robbery immediately because she did not see the man and thought police would not likely catch him.
Another holdup occurred Wednesday at Park Street and San Jose Avenue, but probably was perpetrated by different criminals. The three suspects -- one displaying a handgun -- surrounded the 45-year-old victim as he was running an errand and demanded his money. After stealing his wallet, the three ran off, police said. The man, an Alameda resident, was not hurt during the holdup, which occurred about 7:30 p.m.
I'M DRIVING IN MY CAR / I TURN ON THE RADIO
Babylon City has agreed to close a major downtown thoroughfare around the clock for nine days to accommodate a huge Oracle convention at Moscone Center.
Starting Thursday, Howard Street between Third Street and Fourth Street will be shut down so the software giant can construct a giant tent between the two convention halls. The temporary structure will remain in place for the duration of the company's OpenWorld convention, expected to draw 40,000 attendees. Traffic engineers have predicted gridlock until the street re-opens on October 28, despite major re-routing around a street that normally feeds Interstate 80 in both directions and speeds downtown traffic towards Highway 101.
“There's going to be some significant traffic congestion,” said Maggie Lynch with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “It's not going to be fun if you're in a car and you're trying to go through there.”
The tented area will become an extension of the two convention halls, which are already joined by an underground concourse. Oracle spokesman Bob Wynne said the additional space would be used “food service and reception, and sort of displays and that kind of thing.”
Mayor Gavin Newsom is defending a decision that he admits could easily backfire. “It is audacious. At the same time, the number of people that will be coming in to the city is extraordinary, and the economic stimulus is extraordinary. It's one of those proverbial trade-offs,” Newsom told KCBS reporter Doug Sovern.
Of course, money is at the route of the decision. Oracle estimates the attendees will spend some $35 million on hotel rooms, meals, taxi rides, and retail shopping. Oracle is paying for the police overtime, parking control, lane re-striping, and other expenses related to the street closure, said spokesman Wynne.
This is a good time to stay away from the City.
MONEY MONEY MONEY
A new survey finds the Bay Area the most expensive place for working families to live. The National Center for Housing survey found that out of 28 metropolitan areas around the country, the Bay Area is especially costly for families earning between $20,000 and $50,000 a year. As if you didn't already know that.
National Center for Housing Research Director Barbara Lipman said such families spend an average of 63 percent of their incomes on a combination of housing and transportation.
"In areas where families were seeking out affordable housing and found themselves having to live so far out on the fringe of the city, even if they have public transit, relatively few people would take it," according to Lipman, who also said the upside is that a high percentage of locals use public transportation. Probably because they cannot afford a car.
LITTLE RED CORVETTE
This weekend the Island, a part of which retains an irrational longing for the 1950's, held its annual car show down on our miniscule main drag. All six blocks were blocked off for the much ballyhooed Car Show Extravaganza, where ducktails and running boards met with chrome and shiny topcoat to present the latest in dinosaur fuel retrograde technology.
No, it was not a Harley convention, but the Island Auto Faire. Although a vintage Harley was present, parked neatly over a puddle of leaking oil, just like old tymes.
And since this was an Island affair, who should present his mandatory appearance but Percy Worthington-Boughspatt III with his consort, Lilia, of the Berkeley Explicit Players. As usual Percy appeared dressed in plus-fours, two-toned beige-and-white shoes golfing shoes, immaculate spats, neatly pressed tan waistcoat over starched collar Arrow shirt and Old School Tie, topped by a checked tam. His vehical was the very rare 1929 Mandeville-Brot, complete with full length running boards, four on the floor, plush beige leather interior, massively chromed fore and aft bovine repellers, Hurst carburetor, finned extraordinaries, and an exquisitely detailed stickshift formed from a rhino's organ of increase and pleasure -- fully chromed of course -- and topped with the most lascivious shifter knob of solid gold.
His companion, as usual, was naked.
Except, being as the temperatures had dropped recently, she had allowed for the donning of a charming fur hat and feather boa.
But nevermind, for on this overcast day with autumn fogs and all the trees along Santa Clara going golden with changes bright neon and flashy fins held the day on the Island main street as speakers boosted the rave sounds of Elvis and the Big Bopper out into the crowd and Percy cruised down the middle in his boat with all sails flying and Lilia's boa trailing after like a great banner.
Long time readers may recall that Percy scooped up his consort in Berkeley a couple of springs ago as Lila prepared to finish her finals at UCB, as usual entirely naked as was her wont and her classmates distraction. There is something just so unutterably sexy about a two-toned vintage automobile with chromed headlights, especially an automobile that matches the color-scheme of the driver's shoes. Lila does not tend to wear shoes, unless they be those Italian spaghetti-strap things with high heels, but that day she certainly fell for Percy's and the result has been an affair worthy of Dr. Zhivago or better. Her parents, living in St. Paul, having long adjusted to her clothing habits -- or absence thereof -- had little difficulty in accepting the presence of a maniacal devotee to automobile retro-culture, as this quibble seemed rather minor in the face of other issues. Her naked presentation at Aunt Elizebeth's wedding last year, naked save for a crinoline garter, simple tam made of felt, and those Italian spagetti straps, is still the talk of St. Paul. One would thing no one had ever viewed La Vie Boheme with independence.
Fortunately, unlike many of the Explicit Players, she is yet young and, unlike many of the Explicit Players, yet still delightful to look upon.
So Percy decended upon the Annual Car Faire with all due innocence, not anticipating any such reaction as ensued. As it so happened, Bear and his consort Sophia had emerged from their dungeon where Bear dwells amid piles of motorcycle parts and vats of oils. Sophia, born to be a creature of light and disinclined to tolerate darkness nor grease nor oils, erupted from this dungeon with great intent, after having succeeded in getting Bear to wear a clean shirt for more than three days running in succession. Crossing the street most inopportunely, as it later appeared, Ms. Ruth Robinson of the Island Free Library was crossing against the light. Ms. Robinson had the affair of the disappeared Library Research Assistant (reported last year) in mind and so was understandably distracted. Nothing remained of the Research Assistant but a tattered copy of Anais Nin's diaries, so the worst is expected. As Ms. Robinson crossed within the demarcation of the crossing, but yet outside the established limits of the traffic signal, Percy slammed on his brakes, causing Bear's 1949 Tweakhead Harley-Davidson to backfire as he slammed the notoriously bad brakes of the Tweakhead to a slovenly, sliding, stop athwart said signal . This event caused Mr. Stuffsack, a slatternly golden retriever sleeping on the porch of the Kitson family to leap up and charge the postman, who innocently was trying to deliver a past due missive to Ms. Emily Post of Central Avenue.
All of this activity resulted in Percy arriving late for the judging on Park Street.
Mrs. Robinson, startled by the sight of a naked woman riding in a 1929 Mandeville-Brot coupe with complete running-boards and exquisite trim, naked save for a charming hat and feather boa, threw up her arms and so sent a number of student essays on the poetry of Emily Dickenson into the air even as Stuffsack tore a hole in the postman's carry bag. The postman was named Mr. Richards. Various messages flew into the air and mingled with the student essays as an early autumn breeze caught them up and whirled them over the estuary. Under which an Iranian submarine cruised with serious intent. A robotic arm emerged from the Iranian submarine to capture some of this errant postage, among which were certain ardent letters proclaimed that notwithstanding her deep affection and profound lust for Mr. Snort of Central Avenue, Ms. Twickham saw the need to break off her engagement forthwith and cease all connection with the gentleman. Simply because.
The Iranian submarine proceeded out of the estuary and through the Golden Gate undetected bearing these sad tidings and many more besides.
Mr. Snort proposed marriage to Ms. Twickham on the corner of Webster and Trivial Streets, near the place where Skippy Peanutbutter was invented and manufactured for many years. They were married in St. Patricks Cathedral and now are enjoying a torrid honeymoon in Hawaii where neither one has seen the beach or the sun for several days.
Meanwhile certain Iranians are considering a revolution and Bear is repairing his motorcycle. Mr. Richards now carries a can of pepper spray and Stuffsack is kept on a chain leash. The students are writing their essays for the third and last time.
Percy's coupe runs like a top and Lilia is still naked. Save for a fetching felt hat. And boa.
Well its been a quiet week here on the Island, our hometown. All the trees along Central finally figured out it was time for some change and so they have gone golden. The cook at El Caballo was seen sweeping up the scattered leaves in front of his establishment and the corn has gone all yellow in the backyard and as for the tomatos, well, we are probably done with those for this year. The fogs have been hanging around later in the day so that its not until briefly around three the sun pokes through and then those darned mists come right back again. Time to tuck away those shorts and sandals and t-shirts in plastic bins and get out those boots and coats and raingear for winter is coming on.
We don't get much snow around here. Remember a white dusting happened a couple years ago, turning Mount Tam all pale and scattering would-be commuters right and left up and down route 17 down to Santa Cruz, but it never really gets cold in the Bay Area, not cold like it gets in Minnesota, that far off cousin of ours. Up at Lake Woebegon they will be getting ready for ice fishing with steaming thermoses of hot brandy, but here we just keep on fetching trout as long as the season lasts. Although, of course, the trout are not as big as they used to be.
Don't think we will see much of Lilia, as she seems hell-bent on this nudist thing, even after all these years. Well, we imagine she and Percy will find things to do indoors.
Meanwhile the 18-foot spiders and yard-long spiderwebs are emerging with ghosts, ghouls and suddenly planted tombstones as part of the Bay Area's month-long festival of joy and macbre. Halloween and Las Dias de los Muertos are the big celebrations here, for not many holidays remain independent of all the religious claptrap and doom and gloom imposed by the State and Church. Yes, the Days of the Dead are joyful around here, perhaps because its the one time we can indulge in these artificial terrors so as to forget the very real ones that surround us. From the raucous and sinful Exotic Erotic Ball to the sugar skulls passed around the Mission District, its one happy affair. After all, who does not enjoy dressing up in costume for a while? Or dressing down, as at the Exotic Erotic where perhaps Lilia will feel most at home with plenty of company.
Here on the Island all the grand houses along Grand Street will compete with one another for the most extraordinary displays, turning fabulous mansions into mausaleums, morgues and haunted shacks until that one night when gangs of little monsters will go scampering from door to door, practicing in minor form the sort of extortion their parents practice in the office every other day of the year. Gimmee some candy or I'll demote your stock options and wreck your Keogh benefits. Yes, the Bushy Administration knows well this Trick or Treat scheme, although there has not been much Treat lately for the rest of us.
Its election time, as we all know, and it does appear that the Party of scandal and vice is finally on the retreat. But, we really will not know until November 3rd. Around here Mayor Beverly is up for re-election and appears hard pressed by a professional clown and a couple of serious jokers. Councilperson DeHaan appears to be walking away from his position of abuse to vie for a position that should garner yet more abuse at the Mayoral level, while Frank Matarrese is running to keep his slot, despite some unfortunate family difficulties. We have met Frank and he really is not a bad sort, although his son could use some governing. It was his son that issued death threats to a local here and now sits in stir.
Once a bastion of the sinful GOP, the Island has flipped the other way in recent years, as most folks here are decent church-goers who regard sex with young pages, piling helpless prisoners in naked heaps, murder of unarmed civilians, dereliction of duty in the face of hurricane disaster, and similar items to be repulsive and somewhat illegal. We are really grateful to the North Koreans for reminding us that stupid gunboat diplomacy simply does not work and a change is necessary.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 8, 2006
SEND IN THE CLOWNS
You may think that City Hall has enough jokers running local government sufficient to change the name to Silly Hall, but this time around we have a real clown running for office against Mayor Beverly and Councilperson De Haan. A real clown is running for Island mayor, and even his sister won't vote for him.
Kenneth Kahn, 41, a professional joker known as 'Kenny the Clown,' admits he's running a long-shot campaign for City Hall's top spot. Kahn has not previously run for an elected position and has never sat on a public board.
'People ask me, 'Do we really want to elect a clown for mayor of the city?'' he said. 'I say, 'That's an excellent question.''
Kahn's mother, Barbara, said her son doesn't have a chance, and Sylvia Kahn, a teacher, said her brother's candidacy is a 'mockery of our system.'
Kahn has refused all of the available subsidies for independent campaigns and does not solicit contributions, preferring to knock on doors and button hole people in person to push his message. All in brown shoes and conservative tie, mind you, as the big nose, orange wig, and squirting daisy remains at home during his campaign.
I'M RIDIN' IN MY CAR / FIRE
We knew the place and had supplied apartments with underliners
from Straus carpets. Which now is a charred memory, all too typical of life
in incendiary California.
The Park Street bridge fully reopened to Island motorists late Monday morning following a five-alarm fire on the Island-Oakland border that destroyed one commercial building and damaged another, authorities said.
The Oakland Fire Department received the first reports of the fire at 23rd Avenue and Ford Street at 3:24 a.m. and it quickly grew from two alarms to a five-alarm blaze.
The fire destroyed a building containing Straus Carpets and spread to an adjacent building where it damaged a recording studio and a metal polishing business, said Oakland fire's public information officer Felicia Wanzo-Bryant.
No injuries were reported.
It was considered fully contained by 6:24 a.m. though fire department personnel stuck around through the late morning to cool down hot spots and put out any potential flare-ups.
As a result of the fire, the bridge closed for a time in the morning, snarling commuter traffic on Park Street. Authorities eventually opened 23rd Avenue one way going into the Island, but closed it again temporarily to prevent cars from driving over fire hoses. It reopened completely at around 10:23 a.m.
Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to about 400 customers as a precautionary measure. Oakland police said the power had come back on at 10:40 a.m.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
STEALIN', STEALIN', STEALIN'
A group opposed to a planned renovation of the Alameda Theater and the building of an adjoining seven-screen cineplex is preparing a last-ditch legal challenge in hopes of staving off construction.
"The way I look at it, it's the bottom of the ninth and we have two outs. But we still have an at-bat," said Bob Gavrich, a member of the group Citizens for a Megaplex-Free Alameda.
The theater project is billed by supporters as an important step in the revitalization of the four block-long downtown Alameda and as a way to keep local families on the Island for their entertainment.
But it has drawn opposition for its size and scale. Opponents argue that it is a bad financial deal for the city, will create traffic tie-ups downtown and does not fit well with the Island's small-town feel. IslandLife feels the project has the small-town feel of a small-town boondoggle pushed through under secrecy so as to line the pockets of certain friends at the expense of the quality of life on an undeniable island with limited access and limited egress. Where are these 600 and more people supposed to come from and how are these same people supposed to leave when they are "done"? Along with the attendant riff-raff that comes with them to purloin their purses, their cars, and their lives. Over a single two-lane, sometimes lifted drawbridge from an already congested commercial artery? Idiots!
A pending court challenge focuses on the more narrow legal question of whether city officials took the proper environmental steps in approving the project.
Mayor Beverly Johnson said she believes the city is on firm ground and decries any efforts to hinder this pet project.
In June, Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw rejected a lawsuit brought by the citizens group that challenged the city for not completing an environmental impact report on the project. Sabraw ruled that the group had not filed its suit within the window of time granted to take such legal action.
However, Susan Brandt-Hawley, an attorney representing the group, said Monday that she believes there are legal grounds for an appellate judge to reverse the ruling. "It is my legal opinion that the city should have prepared an EIR and that the law soundly supports our appeal," she said. Brandt-Hawley said the ruling has been appealed and an opening brief for the appeal will be filed this week.
The legal challenge comes as the project gets under way.
Jennifer Ott, city development manager, said "site mobilization" will begin this week. She said initial work will include cleaning out the theater, taking down light fixtures, seismic retrofitting and some hazardous material abatement and construction is set to begin next month.
The project involves refurbishing nearly all of the historic theater's lobby and some of its auditorium. It also involves building an adjacent seven-screen cineplex and a six-story parking structure that project opponents say will be an eyesore.
Backers of the project, which will cost the city an estimated $30.2 million, argue that the additional screens are needed to make the project profitable and say developers would not be willing to only refurbish the old theater.
The theater, at 1416 Oak St., opened in 1932. It was designed by prominent San Francisco architect Timothy Pflueger and had one of the largest movie screens in the Bay Area at that time. During that time, the Island hosted a large Navy base with an airport of such size that the famous Doolittle Raiders launched from here. An immense recreation objective called Neptune Beach also existed here at the time.
Some residents who spent their childhood in Alameda often speak of attending movies at the theater as children, but movies have not been shown there since 1979 and all other movie houses on the Island have failed to survive, including one of the nation's last open-air drive-in movie lots. Neptune Beach was broken up and sold in lots in the early 1950's.
The facility has been used since as a roller rink, a gymnastics studio and a rock-band rehearsal area.
HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL
IslandLife headed on over to Babylon for the last day of the last major open-air music festival of the Season. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was held in Speedway Meadows -- plus some -- in Golden Gate Park on a weekend filled with activity. Over at the last working piers of the once mighty Port of SF, Fleet Week finally gathered enough personnel from various foreign wars to wow those interested in such stuff with the Code Blue flyers and lots of shipping equipment, while Sunday saw the two major powers go at it head to head at the 'Stick -- excuse me, we meant Pac Bell Park -- putting an estimated total of 500,000 additional visitors into the City on what turned out to be after a sudden rainstorm, beautiful cloud-free days.
The HSBGF started modestly with a single stage and a strong lineup of performers, but developed "buzz" as they say in the industry, with last year's festival and the one before that still talked about as Experiences Sorry You Missed. Steve Earle and the increasingly ethereal EmmyLou Harris were substantially responsible for the energy. This year, a single stage simply could not contain all the talent, any one of which typically packs the Fillmore and/or the Warfield to several SRO days running. This year was a definite Do Not Miss.
Due to traffic (duh!) we arrived some two hours late to catch a whiff of Hazel Dickens at the Banjo Stage and the end of T Bone Burnett on the Arrow Stage. Because of the scope of the thing, we had to restrict ourselves to hopping between three stages.
T BONE BURNETT
T Bone Burnett is most known for his recent work on the soundtrack for the unexpectedly and wildly successful "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", but this is only due to the short memories of those in the Business, as the man recently has emerged from a 14 year recording hiatus and the unfortunate omission of regard for producers and songwriters Behind the Scenes. Mr. Burnett's songs have been covered by k.d. lang, Los Lobos, Sixpence None the Richer , Tonio K, Emmylou Harris, Arlo Guthrie, Warren Zevon, Peter Case, B. J. Thomas and others. His first concert tour in two decades, since dropping from the Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Revue, began May 16 of this year in Chicago at The Vic Theatre, and according to all witnesses, appears to be a resounding success. In fact, he was all over the stages during the Festival, and every time he appeared, thousands cheered and the energy, already quite high, ramped up a notch.
On stage he was joined by Rambling Jack Elliott, probably one of America's most Original Performers, and probably of all the people performing this weekend, the one most likely to be appointed to the position of National Treasure.
It is impossible to cover briefly the bio of a man who returned to the United States, already a popular legend, from a wildly successful European tour in 1958 -- the year our Chief Editor was born. But lets have a stab at it. RJE was born Elliott Charles Adnopoz, August 1, 1931 in Flatbush, NY, the son of well-to-do Jewish parents of quality and distinction. His father was a distinguished surgeon, known around the world as well as in High Society and he had high aspirations for a son destined for Yale or Harvard.
His son had high aspirations to be a cowboy and more than usual drive in that direction. At age 14 he ran away from home and joined a rodeo where he was put to work grooming horses at such pay that barely provided enough to feed him, let alone house him. He slept among the stock in straw until his parents fetched him back to complete his high school degree. He then turned to busking on the streets, having picked up some showman guitar from a clown while in the rodeo, instead of applying to Harvard. While Woody Guthrie was being treated by his father for a stomach problem, the young man imposed himself on the folk singer, and began a lifelong apprenticeship to the master who must have been impressed by the boy's sincerity and drive. Woody provided the door for performance and for introductions to the rising stars of the Beat Generation, and so from busking for quarters, Jack took to stage performance for dollars.
There is a book or two to be written about the experiences of the young man during this period of mixed earnings from performance and odd jobs, some of which actually featured handling cattle and livestock, and some of which featured learning comprehensively sailing technology for everything from schooners and tall ships to atomic submarines.
In fact, he is the only civilian who has piloted an atomic submarine from the Continental US to Hawaii. Definitely a life worth looking at more in depth.
Somewhere in there, during early New York Village days, he met a young man named Bobbie Dylan whom no one took very seriously. Dylan wanted desperately to absorb the stuff of Woody Guthrie, but Guthrie was by this time on his way out, and so Dylan took on Jack Elliott as his mentor. Well, the story goes the Student eventually surpasses the Master, and such was the case, at least as far as public recognition, in this situation.
Sunday, was the day for the Whitebeard to appear before the adulation of those who know and those who knew. In this section of the field, all day long not a single soul under the age of forty-five stepped before the stage. A sea of salt 'n pepper hair and snow-white polls carpeted the green. Well, a number of musicians and ska-punks also drifted there of more recent vintage. But the green before the Arrow Stage that day was definitely in favor of Experience. As Jack Cassidy commented during the Hot Tuna set, "Glad its warm today. I remember forty years ago it was cold as hell in this meadow."
"How do you know that Jack?" Jorma asked.
"Oh . . . I read about it." Responded Jack.
Burnett's acoustic set including some numbers with dark lyrics supported by deft fingerpicking, but that is about all we can say due to our late arrival.
We hung around this stage after grabbing a decent potato/spinach knish for a somewhat (for festival food) reasonable price of $3. About to scoot over to another stage the basically and wildly unknown Flying Other Brothers caught our attention. Big time. And pulled people from the other stages as well.
LET FREEDOM FLOURISH
What the heck is FOB? Its Pete Sears on Keyboards, Roger McNamee on guitar and vocals, Ann McNamee on vocals, Bill Bennett on bass, Barry Sless on slide and pedal steel, Burt Keely on guitar, Tony Bove on harmonica and others.
Lets start with Pete Sears. He is most know for performing with the Jefferson Starship from 1974 to 1987 but he also has worked with many artists including John Lee Hooker, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Warren Haynes, Steve Kimock, Ron Wood, Jerry Garcia, Peter Rowen, Los Lobos, Government Mule, Zakiya Hooker, Harvey Mandel, Nick Gravenites, Taj Mahal, Mickey Hart, Mark Naftalin, Bob Weir, Leftover Salmon, Smokey Smothers, Rusted Root, Eric Burdon, Rod Stewart, Chris Jagger, Mike Bloomfield, Roy Harper, Steve Gillete, Robert Hunter, Ike and Tina Turner, Papa John Creach, Derek Trucks, David Lindley, Dave Sharp, Maria Muldaur, Wavy Gravy, Sly Stone, The Pointer Sisters, Nils Lofgrin, Big Brother, Shana Morrison, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. To mention a few.
He has also sat in or jammed with such people as Graham Bond, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, The Allman Brothers, Sam Bush, Warren Haynes, Hubert Sumlin, Vasser Clements, Elvis Costello, David Crosby, Johnny Johnson, Paul Butterfield, Pinetop Perkins, Blues Traveler, Grateful Dead, and many more.
In other words, you might recognize his name from somewhere.
Most of the rest of the band have known and performed with various and all of the members of the Grateful Dead. Otherwise, their accomplishments seem largely to be that of having survived somehow the flameout of the Silicon Valley Burn.
With such humble origins, Pete Sears excepted, we hardly expected to be dragged back into the field, but this band just kicked ass. There is no other way to put it. T Bone Burnett came out and clearly was having the time of his life jamming with these folks as they ripped through some incredible material that just might wake Paul Kantner from the dead and resurrect the Summer of Love. It was Jerry Garcia but with sober discipline. It was Starship without drugs. They are billed for the Great American Music Hall and for Slims later this month. IslandLife passes this recommendation: check them out. You will not be disappointed.
ITS GREAT TO BE ALIVE
Wandered on down to the pit, known as the Rooster Stage to catch some of the Drive By Truckers when our equipment went sour. This was a M@#$#ing bummer, dudes! The DBT were cranking with energy we could feel hundreds of yards before we could even see them and the camera went south! So we have no pix of their solid show. Nor any thereafter. The Drive By Truckers are based in the trio of Patterson Hood, long time running partner Mike Cooley and guitar wizard Jason Isbell, all deep South folks with a deep urge to make noise and lots of it. Don't think Southern Rockabilly so much as jaundiced jade alt-rock, where the songs are less about your "piece" and colt 45s than about surviving the deaths of close relatives and figuring out just why suicide is a bad idea in this fucked-up world. It's Duane Allman had he lived. And we really like them. Their most famous recent hit is "Feb. 14".
The Coward Brothers turned out to be a partnership of Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett, with guests appearing, such as EmmyLou Harris. Unfortunately, the promoters plopped this most popular set in the worst venue possible: the Star Stage, with a narrow 30 yard front that normally is dust but which had been turned into a mud gully filled with about 50,000 people, overflowing beyond the fences up the wooded slopes on either side. One could not reasonably approach the stage within 150 yards. All we can say is that it sounded beautiful, but we still cannot claim ever to have seen Elvis Costello. Who seems to be running around like mad performing for nothing all over the place in a desperate attempt to plug the dikes against the world's harshness.
I SEEN THE LIGHT
From a mere hundred thousand folks or so in Speedway Meadows, throngs pouring in from all entrances and stumbling through the woods packed us up tight against the recycle cans by the fence with not a chance to move from our fortunate spot twenty feet from the stage. They were there to see and hear the acoustic version of the famous Hot Tuna, which is nowadays Jack Cassidy, Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff. We couldn't get a decent shot of Jack because of an intrusive photographer who setup a rig on a stepladder directly in line with our view, but the music was fabulous as Jorma and Co. did stuff from his Blue Country Heart CD as well as selections from the various acoustic things the group has done over the years, including "Blues Stay Away from Me", "Blue Railroad Train" and "I Seen the Light" with Barry pulling out the most extraordinary riffs from his mandolin and his f-hole archtop. They managed to stay away from the mournful religious overkill that has infected some of their recent concerts of the past two years at the Fillmore and Barry actually seemed to be enjoying himself, grinning widely instead of scrunching up his face as he has tended to do, while Jorma joked and joshed with the crowd and with the others.
A lot of old friends were there in the audience for this set and Jorma took some time for a "meet and greet" from the stage while the roadies did their setup thing. We have written about Hot Tuna before, but it does bear repeating that Jorma has written songs that have passed into the permanent American folk canon and any aspiring guitarist should not miss the opportunity to see this electric performer with his calm self-effacing yet confident presentation in person.
Here is a view before it got REALLY crowded.
'DAD'S GONNA KILL ME
The best performance that day had to have been Richard Thompson -- excepting T Bone Burnett simply because he had so many more opportunities. There are few performers who can step up on a stage and captivate a fairly experienced audience with only a voice and a single instrument. Richard Thompson has been around a long time, and does not appear to have aged a single day. He is an old folkie with the soul of a punk, born and raised in hard times Britain, his tunes never waft sentimental or pull for the easy emotion. Thompson is not only a master of intricate fingerstyle guitar, but is that rare lyricist who can compose intelligent lyrics that can encompass a complex set of situations as well as a rarefied emotion that can culminate in a shouted refrain. He is one of the few who can operate on the level of the syllable as well as the level of the meaningful intent, and so can be rightfully called a "poet" in a universe where so many regarded are really only "poetasters". His delivery never fails to be clear, sharp and intelligible no matter how complex the line, and he is one who definitely can get quite complex.
A couple high points during his set -- which alone among all the hundreds of performers featured an encore -- included the audience shouting back the refrain to "Crawl Back" and the impossibly complex and difficult to duplicate "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", as well as the subtly antiwar song "(Bag)Dad's Gonna Kill Me", which was so real and devoid of liberal cant and so cynical about the foolishness of that stupid war as to drive a nail of ice into the hearts of everyone there. Blogs have compared the song favorably to angry "gangsta rap" and to the most savage of punk 80's stuff out there. Thompson grew up in hard core Southie where they swung "kerry sticks" and he is not inclined to pastels and feng sui. He is probably the only folk artist out there who can generate enough energy to create a mosh pit and a crowd of pogo dancers with a barrage of 32nd notes.
ON OUR WAY HOME
On the way out, we took in a bit of the Waybacks with Bob Weir, who had basically suborned what was a bluegrass group into a Dead Experience. Even as we passed they were tearing through the Dead classic "Big River Blues". To give Bob and Co. credit, whenever he performs, he performs with 120% of everything he has to offer and this energy has generated a fanatically loyal following numbering in the millions. That is the reason we could not even consider approaching within 250 yards of the stage, which fronted a throng of easily some 75,000 people, swelling up along the Speedway Meadow flats, up the border hills and up to the roadbed above the trees. They did a Stones classic and a few more interpretations of old standards as we passed, for it did take some time to negociate 75,000 folks and climb up the hill. Where the equipment continued to fail. The spirit of Jerry hung over all that day on the Meadows.
Leaving shortly after 5:30 we thought the best idea would be to skip the surely jam-packed Bay Bridge and scoot on down the 101 to get over the 92 Bridge. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the middle of just about 75,000 folks waving red-and-gold flags from pickup trucks to announce the victory of the 49'ers against the detested Raiders. The 101 slides right past the exit gates of the Pac Bell Stadium. Got home well after dark. And there is sadness and wailing and despair in the Raider Nation tonight.
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN
The rains came, soaking the gardens and rooftops and finally terminating the concept of Summer and Indian Summer. From here on out its rain, fog, chill and little else. Oh some people will insist on wearing sandals and shorts, but we know these sorts to be contrarians and so we have a category to place them in. The Angry Elf has been running about his business, making feet for children's shoes and smoking large amounts of marijuana, making clouds of the stuff in fact. He is so full of hatred towards all living things, he needs to self-medicate. Thats just the way it is.
Meanwhile the nearly full moon drifts over a nearly cloud-free sky and the little family of raccoons prowls around the mesh fence set up by Old Festus around his ragged corn plantation. Perhaps the corn would do better if he didn't water the plants with a mixture of rye and burgundy wine. Says it gives them vitamins.
Down the way, Harlan probably has finally tucked in for the night, content that his latest posting on his wall fronting Lincoln Street remains as inscrutable as the last.
Nuh? That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 1, 2006
DEATH LETTER BLUES
The son of an Island councilman was sentenced to three years probation September 26 after he pleaded no contest to sending an e-mail death threat to one of his father's constituents.
Joseph Matarrese, 21, must also perform 120 hours community service, pay a $130 fine, attend anger management classes and write a letter of apology to Deborah Overfield, who received the e-mail March 27.
Matarrese sent the e-mail after Overfield suggested his father resign from office over his support for a new multi-screen cineplex in the city, according to police.
The e-mail read:
'From: Joseph Matarrese
'Subject: Consider this a death threat
'You might want to consider not leaving your house for a while. Who knows the next time a sniper may pick you off from 300 meters.
'(signed) -- the Right to Bear Arms.'
A film student at San Francisco State University, Matarrese was studying in Germany when he sent the e-mail.
The elder Matarrese is seeking reelection to the city council Nov. 7, and -- with the possible exception of his support for the ludicrous multi-screen cineplex -- has generally behaved with prudence and good common sense while serving the City.
SOME FOLKS GO AROUND SHOOTING BEAR / OTHERS SAY THERE AINT NO BEARS AT ALL
In one of the odder items to cross the transome wire from AP, we find this item about a murderous teddy bear,
A teddy bear has been implicated in 2,500 deaths within the little town of Milford, NH -- trout deaths, that is.
State officials say a teddy bear that fell into a pool at a Fish and Game Department hatchery earlier this month clogged a drain. The clog blocked the flow of oxygen to the pool and suffocated the fish.
Hatcheries supervisor Robert Fawcett said the bear, dressed in yellow raincoat and hat, is believed to be the first stuffed toy to cause fatalities at the facility.
"We've had pipes get clogged, but it's usually with more naturally occurring things like a frog or even a dead muskrat," he said. "This one turned out to be a teddy bear and we don't know how it got there."
The deaths prompted Fawcett to release a written warning: "RELEASE OF ANY TEDDY BEARS into the fish hatchery water IS NOT PERMITTED."
He said it's not known who dropped the bear, but urged anyone whose bear ends up in a hatchery pool to find a worker to remove it. "They might save your teddy bear, and keep it from becoming a killer," he said.
DON'T LET NOBODY DRAG YOUR SPIRIT DOWN
Grooving on the latest Putamayo release, "Blues from Around the World". You may remember the Putamayo folks as the ones who put out the Putamayo World Music Radio Hour with its incredible sampling of multi-culti sounds from all over the globe, exposing us Provincials to wildly popular artists like King Sunny Ade, Habib Koite, Ali Farka Toure, Femi Kuti, Youssou N'Dour, the Tuvan throat singers, the Bulgarian ensemble Kitka and many others. They have put out a number of international CD's filled with great stuff. This one has Bonnie Raitt teaming with Habib Koite as well as folks like Taj Mahal, Otis Spann and Maria Muldaur joining with musicans from all over. We like to promote new music because music makes you feel better, brightens up life in general, puts the zing in just about every salad and besides, its good for you.
In other musical news, the music festival season is winding
up, but we have one last Big One slated for the very busy weekend of the 6th-8th,
when the vastly expanded Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival shakes the collective
bootie of Babylon out there at Speedway Meadows in the Golden Gate Park. And
man, when we say "expanded" we mean insanely explosively overbilled
with acts that typically turn the Fillmore into SRO Sold Out status. Steve
Earle is up on the bill again after his amazing set two years ago along with
Elvis Costello (solo & w/ the Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods), Allison
Brown, Bill Evans, Gillian Welch, T Bone Burnett and Etienne de Rocher, and
that is just Saturday, the first day. But no, Elvis winds things up for the
Commuter Crowd on Friday evening. Sunday you will kindly enjoy Del McCoury,
Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris on one stage while Drive-By Truckers and the
North Mississippi Allstars wet your whistle across the glade. On another stage,
Four Year Bender leads off in the unenviable 11am slot followed by Iris Dement
then Alejandro Escovedo followed by folk legend Richard Thompson and Robert Earl Keen. Not enough for you? Serious? Ramblin Jack Elliott gives another reason to show up early with T Bone reappearing as a reprise and warmup for Hot Tuna. The Waybacks will bring on none other than Bob Weir as a guest.
Because of the increasing success of this thing, don't even think of driving a car into or out of Babylon that weekend. We estimate a crowd of some 250,000 people.
Indigo Girls are coming to the Warfield, which is hosting a schizo month of Guns and Roses stuff alternating with real music. Um, did we just indicate a bias of some sort? Chris Smither is still lined up for Freight and Salvage 19th-20th. And of course the Rolling Stones are coming to the Coluseum in the second week of November. Don't ask; you can't afford it. It pains us that we never could afford tix back then and now the income has risen -- somewhat -- we still cant afford it. Oh the days when we sat on the back stoop of Mr. BoJangles to listen to what riffs we could garner through the open kitchen doors. When we could picnic on the grass next to the fence that circled the Blues Fest.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
The major development player in converting the old Navy base land to use backed out recently, citing the cooling housing market as chief reason for their pullout. Monday the California Association of Realtors reported a statewide home sales drop of 30.1% from the previous year, the sharpest dip since the harsh 1980's when Reaganomics punished the Golden State severely. With the entire redevelopment plan tossed in the trash, the Navy will have to come up with alternative modes of transferring the property which it still technically owns. One option features multiple parcel sales, thus cutting out the big ticket cost of $108.5 million which caused the developer to back out.
In other news, the cineplex project is going forward with the physical construction phase of the long disputed project. The historic building still contains fixtures dating from the 1930's which will be preserved during the project which has been moderately downsized from its original gargantuan size to a more modest seven-screen cineplex. Total costs to the City are estimated to be at $33.5 million, and will still include a Park Street parking garage.
With the recent bid by Target to build a "big box" store here, tensions have risen dramatically, coupled with a suddenly hot series of councilperson races and a majoral contest which prior to recent council decisions was shaping up to be a real sleeper for the "midterm" elections. Perhaps the council's decision to debate revising the antigrowth Measure A also added to the suddenly sky-high conflagration. Several people are running with clear intentions stated in language that typically says something along the lines of "lets build a reasonable Island with reasonable intent that fits in", indicating that many are getting fed up with the trend towards giganticism and "Manhattanization". This is, after all, an island, with limited access to the mainland. With construction project costs ballooning at the present rate, building a new bridge or even expanding an old one will cost in the billions of dollars. At present, nobody in their right mind wants to sit in traffic waiting for a sailboat to putter on past the raised drawbridge at Park Street just to see a movie or buy a tchotchke that can be gotten easier from any of the multiplexes and big box stores lined along the 880 corridor. And all of those are safe on land with free parking.
At Monday's Planning Board meeting at City Hall, the vast majority of citizens attending spoke out against the Target store, citing traffic congestion as the main issue.
Well, the equinox has come and gone and October has launched in colors of orange and black. And Paganos has once again populated its storefront window with the truely wierd and fantastic. The two grand dames remain after their picnic, but it does appear that something has gone awry.
The remains of the picnic appear to have, um, decayed somewhat. Even the butler looks a little, well, chewed up.
The other guests don't look much better off. Here they are just hanging around.
Everyone, please meet Mr. Death. He's from "the village." He's a reaper. Mr. Death, have you come to do the hedges . . . ?
YOU CAN SLEEP WHILE I DRIVE
It's been a quiet week on the Island. The corn stalks are rustling with their dried out rustle and some dastardly squirrel made off with the seed-head of neighbor Bryan's heliotrope before anyone could enjoy the beaming sunflower. This morning the sun came up at 6:48 and set at 6:37. We note that the sun rose at 6:21 and set at 6:41 on September 27, while yesterday the sun rose at 6:47 and set at 6:39. Furthermore, the forecast indicates sunrise expected on the 4th at 6:50 with sunset hurriedly happening at 6:33pm.
Rising later and setting earlier appears to be a trend and one we will attend to most diligently. Should this sort of thing get really out of hand, we will be enjoined to take serious action. Somebody better do something about all the maples, which have taken to dropping their leaves all over the place and just down the block, one particular tree appears to be dressed entirely in startling flames.
It's that time of year again, with persistent fogs and strange winds blowing through. Still, in the East Bay, there remains opportunity for Mssr. Soleil to make one last comeback or two in this month, for a spate of sunny, cloud-free days and balmy nights.
While crossing Webster, near #1916 where Skippy peanut butter was invented, Marlene's skirt was flipped by an errant gust of wind which caused Jose and Pepe to slam on their brakes. This made Caliente Huevos, a very large sheepdog, to leap from the back of their pickup truck and chase Mr. Peepers, a ground squirrel nibbling upon a taco bell wrapper. Pepe bolted from the truck to fetch Caliente Huevos and this made Mrs. Popper run up the sidewalk to smack into the powerpole there and burst open her trunk lid, releasing a thousand student essays on the poetry of Emily Dickenson, which got caught by the gusts of wind to swirl high into the air.
At this moment, Bear's Harley Davidson took this poorly timed moment to backfire while attempting to start at Jon Lee's gas station pumps. The backfire convinced Mr. Ramsey the City was under attack by Al Qaida even as he was having an heated exchange with someone parked illegally in front of his driveway on St. Charles. Mr. Ramsey had a prompt heart attack and 911 was called simultaneously from St. Charles, from Webster at Sherman, from Lincoln at 8th -- where certain persons had noticed mysteriously coded messages falling in the form of agitprop leaflets from the sky and from Central Avenue where a crazed sheepdog was chasing a demented poodle in circles around an illegal hen house.
About the hen house: it is illegal in Alameda County to keep and maintain certain domesticated fowl without license to operate a poultry factory.
About this time, Mr. Peepers -- by now successfully ensconced in a tree far from these events on Central Avenue -- managed to gnaw through a piece of particularly tough insulation enough to set himself and his tree on fire. Mr. Peepers fled from the scene, screaming as a squirrel only can. The tree remained, burning as it stood.
In response to these 911 calls, several coast guard choppers, KRON news, and the Oaktown PD responded with four alarms.
Pepe pursued Caliente Huevos down Grand Street, followed by Jose in the truck up to the recent safety measures installed by the City to prevent people from driving off the boat landing into the estuary. There, Caliente Huevos took a sharp turn and entered the secretive area owned by the USMC which has anti-tank barriers and concrete obstructions at its gate. Inside this area, both Caliente Huevos and Pepe were tackled by several very serious guys wearing combat boots and battle fatigues. The battle fatigues were not, just to mention the fact, a matter of fashion.
Just off the rip rap shore, an Iranian submarine cruising the estuary took notice of all these events. A special mechanical catch-hand reached up to fetch certain papers from the water's surface. These were brought down for analysis as the sub ran silently and deep back to the ocean.
One of the papers began, "I heard a fly buzz before I died. . .".
It took two months to translate the material from English into Arabic. It took another six to figure out what was being said.
They are still trying to figure out if they like Emily Dickenson or not.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 24, 2006
TRAIN WRECK IN G MAJOR
Popped into the Local just down the boreen, McGraths down the road to you out-of-towners, to snag personal faves Houston Jones on their comet-like return from touring all the festivals from here to Memphis. With the exception of one last shindig under the shadow of Graceland, Glenn and Travis and the boys are all home for the winter to settle in beside the fire with a little brown jug and some recording equipment. With the exception of losing an occasional bass instrument on the road, the guys have done rather well and resulting buzz had the little pub packed in tight with scarcely room to shuffle for the early sets.
Despite the throng, the personally assembled sound system by music aficionado and proprietor, Peter Donato, performed like a champ and the band sounded crisp with well separated channels, clear-as-a-bell vocals, and perfectly nuanced balance unusual for a small club like McGraths. It helps that Travis, for all of his rough exterior, can roar the gut-bucket blues as well as croon the most lyrical of ballads penned by Chris McKee (bassist) with none of the sonic mud most of the shouters out there inflict on dues-paying listeners. And Glenn "Houston" Pomianek has a disciplined hybrid-picking approach on his left-handed guitars that sends 2/3rds of the thrashers half his age back to the woodshed Glenn will employ effects pedals occasionally to get a particular tone, but he primarily relies on his ferociously vigorous attack that never departs long from the melodic line. He doesn't do rock 'n roll "triplets" or e-bow so much as compose seemingly spontaneous phrases built into the song scales, bending strings full stops upward into the precise notes called for at each moment.
Henry Salvia, who also appears on their latest CD, "Three Crow Town", showed up to provide some cranking high-energy keyboards and accordion, as well as vocals on a humorous little cautionary tale about a wayward armadillo who passes out far from home in a gutter, sung in a lilting Gershwin "Moon River" style.
Travis was in fine form, accompanying himself on his Gibson 150 and begging the House for a free "double shot" in his typically self-effacing "oh I am just here having some fun" manner. They did a rousing "Bedlam Road", "Three Crow Town", plus a couple gospel numbers, including the traditional "Working on a Building", as well as their own version of the Little Feat classic "Dixie Chicken" with Glenn doing the little scat refrain on slide. And of course, this homecoming came complete with the delightfully risqué"Joanie, the Jehovah's Witness Stripper."
Jimmy Leslie Band at Cafe du Nord. The IslandLife Social Coordinator setup Tix at the Cafe du Nord in North Beach for a pair of guitar aces in the middle of the week. Its been twelve years since we last dropped down the stairs to the basement of the almost self-consciously hip venue set in the Castro. The place still has its odd placement of the stage back behind an undanceable pillar-lined dance area no one ever enters except when the place is jammed SRO and the felt of the unused pool table remains as pristine as it was twelve and more years ago, never having experienced a scratch or a three-in-one bank shot. Physically, the venue is about as awful an arrangement to perform as one can imagine, but year after year, understated talents and topnotch performers have shown up to pull bohemians and paint-stained artistes from their ateliers to enjoy exceptional music, resulting in the place becoming a fixture in Babylon with the reputation of can't miss cutting-edge material. On the weekends the "hipness" can be excruciating to the point of having to watch your back and what you say in any given situation, but the music is always worthwhile.
Jimmy Leslie is most well known to readers of guitar-focused magazines as a decent rock critic and capable interviewer of world-class entertainers. Recently, the man has hooked up with various New Orleans Katrina survivors to put together an occasional band with floating membership to back his own swampy mix of Louisiana blues and Cajun licks. He is a young man and certainly demonstrated solid chops as well as a mastery of the various styles familiar to gulf coast aficionados. Its great that someone can put together a project that employs talented guys flooded out of whatever situation they barely had hold of before disaster struck, and the results are quite satisfying. Leslie just might be approaching cult status with his uncanny ability to jump from straight rhythm to lead and back again, with a fluency reminiscent of Duane Allman. In fact, a second guitar to play rhythm would have certainly allowed the man to really stretch his wings. And that is a prospect not bad to contemplate.
Sadly, the Social Coordinator failed due to illness and so we had to leave without enjoying the headliner, Johnny A., who has been highly regarded among musicians as "musician's musician", and for whom Gibson designed one of their rare Signature guitars -- worth easily some $20,000 and more per issue -- joining a fairly exclusive club that includes BB King, Wes Montgomery, Chet Atkins (CGP), and Les Paul. His most popular hit was the instrumental, "Oh Yeah", available on one of the KFOG Live Archives CDs. Speaking of which, KFOG's Local Scene #3 is still available in some outlets and from the station website online.
Support live local music, because live music improves personal moral fiber, supports starving artists, builds national character, and besides, its good for you.
SOL VICTUS FESTUM
Due to "festival burnout" IslandLife passed on half-price
Tix to the annual SF Blues Festival, but be assured that omission will not
happen again. Legend Little Richard wound up the fest on Sunday, while a close
look at Saturday revealed a composite band of Louisiana wunder-Kings, including
Cyril Neville, Tab Benoit
Waylon Thibodeaux and others, preceded by Irma Thomas and Henry Butler.
Once -- before the Flood -- we were down in Storyville to see Marcia Ball -- not exactly a bit-player in music -- who halts her show and instructs the audience, "I know you are all came to hear me, but if you want to hear some real piano played by a master who stands head and shoulders above me, step next door and listen to Henry Butler. He is really the real deal." We took her advice -- the place really was packed to a stifling degree -- and were not disappointed. If Henry comes to town, we suggest you pay serious attention. You will boogie till your woogie has fallen down.
As one WOULD know, the Rolling Stones blow into town to do whatever they do on stage 11/5, with Van Morrison opening at whatever the Oakland Coliseum is calling itself nowadays. Mick of the "tire-tread lips" has come a long way since when. We never could afford tickets back then, and now, when tickets are hailing $300, plus sexual favors of any unspecified nature, we still cannot afford them. Guess this broom will have to be my lady. And I am "sweeping, sweeping, sweeping up the ghosts of Saturday night". The Stones have done well and we are still spending Saturday night cleaning up. While other peoples get to party, people like us gotta work. Meet you at the crossroads, pal. Where the real blues come out.
PUBLIC NOTICE - CHUNNEL CLOSURES AND OTHER DIVERSIONS
By happenstance, we note that the Island mainland connections will be closed 9/25 - 10-/05 each night from 10:30-12:00 and 12-4am on alternate days, starting with the 10:30-midnight shift.
Overnight Caltrans Construction Activity On Interstate 80 (9/24/06
Due to overnight Caltrans construction activity on westbound and eastbound Interstate 80, the following lane and ramp closures will be in effect:
On westbound I-80, the left lanes will be closed from the Bay Bridge toll plaza to the middle of the suspension span between 10 PM and 5 AM.
On eastbound I-80, the Sterling Street on-ramp will be closed from 8 PM until 6 AM. The Fifth and Eighth Street on-ramps will be closed from 10:30 PM until 6 AM.
Caltrans will close eastbound I-80 in San Francisco at Fourth Street at 11 PM. Motorists will be detoured off at the Fourth Street off ramp and back on at the Essex Street and First Street on ramps until 6 AM.
The right lanes will be closed from the Bay Bridge San Francisco Anchorage to Treasure Island between 11 PM and 6 AM.
Motorists are advised to expect delays and consider taking alternate routes during these closures. From personal observation, IslandLife expects these sorts of closures to continue for some time each week. Motorists are advised that the westbound City artery will remain in a state of flux from the Fifth Street exit to the 101 North Civic Center exit and are to look sharp when leaving the bridge area.
Richmond San Rafael Bridge Deck Overlay Project (9/22/06 6:43
Between August and late November 2006, Caltrans will perform bridge deck work on the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, Monday through Friday, between 8 PM and 6 AM. Eastbound and westbound I-580 traffic on the bridge will be reduced to one lane, and re-configured to accommodate the work. The speed limit will be reduced to 45 miles per hour.
FROM ONE ISLAND TO ANOTHER - INDIAN SUMMER
It's Indian Summer. So hard to get warm now; so easy to get burned. Sorta miss Chris Whitely. Maybe you never ran across him. He was a chain-smoking intense sort of fellow who liked to tune his guitars in all sorts of weird ways. Early on he had bought this steel National guitar and figured out that it was virtually impossible to keep in standard tune, so he simply invented his own and managed to get some amazing results. He earned himself a Grammy, then he moved to Europe and things looked like they were looking up for him until he got the lung cancer. Because of the chain smoking. Then he died last year. Now the dahlias bloom here wildly without a care as the temperature grows colder.
In this time, the sun comes up later by about five minutes or so each day, and the power of the sun people wanes until midwinter's eve. In Our House, the Witch is leaving us, fleeing the angry power of the Angry Elf, and somehow it seems appropriate that during the waning of her powers she departs. That leaves of the Original 20, only Ken, Pat, Nancy & Sean, and the Angry Elf with Mikey The Demented. And Ourselves. High attrition in recent times and not boding well for good augurs.
The boiler has cut out once again, leaving us all without hot water for some 48 hours. As it has done before. While Smelly Winters and the Evil Angry Elf insist on raising the rents here. And we continue on, suffering under this regime.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
In what feels like an increasingly evocative event, the episode of the "dead man found" in his room continues to unfold. Briefly, these are the facts: A man calls the Island Police to report an attempted kidnapping: his own. The Police arrive and report the man in a delusional state. He is not being kidnapped. He is simply wack.
Meanwhile the officers, pursuing a familiar smell -- to police officers -- discover a decomposing dead human body in the room next door. Which turns out to be the delusional man's housemate. The body has been murdered and the delusional man is so obviously crazy that he is not a suspect in any manner whatsoever. The delusional housemate stated that he thought the smell was due to the garbage collected in the man's room; its okay man -- he was a little messy. The murdered man's name was John Milton.
Only on the Island do we encounter such bizarre arrangements. Or perhaps this sort of thing is part and parcel now of the world in which we now live. John Milton was a vet. Stay tuned for developments.
Indian Summer may have finally arrived but we are not fooled by any such delay of inevitable frost. We notice the browning on the edges of the dahlias. We notice the planting of broccoli, of cool weather veggies. Oh yes. In Paganos, the storefront has already yielded to the season's preparation to the greatest holiday the Bay Area can celebrate: we are talking about the august and most holy recognition of Hallowed 'Ween. When tiny monsters breed in untold numbers to flock the streets with shrieks and howls. When costumers rule the Occasion.
The Day of the Dead stalks forward on swift boney feet. Next week we'll have pix of the decorations.
But for now, the corn stalks shake in the evening breeze and September still remains to brighten the prospects for an unusually warm winter, as forecast by the trustworthy Farmers Almanac. Friends are gathering the sheaves of their various gleanings in this time. Friend Susan is laying in a store of wool. Friend Jim is setting aside some bronze and burnt wood for a winter sculpture. Friend Paul is gathering wood for the cabin stove. All are setting aside in this time, for this is the time when ground squirrels and racoons and all animals are preparing for a cold season to come.
That is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
I was a little too tall, coulda' used a few pounds
tight pants, points, hardly reknown
She was a black haired beauty with big dark eyes
and points all her own sittin' way up high.......
......way up firm and high
Out past the cornfields, where the woods got heavy
out in the backseat of my sixty Chevy
workin on mysteries without any clues
Working on our night moves
Tryin' to make some front page drive-in news
Practicin' our night moves.........
......in the summertime
in the sweet, summertime, summertime
We weren't in love, oh no, far from it
We weren't searching for some pie-in-the-sky summit
We were just young and restless and bored,
living by the sword
and we'd steal away every chance we could
to the back room, the alley, or the trusty woods
I used her, she used me but neither one cared
We were getting our share
practicing our night moves
tryin' to lose the awkward teenage blues
workin on our night moves
hey, we felt the lightening .
And we waited on the thunder, waited on the thunder.
I woke last night to the sound of thunder
"How far off" I sat and wondered,
started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
We just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
. . . with autumn closing in . . .
night moves..........night moves........(repeat and fade)
(words & music by Bob Seger)
SEPTEMBER 17, 2006
The Island hosted a festival in honor of its most notable contribution to the National Culture in the form of the discovery of modern peanut butter right here on Webster Street in the 1940's. It was at the Skippy foundry, located then at 1919 Webster Street that engineers first concocted that mixture of salt, sugar, saturated fats and -- of course -- peanuts that became a staple of kitchen cupboards throughout the US. The Skippy factory moved down the street and the peanut butter continued to be made here through the late 1970's when the company moved its plant to more expansive digs in the Valley.
Two jars of Skippy were handed out at the PB tent, as shown above.
We dropped by for a bit of wine tasting of the Rosenblum Cellars, another business which locates its administrative and some processing aspects here, although the wineries are located in Napa and Sonoma Counties. Rosenblum produces not only a decent kosher variety, but a very high end series of cabs and varietal mixtures. These wines range from $30 per bottle to "if you have to ask, you cannot afford it."
A new booth appeared in the form of the Crucible's Educational Vehicle, a converted 1960 fire-engine and there was much glassblowing and forging going on. One of the volunteers cut palm tracings out of sheet metal for the kids. The Crucible, located across from the West Oakland BART station, is the only nonprofit center on the West Coast dedicated to the "fire arts": welding, casting, foundry, glasswork, and ceramics.
Arrived during set breaks, so failed to garner much of the music for Saturday, excepting the Sun Kings, who do Beatles covers. That evening the Festival was presenting a special after-hours performance by the acclaimed Eagle and Hawk, the Native American rock band from Canada, coupled with a special feast provided by the New Zealander restaurant. Prior engagements pulled us away from what certainly was a remarkable and worthwhile evening.
WITHOUT A CARE SETTING SAIL TO ST. ELSEWHERE
The Social Calendar Coordinator arranged for Tix to the annual Alice Now and Zen Festival at the evocatively named Sharon Meadows in Golden Gate Park. Alice Radio, hereabouts 97.3 on the FM dial, is a quirky addition to the airwaves here, providing real alternative music that is not constricted by testosterone-driven thrashing that bangs itself senseless in seconds, nor is pandering to the Top 100 lists enforced by that Other Pop Station dominated by middle-aged hipsters who never tire of hearing yet another Beatles track ad nauseum.
In fact, tuning to Alice can be quite a refreshing bathe in stuff that we call music. Needless to say, Alice has no money, no reach, no pull and tends to get conservative in its playlist, while remaining horribly and badly disorganized when it comes to marketing, to promotion, and to getting the word out as regards events such as this festival. We found virtually no mention on any free listing of the festival and virtually no reference material indicating house rules, directions, vendors, locality map, seating, parking, or any set list info at all. Basically, you bought your tickets blind and were not given the most elemental information -- including the stipulation of "no in or out" privileges -- which we find to be pretty damn lame. Once inside the enclosed and normally wide open meadow, we found that the sole vendor of water had sold all 4,000 bottles of the stuff some time previously. None of the other vendors appeared to provide any fluids of any kind in this sun-baked space. We found the porta-potties after two hours of wandering. Nobody official seemed to know where anything was. In the City That Knows How this is called Being A Basic F---up.
Organizationally, we would have to say this aspect earns the Festival a solid D- in our book for organization. Only the Voodoo Festival earned a lower ranking, and that ranking was due to potentially physically dangerous conditions. Had some lame dumbass posted a free notice in any of the free weeklies about this festival, the attendance could easily have tripled, causing a logistics nightmare. As it stood, a brief search of all databases on use of the meadow in Golden Gate Park brought up "stage dark" for the event. Must have frustrated a lot of planned birthday events.
That said, Sunday bloomed blue and cloudless for Indian Summer in SF and not a cloud interrupted the days proceedings, including the notorious afternoon fog invasion that terminates so many late summer picnics in Babylon.
We got in late, but a mention needs to be made of predecessors that day.
Augustana is an alt-rock originally met and formed at Greenville College in Greenville, IL. After locally releasing their Mayfield EP, the band decided to quit school and head to Los Angeles in search of a label. After losing and replacing their bass player, Augustana officially formed in California in 2004. Their first major-label album, Augustana - All the Stars and Boulevards, was produced by Epic Records and catapulted them into the spotlight. The band is perhaps best known for its single, “Augustana – Boston”, whose music video features the lead singer on a beach full of pianos and was featured on the WB show "One Tree Hill”. IslandLife reviewed their live performance opening for The Counting Crows a few weeks ago at the Concord Pavilion.
Blue October isn’t just your average, everyday rock band from Texas. The group was formed in Houston in the late ‘90s by lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Justin Furstenfeld, his brother, drummer Jeremy, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye, later joined by guitarist/vocalist CB Hudson and bassist Matt Noveskey. The group’s epic live shows and exploration of subjects like mental depression, drug use, love, betrayal, forgiveness and cathartic transcendence have helped them amass a strong, loyal following through five albums, three of which have been released by Universal Records.
Carbon Leaf blasted into the national spotlight two years ago with their major label debut, Indian Summer. But while they kept busy working as support on major national tours (Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, John Mayer, etc.) and headlining their own, these Virginia-based self-starters kept moving forward musically as well as professionally. That point rings clear throughout their new CD, Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat, a collection of songs whose sound is the richest, whose grooves are the most infectious, and whose messages run the deepest of anything they’ve yet put to disc.
With Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat Carbon Leaf defines itself as a tight instrumental unit, capable of cranking up the heat even with scaled-down arrangements based on acoustic guitar, in perfect complement to a vocal sound that can’t be mistaken for anyone else’s. Barry Privett has mastered the art of singing with a compelling detachment; his voice, whether on its own or woven into two- and three-part harmony, beckons the listener into the lyric as it opens within the heart of these songs. They’ve come a long way from their decision, as students at Randolph-Macon College, to try their luck at forming a band. But for all they’ve accomplished, Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat is something different. It is a turning point: accessible yet poetically elusive, rhythmically irresistible yet understated, a harbinger of what will come and the sum of what had gone before. The scuttlebutt coming from the underground is that this is the band to pay attention to for further developments. These guys are among the top five newbies we vote as Most Likely To Succeed.
Hot on the heels of two sold-out shows at the Fillmore, the soul, electro, alternative sounds of Gnarls Barkley fulfilled all promise made by their ballyhooed review in the recent Rolling Stones.
Band members Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse released their first album, St Elsewhere in April, 2006. The duo made their debut performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 30, 2006 after their first single, “Crazy” became the first ever UK number one single based on download sales alone.
The band is notorious for dressing in outlandish costume; during their performance at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards, where the band performed in Star Wars costumes -- including the garb of Rebel Alliance pilots, Imperial officers, Stormtroopers, Chewbacca, Jango Fett, Obi-Wan, with Cee-Lo singing as an unmasked Darth Vader.
So much for the promo stuff. This is what Island-Life has to say. We heard that we were getting this DJ rapper type bonded with a gangsta rapper and we were not hopefull, no we were not. Well, good music is a surprise -- practically by definition -- and we found this Gnarls Barkley to be a most pleasant surprise of astonishing weight. Instead of mono-beat pounding with purile lyrics about "smackin' da bitch up" we got sophisticated, well coordinated ensemble work with vocals the rival of anything Motown ever put out at its finest and lyrics that soared head and shoulders above the rest. In delivery, we are talking about Marvin Gaye and Martha Reed and the Vandellas, people. We are talking about a four piece string section with violins and violacello providing suddenly lush sound in the Meadow easily the level of any octet jazz band out there doing Coltrane, while this modestly named Cee-Lo. Backing this section, the duo also supplied a three voice vocal harmony section that also supplied hand-held percussion.
With a lead guitar, bassist, keyboards/backup guitar, and turntable, you cannot say the band was lean in sound.
Ranging from solid rock, through trip-hop, rap, motown, blues, jazz and everything in between, the band solidly proved its credentials and turned us into true believers. Cee-Lo's rich voice seemed most at home with the old Motown flavors, where the range and depth was allowed to really expand. The boy sure can rock with the best of them, and his rendition of "Transformer" brought the hairs up on the back of the neck with his wail, but he is best at his warmest. In spite of all the costumes, it is for the voice the man will be remembered and you can mark your calendar on that. Sensing the mood of the crowd as being less than boiling, the man really worked them like a trooper until he had them all clapping and shouting by the end of their all too short set.
It has been said that the B-52's are as quintessentially American as the Beach Boys. And twenty-five years and over twenty million albums into a career that began as a low-rent lark in Athens, Georgia, the B-52's remain the most unlikely rock stars ever. The first band to glorify pop culture with an almost Warholian sense of purpose, the B-52’s purveyed their absurd B-movie style and off-kilter sound celebrating the weirdness lurking just beneath the surface of Americana ... not exactly a recipe for chart success but way ahead of its time, nonetheless. Any mystery concerning the longevity and ongoing appeal of the B-52’s is immediately solved when exposed to the B-52's unique concert experience. From the timeless gems of "Rock Lobster," "Planet Claire" and "Private Idaho" to the more recent classics of "Channel Z," "Love Shack" and "Roam", the B-52's unforgettable dance-rock tunes start a party every time the music begins.
Okay, that's the promo stuff. Let it be known that the B52's are like that fly you read about in Science 101, embedded in gel for the last 100 years, with songs and sounds that remain persistent past the time that created them to the point they enter popular culture as pop icons. On the one hand the B52s were the intelligent antidote to the mind-numbing repetition of disco, and on the other, they joyfully enthused about life without the blandness of Disney and The Monkeys. And they were musically adept, as opposed to the Ted Nugent crowd. Their music represented the joy that could be, if it only were not for the assholes.
Their music arose from a time prior to the obnoxious "Reagan Revolution" of the Conservatives, most of whom really never understood Ronald Reagan or what he was about. That was a time of unbridled joy, before the Plague of AIDS, before Gingrich, before everything began to descend so horribly into atavistic snarling and violence. Before sour attitude overwhelmed honest pleasure.
No wonder that so many stand up and cheer when the old songs come on the air. But in a sense, the B52s are more throwbacks to a particular time than the Deadheads ever will be. The one moment that broke through this fossil-process came when the group performed an uncharacteristically political song that savaged the current leadership -- and the song really worked musically and in every which way. Thousands in the crowd clapped and cheered. This is now and that was then.
If the B52s manage to pursue that avenue, they will manage to avoid the stigma of becoming museum pieces to a particular time and enter into that far more dangerous arena of "music for all time".
Still, this is one band that still manages to pump out significant energy that can still motivate a large crowd with all the old hits, a crowd that just wanted to forget their troubles for a while, put their heads on the shelf and simply enjoy. No small accomplishment.
BRIDGE SCHOOL BENEFIT
One of the benefits of living in the Bay Area is the privelge of having some pretty significant neighbors. One neighbor happens to be Neil Young and his wife Peggy, who live with their sons in the hills above Half Moon Bay. They hold an annual benefit for the Bridge School, of which a couple of their children happen to be attendees. This Benefit happens to be the biggest, most significant social event in the Bay Area all year, for if you happen to be Neil Young you can invite your friends to perform. This year, his friends will include Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Foo Fighters, Trent Reznor, Death Cab for Cutie, and Gillian Welch, among others. Wow.
The Bridge School is a special facility for kids who suffer from developmental/communication disabilities. At least one of the Young boys is enrolled. It was Peggy who first decided to use hubby's star power to raise funds and Neil has responded with lots of help from some of the best and the brightest out there, resulting in a never fail kind of situation year after year. This time, the acoustic event unfolds October 21-22 at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View.
You can check out additional details for this remarkable concert at www.kfog.com.
FOR EVERY SEASON THERE IS A RETURN
Check out the Island recyling event on 10/21 where you can drop off computers, telephones, tvs, VCRs, fax machines and whatnot to be recycled from 8 to 1 pm at the Alameda Point Airfield. Just go out the newly renamed Ralph Appezatto Blvd.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
The Fall Season heats up with some really good stuff. This month, the SF Blues Festival at Fort Mason kicks off on the 23rd, while the Jazz Festival continues past the weekend to the 12th of November. Look for Michelle N'Gocello and for James Cotton appearing. You can find out more at SFjazz.org.
The Warfield starts the war on the 22nd with the very rasta Moe and New Monsoon, but the Fillmore booker has a rock solid set through the month of October, starting with the original Pogues lineup on the 10/11-12. This follows with the son of Bob, Ziggy Marley performing 10/15. Edie Brickell pursues the 10/17th and Jonny Lang brings his blues on the 18th.
The booker allowed 10/19-21 to barely contain the Hispanic fire of Yo la Tengo, while New Orleans' favorite sons, Galactic, take over 10/28.
Meanwhile, the Warfield responds with Govt Mule paired with
Donovan Frankenreiter on 10/14.
Gomez will raise the roof with "Blackeyed Dog/Free to Run" on 10/25 and if you are not left wide-eyed and astonished the boys failed to perform their usual magic. And word is that Rodrigo Y Gabriela will follow up with something exciting.
In other venues, Bob Dylan drops by at the Bill Graham Civic for 10/16-17. Chris Smither is slated for the humble Freight and Salvage on the 10/19-20 days. Smither might do a New Orleans dirge version of "Desolation Row", which outta turn your spoon.
Next weekend brings the SF Blues Fest back to the meadow at Fort Mason, and $100 will set you in the "Gold Circle". Otherwise $35 and a pair of binocs will plunk you on your blankie in the sun. Further on down the road, October 20th kicks off the SF Jazz Fest with all kinds of world class delights up to 11/12. See www.sfjazz.org for details.
And thats it for the concert report; ahm tahrd!
THIS ISLAND LIFE
With the sudden sunshine this weekend, seems the long delayed appearance of that weather phenomenon called "Indian Summer" has finally pushed back the fogs for a bit. Some little critters out there are not fooled by this deceptive strategy by Mssr. Soleil, however. Neighbor Bryan, carefully tending his seven foot heliotrope, thats sunflower to you hoi polloi, came out to find Papoon and Company had made off with the head one night to squirrel away the booty in the burrow treasury in the infamous "seed tax". Oh, those Tax and Munch Democrats! Meanwhile the masked bandits have been raiding the corn field and upsetting Stray Jack's water dish in a manner that is all to reminiscent of Robber Baron Conservatives.
The lone Opossum Libertarian has been seen creeping along the fence, not bothering anybody but we are keeping an eye on the tomatoes.
In other news, the increasingly demented City Council is now debating revision of Measure A, passed some 33 years ago to put the brakes on runaway development the type of which has soiled so much of the rest of the Bay Area with urban monstrosities and population density. Nevermind the voters passed that measure by 85%; somewhere there is a greedy developer twirling his moustaches behind this with avarice and malice aforethought.
A modest split level Edwardian with garage, one bath and too much gingerbread on busy Lincoln is on the block around the corner for a cool $850,000. For that you get 1/16th of an acre of grass.
But now, its getting time to wrap up things here, for Monday is another working day on this sunny little island set within the storied San Francisco Bay. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"
I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so **PLEASANT** about that place
Even your emotions had an echo in so much space
And when you're out there,without care
Yeah I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
And I hope that you are havin' the time of your life
But think twice, that's my only advice
Come on now who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you
think you are, ha ha ha, bless your soul
You really think you're in control
I think you're Crazy
I think you're Crazy
I think you're Crazy
Just like me
My heroes had the heart to live their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinkin' I wanna be like them.
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And there's no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done
But maybe I'm Crazy
Maybe you're Crazy
Maybe we're Crazy
SEPTEMBER 10, 2006
WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS
All IslandLife staffers have returned safely from the annual Mountain Sabbatical, which typically involves skirting sheer mountain precipices, snowy glacier crossings, wading frigid mountain streams, icy cold, hunger fasting, running a gauntlet of flails, and mystical visions.
Wish you could be here.
We are much relieved New Orleans is still there and much disappointed that Bushy persists as well.
Pixs of this year's exploration of the area north of the Humphries Basin will appear online later this week.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC
Due to bureaucratic matters had to pass on hearing Michael Franti down at Speedway Meadows this weekend as the fog held the City and the East Bay in a firm clammy grip during the Power to the Peaceful festival. Franti launched the day with a 9-11 yoga opener before the music began. Close insiders have informed us that Mr. Franti is a warm wonderful human being as well as a prodigious talent, a two fisted combo that is rare in The Bizness. Saturday featured Blackalicious, New Monsoon, Brett Dennon as well as Spearhead.
In the upcoming season we note these standouts scattered through the crowd:
HEM and Ollabelle at the Great American Music Hall, Sept. 12. Female vocals with subtlety, quirky POV, and alternative verve.
Jonathan Richman with many more at the GAMH, September 17. This is a benefit for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist wrongfully convicted of murder.
The underdog Station Alice @97.3 hosts the Now and Zen festival at Sharon Meadows in Golden Gate Park with the B-52's, the quirky phenom gnarls barkley and the critically acclaimed up-n-coming Augustana with Carbon Leaf. Island-Life will have staffers attending that day. Check out www.radioalice.com.
Not strictly Bay Area, but worth noting, is the Earthdance festival taking place out in Laytonville along the 101. Ani DiFranco, Ozomatli, Blackalicious, and Tea Leaf Green head quite a list of groups over the course of three days in the woods beside a creek. Go to www.earthdance.org/sf for more information.
Jim Campilono appears with a reformulated band at the GAMH, Sept. 19.
At the steadily improving Independent, we note Taj Mahal appearking 9/22, Leon Russell 9/26 and the phenomenal Kaki King burning up the fretboard on 9/27. Look for her "Playing with Pink Noise" to blow your collective minds.
Our Social Coordinator, Sharon, has scored tix for the Live
105 Halloween Freak Out on Oct. 28 at the Bill Graham Civic, featuring Devo,
and A Flock of Seagulls.
Same night has the Exotic Erotic Ball torch up the Cow Palace
Speaking of up-n-coming music, we scored a copy of KFOG's Local Scene 3, with tasty cuts from The Bittersweets, Etienne de Rocher and Forest Sun. Costs about 8 bucks and no other radio station does this. Order one from www.kfog.com.
From the KFOG acoustic show list, we extract these interesting tidbits:
ORIN ROWAN, ERIC MARTIN ( Big Star), SUSAN Z, GREG LAMBOY doing the music of artists who have been affected by breast cancer (Etheridge, Crow, Nanci Griffith, more) - Wine Women & Song benefit for Breast Cancer research - September 16 - Sweetwater. Good cause, good music, good venue. Can't lose.
BONNIE RAITT & KEB MO - Sept 17 - Sleep Train Pavilion Concord - Can you say The Blues? I knew you could.
MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD - Sept 26 - Fillmore - Members of a fabulously talented family.
TEA LEAF GREEN ACOUSTIC -Sept 29 - Great American Music Hall - Local band done good.
LUCE and Friends - benefit for the LUCE Fire & Theft Fund - Little Fox - Sept. 30. Luce is a local band done good.
GUSTER, NADA SURF, TRISTAN PRETTYMAN - Sept 30 - Berk Comm Theater - This one is likely to blow the roof off the place with alternative rock. Guster's "Black Dog/Free to Run" may become a standard up there with the live version of "Whipping Post".
SUFJAN STEVENS - Oct 10 & 11 -Zellerbach, Berkeley. Some rare surprises.
CHRIS SMITHER - Oct 19-20 - Freight & Salvage - an old master, always welcome with his winsome, self-effacing wit and mastery of the fretboard.
JOHN PRINE, JIM JAMES (My Morning Jacket) - Oct 23 & 24 - Palace of Fine Arts.
SUBDUDES - Oct 27, Great American Music Hall - New Orleans survivors. Heard them rock the meadows at the 2004 Voodoo Festival.
RICHARD THOMPSON - Nov 27-29 (29 is all-request night)- Montalvo. Richard Thompson wrote the book on solo acoustic excitement. Somebody better request "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" on the 29th. It's the definitive acoustic motorcycle song.
Not exactly in the musical vein, but certainly worth marking on the calendar, is Code Pink's action scheduled for Sept. 21st 7:30 am at the Golden Gate Bridge. Check out www.bayareacodepink.org for the calendar of similar events.
CALLING ON TO COPSHALWHOLME FAIRE
Staffers took the Official Jitney out to attend the two biggest and most notable Season faires. The Official Island-Life Jitney is an occasionally painted Mazda possessed of a demoniacal smoking transmission and erratic electrics which long since have succumbed to the blandishments of a mischievous succubus imp. This vehicle wheezed to the top of Mountain Boulevard, glided briefly along the sidewalk there, scattering pedestrians and poodles in its wake before coming to a stop with a belch of smoke in the free lot provided by the locality for the Event. Stopped in first to the nestled nook of Montclair for its Jazz and Wine fest. Aubin cellars won our prize for Best of Show with a capable and smooth Pinot Noir, limited edition, with robust flavor, depth of character and evocative aromas. The Jazz was largely West Coast swing situated on three stages and of no particular note at either one. Still, the location set among the pines of Monclair's hills was not a bad place to while away an afternoon. Beer tix were $4 per glass and wine went at $5 per glass plus $3 per "taste". A taste consisted of 1/3 glass of a standard glass.
From the hoity-toity, we descended in our primer-streaked, smoking hulk of clashing valves and complaining pistons to the Albany plains and the hoi polloi, which featured some two miles of Solano Avenue from San Pablo in Albany to The Alameda in Berkeley. Every cross street was blockaded the entire length, allowing hundreds of musicians and vendors to dominate the annual Solano Stroll, a feast of food, artifacts and sounds. The festival is the largest in the Bay Area and typically attracts fractions of a million of people when the weather behaves. Sunday, the sun shone and the throngs thronged.
Here Adrien West performs all of Ravel's "Bolero". Solo. With aid of Casio loop.
We took in several acts ranging from politely ambitious to truly accomplished. Among the latter we include the Brazilian jazz combo Girl Talk, and the Latin flavored Incendio.
Incendio, a duo consisting of Jorge Duarte and Jeffrey Stubblefield with percussion, tosses in sambas and cancions that really cook with excitement. Their live CD "dia y noche" is available from www. indendiomusic.com.
We have written about Girltalk before and find that Valerie Bach's artistry continues to deepen with her continuous explorations into various styles.
Been busy sorting through the letters and emails from around the world since we got back. Got a report from our European Desk on the Rolling Stones concert in Paris, which turned out to be a bust in the middle of the murderous heat wave which occured in the middle of the Parisian Summer Vacation. It was so hot that promoters allowed thermos bottles of water into the stadium, but forbade tops -- which concievably could be used as missles. This created the spectacle of a hundred thousand people holding bottles with no tops standing around and sweating. Gendarmes were enaged to force mandatory water drinking in the subways.
Paris was so hot, the recently revived Keith Richards was seen walking around the streets wearing shorts, a light shirt, and totally barefoot. Don't imagine the boy was refused service anywhere. Parisians may be arrogant, but they aint dumb.
Closer to home, the usual end-of-summer heat slam failed to materialize in favor of cold fogs that just barely yielded to Sunday's sunny daze. The local band of masked bandits has taken to raiding the gardens, causing no end of grief to would-be green thumbs all over. Seems the fellers can no longer tip over the heavy cans now mandated by Waste Management, and recent developments have robbed the little critters of forage room, so the WashBears, as the Teutons call them, have taken to stripping the corn and whatnot of provisions.
Its Koyaniskaatsi, man.
In other developments, Eugene Shrubb, President of the Bums, has called for the public trial of all captured legal and non-legal combatants during his occupation of Newark, which now enters its fifth year of troubles. Shrubb has been pressured by the Bum's Congress to respond to the accusations of royal privilige mis-use and secret abstraction of liberties in the form of secret prisons. There is also the matter of secret wiretapping of normal citizens.
As a proviso, our in-house Counsel informs us at this time that "certain rights are inalienable" according to the Constitution. That means, rights apply to all persons indiscriminate of race, age, religion, origin or whatever. Does not matter that one is captured during wartime; rights still apply.
In this case, Shrubb has responded with typically Texan practicality by ordering the trial of all captured ground squirrels, beginning with the Shrubbian query, "Are you or have you ever been a poodle or held sympathy with on behalf of or in favor of poodles specifically and in general."
We hope this clarifies everything. Good night and good luck.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 20, 2006
HE'S IN THE HIGH SIERRA / WAY UP IN THE ICY AIR
IslandLife will not appear next week as the staff will be taking its annual mountain retreat, starting Sunday and ending Saturday the 9th of September. Special issues typically cover your IslandLife annual requirements, including reports on special elections and news analysis.
A brief issue will appear on Sunday, the 10th of September.
PUBLIC NOTICE - BAY BRIDGE CLOSURE LABOR DAY WEEKEND!
As part of its West Approach Seismic Retrofit Project, Caltrans will perform major demolition work on the Bay Bridge over Labor Day weekend. The eastbound direction (the lower deck from San Francisco to the East Bay) of the Bay Bridge will be closed to traffic from 11:59 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1 through 5 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5. The closure will be in the eastbound direction only. The upper deck will remain open to westbound traffic coming into San Francisco throughout the weekend. The First St., Essex St., Sterling St., 5th St., and 8th St. on-ramps will also be closed from 11:59pm Friday until 5:00am Tuesday.
NEW TRAFFIC ALIGNMENT
The westbound direction of the Bay Bridge will remain open throughout the weekend. Motorists headed into San Francisco via the Bay Bridge will no longer encounter a traffic split near the Fremont/Folsom off-ramp. Four lanes of freeway traffic will continue westbound while the two right lanes exit onto the Fremont/Folsom off-ramp.
See 511.org for details about any aspects of this project.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
The annual retreat means a couple of the Bay Area's biggest events will be missed, but not by you if you are lucky. Sept. 2-3 sees the return of the increasingly popular Oakland Art and Soul Festival. The event now costs a mere five bucks to see some of the most talented musical performers in the world, sample some of the best eclectic soul food around, hear the best of the Bay Area poetry rock your world and revel in the multi-culti smorgasbord of Oaktown beneath the gorgeous tree in front of City Hall which gives the place its name.
Calexico and the Bittersweets are expected to rock the house.
Acclaimed local writer Ishmael Reed is known to show up to mingle with the hoi polloi and distribute caustic observations on Mayor Brown, so don't be surprised to find yourself rubbing elbows with the glitterati in the crowd. If you go to the laid back Art & Soul Festival and don't have fun, then you must be dead.
Also not to be missed will be the fledgling Berkeley Jazz Festival which will present fourty-five solo artists and groups at fifteen venues from Tuesday through Sunday (Aug. 22 - Aug. 27). We know that our own Islanders Natasha Miller and Bobby Sharp will perform at the Jazzschool on 2087 Addison Way, August 27 as part of the festival windup. Many of the events are free of cover charge, including a mini-poetry slam at Half-Price Books with the likes of acclaimed Genny Lim and Richard Silberg. See dbjf.org for more info.
Van Morrisson will be opening for the Rolling Stones in another one of their massive arena-rock appearances here. Seems as long as Keith remains alive those guys are going to continue to avoid acting their respective ages. Don't bother asking about when and where: you can't afford it anyway. And it is probably sold out.
NEW TIMES! NEW TIMES!
If you want to hear the song that made the name of this domain space, you need to put your hands on a copy of the Violent Femmes' New Times. If you want a newspaper in downtown Island, you pop on over to the Newstand shack, which recently went through a renovation. Threatened by demolition by the owners of a trendy shoe store, the 1934 vintage kiosk was saved by local businesses and volunteers in an effort led by former councilperson Lil Arnerich. The kiosk, built for wheelchair-bound Paul Manning by a considerate financial magnate, the kiosk has been in continuous operation since before WWII. Manning died in the mid 1960's, but Larry Trippy continues the tradition, showing up for work at five a.m every day. Volunteers re-roofed the shack and renovated the exterior walls with new siding and fresh coats of yellow paint.
Mayor Beverly, who has an almost Bush-like pull for the ideal photo-op, appeared on the day of the Renovation Unveiling to give a speech all about preserving the character of Park Street.
Now if the mayor and council would only trash those nonsensical ideas of gigantism in the form of ruinous "big box stores" that incorporate totally fictional numbers in their plans, and massive cinema megaplexes guaranteed to fail, and god knows what other kind of foolishness, we would all be much better off. As one resident remarked angrily in a recent conversation, "The future of the Island should be that it does not change."
The nights are cool and the days gone typically cool until the high fog burns off. All the staff is giddy about the upcoming mountain retreat. This year we will go above 11,000 feet and stay there for a good two weeks among the globally warmed glaciers that remain, keeping pika and marmots company.
Meanwhile the Valley bakes with its usual 90 degrees and occasional wildfires erupt in the grasslands along the interstates. But that is far inland from here.
This past week, Eugenia Pitts paid a visit to relatives who live in Mankato, Minnesotta. That place is far from here, although not so far as Chicago. It is still a place somewhat west of the Mississippi, however the origin is thought to arise somewhere near Lake Itasca. We have been there, Lake Itasca that is, and found the spot to be as pleasant as one could wish for the origin of the Mississippi.
In any case Eugenia made ready, as any Californian would leaving the home state, by setting aside a store of self-defence weapons, including pepper spray, chinese firecrackers, a long formidible knitting needle, and a jar of homemade mango salsa, all of which she packed together in her checked baggage. It is well known that dangerously irrational people live outside of California, causing all sorts of mayhem and distress to ladies travelling. Beyond the Sierra Nevada, one encounted child murderers, kidnappers, satanists, crazy terrorists, Federal Building bombers, and all sorts of violent nonsense. Much of the lands east of the Sierra remained by repute steadfastly Republican, and infected with a savage hatred of all things Californian, despite all calls to common sense and decency.
Eugenia is a devout Catholic and at least one quarter Spanish and she worked as a public school teacher for the District for some forty years. She has never been to Minnesotta, but since Minnesotta has seen fit to pay visits to California from time to time, she saw it as only proper to return the favor.
"There are Lutherans there! And Methodists!" hissed her good friend, Fay Cortez. "Be careful! They have no ocean to moderate their impulses!" Fay came from the Phillipines.
Eugenia remained calm. Even people denied an ocean can learn manners and culture. Also Lutherans. Eugenia, as a sixth generation Californio, stemmed from a white-gloved society that abhorred bad behavior and which had feted an ingrateful Caruso in 1906. Now she was to depart the sheltered environs of genteel society so as to venture into the wilds of the savage wilderness made partway civilized by Norwegians and Swedes.
She could not recall ever having met a Norwegian or a Swede except down in Solvang, and even she could tell Solvang was not exactly an accurate depiction of Scandanavia, present or past.
She did know about lutefisk and that was something she most definitely did not want to sample. Those people buried a fish in the ground and poured lye upon it and then expected you to eat the stuff. No, lutefisk was not on her menu at all.
A mango salsa now, that was something she knew about, and she felt that, given the proper introduction, such a treat would go zonkers in Minnesotta. Even on herring. She would much rather try out her mango salsa than the knitting needle on rowdy Minnesottans, for that was her nature. Peaceful.
We are by nature a peaceful people and would much rather feed you than stab you and that is just the way it is here. The moderate weather causes bouts of reason to erupt from time to time. But such events are better left to a later discussion.
For an account of just what happened when a Californian visits Minnesotta, stay tuned two weeks from now.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great two weeks.
What about the one who said he loved you
What about the one who said he cared
Don’t bother trying to find him
Way up in the icy air
O you played with his heartstrings
And you played without a care
But not up in the High Sierra
You won’t play his heart out there
The angels lay their clouds across his sky
They line up for him every night
Some have wings and others sing
The rest do lazy ballets in the air
There he’s got a bird to give him warning
And he’s got a lookout too
The beauty of the High Sierra
And she’s looking out for you
What about the one who said he loved you
What about the one who said he cared
He’s off in the high sierra
But don’t bother looking there
Album : "Some Change"
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC SWEET MUSIC
Over at the Independent we note that the eclectic multi-culti Devotchka follows up a continuingly tasty series of cutting-edge bands which have garnered significant critical praise in advance of public recognition. Devotchka tosses their klezmer, Bulgarian, Middle-Eastern, French cabaret and gypsy mix of stuff on the fire 8/17. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band follows up next night with local Etienne de Rocher in an evening that will span Big Band to delicate solo guitar. The venue has its website at www.theindependentsf.com.
Guitar worshippers gather 'round the Oaktown Paramount for Certified Guitar God Jeff Beck deigns to grace the planet September 24th.
Understand Xavier Rudd dropped by recently for a flavorful Fillmore visit and some reggae beats syncopated by the digeradoo. In like vein, Michael Franti is out touring to support his newest CD release. Check out Spearhead in your local venue nearest you.
This weekend all the folks were down thronging the Strand in bathing suits when the sun finally emerged to gift the people with songs from a heaven long removed. The ground squirrels scampered and the BBQ grills seared the flesh. These are the final days of summer, with the rainless days now counted out on an abacus, and all the Harleys out snarking along the avenues like glittery bugs dusted with iridescent sheen. Would not be surprised if one were to suddenly spring over the trees and crouch on the lawn like a preying mantis before skittering up over the roof-tops with a chrome flurry of wings. In fact, this happens all the time, and people hardly take notice.
The latest report states that 50% of Americans living and of supposedly capable age believe in all seriousness that Iraq harbors WMD's.
Where are these people? I want this list; I have a piece of the Brooklyn Bridge to sell. Oh man, I want contact with these people so bad. They actually believe there still be WMD's in Iraq! I could be a rich man! Oh please baby, please baby, please baby please! You heard all about that guy in Nigeria who needs to get a billion dollars out of the country 'cause of political snafu? Well that guy is me! Just give me your bank account baby, and you get a percentage.
I promise its all true. As true as the WMDs in Iraq. Just hand over the numbers and trust me. Yeah, just trust me.
OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK
Farewell to Toby and Patrick who set out on the course of a new life up around Placerville. Also farewell to Corrina and her man, who hit the Eject button when the Angry Elf caused unpleasantness and bad maintenance and complaints unrectified. Other members here are expressing interest in eject. The Angry Elf roams the halls with his tiny fists balled up in fury. All the Old Guard must go. We are Artists and Individuals and therefore are to be ejected for the rules do not pursue this avenue and Rules are all important. This is one of the last Refuge buildings in the Bay Area and it has lost that status since the new Regime. Meanwhile the Angry Elf stamps and stamps his tiny feet in anger against originality, insousciance, and human emotion, from which he has cut himself off. He is the Angry Elf and one can only pity him and his kind.
The dead birds found on neighboring Bay Farm Island are not so excellent and even Peter Gabriel would agree, for these croaked crows are all infected with the deadly West Nile virus. Bay Farm is connected to the main island via a short twenty yard bridge.
The City won its case against the Pacific and Burlington Railroad, allowing the City to purchase the land occupied by a weed-grown, abandoned spur called The Alameda Beltline. The courts enforced an agreement signed in 1924 granting the City the right to purchase the land at 1924 prices. Current valuation of the property is over $20 million.
The Island recently marked a sad milestone in the Crimestoppers Handbook when 69 year old Blaise Basica was found beaten to death in his home at 1029 Lincoln Avenue. This makes the Island host to two homicides this year. Anyone having any information regarding the case please call the APD Violent Crimes Unit at 337-8319.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Its been a quiet week on the Island. The City Council appears dead set on completing the ludicrous Cineplex expansion project, complete with massive parking garage, as well as pursuing the invitation of "big box" stores to come here.
Well, the place used to be pretty nice. But nice, quiet, residential neighborhoods where kids play in the street don't bring in tax revenue.
On the upside, the new library is on track for completion in October. No one is talking about what to do with the old one-room Carnegie building. Personally, we would like to see it converted to an aviary. Perhaps we can put all those Canadian geese in there. Quite a while back, the geese decided that migration was too much of a bother what with all the global warming and such, so they just plooped down here to make a home between the Washington Middle School baseball field and the grass beside Crab Cove. The cove itself is home already to scads of white egrets who set up quite a clacking any time someone mentions raising the rent or changing the Birds-per-Tree allotment.
The dahlias are just now beginning to explode out there, and the gladiolas are starting to yield up their glories, even as the morning glories are mounting a serious offensive against the fence. No defence against the glory of morning, apparently, as the wall of bright blue and white flowers is now seven feet high.
Mike and Jim returned from their fishing trip, claiming in all seriousness to have caught several ten-pounders, only to let them all go. Susan refuses to comment upon this curious behavior, but then she does have a few oddities of her own. Susan makes lavishly colored shawls out of raw wool, pounding the stuff and working it until its soft as butter before she dyes the stuff in the most unmentionable liquids to get her indigos. The shawls go for about $400 a piece, and its rather pleasant to think about these Society Matrons attending the opera draped in something which has been colored with bodily fluids.
"Its the way they dyed fabric for thousands of years," says Susan.
Yes, and that is precisely why they invented polyester.
There is something about the dog days of August, with its Back to School sales at the Walgreens and its flurry of departing freshmen headed off to that great four-year adventure in what Nabokov called "The mansions of madness". The fog hangs lower and a little longer before burning off. We'll all have some lovely Minnesotta weather for a while before Mssr. Soleil body slams Northern California for one last reminder of the season in September. But for now, we all have the woolen blankets pulled up at night and leave the windows open to listen to the racoon family go chirruping among themselves outside along the trash bins.
Mrs. Carmine Pescera feeds them at night and they go right up the narrow stairs to munch on catfood, which cannot be very good for them. She feeds the squirrels too, and one of them she has named Stanley has gotten quite fat and confident. The other day something got into Stanley and he went after Festus during one of his rare sober periods. Festus was sweating and having god knows what sort of hallucinations at the time -- Mr. Stimpson, the court magistrate had ordered Festus to attend a AAA program -- and here came this enraged squirrel at him gnashing his teeth. Festus ran up the passageway but a car coming in made him run back and there he was running in circles with Stanley nipping at his heels. Fortunately for Festus, Stanley had gotten so fat he couldn't outrun the man any more than he could outrun any of the cats in the neighborhood, whom he beat up regularly.
We all think Mrs. Pescera puts steroids in the squirrel feed.
Festus finally got away by jumping, or say, rather, falling over the fence into the onion patch planted by Mr. Treadwell next door, while somebody threw out a walnut, on which Stanley pounced with glee. Nobody would go out to the car port while Stanley tore apart that walnut with his maddened eyes glaring in every direction.
Mr. Treadwell came out and seeing a strange person mashing his onion garden, took hold of a shovel and began beating Festus about the shoulders, accusing him of trespassing. Festus only cowered among the onions there and appeared in danger of getting into the swiss chard, which served to enrage Mr. Treadwell even more. With his shovel raised on high like the Biblical Canannites of old, he hooked the shovel on the clothesline there and bringing down the shovel, brought down the line, the clothes and the support post bolted to the rotten wall of the storage shed behind the carport on the other side. The support post fell against the power lines and brought down one line and the telephone service. The powerline fell sparking on Mr. Tarkieff's open convertible Miata and set the upholstery on fire while the telephone line dropped just as Mr. Ramsey was in the middle of downloading a salacious episode of "Bodacious Ta-Tas does West Texas". This made Mr. Ramsey stand up and look out the window to see the burning car.
He immediately dialed 911, but of course got no dial-tone.
Mrs. Wheaton, looking through her window, saw Mr. Ramsey standing there at his window, half naked and so she called 911 to report a flasher. The police arrived as Festus came running out with blood pouring from several head cuts and Officer O'Madhauen tackled Festus at the far curb for the crime of jaywalking as each end of the block was clearly marked with traffic control devices. The fire department finally arrived after police backup called by Officer O'Madhauen spotted the smoke from the burning Miata. Backup was called because of Mr. Tundra and Mr. Treadwell.
The street was filled now with the police, the fire department, and crowds of people who had come out when the power was cut. Mr. Tundra was screaming the most abusive language at Mr. Treadwell, and Mr. Treadwell looked about to use his shovel against the gesticulating Mr. Tundra. Mrs. Treadwell and the tenants from the common-law apartment were screaming at each other over the soil laundry.
While all this was going on, an Iranian submarine passing underneath the surface of the estuary, there to spy on activities taking place at the Port of Oakland on the other side, popped up its periscope to note all of these events. The captain's log for the day noted with puzzlement several "conspiracy" theories blaming Isreal for everything. The submarine glided from the estuary without being noticed.
After the fire got put out, Stanley was no where to be seen.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 6, 2006
WORKIN' ON THE HIGHWAY, WORKIN' ON THE BEDROCK
Underground utility work to take place along Park Street near Lincoln Avenue between August 7 and August 18
Alameda Power & Telecom advises that, in order to minimize impacts on traffic and businesses, nighttime construction work has been scheduled on Park Street at Lincoln Avenue over the next 2 weeks.
The work is necessary to complete Underground Utility District No. 29, which includes services to the new Alameda Free Library project.
Construction activities will take place between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., thus accommodating lane closures along Park Street for excavation, routing of utility facilities, and street restoration. To the extent that these activities may be conducted during daytime hours safely and without significant impacts to traffic and businesses, the work will be accelerated. All efforts to minimize noise will be taken, and area residents will be notified of the unusual hours of work.
The project is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 7, and to be completed by Friday, August 18.
I CAN HEAR THAT TRAIN A'COMIN' / ITS COMIN' 'ROUND THE BEND /
Just over the wire we have an AP report about a man who is being slammed for running a business out of his room without proper authorization. The wrinkles here about heavy-handed property management are many on this case, for the resident in question is a convict sentenced to life without parole in the most secure unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. Pelican Bay, located in Crescent City, is considered by many to be the most locked down, most secure prison in California and quite possibly the world, as prisoners are kept under constant surveillance twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Well, assignment to Pelican Bay is only for the hardest of the hard and running a business from your cell seems rather cushy on the face of it. Johnson, 46, has been locked up since 1980 for second-degree murder in a drug-related killing. In 1989, he was convicted of assaulting one guard and slashing the throat of another. Let's not coddle these killers now.
The catch here is that this supposed "business" never earned any money to the man, one Donny Johnson, as all proceeds go to fund a program for children of inmates. The nature of the business? Art. That's right, the man has turned out to be a talented painter who works with postcards as his canvas, dyes made from crushed M&Ms and brushes made from his own hair.
Prison officials say he was wrongfully engaged in a business without the warden's permission and faces unspecified "disciplinary action."
His lawyer, Charles Carbone, disputed that Johnson violated the rules.
"There's a very large question mark over the legality and morality of what the department has done to punish an inmate for trying to better himself and better his community," he said.
Johnson lives in an 8-by-12-foot concrete cell. Meals are pushed through a slot in the door. He talks to the occasional visitor on a telephone through thick Plexiglas, but that's his only interaction with anyone.
To alleviate boredom and loneliness, Johnson turned to art and got the attention of Stephen Kurtz, a semiretired psychoanalyst who runs the nonprofit Pelican Bay Prison Project and became a pen-pal with Johnson four years ago.
When Johnson starting sending paintings to him in Mexico about a year ago, Kurtz said he and his wife, an artist, were stunned.
"We looked at these things and said, 'These are damn good,' " Kurtz said from his San Miguel de Allende home. When he learned how Johnson created his tiny abstract works, he was even more impressed.
Because he's not allowed to have any art materials in his cell, Johnson orders "supplies" from the prison commissary. Once a month, he buys 10 packs of M&Ms at 60 cents each. He then puts a few candies in small plastic containers, and soaks the candies in water. Johnson's "paint" is left behind. With a brush made of plastic wrap, foil and strands of his own hair he then layers blank postcards with vibrant colors, shapes and spirals.
Yeah, that lemon yellow acrylic Duco is sure dangerous stuff. No telling what a convict could do with a camel's hair no. 2 brush.
Renowned abstract artist Kenneth Noland saw Johnson's work in a New York Times article last month and was impressed, according to his studio manager, Sterling Robinson.
"Ken has always encouraged painters young and old who have talent," Robinson said. "Not only does this guy have talent, but he's done wondrous things with what he's got."
Kurtz organized a showing in Mexico last month. Nearly 500 people packed into a gallery where a giant bowl of M&Ms greeted them at the entrance. Twenty paintings have sold at $500 apiece, Kurtz said. And as mentioned, not a dime went to Johnson.
But "rules ist rules und orders ist orders! Ja wohl!"
Island-Life feels this treatment of Johnson by the authorities is hamfisted, obtuse, obnoxiously and unnecessarily rules-ordered, and more evocative of a Stalinist regime than any institution subject to considerations of humanity.
It is not known if the warden is an Angry Elf or if his name is Tundra.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Cooling fogs once again hug the coastline, returning the Golden State to some semblance of normal, while the Valley has returned to more moderate temps after the vicious heat that killed almost a hundred people here up and down the length of California. The Island has its own power utility and its own grid, which enabled it to avoid rolling blackouts during the power emergency caused by the heat.
Not due to the heat, at least that heat that comes from the air as registered by thermometers posted on cracked and peeling walls, but another kind, the Bay Area appears to be suffering from an uptick of wildness of the most deadly kind. Arguments break out on street corners and suddenly bullets are flying every which way, sometimes wacking into innocent passersby. The homicide rate has seriously ratcheted up in all cities around the Bay, but especially in Oakland, where it seems almost every teenager has a weapon tucked into the waistband. Local police have taken notice as have local communities, but the best explanation that has come up is that the kids feel they have no options and no future. In truth, every analyst has remarked that not only has the gap between rich and poor steadily widened, but real movement upwards among the middle-class on down has come to a virtual halt since the "Reagan Revolution".
Welcome to the Bush America.
Now the days open under the morning fogs quietly with the last gladiolas glimmering from their lofty spikes. Corn is just now getting some serious height and the hydrangeas are beginning to fade out, one by one after their sudden and exuberant eruptions. The roses all are going great guns with the sunlight in full celebration and even Father Morales has moderated his sermons.
Unlike places like Minnesota and Alabama, we don't have single, large blocs of one church or the other with coherent -- and dominant -- ethnicities to hold them together. Oh, we have a passel of Catholics, for sure, as becoming a Catholic used to be a criterion for living in California, as well as learning Spanish. But this Island is host to Babtists of the usual sort as well as their more extreme brethren shipped over as foreign missionaries from Texas, and we have Lutherans, but our Lutherans don't look anything like the Lutherans of the Great North. No sirree. Last time the Lutheran church here put in a July 4th float with all those beauties wearing shorty miniskirts and boots, the 911 calls on account of heart attack all along Webster Street caused the Chamber of Commerce to enforce a Parade regulation of no hems more than two inches above the knees.
Pastor Svenquist kept it demure this time with a calypso band consisting of congregation members from Jamaica.
The Christian Bikers for Christ all gathered out in front of the Church of the Unspecified Denomination to flex tattoos before roaring off in a great swirl of leather and chrome.
Sundays in August are times for casually industrious activity.
Amber of the First Floor was seen scampering off to a Pirates Theme evening
at Der Speisekammer. Didn't know there were ever any German pirates, other
than the very unstylish kind. One can just imagine how it played out: "JA,
stand undt be afraid! Vee vill now pillage you now, JA, mit cutlass und alles!
You haff a telefon?"
No, somehow it just does not work. The French and the British (sometimes) have style. The Germans have sauerbraten and sour cabbage. We dined at Der Speisekammer and found the food typically German: bland and requiring a good deal of beer to wash it down. That's why German beer is really good -- the food in Germany is really awful. Worse than the Irish, if you can believe it.
We have no Germans on the Island. None. Other than descendants of the little people from the cast of the Wizard of Oz. Who we understood would stamp around in a circle during breaks in shooting, chanting, "The wicked witch is a mean old bitch!" Some of them settled here on the Island. But they don't really count as Germans, per se.
Summertime is not really a lazy time for adults. Maybe for kids hopping on down to the lake to hunt for fish with spears and slingshots and makeshift angler rods which might, with luck, hook a diseased codfish. Which is brought back from the poisoned reservoir with great fanfare, photographed, and then laid in the yard next to the dead cat.
For adults, summer is a time for sweaty rummaging through the boxes for lost photo albums because Aunt Julie wants a copy of that darling photo of Snickers dressed in the banana costume during the Xmas pageant in 1976. Summer is a time for digging the tubers and rooting the grass properly, repairing the fence -- if one is allowed to keep the wood on one's property, and clearing the eaves. Summer is tremendous work and most adults look forward to cold weather and rain and such to bring relief. At last, an end to planting and watering and fertilizer!
During the summer, the Blue Angels roar overhead during Fleet Week and tourists pester the beejeesus out of everybody trying to get somewhere impossible to get to. August sees a tapering off of these visitations, until only the people one has seen daily for the past ten years appear on the horizon. In the East Bay we don't have any of this irritating, nonsensical attitude found in the City among White People which demands temporary visa status of anyone not born and raised in the vicinity and which seeks to drive out anyone born and raised here with sheer obnoxiousness besides. We live well enough among ourselves.
The East Bay is host to people who understand People and who have no Attitude. This is the warmer side of the Bay.
Over across the fence Mr. Silvio squirts weedkiller on the jasmine plants laid in some five years ago by Ms. Julie. Seems he dislikes their tendency to reach over the fence and drop flower petals on the trash bins there. Old Festus is in a rage because the weedkiller is landing on his planting of chard and roses and chives and onions on the other side. Everywhere the weedkiller hits, brown spots appear on the plants there and already the Sweet William has succumbed to the onslaught.
There is no easy answer here for the jasmine has grown some six feet high over the years and smells sweet when it flowers. On this side of the fence. It is unknown just why a sweet smell around garbage bins is objectionable to Mr. Silvio. Meetings are being held on the subject in this district. Stay tuned for further developments.
In other developments we have noticed a number of coddled poodles appearing here and there. Each one seems to represent about six links of poodle sausage stuffed with apple and seasoning, or perhaps a single rack of poodle BBQ, serving one, with sauce and potato salad. Nice tasty poodle, grilled up fresh on the barbie with Everett and Jones BBQ sauce dripping down the side.
Just speculation, my friends. November is not so far off. Long term readers know what this means.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 30, 2006
ZIDANE SAVES ITALIAN LIFE
(An Island-Life Expose)
The entire world is still in a flutter over the World Cup headbutt that terminated a renowned footballer's career. Island-Life has obtained footage proving that Zidane's actions, far from being the detestable response to wretched provocation understood by many, in reality was a courageous effort of love and affection for the opposing team player.
Watch the video and judge for yourself.
IF I HAD A BOAT, I'D SET OUT ON THE OCEAN
Lyle Lovett had nothing on two Islanders, Shawn Throwne and Neil Weinberg, who piloted their "Contessa" from San Francisco Bay to Kaneaohe Bay, taking first place in the West Marine Pacific Cup. The Contessa is a 52.5 foot sloop of the Swede 55 class and managed the voyage in 12 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes.
WHAT I DO
Many people have expressed some puzzlement about computers, how and why they operate the way they do. To clarify things somewhat, we include here a portion of a diagram which illustrates what happens inside that mysterious box attached to your keyboard and mouse. Bear in mind this is only a small part of the diagram.
We deal mostly with routers. Routers are the backbone of the Internet, as you have heard many times. Dick Cheney did not invent the Internet, nor does he understand it very well, but he does own a rooter, which is something similar to a router.
Finally, some of you Old School types probably still use serial mice. Those little devils get into trouble all the time, and you may require mouse adapters to get yourself out of it. Here are a pair of mouse adapters.
DREAMS OF PEACE
The Angry Elf has stirred up a hornet's nest and gotten the Evil Queen excited. People are leaving the building as he gnashes his teeth and balls his tiny fists with rage. Someone dared question his absolute authority. Now the Evil Queen sends the red searchlight of her lidless Eye across the water to affright the birds. The Angry Elf will have his way. He must have it, he simply must. And he demands Respect. Which he must have, or he will run to his mommy in complaint.
The Angry Elf wants to swallow the entire world, as well as most of Manhattan and Flatbush. But he cannot do that; its impossible. And this makes him angrier still. Beware the Angry Elf of St. Charles, for he is most vindictive and jealous of power.
ART AND WINE FESTIVAL
The Island hosted its 22nd Art and Wine down on the main drag, for all of its 8 blocks of glory. Dropped in to catch the Alameda Allstars, an unprepossessing band name if ever there was one. Turns out the previous incarnation for this lineup was as mainstay and bulwark for 12 years to Greg Allman. Um, yeah. THAT Greg Allman. These guys have stood before SRO stadiums of 60,000 screaming people and collected Grammies like spare change. Sunday, they ripped through several blues numbers, including a tasty version of Statesboro Blues (orig. by Blind Willie McTell). It was no wonder a crowd gravitated down by the Encinal end of the promenade.
The Festival featured quite a nice lineup of music, which made the long lines of the usual kitsch suspects and tchotchkes booths a bit more bearable.
It was quite marvelous to stroll down the way and hear music coming from virtually every doorway, or so it seemed. Got into a confab with a fellow in the doorway of the Emerald Garden about New Orleans. The Jazz Pirates were launching through a nice rendition of a Coltrane thing. Does not matter what the name of the piece was; what mattered was the music lived for a time right there in the doorway of the Emerald Garden.
In addition, there were the pony rides and the climbing wall to enjoy for the smaller brethren among us. There was all kinds of beer-drinking, dancing, jumping up and down, art improvement kinds of things and at the end of the day, a fine time was had by all.
ROLL AWAY THE DEW
In another time's forgotten space . . . the four winds came at last, bringing the dense fog to soothe the Bay Area at last. All along the coastal range up to Petaluma you could see the dense mantle laid over the green hills, right back where it belongs. Modesto and the Valley in general continues to bake, however.
Its been another quiet week on the Island. Old Festus has been stirring about the languishing pepper trees, the corn has been firing up like great guns, and the neighbor across the fence has taken to complaining about the jasmine overgrowing his fence. Harlan has been cycling through a series of signs with disturbing religious themes posted on the side of his house. People here are wondering if the man has taken to the Babtist religion, which is an odd version as all agree, even the members thereof.
Down at the Lutheran church the theme has been "Okay, then." The official subject of the St. Joseph Cathedral this Sunday was listed as "Yo, Dude, chill and keep it Real!" The Synagogue checked in Saturday with the theme "Try Kreplach instead of Bombs".
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 23, 2006
LIKE THE WEATHER
A toasty Friday gave way to an incendiary Saturday as a heat wave broke all records throughout California going back to the beginning of officially recorded temperatures. Livermore and Concord got the worst of it, with 115 degrees, three more than the record set in 1917.
A blanket of high pressure cooked the Bay Area and state today, smashing numerous temperature records, bringing on an unheard-of weekend statewide power emergency and sparking power outages affecting 50,000 Bay Area homes.
Out in the valley temperatures peaked at 115° in Tracy,while around the state, Palm Springs registered 119 and Burbank 111 — only three degrees cooler than Death Valley — as of 3 p.m. Saturday.
Because of the nature of the Bay Area micro-climates, registered temperatures varied between 98° at the Oakland airport, and over 111° in San Anselmo, where Island Life attended an outdoor social event hosted by the Marin Illuminati. Attendees included prose author Molly Giles and nature poet Stephen Torre. The occasion celebrated his 65th birthday of Mary Beth Whittemore.
The wine sparkled and the wit flowed long all night until the early hours.
SAY THAT AGAIN
It came to Island Life's attention that in the midst of all the brouhaha surrounding the Cineplex project, no one had actually purchased the building to be renovated; that entire aspect had been left to last in the series of things to do. This past week the city finally bought the theater building for approximately 3.2 million after threat of lawsuit from the buildings owner.
A dog bite was reported at 5:38 p.m. on the 3000 block of Lincoln Avenue Monday, July 10. Tuesday featured a rash of vehicle thefts, three vandalism reports, and to a legal shopping cart possessions on the 1300 block of Park Street. Wednesday featured five vandalism reports, and several traffic violations. Thursday clocked in with two vandalism reports and a possible prowler on Arbor Drive. Friday featured two vandalism reports. On that very hot Saturday, the island enjoyed to grand thefts a vehicle theft on Versailles Avenue, two vandalism reports, arrest for DUI and obstructing a police officer at the Police Headquarters. Sunday, July 16, there were three vandalism reports, illegal possession of a shopping cart, dog bites reported on the 2200 block of Shoreline Drive, and numerous traffic infractions.
You have to wonder about how those the "illegal shopping cart possessions" were handled. It's a jungle out there in the dark heart of the Sin City.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
Something to note at Stern Grove, a notable venue for its free concerts given on weekends during the summer in The City, will be Ozomatli appearing August 20. No longer at the venue for boring revivals of tired chamber arrangements from unknown classical orchestras, Stern Grove has become rather hip in recent years. This weekend, Mavis Staples headlined with Jackie Green.
Fallout continues to settle about the recent acoustic Foo Fighters concert, with a variety of people who seem to wish musicians never to change, and who always want to hear the same songs played exactly the same way all the time, so they can have their little cheery sing-alongs dissing this band for not playing like another band, which broke up after its lead singer and songwriter shot himself in the head. Then there are those people who enjoy what the Foo Fighters do now as opposed to what they did then. As Courtney said, "Grunge is dead. You know that, don't you? Grunge has been dead for a while."
SUMMERTIME, WHEN THE LIVING IS EASY
Michael Franti is rapping over the stereo right now, during the Sunday Night Jam. The night trains are tooting their way through the Jack London waterfront, as folks gradually wend their way indoors to gradually cooling rooms, and the comforting window breezes. When it gets this hot no real work can be done by anybody. And the truly obnoxious, who live here, become truly more obnoxious. We have here in Our House on the Block, an Angry Elf who refuses to do the work he is paid for - including repairing of the Windows, the walls, the roof and the doors. But who delights in doing the work assigned to someone else, because this work involves him exerting power over other people. He loves to tell people that they may not do this and they may not do that, and that's just the way things are. He is quite surprised when he finds that he has lost respect. So it is for the Angry Elf. One can only pity him and his miserable life, tortured and convoluted as it is.
Island Life bids adieu to newlyweds, Toby and Pat, who leave the Island for the foothills at the end of this month. In like mind, we bid adieu to Corinna and her man as she leaves for more congenial surroundings free of Angry Elves and irritating Management. Best of luck in your new adventure.
Meanwhile the rest of us minor Hobbits remain in thrall under the Evil Elf until such time as things shall change. We labor under his Dominion and his Command, which comes from the Evil Queen of Spades, who has no soul to speak of. The black lash flails over us as the Angry Elf has his Way and there is no peace in the land of Lothlorien during this time. You must clear the garage for it is Cluttered, and not by our own evil deeds but by your works. We must clear the storage for it is cluttered with storage and as such is beyond our ken most formidably. Forbidden are the garage sales of old, for garage sales are a blight and blasphemy against the Queen. No sales of any kind may take place in front of the building, not even that of t-shirts. We cannot turn the wheels of Providence and heat control. He chooses not to do so, in any case, for controlling the heat is outside the lease, and so there is swelter and anguish in the house of Ms. Toni S. of the third floor.
Where now is Frodo to free us from this odorous malifactotum? The Evil Elf has us in thrall here on St. Charles and few are our resources against such a weird person. For although a handyman by trade, he repairs not, nor fixes, but sneers as he issues yet another prohibition.
Meanwhile the weather has turned strange, when we would have written about the annual passage of this and that and the advancement of fog.
Past midnight and the echo of the trains comes across the water.
Its too damn hot to write another word. And that's just the way it is on the
Island. Have a great week.
JULY 16, 2006
IN YOUR HONOR
We caught the Foo Fighters Thursday night at the Berkeley Community Theater on a spontaneous whim. When 100 seats were opened up suddenly from the sold-out show, Island-Life Event Coordinator, E.Venus, phoned in the news and tickets were gotten pronto.
For those of you needed it little catch-up, in the late 80s, popular music remained in the doldrums, a slush pile of aging punk rockers, tediously untalented bimbos, and general apathy in a malaise-ridden the economy governed by a nonsensical Reaganomics. In particular, the Pacific Northwest suffered by the general economic conditions of the time, with people languishing in the middle of the lumber industry downturn.
The brittle but powerful music of singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain gave these people a voice of their own. Cobain's band, Nirvana, created an entirely new music genre called "grunge", which gave people a lot of heart during difficult times. That was until 5 April, 1994, when Cobain penned a vitriolic suicide note, put the barrel of a shotgun into his mouth and blasted his talent and tortured soul onto the blood-splattered ceiling.
As his widow, Courtney Love, proceeded to excoriate her own soul publicly on stage -- and in several crisis clinics -- for several years, the former drummer of Cobain's band, Dave Grohl, formed a new band called the Foo Fighters, which developed sufficient notoriety as to provoke Courtney Love into seizing the rights to all of Cobain's music.
The actual term 'Foo Fighter' was coined by US Air Force pilots during the Second World War to describe the anomalous balls of light that they saw flying alongside them at high altitudes. As well as naming the band after a form of UFO, Dave recorded music in a aircraft hangar on the site of the former airbase located in Roswell, New Mexico. The name of his label is called Roswell Records.
The Foo Fighters lineup has fluctuated between three and five members, indicating that this particular outfit is not well-suited for comfortable coasting.
A typical Foo Fighters record consists of loud, brash guitars, extensive distortion, and severely oblique lyrics. It is no surprise that in their latest effort, the former Led Zeppelin drummer, John Paul Bonham, shows up for a cameo performance. Dave Grohl, however, has frequently demonstrated a more sophisticated and musically apt sensibility that all of this headbanging allows for. The result of this is a duel CD set, nominated now for over five Grammies, featuring a loud electric CD paired with a strictly acoustic CD, which allows for the softer, sensitive side to emerge. In promotion of this CD set, Titled "In Your Honor," Dave has assembled a nine person ensemble, featuring regular Foo on drums Taylor Hawkins, Chris Schifflet on guitar, bassist Nate Mendel, former Foo guitarist Pat Smear, along with additions Petra Haden on violin, Rami Jaffee on keyboards, Drew Hester on percussion, and a cameo on lead guitar from their roadie whose name we unfortunately could not obtain. Photographer Danny Clinch tossed in a pleasant harmonica solo.
Critics are saying, the first CD of "In Your Honor," is largely business as usual, but the second CD provides significant sonic surprises, as in the Gershwin-style "Virginia Moon".
After a quite a nice warm up, from newcomer Timmy Curran, who supplied a tasty set of solo guitar heavily inflected with Appalachian style blues, Dave Grohl led off with a Spanish style Romance "On the Mend" which culminated with a full ensemble crescendo. While Dave stuck to a full-bodied dreadnought for most of the evening, swapping guitars only after busting a string, Schifflet and Smear rotated through a droolingly enviable assortment of f-hole semi-hollow body arch-tops with silver appointments to die for.
At one point, Dave Grohl commented that the tour was a pleasant change from the usual headache-inducing and voice-robbing yowling. Because of the size of the ensemble, all members remained seated throughout the performance as there simply was no room on stage for jumping around or mic stand theatrics. In fact, it was rather gratifying to watch, very talented musicians devote themselves to sophisticated and well coordinated harmony. It's clear the Dave Grohl is a very talented multi-instrumentalist as are most of his band members. Jaffee worked not one, not two, not three, but four keyboard sets as well as an electric accordion. Petra Haden worked an electric mandolin and provided quite delightful vocals during a duet on "Virginia Moon," as well as solo vocal on the ethereal"Floating".
Some people have accused Dave & Co. of copping out, of doing something other than what they originally did, whatever that was. It seems there is a tremendous sentiment out there, which wants to preserve certain musicians in drops of amber. It seems these people want to hear the same old hits the same old way over and over all the time.
A recent flame on one I-net post slammed Neil Young for doing a tour to promote his "Greendale" project instead of recapping the oldies from CSNY, thus denying the pleasures of a "singalong" fest. Would that these zombies simply die and leave the living alone.
Hell, if we wanted to hear Paul McCartney, we would've paid $100 a ticket to see the old guy do the same old Beatles. Or maybe sat at home with headphones on listening to "Revolver". Over and over again. Interminably.
The Foo Fighters put on an excellent show, whether fully electric or acoustic, and are always worth the price of admission -- especially if you happen to score tickets in the first four rows at the last-minute of a fully sold-out two night series of shows. They well-earned their thunderous ovation at close. A spare "Everlong" with an ensemble crescendo tacked on concluded the encore.
If you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own. Just you try.
COLE CLOREN UPDATE
Some of you have written inquiring about the status of Cole Cloren, the young man who was savagely attacked a few years ago by a would-be thief. After demanding drugs from Cole and his nearby friend, the attacker suddenly smashed Cole's skull with a stolen scooter. Cole was rushed to the trauma center at Highland Hospital, but was not expected to survive or ever emerge from a coma. As papers were being drawn up to harvest his internal organs Cole moved his hand, beginning a long recovery process.
Although he still has difficulty walking and communicating verbally, Cole has made a remarkable recovery from coma and near-death. The primary goal at this point is for cold to become capable of living independently.
The chance at hand is at the Center for Transitional NeuroRehabilitation at the Barrow Institute in Phoenix, which has accepted Cole into a program that can work wonders. It is one of four such programs in the world. The Barrow Rehab Center principally serves patients from states where assigned funds or insurance covers such rehabilitation. That is not the case for Cole or California residents.
It will cost about $400,000 for a year in Phoenix and the full program at the Barrow's Center. Without this type of intensive help Cole will never function independently.
Donations can be sent to the Cole Cloren Family Trust, Account No. 9666-706933, Wells Fargo Bank, 821 Marina Village Parkway, Alameda, CA 94501. Alternatively, checks can be made payable to St. Joseph Hospital, the Barrow parent organization, and mailed to Give Cole A Chance, PO Box 94, Alameda, CA 94501-0394.
You can also donate via Paypal on the web site set up to cover this particular issue. The URL is as follows: http://www.givecoleachance.org/.
FIGHT THE POWER (Public Notice)
State Officials have called a Flex Alert! The alert was called by Cal ISO, which monitors state energy consumption and reserves. CISO typically contacts the State Governor at each in alert.
• Turn off unneeded lights, computers and appliances.
• Set air conditioner thermostat to 78° F when you're home and 85° F or off when you're away.
• Use major appliances after 7 p.m.
What Is the "Flex Alert"?
The Flex Alert notifies California businesses, governments and residents when they should follow specific conservation and load-shifting measures to immediately reduce their electricity use. The alert is used to prevent Stage One Electrical Emergencies – times when electricity reserves are low.
Go to http://www.fypower.org/now for more info.
For current Cal ISO information, go to http://www.caiso.com/newsroom/releases/
MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER
That wacky Harlan is still at it, posting inscrutable messages on the side of his house for all on Lincoln to see and marvel at. His latest remains typically Harlanesque and impenetrable:
Conspiracy theorists are welcome to submit suggestions as to meaning any time. For those of you new to this site, Harlan has been posting these signs on butcher block paper outside his house for several years. For quite a long time, no one ever actually saw the man in the act of swapping the signs, which would change at least once per day, until one of our corespondents caught the man scampering out of his back yard at dusk. Harlan spoke to our man-on-the-street for about two hours, but left the reporter scratching his head, no wiser than before as to what it all means. "See that up there where it says 'Bee Bee'? That refers to Netayanhu (then Israeli Prime Minister)", Harlan said.
TIMES LIKE THESE
Its been a quiet week on the Island. The McIntosh couple are moving out to Placerville there in the Sierra foothills, and our Event Coordinator celebrated a birthday -- either 49 or 50, attendees were too drunk on Mimosas to figure it out correctly -- with a backyard BBQ.
People have asked, "Well just how many of you are there involved in this project called "Island Life?" The answer fluctuates at various times between two and twenty-five. No one has ever achieved a paycheck doing this, so the numbers are difficult to tally. The rare photo of the "Silver Zephyr" was a one-off submission from Mike, but he threatens to submit yet more curios. We have corespondents in Sweden, Germany, Japan, and various mobile points in the Balkans. Send us a line anytime and let us know what country you are from and what country you are in.
Photos of anybody recognizable need to have a standard model release. You know the procedure. If you don't, contact the Getty Archive for Press credentials first and work it out.
Okay now. Dark night has fallen. By now all the fire arts people are home snug in their beds after the annual Crucible Festival. Had a spat with an annoying and very Angry Elf associated with the Crucible so we found other Things to Do during the celebration of fire. We prefer working with textiles in any case. More comfy. If you know what we mean.
Gladiolas are not done erupting, and the tomatoes are just beginning their dance. The baby opossum who has been visiting the garden just scampered along the fence. Had a confab with House resident Rex who suddenly started playing the plaintive blues the other day in response to the Mideast news reports. Seems Rex was driving along one day in a country far away when the roadblock boys put a gun to his head and a machete to his throat demanding money. At that moment a ray of light from some otherworldly heaven came down and spared him for he had not a single penny on him. .
They spared his life but slaughtered every soul in the line after his car. It was a memorable bloodbath. One does not forget these kinds of things easily. 'Round about that time he decided to move from Nigeria to America.
We like Rex and his music, drifting out the open windows from his instruments, makes us feel good out there in the garden, which is so different from the big farm he left behind. In the green fuse that drives the flower. Sometimes it is so difficult for Americans with their Burger Kings and their shopping malls and their Prada lines to remember that all of this is so very fragile.
In the world so filled with evil and the ways of Evil with a capital E, there is only the conviction that one's own quiet corner is kept peaceful and tidy. None of you can remove the men with guns and machetes forever from the world. None of you can make Hamas "recognize" Israel or make Israel the slightest less intransigent against Palestinians, but you can make music or some such thing to balance this evil in the world.
For without music, there would only be Katayusha rockets and men with guns and machetes and nothing else.
If continued long enough, perhaps someone who can make a difference will pay attention to the melody.
Thats the way it is on the Island. Have a peaceful week.
(straight 8th notes, all downstroke)
I've waited here for you
I throw myself into
And out of the red out of her head she sang
Come down and waste away with me
Down with me
Show how you wanted it to be
Over my head, out of my head she sang
And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You've got to promise not to stop when I say when
So I can breathe you in
Hold you in
I know you've always been
Out of your head out of my head I sang
And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You've got to promise not to stop when I say when
And I wonder
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You've got to promise not to stop when I say when
JULY 9, 2006
SANDY, THE FIREWORKS ARE HAILING OVER LITTLE EDEN TONIGHT
The annual Fourth of July at Mayor's parade was a surprisingly disappointing event this year. The crowd was singularly unenthusiastic, and the entries seemed singularly bland, with an emphasis upon corporate presence. The parade was entirely lacking in the usual casual insouciance, was far shorter than in years past -- ending before noon -- when before in the parade had lasted until 2 p.m., and did not possess a single float that did not appear heavily subsidized by some external agency. Most of the churches had entries, several real estate agencies presented floats, and the usual raft of politicians swelled the beginning of the parade, but there were none of the spontaneous local community entries that gave the parade a cheerful informality. Notably, the figure of The Little Tramp riding a tiny motor scooter failed to appear at the end of the parade for the first time in 15 years. There were more Caballeros, but that was the extent of funkiness this year in a very bland and very forgettable parade. We would advise you to skip this event next year, if it happens the same way.
THEY CALL ALABAMA "THE CRIMSON TIDE"
By now most of you have returned to your normal lives for as of this hour, A deserving Italy has been declared World Master at the World Cup in Germany. It has been an eventful week for soccer fans, especially for the Germans. Our German correspondent has been unavailable for weeks, but recently has responded with an in-country report. Due to deadline considerations this report could not be presented last week when it would have been more timely. Here with we present the report from Germany:
"... at the end of a workday, I find myself usually in the Fan-Arena, where the atmosphere is simply perfect: collective celebration, dancing, singing... simply wild.
Quite new is this fresh, exciting relationship between the people and their national symbols. Flags have appeared everywhere -- on cars, in Windows, painted on faces, drawn on T-shirts. Previously, no one presented a flag. Such a thing was considered to be problematic, and carried connotations of neo-Nazi impulses.
Before the World Cup, everyone here was filled with pessimism: our team was too young, too inexperienced, not good enough. Now the case is "our boys" are magnificently young, wonderfully fresh, and successful.
Hannover has hosted five games in this stadium. And that meant that for that particular day of the match you had at least 40,000 Mexicans and Italians, Swiss and Koreans, Polish and Costa Ricans, French and Spanish people all over the pedestrian area stretching from the train station almost to the stadium flooding the Biergaerten and the outdoor cafés. And they were all wearing either the jerseys of their team or at least matching T-shirts. The most astonishing fact was and still is the effect it had and still has on Germans who all of a sudden realized that they could actually leave their notorious pessimism behind and that Lebensfreude is actually something we can celebrate along with people from other nations.
In a Newsweek article it said that right now billions of fans around the globe are eating, breathing and sleeping soccer - all except the Americans - and that is certainly true for us. What we are experiencing here is a lot more than just soccer. It is a redefinition of what it could mean to be German. And this euphoria is catching. Even people who are not into soccer enjoy this new "Leichtigkeit" and watch some of the matches, even an American friend from Fairbanks, Alaska, who stayed with us this past weekend did not mind watching one of the matches somewhere in a Biergarten, probably her first soccer match ever. And she really enjoyed the atmosphere."
This report was filed prior to the match between Germany and Italy in which German hopes for World Cup first-place were dashed by a far more sophisticated and experienced team. Nevertheless, the match for third place against Portugal, which took place on Saturday continued this general sentiment in which an entire people appears to have found a new soul. As this accompanying photo indicates. The text is translated as "We are the World Masters of the Heart."
(Translations courtesy of Die Dolmetscher Institut Muenster)
Meanwhile, our correspondent from North Beach in the City has reported delirious excitement over the Italian victory in double overtime penalty shoot-out. Friends ultimately behaved badly burning bad karma, which has resulted naturally in instant payback. One can forgive many things, but headbutting the opposition behind the back of the umpire is very bad form in any sport. And besides Italians are so delightful in general. We are glad that the World Cup goes to them this time.
As for the secondary matches played out, we we must report a disappointing defeat between Spain and the Ground Squirrel Nibblers this week. It was a touch and go game from the very beginning, when the formidable Spanish took advantage early on in their height advantage. The final score was 16 to 2. The disappointed Americans returned with some pride intact after their successive victories over supposedly unbeatable teams.
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
Things got warm in the old neighborhood Saturday night when a house on Santa Clara Avenue behind Mastic Center caught fire approximately 10 p.m. and pulled four Hook and ladder fire trucks to fight the blaze shooting 200 feet into the air and threatening houses for three blocks in all directions. Staff members of Island-Life went up to the office roof to watch the blaze and firefighting efforts well past midnight. A Mr. Rodriguez had recently sold the Edwardian-era building, which was then undergoing renovation and painting. No one lived in the building, but inhabitants were evacuated for a block in all directions during the firefighting efforts. The next-door neighbor, a 92 year-old woman happened to notice flames emitting from the eaves and called 911. We watched the roof cave in as large streams of water poured onto the structure from two ladder-trucks.
Several locals expressed suspicions as to the cause of the blaze. The case is under investigation.
Several large blazes in open areas have occurred regionally in the past few days due to fireworks ignition.
UNDER THE BRIDGE
Island Life staffers were disturbed Sunday evening during production by yet another intrusion from interlopers, when noise from the back property brought staffers to the balcony to see two guys begging for help from a group that intended to kill them. We offered to call 911, but this seemed to make them more nervous. Staffers called 911 anyway, and the police arrived within two minutes to find the two anxious persons had left after destroying a small fence along the garden in their haste to escape whatever trouble they had caused. All in a days work at Island-life.
I KNOW I'M NOT ALONE
It's been another quiet week on the Island, notwithstanding houses burning down and silly boys in trouble stomping through the stathis flowerbed. Our in-house musician, Rex Suru, is coming out with a new CD soon. Along the same vein in World Music, we hear that local fave, Michael Franti, has a new one out with his band Spearhead. We wish him all the best for Michael Franti expresses the voice of peace and reason in his music. And those are very good things.
Right now, the sun has just finished burning off the evening fog, leading to another hot day and making the spears of gladiolus glow vividly incarnadine along the fence until the afternoon causes the winds to shift, bringing in the roiling fogs to suddenly cool the earth with tones of bluish gray. There will be a full moon tonight. That's the way it is on the island; have a great week.
JULY 2, 2006
STEALIN', STEALIN', STEALIN'
If you have noticed recently, several men resembling Agent Smith, wearing absurdly conservative and very un-Californian conservative suits as they stroll around talking into their lapels in and around City Hall recently. This has not been simply paranoia.
An Island city building inspector allegedly told a local restaurant owner, "you help me and I'll help you," in what the FBI said was an attempt to solicit bribes.
Hans Warner Williams was arraigned in the county Superior Court on Friday, and could face up to four years in state prison if he is convicted on two felony counts of solicitation of bribery. The FBI began investigating Williams after the owner of Chef's Wok on Webster St. complained to the city that the inspector was demanding free food and other favors in exchange for overlooking building problems.
Mr. Wiu, the restaurant owner, participated in the scheme until Williams demanded straight cash in lieu of a business account established at the Economy Lumber in Oakland plus a food blender from Costco. Perhaps Williams should have taken the blender, considering the trouble he is now in.
BUCKING THE TREND
The Island Animal Control Office has been scratching its collective head recently over reports that a deer has been seen galloping about the West End, which includes the vast expanse of the abandoned Navy base. It is not surprising that an animal can stay hidden way out there in the overgrowth. The big question is how in the devil did a deer wind up on an island, which has a large metropolitan area between it and the nearest undeveloped land, where deer are known to graze. Anyone who sees this deer can call the animal shelter at 337-8565.
GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
The Island is host to many of the great and near great. It was here that the infamous freeway scene in the Matrix Series was filmed. For that scene at entire freeway was built and then torn down at the end of the production. Famous jujitsu teachers and famous pro wrestlers have called this hallowed spot home. Recently, the island claimed yet another feather in its cap, when Island resident Craig, "Hot Lixx Hulahan" Billmeier, won the official US Air Guitar Championship in New York City.
"It's strange...", Billmeier said in an interview Monday. "Usually I take pride in how little pride, I take in things."
Billmeier will fly to Oulu, Finland, on September 8, where he will represent the United States against air guitarists from all around the world.
During his winning performance, Billmeier dashed off the stage and into the crowd, before running upstairs to the balcony among the judges, where he knocked over several tables and dozens of beers in a whirlwind of motion, ending his artificial solo while hanging upside down over the balcony by his legs hooked into the banisters.
The performance earned the man, who is a real musician in several punk rock bands, a perfect score -- which is virtually unheard of at this competition.
"Air guitar" is commonly understood as an embarrassing presentation done originally by a very stoned Joe Cocker at Woodstock and subsequently by very drunk and musically illiterate frat boys during concerts in which they imitate the motions of the real musicians on stage.
EVERYBODY IS LIVING FOR THE WEEKEND
Friday kicked off the beginning of a four-day weekend for much of the Bay Area, as nobody but a fool or a slave will report to work on the two days prior to July 4 around here. July 4 is commonly considered to be a holiday in celebration of independence and liberty and democracy. Some people however, considered it a platform to celebrate their militaristic views. But we don't party with those kinds of people.
This Wednesday, the Island kicks off its Annual Mayor's July 4 Parade which is known as the largest small-town parade in the United States. Typically, the parade begins at about 11 a.m. and ends around five with a train approximately 2 miles long of several hundred floats, and which is terminated traditionally by the figure of the little tramp riding a red scooter. Come on down, all of you and celebrate the biggest small-town parade in the world.
Sports Illustrated is all agog. ESPN is astonished. Europe is enthralled. Germany is in love. South America is outraged, and has lodged official protests against interspecies competition. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Yes, the World Cup is in full swing and our island hopefuls, The Nibblers, remain in contention after defeating the formidable world power, Hannover GmbH. Flush with victory over Venezuela, and the Germans the ground squirrels, although bloodied, remained unbowed. For an account of the exciting match against Venezuela go to last week's entry under OLE.
The match against Hannover broke worldwide records in many areas, once the final score of 42 to 17 was announced to a delirious European crowd. The Hannover Mannschaft was frustrated early on from completing their favorite "shin kicking" technique, when they discovered the opposing team possessed shins only 2 inches long. This robbed the Germans of much of their forward momentum. They were further obstructed When the clever ground squirrels, substituted the standard World Cup soccer ball for a standard old full American pigskin, and then invoked the little-known rule 44B, which concerns certain rule changes and scoring procedures, should the standard ball in play be changed from the one stipulated by international IECF regulations.
Since this little-known rule is little-known and not very well written, the Nibblers coach was able to obtained a temporary scoring protocol in which a goal would count for not just one but seven points until the opposing team could manage to replace the ball in play. Additional restrictions were applied by the judges, but no one could figure out what it all meant until the game was all over.
With years of touch-football experience under their tails, The Nibblers managed to score three goals within 10 minutes, creating a furious delirium among the fans at this unusual frequency of activity, before the Hannovers managed to get the hang of the oval football and succeeded in scoring twice with a interception and 4 yard turnover.
This strategy proved to be their undoing for by continuing under the new rules, the team fell under the Implied Consent Rule, by which if a team goes along sufficiently for a length of time to a rule change, then it is assumed that full consent has been granted to all associated limitations.
A significant portion of this rule features the allowance that should a player receive a ball in the small of his back, that ball should remain in play, and be considered alive, until the ball falls and touches Earth. In this manner the oval ball was carried to two more goals upon the back of Pippi Longstocking, inhabitant of Crab Cove.
Realizing their limitations under the new rules the Hannover team managed to replace the pigskin with a standard soccer ball, but forgetting that the rules had changed successively kicked three field goals over the uprights, which were all ruled invalid under standard World Cup soccer rules. This cost them significant time.
Several fans were admitted to the emergency room, under the effects of methamphetamine, for this frequency of scoring was considered unheard of and unwanted during any sort of soccer match.
The ball was replaced yet again, one more time, resulting in a scrum, and a great deal of confusion for neither the English judges, nor anyone in Europe, and certainly not in America are the rules for rugby understood in any way shape or form. So much confusion resulted that the ball was replaced by the official soccer ball by the judges who all really wanted to go watch the game between France and Brazil. In this time, the Nibblers scored another goal the value of which was determined by throwing die on a felt pool table.
The final goal was scored by the Nibblers unopposed, for the Hannover Mannschaft had by this time simply given up and taken to drinking beer on the field in great quantity such that the entire team lay down in their positions and fell asleep collectively, leaving the goalie in charge of both defense and offense. This has been the history of Hannover throughout the ages; a mixture of hope and despair, with despair becoming dominant.
Our foreign correspondent embedded in Hannover has remained conspicuously silent during these events. Perhaps due to some embarrassment.
Next week, Europe's allegiances will be sorely tested As the Ground Squirrel Nibblers face off against Spain, which is not known for tolerating little rodents easily. Germany retains chances for obtaining the Cup in its A-Team. Hannover entered in the Chicago "Cubbie" Class, a class devised to include teams such as Malta, Pago Pago, Ecuatorial New Guinea, and Alabama's Crimson Tide.
The 24-hour pressroom of Island-Life was disturbed early Friday morning, around 2:30 a.m. by a wanna-be intruder who tromped up and down the back stairs, causing an unholy racket and disturbing the writers in their dens. How on earth is one to earn a Pulitzer under these circumstances. When inquiry was made. The fellow on the landing stated that his name was "Sydney." He then asked if he was at Unit D. All of the units in this building are numbered; there are no lettered units.
The police arrived 30 minutes later, and of course found no one. Since no traffic regulations were violated, the perpetrator got clean away.
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM
The snicker-snack of fireworks pocks the official night with flash-bangs of irreverence. Illness and injury has laid low the editorial room of Island-Life. Our Oregon and Washington correspondents slunk in with abdominal distress and tails of lost cats on Friday. Marin called in with a mysterious lung infection after going abalone diving. Our Florida correspondent left amid gales of tears and downed phone lines. Our Medical expert reported sore throats, ankle tumors and herniated disks.
Goodness, its enough to drive one indoors for the duration. Except how long will will this duration last? We are on tenterhooks for our Iraqi connection every time CNN reports another IED.
In a media review we note that Der Spiegel (Europe's Time magazine) noted casually in its interview with the President of Iran that America had lost the war in Iraq. In passing. As a given assumption.
Done deal, man. Iraq is gone.
Yeah, every new FOB has unassailable Burger King culture but what about the land in between? Like the land inhabited by real Iraqis. And don't shit me with generalities about the "good stuff done with kids", cause we just do not buy the act with beanie babies tossed from tanks at kids dodging what may only be another scatter-bomblet for all they know.
The latest casualty from the Golden State was a guy who was feeling guilty about wasting a few underage-kids who had been operating the remote controls to an IED. He blows off nine rounds to find the dead kid holding the detonator was barely ten years old. The grunt was still recovering from a previous IED with painkillers and all the works when they finally blew him all to hell. Kids wired to kill invaders -- does that not sound really familiar? And some asshole had the temerity to shout down a staffer here on the island because of a bumpersticker stating "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam".
You don't have to get into arguments one way or another to know the whole situation is F.U.B.A.R., and that is traditional Navy for F@#$% Up Beyond All Recognition.
Otherwise understood as "Situation Normal".
Except this Situation has cost somewhat around 100,000 non-American lives and plenty thousand of our own.
This July Fourth don't let political tweezer-brains distract you from what it was all about. It's about independence, declaration, liberty, and standing up against assholes, and it most certainly is not about praising military yahoos of any description nor is it about following orders. This country was founded on rebellion against authority and the best part of it remains committed to that impulse.
I HEAR THAT TRAIN A'COMIN' / ITS COMING 'ROUND THE BEND
After the excitement of the other night, this one feels startlingly quiet. The fog has stolen in on little cat feet and the usual mid-summer evening with chill and dew has settled over the gladiolas planted by Old Festus in a drunken uproar of inebriated gardening. The guy must have sown something like eighteen bulbs along a three-foot section of the back wall. Old Festus is quite ugly to look at and even uglier to understand but beauty seems to come from such strange origins.
Crazy Harlan is still putting up his inscrutable signs outside his house, the last reading something like "PADDYWACK THE MUGWUMP!" and nobody has figured out what any of it means, even after all of these years.
City Council has built a model of downtown in plain white styrene plastic so as to show that the cinema monster-plex will not be as bad as everyone imagines it to be, but nobody is fooled. The builder, Harry Snorkum, fussed about his creation during the unveiling at Silly Hall, and got real nervous whenever the scampering Morales kids came tearing by in their game of tag until one of them, sure enough, bumped up against the artwork, sending a whole line of oak trees down like dominos, and yanking a shriek from poor Harry.
We are an odd little island, but that's the way we like it. We seldom let common sense get in the way of a good time. Thats the way it is on the island. Have a great week.
JUNE 26, 2006
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows at the Concord Pavilion.
The editorial staff drove on into the heat Of the Valley to hear The Goo Goo Dolls And Counting Crows played at the Chronicle Pavilion (Nee Concord pavilion), Sunday night. Which explains why this particular issue is one day late. The Pavilion is nestled amid the dry hills on the far side of Concord near the town of Clayton in an area which routinely sees triple digit temperatures. Fortunately the seated area is shaded by a large structure and as the sun went down gentle breezes cooled in the area pleasantly. If you have not visited the Pavilion in some time, which was our case, you will be pleased to see the general lawn seating vastly decreased in favor of decent folding seats bolted to concrete with every seat having a clear and unobstructed view of the stage. The scale remains small in comparison with venues such as the Shoreline with total capacity under 5000. In addition, unlike other venues this one allows and encourages picnic baskets with food and sealed fluid containers. In fact, picnic tables are provided in the area outside of the amphitheater itself. Given that a 24 ounce beer costs somewhat like $10, this is welcome relief.
The opener consisted of a pleasantly surprising group of lads riding high on the release of their debut CD titled "Stars and Boulevards". Their name derives from a misinterpretation of a phrase in Latin, which they took to mean "a rare and slim hope". Stylistically, they are postpunk originals chunking out road-trip speaker-blasters alternating with smooth ballads. It was pretty clear that this band is going to go far and we pity the yakkers and gabbers too busy with their insipid drivel in the background to pay attention to the sound of the next big thing. Coeditor Sharon has tended to be right on the mark in these judgments. Years from now, those who paid attention will remember how Augustana opened for their idols, the Goo Goo Dolls. Mike Powers has already picked up on their sound.
Goo Goo Dolls
The Goo Goo Dolls are guys who produced such a wealth of good music in their previous efforts and out of such a bleak set of origins from the factory districts of Buffalo, New York that we want them to do well. Sadly, their most recent effort has been thoroughly trashed by the critics and many of their most devoted fans. The judgment summary and of the co-editor was terse and harsh: "white boy whine rock."
The truth is, the material from their early CDs is absolutely head and shoulders above the crap you hear on radio these days. They were edgy, they rocked hard with punk inflection and Resnick's lyrics were the best, most insightful, and most cutting of anything out there. The band still possesses explosive energy and performance. As the last notes of Pink Floyd's "You Better Run." barely drifted off the air from the canned PA system the band members charged onto the stage playing as they galloped into position. And once there, they held the entire crowd in the palm of their hands. But the truth is the best moments of their set involved all the music of everything they had put out before their most recent CD, which appears to be a slickly overproduced mistake and a venture into emo-rock. Now some people can do emo, but Resnick is someone from whom we expect sharper and noisier things.
Songs like Black Balloon and Better Days are filled with sharper insights and there is good reason why they got a lot of radio airplay. Some people have unkindly accused The Goo Goo Dolls of pandering to the hit list, and the company dollar, and appealing to older versions of Britney Spears. This might be true on the CD but in performance, we felt Resnick & Co. still have the stuff to rock out. This opinion was confirmed when we talked to a professional musician sitting in our row. Besides, Black Balloon and Name are songs that going to live a long time. It's clear the spirit of garage rock with all of its messy, unproduced, mistake laden, but joyously energetic energy persists in the band, especially in the form of the bassist Robby Tacac, who cannot sing worth a good god damn. But who clearly preserves the original punk energy Of the Goo Goo Dolls we first loved. We think if they just unload that miserable producer who damaged their sound during the last CD recording they will vastly improve.
Quote from a private critic on Amazon.com
Well, that's rather harsh. And it does seem to ignore the fact that a band is a continuum and artists sometimes do make mistakes. Along these lines we note that the CD production of a vastly different artist, Coco Montoya, also runs into this overproduction problem, wherein the live performance is so vastly superior that it seems a completely different person or band was involved in the project. Montoya's CD is undistinguished junk, however, every performance we have seen of Montoya stood head and shoulders above the vast majority of concerts we have seen from anyone else. The man simply burns down the house every time. And it was clear Sunday night that Resnick, with his boys, enchanted the crowd.
Adam Durwitz released his last album in the year 2002. With a single song offered for the soundtrack to an animated film called Shrek 2, it has been a while since the band has released anything new. Nevertheless, the band Returned to the Bay Area with a sense of homecoming (most of the band members were born and raised in Berkeley And Durwitz earned his bachelor's degree in English at the University of California and Berkeley), and most of the people in the crowd possessed fond memories of the band's early days. The Counting Crows are a band which has provided the soundtrack to many lives. Their web site lists, a discography of about five CDs, but really the best majority of their work consists of just two CDs, which contain a song list that is likely to persist within the American songbook for another 100 years. Which is not too shabby.
That being said, The Counting Crows put on a powerhouse show that dominated the House. A little bit heavier, breathing a little harder from exertion, and soaking his T-shirt in sweat, Durwitz rings every last possible emotion and a drop of energy out of every single note, putting to shame the best majority of wanna-be performers who nuzzle the microphone. Early in the set Adam grabbed the microphone stand and smashed it against the proscenium floor. It really was that energetic a performance. We were hesitant on going, because we have heard so much of the counting Crows on radio and music has lived with us for so long, and we have not heard anything new for quite a long time. Against all odds, Durwitz made us fans. And we are really glad the homeboy has done well.
There is really no one else out there who writes more intelligent lyrics -- few and far between are those who can take a Saul Bellow novel and turn it into a top 40 pop song with any degree of self respect. The concert left us longing for more new stuff from the man. He seems vital enough that maybe it just might happen.
As part of a healthy development, We have observed musicians participating with a greater sense of social responsibility during these kinds of big festivities. Both the Goo Goo Dolls, and The Counting Crows, are combining their tours with charitable work. The Counting Crows have a hyperlink on their web site, which connects people directly to a government web site that will facilitate becoming registered to vote. Durwitz made several public announcements, between sets and during his own set, encouraging people to go out and vote. In addition, the band coordinates a community outreach project that chooses worthy charities in each city where the band performs such that the charity obtains significant advertising and exposure to help with fund-raising and sometimes simple information dissemination. For Concord, and the Bay area, the project selected an organization which assists victims of spousal abuse. Listed below is yet another project conducted in combination with the Goo Goo Dolls which seeks to feed the poor in each community, where the tour will pass.
COUNTING CROWS AND GOO GOO DOLLS ASK THEIR FANS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES
"As Counting Crows' community outreach project marks it's 10th year, we are partnering with the Goo Goo Dolls to collect food with USA Harvest. Please remember to be generous and bring non perishable food with you to the show. There will be volunteers stationed at the entrances to the show 30 minutes prior to doors opening. The food collected will be immediately distributed to your neighbors in need and the community organizations Counting Crows has invited to the shows. We also invite you to visit the information tables that will be set up at each concert learn about how you can get involved and make a difference in your community."
think of heaven (Deliver me in a black-winged bird)
I think of flying down into a sea of pens and feathers
and all other instruments of faith and sex and God
In the belly of a black-winged bird
Don't try to feed me
I've been here before -- and I deserve a little more
I belong in the service
of the Queen I belong anywhere but in between
She's been crying I've been thinking And I am the Rain King
Mama, why am I so alone?
I can't go outside
I'm scared I might not make it home
I'm alive but I'm sinking in
If there's anyone at home at your place
Why don't you invite me in
Don't try to bleed me
I've been there before -- and I deserve a little more
I belong in the service
of the Queen
I belong anywhere but in between
She's been lying
I've been sinking
And I am the Rain King
Hey, I only want the same
Henderson is waiting for the sun
Oh, it seems night endlessly begins and ends
After all the dreaming I come home again...
When I think of heaven
(Deliver me in a black-winged bird)
I think of dying: Lay me down in a field of flame and heather
Render up my body into the burning heart of God in the belly of a black-winged bird
Don't try to bleed me
I've been here before -- and I deserve a little more
I belong in the service
of the Queen
I belong anywhere but in between
She's been dying
I been drinking and I am the Rain King.
The Oakland city Council approved the Oak to 9th St Project on Tuesday night. This project will dramatically change the 62 acres swathe along the estuary. The project will include 3100 housing units and several six to eight-story high buildings and will include five 24-story skyscraper towers. Half of the land will be devoted to public parks and open space, because the site is located in a redevelopment zone 15% of the units must be assigned as affordable housing.
OLE,OLE OLE OLE! OLE! OOOOLAAAAAY!
While everybody has been much focused upon the American team's hopes in Germany at the World Cup, subsequently dashed by the formidable powerhouse of Italy, few have paid attention to some of the lesser-known teams establishing their presence upon the world soccer stage. Among them, we have our own home grown Island team The Ground Squirrel Nibblers. While some may scoff at the abilities of our little athletes weighing something less than a pound and a half per unit, managing any kind of success against the formidably powerful Argentinians, the stocky Swedes, the ferocious Spanish or the indomitable Ecuadorians what they lack in heft they make up for in tenacity and force of will. They managed to conquer the seemingly invincible Venezuelans two to zero during a very contentious match by fooling the South Americans into believing the opposing team had yet to arrive on the field. And so managing to score a goal with their goalie, leaning up against the post smoking a cigarette. "Toooorrrr!" (Goal!) screamed the admiring Germans. Things proved to be dicey, once the Venezuelans realized what they were up against. But the doughty ground squirrels, by virtue of dazzling maneuvers and sophisticated footwork managed by running about the shins of the Venezuelans to confuse the opponents utterly for 45 minutes, causing numerous trip-ups and incurred fouls. One can only imagine the fear of the goalie before the nine major penalty kick; especially when delivered by a nine inch-long rodent. In a sacrifice play, five teammates huddled in into a soccer ball image and thus managed to distract the defense such that the survivors were able to shove the official real ball past the confused goalie, capturing the game and causing the entire stadium to erupt in thunderous cheers. "Tooooorrrr!" The team now advances against their arch nemesis, Hannover Mannschaft.
This event may signal a change in American strategy away from heavy-handed, obtuse emphasis upon crude power towards sophistication and well considered action producing deliberate consequences.
DARK NIGHT IS FALLING
This voice recognition software is really a bummer. And we long for the time when we can place our fingers once again on the keyboard. The week has begun and the summer, also. Right now, the fog hangs grey along the shores of the Island while inland continues to bake from the globally warmed sun. Speaking of global warming, which Mr. Bush does not believe exists, we note that the nation's capital. Now submerges beneath unusual unwarranted and inexplicable rain. Once dry passageways, have become canals. It seems we are looking at another hurricane season in the Caribbean, while the unfortunate and unassisted Americans living in the Gulf Coast, especially New Orleans, are looking at, yet more lapses in assistance. Was it only yesterday? When a senator of that noble state of Louisiana had to comment, "last I heard we were still a part of the United States." Ferocious storms are drenching the Midwest, and even Texas is getting whether, which should make one start to think. Perhaps there is something about this global warming, and perhaps the idiots Who Call themselves Leaders should do something.
Oh, but it's all unproven. Like evolution. It's just theory. So go ahead and drive your Hummer. You can always start another war. Only people who can't defend themselves will complain.
Meanwhile, people continue to gather in coffee houses and bars to talk about the weather. It is safer to talk about the weather. Than about politics, for politics as we all know is a dirty business. And it's safer than talking about religion, because by now now we all are really very sick about all this religion stuff. Mel Gibson, Scientology, The Da Vinci Code, The Last Temptation, Robertson calling for public assassination, and the weekly ranting in the pulpit. It's all too much. We've had enough of it. There comes a time when one simply wants to go out and smell the jasmine, prune the roses, trim the hydrangea, and get about one's own business with no more of this fluffery.
And lately, a strange sense of gigantism has crept into public discourse; it seems to have come about, ever since Wal-Mart tried to build a big superstore near here. First, the city Council tried to build a massive multiplex cinema with a six story parking garage in a downtown that is barely 3 blocks long. Then, the city of Oakland, wants to build a massive complex with 24-story buildings along a waterfront, which is supposed to also include open spaces and parks. And no one thinks this is wacky. Except on the island saner individuals seized the initiative and prevented an absolute nonsensical monstrosity. The estuary Project in Oakland will take 15 years to complete -- all built on swamp land. The entire thing will sink with the exception of the park and good riddance to all of it. This is the sort of thinking that destroyed Mulholland's career for the man just could not stop until he stamped upon the Sanfranciscito Dam, pronouncing it perfectly solid; eight hours later, the entire dam collapsed and killed well over 800 people in the worst disaster this state has ever seen. Here on the Island we choose to live in a modest way, with modest means tending or modest gardens and for that film crews come from all over the world to capture the atmosphere of the real small-town in an America which has long since disappeared.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
black balloon makes her fly
I almost fell into that hole in your life
And you're not thinking 'bout tomorrow
Cuz you were the same as me
But on your knees
A thousand other boys
could never reach you
How could I have been the one?
I saw the world spin beneath you
And scatter like ice from the spoon that was your womb
Comin' down the world
And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you get colder
Or are you someone's prayer?
You know the lies they
always told you
And the love you never knew
What's the things they never showed you
That swallow the light from the sun inside your room, yeah
Comin' down the world
And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you get colder
Always someone there
And there's no time left
When you stand they fall, yeah
Comin' down the world
And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you get colder
All because I'm
Comin' down the years turn over
And angels fall without you there
And I'll go on and I'll bring you home and
All because I'm
All because I'm
And I'll become
What you became to me
JUNE 18, 2006
JUST LIKE YOUR DADDY DID
Today was the day. The only day, it seems the Old Man gets a break for recognition of any kind. Dear old Da never taught how to throw a fastball or better yet, catch one. Nor did he teach how to cast a fly or reel in a 12 pound trout. The first we never did figure out, and the latter, we all In process by way of working our way up from 2 pounds to something edible in size. Some things you just have to figure out on your own. However there is one piece of advice, which has served us well for nearly half a century; towit, his most memorable utterance: "If you make sure the girl has fun, then you will too."
This advice can be successfully extrapolated to many situations.
We all need to make our way in the world, somehow some way, some easier than most, some struggling their entire lives. Somehow it all began with a spark of something cared somehow, in some way by some guy called Dad. So, raise your glass, barbie your Que, and sing a little song for dear old Da. He's the fellow who put the grit in your teeth, the fire in your belly, the backbone in your fiber, the gas in the family car, and the love in your mother. For which he deserves hearty thanks.
WALKING IN MEMPHIS
Every once in awhile Island-Life gets some good news over the transom about good people doing good works and making the world a little bit better in their corner. Recently, we learned about how one company that supplies motorcycle accessories to hard-core bikers manages to tie it in excellent customer service with charitable works.
Memphis Shades, manufactures windshields for motorcycles, but it never charges for replacement parts. Instead with every part it ships it asks the customer to donate an amount of their choice to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.
Since Memphis Shades started the program in 1996, more than $75,000 has been donated to the hospital.
St. Jude's is one of the world's premier centers for the research and development of catastrophic diseases in children primarily cancer. The hospital was founded by Danny Thomas in 1962, and today treats about 4700 patients each year.
"We were so busy when we started," Bill Gray says," and we had so many people calling for parts that we just decided to service the customer first-ship the part. Then we thought we would tell them to just send what it was worth. That turned out to be not such a good idea. So we just told them to send money to St. Jude's and the idea grew from there."
Gray has a special tie to the hospital. When his daughter was 12 years old, a classmate contracted cancer and was treated at St. Jude's. The child eventually died and the ordeal made a lasting impression on Gray.
The commitment to a high-quality product and good customer service has paid off extremely well for the company, which opened and 84,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Rossville Tennessee in July of 2005.
The Company does not advertise this particular aspect of their business. There is no mention on their web site and a succession of over six e-mails with Customer Service failed to elucidate the nature of this program. Our representative got only a message saying the cost for parts is $25, and that he should make a checkout to St. Jude's. With no explanation. Only after our representative got on the phone directly with Memphis did he find down the reason for the mysterious instructions as St. Jude's hospital is not known in this area, where Stanford and UCSF are the major medical institutions here.
Nevertheless, we say, kudos to Memphis Shades for their excellent attitude. Keep the shiny side up.
An Oakland development that would dramatically change the estuary waterfront and impact traffic in Alameda will go before the Oakland city Council for approval Tuesday.
Plans for the so-called Oak to June 9 project include five twenty four-story residential towers; the project will bring as many as 5000 new residents to the area.
The entire project takes in a 62 acre swath along the estuary between Oak Street and 9th Ave in Oakland. It includes 3100 housing units and 200,000 ft.² of retail space, and creates 29 acres of public parkland.
Most of the buildings would be six to eight stories tall, but five twenty four story towers are also planned.
Island officials are concerned that many of the new residents will use the already congested Interstate 880 ramps at 5th St and and Broadway. Presently during rush hour, the Island, Chinatown and downtown Oakland commuters already have a difficult time making their way through the congestion.
The Oakland city Council meets Tuesday, June 20 at 7 p.m. in the city Council chamber, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Street work, scheduled for Monday, June 19 on Fernside Boulevard between Encinal and San Jose avenues may cause some delay. The project is scheduled to be completed by August 28. Construction is scheduled during business hours the during this period.
Workers will replace existing orange traffic markers, install pavement crosswalk lights come up resurface Fernside Boulevard, eliminate the traffic island, and stripe bike lanes.
WHAT I AM IS WHAT I AM OR WHAT
Officer O'Madhauen tussled with a fellow early last Sunday after the officer noticed the man walking down the middle of Blanding Avenue near the 2300 block of eagle Avenue at 5 a.m. Proving that our island produces the best and the brightest, the man responded by turning about and running away down the middle of the road, throwing a large object onto a house roof, and generally ignoring reasonable requests to halt or at least obey pedestrian right-of-way regulations, until he was tackled. The man then fought with the officers until subdued. The man's name is Emmanuel Rodríguez. He was found wearing a bulletproof vest and the object he had thrown turned out to be a stolen .38 caliber pistol. That section of Blanding is zoned for industrial use, such as boat repair and welding. No one can explain just what the devil the fellow was doing down there at that hour of the morning.
ALSO SPRAK ZARATHUSTRA
The chief Editor is feeling a little like the scientist who had to deal with the wayward computer named HAL in Space Odyssey 2001. In that movie, the protagonist communicates with the shipboard computer which has developed a superiority complex, by talking to it and teaching Mr. Smartipants a thing or two. A touch of epicondylitis has resulted in total disablement of our entire typing pool leaving us DOA. As a result, we are resorting to technology via the ScanSoft Naturally Speaking voice recognition software to produce this issue, which has been dictated entirely into a microphone causing a great deal of consternation, uproar, and nervous jumping up and down due to our idiosyncratic manner of writing.
Well, it's been a rambunctious beginning to this summer season. Eugène Shrubb, still in occupation of the city of Newark, after three years is building a big fence, which seems to be the basic resolution to many of the world's problems by many of the world's leaders right now. The purpose of the fence is to restrict the traffic of illegal poodles through the occupied territory. This has produced an outcry from the region's Chihuahua population, who feel they are being targeted by the racist policy.
In other news, reasonable people have called for a reasonable timetable of withdrawal from the occupied territories, which have been plagued by a persistently unreasonable insurgency, costing a great deal of resources which could be better put to use during this time of want and Republican administration and idealistic gallivanting in foreign spheres. For Republicans have no practical real-world experience and can never resolve real-world problems resulting in continuous privation and general disruption of the common weal.
All the ground squirrels along the strand are clamoring for relief after the unusually heavy rains in this season, while the local National Guard is conspicuously absent during this foreign adventure in Newark. Long time readers of this space will recall that Eugène Shrubb, President of the Bums, invaded Newark three years ago, under the pretext of removing Weapons of Mass Doodoo in the form of rebellious poodles. Since then all the Sacramento bums have spent most of their time trying to deal with this fiasco in Newark to the detriment of a great deal of legislative effort in other areas.
Meanwhile, Harlan has put up a big sign on the side of his house, which bears the simple symbol of the treble clef. Which is the best thing we think that one can say about all the troubles going on now. At the very least, make some music. It does not fix the problem, but it still makes life a lot better than it was before.
Catch up with Island-life on a a typical summer's day on the Island next week.
That's the way this on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 11, 2006
PUBLIC NOTICE - BAY BRIDGE
CALTRANS WORK COMPLETED EARLY! Both directions of the Bay Bridge
will remained open, on the weekend, .
Dial 511 for trip planning and traffic information
The new exit to Fremont Street features a cutback lane for those who failed to merge over far enough to avoid the exit.
The temporary exits now in place will remain for the next three months at least. People wanting to know of route disruptions in advance can go to www.baybridgeinfo.org. Copy this image to desktop to view full size.
ANOTHER TURNING POINT A FORK STUCK IN THE ROAD
Graduation ceremonies commenced last weekend and Central was thronged with blue caps and gowns as happy graduates spilled out of the old High School auditorium down there.
Some celebrations will be on football fields. Others, at the Alameda County Fairgrounds amphitheater. Elsewhere, graduates will sit down together for a dinner.
The celebrations will be different, but they all mean the same thing -- the end of high school.
Throughout the Tri-Valley, the class of 2006 is getting ready for commencement ceremonies.
The Athenian School in Danville, a private school, jump-started the graduation season and held its ceremony for 73 students Friday. In Livermore, a combined ceremony was held Thursday for 55 independent study students from Vineyard High, and 16 from Livermore Adult Education students.
Graduation ceremonies are planned throughout the next two weeks:
DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD THE WICKED WITCH IS DEAD
People held BBQ's all over California to celebrate one of the most hated and reviled of politicians in the state's history: Ronald Reagan. Reagan was 93 when he died June 5, 2004, at his Bel-Air home after a twenty-year-long battle with Alzheimer's disease which affected his capacities throughout most of his second term in office when he became incapable of memorizing any part of any speech no matter how short, a problem resolved by prompters holding up large placards with slogans he repeated verbatim. He could not remember the names of his closest aids and once claimed that James Bond was a "great patriotic American."
James Bond is a fictional British spy created by English novelist Ian Fleming.
His closest advocates recalled him as an amiable buffoon who used his training as an actor well, but most of California remembers how as Governor he implemented savagely cruel and illogical policies which so damaged the State that its economy took many years to recover although many of the effects, such as the large numbers of mentally ill on the streets -- he turned them out in droves from the institutions -- persist. He was soundly defeated by a Democrat in a huge landslide when he attempted to run for a second term, and the State overwhelmingly voted against him when he ran twice for President, knowing his incapacity for governance and his tendency to gloss over facts and misrepresent issues.
As President, he continued to punish the Golden State by yanking needed funds for infrastructure improvements and even shunting science project funds from Livermore as he laughed and told jokes about people less fortunate than his well-heeled backers who adored his insensitivity to the poor and indigent. Pat Volcker was Chair of the Fed at the time, and he worked with Reagan to slam the progress of the American economy to a virtual halt via a series of austerity measures an enormous budget cut backs, all the while granting large tax favors to the wealthy and to corporations. Under Reagan the infamous "School for the Americas" in Florida pumped out thousands of bloodthirsty thugs who raped, murdered and mutiliated their way across half a dozen countries in the name of "anti-communism". One group, the Nicuraguan Contras, who were especially keen on disembowling their opponents, was funded through a program run by Army officer Oliver North in which cocaine was shipped into the United States to pay for guns and to buy off the Iranian government for favors. Reagan called the Contras the "equivalents of our Founding Fathers."
It is true that Reagan so hated communists, although there is no evidence he had ever encountered one outside of formal diplomatic circles later in life, that he collaborated with the infamous McCarthy witch hunt hearings and informed on several people, destroying their careers. He diverted billions upon billions of dollars into the fantastical space-age "star wars" program endorsed by the equally as rabid Edward Teller, but Teller admitted after Reagan's death, "Oh yes, it never would have worked." Teller, a Hungarian scientist expatriot, simply wanted an issue to rally the sentiment of anti-communism.
Ironically, among the many political trades on the side of irrationality, Reagan opposed the kind of stem cell research that, had it been allowed to proceed, would have led to amelioration and perhaps resolution of the disease that eventually killed him. His wife has since his death promoted research using stem cells.
THIS ISLAND LIFE SEPERATES RIGHTS FROM WRONGS
Island-Life welcomes two new additions to our Bureaucracy here. Walter Tibbet, currently a San Jose Police Captain, returns to the Island to fill the Police Chief vacancy here. Captain Tibbet began his career on the Island in 1972. He moves from heading a department that fields 1000 officers on 81 beats to our modest 98 officer pool.
A warm welcome to Teresa Highsmith, who was unanimously approved as the new City Attorney. She is already a resident and has been assistant city attorney for the past nine years. She replaces Carol Korade, who resigned after a 17 year stint over salary contract disagreements.
In other news, the Council moves to reject the sole bid on restoring the Paramount Theatre on Park Street due to its 3.8 million over-budget conditions. This is good news to the many who rose up in outrage at the initial plan to swell the rocco grand lady to 20 inside screens and a massive 350 car garage.
The plans were certainly grandiose for a downtown that is barely three blocks long and just one block wide, and where the garage would have violated local height restrictions by a good three stories. After lawsuits initiated by a group titled Citizens Against the Multiplex and a firestorm of controversy, the plans were scaled down to seven screens and a much more reasonable parking structure.
Even so, the idea of plonking a fairly large ciniplex in an area which quite frankly has little to attract out-of-towners beyond half-a-handful of decent restaurants and some character, but the Council seems hell-bent on shoehorning "big box" stores onto the Island to increase local tax revenues. Even as a new committee was created to attract film companies here so as to capitalize on the 1950's Small Town atmosphere.
Sense may be seeping into Council members as they listened to several speakers last Tuesday who called for reevaluation of the entire project.
GIRLTALK AT THE BALTIC
One of the Staff was enjoined to celebrate a birthday this week, so the Office put the man in straight-jacket and chains with good padlocks on them to hie off to Point Richmond, a most unlikely place, and The Baltic, there to nosh on hamburgers and listen to Girltalk while torturing the birthday boy in appropriate fashion.
Point Richmond is a nubbin of land stuck between the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge and the industrial wasteland of Richmond itself, with its toxic clouds, oil refineries and creeks bubbling with acid-dissolved metals from the factories. Despite the location, it is quite a charming village with strings of houses perched on the woodsy hillsides and a downtown possessed of not a single straight avenue or street. Next to the Baltic, the RFD Building #1, formerly the combo Firehouse and local jail, hosts a bevy of attorney offices. A chalkboard down front advertises the preserved jail facilities for rent.
The Baltic is an old-style bistro with a bar and tables set in dark wood-paneled rooms a la late 1800's. The food is excellent and portions are substantial -- none of that foo-foo "California cuisine" here. Ranging from burgers to various pastas, steaks and veggie dishes ($12 - $18) there is something for everybody.
Girltalk is the brainchild of Valerie Bach (guitar) and Pricilla Rice (bass) with Katja Cooper on percussion. That evening they were joined by an alto sax player. They do a marvelous mixture of 60's blues/rock, Sephardic, Brazilian, and New York jazz with a very unique sound. Valerie, who began playing seriously at age 17, comes from a musical background (grandpa was kantor in New York City) and is formally trained in several musical styles. Her playing is quite accomplished, but she is constantly pursuing additional avenues to broaden her already expansive base. These days she can be found in Berkeley studying reggae patterns at the Jazzschool on Addison. The group is very unique due to this range of influences and is well worth checking out.
The Baltic Square Pub is located at 135 Park Place in downtown Point Richmond, California. (510) 237-4782 for info.
BFD AT THE SHORELINE
A little bit on the louder (much louder) and faster (165 bpm is too slow!), there resides the annual Live105 party at The Shoreline, called BFD. Twenty-three bands performed on three stages to an enthusiastic crowd. The event is unusual in that people are allowed to bring in fluids, backpacks and food, although glass and cans are strictly verboten, of course.
We arrived at the end of The Sounds in time to catch England's Hard Fi rip it up. Born and raised in the grungy, failed factory town, economically depressed Staines (Middlesex), these boys really had nothing to lose when they smacked the charts within the top 100 via their universally understood "Living for the Weekend." Their next rocker, "Cash Machine" is busting down doors in all the indie venues and we wish the lads well after playing probably the biggest venue before the largest crowd ever for them yet.
Pittsburg's Anti-flag ratcheted up the energy level, if that could be possible, with all-black attitude and directly political statements. This band is not about elves, flying wizards and unicorns; they are pure punk in-your-face angy dudes.
"This is for anybody out there who has done or said anything against this BULLS#!T "War on Terror"! yelled the lead singer, Justin Sane.
A recent review in REdefine Magazine had this to say about their explosive CD, "For Blood and Empire": In their CD pamphlet, there are album lyrics, facts, and even a letter from a Rwandan survivor of a genocide. Following the lyrics to the track “Depleted Uranium is a War Crime” is information on what depleted uranium actually is and information on an Act that calls the government to do in-depth studies on the effects of DU.
Also included are a list of reasons why they believe George W. Bush should be impeached and lyrics which address the public by saying, “Don’t take our word for it, do some research and find out for yourself! Once you’ve learned the truth, get pissed and do something positive with your anger!”
Their website continues the committment to engagement with a plug for Democracy Now! and the campaign to get the military's grubby fingers off of America's children. (cf. www.MilitaryFreeZone.org). The site states:
"Under the No Child Left Behind Act, if you attend a public school, your school system is required to turn over YOUR private information to the US military unless you OPT OUT! Sec 9528 of The No Child Left Behind Act gives you the right to OPT OUT! by turning in a form signed by your guardian or parent stating that you do not want the military to have access to your private information."
An alternative media source available on the net that we strongly support for their intelligent coverage of important issues! ( Democracynow.org)
With the mosh pit going full force, Justin reminded people at the end, "This music is about peace and people taking care of one another. Take care of each other today. Peace to you!"
Australia's Wolfmother definitely proved to be the day's most unique among a slew of bands from the alternative sphere. They do a 1970's psych-rock, as termed by the LA Times, but that label barely does justice to the power trio of guitar, keyboards and drums, which combines elements of Deep Purple, The Who, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and a jolly helping of Nirvana. The strange mixture works on behalf of the band to produce a very individual sound which just might be the ticket to top 40, or at the very least, significant exposure beyond the Indie set. They do have a song with unicorns in it though.
BFD is far too immense to review all the bands that performed, including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, HIM, Echo and Bunnymen and the vastly improved AFI, who wound things up at 11:30pm.
MY HEALTH IS GONE NOW / COMING DOWN WITH THE SICKNESS BLUES
Must have been all the dust kicked up at the side stage. Or the hotdog. Got the Summertime Cold so we will just have to wind up here without even a mention of the latest scandals, or the State-wide party that attended the Delay's welcome departure from the Congress he has soiled these many years.
Here on the Island, the high fog refuses to burn off turning the place into an imitation of Seattle.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 4, 2006
THE GALAXY SONG
Because the world is full of enough deadly seriousness and stupid rules-ordered behavior, we provide as a service the following important links to very important sites which contain vital information critical to maintaining your health.
If you promise to be nice and read every word to the bottom of this week's issue, we will supply the words to the immortal Galaxy Song below. See all the benefits there are to reading your Island-life?
So you plan on driving into the City anytime this week? Think again. The Bay Bridge will have its main exits and onramps shut down through the 10th of June. Caltrans is urgently requesting all commuters to take BART, the ferries, or simply swim across. A preliminary shutdown early in the weekend froze traffic for five hours on the span.
www.BAYBRIDGEINFO.ORG or dial 511 for more information.
WHERE'S MY, MY, MY, MY, MY, MY, MULE?
From AP we have this story about cloned mules racing in Nevada.
WINNEMUCCA, Nevada - Two qualifying heats, two wire-to-wire victories, two nearly identical times. It was almost like the same mule won twice.
Idaho Gem, the world's first equine clone, and his brother, Idaho Star, made successful debuts Saturday in what scientists billed as the first professional competition between clones of any kind.
The mules competed against each other - and six naturally bred animals - for a $8,500 purse in the finals Sunday at the 20th annual Winnemucca Mule Race, Show & Draft Horse Challenge.
Idaho Gem covered his 350-yard (318.5-meter) sprint Saturday in 21.817 seconds, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over five rivals. Idaho Star was less than three hundredths of a second faster, finishing in 21.790 seconds to win by a half length over four competitors.
"For both to win first, it is awesome," said Don Jacklin, an Idaho businessman who helped finance the cloning project. "I think it is going to open a lot of eyes as far as cloning. I think the race experience will go a long way to show what cloning can do."
The clones were born three years ago and carry identical DNA taken from a fetus produced by the same parents that sired a champion mule racer.
Researchers on the cloning team said Idaho Gem and Idaho Star have been separated for two years and trained separately, so watching how they perform against each other will offer insight into the role played by environmental variables, such as diet and training regimens, in developing mules.
Gordon Woods, the University of Idaho scientist who created the clones, said he was pleased the clones passed their first major test. He noted that the historic cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1997 decreased her strength and agility.
A record crowd of 1,000 stood and cheered Saturday as the mules raced down the stretch of an oval dirt track in front of a wooden grandstand in the rural Western town where members of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch robbed a bank in 1900.
Bill Sims, 55, of Winnemucca, said he bet against the clones "to prove nature knows best."
"I have doubts about cloning," he said.
Winnemucca, about 160 miles (257 kilometers) northeast of Reno, is the first stop on a professional mule racing circuit that will shift to county fairs in California through the summer. A mule is the usually sterile offspring of a donkey father and a horse mother.
Long time readers will know that this space has particular affection for the mule and his sturdy presence throughout California history. Due to the curfews, we shall not have news about today's race until tomorrow. May the best mule bray the loudest.
ASHES TO ASHES ALL FALL DOWN
Vince Welnick, the Grateful Dead's last keyboard player and a veteran of several other bands, including the Tubes and Missing Man Formation, has died at age 51.
Welnick died Friday, said Dennis McNally, long-time Grateful Dead publicist, who declined to release the cause. The Sonoma County coroner's office said Saturday that an autopsy would be performed next week.
"His service to and love for the Grateful Dead were heartfelt and essential. He had a loving soul and a joy in music that we were lucky to share," the group said in a statement on its Web site. "Our Grateful Dead prayer for the repose of his spirit: May the four winds blow him safely home."
With long, frizzy hair and tie-dyed clothes, Welnick clearly looked the part of a member of a band that was born in 1965 in San Francisco, then the cradle of the country's emerging psychedelic counterculture. But the fact was he was largely unfamiliar with the band's music when he joined the group in 1990, and he would recall afterward that he was so nervous he could barely play at his first show with them in Cleveland. He was quickly put at ease when the audience gave him a warm welcome.
"The big thing about Vince was that he had that fearlessness to be able to go and just jump into our madness and just operate on it like it was a normal, everyday procedure," Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart recalled Saturday. "A lot of people can play but with us they just don't know how to navigate. Our music is different."
Hart recalled Welnick as not only a "nimble" keyboard player but also a fine background singer whose vocals added much to the group's songs.
"He had this real high harmony. He could go where others couldn't," Hart said.
Welnick, who grew up in Phoenix, moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s with the Beans, which soon renamed itself the Tubes. After the group temporarily disbanded in the mid-1980s, he worked with Todd Rundgren before joining the Grateful Dead.
He was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died prematurely, leading some of the group's fans to conclude that the position came with a curse.
He had replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. Mydland had succeeded Keith Godchaux, who died in a car crash shortly after leaving the band. Godchaux had replaced the band's original keyboard player, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, a heavy drinker who died in 1973 at age 27.
McNally recalled that the legend of the curse took a lighthearted turn at Welnick's first performance with the Grateful Dead.
"Just before he was to go on for the first time, one of the sound guys went over and sat down at Vince's seat in front of the piano and it collapsed under him," he said.
The fact was, though, that two other Grateful Dead keyboardists, Bruce Hornsby and Tom Constanten, survived the supposed curse just fine. Constanten worked with McKernan in the late 1960s, and Hornsby and Welnick played alongside one another for 18 months in the early 1990s.
The band retired the name Grateful Dead and quit touring after lead guitarist Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack in 1995.
In the years following Garcia's death the group's other longtime members have occasionally toured as The Other Ones or The Dead. Bassist Phil Lesh has toured as "Phil Lesh and Friends," sometimes including other luminaries such as Warren Haynes (ex-Allman Brothers)
Welnick, who formed his own group, Missing Man Formation, occasionally went on the road himself and had been scheduled to perform later this month, according to his Web site.
I SEEN THE NEEDLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE
Little Toby Tucker ascended into Little Leaguer Hall of Fame this Saturday when he knocked his 202nd home run out of the Washington Mutual ball park, eclipsing the record formerly held by Babe Gummibear Jones. Little Toby, who at six foot nine and 200 pounds has been accused of taking steroids and HGH to maximize his natural talent. The eight year old vigorously denies this. "He's just naturally big." Says his father, Tommy Todd Tucker.
Syringes found in his sports bag were used for basting BBQ turkey and in no way reflect upon Toby's gifts or the honorable game of baseball.
Some blame the influence of corporate culture upon the Little League, where the teams are called "franchises", the players are coddled wealthy kids, the teams are all owned by multimillionaires and where even the ballparks are named after company monikers, but defenders of the sport defend their turf vigorously. "Without company sponsorship, the kids couldn't pick up a stick and bat a ball on a diamond," they say.
Fans of Toby couldn't agree more. "There's nothing like hiking on down to scarf down a ten dollar hot dog and watch a bunch of rich kids run around in circles, drugged to the max. Way to go dude!" Said Fred Fanstone.
In such a climate, can eclipsing "The Babe's" record have any meaning?
Are you kidding?
I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU VINCENT
This weekend kicked off the two week arts extravaganza known as East Bay Open Studios, wherein 500 artists from Albany down through Berkeley and Oakland to Fremont open their workspaces for visitors. Included is the Island with its special treasure collection of artists of all kinds.
We opened our studio (graphic arts, textiles) for a wee bit and then dropped in down the street to check out the more respectable Jim Kitson and Sue Laing collaboration.
Sue Laing produces fabulous gossamer creations from raw wool, which she dyes, presses and works into scarves, wall hangings and ornaments endowed with extraordinary style. Some of her works are warm and soft with rich browns and yellows, while other works are light, almost ephemeral and ghostly shapes that float about the shoulders in silver metallics and ocean blues.
Jim Kitson is an accomplished and trained artisan, deft with the pen as well as the blowtorch. He has moved lately from heavy iconic figures reminiscent of pre-Christian dolmens, to striated multimedia wall hangings that evoke multidimensional organic forms reminiscent of aerial thermal photographs, natural lava flows, and tidewater mergings of land and sea with embedded copper mesh, layered patina and sand-textured finishes. Each work takes many days to complete but each work conveys a sense of naturalness of origin, free of self-conscious artifice.
We will be looking at other artists on the island during the second week, for we have some real treasures located here.
LETS GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
It's been a quiet week on the Island, and the sun has finally busted up the fog to make something like summer in the afternoons. Old Svenquist has been puttering about in the garden in the usual way of old Norwegians. He washed up here from the maritime some years ago while the Navy was still here. When the Navy left, Svenquist remained, finding that the trouble of removing to more familiar origins more trouble than simply and calmly living with life as it was. And truth to tell, he has taken root here and, in a situation that would be impossible in his native Minnesota, has come to really like his neighbors. Over the fence, Garibaldi, the Sicilian shares cutworm secrets and the two of them sit to sip the latest version of limonacella, which is a summer drink from Italy made, as best as anyone can tell, from grain alcohol and one's surfeit of lemons.
Svenquist has a lemon tree, which he will not cut down out of sincere parsimony and Lutheran conservation, although there is nothing in Norwegian culture that can possibly utilize the fruit. So he gifts the fruit to Garibaldi who makes all kinds of things and this makes him glad and a friend. Not even the dour nature of the Norse can shunt Garibaldi's enthusiasm aside and so the two have become the best of friends, for although the Italian and the Norse are quite divergent, the both dearly enjoy a good shot of schnozzle on a warm and lazy afternoon.
Sometimes Joe, the fellow from Istanbul comes to join them. It is not the same as raki, that anis-flavored drink found in cafes back there, but sitting with the guys under a butterscotch sun, bees bumbling the buttercups, talking about the way things really are and how to fix a transaxle, that was the same. Sitting at the table with the Norwegian, the Scilian and Marko, the Hells Angel from Fremont, he felt like home.
For Garibaldi, Sicily and New York are a long ways away, but he would not exchange the small town life of the Island for the dense complexities of Brooklyn where the boys fought with the Bronx boys on the Divide under the freeway every weekend, for anything. Here he is free to grow his melon vines so they leap from one roof of one storage shed to another and harvesting is a matter of getting the ladder in autumn. Certainly an odd "Californian" way of doing things, but closer to the old way than the Brooklyn window boxes and the impossibility of any melons at all among the brownstones.
Svenquist could not agree more. When people tell him he must be high and mighty to leave the small Minnesota town for the California Big City, for that is what people think about when they think about California -- Hollywood and Los Angeles -- he would say he had not traveled far at all, but had never left that small place and would they kindly mind their own business please.
So there the group of them sit on the sunny afternoons under the lemon tree, talking about the world and how they would fix it and start with proper soil for the roses. And its all all right.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
"Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you've had quite enough"
[sung expansively, Broadway style]
Just remember that you're standing
on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second,
so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me
and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle,
sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go 'round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go,
at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.
Words and music by Eric Idle, from "The Meaning of Life"
FOR PREVIOUS MONTHS AND YEARS GOTO THE ARCHIVE BELOW